Thursday, November 15, 2018

On Conversations: #AAMBC #author Norwood Holland

Please join me in welcoming author Norwood Holland to Conversations today! Norwood is here to talk about his new novel, Material Witness! So be sure and check out the cover and blurb below! And don't forget to check out his interview too and get to know Norwood Holland.

Lisa ~

__________________________________________



MATERIAL WITNESS
 

Material Witness is a legal thriller and the third novel in the Drew Smith series. The DC trial attorney undertakes a murder investigation of a law school pal. Smith recruits fellow lawyer Edward Miller and TV news reporter Stephanie Gilchrist. The three become entangled in a love triangle while Smith is coping with his post-traumatic stress disorder. Material Witness follows the series prequel Minus One expanding on Smith’s mental health issues as his PTSD progresses into the paranormal. Smith’s friend Medhat tragically died in Smith’s arms from a gunshot wound. The shock and Drew’s underlying guilt inflicted a post-traumatic stress disorder condition. The condition progresses with Medhat’s lifelike visits with Drew in his dreams.



Interview with NORWOOD HOLLAND

Why should people read your book?

Material Witness is an enjoyable, easy read. The characters are clearly defined, and the suspense carries the reader from beginning to end. The series has an addictive quality, and you don’t have to start the series at the beginning. Each can be a standalone read, but most readers are left wanting more. People love Drew Smith, he has an emotional connection that invests readers. His bravado appeals to the male reader, while his good looks and hypersexual nature appeals to women. The reader derives pleasure in following Drew Smith’s emotional swings, his romantic woes, and his professional challenges.

Who are the audiences for your book?

Material Witness was written for those who love legal thrillers and mysteries, but it also has broad appeal for those who enjoy popular fiction. It’s sexy with a hint of romantic suspense. There is something there for those who prefer romance, as well as the action adventure reader.

What is the setting of your novel and how is it significant?


The setting is Washington DC, and why DC? It’s my home where I was born and bred. It’s a world-class city full lawyers and politicians, statesmen and foreign diplomats. There is a lot of glint and glamour, but if you dig below the surface, there is a dark side with its gritty crime and backstreets you can see the real human condition. There is a juxtaposition of the oppressed, poor people struggling to make a living in a world saturated with wealth. Cities create wealth, and that’s what draws people to them. Washington is a reflection of the American character with its monuments, and sprawling suburbs. It’s an ideal setting to tell an American story.
 

Does the protagonist or an associate of the protagonist narrate? Or does the author write with detached objectivity, able to read minds and interpret motives? How did this affect your perceptions of what is going on? Is this narrator a reliable witness of events?

Sleepless Night’s varied from the third person to first-person narration. And my skills as the writer were not as sharp as they are now. I’ve chosen now to write in a strictly first-person narrative from Drew Smith’s point of view. When I decided to write thrillers I learned the First person was the best method suitable for writing thrillers because it allows for a lot of immediacy and emotion that would serve a thriller well.
 

Would you say that the novel is primarily character-driven or plot-driven? Or is there an effective combination of the two?

I would say Material Witness is plot driven. There is a murder, and the pursuit of the murderer is the primary focus. But the significance of the character-driven subplots cannot be dismissed.
 

Who are the central characters? Where do your sympathies naturally lie? Are their motivations, flaws and qualities credible, or merely means to drive the plot?

My primary characters are Drew Smith and the people he interacts with on a daily basis. Julio is his best friend for life. He is Drew’s sidekick fighting alongside him in trenches. The women in their lives also play a significant role. They keep their men grounded and focused. The open way for us to see their vulnerabilities, their desires, ambitions, and goals. Without the women, there would be no window to their motivations, flaws, and credible qualities.
 

Do the characters undergo any significant change or development? Did any of their actions or words provoke reflection or further revelation about them as people?

Character evolution is each book is incremental, Drew Smith character is strengthened over the long term. The changes are not really discernable in each book. But I have a five book vision of the series which I plan to develop into a cable TV series, but right now each book is plot driven. Drew is coming to accept his mental health infliction. The future problem how will he deal with it. Is there something good that can come from it?




Norwood Holland is a freelance writer, lawyer, and author of the Drew Smith legal thriller series based on the capers of a bon vivant DC trial attorney. Holland is a graduate of Howard University School of Law and earned his degree in English from Fisk University where he studied under the renowned Harlem Renaissance author Arna Bontemps. He has served in several government agencies including the National Labor Relations Board and several top Washington law firms. In the mid-90s he began freelance writing with bylines in The Writer Magazine and the Examiner. He blogs at editorialindependence.com. Material Witness is third in the series launched with Sleepless Nights, followed by the prequel Minus One. Private Number the fourth series installment will be released in early 2019.




Connect with the author:
Website: norwoodholland.com
Blog: editorialindependence.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/Norwood-Holland
Instagram: www.instagram.com/norwoodholland
Email: norwoodholland@aim.com
 



Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Teaser Tuesday: Lone Star Lady



Texas Hearts Book Eight
LONE STAR LADY

Taos, New Mexico wasn't far enough from home for Theresa Morales to run to. But this Texas girl didn't think there was anything that could wipe away the pain of her mistakes, even in the arms of Dr. Dennis Harrington the local doctor at the Taos ski resort where she sought refuge. But the past quickly caught up to her when a local kid, Dennis's nephew, becomes traumatized by a fatal New Year's Eve accident that has left him feeling responsible. Dennis couldn't deny he was immediately taken by Theresa the moment they'd met. But the accident that pulled him away from the New Year's Eve gala where he'd danced with her and held her close, had change things for all of them. Now he's desperate for Theresa to help for his nephew, who is so fragile he fears the worst. The sadness Dennis sees in Theresa's brown eyes tells him she's running from something that happened in Texas. Something she can't face. When the past comes back and Theresa heals enough to return to Texas, will it leave both of them brokenhearted?

Purchase LONE STAR LADY now!
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Excerpt

New Year’s Day

“I didn’t know who else to go to. I really need your help.”

Teresa Morales listened to Dr. Dennis Harrington’s words as she sat curled up on the soft beige sofa in the lodge at the Taos Falls Mountain Ski Resort. The fire in the huge granite fireplace in the center of the room was burning hot—almost too hot for her comfort. Or maybe that was just her anxiety kicking in. This was supposed to be her vacation. No one was supposed to need her help here.

She bookmarked the page in the book she had been reading before Dennis’s abrupt arrival and closed it, setting it aside on the end table. With a swift motion, she untangled one long leg out from underneath her and brusquely hit her bare feet to the wide pine floor with a dull thud. If this was his idea of a joke, she wasn’t laughing.

“Dennis, I’m just a tourist here. What help could I possibly give you?”

