Cover Reveal & Teaser: Warlord’s Mate

It feels as if I’ve been working on this story forever but it’s finally finished and is as epic as I envisioned it to be. Jorrick, my barbarian warlord, is the most alpha male I’ve ever written and I can not wait for you to meet him! 

I’ve been sitting on this cover for a long while. Those on my Reader Group have seen it and were told to keep it under wraps for the time being but here it is! I love this one. It might be due to the long-haired hunk on the cover but I think its stunning.

This story will release on September 6th, 2019 and is available for pre-order but first….scroll down a bit to read the entire first chapter. (For those who don’t like the sexy bits….this story is not for you! I wouldn’t even read to the end of this excerpt if I were you. 😉 )

 

 

(This is un-edited so ignore any weirdness!)

Chapter 1

Her wrists were bleeding. Marcy braced her arms on her knees and let her hands dangle away from her body, blood from the abrasions the metals cuffs made on her skin dripping onto the floor between her bare feet. She’d been wishing for days now that she’d bleed out, that she’d go to sleep and not wake up again but every time she opened her eyes, she was still in the same six by six metal room with nothing but a bucket in the corner for her personal use. 

Noise outside drew her gaze to the small square cut into the door that the aliens used to feed her the bowls of slop they considered food. She’d lost track of the days. Had no idea how long she’d been here, nor how long she’d been on that spaceship. She snorted a laugh. A spaceship. With all the screwed up bullshit in her life, she would end up on a spaceship headed for who knew where. 

Her brother had told her more than once that someone would end up grabbing her as she left her dance studio so late at night and she’d taken self-defense classes just to be on the safe side but—you can’t outrun an alien spaceship. The beam of light she’d been caught in had paralyzed her and the next thing she knew, she was being thrown into a cargo hold with twenty other women. Scared, hungry and unable to understand what the ugly fucks who’d taken her were saying didn’t help her anxiety any either. The day she was knocked unconscious and implanted with a translator had been the one highlight of the entire bizarre trip. It didn’t last long, though. Being dropped onto a prison moon and told to run or die had brought on a whole new level of weird, more so when she was caught and thrown into this shithole waiting to be fought over and offered as a prize to the strongest alien willing to fight for her. 

Marcy pushed the metal cuffs back and rubbed her thumb over her bleeding wrists. It was so dark she couldn’t see how bad it actually looked and with her luck, it would end up infected.

Something scurried in the corner and she pulled her knees in. She hadn’t been able to see what ran along the walls but she’d take whatever this planet had to offer in the way of vermin if it meant she escaped the alternative—becoming the possession and possible sex slave to some random alien. She would happily live out the remainder of her pathetic life right where she sat and not complain about a single second of it. 

But like it or not, they would come for her eventually and she knew this little reprieve would be short-lived. They’d offer her as a prize and she’d end up the property of some ugly ass thing she could barely stand to look at and spend her life on her back, knees spread wide. Either that or on her hands and knees, head down, ass in the air. Neither was anything to look forward to.

Marcy leaned her head back against the cold metal wall and stared at the ceiling. Prison Moon One, the galaxy’s most popular penal colony—and the number one reality show in the universe, she’d been told, —had been nothing short of terrifying from the moment she’d been dropped here. Every person here was watched and everything they did was broadcast to those who paid to see it. She’d been kidnapped and dropped here for entertainment. Meeting Sara and Emma on the ship had been the one small bright spot in the whole ordeal. Well, until they’d been told and run or die trying. Emma had refused to go with them and Sara had run off the side of a cliff and was snatched from the air by a freaking dragon. She’d watched it fly away with her new friend until she could no longer see them and by the time she remembered aliens were chasing her, she’d been found—and brought here to the Arena.

Movement outside her door brought her head up again. She’d already been fed so why were they back?

The door opened and one of the guards stepped inside the room. The hired muscle that did all the dirty work for the aliens who ran this place appeared human if you could overlook the patches of scales that dotted their flesh or their red eyes. This one was particularly nasty. He was bald like the others and his scales ran down both sides of his face but his eyes were larger than most, the red seeming to shine even in the dim light and there wasn’t a thing nice about him. 

He turned those eerie eyes on her as he crossed the small space. “Get up.” He didn’t wait for her to do so, instead, grabbed her by the arm and jerked her off the floor.

“Hey, easy asshole.”

“Keep quiet!” He grabbed the chain attached to the metal cuffs around her wrists and dragged her out of the cell. Two other guards waited outside the door.

“Where are we going?” She hated to even think.

He gave her chains another hard jerk, the metal once again cutting into her flesh. “I said be quiet. One more word from you and you’ll go out with more than your wrists bleeding.” He started down the hall, the other two guards falling into step behind them.

