In honor of St. Patrick’s Day

My huPioneerInstinctCoverArtsband’s great-grandmother came from Ireland, and some of what we learned about her in our family history research provided some of the most dramatic elements of Pioneer Instinct. Here is an excerpt from this Irish immigrant heroine’s story. Except for the time-traveling enemy, the homesteading story in Wyoming is very much true to her life.

From Pioneer Instinct: Eliza pushed the broad-brimmed hat back off her forehead with the shove of a gloved hand. From the back of her tall mare she looked over the rolling hills at animals that dotted the landscape and grazed in McWhorter’s pastures.

It had been a good spring. There were at least two hundred new calves in little circles of safety, where the mothers watched over them. The kids and lambs were a little more active, leaping and weaving within the flocks of goats and sheep.

The snowstorms last year had taken a toll on the spring newborns, but this year the early spring rains turned the pastures lush with green despite it being only March. A good year indeed.

A flash of movement caught her eye. Something circled in the grass, upwind from the animals, and stalked closer. She squeezed her knees and lifted the reins, signaling Fancy to step forward. She and her horse moved quietly, as one, across the uneven land.

There, a flash of red and white. A fox, ready to feast on one of her newborn lambs. Not today. Not if she had anything to say about it.

As soon as the fox was in range, before the wind shifted and it caught her scent, Eliza pulled her rifle from its scabbard on her saddle. “Steady, Fancy,” she whispered as she stood in the stirrups. With practiced ease, she leaned forward against the horse’s neck and took aim.

Fancy stayed stock still. Even when the shot rang out, and the closest animals started and scurried away, her well-trained mount didn’t move. The fox dropped where it stood. Eliza sat back in the saddle, holstered the rifle. She gave the reigns a little shake and they moved toward the fox. She wanted to see it up close.

The head shot had gone through almost perfectly. Eliza had a good eye, McWhorter had told her time and time again, and her early morning and just-before-dark trips around the pasture edges often yielded one or more of the predators that stalked his animals.

She turned her head away from the fox to the animals now peacefully grazing and smiled to herself. Some of these would be her animals soon.

Eliza dismounted and took the knife from the other side of the saddle where it was sheathed. She made quick work of skinning the fox, not in the least bit squeamish with the task at hand.

Mr. McWhorter had made the right choice, setting Allen up with indoor tasks to pay his passage off, while he allowed Eliza the freedom she’d always craved to work the animals and the land. It was unconventional, certainly, and the moment her day on the range came to an end her trousers were replaced with a dress.

Mrs. McWhorter would not allow her at her dinner table otherwise.

Eliza didn’t mind at all. As much as she thrived outdoors, she likewise enjoyed the fact she was a woman now. A woman full grown.

She shook out the fur and eyed it. Yes, this fox fur would bring a good price at market.

It had been three years now since McWhorter had bought their time from the other farmer and taken them both under his wing. Eliza thanked God every day that Papa had gone back to Wyoming. When they finished their time here they would both be well-trained for life on the homestead there. There was a large part of her that never wanted to leave the warmth, protection, and love of the McWhorters, but something– something compelled her to embrace her future in a land she’d never even seen. It would not matter if her father had squandered his coin or not, because Mr. McWhorter had promised Eliza could take enough animals to start their herds in Wyoming. Her head spun when she thought of the value of the promised livestock. A bull or ram or boar and ten females for each species. A fortune that would let her build up enough not just to survive but to thrive in their new life, without having to depend on her father or brothers.

She smiled to herself. Mr. McWhorter told her and Allen, repeatedly, they had earned every hoof.

She draped the skin on a fallen branch to dry, then lay down beside it to watch the clouds drift across the sky, and allowed herself the rare time to simply daydream.

Eliza frowned. How odd, she could see herself, as if from above her own body. She had the strangest sensation of being far away. Her eyes, half open, slipped shut and images — clear, sharp images — of a place she’d never been flashed through her mind.

A man and a woman lay in a large bed. The room they were in looked ancient. Walls of stone had sconces drilled within them with candles that provided a flickering golden light. Tears ran down the woman’s cheeks, and the man — her husband? — lay behind her, clutching a long wound on his arm. Eliza’s heart pumped hard against her breast as she watched the scene play out. A dream, but not like a dream she’d ever had. The images switched from the man and woman to another woman in the room. She could not make out her face, but her hair looked burnt auburn in the candle light. The woman held a long, sharp looking sword in front of her, the blade tip dripping red with blood. A bright light filled the room, and drew all eyes its way.

Eliza woke with a start and sat up, relieved to see she was here, where she belonged. A chill slipped through her and she wrapped her arms around her middle. Dream or vision or something else? It had seemed — felt — so much more real than a dream. She shook her mind away from the disturbing images and stood. She grabbed the mostly dried pelt and threw it over the back of her saddle then swung onto Fancy’s back.

