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A Destiny in Defiance Through the Eyes of a … Cougar

Something strange about my new release…

My editor was very complimentary about the twist and turns I worked into A Destiny in Defiance as well as the extreme suspense and tension in the last chapters. She found herself so engrossed in the story, there were several places where she forgot to edit because she was too busy reading! (We’ve worked diligently to find and edit those places!)

Screen Shot 2019-10-30 at 11.55.36 AM One of the fun things I did was actually tell a little bit of the story through the eyes of a cougar. Very Rudyard Kipling, I suppose, what, with Two Spears being–I just realized–a type of Mowgli character.

Anyway, the story was tremendous fun to write, took me almost a year (it’s 96,000 words!), and it covers a lot of ground. It’s like a whole TV season in one book. I hope it moves you to tears, anger, heartbreak, and peace.

Oh, and I’m planning on following it up with either a couple of short stories or novellas in 2020!

Questions this book might answer:

Will the rivalry between Charles and Matthew destroy them both? Do Naomi and Two Spears get caught in the middle? Can Naomi keep her beloved from turning back to his dark past? What secret is the new nurse in town hiding? Will Billy and Hannah ever tie the knot or is she thinking about pursuing other goals? Does Emilio love Mollie or is his heart still stuck on Hannah? Why is ranch foreman Lane Chandler such an awesome character? So, so many good storylines! Can’t wait for y’all to read A Destiny in Defiance!

A Destiny in Defiance releases on November 1.

Right now it’s only $2.99 for a VERY limited time. This is a mammoth book (over 96,000 words) so the price will be going up.

Get your copy today while it’s still at this special price.

OR, you can always read for FREE in Kindle Unlimited. I hope you’ll tell a friend about it and, please,
leave me a review when you have a moment.

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Not a KU subscriber? You can get it here!

By the way, my newsletter subscribers get FREE stuff, exclusive excerpts, contests, pithy commentary. Why don’t you join me in case WordPress goes as anti-conservative as the other big tech companies?! I’d love to have you along with us!

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I’m Your Density — My New Release

My density has brought me to you.

Okay, sorry, if you are not a Back to the Future fan. Density translates to Destiny. But I have a destiny for you. A Destiny in Defiance.

Releasing November 1, it is book 4 in the Romance in the Rockies saga. A Promise in Defiance, Book 3, was supposed to be the last book but you guys just can’t get enough of Charles McIntyre!

destiny_promo1 I have a lot to say about book 4–its great characters, its politically incorrect views, its robust length–but I thought today I’d share some random insights and a little background on the story.

So, as it often happens, I started A Destiny in Defiance with one idea but some of the other characters simply wouldn’t be quiet. Hence, the story definitely heats up the rivalry between Charles and Matthew, but Naomi has her own set of problems revolving around the men in her life–namely, Charles and Two Spears. There is Hannah, trying to figure out if a woman truly can have it all–love, career, family–or does something gotta give? And Mollie and Emilio move forward. A little.

The biggest surprise, though, came from two new/semi-new characters: Lane Chandler, the foreman at the King M ranch, and Dr. Hope Clark. Lane started leaping off the page, waving at me to give him a bigger part. He turns out to be quite the cowboy. And Hope is a complex character who is tired of being the rope in a tug of war between her fiance and her father. At some point, she needs to figure out what–and who–she wants out of life. Will she find real romance in Defiance?

I’ve posted BELOW a short excerpt from A Destiny in Defiance. Read it and comment on it. I’d love to hear your thoughts. We’re still doing final edits and wordsmithing, but I think this snippet is passably entertaining.

A Destiny in Defiance releases on November 1.

Right now the pre-order price is $2.99. This is a mammoth book (over 90,000 words) so the price will be going up.

Get your copy today while it’s still at the pre-order price.

OR, you can always read for FREE in Kindle Unlimited.

Not a KU subscriber? You can get it here!

By the way, my newsletter subscribers get FREE stuff, exclusive excerpts, contests, pithy commentary. Why don’t you join me in case WordPress goes as anti-conservative as the other big tech companies?! I’d love to have you along with us!

Or you can follow me here:

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Now, READ ON:

**Rebecca and Hannah are discussing the mysterious new nurse in town:

A cup of coffee pressed to her lips, Rebecca watched Hannah drizzle melted butter over a steaming biscuit, tear off tiny pieces and feed them to Little Billy. Her glassy stare, however, said her mind was elsewhere. Around them, the Trinity Inn’s restaurant reverberated with chatting customers, tinkling silverware and the clank of dishes.