Asking where they were going was nothing more than her sad attempt to avoid acknowledging the fact she knew exactly where they were taking her. She wasn’t stupid. She was going to the arena. Asking was just her trying to live in denial for a little while longer but it looked as if today was the day she became an alien’s plaything.

When she saw the double doors at the end of the hall open, bright sunlight flooding inside, she staggered. 

Her time was definitely up. 

Nothing had changed since the last time she’d been there. The main gates were open. One of the brutes was standing there with what appeared to be humans, one of which was very naked. The female looked a bit like Sara and her pulse leaped. Was it her? She yelled out, “Sara!” just to see if she would look her way. When she did, Marcy’s heart started pounding. She struggled and screamed Sara’s name again, hope filling her heart when she saw the girl’s head turn left, then right, as if looking for her. Was that really her? “Sara!” Maybe that dragon hadn’t eaten her after all.

The guard holding her wrist cuffs gave them a yank. “You’re not to speak, human!” He dragged her to one of the cages the other girls were kept in and tossed her inside. 

When she turned to look at the main gates, they were closed. If that had in fact been Sara, she was now gone. 

She sighed and leaned back against the bars. Everyone in the cell was looking at her, with good reason. She’d been cellmates with a lot of these girls before they’d tossed her into the private cell inside and judging the looks on many of their faces, they weren’t happy to see her. Of course, she’d done nothing since they brought her here but fight at every opportunity while the other humans sat along the back wall and cried and yet, she had never been picked. The guards had always snatched up one of those simpering girls cowering in the corner and acted as if she wasn’t even there. Playing the hard to get along with bitch had worked, even if it didn’t gain her any new friends.

Marcy paced the cage through four fights, watching with her heart in her throat knowing that before the sun went down, that would be her up there for those aliens to fight over. She’d never been brought out to watch before so, they planned on getting rid of her today, and by nightfall, she’d belong to one of the aliens lining the make-shift bleachers around the perimeter of the ring. 

She was staring at them, wondering which of the ugly brutes would be the less terrifying to belong to when the guards opened the cage and came for her. 

“Let’s go.”

Her arm was grabbed and she dug her heels into the dirt as they dragged her from the cage. The aliens along the walls suddenly went still, every creature there watching her and fear made her lose her mind. She didn’t cry like the others had. No, she kicked, scratched and fought like the devil himself had caught her as they pulled her toward the raised platform they stood all the girls on and hoped the guards lost patience with her and killed her where she stood. That would be better than the alternative.

She’d watched so many of these fights—knew exactly how this one would play out—and she was determined to not to stand up there like some simpering, screaming girl begging for help. She may be scared enough to piss herself, but she’d die before they knew it.

Those aliens standing on the bleachers along the walls were all watching her now. Falling off the side of a cliff and being snatched from the air by the dragon that grabbed Sara wouldn’t have been her first choice, but as she was pulled across the hard, packed dirt inside the arena, she wished it would have been her.

She locked her knees, her bare feet sliding across the ground as the guard pulled her to the platform. He yanked her up the steps and if he hadn’t been holding her clasped hands, she would have fallen on her face. 

The hateful guard she loathed so much pulled to the center of the platform and told her to stay. She tried to jerk away from his grasp but managed to do nothing but stumble. 

The girls in the cells were all watching her. She’d stood in those same open cells day after day watching girls get taken and put up here on display, while those creatures that lived here fought until death for the privilege of taking them home. Those girls had screamed, cried, and begged and she was determined not to show the same weakness. If she looked like trouble, then maybe no one would want her.

In all those previous battles, the aliens who fought for the others had laughed when they collected their screaming prize but they’d not take her so easily. They’d not take her without a fight. She’d rather they killed her, to be honest, and had tried her best to get the guards to do just that. She’d caused enough problems to give them a reason to but all they’d done was hauled her out of the cage and took her underground, locking her in a cell all by herself, which had been fine by her. She hadn’t had to sleep crowded around a group of girls who stank worse than she did or try to ignore the overflowing bucket of human waste in the corner. 

She’d gotten comfortable in the dank hole they’d kept her in and she’d been down there so long, she had begun to think they’d forgotten about her. Now, staring at the aliens staring up at her, she knew just how foolish she was. It didn’t mean she would go peacefully, though.

Marcy tried to jerk away from the guard again. He snarled, his yellowed fangs showing as he snatched her back into place then cuffed her in the back of the head, ordering her to stay put. 

Like an idiot, she spit in his face.

The laughs from the aliens along the low-lying planks they were standing on echoed inside the ring. The guard growled deep in his throat as he wiped away the spittle. When he brought his hand down, the back of it catching her across the side of her face, pain exploded inside her head as her knees went out from under her and she hit the floor. She was jerked to her feet, then dragged to the back of the platform and slammed against the wall. Her arms were lifted, the short chain that ran from each cuff on her wrist hooked on a sharp piece of metal sticking out from the wall and when the guard stepped back, the smile on his face looked feral.

