Monday, October 31, 2016


The WILD WESTERN WOMEN are at it again! The winter holidays find them in Mistletoe, Montana and a bit inconvenienced because of a blizzard—make that a series of blizzards and a measles epidemic. How do they manage? You’ll have to read the books to find out! WILD WESTERN WOMEN MISTLETOE, MONTANA's  link is:

Novellas included are:

MISTLETOE MISTAKE by Caroline Clemmons – When the sheriff sent for a town doctor, he didn’t expect a woman.

MISTLETOE SCANDAL by Sylvia McDaniel – A city girl, a cowboy, and a dog trapped together in a blizzard discover Christmas wishes can come true.

MISTLETOE AND MOONBEAMS by Merry Farmer – He stopped at her saloon to rest but they ended up trapped alone together for a week!

MAIL-ORDER MERRY by Kirsten Osbourne – He wanted an independent wife, but he wasn’t so sure he wanted her to come with two young children and a nurse!

I haven't read all of them yet, but I sighed with pleasure when I read MISTLETOE AND MOONBEAMS by Merry Farmer.  I got carried away with too many people involved in the measles epidemic in MISTLETOE MISTAKE, but I still enjoyed the story. You can bet I'll read the other two stories now that the box set is released.

Friday, October 28, 2016


This is a week for friends. Today, Cynthia Woolf shares her new release, THE UNEXPECTED BRIDE, with readers. Cynthia and I have worked on several projects together, including the Surprise Brides, the Montana Sky Kindle World, and American Mail-Order Brides series. I’m so pleased she’s willing to be here now.


Alice Carter found herself a widow, her doctor husband murdered as he left the hospital where he worked. Alice, too, is a doctor and thought she wouldn’t have any trouble finding a position with the hospital where her husband had been so well regarded.

She was wrong. Seems no one wanted a female doctor, especially one in mourning. Seeing no other way out, Alice becomes a mail-order bride to a doctor in Hope’s Crossing in the Montana Territory.

Dr. Jeremiah Kilarney, needs help. He needs a nurse to assist him with his patients. Knowing he has to marry the woman or she’ll be inundated with marriage proposals from the lonely miners, he goes to Matchmaker & Co. Specifying his need for a nurse or someone willing to be trained as one, he’s surprised when Alice Carter, doctor, steps out of the stagecoach with her precocious daughter Melly.

Can Alice and Jeremiah have a future when ghosts from her past still hold her heart?
Hope's Crossing can be the answer to their future or the end of their dreams.


Alice, Melly and Doc went into the restaurant and Effie seated them at a table.
“What can I get for you three?”
“Just water for me, milk for Melly,” said Alice.
“Water for me, too, Effie,” said Doc.
“Sure thing. Be right back,” said the little woman.
After Effie left, Doc looked across the table at Alice. “All right what would you like to know, Mrs. Carter? Or may I call you Alice?”
“Alice is fine. Why are you still single at your age? Surely you’ve run across women of the marriageable variety.”
He lifted his eyebrows. “I’ve never had the time to court a woman before marrying her. That’s why I wanted a mail-order bride.”
“I thought you wanted a nurse and were to marry her only because you had to.”
“That’s true. You’re a nurse are you not?”
“Well, I did also ask for someone willing to learn. Are you willing?”
He rubbed his hands over his face. I must not be angry. “Then what was the point of you coming here? Surely not to marry me. There were probably a lot of more eligible men than me.”
Alice folded her hands on the table and aimed her violet gaze at Doc.
“I’m sorry for misleading you with the question about the nurse. Actually, I’m a doctor. I graduated from the Women’s Medical College of Pennsylvania and I want to practice medicine. As you know from the letter Miss Wyatt sent you, I lost my husband six months ago and have been unable to find a position in New York. I came here hoping my skills would help you and that we could work together.”
Doc’s eyes had widened when she first said she was a doctor then he narrowed them. A doctor? Not likely.

