Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Fifteen Authors Romp Across the Wild West

Welcome to the Rawhide ʼn Roses campfire, ladies and gents.

We are the authors of a collection of short stories created for your busy lifestyle. Perfect for a lunch or bedtime read, these tales of the west, both old-time and modern, will give you a taste of each author’s writing style and, we hope, tempt you to try our full-length novels.
Cover Design by Charlene Raddon

This anthology sprouted from a group discussion titled Western Romance Authors Please Post Here #2 on Amazon’s Meet Our Authors forum. Hosted by Maggie O', a fan we all love, it’s a virtual home away from home. With gratitude, we dedicate Rawhide ʼn Roses to Maggie.

After we introduce ourselves, please mosey over to the bar -- uh, sidebar that is -- and click on the pictures. Each one except those two hotties at the top will lead you to an author's post where you can sample her or his story. (Woohoo! There's a man among us.) If the excerpts tickle your fancy, purchase the anthology here:
                      Amazon                Barnes & Noble              Available on more sites soon!

Alison Bruce ~ Gold Mountain
Alison Bruce has had many careers and writing has always been one of them. Copywriter, editor and graphic designer since 1992, Alison has also been a comic book store manager, small press publisher, webmaster and arithmetically challenged bookkeeper. She is the author of mystery, suspense and historical romance novels.

Celia Yeary ~ A Gentle Touch
Celia Yeary, a native Texan, former science teacher in a military boarding school, graduate of Texas Tech University and Texas State University, is mother of two, grandmother of three boys, and wife of a wonderful, supportive Texan. She has published ten novels, seven novellas, and articles for a Texas Magazine, Texas Co-op Power. Celia and her husband enjoy traveling, and both are involved in their church, community, and the university. Central Texas has been her home for forty years.
Simone Beaudelaire ~ A Midnight Clear
Simone Beaudelaire is the pseudonym for a mild-mannered French teacher from Texas. Mme Beaudelaire lives with her husband, three children, and one fat tabby cat in Texas. When she isn't demonstrating verb conjugation and adjective agreement, she's reading and writing steamy romance novels.


Caroline Clemmons ~ Houston McClintock
Caroline Clemmons is an Amazon bestselling author of historical and contemporary western romances whose books have garnered numerous awards. A frequent speaker at conferences and seminars, she has taught workshops on characterization, point of view, and layering a novel. Caroline and her husband live in the heart of Texas cowboy country.
Charlene Raddon ~ Marrying Jenna
Charlene first serious attempt at writing fiction came in 1980 when a vivid dream drove her to drag out a typewriter and begin writing. She’s been writing ever since. Because of a love for romance novels and the Wild West, her primary genre is historical romance. At present, she has five out of print books published in paperback by Kensington Books, and more recently published as e-Books by Tirgearr Publishing.

Rain Trueax ~ Connie's Gift
All my romances explore human nature and how men and women deal with outside challenges -- which can be of a spiritual nature. Married with grown children and grandchildren, I work from our Oregon sheep and cattle ranch or on the road in the inter-mountain west via satellite link. Connie’s Gift carries on characters from two earlier historicals, Arizona Sunset and Tucson Moon.

Chad Strong ~ Stable Hands, Stable Hearts
Canadian writer Chad Strong has been around horses most of his life, riding western on rugged trails and in small amateur horse shows.   His first novel, High Stakes, is a western historical romance set in Victoria, BC on Canada’s west coast, where he lived for many years.  Currently he lives in southern Ontario with his wife and their three dogs and four cats.

Margaret Tanner ~ Gunslinger's Angel
Margaret Tanner is a multi-published Australian author. She loves delving into the pages of history as she carries out research for her historical romance novels, and prides herself on being historically accurate. No book is too old or tattered for her to trawl through, no museum too dusty, or cemetery too overgrown. Many of her novels have been inspired by true events, with one being written around the hardships and triumphs of her pioneering ancestors in frontier Australia.
Susan Horsnell ~ Petticoat Patrol
Five years ago my husband and I retired and moved to a small village in the hinterland in Queensland, Australia. After 35 years of Nursing, I finally had the time to look at scripts I had penned years before and get the rest of the stories out of my head. The anthology - Rawhide 'n Roses, working with so many brilliant authors, is a dream come true.

