Category Archives: Novel Excerpt

Release Day! – Carbon Dating

May 12, 2017

You guys! You have no idea how happy I am that Carbon Dating is finally out there! I worked SO hard on this book, and I’m thrilled to bring it to you at last. But don’t take my word for it, get started reading now! Buy links are at the bottom of the excerpt:

Chapter One

 

“So if you would raise a glass with me, let’s all wish Scott and Casey every kind of happiness as they start their new life together. To the happy couple.”

Ted Flint raised his glass, saluting his sister and soon-to-be brother-in-law as the rest of the room echoed, “To the happy couple.” A clink of glasses and swell of applause followed. Ted turned to smile at Casey and Scott, who blushed and beamed at the well-wishes. A warm knot formed in his chest. It was such a relief to see Casey happy after everything they’d been through in the past few years.

As the toasting crowd dispersed, returning to their conversation and sipping champagne, Ted stepped over to give his sister a hug and said, “Mom would be so proud of you.”

Casey squeezed him tight before stepping back, teary-eyed, and saying, “I know.”

“Thanks, man.” Scott thumped Ted on the shoulder, filled with emotion himself, but holding it in.

“It’s the least I could do.” Ted grinned at both of them. “It’s not every day your favorite sister gets engaged.”

“Ha! I’m your only sister.” Casey cuffed him on the arm. “And when are you going to find a girl and settle down anyhow?”

Ted rolled his eyes. He would have preferred the tears brought on by thoughts of their mother to the teasing glint in Casey’s eyes. Almost. He shrugged. “I haven’t found the right girl.”

“That’s what I used to say,” Scott laughed.

“There are plenty of girls here,” Casey added, nodding to the crowded ballroom of the Cattleman Hotel. They’d booked one of the smaller ballrooms for the engagement party, figuring only friends and family would come, but the event was so well-attended that guests spilled out into the hallways. The Cattleman’s staff had even opened the Haskell history gallery across the hall and moved some of the refreshments in there.

As much as Ted felt like he should make some sort of flippant comment about meeting someone, for a change, what came out of his mouth was, “Yeah, I’ll look around and see if the future Mrs. Ted Flint is in the room.”

Casey giggled. But then, everything seemed to make her giggle these days. Ted wasn’t going to complain about that. Casey and Scott were sidetracked by a couple of their friends coming up to give their congratulations, but Ted’s Dad, Roscoe, who had been standing silently to the side of the action, as usual, walked a few paces across the room by Ted’s side.

“Your sister is right, you know,” Roscoe said, adding a fond smile. “I’d love to see you find someone and settle down like she has. So would Mom. She’d nag you something fierce, if she were here.”

“I know, Dad.” Ted looped an arm around his dad’s shoulders and gave him a man-hug. “To tell you the truth, now that things have started to settle down with the ranch and with Casey, the idea of dating has crossed my mind.”

“Good boy.” Roscoe nodded.

“Don’t start planning a second wedding yet or anything.” Ted went on as they reached the door leading to the hallway. “All I want to do is date for now.”

“I didn’t say anything about another wedding.” Roscoe winked. “But now that the ranch’s mortgage is paid off, thanks to Scott, and we own the place outright, I’d love to see what a good woman could bring to the table.”

“Dad.” Ted rolled his eyes and chuckled. “This isn’t the nineteenth century, you know. We don’t marry women for their dowries anymore.”

“Just joshing.” Roscoe snorted. He pointed down the hall toward the restrooms, then sauntered off.

Ted hadn’t seen his dad so happy in…well, since his mom died a year and a half ago. He stood where he was in the hall, watching his dad walk away with a rare spring in his step. The whole world felt as though it were in the right place. Maybe it was time for him to think seriously about women. Heaven knew he’d thought not-seriously about them since he was in high school. He’d dated plenty of girls, even got halfway serious with a few. But he hadn’t met the one. And damned if he didn’t suddenly want to.