“Last night...” His voice trailed off. His face looked stricken, and Teresa knew he wasn’t talking about the New Year’s Eve party they’d both attended—or the dance they’d shared. No, he was referring to what had happened afterward—the reason behind the beeper call that had pulled him out of her arms and away from the party after their dance. The horrible car crash on the bridge just a few hundred yards from the ski resort had been the only topic of conversation throughout Taos Falls today.

“I’m not sure you understand how severe the accident that took place last night really was.”

“I do,” she countered sympathetically. “I could see the whole awful mess right upstairs from my window after I left the party. And I saw what was left of it once the fog lifted this morning. Anyone with a condo facing the west side of the mountain had to have seen and heard what was going on after midnight. It must have been horrible.”

It was human nature to be curious in the wake of flashing emergency lights and sirens, and she certainly had been. After Dennis had left the New Year’s Eve party, she’d returned to her room intending to go to sleep. But the flashing lights below had drawn Teresa to the window. She’d stared wide-eyed into the night as the snow fell like ash from the dark sky. There were so many lights, so many emergency vehicles.

She hadn’t been able to bring herself to close the curtains, to shield herself from what little she could see through the snow. Soon after the storm subsided, the flashing red, white and blue lights still screamed out into what had been a festive evening. Dragging herself away from what was happening down in the valley didn’t seem right. She’d felt she couldn’t leave the window until the last tow truck had pulled away. The last of the vehicles, the one that had plunged into the icy water, had been the last to be towed away.

Five months ago, she probably would have been right out there on that road along with the rescue workers, trying to offer what help she could. As far as she knew, Dennis’s clinic didn’t have a psychologist on staff. Though she specialized in dealing with children, with her training and experience, she could have been there for the victims, for their families, helping them cope with the tragedy surrounding them.

At one time, maybe Teresa could have done some good. Her gentle guidance might have made a difference between choosing to deal with painful truths or run from them. Now she was the one who was running—running from the events that had shattered her confidence and from the tormenting truth that she had failed.

He shrugged. “It was a tough night. I’ll give you that.”

She was sure it’d been more than just tough for Dennis. He was the only doctor in town—the clinic that he ran was the only medical facility in nearly fifty miles. He’d probably been up all night tending to the victims of the accident.


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Sunday, November 11, 2018

Thrills, romance, suspense, danger and six sexy heroes!

Dear Readers:

Great news Heroes of Providence fans! The entire HEROES OF PROVIDENCE Complete Set 1-6 is available at Kobo Books to VIP Kobo members only and the eBookstore for 40% off! Only available today and tomorrow!
Readers have emailed me that they love those sexy hero cops of Providence along with the thrilling romance and suspense. If you haven't read any of the Heroes of Providence stories, now is your chance to get a great deal. If you've read Material Witness for free and loved it, you can get the entire series and revisit all the thrills of book 1.
To get Heroes of Providence 1-6 at the eBookstore for 40% off use Coupon Code: NE1YBAZA10 at the eBookstore.  The good thing about getting books at the eBookstore is that you can always get books at a discount and load those books to any eReader using Book Funnel. 
But some of you prefer to get it at your regular online bookseller. I get that. It's easy. But right now the sale is only at Kobo Books to VIP members who are part of their VIP service.  If you have that, great!  If not, I don't want you to be left out which is why you can still get the book at 40% off at my eBookstore for Amazon Kindle, Nook, Kobo eReader, Google Play or Apple. Use promo code: NE1YBAZA10 at checkout.
When you buy from my eBookstore, you will get two emails with your sale. One from Payhip to download to your computer and the other will be from Book Funnel with instructions on how to auto load your book to your eReader. Downloading using the Book Funnel app is easy peasy. The book will load directly to your eReader if you have a Kindle, Nook, or Kobo eReader. You can download the book to your computer or iPad using the Payhip link and it will load to your Apple device, too.  Again, easy peasy.

HEROES OF PROVIDENCE Complete Set 1-6

Complete HEROES OF PROVIDENCE series, which includes the USA Today bestseller MATERIAL WITNESS. 
Get Heroes of Providence 1-6 at the eBookstore for 40% off use Coupon Code: NE1YBAZA10 at the eBookstore
Also available at Kobo, BN, iBooks & Google Play here: https://books2read.com/u/47ZWA7  but at regular discounted price.
MATERIAL WITNESS, Book One
Who does she trust when the horror of one of her crime novels turns into a deadly reality?
Bestselling crime novelist, Cassie Alvarez, aka Cassie Lang, had murder on her mind when she walked into Rory's Bar under dressed and under cover to research her latest crime novel. Researching the cool, blue-eyed and dashingly handsome man at the end of the bar stirred her senses more than she wanted to admit. But was this man of leather armor all he appeared to be?
Playing White Knight to an innocent wasn't how Detective Jake Santos planned to spend his time under cover. But there was no way "CJ" was what she claimed to be and that nagging tightness in Jake's chest told him he'd better take her home to safety and leave it at that. Then the barroom exploded with gunfire, leaving a trail of dead that includes a notorious Providence organized crime boss and an undercover FBI agent. When Cassie’s name is leaked to the media as the only witness to the grisly murders, Cassie insists she only trusts Jake to protect her.
The FBI wants their star witness happy and will do anything to make sure Cassie testifies. But someone wants vigilante justice and it is clear to Jake that the shooter isn’t the only person who wants Cassie dead. Not knowing who to trust, he vows to protect Cassie at all cost despite the fact that guarding the beautiful novelist is a serious distraction.
SAFE HAVEN, Book Two
When someone you once loved wants you dead, is there any SAFE HAVEN?
Finding out her ex-husband hired a hitman to kill her didn't leave Daria Carlisle all warm and fuzzy. But Detective Kevin Gordon's suggestion she flee the only home that had ever truly been hers was downright crazy. Forget that the sexy police officer made her heart pound and her blood stir. She'd worked too hard to get what little she had. She wasn't leaving.
Kevin Gordon didn't make mistakes, but he'd made a big one in letting Daria's ex slip through his fingers. Although he tried to make it very clear to Daria that the fixer upper home she considered a palace was no safe haven, she just dug in deeper and insisted on staying, leaving him no choice but to be her protector. Left on her own, she surely faced murder at an assassin's hand. But can Kevin spend every waking hour sleeping on her doorstep just to keep this stubborn woman alive without risking his heart to love?
RECKLESS HOURS, Book Three
Her whole life had been a lie…
It was only supposed to be a random DNA test performed with her class. But it turned Professor Tammie Gardner’s world upside down and proved to her that the tragic death of her parents was no accident. After rummaging through old files, she discovers one clue where it all started and decides to travel across the country to find answers. But is her curiosity more reckless than wise? What she finds is love in the arms of Providence police officer Dylan Montgomery who is searching for his missing brother. They both want to know the truth. But is the truth worth the danger they've put themselves in by uncovering secrets no one wants revealed?
DESPERATE HOURS, Book Four
Bounty hunter, Gil Waite is after Sonny's brother. All he cares about is "finding the fugitive" and collecting his money. But Sonny Montgomery is after so much more. Her precious baby niece, Ellie, who was kidnapped by a Colombian drug lord. She won't betray her family by falling in love with the one man who has the power to destroy her family. But she needs to escape Colombia and has no choice but to trust Gil, a man whose rugged exterior hides the heart of a hero she can't resist.
FINAL HOURS, Book Five
Serena Davco's nightmare is almost over. Or so she thinks. Her baby has been returned to her and now she waits anxiously for her husband to return home safely after being imprisoned by Colombian gangsters. But her joy quickly brings her deeper into danger and despair when Cash returns and has no memory of her, the love they shared or the baby they created. But the danger from his escape has awoken a sleeping giant that could lead to murder for them all.
Cash knew he had gone to Colombia to bring down a drug lord disguised as one of Colombia's prominent businessman. But three months of trying to survive their torture had stripped him of many of the details of his life. Now that he's been rescued by a covert team, he's shocked to see just how much of his life he doesn't remember. If he can't piece together his past, how can he possibly keep his family safe from the danger he knows still threatens them?
COLD HARBOR, Book Six
FBI Agent, Charlotte "Charlie" Tate has loved only one man in her life. The one man she betrayed, Tyler Jenkins. Tyler had given up a career he loved as a Providence police detective after realizing how easily a beautiful face and sweet smile had led him astray. Now Charlie is back in his life as they fight to undo the organized crime corruption that has infiltrated the city he loves by a Colombian drug lord. Can he work along side a woman he still loves without risking his life...and his heart?
Order HEROES OF PROVIDENCE (Complete Set 1-6) at the eBookstore for 40% off using Coupon Code: NE1YBAZA10 https://payhip.com/b/KvPb
Available at regular price at Kobo, BN, iBooks & Google Play here: https://books2read.com/u/47ZWA7
Remember, ordering from the eBookstore is super easy. You can order in either Mobi for Kindle eReaders or ePub for Nook, Kobo, iBooks or Google Play.  You can either side load the book, or download using the Book Funnel app.  In fact, the Book Funnel app is the easiest and with just a few steps after you get the automatic Book Funnel email after purchase, you will get quick instructions on downloading directly to the eReader of your choice.
And don't forget to check out the books below in case you've missed a new release from your favorite series. Also, DAKOTA FIRE and SWEET MONTANA BRIDE are on pre-order. So check those out as well.
All my best,

