Friday, December 13, 2013

A Sneek Peek at The New Year's Bride!

On The Way to Nowhere ...


New Orleans, December 1870

 Elnora Barstow wasn’t the most graceful thing in the world but she wasn’t a total klutz either.  But wouldn’t you know, right when she needed her feet at their nimble best, they failed her.
 “Run, Miss Elle!” Jethro cried as he shoved her into an alley and began to push her ahead of him at a rapid pace.
  She stumbled down the alley only to trip and fall, the action toppling Jethro over like a mighty tree.  He landed on the other side of her and with lightening speed jumped to his feet.  She didn’t realize a man of his size could move so fast and let out a gasp of shock when he grabbed her and pulled her up to stand before him.  “We gotta move Miss Elle!  Dey be comin’ round da corner any minute lookin’ for ya!”
 Elle glanced up at her escort and doing her best to catch her breath, tried not to look frightened. “Surely we’ve lost them by now?”
 Jethro, one of Mrs. Ridgley’s two huge Negro servants shook his head. “No ma’am.  You don’t know dis sort of men like I do. Now I gots to get you to da train station and on your way before dem devils finds us!”
 “But Mrs. Ridgley assured me this wouldn’t happen!”
 “Dat was before dat devil-man Mr. Slade found out about you!  He done been snoopin’ round da orphanage da last few days and must’ve got a look at ya somehow.”
 Elle’s face fell.  Mrs. Teeters, the head of the Winslow Orphanage, had warned her about a group of men who preyed upon the older orphan girls and tried to find when any of their lot were to leave the safe confines of Winslow’s walls.  Having just turned eighteen a couple of weeks ago, it was time for Elle to either find decent work or a decent husband.  Mrs. Teeters promptly skipped the first option and insisted Elle take option number two; become a mail order bride.   
 Elle took a deep breath.  Option number two, however, was not supposed to involve running for one’s life through the dark streets of New Orleans!
 “Now don’t be makin’ no trouble for ol’ Jethro Miss Elle.  We gots to be on our way!”  He gave her another shove to get her moving.  She was about to comment when a shot rang out. 
  Elle spun at the sound only to face Jethro, his face locked in pain, as he sunk to his knees before her.  “Run Miss Elle!”
 Elle looked up.  A man with a gun was standing at the other end of the alley.  He grinned like the devil as he slowly made his way toward her.  Elle gasped with panic. Jethro clutched at the left side of his chest, his face locked in a horrible grimace as he grappled with the gun belt at his side.  “Jethro!”
  “Why ain’t you runnin’?  You gots to run Miss Elle!”
 She looked at the big Negro, her heart in her throat.  The bullet had passed clean through, missing his heart, if it hadn’t he’d already be dead.  She at least knew that much, she also knew she couldn’t leave him.  If she did he would bleed to death.  She didn’t have much time.
  She dropped her satchel to the ground and glanced at their assailant who stood not twenty feet away, a gun still in his hand. He reached into the pocket of his jacket and pulled out a crisp linen handkerchief.  He casually dabbed the sweat from his brow and the back of his neck as if he had all the time in the world, then grinned at her once more. “Come along now and I’ll let him live,” he drawled in a deep southern accent.
 She looked to Jethro, horrified. “I can’t let him kill you, Jethro.  I can’t!”
 Jethro fell forward and stopped himself with one hand.  He looked up at Elle with a face so agonized it tore her heart out. “You gots to go, Miss Elle. Da train ticket's in my right pocket. Take it and run! He’s gonna kill me no matter what,” he rasped, his voice low. “Get me my gun …”
 Elle’s eyes flew to the gun belt at his side as Jethro pushed himself against a nearby brick wall into a sitting position.  Blood oozed from his wound and soaked his shirt and vest.
 “Come now girl, don’t waste my time,” the man said casually.  “What ever are you doing talking with the likes of him?  Back away from him, now.”