He headed across the hall into the Haskell history gallery. He’d visited the long room with its display cases of photographs, artifacts, and newspaper clippings dozens of times before, starting when he was a kid on a class trip. What interested him now were the tables of food laid out along one wall. Standish Catering had outdone themselves yet again. He grabbed a plate and started piling it high with fresh homemade salsa, chips, cocktail shrimp and sauce, and a single broccoli floret in tribute to all the times his mom told him to eat his veggies. He avoided the fancier puff pastries and pates. Who knew what they contained. He’d stick to the things he knew.

He reached the end of the table and was about to go back to the main room when he spotted a woman with long, dark hair staring intently at one of the cases. Laura Kincade. He knew her by sight, but that was about it. She worked on Scott’s team at Paradise Space Flight, and had become friends with his sister in the past few months. They’d gotten close enough that Casey had asked Laura to be a bridesmaid. But that was where his knowledge of her ended.

Laura Kincade. Hmm. Why not?

Plate in one hand, flute of champagne from the toast still in the other, he ambled over to Laura, doing his best to exude cool.

“You know, the first manager of this hotel was a spy in two different wars,” he began.

Laura blinked at the card she’d been reading inside the display—one about the area’s prehistoric origins—then slowly straightened. She took one look at Ted and blinked even more. “What?”

Ted put on his most charming smile. “Yeah. Theophilus Gunn. He worked as a valet for an English gentleman in the 1850s. The two went off to fight in the Crimean War, where the gentleman was killed. They were both spies. And then, when he came back to America, he was a spy for the Union in the Civil War.”

“Oh.” Laura continued to blink. “That’s interesting.”

“I’ve always thought so.” Ted’s suave smile started to slip. He wasn’t sure he was playing this right. Usually girls went giddy over the story of Theophilus Gunn, international spy and man of mystery. “Someone wrote a book about him a couple years back, The Secret Life of Theophilus Gunn.”

“Neat.” She stood there, bristling with awkwardness.

Yep, Ted had definitely lost his mojo. Or else Laura wasn’t the kind of girl those sorts of stories worked on. Which was interesting. She was different. He shifted his weight and studied her.

“I was just reading about the Lower Paleolithic Era in this area.” She gestured to the case with her thumb. “Trying to figure out if there’ve been any big fossil finds nearby, like there have been up in Montana. I’m sort of a dinosaur nut.” She spoke fast, ending by clamping her mouth shut.

Ted caught himself grinning even before he was aware of how fun her comment was. “Really? I haven’t met a lot of women who like dinosaurs.”

“Oh, I love them.” She was still nervous, but her eyes lit up with excitement. Blue eyes. They were a pretty contrast to her dark hair. “Last year, before coming to Haskell to take the job at PSF, I traveled to South Africa to help with an excavation being led by Dr. Heinrich Heller. We managed to find the hindquarters and skull of a Massospondylus too, although it may or may not be some other species. A lot of times fossils end up reclassified after analysis and…and I’m boring you. Sorry.” She laughed. An attractive pink blush came to her cheeks.

“You’re not boring me at all,” Ted said, in spite of the fact that he only had half a clue what she’d said. She was pretty. He wondered why he hadn’t noticed before. Granted, there was nothing special in the way she dressed. She wore a simple green knit dress that came to her knees and boots with it. Her hair was pulled back in a ponytail, and she wasn’t wearing makeup. The only word Ted could think of to describe the impact she made on him was “charming.”

 

Want more? Carbon Dating is rolling out across eBook retailers:

Amazon – http://amzn.to/2q5nw3p

B&N – http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/carbon-dating-merry-farmer/1126384325

iBooks – https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/carbon-dating/id1235371000

Kobo – https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/carbon-dating-1

Release Day! – Heat Wave

Apr 28, 2017

Whew! It feels like I’ve been waiting forever for you all to read Heat Wave! This fun little novella is book 18 in the Magnolias & Moonshine project and book 3 or 4 (depending on how you look at it) in my Nerds of Paradise series! I’ve been bristling with anticipation, waiting for you all to read this, so why not get started now?

Chapter One

 

Atlanta, Georgia. Home. It didn’t matter that Dennis Long hadn’t lived in the burgeoning, busy city since he’d left for college when he was seventeen, or that Haskell, Wyoming was home now. Atlanta never really left a person’s blood. The sound of cicadas on hot nights, sleeping on the porch when his mom couldn’t afford to keep the air conditioning on, sweet tea after roaming around Grant Park with his buddies all afternoon, winters that teased without ever quite delivering…it was part of who he was. Those steamy streets and the humidity that turned his normally docile, brown hair curly, would always remind him of a happy childhood.

