Tag Archives: release day

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)

Release Day – Chaos Theory

Mar 03, 2017

Whew! After delays and set-backs due to everything from illness to just plain bad luck, Chaos Theory, Book 2 in the Nerds of Paradise series, is finally here! And it’s just 99 cents, for this weekend only! Bright and early on Monday, it’ll be back to its regular price of $3.99, so scoop it up now! And to put you in the mood, here’s the beginning of Chapter One…

Will Darling was running late. Which meant he was only five minutes ahead of schedule. Late or early, it didn’t matter. If he wasn’t exactly where his daily schedule told him he was supposed to be, a deep-seated feeling of dread filled him. That’s what came from being raised in a military family.

He closed the spreadsheet he’d taken home from work, and pushed back from his desk. The clock on the wall above his workstation said 11:35. He checked his watch. 11:35. Yep, five minutes early. That gave him time to pop into the bathroom of his swanky, Paradise Space Flight-issued apartment to switch out his glasses for contacts. In theory, he could go around with his glasses and no one would think anything of it. It wasn’t like his father would find out. But he’d rather not risk it.

As soon as his eyeballs were taken care of, he headed across the apartment to the door, picking up his phone from where it was charging on an end table by the sofa and his wallet beside it. He tucked the wallet in his back pocket, and checked the phone. 11:37. He checked his watch to be sure everything was coordinated. Good. Perfect. Let others laugh at him, but there was something about keeping to a schedule, staying on course, that filled Will with contentment. It was why he had chosen to work for Paradise Space Flight in the first place. The company was new, innovative, and miles away from the distracting chaos of big cities and government bureaucracy. NASA might have been more prestigious, as his dad was constantly, constantly reminding him, but PSF was focused. It was comfortable.

So was his apartment. Another awesome perk of working for Howie Haskell. Like most of the rest of the young, single engineers and scientists who had come to Wyoming to build the space flight company from the ground up, Will had taken advantage of the special employee housing. His apartment stood in the center of town, on the third floor above a clothing boutique. It was newly renovated and ran on renewable energy sources. But what Will loved most about it was the clean, streamlined design. He headed out the door, locking it with the fancy, high-security, electronic key all of the apartments had, and made his way down the airy, white-painted stairway to the ground floor and the front door. Even though the building had been constructed in the nineteenth century, it wasn’t frilly and crowded. It got the job done, and that’s all he had ever asked of anything.

“Hey, Will.”

Will glanced up as he stepped out into the balmy, spring air and found his team member, Laura Kincade, waving to him from across the street.

“Laura.” He waved back with a nod, lips twitching to what, for him, counted as a smile.

“Are you heading over to PSF for the big luncheon?”

“In a minute,” he called back to her, then nodded to the General Store one building over from his. “I need to pick up a few things first.” He didn’t really want to have a shouted conversation across a street packed with pedestrians, but it was Laura, so he’d make an exception. Besides, everyone looked as though they were heading up the street toward the PSF building instead of browsing through the shops anyhow.

“Okay,” Laura called back with another wave. “I’ll save you a seat.”

“Thanks.” He raised his hand in goodbye, then strode a few yards down to the General Store’s entrance. The advantage of being slightly ahead of schedule, he guessed, was that he could take time to interact with his friends without tensing up. Although, if he was keeping track, he’d been much less tense since moving to Haskell than he’d been for most of his life.

The General Store was another part of the reason he loved his new hometown. It was the perfect size for dropping in to pick up a few essentials in a hurry. On top of that, whoever had built it had a keen eye for ergonomics. He could make one efficient pass from the toiletries section where he picked up shaving gel—which he would need in exactly two days—to the stationary section for pens—because he was not one of those people who took pens from the office to use at home like they were perks of the job—to the snack food section for a large bag of unsalted nuts—because you had to live a little sometimes.

Yep. Everything was just where it needed to be. Everything was in precise order. Everything was—

“Whoops!”

He rounded the corner and nearly crashed right into a splash of color and brightness and wild blond curls. His heart thumped against his ribs, like someone was punching him from the inside, and his groin tightened.