 Elle glanced at their assailant as she pulled the train ticket from Jethro’s vest pocket then once again looked into the big man’s pain-filled eyes. “I’m so sorry,” she whispered to him.
 “Run…” Jethro rasped as she handed him his gun. “He won’t shoot you, you ain’t worth nothin’ dead.”
 “I’m tired of waiting. Let’s end this now,” the man said with a sneer as he began to stride toward them.
 Elle didn’t think, she only acted when she heard the audible click of Jethro’s gun and  watched as he struggled with the effort it took to lift the weapon. It was then everything slowed and time stood still.  She hadn’t realized she picked up Jethro’s hand, the gun cocked and ready, until her small finger connected with his and they began to squeeze the trigger as one.
 The shot was deafening and she reeled back onto the hard ground.  Jethro sat against the wall, his head slumped to one side as, ears ringing, she shook her own head and struggled to her knees. “Jethro!”
 He looked up at her. “Run now, Miss Elle. Dat devil ain’t gonna come after you no more, but … dere might be more on da way …”
 Elle looked in horror at the man lying face down on the ground not feet away.  “Oh my God!  What have I done?” She looked desperately back to Jethro. “I killed him?  Did I kill him?  Oh God!”
 “Run, Miss Elle,” Jethro said weakly. 
 Shouts could be heard heading for the alley.  “Jethro!  Someone’s coming!”
 “Bad men, good men, don’t know which.  Run Miss Elle. Either way, I ain’t goin’ nowhere.”
 Elle began to sob.
 “Do it for me, run…” he said as he closed his eyes and brought the gun to his chest where he weakly cocked it again.
 Elle looked up one last time as the shouts drew closer.  She let out a final sob, grabbed her satchel, got to her feet and ran.  Ran and prayed like she’d never prayed before.  Would they be good men, or more like the one that shot Jethro?  How was she to know?  If she heard another gun shot that meant they would have finished off the gentle giant. But if she didn’t, would it mean they were good men tending to him, or bad men who didn’t have to because he died the moment she jumped up and left?
Elle continued to run and stumble her way to the train station wondering if she would ever know. 
 She fought for breath as she ran and saw the conductor hop up into a car and shout his last call of “all aboard!” just before the train whistle sounded.  Elle gave one final push with what strength she had left to make it.  A man stood on the platform near one of the train’s open doors.  He glanced at her before looking away, then quickly looked back and gave her a once over.  Panic filled her as she saw his eyes narrow.  She ran for the nearest car and took a flying leap into it, banged her knee on one of the steps and went sprawling. She quickly looked over her shoulder and watched as the train moved past the man but he gave no pursuit, as if he wasn’t sure of what to do.  Neither did she.  Elle wasn’t sure whether to sigh in relief or cry at the horror that made up her evening. 
She didn’t get the chance to do either as someone yanked her to her feet.  “What do you think you’re doing running after the train like that?  Are ya trying to get yourself killed?”
 Elle looked dumbly up at the conductor’s scowling face.  “I’m … I’m sorry.  I wasn’t sure I was going to make it,” she pushed out.
 “Are you all right?” he asked with an impatient sigh.
 She nodded as she brushed off the skirt of her dress with one hand.  She then noticed he stood and eyed her warily.  “I’m fine,” she said.
 He held out his hand. “Let’s have a look at your ticket then.”
 A chill went up her spine.  She looked to the ticket she had crushed in her other hand and prayed there wasn’t any blood on it. She’d been holding the handle of her satchel in the same hand, but tossed it into the train car just before she launched herself in after it.  She was surprised the ticket was still in her hand at all and silently thanked the Lord as she held it out to him.
 The conductor snatched it from her and read it. “Long way to go, end of the line in fact.  Just where you heading, miss?”
 Elle let go a long sigh as she retrieved her satchel then turned to face him.  “Nowhere.”

