Friday, February 28, 2014


Do you believe in love at first sight? Can it happen? More importantly, can it last over the long haul of the ups and downs of a relationship?

Throw in a few obstacles from the very first meeting of the hero/heroine, and the relationship becomes even more intriguing.

In my novella, EVERY GIRL’S DREAM, that’s just what happens. (Every Girl's Dream was previously published with Victory Tales Press, and has recently been re-released with Prairie Rose Publications!)

Sheena McTavish, a young Irish girl, has been raped by the son of her father’s employer. Now, with a baby on the way, Sheena is given an unthinkable choice: give her baby to the father’s wealthy family to raise, or travel to New Mexico Territory by stagecoach to live with her aunt and uncle until her child is born. At that point, she will have to place it in a nearby orphanage.

Desperate to buy some time and protect her baby from its father, she chooses to travel west. Alone and afraid, she starts on the journey that will change her life forever. Before Sheena’s stage leaves, she meets handsome Army scout Callen Chandler. The attraction is there, even under difficult conditions.

As the story progresses, Sheena must learn to trust again, and Cal begins to realize he doesn’t have to live the solitary existence he’s endured up to now. Being half Comanche has left him with no place in either world—white or Indian. When Sheena comes along, everything changes…for both of them.



To check out the rest of my work, click here:

I’ll leave you with an excerpt of EVERY GIRL’S DREAM, available now for only $1.99.

Cal is a half-breed U.S. Army scout, who has just rescued Sheena, the heroine, from a Kiowa attack on the stagecoach she was in. They had met briefly the morning before, and as luck would have it, Cal comes upon the stage after the Kiowas have attacked and are getting ready to ride away with Sheena. He tells them he and Sheena are married and the Kiowas reluctantly let him take Sheena, but then…

Cal felt…something. His back tingled as he waited for the stinging burn of a shale arrowhead. He risked a glance backward, and saw the Kiowa leader’s stare heavy upon him.

“Sheena, hold on tight.”

“The baby—”

“I know, sweetheart. We won’t ride hard any longer’n we have to. Lowell’s Ridge is only about four miles away.” A very long four miles.

She nodded in understanding. “I’m sorry, Callen.”

“No call for that.”

“You came for me.”

He smiled at that. There was a small amount of disbelief in her tone, overshadowed by a huge amount of wonder. Who wouldn’t come for her?

“You could be killed because of me,” she said softly, as if she had only just realized it. She laid her hand over his, and in that moment, he wondered if dying for her would be worth the twenty-seven years he’d lived so far.

His heart jumped at her touch, then steadied. But as he risked another glance back, he saw exactly what he’d feared. Two of the braves were mounting up, and they weren’t riding the opposite way. “That still might happen,” he murmured.

He leaned forward, trying to protect Sheena with his body as he slapped the reins against the horse’s side, urging him into a lope, then a full-out run.

The Kiowas were close behind them. There must have been dissension among them. The leader had seemed content to let him take Sheena and ride away. One of the others must have disagreed with that decision.

Cal reached to pull his revolver from his holster.

They were strangely quiet, he thought.

The first bullet cracked from behind them, and Cal reflexively bent lower. The bullet whined past his ear like an angry bee.

Sheena gasped. He fired off a shot and got lucky. One of the warriors screamed in agony and fell from his saddle. But the other rode low, hanging onto the side of his mount. And he kept right on coming.

The next bullet sang over Cal’s head. He concentrated on eating up the miles to Lowell’s Ridge. Riding double was slowing them down considerably. Sheena’s body was tense beneath the shelter of his own. Fragile, but strong. Delicate, but determined. His hand splayed over her stomach, holding her close, cradling her from the jarring of their wild ride.

A whoop from behind them accompanied the crack of a rifle, and this time, the Kiowa warrior’s bullet found its mark. A bolt of fire seared through Cal’s right shoulder, and for a minute, the pain was so strong he almost sawed back on the reins. But at his harsh curse, Sheena glanced up at him, her hand instantly clamping tightly over his. The reins were still wrapped in his fingers, but Sheena kept her hand on his, reminding him to let the horse have his head and continue their flight for freedom.

