Monday, October 31, 2016

#Historical Chapter Six - Loving the Enemy

Isaack had spent years hiding out in barns and outbuildings with these men, but now everything was different.  In the beginning, they were all a group of fresh-face, eager, idealistic men with some sense of vitality, with the exception of Isaack, who had only wanted to die. But now, they were older, and they were excited for something besides the next fight.  Isaack could admit he felt something new in the air, and he only had Emily to blame for it.

No longer were they weary of fighting, and gearing up for yet another battle.  Now they were not only rested and fed, but the war was over, and home was on the horizon for most of them.  There was a positivity most of them hadn’t felt before, and it showed in their attitudes.

They’d come to the Evans’ farm a rag-tag bunch of ill soldiers, and five had died, never to see home and family again.  Of the rest, eight had gone home, leaving seven soldiers behind.  As the oldest of the bunch, Potter wasn’t anxious to make the trek.  Isaack sensed he was waiting for Spring, when the cross-country trip wouldn’t be as arduous, but Spring was months away, and it wasn’t likely the Evans farm would be as hospitable the longer they were there.  Wiggins waited only for the rains to stop, so he could leave.  Saul didn’t speak much at all, and Isaack hadn’t pressed the man, so he had no idea of his plans.  Nathan, Abe, and Breck and their beady gazes only wanted to stay to mooch off the women, and that rankled Isaack.  He would be here as long as they were, whether he was welcome or not.

He didn’t trust the ranking officer of this group any farther than he could toss the man.

When Emily came bustling inside the barn, shaking the rain off her skirts, Isaack’s gaze snapped to her, along with every other man in the structure, with the exception of Saul, who snored in the corner. 

Clenching his fists at his side, Isaack tried to ignore Breck’s bright smile, shining with transparency.  He’d known men like Breck before the war, boys with more money than they knew what to do with, living off their father’s name.  Isaack had no doubt Breck’s commission was purchased from the governor of Massachusetts, where his father had made his fortune off the war.  The only reason they’d fought the last damn battle after the hellacious war was over was because Breck, the new commander of their regiment, hadn’t seen any action.  If he’d enlisted, like any other regular man, he’d have seen more than his share.  Breck had known the war was over when they’d fought at Palmito Ranch, but he needed to go home to tell his family about the great battle he’d fought.  And of course, that was the battle they’d lost. 

Here, Breck was constantly shoving his “cultured” ways at the women whose farm they’d invaded.  It made Isaack’s stomach curdle.  Miss Emily, for her part, was oblivious, thank the Lord, and seemed immune to his charms.

“Ah, Miss Emily!”  Breck’s unhampered enthusiasm was foreign in the smelly, dank, dark barn.  Isaack’s teeth gritted together at the mere sound of Breck’s voice.  “Come to see if we’ve floated away?”

“And to bring supper,” Emily responded brightly, her eyes sweeping over the men, landing at last on Isaack.  His stomach dropped every time she looked at him and he didn’t quite understand why.

Her wide brown eyes were the color of the richest mahogany, and her hair the color of spun gold with highlights of pale silk.  She was tiny and trim, but exuded a strength that belied her stature.  Freckles spread across her face from exposure to the sun like any hard working woman, but her smile was soft.  And when she smiled, her face lit up like a child of the sun.  Isaack would treasure his first waking memory in her barn, his fever-addled brain clutching to that smile like a life-line he’d long ago discarded.

Emily carried a pot of beans to the men, and Potter piped up, one of the only men there with legitimate manners.  “You don’t have to cook for us.  We’ve been getting by for a while now, it won’t hurt us to get by a little longer.”  Isaack kept his eyes down as Potter spoke, afraid if he watched her, he would say something to draw her attention.  He had no idea what it was about this woman that awoke his senses, but it frightened him.  He’d said goodbye to life a long time ago, and now was not the time to find a renewed sense of purpose.

“I know that.  But it just doesn’t seem right.  You are all welcome to stay, and as long as you like our cooking and keep up with the chores, feel free to eat,” she ended with a nervous laugh, and even though her words sounded false, Isaack knew she still had a warm smile gracing her features.  But he wouldn’t look at her face, choosing instead to watch her skirts, just shorter than her ankles.  Vaguely, he wondered if that was a practical thing, to keep her skirts from dragging, or if she couldn’t afford new material for longer dresses?  Or was that even the fashion now?  It had been too long since women’s fashion was even on his mind.

She puttered around the space, straightening and chatting, all while Isaack watched her from the corner of his eyes.  He never looked straight at her, not since the funeral of her brother.  She was too blinding, and something in her eyes spoke of a vulnerability he yearned to soothe.  Isaack longed to take care of her, to buy her the food to feed her family, to yank her out of the fields with all the hard work in the sun, to put fine clothes on her back.

“Isaack?  Do you need anything?”  His head snapped up at her words, and she looked squarely at him, not an ounce of fear in her eyes.  She flushed bright red as he shook his head, unable to look away from the fiery blush on her cheeks.  She was close enough to talk without the rest hearing, and he heard her murmur, “Just let me know, okay?”

Her hair was coming out of her braid in wisps around her face, and he longed to tuck the stray pieces behind her ear, to smooth it back, to cup her face in his hands. 

The fiery need inside him had to be squelched.  There was something secret about her, and he knew if he could ever let go of his own demons, her secrets might burn him anyway. 

Ducking her head, she continued with her straightening of their space, as if they were her family to take care of.  Guilt that she was caring for them instead of her own fired in his belly, and Isaack resolved to do more to keep her out of here. 

When she’d gone, her absence in the barn a tangible entity, Abe spit a stream of tobacco into the dirt at his feet.  “What I wouldn’t give for an hour with her in the hay loft.”

Isaack stood, fists clenched, and Abe laughed.  Nathan spoke up, changing the subject.  Breck watched Isaack under lowered lids, understanding passing unspoken between them.  Isaack would kill Abe, if Breck didn’t get his subordinate under control.