Cynthia Woolf, Author

Cynthia Woolf is the award winning and best-selling author of twenty-two historical western romance books and two short stories with more books on the way.

Cynthia loves writing and reading romance. Her first western romance TAME A WILD HEART, was inspired by the story her mother told her of meeting Cynthia’s father on a ranch in Creede, Colorado. Although TAME A WILD HEART takes place in Creede that is the only similarity between the stories. Her father was a cowboy not a bounty hunter and her mother was a nursemaid (called a nanny now) not the ranch owner. The ranch they met on is still there as part of the open space in Mineral County in southwestern Colorado.

Writing as CA Woolf she has six scifi, space opera romance titles. She calls them westerns in space.

Cynthia credits her wonderfully supportive husband Jim and her great critique partners for saving her sanity and allowing her to explore her creativity.


Wednesday, October 26, 2016


Featuring an author I admire and whose work I love is always a pleasure. Callie Hutton and I have been in a couple of joint western historical romance projects--the Surprise Brides and several of the Wild Western Women box sets. She is great as a coworker because she delivers excellent work on time. In addition to western historical romance, Callie writes wonderful Regency England romances. Fortunately for readers, she has a new release. Having Callie as a blog guest today is a pleasure.
Lord and Lady Devon have a perfectly proper and good ton marriage. Devon is satisfied. And Eugenia was. Until she found the book  . . .
Richard, Marquess of Devon, and his wife, Eugenia, have been married five months. They have the perfect ton marriage. Respect and affection, with no messy entanglement such as love. Soon after Devon’s mistress dies, Eugenia stumbles onto a naughty book in a bookstore. A book that explains all the things proper ladies of the ton are unaware of, and would never consent to do with their husbands. 
Once Eugenia acquires the book—scandalously—she begins a campaign to make sure her husband has no reason to replace his mistress.
Although Devon has continued to visit his paramour since his marriage, all they’ve done is play cards. Devon’s rigid upbringing impressed upon him that gentlemen slake their baser needs on a mistress, not their gently bred wives. However, once married, he was no longer comfortable bedding a woman other than Eugenia.
As bored matrons and eager widows toss him veiled invitations while he wrestles with this dilemma, his wife has begun to change. No longer the prim and proper woman he courted and married, her behavior leads him to an alarming conclusion. . .


Eugenia placed her wine glass on the blanket, then shifted to her knees, leaning forward. No doubt the look on her face was somewhat disagreeable because Devon leaned back.
“Suppose a woman wanted to not do all those things? Suppose she wanted to sit in Parliament? Or visit Tattersall’s on a Tuesday for the auctions, or visit White’s, or a gaming hell?” Her voice rose as all the things she had been denied that she never knew she cared about bubbled to the surface.
Devon opened and closed his mouth several times before he spoke. “You want to go to a gaming hell?”
All the air left Eugenia’s lungs and she felt deflated, like a balloon that had a pin stuck in it. Of course she didn’t want to go to a gaming hell. What she wanted was to have her husband make love to her like he had his mistress.
There. She’d said those words, although just to herself. She was a deviant, and probably headed to hell upon her death. “No. I do not want to go to a gaming hell. That was only an example.”
“My dear, I think perhaps you have had too much sun, and it has weakened your constitution. You are overwrought and it is time to return to the house so you may rest.”
For heaven’s sake, he sounded like her mother. She stared open-mouthed at this man she loved, and had married hoping one day he might love her. Yet his ideas were so rigid, so—ton. But then, again, in all honesty, hers were the same—or had been until she’d discovered the book.

Callie Hutton, Author
Callie Hutton, USA Today bestselling author writes both Western Historical and Regency romance with “historic elements and sensory details” (The Romance Reviews).

Callie lives in Oklahoma with several rescue dogs, two adult children, a daughter-in-law, twin grandsons and her top cheerleader husband (although thankfully not all in the same home!). Living in the Midwest provides plenty of opportunities for Callie to pursue her interests: researching history, meeting readers, spending time with her adorable two year old twin grandsons, and discovering new adventures.

