Tag Archives: coming soon

Weekend Excerpt – His Dangerous Bride/Eden: The Dangerous Bride

Jan 02, 2016

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!

HisDangerousBride_Eden_2Covers

“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!

Weekend Excerpt – His Perfect Bride/Corva: The Perfect Bride

Dec 19, 2015

Okay, you may have noticed that I’m posting this week’s book excerpt on the weeknend and not on a Wednesday. That’s because part of my New Year’s Resolution is to start (or restart, really) a new History blog post feature–Western Wednesdays–in the new year. I’m hoping to bring you little slices of life in the Old West based on the research I’ve done for my books. And I’m also going to try to get back into posting more writing tips and tricks for aspiring authors. But today, it’s all about Corva. Or His Perfect Bride, depending on whether you’re reading the nice or the naughty version. Here you go!

HisPerfectBride_Corva_2Covers

Franklin had to put a stop to this line of questioning. Clearly, it upset Corva, and he wouldn’t have that. “Dad, what are your plans for confronting Bonneville about the calves?”

Behind them, Cody laid a few more logs on the fire to brighten the room, as if it wasn’t hot enough already in spite of the spring chill outside.

“Now, now, son.” Howard shook a finger at him. “First things first. We’re investigating…I mean, learning about your wife.” He winked at Corva.

Corva blushed and stared down at her plate.

“Dad, maybe now isn’t the best time,” Franklin defended her.

“Nonsense. Now, young lady, what about your parents? Where are they?”

Corva swallowed. “My father was killed in the war. My mother died right after the war ended. That’s when I was sent to live with my Aunt Mildred, because the family thought we would cheer each other up.”

“Well? Did you?” Howard demanded.

Franklin cringed. He knew his father meant well, but he was like a grizzly bear in a house of cards. Franklin tried to shake his head to call his father off, but he was oblivious.

“No, not really,” Corva answered. “Aunt Mildred didn’t like children. She…she married my Uncle Stanley two years later, but…” She closed her mouth and swallowed.

Franklin saw the tell-tale signs of a woman about to cry. “Dad, I know you want to learn all about Corva, but this business with Bonneville is far more pressing. We need every one of those calves to stay with our herd if we stand a chance of increasing our numbers.”

“The only solution I can think of is to keep the pregnant cows close to home,” Travis spoke up.

Franklin sent him a nod of thanks for coming to the rescue.

Howard sighed. “I doubt Bonneville himself is behind it. More likely it’s that bast—” He cleared his throat, darting a glance at the women and children present. “That scoundrel he’s got running his operation, Brandon.”

“Kyle Brandon is a menace,” Travis growled.

A snap sounded from the fireplace behind Franklin and Corva. Franklin ignored it, but Corva turned, as if only just realizing she’d been seated in front of it. The logs Cody had laid on the fire had caught and were now blazing away.

One look at the flames, and Corva screamed, launching out of her chair. Her plate spilled to the carpet. She only made it two steps before stumbling over one of the children.

Franklin thrust his plate aside and jumped up after her. “It’s okay,” he assured her, closing his arms around her and drawing her into an embrace, even though he wasn’t all that steady himself. “It’s okay.”

Corva hid her face against his shoulder with a sob. She shook like a leaf, so Franklin tightened his hold around her. Throughout the room, his family and friends gaped and murmured in baffled surprise.

“She lived through the burning of Atlanta,” he told them quietly.

A few hums and nods of sympathy followed, but Corva continued to shake and refused to come out of hiding.

“Move those chairs,” Howard ordered, blustering, but red-faced with embarrassment. “What fool put them there in the first place?”

Probably him, but Franklin wasn’t going to say anything.

“I’ll fix you a new plate, dear,” his mother said, patting Corva’s back as she skipped through the room to the dining room.

“Why is Aunt Corva crying?” Minnie asked.

