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The Cowboy Discipline Box Set Stars Maren Smith and Life After Rachel!

Five full-length novels by five USA Bestsellers all bundled together in one fabulously priced Western anthology! Who can resist a five-for-one bargain? Especially when it involves five alpha cowboys unafraid to either spank or love the lady of their dreams. Available now!

 

Cowboy Disipline 1

Can grief cut deeper than love can heal?

USA Bestseller Maren Smith gives you Life After Rachel, starring Daniel and Ane!

Blurb:

There weren’t many folks who’d equate an Indian war party to a miracle, but Reverend John White did. He believed in miracles; it went with the job. But this particular miracle…well, it was a doozy and her name was Ane, the only surviving member of a doomed westward-bound wagon train.

In the span of a single day, the young Norwegian woman had lost her entire family, her husband, even her infant daughter. Having been in America for less than a month, she couldn’t even speak her rescuers’ language, but the Lord worked in mysterious ways and necessity had a way of making itself clear no matter what the obstacles.

So off Ane went, to a hardscrabble farm a few miles out of Redemption to care for the baby who needed her to survive and for the heart-broken man who, fight it though he tried, needed her even more

 

Sample Chapter:

 PROLOGUE

 “Don’t you leave me, Rachel! Rach! Honey, don’t you dare leave me!” A big man, Daniel knelt in the middle of their bed, his beautiful wife of three years held tightly in his arms as he begged. He begged her, he begged God. Neither seemed to be listening.

“I can’t lose you,” he sobbed, his massive shoulders shaking. “Please, baby, breathe. Come on, breathe!”

He rocked her, his chin wobbling and big tears rolling unabashedly down his unshaven face. And Rachel did, in fact, breathe. Her whole body convulsed with the effort it took to suck that ragged gasp into her failing lungs. Her face was ashen, her eyes fixed and glazing as she stared unseeing up at the ceiling, those beautiful sky-blue orbs growing more unfocussed with every shaky gasp. Even the long blonde wisps of her hair looked limp and dull as straw dangling over his arm.

For the millionth time, Daniel reached for the bowl of cool water propped against his hip, nearly lost in the tussle of bedclothes surrounding them. He squeezed awkwardly to wring the excess drops from the cloth, getting more on his pants and the surrounding mattress than back in the bowl before tenderly bathing the cold, clammy sweat from her face. It was the only comfort he could give her, and Rachel, his sweet Rachel, was already beyond the mortal ability to feel it.

Across the room, lying in a makeshift bed fashioned from their lowermost bureau drawer, the baby that had left her like this was wailing for a nourishment his mother was beyond the ability to provide. Daniel refused to spare his son so much as a glance, not when, in his arms, Rachel began to spasm.

“No,” he wept. “No, no, no!”

He pulled her fiercely close, willing with all his useless strength for the convulsions to stop. But when they did, the raggedness of her breathing changed as well. No longer fast and hard, each gasp came with longer and longer pauses in between. Her whole body worked to draw in the next breath. His own chest ached with the effort, but there was nothing he could do. Rachel wound down in his arms like an old waistcoat watch.

“Please, baby,” he moaned, and shuddered along with her. “Please, don’t go.”

Finally, she stopped. With her head pressed to his heart, she grew limp and still, and very, very quiet.

Some pains stabbed too deeply for tears to express. In that instant, as the softest sigh fled from her lips, the deep well of Daniel’s tears grew abruptly dry. Everything inside of him that had up until that moment been alive—it all went still as well. Pulling his dead wife close, Daniel stroked her hair and silently died alongside her.

For three years, she had been the center of his life. Now, he knew, he’d never live again.

 

CHAPTER ONE

After battling childbed fever for eleven days, Rachel Abigail Bower gave up the fight. At seven o’clock that cool fall morning, she was lovingly bathed and dressed in her Sunday best by three of her closest friends. A few hours later, as the whole of Redemption arrived to pay their final respects, the twenty-four-year-old mother of one left her home for the last time. The loss of her was more than Daniel could bear.

Standing at the head of her grave, the blond mountain of a farmer stood in the shade of the old oak tree, dressed in the same dark suit he’d worn for his wedding, and watched without expression as the sum and total of his world was carried from the tiny farm house he had built just for her. Unable to afford even the plainest coffin, her fellow townsmen carried her across the yard, wrapped in a sheet on a plain board stretcher. Elizabeth White, the Reverend’s wife, sang Amazing Grace in her sweet soprano voice. Wrapped in a blanket in Daniel’s arms, his newborn son cried all the way through it.

To be honest, the baby hadn’t stopped crying in days. Sometimes it seemed he hadn’t stopped since the moment of his birth. Daniel, on the other hand, couldn’t make himself shed so much as one tear. Inside, all he felt was… nothing.

A soft breeze rustled through the leaves of the sheltering oak, tugging at Daniel’s short hair and making his gray eyes sting. Look away, he told himself, swallowing hard as the pallbearers neared the hole he and Reverend White had dug. She didn’t look right swaddled that way. This didn’t feel real, to take someone who had been so beautiful and vibrant and alive, put her into the ground and cover her in dirt and leaves. How could he just stand here and let such a thing happen? Yet he couldn’t force his gaze away. From the moment they lay the stretcher on the ground, he watched, unblinking and impassive, feeling as if his insides were being ripped out through his too-tight chest, while Rachel was gently lowered into her grave.

Reverend John White opened his bible and began to speak, but every word that came out of his mouth sounded foreign. Incomprehensible. Distant even, as if the man of God were speaking to him from a hilltop far away.

Everyone but Daniel managed through the hymn as Davis and Charles, twin brothers who owned the Mercantile and Grocery respectively, took up their shovels and filled in the grave. The first scoop of dirt hit Rachel’s chest, the second her head; Daniel couldn’t breathe. It was all he could do not to grab their shovels and chase the brothers away. Or jump down into that grave after her, rip the dirt and sheet away, and just look at her one more time. Just once more.

Inside he was screaming; on the outside, Daniel couldn’t make himself move so much as a finger-twitch. As still and stiff as the old oak behind him, he waited until the eulogy ended. Knowing Reverend White as he did, it must have been a nice one, though Daniel couldn’t for the life of him recall a single word.

Closing his bible, Reverend White lay a hand on Daniel’s shoulder. “Rachel is with God now, son. Her earthly toils are over; she’ll never suffer or feel another moment’s pain. There’s comfort to be found in that.”

Daniel stared at the Reverend’s moving mouth, but the words would not make sense. Something was expected of him now, he could feel it. Swallowing hard all over again, he made himself say, “Thank you for coming.”

Elizabeth touched his arm. Young and pretty, she could have been Rachel’s sister. Daniel had always thought so. “Daniel, I just want you to know… ”

He turned woodenly to face her, too, and watched until her mouth stopped moving. “Thank you for coming,” he said again. He raised his head, in some distant part of himself aware of the ocean of mourners staring silently back at him, gathered as they were around the freshly turned earth that covering his wife. “Thank you all for coming.”

Nobody said a word when Daniel excused himself. With his baby wailing nonstop in his arms, he walked back to the house, climbed the three wooden steps and, without a backwards look, closed the door between himself and the forty-some towns’ folk that called Redemption ‘home’.

“That poor man,” Elizabeth said, when the mayor’s matronly wife came to stand at her elbow.

“That poor baby,” Sara Evans replied. “How in the world will he ever take care of this farm and raise up a little one, too?”

“You don’t know?” Becky Simmons asked as she joined them.

Sara blinked, first at Becky and then at Elizabeth. “Know what?”

“The baby can’t take cow’s milk. We’ve been tryin’ all week. Only makes him sicker, poor thing.”

When Sara gasped, Elizabeth nodded in grim agreement. “Weak and frail as he is now, it’s only a matter of days before we’ll be right back here, putting him in the ground next to his dear mama.”

“How can you say that so matter-of-fact?” Sara told them, appalled. “We have to do something!”

“What would you suggest?” Elizabeth countered. “No one in town is nursing or even pregnant.”

Becky’s mouth tightened wryly. “That old nanny goat of the Thompsons’ got ‘et by Sacs last fall. There ain’t another in probably forty miles.”

“Martin could send someone to Clovervale. They could wire my niece in Montgomery. She’s still nursing her youngest…”

“Even if Martin could sneak past those damn Sacs, she’d never get here in time.” Shaking her head, Elizabeth said again, “Poor Daniel. He and Rachel had so looked forward to starting their family and now, in a day or maybe two, he’ll have lost them both.”

All three women turned to stare at the house, listening in quiet sympathy as the reedy-thin wails of the baby filtered through the fluttering lace of the kitchen curtains.

Reverend White came up behind them. He, too, fixed sympathetic eyes on the house before laying a hand on his wife’s shoulder. “Come along, Liz. It’s time to be heading home.”

While the women climbed into the backs of the assorted wagons that had brought everyone to the Bower farm, Reverend White turned again to the grave. Charles was just tamping the grave marker into the soft earth, a simple plank of wood that was carved with Rachel’s name. “Lord have mercy on this house,” he murmured under his breath. “That poor boy can’t bear much more.”

“Amen,” Elizabeth added. Her husband wrapped his arm across her shoulders as tears rose to dampen her lashes; Rachel had been her best friend.

“Come along,” he said, squeezing her in a sidelong hug that shared grief more than it gave comfort as they left together for home.

* * * * *

Daniel stood in the doorway between the bedroom and the rest of his small, two-room house, hardly able to breathe. Apart from the fussing of the hungry baby, his house was so quiet. So empty. So full of Rachel in every corner that he looked that he could all but see her. Physically see her, as if any minute now she would come breezing out of the backroom in her favorite blue gingham dress, that smile brightening her face as she slipped past him on her way to cook breakfast. The smell of death still lingered, but so did the honey-sweet scent of her perfume. She was in the yellow curtains she’d sewn and hung in both kitchen windows. She was in the neat stack of tin dishes that always lined the high shelf above the hearth, when they weren’t being set upon the table. She was in every stitch of the crocheted doily that was wrapped around the bible she read from each night, and in the cup of dry, brittle flowers sitting on the table. Twelve days old now, she’d picked them the morning she’d gone into labor. Was this to be his life now? A misery of solitude so haunted by her that he couldn’t think, move or function?

Walking into the only bedroom, he stared at the bed, reliving every night of passion and each breathy sigh that she had so lovingly fed to him, one soft kiss at a time. Against his will, his gaze was drawn to that old and elegant, Edwardian bureau she had insisted he pack safely into the back of the covered wagon that had brought them all the way out here from New York. Rachel had loved that dresser. It had been her grandmother’s and ever since he had known her, Rachel had weekly dusted and polished the aged mahogany with near religious dedication.

Right now, the bottommost drawer was doubling as a cradle for their son. In the last few months, Daniel had done his best to scrape together wood and time enough to carve a proper cradle, but with Rachel now gone and knowing his son was within days of following her, he saw no point in finishing.

Oh, but the bed… It had taken him three months to carve out the elaborate frame and almost two years of begging and bartering among the neighbors to fluff out the ten-inch-thick feather mattress. He had finished it three years ago, barely in time for his and Rachel’s wedding night. That, without a doubt, had been the best night of his life.

Daniel closed his eyes, breathing deeply, smelling Rachel with every inward draw. Their first night together, she had come to him dressed in a plain white nightgown and smelling faintly of soap. She had been trembling. So had he for that matter. It had been a night of firsts for them both.

And now…

He opened his eyes on a reality more painful than any physical hurt he had ever suffered in his life. Nothing compared to this. Not the time he’d been run over by a wagon, kicked by a mule or even the night he’d been near beaten to death by cattle raiders. Without hesitation, at this moment Daniel would eagerly undergo all three torments again if only it had to power to bring Rachel back to him.

Lying ignored in the bottom dresser drawer, swaddled in blankets, with his tiny fists flailing angrily, the newborn howled, but there was nothing Daniel could do for him. He knew his son’s tiny belly was empty and aching. It was only a matter of days now; he may as well start digging another grave.

Turning, Daniel walked out of the house. The last of the funeral guests had vanished down the long and winding dirt tracks that led through his fields of wheat, barley and corn, all the way back to Redemption. He was alone now, something he’d best grow accustomed to.

Closing the door so he wouldn’t have to hear his baby’s plaintive cries, he started walking down the steps and across the yard. His feet took him straight to Rachel’s grave. For the first time, he read the words carved into the simple wooden marker:

Rachel Abigail Bower
Beloved Mother and Wife
b. Mar. 4, 1835
d. Sept. 22, 1859

His knees buckled, dropping him beside the dirt mound. He struggled to hang onto that swell of nothingness growing inside him, but all the emotions that had so cruelly abandoned him that morning were now flooding back. An unstoppable tide, it crashed down over him, again and again, a reality too unbearable to be absorbed. Against his will and with no one around to witness it, a crack of weakness fragmented through the emotional havoc. Tears filled his storm gray eyes, but he covered them with his hand, pressing in hard to keep them from escaping.

“I miss you already,” he whispered, brokenly.

