Tuesday, October 28, 2014


Just wanted to show off PRAIRIE ROSE PUBLICATIONS' lineup for this Halloween in case you've missed any of these! I'm giving away a BOXED SET OF COWBOYS, CREATURES and CALICO VOL. 1 and 2 to one lucky commenter! Be sure to leave your contact information so I can get hold of you if I draw your name. Meanwhile, have fun looking at all our company's offerings for readers of all ages--yep, we've got stories for middle grade readers on up through adults! Take a look and don't forget to comment!


What better way to spend Halloween than with some handsome cowboys and feisty heroines who are determined to fall in love despite their supernatural powers—or lack thereof? Halloween’s a good time to take a chance on love—and to see what these Cowboys, Creatures, and Calico Vol. 2 stories might reveal to the unsuspecting reader—YOU!

Cheryl Pierson’s Spellbound will have you on the edge of your seat as safecracker Brett Diamond and witch Angie Colton take on a border gang leader who is pure evil. Can Angie’s supernatural powers save them? No matter what, Brett and Angie are hopelessly Spellbound.

C. Marie Bowen’s Hunter and Lily Graham is an unforgettable tale of a beautiful school marm’s love for her children that surpasses all. When a Cajun bounty hunter known only as “Hunter” shows up, Lily Graham knows he, and no one else, can help her save a young girl.

Have Wand — Will Travel is Jacquie Rogers’s offering about a handsome young mage, Tremaine Ramsey, who has a wand and knows how to use it…sometimes. Will his magic be strong enough to pull off a daring rescue of his father from the evil Gharth? Or will he need the warrior Nora’s love to help him see his Fate through?

Will Kaye Spencer’s character, Mercy Pontiere, be able to break a centuries-old curse and find true love all at the same time? It all depends on Reid Corvane and what he’ll do For Love of a Brystile Witch.

In Kristy McCaffrey’s story, The Crow and the Coyote, Hannah Dobbin is after an evil Navajo sorcerer who murdered her father, and she’s determined to see him dead. But she’ll need a bounty hunter, The Crow—to help find this vile man. With Hallowtide upon them, more evil is afoot than they can handle; but love will find a way.

A failed bank robber, Tombstone Hawkins, along with a fake gypsy fortune teller, Pansy Gilchrist, set out to make both their deceased fathers proud in one final spectacular heist. Family Tradition is Kathleen Rice Adams’s tale of the discovery of true love amid the commission of a crime—or the failure to commit a crime—while being overseen by the ghosts of the couple’s fathers. How can there be a happy ending? It’s Halloween, and anything can happen!


Halloween is here along with some romantic western-y ghost tales to share around a campfire! Cowboys, Creatures, and Calico, Vol. 1 is guaranteed to make you wonder what in the world–or in the “other” world—is going on. But are you sure you really want to know?

The Sheriff of Hel’n Gone by Lorrie Farrelly is a supernatural tale of a western lawman who must live one hellish Halloween night over and over, until a young woman from the future finds her way back to save him.

In Tanya Hanson’s The Bridesmaid, a bridegroom is doomed to marry a woman he becomes terrified of…but finds her bridesmaid is the love he’s been dreaming of. But will his sleeping or waking hours become his true nightmare?

Sarah J. McNeal’s The Beast of Hazard is a story about a predator that stalks the small community where veterinarian Joey Wilding practices. But is the vicious animal-killer on the loose of this world, or another?

Author Shayna Matthews makes a riveting debut with her tale of The Legend of Venture Canyon, about an exotic young woman who dances in the circus…where the show must go on—at all costs—and love survives everything.

Cher’ley Grogg’s story, Wild Injuns, Wicked Trains, and Cerulean Blue is an unforgettable tale of a young woman who comes west to get a sensational newspaper article and pictures, but in doing so, finds out that she will never leave.