Everyone jumped into motion to drown the impertinence of Minnie’s question, shuffling seats and moving Franklin and Corva’s chairs to the hallway side of the parlor. There was so much movement and fuss that not one of them heard the front door open and slam shut.

It wasn’t until he shouted, “Haskell, I demand you stop this underhanded farce at once,” that they realized Rex Bonneville had barged into the house.

 

Quick little historical fact, in case you were wondering…. The word “Dad” as used to refer to your father is actually not as modern as you might be tempted to think it is. It was first recorded around the year 1500 as a name for your father, but language historians believe it’s much, much older than that.

His Perfect Bride (naughty version) and Corva: The Perfect Bride (nice version) are coming on December 28th! Stay tuned for links and more! But if you want to get the background to this story and the series, I recommend reading Trail of Destiny….

Excerpt Wedn– Um, Thursday – Catch a Falling Star

Oct 15, 2015

Okay, yesterday got away from me just a little bit. But I still have an excerpt for you this week! We’re so close to release day for Catch a Falling Star that I can practically taste it. So here’s a little sampling of the stakes my hero, Ben, is working with….

CatchAFallingStar_3D

“So this is our mystery guest?”

Ben’s warm, fuzzy, and far too vulnerable mood was popped by the broad-shouldered man with long hair and a beard who sauntered into the room.

Jo got up. “Ben, this is my brother, Nick. Nick, this is Benjamin Paul. Be nice.”

“As if I would be mean?” Nick shot a teasing look to Jo, who returned it with a sisterly scowl. Nick chuckled, then stepped over to the table and held a hand out. “Hi. I’m Nick.”

“A pleasure.” Ben took the offered hand, making sure to put some strength into his grip. No sense giving Jo’s brother the idea that he was a loser. Although these days, most media outlets would tell him that much.

“Hey, Nick,” Jo started, tipping her head to the side. “Do you think you could loan Ben some clothes?” She turned to Ben. “I noticed that you didn’t have any luggage with you, or if you did, that cabbie has it now.”

“Sure,” Nick agreed readily. “I’ll take you up and show you what I’ve got.”

“Any cast-offs you’re willing to throw my way will be fine.” Ben stood and followed Jo’s brother as he started out of the kitchen.

“You can use my bathroom to clean up too,” Nick went on. “I’ve got a few disposable razors in the medicine cabinet, if you can stand to use one of those.”

“I’m sure anything will be fine.”

As soon as they were out of Jo’s sight, Nick rounded on him, backing him a few steps toward the wall.

“I don’t know who you are, other than a big shot director,” he said, full of outright threat, “but if you cause my sister any trouble or hurt her in any way, I’ll tear your balls off.”

Ben blinked. There was nothing like being threatened with castration while still suffering the effects of a hangover brought on by career implosion.

“Sorry,” he drawled. “My balls were torn off yesterday. You’ll have to check with 42nd street if you want to find them to tear off again.”

Nick grinned, though Ben had the feeling it was in spite of himself. “Okay. Glad that’s understood. Now let me show you where you can clean up.”

Forty-five minutes later, Ben was washed, shaved, and dressed in clothes that fit his frame but not his style. Nick’s jeans were too loose, and his shirts were more appropriate to the frozen north than the Great White Way. At least his head was beginning to clear.

Although one look at his phone, after fishing it out of his coat pocket, changed that.

Fifteen voicemails and eight unanswered texts. His stomach squeezed. He ignored the voicemails and scanned through the texts. All of them were variations on a theme: WTF.

He turned to leave the bedroom Jo had given him, hoping to find her and ask if she had a charger he could borrow, when his phone rang. Only this time, the name that flashed on the screen didn’t turn his bowels to butter.

Yvonne Plummer.

Ben tapped to accept the call and yanked his phone to his ear so fast it made him dizzy. “Yvonne.”

“Ben,” she answered without hesitation. “Where are you?”

He hesitated. “Maine. Where are you?”

