Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Available Now: Unholy Alliance by Kathleen Rowland

Donahue Cousins series, #2
Kathleen Rowland


(99c/99p through 2 April)
A decade ago, Tori Rourke, and her cousin, Vivienne, ran from the Irish mob after witnessing a brutal murder. Tori was framed by the mob, and while she served time in prison, she worried that the killer, Seamus McGinn, had kidnapped her missing cousin.

Attorney Grady D. Fletcher, defender of the wrongly condemned, appeals Tori’s case and wins her release. Now, going by Victoria Morningstar, she runs a food truck from a seedy waterfront neighborhood, hoping to find her cousin's kidnapper.

When Grady agrees to defend a new client, Samuel Peterson, who’s been accused of beating to death the wife of a noted professor, the evidence mounts. The professor is missing, as well as his laptop that contains data dangerous to national security.

And Seamus McGinn is back, and rumors of a massive annihilation is about to begin. As they race to assist the FBI, the bonds between Grady and Tori are about to be tested. It becomes clear Grady and Tori are falling fast for each other, but what to do about it is a different story. He’s a divorced dad who wants more time with his kid. She brings danger to his front door.

Grady has questions of his own; Is Vivienne at the center of the mob’s operation? How much will it cost Tori before she learns the truth? All Grady knows is the biggest danger is the one standing right behind you.

• • •

Grady stepped out of his Jeep, smoothed down his grey-striped tie and adjusted the cuffs of his white shirt. He let out a breath, spotted Drew Barker of the Los Angeles Globe, and waved to the reporter who was instrumental in sharing his discoveries of fraud and illegal testimony. Other reporters and cameramen shifted and rolled like an ocean of tipsy goodwill. Grady scanned over the waves for Tori Morningstar.

She stood stiffly at the high security entrance and hugged a leather moto jacket wrapped over crossed arms. Dressed in her pre-incarceration style, her defined muscles created a perfect fit for her silk blouse, In prison, she worked the heavy bag, labored hard so that she could protect herself in the yard.

Grady slipped papers into the hands of a guard. “Good morning, sir,” he said without another word, signed his clipboard, and rushed to her side. “Tori. It’s okay to speak to reporters.” The whoop-whoop of a hovering helicopter drew attention, and cameramen angled their equipment upward.

Beside him, she swallowed hard and took a deep breath. “These reporters helped. I’ll answer questions, but the publicity worries me.” She froze where she stood, aware of the potential dangers ahead.

“I know.” Their gazes collided. Her eyes resembled honey-brown gems. Fine cheekbones, a firm chin, and a mouth he found disturbingly inviting. In the sunlight, her dark hair glowed chestnut. She’d skinned her hair back from her face so tightly it had to hurt.

Drew Barker pushed his way in front of the others. “Victoria Morningstar.” The reporter was in his sixties, with a round, open face; wide eyes lent an expression of constant surprise. “Can you tell us what happened the night you were arrested?” He held a microphone close to her face.

“Go ahead. Talk to him, Tori,” Grady whispered.

She stood like a brittle statue. "My cousin and I were having dinner on the Long Beach waterfront. Rhubarb and Ginger, we went there a lot. Seamus McGinn and Timothy Noonan must have tailed us. They’re from Cobh, County Cork." Her words came out in a robotic rush.

“That’s in Ireland.” Grady chuckled for the camera. "For once, Ireland was lucky. Lucky to be rid of them.” He took her ice-cold hand and stepped around Barker, a reporter familiar with McGinn’s government-agro kidnappings. Recovered victims had broken collarbones, fractured limbs, cigarette burns, stab wounds, shattered eye sockets and facial bones, accomplished with a blunt instrument. Casualties had been alive at the time of beatings, with foreign objects jammed down throats. Teeth were found in their stomachs.

“Excuse me.” Another reporter, a tall woman from the Long Beach Beacon, swarmed down on Tori. "So, you saw McGinn and Noonan?"