“Hang on, Cal!”

The pain was so breathtaking he could do nothing but nod his understanding.

“Dammit!” she cursed. That almost made him smile, but the agony in his shoulder surged up and stole his breath again as the horse’s hooves pounded the ground below.

The road was not much more than a trail, and where it narrowed, branches reached out to scrape and snarl in hair and clothing, scratching their faces as they blindly rode toward safety.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Tom Rizzo’s West

Tom Rizzo
By Kathleen Rice Adams

Tom Rizzo writes westerns — good ones, with traditional action aplenty and, so far, romantic elements that play significant roles in the story. He writes westerns so well, in fact, that his debut novel, Last Stand at Bitter Creek, was among the nominees for the 2013 Peacemaker Awards, in the Best Western First Novel category.

The man bears watching, not only because he’s a rising voice in the genre, but also because of the level of historical detail he incorporates into his work. Rizzo loosely based Last Stand at Bitter Creek on a little-known theft of valuable documents during the Civil War. The resulting action-adventure tale reads a bit like Louis L’Amour dressed National Treasure and Robert Ludlum’s Bourne novels in six guns and denim.

Though Rizzo presents his tales from the male point of view, his female characters clearly are more than stereotypical damsels in need of rescue by a hard-bitten cowboy. Rizzo’s women think, they act, and they help drive the plot.

Like many other former journalists, Rizzo arrived on fiction’s doorstep later in life. His interests are broad, from mystery and crime to thriller and science fiction. He could have attacked any of those genres; yet, he chose to write historical westerns despite conventional wisdom saying “the western is dead.”

According to Rizzo, it’s only wounded.

Why westerns?

Tom Rizzo: Westerns represent such a rich legacy of American history. I grew up in the Midwest, small-town America. Like others, my introduction to westerns came from black-and-white movies. The plots were basic, simple, and straightforward in most cases, but it was the sense of adventure that attracted me.

Then, I began to read various authors and became impressed with their realistic visions and interpretations of the frontier. As much as anything, however, it was the physical beauty of the West that captured my attention and fired my imagination. The language of the West is its landscape — a visual poetry of mountains, rivers, streams, and deserts, rolling hills, and the sky.

Most authors who write in the genre grit their teeth every time they hear “westerns don’t sell” or “the western is dead.” Judging by the number of authors who continue to write westerns, though, a funeral may be just a tad premature. What would you like people who insist on consigning westerns to Boot Hill to know?

I think, at times, there’s sort of a Neanderthal mindset about westerns. Not from the readers’ viewpoint, but from that of literary agents and publishers. It’s as if they’re standing wild-eyed, brandishing a garlic ring and crucifix in an attempt to ward off the evil western writer who wants to foster the traditional shoot-’em-up, cowboy-and-Indian story.

As you know, this type of thinking is downwind of reality. This genre accommodates a number of sub-genres. Westerns, in fact, represent historical adventures, historical mysteries, historical thrillers, historical romances, and even historical horror and fantasy.

Perhaps there’s a marketing disconnect. We have to do a better job of attracting readers who haven’t yet tested the waters.

One of the common laments we hear within the admittedly aging community of western historical writers is that the traditional market for westerns is aging, too. Some see attracting younger readers as the key to keeping the genre alive, but no one seems quite sure how to go about that. Got any ideas?

Why don’t you just put me on the spot? A great question with no easy answer.

Some writers — Dale B. Jackson , JR Sanders, and Cheryl Pierson come to mind — have written novels aimed at the young adult and have done very well with those books. That could be a way to lure younger readers into sticking with the genre as they age.

At the same time, I think it comes down to an old-fashioned sales and marketing strategy in developing a message aimed at convincing younger readers to at least try the product. Westerns are not only great tales of adventures, but also wonderful resources of American history.