“Billy thinks I should just ask her outright.”

Rebecca set the cup down. “Why don’t you?”

“Oh, I suppose eventually I will. I just thought by now she would have revealed a little more of her story to me.”

“You said she’s a private person. Those kind don’t open up easily.”

“I guess. It’s just that sometimes when she talks, it’s like she’s saying one thing but thinking another. I don’t know.” She picked up a napkin and dabbed at her son’s face. “I can’t explain it.”

“Awkward pauses? Sentences that seem to redirect abruptly?”

Hannah looked up. “Yes.”

Rebecca nodded. “When I interviewed her, I had that same sense. As if she almost says one thing, but then quickly corrects and says something else.”

“So, what do you think? Do you agree with me that’s something amiss? But not necessarily something terrible,” Hannah was quick to add.

“Possibly.”

“I think it has something to do with Edward.”

“This is all conjecture.” Rebecca took another sip then grasped the cup in both hands. “Pointless speculation until…”

“Until what?”

“Until I actually do a little digging.”

 

Nellie Bly vs. Ellie Blair–the Gals Behind Mail-Order Deception

nellie-bly-portrait

Nellie in Mexico

Nellie Bly (AKA Elizabeth Jane Cochran) is the young gal who put the word “intrepid” in the phrase “intrepid reporter.” At the age of 18, when most women were still working as domestic technicians, this firebrand had a job working for the Pittsburgh Dispatch, reporting on the horrible working conditions of women in factories. When that got her in trouble with factory owners, the paper moved her over to nice feminine topics like fashion, society, gardening…

MOD Uh, yeah. Disgusted with such boring stories, she went to Mexico for a bit and reported on life there. Her dispatches about the government got her in trouble with the country’s dictator and she had to flee the country. Not long after this, she made the big time in New York City after feigning insanity and spending ten days in a madhouse. Now, that’s intrepid. But Nellie wasn’t done. She then made her legendary jaunt around the world in 72 days in 1889-90.

Now here’s the rub and how it ties in with my story, Mail-Order Deception. Nellie was on fire; she was unstoppable. Her curiosity was insatiable. One would think she would have been the intrepid reporter on into her golden years.

But, nay, this was not the case. In 1895, at the age of 31, Nellie married Robert Seaman, a wealthy industrialist some 40 years her senior. She left journalism for over two decades to tend to him and help run his business. It was only after bankruptcy that she fell back on journalism and covered much of WWI. But it seemed her passion had wained.

Passion, like a fuse, burns out. Especially when you have the chance to experience something real and lasting like true love. Everything else will pale in comparison. Colors dull. Thrills fade. Nellie and my character of Ellie learned a very important lesson about life–you can’t go it alone. No matter how intrepid you are. Love is the only thing that gives life meaning.

Don’t you agree?

Mail-Order Deception is on sale this week for only .99. Get your copy today!

on_sale_MOD

All my books are in Kindle Unlimited right now which means you can read them for FREE. Not a KU subscriber? You can get it here!

By the way, my newsletter subscribers get FREE stuff, exclusive excerpts, contests, pithy commentary. Why don’t you join me in case WordPress goes as anti-conservative as the other big tech companies?! I’d love to have you along with us!

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Grace be a Lady — One of my favorite excerpts

Sometimes I think I write vile, evil characters better than my heroes and heroines. Here’s a quick little excerpt from Grace be a Lady–my favorite Western with a delicious twist! And on sale for just $.99 for the next few days. Step into Grace’s world…

“Now, luv,” Lonnie said, cleaning his nails with his pocket knife, “I’ll explain to you ’ow this is going to work. The train ticket in my pocket,” he patted his chest, “will take you all the way to Misery, Wyoming.”

GRACE_EBOOK_FINAL-NoSeries A twitch in Grace’s eyebrow betrayed her reaction to the name.

“Yes, Bull picked the town out just for you, luv. Said he ’oped it delivered. Anyway, you will get off the train there and not before.” He snapped the knife shut and leaned forward. “If you don’ check in with Misery’s lawman, luv, Hardy will be shipped off to some boarding school in Paris. Or maybe Rome. Possibly even Timbuktu. Do you take my meaning, luv?”

Grace’s heart broke as the threat sank in. Her chin quivered and the lump in her throat tried to explode into a sob. Completely out of hope, she could do nothing but pray.