"Correct." Tori lifted her chin, her vibrant eyes filling with the raw memory. “A half-dozen more stormed in. Carried automatics, ripped through the place. Found the owner, Irene Brennan. Dragged her out."

"The owner refused to pay them for protection,” Barker chimed.

Tori nodded, rubbed her forehead. “Same old deal, a mob upping the ante.”

And then what?" The earnest reporter from the Beacon leaned forward.

"My cousin Viv ran out the back. I was arrested."

“Make room, everybody.” Grady headed for his car, dragging Tori behind him.

Tori shuffled in slow, measured movements, as if shackled.

“One last question, Tori,” Barker called from behind. “You tried to leave the mob. What did they want you to do?"

Tori turned halfway around. "Act as a lure. I refused." She shrugged. “I paid for that decision.”

The woman reporter elbowed Barker out of the way. “Tori. Your lawyer, Daniel McMahon. Didn’t he serve as the mob's lawyer?”

Tori nodded. “Just great for me.” She paused for a few seconds. “I didn’t anticipate a setup.”

The reporter touched her arm. “You’re a fighter. How will you bounce back?”

Tori looked up, her face bleached of color. “I’ll try to accomplish small things. This will help. Little by little, I’ll let go of fear.”

“We’ve got to go, folks.” Grady reached to shake hands with several surrounding him.

Barker popped his thick eyebrows up. “Glad things worked out.”

“Thank you for following the case.” Grady placed a hand on Tori’s trembling back and walked her to the passenger side of his Jeep.

She halted mid-motion. “Where to?”

• • •

Book Buyers Best finalist, Kathleen Rowland, is devoted to giving her readers fast-paced, high-stakes suspense with a sizzling love story sure to melt their hearts. Kathleen used to write computer programs but now writes novels.She grew up in Iowa, where she caught lightning bugs, ran barefoot, and raced her sailboat on Lake Okoboji. Kathleen now happily exists with her witty CPA husband, Gerry, in their 70’s poolside retreat in Southern California, where she adores time spent with visiting grandchildren, dogs, one bunny, and noisy neighbors. While proud of their five children who’ve flown the coop, she appreciates the luxury of time to write while listening to characters’ demanding voices in her head.

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Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Available Now: A Vampire's Tale by Maya Tyler

Maya Tyler


(99c/99p through 26 March)
The best laid plans…

Marisa Clements was never satisfied writing the ‘gossip column’ in the local paper and she quit her job to follow her dream of writing fiction. Floundering in an unforgiving industry, she wrote about vampires, a popular subject she considered fascinating but as real as unicorns, to pay the rent.

Corgan was tired of human misconceptions about vampires and ‘living’ as a vampire. He planned to tell Marisa his story and end his existence. It was no coincidence Corgan selected Marisa to write his story. With the ability to see the future, he knew she would be a major part of it. He knew if they met, she would help him die, but in doing so, she’d be doomed to the same fate. Once they met, their futures would be irrevocably intertwined.

Corgan began to care for Marisa and finally revealed the truth to her. He admitted his quest to atone for his past sins had put her in grave danger from a nest of revenge-seeking vampires. Corgan must claim her for her own protection. But claiming her is not enough, he must ask for help from his wizard friends and his maker in order to destroy his enemy or Marisa will never be safe.

• • •

Under the cover of dusk, the city lights came alive. Her view, slightly obstructed by the rickety fire escape, did not keep her from seeing the flashing neon signs lining the street below.

That’s it. She’d wasted hours on this novel, immediately deleting every word she typed. The cursor blinked mockingly on the otherwise blank page of her document. Write something. Anything.

With her apartment now shrouded in darkness, intermittently illuminated by the street lights, Marisa Clements lit the white pillar candle on her desk. Its orange flame cast long shadows against the wall. So I can see what I’m not writing. An eclectic mix of music serenaded her from the neighborhood, a reminder of Lincoln Park’s active nightlife, a distinct contrast to her quiet Friday night at home.