Change simmered in the air. Something more than the upcoming journey to their new home. Eliza did not understand exactly why she felt thus, but she was sure of it. As she and Fancy trotted toward her current home, Eliza shivered despite the hot afternoon sun. The odd dream had signaled a shift in Eliza’s world, and pointed her into a new direction, one that pulled her to her destiny.

Buy Pioneer Instinct today at Amazon or Dessert Breeze Publishing.

First Kiss, Eliza and Frank

153192824794266800_CQgmh02W_b

Frank bowed a little, doffing his cowboy hat. “Sorry if I startled you, Ma’am,” he said in his deep, resonating voice. “May I walk you back to the cabin? I’d like to have a word.”

Eliza nodded her assent and he dropped into step beside her. “Thank you again for the dinner, Ma’am.”

Eliza smiled up at him. “It was the least I could do.” Even though she’d paid the hands as well, dinner was part of the custom. You paid your workers with cash and with care, Mrs. McWhorter always said.

Frank removed his hat completely and turned it in his big, work-worn hands. He cleared his throat. He seemed nervous. She stopped and looked up at him, waited for him to say his piece.

He stared at his hands for a long while. “Miss O’Malley, I was wondering…”

She could hear the sound of her own heartbeat, along with the night sounds of a working farm. “What is it, Mr. McGee? What can I do for you?”

He looked up and into her eyes then. His dark eyes glowed in the scant light from the moon and the campfire.

“Miss Eliza, would you do me the honor of allowing me to court you?”

Had she heard him right? Or had her own romantic thoughts about Mr. McGee played tricks with her hearing? She peered into his intense gaze and repeated, “Court me?”

Frank drew in a great deep breath and blew it out.

“Yes, ma’am. Unless you are spoken for?”

“Spoken for?” She couldn’t get her mind to catch up to the thought that this handsome man wished to court her. This had never happened to her before and she had not expected it, not so soon after meeting the man.

Frank shoved his hat back onto his head and she was afraid she’d offended him. Then he reached out and grasped both her hands in his own and squeezed them tightly.

“Eliza, please, think of me as a suitor,” he implored her. “You are smart, beautiful, a hard worker.” He took another deep breath. “And you smell like heaven. I would be honored if you might consider me a beau, and might allow us to get better acquainted.”

Her heart tripped into a rapid beat. This man noticed scent.

She allowed herself a small smile. “I have no experience in such things, sir, but if you are sincere, and if you might be patient with my inexperience I would indeed like you to court me.”

He dropped fervent kisses on both her hands.

“Thank you, Eliza. Might I call you Eliza?”

She giggled. She’d thought of him as simply Frank almost all day long. “You may, if I might call you Frank.”

He grinned at her then, and his straight white teeth flashed in the moonlight. He tugged her hands, pulling her a little closer.

“You may.” His gaze was intense as he searched her eyes. “Eliza, just so you know, I am going to kiss you now.”

He didn’t hesitate, but dropped his face very close to hers. She could feel his breath on her lips a second before he touched his lips to hers in a soft, slow, very gentle kiss.

It was nothing like the hardy, rowdy kisses she had sometimes seen between the women at the pub and the men they were with. When she witnessed those kisses she got a funny feeling in her stomach, like she was seeing something wicked she should not observe. She got that funny feeling in her stomach again, but not because it felt wrong. Because the kiss felt very right. His lips were feather soft, moving very lightly, very carefully. He didn’t embrace her but still held her hands in his. Her heart pounded and he placed her hands against his chest where she could feel the rapid pace of his heart under her palms. And still he kissed her, slowly drawing her into the new status as the one Frank McGee was courting.

When he finally lifted his face from hers she followed his movement so she could place her cheek against his. His face was rough from the day’s growth of beard and she rubbed against it, needing to anchor this memory. Or was it just a dream? Would she wake up if she pinched herself?

She hoped not.

“Goodnight, sweet Eliza,” Frank said, his breath tickling her ear where he whispered the words. “When you are ready we can announce to your Pa that we are courting. I’ll not dignify the man with a request. You are your own woman and your decision is all I need.” He turned then and walked toward the campfire. She touched her fingers to her lips and could still feel the tingle of his gentle touch.

She carried that sensation into the cabin. It was time to find the diary – the book her mother promised would guide her as a Heartmark woman when it came time to fall in love. She took one of the lamps into the room with her, closed the door, and turned up the wick so the light spilled into the room.

Download now to read more of Eliza and Frank’s story. Amazon or Dessert Breeze Publishing.

Animal Helpers, Wyoming Style

226868899949994132_wOvbIobW_bFancy had worked a full day even though it was only noon. Before Eliza cleaned up for dinner she gave Fancy a long drink, then took her to the barn where Frank had said she could give her a stall. She forked some hay into the manger, added a little grain, then backed Fancy into the stall. She took her saddle off and brushed the horse from head to tail in long, steady strokes. Shep lay at their feet and watched, his head resting on his paws, while Fancy munched contentedly.