Arms cuffed and raised over her head, Marcy was left to dangle, her toes barely touching the ground. The guard grabbed the front of her dress and jerked it so violently, her body flew forward, then swung back to hit the wall behind her when the material ripped, the dress coming away in his hand.

Marcy gasped and the noise inside the arena died in an instant. 

It was the first time since she’d been brought here that she’d ever heard complete silence. It didn’t last long, though. As if the sight of her pale limbs and fire-crotch were enough to shake the world, the aliens started jumping off the planks they were standing on and ran into the ring.

The announcer’s voice boomed through the speakers as he informed them she was the next prize up for grabs and made mention of her hair. The guard grabbed a handful of it and gave her head a hard shake before letting go, her head smacking back against the wall. 

When the world stopped spinning, Marcy focused on the aliens who’d stepped into the ring. Nearly a dozen were leering at her. As aliens went, most of these were on the grotesque side. Bulbous heads, extra appendages, and she was loathed to even think about what the penis of that flat-headed, gaped-mouthed thing looked like.

The announcer asked for any others. Marcy scanned those still on the planks. More horrifying looking creatures were staring back at her. Every size and shape imaginable and one huge—thing—that looked a lot like the beast in one of her favorite book series was staring at her. She didn’t think that ugly ass thing was going to shape-shift and turn into Jericho Barrons, though. She’d volunteer to be his human plaything if he did. Luckily for her, he didn’t join the others ready to fight for her.

There were more than a few of them who could have passed for human if it weren’t for their skin color or the mere size of them. A tall alien in the back kept drawing her attention. He stood a good head taller than all the rest and looked to be wearing a skull mask—at least she hoped it was a mask—with large white horns sticking up from the top of his head. Thick brown fur covered his body and even from this distance, she could see his eyes were an unusually bright shade of amber.  

The aliens in the ring started shifting again. Half a dozen or more were facing the platform when she looked and an orange hulking—thing—stepped down to join the rest. His head was bald and overly large muscles lay beneath his skin. His eyes were black, his mouth lipless. When he joined the others, three aliens that had been standing in the ring scurried back to rejoin the others on the planks. 

The huge orange thing smiled. Or at least she thought that was what he was doing. His mouth grew wider as he turned to look at the others standing there facing the platform before yelling, “Destroy all!” He lifted a beefy hand and pounded his chest caveman style. “Kr’Atek strongest!” He turned his head to look at her and growled, “Prize mine.”

The remaining aliens in the ring looked at each other before two more headed back to the planks. The massive orange thing and three others remained. The orange alien faced the others and bellowed, “Crush you! Female mine!”

Bile churned in Marcy’s stomach at the prospect of being that creature’s plaything. It was four times her size and ugly as sin. The three other aliens were fairly large in size as well but were nowhere near as muscular as that thing was. He looked as if he could crush her with nothing but one swing of his fist.

Commotion amongst the aliens drew her eye and her heart gave one powerful thump in her chest when the tall alien with the skull mask stepped down into the ring. The brown fur was actually a cloak wrapped around his shoulders. He was bare-chested except for two crisscrossing leather straps with varying sizes of blades fitted into slots all along the leather. His skin had a gold tint to it and he was nearly as thickly muscled as the orange alien. His thighs were massive and as he crossed the ring, that eerie silence that had fallen over the arena when the guard had stripped her of her clothes fell again as he walked toward the platform. 

To her horrifying disbelief, the orange alien looked almost scared. 

The other three aliens scurried back to the planks when skull face stopped beside them and looked their way. The orange things forehead wrinkled enough for Marcy to think he was glowering at the newcomer and to her amazement, he shifted on his feet and looked between her and the newest challenger. Long minutes ticked by before he bared his teeth. With a loud roaring growl, he turned and walked away.

Skull face was the only one left in the ring. He watched the orange beast until he’d joined the others, then looked at her. From here, she could tell he was definitely wearing some sort of mask. The only thing she could see of his face was his eyes and the lower half of his bearded chin. A headpiece attached to the cloak held the horns but the rest of him, every bulging muscle, was him. At least he looked human—in an overly exaggerated Dwayne Johnson kind of way. 

When he took two steps toward the platform and held up his arm, Marcy could only imagine the fresh hell awaiting her at the other end of that outstretched hand. His gaze slid over her body, stopping briefly on her breasts before going lower, staring at the red curls between her legs for long moments before meeting her eyes again.

The guard grabbed her arms and jerked them from the metal spike she’d been suspended from. “Let me see you spit on him, human.” He pulled her across the platform and jerked her to a stop inches from that outstretched hand. “I only wish I could be there to see how he breaks you.” He laughed and lowered his head to whisper in her ear. “Welcome to Prison Moon One, bitch. You belong to the Warlord, now.”