Carol A. Spradling ~ When Love Arrives
Carol may have grown up on Florida beaches, but her heart has always belonged to the mountains. Last December, she and her husband finally fulfilled her lifelong fantasy. They moved to the Blue Ridge Mountains. YAY!!!! If she can curb her endless mountain gazing from her front door, she might get some work done on her next book. She still can't believe she lives in an area she loves so much.

Paty Jager ~ Bluffing the Marshal
An award-winning author, wife, mother, grandmother, and the one who cleans pens and delivers the hay. Paty and her husband currently ranch 350 acres in central and eastern Oregon when not dashing around visiting their children and grandchildren. She not only writes the western lifestyle, she lives it.

Lyn Horner ~ The Lawman's Lady
A Yankee who got to Texas as quick as she could, Lyn Horner resides in Fort Worth -- "Where the West Begins" -- with her husband and several beloved cats. This former fashion illustrator and art instructor loves reading, writing and gardening. She is the author of the award-winning Texas Devlins trilogy, starring three siblings who bring a glimmer of psychic magic to the Old West.

Peggy L. Henderson ~ Yellowstone Proposal
Peggy L Henderson is a laboratory technologist by night, and writes during the day, with ten published books to her name. She has been happily married to her high school sweetheart for twenty years. Along with her husband and two sons, she makes her home in Southern California. They dream of moving to Montana some day.

Jacquie Rogers ~ Much Ado About Misfires
Jacquie Rogers is a former software designer, campaign manager, deli clerk, and cow milker, but always a bookworm. Reading is her passion--westerns, fantasies, historicals of any era, all with a dash of romance. If an author can make her laugh, she'll buy every book he/she ever wrote. Jacquie now lives in suburbia with her husband and one pampered cat, but her stories often take place in rural Idaho, where she grew up.

Cheri Kay Clifton ~ Destiny's Kiss
I'm married to my high school sweetheart, have one grown son and divide my time between  North Carolina and Florida. I previously served as president of a chapter of Romance Writers of America. If I'm not riding on the back of my husband's motorcycle, I'm writing Book 3 of my Wheels of Destiny Trilogy.

Now that we've all said howdy, you can click on those sidebar pictures or just slide on down the page to read our story excerpts. If you follow that trail you'll find the posts divided into four pages, making for faster loading. When you reach the bottom of this first page just click "Older Posts" to get to the next page and so on. The posts are in reverse order from our bios.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Destiny's Kiss by Cheri Kay Clifton

She gave up life in the present to find her destiny in the past.

What in the hell just happened!
Kenzi’s heart pounded inside her chest.  Unable to focus, she felt an aura of numbness sweep through her body.  Frightened and dizzy, she staggered away from the cheval mirror and collapsed into an armchair.
  She shook her head, desperately trying to gather her thoughts as she glanced around the room that wasn’t the attic.  Across from her stood a dressmaker’s form, beside it a treadle sewing machine.  On the tabletop next to her was a kerosene lamp, a magazine laid beside it.  Kenzi read the heading: Godey’s Lady’s Book, New Fashions for Spring, 1884. 
 She turned and faced the upright mirror again.  Her reflection stared back at her just as it had a minute ago … the hair rose on the back of Kenzi’s neck … before she had stepped through the glass.  Damn!  This has to be a dream.
The loud clopping of horse’s hooves drew Kenzi’s attention to a large front window.  Outside a carriage passed by followed by two men on horseback.  A couple walked by, their steps resounding on what must have been a wooden boardwalk. 
Maybe she was hallucinating.  Damn sure not a hangover this time.  She’d given up drinking and partying when she’d given up dating.
Been watching too many westerns on TV, gal!  Either that or getting too involved in American history research with her students.  She laughed, certain she’d awaken and once again be sifting through the antiques she’d discovered in the attic of the house she’d rented.
She closed her eyes and eased back in the chair, waiting for the dream to fade and reality to take hold. 