Callie loves to hear from readers and welcomes the opportunity to become friends, both in person or virtually. Find her online:

Monday, October 24, 2016



Coffee, Tea or Me by Rich Amooi

Susie opens a tea shop next to Jack’s coffee shop and the war begins.

Jack Robbins has a booming coffee business, an eighty-year old customer who can’t keep his clothes on, and a rescue Chihuahua named Chimichanga that likes to kiss on the mouth. Life is good until the new business next door takes a bite out of his sales.

Susie McKenna has the new tea shop everyone is talking about, an over-protective brother, and a stubborn, good-looking neighbor who is trying to steal her customers.

Things really start to percolate when Jack and Susie both volunteer to help plan the downtown festival. They have to work together and soon Jack won't be able to get by without his daily fix of Susie. But can a coffee lover and a tea devotee put their competition aside to get their happily ever after?


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Praise for Coffee, Tea or Me

"Fun, fun, and more fun!"

"Sweet, heartwarming and good for the soul!"

"Always funny, always entertaining."

"A sweet romantic comedy."

Author Rich Amooi

Rich Amooi is a former Silicon Valley radio personality and wedding DJ who now writes romantic comedies full-time. He is happily married to a kiss monster imported from Spain. Rich believes in public displays of affection, silliness, infinite possibilities, donuts, gratitude, laughter, and happily ever after.
amazon or paypal$100 Amazon Gift Card or Paypal Cash Giveaway

Ends 11/10/16

Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use an Gift Code or Paypal Cash. Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Giveaway was organized by Kathy from I Am A Reader and sponsored by the author. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.

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Friday, October 21, 2016


A Mystery Genre
Which Path Will You Choose?

Presented By
Susan Horsnell,
Phoenix Johnson, Kylie Price,
Charlene Raddon, Scarlett J Rose and
 Margaret Tanner


What secret has been uncovered in a disused mine? Something is not as it should be. The scene is set, the beginning in place BUT there are six different endings.
The path is up to you.
The story unfolds in the way YOU decide.
Five Authors – Kylie Price, Margaret Tanner, Charlene Raddon,
Scarlett J. Rose and Susan Horsnell.
Five Genres - Contemporary, Historical, Paranormal, Time Travel or Contemporary/Western
Five Pathways.
Which path will you choose to uncover the secret?

Present Day
Detective Callum Palmer dragged his fingers through his thick hair. He had a murder to solve. A pile of skeletons had been found in an old mine shaft, and he’d been assigned the case. He and his new partner, who had yet to show up. Irritated, he paced the precinct floor.
“Calm down, Palmer,” one of the other detectives said, “You’re driving me nuts.”
“Tough shit,” Callum shot back at him.
A small woman dressed in black entered the room and his line of vision. A real looker. Callum wondered who she was and what she was doing there. Her posture and dress gave an image of a professional. Not the type of victim he usually dealt with.
“Detective Callum Palmer?” she said.
“Yes?” Oh oh. Callum hoped the thought that just popped into his head proved wrong.
She held out a hand so delicate, he feared he’d break those tiny bones if he grasped it. “My name is Detective Olivia Hansen. I’m your new partner.”
Fuck. They sent me a female partner? Great. Fucking great. Resigned, he took her hand. “All right, Hansen. You’re just in time. Come with me. A murder has been called in and we’ve been given the job of investigating it.”
“Fine,” she said. “Nothing I like better than to keep busy.”
Turning away, Callum rolled his eyes, and led the way to his car.



Cover:                                                 Susan Horsnell

Beginning Chapters:                           Susan Horsnell and Charlene Raddon

Formatting:                                         Kylie Price

Trailer:                                                Kylie Price

Published by:                                      Susan Horsnell

Contemporary: Do the mysterious bones belong to someone closer to home than Callum and Olivia realize, discover the secrets that one of them is hiding.

Historical: He stole his dead brother's identity, then his wife. What happened in 19th Century Australia and who do the bones really belong to?