“Manhattan.” Her voice brooked no nonsense. “So, you want to tell me why you just committed professional suicide? Because I’m pretty sure ‘You’ll never work in this town again’ is more than just a cheap cliché for you now.”

 

Catch a Falling Star is coming on October 27th. Be sure to sign up for my newsletter to be alerted when it comes out! Just a hint, it will be available at the low, low price of 99 cents for the first three days only, so you’ll want to act fast!

Excerpt…Thursday? The Brynthwaite Boys – First Look

Jul 09, 2015

Well, I’ve been incredibly remiss in posting Excerpt Wednesday bits, and now it’s Thursday and I haven’t posted anything. But never fear! I’ve been hard at work. Starting at the end of this month, I’ll be publishing something new and exciting. The Brynthwaite Boys is a serial. Yep, a good, old fashioned serial. It has 12 episodes that are about 18,000 words a piece (longer than a short story, but not quite a novella), and I’ll be publishing the first four upfront, then one a week until it’s done. The whole point of this story is to be like one of those awesome BBC historical drama series that I love so much (like Downton Abbey, Lark Rise to Candleford, Outlander, Call the Midwife…you know). Here’s a peek at how it starts, complete with most of the characters being introduced….

Landscape_STL

Episode One – A Promising Start

Brynthwaite, Cumbria – 1895

Flossie

The afternoon train from the city of Manchester to the scenic town of Brynthwaite was forty-five minutes late. Other passengers may have enjoyed the leisurely journey through the Lake District’s pastoral hills, misty forests, and fertile valleys. They may have gasped at the beauty of each new vista as the train meandered its way through green fields, fresh with May blooms. They skies were a crisp blue with only a few white clouds on the horizon, but Flossie Stowe could only think of one thing. If the train didn’t hurry, she would be late for the appointment that could change her life.

“Brynthwaite,” a porter called, poking his head into the third-class car. “Brynthwaite, next stop.”

Flossie let out a breath of relief as she felt the train slow. Just as quickly, she took in a new one. It was a small miracle that fortune had dropped this opportunity in her lap, just when it was most needed. Her wages at Crestmont Grange had been adequate. She’d certainly been able to send the much-needed funds home to her sister, Betsy, and then some. But Betsy always needed more, and the unpleasantness from Crestmont was still there. The people of Brynthwaite surely had their opinions on the building of a modest hotel in their town, but they could never know what a godsend it was for those who truly needed it.

The train’s whistle sounded, and outside the window the countryside gave way to clusters of cottages and outbuildings, then larger yards and warehouses, and finally the imposing stone edifice of the train station itself. Already a decent crowd had gathered on the platform—workmen in overalls ready to unload cargo, porters in their crisp uniforms, eyes already trained on first-class, where they might hope to get the best tips, and townspeople of all description, waiting for visitors.

“Polly,” Flossie gasped in relief at the sight of her friend waiting with the others. Polly was hard to miss, with her copper-gold hair and cheery face. Growing up together in Lincolnshire they had been nicknamed “the two Irish lasses,” Polly for her copper hair and green eyes and Flossie for her black hair and blue eyes, though neither one of them had a drop of Irish blood, that they knew of. They’d been as inseparable as sisters until age and the need to work had pulled them apart. But not anymore.

Flossie poked her head out the train’s open window and waved to her friend. Polly’s face lit up when she saw her.

“Flossie,” she cried with all the youthful exuberance the two of them had had as girls.

It was torture to wait for the train to stop fully and for Flossie to shuffle into line with the rest of the departing passengers. She let an older couple go before her and took a moment to help a frazzled mother with her young children on her way out, but at long last, she stepped down from the train and onto the platform.

“You’re here,” Polly called to her, rushing to meet Flossie in a warm embrace that had both of them giggling. “You’re actually here. I can hug you and see you and everything.”

“I am here,” Flossie laughed aloud. “But I’m late. Oh, Polly, I’m so late. My appointment with Mr. Throckmorton is at two-thirty, and it’s already quarter-past now.”