The candle flickered and a cold shiver travelled down her spine. Then it came to her. Fingers poised over the keyboard, she typed.

And his eyes glowed with unholy flames.

She squirmed in her chair. Marisa could see the dark stranger, clad in black, standing before her like a real being. He blended with the shadows, the dim room serving as apt camouflage, except for his eyes. They bore straight through her.

What do you mean “like a real being”?

She jumped in her seat. Yikes. A little too real. Alone in her apartment, the voice could only be a figment of her imagination. She shivered with anticipation as her fingers flew over the keys of her beloved laptop. This would be her best story yet. To hell with all the non-believers—her wealthy, socialite parents who’d disowned her when she’d left business school, and the “so-called” friends who told her to get a real job. This was a real job… It paid the bills, after all. Sort of. It paid the minimum balance on her credit card.

Why did people choose the mundane office job—she shuddered—plastering themselves to a desk from nine-to-five? Sitting at a desk to write was completely different. No boss, no stress… No money, if she didn't get her head out of the clouds and back to her latest vamp.

He didn't have a name yet, but he had a face. A dark, mysterious face with a century's worth of secrets. Secrets he would tell her, only her, if she would listen.

Marisa took a deep, calming breath. “I’m listening.” She closed her eyes, waiting. A cool breeze shifted her hair and her eyes popped open. The old floorboards creaked, and she spun her chair around. “Who's there?” The candle blew out. “What the—”

Time—and her heartbeat—stood still. Paranoia set in, the consequence of writing too many vampire stories. She must've left a window open. Or something. She re-lit the candle and turned her attention back to her laptop, staring at the last words she'd typed.

Corgan Halton.

She didn't remember typing that.

“Corgan Halton.” She said the name slowly. “I like that.” She'd written a dozen vampire stories and this would be her best name yet. It had an old-worldly feel to it. Like a real name. She'd better look it up to make sure it wasn't a real name; she didn’t need a lawsuit. Did people sue for name infringement?

“Okay, Corgan Halton. Are you real?” She typed the name into a search engine.

“As real as you are.” The distinctive male voice resonated in the otherwise quiet room.

Marisa froze. She didn't dare turn around. It was her overactive imagination at play. There was no one there. She hoped. Maybe one of her friends? Is this a joke?

“Not a joke, Marisa.”

Gasping, she stood and spun around toward the sound of his voice.

As he stepped out of the shadows, she took in the man before her. Pale with black, curly hair, dressed in an impeccable suit. Dark and intimidating, he stood in her living room, shrinking the already small space.

Exactly as she’d imagined. She conjured him from her imagination? No… This is not happening.

She rubbed her unbelieving eyes. There couldn't actually be anyone there. When did she last eat? Did low blood sugar cause hallucinations?

He smiled at her, and the temperature in the room dropped several degrees.

“Who are you?” she demanded.

“Corgan Halton.” He gave a courtly bow. “At your service.”

No… She stared at him in shocked silence. It isn't possible.

“I assure you, my dear, it's entirely possible.”

“Do you read minds, too?” She held her breath and waited for his reply.

“You tell me. You're the vampire expert.”

Vampire? He’s a vampire?

• • •

Maya Tyler believes in happily ever afters and enjoys writing paranormal romances with an unexpected twist. She's been writing since 2010.

She was first published in August 2012 with her short story "Just For Tonight", part of the anthology With Love from Val and Tyne, published by Breathless Press.

She released her debut paranormal romance novella Dream Hunter, published by Just Ink Press, in December 2014.

As well as her own weekly blog Maya's Musings and monthly Newsletter, she is a regular contributor to The Nuthouse Scribblers blog and #SexySnippets.

She enjoys writing, drinking Starbucks French Roast coffee, and, especially, writing while drinking Starbucks French Roast coffee!

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Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Available Now: Leading the Pack by David J O'Brien

Silver Nights Trilogy, #2
David J. O'Brien


(99c/99p through Sunday 19 March)
Alphas aren't elected; they're self-selected.

