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Saturday, April 27, 2013

Tricia's novels begin in her dreams

Today I'd like to welcone Tricia Andersen. Welcome, Tricia. Please get comfortable and tell us a little about your writing adventure.
What inspired you to write your first book? 

Many of my novels begin from dreams I’ve had.  My first novel, SORCERESS OF SAVON (being released by Secret Cravings Publishing in June) began from a dream.  I took the dream and built around it.  The dream is actually a scene in the book.  It’s altered a bit but it’s there.

You’ve recently signed with a publisher. Tell us about your writing journey before and after this point.

 I actually started as a children’s writer.  I wrote my first book in 1998 but I had no idea how to publish it.  My husband spent months trying to figure it out.  Finally I told him to stop figuring. I wasn’t meant to be a writer.  A couple of years ago when my oldest was a junior in high school, he told a friend about the book I wrote.  She told him about Createspace.  I looked into it, did the illustrations myself and three months later my book was finally published.  I published two children’s books and two novels I had already written through Createspace and Smashwords then wrote BLACK IRISH.  After self-publishing Black Irish, I submitted it to agents.  One responded that she would look at it again if I had it gone through by a critique group.  I joined the RWA and From the Heart Romance Writers.  It was there that I found Secret Cravings Publishing.  I submitted Black Irish and it was accepted.

When you are not writing, what are your hobbies, passions, etc? 

I coach youth track and field and participate at the adult level – I throw discus, shot, hammer and javelin.  I just started kickboxing with a gym. I interviewed for my WIP BREAKING THE CYCLE and I love it.  I chase my three children around to their activities.  I am also active in my church and I sew and machine embroider.

What place inspires you the most?

It’s my favorite place to visit – The House On The Rock in Spring Green, Wisconsin.  It is so eclectic and can have such a macabre feeling.  My grandmother had a souvenir book of pictures when I was really little and I used to stare at it for hours.  It’s just an amazing, beautiful place.

If you could time travel back, or forward, for one day, where would it be and why? 

Medieval Europe, back to the time described in Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales.  I’ve always been fascinated with knights and ladies and bar wenches and the common folk.  Many of my stories are written from that time period.

Share three fun facts about you that most people don’t know.

I have two weaknesses – coffee and pro wrestling (yep – the fake stuff).  Two of the heroes in my WIPs are fashioned after two WWE wrestlers.
I coach track and field but my favorite sport is rugby.
I have pointed ears, kind of like an elf. 

     Abbey couldn't believe he was gay.  Abbey nearly ran away from her dreams of being a children's book writer when she was introduced to her illustrator, Sloan O'Riley, a dark, sensual Irishman with incredible ice blue eyes.  He certainly couldn't be good for Abbey's relationship with her boyfriend back in Iowa.  How could she stay in New York and work intimately with the sinfully sexy Sloan even if he was gay?  And when Sloan is threatened to be deported, how far would Abbey go to keep him in the U.S.?
     Sloan was forced to tell a little white lie.  He had no choice.  He couldn't let the sweet, beautiful, innocent Abbey Wright flee from his life - not without a chance to explore the sudden desire he felt for her.  Lying to her by telling her he was gay seemed to put her at ease.  But what would Abbey do if she ever discovered the truth about Sloan's sexuality - or learned the deeper, darker secret he's been hiding?