Traditional westerns often include a conspicuous romantic component, although many traditional western writers — especially men — are hesitant to call their stories “romances.” Your short story “A Fire in Brimstone” uses a romance between the sheriff and a cafĂ© owner to propel the plot, and a case could be made for the story’s conclusion meeting the happily-ever-after-ending requirement of the romance genre. Where do you draw the line between “western” and “western romance”?

I don’t know that I could draw a line between the two — at least consciously. When I wrote “A Fire in Brimstone,” the term “western romance” wasn’t top-of-mind — or any other term, for that matter. The romantic attraction between the two characters seemed, at least to me, a natural component of the story.

Sometimes labels get in the way of good storytelling. I think most writers have of an umbrella goal in mind when they write. For example, no matter what the plot, I try to present characters in conflict — either with one another or with their own emotions — who face adversity and are striving for some level of justice or redemption.

You’re fond of a variety of genres from western to science fiction, noir, mystery, and political thriller. Do you find your eclectic tastes coming together in your work, intentionally or otherwise? How difficult is it to make all those influences work together?

What I find remarkable about the structure of the western is the ability to weave in varied sub-genres without sacrificing the concept of a true western. The difficulty, of course, depends on the intricacy of the plot or storyline.

The western can easily accommodate mystery, noir, and political thrillers. Science fiction, as well, but that would be a bit of stretch for me.

On your blog, you devote significant virtual ink to exposing some of the lesser-known scoundrels of the Old West — outlaws and wannabes alike. In fact, you’ve published a non-fiction book, Heroes & Rogues, containing profiles of some of the not-quite-notorious baddies and their not-quite-famous adversaries. To what do you attribute this fascination with villainy?

I think it goes back to my childhood. When my brothers and the neighborhood kids played so-called cowboys and outlaws, I was the first to volunteer to play the outlaw. They couldn’t understand why. But, I always felt an incredible amount of freedom in such a role. No rules to follow. No warning anyone what you were about to do. No decorum to maintain. The freedom to be devious, sneaky, and hide anywhere you could — as long as you stayed in the neighborhood and didn’t climb into Mr. Quinn’s Bing cherry tree to hide, because Mr. Quinn would shoot you.

It’s fascinating to me how many men wore a badge and then turned outlaw. Or kept the badge and played outlaw anyway. It amazes me how many of them would switch back and forth. Many — or most — of those who did ride the outlaw trail led very short lives, on average.

If you had lived in the Old West, when and where would you have taken up residence, and what line of work would you have pursued?

Wyoming, I think, would be a great place to live. Spacious. Beautiful. I would have been happy to live in a small-but-growing town and run the local newspaper. Newspaper editors, as you know, weren’t worth their salt unless they raised a little hell. And that would be fun, as long as you didn’t have to be fast with a gun.

Find Tom Rizzo online at, as well as on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. His Amazon author page offers a listing of his books.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Sewing Machines

Clothing has long been something everyone needed, and for years, around the world, men and women, imagined a machine that could assist in creating the highly demanded commodity. 

In 1804 two men, James Henderson and Thomas Stone received a French patent for a mechanical principal to be particularly applicable for the manufacture of clothing, and Scott John Duncan received one for an embroidery machine, however, neither invention worked and were soon forgotten. 

In 1830 a French tailor, Barthelemy Thimonnier, received a patent and had machines that did work. By 1841 he had a shop in Paris with 80 machines stitching uniforms for soldiers, however a mob of angry tailors attacked his shop and destroyed his machines. His made several attempts to restore his shop and business, but was doomed and died a poor man. 

Several other machines were invented, but most either quickly malfunctioned, couldn’t stitch curved or angled lines, or simply didn’t work. In 1834 Walter Hunt created the first machine that did work, however, he feared it might cause unemployment and lost interest in the machine without ever patenting his invention. Elias Howe, whose wife took in sewing to support their family regularly, received the first patent for a sewing machine in America, and died a rich man mainly because others copied his patent, (you can read my post about him on His machine worked because he took note of how the thread had to go throw the tip of the needle rather than the end.

