Sweet Saturday Samples

More from WIP Abiding Echoes:

As they arrived at the truck to retrieve their purchases, Beth flashed another of those smiles that made him want to lasso the moon for her. “What are we cooking for dinner tonight?”

Already reaching into the back of the pickup, Justin halted, a chill rolling over him in a slow delicious wave. His heart slammed against the inside of his chest and he spun around. Dinner? Who cared about food when everything he would ever need stood barely a foot away?

Ravenous for the nourishment only Beth could provide, Justin stepped forward and nudged her into the side of the truck. He slid his hands upward along her arms until he reached her shoulders. Beth’s eyes widened, twin pools that had deepened to a mossy green when her pupils dilated. Her lips parted and she touched the tip of her tongue to them. It was all the invitation Justin needed. Angling his head, he swooped in and devoured her mouth. Tongues met, parried, then hers eased back and he followed with his, not asking for admittance, demanding it.

With a low moan, Beth molded herself to him, the fit so perfect they surely had been made for one another. His body stirred to life, warmth spreading from everywhere they touched and pooling low in his belly. She tasted of sunshine and sweetness. She was clover and he was the bee. When Beth rolled her head back, Justin changed the angle of the kiss, taking them both deeper. He traced a hand over her slender hips, pausing at her waist before skimming the back of his hand up along her rib cage. Beth’s soft moans became whimpers. Justin splayed the fingers of his other hand along her cheek and rubbed his thumb lightly back and forth.Tremors rippled through her and heated awareness flared in her eyes.

Blood roared through Justin’s ears, mimicked by a persistent distant thrumming that swelled and rumbled until it pervaded his whole being, became part of him just before it faded into a low growl at his feet. Beth hooked one leg around his, caressing his calf with her own, and his mind took flight with wild notions of sating the hunger that apparently consumed them both.

Icy wetness splashed across Justin’s forehead and flowed down his cheek, jerking his feet back to the ground. Blue-white lightning writhed across the sky followed quickly by the slow heavy roll of thunder.

“Come on!” Justin grabbed the bags containing their purchases from the back of the truck and snagged hold of Beth’s hand.

Laughing, they raced across the yard to the ranch house, aiming for the closer front door. Once they were under the overhang, Justin turned around to regard the torrents of water pouring straight down from the darkened sky. More shrieks of gaiety gurgled from Beth’s mouth, harmonizing with the pinging rain as it splashed into the brown puddles already dotting the yard. A curtain of water cascaded off the eaves overhead, bubbling and foaming at the base of the porch.

She shook her head, spraying more water from her saturated hair. “Where did that come from?”

Justin squeezed the water from his face with a quick pull of one hand. “It’s been building all day. I thought we’d have a bit of time before it hit.”

“But it was sunny when we went into the barn.”

“Welcome to Wyoming.” Justin pushed open the front door and held it for Beth to precede him inside, his body still tingling at the memory of holding her softness against him.

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Available now: Brand new Regency romance, A Lot Like A Lady!Amazon, Astraea Press, Barnes & Noble.

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A Lot Like A Lady

Prologue

Summer 1803
Haselmere, England

“Look, there’s another!” Juliet danced in a circle and pointed at the carriage, drawn by two dark brown horses, as it crested the distant hill. “It’s coming right here… right to the castle!”

From his seat on the low stone wall along the lane, Juliet’s new friend laughed softly. “Castle, eh? What makes you call Wyndham Green a castle?”

Juliet giggled. The answer was so obvious, surely even an adult would know it. “Why, because it’s the biggest house I’ve ever seen, and Mummy says a duke lives there. He married Lady Regina so now she’s a duchess and we must always say ‘her grace’ when
we speak of her.”

A light breeze played with the ends of the man’s graying brown hair as he studied Juliet for a long time. She bit the inside of her cheek. Perhaps she had said too much. Mummy said she
sometimes said the wrong things to the wrong people. The plop-­plop of the approaching hoofbeats grew louder and Juliet shifted from foot to foot.