A soft autumn breeze rippled across the grass, rustling the leaves above him and tussling through his hair, feeling exactly like Rachel when she used to comb her fingertips through the short curls at the nape of his neck. Shoulders shaking, he bowed under the weight growing in his chest. The magnitude of his loss was smothering, without pity or reprieve. The awful pain crushed down on top of him, striking like a fist, pressing him into the freshly turned dirt. He couldn’t breathe. He couldn’t bear it.

“Oh God!” He bent until his forehead touched the dirt. “Oh God, Rach!”

He rocked. He cried. His big hands shook as he grabbed hold of the grave’s unyielding marker. He traced her name, then let his hands drop limp against his lap. Raising his face to the sky, he wept. Until his eyes hurt, and his head hurt, but it changed nothing. Rachel was still gone, the baby was still crying and he was still alone.

For the first time in his life, completely alone.

* * * * *

As the four-wagon funeral procession wound its way slowly back to Redemption, Reverend John White sat pensively in the lead cart, driving more by rote than any conscious thought. Behind him, the back was filled with mostly silent mourners. Children played quietly, for the most part too young to comprehend the true meaning of the funeral they’d just attended. The adults surrounding them, however, weren’t. Some talked softly among themselves, but most were every bit as quiet as he was. The loss of a good person tended to do that.

Beside him, Elizabeth leaned close to nudge his shoulder with her own. A cheerful person under most circumstances, she tried to smile despite her obvious sadness. “A penny for your thoughts.”

For her sake, he tried to smile. “The usual, I suppose. The Lord giveth, the Lord taketh away.”

“Dying always has been the price of being born,” Elizabeth said. “Eventually, Daniel will be all right. He has to be for the baby’s sake.”

“Liz,” John said, trying his best to soften the impact of what he was about to say. “You best resign yourself to it now. Nothing that can be done for that baby. It would be a miracle if he survives the week.”

“Aren’t we supposed to believe in miracles?” his wife asked, but the hopefulness of her tone did not match the worry that darkened her eyes. “I know everyone says it’s too far, but shouldn’t we at least try to send someone to Clovervale? We could bring back a goat… or maybe, if we took the baby there, then we could…”

“Clovervale is a three-day ride one way through Indian territory.” Shaking his head, John knowingly cut her hope short before she could allow it to grow any higher. “Who among us are you willing to sacrifice for an already dying child?”

“I’ll go!” Elizabeth swiveled in her seat, catching the back of the seat to steady herself. He knew that flash of stubbornness in her blue eyes, but the argument was cut short by the thunder of horse’s hooves galloping up fast behind them. “I ride better than half the men in town, and you know it.”

“No,” John said, steely sternness creeping into his tone. A watery shine began to flood through her blue eyes. He had to fight not to let it affect him.

“Don’t, John,” she whispered, though they both knew everyone in the back of their wagon was being privy to their argument. “Don’t you dare—”

“I said, no.”

“I will not sit idle by—”

“Keep pushing and you won’t be sitting at all.”

Her voice rose. “—while my best friend’s only child—”

Hauling back on the reins, Reverend John White drew his horses to a stop. He threw the brake, forcing the rest of the funeral procession behind him to pause as well while he turned sideways on the buckboard to face his upset wife. So upset, in fact, that she didn’t yet realize how thin the proverbial ground was beneath her wayward feet.

Letting his arm rest across the back of the seat, his hand found the small of her back. A small touch. Little more than a reminder, but one which she knew well.

“My darling love,” John began, soft but unyielding. “I have said my piece and the answer is no. One more contrary word, and you will force my hand. This I promise you, if I must command you to cut a switch here, in front of all these people, I will use that switch. Here. In front of all these people.”

Elizabeth stared up at him, her mouth opening, only to close again without speaking. A Reverend’s wife should be as strong-willed as the untamed land he was called to shepherd, and Elizabeth was certainly that. He wouldn’t change her, not for anything. But in matters such as this, he would be obeyed and he let his continued stare tell her as much.

Eventually, she swallowed and opened her mouth again, but before she could say anything a shout and the galloping of horses’ hooves riding up fast behind them stopped them both.

“Reverend!”

John shifted around to see the brothers, Davis and Charles, racing to catch up with them. They weren’t fully stopped before the younger of the dark-haired twins pointed out across the eastern horizon. A familiar tightening gripped his gut when John noticed the thin columns of black smoke rising into the sky a good half mile off.

“What is that?” Elizabeth asked, her voice softening as stubbornness faded into dread. Several men stood up in the back of the wagon, shielding their eyes from the rising sun to better see the hinted threat. Nobody had to say it, but ‘Indians’ became the instant forefront of everyone’s thoughts.

“Everyone out of the wagon,” John ordered. “You too, Liz.” That there might be wounded or people in need of help meant he never thought twice about riding out there himself, but he’d be damned if he took Elizabeth with him into what might well become a hostile Indian attack. He reached past her to grab his rifle from behind the seat. “Go home with Sara. I’ll be there as soon as I can.”

Elizabeth didn’t move. “You can’t go out there, John. You can’t.”

“Liz,” he said again, a little harder this time and he fixed her with a stern look. “Mind me, now.”

“Maybe it’s just a big camp fire,” she offered. “Or stragglers from that wagon train that came through six days ago.”

He turned on the seat, holding her gaze as he softly but firmly stated, “I am all done repeating myself today.”

A flush of pink staining her pale cheeks, Liz got down out of the wagon. Skirts kicking out behind her, she hustled down the line of funeral attendants to the wagon belonging to the mayor and his wife.

“Let’s go.” Steering his horses off the road, John started towards the column of smoke with Davis and Charles both riding ahead of him, their guns already drawn. He offered a quick prayer that they wouldn’t have any need to use them, but by the time they reached the base of the small grassy hill that separated them from the source of the fire, the Reverend’s hopes were dashed. Davis and Charles reached the top ahead of him, but when he saw them kick their horses into a wild gallop down the other side, shouting and shooting all the way, his worst fears were realized. The Indian war party was still there.

“H’yah!” He snapped the reins, urging the horses faster and reached the peak of the hill to find the worst of all possible scenarios spread out in the tall grass below. Three Conestoga wagons had been attacked. Whatever had forced their delay west, whether it be because of an inopportune birth, terrible illness or a serious accident, the fate met by the families below was even worse. The Sacs had already scattered. The sight of Davis and Charles (with the potential of other white men following them) had sent the small party fleeing back across the open fields of golden grass, but up until that moment, they had shown the white stragglers very little mercy.

They’d stolen the horses, flour and bacon. They’d killed one of the oxen, butchering it there on the spot. The wagons had been set on fire, and every man, woman and child lay dead on the ground.

“Dear God,” John moaned, counting out eleven bodies scattered throughout the smoking ruin. This was to be a day of funerals. Riding down into the midst of the worst, he set his wagon brake and climbed down. “Let’s get these poor souls back to town. A proper burial is the least we can do.”

Davis and Charles dismounted, and the three men carefully picked their way through the rubble of broken furniture, scattered dishes and clothes, and all the worldly possessions that Indians had little use for and which white settlers just couldn’t bear to leave behind. Without speaking, they loaded the dead into the back of the Reverend’s wagon: an elderly man and woman, two blond men in their mid-to-late twenties, a young woman who, judging by her eyebrows, might have been a red-head had the Sacs not scalped her, and four children.

A second young woman, her face and hair matted with blood from a gash in her forehead, was found lying under the deflated white canvas of a toppled wagon, her body still shielding that of her dead infant daughter. It wasn’t until Charles reached down to catch her by the arms that she groaned, long and low. Startled, he almost dropped her.

“Reverend!” he shouted, bringing both his brother and the Reverend running.

God help him, but John’s first thought when he saw her was neither sympathy for her bloodied condition nor for the loss of her infant child, although that still little body did figure into his gut response. As small as the baby was, she couldn’t have been more than a year old and that meant her mother had to have milk.

God, it seemed, had granted him a miracle after all.

* * * * *

The whole house reeked of soured milk. Not from what little liquid remained in the water skin, lying on the kitchen table, but from the small mountain of soiled rags and sheets that the baby had vomited on every time Daniel tried to feed him.

Lying in the bottom dresser drawer, covered by the only clean towel left in the house, the baby mewled, his pitiful cries hardly sounding human anymore. His face was swollen and dotted with bright red hives, and Daniel was at the end of his tether. Cow’s milk simply was not going to work, and there was nothing else around.

Sitting at the dining table, his hands folded before him, Daniel stared through the open kitchen window with blank, unseeing eyes. Past the curtains that fluttered in the breeze, he spied his plow mare grazing in the south field. Playing in the tall grass around her feet, her month-old foal romped around and through her legs before venturing in to suckle.

Daniel watched for a moment before reaching out to take the tin cup from the table. Absolutely no thought went into what he did. He barely even remembered walking across the yard, or stretching out his hand to touch the mare’s velvety muzzle before bending down beside her. Horses weren’t meant to be milked like cows. Not only did his mare not hold still for it, but for all the effort that went into the attempt, what little milk he managed to collect barely covered the bottom of the cup.

Still, it was something.

Daniel went back inside, rinsed out the water skin and poured the mare’s milk into it. Trying to get the baby to drink was a completely different battle. Of the tablespoon or two that he’d managed to obtain, significantly less made it into his son. The rest oozed out of the corners of the infant’s tiny mouth as he struggled to suckle from a device not made for suckling.

The last clean towel in the house was now soiled with mare’s milk, and Daniel had no choice but to face the cold and bitter reality. His son would not long survive on a tablespoon of milk.

Laying the baby back in his makeshift bed, he returned to the kitchen. Staring at the water skin in his hands, he stopped where he was in the center of the small front room. Futile anger exploded out of that bare instant of calm. He flung the water skin against the far wall. It hit the shelf, knocking every tin dishes and what few precious porcelain ones had survived the trip from New York to the floor. The porcelain dishes shattered, spraying white shards all across the floor. They crunched beneath Daniel’s boots as he walked out the front door. At the end of the porch was a rain barrel, still mostly full from last week’s downpour.

Glaring at the barrel, Daniel’s eyes burned as he considered his options. There were only two and they were both unsavory: either he let his son starve to death or he could end the baby’s suffering right now. His big hands clenched tightly. Clench and release, clench and release. Tense muscles jumped along his jaw, but there was really no choice left to make. Rachel was dead, their son was fated to join her, and after that, really, what would be the point of his continued existence?

Turning on his heel, he walked back into the house to get the crying baby. Even less thought went into this than did his attempt to milk the mare. He was going to kill his own child, and he honestly couldn’t make himself feel anything about it one way or the other.

 

Cowboy Disipline 6

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Posted by on September 1, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

The Cowboy Discipline Box Set Stars USA Bestseller Patty Devlin and Mail Order Switch

Five full-length novels by five USA Bestsellers all bundled together in one fabulously priced Western anthology! Who can resist a five-for-one bargain? Especially when it involves five alpha cowboys unafraid to either spank or love the lady of their dreams. Available now!

 

Cowboy Disipline 2

USA Bestseller Patty Devlin brings it in her re-release of Mail Order Switch with Wade Malone and Liz!

Blurb:

Liz will do anything to get away from her evil guardian, and she was prepared to disguise herself as a boy and look for work as a ranch hand. When Caroline, a stranger on the train next to her, sees through her “boy” disguise, and begs her to take her place as a mail-order bride, Liz doesn’t hesitate long before saying yes. It’s got to be easier than working on a ranch, and as a married woman with a new name, she’ll be out of her guardian’s clutches forever.

Wade Malone has been looking forward to his new bride for months, but when “Caroline” finally arrives, things don’t exactly add up. For one, “Caroline” was supposed to be twenty-five years old; the woman who came off the train doesn’t look a day above sixteen. He has a strong aversion to liars, particularly in a wife. But he’s also a man who keeps his promises and whoever the woman is at his side, he’s made a commitment.

 

Sample Chapter:

“Your hair is coming down.”

Liz dipped her head low against the seat in front of her and tried to stuff the long golden strand of hair back up under the ragged cowboy hat. She briefly glanced at the dark-haired woman next to her and hoped no one else had noticed the slip. She looked back out the window at the sun-scorched prairie grass rushing by the train. How in the world was she going to pull this off?

“There is no way you are going to fool anyone dressed like that,” the lady’s soft voice answered her thoughts.

“What?” Liz snapped as she turned to her seatmate again, silently taking in the troubled brown eyes and the worry lines above her thin brows. The lady wasn’t harsh, but she looked worried—worried about Liz? No, it couldn’t be that.

“I don’t know why you are dressed like a man, but there is no way you are going to pass it off. Even if your long silky hair didn’t keep falling down your angel face, those pink, heart-shaped lips and sooty lashes will give you away. Not to mention those curves. Those britches aren’t hiding anything.”

Liz dropped her face in her hands willing herself not to cry. The old hat that was too big anyway tipped forward letting the rebellious strand of hair fall loose at the back of her head once more. What was she going to do? She had nowhere to go. When this train got to Denver, she had to get off. That was all the money she’d had for a ticket. She had hoped as a man she would be able to get a job on a ranch. Granted she didn’t have experience, but she could learn couldn’t she?