      Sloan watched from a distance as Aubrey fought to keep Abbey from dashing away, a frightened doe in the terrifying forest named New York. Apparently, up to this point, the vicious predators of the city hadn’t sent her fleeing home.
     Until he entered her world, obviously.
     Sloan had to admit something about her alarmed him too. He knew many women and had been with several. But none of them like her. Innocent. Na├»ve. True. Or so she seemed at first glance.
     He couldn’t pull away from her wide-eyed, burning, hazel gaze. He wanted to free her shining, brown tresses from her ponytail and bury his fingers in the locks. He wanted to taste her plump, rose lips. He wanted to caress her curves, feel her warmth.
     Sloan could hear Abbey beg for another illustrator. He heard Aubrey counter that there was none better. He was part of the deal, or there was no deal. She was ready to walk away from a contract worth potential millions over a fear of him.
     He wouldn’t let her do that. He wouldn’t let her leave his life before she ever became a part of it.
     Slowly approaching the two women at the end of the hall, Sloan asked, “Aubrey, can I have a moment please? Let us talk it out and see if we can come to an agreement.”
     Aubrey looked uneasily from him to Abbey then nodded. “Sure.”
     Sloan waited for Aubrey to return to the conference room. He shot a warning glare at the associates that had gathered to watch the scene unfold before turning his attention back to Abbey.
     “What’s the matter, miss?” Sloan took Abbey’s hands in his as he smiled encouragingly.
     “I’m sorry. I’m sure you’re very talented. But I don’t think I would be comfortable working with you,” she confessed.
     “You don’t even know me.”
     “I know. And I’m sure you are a perfect gentleman. But, you see, I don’t think Michael would be very happy with me working with a…gifted man such as yourself.”
     Abbey blushed. “My boyfriend.”
     Ah. There it is. A boyfriend. Sloan silently berated himself. He should’ve known a woman so beautiful would have already given her heart to someone. He couldn’t, however, allow her to get away so quickly. Perhaps he couldn’t have her, but that didn’t mean he had to let her go.
     Thinking quickly, Sloan pressed one of her hands to his lips. “No worries, luv. I’m no threat.”
     “How can you say that?”
     “I’m gay.”
     Her face brightened with relief. “Really?”
     “Yes, Abbey. Gay.”
     She blushed pink. “I’m so embarrassed. I overreacted. Please forgive me?”
     “Of course I forgive you. Now, will you stay and undertake this project with me?”
     Abbey beamed. “Of course. I would love to.”
     Sloan motioned for her to precede him back to the conference room. He watched her walk before him, his gaze transfixed on her hips, her slim waist, and her luscious curves. A little white lie. She’ll never know.
Thank you so much for having me on your blog. 

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Fran shares her passion for coastal waters

Welcome to Fran McNabb. Please get comfortable, Fran, and tell us a little about your adventure.

What inspired you to write your first book?

            My first published book, A LIGHT IN THE DARK by Fran McNabb, is a Christmas themed story set in the mountains of West Virginia. It was inspired by a visit to a park when we visited my brother-in-law and his family.  During our trek through the park, we found a beautiful waterfall. Being from the flat Gulf Coast, I had never seen a waterfall and fell in love with its sound and its beauty. When I left the park that day, I couldn’t get its beauty out of my mind, and I knew I would include a waterfall in something that I wrote. 

How many books have you written? Which is your favourite?

            At present, I have nine books published, four sweet romances under my name, Fran McNabb, and five contemporary romances under my Fran Fisher penname. I love all my books. I realize that statement might sound like I’m bragging, but I really do love my books. I have some writer friends who tell me they end up hating their books when they have to read their books over and over again as they edit or proof. I don’t really like reading the same story many times, but I usually end up saying to myself, “Hey, that was good.”  I find I usually fall in love with my heroes.  If I don’t love with my male character then I assume my readers won’t either.

            Having said that, I guess my favourite book is HARBOR BREEZE by Fran Fisher. It’s one of the three books in the Bayou Cove series, set in a fictitious small town along the coast where I live, and, yes, I love all three of those books.

 In which genre do you prefer to write and why?
            Out of the nine books I’ve published, only two are historical romances, and both are Fran McNabb books, ON THE CREST OF A WAVE,, set during the  Civil War on the Gulf Coast, and WINDSWEPT, set in the early 1800’s during the height of the wrecker industry in Key West.

            I love doing research and delving into the lives and customs of long ago. For years I kept folders of information about the role of Ship Island during the Civil War and that information later went into forming the story of Major Jake Warren and Camille in On the Crest of a Wave. When I lost my file cabinets during Hurricane Katrina, I was devastated. One of the first things I did after I set up my office in my new house was to start another set of files containing newspaper and magazine articles about historic places. One day I’d love to write another historical romance.

When you are not writing, what are your hobbies, passions, etc?

            I have lived near the water of the Gulf of Mexico for most of my life. My father was a commercial fisherman and my mother’s family owned and operated the ferry boats to one of the barrier islands where they had concession stands. After being around boats all my life and actually living on the island for one summer (where I actually had to sleep in the Civil War fort because of a storm), my passion for the water is evident.

            My husband and I live on a quiet bayou harbor and spend a great deal of time boating, fishing and enjoying the islands. I can’t think of a better day than one spent on one of the barrier islands wade fishing! 