“Why do you suppose they haven’t kicked us out yet?” Nathan was planning on leaving soon, he’d been pretty vocal about it.  Isaack had wondered the same, but also knew Rachel Evans had opened their farm up to the soldiers without Emily’s approval.  The matriarch had something up her sleeve, was using them for something, but he didn’t know exactly what.  It didn’t seem nefarious, so he was willing to oblige.  They’d saved his life, such as it was, and for some reason he was thankful.

Abe made a rude gesture that Isaack grunted at, but Breck responded up with, “I suppose they’re waiting until their men come home and then they will turn us out.  There’s something comforting about having a man around, I’ve heard, and I’m willing to oblige.”

Isaack had a feeling Breck was waiting for news of a man not coming home, and he’d whisk Emily away, wooing her with promises of northern states and money.  When Abe started talking about lewd ways to make them want him to stay, Isaack stood and left.

He needed some air.

Truth was, he wanted to woo Emily to him, with whatever promises would appeal to her.  And he would keep every damn one of them.  That was the scary part.  He would do almost anything for this woman.  And she didn’t even want him here.  He didn’t deserve her.  He’d already had everything, and lost it.  He certainly hadn’t done enough in his short life to deserve two lifetimes of happiness.

Her murmured words in the barn, meant for his ears only, made him burn with need.  He had to get her out of his head.

Besides, he knew if something happened to Emily like had happened to Maria, he would be utterly finished with life.  There was absolutely nothing on this earth that could hold him.

Isaack walked out of the shelter of the barn into the yard, where the rain still fell.  Turning his face up to it, he let the cleansing drops fall on his skin, cooling the overheated emotions raging inside.

He hadn’t thought of romantic entanglements since his beloved Maria had died—hadn’t wanted to.  He’d enlisted as soon as War broke out, selling his interests in the shipping business he had started with his friend, Albert.  Albert had tried to keep him abreast of things, letting him know he could buy back in whenever he was ready to, but Isaack had been too intent on killing himself—taking the dangerous scouting missions, putting himself on the front lines, volunteering for every risky endeavor put in his path.

Nothing worked.  He was still here.  Standing in the rain.  Willing it to cleanse him of his sins.

Thinking of the woman who wasn’t his wife.

“Isaack?”  Mrs. Evans’s voice broke him out of his haze of self-deprecation and he jerked to see her sitting on the porch, sheltered from the rain, working on mending.  “Whatever are you doing?  Standing in the rain?”  She patted the rocking chair next to her, the one sitting in front of the window that showed Emily sitting on the floor with her sisters and a small slate board, presumably working on letters.

If he sat there, he’d be able to watch Emily smile, and he wasn’t sure how he felt about that.

Grudgingly, he walked up the steps and sat on the porch with Mrs. Evans.  He couldn’t be rude to the woman who had opened his home to him, fed him, healed him.  Not even if it meant he had to watch the woman who’d become the focus of an infatuation.

Taking off his hat, he clutched it to his chest.  “Mrs. Evans.”  He acknowledged, as he sat.
She worked on her mending in a heavy silence for a while, and Isaack let her, knowing she had something on her mind.  She was a woman whose every move served a purpose, this he knew just from working on her farm.  If she invited him up here, she had a reason for it.

“You’re a quiet sort, aren’t you?”  She finally broke the silence.

“Yes, ma’am.  I don’t see much point in speaking unless it’s necessary.” 

She looked at him squarely, as if gauging his honesty, and he looked back, unabashed.  He didn’t have anything to hide from this woman.  She had something about her he liked, trusted.  Maybe it was the fact she was from up North somewhere, and he considered her a kindred spirit.  Her roots were northern, but she’d settled here in the wild Texas Pine forests, finding a home among other kindred spirits.  There was something symbolic about the razing of the land to cultivate it.

He longed for something like that.  To clear out his insides and start fresh.

That thought brought him up short.  Did he really?  Looking out around him, he saw the corn fields, the barn, and beyond that, the wooded area that masked the creek and the town beyond.

Yes.  Yes, he did long for it.  A home in the wilderness spoke the untamed within him.

“I’ve got a favor to ask of you, Isaack,” Rachel began, giving her chair a push with her feet to send it rocking gently.

“Anything, ma’am.”  After all the food they’d eaten from her children’s mouths, he’d go inside right now and scrub her floors if that’s what she wanted.

She was quiet another moment before the woman took a deep breath.  “I want you to watch out for my girls.  I don’t trust all the other men.  Some of them, yes.  All of them, no.  And I trust you the most, for some reason.”  His chest swelled at the compliment, and his eyes cut to the window, where he could see her girls, still studying on the floor.  Emily leaned over Irene, helping her with the chalk and slate, while Louise worked on something on her own.  At Emily’s indulgent smile to her sister, Isaack felt his own face crack into a smile.

“I would be honored, Mrs. Evans.  Your trust is a weighty responsibility.”

She leaned her head back, and the lines on her face softened slightly with the gesture as she continued rocking.  “I haven’t told the girls this, but I’m not sure our men will be back.  At this time, I’m hanging on purely for them.  This farm is theirs, and all the work done on it is for them.  I can’t just give it to the bank.”

“Understood, ma’am.”

The rain let up a bit, slowing to a drizzle.  Combined with the last four days, it was probably almost ten inches of rain on the crops.  It was out of their hands, and Isaack knew everyone was worried the corn would get wet and rot on the stalk, ruining the crops.  His gaze travelled over the neatly sown rows of green stalks with golden hair, looking for all the world like ladies in waiting, dressed in green.

The fate of these women lay in the hands of those innocent rows, waving in the storm.

Mrs. Evans shoulders were weighted with the responsibility of taking care of her family with her husband gone.  He longed to know more, how had she managed, whether there were sons off somewhere, if Emily was, in fact, married, or had she just said that to add an extra layer of protection to the already vulnerable females?  And they’d already lost a son, were there others?

The unanswered questions were heavy on his heart, heavier than the rain coming down heavily again.  Twisting his hat in his hands, he rose to leave.

“I’ll make sure the girls stay safe, Mrs. Evans.”

Taking his leave, he walked down the steps of the porch, hoping like hell he could keep his heart safe in the process.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Writing Texas - RD Berg

Today, I have RD Berg on the blog.  She talks briefly about fictional towns in Texas and how they are inspired by real cities.