“You want to talk about it?” The woman’s voice was kind.

Liz turned back to her, weighing the question. Liz had been sitting next to the woman for two days, ever since Liz had boarded the train in Chicago. The woman had been by the window then, but had let Liz sit there the next day.

“It’s just not safe to travel alone.” Liz just wouldn’t tell her the whole truth. She couldn’t tell anyone that she might have killed a man, even if it was self-defense.

“I’m Caroline.” The lady held out her hand and smiled, but the smile seemed forced.

“Elizab-” Oh no! She shouldn’t have used her real name. What if there were people already looking for her?

“It’s okay, honest. Whatever you are running from…I’m not going to tell anyone. You look like you need a friend and I could surely use one right now.” Her hand came to rest on Liz’s arm and her large brown eyes softened. She was maybe in her mid-twenties, if Liz had to guess, not too much older than she was.

“Thank you.” She brought her hand up to rub the aching pressure from her forehead. “I had to get away. The day I turned eighteen my uncle, my guardian, tried to force himself on me.”

“Oh no, that is dreadful. Where are you going to go? I mean what will you do?”

“I don’t know. I thought I could get work on a ranch if I could act like a man. My uncle wa- is my only family. My parents passed away nigh on a year ago.”

“I’m sorry, but I think even if you cut your hair you still wouldn’t pass, even for a boy. You’re just too pretty.”

“Shh.”

“I’m sorry.” Caroline bit her lower lip and tried again. “Have you ever thought about being a mail-order-bride?”

“What? What is that?”

“Exactly what it sounds like.” She reached into her valise and pulled out a newspaper. “Here, read the one I’ve circled.”

Widower- looking for a woman to care for two small children.

Must know how to cook and clean. Marriage in name only. Apply in writing.

The ad was listed under a column for mail-order-brides, and there were probably ten more ads. She could do that! Well, maybe not that one; she didn’t know how to cook, or clean, or even care for children.

“That is what I’m doing. I’m on my way to Colfax to meet my man.” The dark-haired woman pursed her lips and the previous look of discomfort returned to present itself in the lines above her brow and the rigid way she held her shoulders.

“You must be so nervous! How do you know he isn’t a monster? Or very old and ugly?” Liz shuddered again reminded of the many times her father’s brother had let his hands wander. Uncle Rupert’s advances had become more and more disgusting as the time had gone on, the dirty rotten lecher.

“Well, you can’t be sure, but we have written letters to one another. I keep telling myself that is enough. But…”

“But- what?”

“But, I don’t want to do this now.” Caroline bit through her lower lip. It was no wonder; she had been worrying it with her teeth for quite a while. Liz watched as a spot of blood appeared, just before her tongue darted out to clear it away and then she sucked it in under her top lip.

“Well, what can you do then?”

“I have to go… he paid for my ticket. I can’t let him down.” She sat back with a heavy sigh.

“I wish I could help you.”

“It will be all right. I hope so, anyway.” Caroline put the newspaper back inside her bag and pulled out a couple envelopes.

As she started to read one of the letters Liz turned to watch the scenery glide by her window again. Was it too late? Could she possibly find one of those mail-order things? Maybe at her next stop she could find a newspaper. She only had a day and her train ride would run out. She would be in Denver. What was the next stop?

“Do you want to read his letters?” Caroline’s voice broke through her thoughts.

“Are you sure?” Liz sat back and took the letter held out to her when Caroline nodded.

Dear Caroline,

Thank you for your response. It gives me peace that you are also a widow, and your age is good too. Since my wife, Hannah, died only three months ago, you will understand my feelings in wanting this to remain a marriage in name only.

I have two children, Molly is four and Jonah is eight months. I need someone who can care for them and take up the role of a wife around the ranch. If it were not for my children I would not find this necessary. I hope you understand my position.

I am a hard-working man and very busy most of the time. I am honest and fair; my hands like to work for me. I think that most folks would give me a good reference. I don’t think I am hard to look at, although I’m hesitant to boast and say I’m a good-looking fellow. I am thirty-five years old. I know some people fear the unknown in this type of situation, however, since this is not going to be a love match, it should hardly matter.

If you can tell me about yourself, that would be helpful. Is there anything important that I should know before you arrive? Do you like children?

Thank you again for your willingness to give of yourself.

Wade Malone

“Well, he sounds like a nice enough man,” Liz said and looked to Caroline, trying to reassure her.

“Yes, but I’m not sure I’m ready for this. I mean I loved my Jacob. It will be hard to be married to another. I should be comforted by the fact Wade says it will be in name only, but somewhere deep inside I want to have a husband who loves me, again.” Her warm brown eyes were swimming in a pool of tears she brushed away just before they spilled over. “I was drawn to the children, because Jake and I, we never had our own.”

“Well, you can focus on them then.” Liz smiled softly, trying to cheer her new friend. “They will love you immediately.”

“I don’t think I can do it. I don’t know how I even got myself on this train. I never do anything spontaneous. I just want to go home. I should have listened to my mother.”

“Maybe I can go with you and help!” Liz gave Caroline an exaggerated wink and laughed. Even if delivered in jest she felt lighter than she had in a long time.

“Maybe you could go for me.”

“Oh sure.” Liz chuckled to herself as she watched a river come into view and ramble on alongside the train.

“No, really! You could pretend to be me and marry Wade. It would fix both of our problems.” Caroline’s voice rose in pitch. “He would never know the difference. I didn’t send a likeness. All he knows is my age and well, hmmm…¦” Caroline reached for Liz’s hat as the younger woman turned back toward her.

“No—” Liz swatted at Caroline’s hands. “—and quiet down! Everyone on the train is going to hear you. You told him you have dark brown hair and brown eyes and you are what mid-twenties? I’d never pass.”

“You have brown eyes, too! And I’m twenty-four, you can pass for that.” She was chewing on her poor lower lip again.

“No, I can’t pass for twenty-four. I barely look my own eighteen.”

“But you thought you could pass for a man?”

“That was different. I don’t have brown hair either.” Liz crossed her arms and sat back with a sigh. She sure wished that she could switch places with Caroline, but she knew it was impossible.

“Men think everyone’s hair is brown, trust me. I was married before. Elizabeth, please! You are like an answer to my prayers. I can’t go through with this, and you need a place to go. Just think about it.”

Liz didn’t respond, couldn’t respond. She needed to think… she had to think of a way to let this truly deranged woman down gently.

She couldn’t possibly pull off such an act. She was too young, she didn’t look the same, she wasn’t a widow, and she couldn’t cook or clean. The poor man needed a wife who would be able to help him. Not her, she couldn’t help with anything and she was a murd—

An announcement interrupted her thoughts. “Next stop, Hastings. We will be stopped for an hour. If you leave the train station please return to the train promptly as the train will not wait for you. I repeat: next stop Hastings.”

 Liz peered out the window, looking for some sign of the city mentioned. She saw rolling hills with tall brown grasses and towering pines, rocky hills and ledges, but no town in sight.

“I am not going on.” Caroline’s voice cut through her thoughts. “I’m buying a ticket and going home.”

Liz turned around fast to meet her new friend’s eyes. “Are you sure you want to do that? Maybe you should give yourself some more time.”

“No, I shouldn’t have come. I’ve wasted so much time.” Caroline looked weary; her shoulders had lost their stiff height. She’d stopped biting her lip. She even looked at peace with her decision.

They had just met but Liz was going to miss her. She had somehow felt safer having the woman next to her for the past two days, and now she felt as though they were friends. If only she could talk Caroline into going to the rancher and just taking her along. Maybe she could pretend to be her sister… they could come up with a tale that she had to bring her at the last minute.

“I will leave my ticket and letters with you in case you change your mind and want to go on to marry Wade.”

“No, Caroline. Won’t you change your mind? If you want to go, I’ll go with you.”

“No, I’m going home, but I will give you a dress and all the correspondence. You can marry Wade and tell him the truth later. It’s perfect. You need a place to go.”

“We have arrived at Hastings,” the conductor shouted. “If this is your destination please pick up your luggage. If you are travelling farther please return to the train on time. Again this is Hastings; our next stop is Fort Morgan, Colorado, in four hours and Denver in the morning.”

“Please, don’t leave yet.”

“Come with me. We’ll talk and you can change into one of my dresses.” Caroline reached for Liz’s hand, she grabbed her valise, and with a sway of her skirts between the seats, she dragged Liz toward the door.

It was a very different Caroline who boarded the train headed to Colfax, forty-five minutes later. Liz was as nervous as a lady of the night in a church, when the conductor passed by her seat before the train started moving again. She didn’t know why she was so jumpy, but she worried that everyone who looked at her would know she was trying to be somebody she wasn’t. She hadn’t been that anxious dressed as a man.

She laid her head against the glass. The grass was thinner here, and it seemed to slowly disappear as the train barreled on. The hills were getting steeper, and the ledges rockier. Was it a sign of the troubles that lay ahead for her?

Colfax was almost two more whole days on the train farther than Denver. At least Caroline had meals paid for in the dining car. Liz had been munching on apples and stale bread. In Chicago, she put the things she wanted from shops on her families’ accounts, so she had little need for coin. And she’d not had time or opportunity to get more money before she’d run. She’d been too afraid. So after buying her ticket and some food, she had very little left of the bit she’d taken from Rupert’s study. She saved the rest for when she arrived in Denver.

Now, if she could work this out, at least she wouldn’t have to worry about food, or where she would go. She reached in her bag to read the other two letters from Wade. She should try to figure out as much as she could about the man she was signing her life over to.

Dear Caroline,

I appreciate your openness about your husband; again that makes you the perfect candidate in my eyes. We have a lot in common, it seems. I hope that you won’t miss your mother too much; we don’t have many women folk nearby, nor many other neighbors for that matter. Town is half-a-day’s ride from our ranch. It is a rather lonely existence. I hope that you will be fine with that.

I am not worried about you knowing how to care for the children; to be honest, little Molly can almost take care of herself and the baby. I know that is not right, what I mean is she is a smart little girl and thinks she is Jonah’s mother. She will help you figure everything out. I know that they need a mama and I will be thankful to have this business settled.

Is there anything else you think you need to know about me? If not, then I will send money for your train fare after I hear from you again.

Thank you,

Wade Malone

Well, it was good that he didn’t have neighbors because then it would be harder for anyone to track her down if they came looking. And it was a positive note that it didn’t require much skill to care for the children. Now, if only she could figure out how to overcome the rest of the shortcomings.

Liz folded the letter neatly, slid it back inside the envelope, and got the last one out. She didn’t start reading it right away; this time she took a minute to think about him. His handwriting was neat, his spellings accurate. Although he couldn’t be accused of being unnecessarily wordy, he had written three letters to Caroline to help make this mail-order marriage successful. And although he made it sound more like a business proposition, he must have been very much in love with his first wife. That had to say something about the man. And he was willing to remarry simply for his children to have a mama. He had to be a good man. She should feel better about the situation, but it made her feel worse for trying to dupe him. She sighed as she focused on the smudged print in the last letter. Unfortunately, it was hardly informative.

Dear Caroline,

Here is the money for your ticket. Please wire me when you leave, so that I can plan to be there for you when you arrive. As I said before, the ranch is a half-day’s ride from town. Have a safe trip. We anxiously await your arrival.

Wade

Liz put the letters away with a quiet resolve; she could do this. It was easier to pretend to be Caroline the widow than to be a man, right? She would just have to let this poor fellow down by telling him at some point, probably pretty soon, after her arrival that she was very proficient at burning water. Or that she had made her mother cry most every day that she had spent in the kitchen with her and Mrs. Humphrey as they tried to teach Liz the art of cooking.

Liz understood much of what it took to run a large household, from managing the housekeeping staff to menu and party planning. She could sew and embroider; her needlework was most impressive. And music — she could entertain their party guests delightfully with her gift of singing and the pianoforte. But actually cooking… she’d failed miserably, to the point where she’d been banned from the kitchen. And now, in the few words he chose to include in the advertisement, those are what he included as most important. How was she to let him down? Sooner rather than later, just get it out of the way! And if she was already married to him what could he possibly do to her?

She resolved to be the world’s best Mama, and maybe she could find some other ways to make up for her shortcomings. She could learn to cook or clean, if she could find someone to teach her, and she wasn’t afraid of hard work.

But, it was all too soon that the conductor was calling out the stop for Colfax. Hadn’t he just called out the stop for Denver, the one she was supposed to get off at? Oh, why had she let Caroline talk her into this? She peered out the train window looking for Wade. She didn’t know what he looked like but she should be able to tell if there was a single man standing by the station with an “I’m waiting for my new wife” look on his face.

“Last call for Colfax. We’re not staying in the station. If you are getting off in Colfax you must exit. Mam, aren’t you getting off here?” The tall man in a dark blue uniform came over to her.