Veteran author Linda Carroll-Bradd’s story, Wanderer, Come Home, is a poignant tale of the discovery of true love and trust amidst some strange Samhain happenings on a small farm.

Hank Renner enjoys summers and early autumns when he can escape his large family and spend time alone at the cow camp in the Bighorn Mountains. That is, until he starts seeing a beautiful woman with flaming red hair and brown eyes, who disappears as quick as the Wyoming sunshine. Questioning his sanity, Hank begins a search that just might lead him to his heart.

Annie Sullivan wants only one thing more than revenge for a rape and murder that occurred ten years ago…Hank Renner. Haunting the mountain, she’s kept watch over the handsome cowboy. But this year she did something she’s never done before, something that could change everything. She’s let the man see her—and exposed her soul.

Two lonely souls search for the truth that could solve a murder and a love that could resurrect their hearts.

In 1909 on All Hallows' Eve, three beautiful young sisters perished in a tragic accident…or was it? For years, citizens of Council Bluffs, Iowa would report strange sightings around Big Lake Park. Were the sightings due to over active imaginations…or something else? Over one hundred years later, Laynee Rodgers's car accident in the same location takes its toll on her memory, but she knows she isn't crazy. With the help of a psychic, she may remember exactly what happened to her, and unlock a century-old mystery in the process—if she only has the courage!


Codi Jackson and her father have been forced to move again. Codi’s getting used to being the “new girl” in her fifth grade class—but that doesn’t mean she has to like it. Can’t life just be normal? With her mother out of the picture and her father working odd shifts as a police officer, friends are important—as long as they’re not the wrong kind.

When Codi and a classmate, Keith Wright, are assigned to work on a history project, Codi has to make some hard decisions about her popularity in her new school.
But everything changes when Codi picks up an old Texas Rangers badge that belonged to one of her ancestors and he appears right before her eyes! Her great-great-great-grandfather says he’s come to help her, but how? And how is she going to explain the ghost of her long-ago Gramps to her history project partner and her father?


Halloween night can't get any worse when her boss, Joseph Clanton, is a no-show and Kelly is stuck closing up the Dairy King alone . . . or so she thought. A cryptic order from an empty room and late-season twister combine to make Kelly's Halloween night a truly unforgettable one by sending her spiraling back through the folds of time and depositing her smack in the middle of an ancient grudge match between none other than Wyatt Earp and Ike Clanton. Can Kelly survive the shootout in the streets of Old Amarillo while dodging Virgil's knife and denying Doc Holliday's romantic advances all while trying to find her way back home?


Trapped in Indian Territory in 1895 by a quirk of nature, high school teacher Jenni Dalton must find a way to get her seven students back to the 21st Century. Handsome U.S. Marshal Rafe d'Angelico seems like the answer to her prayers: he is, after all, an Angel. In a race against time and evil, Rafe has one chance to save Jenni's life and her soul from the Dark One – but can their love survive? 4.5 Stars (Highest Rating) from Romantic Times Cheryl Pierson's fresh, well-crafted novel pits some unlikely heroes against evil incarnate. The characters are vibrant and tell a story of courage in difficult circumstances. An open thread invites a sequel. —Donna M. Brown Romantic Times

When Lola Barton inherits a rundown plantation, she believes her life has finally taken a positive turn. But, when she finds a mysterious trunk in the attic, it takes her into the past and to a man with dark secrets—and she’s married to him.

Kate Kinsella has no choice but to go after Charley Barstow and talk some sense into him. After all, he’s skipped town, leaving a string of broken hearts and his pregnant fiancée, Agnes McPherson. But Kate didn’t count on being kidnapped by a band of criminals along the way!
Ethan Barstow is hot on his younger brother’s trail, too. He rescues Kate, believing her to be Charley’s fiancée, and suggests they try to find him together. Kate’s reluctance has him baffled.

All hell breaks loose when they discover Charley in search of a copper mine—not wishing to be found by anyone; certainly not Kate! But, then, Kate was always trouble—and now she’s brought it to his doorstep, with tales of a pregnant fiancée and his brother Ethan, who he hasn’t seen in five years.