“I know,” Polly exclaimed. She grabbed Flossie’s hand and tugged her to the end of the platform, closer to the station. “I’ve been waiting here for an hour, growing more anxious by the minute. Lady Elizabeth gave me leave to come meet you, but I don’t think she expected it to take this long.”

“Oh no.” Flossie pressed a hand to her racing heart. “Will she be very upset?”

Polly laughed. “I doubt it. She doesn’t have immediate need for her lady’s maid in the middle of the afternoon, especially not when she’s at home with no one but her aunt and her cousin and anyone who decides to pay a call. Which could mean half the gentlemen in the county, come to think of it.”

“That much is a relief, at least.” Flossie knew how much fine ladies relied on their maids from the way that Lady Morley at Crestmont had driven poor Miss Lambert half mad with her constant requests, but from the regular correspondence Polly had sent to Flossie, it was apparent that “Lady E.” was quite different than Lady Morley.

“Do you have a ticket for your luggage?” Polly asked, tugging Flossie further on.

“I do somewhere,” Flossie replied, handling the small, cast-off reticule that her former employer had thrown in the rag-bag years ago.

“Good.” Polly pushed her along. “We’ll come back for your things later. Right now, it’s important to get you to The Dragon’s Head as soon as possible.”

“The Dragon’s Head,” Flossie laughed as they climbed down the stairs at the back of the station and into a busy street. “The name sounds more like a pub than a hotel.”

“Lady E. says that Mr. Throckmorton chose the name for its novelty,” Polly said, steering them to the left and up a slight hill. “She says that Mr. Throckmorton’s other hotels are all named something quite banal, like The King’s Arms Hotel in Birmingham or The Lion’s Mark in London, but that he wanted something that would truly stand out for Brynthwaite.”

“I can’t imagine why,” Flossie said, puffing to keep up with Polly’s fast pace. “Brynthwaite isn’t half so fine or large as any of those towns.”

“Which is precisely why he needed a name to inspire a sense of grandeur,” Polly laughed. “Although the other bit of speculation I heard is that Mr. Throckmorton was in one of his tempers when he was pressed for a name and he overheard his solicitor call him a fire-breathing dragon. Can you imagine?” She burst into a peel of laughter.

All Flossie could do was imagine. She’d been imagining little else but the comings and goings of the lives of people in Brynthwaite since Polly began writing to her. It seemed that Polly knew something about everyone in town—possibly more than they suspected—on account of her position as lady’s maid to the grand dame of the area. Lady Elizabeth’s father, Lord Gerald Dyson, Earl of Thornwell, may have been the reigning lord of the land, but he was old and infirm, and his only child, Lady Elizabeth, was the squire in every way but name and gender. As her letters attested, Polly considered it her duty to keep Lady E. informed of everything in the lives of all of Brynthwaite’s citizens, a duty for which she had been rewarded with the position of lady’s maid at the tender age of twenty-six.

And Polly was devoted to her duties.

“Of course, guests will come to the hotel to enjoy the scenery,” she prattled on. “There isn’t much else this far from civilization but scenery. Lucky for Mr. Throckmorton, holidays in the country are all the rage. He told Lady E. that his hotel will cater to only the finest custom, and—oh!”

“What?” Flossie stumbled at her friend’s sudden exclamation.

“Look over there.” Polly lowered her voice to a whisper, slowing her steps and glancing to the other side of the street.

Flossie looked. A gentleman who appeared to be in his late-thirties with dark hair and a moustache, wearing a bowler hat rushed up the street, dodging a fellow pedestrian. A woman with three girls in tow chased him.

“Marshall Pycroft, where do you think you’re going?” the woman shouted. A few people on the street glanced her way and frowned. The man slowed his steps and winced. Flossie blinked in surprise as the woman went on. “Yesterday it was the baking, and today you tell me I need to do my own washing as well? Like we were common farm laborers?”