In my eyes and heart there is nothing better than the great state of Texas; from the abundance of open land and rolling hills, to the eccentric vibe of Austin, our special dialect and inherit love of sweet tea. So naturally when I began my writing journey it was only fitting to choose Texas as my location. Most of the cities I write about are made up, call that privilege of delivering fiction, but even my fictitious towns possess the look and feel of Texas cities I have visited.  My hometown of Denton, TX or Lil D as we call it had a major influence on my book 5 Stages of Riley Winters. Our quaint downtown area offers great eats, good music and awesome festivals throughout the year. So when my character developed into an upcoming musician it was only natural to plant him in a town such as Denton, TX.  Inspiration around our great state is plentiful and I know that many of my next novels will reflect this great inspiration!

Check out Strong Hate, Ashley Christin and I’s newest co-written Rom-Com based out of the fictional town, Lansing, TX!
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Monday, October 24, 2016

#Historical Chapter Five - Loving the Enemy

It started with Jamie scratching his head, and in typical little boy fashion, being reluctant to bathe.  When Mama insisted everyone take a bath in the kitchen, dragging in the washtub and going through the ritual of oldest to youngest, with Jamie being last, he finally relented after Emily promised to heat him up some fresh water to add into the tub for his bath. 

Rachel scrubbed him well, removing all the lice from his hair with the lye soap and a comb.  She’d washed bedclothes earlier in the day, and after Jamie’s skin was red from the thick bristles of the scrub brush, she allowed him to get out.

Her precautions were too late though.  Four days later, he had a fever and a rash.  A week later, he was hallucinating.  And twelve days after the first fever, Jamie was dead.

He shouldn’t have died.  He was a healthy boy, raised in the sunshine, corn-fed, and robust.  He wasn’t a war-riddled soldier, weakened by fatigue and starvation.  Jamie shouldn’t have gotten sick, like they had.  But they’d brought the disease with them, and as diseases go, nobody knew exactly who would be struck next.  Unfortunately, it seemed to favor the young.

Emily was in a fog as she stood next to her mother by the grave, tiny in comparison to the three soldiers’ graves already there.  Grief blurred her vision, as she watched all the freshly turned earth in the meadow behind the house.  So much death.  She hugged Irene tight to her side, the little girl crying tears she didn’t understand.  Her playmate and tormenting little brother was gone.  Emily didn’t know if she was old enough to understand the ramifications of death, or if after today, she would be over the loss.  She hoped the latter, if only for her sister’s peace of mind.  She knew she wouldn’t get over it so easily.

A hand fell at her shoulder—Sergeant Major Breck—but she didn’t acknowledge his presence.  She could only stare at the tiny hole in the ground, and watch the men as they lowered the small hand-made casket into it, sniffling back her tears.  He had brought this here.  He had brought all these sick soldiers.  Emily gripped her hands into tight fists at her side, using Irene to hold herself to keep from pounding her fists into Breck’s shiny uniform.

She hated him.  Hated these men.  It was fine when they were sick and pathetic and she was helping them.  But they’d spread their sickness.  Her little brother was dead.  That didn’t even include the men of the farm, and their possible deaths at the hands of these men or men just like them.  Emily hated everything about them right now, and his hand still on her shoulder was like a cold vise.

Emily knew these men had seen death—too much death at their own hands.  And they knew that if they hadn’t stopped at the Evans farm, Jamie would still be running through the corn, fishing at the creek, and tossing rocks into the road.  They knew they had killed him.

After dropping a small bouquet of baby blue wildflowers into the grave, Rachel turned and wrapped her arms around her younger daughters and led them away.  She was stoic, dry-eyed, even though grief was now permanently etched around her mouth, aging her considerably.

Emily stayed behind, unable to leave her baby brother alone in the ground.

“Can I do anything for you?”  Breck was sticking around too, and his company wasn’t welcome.  Emily just wanted to be alone, to mourn her brother while she could.  She knew soon enough, there would be more chores to do, and life would go on, but for now, she just wanted this final time with her brother.

She shook her head, trying to smile.  “No, thank you.  I’m fine.  You all have done enough.”  You all brought the disease that killed my baby brother.  “More than enough.”  She turned her back on him before he spoke again, dismissing him.

“I’d like to do something to help, Miss Emily.”  His smile didn’t reach his eyes, and it was the final straw for Emily.  Spinning around, she held him with a glare.

“I’m trying to be polite, Mr. Breck.”  She didn’t use his rank on purpose, hoping to let him see exactly what she thought of him.  “But you have used us since you got here, and the fact you are trying to use our grief to get even closer is despicable.”  She clutched her skirts to keep from pummeling him with her fists, blinking back tears as she spoke.  “You must know how much we hate you being here.”

Breck blinked, but dropped his smile, for which Emily was grateful.  The pretense made her so tired.
“I liked the boy.  He was a great help and pleasant company to me.”

“The boy was my baby brother, and you used him to shine your boots.  You’re no better than the rumors say.  You killed him, you son of a bitch!”  She flung her hands to her mouth at her language, having shocked herself, but Breck only chuckled at her, patronizing.  It made her so angry, she very nearly lost herself. 

“As you wish, Miss Emily.  But we’re here if you change your mind.”  His words, like a sneaky promise, slithered up her spine.

Emily let out a helpless huff as the Sargent spun on his heal and retreated, leaving her in her grief.
One man stood back from the rest, watching the proceedings, as alert as a Mountain Lion, stalking prey.  As Emily turned her back on Breck’s retreating figure, she saw Isaack leaning against a tree in the distance.  His face held a heart-wrenching sadness to it, but it was as if he couldn’t not watch.  He seemed to be forcing himself to attend the boy’s funeral.  He held himself stiffly, a twist to his torso as his body followed Breck’s departure, even though he himself stood resolute in the same place.
Emily payed him no mind.  She turned back to the grave of her brother. 