“Sorry.” Melody Clutterbuck laughed as she made her apology. Her blue eyes sparkled with happiness and light. She wore a long wrap-around skirt printed with an Indian pattern and a white peasant blouse decorated with embroidery that matched the colors in her skirt. Her arms were filled with items from around the store, otherwise Will would have had a big glimpse of the creamy skin of her shoulders and chest.

It took his brain far too long to catch up enough to say, “No, I’m sorry. I should have looked where I was going.”

“You always look where you’re going.” She continued to smile as they headed to the counter at the front of the store. “I’m the one who was floating around like a leaf on the wind.”

Prickles of pleasure filled Will at the image. Melody was a leaf on the wind. He’d seen that the first time he met her, at the winter mixer Howie had held for his employees and the citizens of Haskell after Christmas. She’d been there with a group of her friends, looking just as amazing as she did now. His friends talked about that event as the day his supervisor, Scott Martin, had met the girl he was now engaged to, Casey Flint, but secretly, Will marked it as the night Melody had blown into his world.

He blinked himself out of thoughts that were, frankly, disturbing. He had a schedule to stick to, a routine. “Why don’t you have a basket?” He lifted his own blue plastic shopping basket.

Melody giggled, her face going pink. “I didn’t realize I was going to need one.”

They reached the register, and she spilled her purchases across the counter. Will did a double-take, brow sinking into a frown of confusion. Baby oil, sandpaper, latex gloves, and an enema.

“Hey Bernie,” Melody greeted the cashier, an white-haired guy who Will figured had been working there forever.

“Hey, Melody,” Bernie answered. “This everything?”

“Oh! I’ll take one of these too,” Melody added, face growing even pinker and her giggle more pronounced as she plucked a small jar of cherry lip balm from a display and popped it on the counter.

Will’s blood rushed to all the wrong places. Cherry lip balm? Baby oil? An enema? Why, why, why did that selection of items turn him on? And sandpaper? He swallowed hard, trying to rein in his imagination, and ran a hand over the bottom half of his face.

 

So are you ready to read? Chaos Theory is currently available at Amazon, iBooks, Kobo, and Barnes & Noble, and will be up on Google Play (as soon as they process it).

Release Day – Opposites Attract

Jan 30, 2017

Guys, you have no idea how happy I am that Opposites Attract, the first book in my Nerds of Paradise series about contemporary Haskell, Wyoming is out! I’ve wanted to write this series for so, so long, and it’s finally here! I’m, like, literally jumping up and down! But make sure you get out there and purchase Opposites Attract for the low, low price of 99 cents TODAY, because as of tomorrow, it’s going up to its regular price of $3.99! And if you want to get started reading, here’s a chunk of Chapter One!

Casey Flint loved her family more than anything on earth, but there were times when she wanted to strangle them.

“So let me get this straight,” she said as she sat between her father, Roscoe, and her brother, Ted, in Roscoe’s truck as they drove into town. “You went ahead and actually sold off five acres of our ranch to some stranger?”

“He’s not some stranger,” Ted explained, an edge of impatience in his voice. Roscoe merely frowned at the icy road in front of them. “He’s one of the engineers from Paradise Space Flight.”

The explanation did nothing to soothe the sting of betrayal pricking at Casey’s already unsettled heart. “You sold off a part of our family ranch, a ranch that has belonged to the Flints since the late 1880s, to some dorky engineer who probably wears a pocket protector and Spock ears all the time?”

Ted huffed a laugh. “I think that guy you met at the grocery store last month wasn’t the typical Paradise Space Flight employee.”

“I wouldn’t be so sure.” Casey couldn’t stop herself from grinning just a little bit at the memory. The man she’d run into was a hoot. Nerdy as the day was long, and as far as she was concerned, typical of the wave of new residents in Haskell. They’d been a simple, although unique, ranching town since the original Howard Haskell founded the place in the 1860s. But now, a fresh crop of engineers, mathematicians, and astrophysicists had shown up to knock the whole town off-balance.

No one more so than Casey. And her life was already off-balance enough now that her mom was gone.

“My point is—” she went on.

“Oh, you were making a point?” Ted teased her.

Casey frowned and elbowed him hard. “My point is,” she repeated, “that all these guys—”

“And girls,” Ted quickly added.

