Sunday, November 1, 2020

New Series!!

 I'm so excited about my new series "Runaway Brides". I'm centering all of the books in this series around one Montana town - Stumptown. 

Book One - Denton's Bride:

Courtney Mills is not a murderer.
Of course, convincing her fiancĂ©’s family that she had nothing to do with his death is a different matter. They are bound to put a noose around her neck
, and she can’t defend herself. There is only one thing to do. Run far away and stay hidden. She needs a plan… Become a mail-order bride.

Denton Reed catches criminals for a living, and when a wealthy family hires him to find the number one suspect in their father’s murder, Denton jumps into action. But, it appears the only way to catch her is to convince her that he's part of her plan to become a mail-order bride. There’s no harm in pretending… or is there?




Montana, 1877


Never in Courtney Mills’ life did she think she would be planning a wedding only to see her intended, lying on the floor, dead.

Arranged marriages to old men needed to be outlawed!

Courtney Mills twisted her handkerchief against her middle as she stared at the lifeless body of Albert Greenwood – the man ten years older than her father – lying on the floor of his study. Blood stained the beige rug under his head as his lay face down. Next to his head was a marbled bust of George Washington. In Albert’s study was his collection of history, and from the looks of it, George Washington was the very thing that probably ended Albert’s life.

Her stomach lurched, and she turned away, lifting her handkerchief to her mouth and inhaling the scented cloth slowly. Although she detested her parents selling her to Albert Greenwood to keep the money flowing between the two wealthy families, she didn’t want the old man dead.

After the initial shock of walking into the room and seeing him on the floor murdered, Courtney’s body shook violently. Her mind clouded with confusion and mixed emotions. Part of her wanted to be relieved that she wasn’t going to get married today, and yet, from what she could tell, someone had wanted him out of their lives, too. They’ll blame me!

Her throat constricted as panic welled within her. Albert’s family – three sons, and two daughters, who were all older than Courtney – hadn’t wanted their father to marry her. It didn’t matter that she agreed with them, she had to obey her parents and marry the older man. His children hated her, no matter how nice she tried to be with them.

The rhythm of her heartbeat accelerated, and her head throbbed with indecision. She should alert one of Albert’s servants about his demise, and yet, she hesitated. Since she was the first to find him, she’d be their main suspect. She’d read mystery novels before. She knew how the law worked. She also knew that they would consider her guilty until she proved herself innocent. At this moment, she didn’t know how that would ever happen.

On unsteady legs, she slowly moved toward the door. She must leave. Now!

She opened the door and stepped into the hallway. The butler was the only person to see her this morning since he had let her inside the house. Her parents hadn’t arrived yet, and she must leave before anyone else noticed her presence. The fewer people who could testify that she was here, the better her chances were of not being hanged for a crime she hadn’t committed.

Instead of heading out the front door, she turned the other way and hurried toward one of the side doors down a back hallway. Voices were heard from somewhere in the house, but she couldn’t tell who it was or where they were. Dizziness assailed her, and she bumped her shoulder against the wall. A picture that had been hanging fell to the floor. The wooden frame broke into several pieces. She couldn’t stop. Freedom was what she needed.

Her head filled with fog, and it seemed the door that would lead to her escape was so far ahead as if she were entering a tunnel. Courtney continued, placing one foot in front of the other. I can do this… I must do this!

Finally, she reached the door and turned the knob. Two steps later, she was outside. Inhaling deeply, she tried to clear her head. She needed to be alert to get away. But where would she go? Returning home to Butte was out of the question. That would be the first place the sheriff looked.

Courtney took cautious steps around the house, staying as close to the red-brick as she possibly could. As she passed behind tall bushes, the twigs pulled strands of hair out of the coil her maid had wrapped the bulk of her hair into. Courtney didn’t care. Her main focus was to leave without being spotted.

The stables, just down the slope, had some servants moving around inside. She stopped and held her breath. From her viewpoint, she didn’t know if they noticed her or not. She couldn’t let them see her at all. Moving slower now, she kept an eye on the stables, wondering if anyone would come out to see to her needs. She prayed they didn’t.

As she reached the front of the house, she realized her buggy was still out front with her luggage tied to the back, and she expelled a relieved sigh. Everything she owned was in those three trunks. She could leave Helena and never return.

Tears stung her eyes as Courtney made the decision. She’d leave her family, her friends, and all those things she held dear to her heart. Then again, she would have had to do that after she married Albert, anyway. However, this time, there was no other choice but to follow the road and let it take her far away from here.

She glanced around the yard, making sure nobody saw her, and darted toward her buggy. Just before reaching the vehicle, a terrified scream ripped through the air, coming from inside the mansion.

Inwardly, Courtney groaned. One of the servants had found Albert.

She wouldn’t find a better time than now to make a run for it. The servants would be rushing inside the house to see where the scream had come from. Courtney couldn’t wait a moment longer. She dashed toward her buggy and climbed inside. The hem of her dress caught on the step and ripped. A ruined dress didn’t matter to her at the moment, and she grabbed the reins and whipped them in the air, urging her horse forward. Instead of taking the main road, she went off the trail and into the woods, following other paths. She couldn’t go as fast as she wanted, but she tried to get out of this area as quickly as she could. People would be looking for her very soon.

The image of Albert’s wrinkled, palish-gray face popped into her mind again. Her stomach lurched just like before. The old codger didn’t deserve to die. Even though the idea of marriage to him made her physically ill, he still had a good ten or twenty years left to live.

Several hours passed, and thankfully, nobody followed her. As she took in her surroundings, she couldn’t place where she was. Her hands ached from gripping the reins so tightly, but her heart wrenched in agony. Fear was still the underlying emotion in her gut, but it also was the very thing that kept her moving.

Up ahead, she noticed a town. She would have to find something to eat before continuing on her journey. That would be the only way for her to keep going forward.

As soon as she saw people moving in the street, she slowed down her horse and straightened her shoulders. She mustn’t look like she was running away. Instead, she must appear that driving her buggy was normal and that she was going to visit a friend.

A few people glanced her way, but thankfully, nobody knew her, nor did they question her motivation. As she approached the town hall, she noticed a little wagon out front with a canopy over a table that sat on the side. Written across a thick board were the words – Mail-order Brides.

Courtney had read ads in the newspaper about ranchers looking for brides. She felt sorry for the woman who had to sink to such pitiful circumstances. It was difficult to imagine what a woman would have to suffer through in order to decide to marry someone they’d never met before.

The man standing by the table, dressed as a preacher in his long black robes as he held a Bible, looked up at her. His gaze swept over her once before he smiled widely.

“Pardon me, miss.” He moved in front of the horse, stopping her progress. “Do you believe in guardian angels?”

Irritation grew over her. This wasn’t the time to talk about Heaven. “Yes, but please, sir, I need you to move.”

As he stepped closer, he petted the horse. “Because I believe your guardian angel has led you to me.” He pointed to his wagon. “You appear to be down on your luck, so let me tell you how to find your future.”

“I appreciate your concern, but I’m fine.”

“But you’re not fine.” He moved closer as his gaze shifted to her messy hair, and then down to the bottom of her ripped gown that was still hooked on the step. “You look like a woman who needs help.”