####

The bastard threw her off the platform. She hit the hard, packed dirt with a jarring thump, her face slamming into the ground while her teeth clanked together so hard she bit her tongue. She cursed under her breath and sat up with a groan, glancing at the alien who’d won her by doing nothing but standing there looking menacing. He was staring down at her, some unreadable emotion showing in his strangely colored eyes. 

Marcy spit blood from her mouth and turned her head to glare at the guard. He laughed and jumped to the ground. 

Her alien owner moved so fast she barely tracked him as he grabbed the guard, one large hand closing over the side of the guards head before slamming him to the ground beside of her.

The warlord, as the guard had called him, leaned down, pressing the side of the guard’s face into the dirt and said, “You do not touch what is mine.”

She’d seen many things reflected in the guards’ eyes since she’d been here but genuine fear had never been one of them. The guard’s eyes were wide and locked on her, his face a funny shade of red.

“Apologize.”

Marcy looked at the warlord, then back down to the guard. The fear she’d seen in his eyes moments ago bled into pure hatred, his face turning a brighter shade of red as the warlord pressed harder on the side of his head until the words, “I’m sorry,” wheezed out past his squeezed lips. As quickly as the warlord had taken the guard down, he let him go and stood to his full height. He glanced at her then turned and walked away, heading across the arena without a word.

Another guard stepped into her line of sight as the one on the ground mumbled something under his breath and stood. The new guard grabbed her arm and pulled her to her feet, then reached for her bound wrists. Marcy winced as the metal cuffs once again bit into her flesh. The pain was enough for her to almost be glad they were being removed but no cuffs meant she was officially someone’s property.

The warlord was near the arena gates when the guard unlocked her cuffs. As he worked the locks, he whispered, “Stay two steps behind him and speak to no one but him. You are the warlords now. No one exists to you but him. Got it?”

When she didn’t answer, he squeezed her bloody wrist. She winced in pain and looked at him. She’d not seen this guard before. He was bald like the rest of them were and had patches of scales on his skin but something in his eyes said he wasn’t like the other. “Am I to walk out naked? Your asshole friend ripped my dress off.”

“Yes. As I said, you belong to the warlord now. Take nothing from anyone but him unless he says otherwise.”

“You’re joking, right?”

“No.” He pulled the cuffs off her wrists. “Now go. He’s the last person on Prison Moon One you want to anger.” He didn’t wait for a reply, just turned her and shoved her in the direction of the gate.

Marcy could see the warlord walking down the narrow road between the ramshackle buildings outside the arena. He looked to be in no hurry but his stride was wide. Catching up with him meant running and she’d be dammed if she ran after her future rapist.

“Don’t be stupid,” the guard said. “And don’t think for a moment he won’t make you suffer for defying him.”

“I’m not afraid of dying.”

The guard laughed. “The warlord doesn’t punish by killing. He’ll make you suffer and enjoy every second of your torment. Now go before he teaches you to obey in front of everyone watching.”

As much as she loathed to do it, Marcy sighed and started walking. The arena was quiet as she made the long walk—naked—to the gates. The desire to cover herself was strong but she saw little point in it now. Everyone had already seen everything she’d try to hide. 

Snickers and taunts filled the air with every step she took. The orange hulking alien who had scared most of the others off when they entered the ring to fight was watching her, the expression on his face filled with anger. He was pissed he hadn’t won her but she wasn’t sure if it was because he wanted her that bad or if it was the fact the warlord had claimed her with nothing more than a look. 

As she passed the last of the aliens on the planks, the noise they made faded as she stepped outside the arena and the gates closed behind her. Two of the small camera orbs that recorded everything that took place here on Prison Moon One flew into her line of sight, one stopping to hover right in front of her. She swatted it away and looked for the warlord. He was near the tree line and even though she said she wasn’t running after him, she found herself jogging to catch up. As much as going with him scared the shit out of her, the thought of staying behind for someone else—or many someone’s—to grab, terrified her more. 

Marcy kept a slight distance between them. Her bravado from the arena was nowhere to be found now that adrenaline wasn’t coursing through her veins. 

The warlord never acknowledged her, never looked to see if she was there and Marcy watched him walk as she followed behind him. He was a big son of a bitch with wide shoulders. If his behavior back in the arena was any indication, he had a surly attitude, too. 

They stepped into the shelter of the trees a few moments later and he still didn’t look back to see if she was there. She wondered if she could slow down and let him get ahead of her again and make a run for it.