 Have you ever travelled to a place and come away with a story unexpectedly?

            Yes, besides the trip in West Virginia that inspired my first book, my first visit to Key West led to another book. There I visited a museum about the wrecking industry. I could have stayed in that museum the entire day. I was mesmerized with the history of the people who helped form the early years of the island. When I left the museum, I knew I would write the book, Windswept, which became a Dec 2012 Montlake release .

Do you have any advice for new writers beginning their adventure?

Join a good writing organization, one whose members are willing to share information with you. I credit RWA with giving me the knowledge to write the kind of book that a publisher wanted. I knew nothing about the publishing industry, and even though I have a master’s degree in English, I was a novice when it came to knowing how to write the kind of book that would work for both publishers and readers.

BLURB for COOLING WATERS, Vol III in the Bayou Cove Series, by Fran Fisher

Despite the idyllic setting of Bayou Cove and the slow pace of coastal living, Susan Smith faces the turmoil of falling in love with a man in the wrong profession. After losing her police husband in the line of duty, she refuses to get involved with another law enforcement officer, especially one like J.D. Clark.

J.D. has handled everything he’s ever faced in his law enforcement career, but nothing compares to having to deal with a teenage daughter who has come into his life unexpectedly. He needs all the help he can get, but how can he convince Susan Clark that he’s not the reckless boy she knew from their high school days?


EXCERPT of  Cooling Waters by Fran Fisher

Captain J. D. Clark kicked his heavy flippers and shot through the black waters of Mossy Bayou. His recovery dive with the Bayou Cove Marine Patrol Unit would be recorded as another success for his group, but he never looked at a mission like this as ever being a success. No amount of murky water could wash away the weight in the pit of his stomach.
As he neared the surface, ribbons of morning sunlight streaked through the thinning murkiness and disappeared into the deep water below him. He kicked one final time. A cascade of water showered around him. Immediately he yanked off his mask and breathed the warm air of the south Mississippi coastline.
“Over here, Captain.”
J.D. zeroed in on the voice coming from one of the two rescue boats anchored a short distance away. With raised fingers, he signalled an okay, then swam toward the boats.  In a scurry of activity, one officer took the tether from his hand. Another helped him climb into the boat, then slid the heavy tanks from his back.
             Randall Pruitt, Bayou Cove’s Chief of Police, sat in the rear of the boat, his cap pulled low to keep the sun off his pale face. “Fast job, Captain. I take it you found the car.”
J.D. eased himself onto one of the benches to pull off the cumbersome flippers. “Glad that’s over. The vehicle’s exactly where we thought it was.”
“Was the body in it?”
 J.D. looked up at the man who had just recently taken on the job in Bayou Cove. Pruitt didn’t have a lot of experience under his belt, but already J.D.’s respect for the guy was growing. He wasn’t sure why, but he liked him. He nodded.
            Pruitt shook his head. “Glad it wasn’t a long, drawn out affair. Those parents are devastated. They need this over with.”
J.D. and Pruitt both looked at the shoreline. A nicely dressed couple, surrounded by several other adults, stood under a huge oak tree. The father had a younger boy, maybe eleven or twelve years old, pulled up close to one side his body. He held his wife with the other arm.
“I agree,” J.D. said, “but this could’ve been prevented. These kids need supervision, not new toys like these expensive cars. I don’t want to look for this boy’s kid brother in a watery grave a few years from now.”
That thought tightened the string around J.D.’s heart.
“You won’t get any flack from me,” Pruitt said as he looked back at J.D. “My end of the department feels the same way, but there’s only so much we can do. Parents have to take some of this responsibility.”  He swiped a hand through the air in front of his face. “These blasted mosquitoes are driving us crazy.”
J.D. emptied the water out of one flipper, then the other and ignored the buzzing around his head. Mosquitoes were a nuisance around the marsh, but they were a nice reminder that he was back home.
One of the deputies started the outboard motor, but waited for J.D. to give him the okay to head to the bank. J.D. pulled the zipper down on his dry suit and looked back at the shoreline. There should’ve been a group of the boy’s classmates standing with the couple, but he had a feeling those so-called friends weren’t showing their faces here because they didn’t want to be connected to whatever had caused this horrible accident. J.D. swore to himself he’d get to the bottom of this.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Gone With The Wind Sandy's inspiration to write

Hi Sandy, welcome to Adventures in Authorland. Please get comfortable and tell us a little about your writing adventure.
What books have most influenced your life most? 