Her new friend bent, plucked a blade of long grass, and wound it around his finger. “And what do you think of her grace?” he finally asked.

“Oh, she’s very nice,” answered Juliet, grinning. “She smiles at me when she sees me and she doesn’t mind when I help Mummy in the house sometimes.”

The carriage slowed and turned onto the road that led to the big house. Sweat darkened the horses’ sides and glistened in the strong sunlight.

“Oh, the poor horses,” cried Juliet. “They must have come a long way.”

The man nodded. “That they did. Does your mum work in the house then?”

“Yes.” Juliet stood up straighter, proud of the hard work her mum did. “Her name’s Patricia. She works for La — her grace.”

“Ah, I see. What might your name be?”

“I’m Juliet.” She held out her hand with the back tipped up the way she’d seen ladies do when they met gentlemen. She’d practiced for hours and hours in the barn, giggling when Alfred, her favorite horse, snuffled at her skin seeking a bit of apple or a carrot. When her new friend inclined his head and nodded in approval, she knew she’d gotten it right.

The man accepted her hand and lifted it up. Then, fixing his clear blue gaze on her eyes, he bent his head and brushed a gentle kiss behind her knuckles before releasing his grasp. “Juliet. What a beautiful name. ‘O, she doth teach the torches to burn bright! It seems she hangs upon the cheek of night.‘“

The skin along the back of her hand tingled and Juliet giggled. “What does that mean?”

“Why, ‘tis from Romeo and Juliet. Mr. William Shakespeare wrote it. And one day, perhaps you’ll find out what it means for yourself.”

“Someday, I want to marry a duke like Lady — I mean her grace. And I want to live in a castle like this one.”

“One day, maybe you will.”

Another carriage rolled along the lane, heading toward the main house — a big one this time, shiny and black, all closed in with doors and windows, and drawn by four matched bay horses.

Juliet squinted, just able to make out a coat of arms emblazoned on the side — a red and white shield bearing a lit torch and flanked by two crested white doves. Awestruck at the splendor, she drew in a deep breath and turned back to her companion.

A pleased expression settled over the man’s face. “Ah, I must go now. That carriage is bringing my son.” He stood and began walking across the field toward the house.

“Wait!” cried Juliet. “I told you my name. What is yours?”

The man turned and smiled at her. It was a kind smile and it made Juliet miss her father just a tiny bit less. “Most people call me the Duke of Wyndham. But you, my dear, may call me Alexander.”

As he strode away, his shiny black boots sweeping through the waving grass, Juliet stared with widened eyes at his retreating form. A frisson of awareness tickled along her spine and she knew something extraordinary had just occurred.

Chapter One

Ten years later
March 1813
Haselmere, England

“I cannot believe you’re serious!”

Juliet jumped, almost dropping the heavy tray she carried, and sighed inwardly. The strident tones of Annabella Price’s voice cut the peace like a sharp knife, quickly slicing short the quiet evening.

Silently cursing the duchess for picking the early supper hour to raise a subject sure to put Annabella in a sour mood, Juliet kept her gaze locked firmly on the platter of roasted rabbit she held and tried to pretend disinterest in the conversation between mother and daughter. She handed the dish to the waiting butler. Geoffrey shot her a warning glance and then placed the rabbit on the fine walnut table amongst other gleaming silver serving dishes. Juliet didn’t particularly mind serving supper, though it did extend her work hours some. Serving duties had fallen to her when the duchess had been forced to let one of the footmen go. Linus Dobney was dearly missed in the household, and not only because others needed to take up his responsibilities.

Annabella slapped the flat of her hand next to her plate and slumped back in her seat, a pout marring the delicate features on her heart-­shaped face.