She allowed silent tears to fall and the memories to come crashing in as she sank to the ground.  Emily indulged in every single one:  the time Jaimie had stepped in a hornets’ nest and come running to her, crying and covered in welts, when he’d caught his first fish at four years old, and tried to keep it under his bed, his penchant for finding and eating berries until his belly ached.  Her shoulders shook as her heart broke at never seeing his smile again, hearing his laughter.

She succumbed to the tears, as they ran down her cheeks, but eventually, she knew she needed to get back to the house.  Mama was entertaining the preacher, who had travelled out from town, and may need help.  She had duties she didn’t need to shirk.

A presence followed her back to the house, twigs crackling behind her, echoing her footsteps through the woods.  Emily turned, and saw Isaack freeze in his tracks, about twenty paces behind her.  He’d stayed behind and seen the misery she’d thought was private.  But he made no move to comfort her, for which she was grateful.  He only watched her, as if she were a frightened rabbit who might bolt at any moment.

The familiar flutter of desire floated around inside Emily, but it couldn’t poke through the heavy grief filling her.  Not even thoughts of Jakob could do it.  She found herself shrugging at Isaack’s anxious eyes, and turning away from him to go home.

She needed some familiarity around her, but nothing seemed familiar knowing Jaimie wasn’t there anymore.  The house looked empty, even with the Preacher’s buggy out front.  Letting herself inside, Emily found Irene and Louise in the living room, playing quietly with Irene’s doll.  Emily smiled at the two girls.  Louise hated to play with the doll, but did it today, to soothe her sister.  Watching the two, she made a vow to be strong for her sisters. 

The preacher’s voice came from the kitchen, solemn and self-important.

“… not very appropriate.  People are talking.  I can preach about Christian duty and helping the downtrodden as much as I can, but the truth is, these men have killed the sons and husbands of the town.  They’re not likely to forget.  Or forgive.”

Emily stood just outside the doorway, knowing it was wrong to eavesdrop like this, but unable to show herself.

“I understand your concern, and I appreciate it, Preacher.  But these men needed help, and so did we.  It’s a mutually beneficial arrangement.” 

It was times like this, when Emily remembered her mama was educated in the north, way beyond what most of the people in town were.  She’d even spent a little time with Emily and the other children, teaching them to read and write from some of her personal books she’d brought along from Boston.  Granted, she hadn’t had time for much, but at times like this, when people tried to get her to do something she didn’t like, she’d pull out her fancy words, like mutually beneficial and it usually put people in their place.

She imagined her mother sitting across from the Preacher, her shoulders ram-rod straight, her mouth downturned.  Anger at Breck resurfaced, only it was redirected at the Preacher.  She embraced the useless emotion, instead of wallowing in her grief.  How dare he use this moment to lecture her mother about propriety?

“I’m only thinking of Miss Emily.  Surely having all these… young men around isn’t healthy for her.”
Emily’s ears perked up. Where they talking about her in town?  Would something get back to Jakob when he came home?

“Emily is perfectly safe, Preacher.  She’s a smart girl who isn’t likely to get into trouble with these boys.  That’s all they are, and you’d do just fine to remember that.”  Rachel’s quiet voice was deceptive.  Emily knew the Preacher was making her mad, but she would never lose her temper.  Not like Emily was about to.  Tiptoeing back to the front door, she opened and shut it loudly, announcing her arrival.

“Do you want me to get supper on the table for Preacher, Mama?”  She strode into the room, hiding her anger by busying them at the stove.  The very idea that these sick men, who had all been so grateful for their help, would take advantage, and she’d be stupid enough to fall for it, was riling.

“No, thank you.  Your mama just gave me some butter milk.”  Preacher smacked his lips together, making a satisfied noise between his teeth.  “I’ll be on my way.”  Taking Rachel’s hands in his, he offered, “I’m so sorry, Rachel.  Please let me know if I could be of some assistance to you.”  He repeated the gesture to Emily, giving a small squeeze, and left.

Thank goodness.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Writing Texas - Tigris Eden

Writing Texas - Tigris Eden

I wanted to say a huge thank you to Anne Conley for giving me a spot on her blog today. I hope everyone has enjoyed their week thus far. I was asked to post about things specific to Texas. Being that I reside in Texas, and my newest release, Affinity is based in Dallas Texas. I figured this was the perfect opportunity for me to wax poetic about the great state of Texas.  

About me: I write Dark Paranormal Romance, Contemporary Romance, Dystopian, and Sci-Fi. Most all of it is romance, with erotic overtones. My place is where romance and action collide. I love to read, and I devour books when I can. I love binge watching Netflix or Hulu when I’m not otherwise, writing, reading, or spending time with the family. I’m kind of a dork, and I think it’s the best part of my personality. And as always, I’m forever searching for a book buddy to hang with me during the end of times. But if the end comes due to the Zombie Apocalypse, all I ask is that you have a skill. This way we can form a group and be kick ass! Otherwise, you’re a liability and I may have to use you as bait. SorryNotSorry! LOL Joking, I’m joking…. Maybe. *winks*

I will start by introducing you to my characters, Special Agent, Jada Alexander, and her hero, Nicklaus Aegir. Both are transplants, like me, and are new or not so new to the great city of Dallas. Jada works for the ATF in their S.E.E.K program with her fur baby Dali. And Klaus is a mechanic at Dallas Fire and Rescue’s station 58.

Here are some fun facts about Dallas… 

1 1. Dallas has the largest arts district in the Nation. It’s made up of 19 city blocks and nearly 70 acres.
2 2. The first margarita machine was invented in Dallas. (DRINKS ON ME!) Actually inspired by the Slurpee machine at 7-Eleven.
3 3. German chocolate Cake isn’t from Germany and owes its fame to Dallas it has no German ancestry and actually was named after a dude named Sam German who created a type of dark backing chocolate for a company.
4 4. The microchip was invented in Dallas, by an employee of Texas Instruments. (remember those calculators!)

So Jada and Nicklaus live and work in a pretty interesting area! I however don’t live in Dallas, but I am in Texas. It’s my home now. When asked to be part of Paige Tyler’s Dallas Fire and Rescue Kindle world, I was excited! Like OMG, she asked me! ME! (SQUEELS) Jada has been a character in my mind for a long time, and I was so happy I could finally find a story to drop her in! If you like quirky females and alpha males, then this is the book for you!  