“Oh, yes, I do apologize. All this time and I must have dozed off.” Liz reached for the satchel Caroline had given her and slowly squeezed through the aisle to the door. As she stepped down to the boarding dock, she didn’t look around. She assumed Wade would find her, and she couldn’t have handled making eye contact just then anyway. She had to get herself together.

Liz made her way to the bench in front of the station and sat down to wait. Her hair was a mess, strands blowing free in the breeze. Caroline had helped her plait it in Hastings when she changed into one of her dresses, but some of it had come loose.

“Excuse me, Caroline? Caroline Lowe?”

Elizabeth looked up to meet the confused blue-eyed gaze of a dark-haired cowboy. “Um.” She cleared her throat. “Yes. Mr. Malone? I’m sorry, I must look a wretch.”

“No, it’s just… I pictured you different. I… uh looked for your trunk, but I couldn’t find it.”

“I lost it on the stage coach during the first stretch, well not me, the stage hands did, they’re supposed to send it on… if they find it.” Amazing how lying just came natural to her.

“Oh, well I thought you might want to freshen up and have some lunch before we go to the preacher. Then we will start for the ranch. It’s a long ride.”

“I have another dress in my bag, thankfully.”

“Well then, we will be on our way.” He took her arm and led her down the wooden sidewalk.

Liz was afraid he would feel her heart banging against her chest. She could feel it in her ears and in her neck.

“You look fourteen, not twenty-four.” He glanced sideways at her as he walked beside her.

“I hear that all the time. I knew I should have sent a likeness.” She tried to laugh but it sounded fake even to her own ears, which were beginning to feel decidedly warm. At least he could have said she looked eighteen. “Well you said you weren’t much to look at!” she blurted and then heat crept up her cheeks as she realized what she had just implied.

That was just what he didn’t want, some simpering female falling in love with him. She could not think of him like that just because he was so well put together. Perhaps she should tell him the truth about her cooking and such sooner. It would be easier not to like him when he was mad at her.

“Is that what I said?” He let go of her arm to open the door of the Pioneer Hotel and took his hat off. She ignored the question and stepped inside.

“Well, hello. Miss Caroline, I presume?” A short and round elderly gentleman with ruddy cheeks stood at the desk and beckoned her to come forward. “I have a room ready for you to freshen yourself.”

“This is Mr. Mendenhall, Caroline.” Wade took her arm again and led her up the staircase behind the stocky gentleman.

“I’m sure you are fatigued and will need more than this after your trip. But Wade says you will be leaving right after the ceremony. In a town the size of Colfax, this is exciting. I mean, it’s the first time anything like this has ever happened in Colfax. Well, here you are anyway, fresh water in the pitcher and linens, too, and if you need anything else just ring the bell and I will send a maid right up.”

Mr. Mendenhall backed away with a nod and left Wade at her door. “How long do you think you’ll need? Will a half hour be long enough?” He was still holding his hat in his left hand, his right hand reached up to push his sandy shoulder-length hair back out of his face.

There was never going to be enough time. How was she supposed to go down there with him, stand before a preacher somewhere and lie? Would she have to put her hand on a Bible? Would God strike her dead?

“Do you need to lie down for an hour or something? If you need to we can push it. I know it has been a long trip. I just hate being away from the ranch any longer than necessary.”

And then he was nice to her, too. How could she lie to this man? “No, I… uh, I will be fine; I slept on the train. Just give me that half hour.” She backed into the room and closed the door. She needed to hurry and marry the man before she blew it and he found out the truth. Then it would be too late.

Liz was grateful that Caroline had given her some clothing, but she hadn’t been able to provide her a corset or shoes. The boots she had on under her dress were the cowboy boots she had worn with her man clothes. Thankfully they didn’t show under the skirt of her dress. Caroline was also a little bit bigger than Liz so her dress fit just a tad loose and long. When she pulled the mauve dress from her bag, however, she decided not to change after all. The dress was just too wrinkled from being rolled up and stuffed in the satchel.

So, after she washed her face and hands and said a quick prayer, she headed downstairs to find Wade. The sooner they got this over with, the sooner she could relax. She couldn’t focus on the lunch placed before her in the hotel dining room, nor the conversation Wade was trying to make. It seemed she barely remembered how she came to be in the little church building with the preacher only a few minutes later.

“Oh,” Liz gasped and tried to cover the paper when Wade looked over at her. “I- uh- just started to sign my maiden name.” She giggled nervously. She had begun to write Elizabeth instead Caroline and didn’t know what to do.

“That is what you are supposed to do,” the preacher supplied.

“Oh, good.” She hesitated for a moment and then finished. Maybe he wouldn’t look at it. He had already signed his name. “You may kiss your bride, Wade.” The preacher winked at him.

Liz stopped breathing. Would he do it? She looked at Wade as he dipped close and his lips came down to press against hers in a brief nothingness peck.

He reached for the paper. “Let’s go.”

“Wait, I still have to sign it.” The preacher chuckled.

Liz was going to die on the spot. She was never going to make it through this day. Would he notice it? She should never have come here.

 

Cowboy Disipline 6

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Posted by on August 31, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

The Cowboy Discipline Box Set Stars USA Bestseller Lee Savino and Rocky Mountain Rose!

Five full-length novels by five USA Bestsellers all bundled together in one fabulously priced Western anthology! Who can resist a five-for-one bargain? Especially when it involves five alpha cowboys unafraid to either spank or love the lady of their dreams. Available now!

 

Cowboy Disipline 3

A cowboy with a broken heart. A dancing girl who’s sworn off men. Love blooms in the hardest hearts in the Wild West.

Third in Lee Savino’s fabulous Rocky Mountain series, introducing Lyle Wilder and Rose!

Blurb:

Feisty and independent, Rose is a dancing girl in the Wild West. When an evil brothel owner lays claim to her, it’s up to Lyle Wilder to rescue the jaded redhead. Lyle vows to protect Rose, even if he has to drag her kicking and screaming to safety. His firm discipline keeps his wild rose from danger, but can he convince her to let love grow?

 

Sample Chapter:

The saloon was packed wall to wall with unwashed bodies. At the long bar, men hooted and hollered after the serving women, offering little more than a pinch on the behind as a tip. Men crowded around the faro tables in the back, betting hard earned dollars to the slick-looking shyster behind the table.

Rose stood in the shadows on the top of the stairs, her hands on her hips, surveying the crowd. Rowdy though they were, she felt energy rush through her, as it did every night she danced as Rosie May, the belle of mining towns. When she arrived yesterday, men were waiting on the edge of town to catch sight of the crimson-haired beauty. Grizzled grey hairs and boys young as twelve, and every age in between, had all left their homes and come West to make their fortune, but after a few months in a mine, they’d give all their gold and silver for a glimpse of a lady. Tonight, she’d give them a glimpse, and more.

“Ready?” Her young escort, Sam, stood close by in his own black suit, complete with red cummerbund and high top hat. A boy of only sixteen, Rose took him under her wing when they left the traveling show together to form their own act. He now played the part of musician and master of ceremonies, and once his height came on and voice deepened, he would be a useful partner and bodyguard. For now, Rose had her trusty Nell, the pearl handled Deringer she hid in her sash. Looking over the boisterous crowd, Rose stroked her silken garments and felt the gun, its hard form comforting under her fingers.

Sam was already making his way downstairs to start the show. Once he sat himself at the piano, he glanced back, and Rose nodded to him, then backed into darkness to wait for her introduction.

His fingers flew over the honky-tonk keys in a stunning glissando.

“She’s here, boys! The belle of the West herself. The lovely Rosie May will dance tonight, the latest dance from Paris!”

A ripple went through the crowd; a few heads turned to look up at the top of the stairs where a woman’s gloved hand shook a black lace fan.

“There she is. I seen her!” someone cried, and the bar broke out in lewd comments as Rose let her leg slink out from behind the wall.

Whoops and hollers greeted the long, stocking-clad leg, then cries of disappointment when she slid it away. Then laughs and whistles rose as she turned and stuck her bustle out beyond the wall and shook it vigorously.

“Give her a cheer boys, don’t let her be shy!” Sam shouted, and someone took up the chant, “Rosie, Rosie.”

A fan, a hand, a slender arm encased in a black glove, then Rosie herself strode from her hiding place into full view on the landing. The men cheered.

“Hello, boys.” Rose put her hands on the railing, showing off her hourglass figure in the frothy white dress she wore. “Would you like to see me dance?”

A roar of approval, and she put a finger to her mouth, pretending to think. “I don’t know. I may need a drink first.”

A crush at the bar as men waved bills at the barkeep. Rose smiled down at them.

“Of course,” she called. “I may have it in me to give you a taste of what you’ll get tonight.” Hiking up her skirts and petticoat, she slid her leg through the railing, showing one black stocking, then the other, as men whistled and cheered.

Right below the landing, one of the men stood on the bar to hand up a glass of amber fluid. Rose smiled and blew a kiss at her benefactor, then held the glass high.

“A toast to the one who will never leave you, or let you down. Who waits for your lips and always warms you at night. To whiskey!” She downed the shot, then rode the wave of laughter down the stairs, sliding down the banister and jumping onto a table set up for her next to the bar. A few men held up their hands to help steady her.

“Thank you, boys.” She smiled. Drawing off her gloves, she threw them into the crowd then called to Sam for music. She kicked her legs up to the lively tune, showing off black stockings and a hint of creamy thigh. As the men grew wilder, she leaned back to the stair railing and held on, teasing the crowd with flips of her skirt and shakes of her bustle.

A few more drinks and they might riot, but for now she had them eating out of her hand. Rose dipped and turned, a false smile plastered to her face, every once in awhile shaking out her long red hair for the room to admire. She was queen of the room, and all the men were her fawning subjects.

Then, in a fated moment, her gaze hit the corner and time stood still.

A man sat in the back, near the faro tables but ignoring them completely. His blue eyes pierced her, his gaze so intense she felt he could see everything about her every curve, every breath, every pore. He had hair and brows dark as the devil’s, but the face of an angel, perfect and breathtaking.

She knew him.

A shock went through her, powerful as lightning. Her legs weakened, and she stumbled, nearly losing her balance.

A few of the men pressed against the bar put up their hands to help her.

“Rose, are you well?”

“Sorry, boys.” She shook it off. “Another whiskey!” she cried as she stole a glass from a man at the bar, upending it into her mouth. The shocked customer stood staring while his friends pounded him on the back.

Rose winked at him and then motioned to Sam. “Music, Maestro.”

The piano started again, and she launched into a bawdy tune, one she’d sung many times. The miners all knew it too, and she let their voices carry hers while her thoughts scrambled behind her pasted smile.

So her dead sister’s husband was watching. It’d been five years, but she remembered him. Of course, she’d never forget the man she hated above any other.

As the night wore on, she kept dancing, tossing back whiskeys as if they were water, and avoiding the gaze of the man in the corner as her mind raced. What did he want with her? Last he’d seen of her, she was a skinny child, too thin and ugly to catch a man’s eye. Unlike her sister Mary.

He stole Mary from her and left Rose at the mercy of evil men. She blamed Doyle, her sister’s boss, and her own father. But she blamed Lyle Wilder most of all: first for stealing her sister, and second for Mary’s death.

She strutted and sang and held on to the banister of the stairs to keep the rowdy men from pulling her off.

Damn the man. Why did he come to haunt her? She was a tall, bold woman of eighteen. Full grown and able to take care of herself.

With that thought, she whirled to start a new dance and saw a man in the center of the room punch another full in the face. It would’ve been a quick fight, if the falling man’s partner hadn’t jumped to his feet, pointing his pistol at the attacker. A shot rang out, but it went wide as the attacking man rushed the shooter and dealt a glancing blow to the pistol arm. A jarring noise came from the piano, but Rose kept her eyes on the gun as it dropped between the two men and became the center of a scuffle. A shout, and Rose’s head snapped around, looking for Sam.

Her friend slumped over the piano, and for a moment, Rose didn’t understand. Then someone screamed, a horrible sound.

Rose was halfway across the room, pushing to Sam’s side, before she realized she was the one shrieking. The boy’s white shirt bore a spreading stain, the same color as his cummerbund. Spit bubbled in the side of his mouth, and he convulsed once but the light was already fading from his eyes.

With a cry, Rose whirled and threw herself in the fray. Fumbling in her skirts, she brought out her tiny pistol just in time to reach the epicenter of the fight and face the shooter. With both hands on the gun, she fired, even as strong arms grabbed her around her waist.

The shooter fell, surprise on his face. Rose crowed in triumph, then all the air went from her lungs as someone hauled her over their shoulder.

The room spun wildly, and Rose’s world filled with angry faces. Clawing at her attacker’s back, she tried to break free, but a hand clapped on her bottom, hard enough to give her pause.

Then the two of them were outside in an alleyway, the door to the saloon swinging shut and cutting them off from all light and sound.

She started to scream, but the man stooped and bounced her higher onto his shoulder.

“Quiet, Rose,” he ordered, clamping a steely arm around her legs to hold her. Even carrying her full weight, the man broke into a jog down the long alley, the movement jarring her midriff so she had to fight to get air into her lungs.