The man in the bowler turned back to her, jaw clenched. “Could we not discuss this later this evening, when I am home, Clara?”

“And why should I hold my peace?” The woman, Clara, raised her voice. “Are you ashamed to have our neighbors know how low we have sunk? I left London for this, Marshall, London,” she all but wept. “I left my home and my family. I thought I would be a doctor’s wife, respected and admired, but I’m nothing but a drudge now.”

“Please, Clara, keep your voice down.”

“That’s Dr. Pycroft,” Polly whispered, tugging Flossie on. “He grew up here, at the very hospital he runs now. It used to be an orphanage then.”

“And it’s a hospital now,” Flossie said, remembering aloud the details Polly had written to her. Brynthwaite Municipal Orphanage had been the home to many children, ostensibly in the attempt to keep them out of the workhouse. It had been so badly run, though, that the crown had shut it down ten years ago and converted it into Brynthwaite Hospital. Dr. Marshall Pycroft had been hired to run the place a few years ago, though what that entailed, Flossie could only manage.

“I can do the washing, Mama,” the oldest of the girls tagging behind Mrs. Pycroft spoke up. “I’m old enough.”

“Quiet, Mary,” Mrs. Pycroft snapped. “I won’t have a daughter of mine stooping as low as a washerwoman.”

“Mrs. Pycroft thinks awfully well of herself,” Polly went on, sending a sly look across the street to the bickering couple before picking up speed again. “She thinks that because her father was a solicitor in a London firm, her feet smell better than half the folks in Brynthwaite. They don’t have any money, though. The hospital survives on a tiny stipend from the crown, and the rest is up to Dr. Pycroft himself to raise. Lady E. helps out as much as she can, but one can only do so much.”

“Oh, I see.” Flossie sent one last look over her shoulder to Dr. Pycroft and his wife. They were clearly still bickering, but they’d lowered their voices. Flossie’s heart went out to the Pycroft girls, Mary and her sisters, who stood there looking dejected.

She wasn’t the only one who noticed the argument. A few yards up, a man was watching the Pycroft’s with a pained look on his face. He was a strange man too, to Flossie’s reckoning. He was handsome, probably the same age as Dr. Pycroft, and wore simple, workman’s clothes. His sleeves were rolled up to show strong forearms, but he held himself with the grace of a noble. And he carried the strangest lattice of iron over one shoulder.

“Who is that?” Flossie asked.

Polly paused and turned to look. The man across the street turned in time to see the two of them staring. He smiled and nodded. Flossie smiled and dipped her head in return. Polly gasped.

“Don’t look at him, don’t look at him!” she said, grabbing Flossie’s hand and rushing on.

“What? Why?” Flossie missed a step in her haste to catch up.

“That’s Lawrence Smith.”

Flossie shook her head. “Who is he?”

“He’s the blacksmith,” Polly hissed, careful not to face him, although her eyes darted to the side.

“There’s nothing wrong with being a blacksmith,” Flossie said.

“It’s not that,” Polly went on. “He’s…he’s mysterious.”

“Mysterious?” Flossie laughed. “He just looks like a kind and comely man to me. You’ve never mentioned him in your letters.”

“There are some things a lady can’t write about. He’s a gypsy,” Polly said. “Or at least he would be if it weren’t for the fact that he was born and raised in Brynthwaite.”

“Then he’s not a gypsy,” Flossie reasoned, although from his dark coloring, he easily could have been.

“Folks still swear that he is,” Polly explained. “Mr. Smith was raised at the orphanage too. There’s plenty who think that his folks were gypsies, and that for some reason they dropped him off here and left him. What kind of man is he if even the gypsies didn’t want him?”

“He wasn’t a man when he was left at the orphanage, he was a baby,” Flossie reasoned. “You can’t tell what kind of man a baby is going to grow up to be.”

“Oh, but he did grow up to be that man,” Polly insisted, her green eyes round. “He’s not a Christian,” she whispered as though it were the gravest of sins. “He practices the old ways. There’s folk who say they’ve caught him saying chants at the full moon and putting curses on people.”