She prayed she would dance on Bull’s grave one day soon.

Falling back on the loathing that Lonnie so readily evoked in her, Grace raised her chin. “Don’t call me ‘luv’.”

I hope you’ll get your copy today!

Please Pardon My Technical Goof

top-secret-stamp-1-1024x1024 Yesterday I created a post that was exclusively for my newsletter subscribers and was password protected. I meant for the notice not to go out until tomorrow and ONLY to the subscribers. Many, many of you have written to me asking for the password. I’m so sorry to be a tease. I hope you’ll forgive me.

If you’d like to read the special, TOP SECRET blog post, you can 1) subscribe to my newsletter and be privy to special stuff like this or 2) give me a few weeks and I’ll take this post public. But I do need to put my subscribers first, as I promised them I would.

My newsletter will be going out tomorrow with the password. You can subscribe here. I think it’s worth it. Grin. And, honestly, a newsletter helps keep me from being too beholding to the likes of the tech giants Amazon and Facebook, so I really would appreciate your support. One day, because of my politically incorrect, Christian world view, I’m liable to just disappear off the worldwide web. Stranger things have happened.

But if you’re not interested in subscribing, keep your eyes peeled and you’ll see the post open up in a few weeks.

Thanks again for all your interest in little ol’ me. Y’all are awesome!

 

The First Female Doctor in WY Wasn’t Well Received…by Women

Lilian Heath. Such a demure name.

She was anything but.

In the 1880s, Lilian’s pa got her a job assisting Dr. Thomas Maghee, the physician

Lilian Heath

Lilian Heath

in the wide-open railroad town of Rawlins, WY. A petite little thing still in high school, Lilian was pretty fearless, but not stupid. She dressed like a man and carried a .32 when she went on calls late at night. She and the doc did everything from delivering babies to reconstruct a man’s face after his failed suicide attempt.

The nursing position set Lilian’s destiny. She graduated high school, and, with her father’s blessing and Dr. Maghee’s recommendation, headed off to the College of Physicians and Surgeons in Keokuk, Iowa. She was one of only three women in the class. After completing her training, she returned to Rawlins to practice medicine and was well-received … by the menfolk. The women in town were another story. Catty, and jealous, they whispered behind her back, accused her of being a know-it-all, a few even refused to pay Lilian for services rendered. Lilian’s mother Calista wasn’t thrilled with the vocation either, believing her daughter had over-stepped her bounds as a woman.

Maybe, but if a man lay dying of a gunshot wound 30 or 40 miles away, Lilian put on her big girl breeches and made the ride.

Clearly, being a trained female physician was a bad thing, because you could, you know, save lives.

Lilian met her husband, Louis Nelson, in Rawlins and they were married in 1898. He was a painter and a decorator. Go figure. Lilian practiced medicine for fifteen years and then quietly retired, though she kept her medical license current much, much longer than that.

Unfortunately, you can’t read any article about Lilian that doesn’t mention her “connection” to an outlaw. In 1881, while Lilian was still in high school and a candy-striper, for all intents, Big Nose George Parrot was lynched for murdering a deputy. When no one claimed the body, Doctor Maghee stepped up. Curious to see if the bandit’s brain was somehow deformed, he dissected the man’s head, in the name of science. Lilian assisted with the autopsy and was given Big Nose George’s skull cap as a souvenir. She kept it for years, using it for everything from a doorstop to a pipe holder.

Reporters loved to mention that story as if it was her greatest achievement.

My guess is, there were a few members of the press she would have liked to use as doorstops.

But she didn’t let the claws or the snipes get to her. Lilian never gave in, never backed down, never lost faith. I say thanks for paving the way!

Love is Waiting for You. Literally.

Love conquers all. Eventually, right? One of my favorite stories of a determined man finally winning the heart of his beloved is the true tale of Ethel and John Love. Yes, Love. This is the story of a girl who held out against this love-struck sheepherder for five years…but John wore her down. I hereby republish this blog from 2012.

Again, I am intrigued to read between the lines. A city girl leaves Denver, degree in hand, to accept a job as a teacher on a Wyoming ranch. Her classroom consists of seven students. During her school year, she meets her future husband, a handsome, ambitious sheepherder. It takes this stubborn Scotsman five years and dozens of sappy letters to convince Ethel to accept his proposal. What was she waiting on?