A shout behind them, and Rose peered through her hair to see the door to the saloon burst open, letting light and the roar of their pursuers out into the night. Her captor veered around a corner, heading down another dark alleyway. By the time she caught her breath, Rose’s kidnapper was climbing the back stairs to another building, then darting down a hall, opening a door, and carrying her inside.

In the inky darkness, the man set Rose down. The moon in the window gave the only light, and Rose could make out the tall, powerful form of her kidnapper, but nothing of his face.

Again, she drew in breath to scream, and a hand clamped over her mouth.

“It’s all right, Rose. It’s me, Lyle Wilder.”

Lyle? Why?

She must have spoken out loud, because her words were muffled against his hand.

“I’m going to let you go now,” Lyle said. “Don’t scream.”

His hand lifted, and Rose scrambled backwards, fumbling for her gun. She’d managed to hang onto her Nelly in the commotion, and now she brought the Deringer up, pointing it at the man in shaking hands.

In the darkness, she sensed, rather than saw his hands go into the air.

“You gonna shoot me, Rose?”

Breathing hard, she registered the amusement in his voice. He always was a smug bastard.

Catching her breath, she rallied. “Where am I?”

A pause, and then a match struck. Light outlined the perfect contours of Lyle’s face as her sister’s husband regarded her soberly.

“In a hotel. This is my room.”

Keeping her aim fixed on him, Rose darted a glance around the room, a shabby replica of any other boarding house’s room like the ones she and Mary lived in.

Hands still in the air, Lyle slowly moved to a side table and lit the lamp. Rose backed into a corner, wondering if she dare kill the man her deceased sister had loved.

Lyle watched her, a slight smile on his face. “You want to lower your gun?”

“No,” she said.

“Come on, Rose. This is how you repay the man who saved your life?”

“No. This is how I repay the man who destroyed it.”

One second she was staring him down, then he moved, and the gun was aiming at nothing. Rose pulled the trigger, hearing the hammer click uselessly before Lyle’s long arms wrapped around her and locked her arms against his chest.

She looked up into cold blue eyes.

“That’s a single shot Deringer, Rose. And you already shot a man tonight. You think I wouldn’t notice?” He was tall enough that she had to tilt her head back to look up at him—a rare thing since she was taller than most men.

Her lip curled. “I could only hope.”

“Careful,” he growled. “You are very, very close to making me lose my temper. You don’t want me to do that.”

Her heart pounded, and she was breathing hard, her chest rising and falling, brushing his. She stared up into his sculpted features, taking in the lush lips and proud forehead, the dark hair brushing his collar. Pressed against him, she couldn’t help but notice the strength in his chest and arms, and the long, dark lashes around his brilliant eyes. It should be illegal for a man to be so beautiful.

His scent, masculine and clean, rolled over her, and suddenly her limbs were weak, and her thoughts screamed, “Danger!”

During the pause, his expression went from angry to curious. His blue gaze flickered down her face, and his lips parted. She couldn’t help it, inches from his mouth, her tongue came out and slowly licked her own lips.

“Rose.” His face softened, and she remembered herself. She shoved at him, going nowhere but at least putting in an effort to fight.

“Get your hands off me.” She slapped his away.

“What the hell?” He released her, and she took a step backwards then immediately went on the offensive.

“What do you think you’re doing?” she snapped, hands on hips. With her height and fiery hair, she knew her angry pose would strike fear into most men’s hearts.

Lyle wasn’t most men. “Saving your life,” he said, glaring down at her with the same force.

“I didn’t need saving,” she snapped. “I’m fine.”

“Far from it, Rose.” Lyle’s blue eyes flashed. “You waltz into Doyle’s town after all these years then throw yourself into a brawl. You could’ve been killed.”

“I can take care of myself, Lyle Wilder.” She tossed her head, sending red hair flying around her shoulders. “I’ve been doing it for years.”

“Really. Dancing on tables for a living in front of a room full of drunken men.” He folded his arms over his chest. “Quite a show you’ve got, Rosie May.”

“Shut your mouth,” she spat.

His eyes flashed at her. “You better start showing some respect, young lady, or I have half a mind to teach it to you.”

“No one asked you.” She started towards the door. “Take me back.”

“Not so fast.” Lyle pulled her towards him. She fought, but he was stronger and soon had her seated on the chaise, his hands on her shoulders. “Rose, stop. There are men out there looking for you. One of them is Otis Boone—fastest shot in this town, maybe the whole Territory.”

“Get off!” She fought, her fingers turning into claws headed for his face. He weaved out of the way, then caught her wrists and used them to pull her body over his lap.

“Stop! Help!” she shrieked.

“Shut it, Rose.”

“Go to hell!”

“If you won’t shut up, I’ll make you,” he growled. She started to scream, and he stuffed his handkerchief into her mouth. Writhing on his lap, Rose kicked her legs then felt his hand come down hard over her skirts.

“Stop fighting, Rose. I am trying to help you.”

She shouted through the gag, and he smacked her bottom again and again. Even through her dress and petticoat, she could feel the blows warming her bottom. It didn’t quite hurt, but it was a warning, and she took it as such, going still and letting the fight drain out of her. She’d save her fury for when she wasn’t pinned over her enemy’s lap.

“Now,” Lyle said and pulled her to stand between his legs. “Can you keep a civil tongue in your head?”

Breathing hard through her nose, she nodded. Still gripping her wrists, he pulled out the handkerchief then used it to wipe her mouth. The kindness in his touch gave her pause.

His hands slid down her arms. “You’re bleeding,” he muttered.

She felt panic, and her fingers tore at her dress to see the rust colored marks on her white dress. Lyle’s hands were at her buttons, undoing them with expert fingers.

“Arms up, Rose,” he ordered, and when she didn’t obey, he forced them up, pulling her dress over her head.

She stood in her petticoats and corset, too stunned by this turn of events to curse him.

Lyle loomed over her, and her arms automatically came up to cross over her chest, hiding her body from him. Something about being alone and unclothed with a man tore through her defenses, and shock started to take over, numbing her. Her body was her weapon, and it frightened her to have the power stripped from it so easily.

“Let me see, Rose.” Lyle tugged at her, and when she shook her head, tightening her arms further, he sat on the chaise so his head was lower than hers.

“Please, darlin’. I just want to see if you’re hurt.”

His soft words hit her like a blow, but she couldn’t fight anymore. She let him peel away her arms, her breath catching at his gentle hands. His fingers roved over her, checking her clothes, but they were unsullied.

“You’re all right, darlin’. Wasn’t your blood.”

Her body turned to stone. “Sam,” she whispered.

One look at her stricken expression, and Lyle leaned forward. “He’s gone, Rose. I’m sorry.”

She retreated, gulping hard to get rid of the knot in her throat. “It’s my fault.”

“Darlin, it’s not.”

His eyes were so gentle on hers, she couldn’t bear to look at him anymore. She started to reach for her dress, then remembered the blood stains and snatched her hand away.

Slowly, Lyle stood and lifted his black duster, holding it out in invitation to her. Rose stepped into the long coat and Lyle enveloped her.

“Thank you,” she offered.

He nodded, his expression thoughtful.

A knock on the door shattered the quiet, and Rose whirled around, only to feel Lyle’s hands on her hips, drawing her back, directing her silently to wait by the bed.

Thrusting her chin out, Rose retreated, but took up her Deringer again. Even unloaded, it might give a man pause.

“Who’s there?” Lyle was at the door, his own pistol in hand.

A pause then a deep voice. “Otis Boone.”

To Rose’s surprise, Lyle relaxed his pistol and opened the door. “You are five types of fool,” he told the man outside, and laughter came from beyond the door.

Lyle admitted a younger version of himself, a few inches shorter than Lyle, with the same dark hair.

“Did you think I was him, brother?” The man was chuckling. He wore all black and held a shotgun casually in hand.

“Not for a second.” As the man stepped inside, Lyle swatted the back of his head.

“See, I didn’t think you would. I thought you would know me, and it would be a fine joke.” The dark-haired man smiled and out popped a dimple.

“Idiot.” Lyle shook his head. “Where are our enemies?”

“Safely tucked in Doyle’s bosom. Of all the men she had to shoot, it would be the brother of Doyle’s right hand man.” He shook his head and glanced around. “Where’s our lovely Rose?”

“Standing by to shoot you if necessary.” Lyle grinned, and his own dimpled popped out to match the newcomer’s. “Rose, meet my brother, Jesse Wilder.”

“A pleasure.” The man swept off an imaginary hat and gave a short bow. With the two brothers standing next to one another, Rose could spot the differences between them. They shared the same thick dark hair and smirk, but Jesse had green eyes instead of blue. The younger man also had a rugged look about him, a jaw rough with stubble and a nose that had been broken and set crooked. Lyle had the face of a fallen angel, beautiful and haunting. Jesse looked like the devil.

Even as she studied the younger brother, he winked at her. She sniffed and moved towards the chaise, drawing the black coat around her like a royal robe.

“I see you two have been busy.” Jesse’s voice was amused, and Rose knew he was taking in her form dressed in Lyle’s coat and making assumptions.

“Blood on her dress,” Lyle muttered. “We’ll be needing her things sooner rather than later. Did you get the room clear?”

“It was tough, but I got everything out,” Jesse reported. “Rosie May isn’t staying at the Black Water saloon anymore.”

Lyle grunted his approval. “Let’s hope they think she’s left town.”

“Excuse me?” Rose whirled back, hands on her hips. “Did you say you moved my things?”

“Yep,” Jesse said. “Place was swarming with Doyle’s men; figured you can’t go back there.”

 

Cowboy Disipline 6

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Posted by on August 30, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

The Cowboy Discipline Box Set Stars USA Bestseller Renee Rose and The Outlaw’s Bride!

Five full-length novels by five USA Bestsellers all bundled together in one fabulously priced Western anthology! Who can resist a five-for-one bargain? Especially when it involves five alpha cowboys unafraid to either spank or love the lady of their dreams. Available now!

 

Cowboy Disipline 4

A spitfire rancher. The dominant outlaw who takes her in hand.

Originally released as part of the Johnny Hasting’s Box Set, introducing Sam Pride and Maybelle Lawson in The Outlaw’s Bride!

Stranded in the west, Mabelle’s been managing her dead sister’s ranch alone for three months. The last thing she needs is the Curly James Gang pushing her around. She fights back, and finds herself over an outlaw’s knee.

She wants to hate the good-looking outlaw, but he seems to have her best interest at heart and even risks his life to protect her from the rest of the gang. Still, a quick-to-spank outlaw with a bounty on his head isn’t the sort of man for her. Or is he?

 

Sample Chapter:

1872, A Stagecoach Trail, Wyoming Territory

Sam stood three feet back, watching Curly and his two henchmen rob the stagecoach, a sick feeling in his stomach. He had been selected at gunpoint to be a member of the outlaw Curly Jones’ gang two days earlier and this hold up would seal his fate as a wanted man. Not that there wasn’t already a bounty on his head.

“I think that’s everything,” Jim said, holding up the pocket watches and purses he had absconded.

“Uh…boss? Your handkerchief has come down,” Scotty said, pointing the muzzle of his six-shooter toward Curly’s face.

The bit of cloth once covering his face now hung around his neck. “Dammit!” Curly snarled, his half-mad expression turning even wilder. “Light the carriage on fire!” He struck a match, holding it to the curtains of the stagecoach, while the trapped passengers screamed.

Sam surged forward and slapped it out. He was damned if he was going to let innocent people die. He could take at least two of the outlaws down before the third had a chance to kill him.

“That isn’t necessary,” he said.

“They saw my face!” Curly screeched.

“So what? You’re wanted dead or alive anyway, one more robbery isn’t going to make a difference.”

Curly narrowed his eyes at him. “All right,” he said, stepping forward and snatching Sam’s handkerchief down. “If I’m going to be recognized, so are you. Folks, this here is Sam Pride, wanted in Colorado Territory for the murder of four cattle men.”

The terrified passengers gasped.

Sam grit his teeth and strode forward to slap the flank of one of the coach’s horses. “Go on! Get out of here,” he yelled to the driver as the startled team lurched into motion.

He turned to see Curly taking a swig of whiskey from his flask, still glaring at him. Ignoring it, he walked back to where they had hidden their horses.

He had stumbled upon the outlaws in a cave in the hills of Colorado, where they both had taken refuge from a spring rain. Curly wanted to shoot him on the spot, but he’d argued he was a wanted man, too, and could not very well turn them in for the reward without getting himself hanged at the same time.

“Looks like you’ll be joining us, then,” Curly had said.

“I prefer riding alone.”

Curly had leveled his six shooter at his forehead. “I said, it looks like you’ll be joining us.”

So he had joined them, biding his time, waiting for the moment he could slip away without getting shot in the back. In three days they would near Cheyenne, where the opportunity to part ways should present itself more easily.

Curly wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. “Let’s ride, boys.”