“—that Howie Haskell is hiring to build his spaceships—”

“Supply rockets and independent vehicles to launch commercial satellites,” Ted butted in once again.

“—are not the sort we’re used to in Haskell,” Casey finished in a growl.

“Now, Casey,” Roscoe said in his gruff but steady voice. “I didn’t raise you to be prejudiced against anyone for any reason.”

“I’m not being prejudiced,” Casey insisted. “I’m just saying that Haskell has a certain rhythm, a certain pace and feeling. We’re a town of cowboys and we always have been.”

“If we’re such a town of cowboys, why did you stop competing in the rodeo?”

Ted was teasing, but his question struck straight to her core, filling her with guilt and regret. “I grew out of it,” she lied, gut twisting. “That’s not the point. We’re a traditional town full of traditional people, and it should stay that way.”

“Actually, Haskell has always been on the cutting edge of social justice issues and inclusion of new and sometimes radical ideas,” Ted corrected her.

“Shut up, nerd.” Casey elbowed him again, even as her heart swelled with pride in her brother and their hometown.

“Ah ha!” Ted laughed. “So by your own admission, nerds have always been an integral part of this town. I mean, if you consider one of your closest family members to be a nerd….”

Casey blew out an exasperated breath. “Brothers,” she muttered, as if that explained it all. She shook her head and went on with her train of thought. “All I’m saying is that I don’t like all this change. Things are changing way too fast. Why can’t everything just stay the way it was? We were all happy the way things were. Life was simple and easy. The town was like one big family. Now….” She shrugged, feeling a shiver race down her spine. The ache in her heart that had been there since her mother’s final, painful days throbbed. She sighed. “I just don’t like the way things are going.”

Rather than cracking a joke, Ted glanced over her head at Roscoe. Roscoe glanced briefly back. They both wore looks of deep concern and sorrow.

“What?” Casey asked.

Neither of them answered right away.

What?” Casey pressed when the silence grew too awkward.

Ted cleared his throat. “Ah, sis? Are you sure you’re not confusing your feelings about Mom’s death with everything that’s going on in town?”

“No,” Casey answered right away. “And keep Mom out of this. She wouldn’t like all the changes around here either. She certainly wouldn’t approve of you ripping out a part of the ranch and feeding it to the wolves.”

“Princess, we’ve talked about this,” Roscoe said, his voice as calm as ever. “Ranching is hard work. The market is getting tougher and tougher out there. We’re a small operation, and we’ve reached the limit of our capabilities. Unless we get a cash infusion, our whole operation will collapse. If that happens, we’ll lose the ranch entirely, not just a piece of it. Scott Martin has offered us a generous price for those five acres.”

“Scott Martin,” Casey grumbled, even as the prickly, uncomfortable feeling that her father was right about everything he was saying twisted her insides. “You’re selling a piece of our heritage to a man I’ve never so much as laid eyes on?”

Roscoe nodded patiently. “You would have laid eyes on him if you’d been at the meeting with Ted and me last week.”

“Last week was the week before Christmas,” Casey explained. “I had a ton of shopping to do, not to mention dozens of cookies to bake and volunteering at the senior center.”

“I’m not laying any blame on you,” Roscoe assured her. “Just sayin’ it like it is. The price Mr. Martin was willing to pay ensures that the ranch will continue to operate for at least another five years. After that, we’ll see how the economy is doing and reevaluate our position.”

Admiration and despair mingled in Casey’s gut. Her dad was a man among men. He’d worked hard his entire life, keeping the ranch functioning at peak productivity in a rapidly-changing world. Of course, her mom had been right there by his side, shouldering as much of the load as he did. They’d all been hit hard by her cancer, but Roscoe had continued to get up every day and tend to the herd in all weather and conditions. But Casey would have to be blind not to notice the strain around her dad’s eyes and mouth in the year since her mother’s death, or the way he moved just a little slower, his shoulders stooped just a little more.

“I can step up my game and work harder,” she blurted as the blossom of grief flowered in her chest. “I can take on more responsibility, do more than office work and dealing with distributors. I’ll get up early and help manage the herd too. Will you undo the land sale if I do that?”