The pale rose fabric of Annabella’s gown bunched in the middle and the lace around the neckline wrinkled downward, exposing a bit of extra cleavage, but she did nothing to right her garment. “It’s laughable to think I’ll consider such an outlandish plan.” She tossed her head, the motion loosening the comb at the back of her head and allowing some of her golden hair to escape.

“Sit up straight, dear. And, yes, I am quite serious.” With her golden hair perfectly and elaborately coifed, and her stylish Pomona green dress pressed, Regina, Duchess of Wyndham, carried off her role as lady of the household with precision and care. As all her servants were aware, she expected no less attention to detail from the other members of her household. With a pointed glance at her daughter, Regina sat up straighter herself, as if
stiffening her own spine would somehow influence her child. “The arrangements have already been made. You will be leaving at the end of the month to spend the Season in London. It’s high time you take your place in society as the daughter of a duke—”

“Stepdaughter,” Annabella ground out through clenched teeth. In the hard silence that fell, the too-­loud ticking of the case clock in the corner might as well have been a galloping horse.

Juliet stood frozen in place, her gaze tracing the dark crust along the edge of the roasted rabbit, afraid to look up. Ye’ve gone and done it now, your grace. Any minute now, Annabella would set into one of her regular tirades on the sensitive topic.

Regina insisted upon acting as if the late duke had been Annabella’s father and his sons were her brothers, an arrangement none of the children had adjusted to. For the most part, Alexander’s sons had stayed away from Wyndham Green after the wedding, though from the gossip amongst the servants, Juliet gathered they’d been frequent visitors before that. But Annabella and her mother seemed to never cease arguing over the fact that the late Duke of Wyndham was not her father.

From the beginning, Annabella had taken on a habit of destroying many of the pretty things Alexander had gifted her with, showing her rejection of him as her father’s replacement. As
one of the upstairs maids, Juliet’s mother had cleaned up bits of broken china and the remains of frocks shredded before they could be worn, and Juliet had often mourned some of the nice presents Annabella had ruined just because she’d resented her stepfather so.
Juliet had thought the old duke a wonderful man, kind and gentle. He’d called her by name and never treated her like the daughter of a servant. Sadness welled, tightening her throat. She still missed him… nearly as much as she missed her father. Maybe more so.

In private, Juliet’s mother often commented that she didn’t understand how Juliet managed to spend so much time with Annabella, given the spoiled girl’s tendency to have tantrums. But Patricia Baines hadn’t seen Annabella heartbroken and sobbing in the stable. Juliet had lost her own father at a rather young age, and she herself had been distressed at leaving the only home she had ever known. But she and her mother had to move to Wyndham
Green with Lady Price and her daughter when Regina married the duke. Juliet and Annabella offered compassion and friendship to one another, forming an unlikely bond. A bond Annabella’s mother tolerated, and while Juliet could never be quite certain why, she
suspected Regina did so because of her own inability to calm her daughter. The lady of the house was never unkind, but she sometimes went to great lengths to see Juliet remained in her proper place.

“Please set out the creamed turnips and the asparagus tips.”

The hint of censure in the duchess’ voice startled Juliet from her memories, and she glanced at Geoffrey, whose narrowed gaze told her she would have a proper talking to later for her lack of attention. With a gulp, she hastened to the buffet. The silver tureen of creamed turnips warmed her hands as she carried it to the table, though the smell made her stomach turn and she held her breath.

“Don’t think by serving my favorite foods you’ll gain my willing acceptance of your wishes, Mother,” warned Annabella as Geoffrey set the creamed turnips in front of her.

Juliet shuddered at the thought of the creamed turnips that would be part of her own supper. Maybe Annabella would require her services and none would be left by the time Juliet was finished with her duties for the evening. The idea appealed, and she considered how much more satisfaction she would find in just a bit of bread and some meat. Regina met her daughter’s gaze. “You had a proper come-­out at one-­and‑seven, but mourning your father’s death—”

Annabella set her wine glass on the table with more force than necessary. The deep red liquid sloshed back and forth and a few drops trickled over the edge to land on the white tablecloth. Immediately the linen acted as a wick and the darkness spread along the weave, vanishing beneath the blue-‑and-­white patterned china plate. Juliet sighed for the laundress. Hesper would have a time cleaning that stain once it set.