Can Ethan and Kate ever find their own love and happiness with one another through the dark deception and hurt? Or will they both return INTO THE LAND OF SHADOWS…

Sunday, October 26, 2014


By Bea Smith

Entrance to stockyards on Exchange Street

The Stockyards actually have a branch of the Trinity River flowing under Exchange, the main street. Many people believe that water holds spiritual activity and heightens paranormal activity.

Stockyards Hotel
The Stockyards Hotel was built in 1910 and was a crown jewel of a hotel, attracting rich oil tycoons. Bonnie and Clyde reportedly stayed in room 305. That room now overlooks Merrick Fine Western Wear, which was then a jewelry store, and the nearby bank.  Two stories are told about their stay. One is that they rented the room to stake out the two businesses, but they liked FW so much they decided not to rob there. The other tale is that they told the owners of the bank and the jewelry store that they weren’t there to rob them or cause any trouble; Bonnie and Clyde said they were just hiding out from the law until things cooled down a bit.

The Stockyards Hotel has a full-bodied apparition named Jesse. He’s a cowboy who couldn’t have afforded to stay in the hotel at the time. People speculate that he just wanted to stay there in the afterlife.  Visitors hear his spurs jingling as he walks through the hall or see him. Jesse never interacts with anyone.

Many have felt the presence of a former employee; Jake. He was a messenger from the 1900’s and he loved his job of 30-40 years. Visitors feel hot and cold spots and some of his physical duties are still taken care of. If guests leave their room unlocked, it will be locked when they return. For the last 30 years, the phone rings after hours. No one is there and the call cannot be traced, put on hold, or transferred. 

Stockyards Indoor Rodeo Arena

Exchange Building: Rodeo Arena has had a rodeo since 1908. This arena is a hotbed of paranormal activity. There is a phantom black horse that runs around the arena.

Apparitions are of deceased cowboys in old-time clothing.  The rodeo was very dangerous and many lost their lives during their performance.  EVP’s (electronic voice phenomenon; conversation not heard by the human ear) record hearing a voice saying, “Cow, cow, cow.” And “Pig, pig, pig.”
People have also recported seeing the spirit of Quanah Parker, who was the first Native American to ride in a rodeo.

Offices in the Livestock Exchange building
still conduct cattle sales nationwide
Exchange Building: A man’s small child followed him to work in the early 1900’s. He wasn’t sure what to do with her, so he let her wander around. She went to play in the vault and an employee inadvertently locked her in. She wasn’t discovered in the airtight building until the next morning, where she had suffocated.  Employees say they get an eerie feeling upstairs. They see a little girl running around playing and trying to get their attention. She looks out windows at dawn. One early morning, there were hand prints on the inside of the door. The paranormal team from the stockyards found two prints.

The body of a prostitute was found inside years ago when prostitution was a licensed profession. She was probably murdered offsite and then dumped there. Her rose-scented perfume, for which she was known, can still be smelled on tours.

Armour Swift Corporate Building: 1900’s-1970’s. Arson destroyed the building and, with all the residual animal fat, it took 1 month to put out completely. The Spaghetti Warehouse was there after the building was rebuilt, but they couldn’t keep staff. Silverware would fly, things would be moved, strange noises, and creepy feelings.  It’s a power company now. [My family and I ate there when it was the Spaghetti Warehouse. All I remember is service was slow. Hmm, no wonder.]

Riscky’s Steakhouse
A brothel was above this popular restaurant. This was a high class brothel that was more expensive than usual. The last member of the Riscky family is very embarrassed about the brothel and won’t let people go up there. She threw everything away—but a red rocker once owned by the Madame mysteriously reappeared in the building.  The bells that signaled the men that their time was up are still there and working. The windows where the women would stand to attract customers have been boarded up because people kept seeing apparitions of working women standing and posing in them.