Much Ado About Misfires by Jacquie Rogers

Much Ado About Misfires is a bonus to Jacquie’s popular Hearts of Owyhee series. The story is set in 1874 in a rollerskating rink.  Yes, skating was wildly popular then, even though their skates were crude by today’s standards—no stopping block, for one thing.

Reuben Wallace couldn’t ask his sweetheart to marry him when he had no means to support her.  Now, four years later, he’s built a horse ranch and he needs a wife.  He heard that the new rollerskating rink was all the rage, and the ladies congregated there.  With luck, he’ll find his Lucy.

Lucy Gwinn expects her beau to propose but he’s just another second-best man.  Her heart has always belonged to Reuben, the big hard-headed lug.  But her beau is content with circling around the rink—until Reuben knocks them all head over teakettle.  Can Reuben score a perfect ten on his first try?

           “Are you married?” Reuben asked Lucy.
“Good.  I came here to marry you and take you back to the ranch.  I just built a house with two bedrooms and we can easily build on.  There’s no furniture but I have enough money with me for you to buy all we need for now.”
“How did you know I was here?”
“I didn’t—heard tell your folks had moved to town so I reckoned we could get married.  Seems like a danged good idea to me.”
“You’re direct, but then you always have been.  What if I don’t want to marry you?”
“In that case, I guess you wouldn’t, but I’m hoping you will.  We get on good and always have, and there ain’t no prettier girl in the county.”
“If I’m the prettiest girl, then don’t you think I should marry the handsomest man?”
That stopped him short.  She had a point—why should she marry him?  “Is that a ‘no’?”
She pulled him to his feet, but he was none too steady.  “That’s a ‘we haven’t seen each other for four years so we should get reacquainted with each other.’  Let’s skate.”

Yellowstone Proposal by Peggy L. Henderson

Evan Connelly has been in love with Kara Russell since he first arrived in St. Louis. But how could he possibly tell her? He was from Boston, and she grew up in the wilderness of a place he’d only heard of. She couldn’t possibly see anything in him. When Kara returns home to her beloved mountains, can Evan find the courage to follow her and make his feelings known?

“Mr. Osborne? I would like to request a leave of absence.”
Zach Osborne had glanced up from the papers he’d been studying at his desk.
“Do you need to return to Boston?”
“No, sir. I . . . ah . . . I made a mistake when Miss Russell left.”
“Mistake?” The corners of Zach’s mouth twitched. “What sort of mistake?”
“I let her get away, sir.” Evan glanced at the ground. “I should have told her that I love her.”
“You want to go after her?” Zach’s eyebrows rose.
“I’ve lived in Boston all my life, Mr. Osborne. All I’ve known is how to keep my nose in a book. My family was in disbelief when I told them I was moving to St. Louis. Here, I met a girl I would like to make my wife, and I should have made my feelings known. If she rejects me, then so be it, but at least I won’t have any regrets that I didn’t try to win her over.”
“I wish I could go with you, Evan, but you know I can’t leave the practice on such short notice.”
“I’m not asking you to go with me.”
“All right, Evan, but you’ll need a guide to take you up the Yellowstone.”
Three days later, Zach Osborne had introduced him to Lucas Walker, an army scout who was heading back home to the Tetons for the winter.
“You’re in love with little Kara?” Lucas had given him the skeptical once-over. “I warn you right now. That girl is a handful. I’ve known her since we were little kids. Her claws are sharper than those of a mountain lion.”
“The Kara Russell I’ve met was nothing less than a lady,” Evan said, standing taller.
“Suit yourself.” Lucas shrugged, grinning broadly. “But don’t say I didn’t warn you. Just understand that heading to the Yellowstone will be harsher than anything you’ll ever experience.”
“It’ll be worth it, if I can win Miss Russell’s hand.”
Lucas laughed. “You sound like my brother. He suffered from a sickness of the heart, too. I sure as hell hope I’m never afflicted. I don’t need my brain addled that way.”
“When do we leave?”
“Before first light in the morning.”