She studied her surroundings. The trees were sparse. Hiding out in here would be almost impossible and it wouldn’t take him long to find her if she did decide to make a run for it. Not that she had anywhere to go. Finding Sara would probably be impossible. If that had in fact been Sara she’d seen earlier at the arena gates, she had no idea which way she’d gone when she left and besides, she was still naked and with her luck, she’d run into a whole mess of horny aliens who’d take turns with her. If what the guard said was true, then she belonged to the brute in front of her and he didn’t exactly look like the sharing type. They were both shitty choices but she’d take one rapist over many any day.

The walk through the woods would have been pleasant under other circumstances. The foliage was unlike anything she’d ever seen. Strange flowers dotted the ground, bushes with long fronds of red, purple and orange filled the area and on several of the trees, huge ear-like things that reminded her a bit of fungus was growing on the tree bark. 

Leaves littered the ground along with a small spiky plant she found by stepping on one. Her shout hadn’t even stirred the warlord’s attention. He was still walking ahead of her, silent, his furred cloak and horned headpiece still in place. It wouldn’t have killed him to wrap her in the mangy looking thing. She could only image how heavy it was but anything would have been better than traipsing around naked.

A twig snapped behind her and she turned her head to see three other aliens trailing them. They were spread out in a wide arc, their focus on her. Were these three going to fight the warlord for her? Shit, I hoped not.

She faced forward again, staring at the back of the warlords head. “We’re being followed.” He didn’t so much as flinch. “Three big ass aliens about a hundred yards back.” Still nothing. Marcy looked behind her again. They were closer now. “They don’t look friendly, either.” When he still refused to acknowledge her, she searched the ground for something to use as a weapon, grabbing a small piece of wood a few moments later. It wasn’t very big or heavy but it might be enough to brain one of those assholes if they tried to jump her.

They walked for what seemed like hours, the three behind them still keeping their distance and she began to wonder if they weren’t with the warlord. They never came any closer and he certainly didn’t seem worried about them but she tightened her grip on the make-shift weapon in her hands anyway. 

After stepping on what seemed like every sharp object in the forest, her feet felt like they were on fire by the time the trees started to thin out. Dozens of long poles jutted from the ground here and on top of everyone, sat an array of skulls, some nothing but bone, others, disgustingly fresh. Chunks of meat hung from them and she gagged when she caught the first whiff of them.

A large clearing sat up ahead, small, crude buildings and tents dotted along the edge of the trees in a wide circle. Aliens in every shape and size filled the open area in the center of the camp and the moment they were spotted, everyone looked their way. 

The warlord didn’t stop walking until he reached the center of the dirt circle next to a large fire pit. Marcy hesitated at the edge of the trees. Walking naked through the woods with three aliens watching her ass sway back and forth had been bad enough but walking out in front of all these aliens would be as humiliating as it had been when that guard ripped her dress off. She wasn’t sure she had enough false bravado in her to persuade this many aliens to leave her alone.

The crack and pop of twigs sounded behind her. A look over her shoulder showed the three who’d followed them were right behind her now. This close up, she could see they were all the same species. Their skin was a deep, royal blue and while they stood on two legs and had two arms, they didn’t exactly look human like the warlord did. These three had unusually long legs, their necks long and slender and their eyes were big yellows circles on their faces.

The one in the middle reached out and snatched the piece of wood from her hands, her palms stinging as the bark ripped into her flesh. He tossed the stick away and gave her a push. The other two didn’t wait to see if she was going to move or not and each grabbed one of her arms, ushering her out of the trees and into the clearing.

As she expected them to, everyone in camp turned and looked at her.

A quick glance at those gathered and the fear she felt grew as she was led to the warlord. At least forty sets of eyes were turned in her direction and everyone she saw gave her a look from head to toe, then back down again. She was ready to beg for clothes as the two holding her arms drew her to a stop in front of the warlord.

Most of the aliens staring back at her were male but she saw a few females—none of which looked human—standing near the wooden buildings that lined the circle. They gave her a quick glance before returning to whatever it was they were doing. The fact they paid her no more attention than they had was telling. The females here did as told and nothing more.

Turning from the females, she stared out at the sea of faces staring back at her and was afraid to even imagine what was about to happen. What did they do with new females here? Pass them around so everyone got a chance to have a poke at them? Was she to be a reward for one of these aliens?

No. You belong to the warlord. The guard had said as much. But—she was his to do with as he pleased which meant, if he wanted her to fuck every single alien in this camp, she’d spend the rest of her life on her back.

Misery settled into her gut like lead. Marcy felt the warlord, more than she saw him move closer. He was right behind her and she sucked in a breath moments before he grabbed her, one large hand gripping her throat, the other wrapping around her, his hand sliding down to cup her between the legs. She was pulled back against his chest, held so tightly against him she felt close to suffocating as her heart pounded like a caged bird behind her ribs. So much for being brave. If the big bastard behind her only knew she was seconds away from pissing herself, he’d move his hand.