Gone With The Wind, by Margaret Mitchell. I read it when I was in 8th grade and then we saw the movie because we were studying the Civil War. I loved that book. I’ve read it probably a dozen times over the years. Of course, writing has become different in the last ten years, so now it’s a little harder to reread. Still, the characters walk off the page. Their strengths and weaknesses so true to life. I wanted so much to be like Melanie, but too many times I realized I’m closer to Scarlett because of my poor background. I still try, though. We all have a bit of every character inside us and they come out at different times.

What book are you reading now?  

Married by Midnight by Julianne MacLean. I recently bought it and was looking for something to read on my Kindle. I just started reading it and it drew me in. It’s a lot of fun and I’m enjoying it.

Do you see writing as a career?

Definitely, especially now that I’m self-published. Everything I do at this point is to improve my business, which is entertaining readers. And the only way to do that is to let them know I exist.

How many books have you written?

I’ve written and published eight books so far. Four contemporary romances and four romantic suspenses, with the emphasis more on romance, because that is what I love to read.

Which is your favourite?

The latest story I published. A MATTER OF TRUST.  I love the characters, especially the tormented hero, Josh. He thinks he’s unloveable, when in reality he needs love more than most.

Can you give us some details about your upcoming release/s?

I was working on revisions for a time travel where the heroine goes back in time to 1874 in Louisville Kentucky, just before the creation of Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Derby. It’s another one of my favorites. It has a strong message about love and friendship and I love both the hero and the heroine. I wrote it early on, so it really needs work, but I’m whipping it into shape.  Hopefully, it will be out at the end of May or the beginning of June.

Have you ever travelled to a place and come away with a story unexpectedly?

Yes. When my father-in-law was buried in Arlington, I was so impressed with the ceremony and the area that I started writing a book with the heroine standing over her dead husband’s gravesite there. The story, THE SIN FACTOR, had a life of its own and took off from there. It’s another one of my favourites. Heck, every story I write is a favourite, if I’m honest. I love them all for different reasons. 

Share three fun facts about you that most people don’t know.

I joined the military right after high school to see the world and get an education. It was definitely an education and I did see the world. I love to snow ski and try to get back to my hometown at least once a year during the winter so I can get up on the mountain. And third, I love cats. I own two, the latest a stray no one wanted. She wasn’t a kitten. In fact, she had four kittens of her own that were quickly adopted, but she was rather ugly. She also has a crooked tail, so no one wanted her. My niece was a foster mom to her and the brood. Once the kittens were weaned, she sat in a cage for six weeks before I decided to take her. She’s the sweetest cat and very loving. And despite being quite the ugly duckling, she turned into a swan. Her fur grew in after her nerves settled, and now she’s absolutely beautiful.


     Tired of living in fear of an abusive ex-husband, Cat Tyler is taking charge of her life by learning to fly. Unfortunately, she discovers what true fear really is when her cross-country flight ends in a forced landing. Now she’s trapped in the Montana wilderness with her flight instructor, Josh Buchannan—a jerk who’s been riding her butt since she first stepped into the cockpit.  She definitely doesn’t like the attraction that has sprung up between them. Worse, someone is trying to kill them.
     Josh doesn’t wait to find out why they’ve become a target—or who’s behind it. Instinct takes over and Josh spirits Cat away to safety.  Yet, while on the run, he discovers that an incident from his past, one he’s tried to forget, connects him to Cat.  He was in charge of a failed mission in which her parents lost their lives.  Is this her twisted way of getting revenge? Josh can’t trust Cat, but he protects her as they narrowly escape fiery graves, not once but twice. 
     Unwittingly, the two are fighting more than trust or attraction.  An unknown terrorist cell has unleashed its secret weapon—a human Trojan horse—which gives a new meaning to terror. 
     As Cat and Josh struggle to stay alive, their trust in each other is threatened at every turn. Josh senses Cat’s somehow involved in this mess and works doubly hard to keep his attraction to her under control. 
     Still, he craves her belief in his innocence, impossible once she discovers the truth about his involvement in her parents’ deaths.
     As they work together to uncover the plot that threatens western civilization, they must come to grips with the past in order to create a relationship built on mutual trust in the future.