Paranormal: Do the mystery bones belong to someone in the supernatural world and how does a secret affect Olivia?

Time Travel: Murder, kidnapping, child abuse, time travel, and the healing gift of love.

Contemporary/Western: A sinister rancher is hell bent on getting what he wants regardless of who it will hurt... does he find himself buried instead?

The choice of where to begin is now yours. When one pathway has been read, visit another.
One book.
One Beginning.
Five completely different stories to solve the mystery of one set of bones.
Which story will you believe?
Which story will be your favourite?


Wednesday, October 19, 2016


William Hazelgrove is awarding a $100 Amazon Gift Card or PayPal cash to one person who comments on the tour via Rafflecopter.

Madam President

Madam President: The Secret Presidency of Edith Wilson by William Hazelgrove

After President Woodrow Wilson suffered a paralyzing stroke in the fall of 1919, his wife, First Lady Edith Wilson, began to handle the day-to-day responsibilities of the Executive Office. Mrs. Wilson had had little formal education and had only been married to President Wilson for four years; yet, in the tenuous peace following the end of World War I, Mrs. Wilson dedicated herself to managing the office of the President, reading all correspondence intended for her bedridden husband. Though her Oval Office authority was acknowledged in Washington, D.C. circles at the time--one senator called her "the Presidentress who had fulfilled the dream of suffragettes by changing her title from First Lady to Acting First Man"--her legacy as "First Woman President" is now largely forgotten.

William Hazelgrove's Madam President is a vivid, engaging portrait of the woman who became the acting President of the United States in 1919, months before women officially won the right to vote.

amazonbarnes and noble

William Hazelgrove's riveting style lets us into the backrooms of the White House to see how a woman who had only two years formal education was able to pull it off and do it for two years! A great read and ride!
~Robin Hutton New York Times Bestselling Author of Sgt Reckless

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Excerpt - Chapter One

The Cover-Up

President Woodrow Wilson lay with his mouth drooping, unconscious, having suffered a thrombosis on October 2, 1919, that left him paralyzed on his left side and barely able to speak. The doctors believed the president’s best chance for survival was in the only known remedy for a stroke at the time: a rest cure consisting of total isolation from the world.

His wife of four years, Edith Bolling Wilson, asked how a country could function with no chief executive. Dr. Dercum, the attending physician, leaned over and gave Edith her charge: “Madam, it is a grave situation, but I think you can solve it. Have everything come to you; weigh the importance of each matter: and see if it is possible by consultation with the respective heads of the Departments to solve them without the guidance of your husband.”

From there, Edith Wilson would act as the president’s proxy and run the White House and, by extension, the country, by controlling access to the president, signing documents, pushing bills through Congress, issuing vetoes, isolating advisors, crafting State of the Union addresses, disposing of or censoring correspondence, and filling positions. She would analyze every problem and decide which ones to bring to the president’s attention and which to solve on her own through her own devices. All the while she had to keep the fact that the country was no longer being run by President Woodrow Wilson a guarded secret.


Author William Hazelgove

William Elliott Hazelgrove is the best-selling author of thirteen novels, Ripples, Tobacco Sticks, Mica Highways, Rocket Man, The Pitcher, Real Santa, Jackpine and The Pitcher 2. His books have received starred reviews in Publisher Weekly and Booklist, Book of the Month Selections, Junior Library Guild Selections, ALA Editors Choice Awards and optioned for the movies. He was the Ernest Hemingway Writer in Residence where he wrote in the attic of Ernest Hemingway's birthplace. He has written articles and reviews for USA Today and other publications. He has been the subject of interviews in NPR's All Things Considered along with features in The New York Times, LA Times, Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun Times, Richmond Times Dispatch, USA Today, People, Channel 11, NBC, WBEZ, WGN. The Pitcher is a Junior Library Guild Selection and was chosen Book of the Year by Books and Authors. net. His next book Jackpine will be out Spring 2014 with Koehler Books. A follow up novel Real Santa will be out fall of 2014. Madam President The Secret Presidency of Edith Wilson will be out Fall 2016. Storyline optioned the movie rights. Forging a President How the West Created Teddy Roosevelt will be out May 2017.

