I grew up in southern Iowa, moved to Oregon’s Willamette Valley at the age of eleven. I was in the sixth grade when I started school in Oregon. On my first day of school, I encountered the boy I would eventually marry. He kept pestering me, trying to kiss me. I held out until I turned sixteen, then I kind’a got the hang of the kissing thing. We’ve been married for forty-eight years, he’s still a pest, bless him.
I started out writing Regency Romances to entertain myself. I took writing courses, but I think I learned the most by submitting my work to publishers, editors and agents, and getting feedback. Laid low for nearly twenty-five years with arthritis, forced to use a battery-powered cart, I took up aquatic exercise and became an instructor. After two surgeries to replace my knees, I went to work on myself and lost eighty-five pounds, which I have kept off.
My husband and I live in Central Oregon with two West Highland White terriers, an energetic, longhaired Dachshund and one big, angora tuxedo cat. When I need a break from writing Oregon historical western romances, I work in the yard or my garden.
This year I am proud to announce the release of two Laura Creek romances “The Reprobate” and “The Cost of Revenge”, available on Amazon, http://www.amazon.com/Kindle-eBooks/b?ie=UTF8&node=154606011
Barnes and Noble, http://www.barnesandnoble.com/u/NOOK-Book-eBook-store/379003094 Good Reads, https://www.goodreads.com/ and Freya’s Bower, http://freyasbower.com as e-books.
Today, Saturday, he spotted Mr. Arnaud heading for the stable, no doubt headed out to the Tatom ranch to court Margret Tatom. Cleantha wasn’t with him. Royce paced the storeroom, and the room upstairs for the better part of the morning. By noon, sick of his cowardice, he informed Cousin Wren, “I’m going over to pay a call on Miss Arnaud.” The look on Wren’s face, slack-jawed and speechless, gave him courage.
Walking briskly so as not to lose his nerve, he marched himself across the meadow, up the steps of the Arnaud cottage, and knocked on the door. Several minutes lapsed before the door opened.
Cleantha stood there, swaying slightly. Her eyes, unable to focus, were dark pools of green in her pale face. Her hair, still in a braid. He could see she wore a nightgown beneath a pale-blue chenille bathrobe, the robe stained with several dark blue splotches down the front. Well hell, she wasn’t sick—she was drunk. He saw a chair by the fireplace and helped her into it, then closed the front door. When he turned around, he caught her trying to hide a glass full of burgundy-colored liquid behind a stack of books that sat on the table beside her chair. He grinned, feeling decidedly righteous.
“I don’t want to see anyone,” she said, her eyes closed against him, head down.
Ignoring her request, he pulled up the chair on the opposite side of the fireplace and sat down in front of her. “Go away.” she cried, turning her face, looking into the fire. “I don’t feel well.”
He reached around the books for the wine glass. “Maybe you’d feel better if you stopped drinking this stuff.” He smelled the contents of the glass. Wine, elderberry, he wrinkled his nose in distaste. “Very much of this stuff and you’ll puke up your guts.”
Putting up her chin, she flashed him a searing glance. “Mind your own business, Mr. O’Bannon. Go away. All I need is some rest.” Tugging her robe across her chest, she declared, “I’ll not sit here while you, a known scoundrel and reprobate, lecture me on the consequences of excess.”
That made him laugh. “All right, no lecture, maybe a good spanking though.” A parade of lascivious thoughts and tantalizing images filled his mind while he twirled the liquid around the inside of the glass. “There were many occasions I could’ve used a good swift kick in the pants. You are a lady, so I think a spanking would be the equivalent of a good swift kick.” Putting all joking aside, he pinned her down with his gaze to ask, “What’s your excuse for being drunk at midday?”
Cleantha drew herself up and, with a defiant gleam in her eye, reached for her glass. Smirking, he didn’t try to stop her from taking it. “I don’t have to explain myself to you, and I don’t appreciate your impertinence.” After draining the contents of her glass she looked down her nose at him. Her voice cool, reeking with disdain, she warned him. “If you so much as lay a hand on me, I’ll see to it you go to prison, where you belong.”
After a pause to consider her threat, he asked, “Is that what this is about, my past transgressions? I thought you knew all about me, and my infamous parent. Don’t tell me you didn’t?”
“This...is not about you.” she snapped, her eyes flashing.
He could tell it hurt to raise her voice. She winced. When she spoke next, her tone softened, but the creases above her eyebrows remained entrenched. He would guess she had a monster of a headache. “I don’t give a damn about you, or what you think. I don’t give a damn, period.” she cried in too loud a voice.
To his discomfort, she fell apart right before his eyes, her declaration bringing on a fit of hysterics. With her hands holding on to her head, she began to scream and wail. He pulled out of the line of fire as she drew her arm back and threw her glass into the hearth. It shattered into a thousand shards of crystal, each sliver picking up the fire’s glow. The sight of the sparks and the sizzling sounds held their attention for a few moments. Beside him, Cleantha stilled, her breathing slowed, and after a few minutes to allow her to cool off, he pulled her onto his lap and held her tight. Feeling the warmth and weight of her firm little bottom on his thighs instantly did things to his manhood—his blood pooling in his groin.