Suddenly Fancy’s head came up and Shep came to his feet, both facing the barn door. The hairs on the back of Eliza’s neck prickled, just like the ones that stood up on Shep’s neck. The dog growled, a long, low growl. Fancy pawed the ground with one hoof, as if itching to move toward the shadow in the barn doorway.

“It’s just me,” came a woman’s voice. “Honestly, Shep, you’d think you’d get used to me by now.”

Frank’s sister stepped into the light that came through the open window. Eliza let out the breath she’d been holding.

“Well, hello,” she said. She dropped the brush with the other tack and stepped out of the stall to greet Jude. She latched the stall, removed her gloves, and extended a hand. “I’m Eliza O’Malley.”

“I’m Julia McGee.” The grip on her hand was firm – firmer than any other’s woman’s handshake, at least in Eliza’s experience.

Especially firm considering the young, slight woman before her. She couldn’t be twenty. Her light red hair was pulled back in a simple clasp at the back of her neck. Her skin was pearlescent, not a wrinkle in sight.

“Happy to meet you, Julia.”

“Jude, actually. Everyone calls me Jude.”

“Jude, then. I just finished putting my horse up. I hear dinner is ready. Was Allen useful to you in the kitchen?”

“More than useful. He is a master with a paring knife, and his pie crust may be the best I’ve ever had.” Jude’s mouth turned up in a smile and her green eyes shone with pleasure.

Eliza laughed. “I’m glad. I’m next to useless, so I figured you could use his help.”

“You didn’t look useless out there in the herd,” Jude countered. “You and your horse moved like one, and with Shep’s help you made quick work of sorting out the calves.”

Shep was still on all fours, hair on the back of his neck at alert. Behind her Fancy’s hooves struck the ground again. If these were the animal helpers…

But no, this couldn’t be the evil Mildreth. This was Frank’s sister, born in his household when he was a young man, not a time-traveling enemy. She shook off her discomfort.

Download from Amazon or Desert Breeze Publishing to read the rest of the story today.

Pioneer Instinct: Eliza and Frank

 PioneerInstinctCoverArtEliza O’Malley made her way through the crowds and wondered if her father and brothers had prepared the pens that would be needed to care for so many animals. Well, she would know soon. Her boot heels clicked on the boardwalk as she passed others by, intent on doing the necessary business so they could leave as soon as Papa showed up. After she passed a few shops she saw, just ahead, a building with a large sign that read BANK.

The crowd on the walk had stopped moving – they appeared to gather around something she couldn’t see, all gawking at whatever was at the center of the walk. Eliza gritted her teeth in irritation. She did not have time for this. She stepped off the wooden sidewalk and into the street to bypass them.

Eliza bit back a scream when the sudden sound of hoof beats and the thudding vibration on the hard packed earth beneath her feet alerted her she had made what could be a deadly misstep. So lost in her thoughts, she’d walked right into the path of a galloping horse.

Instinct took over and Eliza stretched out her hand and grasped the bridle, not even realizing there was a man on the horse’s back.

Her heart beat so hard she thought it may beat itself out of her chest. Eliza looked up to the rider. He was a mountain of a man. She couldn’t see his face clearly due to his wide rimmed hat, but his height and breadth blocked the sun and caused her heart to stutter and her breath to catch in her throat.

With a grace that belied his girth, the man leaped from the horse and yanked the bridle from her hand.

“And what do you think you are doing, grabbing my horse? Are ye daft, woman? I came close enough to running you down when I was in control of my horse.”

The adrenalin rush brought on by fear immediately turned to anger. Was this man implying that she was feeble minded?

She jerked her gaze up to meet his eyes. “I’ll have you know I had perfect control, sir.”

“A woman in control would not step in the path of a moving horse,” he scoffed. His voice was deep and rumbled out of his strong, broad chest, and despite her anger with him, his voice did strange things to her tummy, turning it all warm and jumpy.

She grit her teeth again, embarrassment now mixed with irritation, but she wasn’t backing down.

“The sun was in my eyes, sir. I didn’t see you at first.”

He glared down at her, looking for all the world like he might wrap those large hands around her neck, and her breath caught in her throat. Oh, my. She was being taken to task by the most beautiful man she had ever seen. His eyes were a deep, dark blue, almost midnight blue with flecks of green scattered in the depths. The sandy lashes that framed them were longer than any man had a right to sport. His hair, a dark copper color, curly and unruly, brushed his collar and framed a strong, square face. His lips, currently pressed together in annoyance, were full, and his complexion was deeply tanned with a slight ruddy cast.

Eliza stepped back from the sheer impact of his physical beauty and caught her heel on the raised sidewalk. With a quickness which belied his mass, he reached out and caught her by the arm before she fell backward.

He shook his head, the look he gave her one she was sure was reserved for those not quite in their right mind. “Lass!”