Thursday, November 8, 2018

On Conversations: #AAMBC #author Deneen Marlette Joyner

Please join me in welcoming author Deneen Marlette Joyner to Conversations today! Deneen is here to talk about her new novel, Soul Wounds & Sacred Revelations! So be sure and check out the cover and blurb below! And don't forget to check out her interview too and get to know Deneen Marlette Joyner.

Lisa ~

__________________________________________



Soul Wounds & Sacred Revelations
 

Soul Wounds and Sacred Revelations foundationally begs the questions: Why have we settled to live with emotional pain? How do our present responses tie us to our past? Why must we hit rock bottom for God to gain our attention? To end the struggle, we must look at ourselves, really look-not at who we think we are, but who we truly are: more divine than human. Deep within our hearts, we know this. The book gives us permission to break our own hearts and be wrong about all the ugly things we've thought about ourselves to reach ground zero and rebuild ourselves in a divine image.

Author Joyner, takes readers on an indigenous healing journey as she recounts her dark knight of the soul in 2011 that almost left her dead by suicide. Witness vulnerability, courage and power as she transforms her life from a hostage to emotional pain to a modern day warrior daughter as she fights to end decades of carrying emotional pain. At the heart of this beautiful memoir, is the guided wisdom channeled to her by the ancient voices of her Native American and Igbo ancestors which readers can use as a guide, as well, to explore past and present experiences with pain.




Interview with DENEEN MARLETTE JOYNER

Tell us what inspired you to write your first book: Soul Wounds and Sacred Revelations?

I was inspired to write my book after personally carrying emotional pain silently for over four decades.  After hitting rock bottom in 2011 and beginning a journey through self-healing, I was delivered to my healing in 2014. I now understand what it entails to awaken, journey forward and be fully healed. I am honored to share all that I learned.

What is the one thing that people get wrong about emotional pain?

Most people believe that they can avoid having to ever face emotional pain because they have developed methods for coping with carrying it. However, if healing is not sought, it is inevitable that they will hit rock bottom.

You say in your book that your curiosity led you to uncover and discover not only things about yourself but about your family; what did you learn?
I uncovered that I was my own worst enemy and that most of my inner dialogue was self-destructive, unkind and counter intuitive to my believing healing was possible. I discovered an emotional framework surrounding my familial history in responding to emotional pain and how I unconsciously adopted them and used them as my way to respond.

Your book touches on an array of subjects relating to gaining personal awareness, what role does consciousness play in healing?

Consciousness plays a huge part in self-healing. If you are not conscious of your emotional behaviors, ways you show up in the world and what you tell yourself to avoid pain then you will be unaware and less likely to respond differently.

Why do you respect emotional pain?

I have a deep respect for emotional pain because I discovered its true purpose which is not to simply create misery in our lives but to awaken us to master powerful lessons associated with past painful events, so we may begin a healing journey and arrive at our highest self.

What is one thing that you can share with readers to help them in their own healing journey?

You are never too old to heal your pain. The reason most people choose to carry emotional pain versus healing is because they believe that whatever they experienced will overwhelm them if they face it and they will not be able to recover.  The truth is you already have conquered the difficult part, surviving, so what your soul requires next is that you both acknowledge the event(s) that keep you hostage and give yourself permission to awaken and heal.

Now that you are completely healed, how are you helping others?


As a spiritual teacher and advisor, I humbly guide others who are still in the throes of emotional pain, utilizing my personal experiences, professional expertise and gifts as a Shaman to prepare them to courageously awaken and embark upon a journey of their own.




Deneen Mariette Joyner a seventh daughter and seventh generation Black Indian woman knew since the age of five that she was different. Otherworldly metaphysical and spiritual experiences–that growing up in the 1960s in the conservative city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania wasn’t popular having or even understandable. Sharing these experiences with anyone would have branded her as strange, weird or outright crazy. So instead she learned to stifle these experiences to blend in.