Well, an almost happy childhood. There were a few things that made his heart speed up when he thought about them. The way the kids on his block would tease him because of his height, pick him for the basketball team, then laugh at him when he tripped over his feet for one. Always being fawned over by teachers for being gifted, then called “brainiac” by the other kids as soon as those teachers’ backs were turned for another. Not to mention his complete inability to understand most people’s humor.

Oh, and her.

Angelica Jones.

“Dennis, man, where are you going?” Dennis’s old friend Leon called to him as he veered down a side aisle in the massive Georgia Tech auditorium. “Friends and Family seating is down this way.”

Dennis snorted, but scooted back out of the row of seats he had started to slide down. “I’m not family, and I don’t know if I exactly qualify as a friend.”

Leon laughed and slapped him on the back as he came close. “Come on, man. If you’re not a friend, then I don’t know who is.”

Dennis sent Leon a sideways look, but followed him down the aisle to a section near the front of the auditorium, nearest the stage where the doctoral program graduates would be receiving their diplomas. He and Leon had been thick as thieves from the ages of ten to when Dennis left to take UC Berkeley up on their early admissions offer. Leon had been the only other kid in their Ormewood Park neighborhood who was tall enough not to make Dennis feel like the Jolly Green Giant. A fact which didn’t make Dennis feel at all easy about sitting together near the front of the audience. They were bound to block someone’s view.

“I can’t wait to see the look on Angie’s face when she spots you sitting with the rest of us,” Leon said as they edged their way down a row of seats with a “Reserved” sign on the end. “She’s going to straight-up trip when she sees you.”

That’s what I’m afraid of, Dennis worried. He had a plan, though. Angelica hadn’t seen him in more than a decade. Since then, he’d earned his masters and PhD in record time, worked on a government rocket program where he’d had top secret clearance, and had secured an important position at Paradise Space Flight, a company that was going to turn heads in the next few years. He’d grown up, worked out, lost his boyish chub, and aside from the fact that interacting with most people was a thousand times more complex than the equations he solved every day, he was well aware of the image he now presented. And if using the charm he’d learned how to fake to convince Angelica to come work for Paradise Space Flight would help, then he would turn it on as high as he could. Rubbing in how well he’d done would be icing on the cake.

At least, that was the plan.

“She knows I’m coming,” he told Leon, testing out his newfound confidence—and hoping it didn’t come off as too cocky. Although cocky might work if he was going to play up how much he’d changed. “Paradise Space Flight has been trying to recruit her for their propulsion development team for almost a year now. Nobody can figure out why she doesn’t have a job lined up already. I’ve been sent to help seal the deal.”

“You don’t say.” Leon grinned at him over his shoulder, not buying the suave act at all, as they reached the middle of the long row of seats. “You and Angie always were the two biggest brains on the block.”

Dennis laughed, but he couldn’t keep his smile in place. They were the smartest on the block, no question about it. But that hadn’t put them on equal footing. Not by a long shot. At least not until today. Today was the day he would show Angelica Jones that it was time she showed him the respect he had always deserved.

“Land sakes, is that Dennis Long I see?” A dark-skinned woman with grey hair and a fashionable, flowered dress stood from her seat in the row in front of them, joy in her eyes.

“Hi, Mrs. Jones.” Dennis raised a hand to wave at her, but Angelica’s mom twisted to wrap him in the biggest hug she could manage with a chair between them. A thousand memories of sunshine days, home-baked cookies, and all the love his mom hadn’t had time to shower him with swooped back on Dennis, and he smiled, blowing his cool guy image to pieces.

“Look at you.” She held him at arm’s length, raking him from head to toe. “Mmm! That California sunshine sure did do you good. Angie’s going to pop a gut when she sees what a tall drink of water you’ve become.”