Isaac Singer was one of the men whose machine design closely mimicked Howe’s (Singer had to pay Howe a portion of his sales for years) and whose machines soon became common in women’s parlors or sewing rooms across the nation. Isaac’s first love was acting, and after inventing and creating the I. M. Singer & Company, he used the money to fund a five year long acting tour. His sewing machines became popular quickly because of the ease to adapt them for home use, and his company’s policy to allow customers to make installment payments. Singer took note of how Samuel Colt and Eli Whitney used interchangeable parts in their firearms, and did the same with his machines. Doing so allowed him to increase production and cut the prices of his machines made for home use down to a mere $10.
Singer was also quite an adulterer. In 1860 he admitted to fathering 18 children with 4 different women, at least two of which he may have been married to at the same time, although none of the women knew about the others, upon marriage (he used the sir name Matthews, Merrit (his middle name) and Eastman, and possibly others, for his alternate families). When one of his wives discovered the others, as well as his lady-friend who was also his employee at the sewing company, Isaac moved to Paris, along with his lady-friend, whom he had more children with before marrying yet a different woman. By his death in 1875 Singer had fathered 24 children. He died and is buried in Europe. 

The I.M. Singer & Company was dissolved by mutual consent and continued doing business as The Singer Manufacturing Company in 1863. Singer’s partner from the beginning had been Edward S. Clark, a lawyer and Sunday school teacher, whose management skills were what advanced the Singer company worldwide. Isaac Singer and Edward Clark’s mutual consent to dissolve their partnership was rather frosty, and Singer insisted Clark could not become president of the company while he was still alive. The two of them chose Inslee Hopper, an office boy. However, both Singer and Clark insisted Hopper had to become a ‘respectable married man’ in order to obtain the presidency. Hopper married the lady he’d been seeing and took over the company, and ultimately earned a salary of $25,000 per year by the time he turned the presidency over to Clark upon Singer’s death in 1875. 

Clark expanded the business by setting up franchises and when overseas demand outgrew current production, he set up factories in Germany, Russia and Canada. Clark remained president until his death in 1882 and left an estate worth more than 25 million dollars. The Clark family owned controlling shares and ran the company as a family business until 1959. The company has been sold several times since then, but the name has remained the same. 

I have my grandmother’s Singer. Its treadle machine, and the one I learned to sew on. I remember spending hours sewing clothes for my Barbie dolls. I also remember running the needle clear through my thumb one time, nail and all. It looks similar to this one, but has more drawers on the cabinet.

Currently I have a free read up on Harlequin’s website, The Stolen Kiss, where the heroine is a seamstress, and had a Singer sewing machine.

The Stolen Kiss

Copyright © 2014 by Harlequin Books S.A.

From rivals…to lovers!

The moment beautiful Cassandra Halverson arrives in Tulsa, Micah Bollinger knows she'll be trouble. No sooner has she set up her dressmaker's shop than she starts poaching his customers. Determined to beat Cassandra at her own game, Micah decides to keep his enemy close!

Cassandra wants nothing more than to create a new life doing what she loves and to leave her past behind her forever. But the presence of her infuriatingly gorgeous competitor threatens it all. When an unexpected kiss takes them both by surprise, it's not long before fury turns to red-hot passion!


Oklahoma Indian Territory

Faded by a sun as relentless as the wind, the red letters on the side of the weathered building announced she'd arrived. Cassandra Halverson hitched the skirt of her olive traveling suit and stepped off the MKT train amongst a splattering of Army men, Indians, and those she'd rather not notice.


The last depot before entering Indian Territory. Trains didn't even go west from here. Only Indians, horse thieves, Mexican traders, whiskey peddlers, desperadoes and those associated with the U.S. Army were brave or crazy enough to do that.

She'd chosen Tulsa, or Tulsy town as some called it, because of that. People here didn't question others about their past. The town was growing fast, and would continue to now that the railroad was here. Every man, woman and child would need clothes, and she was here to sew them.