amazon or paypal$100 Amazon Gift Card or Paypal Cash Giveaway

Ends 11/8/16

Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use an Gift Code or Paypal Cash. Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Giveaway was organized by Kathy from I Am A Reader and sponsored by the author. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, October 17, 2016


If you are looking for a bargain read, I recommend HIGH STAKES BRIDE, Men of Stone Mountain, Book 2. Monday, October 17, this book is on sale for 99 cents. Tuesday through Thursday, the price goes to $1.99 and back to full price on Friday. Of course I love this book, but readers have told me they do too. I think of the Stone family as friends. (Yes, authors are a little bit crazy.)

The book is dressed up in a new cover designed by Skhye Moncrief. I hope you like the cover. HIGH STAKES BRIDE is available from Amazon at The sale is only on the e-book, but HIGH STAKES BRIDE is also available in audiobook and in print.


If you’ve been reading this blog, you know that I developed the premise for this trilogy while visiting the historic Belding-Gibson Ranch in Palo Pinto County. This is a large ranch, but only a fraction of the original size due to divisions among family members. The original home site has been protected by Barbara (Belding) and Charles Gibson. (Sadly, Barbara Gibson has now passed away.)The first occasion of their opening their ranch to visitors was the release of Barbara’s book about the ranch, PAINTED POLE. I am so happy that I was able to tour this historic property in the beautiful (to me) Palo Pinto Mountains not once, but three times. The Gibson family has been good stewards of their heritage.

In HIGH STAKES BRIDE, Alice Price is on the run from dangerous men. She had known that when her stepfather died, she would have to hurriedly escape her stepbrothers. Hadn’t she heard them promise her to the meanest man in Texas as payment for high stakes gambling losses? One misfortune after another devils her until she links up with Zach Stone. He looks sturdy as his last name and invites her to his ranch where his two aunts will chaperone them. She figures life finally dealt her a winning hand.

Zach Stone has the sweetest ranch in all of Texas, at least he thinks he does. All he needs is a wife to build his family of boys and girls to carry on his ranch and name. He’s been jilted and vows he will never even speak to a woman again unless she's a relative. Then he comes across Alice Price and comes up with a crazy plan. He’s figured everything out, and is sure nothing can go wrong with his plan.

But life holds surprises for Alice and Zach... 

Doesn’t it always?

HIGH STAKES BRIDE has several incidents based on real life, a first for me. Characters and stories pop into my head unbidden, and I don’t use anything specific from life. I qualify the statement because I believe our subconscious is a pool of combined experiences from our lives and those of people we know or have heard about. In other words, a writer’s muse steals from a writer’s subconscious well.

For this book, though, several things fit the book. The first was an incident that happened to my brother’s ex-fiancĂ©e Kay one year on the day after Thanksgiving, involving a mountain lion. In her case, the animal was a large black Mexican jaguar. These are odd-looking cats in that they appear black, but you can see the spots too. She was lucky the big cat had recently killed a deer and decided not to have her for dessert so she could retreat. We had a black Mexican jaguar in Parker County while we lived there, as they have moved further north with the climate changes.

The second thing combined with the first is in the excerpt below and happened to my former neighbor when her bull—which was just being affectionate—pushed her into one of those large round hay bales and dislocated her shoulder. You know how a cat head-butts you in affection, but with a large bull, the head-butt can be a major problem.

Third, I used an historic incident and had a real life hero, Brit Johnson, help my fictional hero. When Brit Johnson’s wife and children were captured by Comanche, he went after them and rescued them. After that, he successfully rescued several kidnapped children from the Comanche and Kiowa.

The fourth incident is based on the time my friend Maxine tried to dye her hair darker and had the same result as Alice. Maxine used modern color from the drug store, while Alice had to make her own dye.