The warlord’s hold around her neck loosened before he slid his hand up to her cup chin, grasping it hard enough to turn her head and expose the side of her neck. Just when she started to wonder what he was doing, the big bastard lowered his head and bit her. Pain tore through her neck as two sharp pinpricks pierced her skin and as the pain intensified, her focus on his teeth inside her flesh shifted as the hand cupping her pussy moved, one long finger sliding between the lips to press against her clit.

End Of Excerpt

Release day is still over a month away but you can grab your copy now by Pre-Ordering at Amazon.com. Get your copy HERE.

New Release Coming Soon!!

Even though I have a full schedule this year, I can’t help but want to check back in on older characters. One such character is Grace Samuels. We heard a bit about her in Wild Horses and there was something tragic about her Happily Ever After and I needed to change that — So I did. You can catch up with her and Rafe on Valentine’s Day but for now, here’s a small sneak peek.


 

Life as a mail-order bride has turned out to be everything Grace Samuels thought it would be but after 13 years, her dreams of being a mother are still not fulfilled. When she finds a homeless girl living behind the mercantile in town, her motherly instincts kick into high gear but the girl has a secret that takes Grace and Rafe by surprise, a secret that will either tear them apart or give them both their heart’s desire.

 


 

 

Excerpt

 

Willow Creek, June, 1885 

The sign on the door read Doctor Evan Reid and not a letter had changed since the day they were painted on the glass. Grace read the words for what had to be the hundredth time and took a steadying breath. If he told her to leave, then so be it, but the suspense was killing her.

 Evan turned to her as she stepped inside, his ever present smile firmly in place. “Grace. It’s a pleasure to see you again.”

“And you as well. Welcome home.”

“Thank you.” He put the stack of notes in his hand down and stood to his full height. “I hope nothing’s wrong.”

“No, I’m perfectly healthy.”

“Well, that’s good.

She nodded and clutched her reticule. “How was the trip?” His smile wavered. Evan was one of the most perceptive men she’d ever met and if the look on his face was any indication, he knew exactly what she wanted.

“It was good.” He looked toward the door that led to his personal residence. Trying to find an escape if she had to guess. “The new doctor showed up right on schedule.”

“Oh, well, I’m sure the residents in Missoula are all pleased there’s a new permanent doctor in town.” Just get it over with, Grace. She fidgeted, then cleared her throat. “Do you have a moment?”

His smile returned and the tone of his voice told her he knew why she was there, just as she’d guessed. “I’ll always make time for you.”

Grace removed her bonnet and patted down her hair. “I hate to keep bothering you but did you find anything?”

The look on his face said he hadn’t. 

“I’m sorry, Grace. I searched through every medical journal I could find in Missoula, but I saw nothing beyond what I’ve already told you.”

She hid her disappointment behind a weak smile.

“I’ll keep trying, though.” 

He stared at her for a long moment and it looked as if he wanted to say something, but hesitated in doing so. Was he tired of her coming into his office asking for answers he didn’t have? Probably. She would be. “Whatever it is, Evan, just say it.”

He motioned to the chair next to his desk. “Come and sit down, Grace.” She wanted to refuse but settled into the seat to hear him out. If he told her to never come back, then so be it. Maybe that’s what it would take to convince her heart it was truly over. “I’m sure it’s tiring for me to keep coming in but helping Alex with those babies—“

“You don’t have to explain, Grace.”

The tears she promised not to shed burned her eyes. She lowered her gaze and blinked them away. Not once has she begrudged a second of time Alex asked her to help out. Tending to Catherine and James was the highlight of her day most of the time, but leaving them and going home alone wasn’t the same as rocking one of your own to sleep and laying them down knowing they would always be there. As much as she loved her niece and nephew, it was different than loving one of her own. Every time she looked at them, the face of her own baby, delivered months too early, filled her mind’s eye, and every time it did, her heart broke even more.

Evan took his seat behind the desk. “I spoke with the new doctor while I was in Missoula. He’s never run across a treatment for your condition but…” 

“But what?” Grace prompted when he stopped talking.

He gave her a reassuring smile. “He told me of a medicine man who lives out near Guilford.”

Grace sat up straight in her seat. “A medicine man?” She blinked and clutched her bonnet in her hands. “You mean an Indian? That kind of medicine man?”

Evan nodded. “Yes.”

She opened her mouth several times but never made a sound. 

“It’s just a suggestion, Grace. I’m not even sure what he’d do or how…”

A medicine man? Grace stood and paced away from the desk, stopping at the window. She moved the curtain aside, staring at the school for long minutes.

“Talk to Rafe,” he said. “See what he thinks. I’m here to answer any questions you have, you know this, but I don’t know what else to do. I’ve tried everything I can think of. It may be time to take a leap of faith.”