She was making a name for herself, and a living, but could make much more if not for Micah Bollinger. Besides his golden-brown hair and gold-flecked brown eyes, Micah had a silver tongue, which he used to wrangle customers out of her shop and into his.

A flit of elation put a smile on her lips. She'd outsmarted him this time. No longer Gambling Irv's daughter or Wesley's poor wife, she was Cassandra, and no man would ever get the best of her.

She found a spot near the building, where porters unceremoniously dropped luggage and cargo of the travelers ending their voyages while others scurried to load trunks and bags for those departing. The train didn't depot here for long, and to her sensible mind, something she prided herself on, it would be more prudent to wait for the chaos to slow rather than attempting to rifle through it.

Before long, and in between two loud steam-filled blasts, the conductor shouted a boarding call, which had the crowd dispersing.

"How was your buying trip?"

Despite air so hot that the feather on the new straw hat she'd purchased in Wichita drooped over her left eye, every drop of blood in Cassandra's veins froze. She hadn't told anyone where she'd gone, especially not Micah.

"Missed me, didn't you?" he drawled.

Without glancing his way, she asked, "Would a dog miss fleas?"

The Stolen Kiss is related to my February 1st release, The Major’s Wife.


Major Seth Parker knows his wife, and the woman standing before him isn't her. The manipulative vixen who tricked his hand in marriage could never possess such innocence—nor get his heart racing like this! 

Millie St. Clair has traveled halfway across the country to pull off one of the greatest deceptions ever. But with everything at stake it soon becomes clear that the hardest part might be walking away from the Major when it's all over…. 

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Allow Me to Introduce Myself

Wow. My first post as a member of Sweetheart of the West. What an honor to be part of this wonderful group of western authors!

I’ve always been intrigued by the old west, the Cowboys and Indians, the Scouts, and Frontiersmen. When I think of the “west”, I don’t so much think of cowboys riding the range. It’s wagon trains, and men scouting out the mountains that scream “western” to me.

I was born and raised in Germany for the first 12 years of my life, and everything American was just a big thing to us back then. We were always glued to the TV on Saturday evenings, watching Gunsmoke, Bonanza, Little House on the Prairie, etc. When my family moved to the US, I saw my first western movie where the actors spoke English! What?! I thought they all talked German.

Lex Barker as Old Shatterhand
My friends and I didn’t play with Barbie dolls. We played with our little cowboy and Indian figures, making up great adventures of red men and white men as friends, working against an evil gang of outlaws. Probably most of that stems from the “western” books I grew up with. A German author by the name of Karl May wrote volumes upon volumes of adventure novels about the American west, with larger than life heroes. His primary heroes weren’t cowboys, though. His characters were scouts and mountain men, and Indians. Old Shatterhand, the man who came to the west as a “greenhorn” fresh from Europe, and became an overnight legend as scout and frontiersman, along with his Apache blood-brother Winnetou, and his Mountain man/scout sidekick Sam Hawkens, kept us turning the pages and glued to the T.V.  Other heroes had colorful names such as Old Firehand, and Old Surehand. 

The one thing I always remember about Old Shatterhand – he dressed in buckskins. I think that’s where my fascination with the mountain man must have originally come from.
One thing that amazed me about these books and the author  - although historically not very accurate, he writes about the American west with such vivid descriptions, it puts the reader into the stories. However, he himself had never been to America when he wrote the books (1890’s).

Grand Prismatic Spring

My then-future husband introduced me to camping the summer after our high school graduation.  That’s when I discovered Yellowstone National Park, and I was hooked. Who wouldn’t be in awe of the beautiful landscape, thermal features, and the wildlife?

I learned about the park’s history, and about the mountain man and fur trapper. So, when the basic story idea for my debut novel, Yellowstone Heart Song came to me, I could think of no other setting than Yellowstone, and no other hero than a mountain man who carved out his living in the Yellowstone Wilderness of the past.

I hope to share some of the fascinating history of Yellowstone, the fur trappers and mountain men who were, after all, the west’s first trailblazers, in my upcoming posts. For now, let me leave you with a short passage from Yellowstone Heart Song, truly the book of my heart.