Regina ignored her daughter’s temper and continued as though uninterrupted. “—has kept you away from many important social events. You will soon be one-­and-­twenty, and in London you can expect a fresh start. It is not up for discussion. I have already notified your brother, the duke.” Regina raised her hand and held it out in front of her when Annabella narrowed her gaze and opened her mouth to speak. “Fine. Your stepbrother, the Duke of
Wyndham, has been notified to expect you.”

“Expect me? Don’t you mean expect us?”

Regina dabbed at her lips with a napkin and cleared her throat. “Well, ah, you see, I am in need of some treatments for my health, so I will be spending a few weeks in Bath first. Your great aunts Harmony and Charity will be escorting you and acting as your chaperones.”

Oh, dear. Oh, no! Ignoring Geoffrey’s silent directions to stand still, Juliet backed up toward the kitchen, keeping a wary eye focused on Annabella.

“Charity and Harmony! You must be jesting. The last time I saw them, they’d both gone dotty in the head.” Annabella slouched rather deliberately back in her seat and crossed her arms across her chest, shooting her mother a defiant stare. “Besides, they never leave Somerset.”

The duchess’ lips tightened and she drew in a breath, releasing it in delicate fashion before she spoke. “They have already responded to my message that they shall be happy to escort you for a Season in London.”

Annabella pushed her chair back and shot up. “I won’t do it! I won’t go! Why do I have to go spend the Season with Wyndham while you’re off having a splendid time in Bath! You wanted to marry into nobility. Not I. He’s arrogant and he barely knows I’m alive. We haven’t seen him in almost four years — not since his father died. He refuses to come here because he can’t stand to see you living in his father’s home. I hate him!”

Juliet could only stare with wide eyes as Regina stood as well, her face pale, her movements slow and deliberate. “Annabella, you will do as I say and you will mind your manners.
Otherwise, I will be forced to accept Vicar Hamilton’s marriage proposal and set the wedding to take place posthaste.”

At the mention of the stout vicar, Annabella’s face blanched and she clutched her stomach.

Not the vicar, your grace. Juliet bit the inside of her lip as she recalled Annabella’s last tantrum, directly after the totally smitten man visited for an afternoon and spent the next several hours hovering within feet of her. It had been one of her more destructive moments, costing the home a fine oil portrait and several china teacups.

Annabella recovered and her vexation became clear in the glare to which she subjected her mother. “You wouldn’t dare.”

“If you don’t make a suitable match soon, I’ll have no choice. So it’s up to you. Do you leave for London at month’s end or do you begin planning your wedding to the good vicar?”

Annabella’s face colored up and her eyes narrowed. Juliet’s breath stuck in her throat and she fled along the hallway from the dining room to the kitchen. The sound of breaking china followed close behind.
****

Want to read more? Check out another excerpt on Kim’s blog. Find A Lot Like A Lady where ebooks are sold. Amazon, Astraea Press, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords

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Sweet Saturday Sample/A Lot Like A Lady

Coming March 27!

Hands on his hips, Grey surveyed the chit who had shown up on his doorstep six days prior and done nothing but cut up his peace since her arrival. Her golden brown hair had fallen from the elaborate style she’d affected earlier and most of it formed a cloud around her head. In her pale yellow gown, she looked like some sort of garden flower, a bud yet to bloom into its true beauty, lying against the green velvet of his couch. He shifted his stance, acknowledging his thought as further proof that all was not as it had seemed.

“You may as well open your eyes,” he snapped. “We’re quite alone.”

One eyelid fluttered, then slowly opened, followed in quick order by the other. In the firelight, her tawny eyes gleamed the color of soft caramel. Would that her personality be as sweet as those eyes. Impatiently, Grey pushed the thought aside.