Life has been good since Paul McHew left his werewolf pack twenty years ago and married Susan. Patrick is the eldest of their four children and feels the pull of the full moon earlier than his father had.

Patrick itches for the city, but things have changed since his father's time. The economy is booming and everyone has a smart phone. But in a post 9-11 world, where security cameras abound, everyone is being watched.

Patrick must make the city streets his own as the eldest of a new generation. To do that, he must learn to control his own impulses, and those of his pack mates, if he hopes to become their leader.

Encountering a potential mate and facing a definite rival, can Patrick be the alpha everyone expects him to be?

• • •

The man watched the hare graze calmly across the closely-cropped paddock. In the silver light of the full moon, he saw its nose twitch as it scented the wind. Crouching low, he stalked closer.

Off to the left, cattle snuffled; somewhere beyond he heard the click of a deer stepping on a dry twig in the woods. Right of the hare, a badger dug for worms and grubs. He ignored them. He could not easily take down a cow alone. The bull would make it difficult, would come to the cow’s defence, and the herd would mill about him. While he could avoid their horns, he would not be able to suffocate the cow, or bleed it out unaided.

And the man did not want company; not that kind.

The hare would be sufficient to satiate his hunger. For now.

His quarry just ahead, its eyes reflecting the bright moonlight, the man crept forward. His long hair swept over his forehead, closing off much of his peripheral vision. Though naked, the thick hair that covered his chest and extended over his back and shoulders insulated him from the breeze.

He felt the soft grass stems between his toes, digging into them for a greater grip on the soil beneath.

The hare turned away from him. The vision that might have helped warn it of the naked human’s approach was at its weakest, and the man took advantage of that.

He pounced.

The next thing he was aware of was kneeling on the ground, the dead animal in his hands. Its neck was broken, its ribs crushed. A small trickle of blood dripped from its nostrils.

The man could not remember how it happened. It had taken place too quickly for him to have time to think about it, for it to register in his consciousness.

There was only action; automatic and reflexive.

The hand and the body, were, indeed, quicker than the eye. The information had reached his brain, but not the part involved in conscious thought. It looped through the cerebellum and brain stem back to his muscles as they powered him forward upon the unsuspecting animal.

Only when the body’s work was complete and the prey caught, did the brain once more return to the luxury of thinking, allowing the man to surmise the events. He had run four yards faster than his thoughts could keep up and grabbed the animal as it started to flee. He’d dived upon it and pinned it to the ground with the full weight of his body. Death had been instantaneous.

The man lifted himself up and held the limp animal by the ears. He exposed the throat. With his two left canines he ripped a hole through the soft skin. Blood started to drip. He put the opening to his mouth and sucked up the flowing liquid. Then he lifted the body up over his head and raised his mouth to drink it all, taking the legs between his fingers and pulling, to push the blood through the limbs and torso.

When the corpse ceased dripping, he put his fingers through the hole and ripped off the head, tossing it aside. Then he pulled the skin back off the muscles in one piece. The animal skinned, he bit into the muscular back legs and tore off strips of raw meat. Barely chewing, he swallowed hard on the flesh and walked through the paddock under the moonlight.

He caught the scent of the cattle and deer on the wind and, coming from the other side of a hill, heard the neigh of a horse, then a long, drawn out howl. He grinned to himself. The blood still on his lips dripped to his chin.
The animal consumed and his stomach filled, the man wondered what to do now that particular desire had been satiated.

A voice whispered to him.

• • •

David J O'Brien was born and raised in Dun Laoghaire, Ireland. He studied environmental biology and later studied deer biology for his PhD, at University College Dublin. Instead of pursuing his life-long interest in wolves and predator-prey interactions, after completing his doctorate, he taught English in Madrid, Spain, for four years while his girlfriend finished her doctorate in molecular biology. They married and moved to Boston, USA, so his wife could pursue her career and David decided that teaching was a vocation he was happy to continue. After seven great years teaching Biology at Boston's Cathedral High School and Zoology at Bridgewater State College, he returned to Spain three years ago so his wife could set up her new research group in her hometown of Pamplona shortly before their daughter was born. He currently teaches English and science in Pamplona in addition to writing and looking after his children.

