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By Caroline Clemmons
Welcome, readers! Today, I’m so pleased to announce the release of my new American-set Victorian romance, WINTER BRIDE. This western historical romance is a stand-alone part of the Stone Mountain, Texas series set in the Palo Pinto Mountains of North Central Texas.
Here’s the blurb for WINTER BRIDE:
Sweet western historical romance of 60,000 words by bestselling author Caroline Clemmons is a stand-alone novel of the Stone Mountain Texas series including murder, danger, and adventure.
When Kendra Murdoch’s brother in law murders her sister, she takes charge of her nephew and two nieces. Fearing the man plans the same fate for her, she seeks shelter in Radford Crossing where she operates a café to support her small family.
Determined to be self-sufficient, Kendra shuns all advances from the handsome sheriff as danger hangs heavily over her head. But can she safeguard her family alone?
Butch Parrish battled a snowstorm and a killer to rescue Kendra and the children. He’ll do whatever is necessary to protect the independent young woman who rekindles sensations he hoped were dead long ago. Protecting her, chasing a killer, dealing with the town gossips, and investigating a stagecoach robbery, Butch has a battle on his hands.
Here’s an excerpt from WINTER BRIDE involving hero, Sheriff Butch Parrish:
As he turned onto the faint trail he sought, he spotted fresh tracks in the snow. He pulled his rifle from the saddle scabbard and slowed his horse. Instead of heading along the trail, the tracks led around the boulders.
Scout’s ears twitched forward, the chestnut’s signal of trouble. Even more slowly, Butch eased forward. He dismounted and crept along the boulders. If he could climb up to the taller rocks, he could spot where the tracks led and if Tucker waited for him.
Quietly as his boots allowed, he climbed. As he gained height, he spotted a horse tied to brush twenty yards from where he stood. Tracks crisscrossed in the snow, but where was Tucker? The man had the advantage of knowing this area’s terrain better than Butch.
“Sheriff?” The yell came from below and behind him.
Butch crouched and turned. A streak of fire burned into his chest. The impact sent him tumbling from rock to rock until he hit the snow-covered ground. He landed on his back, stars lit the backs of his eyelids, and his breath whooshed from his lungs. His rifle lay just beyond his grasp.
WINTER BRIDE is a romance, but the storyline includes mystery, murder, and mayhem. I like stories where something happens. I hope you do, too.
Here’s the buy link for Amazon http://amzn.com/B00VC9C31W
To celebrate my new release, I’m giving away a free download to someone who comments on this post by April 5th. Thanks and happy reading!
If you’re like me, you’re already eager for the days from Thanksgiving up to Christmas Eve. That’s my favorite time of year. I love the decorations, the songs, and the anticipation associated with choosing gifts for my family.
I confess to feeling letdown once the gifts are opened and the dinner eaten. The Christmas tree looks letdown, too, with no gifts underneath. I can’t explain why Hero and I leave our tree up until after Twelfth Night, but we always have. Probably this year will be no exception.
You can see why I love reading Christmas stories. In fact, I read them all year, but especially from October until Christmas. However, this is the first time I’ve written a Christmas story.
For this novella, I blame Darling Daughters 1 and 2. Each of them asked me to write a Christmas story. Guess the spirit is genetic, right?
Kim Killion did the perfect-for-the-novella cover. I chose the woman’s photo from Kim’s studio stock and she used the photo to create exactly what I had in mind. Don’t you love when that happens?
Here’s the blurb of STONE MOUNTAIN CHRISTMAS:
Christmas has been Celia Dubois’s favorite time of year as long as she can remember. When she moves back with her parents a year after the death of her husband, the young widow is appalled at the town’s lack of Christmas spirit. Two months earlier, banditos had burned the church and crushed the townspeople. Celia vows to return holiday joy to the town. Perhaps doing so might help mend her aching heart. Will Celia’s plan work magic on the town?
Rancher Eduardo Montoya knows Celia is the woman for him. She enchants him with her winning smile and vivacious nature. When her father warns Eduardo away from Celia, Eduardo is both angry and frustrated. After he stops a robbery in the mercantile, will Celia’s parents change their minds about him? Can handsome Eduardo heal Celia’s sorrow?
Here’s an excerpt of STONE MOUNTAIN CHRISTMAS:
Radford Crossing, Texas, November 1874
Eduardo Montoya focused on the beautiful redhead who swept the walk in front of Sturdivant’s Mercantile across the street. He turned to speak to his friend. “She is a vision, is she not?”
Micah Stone, his cousin’s husband, asked, “Have you met her or spoken to her?”