Despite having anxiety with having spiritual gifts inherited from both her Native American and West African Igbo ancestors, she also had a difficult childhood riddled with; father abandonment, teen sexual abuse, poverty, severe neglect; bullying, being an outcast, date rape, strained relationships with men, homelessness, and attempts at suicide to end her suffering. Her painful and traumatic life became lost over time as she learned unhealthy self-destructive coping mechanisms to deny and dumb it all. After 47 years of silently crying the pain from her past, in 2011 she awakened and decided to begin the journey to atone and become a student of her life.

In 2014 after mastering her life and doing the deep spiritual work needed to be completely healed from emotional pain, Deneen Marlette Joyner received the greatest gift of all…knowing who she is and the very important role that has been passed on to her by ancestors and the Great Spirit.

Now, embracing her truth and fully understanding her family’s spiritual legacy, Deneen has written her first book, “Soul Wounds & Sacred Revelations.” In this memoir, Ms. Joyner takes readers on the journey from her painful past to her transformational self-healing.

Today she steps forth as an expert on emotional pain, sharing ancient wisdom with individuals and audiences on how to partner and utilize the energy itself as a catalyst for self-exploration, personal empowerment, and spiritual enlightenment.

The core of her brand is centered in her ancestor’s 300-year legacy in healing lost souls, blended with her contemporary approach to self-guided healing. She is spreading her message of inspiration and hope through her writing and as a transformational speaker.

Deneen holds B.A. and M.A degrees in Psychology and Adult Education and Instructional Training with an emphasis in Curriculum Design.


Connect with the author:

Website: www.deneenjoyner.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/deneenjoyne
Email: deneen@deneenjoyner.com
 



Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Teaser Tuesday: The Wedding Dress



Texas Hearts Book Seven
THE WEDDING DRESS

Eight years ago, Hannah Ward thought she’d found the perfect wedding dress to wear when she and her childhood sweetheart, Dane Bancroft, decided to elope right after graduation. But instead of walking down the aisle like she dreamed of, she was not only outbid on the wedding dress at the auction by an old billionaire who didn’t need the wedding dress like she did, but she never ended up getting married. Needing to escape Dane after the break-up, she enlisted in the military and left Liberty, Texas behind. But now she’s back, and not only does she have to face Dane, the deputy sheriff in town, but she’s just been willed the very wedding dress that was supposed to be the beginning of her and Dane’s happy life together. Can they both get a second chance so she can finally wear the wedding dress of her dreams and marry the only man she’s ever really loved?

Purchase THE WEDDING DRESS now!
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Excerpt

It was just a box with fabric inside.

Hannah gazed at the white box that had come with the letter with longing for time that has long since passed her by. Although she’d stared at the dress in the auction catalogue for hours before deciding to drive to San Antonio more than ten years ago, she’d only seen that wedding dress up close for just a few minutes before it had been snatched away from her by the higher bidder.

She was a smart women. She didn’t need the dress. Or the memories that were now tumbling through her mind. Good and bad, they were all there together. The wedding dress had been the start of it all. And the end.

Sighing, she got up from the bed and walked over to the box that sat like a tangled blanket at the foot of the bed after a rough night of sleep. The wide white organza ribbon was tied tightly around the box to keep it secure and then knotted into a pretty bow on top. With a quick tug of the organza, the ribbon untied and fell to each side of the box.

Her heart pounded as her fingers felt for the edges of the box. She didn’t want to see the dress. Not really. Why was she doing this? She should just put it in her car and drive right over to the consignment shop in the next town and let someone else buy the dress for their wedding. Get rid of it. Get rid of the memory.

She lifted the top of the box off and placed it carefully on the bed next to the box. Pink and white tissue paper covered the contents, keeping her from seeing inside.

“Ugh. For a soldier who has spent the last eight years in combat boots and fatigues, you’re being a wimp, Hannah.”

She reached for the tissue paper, then quickly stopped and looked at her hands, turning them over. Most days her hands were covered with grease and oil from working on a plane engine. Today her hands were clean. Even her fingernails showed the white half-moon nails that were clean.

Hannah held her breath as she pushed aside the tissue paper and had her first glimpse of the dress. A lump lodged in her throat as she thought of the day of the auction nearly ten years ago. This was supposed to be her wedding dress. If she’d married Dane back then, she would have worn this dress. Who knew what their lives would be like now? Maybe they’d have a house and a few kids. That had been her dream.

Taking a deep breath, she slipped out of her T-shirt, then unbuttoned her cut off shorts and let them drop to the floor. She carefully lifted the sleeveless dress out of the box, holding it by the shoulders and letting the fabric drop to the floor. There were a million buttons in the back and she knew she’d have a hard time fastening them all. But she had to see what she looked like in the dress.

It had haunted her all these years. Deep down, she hope when she put it on, she’d hate it. It would look ugly on her or wouldn’t fit right in the boobs. Or it would make her hips look as wide as Texas. She look at herself and hate it so much that what happened with Dane when she’d left Liberty would finally fade into the back of her mind and she could move on.

It took a while, but when the last button was fastened, she walked across the room to the mirror and looked at her reflection.

“This never would have fit me like this ten years ago,” Hannah said, staring at herself in the standing mirror. But now, it fit perfect. It was as if she needed to grow out of the young girl’s body and become the woman she was now in order for it to fit.

Tears filled her eyes but she refused to let them fall. Reaching behind her to undo the first button, she muttered, “It would have been nice.”

A gust of breeze came in through the open window. Along with it, Hannah heard the sound of male voices talking. Jackson had gone out for a ride earlier with Cole. There were other ranch hands here now.

Her stomach dropped. It wasn’t just Cole or Jackson. If she lived a thousand years, Hannah would always recognize the deep timber of Dane Bancroft’s voice.

Still wearing the dress, Hannah rushed to the window and pulled back the curtain just enough to see outside. She groaned.

“You would have to show up today. Of all days,” Hannah muttered to herself as her heart pounded in her chest. She gazed down from the window to the dirt driveway below. Dane Bancroft stood next to Jackson, talking about something interesting that made them both laugh.

He was as tall as Jackson, but he wasn’t the straight up and down young man she remembered. His police uniform did little to show off the muscles she knew were under his shirt.

Just when she thought she couldn’t take anymore, Dane lifted his face up in the direction of the window. Their eyes locked for a brief moment. It took a few seconds, but then he smiled, making Hannah’s heart remember what it was like to be close to him. To have his arms around her and love her the way he used to. She actually sighed.

Damn him.


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Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Teaser Tuesday: His Texas Heart



Texas Hearts Book Six
HIS TEXAS HEART

Time was running out for Cole Rivers.  He may not have been born in the United States, but Texas was the only place he'd ever called home.  He had just weeks to find the proof he needed, or risk being deported.  All he needed was a little help from the daughter of the local doctor who'd treated him years ago.  He didn't count on Dr. RaeAnne Daniels being so difficult to work with.  But despite his own troubles, and the distraction this beautiful woman became with each passing day, how could he leave her in her time of need?