David has loved writing since his teens. He began with poetry and had one of his first poems published in Cadenza, a small Dublin poetry magazine at the age of fourteen. Since then several more have been published in journals and anthologies such as Albatross, The Tennessee State Poetry League, Poems of Nature and various anthologies of Forward Press imprint in Britain. He began writing fiction soon after and wrote the novella that would later become Leaving The Pack at the age of seventeen. Though his academic writing took precedence for a number of years, and he is still involved in deer biology and management, he kept writing other things in his spare time and has always dreamt of one day being able to do it full time. While living in Madrid, he wrote some non-fiction articles for the magazine Hot English and while in Boston for the newspaper Dig.

An avid wildlife enthusiast and ecologist, much of David's non-academic writing, especially poetry, is inspired by wildlife and science, and he sometimes seeks to describe the science behind the supernatural.

His Young Adult paranormal novel The Soul of Adam Short and children's novel, Peter and the Little People. He has also published three novellas under the pseudonym JD Martins.

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Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Available Now: The Enchanted Swan by Christy Nicholas

Christy Nicholas


(99c/99p through Sunday 12 March)
In pre-Celtic Ireland, Fionnuala was a fae princess, born to a life of luxury. She knew her duty and loved her family. She missed her mother, who died in childbirth when Fionnuala was but ten years old. Still, she had hopes and dreams of love and a full life.

All her dreams were stolen from her, ripped away in a torrent of envy and magic.

Now she must care for her three brothers while learning to live under an evil curse. Will she find a way to break the spell, or would they remain swans, tethered to three places for nine hundred years?

• • •

460 BCE

Mother screeched in pain as she gripped my hand. The blood dripped on the soaked floor, splashing the midwife’s skirts. I hummed and pushed my healing will through my hand into hers as the ravens taught us, but she blocked it.

“No, Fionnuala, my special child,” Mother’s voice was raw but firm. “You must stay… stay and guard the children.”

The dank dimness of the round room closed in on me as she screamed again. The rough flesh of her throat had little power left after two days of labor. Heat and sweat battled in that small space and the urge to flee was almost irresistible. Yet I couldn’t leave. Mother needed me.

Another scream raked my ears, the wattle and daub walls and the very air around us. The pain and regret of a lifetime echoed in that scream.

Her hand grew flaccid in my own. My eyes grew misty as her life force escaped and faded into the Otherworld.

In my grief, the room faded into a cloud of pain. The candlelight fled, and I heard a strangled keening sound which ululated in a haunting rhythm. Belatedly, I recognized my own voice, wordless in its sorrow.

Despite my wails, I heard a small voice lifted to join my cries. The cry of a child. No, not just one. There were two squalling infants. Mother had given us twins with her last dying breath.

My cry cut off into a wretched sob and a hiccup of hysterical laughter. In the end, she won one last victory. My mother, the shining one. Aobh Bán, delight of my father’s eyes. She of the pale skin and white-blond hair, famed for her splendor and grace. Oh, how I ached for her to be alive again. My throat closed, and my eyes soon followed suit.

Our nanny, Saoirse, bundled the children and made small clucking noises with her tongue as the midwife cleaned Mother. No one else was allowed in the birth room. Father should be downstairs, still drunk. My brother Aed should be asleep as the night grew deep. I searched in my mind for my teacher, my anam cara, my raven, Hawlen. A drowsy answer came with a flutter of wings.

I stood and stared at what had been my mother. Her body was drained of color, pale as the full moon. There remained no spark of life, and yet, I lifted my hand to her cheek. It was warm, and I shivered.

How could the gods have taken her from me now? I was but ten winters old, still a child, barely ready to embark on the wonders of womanhood. I needed her now. Aed remained eight and the babies… how would they thrive without their mother?