“I don’t,” she snapped. “Please, just move aside so that I can pass.” She didn’t want to cause a commotion here in the road, only because if the sheriff came looking for her, he’d ask the people in this town, and she didn’t want anyone to remember her.

“Miss, please consider being a mail-order bride. I have a list of men looking for someone to manage their homes and be mothers to their children. These men need good, upstanding, women like yourself.”

Although she didn’t want to give in, this might be the only way to make this man leave her alone. Of course, signing up didn’t mean she actually had to go through with it. “Fine, what do I need to do?”

The middle-aged preacher grinned and motioned toward his tent. “If you could come over here, I’ll show you what needs to be done.”

He helped guide the horse closer to his wagon and then assisted her as she climbed down. The preacher even removed the ripped hem of her dress from the step. Courtney pulled her arm away from him once she could stand on her own, and she walked to the table with him. A ledger was unfolded in front of her with many names and locations.

“All of these men are looking for a bride?” she questioned.

“Indeed, miss. They are praying for kind women like yourself to help them in their time of need.” He pointed to one of the lines. “Just write your name next to the man you want, and then you send him a telegraph to let him know you are interested in being his bride.” The preacher shrugged. “It’s really that easy.”

She took a pencil and wrote Courtney before realizing she shouldn’t reveal her true name. She quickly wrote Parker as her surname, since that was her mother’s maiden name, and the only one she could think of right away.

“Splendid,” the preacher said as he wrote on another piece of paper the name and location of the man who was looking for a bride. “Now, take this and send him a telegraph.”

She took the paper from him, hating that she had to do this.

“I must say, Mr. Timothy Graham is a very lucky man.”

Courtney nodded and turned back to her buggy. As she climbed back up to the seat, the preacher said, God bless you, and drew a cross in the air.

Her heart clenched. Was God really blessing her, or was he disappointed in her for not staying and trying to make Albert Greenwood’s family and servants believe that she was innocent?

She gripped the reins and urged the horse away from the wagon. Her weary mind spun with alternative plans. She was on the run, and yet, wasn’t the best place to hide being married as a mail-order bride? Surely, the sheriff wouldn’t think to look there.

But no. Courtney wouldn’t sink to marrying a stranger. It was almost as bad as marrying an older man that was closer to her grandfather’s age than her father’s. There must be other ways to be on the run and start a new life.

Making a hasty decision right now would ruin her life completely. She must take a few days and think about the consequences first… and pray that the Lord would lead her in the right direction.

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Tuesday, September 1, 2020

NEW RELEASE - Hannah's Hardship

I'm very excited for this story. Those of you who know my style of writing, know that I like to bend boundaries - stretch the limits of my imagination. Well, in Hannah's Hardship, it's a mail-order bride romance, but I've pushed the line with this plot. I hope you enjoy reading it!

Montana, 1889


Hannah Ross had finally hit rock bottom. There was only one way to go from here. Up. And she was determined not to let life drop her again.

She stepped off the stagecoach and took in her new surroundings. Stumptown appeared to be a friendly small town. Then again, looks could be deceiving. Hopefully, she’d left behind her ruined reputation in Colorado, never to see anyone from that area again. Her mother understood and gave her blessing.

“Here’s your trunk, ma’am.”

Hannah glanced at the stagecoach driver, who unloaded the passenger’s trunks. She moved to hers and grasped the handle, and then collected her satchel. Since she had traveled quite often over the past five years, she knew how to pack light.

Taking a deep breath for courage, she moved out of the street and to the boardwalk. From the conversations in the stagecoach as the four passengers neared the logging town, there weren’t many women who took up residence in Stumptown. If Hannah had known that, she might not have answered the newspaper ad for a mail-order bride.

Since she was sixteen years of age, men had been attracted to her. At first, Hannah had been innocent to their charm and lies, but it wasn’t until she had turned twenty-five before she learned a hard lesson. She placed her hand on her belly and frowned. She would soon have a child because she had believed that a man actually loved and wanted to take care of her.

Of course, it had all been a lie.

When she discovered she was pregnant, she confronted the man who had once professed his undying love to her. The next day, he skipped town. Two days later, rumors were already circling through the social-mills, and people were gossiping behind her back. Hannah couldn’t walk down the street without people throwing her glares. Some mothers even turned their children away from Hannah when she greeted them with a smile.

Hannah blinked back the tears. She wasn’t a terrible person, so why did everyone judge her so harshly?

That’s when she decided to get out of Colorado. Being a mail-order bride was the only way she knew how to survive. However, she needed to consummate the marriage quickly in order for her soon-to-be husband to think the child was his.

Hannah glanced up and down the street and at the handful of lumberjacks who had come into town. So far, she only saw one woman, and the lady looked old enough to be Hannah’s grandmother.

Perhaps she should not have answered the first newspaper ad she read. Or, she should have asked around about the odd little place of Stumptown, before agreeing to this mail-order marriage. Being in close spaces with so many men made her nervous.

She sighed impatiently and looked up the street again. Perhaps her groom wasn’t going to meet her, after all. Hannah might have to ask around to see who knew Mr. Easton. She’d come this far, and she was determined to find a husband today.

“Pardon me, miss.”

She turned and rested her gaze on the middle-aged man behind her. He squinted through his spectacles at her as if not seeing her very well. The man was overly plump and didn’t have a lot of hair on the top of his head. Instead, the hair covered the sides and hung low, nearly to his shoulders.

“Yes?” she replied.

“Are you lost?”

She nearly spit out a laugh. Thankfully, she was in control and held it in. “Actually, sir, I’m not lost, but I am looking for someone.”

“Eh?” He leaned closer, turning his left ear toward her.

Apparently, this man had both sight and hearing problems. “I’m looking for Mr. Easton.”

“Which one? There are three Easton brothers.”

Oh, dear. Three brothers? “Um, I’m not sure.”

“The brothers are Maverick, Bryan, and Joel.”

She tried to remember if during her brief correspondence via telegram with Mr. Easton if he had ever used his first name. Sadly, she couldn’t recall. But none of those names were familiar. 

“She’s with me, Cooper.”

When another man came up behind her from out of nowhere, she nearly jumped out of her skin. Why couldn’t men just greet her naturally? Did it make them feel powerful to scare her?

The rugged cowboy grinned as he slid an arm around her waist and pulled her against his body. His hat rode low on his forehead, shadowing his eyes. The whiskers on his face appeared that he and razors were not very good friends. However, it was the stench of alcohol that made her blood turn cold with fear. She knew firsthand how drunkards acted around her, and she wanted to get far away from this one.

“Please, sir,” she said in a steady voice that didn’t match her quaky nerves, “leave me alone.” When he didn’t do as she asked, she turned her pleading gaze to the older man. “Please, help me?”

The cowboy laughed. “Cooper ain’t gonna help anyone. He can’t even help himself.”

The older man frowned, and his gaze dropped to the ground, obviously bothered by the cowboy’s rude comment. She shot a glare at the drunk. “You will release me, sir, or I will scream for someone else to assist me.”

“Come now, my beauty. Ya know we were meant to be t’gether.”

Disgust twisted her stomach. “I’m waiting for—”

“Take your hands off her. Now!”