RaeAnne Daniels never knew why it was so important for her father had set up his medical practice on the border of Mexico instead of working in a thriving Texas city like the one she practiced in.  But when her father died and left RaeAnne in charge of cleaning up his office, she found it hard to leave the border town and people she'd always resented growing up.  Cole Rivers had been her father's patient and he had problems of his own.  The break-ins at her father's clinic and the drugs being stolen were her problem.  But that didn't stop her from falling for the devastatingly handsome cowboy with a heart of gold...or stop him from showing her how wonderful true love could really be.

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Excerpt

“The office is closed. Unless it’s an emergency, you’ll have to come back in the morning.”

The woman calling out to him was clearly annoyed by the after-hours intrusion. And who could blame her? It was a hundred and fifteen degrees outside and probably just as hot inside. But a closed door had never stopped Cole Rivers before. The truth was, he’d lived a lifetime with doors slamming in his face.

Undaunted, Cole stepped into the office and took a quick look around. He had no memory of ever being here, although if today were his lucky day, he’d find evidence to prove it.

The sound of tools being hastily moved around in a box pulled his attention to the back room. He slowly walked down the narrow hall toward the source of the noise. That’s when he saw the woman.

“Air conditioning out?”

Startled, the woman turned around quickly and fell on her backside from the crouched position she’d been in.

Looking up at him through the sweaty hair that had fallen in front of her face, she said, “You wouldn’t happen to be an electrician, would you?”

“No.”

She heaved a sigh as her shoulders sagged. “I was all ready to barter services with you if you were. Sorry, the office is closed.”

“I heard you from the other room,” he said.

She pushed her hair away from her face and tilted an eyebrow. “And you decided to ignore me and come in anyway?”

“That’s right.”

She grunted her frustration. “Look, I’m really busy. If this isn’t an emergency, I really need you to come back tomorrow.”

“What’s wrong with the unit?”

She squinted her dark eyes, making them even harder for Cole to see them. “Excuse me?”

“Your air conditioner, what’s wrong with it?”

“If I knew that, I could fix it. But right now it’s all guesswork.”

“Mind if I have a look?”

“You said you’re not an electrician.”

“I’m a jack-of-all-trades, also known as a ranch hand. I’ve fixed everything from tractor motors to washing machines when I had to.”

“Really?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

She took a step aside. “Be my guest then.”

He looked down at the box on the floor and picked up a butter knife with a mangled tip, most likely the result of using it as a makeshift screwdriver.

“It helps when you actually have tools to work with.”

She cocked her head to one side. “You don’t say? It also helps when you have a medical practice that actually has patients who can pay their bills. But since this isn’t one of them, we make do with what we have.”

Cole felt his lips lift to a smile despite her sarcasm and the uncomfortable temperature inside the building. He liked her spirit. Up close, he decided he liked the woman’s full lips, too. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d noticed golden flex in a woman’s eyes, but she had them as well, and they were a sharp contrast to her eye’s dark brown color.

“Do you have a name to go with all that sass or do you just scare people off before they have a chance to find out?”

She gave him a bashful smile. “Rae, ah, Dr. RaeAnne Daniels.”

“I see. I’m going to need a little room here to pull this apart. Do you mind taking a few steps back, Rae?”

She moved out of his way. Cole brushed against her leg as he got into position in front of the air conditioner.

Using the butter knife, he unfastened the screws on the front of the air conditioner unit and put them in his pocket for safekeeping. “Good Lord, when was the last time you cleaned this filter?”

Her face turned crimson. “I’m guessing it’s been a long time. I don’t know how often my father did it but he passed away last year. I’ve been working at the Hawk Pass clinic a few months digging out, ur, through his files.”

He gave her a half grin. “Well, if this isn’t the problem, it’s certainly contributed to it. Do you have a vacuum?”

“Yes, in the closet. Let me get it.”

Cole took the few minutes it took for Rae to collect the vacuum to inspect the innards of the air conditioner. She came back with the small vacuum that was probably about as old as she was, and had seen better days.

“Have you cleaned out the bag in this thing?”

She cocked her head to one side again and gave him a sarcastic look. “This morning.” Then she made a face. “I was sucking up spider webs in the back room.”

“At least we know the vacuum works.”

Rae plugged in the vacuum and Cole went to work sucking out all the dust that was impeding airflow from the air conditioner. When he was done, he gave the inside a quick inspection to make sure no wires were pulled away. Then he popped the cover back on and turned the unit on.

A small amount of residue dust blew out through the vents as it turned on. Within a minute, it was pushing out cool air along with the dust.

After the dust cleared, Rae bent down and put her face in the stream of air and quickly pulled back.

“It smells awful.”

“I’d say it’s time to get a new unit.”

“Unfortunately, that’s not in the cards right now. This practice isn’t exactly making a profit.”

“It’s working now but I can’t guarantee it’s going to make it for very long.”

“I’ll squeeze as much time out of it as I can. Thank you so much for doing this. I was about ready to take a sledge hammer to it.”

She rushed to the door of the small room they were in and closed it. “This should help it cool down quickly. I might actually be able to get some work done.”

Turning to Cole, she said, “I can’t thank you enough.”

“You’re welcome.”

“Now, what was so urgent that you needed to see a doctor after hours?”

“I don’t actually need a doctor. I needed to talk to Dr. Raymond Daniels.”

“I beg your pardon?”

“I was one of your father’s patients.”

She pulled back slightly, surprised by his admission. “Oh, it must have been a long time ago.”

“Yes, it was.”

It may have been a year ago that her father died, but the emotion was still very strong and showed in her expression when she talked of him.

Cole did his best to squash down his disappointment. It paled in comparison to her loss.

“I’m sorry to hear that. I’m sorry for your loss,” he said.

“Thank you. I don’t know if there is anything I can do to help you.”

“I was hoping he’d remember me. But since he’s passed away, I guess I’m out of luck.”


* * *

Terrific. She’d been down in this godforsaken border town for two months and she had yet to meet a single person who’d been born in this country. She looked at the man’s face. She’d been drawn to his dark eyes from the moment she’d looked at him. He was a handsome man, but in a rugged sort of way that she wasn’t used to. Unlike most of the men she’d met during med school and her residency, this man was an outdoor man. His skin was bronzed from the sun and his hands—yes, she’d noticed them, too—were calloused on the palms. He wasn’t afraid of hard work.

But that didn’t make him like all the other people she’d met since she’d arrived in Hawk Pass. Maybe he wasn’t from around here.

Rae crossed her arms over her chest and sighed, trying not to show the impatience she felt. Her practice these days consisted of patients who wanted to pay for their services through bartering. She didn’t need a goat, not that anyone had offered. But she did need someone to help her repair the damage neglect and age had caused to the building.