Ethel Waxham Born into a relatively wealthy family, Ethel Phoebe Waxham was a fearless young thing with a big heart. She spent a summer volunteering in the slums of New York if that tells you anything. In 1905 she finished at Wellesly and took a job teaching the children on the Red Bluff Ranch in Wyoming. Her letters indicate she fell madly in love with the place and its people, but not so much with rancher John Love. Oh, she liked him well enough and appreciated the fact that he made the eleven-hour ride to see her several times during the school year. Ethel, though, apparently wasn’t ready to settle down. She had, you know, places to go, people to see, things to learn. Or was she simply afraid marriage might mean her life would pass into obscurity?

At the end of that first teaching job, she enrolled in the University of Colorado to obtain a master’s in literature. That’s when the letters started arriving. Lots of them. John Love made no secret of why he was writing. Ethel needed to be his wife and he would wait for her. No matter how long it took. Unless and until she married another.

When Ethel received her degree in 1907, she took a job in Wisconsin, again as a teacher. Still the letters followed. And she answered, often with an apology that she shouldn’t. She didn’t want to give him false hope, after all. Once she even scolded him for closing his letter with “ever yours,” instead of the customary “sincerely yours.” Yet, Ethel did not entwine her life with any other men. She didn’t often attend dances or parties. Strange girl. It’s almost as if she was the female version of George Bailey. Perhaps restless, she moved back to Colorado in 1908 and continued her work, but where was her heart, I wonder?

John G. Love Ethel spoke four languages, enjoyed writing, especially poetry, even staged theatrical productions. But that sheepherder, who by now was doing pretty well for himself, wouldn’t give her any peace. Finally, this fiercely independent American girl caved. The two were married in 1910 and remained together the rest of their lives, happy by all accounts.

If you’d like to know more about John and Ethel, check out this piece from PBS. It’s worth the read.

Blanton’s Defiance Novels Optioned for A Limited TV Series

How did all this come about? It’s one crazy God-story!

mattagain

Actor Matt Williams

I was on facebook private messaging with my assistant when I happened to see actor Matt Williams announce that he’d done well in an audition, got the part, and probably another one. I hopped over to just quickly congratulate him. He commented back that he’d like to get a part when one of my books was made into a movie. I said, “Well, it just so happens that I do have a script for A Lady in Defiance, but I haven’t done anything with it.”

Matt immediately private messaged me and asked me about this book. I told him to date it had sold over 50,000 copies and I did write a script for it, passed it around to a few professionals in the industry, but they wanted me to make some changes to it. I wasn’t averse to doing that, I just didn’t feel like working on the script. Really, I’m a novelist.

Matt said there was someone he wanted me to meet and even over the facebook messenger I could hear his excitement!

The next day Micah Lyons reached out to me and wanted to know all about my Defiance books. After a few days of back-and-forth, he made me an offer! And get this–in the course of our conversations, Micah mentioned that he’d seen A Lady in Defiance one day in a Books-a-Million and kept the story in the back of his head! Honestly, we both took that as a sign.

micah

Micah Lyons–the man in the middle after directing a fight scene.

I suddenly realized I might be on the verge of a life-changing decision and reached out to some wonderful folks like Brian Bird and Bodie Thoene for some advice. They were kind enough to offer their thoughts. Like get an agent, don’t give Micah the option on all three books, etc. Then JD Dewitt of 5×5 Productions answered my inquiry and wanted to talk.

jd

JD and her sons

JD is precious. I love her to death. Her favorite genre is Westerns and she had already read A Lady in Defiance back in 2013! In short, she now represents me and helped hammer out the deal with Breath of Life Productions.

As I mentioned, one of the things that some professionals recommended I NOT do was give Breath of Life the option on all three books. In case the first one sold, then I should have the ability, they argued, to maneuver for a better deal on books 2 and 3, maybe with a bigger producer. Honestly, that just didn’t feel right to me. Micah was the first producer to look at this project and want to commit immediately to a series, not just one movie. He said he couldn’t see it any other way. That was when I knew. The “up-and-comer” in Hollywood had to have his shot. If Breath of Life Productions and Micah can sell this project, then they deserve to handle all of it.

I’ve heard NOTHING but good things about Micah Lyons and have enjoyed my talks with him immensely. A Godly young man, he is living in a dark kingdom and taking the Light to it.

I say let’s take the good news to those living in Defiance! I hope you’ll pray for this project. We would all appreciate it very much.