Her arm, where his hand steadied her, burned and tingled at the same time. She did not hear the lecture that spurted from his mouth. No, instead she busily cataloged every detail of this irate but handsome man. His tapered waist and strong, very long legs were impressive, as long, wide and sturdy as tree branches, and she gulped back a sigh. He released her arm and put one hand on his hip, while the other held the reins and bridle to his horse. A black and white sheep dog sat at his side and watched her intently. The dog stood and ambled closer, sniffed at her hand, then leaned in, pressing its body close to her. She gave it a pat and scratched behind its ears before she looked back at its stern owner. When she returned her gaze to his face, his lips were turned down in a stern frown. He raised an imploring hand.

“I could have killed you, lass. It is a rough and tumble town, Cheyenne. You’ll need to be more careful.”

“Yes, sir, I will.” She swallowed, more confused by her awareness of this man than the fact she had indeed almost been killed. “Thank you.” She began to step back onto the boardwalk, but once again he took her arm and held her in place.

“You’re new here.” It wasn’t a question.

She leaned her head to one side so she could look up at him again.

He blew out a resigned sigh. “Let me escort you. What is your destination?”

Eliza’s mouth went dry at the unexpected offer and she had trouble forming the words. She nodded the direction she’d been going. “The bank,” she finally squeaked out, “but you don’t have to.”

He gave his head another shake, his lips curled into a small half smile as he studied her. “Yes, Miss, I think I do.

The mountain of a man nodded and flipped the reins of his horse over a hitching rail before he assisted her with the step, then offered his arm and walked her into the bank.

Download now from Amazon or Desert Breeze Publishing  to read the rest of the story.

From Ireland to the New World — Pioneer Instinct

PioneerInstinctCoverArtEliza O’Malley and brother Allen travel from Ireland to join their father and brothers on an 1890s Wyoming homestead. Allen is almost destroyed during the voyage, but Eliza’s benefactors rescue them both from their father’s foolish carelessness and mounting debt.

When she has worked off her passage and built her own wealth, Eliza completes the journey, knowing that she has been called to fulfill her destiny as a Heartmark woman. She is immediately swept off her feet by the neighboring rancher Frank McGee. His sister Jude, her friend and business partner, harbors a secret that will nearly destroy the love between Eliza and Frank.

Clues from an ancient diary, the fierce intervention of animal helpers, and ancient artifacts play a part in the life of all Heartmark women, including Eliza. Will they be enough to overcome the horrible rumors spread by Jude and restore Frank’s love for her?

Excerpt

Could this man be the answer to her prayers? “Oh, sir, I am looking for someone to help me find my brother.” She turned to the door of the men’s quarters the man had just come out of, then turned back to him. “I haven’t seen him since we left port and I’m worried sick.”

The man blanched and alarm flashed across his face, then he gave her a gentle smile and she wondered if she’d imagined that first reaction.

He cast a quick look to the door of the men’s quarters, then cleared his throat and gave her his complete attention. “Well, tell me more about this brother of yours and we will see what we can do.”

Relief and hope eased the knot in Eliza’s stomach for the first time since her father had taken charge of Allen. “Oh, yes, thank you. His name is Allen O’Malley and he’s ten years old. He has dark hair and green eyes and is about this tall.” She put her hand at about her shoulder level. “He is thin and when I saw him last he was crying his heart out at having to leave home.”

A thin man, pale and looking worse for wear, pushed open the doors from the men’s quarters, heading to the rail of the ship. Eliza peered into the darkness below before the door slammed shut again. If only she could see him…

Her companion’s eyes followed hers.

“Tell you what, Lassie. You stand right here at the opening and call out his name. Tell him I’ll bring him to you. Maybe that will help me find him.”

Hope bloomed in her breast and she nodded eagerly. Mindful of his steps on the thin rope ladder, the stranger backed down into the darkness.

Mustering as much confidence as she could, she called out to her little brother. “Allen, I’m here. Come up on deck please. This nice man will bring you to me. Allen O’Malley, I’m waiting to see you, but I’m getting impatient. Do you want me to come down there after you?”

“Eliza?”

The call was so timid she almost missed it completely. Eliza fisted her hands to her chest to keep her heart from pounding its way outside her body. “Yes, Allen, it’s me. Let this nice man bring you up on deck with me and I’ll make sure you don’t have to go down there again.”

*****

Pale circles of light from the few lanterns which were hooked to the rafters were all James McWhorter had to guide him around the mass of humanity suffering from sea sickness below decks. He found the boy huddled in a corner. There was no lantern in this area, and it was too dark to be sure what he saw, but the smell was even worse in this corner. He put a handkerchief to his nose and tried to take shallow breaths. Feces, urine and – could it be blood? – crowded his nostrils and gagged him.

When James knelt beside the balled up little boy, his pant leg became wet with who knew what. “Son, are you all right?”

