Happy New Year everybody! I hope you rang in 2016 in style. I’ll admit, I spent both New Year’s Eve and part of New Year’s Day working. Why? So I could bring you the next book in The Brides of Paradise Ranch series, of course! So here’s a little snippet from Chapter One of His Dangerous Bride (spicy), aka Eden: The Dangerous Bride (sweet), coming to you January 11th!
“What happened to you?” Muriel balked when he burst through the kitchen door.
“Saloon fight. Is Ma home?” he rushed on without further explanation.
Muriel gaped and sputtered, but Luke was already at the door leading to the hall and on to the front parlor when she called, “She and Mrs. Piedmont are having morning tea in the front room.”
Luke marched down the hall and into the parlor, where, sure enough, Josephine and Virginia leaned toward each other over a fancy tea set, like two gossiping schoolgirls.
“Ma, I want you to find me a wife,” Luke announced, planting his hands on his hips and smiling with all the confidence of a conquering hero.
Josephine and Virginia snapped straight, brows shooting to their hairlines, and turned to gape at him.
A moment later, their expressions transformed into sly smiles of triumph that were anything but surprised. The grin slipped from Luke’s face, and dread pooled in his gut. Maybe he’d been a bit hasty in this decision.
“I knew you’d come around sooner or later,” Josephine said. She stood and swept across the room to Luke, Virginia right behind her. “I’ve been hoping, and more importantly, planning, for this day for months.”
“Yes,” Virginia added as the two of them pushed him toward a flowery sofa against one wall and nudged him to sit. “Mrs. Breashears has sent us profiles of all of the young women at Hurst Home, and we’ve been pouring over them since then, working out exactly which girl would be right for you.”
“You…have?” This might have been a good time for him to run after all.
“Of course, my boy,” Josephine said. “I love you dearly, and I want nothing but the greatest joy for you. And as we all know, the greatest joy comes from a happy and successful marriage to a woman who suits your temperament in every—good heavens, Luke, what happened to your face?”
Josephine’s expression hardened to something midway between alarm and anger. She reached out and touched her fingertips to his swollen, purple eye.
“You’re just noticing my shiner now?” Luke flinched away from her.
“You finally asked me to find you a bride. What else was I supposed to think about?” Josephine’s tone turned scolding.
“Land sakes, Luke. You were in that stupid saloon fight last night, weren’t you?” Virginia sighed crossed her arms. “Almost all of Howard’s ranch hands and a few of mine were involved. Picked a fight with Bonneville’s men, or so I hear.”
“We did not pick that fight,” Luke growled. “They started it with that lousy, crooked deal Bonneville worked out with Dashiell’s Stockyard.”
“And you decided to take it to the next level, I suppose?” Josephine pursed her lips.
“We couldn’t just let them gloat like they were.” It wasn’t much of an excuse, and both women hummed and clucked over it.
“In light of this mess, I think I’d pick Eden Gardner over Talia Lambert,” Virginia said.
Josephine leaned back, nodding at Luke and humming her assent. “Definitely Eden. Talia seems like such a sweet, sunny girl, but I think you’re right about Luke needing a firmer hand after all.”
“A firmer hand?” Luke scowled, leaping off the sofa to pace the room. “What’s this about a firmer hand? I’m a man, Ma, not some snotty kid.” He puffed up his chest and stood tall to prove the point. If only his side wasn’t so sure and his left eye could open all the way.
“Come now, son, you’ll like Eden Gardner.” Josephine smiled and patted the spot on the sofa where Luke had been sitting. “The report Mrs. Breashears sent indicates that she’s sharp, quick-witted, and tough. Apparently, she’s at Hurst Home because there was some trouble with her family. Mrs. Breashears isn’t specific, but it sounds like they abandoned her.”
“Abandoned her?” Luke’s shoulders dropped from their tight bunch. Long-dormant emotion from those painful days when his sour old grandfather had dumped him and his siblings at the orphanage door and walked off, two days after his parents succumbed to fever, flared. He rubbed the back of his neck. “Is…is she pretty?”
Josephine and Virginia shared a grin. “Mrs. Breashears doesn’t make judgements about the girls’ appearances in her reports, but she does say that Eden has dark hair, brown eyes, and freckles.”
“Freckles?” Luke’s mind conjured an image of a girl of no more than fifteen bearing a face full of freckles, a shy smile, and eyes glowing with adoration. Well, he wasn’t so keen on a girl that young, but the adoration and the face he could take. He nodded in consideration, then said. “All right. Sounds good. How soon can she get here?”
Josephine laughed. “In a hurry, son?”
“Yep,” Luke answered before he could think better of it. He inched sideways to the tea table, searching for pastries. He hadn’t eaten that morning, after all. “The cattle drive is only a month away, and Franklin will need to make a decision before that.”
“Cattle drive?” Josephine asked.
“Franklin?” Virginia echoed.
Luke selected a warm muffin from a plate on the table, took a bite, and said while chewing, “I asked Franklin to let me lead the cattle drive to Culpepper. He said he needed proof that I was stable and responsible. That’s why I’m here.”
“Ah,” the two older women said in unison.
Josephine cleared her throat, lips twitching as though she was trying not to giggle. “I’ll telegraph Mrs. Breashears this afternoon to see what we can arrange.”
“If she’s willing, I’m certain Eden could be here by the end of the month,” Virginia added. “It doesn’t take that long to journey from Nashville to Haskell.”
“Good.” Luke stuffed the rest of the muffin in his mouth. “I’m pleased.”
Still, Josephine and Virginia tried not to laugh.
“In the meantime, you’d best clean yourself up and think about the qualities a sober and mature husband should have,” Josephine said. “I’m sure Pete would be more than happy to let you know what you should expect in your new role as husband.”
“I think I can manage that on my own, Ma.” Luke winked and started for the door. “I’m no spring chicken.”
The two older women giggled and snickered. Luke paused as he reached the door and turned to them with a scowl.
“What?” he demanded.
“Nothing, nothing.” Virginia held up a hand to hide her grinning mouth.
“It’s just that you may want to consider that married life is not what you’re thinking it is,” Josephine added.
“Ma. I’m twenty-seven years old. I’ve heard all about Bonnie’s business,” he admitted, though his cheeks flared red as he did. “I know what goes on in a marriage.”
Virginia burst out in snorting chuckles.
“If you say so, my dear.” Josephine’s lips twitched as she gave him a downright patronizing look. “If you say so.”
So there you have it! Intrigued? His Dangerous Bride and Eden: The Dangerous Bride release on Monday, January 11th. If you haven’t read His Perfect Bride, aka Corva: The Perfect Bride yet, well, they’re not essential for understanding book 2, but they sure are fun! Pick up a copy today!