     What were you thinking just then?” Cat asked, clearing the dishes away when they got up from the island.
     “Shit,” Josh muttered under his breath, reaching for his wineglass. “Why do you ask?”
     Standing by the sink, Cat eyed him intently, but he wouldn’t meet her gaze, his attention absorbed with taking a sip.
     “Did I do something wrong?”
     “Something wrong?” Josh eyed his wine and cleared his throat. “That’s a silly question.”
     “Call me silly, but your expression changed all of a sudden.” For one fleeting moment he’d had this ravenous, intense look about him, like he could eat her alive and then, in a flash, the look turned cold and unyielding. Now he was being weird. Wouldn’t meet her eyes again. Was acting awfully suspicious, as if he was hiding something.
     Damn, she thought. She’d done or said something stupid. She just knew it. Up until a few minutes ago she’d begun to think he was as attracted to her as she was to him. But that obviously wasn’t the case, so she had to make things right again. “Look, I’m sorry if I said or did something to upset you.”
     Her apology got his attention and he finally looked at her, searching her face for what seemed like forever.
     Then he flashed his sexy, disarming grin before erupting into uncontrollable laughter.
     Great! Now he was laughing at her.
     Cat turned and stormed out of the room, only she didn’t get very far. He’d followed on her heels and now gripped her arm, stopping her.
     “What? Am I amusing you?” she yelled, fighting to keep from crying. She would not cry. Not in front of him.
     “As a matter of fact, you are.”
     “Jerk,” she cried. “You’ve made your point, so let go of me.”
     “Oh, no. I haven’t begun to make my point.” He pulled her closer. The next second his lips were consuming hers, kissing her as if he couldn’t get enough. His tongue invaded her mouth while he inhaled her, not letting her back off, demanding a response. And then she felt his hands roaming over her body, gripping her, making her come alive with want and need. His lips broke from hers, and he trailed kisses across her face, causing even more sensations to course through her.
     “You feel that, Cat?”
     He licked her ear and nibbled on her lobe, eliciting a moan she couldn’t contain. It felt so decadent. So wonderful.
     “That’s called an adrenaline rush. That’s what I’m fighting. Have been fighting since yesterday when my plane blew up.”
     When he moved into her, pressing against her so she could feel the heat from his full arousal, Cat almost erupted into flames as hot lava flooded her system with more pleasure.
     “The attraction’s an illusion. It’s not uncommon for someone in our situation. We’ve been riding on the edge of fear and I’m dying to have you,” he whispered urgently in her ear, exacting another moan. “I want you so damn bad I can barely hang on. Do you understand what I’m saying?” He hesitated a heartbeat. “Your attraction is caused by a surge of hormones designed to keep you alive in times of crisis. It’s not real.”
     Once the words were out, his mouth covered hers. Only this time, his lips and hands gentled while he kissed her for what seemed like forever. All of her senses came alive and she succumbed to his mouth’s demands. She could taste the wine on his tongue, could smell the faint scents of deodorant and soap.
     His soft lips were still thorough, still invading, still not letting her back away.
     When she moaned into his mouth, totally absorbed in his kiss, he finally pulled away, breathing heavily as if he’d run a five-minute mile. “You’d better stop now. This is all I can take without finishing. You want this. Fine. You don’t. Fine. The choice is yours. But make the decision now and make it knowing where the emotions are coming from.”
     This can’t be happening, she thought, searching his earnest gaze. His eyes were like liquid fire, causing her to flinch from their intensity. Oh God. He was leaving the choice up to her and at the same time, he was telling her it meant nothing. If it was nothing more than elevated adrenaline, then why did she feel as if she would die if she backed away?

Buy links for A MATTER OF TRUST.

Amazon at
Barnes & Noble Nook -
iTunes –

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Texas Druids people Lyn's trilogy

Welcome Lyn. Please get comfortable and tell us a little about your writing adventure.

First, I'd like to thank you, Jean, for having me as your guest today.

What inspired you to write your first book?