Dennis felt his face go hot as slithers of embarrassment zipped through him. His smile turned sheepish. “Thanks, Mrs. Jones, but I’m not in California anymore. I moved to Wyoming last year.”

“Oh, that’s right.” Angelica’s mom squeezed his arms one last time, making a sound at the muscle she found there, then rocked back to study him with a smile. “That company of yours was smart to send you, of all people, to woo my Angelica.” Dennis blushed even harder at the word “woo,” his gut tightening. “But you’d better watch out for that NASA guy who keeps calling. He’s determined.” She added an expression that said she was being polite.

“Dennis can take him,” Leon said, nudging Dennis’s shoulder with a sly grin. “He’s got all sorts of advantages no one else has.”

“Such as?” Dennis sent him a doubtful look.

“History.” Leon nodded. “No one else in the world has the kind of history you’ve got with Angie.”

“You can say that again,” Mrs. Jones laughed. “You remember the time you followed Angie home from that picnic when the two of you were, what, eight?”

“Was that the time Angie decided she was a princess and Dennis here was her squire?” Leon asked.

“It was part of that,” Mrs. Jones laughed on. “You picked a whole mess of dandelions along the way, and when the two of you reached our porch and you handed them to her, why, Angie took those flowers with a smile and shut the door in your poor face.”

Mrs. Jones and Leon laughed. Dennis tried to laugh along with them, but his chest ached at the memory, making him feel eight years old and two feet tall again. “I don’t know if I remembered to thank you for the cookies you handed me out the window,” he told Mrs. Jones.

“Cookies were more than Angie got for those antics,” Mrs. Jones replied, shaking her finger. “That little princess got sent to bed without her supper for being so mean to you.”

“Probably not for the last time,” Leon added as an aside.

“That’s the truth,” Mrs. Jones laughed.

 

Want to read more? You can find Heat Wave now at all the places where eBooks are sold:

Amazon – https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01MZG2F6R

B&N – http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/heat-wave-merry-…/1125600413

Weekend Excerpt – Heat Wave

Apr 15, 2017

Hey everybody! Well, the Magnolias & Moonshine project is well underway now, and pretty soon it’ll be my turn! My novella, Heat Wave, is also part of the Nerds of Paradise series, even though it takes place in Atlanta instead of Haskell, Wyoming. And since it’s the weekend, how about a peek?

There were few emotions in life that couldn’t be resolved by breaking out a crowbar and tearing up a floor. Angelica jammed the tool into the old, crumbling kitchen floor in Mrs. Brown’s house, focusing on the heat and pull of her muscles as she tore out the old to make way for the new.

If only it was as easy to do the same with life. Weeks ago, when she’d first gotten the letter from Paradise Space Flight letting her know Dennis would be coming to discuss the job they’d offered her, she’d shrugged it off. She knew Dennis worked for PSF. That was the whole reason she’d applied for the job in the first place. Although it was nothing personal. Not at all. Dennis had always had good taste. Any company he worked for had to be solid.

She jammed the crowbar into the boards again and tugged with all her might.

“Careful, Angie,” her friend and the project’s manager, Latoya called to her from the other side of the room. “You’re gonna go straight through the sub-floor to the basement if you keep at it like that.”

“Right.” Angelica nodded and straightened. She tossed the rotting boards into the pile of debris near the door, adjusted her work goggles, then bent to tear up the next board.

It was nothing personal. She hadn’t been intrigued by PSF because it could be a chance to right a thousand past wrongs. The possibility of living close to Dennis again was the furthest thing from her mind.

And if she kept telling herself that, maybe a unicorn would swoop out of the sky and whisk her off to fairyland.

She sighed and set the crowbar aside to pry up the stubborn board with two hands. She was a PhD now, an astrophysicist. The top aerospace industries in the country were courting her. She’d proved every nay-sayer in her life wrong, proved that a woman of color could excel in a field dominated by white men. So why did she feel like the same confused thirteen-year-old girl who cried herself to sleep at night over having to choose popular girls she didn’t like over a dorky boy she really liked?

“Whoa, whoa, hold on, girl.” Latoya straightened from the pile of new boards she was nailing into the floor. The fine sheen of perspiration on her bare arms and wetting the neck of her tank-top made her friend look good, tough, while Angelica was sure it only made her look nasty. “You sure you’re up to this today? You’re tossing that mess around like it insulted your mama.”