Eduardo’s gaze returned to Celia Dubois. He refused to let anyone shatter his dreams. “See how graceful she is even when performing a menial chore? When we are wed, she will not have to be concerned with such things.”
Sounding incredulous, Micah said, “I repeat, have you even met or spoken to her?”
Eduardo had no doubt his friend believed he had taken leave of his senses. He wasn’t so sure he hadn’t, but he placed a hand over his heart. “In good time, my friend. All in good time.”
Micah clapped him on the shoulder. “Come on, Romeo. We’ve finished our business with Joel. Hope’s expecting us for lunch. You can daydream about the pretty widow on our way home.”
“I suppose we must go.” He exhaled, reluctantly willing to leave town but unwilling to let anyone derail his plans.
Micah untied his horse from the hitching rail in front of his brother’s law office and mounted. “Have to say this is the first time I’ve known you to be shy about flirting with a woman.”
Determination steeled Eduardo’s resolve as he swung onto his gelding. “Never before has a woman been so important to me. You will see. One day, she will become my wife.”
The two rode toward Micah’s ranch.
From where she stood on the walk, Celia had known the men watched her. One was the youngest Stone brother. Identifying him was easy because the three Stone men looked so much alike.
But she hadn’t yet met the handsome man dressed as a Spanish Don. He fit the description she’d been privy to of Eduardo Montoya, one of the wealthiest men in this part of Texas. At least, that’s what she’d overheard while helping in her parents’ store.
He certainly cut a dashing figure in his black clothes trimmed with silver buttons. She wondered if he was entitled to dress like Spanish nobility or if he merely played a part. The silver on his saddle flashed in the sunlight and she questioned the safety of such a display.
One thing she’d noticed in her few days in town and working in her father’s mercantile, she heard tidbits of local gossip whether intentionally or not. She wondered what the gossips had to say about her. Probably best she didn’t know. Most people she’d met were friendly but there were a few prunes eager to criticize everyone.
Wasn’t that true everywhere? Yet she thought an unusual pall lay over Radford Crossing. The town definitely needed a large dose of cheer. As a matter of fact, she wouldn’t mind a measure of good spirits for herself. With a sigh, she went back inside the store.
You can purchase STONE MOUNTAIN CHRISTMAS:
Barnes and Noble Noble http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/stone-mountain-christmas-caroline-clemmons/1120622158?ean=2940046278842&itm=1&usri=2940046278842
Thanks for stopping by!
At any rate, it’s out. Generally, announcing a book here on the Vic’s blog I would like to give you the piece of history that called me to a book, since history of the era is mostly what we’re about here. For Wicked Woman it was a fascination with the Boston Brahmins. With The Wild One, it was a continuation of that fascination, along with that of San Franciscan society and acting in the Victorian era. I suppose The Wild Half was a fascination of cowboys in general, but because the book was such a launch point for my historical research, there is really no one thing to talk about. Sure, there’s a lot of ranching history. But there’s also research on cholera in the Victorian era and research on tuberculosis (which is only a few lines, but many hours of work). There’s the research on laudanum, and research on Custer’s last stand and Colorado’s statehood. There’s treasure in the Sangre De Cristo’s, lots and lots of slang, and quite a bit of psychology as well. In the end, this book encompasses most of the posts I’ve made here at Slip Into Something Victorian over the years, some my fellow Vic’s have written, and some I’ve yet to write up.
So really, historically, it’s a mishmash. What I did with this book was try to put the characters not in the Wild West so much as put them in the Victorian era. It wasn’t on purpose; what I’ve learned over the years just bled into this book. In the end though, I’m happier with that. If there’s anything I would like to accomplish, it’s to write books that integrate the history of Victorian America, and maybe eventually the rest of the Victorian world. Sure, The Wild Half is a Western, in that most of it takes place on a ranch, but these characters are part of Victorian America, not just Colorado, 1876. It’s 11 years past the Civil War, 13 years past slavery, but it’s still in their minds, it’s still part of their lives. They’re excited about the invention of the telephone and Colorado’s statehood, and are emotionally and mentally affected by Custer’s last stand.
Sometimes I feel like we view history in a kind of vacuum. As if, for example, the Civil War ended in 1865 and that was it, no more thoughts on it. Sometimes it feels like we look at the history of the West like it was a separate country. Neither is true. Today, in 2013 we still, on a subtle level, feel the effects of the Civil War. It’s only realistic to consider that the people of the West also felt it, especially since the history of the Civil War was the history of the West. A lot of the cowboys were displaced southerners, and part of the need for beef back East was due to the destruction of that war.