Flashes of memory burned in my swollen eyes. Mother rocking me on her lap when I skinned my knees, brushing my hair and arranging it in complex braids for a formal dinner. Wiping tears from my eyes after a fight with Aed. She wasn’t there to wipe these tears away

The midwife put her hand on my shoulder, and I spun. She backed up with a sad nod, full of understanding and resolve.

“Fionnuala, go. It must be you who tells your father.”

“Why must it be me? You’re the midwife. It should be part of your service!”

The woman said nothing. She didn’t need to. I was simply a child, but I was a royal daughter and understood my duty.

Hawlen arrived and landed on my shoulder. She squawked. “I shall be with you, Fionnuala, let’s go.”

With a deep breath, I squared my shoulders, determined to deliver the news to my father.

• • •

Christy Nicholas, also known as Green Dragon, has her hands in many crafts, including digital art, beaded jewelry, writing, and photography. In real life, she's a CPA, but having grown up with art all around her (her mother, grandmother and great-grandmother are/were all artists), it sort of infected her, as it were. She loves to draw and to create things. She says it's more of an obsession than a hobby. She likes looking up into the sky and seeing a beautiful sunset, or seeing a fragrant blossom or a dramatic seaside. She takes a picture or creates a piece of jewelry as her way of sharing this serenity, this joy, this beauty with others. Sometimes this sharing requires explanation – and thus she writes. Combine this love of beauty with a bit of financial sense and you get an art business. She does local art and craft shows, as well as sending her art to various science fiction conventions throughout the country and abroad.

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Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Available Now: To Capture the Sky by Jennie Marsland

Choices of the Heart series, #2
Jennie Marsland

(99c/99p through Sunday 5 March)
Trey McShannon survived the carnage of the War Between the States, only to discover that the deepest wounds are those to the heart. A traitor to his home state of Georgia, Trey has built a new life for himself in the untamed Colorado Territory. Now it’s time to find a wife to share the future he’s worked so hard for–but can he free himself from his past?

Beth Underhill is looking for choices. Needing to marry to escape being sent back east, she prefers Trey’s honest business proposal to false promises of love.

Can a union between a man who doesn’t think he can still feel love, and a woman who no longer believes it exists, blossom into more than a marriage of convenience?

• • •

Denver, Colorado Territory - 1871

“Elizabeth, have you taken leave of your senses? You could have married Jason Pembroke!”

Beth Underhill winced when her cousin Graham’s fist hit the polished mahogany dining table, but she held his gaze without faltering. “Jason Pembroke doesn’t care for me any more than Trey McShannon does.”

Graham sneered at the letter lying on the table. “The man’s a dirt farmer. You have no idea what kind of an animal he is or what kind of a shack he lives in. You know nothing about him at all.”

Beth held tight to her hope that Mr. McShannon’s letters had given her a true impression of the man and his home. In the face of Graham’s doubts and hers, she had nothing else to cling to.

“I know he expresses himself like a civilized man.” What more could she ask of a stranger? The Matheson Matrimonial Agency didn’t concern itself with emotions. In the months since her Aunt Abigail’s death, Beth had come to believe she’d be wise to do the same. “And whatever else Mr. McShannon might be, I doubt he’s a fraud and a cheat like Jason Pembroke. I told you what I found out about his railroad contracts. If you don’t believe me, ask some questions yourself.”

No doubt Graham already knew everything there was to know about Mr. Pembroke’s business affairs. As long as the man stayed on the right side of the law, he’d be satisfied. This was Colorado Territory, not Philadelphia. Here, a man might be hanged for stealing a horse, but not for supplying food to railroad navvies at ridiculously inflated prices.

“Jason is a smart businessman. He’s not doing anything illegal. And what do you know about railroad contracts?”

You’d be surprised, cousin. The process of settling her uncle’s estate, and then her aunt’s, had taught Beth more than she’d ever wanted to know about the vagaries of railroad and mining investments. “I know Mr. Pembroke is greedy and unscrupulous. And even if he weren’t, I wouldn’t marry him. He wants a wife with breeding and all the social graces he doesn’t have himself, and he thinks I’d look good enough on his arm to outweigh my lack of money. That’s as much as he cares for me. He didn’t even bother to propose to me before he approached you.”