Friday, November 22, 2013

Christmas in Clear Creek

A Sneak Peek!


Clear Creek, in the Oregon Territory November 30th, 1858

Bowen Drake had a gift. Unfortunately, he didn’t want it.
 Not that it was a bad gift mind you. It was in fact a very good gift, great, some would say.  But so far it hadn’t served Bowen in the manner which he’d hoped, and thus for years he wandered about as a lost soul looking for someplace to belong. However, and again most unfortunately, he looked in all the wrong places, on purpose.
 What drives a man to want to be bad you ask?  Well, it could be the fact he and his father didn’t get along well anymore.  Perhaps it had something to do with the fact Bowen blamed his father, a prominent doctor in Philadelphia, for the death of his mother.  After all, if Franklin Drake hadn’t been out treating and saving everyone and their grandmother from influenza in the winter of forty-eight, then perhaps Bowen’s mother, (who, you guessed it, died of influenza in the winter of forty-eight) would still be alive.  But no, Doc Drake was never home to treat his own wife. Instead he was out treating everyone else’s.
 But Mrs. Drake’s death wasn’t only hard on Bowen, it was hard on Mr. Drake too.  He took to drinking to cope with the loss while Bowen took to leaving.  There would be no son to follow in his father’s footsteps as doctor, no one to carry on the family’s vocation of healing.  And though Bowen Drake was greatly gifted in the area, divinely so some would say, he wanted nothing to do with it.
 To Bowen Drake doctoring was nothing but a joke upheld by hypocrites of the worst sort, namely his own father.  How could the man preach to others to turn away from the evils of drink only to destroy his own body with it every night?  How could he prescribe that cleanliness was next to Godliness when he himself stunk to high heaven for lack of bathing?  How could he admonish others to take care with what they had when he had squandered everything he had since Bowen’s mother died? 
 No, doctoring wasn’t for Bowen and never would be. Instead, he decided his father needed a good dose of his own medicine and thought that if he did the opposite of everything his father wanted him to do, it might shock him into reality and make him get a grip. That is, a grip on the life he had before the death of Mary Drake, beloved wife and mother.
  So after Harvard, Bowen took to drinking just like his father, decided his sensitive stomach wouldn’t last so he gave it up but let his father think he hadn’t.  Instead of finding a nice respectable girl to marry, Bowen thought womanizing would do the trick.  Unfortunately, each time he tried, the woman would leave Bowen before he had any sort of a chance to break her heart, wind up with someone perfect for her, get married, and lived happily ever after.  All the women Bowen got involved with naturally thanked him for his superb matchmaking skills of which he admittedly had none.  He just happened to mention a gentleman he knew, drop a name and like magic they would show up in town. His dalliances with women never worked the way he wanted them to and somehow turned into something too wonderful for him, or rather them to imagine.
 This of course, would never do.
 Bowen decided he was going to have to try harder to be bad and so sought the company of the acutely undesirable.  Surely that would be enough to get back at his father for letting his mother die! Unfortunately however, Bowen’s gift for good followed him.
 While heading west he joined an outlaw gang.  Within two weeks of joining half of their lot came down with a bad case of “the guilts” and began to turn themselves in! The other half were none too happy to have to disband in order to save their hides from their blabber mouthed ex-partners and so blamed Bowen for their plight. Sadly, this left him with no place to go.  Depressed and alone it didn’t stop there. 
 He joined another gang and while trying to rob a train, saved a baby instead.  This did nothing to improve his already damaged “rough and tough” image in the outlaw world, so Bowen had to find another gang to hook up with.  He did, and within a month managed to get the entire gang arrested during a stagecoach robbery in which he appeared to have saved the stagecoach drivers and passengers, (one of which was the niece of the owner of the stage line) and got an honorary mention in the local gazette to boot. This sad turn of events only served to bring Bowen even lower and he was beginning to think perhaps he should seek a solo career when it came to pursuing a life of crime.
 That, however, didn’t go over well either. He tried to rob a bank by first setting a wagon on fire to use as a distraction.  However, due to a shift of wind the local gambling house caught on fire and Bowen wound up on the fire brigade along with everyone else in town.  The gambling house was destroyed which was a darn shame for the gamblers, but the Ladies Society for Godly Living rejoiced that their prayers had been answered and their husbands were now home at night.
 And so, this brings us to the present where we find one Bowen James Drake a frustrated, depressed, bad-boy-wanna-be with no place to go and no gang to belong to.
 After all, what gang wanted a man with such a bad reputation for being good? But the worst of it was the fact his father was elated whenever he found out about Bowen’s heroic exploits, let everyone in Philadelphia society know about them, then got stinking drunk to celebrate.  This, of course, brought Bowen even lower.
 So, he left.  Left to go as far west as he could to get away from his hypocritical father and the horrendous loss of his mother.  And though Bowen had his special gift, one in which seemed to enable folks to get "well" in a manner of speaking, he could care less whether he himself lived or died.  For even though things always worked out for the better where others were concerned when in his company, they never seemed to work out for him.
 He still hated his father for letting his mother die.
 He still thought his father a horrible hypocrite.
 He still didn’t want anything to do with doctoring as a life long vocation.