Now, a question. Who would you like to see play Naomi Miller and Charles McIntyre? I vote Reese Witherspoon for Naomi, but I’m still deciding on Charles!

It Didn’t Have to End That Way. So Here is the ALTERNATE Ending…

You either just LOVED it or downright DESPISED it.

Y’all are not divided on your opinions of my book A Promise in Defiance. If you are in the camp of “the ending was too tragic and it left me sad,” then you should read Daughter of Defiance, the spin-off story of one of the vilest, and yet, I think, most heart-wrenching characters I’ve ever written: Delilah Goodnight, the notorious madam of Defiance. Yes, she was a horrible person who caused the death of some good people. mock5

But her story was far from over. And Daughter of Defiance had TWO endings!

If you haven’t read A Promise in Defiance or Daughter of Defiance, you might want to before you check out this ALTERNATE ending. THIS is the way I originally envisioned Daughter of Defiance winding up, but my editor said, among other criticisms, that I didn’t leave enough mystery for the next book. Sooooo, read or not. It’s up to you, but if you do, WARNING: SPOILER ALERT. DOD5

~~~~~DAUGHTER OF DEFIANCE ALTERNATE ENDING~~~~~

UNEDITED

Skirt flapping around her knees, whipping out behind her, Victoria galloped out of town, uncaring of the curious stares. Panic clawed at her throat. She couldn’t think of anything the girl at the hotel or Charlie or even Cooley had said that was a specific clue. Oh, God, lead me, please, she prayed. Don’t let anyone else die because of me.

She raced toward the end of town, past Boot Hill, out on to the vast, open prairie. A gray, angry sky overhead reflected her torment. Frustrated, confused, she slowed her horse from a gallop to a canter to a trot…finally to a standstill.

The wind whistled. Dry, amber grass danced and swayed around her. A few cottonwoods stood silently nearby, their shadows growing long in the late afternoon sun. She thought back to her early days here when innocence and youth fed her hopes and dreams. Places she and Logan had gone to…to be alone.

The memory of a favorite place surfaced.

Benton’s Gulch.

Did the sod shanty still stand down by Crier’s Sink Hole? It was a fine hiding place. The moment she thought of it, she knew she had to go see it.

This was foolish, going in without any help, or even a gun. But she had to try. At least scout out the situation then return to town to find Earp or Toby or someone.

She turned the horse west and in only a matter of minutes reached the bottom of a long, low hill. She dismounted and tied the horse’s reins to the remains of an old wrought iron fence surrounding a grave. A tumbleweed blew into his rear legs and he nearly spooked free. Shushing him, Victoria tied him again, praying he didn’t jerk free from the decrepit thing. Satisfied he’d stay, she crept toward the crest of the hill.

The Kansas prairie, much like an ocean, hid secrets between these swells. Near the top of the rise, she laid down on her stomach and peered through the grass. Below figures moved about, some hovering over a fire, a few sitting back away from it. Wind rippled the water that filled the deep sinkhole. A man in dark clothes stood in the doorway of the dilapidated and collapsing sod house. A rush of sweet memories took Victoria back to seventeen, riding out here with Logan, kissing in that doorway beneath a fat harvest moon…swearing their eternal love.

Pain twisted in her heart. They both had lost so much. So much. She cleared her throat and tried to focus. Eleanor and GW sat by the fire. That was Charlie in the doorway. The two men who had accosted her at the newspaper—Oscar and Lawerence—were sitting on their bedrolls, watching their hostages.

From this distance, the win scattered their voices to the prairie. She’d have to get closer. Scanning the hillside below, she saw a rock outcropping—not big—barely larger than a horse, but it would do. She would wait till dark, slink down to it, and try to negotiate with them from there. If things fell apart, she had enough of a lead to get back to her horse and go for help. She scanned the hill behind her. At least, she was fairly sure she could make it.

It made more sense to go for help now. Victoria glanced at the darkening sky. Night fell quickly this late in the fall. How much time did she have to waste hunting Earp? None. In another hour she could slither her way down to the rock and be close enough to hear what’s going on. Then she could decide.

 

#

 

By nightfall, Victoria was lamenting her thin coat and wishing she’d grabbed her heavy wool frock. Flipping up the collar on the canvas jacket, she quietly slipped through the dry grass toward the rock outcropping. Only a few feet lower, yet the wind died here and she could hear the snapping fire, neighing horses, and Charlie’s voice.