You can buy Affinity Here:

You can also check out the rest of the fabulous authors who wrote in Paige Tyler’s Kindle World!

Thank you again to Anne for having me on the blog today! Happy Reading!

@Tigris_Eden (Twitter)

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

#NewRelease The latest Pierce Securities - Murmur, the best #FighterRomance you will read this week

Murmur, Book Five in my Pierce Securities series is LIVE!!!  And for a limited time only, it's .99!  Scroll down for all the details!

Valerie Dunaway is a former socialite who has hidden from the public eye for years due to a horrific attack that left her scarred—physically and emotionally. When a strange masked man makes himself at home with her, she’s unable to run. She calls the cops, but the agoraphobic won’t go into protective custody, so Detective Hollerman calls the only people he trusts: Pierce Securities.

Quinten Pierce is a Renaissance man—artist, lawyer, fighter—but his latest assignment has him losing his ever-present control. He’s got one fight left in his career, and although he can’t wait for it to be over, his opponent seems to have ties to Valerie, thus forcing him to hold on until he finds out exactly who he’s working with. 

With the help of the Pierce team, the scarred princess and the gentle giant must silence the murmurs of the past that threaten their future.

Want an exclusive excerpt?  This one isn't anywhere else!

“We need to do a sweep.”

“What happened?”

“I fought tonight, and my opponent knew her. He knew all of us. He wanted to make sure and tell me.”

“You didn’t get a chance to talk to him? Did you at least kick his ass?”

Quinten didn’t deign to answer that one. Of course he’d kicked his ass. Instead, using hand signals, they split up and searched the house. Quinten took the east wing while Andrew and Ryan took the rest of the house.

“Ms. Dunaway, I’m sorry, but I need to do a sweep of your quarters.” They’d been friendly the last few days, but he tamped that all down with professionalism. This needed to be done right. The danger was too palpable. The dark side of his personal life was bleeding into his professional life, and he couldn’t let it endanger Valerie any more than it was already.

The click sounded at the door almost immediately, and Quinten forcibly slowed his breathing and counted to ten before he opened the door, gun drawn, pointed down.

He let himself in and immediately moved to the side of the doorway, into a shadow. He stilled his breathing, which brought down his heartrate as he absorbed his surroundings.

“Valerie?” he whispered.

Her voice came from the shadow directly across from him. “I’m here.”

“Stay behind me.”

Her dizzying scent was everywhere.

As Quinten moved from room to room, checking behind doors and furniture, inside closets, he heard the soft padding of her footsteps right behind him. When she reached for a tiny handful of his shirt, he mentally cursed himself for scaring her. It couldn’t be avoided, and he was glad he could offer her a tether to reality through his shirt. He needed to make sure she was safe. When he got to her sunroom, he looked out the windows onto the water, where the moon reflected. It was a full moon tonight, and the yard leading down to the water was all lit up.

He strained his eyes but saw nothing.

His shoulders relaxed with a sigh, and he put his gun back in the waistband of his shorts.

“You’re clear. I’ll go check the rest of the house with the others,” he said softly, hoping to sound encouraging.

“I’m scared,” a whisper at his back said. A whisper that melted his insides, almost as much as the hand still clutching his t-shirt did.

Quinten turned, and Valerie released him, standing with stiff shoulders. Tall, five foot ten or so, she had long, blonde hair that was wild around her shoulders. She wore a plain, flesh-colored mask over her face.

“Embrace the fear,” he said softly. “It keeps you more alert. Feel your accelerated heartbeat?” He could see the pulse in her neck pounding and her breasts heaving under the peignoir set she wore. 
“Your breathing is different?” She nodded at him, eyes wide behind her mask. “That’s your body on high alert, trying to dissect each new sensation. It’s a protective thing. Use it to your advantage.”

She tensed, and Quinten held his breath in his throat while he watched her carefully. She was like one of those birds she kept, dainty and delicate, ready to fly off at the slightest movement from him. Only there was no flying from the cage they were trapped in. Just like Valerie. So slowly he almost couldn’t see her movements, Valerie reached out an elegant hand and rested it on his chest.

“You’re hurt,” she whispered, her breath hitching.

He didn’t move. Allowing her the touch, as if she were drawing strength from him, he breathed deep and let his steady heartbeat calm her.

Her fingers didn’t do anything; she only palmed his pectoral muscle. But her breaths matched his, and soon enough she was calm. But he was electrified. On fire. Her touch seared him.

“It’s from the fight.”

“Did you win?”


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Friday, October 14, 2016

Writing Texas - Texas: De-Mythed

Texas: De-Mythed

I have a gazillion friends, family members, and maybe an ex or two that live in Texas, and none
of these keep me from going from time to time. I love Texas, from Dallas to South Padre, from
Austin to Galveston, and sometimes, Texas loves me. But, as I’ve lived all over the US and have
friends from all over the world, I’ve discovered that to many, “Texas” represents several specific

As a non-Texan, but lover of most things Texan, I thought it would be fun to dispel the myths, from an outsiders point of view.

Everyone wears a cowboy hat and boots. = Well, that’s sort of true. But they are expensive hats and designer boots.

Everyone carries a gun. = That’s close enough to assume that it’s true, and visitors should be on their best behavior.

Everyone is rich from the oil business. = Ha. They wish.

Everyone speaks with a slow drawl and says “y’all” a lot. = First of all, 1 in 3 people in Texas
speak Spanish, and 1 in 12 speak ONLY Spanish, so the idea that there is a distinct drawl is
obviously incorrect. Slow, no, in fact, most I’ve encountered speak so fast that their “y’all”
comes out more like a “ya."

DFW is the worst airport in the US. = Not even close. This is only said by people who have never visited Atlanta or Newark.

“Everything’s bigger in Texas” = Didn’t I say I have an ex or two living there? Obviously, this isn’t true.