The men swung into their saddles and started the horses in the opposite direction of the stage coach at a gallop. He looked over his shoulder and saw the stagecoach continuing to move safely away from them.

The sky had darkened, though. It looked like they were in for rain.

#

She could manage during the summer, but if she did not get some help, she would not make it through winter on her own. And that was assuming the bank did not show up to foreclose before then.

Mabelle stood on the wooden porch of her brother-in-law Frank’s small ranch and surveyed the Wyoming plain. Despite the heartbreak of losing Frank and Susie and the hardship of trying to run the place all alone, she loved it out west. Loved how the open blue sky, the expanse of spacious land allowed her soul to soar. For the first time in her life, she felt like she belonged, which was ironic, considering she teetered on the brink of survival.

Basic food supplies were critically low, although the garden she had planted as soon as the earth thawed looked promising. But she had no way to get into town to purchase any goods because the natives had stolen the horses when they killed Frank. They would have taken the grain and flour, too, but when they came in the house and saw her sister Susie dying of consumption, they dropped it, turned tail and ran.

Susie had only lasted six weeks longer. As soon as she had seen Frank with the arrow through his chest, her eyes had turned glassy and she lost all the will to fight. Mabelle guessed she had only stayed alive long enough to make sure her little sister knew how to run the ranch without them.

She walked to the barn, swinging the door open. “I’m right here, girl,” she soothed Sally, the jersey cow, who shifted and snorted, anxious to give milk. “I know, you’ve been waiting for me, haven’t you?”

Sally lifted and lowered her head, eyes bright with anticipation. She laid a hand on the cow’s back to let her know where she stood and scooted her stool to the right position. Pulling on the cow’s full teats, she expressed the warm milk into the pail, sensing the relief in the large animal with each steady tug.

If anyone had asked her two years ago if she would ever milk a cow, she would have snorted in his or her face. A girl from Richmond, Virginia, while not wealthy, she had been comfortably raised as the daughter of an architect. It had been Susie’s husband who had the notion to move out west and homestead, and when he had written last year to tell them Susie had consumption, Mabelle had moved out to nurse her.

Mabelle finished milking and led the cow out to pasture, fed the chickens and went out to walk the fences. She had lost fifteen head of cattle already, and she’d be damned if she would lose any more.

By the time she headed back that afternoon, the sky had darkened to a purple-gray. It looked like a nasty storm was headed her way. She glanced back at the forty steer she still had and hoped they would not be spooked by the storm. She pulled down the brim of her brother-in-law’s cowboy hat, which she had taken to wearing in place of the customary bonnet. With no one around to see her anyway, she found it more practical for keeping off the sun or rain without blocking her peripheral vision. She hunched her shoulders against the first drops that came at an angle, pelting her with a ferocity she did not believe she deserved. She picked up her skirts and ran to the house, not stopping until she had run up the wooden steps and stood under the protection of the porch roof.

Gazing at the blackened sky, a sense of foreboding sent tingles up her spine. Though she did not consider herself superstitious, she had learned to listen to such feelings, because they always boded evil. She shut the door, latching it for the first time since she had moved there.

What she intended to keep out, she did not know.

#

The first drops began and moments later the sky opened up on them, soaking their clothes, their hats providing little protection due to the angle of the pelting drops.

“Look out there,” Jim said, pointing at what appeared to be a small cluster of buildings.

“We can’t go there,” he protested, fearing more innocent lives would be endangered by the ruthless gang of bandits.

Curly gave Sam a withering look. “Oh yes, we can!” he said, spurring his horse and galloping in the direction of the ranch.

Hell!

Part of him wanted to just turn his horse and gallop away from them on the chance he could get out of firing range before they noticed. But it was not fair to whomever lived in that ranch house. They would need his protection against these heartless killers.

The ranch looked small and spartan, but well-kept. Curly led them straight to the barn, where they found the door standing partway open as it swung from broken hinges. It seemed at odds with the orderliness he observed elsewhere on the ranch.

They led the horses in, uninvited. Two horse stalls stood empty, with no sign of having been used recently. A jersey cow looked up from her stall, bleating at the newcomers.

They hobbled the horses and removed the saddles. Jim found a brush and began to curry his mount, crooning softly to the mare.

“Howdy ma’am,” Curly said when the broken barn door swung open and a young woman holding a shotgun appeared. She had thick, dark hair that fell in two braids across her shoulders. Long lashes framed her big doe-eyes and freckles sprinkled across her nose.

She did not answer, just looked them over, face stiff with fear. She took in the guns holstered at the hips of each man and tightened her grip on her shotgun. Sam prayed she would not put her finger on the trigger, because Curly had a quick draw and no qualms with killing anyone who got in his way.

Sam forced a smile. “I hope you don’t mind us barging in like this, ma’am. We were caught in the storm and your barn looked mighty inviting.”

She lowered her weapon. “No…of course not.”

“Well, you gonna ask us in?” Curly demanded.

She stiffened and looked back to him, as if for guidance.

He gave her a half shrug and attempted another smile. “We are wet. It sure would be nice to dry off.”

She swallowed and stepped back from the doorway. “Right. Come on up, then,” she said, looking reluctant.

“I hope your husband’s not caught out in the rain?” he asked as they ran up the porch steps and followed her into the dwelling.

“No. I mean, yes. Well, he is out riding the fence, but I expect him back anytime.”

“Anytime meaning today? Or more like this week?” Curly probed.

She shot a nervous glance at him and a muscle jumped along her jaw. “Could be today, could be tomorrow,” she said in what was clearly a bluff.

Curly grinned. “Well you be sure to thank him for his hospitality,” he drawled, pulling off his boots and removing his wet Stetson. Jim and Scotty followed suit, clomping in and leaving puddles on the floor as they pulled off their wet gear.

“I will,” she said in a thin voice.

The house was simple, consisting of the large main room with the stove and table with four chairs, and a curtained doorway that must lead to the bedroom. Whoever built the ranch house had done a fine job. Though small, the workmanship showed care and no rain leaked from the roof or corners.

Curly walked right over to the pantry and began to rummage through her food stuffs. “What’s for supper?”

Her hands balled into fists at her sides, color flooded her cheeks. She reached for the shotgun she had leaned against the door, and he met her hand, closing his fingers over hers on the barrel to prevent her from lifting it.

When her eyes shot to his, he gave a small shake of his head.

Her nostrils flared. “What do you men want?” she demanded.

#

The man at her pantry whirled to face her, a wicked grin on his face. “Why, what do you mean? Ain’t it proper to offer a meal and a place to sleep to strangers passing through?”

“I don’t like the looks of you,” she said, fear coursing through her. She opened her fingers to tug them out from under the tall man’s grasp. She found him most chilling. The other three she had known were no good, but somehow she had half-trusted the tall, good-looking one. And his betrayal now made her angry.

The grin vanished from the wily-looking one and he crossed the room and leaned his bearded face into hers. “Is that so?”

She sensed warning from her companion, but she did not heed it. “You can sleep in the barn, but you aren’t staying here,” she said, planting her hands on her hips.

He drew his arm up to backhand her, but the man beside her caught it mid-swing. The other two men in the room drew their guns before she could even blink, pointing them at the tall man.

“Easy, boys,” he said in the same conciliatory tone he had used with her out in the barn. “I have no quarrel with Curly, but where I come from, you don’t hit a woman in the face.”

“Oh yeah?” the curly-haired man said, a sneer on his face. “Where do you hit a woman, then?”

The man hesitated a beat, then replied, “On her backside, where you can’t do any lasting damage.”

“That so? Why don’t you show us how it’s done, then, Pride.”

The tension already rippling through the room grew, not only from her, but from the man called Pride as well.

“All right,” he said, taking her elbow. “I’ll take care of the girl. But it will be in private.”

She yanked her arm back, but he held fast, tugging her toward the bedroom. The man called Curly trailed behind them, a mad leer on his face. She struggled against her captor, but he managed her easily, deftly trapping one of her arms against her chest as he picked her up by the waist and carried her the rest of the way.

“Easy,” he murmured in her ear, but did not release her.

Sitting on the bed, he tipped her across one of his knees, clamping his other leg over both of hers before she could kick herself off.

“Let me go!” she screeched, squirming against his hold as he flipped her skirt and petticoats up her back.

He rested his large palm on her pantalet-covered backside. “Get out,” he said, a commanding bite to his voice.

“You think you’re the boss here?” the man called Curly demanded.

“No. But I’m managing the woman and I want a little privacy.”

“I see,” the man drawled, his tone changing. “Maybe we’ll all have a turn with her.”

“No.” His voice was hard. “No one’s having a turn with her. I’m going to teach her to mind her manners, and she’s going to make us supper. End of story.”

She stopped all struggle, paying attention to the strain between the two men, holding her breath to hear who would win the contest of wills. She sensed rage from the man in the doorway—the sort of mad rage that did not care about consequences, but Pride had an indomitable command. The air crackled between them, neither moving or speaking. After what seemed an eternity, she heard the floor creak as if Curly had walked away. Although with nothing but a curtain separating the two rooms, privacy was relative.

Before she could resume her struggle to free herself, her captor’s hand cracked down on her bottom.

“Ow!” she exclaimed, though it had not hurt so very much. It was more the indignity of it that enraged her. I’m going to teach her to mind her manners. Where did he get off?

“The louder you yell, the better,” the man said in a low conspiratorial voice, bringing his hand down again.

By the third smack, she realized the spanking was only for show and he wanted her to make it sound like it really hurt. He probably thought she would be grateful for saving her from the crazy one, but she did not find his chosen solution amusing in the least. The humiliating position stung her pride and she did not intend to take a spanking symbolic or real without a fight.

“Let go of me!” she hollered, bucking her hips around in an attempt to free herself from his firm grasp.

He spanked harder.

She reached back, trying to smack his face with her hand. He caught both her wrists and bent them behind her back, immobilizing them in his large grip as he continued the steady slaps. She twisted her head, squirming her upper body around until she drew close enough to his body, where she managed to sink her teeth into his side.

“Ow!” He jumped and grasped her braid to jerk her head away. She did not think she had drawn blood, but she knew the bite must have hurt.

“Now you really are getting a spanking,” he muttered, yanking the slit in her pantalets open to bare her bottom to his view.

“No!” she shrieked, squirming with all her might as his hand cracked down on her bare flesh, ten times harder than it had before. “No! Ouch!”

He spanked fast and mean, on and on and though she continued to fight him, she lost any hope of escaping his steel grasp.

“You bastard!” she screamed.

“That’s right, I am a bastard,” he said, never pausing in his continuous flurry of spanks. “I’m the bastard who is giving you a spanking, little hellcat.”

Pure fire heated her bottom and she began to panic, as it seemed he had no intention of ever stopping. But she would be damned if she would apologize or beg.

Clamping her jaws together, she tensed her shoulders and stopped struggling, hunkering down to endure the remainder of the spanking. He seemed to take it as a surrender, because he stopped abruptly, yanking her to her feet with him. He stood chest to chin with her, his powerful hands gripping her shoulders.

“I hate you!” she hissed, cursing herself for sounding like a petulant child.

He gave her a little shake and leaned down to speak to her in a low, angry tone. “You can hate me all you want, but those men are dangerous. They will shoot you at the drop of a hat. I am doing my best to protect you!”

She thrust her chin forward. “Well, I do not approve of your methods!”

He relaxed his grip, a trace of humor flashing across his face. “No, I don’t imagine you do,” he said, one corner of his lips turning up.

She huffed and stormed past him, although her dramatic exit lost its punch when she entered the room of vipers, who had all just heard her getting her bottom spanked like a naughty child. Her face burned almost as much as her backside as she stormed to the pantry and began to rummage around.

The truth was, she did not have anything to serve them for supper. She had been subsisting mostly on eggs and dairy, trying to conserve the flour and cornmeal. The jars of food Susie had canned last summer had long since been eaten, and she did not know how to kill and butcher one of the animals, so she had put off attempting it on her own.

She had two eggs, some milk and butter and the flour. Sensing the presence of Pride behind her, she muttered, “I could see if there are any more eggs out in the coop and make flapjacks.”

“I’ll go,” he offered, striding to the doorway where he had left his boots neatly lined up on the mat next to hers.

She had wanted to go to escape the scene in the house, but he probably did not trust her to return without a weapon or go for help.

“I had better show you,” she said, realizing she did not want to be stuck alone with the outlaws, either.

She slipped on her own boots and put her brother-in-law’s Stetson hat on her head, dashing out into the rain to the coop.

“I am sorry about all this,” he said when they were inside, taking her aback.

She knew to enter the coop quietly, and Buddy, the crazy rooster was used to her, but at the sound of the deep voice, the cock flew up protectively, charging them with wings flapping and sharp claws flying.

She gave a little scream, as she had always been afraid of the stupid cock, and the tall stranger thrust her behind him and snatched up the rooster by his neck, snapping it in one quick motion.

She stared, her jaw hanging open.

“Looks like we are having chicken for breakfast tomorrow.”

“You killed him!” she said indignantly, her hands on her hips.