There was a sniff, followed by a long silence. “They– they hurt me. I’m scared.” The whispered, broken words tore at James’ heart.

Download now from Desert Breeze Publishing, where you can check out Books 1 and 2, Animal Instinct set in Missouri in the 1970s and Survival Instinct set in 2020 in San Francisco.timeaftertimeseries

Pioneer Instinct Released Today

PioneerInstinctCoverArtDesert Breeze Publishing has released the third book in the Time After Time series, Pioneer Instinct.

Eliza O’Malley and brother Allen travel from Ireland to join their father and brothers on an 1890s Wyoming homestead. Allen is almost destroyed during the voyage, but Eliza’s benefactors rescue them both from their father’s foolish carelessness and mounting debt.

When she has worked off her passage and built her own wealth, Eliza completes the journey, knowing that she has been called to fulfill her destiny as a Heartmark woman. She is immediately swept off her feet by the neighboring rancher Frank McGee. His sister Jude, her friend and business partner, harbors a secret that will nearly destroy the love between Eliza and Frank.

Clues from an ancient diary, the fierce intervention of animal helpers, and ancient artifacts play a part in the life of all Heartmark women, including Eliza. Will they be enough to overcome the horrible rumors spread by Jude and restore Frank’s love for her? And what about Mildreth’s story? How will she arrive in Cheyenne, Wyoming in 1890?

Excerpt:

“Hold it right there. Don’t come any closer.”

Mildreth froze at the sound of the woman’s no nonsense command.

“Okay, okay.” With great care Mildreth knelt, placed her sheathed sword on the ground at her feet, then, keeping her movements slow and non-threating she stood and turned and raised both hands in a gesture of meekness while she assessed the distance between her and this farm woman. She was about the same height and build as Mildreth herself, likely around the same age as well. She wore a long skirt, as modest in style as Mildreth’s although clearly not from the same era. A brimmed hat cast her eyes in shadow, yet her vision was clearly not impaired as she held the long gun steadily on Mildreth’s position. The confident stance, steady stare, and familiar way she handled her weapon warned Mildreth she was likely a really good shot. Mildreth would have to tread carefully.

 She forced her lips to curve into a timid smile and added a bit of a catch in her voice. “I’m sorry if I scared you.” Mildreth hunched her shoulders, strove to look vulnerable. “I’m lost and when I saw the smoke from your stove I–I hoped someone could help me figure out where I am. I’ve walked for ages and yours is the first cabin I’ve come across.”

The woman’s weapon did not waver. She pushed the rim of her hat up with an index finger and stared openly at the blood stains on Mildreth’s garments. “What happened to you?” Her eyes tracked to the sword at Mildreth’s feet then narrowed. “Whose blood is on your dress?”

She was more than a little surprised her slight injuries from Winter Parker and Mike Hunter’s animal helpers had remained through this last trip through Time. Mildreth pulled back the collar of her shirt and winced when the material of her blouse pulled at the rough, red scratches that marred her skin, left there by a cockatiel turned attack bird. She chanced a glance at the woman, hoping for sympathy.

Narrowed eyes and an impatient shake of her head was her only response.

Hmm, tough audience.

Mildreth mustered up a few crocodile tears, and let them slip down her cheeks. “I’m not sure where I was going or how I ended up out in the middle of nowhere.” She sniffed and pressed a trembling hand to her chest. “I don’t remember. I’ve been wandering around in the hot sun and I can’t think straight. If I could have a drink, maybe sit in the shade a bit, I am sure it would come back to me.”

Mildreth took a step closer, then another. The farmer woman didn’t soften and Mildreth wondered if she would have to change her tactics here. Clearly this woman’s heart was as hard as Mildreth’s own.

She studied her through tear-filmed eyes. She might have to make a grab for the rifle.

Then the farmer stepped back, making sure to keep the same distance between them.

To Mildreth’s relief, she nodded to a spot just past the barn. “There’s a well over there. Bucket’s on the rope, dipper on the side of the well wall. Help yourself.” She lowered the gun a little.

Mildreth smiled her thanks and made to reach for her sword.

“No you don’t.” The gun returned to its position pointed at Mildreth’s chest and the woman shook her head. “I’ll mind that for you while you’re here.”

Despite the suffocating heat of the late afternoon, goose bumps broke out over her skin. Sucking in a steadying breath, Mildreth nodded her acceptance, turned her back to the woman and her gun, and made her way to the well.

Although the woman’s steps were silent, the hair on the back of Mildreth’s neck raised and she knew the woman had followed her, that piercing gaze pinned on her. Mildreth deftly unwound the rope that held the bucket in place and dropped it down the well, controlling its passage. It was several seconds before it reached water. This was a deep well that would have taken considerable effort to dig by hand. She cranked the full bucket up to the edge of the well and set it there, then used the ladle for a deep, long drink, and then another. After she replaced the ladle she scooped up some water and splashed her face, then scrubbed at the grime there.