Texas culture is (fill in the blank) - - Texas is a huge state and I would venture to say, depending
on what part you are visiting, there are at least five distinct “Texases”. The constant activity in
the cities of Dallas and Houston are complete contrasts to the laid back lifestyle in South Padre
Island. El Paso’s proximity to Mexico gives it a distinct culture, as does the college life in
Austin. So unless the fill in the blank above is diverse, it's probably an inaccurate statement.

Kelly Stone Gamble is the author of They Call Me Crazy and Call Me Daddy. She is a member
of the faculty at Southeastern Oklahoma State University, and moves between her homes in
Henderson, Nevada and Idabel, Oklahoma allowing her to enjoy the best of both worlds.

Monday, October 10, 2016

#Historical Chapter Four - Loving the Enemy

When the first soldier died, Emily and Rachel wrapped his body in cloth, and some of the soldiers dug a grave in the family cemetery, and they had a small service for him.  The ones that were able attended, and the Evans family looked on.  

Death was a normal part of life, especially a life as hard as theirs.  People died.  Animals died.  More were born. And the cycle continued.  But something about this man—this stranger—coming to her farm to die made Emily think harder about soldiers in general.  For once, she entertained the notion her father, brother, and fiancĂ© wouldn’t come home.  Had Jakob, Papa, and John been buried with respect on some farmer’s property, or had they decomposed with fallen brethren on a foreign battlefield?  She didn’t want to think too much about it, but couldn’t stop the thoughts from surfacing.  It seemed the life she had once known was getting dimmer with memory, while her unknown future was speeding toward her at a breakneck pace.  She would probably never again dance with Jakob under the stars at an Independence Day picnic, or brush her thigh against his while they sat in church together.  That thought hurt.  Poignancy and regret pummeled her as the soldiers silently stood around the grave of their friend.  She could only hope that her men had gotten the same respect.

Later, Emily was doing the wash, while most of the able men were working on chores: chopping wood, fetching water, cleaning the barn, and more pasture work.  Emily was lost in the tedium of stirring the pot, when she heard an exhalation of air behind her.  She spun around to see Isaack lowering himself at the base of the nearby tree.  He’d been up and about, in spurts, during the day, although he spent most of his time on his pallet in the barn with the other sick men.  She was happy to see his coloring looked better, but the thin sheen of sweat on his brow concerned her.

Walking over to him, she felt of his forehead.  After the heat of the fire, though, it only felt clammy.

“I’m alright.  I just needed out of the barn for a while.  Feel the sun.”  His voice was raspy, yet seemed kind, although he still had that dangerous feel about him.  Emily wondered what it was about him that made him seem that way.  Was it his dark hair, so wild about his face, coming down well below his collar?  The stormy eyes?  His untamed beard, rough and shaggy?  Or the fact his clothes were so tattered and torn she could see more skin than was appropriate.  Of course, they all sort of looked that way, and Emily decided it might be the set of his shoulders, or the way he held his arms stiffly at his sides, as if his muscles were tensed and ready for a fight all the time.

“I’d be happy to give you a haircut and a shave, if you like, after I finish with the wash,” she offered, in an attempt to get him to relax.  Emily regretted the words almost as soon as she uttered them.  She hadn’t offered any of the other men haircuts, nor anything as intimate as a shave.  But something primal inside Isaack made her insides restless.  When he was in the barn with the others, she could easily distract herself with the endless chores about the farm.  But with him outside, watching her, she was helpless against the onslaught of fidgetiness.

Isaack quickly turned all thoughts of Jakob to guilty feelings when he was around.  She wasn’t sure why, except there was a longing there that shouldn’t be.  A longing to talk to Isaack, to get to know him, to see him smile, to know what was under that untamed, dangerous exterior.  And Emily understood it was utterly wrong.

“I’d be much obliged.  Thank you.”  He spoke low, sending a tremor through her body, even in the heat of the yard.

“Well, if you can manage a wash in the creek while I finish up, you’d feel much better.”  She turned back to her work, dropping a bar of soap at his feet.  Emily willed herself to focus on the task at hand, and not let herself get carried away with fanciful thoughts of this man she didn’t know.
When she looked back, Isaack wore a smile.  An actual smile, aimed at her.  It took her breath away.
He didn’t speak, but grabbed at the soap and managed to stand, leaning heavily on a walking stick as he made his way through the path in the woods.

She wondered if he was strong enough to walk all the way to the creek and back.  He hadn’t been out of bed long, a few days at most.  But he seemed to understand, as she did, that exercise and sunshine were good for the soul.  And she tried not to worry too much about him as he was gone.  By the time she was hanging the laundry on the line to cool, he still wasn’t back, and she began to worry a bit.  But by the time she was finished and hanging sheets on the line to dry, he was back and resting under the tree again.  She had no idea when he’d made it back, only that she was glad he hadn’t fainted in the water and drowned.

She went inside to get her scissors and a towel, then out to ask Mr. Potter if she could borrow his straight razor, since Papa had taken his when we left.  Emily was glad Mr. Potter was the soldier around while she looked for a razor.  She didn’t want to ask Abe, afraid Abe would want her to shave him too.  There was a distinct difference between Abe and his leering looks, and Isaack and his quiet watchfulness. 

Emily stood behind Isaack cutting his hair in an uncomfortable silence.  For some reason, her hands shook, and her breathing was odd.  It hitched around with the pounding of her heart in her chest.  It was as if she’d been running around the house, but knew it was because of Isaack and his nearness, and the intimacy of what she was doing.  She didn’t understand her feelings around this man.  She’d never felt anything like it before, but it was a torturous bliss she couldn’t explain.  Instead, she forced herself to pretend it was little Jaimie instead, whose hair she had her fingers buried in, whose scalp she scratched as she finger combed the hair to grab clumps of it to cut.  She only hoped she didn’t do anything with this wonderful feeling to embarrass herself.

If the hair cut was going to be this awkward, what would touching his face to shave it be like?
She found out soon enough.  Sitting cross-legged in front of him, she focused on the hair she was about to remove instead of the gray eyes focused intently on her, and the lips she was working around.  As she snipped away the longer beard with scissors, Emily couldn’t help but wonder how long it had been since Isaack had seen his face.  She wondered if it would be angular and hard like the rest of him, or soft and fleshy like Jakob’s.