“Yes, ma’am, I did. And I did you a favor. That cock was too aggressive.”

Since she didn’t know the first thing about roosters, she merely stomped over to the hens and began to search their nests. She found two more eggs. Turning to leave the coop she stopped in her tracks.

Pride leaned against the door, swinging the rooster by its feet, blocking her exit.

“My name is Sam, Sam Pride.”

She met his eyes, then looked away. She truly did not want to make friends with this man but it would take effort to resist his charisma. He had a way about him that turned her knees weak, charming, confident and take-charge. Not to mention handsome, with sapphire blue eyes contrasting with brown hair, and a dimple in his chin.

“Mabelle Lawson,” she gritted.

“Mabelle, listen. I am sorry about that spanking, and I regret barging in on you like this. I can’t control those men, but I promise I will do my best to keep you from getting hurt.”

She rolled the eggs around each other in her palm. “Thank you,” she said grudgingly.

Still, he did not move to unblock the doorway.

“You have a lot of pluck. I don’t know what you’re doing here all by yourself, but I admire you for it.”

“My husband’s coming back.”

He stopped her with a little shake of his head. “You and I both know no one is coming.”

A shiver ran up her spine. How did he know that? The momentary trust growing between them ebbed away. Just because he said he meant to protect her, did not mean he would. She had no reason to believe he was any different from the men inside.

#

Something about the feisty little spitfire made him want to defend her to the death. Her cheeks had flushed pink, and her lips were parted as if she meant to say something, but had forgotten. They were berry colored, and full. He wanted to drag his own mouth over hers and taste them. And he had a feeling a woman like her would be a wildcat in bed.

She tossed a braid over her shoulder and considered him. “Are you going to move or are we going to stand here like this all day?”

He grinned. “Am I going to have to spank you again, or can you mind your temper in there and not get yourself killed?”

She looked sullen. “I’ll mind it,” she grumbled.

He stepped aside and swung the door open, allowing her to slip past him. She gathered her calico skirts up in one hand to run across the mud pools to the porch, the fabric pulled taut across her backside, reminding him of the sight of that delectable anatomy bared to his view. Of course, he did not want her to endanger herself, but he would not mind if she sassed him a bit more in private. Bringing her to heel would be a privilege, rather than a chore.

He walked to the water pump and filled the bucket there, carrying it and the unfortunate rooster back to the ranch house.

He tossed the rooster on the table where the men sat and handed Scotty a tin cup. “Slit its throat and let the blood run into this,” he instructed.

Scotty gave him a dubious look, but as a follower by nature, he did as instructed.

He started to order Mabelle to heat the water in a pot for him, but then thought twice and did it himself, not wanting to tempt her into an altercation in front of the boys. As they stood side by side at the stove, her sleeve brushed his. She snapped her head to look at him, a mixture of surprise and something else on her face.

His skin tingled with pleasure at the nearness of her, so close he could smell the rain in her hair. He started to reach for a braid, wanting to feel it between his fingers, but she stepped back, looking away.

He knew only a fool would torture himself with thoughts about Mabelle Lawson at a time like this. He was a dead man, with a five hundred dollar bounty on his head, running with a band of outlaws who would get him killed in less than a week. He had no business sniffing at Mabelle’s door.

“All right boys,” Mabelle said, flipping the last flap jack onto a plate and slinging it in the middle of the table. “Plates are up there,” she said, pointing at the shelf behind them.

The men attacked the food, hungry after eating nothing but squirrel for the past two days.

She had set fresh butter on the table and they slathered it on, the milk fat melting into rivers of golden goodness as they shoveled the fluffy cakes into their mouths. Sam ate half his stack before he realized Mabelle had none. She stood off to the side, her arms folded across her chest, looking uncomfortable. There were only four chairs for the table, and even if she had a chair, no flap jacks remained on the serving plate.

He stood up, his gentlemanly instincts returning. “Mabelle, please,” he said, swallowing the food in his mouth and indicating the chair and his half-eaten meal.

“No,” she said with a little shake of her head, but she eyed the pancakes hungrily.

“I’ll eat ’em,” Scotty offered, reaching for them.

He yanked them out of the outlaw’s reach. “Not you,” he said, giving Scotty a withering look. He put an arm around Mabelle’s waist and guided her to his chair, pulling it out and plunking her down. “Eat.”

She glared up at him, but when she saw his grin, the tension in her face eased. “I would say ‘thank you’, but there is no cause to thank you for my own food,” she muttered.

“You’re welcome,” he chirped with exaggerated cheeriness.

“I woulda said ‘thank you’,” Scotty grumbled.

A dimple appeared on Mabelle’s cheek, the suppressed mirth transforming her face. The sight of it made him hungry to tease out a real smile, to see her beautiful countenance free of strain and sorrow.

The water on the stove began to boil and he dropped the rooster into the pot.

Mabelle looked at him dubiously. “Weren’t you supposed to pluck it first?”

He laughed. “Is that why you have nothing but pancakes to offer us? You don’t know how to prepare a chicken?”

She flushed and stood up, picking up the empty plates without answering him.

“The flapjacks were good,” Curly observed, “but next time make more.”

She rolled her eyes as she walked to the washtub and dropped the dishes in, then stood beside him, peering into the pot. Her arms crossed her chest, but he sensed a softening in her, as if she wanted to learn, but just could not admit herself lacking.

“You boil it first, then dunk it in a pot of cold water. Makes it easier to pluck. This full-grown cock will be a little tough, so I’m thinking once the feathers are removed, we should boil it overnight to soften it up. It will make a tasty breakfast.”

She lifted her long-lashed eyes to his face, studying him.

“How long have you been alone here?” he asked softly, so the other men wouldn’t hear

She drew back, her lips tightening.

When she opened her mouth, he cut her off. “Come on, Mabelle, the truth this time.”

Sorrow flitted across her face and he instantly regretted pushing her.

“Never mind,” he said.

Picking up the bucket, he headed back out in the rain to fill it for the cold water dunking. Darkness had fallen, the stars blackened by the clouds. The rain had settled to a steady drizzle, the wind no longer forcing it to fly at an angle.

Mabelle needed him. Not just to protect her from the Curly Jones gang, but she needed a man to run her little ranch. He pretended for a moment he could stay, filling those shoes for her. But the thought of running a ranch brought back the pain of his own bitter loss and he gave his head a shake to clear it.

Cowboy Disipline 6

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Posted by on August 29, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

The Cowboy Discipline Box Set Stars USA Bestseller Vanessa Vale and The Lawman!

Five full-length novels by five USA Bestsellers all bundled together in one fabulously priced Western anthology! Who can resist a five-for-one bargain? Especially when it involves five alpha cowboys unafraid to either spank or love the lady of their dreams. Available now!

Cowboy Disipline 5

The first in her Montana Men series, introducing Will Ryder and Ellen Oldsmere in The Lawman!

Blurb:

Ellen Oldsmere, becomes a mail order bride for a complete stranger in the Montana Territory, fleeing Minneapolis. Her new husband is all that she’d imagined: handsome, virile and sexually skilled. But he’s also the town sheriff and would surely arrest her if he found out her secret.

Ryder Graves is determined to find a bride of his choosing, wanting more than what is available in town. When Eleanor arrives, she meets all of his expectations, but is not all she seems. Will he still want her when he learns the truth, or will his passion for the law make her face the consequences of her actions?

Sample Chapter:

Ellen

I was to be the first. First out of the ridiculous sanctuary of this bumpy, stuffy, uncomfortable stagecoach and into the keeping of a complete stranger. Until death do us part. We had endured the arduous ride from Ft. Mandan – Caroline, Emily and me – and had become close friends, a sisterhood of sorts in our mutual fears of the life-changing decisions to become mail order brides.

“Just think, if we hadn’t gone to Mrs. Bidwell’s office, we never would have met,” Caroline said in her soft lilt. She matched her voice – petite and shy.

Emily grasped her hand. “I couldn’t agree more.” She turned and shared her somewhat reassuring smile with me. “Although now that we’re almost to August Point, I fear for you, Eleanor.”

My stomach leapt toward my throat, not from another rut in the hard packed ground, but from the thought that soon, only minutes from now, I’d meet my husband. All three of us had wed by proxy in Mrs. Bidwell’s office in Minneapolis to men in the far off Montana territory – men who had written to the older woman whose business was to find single, eligible and willing women to move west and marry complete strangers.I had no doubt finding women–unmarried and of childbearing age – in a wild and untamed land was a veritable impossibility. My new husband might be desperate, but not such as I.

Fleeing town wasn’t a simple fancy of mine. Being questioned for murder – even if I was innocent – had me seeking the easiest avenue of escape. It had been self-defense; Allen Simmons had been intent on raping me. Bashing him on the head with a rock had only been to stop his assault, not kill him. Of course, his rich, socialite family would paint their son the victim, not me. There was no question the police gave their name substantial clout. I had none. I was just a plain woman he’d met at church and decided to court. Then one day, he’d decided that courting wasn’t enough. He’d wanted more, much more than I’d been willing to give. I had no recourse, no way to save myself other than to flee before they found me and pinned his death on me.

Remembering a posting for mail order brides I’d seen once in the wanted section of the newspaper, I’d taken bold and furtive steps to Mrs. Bidwell’s office as my means of escape. I had no choice, no alternative but to leave Minneapolis, to run as far away from the Simmons family as I could get. With little means, I could only get so far on my own. Being a mail order bride offered me the distance and the safety of obscurity. I invented a new name, Eleanor Adams, instead of my real name, Ellen Oldsmere, to prevent being followed, and to keep my travels across the country hidden from anyone wishing to follow. In the small confines of Mrs. Bidwell’s office, petrified of being found, I’d met Caroline and Emily straightaway. Quickly matched to eager men, we were wed by proxy and before the ink was dry on the licenses, we were on our way to the West and new lands, new lives and new husbands.

I’d found myself looking over my shoulder the entire journey, fearful of being followed. Even as the distance grew, I remained wary and guarded about being hauled back to Minneapolis in handcuffs. It wasn’t until the stagecoach driver yelled out that August Point was five minutes away that reality set in. I wasn’t just escaping the Simmons family; I was meeting my husband.

“Fear for me?” I hadn’t told the others of my illicit reasons for becoming a mail order bride; it was something of which I could never speak. “You are in a similar predicament, Emily, meeting a perfect stranger.” The woman was lush and curvy with thick dark hair and equally dark eyes. She was quite beautiful, and if her new husband based Mrs. Bidwell’s efforts on visage alone, the man would find her matchmaking skills exceptional. “I have both of you to send me off to see the man to whom I am matched. You have Caroline, and of course Caroline will be quite alone.”

I was to disembark at August Point, Emily at the next stop on the line in Lewistown and Caroline a little further in Apex. We only knew our husband’s names and destination.

Mine was engraved upon my mind. Ryder Graves. August Point.

I turned my gaze from the faces of my concerned friends and glanced out the open flap which let in the fresh air and an equally fair amount of dust. The land was verdant and green, the tall grass blowing in soft waves against the summer breeze. The sky was blue, dotted with fluffy clouds – nothing unusual for a beautiful day. What was unusual was that the sky went on forever. The vastness of it was impressive, so big, so…open. Urban life did not lend itself to any form of scenery. The few times I ventured into the country, trees abounded and blocked any kind of view. Here, only a few trees were to be seen and they hugged the banks of a river or creek, wise in their placement besides the constant nourishment.

Was I as smart as a rogue tree? My ridiculous comparison had me shaking my head, returning to reality. Was I venturing into an unknown that was worse than my options in Minneapolis? Could being married to a stranger in a strange land be worse than a Minneapolis brothel? Unfortunately, the answer was a definite yes.

What was Mr. Ryder Graves like? Was he handsome? Kind? Successful? For all I knew of the man, he was a lush with seven children. Perhaps he would beat me. Perhaps he smelled.

“August Point!” the driver shouted, his voice irascible and abrupt. He didn’t care about our fates, only the end of the line where he’d rest, get fresh horses, and then make a return trip.

The pounding of the horses’ hooves matched the frantic beating of my heart. My palms became damp and sweat dotted my brow. What had I chosen for myself? Panic set in, making it difficult to breathe. There was no escape. There was literally nowhere to go but into my destiny.

I darted a glance at the other two women trying to wear a brave face; their own turns soon followed and I didn’t want them to become upset. We all leaned forward to look out the window and to get our first glimpse of the town, and my husband. No doubt our three heads poking out was a sight to see!

The town that came into view was small – tiny, really – with only a long row of clapboard buildings with a church steeple in the distance. Houses dotted the horizon. Several people were going about their day, shopping and working, but only one stood in front of the stopped stage.

Oh my. I swallowed my nervousness as best I could. This had to be Mr. Graves. Who else would be waiting?

“That’s…him?” Caroline whispered, eyes wide. “He’s so, um, big!”

 “He’s not sixty, Eleanor. That was one of your worries,” Emily replied, speaking in quiet tones.