The Lawman's Lady by Lyn Horner

 Marshal Trace Balfour doesn’t care for schoolmarm Matilda Schoenbrun’s straight-laced attitude. However, a few moments alone with the spinster lady makes him realize she isn’t quite what he expected. It also makes him curious. Why doesn’t she like to be called Mattie? Most of all, what would she look like without her specs and with her hair down?
     “Move aside,” Marshal Trace Balfour ordered, pushing through the noisy throng gathered in the street outside the Golden Slipper Saloon. Their shouts and laughter had drawn him from his office up the block. Among the crowd, he saw the local Methodist preacher, the undertaker and the owner of the mercantile across the dusty street. Several ranch hands, in town on their day off, made most of the racket.
    Trace also noticed the schoolmarm, Matilda Schoenbrun. With her brown hair wound in a tight bun at her nape and wearing a drab calico gown of the same color, she brought to mind a brown jay such as he’d seen as a boy in south Texas. When she spotted him, she threw her shoulders back and narrowed her lips, looking down her bespectacled little nose, setting his teeth on edge.
     “Marshal, please put a stop to this!” she demanded in a haughty voice.
     “Ma’am, that’s what I aim to do.” Touching his hat to her, he shouldered aside a pair of cowboys whose laughter and catcalls almost drowned out the shrieks coming from a pair of females rolling in the dirt. Trace recognized them as saloon girls form the Golden Slipper. With red and purple skirts bunched around their knees, they fought viciously, scratching, biting and pulling each other’s hair.
      He’d rather face a gang of bank robbers than deal with these snarling wildcats, he thought grimly.

Bluffing the Marshal by Paty Jager

Marshal Tate Barkley had his heart stolen the day he rode into town and saw Nellie Preston walking out of the post office. Just when he was getting up the nerve to ask to court her, he has to jail her twin brother for murder.

Nellie Preston kidnaps a preacher, a school teacher, an undertaker, and a baker to get Marshal Barkley out to her family ranch. It seems drastic measures to talk with the marshal and get his cooperation in clearing her brother's name, but she not only wants to free her brother, she wants to win the marshal's heart.
Nellie Preston stood at the top of the family cellar gnawing her bottom lip. What would Pa do when he discovered she had the preacher, school teacher, undertaker, and baker tied up in the cellar? Even more important—she hoped kidnapping the men would not only clear her brother’s name but show the handsome marshal she had the grit to be married to a lawman.
By-the-book Marshal Barkley should be charging down the road any minute. By now word would have spread she’d taken the missing men.
Her sour stomach rivaled the guilt eating away at her good sense. This had been a brash move to get the marshal out of town, but her brother’s life and her future depended on his arrival. She’d made the four men as comfortable as possible in the cellar. She’d even explained why they were here, but they hadn’t taken kindly to being kidnapped by Marcus Preston’s sister.
Dust plumed into the air a mile down the road to town. Nellie squinted, staring at the dust, hoping the marshal came alone. He’d be harder to convince if he brought a posse and his deputy. They’d say she was just like her brother—a no-good-killer.
She picked up the rifle leaning against the cellar door and prayed her parents and the younger kids didn’t come home early from visiting their grandparents two counties over. She wanted Marcus out of jail and things back to normal by the time Pa came home. Marcus was her twin, and she loved him dearly, but he did tend to get in fixes that most young men knew better to stay away from.
Pa always said of the two; she had the brains and Marcus had the muscle.
Some of her agitation fled when she spotted one horse and rider running hell bent up their lane. Marshal Tate Barkley had come by himself.
She smiled. He probably figured he didn’t need a posse to bring in one young woman.
Nellie cocked the gun and waited.