While living near Chicago years ago, I read about the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 and was inspired to write about a young woman who lives through the fire and later moves west in search of a new life. After many false starts, this led to my first historical romance. Sadly, it went unsold despite the best efforts of two different agents, but years later I dug the manuscript out of the dust bin and radically revised the story, adding a paranormal element. In November 2010, I self-published it as DARLIN’ DRUID, book one in my Texas Druids trilogy. Later, I published book two, DASHING DRUID, and a prequel novella titled WHITE WITCH – the story of the fire.

Do you see writing as a career?

Yes, I do. Writing is actually my second career. Trained in the visual arts, I worked as a fashion illustrator and art instructor for a number of years. After quitting work to raise my children, I took up writing as a creative outlet. This hobby soon grew into a love of historical research and the crafting of passionate love stories. Now, with five books published and a sixth due out in a few weeks, I view myself as a professional author.
Can you give us some details about your upcoming release/s?

I’d be glad to. DEAREST DRUID, Texas Druids book three, will be released at the end of April. This book stars Rose Devlin, the youngest of three psychic siblings who are descended from a secret line of Irish Druids. Rose possesses the gift of healing, a power that draws Native American cowboy Choctaw Jack to her in desperation. Set in Texas and the Indian Territory, ca. 1876, their sizzling romantic adventure concludes this unique series.

Do you belong to any non-writing organizations?

Yes, I belong to Delta Theta Tau, a national philanthropic sorority (no college affiliation.) My sorority sisters and I raise money for charitable organizations, both national and local. I’ve served as publicity chairman and secretary for our Fort Worth chapter.

Who are some of your favourite authors?

My favourite author is Diana Gabaldon. Her Outlander series is magnificent. I adore her main characters, Jamie and Claire, and greatly admire her historical settings and writing style. Other authors I enjoy reading are Linda Howard, Iris Johansen and Judith Ivory. Oh, and for a change of pace, James Patterson.

When you are not writing, what are your hobbies, passions, etc?

Well, I’m usually writing in one way or another – blogging, chatting with other authors online, scribbling ideas in a notebook, or typing away on my current project. When I do take time off, it’s usually to read, watch movies and favourite TV series such as Castle, The Mentalist, The Good wife, etc. Once in a while I manage to squeeze in a little gardening, although not nearly as much as I used to do. And of course I enjoy getting together with family, especially my grandkids.

Share three fun facts about you that most people don’t know.

  1. I’m addicted to mint chocolate chip ice cream.
  2. I frequently talk to inanimate objects, especially my computer when it decides to give me a hard time. Darn thing!
  3. I dream of owning a summer home in Silver Plume, Colorado, a former boom town during the great silver mining era. Now called a “sleeping town” because it has so few year-round inhabitants, the hamlet sits on the side of a mountain and is my idea of heavenly seclusion. What a place to write!


Dashing Druid (Texas Druids, Book II) ~~ Tye Devlin is an empath. Assailed by emotions from everyone around him, Tye has learned to block out most of the "racket". Yet, when he meets cowgirl Lil Crawford, he has no defense against her hidden pain, for it echoes his own.

Wounded by love, Lil guards her bruised heart behind a tough shell. When a handsome stranger with an Irish brogue calls her beautiful, she thinks he's mocking her, but she secretly wishes such a man might truly want her. Feuding families stand between the two and a perilous cattle drive pits them against menacing foes as they fight their personal demons. Is love worth the risks, and will Tye's gift prove to be a curse or a blessing?


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.

            By lifting and shoving with all of her might, she finally muscled the loudly complaining critter onto dry ground. Once there, she, not he, made straight for her mother. Without a backward glance or a single moo of gratitude, the pair trotted off in search of greener pastures. Not that there was much green grass to be found anywhere on the range at this time of year, Lil thought as she set about cleaning herself up.

A quick dunk in the creek rid her of most of the mud. Climbing out, she slapped her hat on, slung her gun belt over her saddle and mounted up barefoot, toting her boots to save them from getting wet. Then she directed Major toward her favorite swimming hole, about a mile upstream. She wanted more of a bath before heading home.

           As she rode, she couldn’t help thinking about her run-in with Jessie Taylor’s pesky brother. Still angry over his mocking remarks about her so-called beauty, she also found herself wondering if he was here for a short visit or if he meant to stay. Did David and Jessie know he was coming? Then she wondered what his name was. Wait, she’d heard Jessie’s maiden name once. It started with D. Doyle? No. Dillon? No. Devlin! His last name was Devlin. Not that it mattered.