“She’ll be along. Anytime now I suspect.”

“What makes you so sure she’ll find us?” Lawrence said.

Victoria crawled carefully down to the rock, aware sound was carrying easier now.

“The kids have known about this place since I was a boy,” Charlie said. “She probably came here. It’s where you go when you want to hide.”

“I say we go find her.” Oscar tilted his head back, taking a swig from a bottle. “You stay here, Charlie, and watch those two.”

Lawrence climbed to his feet, swaying a little as he did. “I like that idea. She’s probably—” a growling burp escaped him—“alone, moving around, trying to find them.”

“She won’t come for us,” Eleanor said, sounding anxious. “At least not alone. She’ll find Earp.”

“Or Toby,” GW added.

“Earp’s busy,” Charlie said. “He’s on a wild goose chase over toward Cimarron.”

Lawrence tilted his head. “That was a good idea. Why’d you do that? I thought you didn’t want no part in hunting Delilah.”

Charlie straightened, stepped outside the doorway. “I guess it’s time to wrap all this up. Besides, it’s getting cold.” Without any warning, he drew his revolver and shot Lawrence in the head and before the man hit the ground, Charlie dropped Oscar. The fire from his barrel illuminated GW and Eleanor surging to their feet as Victoria screamed.

The echo of the shots and her shrill cry faded together, but all eyes turned up the hill to her. Misery writhed in Victoria’s chest. She pushed herself out from behind the rock. “Stop it!” Tears choked her voice. “For God’s sake, just stop it.” More death on account of me. Oh, God, am I cursed? Please stop all this. “Why did you do that?”

“Come down here and we’ll talk about it, Victoria.”

But Charlie said her name like it was a huge joke. Bitterness, rage, grief, strangled her. “So, this is about me. You lose someone in Defiance?”

“You could say that.”

“Run, Victoria,” Eleanor screamed, stepping forward. “Run.”

“Shut up, old woman,” Charlie cocked his revolver. “Or I’ll shoot you, too.”

“You do, and I’ll kill you,” GW said quietly, ominously.

Charlie snorted. “You saw how fast I killed Lawrence and Oscar.”

“I’m closer.”

Victoria’s feet were rooted to the ground. GW’s comment seemed to rattle Charlie and he took a step back. “Get down here, Victoria. I’ll let these two walk away if you do. You leave for the sheriff and I’ll kill ’em both.”

Her knees buckled and she clutched the rock. She would trade herself, gladly. She deserved to be murdered, but how could she be sure he’d let GW and Eleanor go? Eleanor needed to live. She’d already been through so much.

“Victoriaaaa,” Charlie sang mockingly.

“Don’t listen to him,” GW yelled. “Get out of here. Find Earp.” He cast a quick glance at Charlie. “He’ll handle this miscreant.”

Victoria angrily brushed tears from her cheeks. “Tell me why you’re doing this? Why did you kill those two?”

“I don’t need ’em anymore.”

Victoria’s mind raced. Should she run? No, she knew how this had to play out. “Who are you?” she asked, miserable and heartsick. But, oddly, not afraid.

“I’m Charlie Smith. I’m one of the boys Logan used to run with. Long time ago. My brother took a bullet for him in Nebraska four years ago. A stagecoach robbery that went wrong ’cause Logan was drunker than a rat in a whiskey barrel.” The man cursed under his breath. “He disappeared after that. Thought I’d never catch up to him, then I got wind he was masquerading as a preacher,” he spat the word, “in Defiance. I showed up right after your two-bit drunk went and killed him. Or that’s the way the story’s told. But he aint’ dead. You know it. And I know it.”

“What?” Victoria couldn’t believe her ears, though the man sounded serious. “All this because you think Logan’s still a—?”

“Alive? I know he’s still alive.”

“Mister, you’re out of your mind.” Victoria took two steps toward them. “He died in my arms, in the middle of the street.” Her voice rose with hysteria. “He’s dead and he’s never coming back.”

Charlie shook his head. “You’re good but you ain’t convincing. I’ve heard the stories. He’s been working his way here. To you.”

“What are you talking about?” Could this get any more insane or absurdly cruel? “He’s dead,” she whispered barely loud enough for them all to hear. “He’s dead and I’d give any—” She broke off. “Stories? What stories?”

“I lucked out with Lawrence and Oscar there. They could track. They were tracking you. I figured if I found you, I’d eventually find Logan. Sure enough, about the time I realized you were here somewhere in Dodge, I saw the pattern. The stories added up.”