Saunders Park just below the Stockyards

Saunders Park
When it was Hell’s Half Acre, people would take care of disputes by shooting at each other. Dead or dying were dumped into the river by the park. Sometimes the water was red with blood. Divers report that there are too many human bones to count remaining on the bottom of that part of the Trinity River.

Lead cow Molly and
the simulated cattle drive

Miss Molly’s B and B
Molly is actually the name of the lead cow in the simulated cattle drive and the mascot of FW.

The actual Madame was Miss Josie. It was a speakeasy until the 1930’s, then became a low end brother. The girls were actually 11-15 years old. Most of the girls were orphans or runaways.  Miss Josie was abusive. She didn’t take any guff from the male customers and was known to throw them out on the street. She was very obese and ill-tempered. The girls had huge quotas and, if they didn’t meet them or they talked back, Josie would lock them in the closet without food, water, or facilities as long as she felt the the discipline required. 

Girls were very competitive and would poison each other’s food and lotion, resulting in some violent illnesses and deaths.  Miss Josie had a daughter, father unknown, who she abused terribly. When the little girl was 8 years old, she disappeared.  Everyone thought Josie had killed her but it was never investigated.  One time a little girl on the ghost tour had her hair pulled and said that “Mary was messing with her.” No one had told the little girl that Josie’s daughter was named Mary. The owner keeps toys for Mary that no one else is allowed to play with, and the playthings move around.

Josie’s room and the Cowboy’s room are the most haunted. Men have their shoulders rubbed or their heads patted, but women report feeling very unwelcome and watched.

Longhorn Saloon:  Three cowboys stopped to drink, boys between 15 and 17. They got drunk and got back on what they thought were their horses. The men whose horses they stole confronted them and the boys were hanged in the saloon.  Now women in the Ladies bathroom report having their legs tugged and feeling like they are being watched.

Cowtown Winery entrance

Cowtown Winery:
Paranormal team that works the Stockyards swept the building and found just as much activity as Miss Molly’s.  It used to be a Chinese Laundry with the family living above.  People feel the presence of a young boy. A medium said he was killed by an abusive parent, who kept him in a cupboard behind the bar. There is an old-fashioned sock monkey doll no one admits to having brought in.  It will disappear for days, then reappear in odd places.

Another presence is also felt. Wine is spilled during the night, crackers are spilled, and cases topple over. The motion detector is never tripped.  People hear glass break and rush in, but nothing is broken.

While the guide was talking about the little boy, the street light in the alley was flickering. When she got to the story of the other presence, the light went out with a “Pop!” Everyone jumped, watched, and then laughed at themselves. As the tour dispersed and the guide went back in, one of the remaining tourists said, “Wouldn’t it be funny if the light came back on?”

And it did!

Photos  from Google Commons

Friday, October 24, 2014

Fall Back in Time by Lauri Robinson

On the weekend of November 1st--which is the end of Daylight Savings Time--more than 200 romance authors of the Historical Romance Network will be celebrating the diversity of historical romances by asking readers (all of you!) to show the world that we love and read historical romances. How do you do that? 

Here’s all you need to do:

1. Take a selfie with a favorite/recently read Historical Romance.

2. Post it on your social media sites starting on 10 am CST 1 November 2014. Please include the hashtag #FallBackinTime. If pictures start sneaking out on the 31st and continue through the 2nd that’s okay, too! 

3. Invite others!!! Post your pictures on their sites and ask them to do the same!

4. "LIKE" our Historical Romance Network facebook page and join the event on Nov. 1st!
5. Spread the word about our love for historical romance through tweets and facebook posts. Here are some generic tweets you can use:

#FallBackinTime to your first historical romance! This was mine: (pix)
#FallBackinTime with this historical romance! (pix)
#FallBackinTime Look, it’s me in the [middle ages/regency era/etc]
If I could #FallBackinTime, it’d be to this book, this era: (pix)
Where would you #FallBackinTime to? I'd go here: (pix)
My favorite time machine is a book. #FallBackinTime (pix)
Escape with a historical romance #FallBackin Time. I do! (pix)


Historical Romance Network social media sites:

Here is a copy of the flyer to share with others!