 And he still, just once, would like to see something go wrong with everything around him just to let himself know he was “normal” because at this point Bowen was beginning to feel like a freak of nature. He even actually began to pray for it to come about. Obviously no one told Bowen the old saying, watch what you pray for …

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

How do you picture certain characters in your head?

Oh Look!  Is That Who I Think It Is?

Don't look now, but I think I spy some of the Prairie Bride characters wandering about!  Pinterest, you gotta love it!  I found a few fun things within the folds and thought I'd share them with you!

Belle and Sadie.  I think this is a good representation of them!  Very close to what I see in my head!

If Cozette had her way ....

Mrs. Dunnigan I presume?

Sheriff Harlan Hughes and Wilfred Dunnigan

Thackary Holmes

Jefferson Cooke

And of course, these boys need no introduction!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

A Sneak Peek at Her Prairie Outlaw

Brace Yourselves ...


  Missouri, August 1853

 A shot fired, then another.
 Josiah King cried out in pain.  The bullet got him right in the shoulder and he feared he’d lost his gun arm.  He raised the arm up to test it and instead found himself firing yet again.
 “They plumb got us pinned, Josiah!  They’re gonna catch us and gut us sure!”
 If Josiah could afford the time it took to roll his eyes at the comment he surely would. His friend Samuel Stone always had been a pessimist and his fear of being “caught and gutted” as he put it, only served to prove it.  Sure they were in a fix, but did Sam have to add to their predicament with such comments?
  The gunfire suddenly stopped.  Josiah quickly took the opportunity to reload as best he could.  His shoulder began to bleed profusely and his fingers were going numb.
 “Woo whee!” Came a shout from beyond their cover.  Josiah and Sam were hunkered down behind an old wagon they managed to overturn.  The barn was nearby but the dirty dogs had cut them off before they could get to it. Likewise with the Stone’s cabin.
 “Hey Stone!” A voice called from near the small cabin.  “Look what we found!”
 A girl’s scream suddenly rent the air and Josiah froze.  “Oh my God!” He breathed.  “Annie!”
 Sam’s face drained of color as he looked to Josiah.  “What are we gonna do, Josiah?  For God’s sake, what are we gonna do?”
 Josiah inched his way up to peek over the wagon bed.  “Annie?” He shouted.
 “Josiah!” Came the young girl’s pain-filled scream.
 “We got your little sister, Stone!  Now come on out or I’m gonna cut her up into tiny little pieces, take her home, and feed her to my dog!”
 Sam squeezed his eyes tightly shut. “I don’t wanna die, I don’t!”
 This time Josiah did roll his eyes and began to re-evaluate the man he’d called friend for the last three years.  Men, he knew, often showed their true colors under pressure. “How much money do you owe this man?”
 Sam opened one eye and looked at him. “A lot.  More than I can pay … He’s gonna kill me Josiah!  Please don’t let him kill me!”
  “I told you to quite playing cards with the likes of him but you never listen, Sam!  Never!  Now they’ve got Annie! You have to go out there!”
 Sam turned to him. “No I don’t!  I don’t have to do nuthin’!”
 Josiah’s mouth fell open, the pain in his shoulder forgotten. “You coward!  That’s your sister they’ve got!  They’re gonna kill her if you don’t do something!  What’s she doing here anyhow?  I thought she was with your aunt!”
 “I don’t know, I swear I don’t! She was supposed to have left this morning!” Sam said as he began to sob. “I can’t … can’t go out… there!”
 Josiah gritted his teeth, closed his eyes, and cursed under his breath. He then let go a long, weary sigh and stood.
 “What are you doin’?” Sam screeched. “Are you plumb crazy?”
 Josiah put both hands in the air as his gun flipped around to hang loosely by one finger. “Let the girl go!”
 Six men stood in front of the cabin, young Annie Stone held in the strong grip of two of them.  Men that looked strong enough to tear her limb from limb if they so chose. She looked small and bright in her lilac calico dress against the back-drop of huge, sweat drenched bodies. One of the men glared at him, looked to his comrades, and back again.  “Who are you?  You’re not Stone!”