A tired smile touched Roscoe’s lips. He reached a hand over to squeeze hers as it lay balled into a fist on the truck’s seat. “I love you, Princess. I know you’re doing everything you can and that your heart is in the right place. But I also know good and well that a broken heart can only take on so much before it breaks down.” He paused, then added. “Selling those five acres was the right thing to do.”

Casey ground her teeth, but there was no way she would contradict her dad. Even though every fiber of her being wanted to scream and thrash and battle against the horrible forces of change that left her feeling helpless and hopeless. It was that same helplessness that made everything she did these days seem somehow hollow and pointless. If only she had something she could do that would make a difference. If only she could really sink her teeth into a cause that would put her family back where it deserved to be and heal the wounds they all had. She had to find something to throw her energy into that would make her feel like she was fighting back, for her mom’s sake.

“Good Lord,” Ted said, laughing, as they pulled into the parking lot of the flashy, new Paradise Space Flight building. “Was everyone in Sweetwater County invited to this thing?”

Roscoe grunted, lips twitching to a grin, as he circled around, looking for a parking space.

Casey’s heartache and frustration were pushed to the back of her mind as she glanced through the windshield at the rows of cars and trucks. “Howie’s email said it was an all-town mixer.”

“All-county is more like it,” Ted said.

Roscoe found a spot to park as Casey said, “Well, you know the Haskell family. They’ve always thought it was their responsibility to entertain the whole town along with providing jobs and homes.”

“True,” Ted laughed. “Remember ‘Ice Cream Social 2013?’”

Casey snorted. “Remember how livid Howie was that we were ten gallons short of the world record for biggest sundae?”

“Or how about that masquerade ball last Halloween?”

“I think they’re still vacuuming up glitter at The Cattleman Hotel.” Casey burst into a fit of giggles as Roscoe cut the truck’s engine and opened the door.

Casey slid out the passenger side after Ted, hugging her vintage men’s pea coat close as a burst of icy air hit her. She, Ted, and Roscoe started walking up through the rows of cars and trucks together. The front door of the garish, five story, glass Paradise Space Flight building was illuminated with colored lights. It was December 29th, so Christmas decorations were still up, but already there were signs of New Year’s Eve decorations. Apparently, Howie had some sort of a light show planned. Cheerful music poured out of the front door every time an arriving guest opened it.

 

There you have it! Wanna read more? Opposites Attract is available now at all these fine retailers:

Amazon – http://amzn.to/2iuIzGv

B&N – http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/opposites-attract-merry-farmer/1125453825

iBooks – https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/opposites-attract/id1192996998

Kobo – https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/opposites-attract-29

Release Day! – Architect’s Angel

Dec 30, 2016

Here it is, folks! The last book from me in the Culpepper Cowboy series (although I know Kirsten Osbourne is planning at least one more)! I hope you enjoy Architect’s Angel and the super fun rivalry between Arch O’Donnell and Tabby Ross. Sometimes two people are just meant to be, in spite of how they get in their own way. Architect’s Angel is currently available at Amazon and for Kindle Unlimited, but in three months it will be available wherever eBooks are sold. Wanna get started reading Chapter One? Her you go!

Christmas was only two days away, but so far, Dr. Tabitha Ross, Culpepper’s premier OB/GYN, had yet to get into the spirit.

“I just haven’t felt like celebrating,” she explained to her patient and friend, Elvie Lipinski, as Elvie sat in the chair on the other side of Tabby’s desk.

Elvie shrugged. “It takes a while for me to get into the Christmas spirit every year. Everyone rushes things so much. Why can’t we just focus on Thanksgiving before charging into all the consumerism and grabbiness?”

Tabby smirked. “Is grabbiness a word?”

“If it isn’t, it should be.” Elvie chuckled, then tilted her head to the side, a dreamy smile coming to her face. “Although, I’ll admit, this year has been so good that I was already blissed out—even before December.”

Tabby smiled for her friend and handed her the piece of paper she’d been explaining. “Totally understandable. That tends to happen when you meet a hunky guy out of the blue, marry him three seconds later, inherit a fortune, and settle down to raise a family. You’ll want to start taking prenatal vitamins now, by the way. Then, when you do come back in here with good news, you’ll be ready to go.”