She hadn’t realized another man was standing by her until she heard his strong voice. The man with broad shoulders, who appeared to be around her age – give or take a few years – threw the drunkard a glare. When the cowboy looked at the other man, his body stiffened, but he slowly dropped his arms from around her.

Inwardly, she groaned. She didn’t want to cause any trouble. Then again, the last few years of her life have been nothing but problems.

“No need gettin’ upset, Mav,” the cowboy said, “I was just teasin’ her.”

The look on Mav’s face clearly let her know that he wouldn’t tolerate the cowboy’s playfulness. Although Mav was younger than the cowboy by a few years, his tall length and strength were evident. Hannah was certain many men feared him.

He grasped the cowboy's arm, pulling him away from her. “Fred, go home and sleep it off before I summon the sheriff.”

“Yes, sir.” The cowboy stumbled away, tossing a few scowls at the man with broad shoulders.

Mav ran his gaze up and down Hannah’s attire. She’d worn one of her nicer traveling suits, one that she had specifically made for her trip to see her mother in Ft. Collins. Her mother worked for the wealthy Colorado rancher, Wayne Lindon. At the time, she’d worn the outfit to impress Wayne. Now, because of the dusty journey, she felt like a dust rag.

When the tall man’s gaze finally met hers, he nodded. “Can I assume you are Hannah Ross?”

Her heart lifted in relief. “Indeed, I am. And are you Mr. Easton?”

He nodded. “Yes, I’m Maverick. Forgive me for being late.”

She tried to smile through her jittery nerves. She hadn’t expected Mr. Easton to be such a handsome man. His sandy-brown hair was shorter than most of the men she’d seen so far on this trip, but it made him appear more educated and refined. He had the bluest eyes she’d ever seen – like gazing into a beautiful summer sky on a clear day. She couldn’t help wonder why a man like this would want to find a mail-order bride. Then again, her mother’s boss, handsome Wayne Lindon, had done that very thing, too.

“I don’t believe you are late,” she told him. “I think the stagecoach was just early.”

Maverick gave her half a smile. At least that was better than the scowl he’d given the drunkard. The one he threw at the cowboy was fierce. How many men cowered to Mr. Easton’s command when he looked that way? Hopefully, she wasn’t marrying a man who easily lost his temper.

“Is this your trunk?” He pointed to the luggage beside her.

“Yes. Just one trunk and my satchel.”

He lifted her trunk with ease, setting it on his shoulder as he headed away from the boardwalk. She nodded to the older man with the spectacles who continued to watch her and Mr. Easton with a dropped jaw and hurried after her soon-to-be husband. He stopped at a wagon that was the cleanest one she’d seen in a long time and placed the trunk in the back. She handed the satchel to him, and he placed it next to the trunk.

As he assisted her up to the seat of the wagon, she realized how big his hands were – and calloused. At least that meant he was a hard worker. That bit of information was good to know.

Maverick climbed in next to her before taking the reins and urging the two-horse team forward.

Every few seconds, he glanced her way before returning his attention back to the road. Uncomfortable, she shifted on the seat, wringing her hands in her lap. Should she start the conversation? If so, what could she possibly talk about with a stranger?

“Miss Ross,” he said, breaking the awkwardness between them. “I must say, I’m surprised that you’re so lovely.”

She hitched a quick breath. Was that his way of complimenting her? He definitely needed to work on his charm. “Well… thank you.”

He chuckled. “I thought the only women who signed up to be mail-order brides were… well, plain-looking.”

“Do you know anyone who married a mail-order bride?”

“Not personally, no, but I have acquaintances who know men who have.” He paused briefly. “So, why did you want to be a mail-order bride?” His gaze moved over her dress again. “I mean, you don’t appear to be down on your luck, and I’d think that you attract men easily.”

She gritted her teeth. If he only knew. But no, she wouldn’t tell him the real reason. However, she could confess what led up to her pregnancy.

“A few years ago, I had decided to join a traveling group of stage performers against my widowed mother’s warnings. I didn’t realize how that life-altering decision would ruin my life. People spread false rumors about me, and I was no longer considered a lady. Men didn’t look at me as wife material any longer.” Hannah inhaled deeply, trying not to allow her past to upset her. “Soon, I realized that if I didn’t find a husband, I would be considered an old maid, and yet, I couldn’t find a man who wanted me as a wife.” She shrugged. “That’s why I answered your ad in the newspaper.”

She waited for him to say something, or to realize he didn’t want her. But he continued guiding the team of horses away from the center of town. It was too early to sigh with relief, though. Not until the ring was on her finger, and their marriage was consummated.

A gust of wind seemed to come out of nowhere, and her hair blew around her face.  Perhaps she should have worn a bonnet, after all. This was another thing her mother had tried to instill in Hannah, but her rebellious side wanted to be free from restrictions of all kinds.

She grasped the bulk of her hair and tried to hold it still. He glanced at her again and grinned.

“You’ll need to get used to Montana’s weather, and especially the wind.”

She nodded. “I shall try to adapt quickly.” There was a lengthy pause between them as the wind seemed to pick up speed. “What about you, Mr. Easton? You are a handsome man, so why did you decide to seek a mail-order bride?”

Chuckling, he removed his hat as it threatened to fly with the wind a few times. “You were in town a few minutes ago, Miss Ross. Did you see all of the single young women I had to choose from?”

She tried not to grin. “True. I didn’t see many women at all. However, you could have gone to another town to find a wife.”

“I could have, I suppose, but I didn’t want to.”

Maverick’s attention stayed on the road. As she studied his profile, she could see there was something else – something he wasn’t telling her. “Go on,” she encouraged. “Why don’t you want to find a wife elsewhere?”

“The truth is…” He sighed heavily and pulled the wagon over on the road before bringing the horses to a stop. He faced Hannah, looking deep into her eyes. “I really don’t want to get married.” He shrugged. “I don’t think I’m ready for a wife and children, yet. However, my grandfather feels differently.”

At first, her gut twisted. He didn’t want to get married. He had to, instead. Would she have time to find another man who would accept her as his wife, and especially, the illegitimate child growing inside her?

“Why…” She cleared her throat. “Why is your grandfather involved in this particular decision?”

“You see, Miss Ross, my grandfather still owns the lumber yard, along with the sawmills. He has grandsons who do the actual running of each place, but we still have no financial backing except for him. Just recently, he has decided that his grandsons need to find wives. He wants us all wed within six months, or we’ll forfeit our inheritance.”

She gasped audibly, not expecting to hear that explanation. “Why that’s… barbaric. That is absolutely medieval. I didn’t think wealthy people still blackmailed their families in such a way anymore.”

Chuckling, he rolled his eyes. “Grandfather is a very backward thinker, so for him to give us that stipulation doesn’t surprise me.”

“Are your two other brothers going to look for mail-order brides, too?”

He shrugged. “I’m not certain how they plan on finding their brides, but for me, the only way to get this completed quickly was to find a mail-order bride.”

She breathed slightly easier. At least he wasn’t sending her on her way. And yet, she either needed to charm him enough to consummate the marriage, or she needed to confess. However, he admitted to not being ready for a wife and children.