 “Let the girl go and I’ll see you get your money!” Josiah called over the wagon.
 “Are you crazy? You ain’t got no money!” Sam hissed from below.
 “I got more than you.”
 What money?”
 “Shut up, Sam.”
 Meanwhile the six men eyed him, several whispering amongst themselves as the leader continued to glare. Finally, one said something to the leader.  He laughed and slapped the man on the back.  “You!” He called out. “Is Sam Stone with ya?”
 Josiah glanced down at Sam who shook his head vigorously in return.  Josiah looked back to the men. “He sure enough is!”
 Sam cursed him.
 Josiah didn’t care.  One of them had to save Annie.
 “Bring that scum out then or I’m gonna carve up this little girl!”
 Annie screamed in pain as one of the men pulled her arm behind her back and yanked upwards.
 “Stop it! Hurt her and you ain’t gonna get nothin’!” Josiah cried, his face now red with anger.
 “Come on out, boy!” The man yelled. “We won’t hurt the girl if you do!”
 Josiah closed his eyes briefly and took a deep breath. It's up to You now Lord to get us out of this alive.
  He stepped out from behind the wagon.  Sam pulled his knees to his chest and wrapped his arms around them.  Josiah took one last look at his whimpering form before he stepped forward.
 “Toss your gun, boy! Then come over here.”
 Josiah complied and tossed his gun to one side.  He then started toward them.  Annie’s eyes suddenly brightened at his approach.  Despite the fact the man behind her held her arm painfully high, she still managed a look so full of hope it threatened to tear Josiah’s heart out.  She was counting on him to save her. Not her coward of a brother.
 Josiah stopped ten feet from the men.  “Let her go.”
 “You got guts boy, I’ll give ya that,” the leader said. “But I’m curious why you’re the one standin’ here and not Stone.”
  Josiah’s face was expressionless. “Why don’t you ask him?”
 The man spit, looked at his companions, then said, “don’t mind if I do!”  He gave a nod of his head and three of his men quietly made their way toward the wagon.  Within moments they were hauling a kicking, screaming, Samuel Stone back toward the cabin.
 Annie began to cry as she watched them drag the pitiful, writhing form of her brother closer. She said nothing to him and instead turned her frightened eyes back to Josiah, the same look of hope filling them as they locked with his.  
 Josiah shut his tight for a second and took another deep breath.  Anytime now Lord!
 “Well would ya lookie here!” The leader laughed as his men threw Sam to the ground at his feet.  “If you ain’t the most yeller thing I’ve ever seen!”
 Sam raised his head to look at him. “Don’t kill me!  Please don’t kill me!” He quickly pointed to Josiah. “You heard him!  He’s gonna pay you, all of it he said!”
 The man stared down at Sam with a genuine look of disgust.  He then shook his head.  “Ya know, I ain't sure you’re even worth a bullet.” He went to Annie and pulled her head up by the hair.  “Is this your brother?”
 Annie whimpered in pain and barely managed a nod. 
 “He is, huh?” The man said in disbelief, released her, then looked to his men. “Is this the same cuss we done played cards with last night?  The one that talked all fancy and bragged about how he done shot and killed five lawmen single handed?”
 Josiah let go a groan. “Oh for the love of God …” he mumbled to himself as he glared down at Sam.
 The leader ignored him as he continued his sarcastic tirade. “The same one that was cheatin’ at cards last night?”
 Sam whimpered a new as Josiah’s glare intensified. 
 The leader of the men took it all in and smiled. He then bent over and got his face right into Sam’s.  “Tell ya what I’m gonna do, yeller. I ain’t gonna shoot ya.  In fact, I’m gonna let this pretty little girl go.  She can grow up, find herself a real man, get married, and have babies! Now how does that sound?”
 Sam swallowed, eyes wide, and quickly nodded.
 Josiah released the breath he’d been holding. Thank you Lord!