Her throat clogged with unexpected emotion from doing the familiar task.

Nay, she was not in her own land or Time, had long left ancient Scotland behind, but the routine was the same and a surge of homesickness almost sent Mildreth to her knees.

“If you want a bath the tub is there behind the well. There’s no one around and I’ve got a cow to milk, so you’ll have your privacy.”

Mildreth turned at the sound of the woman’s voice. “I appreciate it.”

She nodded once then turned to walk away. She did not have Mildreth’s sword and she wondered what she had done with her precious companion.

Mildreth was in need of shelter, food, and information, so refrained from asking about it.

She’d best get busy and gain this woman’s trust. She blurted, “My name is Millie.”

The woman paused, and turned back to Mildreth, her expression unreadable. Mildreth shaded her eyes with one hand, blocking the sun’s glare from behind the woman’s shoulder.

Some of the tension left the woman’s stance and the gun resting in the crook of her arm angled at the ground rather than pointing at her. Mildreth pushed her small advantage. “I’m afraid I don’t have anything to wear except this soiled dress. I would offer to buy a set of clothes, but it seems I’m without coin as well.”

Silence met her words and Mildreth’s heart thumped twice against her breast. Had she gone too far and scared her benefactor?

Unexpected empathy filled the woman’s eyes and softened her features. Then, in an almost timid voice, very different from the one that had threatened Mildreth when she approached, she said, “My name is Julia but I’m called Jude. I think we are close to the same size, although you’re taller. Maybe I can add some fabric to a skirt to make it fit.”

Mildreth did her best to hide her shock at the transformation of her host’s attitude.

Not heartless then. Okay, better. Mildreth would do fine here, for now. “Thank you, Jude. That is kind of you.” Mildreth poured the first bucket into the tub, then lowered it for another.

Jude nibbled on her bottom lip and cast an apologetic look at Mildreth. “It will take some time, though.” Her cheeks turned pink. “If you don’t mind trousers, I can bring you some of my father’s to get you by until we can sew something.” Her cheeks reddened further. “Sometimes, well, a lot of the time, I wear trousers to do the chores. It’s a lot easier than trying to run a farm in skirts.”

She snapped her lips shut, clearly embarrassed to have admitted to wearing men’s garments.

The complex woman was beginning to endear herself to Millie. Millie — why on earth had she fallen back on that old pet name? Only Colin had called her Millie. Now, however, she would need to think of herself by that name. Millie, not Mildreth. It was somehow a little kinder, a little more friendly and engaging a name.

Jude smiled at her. “Soap is in that can next to the tub. Better hurry, Millie. As hard as it may be to believe right this moment, the temperature will drop as the sun sets. I’ll be back shortly. I will find you a towel and something to wear, then I need to get the milking done.”

As if on cue, the cow gave a low moo.

Millie smiled and nodded to the cow. “Go ahead and milk first. She sounds uncomfortable.” Jude winced as if in empathy for the cow.

“I will, then.”

She would have to put the gun down to milk the cow. Okay, Millie thought, making friends with Jude, gaining her trust, should not be hard at all. She was pretty good at making friends with people she could use. She’d had lots of experience doing so through the centuries, after all.

Millie paused her tub-filling, and watched after Jude as she untethered the cow. She wondered if, contrary to the past eras, perhaps this friendship might not be a complete lie this time around.

Download today from Amazon or Dessert Breeze Publishing.

Paradise Pines series of Western Romance

Photo of author

Photo of author

 

Dusty bearded men in miner’s boots and faded shirts, gamblers in fancy vests and frock coats, a ghost or two tossed in for good measure – these are the characters who come to life on Paisley Kirkpatrick’s pages.  Mix them with strong, independent women of the Gold Rush era who delight and tempt their heroes to take a chance on love and, voila, it’s romance.

The Sierra Mountain Range of California is a perfect place to discover the mysteries of a wild time in history.  Placerville, known as Old Hangtown in 1849, provides a virtual hive of tales that Kirkpatrick cannot resist working into her stories.  Underground tunnels, mine shafts, and rumors of ghost sightings provide perfect backgrounds and add a bit of spice here and there. 

Come explore these glorious parts of California’s past with Paisley Kirkpatrick.  Meet the pioneers who dared to live life with gusto.

Her husband of 43 years and she are fortunate enough to live in the Sierra Mountain Range of California where this colorful time in history took place. Exploring gold mines, inspecting the stately historic homes, and traveling through tunnels zigzagging underground stirs the imagination and brings reality to her stories. To write and create has always been her dream. Joining Romance Writers of America twelve years ago MarriageBargainCoverArt72dpi (1)nightangelcoverart72dpi__49216.1359521482.1280.1280opened the door to achieving what she was born to do.

Visit Paisley’s website or her Amazon Author Page to learn more about her.