Oh, decisions, decisions…

Another gust of wind blew from behind her, and she fell against Maverick. His arms circled around her, keeping her from falling off the seat. She pressed her hands against his chest and looked up at his face. His forehead wrinkled with worried lines as his gaze looked up at the sky.

“I fear, Miss Ross, that the winds from the canyons are too strong to continue our journey.”

“What shall we do?”

He glanced down at her and shrugged. “Find someplace to hide the wagon and horses before they blow away.” He nodded. “And, if we were wise, we’d hide with them.”

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Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Mail-Order Adelaine

I'm so excited about my mail-order bride books. I hope you'll check them all out. But for now, let me tease you with a chapter from my new release, "Mail-Order Adelaine".

Montana, 1877


Adelaine Campbell’s future appeared cloudy, but she would make the best of it. She had to since there was no place else to go.

As she stood at Missoula, Montana’s depot, Adelaine searched the platform, looking for the people who had promised to pick her up. She was a stranger to Montana, being born and raised in Wyoming, but already she loved the green, lush hillsides, and for being in a historic town, the buildings were well-kept in their original condition.

Missoula was where she’d make her new home, even if it was under dire circumstances.

Nervously, she shifted from one foot to the other as she moved her gaze to everyone in the crowd, wondering if they would be the person to pick her up and take her to Blue Creek Ranch. They all passed her by, not even giving her a second glance.

Impatiently, she sighed. The correspondence she’d had with Mrs. Turner instructed Adelaine to meet her at the train depot at precisely one o’clock. As if on cue, the courthouse’s clock tower from across the street struck one, announcing the hour. Still, Mrs. Turner hadn’t arrived.

Adelaine’s gut twisted. Had she made a mistake in coming here?

There were many things in her life that she regretted or wished she’d done better, but she couldn’t focus on them. Instead, she must look at what she’d accomplished. She’d taken care of her mother and younger sister for the last eighteen months, being their sole supporter, but working at the Walton’s Mercantile didn’t give her much of a social life. However, it taught her how to help people, and most importantly… to have patience. Even though she still struggled with that trait from time to time.

She would always cherish the moments she spent taking care of her mother as she lay in bed, dying of Tuberculosis. Her mother had always been a cheerful, positive, and uplifting woman, even during her last moments on earth. Adelaine had an excellent example to live her own life after.

Where is Mrs. Turner? Adelaine grumbled impatiently. What was taking the woman so long? Or… had Dallas Remington found another mail-order bride that he wanted instead?

Frowning, Adelaine sighed. What probably happened was that Mrs. Turner noticed Adelaine and her two-year-old sister, Charity, and decided that Adelaine wasn’t the right woman to wed the rancher. After all, the newspaper article for a mail-order bride that Adelaine had first responded to had mentioned no children.

Adelaine cursed her wayward father for the millionth time. This was all his fault! When Ma realized she was dying, she’d written to Mavin Campbell and asked him to come and collect Charity, his illegitimate daughter, that he’d left on Ma’s front porch right after the girl was born. Ma, being the kind and loving woman she was, couldn’t turn the girl away. Although Adelaine loved her sister, she couldn’t raise her. Especially, not when her soon-to-be husband wouldn’t allow her to have children of her own.

What else was Adelaine to do when her father never came for Charity? Adelaine glanced at Charity, sitting on the wooden bench, holding her rag doll, swinging her legs back and forth. The poor girl had nowhere to go since both her biological parents didn’t want her.

Releasing a gush of air between her teeth, Adelaine squared her shoulders. From her correspondence with Dallas Remington, she knew that he was dedicated to his cattle ranch and his children. That was enough for Adelaine to know he would be a good husband. She also prayed that he would understand why she had to bring her younger sister along.

“Pardon me, Miss?”

Adelaine swung toward the voice of the woman. Not far from her, a middle-aged woman with blonde hair stuffed under her bonnet and a thin face, peered questionably at Adelaine.

“Yes?” She took a step closer to the woman.

“I’m looking for Miss Adelaine Campbell. Is that you?”

“I’m Adelaine Campbell,” she answered with almost too much enthusiasm. “Are you Mrs. Turner?”

“Indeed, I am.” She shook Adelaine’s hand. “I’m Blue Creek Ranch’s foreman’s wife.’

“It’s nice to meet you face-to-face, finally.” Adelaine smiled.

“I agree.” The woman’s gaze skimmed over Adelaine briefly before hopping to Charity. “Are you, um…” She looked back at Adelaine. “Ready to go?”

“Yes.” Her heartbeat whacked crazily against her ribs. It was now confession time. “However, there is a slight change of plans that I didn’t foresee.”

Mrs. Turner arched a thin eyebrow. “There is?”

Adelaine swallowed hard, hoping her voice wouldn’t squeak while trying to explain. “I had to bring my sister along.”

“Your sister?” The woman gasped, looking back at Charity. “But… she is so young.”

“Yes, well… Charity and I have different mothers.” Adelaine didn’t want to go into details. “But after my mother died, Charity’s mother wouldn’t take and raise her.” She shrugged. “The poor girl has nowhere else to go.”

Mrs. Turner’s expression grew dim, and she wrung her hands against her middle. The woman’s thinning lips told Adelaine that there might not be a wedding after all. Her mind spun with ideas of how to convince the other woman that Charity needed her big sister.

“Mrs. Turner,” Adelaine said in a rush. “Do you have children? If so, you must understand how difficult it is to have a family ripped apart. I’m all the girl has left since her parents don’t want her.”

The woman’s sigh and sag of her shoulders gave Adelaine hope that the woman might change her mind.

“Mr. Remington won’t be pleased about this.”

“Why?” Adelaine hated to be nosy, but she just had to know. “After all, doesn’t he have two children of his own? The newspaper ad mentioned he had a ten-year-old and an eight-year-old.”

“Yes, Tobias and Susan.”

Adelaine took a hesitant step toward the other woman. “Then why can’t I bring Charity along? If Mr. Remington is worried about feeding her, she doesn’t eat much, and I can share my plate with her.” Gingerly she touched Mrs. Turner’s forearm. “Please. My mother would be turning over in her grave if she knew I couldn’t care for my sister.”

Mrs. Turner studied Adelaine carefully before moving her gaze to Charity and looking at her for the next uncomfortable moments. Adelaine silently prayed that the woman’s heart would be touched.

“Well…” Mrs. Turner licked her lips. “I suppose it isn’t right to separate you two since you are her only family.” She grew quiet as she stared at Adelaine. “However, to convince Mr. Remington that the girl needs to stay, we cannot let him know she’s your sister.”

“Why not?” Adelaine blinked rapidly as her mind tried to find a reason for what the other woman was saying.

“We must let Mr. Remington think that Charity is your child.”

Adelaine sucked in a quick breath. “My child? Oh, no. That will not do. I’ve never been married, and Mr. Remington… well, he’d figure that out, wouldn’t he?”

Mrs. Turner flipped her hand. “He is only marrying you to gain a mother for his children. That’s all. He’ll never know unless you tell him, and this secret will be ours. I won’t even tell my husband.” She stepped closer to Charity and smiled. “Hello. Would you like to come with me to a big ranch with horses?”