As you can see, I took a picture of me with my latest book, The Wrong Cowboy, which just so happens will also be released on November 1st.  
 One mail-order bride in need of rescue! 

All the rigorous training in the world could not have prepared nursemaid Marie Hall for trailing the wilds of Dakota with six orphans. Especially when her ingenious plan—to pose as the mail-order bride of the children's next of kin—leads Marie to the wrong cowboy!

Proud and stubborn, Stafford Burleson is everything Marie's been taught to avoid. But with her fate and that of the children in his capable hands, Marie soon feels there's something incredibly right about this rugged rancher and his brooding charm…. 

From RT Reviews: (Four stars and the K.I.S.S. Hero Award) Heartwarming and touching, this feel-good Western is perfect for the season.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

From Bad Guy to Hero

by: Peggy L Henderson

I have a new release that just out this month, the third book in my western/time travel romance series, Second Chances. The book is titled Diamond in the Dust.  I put off writing this book, pushing it back to write two other books in two different series between Book 2 and Book 3 because, frankly, writing this one scared me to death. Why? 
First of all, I don't like writing in a contemporary setting, and this story calls for the hero to come from the old west of 1872 to modern times. Reason #2: It was "suggested" to me when I was nearly two-thirds done writing the second book, Ain't No Angel, that I write the "bad guy" in that book as the hero in another book. Ooookaaay....how to turn a guy with vindictive motives into someone likable, with a slow progression from his old self to someone the reader can root for,  and give him his own story and HEA? 
Well, the returns so far from my beta readers and my editor have been quite encouraging, some even saying this is my best book to date. Well, we'll see. It's definitely one of the most emotionally-charged books I've ever written, and with the most broken hero I've ever come up with. 

Here's a short excerpt from Diamond in the Dust:

Morgan shook her head. “I wonder if Laney would have met Tyler if you hadn’t schemed for her to marry him,” she said. “Have you thought of that?” Their eyes met. “Apparently your brother has forgiven you. Why can’t you forgive yourself?”
“There ain’t no turning back for me, Morgan. I can’t undo my past.”
“But you don’t have to continue down the same road. You can’t go back and undo things, but you can move forward with your life, change things for the better.”
Gabe pulled away from her. He sat on his bunk, and stared at the floor, resting his elbows on his knees. He couldn’t bear to let her see the shame of his past, and the guilt over what he’d done.
Not a moment later, Morgan’s hands were on his arms. He tilted his head to look up at her. She stood right there, concern in her imploring eyes. He couldn’t pull away from her. The draw of her tender gaze was too much.
“You’re trying to push me away, Gabe, but I won’t let you,” she whispered. “Not anymore. You can pretend to be angry at the world all you want, but one of these days you’ll realize that not everything is bad and ugly. You can’t change who your parents were or what they did, but you can change who you are.”
She leaned forward, and brought both hands to his face, framing his cheeks with her palms. Gabe drowned in the depths of her amber eyes, his mind waging a losing battle against the soothing touch of her palms.
“Everyone deserves a second chance. You’ve been given the opportunity to make a new start,” she whispered, smiling as tears rolled down her cheeks. “Your brother thought enough of you that he willed half of his ranch to you.”
“I ain’t a good man, Morgan,” he grumbled. “Because of the way I grew up, I—”
“Stop saying that.” Her voice rose uncharacteristically. For once, genuine anger blazed in her eyes. “You’ve been in the dumps all your life, you’re so blinded when good things actually happen to you. There are people who care about you.” She straightened, removed her hands from his face, and glared down at him. He’d never seen her this mad.
“Just because you had a rotten upbringing doesn’t mean you have to live your entire life that way,” she continued angrily. “Jake Owens thinks highly of you. I saw what you did for that little boy, Aaron, and I’ve seen you with Logan. You’ve had plenty of opportunity to take complete advantage of me, but you didn’t. You’ve never acted anything but honorably with me. I’ll never believe that you’re the horrible man you make yourself out to be. You’re a good man with a bad past. Stop looking back, and start looking toward the future.
Morgan spun on her heels, facing away from him. She hugged one arm around her waist.
Gabe clenched his jaw and sprang up from the mattress. “Dammit, woman, why the hell do you keep pestering me?” His tone was more forceful than he’d intended. He needed to be angry with her, needed her to understand that she was wrong about him.
Morgan turned slowly, her eyes wide as she stared up at him in disbelief. She chuckled softly, and took a step toward him again. Their gazes locked.
“Haven’t you figured that out by now, Desperado?” Her anger was gone, replaced by the soft, calm voice that always held him mesmerized.
Gabe stared into her eyes. The answer was written there plain as day. No one had ever favored him with the kind of look she offered. Gabe’s chest tightened, and warmth spread through him. He’d seen that look in a woman’s eyes before, but it hadn’t been directed at him. Laney had gazed at Tyler the way Morgan favored him at this moment. It was that same look that had spurred him to find a way to send Laney back to the future, to hurt his brother. A look he never expected to see a woman bestow on him.
“I love you, Gabe McFarlain,” she whispered, and leaned up to touch her lips to his. 