And so. . .I hope that’s what I did with this book. I hope when you read it, that’s what you read, that’s what you feel–all the history of the era, and the characters living it just as we today live the triumphs and tragedies of our parents and the other parts of our country and our world. Let me know!
Blub: The Wild Half
Chasing her was his first mistake. . . .
Lilah Martin is a hunted woman who has roamed the West for three years, staying one step ahead of men who are trying to kill her. Fear is her only friend; staying alive is her only goal. Then she lands a job at the Bar M, a prosperous and well-protected ranch in Colorado, where she finds friendship, sanctuary and a life that is almost normal. Or so it seems until she falls prey to the wildly seductive and dangerously inquisitive Rick Winchester. . .
A former outlaw, Rick has spent five years searching for distraction from guilt over his wife’s death. He finally finds it in the simmering sexual attraction between Lilah and him, and the dark intrigue surrounding her. But the more he delves into her secrets, the more of a mystery she becomes, until, frightened, she flees the Bar M. Determined not to lose this woman, Rick races after her, catapulting them into a clash of wills, which can only end in the discovery of a deadly secret locked away in Lilah’s mind. A secret that could make them both rich. Or get them both killed. . . .
Excerpt: The Wild Half
In the mirror, Lilah watched Rick settle into a sagging, blue upholstered chair that she’d shoved into the opposite corner. The room was plain, with bare plaster walls and scratched floors, and so small Rick could sit in the chair and prop his feet up on the rope bed.
She tightened her grip on her glass. “Why are you here?”
“For you, naturally.” His honeyed voice glided over her body like a caress, promising hours of illicit—possibly deadly—pleasure.
As his eyes drilled into her back, she took another gulp of whiskey. “For what? What do you want?” Her voice sounded tight, nervous, not cold and repelling like she wanted.
“So suspicious, darlin’. Can’t a man visit an old friend without having ulterior motives?”
“We’re not old friends.”
He paused a minute. “New friends, then.”
“We’re not new friends, either.”
“All right,” he said slowly. “What are we? You tell me.”
She opened her mouth, then shut it abruptly. “Lovers” was not the right answer. Damn, but she had to get rid of him. Three weeks away from him, and she’d yet to regain control of her senses. Worse still was the fact that he’d followed her here, all the way from the Bar M, proving that he didn’t want her to regain that control.
But, a tiny voice asked, wasn’t that a little flattering?
As flattering as a mountain lion stalking an elk.
“I came to help you,” Rick interrupted her thoughts
“I don’t want your help.”
A movement in the mirror. He rose and approached the dresser, where he poured himself a drink. He brushed against her and her skin heated, anticipating a more erotic touch. Clenching her jaw, she stepped over to peer out the dirty windowpane to the dark alley below and waited for him to settle in the chair again. The bed creaked.
He’d seated himself on it, to her left. The dresser was behind her, to the right. To reach the door, she’d have to push past him. He’d trapped her. Her breath caught in her throat.
He peered at her. “A few weeks back I met a man who was looking for you.”
She froze as blood rushed to her head. Grabbing the windowpane to steady herself, she worked her features into blankness, then turned. “What did he look like? What did he want?”
His eyes were intense, penetrating. “Dark hair, medium height, thirty or so, with a mustache. He said his name was John Carpenter, from New Orleans. He claimed he was trying to help your brother find you, that you’d run off with some fella after quarrelling with your father.”
Lilah looked to the floor, combing her memory. Thirty with a mustache? That description could match many men. Had she heard the name before, though? She rubbed her temple. “I don’t remember.”
The words slipped out, more pieces to a puzzle she wanted to hide. With a harsh thump of her heart, she lifted her head. Their gazes locked. The tamped-down anger she’d seen when Rick first entered the saloon flickered to life. “You don’t remember what? Carpenter? Your family? Or the man you ran off with?”
“It’s none of your business!” she snapped. “How many times must I tell you that before you leave me alone!” He was too near—to the truth, to her. The air between them grew heavy and thick. If he’d just move back. . .
“And how many times do I have to tell you it is my business?” he growled. “I’m here to help you, whether you want it or not. Get that straight.”
It didn’t make sense. Unless Carpenter had told him about the price on her head. Had they’d joined forces? Rick had had a lot of money at that card game, more than she could attribute to a forty-dollar-a-month cowhand. Betrayal. . .
Her heart shook and then rose to clog her throat. “I don’t want your help,” she said, digging in her pocket for her derringer. “And I don’t have to take it.” She stepped toward the door.