When Love Arrives by Carol A. Spradling

When Laurel McGrath is exposed as a stowaway on a Santa Fe wagon train, she becomes the responsibility of Butler, the group's wagon master.  He promises to keep her with the group, regardless of the threats of several men.  Remaining by his side, Laurel nearly forgets the reason she sneaked into the group, but an unexpected meeting with someone from her past threatens to destroy more than her growing feelings for Butler.
"The wagon train needs to move on," Butler said. 
Laurel's heart pounded harder in her chest, and everything around her began to shift out of focus.  One man had abandoned her.  Was Butler about to do the same?
"Two weeks ago, I said I wouldn't leave without you," Butler reminded her.  He took her hands in his.  Was this his attempt to soften the blow?  "I still want you with me," he whispered.
Not certain she heard him correctly, she stared, open-mouthed.  She shook her head as his meaning became clear. 
"But, I have nothing to offer you."
His smile spread across his face, and she couldn't help but nervously mimic his gesture.
"Neither do I," he assured her.  His grin broadened, and he lifted her hands to his lips.  "But I hope you'll marry me anyway."

Petticoat Patrol by Susan Horsnell

 When a Rancher has only four daughters, it is their job to help their father manage the property.
     “Sissy, for heaven’s sake. Stop that damn wagon!” Lily screeched at the top of her voice. She crouched low over her galloping mare’s neck, reins in one hand and mane grasped in the other. As she drew alongside the wagon, which carried her sisters, she stood up in the stirrups and yelled again. “Stop that wagon now or so help me…”
     Melissa, also known as Sissy, pushed her feet down hard to balance as she pulled back hard on the bay gelding’s reins. They all drew to a stop. 
Lily lifted the hat from her head and swiped impatiently at the sweat on her brow. It was so hot she thought, if the damn dog was chasing the cat, they’d both be walking. “Why didn’t you stop when I called out?”
     “How am I supposed to hear you with the sound of Buck’s hooves and these two tittering in my ear?” Sissy retorted.
     The ‘two’ she referred to, as she flung her arm in the air, were their sixteen year old twin sisters – Amy and Emily. They had just discovered the appeal of two local boys and had been excitedly chattering.
     “Why are you here, anyways? You’re supposed to be helpin’ Ma put a basket of food together. We gotta spend the night out with Pa watchin’ for rustlers and you know we get hungry.” Sissy pouted. She hated it when she thought her big sister was sent to watch over her. At eighteen years old she felt she was more than capable of doing things without being ‘chaperoned’.

Gunslinger's Angel by Margaret Tanner

Caleb Devereaux is saved by an angel, but is she of the heavenly variety or a real flesh and blood woman?
Hot searing pain speared through Cal’s chest with every breath he took. He felt as if a red hot poker gouged his flesh, slowly twisting and turning to increase his torment. Sweat pouring into his eyes blurred his vision. His whole body burned with such intensity he wondered why he didn’t burst into flames.
“This is your first taste of hell, Caleb Devereaux,” he muttered. “Get used to it.” At least he had sent the Tolson brothers on ahead to meet Satan. The fires of hell were probably already burning those vicious hombres to a crisp.
A warm breath fanned his face, followed by the fleeting touch of soft hands stroking his forehead. His eyes creaked open and an angel’s face hovered above him. She had milky white skin, huge pale blue eyes and golden hair. A whiff of lavender infused his nostrils. Did angels smell of lavender?

Stable Hands, Stable Hearts by Chad Strong

17-year old Scott is all set to win his first Hi-Point trophy at the last horse show of the year.  But when he thinks he spots the girl of his dreams, will his feelings for her distract him from winning?