Reverend Johnson is in the business of granting second chances to those deserving a new start, even if it means bending the rules of time travel on occasion. In Gabe McFarlain’s case, he may have gone too far . . .

Abandoned by his father, and raised in a whorehouse, Gabe has grown bitter to the world. Fueled by revenge and hatred, his actions leave him facing the hangman’s noose. Accepting certain death, he wakes up in a time and place that is as foreign to him as the tender touch of the woman who rescues him.

Down to earth and level-headed, Morgan Bartlett isn’t afraid to wear her heart on her sleeve. All she wants is independence from her overbearing mother, and the freedom to shape her own destiny. When she aids a badly beaten man along the side of the road, she may have found more than a dusty cowboy down on his luck.

Morgan’s unshakable belief that Gabe is a good man slowly chisels away the walls he’s built around himself. As he comes to terms with living in the future, he must decide if losing his heart is worth more than holding on to the life he’s led in the past.

Peggy L Henderson is a laboratory technologist by night, and best-selling western historical and time travel romance author of the Yellowstone Romance Series, Second Chances Time Travel Romance Series, and Teton Romance Trilogy. When she’s not writing about Yellowstone, the Tetons, or the old west, she’s out hiking the trails, spending time with her family and pets, or catching up on much-needed sleep. She is happily married to her high school sweetheart. Along with her husband and two sons, she makes her home in Southern California.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Famous Western Dudes

by Lyn Horner

Among the many books about the Old West in my personal library, I have a big, heavy tome titled The American West, The Pictorial Epic of a Continent. Written by Lucius Beebe and Charles Clegg and originally published in 1955, this book is a treasury of facts and legends of the American West. It includes over 1,000 black and white illustrations.

While paging through the giant compendium, I came across a section on “Dudes.” According to the authors, softies from the eastern half of the continent and Englishmen with foreign accents and tall hats swarmed into the West from the earliest days of westward exploration. So many English dudes settled in Colorado Springs that it became known as “Little Lunnon” (London.)

One Boston dude who ventured west was Francis Parkman,”who doubted he would survive it and barely did.” The son of a clergyman, young Francis developed a love of wild areas, forests in particular, while living with his grandfather in an unsettled part of Massachusetts. After graduating from Harvard University and law school, Parkman traveled west for the first time, spending several weeks living with the Sioux Indians. This experience evidently left him with an unfavorable view of Native Americans, which colors much of his historical writings.