Future Releases by Paisley Kirkpatrick:

Paradise Pines Book Three: Forever After – October 2013

Paradise Pines Book Four: Broken Promises – May 2014

Paradise Pines Book Five: One-Eyed Charlie – December 2014

Buy Books One and Two at Desert Breeze Publishing,  Amazon, or Barnes and Noble
 

New Release — second in Paradise Pines series of Western Romance

MARRIAGE BARGAIN second book in the Paradise Pines Series, release date March 21, 2013

MarriageBargainCoverArt72dpi (1)Marriage Bargain is set on the dusty trail of a wagon train traveling from St. Joseph, Missouri, to the California gold rush area at Placerville, California, in 1849. Betrayal and embarrassment drives Darrah Benjamin to run away from home to take a tutoring job in San Francisco. Darrah finds her journey a pathway to love and forgiveness when an arranged marriage to the wagon scout becomes much more than a convenience. Chase challenges her determination to keep their marriage in name only with his promise — she’ll give him her heart and invite him to her bed before they arrive at their destination. Darrah has an immediate attraction to the rogue, but holds her emotions tight because she doesn’t want her heart broken again.

Charles Danforth, a scout known as Chase, leads a wagon train of emigrants west through plains plundered by murderers. As an undercover agent of President Polk, he has sworn to stop the massacres.  Darrah’s inadvertent comment gives him the clue he needs to achieve his assignment. His Sioux blood brother helps Chase end the killings, but almost ruins Chase’s chance of winning Darrah’s heart when he takes matters in his own hands to demonstrate the depth of love Chase has for his wife.

 EXCERPT:

Footsteps crunched on the rocks a few minutes later. He spun around and froze on the spot. The drowned rat? At least he thought the young woman walking toward him was the drowned rat. Her appearance was a far cry from the woman he’d saved during the storm. Unable to pull his gaze away from the gentle sway of her hips and the firm round breasts pressing against her crisp white bodice, he shook his head trying to clear his thoughts. Light filtered through the branches giving her an ethereal appearance, and touching on pouting lips begging to be kissed. All logical reason vanished. His reaction staggered him as his mounting desire for the woman coursed through him. She was everything he’d remembered and more. She was a liar.

He dropped the last of his gear alongside Cappy’s wagon as she stopped in front of him.   “What’s your game, lady?”

“I beg your pardon?”

“Cut the act, Rose. You know very well we’ve met before. Or maybe you were such a good actress I actually believed you were in trouble during the thunderstorm.”

Her eyes grew wide as saucers. Her hand pressed against her bosom as she gasped. “You can’t be the man who rescued me.”

Cappy cleared his throat. “What’s going on here? Who is Rose?”

“I didn’t tell you a lie, Captain. My name is Darrah Rose Benjamin. It’s true your friend pulled me off my runaway horse. I was cold, wet, and tired. He suggested I remove my clothes before he kissed me, and then he had the nerve to invite me under his fur.” She glared at him. “Under the circumstances I chose not to tell him my full name.”

“What’s she talking about?” Cappy’s voice cracked with anger. “I raised you better.”

Chase shrugged. “It didn’t happen exactly as she says, Cappy. I may have misjudged the lady.    She was such a fetching little thing I couldn’t resist kissing her. Besides, she needed thawing out.”

“Wipe that damned grin off your face, boy. You get into town and find a Justice of the Peace. There’s goin’ to be a wedding tomorrow.”

“Hold on a minute.” Darrah grabbed Cappy’s arm. “If this man is the scout you want me to marry, I won’t do it. He obviously doesn’t trust me or believe in bathing.” She stalked toward the clearing where she’d tethered her horses.

Watching her march across camp, Chase wished he’d handled the situation better. Cappy’s glare shot daggers at him. He’d been a fool for stomping on her pride. Damn, but she’s far too high-strung and beautiful for her own good.

“Why’d you hurt her feelings and how will you fix the mess you made?” Cappy asked.

He set his attention on the old man. “Me?”

“You’re the one who acted an ass.”

“Wait one damned minute. I told you this was a foolhardy idea in the first place. I only agreed I would talk to the girl, nothing else.” His gaze slid over the gentle sway of her hips. He remembered the soft touch of her lips and the seductive way she looked with her hair in ringlets around her shoulders when she dried her hair by the fire.

“You can’t let her walk out of our lives.”

Chase took off his hat and raked his fingers through the tangled mess. “You’re a stubborn old man. It’s not so simple. I was close to being drunk the night of the storm. When lightning struck the ground in front of her horse, I thought I was hallucinating. Her screams brought me to my senses so I went after her. While I had her on the horse with me, she wriggled that little bottom of hers against my crotch until I was nearly out of my mind. Once I got her settled in camp, I went after her horses. It gave me a chance to cool off. She looked so damned desirable dripping wet I couldn’t think straight. When she stole away from camp early the next morning, I figured I was done with her.”

“You didn’t cool off enough, boy.”