For the better part of the morning, Daniel led her through the forest, showing her how to read different tracks, other signs to look out for that an animal had been in the area, where to look for edible roots and plants, and how to watch the skies for changes in the weather. Along with the berries, she filled her backpack with mint, wild onions, licorice, and various other roots and plants.

She had listened attentively as she tried to absorb everything Daniel told her. Some things she already knew, others were completely new to her. The subtle animal signs he picked up on astounded her. Silently, he had pointed out a black bear sow and her twin cubs in the distance, a moose in the thickets that she would have completely overlooked, and countless other smaller animals. He knew which critter made every track they came upon. He read the forest for information as someone in her time would read a newspaper. It was most refreshing to get a glimpse of this wilderness that she loved so much in her time from this man who carved out a living here.

Aimee savored the beauty of her surroundings. Aspen trees grew in abundance. Beaver lodges could be seen all along the streams, and countless otters played in the waters. With the coming of the fur trappers to these mountains within a decade of this time, the beaver would be trapped to near extinction. Wolves would be hunted until none remained, and without this predator, the elk would take over, causing the destruction of the aspen from overgrazing. This was a Yellowstone unfamiliar to her, but it was as nature had intended before the encroachment of man.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

The Roots of Western Romance

New CK header

Today’s post is a revamped version of an article published on Cowboy Kisses in April 2012, and originally on Lyn Horner’s Corner in 2011.

Sweethearts of the West is dedicated to western romance readers and authors. As such, I thought it might be fun to pass on a little history of the genre, and how I came to love it.

The Flame and the Flower

Historical Romance as we know it was born in 1972 with the publication of The Flame and the Flower by Kathleen E. Woodiwiss. After her death in 2007, Ms. Woodiwiss’s editor, Carrie Feron, called her “the founding mother of the historical romance genre.” She wrote epic adventures with strong plots and character development, and she dared to include sizzling love scenes that went far beyond a kiss and a hug. However, she was not the first to write western romances.

Sweet savage Love

Rosemary Rogers claimed that honor with Sweet Savage Love, published in 1974. Whereas Woodiwiss often chose settings in far off lands and time periods, Rogers set SSL and following books in the Old West. Her plots were highly dramatic, her characters’ actions sometimes hard to be believe, but that didn’t matter to her fans. And yes, I’m one of them. Maybe she was queen of the bodice rippers back then, but oh my, her heroes were men with a capital “M.”

Sweet Savage Love set the stage for authors such as LaVyrle Spenser, Kat Martin, Linda Howard, and many more. But where did modern western romance spring from? What sets it apart from earlier literary genres?

Pride and Prejudice

Early illustration from Pride And Prejudice by Jane Austin

The taproot of all modern romances, westerns included, traces back to nineteenth century authors of romantic fiction such as Jane Austin and the Brontë sisters. Their books are notable for commentary about life in their time period. Some of the stories do not end happily, as most modern romances do, but they contain strong romantic themes.

 cowboy gear divider

The other main root of western romance leads back to classic shoot-em-up westerns, but the two genres differ greatly. Westerns are action driven and often focus on male characters; women are sometimes little more than props. Western romances, on the other hand, frequently tell the story from both the woman’s and the man’s point of view. The plots may be action-packed but they are largely character driven.

Quoting Constance Martin from a 1999 piece she wrote for Romantic Times, “Heroes in these novels seek adventure and are forced to conquer the unknown. They are often loners, slightly uncivilized, and ‘earthy.’ Their heroines are often forced to travel to the frontier by events outside their control. These women must learn to survive in a man’s world, and, by the end of the novel, have conquered their fears with love. In many cases the couple must face a level of personal danger, and, upon surmounting their troubles, are able to forge a strong relationship for the future.” Riders of the Purple Sage

My love of western romance evolved in the same way from classic westerns. I’ve always loved tales of the Old West thanks to my dad. He was a Texan born only a few decades after the great cowboy era, and I believe he always wished he’d lived in those days. With him, I watched every western he could find on TV. Later, he started me reading western novels, mainly those of Zane Gray. I remember writing book reports on westerns when I was in junior high. The usual girly books bored me to tears.