He rose, blocking her exit with his large body as he grabbed her arm to prevent her from lifting her weapon. The smell of leather and dust and stale cigarette smoke enveloped her, making breathing even harder. “Give me the gun, Lilah.”
She swallowed. “No.”
A muscle jumped in his cheek and his eyes flashed angry blue lightning. “God damn it, woman,” he ground out as he slid his hand down to her wrist. “I spent three weeks traveling through this god-forsaken country looking for you. I’ll be damned if I’m going to let you shoot me, now.” His fingers grasped her wrist so tightly her hand went numb. She loosened her grip, and he pulled the gun free. Stepping backward, he emptied the two barrels and pocketed the bullets. He slapped the gun down on the dresser. “You’re taking my help.
By Caroline Clemmons
Thanksgiving is almost upon us. But then, November is a busy month. This is National Family Literacy Month. Children are already counting the days until Christmas. Teachers are counting the days until Christmas vacation. 😉 I’m reading, writing, getting ready for Thanksgiving, and–just like a kid–counting the days until Christmas. I love this time of year. For what are you thankful? Probably too many things to count. One of the things for which I am grateful is that I get to spend all day writing my stories and promoting them. Not so much the promotion, but I love writing. I even like writing blogs.
Speaking of thankful, this blog is about my stories. I’m grateful to have four you can order from The Wild Rose Press at http://www.thewildrosepress.com/caroline-clemmons-m-638.html in print and download. They are:
OUT OF THE BLUE is a paranormal (time travel, clairvoyant) romantic suspense in which an Irish woman, Deirdre Doherty, jumps off a cliff in 1845 Ireland to escape a mob…and plops down in modern Possum Kingdom Lake in North Central Texas. Yes, that’s a real lake, and it was named because 19th century trappers used to gather so many possum skins there for the pelt trade. Euw. It’s also a popular lake for water sports. The lake is surrounded by hills covered in post oaks and cedar, and this time of year the post oaks turn brilliant colors. That’s why the low mountain range is calledthe Palo Pinto Mountains. The Irish town of Ballymish and the Texas city of Radford are fictitious. Weird, huh, when Possum Kingdom is for real. Deirdre and police detective Brendan Hunter team up to learn who is trying to kill them, who killed Brendan’s partner, and who has framed Brendan. There’s a lively cast of supporting characters who people Brendan’s life–and now Deirdre’s as well. But is she in our time to stay, or will she suddenly be sent back to the mob who want to burn her as they did her home?
THE TEXAN’S IRISH BRIDE is a western historical romance set near Bandera in the Central Texas hill country. Rancher Dallas McClintock has been breeding and training horses and is gaining respect for his skill. He doubts he’ll ever overcome the prejudice some feel toward him for his half-Cherokee blood, but he’s seen a difference as word of his ability with horses spreads. On a trip home after delivering horses, Dallas rescues a beautiful woman from two men who abducted her. Although he kills the two men, he is badly wounded in the exchange. Her father and brothers take him to their camp, a band of Irish Travelers. Although the O’Neill family are merely Irish who’ve been turned off their land in Ireland, they joined with the Travelers for protection. But Sean O’Neill sees a good chance for his daughter Cenora Rose to escape from the brutish Traveler leader who seeks to force her to wed him. Before he heals enough to escape, Dallas is caught in a trap and forced to marry Cenora. Not only has he suddenly acquired a wife, he has inherited her wild Irish family as well. And does the O’Neill clan ever lead Dallas a traumatic life! He, on the other hand, is a man of honor who astonishes his new kin with his nature.