The only problem was she couldn’t trust any of the people who’d walked through that door to help her do it. Most of the people who’d come and gone wanted day work and a paycheck. The next day they were a no show on the job, leaving her with a mess bigger than the one she’d had when she’d arrived.

“I’m sorry for your troubles. I’m not sure if there’s anything I can do to help you.”

“On the contrary. I was told that your father, Dr. Daniels, was one of the few border doctors who kept meticulous records of all of his patients. I’m hoping I can get copies of my medical file, if it still exists.”

“Who told you something like that?”

“I’ve done my research. It doesn’t matter who told me.”

“What matters to me is that if someone is out there spreading rumors, I want to know who it is. If I’m to be of any use to anyone at this clinic, then I need to know what’s going on down here.”

“You mean your father never told you?”

Irritation bubbled up inside of her. Secrets and more secrets. How many times had she heard her mother ask her father about the time he spent here only to have him close himself off. Her father had lived a lifetime of secrets, and she and her mother paid the cost.

No, her father had never thought revealing his life here was necessary. He’d encouraged Rae to go into medicine. That is, when she saw him. And that wasn’t very often at all. Why her mother had stayed married to him all those years, Rae never understood.

But Rae knew the answer to that question all too well. Her parents had loved each other. She’d seen it with her own two eyes. When they were together, it had been like nothing Rae had ever seen with any other couple she’d met. It was something she longed for herself, but had yet to feel.

“My father ran this clinic his way. I do things a little different. When was it that you last saw my father?”

“It was a long time ago. I was still very young. I was counting on him still having the records though.”

Rae knew that if this man had actually been here any time during the thirty plus years her father had his practice, it meant those records were here somewhere. Her father never threw out anything, which is why the place was such a mess. Finding those files was just a matter of unearthing them from “the vault”.

“I’m sorry. I can’t help you. I have way too much work to do to get this office looking anything that resembles a real clinic and right now I’m all there is. I just can’t spare the time to look through the files unless they are from my father’s current clients.”

He considered her for a moment.

“It is really important that I have access to those records if they exist.”

“I understand. My father had a lot of patients. Thousands. The vault, uh, the storage locker has records from years ago. But my father’s only obligation was to keep records for his current patients. I’m sorry. There’s just too much work for me to do around here to go searching for ancient records.”

“What do you need to have done here?”

“Excuse me?”

“What do you need to do to get this place running?”

“Well, for starters I need to make repairs to the building. I need to find a contractor who can work for next to nothing and work miracles with the materials I have and then show up every day to work instead of disappearing on me after a day’s work. I need to log what is here and still in working order and then order new supplies, that is, if I can afford them. The windows in the back of the exam rooms need to be glazed because the office was broken into. Oh, and I have to find some money somewhere to get an alarm system put in so the clinic doesn’t get broken into again. And that’s just for starters. So you see—”

“Done.”

She blinked. “What?”

“I can make a list of the repairs that need to be made to the building and start working on them tomorrow. If you already have the glass for the windows, I can glaze them. I don’t know anything about alarm systems but I’m sure we can find someone within a twenty mile radius of Hawk Pass who knows a thing or two about them, or where to get someone who can install one.”

She shook her head as disbelief filled her. “Why are you doing this?”

“I need that file. Sooner rather than later would be best.”

He spoke directly and soberly.

“How soon?”

“Fifteen days.”

“So no rush then?”

He smiled then, although she was sure he found no amusement in his situation.

“I’m good with a hammer. I’ve done ranch work for years. And I’m the best price in town.”

She shrugged with a smile. “And what’s that?”

“Can’t get any better than free.”

Rae took a slow look around the office. It was a mess. She’d been here two months and although it looked far better on the inside than it had been when she’d arrived, the exterior was still a disaster. She needed to step up her game and get the clinic open again. She needed patients who could pay and make this a thriving practice.

On his deathbed, her father had begged Rae to give one year to the clinic, sort out what she could, and then see about getting another doctor in to replace her when the year was up. Filled with despair over losing her father, she’d made a promise to him to commit to a year. And each day of the two months she’d been here, she’d wondered why he gave up life with his family for this.

“I guess you can start by telling me your name.”

Rae was rewarded with a wide smile that hinted of the playfulness of a young boy. But this was no boy. This man with dark eyes and rich brown hair that made a woman’s fingers itch to comb through it was probably about her age. His shoulders stretched the fabric of his shirt tight against a wall of muscles on his chest. It annoyed her that she’d noticed at all.

Dark eyes. Warm eyes.

“I’m Cole Rivers.” He held out his hand and waited for her to slip her hand against his palm. The simple act of flesh on flesh made her head dizzy. As a doctor, she touched strangers all day long. But this was…different.

“Pleased to meet you, Cole Rivers.”



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Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Teaser Tuesday: Leaving Liberty



Texas Hearts Book Five
LEAVING LIBERTY

There's been a storm brewing in Liberty Calvert's life.  But she didn't know just how strong it would be until Texas Ranger, Jackson Gentry, came to Liberty, Texas.  Her already fragile life will be changed forever if he learns the truth.  Her head tells her that the best thing for all of them is for Jackson to leave Liberty as soon as his investigation wraps up.  But her heart is telling her this is the one cowboy she wants to spend the rest of her life loving.

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Excerpt



Today was just one more day in a long string of stormy days Liberty Calvert wanted to erase from her memory.  As she sat in the passenger seat of her father’s truck, wiggling her toes in shoes that cramped her feet, she realized any relief she craved was futile.  Her father was dead.  And the expression on the face of the Texas Ranger leaning against his truck in her driveway as they pulled up to the house let her know he wanted to find out why.

She turned to the man driving the pickup truck.  “They didn’t waste any time, did they,” she said with a slight groan.

“Do you really want them to?”  Cole Rivers was more than a ranch hand on the Bucking Hills Ranch.  He’d become family, even if it weren’t legal.

Liberty considered Cole’s words a second.  “I wish they never showed up here at all.  The least this ranger could have done was wait until my dad’s memorial service was over before charging in here with questions.  It would have given us time to …”

“Figure things out?”  Cole shook his head.  “The time for that is long past.  You know all about facing a storm head on, Libby.  This is just one more storm.”

“What I wouldn’t give for some pleasant weather for a little while.”

Cole chuckled, reaching across the seat and squeezing her hand before looking at the man standing in the driveway.  “He’s not going away.”

She stared at Cole for a long minute, weighing the situation back and forth until she made her decision.

“If you want, Lib, I’ll get out of the car first.  Maybe he just wants to talk to me.”

Tears that had eluded her the past few days suddenly weighed heavy in her eyes.  She was Texas stock right down to the bone, and there was no way she was going to let this intruder, even if he was a Texas lawman, get the best of her or take away more than she’d already lost.