“Wasee?” Charity’s eyes widened.

Mrs. Turner glanced up at Adelaine, confused.

“Wasee is her name for horsey.” Adelaine chuckled softly.

Nodding, the older woman returned her gaze to Charity and put forth her hand. “Come on. Let’s go see the wasees.”

Charity jumped off the bench and grasped the woman’s hand. The cute little blonde girl looked up at Adelaine with big, blue eyes.

“You comin’?” Charity said.

“Of course, sweetie.” Adelaine reached down and picked up the trunk that held all of hers and Charity’s belongings.

They walked toward a wagon. A man with shaggy red hair sat in the driver’s seat, whistling. When he saw Mrs. Turner, he jumped down and hurried toward them, but as his gaze moved to Charity, his footsteps faltered.

“Who is this?” He motioned toward the little girl.

“Her name is Charity. And this,” the woman nodded to Adelaine, “is her mother, Adelaine Campbell.”

Mother… Adelaine groaned. Could she really pull off this deception? Then again, did she have a choice?

The man doffed his hat and nodded. “Nice to meet you, Miss Campbell.”

“Adelaine? This is my husband, Clark Turner.”

She smiled politely. “It’s a pleasure, sir.”

“Here, let me take that from you, Miss Campbell.” He hauled her trunk to the back of the wagon before assisting both her and Charity up onto the buckboard.

Adelaine pulled her sister closer to her as the wagon began to move. With her heart in her throat, Adelaine worried over the outcome of her soon-to-be marriage. Starting it off with a lie wasn’t a good thing at all. Yet, Mrs. Turner mentioned the marriage would be in name only, so would it even matter?

Her heart clenched in sadness. Why had she expected something more? She’d been a fool to think she would marry a man who would love her and be with her forever. It had hurt to watch her mom raise Adelaine without a father around, and she hadn’t wanted that type of marriage. However, Dallas Remington had two children of his own, so at least he was a better father than Adelaine’s.

“Charity?” Adelaine said in a soft voice, looking down at her sister.

“Yes, Addie?”

Smiling, she laughed softly. “You mustn’t call me that any longer. You must call me Mommy.”

The girl shrugged and rested her head on Adelaine’s lap. She stroked Charity’s hair as they made their way toward the ranch, hoping that Mr. Remington would have a kind heart and not turn them away. After Ma’s death, a few people in town gave them some money that would help them get by until the wedding, but if Mr. Remington was going to turn them away… How would she and Charity live?

She wasn’t certain how much time slipped by, but soon, they were entering a ranch. Several heads of cattle were grazing in the fields. She shook Charity awake and pointed to the animals. The girl gasped and sat up, rubbing her eyes and taking in the sights. Adelaine watched with interest as she noticed two stables, and at least ten small cabins lined nearby. Several men, who were in the yard or walked out of the cabins, stopped and looked at her with wide, curious eyes. She nodded politely.

Once the wagon continued up a knoll, away from these buildings, she was able to get her first glimpse of the house. Her jaw dropped in awe. Dallas Remington must be very wealthy to have such a grand home – or should she label it an estate? Never in her life had she seen a house with so many windows. The three-story manse also had a wooden wrap-around porch that was painted white. The yard was well taken care of, as was the simple flower garden off to the side.

Adelaine’s heart calmed. Not even in her dreams had she imagined such a cheerful place, and she prayed the occupants inside were just as pleasant.

The wagon came to a stop out in front of the porch, and Mr. Turner hopped down before helping his wife off. He then turned and reached a hand to assist Adelaine and Charity. The little girl blinked with excitement as she gazed at the looming house in front of them.

“Home?” she asked, turning her focus to Adelaine.

Although her smile was shaky, she didn’t know how to answer her sister’s question. Home? She could only pray that Mr. Remington would let them stay.

Suddenly, the front door opened, and a man limped out slowly, leaning heavily on a cane. His narrowed gaze moved over her, from the top of her un-bonneted head, over her beige blouse and calico skirt, all the way down to her dusty booted heels. He looked to be in his early thirties, not older than thirty-five, she surmised. His full head of hair was black with a few streaks of lighter hair. He sported a beard, but it was much shorter than some of the men she’d seen already on the ranch. The man’s broad shoulders and slim waist made him look superior, but when he used his cane to limp forward on the porch and looked at Charity, his expression turned harsh.

He raised a steady finger, pointing at the little girl. “Who is she and what is she doing here?”

His booming voice made Adelaine’s insides shake. Charity gasped and pressed her face against Adelaine’s side. They were doomed!


Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Taming the Carefree Billionaire

It's finally here! This story really should have been written and released in January, but then life got in the way. But, I'm very happy to announce the third book that I've written with my sister is available! 

Here is the first chapter for your enjoyment.

Carefree billionaire, Thomas Powers, is slacking in his duties. He’s living a wild lifestyle and letting the family winery business slip away from his priorities. It’s not until he meets a headstrong photographer when he realizes this is the first woman who doesn’t melt whenever she looks at him. It’s a challenge, but he’s determined to change her mind. He’s also determined to get rid of a problem in his life – the pesky imaginary man who proclaims to be Thomas’ guardian angel.

Morgan Foster is a photographer for a tabloid paper, and when she suspects there’s more to the story on one of her assignments, she’s determined to find out what is really happening. Unfortunately, that means she must work with the arrogant man who enjoys playing with women’s hearts. Being nice to him is difficult, only because she doesn’t want him to eventually capture her heart.