Victoria couldn’t stop her mind from spinning. She felt faint. “What stories?” she asked again. “What pattern? What are you talking about?”

Charlie paused, tilted his head. “A man in black popped up on the trail a few weeks back. Looking for a pretty girl maybe named Victoria. Maybe coming from Defiance. Quiet fella, kept his hat pulled down real low. Nobody got a look at him. One fella in Cheyenne Wells didn’t take to the questioning and our mystery man jerked his Colt on him.  Folks said he was so fast, he made lightning look like molasses.”

Victoria felt her heart slow to a crawl. Her head swam. Logan? Alive? She’d sat beside him on his deathbed, held his his cold fingers in hers. It wasn’t possible…

Was it? God? Is Logan alive?

“You think…” Victoria could hardly speak. A maelstrom of emotions stormed in her soul. “You think this man in black is coming for me?”

“I knew once I had you, I’d get Logan. He’s coming for you like a moth to a flame.”

Victoria literally couldn’t fathom this insanity. Oh, hope sparked in her breast, but she knew what she’d seen. She couldn’t let hope catch fire. It would make her go crazy. “I’ll trade for Eleanor and GW, but you’re too late to get vengeance on Logan. Too late,” her voice faded.

“Get down here and we’ll talk or,” he cocked the pistol, “I start cutting baggage loose.”

“No, Victoria,” Eleanor cried.

“Get the marshal,” GW ordered.

No. Victoria couldn’t stand the thought of coming back to their bodies. Charlie was going to kill them if she didn’t play this his way. Probably would anyway. Oh, God, please, please keep them safe. But I should pay for my crimes.

She raised her hands into the air. “I’m coming down.” Everything in her knew Charlie was going to try to kill GW and Eleanor. He didn’t need them. In his sick, twisted mind he believed Victoria was the magnet for Logan. If only that could be true.

Regardless, she believed they all had one chance.

Victoria stumbled down through the tangle of buffalo grass to level ground. Charlie still held the gun on GW and Eleanor. Their only chance lay in a distraction. She prayed they would act when the opportunity arose.

Oh, God, I could get us all killed. Her steps faltered but something kept her feet moving.  She came within twenty feet of Charlie and surveyed Eleanor’s and GW’s conditions. “Momma, are you all right?”

Her mother nodded and made a choked noise

“GW?”

“You shoulda run. Somebody has to survive this.”

“Yes.” A peace flooded over Victoria. She knew what she had to do and every muscle in her body readied for the charge. “Someone will.” She would take the bullet and Eleanor and GW would overpower Charlie.

It would be all right. Accounts would be settled. And for the first time in her life, the ugly face of death didn’t frighten her.

The message to move was shooting from her brain to her legs when a shot boomed over their heads from the darkness. Charlie stepped back, waved his gun around, but brought it back quickly to his hostages. Hope surged in Victoria. Earp? Was Earp out there in the grass and shadows?

“Who’s out there?” Charlie yelled, his eyes wildly searching the darkness. “I got hostages. I’ll drop ’em. Back off!”

The silence was deafening as it stretched out. After a moment, a quiet, velvety voice spoke. “No one dies here tonight.”

Victoria gasped. Her heart hammered so hard and fast she thought it might explode in her chest. Desperately, she searched the darkness. She must have misheard. Hope had filled her ears with what—who—she wanted to hear. But she couldn’t help herself. She had to ask. “Logan?”

She held her breath, waiting for an impossible answer.

“I’m here, Victoria.”

Joy ripped a sob from her. Overwhelmed, she collapsed to her knees, weeping with wonder and elation. “Alive. Oh, God, alive…”

Charlie’s eyes widened. “You didn’t—you really didn’t know?”

“Drop the gun,” Logan ordered.

Charlie debated. His gaze bounced back-and-forth between Victoria and his other two prisoners.

“Pull that trigger,” Logan said, “and you’ll be just as dead as your friends there.”

Charlie heaved a deep sigh. “Let me go, Logan. I’ll leave off. No more trackin’ ya.”

A hard thud emanated from the back of Charlie’s head and he abruptly slithered to the ground—revealing a tall, solidly-built man standing behind him, holding a gun. Firelight flickered in his ash blond hair and danced across a strong jaw. His hat threw the rest of his face into shadow but his stance, his presence was hauntingly, undeniably familiar.

Logan.

Victoria’s whole body jolted as if she’d been struck by a lightning bolt.  “Logan?” She could barely speak for the awe streaking through her soul. Forgetting to breathe, drowning in shock and joy, she launched to her feet and leaped into his arms, nearly knocking him over.