God, he wanted to lay her back and kiss the hell out her. Using all of his restraint, calling upon his inner reserve of control, he held himself in check.
“Now, tell me what this is about? All week you wouldn’t even look me in the eye. Are you mad at me because I picked you up and carried you down the steps in front of your father? I had to—don’t you understand? I had to hold you. I thought I would die out there in the wind and snow. I kept warm by thinking of you in my arms. When you came out that door, I had to, Cleantha—I had to touch you, feel your body against mine.”
She sniffed and confessed, “I wanted you to hold me...never let me go.”
For a moment he couldn’t speak, his mouth had gone dry, his mind drew a blank. She wanted him too, but still, what they felt for each other couldn’t be right or even possible. Doomed. Right this minute he wanted to peel off her clothes, lay her out on the rug before the fire and plunge himself into her quiver. He wanted to taste every inch of her, make love to her, take her breath away, leave her limp and begging for more. Knowing that, he also knew he would hurt her in more ways than one, and she would rip his heart out, leave him bleeding and hating himself. He also believed Cleantha Arnaud to be the most amazing person he’d ever encountered. If she was angry, or in pain, he wanted to be there for her. Suddenly it occurred to him that maybe this great sense of discovery, of wonder and aching passion, finally explained why he’d been born. At last, maybe he had a reason to exist.
With that revelation planted in his mind, Royce set his desire aside and took it upon himself to ask, “Why are you drinking, Cleantha? What’s happened?”
Looking up at him, her eyes wide, she looked like a little girl. His heart melted. Her eyes were full of turmoil and misery. Her lips quivered when she spoke. “I feel so worthless. My father’s thinking of getting married. I’m too stubborn to die and get out of the way.”
He nodded and asked, “So, we’re talking about Mrs. Tatom?”
“You don’t like her?”
She shook her head and surprised him, saying, “Margret Tatom is a lovely woman.”
He liked it that she sat content on his lap, with her head resting on his shoulder. She sighed, her breath smelled sweet with the fragrance of the elderberry wine and felt warm against his neck. The temptation to kiss her lovely lips distracted him from what she was saying. With a tilt of her head to look up into his eyes, she foiled his opportunity to make his move.
“I like Margret, but—she treats me like I’m...I’m a cripple, not only in body but of mind. Worse, I think my father would like to get me out of his way. He wants to build on a parlor and a bedroom for me on the other side of the house.” Her words had tumbled out in a rush. She trembled within his embrace. “A room with its own entrance,” she said, lifting her head from his shoulder to look up to his eyes. “A room where I could have my own fireplace, a room where I could be put out of the way when he marries,” she blubbered, then laid her head back on his shoulder, ”A room away from his new family, his new wife, his new daughter.”
Nodding with understanding, he murmured with real sympathy, “Ah, a pity drunk, the worst kind.”
She slugged him in the chest and wiggled to get off his lap. “Go away, you...you thug. I realize you’re the expert on what kind of drunk I might be. What’s your excuse?”
He chuckled and tightened his hold while she made a half-hearted attempt to get free. Once she settled back down, her body stiff, arms folded across her chest, he answered her, “It’s been a few weeks now since I’ve had a drink, but I’d guess I drank to punish myself.”
She pulled back, giving him a saucy smile to ask, “For being a prize pig?”
In fun he jerked his chin up, taking the hit, then answered her in all honesty, “Yes, as a matter of fact. For being a Goddamned prized pig. A pig is selfish and rude, and that would be me,” he said without shame.
“Did getting drunk help you feel better about being a pig?” she asked, her eyes soft, full of pity. He’d never had anyone look at him with such tenderness, such empathy, and it took his breath away.
“No.” Her eyes demanded the truth. “Drinking made me feel like hell. That’s the punishment, you see.” Relaxing, Cleantha put her head back on his shoulder. “I think you’re a beautiful pig.”
“I think you’re beautiful, too.” Without thinking, he kissed the top of her head. Her hair beneath his lips felt silky and smelled of oranges and roses.
“Drinking makes me feel like shit,” she admitted on a whimper. Royce laughed and gave in to his need to feel his lips on her mouth, to taste her, feel her.
A Laura Creek Western Romance
Quinn O’Bannon knows it’s time he settled down. He has two likely candidates, both sensible, attractive, young women. However, his fantasies keep straying to Tru McAdam, that thieving, sloe-eyed vixen with the grudge against the whole darn O’Bannon family.
Tru McAdam wants to believe the O’Bannons, all of them are rotten, heartless cheats. God help her, most of all she wants to believe the handsome, arrogant flirt Quinn O’Bannon is the worst of the lot.
When destiny shuffles the cards, strange pairs show up in the hand. Who can fight destiny, not the handsome, flirtatious Quinn O’Bannon, not the thieving, sloe-eyed vixen, Tru McAdam.
$5.99 to purchase e-book
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