She kept her gaze on him as she slid her feet to the floor and slowly came to a demure sitting position with her hands in her lap. But no amount of decorum could hide the fire in her eyes.

“Would you care to explain yourself?” asked Grey.

“I-I-I’m s-sorry. It — it was the dog, you see…” She shrank back into the couch at his quelling glance.

“The dog? The dog addled your brain so you didn’t know how to behave properly at a meal?” Grey folded his arms across his chest lest he take her by the shoulders and shake her. “The dog stole away your taste for those despicable creamed turnips?”

A weak smile tugged at the corners of her mouth. “You don’t like them, either?”

“Don’t like them?” Grey sputtered and paused to take a calming breath, but his vexation wasn’t to be contained. “I abhor the dreadful things and you fiendishly well know it, Annabella.”

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Tribute to Love

What is love to you? Do you define it by the tender moments? Or the fun? Is it knowing someone is always there to give you support? Is it holding on or letting go? Is it the undying loyalty of a best friend? The embrace of the years? The innocent smile of a child?

Can it be a faithful companion who would do anything to make you smile? Even share a dog biscuit? Does love give comfort in the storm?

Does love heal all hurt? Or is love at the root of the pain?

I love all of you, whether you’re pictured  on this page or not. You all know who you are.

Sweet Saturday Sample 03/17/12

A bit more from Abiding Echoes this week. If you want to read more of the McGee family, check out Lifeline Echoes and Elusive Echoes available now wherever e-books are sold and at AstraeaPress.com.————-click me———->

As they pulled into the yard, Justin caught the glance Beth slid in his direction and tried to ignore the little stab in his chest at the wariness in her eyes. She had every right to be cautious. He hadn’t been the epitome of friendliness on the way back to the ranch. His heart had crowded a sackload of emotion up into his throat at her announcement that she planned to see the world. Not only had actual speech been difficult but finding the words—any words—to hold a conversation just hadn’t been possible.

Things like that happened when a guy went and let his heart get in front of his brain.

Beth opened the door and slid to the ground before Justin could get there to help her…which was just as well.

“I want to check on the puppies.” She sent him a smile over her shoulder as she almost skipped to the barn.

“Go ahead. I’ll catch up.” Justin rested a hand on the open door of his pickup and watched her taking bouncy steps away from him. She’d be doing that for good soon.

At the barn, Gus met her in the doorway. Justin was too far away to hear what he said but the tinkle of Beth’s delighted laughter echoed across the stable yard and he suddenly wished he’d walked with her, that he was part of what was going on…that he’d been the one to make her laugh.

Beth caught his eye and gestured for him to come over. “Hurry up, pokey!” she called with a laugh. “Gus has a surprise!”

Justin slammed the door to the pickup with a little more force than it required and stomped across the yard, taking care to ease the glower he knew was etched across his face before he reached the barn.

“So…a surprise, huh?” Justin looked between the pair as he approached.

“After Doc Douglas looked at ’em, we left the pups in one of the stalls here and checked on a couple of the girls that’re gettin’ close to deliverin’.” Gus shifted from foot to foot. “After Doc left, I came back and the one with the bum leg was the only one here.”

Alarm sprinted through Justin leaving little footprints of dread in its wake. But from the grin splitting Beth’s face, she already knew what had happened to the pups…and it wasn’t anything bad. He concentrated on drawing his next breath, knowing Gus would get to the rest of the story in his own time.

“I didn’t see no blood or anything so I didn’t think a wild critter’d gotten in.” Gus took off his hat and scratched his head. “As I stood there trying to figure out what’d happened to ’em, one-a the old barn cats came slinking into the stall from the tack room. Then the durndest thing happened. The old biddy grabbed the lil’ pup before I could stop her and dragged it off.”

Justin shook his head, mystified, and wishing Gus would just spit it out. “So what did she do with them?”