“Come on baby… Daddy needs a new jet.” Thomas Powers shook the red dice in his hand as he stared down the craps table. He’d been playing for an hour now and winning. He’d never considered himself a professional gambler, but he did like to play once in a while. And today… he was literally on a roll.
His good friend, Cole Langston, whose brother owned the casino, put this evening’s events together. Since it was Cole’s turn to find the entertainment for Thomas and their billionaire groupies, this was the perfect spot. Angie Birmingham was one of these groupies. Thomas had known her since grade school and only considered her a friend, even though he knew she wanted more. But today she was his good luck charm, so… if the stars were aligned correctly, she just might get her wish.
Angie stood by him so closely that she could have been the one wearing his clothes and rolling the dice. He held out his hand in front of her face. “Blow some good luck on me, Ang.”
Her eyes danced with excitement as she blew on his hand. From the smell of her breath, she’d been drinking much more than he’d realized. Hopefully, her intoxicated breath would put some kind of spell over the dice so that he could continue his winning streak. Already his total was up to fifteen thousand dollars. He’d already decided that when he reached twenty thousand dollars, he’d stop and call it a night. He could already hear his pillow calling him since he’d been up for forty-eight hours straight.
“Okay, here we go,” he said loudly to the crowd surrounding the table. “I’m going to roll a ten again.” Thomas didn’t know half of the people at the table – or even at the casino – but since he was a likable man, when he made friends, he usually kept them for years.
Holding his breath, he threw the dice. The room grew silent, and only the rolling dice was heard knocking against the gaming table. One of them stopped on the number six, and the other stopped on… four!
The crowd cheered. He whooped with excitement and grabbed Angie around the waist, swinging her around. She wrapped her arms around his neck and planted a kiss on his mouth. The kiss was okay, but he’d had better – and less alcohol-based.
When Angie tried to deepen the kiss, he pulled away from her and set her back on her feet. His friends who stood nearby clapped him on the shoulder and congratulated him. Thomas bent and gathered the winning chips. It was time to end the night, especially before he lost everything he’d won.
Suddenly, a flash from the end of the table drew his attention. A woman in a silky, black figure-hugging dress with spaghetti-straps stood out from the crowd. It wasn’t that the dark-haired woman was breathtakingly gorgeous that captured his attention, but it was the camera she held as she snapped pictures of him.
His first reaction was to yell at her and have someone escort her out of the casino. Thomas had had his share of nosey tabloid photographers. However, this woman was different somehow. Maybe it was that she was prettier, but it could have been the look of interest in her eyes when she lowered the camera and met his gaze.
“Oh, don’t stop now, Tommy.” Angie’s finger toyed with the wavy hair on his nape. “You’re on a roll. I mean, we are on a roll.”
She rested her head against his arm and peered up at him with glassy eyes, putting on her pouty face. He really didn’t like pouty faced women. He also didn’t like the smudged dark makeup under her eyes. Her auburn hair had lost its luster, too. Right now, she looked like one of those women who hung out in bars and only left when they were seeing double. He also didn’t like her calling him Tommy – a name he was teased with as a kid in grade school.
He switched his gaze back to the woman holding the camera. Her eyebrow arched in a judgmental fashion. He could read her thoughts perfectly without her even saying a word. Obviously, she wondered why he visually flirted with her when Angie hung all over him like a shroud. Perhaps after this last roll, he’d shake off his irritating shadow and meet the new woman he couldn’t stop looking at.
“Just one more roll… please,” Angie purred forcefully.
Gradually, the crowd began to chant. One more. It didn’t take long before the whole room echoed the encouraging sentiment. The woman his stare had been glued on wasn’t part of the chant. She shrugged and lifted the camera back to her eye and clicked a few more pictures.
Laughing, he joined the group again and focused back on the game. One more roll wouldn’t hurt… not since he was on a winning streak. Right?
He placed the chips back on the number ten square and picked up the dice again. The crowd cheered once again, making him feel that much more important.
Glancing at Angie, he could tell she was ready to blow on his hand, but he really didn’t want her to this time. There was no way he wanted her to think he’d be taking her home with him tonight, especially when his interest had turned to the gorgeous woman in the silky black dress.
“Okay, let’s do this again.” His voice lifted above the cheering. He shook the dice, trying to ignore Angie who kept tugging on his sleeve because she wanted to blow on the dice.
When he let the dice fly, the room became quiet once again. One dice landed on five, and the other…
Two hours later, Thomas’ driver dropped him off at his mansion. Maybe he should have let Angie blow on his hand again. Good grief! He’d lost twenty thousand dollars with one roll of the dice. I’m such an idiot!
However, what made him more of an idiot was when he’d confronted the gorgeous lady taking pictures. It had seemed that his failure was something she’d wanted to cherish. When he’d realized that she continued to take pictures, he stormed over to her, yanked the camera out of her hands, and threw it to the floor. The lens had broken off the expensive camera. At the moment he hadn’t cared. Now he felt guilty. Seeing the flash of anger in her pretty eyes and hearing the words exiting her mouth, would remain in his memory for a long time.
He didn’t know what had come over him. Was he embarrassed for acting like a sore loser in front of an attractive woman? Or was it the insult that he’d lost twenty thousand dollars on one roll of the dice? Either way, the night had ended poorly.
Marching into his home, he grumbled under his breath. He’d never forget the way everyone at the table at looked at him after he’d rolled that last hand. The dice were rigged. That was the only explanation. One minute he was winning like a king – and the next minute he was leaving the casino without a dime of his winnings. At least he hadn’t taken any more money out of his bank account.
He reached the stairs and stopped, gritting his teeth. He’d learned two very important lessons tonight. Gambling with his money was not a good idea. The game was addicting… or at least winning had become addicting. But no more. Next time it was Cole’s turn to pick a party spot, Thomas would let his friend know they were not going to the casino.
The second lesson was… never let his anger get so out of control that he chased off women. If he hadn’t broken her camera, maybe she would have given him her phone number.
He scrubbed his hands through his hair and yawned. It was definitely time for bed. He’d been up for forty-eight hours straight. Well, the last time he checked, it had been that long. Now his bed was really calling him. He’d be surprised if he made it to the mattress before his eyes closed.
“Excuse me, sir.”
The unfamiliar voice snapped Thomas around on the step so fast he lost his balance. He quickly grasped the wooden railing to keep from falling onto the black and white checkered tiles on the floor.
Blinking, he tried to focus his vision on the short, middle-aged man standing in the corridor. The light from the hall shone on his thinning head of hair, emphasizing a bald spot on top of his head. The man wore the oddest clothes. The shirt was baggy and entirely too ruffled around the wrists and neck, but it was the man’s strange shorts that had Thomas nearly chuckling out loud. They were snug fitting and reached below his knee… and were fastened with buttons. Not only that, but he wore stockings, and shoes with large buckles on them.
Thomas rubbed his eyes. He was definitely seeing things. Had he been watching a historical movie sometime during the forty-eight hours of partying? And really, why would he? He didn’t like watching historical shows.
When he focused back on the stranger, the bizarre man was still wearing those different clothes. This must be a joke. “Who are you and what are you doing in my home?” He glanced around him, wondering if one of his other household staff was nearby. But the few that worked for him usually didn’t stay up waiting for him to come home.
“Pardon me sir, but my name is Percy Mills.”
“Why are you here?” Thomas snapped. “Are you filling in for one of my workers?”
“Uh, no sir.” He twisted his chubby hands against his thick waist.
“Then why are you here?”
“You see, Mr. Powers,” he stepped closer, “I was sent from…” pausing, he glanced upwards, “a higher elevation.”
Thomas arched an eyebrow. “Alaska?”
“Uh, no… not quite. You see, sir, I was sent from… Heaven.”
Thomas sure wasn’t hearing correctly – due to lack of sleep, he guessed. Closing his eyes, he shook his head, trying to clear the fog out of his tired thoughts. “Yes, because that makes so much more sense than coming from Alaska.”
The man grinned, displaying two crooked bottom teeth. “Indeed. That does have more logic.”
“Who sent you?” Thomas snapped, wishing the man would just tell him so he could go to his room and sleep.
“Well, you see,” Percy stepped closer, “the man who actually sent me is named Luke – you know, like the apostle in the Bible?”
Thomas rolled his eyes. “Yes, I know the Bible. I’ve read it.”
Percy’s eyes widened. “You have? I would have never guessed.”
Thomas fisted his hands. Who was this man to judge, anyway? And why was he still here?
“Anyway,” Percy continued, “Luke is considered the head of the department. He sent me here to help you get back on the right road.”
Road? Thomas glanced around him. He was inside his house, so why did this man think Thomas was on the wrong road? Unless…
Inwardly, he groaned. He was dreaming. That was it. That would explain the historic-looking man and his strange language and the odd things he was telling Thomas.
He held up a hand, stopping the small man. “Right now, the only road I want to be on is the one leading to my bedroom, so if you’ll please just go back to wherever you came from and let me sleep.”
Thomas turned and climbed a few more stairs, but the man’s buckled shoes clicked on the tiles as he hurried toward the stairs.
“But Mr. Powers, I cannot go back. I’ve been sent to help you and I won’t return until I’ve completed my mission. Then, and only then, will I get my wings.”
Thomas rubbed his throbbing head. “Oh, I see. You’re a pilot. Well, you might as well look elsewhere because I’m not hiring. I have my own pilot, thank you.”
The man chuckled. “No, sir. I’m not a pilot.”
Thomas looked over his shoulder at the man and sighed. How was he going to get rid of him? “Then what are you? A stewardess?”
“No, Mr. Powers. I’m… your guardian angel.”