Flossie laughed. “I don’t believe in curses.”

“You might if you—oh!” Polly peeked over her shoulder, then snapped straight and picked up her pace. “Don’t look now, but he’s following us.”

Flossie did look. All she saw was a man carrying an iron contraption over his shoulder, smiling as though he enjoyed the fine summer day as much as the larks and the bees. He didn’t seem like the kind who would curse anyone.

“Are you sure he’s that sinister?” she asked Polly.

Polly bit her lip, slow to answer. “Well, he is friendly with Dr. Pycroft. Because they were raised together at the orphanage, you see. And Mr. Throckmorton was too.”

“What, Mr. Throckmorton who owns hotels in London and Manchester, and The Dragon’s Head too?”

“And a hotel in Liverpool.” Polly nodded. “He’s a Brynthwaite boy. Raised at the orphanage and sent out to seek his fortune, same as Dr. Pycroft. Only, where Dr. Pycroft went in for schooling and doctoring, Mr. Throckmorton was more interested in getting rich and building things.”

“So he’s friends with Mr. Smith?”

“Yes,” Polly said. She frowned. “I think. He must be. But it’s hard to tell, since Mr. Throckmorton has only been in town for a fortnight now. But I see him and Dr. Pycroft entering The Fox and Lion Pub together all the time, and Mr. Smith with them sometimes.” She paused to consider. “Yes, I’m certain they’re friends. I wonder if Lady E. knows about this?” She considered it, then shook her head. “A man as rich and powerful as Mr. Throckmorton being friends with a gypsy like Mr. Smith is not something you see every day.”

“No,” Flossie agreed.

 

If you’d like to be alerted when the episodes start to go live, please sign up for my newsletter!

Excerpt Wednesday – Trail of Redemption, A First Look

Jun 03, 2015

It’s Wednesday! And that means it’s time to take a look into what’s next on my publishing plate. Here’s a great snippet from the sixth Hot on the Trail book that will give you a good idea of what awaits on the trail for the folks going West with Pete Evans as trail boss on the Oregon Trail. Especially Estelle and Graham in Trail of Redemption….

TrailofRedemption_smaller

Once she was settled, Estelle checked over her shoulder on Graham. Pete was helping him guide his oxen into place behind Estelle’s supply wagon. In fact, Pete was doing most of the work from atop his horse while Graham limped and struggled to keep up with the slow pace. Estelle bit her lip, wondering if there was anything she could do to make the journey easier for Graham. Of all people, he should be riding in his wagon. But instead, he was doing his best to walk just like everyone else. It was a huge effort, and she found herself smiling with pride in him.

Graham looked up at just that moment and caught her smile. He stumbled slightly, but focused and kept on going, returning her smile with one that lasted for only a heartbeat before flickering back to concentration.

“Why is he trying to walk on his own?”

Estelle blinked and turned to find the black man walking on the other side of the oxen. He was tall enough to be seen over the oxen’s backs.

He must have noticed Estelle’s wary expression. He smiled and said, “The name’s Isaiah Jones. Pete didn’t have a chance to introduce us, since I was held up and only just got here.”

“Nice to meet you, Mr. Jones,” Estelle greeted him cautiously.

“A wounded soldier has no business walking like that,” Isaiah went on. “He should drive. Or better still, have someone else drive him. The train would be much more suitable.”

“He’s taking a wagon of his sister’s thing to her in Denver.” Estelle felt the need to explain, to defend Graham. “He didn’t want to take the train because it doesn’t go all the way.”

Isaiah shook his head. “Seems a might foolish to me. Could be an inconvenience for us in the crew if he needs help.” He spoke loud enough for Graham to hear, if he was paying attention.

“I don’t mind helping,” Estelle said, also loud enough to be heard.

“Oh! Oh, look out!”