Elvie took the paper with a beaming smile. “I can’t wait. I’m determined to beat both Doc and Nancy and Sly and Rachel in the whole baby race.”

“Still nothing from either of those pairs?”

“Not yet, but I know Doc and Nancy have started trying.” Elvie paused. “I think Sly and Rachel are too concerned with their businesses to get started on a family at the moment. You know those two, they have a five-year plan for everything.”

“Yeah.” Tabby laughed, but a part of her was unsettled. The part that sped instantly from thinking about the three older O’Donnell siblings and straight to the youngest.

Arch O’Donnell. She couldn’t even think about the man without pangs of…well, lots of pangs. The man was a menace. He was arrogant, self-involved, and petty. He’d gotten in her way at the class reunion six weeks ago, messing up her plans, arguing with her decisions, and generally making her job way more difficult than it needed to be. He’d been doing the same thing since their senior year of high school too. Just thinking about him set her teeth on edge.

Arch and his smarmy grin, that twinkle in his eyes, the smooth way he had of moving. He’d been away from Culpepper for years, first at school, then building his architecture business. But now he was back. Back in all his buff, snappy-dressing, male glory. He’d wound her up so tightly at the reunion, then had the nerve to ask her to dance. And the extra nerve to hold her close during that dance, his warmth seeping into her, his cologne intoxicating, his—

“Whoa! Earth to Tabby.” Elvie waved her hand to snap Tabby out of her thoughts.

“Sorry, what?” Tabby cleared her throat and sat straighter, pretending to fuss with the paperwork on her desk. It was almost quitting time anyhow.

Elvie wasn’t fooled. She fixed Tabby with a lop-sided grin. “I wonder what you were thinking about.”

“I was thinking about what I’m going to have for supper,” Tabby bluffed.

“No, you weren’t.”

Tabby stopped fussing with the papers and frowned at her friend. “How do you know?”

“Because you have that look in your eyes.”

“What look? I don’t have any looks,” she answered, a little too fast.

Elvie just leaned back in her chair and smiled. “So, no Christmas spirit this year?”

Tabby could see Elvie was trying to lure her into talking about Arch, but she took the bait anyhow. “I just don’t feel like it. Mom is in Tahiti with her new boyfriend this year.”

“Ooh, Tahiti!”

“And Dad…” She let her sentence trail off with a sigh. “Dad is Dad.”

“He still living in Haskell?” The corner of Elvie’s mouth twitched into a grin.

“Yeah,” Tabby answered, avoiding her eyes. “He and his partner have expanded their law firm, now that Paradise Space Flight is drawing more people to town. He says they’re up to their eyeballs in work.”

“Haskell isn’t that far away. Are you guys going to get together at all on Christmas day?”

“Well, Sammy and I are doing a little Christmas something together, though we haven’t decided what yet. Probably just brunch at her place before heading to church.”

“I see.” Elvie nodded and hummed. Her expression turned innocent…or rather, fake innocent. “Things are going to be way different in the O’Donnell family this year too, what with three out of the four of us getting married in the last year. Doc and Nancy already have plans to do their own thing on Christmas morning. Sly and Rachel keep talking about heading out to the ski lodge for a romantic getaway. And Evan and I are heading down to Colorado for a quick visit with his family.”

“Oh?” Tabby shouldn’t have commented on the plans at all. She knew just what Elvie would do with her single syllable.

She was right.

“You should get in touch with Arch to see if he wants to do something on Christmas,” Elvie said.

“No.” Tabby’s answer was swift and definitive.

“He’ll probably be feeling left out,” Elvie went on, tugging on exactly the right heartstrings. “With Evan and I gone, he’ll be all by himself in that old house.”

Tabby still couldn’t believe that with all of Evan’s new money, he and Elvie were still living in the old O’Donnell house with Arch.

“He could at least use some food after church,” Elvie went on. “Poor guy.”

Tabby sighed. “No.” This time, her argument was less solid. Probably because the unaccountable desire to be there for Arch on Christmas, to wrap her arms around him and tell him everything would be all right, that someone did actually care about him, reared its ugly head. “Arch and I hate each other,” she reminded Elvie…and herself. “We have since high school.”