With a smirk, Gus indicated they should follow him as he sauntered into the barn. It took a second for Justin’s eyes to adjust to the dim light, but he could walk the barn in the dead of night if he had to. He captured Beth’s hand as Gus led them to the tack room at the back of the building.

He heard them instantly, squealing and mewling from a hole in the wall behind the workbench. Gus handed him a flashlight and he crouched to look into the makeshift den. “Well, I’ll be,” he murmured at the sight of the four pups curled up next to a litter of three gray tabby kittens all suckling on a matching mother cat. He motioned for Beth to join him and shined the light through the crack in the wood.

She caught her breath and then made a crooning sound in the back of her throat that instantly gave Justin a few inappropriate thoughts. “Well aren’t you just a natural mama?” she asked the cat.

The mostly feral barn cat mewed in response instead of hissing or growling, and Justin’s jaw dropped. When Beth reached through the hole, though, the new mama covered all the babies with her scrawny body and edged back from the opening.

Beth turned her head and caught Justin’s gaze. “What are we going to do with them?”

He jerked, startled by the question. “Do with who?”

Beth tilted her head and threw him one of her killer smiles. He didn’t even know what she was about to ask of him but he knew he’d do it. “What will we do with the new family?” she asked.

“Uh, leave ’em where they are?” He sighed and glanced around the tack room for a box to carry the babies in.

Next to him, Gus chortled and Justin sent him a glare. Really? All the scrapes the man had helped him through and this time he was leaving him hang?

Beth’s face clouded. “But what if Mama takes them away somewhere? Or puts them in a nest that’s too high and they fall? What if they get kicked by a cow?”

Justin opened his mouth but no words came out. How could he tell her that crap like that sometimes happened on a ranch—it was just one of the things ranchers got used to?

She regarded him with an unblinking green stare while she worried at her bottom lip with her perfect white teeth. Oh, man, if his mom and dad came home to find their home had been turned upside down and a barn cat welcomed inside, they’d flip out.

Gus cleared his throat. “You know that mother cat’s raised probably six…seven litters. Half the cats out here are hers.” He shrugged. “She’s a good mama. But she won’t take well to losin’ her freedom, not bein’ able to do her job.”

Beth’s tilted her head sideways and knit her brow. “Her job?”

“Yes, ma’am.” Gus nodded. “She’s in charge of rodent control. She won’t know what to do with herself in the house.”

“But if she raises the puppies…will they…will they hunt barn mice, too?”

Bending his head, Justin scratched his jaw to hide a smile. Only his Daffodil Gal would worry about a litter of pups identifying with the wrong species.

Whoa! My gal? His heart thumped hard against his chest as though to answer in the affirmative.

Beth returned her attention to the mother cat. “You take care of those babies and I’ll visit every day.” She bent closer and whispered. “I’ll bring you all kinds of treats.”

She could have offered to give the darn cat the run of the pantry for all Justin cared. His brain stopped processing anything past “visit every day.” Which meant she maybe planned to stick around for a while…

Thanks for reading!  Return to Saturday Samples for more sweetness! And have a happy and safe St. Patrick’s Day!

Sweet Saturday Samples

FROM WORK IN PROGRESS, Abiding Echoes(Justin and Beth)…

(available now)

Hope you enjoy!

“You ate my ice cream,” he murmured in disbelief. Where had she found room in that tiny body for roughly six scoops of ice cream?

Laughing softly, she guided the cone to his lips and he slurped the last of the French vanilla scoop. The sugar cone tumbled from Beth’s fingers as she leaned forward and pressed her chilled lips against his. When she parted those lips and invited him in, the sweetness lingering there tantalized his palate.

Justin hovered at the edge for just a moment, parried with her teasing tongue while he tunneled his hand through her silky curls to gently cup the back of her neck. Holding her still, he gave himself over to the moment and tasted every bit of her mouth. He would have urged her closer, pulled her into his lap, but she was already there, leaning into his kisses, giving more of the sweetness he’d just plundered.