Faith was all she had left. She nodded, let the curtain fall and turned back to face him. She blinked to ease the sting of tears wanting to form in her eyes again. “I’ll talk to him.” She smiled, the corners of her mouth barely lifting. “I’ll let you know.”

She left and hurried down the sidewalk, ducking between the buildings and hurrying over to the bench nestled underneath the trees behind the mercantile. Countless days had been spent sitting there while her heart bled out what she thought was the last tear she had in her, but today proved she still had more. She hated feeling like this. Hated the pain that came with the wanting and cried until she felt hollow and the wind-chapped her cheeks nearly raw.

Dabbing the wetness from her face, she inhaled deeply, composed herself, and stood. She’d been gone too long and Alex would wonder where she was. Catherine and James would never be hers but she could love them as if they were. They were family after all and apparently the closest she’d ever get to being a mother.

* * * *

The expression on her face told him something was wrong. Rafe took the horses reins and opened his mouth to ask what happened but Grace turned and headed to the house without a word.

He saw to her horse, getting him bedded down for the night and finished his chores before heading inside. She was by the stove, her shoulders drooping. He hung his hat and crossed to where she stood. “Grace—” He didn’t get another word said before she turned, threw herself at him, and buried her face against his chest.

“What’s wrong?”

“Nothing,” she mumbled.

He laughed. “Woman, I’ve lived with you long enough to know that’s a lie.” He wrapped his arms around her, hugging her to him as he placed a kiss to the top of her head.  “Now what is it?”

She sighed. “I saw Evan today.”

“Grace—”

“—I know I shouldn’t but—”

“—No buts, Grace.” He pulled back enough he could see her and cupped her face in his hands. “I love you—”

“I know you do—”

“—Let me finish.” She sighed again and nodded her head, staring at his chest. “I love you and not having a baby will never change that.” His chest clenched when a single tear slid down her cheek. He brushed it away and leaned down, kissing her softly on the lips. 

He’d lost count of how many times she’d done this. Gone to Evan with some new hope of being a mother burning in her eyes only to return disappointed and heartbroken all over again. Helping with Jesse and Alex’s twins over the last several months hadn’t help matters either but he didn’t have the heart to tell her to stop. It might be time to talk with Jesse instead. If they told Grace they were fine, then maybe she’d stop going over there every day on her own. Doubtful, but it was worth a try.

He wrapped her in his arms again, burying his nose in her hair. As much as he wanted to ignore the whole conversation, he couldn’t. “What did Evan say this time?”

She raised her head and for the first time that day met his gaze without looking distraught. “He found something while in Missoula.”

“Oh?”

She nodded and glanced away, toying with the buttons on his shirt. “You’ll probably not like it though. I’m not even sure I do.”

“What is it?” When she didn’t answer, he cupped her chin and brought her head back up. 

“The new doctor in Missoula told him of a medicine man who might be able to help.”

“Medicine man—as in an Indian?” She nodded. “Grace—”

“I knew you wouldn’t like it but it’s worth trying, don’t you think?”

No, he didn’t, but he didn’t say as much out loud. 

She turned back to the stove and went into great detail about heading to Missoula to find this Indian. He let her talk, nodding when appropriate, and tried to think of a way to tell her visiting Indian territory wasn’t going to happen. She’d already lost three babies, one of which was big enough to see her tiny fingernails had already started to grow. The heartbreak those three failed pregnancies left behind wasn’t worth taking the risk again. He was losing the vibrant woman he married to one who was preoccupied and stressed and worrying herself into an early grave and he’d lost enough already. He wouldn’t lose her as well. Come morning, he’d talk to Jesse and put a stop to all this baby talk once and for all.

End of excerpt…

 

HEARTSTRINGS will release on February 14th, and is available for pre-order. The story has been uploaded to all retailers but all the links are not live yet. I’ll post them once they are.

 

  

Apple Books and Kobo links Coming Soon.

.99¢ Book Sale!

 

A Willow Creek Christmas is the book of the month over at Caroline Lee’s Book Brigade and I’ve placed it on sale for .99¢ the entire month of February!!

If you haven’t read this one yet, grab it now, then join the Book Brigade to discuss it with other readers in this book club. It’s FREE to join so head on over!

Find purchase links for A Willow Creek Christmas HERE.

Willow Creek Make-Over

 

Some of you may have seen the new covers I’m having made for the Willow Creek series and for those who haven’t, surprise! The series is getting a facelift and I’m still excited every time I see a new cover.

The Lawman came out way back in November 2011. Hard to beleive its been seven years since I took a notion to write a book in a genre I loved to read. I had no clue if I would be sucessful writing them and at the time, I didn’t really care. I just enjoyed the genre and took a leap. And here we are, eight novels later. 