Angelica managed a tired smile as she rocked back to sit on the floor. “Yeah, I’m okay. I guess I’ve just got post-graduation let-down or something.”

It didn’t feel right lying to Latoya. Latoya was the only friend from the neighborhood who had stuck by her when she decided to break all the molds and study science instead of boys. She was the only one willing to hang out with a pop-turned-geek when the mean girls turned their noses up at her. And she was the only one that would have been missed if she’d ditched her too.

Latoya crossed her arms. With her hammer still in hand, goggles still in place, and her close-cut, natural hair glistening with sweat, Angelica felt like Latoya was some kind of avenging angel come to call her out on everything she’d ever done wrong.

“This doesn’t have anything to do with a certain old friend coming back to town, does it?”

Angelica looked away. It wasn’t enough to avoid the swoopy feeling in her gut. She picked up her crowbar and went back to work on the floor.

Latoya stayed where she was. “Leon told me all about it,” she said, returning to work at her end of the room.

Of course he would. Angelica should have figured he’d give her the full report of graduation.

“It doesn’t bother me,” she insisted. “In fact, I was really happy to see Dennis again.”

“Mmm hmm.” Latoya arched a brow as much as she could with the thick goggles on and started hammering.

“No, really, I am happy,” Angelica insisted.

“I don’t doubt that.” Latoya raised her voice to be heard over her hammering. “I’m just curious about how happy you are.”

“Very happy.” Angelica tried to shrug casually.

“Mmmm hmmm.” Latoya drew the two syllables out even longer this time.

Angelica shrugged. “What, was I supposed to be angry at him for coming back? Sad? You got some other emotion you’d rather I felt?”

“Girl, don’t get defensive with me.” Latoya rocked back on her heels and pointed her hammer at Angelica. “You forget, I was there that year after he left. I saw how listless you were. You, my friend, pined.”

“I did not pine.” Angelica sent her a frown. “I was sorry to have lost a friend is all.”

“Friend? Is that what you call it?”

Angelica’s face flooded with heat. “Yes. Dennis and I were friends.”

Latoya shook her head. “You led that poor boy around by the nose and you know it.”

“I was just a kid, Tee. I didn’t know what I was doing.” Angelica’s face burned even hotter.

“Even kids know when they’re being nasty.” Latoya went back to hammering. “What always surprised me was why he kept sniffing around after you, year after year.”

“Because we shared common interests,” Angelica said, straining as she pried up another board. “He was the only one who would do experiments with me.”

“Oh, experiments? Is that what the kids are calling it these days?” Latoya laughed.

Angelica huffed out a breath. “See, that’s exactly my point. All the princessy girls ever wanted to do was paint their nails and straighten their hair and make eyes at the boys. Dennis actually talked about things, did things. Interesting things.”

“Like making out in the science lab after chemistry club?”

Angelica tossed a rotting board aside, smirking at her friend and trying to play it cool. “Once.” Or maybe twice. And it had been nice. At least, it had been nice until Jane Peterson had caught them in a clinch and spread the rumor all through the school that Angelica was a nerd slut. Damn, she’d hated high school.

 

Poor Angelica has a lot more coming her way!

Heat Wave is now available for preorder at:

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

iBooks

Kobo

Release Day – His Magical Bride

Mar 20, 2017

It’s release day for Book 10 in The Brides of Paradise Ranch series, His Magical Bride (or Talia: The Magical Bride, if you like the sweet version). I could sit here all day telling you about it, but why not get started reading Chapter One instead?

Haskell, Wyoming – 1877

Sheriff Trey Knighton had entertained some bad ideas in his day. Running away from the orphanage where he’d landed after cholera wiped out his family was one. Taking up with the Skunk Boys of Missouri was another. There were days when he felt like accepting the post of sheriff of Haskell, Wyoming was a bad idea too, but only when his jail cell was filled to bursting with men who’d drunk too much over at Sam’s saloon, The Silver Dollar.