“Logan, Logan, Logan, I saw you die. I buried you.”

“Shhh.” He said, gently stroking her head and holstering his weapon. “There’s time for that later. I’m here now. I came for you.” His words pulled another sob from her and she wept on his chest. “Why don’t you get that gun there,” he said, apparently to GW. “Eleanor. It’s been a long time.”

“Yes.” Her voice was husky with emotion. “But you sure picked the right time to come back.”

~

At the end of the meal, Toby set his napkin on his empty plate and nodded across the table at GW. “I reckon I’ll go get that item you wanted me to, um get.” He should have prepared this better.

GW wiped gravy from his mustache. “I think now is appropriate.”

Ignoring the perplexed expressions from the others at the table, Toby hustled on outside and jogged over to the barn. Delilah waited quietly in her stall. She grumbled softly when he opened the gate and stepped inside with her.

“Let’s saddle you up, girl, and show ’em the new you.”

As he saddled her, he tried not to think about Victoria and Logan, but there was nothing else he could think about. He regretted not having had a chance with her, yet he understood things were as they should be. Victoria had never been meant for Toby. Seemed to him she wasn’t meant for anybody but Logan. When a man comes back from the dead to find a woman—well, there’s no topping that.

Understanding and acceptance didn’t make the situation any easier to bear, though.

“Ah, cowboy up,” he scolded, snugging the cinch. “I just want her to be happy, Lord.” Admitting it aloud seemed to lessen the pain. God was good. Toby would be all right.

He swung up into the saddle and trotted a trusting, surrendered Delilah over to the house. He pulled up in front and waited for GW to usher his guests outside. Momentarily, the door clicked and they all filed out on to the porch. Victoria’s face lit up when she realized the identity of the horse.

“You did it.” She clasped her hands over her chest and leaned into Logan. “He did it. He said he could make her a good horse.”

Toby took a deep breath, patted Delilah on the neck and dismounted. “Yeah, she’s a fine horse.” He pulled the reins over Delilah’s head and held them out. “And she’s yours.”

GW stepped up and dropped a hand on Victoria’s shoulder. “I want you to have her.”

Her chin quivering, Victoria shuffled down the steps and took the reins, but she lingered a moment on Toby. “Thank you.”

He shoved his hands into his pockets and shrugged. “You two go together. Some things you have to let happen.” A puzzled dip formed in her brow, but Toby backed up a step to end the questioning. “Turns out she has a tender mouth. Guide her gently.”

A little smile lifted Victoria’s lips. “I will.”

I Can Change My Mind. I’m a Woman, After All.

If George Lucas can do it…

I just LOVE my novella To Love and to Honor: wounded cavalry soldier Joel Chapman is struggling to find his place in the world of able-bodied men when he meets pregnant and unwed Angela Fairbanks. The daughter of a cold and ruthless cattle baron, she is terrified her father will disown her when he learns of the baby. Joel, touched by Angela’s plight, brashly offers to pose as her husband for one day and then abandon her, thus restoring her honor.

To_Love_to_Honro_mockup But so much can happen in a day…

I had a lot of people ask me about one of the minor characters in the story. An Indian named Henry Long Feather. They wanted more of him.

Well, he did have a backstory, so I’ve decided to write it up and weave it into the story with Joel. In writing jargon, this would be called the B-story.

Henry, a middle-aged man from the Cheyenne tribe, is a realist when it comes to thinking Indians and Whites can live together in peace. To wit, they can’t. Whites are the conquerors and his people are disappearing under the plague of settlers. A white missionary woman, however, might be able to change his thinking.

I’ve always felt this book needed more story, but because of a deadline, I simply didn’t have time to write it. Then I thought, well, heck, if George Lucas can go in and monkey around with Star Wars, why can’t I add some meat to a story, too?

Now, if by chance you’ve bought To Love and to Honor and don’t want to pay to get the extended version, fear not. When I release this update, I’ll make it FREE for a few days so you can meet Henry Long Feather and the white missionary Laurie Wilcox without spending a dime.

And, say, if you’d like to be kept up-to-date on my projects, get free, exclusive excerpts, win stuff, and be included in some fascinating conversations, please subscribe to my newsletter.

Till next time,

Happy trails and God bless ya!

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