A half-naked child who couldn’t have been more than three zipped toward Estelle, Olivia and the woman she’d heard introduce herself as Lucy Haskell chasing after him. Lucy reached for him, but it was Olivia who caught him and snatched him up. The boy giggled and squirmed, but Olivia held him fast. The brief chase left Olivia and Lucy walking beside Estelle and the supply wagon. Isaiah sped up to keep Lucy’s wagon in like. She hardly seemed to notice.

“That was a good catch,” Lucy said, laughing. “You’re an angel for helping to take care of those children, Olivia. I’ve had my eye on them since we arrived here yesterday, and they’re a great big handful.”

The squirming boy threw his arms around Olivia’s neck and squeezed.

“They’re not so bad,” Olivia said. She looked past Lucy to Estelle. “I’m Olivia Walters.”

“Oh, and I’m Lucy Haskell,” Lucy added. She extended a hand. “My father is Howard Haskell, of Wyoming.”

Estelle was so startled that she was slow to react. “I’m Estelle Ripley,” she managed at last,  with a smile for Lucy and a nod for Olivia. “I’m part of the wagon train’s crew.”

“How lovely,” Olivia smiled, kissing the naked boy’s head.

“You ladies might want to move out of the way,” a harried voice called from behind them.

Estelle and the others turned in time to see Josephine Lewis drawing closer to them, her wagon out of line and her oxen wide-eyed. They were as close as oxen came to running. Lucy squealed. The boy in Olivia’s arms managed to wriggle free, jump down, and run ahead. Olivia would have followed him, but Josephine’s wagon came rushing up, blocking her.

“Where are the brakes on these things?” Josephine shouted.

“Whoa. Whoa there.” Estelle broke away from her own, sedate oxen to reach out for Josephine’s. She managed to come up beside the pair, holding the goad in front of them and slowing them with soft words and an easy touch, as Pete’s assistants had showed her. “It’s all right.”

The oxen responded to her by huffing and slowing to their usual plod, only now, Josephine’s wagon rolled on to the side of Estelle’s and Lucy’s.

Josephine laughed. “Not ten minutes out of Independence, and already I’m having an adventure. My family would say that’s typical, I’m sure.”

“You have adventures?” Lucy piped up, skipping across from the front of Estelle’s wagon to walk beside Josephine’s. “You’ll have to tell me all about them. I’m Lucy Haskell, by the way. My father is Howard Haskell, of Wyoming. I’m going home. I hope we have a whole bushel of adventures on this journey.”

Estelle’s lips twitched into a grin as Lucy found a new target for her enthusiasm.

“I’m going home,” Lucy went on. “I was born out West, if you can believe it, but I haven’t been home for years. I can’t wait. I haven’t asked yet where Estelle and Olivia are going, but I’d like to know. Where is the trail taking you, Miss Josephine? Why are you here?”

“Gracious, child,” Josephine exclaimed, shaking her head. “You’ve got enough words in there for three young women, don’t you?”

Lucy laughed. “Papa always said I talk too much, but I can’t help it. I’ve got things to say, and besides that, there are so many questions to ask.”

“Well.” Josephine arched a brow. “If you must know, I’m heading out to live with my niece in Denver. She came through this year and married some fellow on the trail after my nephew, her brother, and his family died.”

“Oh dear,” Lucy gasped. “What happened? Did they get sick? Was it Indians? I certainly hope we don’t die.”

Estelle chuckled, but her patience was beginning to rub a little thin. “Mr. Tremaine back there is heading to Denver too,” she said, turning back and waiting for the other wagons to catch up.

“Oh?” Josephine twisted in her driver’s seat to get a glimpse of Graham behind them. “The soldier?”

Graham looked up at that minute. His glance flickered between the ladies—all of whom were now staring at him—before settling on Estelle with a smile. At least he was smiling. She shouldn’t have brought all the attention on him.

 

Oh yeah, you can pre-order Trail of Redemption at iBooks and Barnes & Noble right now! Click on over to reserve your copy today!