Now here’s a rather long excerpt from HIGH STAKES BRIDE:
Zach Stone cursed to himself. If this didn’t just round out his week from hell. All he wanted was to sleep out here alone and sort things in his mind before he went home. Even the approaching storm didn’t worry him. He’d almost welcome the discomfort to take his mind off his predicament. 
Although the desire for uninterrupted time alone had sent him toward the little cabin where he’d lived before acquiring the Warren’s vast spread, he’d changed his mind. When he rode across this spot, he’d decided to camp here a few days then head on home. Now icy wind whipped down the valley and he regretted he wasn’t snug in the cabin with the door bolted against the world.
Zach had seen Solomon’s head rise and his ears prick forward, the big gelding’s silent announcement of visitors. Plus, Zach’s years as a lawman meant he had a keen sense of trouble dogging him. He didn’t know who watched him but someone sure as hell lurked in that stand of live oaks. Probably waited to strike until he fell asleep. Well, any two-legged varmint who thought he’d catch Zachariah Greenberry Stone unaware had damn well better think again.

Mary Alice had smelled coffee and woodsmoke and decided to investigate. She had parked the mules, winced as she’d slipped out of Pa’s big coat, and crept closer. She rued the bad luck that had plagued her these last couple of days. Even trees hadn’t been too friendly of late, but she’d managed to climb this old live oak due to a low branch that almost dipped to the ground and acted as a step to climb higher.
“Hurry up, mister,” she muttered softly.
She lay along the live oak’s limb and watched the man named Stone cook his dinner—and hers, she hoped—and settle in for the night. When she’d first seen him in Russell Springs yesterday, she’d thought him a rancher but hadn’t any idea where he lived.
Definitely the same man she’d seen in Russell Springs, but he appeared to have been camped here a couple of days. She heaved a sigh and once more wished Pa had taught her something about the area when he taught her to shoot, but he wanted her safe at home. Safe? She almost snorted to herself.
She’d heard her two stepbrothers promise to deliver her to that devil Fernando Vargas. All to satisfy their gambling debts, as if she counted no more than a hand of cards or coins. Vargas had probably cheated at poker as he did at other things.
She remembered overhearing Vargas brag about the women he’d used. If he got his hands on her, she’d be a goner for sure. Assuming she lived until that monster tired of her, she’d wind up chained in some Mexican brothel with no hope of escape until she died of disease or mistreatment.
Fear dragged at her weary body. Not since Pa took sick three years ago had she had a good night’s sleep. If not for Pa’s illness, she would have gone east when Mama died.
Back then, Pa could still control the boys and prevent them from following her, but a few weeks before Ma died, he started coughing up blood. He hid it from the boys for a couple of years, but he’d finally had to tell them he was sick from stomach cancer. A few months back he was forced to take to his bed.
“Poor Pa.” She looked heavenward, hoping that’s where he’d ended up. “Sorry I couldn’t even see to your burying.”
The Stone man on the ground moved and reminded her she needed to pay attention to her quarry. Shoulders wide as a door and one of the tallest men she’d ever seen let her know he’d be hard to beat in a struggle. Something told her he was a nice person, though she couldn’t say why. 
Just the same, Mary Alice thought, she’d better bide her time and wait for this giant to sleep. Pa was the only kindly man she’d met since she was old enough to remember. She couldn’t take a chance on this one being any better than the rest who’d come around.
The Stone man placed the coffeepot on a rock at the side of his campfire then did the same with a pot of what looked like beans. Next he took several slices of bacon from a frying pan and laid them on top of the beans. The grease sizzled as he dumped it onto the sand. A frigid breeze carried the pungent aroma of bacon and coffee mixed in with woodsmoke.
Her mouth watered and her belly rumbled so loud that she feared the man might hear. She’d been without food since yesterday. First she’d feared taking time to eat more than a few cold biscuits, then she’d ditched her food when her horse ran away. Now the smell of this man's dinner had her near fainting--provided she didn’t freeze first.
Why didn’t he give up and climb into that fancy bedroll he’d spread out earlier? Then she could slip down and get something to eat. If, that is, she could stay in this tree and not pass out from a combination of pain, fear, hunger, and fatigue.
Clouds rolled in from the north to mask the full moon and the temperature dropped rapidly. She smelled the coming storm on the wind. Lord, but she wished he’d settle in before the storm reached them. At last he finished his preparations and crawled into his bedroll. Now all she had to do was wait until he fell asleep. How long could that take?