Beth crawled up Justin’s body and clung to him like a cat, and he swiveled in his seat so the steering wheel would stop crushing her in the small of the back…not that she appeared to notice. He kept one hand buried in her hair while he allowed the other one to travel beneath the hem of her blouse and tickle her spine.

Never in his life had Justin experienced such a rage of passion surge through his blood. Never had he been as aware of another person as he was of Beth. His whole body strained against the boundaries of decency as he explored her softness with his hands and mouth.

He pulled back, gasping for breath as consciousness of where they were filtered into his overheated brain. Beth flopped back into her seat, her green eyes nearly glowing with stirring emotion.

“I’m sorry,” began Justin, feeling the need to apologize more than the sentiment behind the apology itself.

“I’m sorry, too,” murmured Beth, a curving her lips upward.

Her words turned his heart to lead and it sank to somewhere near the vicinity of his stomach. But she snagged his fingers like a frog snapping up a fly. Then she gently tugged his hand and placed it over her heart.

Her chest rose and fall rapidly with the deep gasps of air she drew in. “Feel that?” Her voice was as unsteady as he knew his would be if he could speak.

Her heart leaped so violently against his touch, he wondered if he wouldn’t soon be holding it in his palm.

“So…” she whispered. “Maybe we should establish what it is we’re sorry about.” She touched the fingers of her free hand to his lips. “Because I’m only sorry that we have to stop.”

Justin stared. No other woman.

She eased up on her hold on his hand and laced their fingers together, sending a pointed glance across the baseball diamond. “So…did you bring me here so we could play ball?” Her hair spilled to her shoulders and shrouded her face like a veil. She shook it back but it only fell forward again.

“No,” answered Justin quietly, reaching out to push the hair from Beth’s face so he could see her brilliant green eyes. “But I didn’t stop here to make out like teenagers at a drive-in, either.”

Interest flickered in her gaze and her lips twitched into a smile. “You still have drive-in theaters here?”

“Not in Orson’s Folly, but up in Oslow there’s one still operating.” He grinned. “Why? Got a sudden hankering to see a movie?”

Beth twisted in her seat and shifted her gaze to stare out the window for a few heartbeats. Justin held his breath. She was definitely up to something now.

The gaze she leveled on him seared him with heat and captured his imagination with its suggestion of wildness. “I’m pretty sure we wouldn’t see much of the actual movie. I’d much rather save the money and make out under the stars tonight.”

Justin stopped breathing. Oh, man. From zero to engines revved and ready to go in six words or less. He had to get away from the enclosed space with her or they’d quite likely get picked up for public indecency. He popped open the door and hopped out, striding on shaky legs to the back of the truck. He took his time searching through the brown paper sacks for his own impulse purchase, hoping to recover his self-control before Beth climbed from the pickup to join him.

“What’s that?” she asked as she approached, eying the roll of red tissue paper wrapped around two balsa-wood sticks. Squinting at the label, she read, “Sky Master?”

Grinning, Justin grabbed the spool of string from the bag and headed for the center of the ball field.

“Wait a minute!” she cried out from where he’d left her. “Wait…you brought me here to fly a kite?”

Justin glanced over his shoulder but didn’t stop walking when he noted her trotting to catch up.

“You ever flown a kite?”

“Ah…” Beth chuckled nervously. “Not since I was about ten. And it landed in a tree.”

Suddenly he was on top of the proverbial world. “Then it’s time you try again.” He gestured to the open field. “See? No trees. Nothing to get snagged on.”

Beth stood stock still except for two slow blinks of her eyes. She swallowed once, and then launched herself at him. Justin dropped the kite kit and stepped back with one foot to avoid falling over as he opened his arms. She was warm and squirmy and laughing…happy. And when she drew back to gaze into his eyes, she’d lost the little line that had been pinching her brow since they’d run into Alice in the general store.