“Thanks.  But I can hold my own.”

Cole shrugged.  “I just thought it might be easier.”

The truck pulled to a stop.  Libby waited long enough for the dust from the gravel drive to blow forward and then settle around the Texas Ranger before she stepped out.

The man tilted his tan hat in greeting as she slammed the truck door.  “Good afternoon, ma’am.”

Libby remained silent.  She was already wearing shoes that were cramping her toes and a dress that … well, the last time she’d worn a dress was at her cousin’s wedding.  That was six years ago.  She was going to have to await changing into her comfortable jeans and worn-in boots until she dealt with the man.

Work.  That’s what she needed.  Not questions or probing.  Work kept her grounded.  Work made her forget.  Well …

Despite saying she’d take care of it, Cole stepped out of the car first.  Libby waited.  The tall Texas Ranger who’d come to investigate her father’s death wasn’t a stranger.  She’d seen him a few days after her father’s limp body was found up in the back pasture.  Jackson Gentry was his name.  He was an authentic navy hero, if she were to believe some of the whisperings about him in town, and now he worked as a lawman in Texas.

As she climbed out of the car, she finally had herself a good look at the man. Now that she was standing, she could see just how tall Jackson Gentry really was.  The slight creases along his eyes told her he was a good eight to ten years older than her.  His nose wasn’t exactly straight as if he’d had it broken at least once.  But it didn’t take away from the rugged features that made him look appealing.

He tipped his tan cowboy hat at her once again.  “Good afternoon ma’am.”

Libby laughed bitterly.  “What’s so good about it?”

He gave one long look at the way she was dressed and his expression fell to the ground, his skin as gray as a dry riverbed.

“I … I thought the funeral for your father was weeks ago.”

“It was,” Cole said.  “Today was private, to spread Buck’s ashes.  Just for family.”

Jackson Gentry’s solemn eyes looked down for a brief moment.  “I’m sorry for your loss, Miss Calvert.  If I could, I would have picked a better time to call on you.”

Cole turned toward Libby, taking her by the arm as they started to walk toward the house, passing the Texas Ranger without answering.

“Unfortunately,” Jackson continued, stopping them.  “This is too important for me to wait any longer.  There are some loose ends in your father’s death, and I need to complete my report, ma’am.”

Libby stopped and turned toward Jackson, wishing like hell she could keep the unshed tears that had eluded her all day from flowing now.  She sniffed back a sob.

“If you must, then at least let me get changed out of this dress.”

“It’s a nice dress.  I’m sure you get lots of compliments when you wear it.”

She frowned.  “I wouldn’t know.  Last time I wore it was to my mother’s funeral.  No one was really in the complimenting mood that day.”

He didn’t reply. Instead, he nodded.

“I’ll just be a minute.  Make yourself comfortable in the living room.”

* * *

Jackson followed Libby into the house.  The man she’d been with, Cole Rivers, had disappeared somewhere, and he wanted to know why.  Talk in town was that the ranch hand was quite protective of Buck Calvert’s only daughter.  He couldn’t say he blamed him.  Liberty Calvert was as pretty as a Texas flower.

“It’s cooler in here,” Libby said, extending her hand to invite him into the living room.

Cathedral ceilings planked with natural wood soared above him.  In the center of the room was a seating area in front of a stone fireplace that was big enough to fit him and the leather chair he sat down in.

“Thank you,” he said.  But Libby had already disappeared out of the room.

With nothing better to do than twirl his cowboy hat in his hand, Jackson glanced at his surroundings and saw nothing of the girl he’d met a few short minutes ago.  The great room was furnished with a man in mind, most likely decorated for the very man whose death he’d been sent here to investigate.  Above the mantel hung a painted portrait of who Jackson presumed was Buckland Calvert.  He stared at the picture, at the stern face and stiff posture, and then looked at the chair the man was seated in.  It was identical to the one he was sitting in.  It was almost as if Buck was scolding him from the grave for intruding on his daughter while she was grieving.

“You couldn’t have picked a better time?” he said quietly.

“What was that?”

Jackson turned to find Libby standing at the doorway to the living room.  She had changed out of her black dress and jacket and was now wearing a fresh T-shirt and jeans.  Her feet were bare as she walked into the room and plopped down on the sofa opposite him.  In her hands she had a pair of clean argyle socks and a pair of cowboy boots.  She proceeded to put them on as if he wasn’t even sitting there.  Jackson wondered how many times in her life Libby had repeated this same action sitting in front of her daddy’s portrait.

“Nice socks,” he said.

“First the dress?  Now the socks?  You’re really stretching for conversation, Ranger.”

“You have to admit the socks stand out.”

“Hmm, but not the woman wearing them?”

He’d walked into that … or she’d led him there.  Either way, he couldn’t really say exactly what type of impression the woman had made on him in the short time since they’d met.  Liberty Calvert was not exactly a woman a man wouldn’t notice.  Unlike some women who always checked to see if a man was favoring them, Libby went about her business as if she simply didn’t care.

There was something intriguing about that and made Jackson all the more interested in learning more.  But now wasn’t the time to find out the answers to all those questions about Libby that had nagged at him since he’d first laid eyes on her.  And it wasn’t the right time to flirt with a woman whose eyes were as blue as the Texas sky.  He was here on official business.

Her lips lifted on one side, giving him a half grin that quickly disappeared.  “They were a gag gift from my friend Hannah.  But I like to wear them, especially now that she’s serving overseas.  Makes me think of her.”

“Your friend is in the military?”

“Yes.  I’m hoping she’ll be home soon.”  She slipped her foot into her cowboy boot and dropped it to the floor with a thud.  “I dread telling her about my father.  It’ll devastate her.  She doesn’t need that now.”

“Is she in a dangerous position?”

“She’s in Afghanistan, and she’s in the army.  That’s dangerous enough for my liking.  But she won’t tell me where she is.  Or can’t tell me.  I’m not really sure which.  I wish she were here now.  So, what questions do you have about my father’s death that are so important it couldn’t wait?”

Jackson’s stomach dropped.  He hated this part of his job.  “I think your father’s death wasn’t an accident.”

Her shoulders slumped.  “Of course it was an accident.”

“Did you know that your father’s ranch was in trouble?”

“It’s my ranch now.  And no, the ranch isn’t in trouble.  It won’t be either.  Not if there’s a single breath left in me.”

“It’s mortgaged pretty high.  The note is recent.  Yet your father’s bank account doesn’t seem to have much in it to account for the money he took out.  Do you know why that is?  Or didn’t your father trouble you with ranch business?”

Libby shifted uncomfortably in her seat, yet kept her eyes steady on him.