On second thought, turning straight, coming clean, and taking the job in Haskell was the best decision he’d ever made, drunks harassing him on Saturday nights or not. But letting Howard Haskell twist his arm and convince him to send away for a mail-order bride? Definitely not one of his brighter ideas.

“I’m so excited,” Eden Chance told her friends, bouncing as much as her toddler, Winslow. At that moment, he and Wendy and Travis Montrose’s baby, Emanuel, were sitting in a buggy together, laughing and clapping over something that had the two little critters in hysterics.

“Lord knows how happy I am to have my friend Talia nearby again,” Wendy agreed.

“She always was such a sweet little thing,” Corva Haskell added, rocking a buggy of her own. Corva had two babies now, not just one, Howard Franklin Haskell and now a girl, Elizabeth, or Bitsy as people had started to call the poor thing.

Rounding out their group was Elspeth Strong, who hadn’t had any children of her own since coming out last year to marry Athos, the stationmaster. That hardly mattered, seeing as Athos already had eight of the little boogers. Five-year-old Thomas held Elspeth’s hand as he watched Winslow and Emanuel, giggling along with them.

Heck, Trey was surprised the ladies hadn’t decorated the train station with bunting and rosettes. They were treating the whole thing like a big party. True, all four of them had known his bride-to-be during their time at Hurst Home. Trey kicked the boards of the train platform and winced. He should probably take their involvement in welcoming Talia Lambert as an endorsement of her character. It should reassure him, help him to feel confident in his decision to be a husband. But land sakes, domesticity sure did make a man shake in his boots when he came face to face with it.

“No, no, Howard.” Corva jerked forward as her boy—nearly two now—stood in the buggy and tried to lean over the side.

“Down!” he declared, pointing at the ground.

“Don’t step on your sister,” Corva told him in turn. Bitsy let out an almighty wail, and kept screaming. Trey blanched.

“Let him run around a little,” Virginia Piedmont, baby Howard’s great-aunt, told Corva. “We’ll all keep an eye on him.”

“Well, if you think it’s safe,” Corva said, lifting the boy out of the buggy and setting him on his feet on the train platform.

“Of course, it’s safe.” Virginia dismissed her concerns with a wave.

To prove her wrong, little Howard tore straight for the tracks. Corva was too busy picking up and settling her girl to chase after Howard. Trey was closest, so he swept in and lifted the boy into the air before he could tumble off the platform and onto the tracks.

Of course, Trey didn’t know the first thing about how to hold a baby. He clamped the squirmy thing around his middle and held him at arm’s length. The boy kicked and screamed, whether in shock at being picked up by a stranger or in rage over being stopped on his way to certain death, Trey had no idea.

“Here, I’ll take him,” Virginia said.

“Please do.” Trey handed the boy over.

Little Howard continued to squirm in Virginia’s arms, but Virginia hardly blinked. She carried the boy to the back of the platform, set him down, and interested him in a pile of rocks right beside the stairs. The other two toddler boys sure as heck noticed their buddy’s freedom and began to fuss and wail to be let down too. Wendy and Eden were still chattering away in a tone of voice that rendered everything they said as incomprehensible background noise in Trey’s ears. They didn’t seem to miss a beat as they lifted their babies from the buggy and set them down on the platform.

The two toddlers proceeded to chase each other around the buggy, tripping a few times and occasionally hiding in their mothers’ skirts.

“I can’t wait to introduce Talia to Emma and Dean Meyers,” Eden said, managing to catch and steer her boy away from a nail sticking out of the platform without missing a beat in the conversation.

“Of course,” Wendy gasped. “With all her nursing experience, I’m sure Dr. Meyers could use Talia’s help in his clinic.”

“She might even be willing to travel out to the Indian camps with him,” Elspeth suggested.

“Can I go to the Indian camps, Mama?” Thomas asked her.

Elspeth laughed and ruffled his hair. “No, dear.”

“Why not?” Thomas frowned.

“It’s far too dangerous for a little boy.”

“I’m not little, I’m five now.” Thomas stomped his foot.

“But it’s still too dangerous.”

“But I’m brave.”

“And young.”

“It’s not fair,” Thomas shouted.