Friday, July 3, 2020

30-second pitch

I'm going to submit my screenplay "How to Win a Man's Love" to Netflix. I need your prayers that this might be where my stories will get noticed. Anyway, this particular website where I'll answer questions about my story, requires the authors to send in a 30-second pitch. So... I did one. What do you think? Does it work??

This is the novel that I've adapted into a screenplay.

Cynthia Randall’s neighbor is all wrong for her. Rich and handsome, Damien Giovanni’s love ‘em and leave ‘em lifestyle isn’t a fit for her. Cyndi wants it all—the love, the romance, the white picket fence, and someday children. When the new Channel Nine Anchorman shows up at her station, Cyndi sets her sights on her old high school crush, Maxwell Harrington. Of course, he doesn’t remember her, but thanks to the Internet, Cyndi is armed and ready to make him her boyfriend—an easy no-fail method “Ten Ways to Win a Man”.

Damien knows Max plays fast and loose, and Damien refuses to let Cyndi’s heart be broken again. He offers to help her. He wants to get closer to Cyndi and show her the wonderful woman he knows she is… and yes, he wants to win her heart.

But which man will Cyndi want? It’s easy to lose track of who is wrong or right.

Amazon -

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Vexed in Vermont

My third book in The Lovelorn series will be here in a few weeks, so to entice you to add this book to your pre-order list, I'm giving away Chapter One for FREE!

Nicolette McFarland will do anything to prove her worth as a Veterinarian, but when a man from her past comes back to interrupt her life, she doesn’t know what to do. Desperate, she sends a letter to a newspaper article for advice. While waiting for The Lovelorn to respond, Nicolette tries her best to show everyone around her how good she really is. Unfortunately, the vexing man from her past, Captain Adrian Robinson, ends up getting shot, and it’s up to her to help him even if she doesn’t want to. All she knows is that The Lovelorn had better hurry and reply to her letter because Nicolette is in grave danger of losing her heart – or having it broken forever.


Vermont, 1880

Dear Lovelorn,
I have just received some unsettling news, and I’m not sure how to handle it. I’ve lived with my aunt since I was nine years old, and although my aunt and her husband have treated me well and raised me to be a lady, those first few years with her family were not pleasant. My aunt’s stepson was a thorn in my side since before he joined the military several years ago. Now he’s coming back and he’ll stay at his father’s house until he can start a new life. I have been enjoying life and the rituals of courtship, but I still haven’t found anyone to love, so I must continue to live with my aunt. Please, Lovelorn, tell me how I can handle my aunt’s womanizing stepson who has no morals. I fear he’ll return to his childhood tactics that made my life intolerable, and I might not have the patience to put up with him. What if I strangle him… or shoot him? I’m anxiously awaiting your advice.
Sincerely, Vexed in Vermont