Thoughts of Jakob sent a shock through her.  She paused with the scissors in the air, as she remembered her fiancĂ© and the war he had been forced off to fight.  Emily filled her mind with his face as she remembered it, tanned from working in the sun, bright green eyes shining happily at her, the dimple on his left cheek when he smiled.

Jakob.  She must remember Jakob.

She was wrong to think of things she shouldn’t want with this man in front of her.
Isaack’s eyes searched her face for answers to the questions he wasn’t asking.  Emily’s lips thinned as she resolved herself to get this over with.  Isaack wasn’t her love, Jakob was.  Any fantasies she entertained to the contrary were just that—fantasy.  And it would be an absolute betrayal, to think of Isaack that way while Jakob was fighting to come home to her.

She tamped down the fluttering, and ignored her irregular breathing, as she focused on shaving Isaack’s beard off.  When his face was finally revealed, it was as she’d expected: hard and angular, with chiseled cheekbones that emphasized the gray of his eyes under bushy brows.  If anything, it made him more dangerous looking, as his eyes still looked at her, squinted with questions he didn’t voice.  She ignored his eyes, even as she ignored the fluttering in her belly that she’d never felt with Jakob.

By the time she’d finished, she was shaking so badly with nerves, she was afraid she would cut him.  But Isaack never flinched, he just sat there letting her rasp the razor across his skin.  He continued to stare at her, with that intense look in his eyes, and Emily finally crumbled.  She couldn’t do any more with him.

“There you go.  All done.  I’m going to start supper.  You should go lay down.  You look tired.”  She stood, gathering her things, and fled, feeling foolish.  It wasn’t like anything had happened, but she’d obviously felt an attraction to him, and actually entertained it, before the reminder of Jakob had slapped her in the face.  And the fact she’d had to be reminded of Jakob was a shame.  As her intended, he should be forefront in her mind at all times, even though she hadn’t seen him in two years.

That night, after everyone had gone to bed, Rachel and Emily sat at the kitchen table.  It had become a routine for them since the soldiers had come.  Most of the time, they just rested and enjoyed each other’s silence, but tonight Rachel let Emily in on her plans.

Emily had stopped doubting her mother’s crazy schemes a long time ago.  When the North had blockaded the Mississippi river, making it impossible to sell their cotton, Rachel hadn’t batted an eyelash, converting everything to corn.  She’d used credit at the general store, and planted the fields with corn instead of cotton, and they’d managed to keep their heads afloat for the two years since, even managing two yields a year to make up for the lack of muscle on their female-run, family farm.  So, even though she was nervous about the Union soldiers on their farm, so far nothing untoward had happened, aside from Abe, the slightly flirty soldier who was relentless, yet seemed to be harmless.  Rachel seemed to know what she was doing.

“So, what’s next, Mama?”  She asked, curious to know if her mama actually had a plan, or if she was deciding what to do as they went along.

“Well, it was surely serendipitous that these boys showed up when they did.  But we will help them, and they will help us.  We just brought in the last of the harvest, and I’m going to see if I can’t talk a few into staying behind to help with the next yield.  I’ve already talked to Mr. Potter about helping with the planting next week, and he seemed happy to oblige.”

Mr. Potter was the New York corn farmer who’d loaned her the razor, and seemed a personable fellow.  A bit older than the others, he seemed thankful for the rest from the grueling pace of soldier’s life, eager for the farm work. 

“I feel like we’ll lose a few more before the sick ones begin to get better, but in the meantime, we’ll keep feeding them and giving them shelter.  Once they start getting better, we’ll put the ones who are willing to work.  We’ll butcher while they’re here.  The holes in the chicken house needs repairs, and the corn crib needs some better fortification, and there’s always fences to mend.  There’s corn to shuck, and chores to do.  We can make this farm profitable before they leave, and then the bankers won’t be able to take it.”

The unasked question had been lurking in Emily’s mind for days now, and she had to ask it.  “What happens when Papa comes home, and the farm is filled with men he’s spent the last four years fighting?”

Rachel’s eyes softened, and she reached for Emily’s hand.  “Your father is a reasonable man.  I’m sure he’s just as ready for the fighting to be over as everyone else.  He would be grateful we’ve been able to keep the farm for him to come home to.”  Her smile was watery, and Emily almost regretted the question.

“I’m sorry, Mama.  You’re right.”

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Writing Texas: Em Taylor, A Scottish author writing about Texans

 Writing Texas: Em Taylor, A Scottish author writing about Texans

When I started writing An American Cowboy in Scotland, it was supposed to be just a one off story. My plan had been to write a story about and American who inherited a castle and estate and title in Scotland and came to live and run the place. I’m a bit of a pantser to be honest so I made it up as I went along. This was my first attempt at a book in the first person and definitely my first attempt at a funny snarky book. But I grew up in a family where sarcasm is second nature and Brits are particularly good at it.

So I had to choose where to make my American from. I wanted to make him rich but I didn’t want him to be a suave sophisticated billionaire type. I’m fed up of those kinds of books. I know a lot of people love them and if you do, I have no issue with that. I like my guys a bit less sophisticated. I’d read a couple of my BFFs cowboy books. Em Petrova writes some stinkin’ hot cowboys and I thought “a cowboy, why not?”

You have to bear in mind that I’ve only been to the US twice and that was over twenty years ago. Both times mostly in Virginia and the first time we made a trip to see my cousins in Ohio. So my actual real life experience of America is pretty limited. And I met no cowboys in Virginia. My TV experience of America is HUGE. And I remember watching Dallas as a kid. So Texas it was. The family in my book are kind of like the Ewings, except the eldest brother is much nicer than JR. In fact, he’s a bit of a babe.

I did have to do a little bit of research. I wanted to work out what size of ranch they would have to make it really big in Texas. I wanted to find out what university Cole might have gone to. I had to learn about Cowboy boots and poor Em regularly got PMs about American words and American foods and a bunch of other cultural differences. Luckily I am a big Country Music fan so I did have some reference points.