SAVE YOUR HEART FOR ME is a western historical romance set near Medina. Matt Petrov is assigned to help a distant relative, Ivan Romanovich, claim his land. When Matt arrives at the boarding house where Ivan is staying, Ivan has disappeared. And who should be helping her mother operate the boarding house but Beth Jeffers, the woman Matt’s loved for six years. Beth thinks Matt is cut from the same cloth as the man to whom she was briefly married–long enough to conceive her son Davey. Matt’s grateful she escaped her abusive husband before her son was born, but he wonders if Beth was party to Lionel Jeffers plans. Matt has wished he were the man she’d married instead of the conniving, and dead, Jeffers, but Matt never let anyone know. Now, he’s living in the same home as she and her son and mother. Beth doesn’t know Matt’s secrets, and he fears when she learns them she’ll never speak to him again. He couldn’t bear losing her twice. Just when he works up the courage to tell her, Beth’s son disappears. Can Matt save Ivan and Davey in time? What will Beth do when she learns the truth? (This one is available only in e-download)
HOME, SWEET TEXAS HOME is a contemporary western romance set in and near Lubbock in West Texas. Courtney Madison has battled poverty her entire twenty-five years but is determined to make a safe and happy home for her teenaged brother after the recent death of their mom. Her mom’s illness left Courtney with a mountain of hospital bills, her formerly sweet brother Jimmy is now cutting class and hanging with a rough crowd, and she’s just learned she’s being downsized in two weeks. Hanging on by the threads of a fraying rope, she learns she’s inherited two million dollars from a kind elderly man she befriended when he was in the hospital across the hall from her mom. She thinks her inheritance in West Texas is the answer to all her prayers–but Courtney learns that while money improves her life, it doesn’t guarantee happiness. This modern Cinderella encounters problems even a fairy godmother couldn’t imagine. Rancher/entrepeneur Derek Corrigan has incredible instincts for flourishing in the business world. With women, not so much. In fact, his friends bemoan he’s King Midas where money is concerned, but his judgment of women is pathetic–evidenced by his late wife and now the flamboyant woman he’s been escorting of late. As far as Derek is concerned, all he wants is to be a good dad to his children Warren, aged 8, and Meg, aged 5. Derek suspects the worst of his new neighbor and vows to fight his attraction for her. The only way he can protect his children and himself is to keep his private life very private. Besides, he knows what women do to him–they always leave and take chunks of his heart with them. He’s been there, done that, had the vaccination and is cured. Isn’t he?
Has your curiosity been piqued? I hope so, and I hope you’ll choose to make me even more thankful this season by ordering one of my books.
Caroline Clemmons writes mystery, romance, and adventures—although her earliest made up adventures featured her saving the West with Roy Rogers. Her career has included stay-at-home mom (her favorite job), newspaper reporter and featured columnist, assistant to the managing editor of a psychology journal, and bookkeeper. She and her husband live in rural North Central Texas with a menagerie of rescued pets. When she’s not writing, she enjoys spending time with family, reading, travel, browsing antique malls and estate sales, and genealogy/family history. Her backlist of contemporary and historical romance is now at Smashwords and Kindle. ALMOST HOME is the first mystery she’s published and is available at Kindle only. Read about her at http://www.carolineclemmons.comor her blog at http://carolineclemmons.blogspot.com She loves to hear from readers at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks for reading!
Welcome to Excerpt Saturday. My name is Caroline Clemmons and today I’m sharing an excerpt of my historical romance, THE MOST UNSUITABLE HUSBAND. This is the sequel to the book I shared last Saturday, THE MOST UNSUITABLE WIFE, which is now on sale for 99 cents through June at Smashwords and Amazon Kindle.
THE MOST UNSUITABLE HUSBAND is the story of a rogue who reforms for the love of a good woman. (I did say it was fiction, didn’t I?) It’s one of my favorites of my books and I hope you’ll be enticed to purchase it. When it appeared initially, reviews were tremendous and included a Top Pick by Romantic Times. Now it’s back in my possession and available with a new cover (the Knave of Hearts) at Smashwords
and Amazon Kindle at
Blurb: Sarah Kincaid often feels she’s just a copy of her sister Pearl and her aunt Lily, never making her own mark in the world. Sarah intends to do good works, though, and make a real difference in people’s lives, not die to be mourned by only a scruffy handful of people like her mother. But how, when she can hardly speak up for herself? That is, until she finds three orphaned children who need her help. Then the timid rabbit becomes a lioness determined to take the children from Memphis back to her home in Texas. She enlists the help of a man she correctly suspects is up to no good, Nate Barton. She doesn’t realize his real name or connection to her past until it’s too late. By then, they’re both trapped in her web of love.
Excerpt in Sarah Kincaid’s point of view:
That man in black–he’d introduced himself as Nathaniel Barton–had been at the cemetery. He was always around on the boat, too, and now he was here in their hotel in Memphis. He trailed behind her as if he hadn’t a care in the world. Surely it was coincidence. Lots of people traveled from St. Louis to Memphis every day.
The porter stopped in front of a room and opened the door. He stood back for her to enter, but not before she saw Mr. Barton at the next door. He even glanced her way and smiled as he nodded his head in greeting.
My stars, he’s staying in the very next room to mine.
What kind of hotel would allow a single man on the same floor as a single woman? She fought down panic as she dealt with the porter, then locked the door behind him and slid the bolt. Alone in her room, her imagination ran its course as she paced. Had she strayed into a den of iniquity?
No, that couldn’t be. Mrs. Welborn assured her this was a family hotel suitable for a young woman. After all, the Welborns registered here, too. How did Mr. Barton come to be in the very room next to her? It wasn’t proper. What would people think? What would they say?