Trey flinched. Yep, this was definitely a terrible, terrible idea. Why hadn’t he considered it all before? A bride meant a wife, and a wife meant a family. And the only thing more terrifying than having a family, in his experience, was losing one.

A chuckle at Trey’s side drew his attention away from the whirlwind of children. “That right there is why I’ve avoided this whole mail-order bride craze,” Sam Standish, one of Trey’s closest friends, said.

The women weren’t the only ones who had come to meet Talia Lambert at the station. Trey’s friends had come to show their support too, although he didn’t know how supportive it was for Sam and George Pickering to stand there snickering behind their hands.

“Come on,” George argued. “It’s a wonderful thing for a man to have a family.”

“Says the man who only just got married,” Sam argued.

“That only means I’m a new convert to the beauty and wonder of marriage,” George said.

“Yeah, see if you’re still saying that in six months when your baby gets here,” Sam tossed back.

George shrugged. “I welcome my and Holly’s child. Because I, for one, am ready for the challenge of fatherhood.”

Trey swallowed. “Well, I’m not,” he muttered. “Why did I ever let myself get talked into this?”

His friends stared at him in surprise.

“You can’t be having second thoughts now,” George said.

“Second thoughts?” Virginia straightened from where she was playing with Howard at the other end of the platform. “Don’t you tell me you’re having second thoughts about sending for a wife, Trey Knighton.”

“How on earth did she hear me all the way over there?” Trey murmured, even quieter.

“Women are like that,” Sam said with a snigger. “You say something they don’t like and they’ll hear it from two territories away.”

Sam was right. All five of the women on the other side of the platform glared at him as though he’d declared he was done with not only their friend Talia, but the entire female of the species.

“So help me God, Sheriff Knighton,” Eden launched into him. “If you turn Talia away when she gets off that train, I will personally make sure whoever does your laundry washes your sheets with nettles from here on out.”

“How could you even think of not marrying her?” Wendy questioned, hands on her hips. Her stance only emphasized the bump of her and Travis’s next baby, which didn’t help the argument, in Trey’s eyes, at all.

Elspeth only shook her head, and Corva was too busy settling her wailing infant to add to the admonishment.

Trey held up his hands. “I’m not backing out of anything,” he said, though a large part of him wished he could.

“Good,” Eden, Wendy, and Elspeth answered at the same time.

“He couldn’t back out of it if he wanted to,” Virginia added. “Talia’s already on her way, and Trey knows as well as anyone what kind of life you girls from Hurst Home have known. He wouldn’t be snake enough to turn away a woman who has already had a hard time of it.”

The others nodded. Guilt gnawed at Trey’s gut. They were right, of course. He wasn’t low enough to send any woman back to an unfortunate life. But that didn’t mean he had to dive into marriage whole hog once Miss Lambert got there. Men and women had all sorts of marriages, ones that ended up with a parcel of kids and ones that involved separate rooms and separate lives.

“You would never catch me sending away for a bride,” Sam said.

At last, something Trey could latch onto that wouldn’t end with him getting in trouble. He turned to Sam. “You would too, and you know it.”

“Nuh-uh,” Sam protested. “I run a saloon. That’s no place for a good woman.”

“He never said you would marry a ‘good’ woman,” George chortled.

Sam sent a mock frown George’s way. “You sayin’ I should get hitched to one of Bonnie’s girls?”

George lost his smirk. Any mention of Bonnie’s girls inevitably touched a nerve with him, seeing as he and Bonnie were friends from way back. He’d unknowingly given Bonnie the money she’d used to start her cat-house too, although Trey knew as well as anyone in town—probably better—how Bonnie used her place to rescue the unrescuable, educate them, and send them on to new and better lives.

“Sam—” Trey thumped a hand on Sam’s shoulder. “—the day will come when you’ll find yourself wanting the comforts of a wife.”

Sam raised a brow. “What, like you do?”

Trey let his hand drop to his side. Sam had a point.