An English dude of the early frontier was Sir William Drummond Stewart. Between 1834 and 1843, Stewart made six overland trips from New Orleans to the annual fur traders rendezvous in the Green River area of Wyoming. His extensive entourage included artist Alfred Jacob Miller, who he retained to paint pictures of the American West to be hung in Stewart’s Murthley Castle in Scotland.

Another adventurer was Irish sportsman Sir St. George Gore. Dubbed “The Noblest Roamer of Them All’’ by one author, Gore once made an offer to the United States to hire a private army to exterminate the Indians. (Not so noble in my opinion!) He also mounted the greatest 19th century safari into the West. His heavily armed party left St. Louis in 1854, employing twenty-one two-horse red cherettes, a personal carriage and a number of express wagons, oxcarts and freighting wagons. Each night, his brass bed and iron washstand were set up in a large green and white striped tent.

Gore’s hunting expedition cost more than $500,000 and lasted three years. He traversed 6,000 miles of the mostly unexplored west, bagging 2,500 buffalo, 1,600 elk and 125 bears. When he had finally done enough killing, Gore offered to sell all of his equipment to the American Fur Company at Fort Union. However, the company’s factor tried to cheat him on the price. As a result, Gore built a huge bonfire, burning his wagons and boats in full sight of the fort. Today, Colorado’s Gore Mountains, Gore Pass and Gore Canyon memorialize the big-spending eighth baronet of Manor Gore.

Less well remembered is the debonair Frenchman, Marquis de Morès, who came to Little Missouri, Dakota Territory in 1883. De Morès founded a neighboring town, Medora, named for his wife, purchased 44,500 acres of land and began ranching. He also opened a stagecoach business. He named his house the "Chateau de Morès"; it is preserved in Medora as a historic site.

The Marquis and his wife set up housekeeping with a French chef, butler and housemaids. Four years later, their homestead was wiped out by the terrible blizzard of 1887, and the De Morès went home to France. A bronze statue of the Marquis in full cowboy regalia stands on the main street of Medora.

Now, from Dashing Irish, here's a peak at my version of a dude.

Bosque County, Texas; July 1874

“Consarned critter! Why’d you have to go and get stuck in there?” Lil Crawford muttered. She tugged harder on her rope in an effort to pull the bawling calf from the mud wallow it had wandered into. No luck. The animal was mired nearly up to his shoulders in thick clay gumbo. No matter how hard she pulled, she wasn’t going to get him out.

Nearby, standing beside the creek that had carved out the treacherous wallow along the bank, the calf’s mamma lowed plaintively as if blaming Lil for her baby’s predicament. Sending her a baleful glare, Lil said, “It’s not my fault. You should’ve dropped him in the spring like you’re supposed to ’stead of in the middle of summer. Then maybe he’d be big enough to climb out of this dang mud.”

Arms crossed, she studied the situation. She considered letting Major, her buckskin gelding, drag the calf out but feared injuring the little mite, possibly even breaking his neck. She sighed in disgust. There was no help for it; she’d have to get down in the mud and wrestle the calf out. It was either that or leave him there to die a slow, miserable death.

Dropping to the ground, she tugged off her boots and socks. She set them near the edge of the wallow, then rose, unbuckled her gun belt and laid it atop her footgear, where she could reach her six-shooter if need be. Her hat joined the pile for good measure.

Lil took a deep breath, set her teeth and stepped into the wallow, cringing as she sank up to her knees in the gooey muck. It squished between her toes and clung to her legs, plastering her britches to her skin. It also stank of rotting grass and other things she’d as soon not name.

Crooning softly to the frightened calf, she wrapped her arms around his middle, coating her hands, arms and shirt with mud in the process. She braced herself, preparing to wrestle the animal free.