“I was under the impression that you two dated in high school.”

Tabby’s face flared red. Her heart thumped faster. “That was only for a few months in the summer before senior year.”

“Yeah, but I remember that really well,” Elvie argued. “You two were all over each other. Head over heels. Arch couldn’t talk about anything else, and neither could you.”

“It was a long time ago, and it ended badly.” Tabby pushed her chair back and stood. She took off her white coat and hung it on the rack to the side of her desk. Elvie was the last patient of the day, and suddenly all Tabby wanted to do was go home and fix herself a comfort food dinner full of fat and carbs.

Elvie stood and joined Tabby at the rack, getting her coat as Tabby shrugged into hers. “How did it end again?”

Tabby huffed out a breath and stared hard at Elvie. “You know how it ended.”

“There had to have been more to it than that silly election for class president,” Elvie said.

Tabby focused on her coat’s zipper to keep the old hurt of that election from showing on her face. “Nope. It was the election. Or rather, the rivalry of the campaign.”

“I still can’t believe Arch ran against you, even after you told him you were running.”

Coats on, purses in hand, Tabby and Elvie headed for the door. Night had fallen on the other side of the windows they passed. Already, the days were getting longer, but only barely. It would be months still until Tabby left her office in the daylight.

“I can’t believe he ran against me either,” Tabby muttered as they reached the front desk.

Release Day! – His Christmas Bride/Holly: The Christmas Bride

Dec 09, 2016

I feel like I’ve been waiting forever to say this, but His Christmas Bride (spicy)/Holly: The Christmas Bride (sweet) is here! At last! For those of you who’ve been dying to find out more about George, here’s your chance! And who doesn’t like a good Christmas story to get them in the mood at this time of year? Wanna get started on the first chapter? Here you go! (buy links at the bottom)

hischristmasbride_holly

Haskell, Wyoming – December, 1876

Rev. George Pickering stood on the platform of Haskell’s train station, bundled against the cold nip in the air. The scent of imminent snow filled his senses, and he hunkered down into the scarf wound around his neck. He’d had the foresight to dress warmly enough so that he wasn’t standing there shivering as he waited for his mail-order bride to arrive on the next train, but even if he hadn’t, embarrassment would have kept him warm as toast.

Half of Haskell had turned out to wait with him.

“This is so exciting,” ranch-owner Virginia Piedmont commented to her best friend, Josephine Evans. The two women were liaisons with Hurst Home, the safe place for women in Nashville where most of the mail-order brides who had come to Haskell were from. They were the only ones who had a right to be there. Not that that stopped the others.

“I know,” Jill Abernathy, the wife of one of Haskell’s two doctors answered. “Imagine, our very own reverend finding true love at last.”

George sent her a modest smile, though he could barely manage that. Sending for a bride in the mail was hardly a recipe for true love. He hadn’t asked for that and he didn’t expect it. All he wanted was a companion to share his load, both temporally and spiritually. He’d agonized for weeks over whether it was cold-hearted of him to bring in a woman to marry simply because his congregation was getting bigger by the day and he needed help ministering to them. But help was needed. And his hope was that he and the woman Mrs. Breashears had picked out for him from the many unfortunate women taking refuge at Hurst Home would be someone he could come to care for deeply, make a life with, have children with. He’d always pictured himself as a father.

“Oh! I think I hear the train whistle,” Josephine announced.

A ripple went through the crowd—and it was a crowd—behind George. Sure enough, a few seconds later, the faint shriek of the train sounded faintly in the distance. George took a deep breath. This was it. His new wife was on the way. He prayed that this time his wedding would go better than the last time.

“Ah, Rev. Pickering. There you are.”

George turned to find Howard Haskell striding toward him, the crowd parting as if he were Moses and they were the Red Sea. A tall, somber man in black with a thick beard walked slightly behind him.

“I’d like to introduce you to Rev. Alexander Robbins,” Howard went on before he’d fully reached George. When he did, he stopped and gestured toward Rev. Robbins as though showing off a prize bull. “He’s the minister I’ve brought in to perform your wedding ceremony.”