Hands in his trouser pockets, Graham paced the length of the room and back. He stopped in the patch of spring sunshine that poured through the window overlooking the street – a relatively quiet street, a good distance from the raucous activity of downtown Denver. Here, it was easy for Beth to imagine she was back in the old home in Philadelphia where she and Graham had both grown up, twenty years apart. The home Graham had never truly left in any way that mattered – just like Aunt Abigail and Uncle Robert.

ncial situation, your choices are going to be limited. You found that out with Daniel Hunter. If you’d agree to go back to Philadelphia, you’d stand a better chance–”

Of what? Meeting more men like Mr. Pembroke, willing to take Beth at a discount for her looks? Or like Daniel Hunter, who’d courted her for a year and made her think he honestly cared for her, then backed away when he learned that she had no significant settlement to bring to their marriage?

“No. I’m tired of being a commodity, Graham, and I’m tired of boys who pretend to be men. That’s why I wrote to the Matheson Agency. I’m going to Wallace Flats, and I’m going to marry Trey McShannon. And if I’m not happy with him, I’ll go to Isobel James in New York and try to make a living from my art.”

Graham put on a pitying smile. Beth had long ago given up expecting anyone in the family to take her painting ‘hobby’ seriously, even though Aunt Abigail had continued to indulge her with lessons until Uncle Robert’s death. A lady needed something to fill her time.

“Your art? You really are living in a dream world. Well, you’re of age and what money you have is your own. I can’t stop you from doing as you wish, but don’t expect me to pick up the pieces when it all falls apart.”

“Understood. I’m leaving on Friday.”

Graham stalked out without replying. Legs suddenly shaky, Beth pulled out a chair and sat at the table, in the middle of the elegant dining room – the kind of room that could still be hers if she used her head instead of her heart and let Graham find her a husband.

Was she out of her mind? Or just desperate to escape the trap she’d felt closing around her since the end of the War Between the States, when she’d been officially put up for sale in the marriage market? She picked up Mr. McShannon’s last letter and read it again, though she knew every word by memory.

Dear Miss Underhill,

Thank you for explaining your position so honestly. I will be honest with you in return.

For the last four years I have been living outside of Wallace Flats, a day’s stage ride south of Denver. My homestead is ten miles from town. I built the house to meet my own requirements, which are simple, but it is weather-tight and clean. I have no idea if you are the kind of woman who could be content with a dirt floor, but if you are, you might find it comfortable enough.

My nearest neighbors are two miles away, and I go to town no more than twice a week. If you are very fond of social life you’ll find it dull here, but if you enjoy solitude, there is no lack of it. I find the countryside beautiful, but many find it bleak and of little interest.

What I can offer you is this: if you think you could be satisfied with my situation here, I will pay your way to Wallace Flats. I think a one-year trial period, as husband and wife in name only, would be wise. Next spring, if we decide we aren’t mutually suited, we can separate with no questions asked, and I will pay you a hundred dollars for your time. If this is agreeable to you, please let me know through the agency.


Trey McShannon

A straightforward business proposal. Wasn’t that more palatable than the offers Beth had received from the men Cousin Graham sent her way? Mr. McShannon’s proposition – a more accurate word than ‘proposal’, really – held just as much affection, and a lot more honesty.

Be grateful for that, Beth. It’s a rare commodity. But a homesteader? She could hardly blame Graham for thinking her crazy.

• • •

Jennie Marsland lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia, on Canada’s beautiful East Coast. She has had a lifelong love affair with words and history, starting with her family’s stories of life in Nova Scotia in earlier times. Jennie teaches English, science and history at a local private school, and when she isn’t writing, spends her free time cooking, gardening, playing guitar, and catering to the whims of her two very spoiled Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers.

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