“Dammit, Cappy, I’m not proud of my actions.”

“Talk to her. What if she hooks up with someone else? If she attempts the trek on her own as she’s threatened, she could die. I couldn’t bear the weight of another death.”

He didn’t have room in his life for a woman and he sure as hell didn’t have time to babysit. At this point he wasn’t ready to tip his hand and let her know his true identity.

Download Marriage Bargain and read it right now!

The blizzard of 1890 – Wyoming turned deadly

downloadEliza was unprepared for the bone-chilling cold. The snow began to fall and the wind blew it horizontally across her view. The barn, which had been clear to see just moments before, faded into a hulking, indistinct shadow as the snow came between them.

“’Liza, wait.” David O’Malley turned and took a long rope from a hook beside the door. He tied one end of it to a high hook at the roofline of the house. “Let me go first,” he offered as he unwound the rope behind him. “Hold on to me with one hand, and to the rope with the other.”

She did as he said, and closed her eyes against the sting of ice mixed with the snow. The ground underfoot became slippery. Even mostly covered, her face stung. She could no longer feel her toes and fingers, even though she moved them to keep them warm.

It was impossible to talk in the whining wind, so when they reached the fence Papa gestured that she was to go to the barn. He tied the rope to the fence, she realized, so they could find their way back to the house. She groped along the fence line toward the barn. Icicles formed along the top rail.

Fancy called out to her with a loud neigh when she opened the barn door. She would have to leave it open so Papa could drive the animals from the pens into the barn.  She closed it as far as she dared to limit the cold air coming in. She climbed the ladder into the storage above the barn and pitched hay – a lot of hay – down to the floor of the barn. The sheep and goats that were in the pens began to trickle in through the door. In the dim light she piled the hay into a corner and put grain into the feed troughs. When she checked the water there was plenty, but it was already beginning to freeze.  She broke up the shell of ice that skimmed the surface and hoped that the animals could get enough to drink. She opened the stalls for the horses in the barn so that they could press close to each other for warmth. It was all she could do.

The stream of animals had stopped so she gritted her teeth and stepped out the barn door, closing it behind her. She reached out with her hand to find the fence rail. She needed to find her father and they needed to get back into the house before they were too cold to move. She’d never known the cold could penetrate so deep into her bones, that she could move inch by inch down the invisible fence, finding her way by feel, and could not see or feel anything at all. If Papa had gone back to the house without her she would never find her way.

He hadn’t. He was slumped over the fence at the place where the rope connected to it.

She tugged on his arm and for a moment she feared he had frozen as he stood by the fence and waited for her. Then, moving slowly, he straightened and felt for her hand. He put one of her hands on the rope and the other grasping the back of his coat. Then he led her back to the house, step by agonizing step.

And suddenly they were there. She bumped up against her father’s back as they ran into the wall of the cabin. She continued to hold on to his coat as he shuffled along the wall to the left, feeling for the door. At long last a sliver of light penetrated into their dark, cold world and they were able to push through the door then slam it shut on the dark, cold, dangerous storm behind them.

PioneerInstinctCoverArtAllen turned bleak eyes to them from his place at the stove where he fed sticks into the flames.

“I couldn’t see. I couldn’t get any more wood,” he pronounced solemnly. “I was lost for a moment, not two steps from the house.”

“We’ll need to close off the bedroom, bring all the blankets and clothes, everything we can find, into this room. We need to keep each other warm until the storm passes.”

Eliza and Allen did as he asked, and carried everything that could provide warmth into the main room. They piled the mattresses around as well as under them, and each put on several layers of warm, dry clothes. Eliza’s fingers began to thaw as she worked in the relatively warm cabin. She found several pairs of socks and gloves for each of them. Then they lay down on the mattresses, pressed close to each other, and covered up with the blankets they’d gathered.

Then they lay there and listened to the wind continue to blow, and heard the snow mixed with ice crystals as it struck the windows. Snow sifted in through the space under both doors and formed a little drift of snow on the floor.

“What happens to the cattle when they are caught in a storm like this?” Eliza thought of the brown animals scattered across their ranch. She loved riding Fancy to the top of the hill and looking out at all the stock dotting the hillsides. “Will they be smart enough to huddle up and keep each other warm?”

“Probably not.” Her father’s voice was gruff. “We will be lucky if any survive, even the ones in the barn. We weren’t ready for a blizzard this early in the year. I never even thought to put the cattle into the pens this early.”

“Papa, what about Davy and Hugh and Ed?” Allen’s voice was small and scared and squeaked with his nervousness.

Eliza began to calculate in her head. It took at least two hours to get to the road, then another three on the road to get into Cheyenne. There was no way they could have made it all the way into town before the storm hit.

A shudder of fear ran through her and chilled her to the bone.

Buy Pioneer Instinct and other books by Lynette Endicott and Tami Dee at Amazon or Desert Breeze Publishing.