I’ve now finished writing the second book A Cowboy Wedding in Scotland and it’s due for release on October 20th. I had great fun writing it and found out even more about Texas. When I write book three, about the sister Charlene (named after Charlene Tilton who played Lucy in Dallas), I may even set the first part on the ranch. You never know. That will take me right out of my comfort zone. 

Monday, October 3, 2016

#Historical Chapter Three - Loving the Enemy

Over the next few days, Emily fed broth, wiped brows, and changed bedding, in her attempt to reconcile her new perception.  It seemed like the heat from a wash fire was constant, as Louise and Irene and Jaimie did their best to keep up with the few blankets and the constant soiling. Thankfully, the soldiers who were able helped around the farm, harvesting the corn, and earning their keep.  
The extra hands were welcome to Emily and her mother, although the younger girls were wary of all the strange men around.  They had been very small when their father and brother left, so they weren’t used to having men around, especially not so many.  Jaimie, though, was loving the adventure.  Having men around made the little boy puff up and preen under their attentions, whether Emily liked it or not.

The Sargent Major seemed to take a particular interest in little Jaimie, and it kept Emily on guard.  He was constantly picking Jaimie out to give him special attention, which to Emily at least, was unwarranted. 

“Hey little soldier, you want to shine my boots?”  Breck would call out to Jaimie, who beamed at the older man with the shiny buckle.

Snapping a salute to the man, Jaimie yelled, “Yes, Sir!” and would excitedly get to work, shining boots Sargent Major Breck should have been taking care of himself.  Emily bristled at the fact Breck never seemed to do anything.  The soldiers were staying on a corn farm, with chores to help with, fences that constantly needed mending, and a never-ending harvest.  He didn’t help with anything, and in Emily’s eyes, he was taking advantage of the hospitality, eating their food, and using their barn.  But it seemed to please Jaimie, and Mama didn’t seem to think anything of it, so Emily tamped down her irritation at the man and went about her business, constantly grinding her jaw together to keep from being rude.

About the most the Sargent Major ever did was take Jaimie fishing at the creek, even though it was almost more trouble than it was worth.  Jaimie was so excited to have something to do, he usually snuck off without finishing his chores, which put more work on everybody else.  Emily resented it.  Not because Jaimie was getting out of work, she couldn’t fault her brother for wanting something to smile about.  But the creek was her spot in the early mornings.  She usually bathed there when the weather was warm, and now she had to go another time of day because she didn’t want anything to do with Breck.  There was just something distasteful about him, the way his eyes twinkled when there wasn’t anything funny, especially, like he was having private thoughts at others’ expense.

But there were good aspects to the soldiers being there.  Emily learned about farms in other parts of the country, as there was a man there from Pennsylvania and another with a farm in New York, both of whom raised corn, and were very helpful.  They had ideas about crop rotation that Emily had never heard before, and she made a mental note to talk to her mama about it when she got the chance.
One night, after the children were asleep, Rachel sat Emily down with cups of warm buttermilk.

“We’ve got to keep the farm until William gets back.  I know he’s coming home, I can feel it.”  The earnestness in her mama’s eyes told Emily not to argue, although it didn’t escape her attention that Mama didn’t say anything about John or Jakob.  Did she feel something about them?  She didn’t ask, only nodded at her mother’s declaration as she sipped on her warm buttermilk, their nightly ritual.

She watched her mama hold her cup with leathery fingers, Emily’s gaze suddenly focused on her mama’s hands.  They looked so old.  She could remember when her mama had looked youthful, back when Papa was still around, and they smiled at each other over supper, or even the water pump.  But now, her mama just looked older.  The war had aged her, even though the fighting was far away.
“That banker can talk down to me all he wants to about growing interest and such, but this is our farm, and he’s not coming in here to take it.  You saw what happened when he came by yesterday, when he saw the Union army camping here.  So we’re going to take care of those boys, and get them on our side of this.  They’re not going to let Mr. Stein and his stuffy cohort take this farm.”  She lowered her voice, her blue eyes staring deep into Emily’s brown ones.  Mama’s wrinkles were deeper around her eyes, from squinting into the sun when she worked the plow behind Patches, and rubbed dirt out of them on particularly windy days.  But her vehemence belied her looks, as the determined turn to her mouth smoothed out some of the lines on her face.  “Because he’ll be back.  I know it.”

“But how are we going to manage that?”  Emily couldn’t imagine how a bunch of Yankees were going to help them keep their farm after they’d gotten what they needed.  While they were here, sure, they were very helpful.  Emily might actually find a time soon to write more in her journal, or help Mama sew some new dresses for the girls, or even do some decorative needlepoint.  Maybe they could even make it to town for church on Sundays, again.  She couldn’t remember when they’d had a day of rest.  Neither of them had had time for any of that in so long.  But why would the soldiers stay once they were better?

Thinking of them being better gave her pause.  Some were getting worse, and others, like Isaack, were getting better, but so slowly.  As always, thoughts of Isaack made her think of Jakob and the familiar pang of guilt hit her.  Where was he?  Was he even okay anymore?  Or alive?
Rachel patted her hand, a secretive smile on her tired face at Emily’s unasked question.  “They’re just men, dear.  We feed them, we dress their wounds, we heal them the best we can, and they’ll help us out of this situation.  You watch.”

Emily couldn’t help but think there was more to it than that, but she trusted her mama.  Rachel had been through a lot, growing up in an affluent family in Boston and living a life filled with coming out parties and entertaining visitors, moving out west with her new husband in a covered wagon over miles of uncharted territory.  Rachel and William settling here, in Texas, to build a house, plow fields, plant cotton and start a farm and raise a family.  They’d worked the little plot of land hard, then having her men leave her to the farm alone with a passel of children to help run it.  The women had managed to make it through the cotton fiasco, switching the crops over to corn when the Union armies had blockaded the rivers.  They would make it through this.  Even though it seemed Mr. Stein was trying to capitalize on the uncertainties blanketing the southern states after the war had ended.

But when Papa came home, would he understand what they’d had to go through?  Feeding the enemy?  Healing the enemy?  All to keep the farm?