The announcer called something over the loudspeaker, startling Scott back to the present. His heart still pounding, he noticed his shallow breathing and moist palms and knew they were not show-ring jitters. 
The class was Western Equitation.  Scott settled Dakota into a walk along the rail well behind the horse in front of him.  He breathed deep and slow, trying to relax -- he didn’t need his nerves upsetting Dakota.  But he had to know if it was Jenny. He hadn’t seen her since last summer, nearly a year ago.  Why hadn’t he heard from her in the past three weeks?  The last she’d said her family was moving nearer her dad’s new job so she might not be able to write much.
He signaled his horse to perform the judge’s requested gait changes, reverses, and other maneuvers, trying not to blow the class.   If it wasn’t her, he could be allowing himself to be distracted by a complete stranger.
Finally the judge instructed them to all line up, facing him, in the center of the arena. Scott swung Dakota in alongside the other competitors.  The judge asked them to back their horses.  Scott remembered to keep a smile on his face.
A few moments later, the announcer’s voice came over the PA:
“In First Place, Novice Western Equitation, Number 14, Scott Archer, Riding Dakota Raider!”
His eyes searching the trailer area, it wasn’t until Scott heard his own name that he snapped back to the ring.  His heart swelled in his chest and he patted Dakota’s neck as he squeezed him forward to receive their blue ribbon.  “Way to go, buddy,” he said.
Thanking the girl who passed him their ribbon, he exited the ring and rode toward the trailers.  Weaving through the crowd of spectators, competitors, and horses, he halted Dakota with a quick intake of breath.  It was his Jenny!  And she was looking right at him!
But standing with his back to Scott and his hand on Jenny’s shoulder was a guy he’d never mistake – Derek.  Derek pivoted to see what Jenny was looking at and scowled.  Was this why she’d stopped writing?  Because she’d come back to be with Derek and didn’t want to tell him? 

Connie's Gift by Rain Trueax

In 1889, psychic, healer Connie Sicilla has been following her gambler husband, Del from boom town to boom town. In a small mining town in California's Sierra's Connie faces a threat to her life and that of her beloved husband as some come to fear she is a witch.
A rock crashed through the parlor window, shattering glass over the frayed Oriental rug. The yell followed right behind it. “Get out of here, witch.”
Although it wasn’t winter and the high Sierra air wasn’t that cold, Connie Sicilla shivered. She moved to the wall where she’d not be seen as the shouts continued for long moments.
“We know what to do with your kind!”
“Get out of town!” Was that voice a child’s. Somehow that seemed even more frightening. She was unsure how long it went on as she tried to find peace through meditating and not hearing the hateful words, some with curses accompanying. After what seemed long moments, she realized the voices had stopped.
She gritted her teeth against the temptation to cry, got her dustpan, went down on her knees, and carefully retrieved all visible shards of glass. How would their landlord regard the damage? Would he expect Del and her to pay for it?

Marrying Jenna by Charlene Raddon

At last, Branch McCauley was about to marry the woman of his dreams, Jenna Leigh-Whittington. Today. But Jenna has other plans. Glancing out the window as he dresses for the ceremony, Branch sees her gallop past in her wedding dress, scuffed boots, a gun belt around her waist above a plump bustle, and a Stetson on her head. Where was she going? The church was in the opposite direction. What could Branch do but go after her and find out what she was up to?


Park City, Utah, 1879
            Marshal Branch McCauley leaped from his horse and looped the reins over the railing of the stairway to the family’s second floor living quarters. He took the steps two at a time. No matter what, he couldn’t be late for his wedding; eight months it had taken him, after she’d finally accepted his proposal, to get Jenna to name a date.
            Luckily, he made it to his room without being seen. The last thing he needed was his sister, Maura, bawling him out for being late. No one outshone Maura when it came to scolding a man, and she’d worked hard to make this wedding outshine all others.
            Fingers trembling with excitement and nerves, he went to work unbuttoning his shirt. Deep inside, he only half believed that, within an hour Jenna would be his wife. Their relationship had started out as rocky as a boat on a stormy sea. Wild and untamable; that was Jenna. Had anyone told him back then that he’d wind up hitched to her he’d have fled the Territory. But, now, he knew without a doubt their marriage would be rock solid.
            Where was she? Getting into her wedding dress? He couldn’t wait to see her in the lacy, ivory, silk gown he’d glimpsed when the box arrived yesterday from the dressmaker. Jenna would be the most beautiful bride Park City—hell, Utah—ever saw.
            Still fumbling with buttons, he walked over to the window and glanced down onto Park City’s main street. As the marshal, keeping an eye on the town had become an integral part of him, as instinctive as breathing. The usual wagons, horses, people crowded the rutted dirt road and board sidewalks.
            A woman galloped past on a familiar looking horse. Matter of fact, she looked familiar too.
            Her dress—that lacy, silk wedding dress, for hell’s sake—flew out behind her, the train of fabric flapping right along with the horse’s tail. Her drawn up skirt exposed her old boots in the stirrups, along with a bit of stocking-clad leg.
            “Well, hell,” he muttered.
            Her bustle stuck out over the rear of the saddle like a silk duffle, and her gun belt with its .44 Starr Army revolver encircled her waist at an awkward angle. Yard-long, mahogany-colored hair streamed out from under her stained Stetson.
            People froze in place. Wagons halted. Not even a dog barked. Everyone gaped after Jenna as she sped past. Branch understood. Folks weren’t used to seeing a woman in a wedding dress, scuffed up boots, a Stetson, and with a gun belt around her waist. Didn’t surprise him a bit.
            Where in damnation was she going? The church was in the opposite direction.