“This ranch is neither a trouble to me or in trouble, Ranger.  I’d be careful where you take this.”

He twirled his cowboy hat in his hand slowly before he spoke.  “You can call me Jackson.”

“I’d rather keep this professional, Ranger.  Quite frankly, after the investigation last week, I thought you’d be only too happy to finish your paperwork and rid yourself of Liberty, Texas.  Nothing ever happens here.  It’s just a small Texas town where one day looks like the last.  It’s not even a dot on any of the Texas maps.”

“Sounds like you’re eager to get rid of me.”

“Eager?  Don’t flatter yourself.  I simply want to move on and get back to work.  As you can imagine, my father’s death was a devastating blow, especially so soon after my brother’s death.”

“And your mother?”

Her eyes widened and immediately glistened with unshed tears.  “My mom,” she said, softly.  “She died ten years ago.  It’s just me here now, and I have a lot of work to do to keep this place up on my own.”

“I’m sorry to hear that.  You have no other relations in town?”

“No.  My father’s family came from Mexico.  Most are still there.”

“And your mother’s family?”

“What does all this have to do with the investigation?”

He looked at her sincerely.  “Nothing.  I just wondered …  It’s tough being alone at a time like this.”

“I’m not alone.  Cole is here.”

He pulled out his notepad and started flipping through it.  “That’s right.  That would be Cole Rivers.”

“You know it is.  You just saw him outside.”

“Yes.  I knew he worked here as a ranch hand.  He lives here?”

“Yes.  We have a small bunkhouse on the other side of the barn.  He stays there.”

“He’s not originally from Liberty, is he?”

“I imagine any questions you have about Cole are best directed to him.”

“You mean you don’t know?”

“I don’t understand why this line of questioning is so urgent for me to answer today of all days.”

“I didn’t know about the private memorial for your father.  I’m sorry.”

Libby stood up and smoothed down the denim of her jeans with both hands.

“No, you’re not.”

“I beg your pardon?”

“You heard me.  You’re only sorry that you can’t get the information you want from me.  And you’re not going to.”

“Why is that?”

“Because I don’t have any.  You see, the way I see it is you’re not really here to uncover evidence about the accident that killed my father.  You’re here fishing for information.  Every few years someone from the law comes to Liberty fishing for something.  I haven’t a clue what that is, and I don’t really care.  I do know that I don’t have the time to wonder about it.  In case you haven’t noticed, there is one less person on this ranch to do the work.  So unless you have some direct questions to ask me about what I personally know about my father’s accident, I’d say we’re done.”

Jackson looked up at Libby as she propped her fists on her slender hips and glared down at him as he sat in her father’s chair.  And suddenly Jackson knew who she’d gotten that stern and stubborn glare from.  He wondered, too, if Libby Calvert would have ever had that much fire talking to her ol’ man.

Jackson stood up slowly.  As he did, Libby kept her eyes fixed on his, and it became completely apparent how much taller he was than her.  But she didn’t shrink back as he towered over her, and for that he couldn’t help but feel a little bit of admiration, even though the visit here was a bust.  She was a pistol, for sure.

“I don’t believe your father’s death was an accident.”

She sighed.  “What are you implying?”

“Were you good in math?”

“Math?”

“Yes.  One plus one equals two?”

She folded her arms across her chest, clearly irritated.  “You’ve come here to give me a math lesson?”

“No.  But I can see this is a bad time for us to talk.”

She chuckled without any humor.  “You think?”

He’d overstayed his welcome.  If he’d ever really been welcome at all.  Jackson propped his hat on his head and nodded to her.  He’d give her a few days to work through her feelings and then he’d be back.  There were enough people in town he still needed to talk to before he could wrap up this investigation and be on his way out of Liberty.

“I’ll just see myself out,” he said.  Jackson started to walk toward the foyer, but then turned around.  “I’m not leaving Liberty.  One way or another, I will get the answers I need for my investigation.”

Liberty Calvert lifted her chin with determination and fire.  “I would expect nothing less.”

* * *

Only when Libby heard the front door shut completely did she allow herself to breathe again.  She slumped down into her father’s chair, leaning her head back and smelling the leather fabric that she’d come to recognize as his scent.  But her thoughts were not on her father.  The chair was still warm where Jackson Gentry had made an imprint.  The strong features of his face consumed her mind as she closed her eyes and tried to steady her rampant heartbeat.

“Are you okay?”  Libby opened her eyes to find Cole standing in the doorway.  He was still dressed in the clothes he’d worn to the memorial service where they’d spread her father’s ashes.

“Don’t look so worried.”

“It’s kind of hard not to given all you’ve been through.”

“I’m fine.”

“It’s been a trying day for you.  This visit from the ranger didn’t help.”

Libby heaved a quick sigh.  “I have a feeling this is only the beginning.  He’s asking questions about you, Cole, and that can only mean trouble.”

“For who?  Me or you?”

Libby thought about it for a minute while she rubbed the dull ache at her temple gently.  What started out as a small, throbbing pain was now shaping up to be a full-blown headache.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Cole gave her a half smile. “Okay, fine.  Why don’t you take a nap?  You look wiped out.”

She didn’t need a nap, especially when she knew sleep was the last thing she’d get.  Left alone with her thoughts, she’d think and she didn’t want to think about much of anything lately.

Especially not Ranger Jackson Gentry.

She’d spent more than just these past few minutes thinking about the man.  How could she not?  She’d seen him in town over the last couple of weeks.  Any woman with a pulse would stop dead in her tracks the moment she laid eyes on his baby blues.  Libby was no different.  She may be damaged goods, but she wasn’t dead inside, and she still had stirrings that made her notice a handsome cowboy.

“Lib?”  Cole was staring at her.

“He’s coming back.”

Cole simply nodded and dug his hands in the pockets of his coat.  “Then I suppose I should get out of this suit so I can tend to the animals.  Tomorrow, we should look into getting you some help around here.”

“Why would I need anyone else around here?  We’ve been doing just fine on our own.”

“Lib?”  She heard the same warning in his voice that he’d given her for the past few weeks.  “We talked about this.  And now the ranger is snooping around, wanting to dig deeper.”

“Don’t worry.  He’ll be leaving soon.”

“But what if he doesn’t?”

“Tomorrow,” she said, shaking her head.  She didn’t want to deal with any more today.

She heard the front door close as Cole walked out of the house.  And then she was truly alone in her father’s house for the first time in her life.

If Jackson Gentry got too close to the truth, she’d be alone on this ranch as well.  All the more reason to get him to leave Liberty as soon as possible.  This home had dealt with tragedy before.  Her family had weathered many storms through the years.  She was all that was left.  Just her and this ranch.  But if Libby was anything, she was a survivor.  And she would survive long after Jackson Gentry left Liberty.


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