Then, as a young married, I discovered the Romance Revolution – so named by Bertrice Small in a newsletter article she wrote in 2007 for Long Island Romance Writers. She was, of course, talking about the beginning of modern romance, in which she played a part. With this revolution came the birth of western romance, and once I discovered this sub-genre, I was hooked.

CreateSpace cover 2013

Some years later, I began writing my own stories, publishing my first book, Darlin’ Irish,  in 2010. A prequel novella and two more novels in the Texas Devlins series followed. In the tradition of western romance, they combine fast-paced action with passionate love stories. h, and a glimmer of psychic magic and Irish charm just for fun.


shamrocks for home page


Book two, Dashing Irish (Texas Devlins, Tye’s Story) features a cattle drive – a nod to my favorite John Wayne classic, Red River.

In this scene feisty cowgirl Lil Crawford is driving off a troublesome band of wild mustangs, with help from a certain pesky Irishman.New cover for Createspace

She glanced over her shoulder, already knowing it was Tye. He waved and grinned, blue eyes twinkling in the sunlight, much like the bluebonnets spread among the prairie grass and other wild flowers along the trail.

Suddenly lighthearted, Lil smiled and waved back. “We’d better drive them off a ways, or they’re liable to turn and come back,” she shouted above the thunder of hooves.

“Whatever ye say, milady,” he called. Flashing her another impudent grin, he took position on the other side of the horse herd.

They pounded onward for a couple of miles. By then, Lil felt reasonably sure the mustangs wouldn’t return to harass the cattle. Spying a buffalo wallow partly filled with rain water, she waved her arm, catching Tye’s attention and signing for him to pull up.

“Let’s water our horses,” she called, pointing to the wallow.

“Grand idea. I could use a drink myself.” He wiped a dusty shirtsleeve across his forehead. “And a bath wouldn’t hurt.”

Lil glanced at him sharply as they approached the pond. Was he serious? If so, he could forget it. She wasn’t about to strip down in front of him. That would be asking for trouble, maybe more than she could handle.

“That can wait,” she declared. “We’ve got to get back to the herd.”

He looked at her and sighed. “Aye, I know. But a man can wish, no?” His warm gaze said he wished for more than a bath, causing Lil to hastily avert her eyes.

Dismounting, they led their horses to the wallow. While the animals drank their fill, she and Tye knelt nearby to drink. Though tepid and a little murky, the water tasted a lot better than trail dust. Once she’d quenched her thirst, Lil splashed water on her face, washing away some of the grit. She, too, longed for a bath. If her father located a creek where they could bed down tonight, maybe she’d find a hidden spot and clean up proper. For now, she pulled off her grimy bandanna, rinsed it out and swabbed her throat and neck.

Beside her, Tye plunged his head into the water, swished it back and forth vigorously and threw more water over his neck. He came up dripping, shirt half-soaked. Swiping water from his face, he took a breath and slicked back his hair. The wet tendrils immediately sprang back into unruly waves, making Lil long to run her fingers through the glistening black strands.

Tye turned his head and caught her staring. Stunned by the instant leap of desire in his eyes, she gazed into their beckoning depths. Her mouth went dry and her heart pounded wildly.

She still held the wet bandanna pressed to her throat. Shifting to face her, Tye took the wadded up material from her and tossed it aside. She was mesmerized by his caressing gaze, but when he leaned close, panic set in. He mustn’t kiss her again. That would be playing with fire.

“No!” she cried, pushing him away. She jumped up, but before she’d taken two steps, he was on his feet, catching her arms.

“Lily!” he murmured, soft tone imploring her not to run.

This time she couldn’t force herself to stop him as he bent toward her.

cowboy gear divider

All Texas Devlins books are available in ebook & paperback:

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