Houston McClintock by Caroline Clemmons

Houston McClintock is on the way back to his Texas home from Tennessee. He carries the money from the sale of his late grandparents’ farm. While riding through Georgia woods, he is attacked by robbers and gravely wounded. Stripped of all his belongings—even his clothes and boots—Houston is left for dead. A Cherokee, John Tall Trees, rescues Houston and takes him home for his daughter, Gentle Dove, to heal. Her skill and determination save Houston’s life.
As Gentle Dove—called Dovie—nurses Houston back to robust health, the two develop strong feelings for one another. Houston wants them to marry, but Dovie knows the disdain most Anglos feel for Cherokee. She can’t subject her wonderful Houston to censure from his family and friends. Will Houston’s family accept Dovie? Can Houston convince her that his love is true?  
Northwest Georgia, 1858
Too weak to move, Houston McClintock’s eyes refused to open.
“You’re safe now.” The voice soft as velvet calmed him.
He gasped to speak but his dry throat and tongue refused to cooperate. A damp cloth moistened his lips, then drops of water trickled into his mouth.
Someone bathed his face. Blessed coolness. He forced open his eyes.
The most beautiful woman he’d ever seen leaned over him. Her bronze skin proclaimed her an Indian. Light from the window shot blue and copper highlights across her coal black hair. Kindness shone from her face. She appeared near his age of twenty-five.
”Good morning. My name is Gentle Dove, but friends call me Dovie.” Her smile illuminated her features. She braced his head and held a cup to his mouth.
Gratefully, he swallowed.
He searched the room for clues. Planed log walls bore signs of expert craftsmanship. He lay in a brass bed covered by a brightly colored quilt. Dovie wore Anglo clothes.
In whirling memories, he recalled his frantic ride for the trees. Men shooting. Pain in his shoulder and head. The sensation of falling.
Had the robbers stolen his saddlebags? Money from the sale of family land in Tennessee? His favorite horse, Lightning?
He tried to rise but fell back. “Where?”
She laid a gentle hand on his shoulder. “Don’t fret. You’re in the home of John Tall Trees in Georgia. You were badly injured and stripped when Papa found you.”
Damn, was he buck naked? Houston slid his hands frantically under the covers. He exhaled relief when he realized he wore britches.
She smiled mischievously as if she understood his concern. “You’re taller than Papa but he loaned you clothes. We didn’t risk opening your wounds to add a shirt.”
He glimpsed strips of fabric binding his shoulder and chest. “Bad?”
“I dug out the lead, but we almost lost you. Only a strong will could have survived.” She leaned forward to adjust the bandage at his forehead. Honeysuckle filled his senses and a cascade of lustrous ebony hair fell across his chest.
An older man appeared behind Dovie. “About time you woke up, young fella. I’m John Tall Trees.”
“Here...long?” The few words he’d spoken since he’d awakened exhausted him.
“Four days ago I found you and tracks of three men. You needed help immediately. My daughter is very skilled in our medicines.”
“Don’t fear.” She checked his shoulder bandage and offered a wry smile. “I have also studied white man’s medicines.”
John gestured over his shoulder. “Big dun showed up. Figured she was your horse.”
He sighed with relief. At least he hadn’t lost Lightning. “Saddle?”
“None. Horse appeared interested in the house. Guess she tracked you here.”
Dear Lord, his family’s money was in the saddlebags. They’d trusted him and he’d let them down. “Family...write…for me?”
“Sure, tell me who.”
“Father…Vincent McClintock...McClintock Falls…Texas.”
John Tall Trees nodded. “Your name?”
“I’ll post a letter today.” He repeated the name and address.
Houston tried to nod, but the hammering in his head increased.  He closed his eyes