George smiled and extended a hand to Robbins. “It’s a pleasure to meet you. Thank you so much for stepping in to help.”

“It is important for a man to be married properly in the eyes of God.” Robbins shook George’s offered hand, his grip almost too firm. His voice was solid and deep as well. Everything about him radiated stoicism and severity. “As God has decreed, it is better to marry than burn,” Robbins raised his voice, drawing the attention of some of the onlookers. “So you shall be married in His eyes and according to His laws, avoiding the sinful path that is so easy for man to walk.”

George blinked. “Yes.”

Howard raised a brow at the man, as if he was unsure whether to be shocked or impressed. A moment later, he cleared his throat. “Rev. Robbins here comes highly recommended by some of my new associates in the Wyoming Stock Growers Association.”

“Isn’t the WSGA that horrible organization that Rex Bonneville belongs to?” Josephine asked.

“It is,” Virginia—who was Howard’s sister—answered with a snort. “I told him not to join.”

“Unfortunately, my dear,” Howard grumbled, “it’s become apparent to me that all ranch owners worth their salt who want to be a voice in this territory must belong to the WSGA.”

“Oh, dear,” Josephine sighed.

The train whistle sounded again, closer this time, bringing George and everyone else back to the moment at hand. He sent Robbins a nod and a smile, hoping it wasn’t too dismissive, and turned to shield his eyes from the sun as he looked down the train tracks.

The tracks had originally been built to one side of town, meaning that the entire town of Haskell rested on the north side of the tracks. Up until recently, everything on the south side had been privately owned ranchland, uninhabited except for an occasional drifter or two setting up a tent when the weather was fine. But just a month before, Robert Petty, the old man who owned the land, had sold a huge parcel to Rupert Cole. Rupert was not only the husband of one of George’s oldest friends, Bonnie, he was also half of a construction company that operated out of Everland, a town down the line from Haskell. Already, the land on the opposite side of the tracks was laid out with parcels for half a dozen buildings, and George had it on good authority that Rupert was planning to build even more.

“Margaret says she’s the sweetest thing.”

George yanked his thoughts out of speculation about Haskell’s imminent growth and paid attention to the conversation Virginia, Josephine, and Mrs. Abernathy continued to have just behind him.

“She is.” Eden Chance wedged her way through the crowd to join the conversation, her baby on her hip. “Holly was one of the sweetest girls I knew back at Hurst Home. I’m so excited she’s coming here.”

“Such a tragic history, though,” Josephine went on. “Although all of you ladies from Hurst Home have tragic histories.”

“That’s the point of the place, I suppose.” Mrs. Abernathy nodded sagely.

“And yet, every one of the women who have come out here to marry one of our boys has turned out to be a splendid person,” Virginia added.

“And we’re all so grateful for it,” Eden said. She bounced her baby boy and grinned. “Every one of us has been blessed with the life we’ve found here.”

“I’ve no doubt Holly Hannigan will be the same,” Josephine said. “Margaret writes that she’s a quiet sort, somber after an unhappy marriage.”

A knot formed in George’s gut. Unhappy was the ladies’ code for cruel and abusive. Margaret Breashears had made no secret of the fact that Holly had endured much pain in her first marriage, that fear of bodily harm was what had driven the poor woman to flee from her husband. The brutish husband in question had died several months after Holly took shelter at Hurst Home, but that was as much as George knew.

“I’m certain she’ll make a perfect minister’s wife,” Virginia continued. “Margaret says she’s pretty and intelligent, that she’s efficient and helpful. Apparently, she once worked in a shop.”

“She did,” Eden confirmed. “Her family owned the store where she worked, and a couple more besides.”

A prickle raced down George’s back. He shrugged it off. It must just be the chill and the threat of snow in the air. Beyond that, it had to be a coincidence. He’d known a woman named Holly once. Before, in his old life. She’d been a shop girl too. She’d almost been his wife. She would have been his wife. His entire life would have been drastically different…if she hadn’t left him at the altar.

 

Ready to read the rest? Here’s where you can get it!

His Christmas Bride (spicy) is available at AMAZON, IBOOKS, KOBO, and BARNES & NOBLE

Holly: The Christmas Bride (sweet) is available exclusively at AMAZON and for KU