Leaning forward again, she laid her lips on his for a quick, hard kiss that was somehow more intimate than the hot and heavy caresses they’d just shared in the cab of his pickup. Then she pulled out of his arms, bent to retrieve the kite and grabbed his hand, taking off for the center of the field. “Come on,” she said, laughing. “I wanna fly this kite.”

As Justin joined her in a flat-out run, he noticed the little things. The glint of gold in her hair as it bounced against her shoulders…the warmth of her hand in his…the delighted peal of her giggles when she turned and caught his eye.

No. Other. Woman.

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Surprise Party for Stephy Smith

Congratulations to Stephy Smith – not only for her new release but because her first novella was published a year ago and she’s entertained us with several really cool stories between now and then. Well, I’ll let her tell in her own words:

Today is a day of celebration for me. One year ago today my first novella, Lizzie and the Rebel released with Astraea Press. Today my seventh novella, Swim the River released. Let’s take this celebration one-step further and add Women’s History Month. Who can forget the great lives of Annie Oakley, Calamity Jane, Amelia Earhart, Jane Austin, Willa Cather and many more that came before us to leave their marks in history?  Pioneer women who took the journey with or without their men carved their names in the world armed with only the determination and bravery the held within their own hearts. Check out her books at www.astraeapress.com as well as on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

In honor of these celebrations I am going to give away one of each of my novella’s. To enter the drawing send me an email to stephysmith1976@lycos.com with ‘contest entry’ in the subject line. If you already have one of my eBooks, please include the title in the body along with your name and email address. Good luck everyone. I look forward to hearing from you!

With the solar storm , I am extending the registration for the drawing. From March 8-11 you will have the chance to enter. One copy of Lizzie and the Rebel, Rescued From the River, Shawnee’s Creek, Sanders Cross, Gentry’s Gallery of Angels, The Long Moon and Swim the River will be awarded on March 12, 2012.

Congratulations, Stephy! And may you add many books to these!


Sweet Saturday Sample 03/03/12

From upcoming release (March 2012)  A Lot Like A Lady, co-written with Kim Bowman:

Juliet set her gaze on the iron fence they walked beside. Small sticks and twigs, casualties of a harsh winter and a spring shower a few days before, littered the ground at the base of the fence and she kicked at them.

But I am a servant, your grace, and I do not know why you haven’t discovered that, or what happened to my letter…but when you find it… She sighed.

“That was a very sad sound, Magpie.” Grey squeezed her hand against his arm.

More unsettled by his compassion than she cared to admit, Juliet pulled her hand from Grey’s arm and bent to pick up a particularly sturdy stick. She caught his frown of confusion from the corner of her eye. One day—soon—he would discover the truth of her identity and send her on her way.

But not today.

She allowed the laughter to bubble forth and took off at a run, ignoring Grey’s startled outcry. She dragged the stick along the iron bars as she ran, unperturbed by the din.

“What the—Magpie what are you doing?”

“I’m not sad, your grace,” she called over her shoulder. “And I wanted you to know it.”

“Really…” He stood with his arms crossed over his chest. “And just how is making such a racket imparting this information? We are standing in front of a cathedral, you realize.”

She whirled around and ran back to him, dragging the stick as she went. Standing in front of him, breathless as much by his nearness as from running, she studied him. Sandy brown hair fell across his eyes. His coat was unbuttoned over his white shirt, which was also unbuttoned at the neck, lending him an uncharacteristically rumpled air. Suddenly, it occurred to her that neither of them had taken care toward being appropriately attired for their impromptu outing. Grey had never looked less like the Sixth Duke of Wyndham…and she’d never found him more attractive.

“Well?” Merriment in his blue eyes belied the sharpness of his question.

Juliet laughed and slid her gaze to the imposing brick and mortar church. “Why…I’m making a joyful noise, your grace.”

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