A Midnight Clear by Simone Beaudelaire

A lonely widow finds a new opportunity for love during an icy Christmas in modern-day Wyoming.


         “Mom,” Jessica said, her voice sounding at least twice as mature as her fifteen years, “you need to get out more.”

Annabel rolled her eyes. Well why not? If Jess was the parent, she could act like a teenager. “And just when do I have time for that, young lady?” she asked.
“Make time. All you do is work. It makes me sad.”
Annabel smiled this time. “Don’t be sad, honey. I like my job, and I like coming home to my kids. That’s enough for me.” 
“But what will you do in the future? We’re almost grown up.” 
This time Annabel laughed out loud. Grabbing a couple of oven mitts, she retrieved a batch of Christmas cookies from the oven just as the timer let out a raucous screech. She set the tray on the stove and Jessica popped the next cookie sheet in. “You two are far from grown up,” she said. 
“Mom, I’m not as much of a baby as you think. I’m halfway through my sophomore year.”
“I realize that,” Annabel replied. “But Jonathan is only ten. He’s got a ways to go.”
 “Eight years. And I bet it will go by in a blink. And then you’ll be alone, Mom. Is that what you want?”
 Annabel leaned her hip on the edge of the cheap blue and white Formica counter and scowled at her daughter. “Don’t get too big for your britches there, Missy,” she said. “Who says a woman has to have a man to be happy? I don’t mind being single.”
 “Bull,” Jessica retorted.
 “Watch it!” Annabel warned in her most serious mom voice. “I won’t have that kind of talk from you.”
 Jessica broke eye contact and looked down at the floor. “Sorry, Mom,” she said. “I just wanted to tell you that… I don’t think it would be disloyal to Dad if you got with someone else.”

A Gentle Touch by Celia Yeary

      Adam Taylor knows how to tame mustangs with a gentle touch, but how does he assure a frightened, abused woman she is safe with him? Lynette cowers in the presence of men, until she witnesses a cruel act by a ranch hand. Will she find the strength to stop him, using her own method?
     A sound brought his head up. A horse in a wild snit, screeching and snorting and rearing. That kid he'd hired was in the small round corral with a horse. Something was wrong.
      He climbed the corral fence and jumped to the ground. Running around the barn and back a ways, Adam approached the corral. Yep, the kid had the mare tied to a fence post, and with a whip, he beat that poor thing around her face, her neck, and her side. The mare reared and snorted, but the tether around her neck tightened even more, causing the horse to go crazy. And the crazy kid kept it up.
     Before Adam arrived at the corral, Lynette came flying out of the house, running full out toward the corral.

Gold Mountain by Alison Bruce

There's more than one way to mine for gold, as May Travers well knows, and Marshal Ben Jessup is about to find out.


Papa staked his claim near Three Creeks, Oregon, but Mama panned more gold out of the miners' laundry than he ever found. Now I was mining the refuse heap behind the Gold Mountain Saloon. Not much gold, but tin, rag and wood also had value.
"Can I help you, Miss Travers?"
Oh no.
I brushed my hands off on my skirt and turned.
"Good evening, Marshal. Lovely evening isn't it? The moonlight looks particularly lovely over..." I looked around to find the moon. "...over the outhouse."
He gave a snort of laughter but he had his stern face on by the time he reached me. At least I think he did. It was hard to tell with his face being in the shadow of his Stetson.
"This is no place for a lady to be wandering around alone in the dark."