 The man gave a curt nod to the men holding Annie.  They immediately let her go.  She gave a cry of relief and ran straight to Josiah.  He took her in his arms and held her close. “It’s okay, Annie-girl.  Shhhhh, you’re gonna be okay.”  He continued to whisper words of comfort to her as she clung to him and softly wept against his chest. A pang of guilt hit him as he realized she had run to him and not Sam, and even though he’d been like a brother to her for the last three years, he wasn’t blood.  Josiah often thanked the Lord he wasn’t.  At barely fifteen she was a beauty and his biggest fear was the men would take her, use her, then leave her to die.  He knew it could happen, it happened to his own cousin.  Molly didn’t survive.  The ordeal had killed her just as easily as any bullet could.  Josiah stiffened with the thought. If any of these men so much as touched a hair on Annie’s head, he’d kill them. Kill them as sure as the sun sets.
 He held her closer and breathed in the scent of her hair.  He loved her, loved her with everything he had.  But he could never have her…
 “You!” The leader barked at Josiah.  “Let go of that girl and get over here!”
 Josiah looked at him, his eyes narrowed to slits. “You promise not to hurt her?”
 “Ah heck, I’ll do better than that, she’s free to go.”
 Josiah couldn’t believe his ears. “What?”
 “You heard me. She’s free to go.”
 Josiah looked down at Annie’s trembling form. “I want you to run, Annie, ya hear?” He told her in a low voice. “Run straight into town to the Sheriff’s office. Don’t look back, just run!”
 She sniffed back her tears and looked up at him with frightened green eyes. The look in them about did him in, the thought of letting her go now torture. “Do as I say, ya hear?”
 She nodded.  Josiah let her go. 
 Annie took several steps away from him, took one last look at Sam, then turned and ran, ran as fast as she could. Unfortunately, it was right into the waiting arms of one of the men. 
 Annie screamed.
 Josiah’s face was full of rage as he spun on the leader. “You said you’d let her go!” He spat.
 “Yep, I sure will.  Just as soon as Sam’s dead.”
 Sam let out a frightful shriek. “You said you weren’t gonna kill me!”
 The man looked down at him. “Oh, I ain’t gonna kill ya,” he said matter of fact.  He then pointed to Josiah. “He is.”
 Josiah’s face fell into shock as the men laughed.  One of them walked up and shoved a gun into his hand.  Annie screamed as the leader of the men roughly grabbed her and held a huge knife to her throat. “Like I said, he’s not worth a bullet from me.  Kill him boy, and the girl goes free.”
 Josiah stood in utter shock.  He couldn’t think, couldn’t breath!  Good Lord!  What was he going to do?  He took in Annie’s tear stained face, the man’s knife pressed hard against her throat.  He had no doubt he’d kill her if he didn’t do what the man wanted. 
 Josiah then looked at Sam.  He was on his knees, his face just as tear stained as Annie’s.  “Don’t do it, Josiah! Please!  Don’t do it!”
 An odd numbness came over him as he stared at Sam.  He heard the cock of a gun and suddenly realized it had come from the one in his hand. “He’ll kill Annie …”
 Sam’s eyes narrowed as his hands balled into fists. His entire body shook with an unreleased sob.  “I don’t care!” he then hissed. “You can’t do this!  You can’t kill me!”
 Annie let out a pain filled wail as the man holding her pushed his knife further into her tender flesh. Blood began to trickle down her throat. “Too bad,” he drawled.  “She was such a pretty little thing…”
 Josiah looked at him in utter horror, his intent to kill Annie clear.  He swallowed, closed his eyes in resignation a scant second, opened them, and fired.


And this dear reader is why in other writing circles 

I'm known as The Queen of the Cliff Hanger!  

Stay  tuned!  In the mean time, if you're hankering 

for more and haven't yet read The Christmas Mail 

Order Bride, then grab a copy and settle in with 

Sheriff Clayton Riley (who happens to be the 

nephew of Sheriff Harlan Hughes of Clear Creek) 

and Summer James, his mail order bride ... that he 

didn't order!

amazon  Barnes and Nobles  iTunes

Until next time, happy reading!