She caught herself. The Welborns were the only people here she knew, and she hardly cared what they thought other than their reports back to the Vermillions and Aunt Lily. Even they could hardly blame her for the hotel’s room assignments.
This Mr. Barton could not mean her harm. There’d been ample opportunity on the paddle wheeler had he intended to hurt her. They’d never had a conversation on a personal level. His comments had centered on the trip and the weather, not a hint of anything improper and always with others nearby. Perhaps his constant presence was a coincidence. Just the same, he made her nervous. She felt like a rabbit waiting for the wolf to pounce whenever Mr. Barton was near.
In the midst of her concern, she admitted his presence offered reassurance to her that she was protected from others. Surely he would rush to her aid if she needed assistance. Her instincts proved right regarding Mr. Welborn. Perhaps she should rely on intuition in this instance. She wished she were more decisive, not a victim of warring emotions.
She raised her skirt and checked the little double-shot derringer given her by her brother, Storm. Best to be prepared. The little gun still rested securely in its garter holster on her thigh. Storm had insisted she practice until she was a fair shot. Would she have the courage to use the weapon against a human? She doubted it, but its weight reassured her.
Sarah spied the door connecting her room with the one in which Mr. Barton resided. Rushing to check the lock, she stopped. She must not let him know she suspected him of following her. Very slowly she turned the knob of the connecting door. Locked. She released a heavy sigh.
Curiosity nudged her. Kneeling, she peered through the keyhole. The opening framed him as he pulled a fresh shirt from an open valise on the bed. Shucking his jacket and waistcoat, he took a pistol from his waistband and placed it on the bed beside the satchel. He unbuttoned his shirt.
She knew she should move away but couldn’t. Oh, my stars! He might dress like a riverboat dandy, but this gorgeous man was no weakling. Trouser fabric pulled taut against trim hip muscles when he turned and bent over the things on the bed.
Her mouth went dry as a Texas dust storm. She watched him turn back to face her. He removed his shirt and tossed it behind him on the bed. Then she saw the bandage across his shoulder and another at his waist. She wondered which side of the law he was on when he got those, but thought she knew. The wrong side, of course.
He picked up a fresh shirt and she caught the ripple of muscles across his chest as he slipped the shirt on. His movements were swift and powerful, not the sluggish ambling she had witnessed in public.
Occasionally in summer she had caught glimpses of her brother, her brother-in-law, and the hands at the ranch with their shirts off. Unlike their tanned torsos, Mr. Barton’s pale skin made her fingers tingle to touch the brown chest hair that converged in a vee at his belt. She wondered how far below his waist the pelt descended. A pool of warmth gathered at the base of her stomach.
My stars, what disgraceful thoughts.
Where did they come from? They weren’t proper. No, not at all suitable. Being away from home must be having a poor effect on her.
Never before had such scandalous ideas entered her head about any man. She didn’t have these thoughts about Peter Dorfmeyer, and everyone expected her to marry Peter. Mr. Barton was the most attractive man she’d ever seen, but she must get her wayward thoughts under control.
Buttoning his shirt, Mr. Barton stepped from her view. When he returned and glared at the keyhole, she froze. Surely he couldn’t know she watched him. She sank further to the floor and sat with her back against the door.
Sarah pressed her hands to heated cheeks, shocked at her own behavior. She was no better than a window peeper. What on earth had come over her?
A sudden thought assailed her. What if he planned to look through the keyhole as she had? Taking a hanky from her cuff, she draped it over the doorknob so it hung across the tiny opening. No, that wouldn’t do. It kept sliding off. She rose and opened her traveling bag and took out a shirtwaist. Hanging it on the knob, she stepped back. Perfect. It looked as if she used the handle for a hook.
She crossed to the vanity. Not taking time to change from her traveling suit into a dress, she contented herself with pushing stray hair back into her chignon and grabbing her shawl. With any luck, she could purchase her train ticket while her neighbor had his dinner.
Sarah walked briskly to the train station. A line greeted her at the ticket window. Oh, well, she loved watching people, so she wouldn’t mind the wait. Taking her place in the row, she surveyed the other prospective passengers wandering to and fro. She studied the clothes of other women, compared them to her own black clothing. In her head she made up stories of who they were and where they might be headed.
A young boy bumped with a wham into the man in front of her. The child’s hand darted into the man’s pocket and out with a flash, and secured the lifted wallet under his shirt. Probably no more than seven or eight, the lad wore the dirtiest clothes Sarah had ever seen. His hair might have been blond at one time, but it and his skin had gone a long time without touching soap and water.