Zach slipped into the bedroll and waited, pistol in hand. He feigned sleep, wondering what kind of man tarried nearby. Whoever it was could have picked Zach off, so the sidewinder must not have murder on his mind.
Probably up to no good hiding out like that, though, because any Westerner would share his campfire and vittles with anyone who rode into camp. Zach wriggled into a comfortable spot and lay motionless. Anger at recent events helped him remain awake.
The footfalls came so softly he almost missed them. He opened his eyes a slit, but enough to see a thin shadow move toward the fire. About then heavy clouds overhead parted and the moonlight revealed a boy who scooped up a slice of bacon and slid it into his mouth.
The culprit set Zach’s tin plate on the ground near the fire, ladled beans into it, and picked up a fork. He squatted down and balanced the plate on his knees before he commenced eating. Zach noticed he kept his left hand in his pocket the whole time.
Something must be wrong with the thief’s left arm.  Looked too young for it to have been a casualty of the War. Lots of other ways to get hurt out here. Whatever had happened to his left arm, his right one worked well enough. He forked food into his mouth like he hadn’t eaten in a week.
Zach let him shovel beans for a few minutes. Crook or not, anyone that hungry deserved a meal. When the kid stopped eating, Zach couldn’t figure out what he was doing.  It looked as if he used the fork to scratch around on the ground, so he must have eaten his fill. Zach slipped his hand from beneath the cover and cocked the pistol.
“Hold it right there, son. I’d like to know why you’re eating without at least a howdy to the man who provided the food.”
The boy paused, then set the plate down slowly. “I left money here on a rock to pay for it.”
Odd sounding voice, but the kid was probably scared. Zach slipped from his bedroll and stood, but kept his gun pointed at the food robber. “Maybe.”
Zach walked toward the kid, careful to train his gaze so the firelight didn’t dim his eyesight. Sure enough, he spotted a couple of coins on the rock beside his pot of beans, or what remained of them, and his empty plate.
He faced the intruder. “Why not just come into camp earlier instead of sneaking in after you thought I was asleep?”
“I—I was afraid you weren’t friendly.”
Zach thought he also heard the kid mutter what sounded like “...or maybe too friendly.” Must be the wind, he thought, as he neared the boy.
Zach motioned with his free hand. “I don’t begrudge anyone food, but I hate dishonesty and sneaking around.  Stand up so I can see you.”
The kid stood, hat low over his face and his good hand clenched.
Zach reached to push the brim back. “What’s your name?”
The kid stepped forward. “None of your business, mister.”
A fistful of sand hit Zach’s face. He heard his assailant run. Mad as the devil, Zach brushed grit from his eyes and set out in pursuit. The kid was fast, he’d give him that, but so was Zach. His longer legs narrowed the distance between them.  With a running lunge, he tackled the kid.
“Oof. Let me go.” The lad was all wriggles and kicking feet as he squirmed trying to escape.
Zach wasn’t about to let that happen. They rolled in the dirt. In one move Zach pinned the boy’s good arm. The hat fell aside and a mass of curls spilled around the kid’s face.
His jacket parted and unmistakable curves pushed upward where Zach’s other hand rested. Zach stared in disbelief. Registering his hand pressed against a heavenly mound shocked him and he jerked his paw away.
“Well, I’ll be damned. You’re not a boy.”
The woman glared at him. “Right, and you’re not exactly a feather. Get off me.”
Zach stood and bent to help her but she curled into a ball where she lay. “Ma’am, you okay?”
“Just dandy.” She sat up, moving like a hundred-year-old. She glared at him while holding her stomach with her good hand. The other arm dangled uselessly. “You’ve likely broken the few uninjured bones I had left.”
His temper flared. “Hey, lady, don’t try to put the blame on me. If you’d been honest and come into camp like any other traveler, I’d have shared my food with you.”