A man’s deep-throated laugh caught her off guard. Jolted by the sound, she cried out in surprise and struggled to turn around, fighting the mud that imprisoned her legs. Once she succeeded, she stared, slack-jawed, at the stranger grinning at her from atop the most broken down nag she’d ever laid eyes on. The dude himself was a sight to behold. Togged out in a funny checked suit, with a derby hat atop jet-black hair, he made her lips twitch. However, her humor fled when she met his eyes. Brilliant blue, they shot sparks of light, brighter than the toothy grin splitting his handsome face.

“Sure’n I must be dreaming,” he said in a lilting Irish brogue. “Or are ye truly a lovely faery maid sent to enchant me?”

His foolish question broke Lil’s frozen stare and roused her anger. She knew she was far from lovely, and right now she was covered with nasty muck besides. “Mister, I’m no fairy and I don’t take kindly to strangers who ride up on me with no warning. So you can just turn that bag of bones around and git. Right now!”

“Ah, colleen, will ye not grant this poor beggar a few moments of your company? ’Twould be my pleasure to help ye with the wee animal if ye like.”

She snorted at his offer. “No thanks. I can get him out by myself. ’Sides, you wouldn’t want to muddy up your fancy suit, would you?” she drawled with a smirk.

 He looked down at himself and grimaced. “I take it ye don’t care for my fine attire.” Fine came out sounding like foin. “Well, you’re not the first. A layer of mud might not be such a bad thing, eh? With that in mind, will ye not reconsider and allow me to lend ye a hand?” He gave another roguish grin and splayed a hand over his heart. “In truth, your beauty so captivates me that I fear I cannot turn away.”

Lil bristled at his absurd comment. Certain he was making fun of her now, for her beauty would never captivate any man, she narrowed her eyes. She’d teach him, by criminy!

Without a word, she plowed through the mud over to where her belongings lay piled. She hastily wiped the worst of the mud from her hands onto the grassy embankment, then reached under her hat and drew her Colt. Coldly calm now, she turned to face the impudent stranger. It pleased her to see how fast he sobered with a gun aimed between his eyes.

“This is Double C land, mister. You’re trespassing. I could shoot you dead and nobody’d blame me. So unless you want a hole in your head bigger than your mouth, you’d best get moving.”

Sighing, he crooked his lips. “As ye wish.” He tipped his hat to her, clumsily reined his horse around and started to leave, but then he pulled up and glanced at her over his shoulder. He held up his hands when she cocked her gun. “I’m going, colleen, never fear. But first, could ye be directing me to the Taylor place, by any chance?”

Lil stared at him for a moment while questions raced through her head. Normally, she didn’t poke her nose into other folks’ business, but in this case . . . . “What do you want at the River T?” she demanded.

He frowned testily. “I mean no harm, if that’s what you’re thinking. I’m merely trying to find my sister. She’s wed to David Taylor. D’ye know him?”

Lil drew a sharp breath. “You’re Jessie’s brother?”

“Aye, that I am. So ye do know them.”

“I know them all right,” she gritted. She should’ve guessed who he was from his damned Irish accent and those blue eyes that were so much like his sister’s. The two looked a lot alike in other ways, too, except Jessie’s hair was dark red instead of black. And he was handsome, not beautiful.

Fiddlesticks! She didn’t care what he looked like. And she didn’t cotton to the way he was staring at her now, as if he was trying to see inside her head. It gave her an uneasy feeling. She wanted him gone. If giving him directions would get rid of him, so much the better.

“Follow the creek. It’ll take you to their place,” she snapped, jerking her head in the downstream direction. “Now leave before my trigger finger slips. On purpose.”

He blinked and seemed to come back to himself. “I thank ye for your kind assistance, milady,” he said mockingly. Facing forward, he kicked his sorry mount into a stiff-legged trot and headed down the creek, bouncing in his saddle.

Watching him, Lil snickered. He was a greenhorn if there ever was one, and he was going to be mighty sore tonight. She waited until he was well out of sight before laying her gun aside and returning her attention to the mired calf.

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