“Oh, excuse me, sir.” The boy’s large blue eyes were the picture of innocence when he gazed up at the man.
Sarah gasped. What should she do? She couldn’t bring herself to cause a scene by screaming, but neither could she stand by and let the child rob this man.
“Steady, you little ragamuffin.” The victim placed a hand on the boy’s shoulder. “Slow down and see you’re more careful next time.”
“Yes, sir, sorry. I will, sir.” The boy moved swiftly away into the crowd.
Sarah took off after the little thief. He looked over his shoulder and she motioned to him. His eyes widened in alarm and he ran. She gathered her skirts and rushed after him, weaving around groups of people.
When she had almost caught up with the light-fingered boy, she thudded against a solid wall of chest.
Mr. Barton grunted and clutched Sarah’s shoulders, then dropped his hands and made a slight bow. “Why, I believe it’s Miss Kincaid, is it not? Are you in some sort of distress?”
“No, it was nothing.” She peered over his shoulder but the thief was nowhere in sight. “I thought I saw someone I knew, but I was mistaken.” She felt her cheeks flush again with guilt. Their collision must have jarred his injured chest, but she couldn’t ask him about it. How could she explain that knowledge?
“Your traveling companions–Welwoods or Welworths–are they with you?”
“No. The Welborns were tired and planned to have dinner sent to their room.” She thanked heavens for that. Eating with the odious Mr. Welborn soured her stomach. But now this man who, for all appearances, followed her everywhere had neatly trapped her. A shiver of apprehension skittered down her spine, but she stood mesmerized by his tawny eyes.
As if he sensed her fear, he offered a crooked smile and proffered his` arm. “May I escort you back to the hotel?”
“I was…” she stopped. Her nerves jangled with alarm, but she strove to appear calm. She preferred buying her ticket in private. If he hadn’t yet learned where she headed, she didn’t want him to know her exact destination. “That would be very kind, um, Mr. Barton.”
“Bit cool this evening, isn’t it?”
My stars, didn’t the man ever talk about anything but the weather? Maybe he was one of those gorgeous physical specimens with the brain of a rock.
She sighed and answered, “Yes, there’s a chill in the air. I suppose we’re in for more winter.”
What should she do? Panic turned her stomach in knots. She should send him on his way, but didn’t know what to say or do. Hating herself for her timidity, she once more flowed with the easiest course and allowed herself to be escorted back to the hotel.
Thanks for reading my excerpt for today. Remember, you can own both THE MOST UNSUITABLE WIFE and THE MOST UNSUITABLE HUSBAND for under five dollars. What a deal! I’ll be posting again on June 20th about a woman in history. Until then, happy reading.
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The kernel for the book THE MOST UNSUITABLE WIFE came from a small detail mentioned once by my grandmother. A girl in her Tennessee hometown quit attending school because of bullying and harassment from other students. Grandmother didn’t know what became of the girl, but her story made me wish the girl’s life had had a happy ending. I decided to give her one in this marriage of convenience romance, which is Book one of the Kincaids.
Here’s the blurb:
Wanted: One completely improper bride.
Even if Drake Kincaid had placed such an advertisement in every paper in the country, he couldn’t have found a better candidate than Pear Parker–which is fine with him. After all, his parents’ will stipulates only that he marry by his thirtieth birthday, not that he marry well. And no one–including Drake’s grandfather, the man determined to hold him to the ridiculous provision–could possibly think that tall, bossy Pearl with her ragtag siblings and questionable “cousin” Belle will make a good wife. Until Drake realizes that in Pearl’s startling violet eyes he sees a beautiful woman with a generous soul…
Their life together may not have started with hearts and flowers, but Drake and Pearl will soon learn that real love–with a breathtaking dose of passion–will make their marriage a true romance.
Excerpt: (set up) Drake has just told Pearl she’s to remain at his grandfather’s home instead of moving to Drake’s home on the ranch while he drive cattle to market in Kansas.
“What do you mean, stay here?”
Pearl had wakened cocooned in the hazy glow following a night of intermittent lovemaking with her husband to find him dressing for the ranch. Then he dropped a bombshell on her.
“You know it’s not safe for you to be on your own. Ranch is too isolated. You’ll be safer here in town.” Drake stomped his feet to settle each in the boots he wore. He retrieved a blue chambray shirt from his bag and donned it.
“For how long?” Pearl slid from bed and grabbed her nightgown from the floor.
She whirled on her husband, confronting him, “You never intended for me to move to the ranch, did you?” She yanked her nightie on. No one could argue buck-naked.