Nicolette McFarland set her writing pen down and reread her letter to The Lovelorn who wrote a daily column in the St. Louis Gazette. She’d been following the column for quite a while and enjoyed reading the responses from The Lovelorn. It was her turn now. She needed advice.
Adrian Robinson, her aunt’s stepson, would be surprised to see how much Nicolette had changed. No longer was she the simpering little girl who cowered every time Adrian came near, nor was she the cry-baby who went bawling to her aunt whenever Adrian hurt her. But Nicolette had grown to be a strong, self-assertive woman. Nobody stopped her from accomplishing her goals, not as long as she could use the brain God had given her. If Adrian dared try to go up against her this time, he would discover quickly what kind of a monster he’d turned her into. Revenge would be sweet, indeed!
It didn’t matter that he was seven years older than her, she’d show him that he couldn’t hurt her anymore. However, it would be difficult to forget how many times he locked her in the cellar late at night, telling her that the devil would find her if she cried or made a noise. Thankfully, she grew to realize that Satan didn’t work like that – only the evil Adrian Robinson did.
And what about those times he had shortened Nicolette’s dresses or ripped the seams right before her parties? She’d been humiliated in front of her friends. There were even times he had tied her up in the backyard behind the tall hedges and singed the edges of her long light-brown hair. She reached up and stroked her palm down her wavy locks of hair. Luckily, her hair had grown back long and was now soft and silky like it should be.
Nicolette quickly slipped the letter in an envelope and addressed it to the St. Louis Gazette. She held it tightly in her hand as she tiptoed out of her bedroom and headed downstairs. Mornings were usually quiet in the Robinson household. Teddy, Adrian’s father, owned a profiting lumber store in Woodstock, Vermont, where they had been living since Nicolette first came to stay with them.
Teddy and his oldest son, Jacob, were already at the store this early in the morning. Aunt Betty was probably still sleeping since the middle-aged woman usually stayed up late at night attending social functions. The few servants the Robinson’s had knew that they weren’t really needed until Aunt Betty was awake, especially since Nicolette could dress herself and fix her own meals – and had done that since she was nine.
She moved into the kitchen and found an apple. This would work just fine for breakfast. Of course, she also didn’t want to waste another minute eating when it was most imperative that she get this letter to the Post Office.
The family dog, Bandit, jumped on her several times in the stable to get her attention, but she ignored the long-eared, furry animal and moved to a horse. Trying to eat and saddle a horse at the same time was a little more time-consuming, but soon she was on her horse and heading quickly to deliver her letter. The roads were quiet this morning, thankfully, because usually when riding to town, people were out and about, which meant that someone would want to stop her and chat.
Thankfully, she made it to the Post Office and gave them her letter without any interruptions. She mounted her horse and took off toward home. Another bonus about being an early riser and going into town without many people around, was that she could wear her trousers. Riding astride was much easier with pants. Of course, most men hadn’t understood her need for comfort. Neither had they understood how she enjoyed going fishing and actually gutting the fish herself. Nicolette figured that stemmed back to days of yore when her father took her fishing and taught her so many things that most girls never learned. And speaking of fishing…
She eyed the Ottaquechee River, and slowly, her mouth turned up into a grin. She hadn’t been fishing for over two weeks, and suddenly, the prospect of being one with nature – and getting her feet wet, of course – became too much of a temptation, and she urged her horse a little faster.
As she came almost to the edge of town, she saw a tall man with wide shoulders, walk out of the bank. Nicely dressed in his long over-coat, hat, and of course, his fancy boots, was the mayor’s son, Eugene Dickson. The man with blondish-brown hair was the most recent gentleman to take an interest in her. He was sweet and not as serious as the last man to court her, but Eugene was also not exactly her type of man. He didn’t enjoy getting his hands dirty… and unless a man was all right with getting his hands slimy from fish guts, she lost interest in him quickly.
Ducking her head, she urged the horse with her heels, trying to get the animal to go faster so that Mr. Dickson wouldn’t see her. He would be absolutely appalled if he saw her wearing trousers, and she didn’t want to embarrass him in any way.
As she kept low, she pushed her horse faster. Soon, she was out of town and in the wooded area, so she pulled gently on the reins to slow the animal down. At that moment, a jackrabbit zipped across the road, startling the horse. The horse came to a sudden stop and reared, lifting his front legs in the air. Not prepared for this sudden action, the reins slipped out of her hands and she fell back, tumbling to the hard ground.
Her breath was knocked out of her, and for a few moments, she couldn’t breathe. Nicolette struggled to a sitting position, trying not to panic as she tried to force her lungs to start working again. Finally, her body allowed breath to come into her lungs, but then other places on her hurt. Her ankle actually throbbed.
Great… just great. Nicolette frowned. A sprained ankle was something she didn’t need.
She pulled her knee up to her chest, and tried to feel her ankle without taking the boot off. She didn’t dare do that right now. The swelling would keep the boot from going back on, and if she had to walk home she needed the boot.
She moved her attention around her and through the trees on both sides of the dirt road, searching for her horse. Dagnabbit! This was not a good place for her horse to run off, because now she couldn’t see him.
As she tried to stand, she gritted her teeth against the pain shooting through her leg coming from her ankle. She couldn’t allow the pain to halt her goal, and yet, if she couldn’t stand, she couldn’t walk, and therefore she’d never get home. She applied pressure to her foot, but the pain had her crumbling back to the ground and crying out.
So perhaps crawling back home was her only option. She’d do whatever she must, but after a couple of crawls in the direction of home, she realized her knees weren’t made for this kind of rocky road. Still… she must keep moving, even if she huffed and puffed the whole way. At least she realized why Uncle Teddy had named the animal Bucky.
The rush of the nearby Ottaquechee River was louder than normal. Of course, they had gotten a lot of rain lately, which was probably the reason why there was so much water, but it was difficult to hear anything else. She grumbled under her breath again, knowing that she wouldn’t be going fishing anytime soon – not with her sprained ankle.
The neigh from the horse followed by the crushing of footsteps on the rocky road, caught her attention. She stopped and swung her attention over her shoulder. The sun nearly blinded her, but a man’s tall, broad-shouldered figure was silhouetted in the gleam as he pulled his horse behind him holding the reins. He was dressed in a blue soldier’s uniform.
“Pardon me, but do you need assistance?”
His kindness warmed her heart, but she was sure she looked a fright… and wearing men’s trousers, no less. “Thank you. I was bucked from my horse and in my fall, I twisted my ankle.”
“Then allow me to help.” He walked closer and stopped, bending down and scooping her in his arms.
She gasped from the suddenness and wrapped her arms around his neck, holding tightly for fear of him dropping her. Immediately, she noticed his masculine – and clean – scent, as if he’d just taken a bath not long ago.
Once he situated her in his arms, she glanced at his face. He was too handsome, and being this close to him made her nervous. His short hair was black as coal, and his eyes were hazel. In fact, he reminded her a little of…
When recognition hit, she lost her breath. Realization turned her blood cold and made her stomach churn. She prayed the fall on the ground had somehow knocked something loose in her head, because she didn’t want to think of Adrian Robinson being this handsome… or sweet. He was exactly opposite.
He lifted her on top of his horse to where she sat sideways, and she quickly made the switch, swinging her legs astride as she tried to get further away from him when he mounted. That’s when she realized her hands hadn’t been as cold as the blood flowing through her. In fact, she felt quite flushed, and just thinking about jumping into the river to cool off became tempting as each second passed.
“Th-thank you,” she said, almost having to spit the words out. She’d never had to thank him before. It was hard to start now.
He glanced up at her and smiled a devilish, wicked smile. “I couldn’t leave a stranded woman helpless, now could I?”
It was on the tip of her tongue to tell him that he’d done this very thing several times when they were younger. Instead, she gritted her teeth, not daring to say anything at all as he situated himself behind her.
His arms reached around her as he gripped the reins and urged the animal into a trot. As much as she tried to hold herself still, her body couldn’t stop from bumping against him. The ride home would be agony.
“Are you going to tell me where to take you?” he asked in a deep voice.
Warm shivers ran over her back. Even his voice had changed from what she’d remembered. She would just have to look at his face while talking to him, because then she’d be reminded of how utterly mean he’d been to her before he’d left the house to join the military.
It bothered her that he didn’t recognize her. Then again, it had been almost ten years. She’d been a girl in pigtails the last time he had seen her.
“I suspect,” she kept her voice steady, looking over her shoulder, “that I’m going in the same direction as you, Adrian Robinson.”
His gaze dropped to her face. Confusion filled his expression as he studied her face, slower this time.
She waited for him to remember, but he still showed no signs of knowing her. It appeared as if she would have to help his memory along.
“It’s been nearly ten years. I’m surprised you don’t recognize your stepmother’s niece.”
His eyes grew wide and his mouth hung agape. This time when his gaze moved over her, it was faster, and she could finally see the light of awareness in his eyes.
“Lottie? That can’t be you.”
Inwardly, she groaned. She really hated that nickname he always used to use. Not once had he called her that name using a pleasant tone. “Yes, it’s me, Nicolette.
Even with the stunned expression across his face, his mouth stretched into a grin. “The years have been very kind to you. I cannot see the imp I used to know.”
Imp? She fisted her hand, wanting to punch him in the face. However, she refrained. Making him upset right now wasn’t a good idea. How else would she get home?
“And I must admit,” she replied in a tight voice, “that those years in the military has turned you into a strapping man.”
He straightened, smiling wider. “I made it to the rank of Captain.”
“Congratulations. What made you want to return home?”
The light in his eyes dimmed enough to notice. Even his smile slowly faded. “I knew it was time I did something else with my life.”
Part of her wanted to know what had brought him to that decision, and yet, another part of her didn’t really care. As long as he found his new life quickly and left the house, she would be very happy for him. Unfortunately, her luck had never been good when Adrian was around.
“And what about yourself?” He arched an eyebrow. “Have you made some man happy by becoming his wife?”
Nicolette hesitated, thinking she heard a touch of sarcasm in his voice. “It’s really none of your business, but no, I haven’t. I’ve had other things directing me.”
He blinked with wide eyes. “Other things? What could they possibly be?”
“That’s for me to know, and you never to find out.”
She wasn’t sure what it was about Adrian that grated on her nerves all the time, but she was tired of this conversation, and tired of feeling as though he thought less of her just because she wasn’t married.
He shrugged and moved his attention back to the road. “As long as it makes you happy, I suppose you can do whatever you’d like.”
She fisted her hands in her lap and gritted her teeth. In her letter to The Lovelorn, Nicolette worried that she might strangle – or shoot – Adrian. At this very moment, she wanted to do both, and she didn’t care what kind of problems it would cause. All she wanted was him out of her life, and she’d do anything to make it happen.