Most definitely not. Thirty, perhaps. I started at his dusty, work worn boots and worked my way up his very male body. His legs were long and lean, thigh muscles thick and taut beneath snug pants. Narrow waist. A white shirt with the sleeves rolled up showed tanned, corded forearms sprinkled with sandy colored hair. Big hands. Oh my.

His shoulders were so wide; this man would loom over me like a veritable giant! His face was hidden in shadow beneath a wide brimmed hat, but I could see a square jaw, darkened by a new growth of whiskers. His hair curled from beneath the hat to touch the collar of his shirt. Just looking at the man had my heart beating fast once again, and this time not in nervousness. Many of my wonderings over the hard packed miles about my new husband were instantly wiped away, like a wet cloth across a school slate. He didn’t have a paunch, nor jowls. He wasn’t shorter than I. He appeared to have his hair and most likely his teeth as well. He wasn’t elderly, and no children were clinging to him.

What he was was very handsome. Bigger than men in Minneapolis, clearly hard working, weather worn and he somehow met every visceral need my body desired in a husband. Nothing like Allen Simmons. My body responded to the mere sight of him with familiar stirrings I felt and encouraged alone in bed when my fingers played with the secret spot between my thighs. I was attracted to him in a way I’d never felt with a man before – and I hadn’t even seen his eyes!

Before the three of us could ogle further, he stepped up and opened the stage door, the remainder of the kicked up dust settling at his feet. He removed his hat. Leaning his head in, he took in the three of us in turn. “Miss Adams?”

Oh my. His eyes were the lightest shade of blue, like ice on a Minnesota pond. His hair was a light brown with hints of gold, as if burnished by the sun. I wondered if it would feel as silky soft as it looked.

My mouth was so dry at the sight of him I couldn’t speak at first, even forgot what my new name was. Eleanor. I was Eleanor now. I shifted forward on the hard wood seat just as Caroline and Emily each grabbed one of my arms and pushed me forward. I stumbled a bit awkwardly and blurted, “Yes.” I cleared my throat. “Mr. Graves, I presume?”

He grinned, showing straight white teeth as he looked me over, just as I had him. I couldn’t be making an exceptional first impression; I was travel weary and dusty. My hair was twisted up only as securely as the pins that bound it. The jarring of the stage for hours on end had sent tendrils escaping and falling down over my shoulders. I felt weary and I knew I looked just so.

“Yes, ma’am. Let me help you down. McCallister is stopping only long enough to get your bags before continuing on. He turned to my companions. “Ladies,” he said the last as he nodded to Emily and Caroline in greeting. Clearly he was familiar with the stagecoach driver to call him by his given name.

I took his proffered hand, mine so small and dainty in his large one. I could feel callouses on his palm, yet his skin was warm and his hold gentle. I looked up into his eyes and my breath caught in my throat. He was…virile. Something dark flared in his eyes and it had my nipples hardening beneath my corset. I wished I could peer into his mind at this moment to know his thoughts. Were they as carnal as mine?

I alighted the stage to bright sunshine and fresh air. Mr. Graves was so much taller that I had to tilt my head back to hold his gaze. Without the protection of his hat, his face was open to my gaze. He had a striking brow, making his fair eyes even more intense. His nose had a slight crook in the bridge, as if it had once been broken. The slight imperfection only added to his ruggedly handsome features. His mouth was full and the smile he shared with me was warm and, dare I say, friendly?

“Eleanor!” Caroline called out from behind me.

My eyes widened as I realized how quickly I’d forgotten about the two other women. “Oh, I must say goodbye to my friends.”

Mr. Graves released his hold on my hand and I turned back to the stage. Mr. McCallister handed my bag to Mr. Graves – it was all of the meager possessions I had from my hasty departure – -and remounted the front to continue on to the next stop.

“Will I see you again?” I asked them, worried that I would be completely alone for the long term.

Both women nodded their heads, blonde and dark tresses stirring. “Of course! We’re nearby, in Montana Territory standards. Once settled, we’ll send word to each other. All right?” Emily looked at both Caroline and me, resolute. She was the stalwart one of the three of us, sure in her thoughts.

“Yes,” I replied, trying to be as positive as she.

“Of course,” Caroline murmured, wiping a tear from her eye. I feared for her more than Emily in her new life, sensitive and quiet as she was.

Emily leaned forward. “I hope my husband is as appealing as yours.” Her eyes gleamed with amusement and a hint of envy as she glanced briefly over my shoulder to look at Mr. Graves. “I have a good feeling about him, Eleanor,” she whispered.

I had a feeling about him, too, and it felt akin to lust.

Mr. McCallister flicked the reins and the stage lurched forward. Mr. Graves stepped up and slammed the door shut, preventing the ladies from toppling out, even as he pulled me back from the path of the large wheels. My traveling companions waved from the window and I was soon left alone with my husband – my very large, very handsome husband. I slowly turned to face him. This time I noticed something I had missed before – an important detail that took me by surprise now that I stood facing with it. My eyes widened and I felt the frantic beat of my heart. Pinned to my new husband’s broad chest was a tin star. I was married to the town sheriff.

Cowboy Disipline 6

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Posted by on August 28, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

5 Previously Released Westerns Brought Together In 1 Box Set!

Cowboy Disipline 8

 

Cowboy Discipline. Five authors, five previously released Western romances revolving around love and discipline on the home front, all for the price of one book. These aren’t short stories. They are full length novels by USA Best Sellers Vanessa Vale, Renee Rose, Lee Savino, Patty Devlin and myself. If you haven’t had the chance to read any one of these stories, then now is your chance. If you haven’t read two or more of these stories, this is a bargain you can’t miss!

Check them out:

Cowboy Disipline 2

Patty Devlin – Mail Order Switch

Liz will do anything to get away from her evil guardian, and she was prepared to disguise herself as a boy and look for work as a ranch hand. When Caroline, a stranger on the train next to her, sees through her “boy” disguise, and begs her to take her place as a mail-order bride, Liz doesn’t hesitate long before saying yes. It’s got to be easier than working on a ranch, and as a married woman with a new name, she’ll be out of her guardian’s clutches forever.

Wade Malone has been looking forward to his new bride for months, but when “Caroline” finally arrives, things don’t exactly add up. For one, “Caroline” was supposed to be twenty-five years old; the woman who came off the train doesn’t look a day above sixteen. He has a strong aversion to liars, particularly in a wife. But he’s also a man who keeps his promises and whoever the woman is at his side, he’s made a commitment.

 

Cowboy Disipline 3

Lee Savino – Rocky Mountain Rose

A cowboy with a broken heart. A dancing girl who’s sworn off men. Love blooms in the hardest hearts in the Wild West.

Feisty and independent, Rose is a dancing girl in the Wild West. When an evil brothel owner lays claim to her, it’s up to Lyle Wilder to rescue the jaded redhead. Lyle vows to protect Rose, even if he has to drag her kicking and screaming to safety. His firm discipline keeps his wild rose from danger, but can he convince her to let love grow?

 

Cowboy Disipline 4

Renee Rose – The Outlaw’s Bride

A spitfire rancher. The dominant outlaw who takes her in hand.

Stranded in the west, Mabelle’s been managing her dead sister’s ranch alone for three months. The last thing she needs is the Curly James Gang pushing her around. She fights back, and finds herself over an outlaw’s knee.

She wants to hate the good-looking outlaw, but he seems to have her best interest at heart and even risks his life to protect her from the rest of the gang. Still, a quick-to-spank outlaw with a bounty on his head isn’t the sort of man for her. Or is he?

 

Cowboy Disipline 5

Vanessa Vale – The Lawman

Ellen Oldsmere, becomes a mail order bride for a complete stranger in the Montana Territory, fleeing Minneapolis. Her new husband is all that she’d imagined: handsome, virile and sexually skilled. But he’s also the town sheriff and would surely arrest her if he found out her secret.

Ryder Graves is determined to find a bride of his choosing, wanting more than what is available in town. When Eleanor arrives, she meets all of his expectations, but she is not all she seems. Will he still want her when he learns the truth, or will his passion for the law make her face the consequences of her actions?

 

Cowboy Disipline 1

Maren Smith – Life After Rachel

Can grief cut deeper than love can heal?

There weren’t many folks who’d equate an Indian war party to a miracle, but Reverend John White did. He believed in miracles; it went with the job. But this particular miracle…well, it was a doozy and her name was Ane, the only surviving member of a doomed westward-bound wagon train.

In the span of a single day, the young Norwegian woman had lost her entire family, her husband, even her infant daughter. Having been in America for less than a month, she couldn’t even speak her rescuers’ language, but the Lord worked in mysterious ways and necessity had a way of making itself clear no matter what the obstacles.

So off Ane went, to a hardscrabble farm a few miles out of Redemption to care for the baby who needed her to survive and for the heart-broken man who, fight it though he tried, needed her even more.

 

Cowboy Disipline 9

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Posted by on August 28, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

Travel Day 3

What happened to Day 2, you ask? Well, I’ll tell you. Day 1, 2 and for all of today, I have had ZERO internet access. My freakin’ (and I say this lovingly) laptop has decided it’s not going to connect. Right up until I get to a hotel that offers free tech support with their connection service. I tried three times to connect and then called. No sooner does the lady on the other end introduce herself to me than do I get instant connection.

“Shit!” my laptop said (I could hear it). “She’s called tech support. She must really be serious!”

Cussed laptop.

We have made excellent time on this trip and (knock on wood) so far everything is going really nicely. We’re exhausted. Robin’s incredibly exhausted, but we’ll be in New Hampshire tomorrow and then we’ll have four days of non-stop rest and writing in which to recover before beginning the trip back home. I’m really looking forward to meeting some of the authors I’ve worked and Facebooked with for the last many years. Now I get to see their faces! Yay!

Right now we’re in New York. Liverpool, to be precise. I got to visit with Dinah McLeod for a couple hours, but it wasn’t long enough. I wish I could have stayed longer, but I was so tired and I could tell Robin and Laura weren’t going to be awake much longer. So we had to call it an early night.

We did do some sightseeing. We went to Niagara Falls, but we couldn’t get parking close enough to do more than glimpse the water as we drove by. Never saw the Falls at all, sadly. I’m going to have to come back someday and get an earlier start. I have to say, it wasn’t what I expected. Admittedly, my mental picture of Niagara is pretty much what I remember from the original Superman movie when Lois Lane took a dive over the rails and he had to swoop in and rescue her. There’s a whole tourist trap city built up around that thing and a casino… yeah, a casino, right there on the water where all the decent parking ought to be. I don’t remember those from the movie. Frankly, it should be a felony to go to someplace as wonderful as Niagara Falls only to sequester yourself in a smoky casino and barely (if at all) look at the water. You can’t see anything from inside a casino!

Of course, I suppose the argument could be made that you could throw money into Niagara all you wanted, but the water won’t throw it back at you, either. So… touche.

By the time we got there, all the parking lots were full and blocked off so no more cars could be received. We drove around the tourist trap for about 15 minutes and when we finally found another place to park, it was too far from the water for Robin to walk there, much less back again. They had shuttles, but the parking could only be paid for for a maximum of 1 hour and that was nowhere near enough time to get there, look at the Falls, and shuttle back again before our time expired. So we swallowed our disappointment and made the incredibly grownup decision to park for an hour and at least look around. We got some nice pics of us with some big animals at the Rain Forest cafe. We visited the Barnes & Noble Culinary Institute, which is FANCY as HELL (and also lets the public sneak in and use the bathroom if you buy a canoli on the way out). And there’s a haunted house! Yes, we paid our fees and walked inside, and it was awesome! I’ve got pictures there, too. The most memorable was of the massive T-Rex head with the human arm hanging out of its mouth. I so need one of those in my bedroom.

Today was also the first day we got stuck in traffic. It only lasted about four miles (i.e. about forty minutes), but my sister caught six Pokemon while I was driving, so it wasn’t a complete waste of time.

The funniest thing about New York is their Turnpike rest stops. These are some fancy ass stops, and I wasn’t the only one taken aback by all the shiny wonders to be had in those bathrooms. I mean, they’ve got restaurants in those things. Well, not IN the bathrooms. Those are outside of them. But there’s gift shops, restaurants, gas stations, and yes, fancy FANCY bathrooms. Like I said, I wasn’t the only one who noticed. I was washing my hands next to two women and their kids. One kept asking the kids to show her how the faucets worked, and the soap dispenser, and finally the towel dispenser. Well, I actually had that one down, so I piped up and told her, “Just wave your hand in front of it and it’ll spit paper at you.”

Now, if I hadn’t been so tired, I’d have recognized she was teasing the kids. She turned to me and mouthed, “I know,” and kind of laughed. At which point I got the joke.

“Sorry,” I said. “I’ve been driving for three days and I’m really tired. Plus, I’m from Kansas. We’re still showing each other how to use the indoor plumbing.”

I’m signing off to get some sleep. Tomorrow, New Hampshire!

We’re going to be back in Pennsylvania in the Philly area on the 10th. Anyone know where we can get some good Scrapple?

 
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Posted by on August 5, 2016 in Uncategorized

 
 
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