“Don’t get riled. Women hate the seclusion. You’ll be happier in town. Things to do here and people about you.” Drake shoved his shirt into his twill pants without looking at his wife.
She stepped toward him and pointed at her chest. “What do you know about what makes this woman happy?”
A crooked smile broke his face. “Aw, I know what makes you happy, all right. Didn’t I keep you happy all night?”
She shrugged away the comment aimed to distract her. “Did you ask me which I prefer? No.” She hoped her glare chilled his randy hide.
His voice softened, placating. “Pearl, be reasonable. We don’t know who’s tried to kill you and your family. Someone might be trailing you right now, waiting somewhere and watching the house.”
He met her gaze. That muscle twitched in his cheek, letting her know he was less than happy with this conversation. Well, that didn’t bother Pearl in the least. Some things needed talked about.
He walked over and put his hands on her shoulders, then took a deep breath and continued, “Look, the sheriff and his deputy as well as several of the town’s leading citizens will be looking out for any newcomer. I talked to the owners of the livery stable, the hotel, the mercantile, all the places I could think of that a newcomer would stand out. If any strangers come around asking questions, the sheriff will find out immediately. You and Sarah will be safer here.”
“You’re taking Storm with you?” She hugged her arms, sensing a lost battle.
“Yes, um, with your permission. I can’t see him attending teas or shopping here in town. Besides, he’s a big help to me.”
Her head came up and her hands fisted at her hips. “And I suppose Sarah and I are just so much baggage?”
“Now, I didn’t say that and you know it.” He held up a hand, palm out, as if to stay her fury. “But you have no place rounding up cattle and getting ready for a drive.”
“It’s true we don’t ride, but we could learn.” She could learn anything, given a chance. She suspected no chance would come.
“There’s no time to teach you. ‘Sides, it makes the cowboys and vaqueros nervous to have women around the cattle. They think it’s bad luck. And I can’t leave the two of you at the house with only the housekeeper to help you.”
She sagged in defeat. “Okay, Drake. I’ll stay here for now, and I’ll try not to shame you. But this is only until we know there’ll be no more meanness against my family. Don’t think you can keep me waiting too long,” she warned.
His face broke into a smile of relief. “You’ll see. By the time this is over and things calm down, you’ll like this sweet life so much you won’t be able to tear yourself away from Grandpa’s house.”
“Too much sweet gives a body a belly ache.”
Ignoring that and stepping close, he kissed her on the cheek then nuzzled her neck. “I’ll be sleeping tonight in a bedroll on hard ground. Give me a kiss to remember.”
Something to remember. She’d give him something to remember all right. She raised her mouth to his, let him plunder with his tongue. Her tongue did some plundering of its own as she moved her body against him. When their kiss ended, the heat of passion darkened his eyes.
“When you’re sleeping on the hard ground, all alone, you remember that, husband.” Head high, she turned and walked into the dressing room.
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The American cowboy’s code of ethics was pretty straightforward—but each “rule” was backed up by plain ol’ common sense. Here, for our Tuesday Ten, are ten “laws of the plains” that the cowboy strictly adhered to.
1. It is bad manners to ask a man his name. He may have a reason why he can’t afford to share his name or bring attention to himself.
2. Stealing a man’s horse is a crime punishable by death. To leave a man stranded on the plains, miles from food, water or shelter is as good as killing him.
3. Cheating at cards is an unpardonable offense. The victim or one of his friends is entitled to retaliate with a six-shooter.
4. Drawing on an unarmed man is strictly prohibited. Offenders may be gunned down on the spot by the victim, if he’s able, or his kin or friends.
5. Encountering a stranger on the trail, a man must approach him and speak a few words before moving off in another direction. Greeting him establishes good intentions.
6. When two men meet, speak, and pass on, neither must look back over his shoulder. To do so is an indication of distrust, implying that the man looking behind him expects a shot in the back.
7. When a stranger dismounts to cool his horse it is not polite to remain in the saddle while carrying on a conversation with him. The proper thing to do is dismount and speak to him face to face, so he can see what you’re up to.
8. To ride another man’s horse without asking permission is a grave insult. A horse is private property and borrowing one without permission is equivalent to a slap in the face.
9. Only in a dire emergency is it permissible to borrow a horse. Every man has his own style of riding and a horse can easily be spoiled by the wrong rider.
10. A smart rider always puts his horse’s comfort before his own. If the horse becomes lame or disabled, the rider may find himself stranded in the middle of the desert.
Courtesy of Cowboys Then & Now museum, Portland, OR.