“Yeah, well a woman on her own can’t be too careful and I don’t know you or anything about you.”
Zach saw her point. Though most Western men would respect a woman, it wouldn’t help if she ran into one of the exceptions.
“What’s wrong with your arm?”
She glared at him and appeared to debate with herself before she said, “Fell out of a tree. My arm caught in the fork of a branch. Pulled it out of socket and I can’t get it back.”
Well hell. As if he didn’t have enough on his mind. Now that he’d decided not to speak to another woman unrelated to him, this bundle of trouble showed up needing a keeper.
Resigning himself to one more stroke of bad luck, he said, “Take off your coat and come over here to my bedroll.”
The campfire sparked less than her eyes. “I’ll do no such of a thing. Don’t be thinking you can take liberties because I ate your food and I’m injured. I paid for the food.”
Zach exhaled and planted his fists on his hips. “Ma’am, there’s not enough money in Texas to pay me to take liberties with you. If you’ll move to my bedroll and lie down, I’ll put your arm back in place. You’ll likely have to take off your, um, your shirt.”
She looked him up and down as if she weighed him and found him lacking. “I figured you for a rancher. You a doctor then?”
“Ranchers have to know a good bit about patching people.”
She straightened herself and swished past him as if she wore a ball gown instead of a man’s torn britches. Watching the feminine sway of her hips as she sashayed to the other side of the campfire, he wondered how he ever mistook her for male. He followed her and tried not to appreciate her long legs or the way the fabric molded to them like a second skin.
When she reached the blasted bedroll he’d been stuck with, she slid out of her jacket. A grimace of pain flashed across her face as the weight of the light coat slipped down her injured arm. In one graceful move she plopped down on the bedroll.
“You’re sure you can do this?” she asked and looked up at him.
Flickering firelight placed her features in shadow. Moving closer, he figured the poor light played tricks on him, for he couldn't tell the color of her hair. He decided she had light brown or dark blonde curls. Whatever color her eyes were, maybe blue or green, they were big and watched him with suspicion.
“Yes. Sorry, I don’t have any spirits with me to deaden the pain.”
“I never touch alcohol. If you’re sure you can do this, just get on with it.” She unbuttoned her shirt and winced as she slid the injured shoulder and arm free, and then stuck her chin up as if she dared him to make an improper comment or gesture.
He knelt beside her, keenly aware of the differences that proved her womanhood. A chemise of fabric worn so thin as to be almost transparent pulled taut across her breasts. He swallowed and willed himself to ignore the dark circles surrounding the pearly peaks thrusting at the flimsy material. The memory of the lush mound he’d touched briefly wouldn’t leave him. He’d been alone too long and had better concentrate on the job at hand.
“Stretch out and try to relax. I’ll be as gentle as I can, but this will hurt.”
“Hurts already, but I better put my bandana in my mouth so I don’t scream. I’m not a whiner, mind, but wouldn’t want to draw attention if there’s others nearby.” She slipped the cloth knotted around her neck up to her mouth like a gag, then laid down.
She moaned but didn’t fight him. Zach had seen this done numerous times over the years and had performed it twice. He probed her shoulder gently, then rotated her arm to slip it back into place.
He listened for the snick of the bone reseating itself in the socket. When he finished, he massaged the muscles of her upper arm and shoulder. She’d likely be sore for weeks, but the harm she had done wasn’t permanent.
“Have to give it to you, ma’am. You were the quietest patient I’ve ever seen.”
She lay with her face turned away from him. When he leaned over, he realized she’d passed out.

And it’s no wonder, is it? Once again, I remind you that  HIGH STAKES BRIDE is available from Amazon at It's also available as an audio book and in print.