 

And where can you buy this awesome book, you ask? Why, right here:

His Magical Bride (Spicy Version)

Amazon – https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06XQP4WKB

B&N – Coming Soon

iBooks – https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/his-magical-bride/id1217027807

Kobo – https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/his-magical-bride

Google Play – https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Merry_Farmer_His_Magical_Bride

(Spicy version is not and, alas, will not be available in KU, because it’s available everywhere else)

 

Talia: The Magical Bride (Sweet Version)

Amazon – https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06XQPCW7Y

(Only the sweet version is available in KU)

Weekend Excerpt – His Magical Bride/Talia: The Magical Bride

Mar 12, 2017

Well, I may have been a little lazy these past few days (everyone deserves some lazy now and then), but I’ve been busy behind the scenes! I have the first draft of His Magical Bride (steamy)/Talia: The Magical Bride (sweet), Book 10 of The Brides of Paradise Ranch out at the editors right now. It’ll be out in just one week! Woo hoo! Here’s a bit to whet you’re appetite…

Their whole crew started along Elizabeth Street toward the church. As soon as Trey was ten feet past the hotel, he felt as though he’d been hit by a wave of panic. It was really happening. He was really about to go and get himself hitched.

“Uh, Miss Lambert.” He stopped, reaching as gently as he could for Miss Lambert’s elbow to stop her as well.

She did stop. So did all of her friends. Trey was near to making a run for it, until she told her friends, “You go on ahead.”

The ladies nodded and hummed and gave them both knowing looks. At least they continued on without a fuss. Trey waited until they were a good, long distance away before taking a breath.

“You can call me Talia,” Miss Lambert said. “Since we’re about to be married and all.”

“Yeah, about that.” Trey rubbed a hand over the lower half of his face. Talia’s gentle smile faded. “See, the thing is, if I’m being honest, I’m kinda having, well, second thoughts about this whole marriage thing.”

Talia suddenly looked as tired as a young woman who’d ridden miles in the back of a peddler’s wagon would look. “I see.” She lowered her eyes.

Trey’s chest started to ache in a peculiar way that he wasn’t used to. “I’m not saying that I won’t marry you,” he rushed to tell her.

“You’re not?” She looked up at him with so much hope in her eyes that a lump formed in Trey’s throat.

“No, ma’am. I made a promise. And I know what kind of life it was you left behind.” He knew he was echoing everything Virginia had said to him at the train station, but the woman had spoken the truth. “I will most certainly marry you, it’s just…” He let his sentence trail away and let out a helpless breath through his nose. “It’s just that I’m thinking I might not be ready for all the things that come along with a real marriage.”

“Oh?” She blinked fast, her brow knitting in confusion.

“You know, things like children and intimacy and…and children.”

Talia’s face brightened inexplicably. “Oh, I see.” She was back to smiling again, although Trey had no idea why, considering everything he’d just said. “You want to have a marriage in name only to start with. Until we get to know each other better.”

Was that what he’d asked for? “Uh, yeah,” he answered.

Talia’s smile grew so big that she laughed lightly before saying, “I’m perfectly fine with that arrangement. It’s a sensible one. I always did wonder how a woman could jump into every aspect of marriage so suddenly when her whole world has changed.”

She’d taken all that from what he said? “I’m glad we see eye to eye on this.”

“We do. And thank you, Trey.” She reached out, and it was several seconds before Trey realized she wanted him to hold her hand.

Still feeling a half-step behind, he took her hand, and together they headed on to where the others were just approaching the church.

Trey had stood by George during his wedding, and he’d attended the weddings of more than a few of his friends in the last few years, but he had no idea how fast a marriage ceremony could feel when you were the one standing at the front of the church with a woman.

“Do you, Trey Alexander Knighton take this woman, Talia Lambert, to be your lawfully wedded wife?”

Trey almost answered, “Huh?” when George asked the question, a teasing twinkle in his eyes, but he managed to squeeze out, “I do,” without looking like too much of a numbskull.

“And do you, Talia Lambert, take this man, Trey Alexander Knighton, to be your lawfully wedded husband, to love, honor, and obey, in sickness and in health, until death do you part?”

“I do,” Talia answered with more certainty than Trey would ever be able to manage. She smiled up at him too with a look that said she was confident she’d done the right thing. How did she manage that?

“Then by the power invested in me by God and the Territory of Wyoming, I now pronounce you husband and wife.”