The rebrand started with Nightingale. I hired a cover artist to make the cover for me as they were time consuming for me to do and–I’m a writer, not a cover artist. When I received the cover, I loved it so much I decided to have them all rebranded to match. Below are those last four novels, all with new covers.

   

   

This month, I’m starting on the first four books – the Avery brothers. The Lawman was first and I received the cover today.

One thing I wanted to do with these, was keep them as close to the orignals as I could so no one would mistake them for differnt (new) books. I’ve grown fond of the couples on the front of the books which made it hard to repleace them on His Brother’s Wife and A Willow Creek Christmas. The photos I had used just didn’t work with this new design so they had to be changed but — I’m in no way disappointed. They are super sexy now!

The Outlaw will get its make-over in January, with the last two coming in February and March and I can’t wait to have them all done and sitting on my shelf. Clarise, over at CT Cover Creations is doing such an amazing job with these. If you’re in need of a cover artist, head over and check out her stuff.

So — tell me what you think. Are you liking the new covers? Or did you prefer the old ones better?

Friday First Kiss #121 :: Julia by Lily Graison (Historical Western)

The moment I crack open a new book, I always rush through the beginning, the budding relationship between the hero and heroine, and anticipate that spontaneous moment when one of them makes their move. The First Kiss. The first turning point in every story.

Every week here on the blog, I’ll be sharing First Kisses from my books and those of other authors.

 

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This weeks Friday First Kiss comes from, 
Julia (Book 2 in the Angel Creek Christmas Brides Series) by Lily Graison

 

Her heart had been fluttering wildly as Mathew touched her but now, as he leaned down, his mouth inches from her own, she feared it would burst through her chest.

The moment his lips touched her own, Julia forgot how to breathe.

She’d dreamed of being kissed by him, wondered what his hands would feel like against her skin and those dreams paled in comparison. There was a dreamy intimacy to the act and she felt drugged the moment his tongue slid into her mouth. Her womb clenched tight and a small moan crawled up her throat before she could stop it.

His thumb brushed her nipple again, the resulting tingles shooting straight to her core igniting every nerve in her body. His breath was warm against her lips, tiny pulses of pleasure coursing through her veins as he pulled her tight against him.

His kiss was surprisingly gentle, his tongue dipping inside her mouth to taste her in slow, lingering strokes that made her heart race and caused heat to pool between her legs.

She wasn’t sure what she’d expected to feel when Matthew finally came to her but this dizziness had never entered her mind. Her limbs felt shaky, her stomach doing little flips and each swipe of his tongue against her own sent more of those tingles racing down her spine. She felt weak, her mouth burning with fire and she wasn’t close enough. She bunched the material of his shirt into her hands, leaned against him and kissed him back with the same intensity as he was showing her.

He broke the kiss a few moments later, panting out harsh breaths against her kiss-swollen lips and braced his forehead against her own. His hands moved to her shoulders, to the fabric of her gown. “Can I see you?”

She nodded and watched his face as he leaned back and pulled the gown down her arms, the material pooling on the floor at her feet. He took in every inch of her, his hands following the path of his eyes and when he’d looked his fill, he lifted her and carried her to the bed.

 

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Julia by Lily Graison

The Angel Creek Christmas Brides Series, Book 2

It would take the love of a woman he barely knows to make him forget about his painful past.

Julia Hamel always dreamed of a Christmas wedding and hers would be a dream come true if she wasn’t marrying a man she’d never met. Traveling across the country as a mail-order bride took a leap of faith, and she’s determined to make the best of her new life despite that fact her husband seems to be hiding something. But nothing she does seems to please him and Matthew’s distant despite her best intentions. When she meets a mischievous old man and takes his advice on how to make her husband happy, his ideas backfire in the worst possible ways and as Christmas draws closer, Julia begins to think leaving home might have been the worst mistake of her life.

Matthew Bailey never wanted a wife–until he saw Julia. He married her without much thought and hoped her presence would be enough to finally distract him from the fact it was the one time of year he wished he could forget. Painful memories keep him distracted and when the girl who mistook his kindness for a wedding proposal stirs up trouble, Matthew has to decide what he really wants. If its Julia, then he has to bare his soul and confront his past but dredging up those old memories is still painful. Can the love of a woman he knows nothing about be enough to make him want to live again? And will Julia stay once she’s seen the worst in him?

 


 

 

 

About Lily Graison

Bestselling Western Romance Author Lily Graison

Lily Graison is a USA TODAY bestselling author of historical western romances. Her Willow Creek Series introduced readers to a small Montana town where the west is wild and the cowboys are wilder. Lily also dabbles in science fiction, contemporary and paranormal romance when the mood strikes and all of her stories lean heavily to the spicy side with strong female leads and heroes who tend to always get what they want. She writes full time and lives in Hickory, NC with her husband and a house full of Yorkies.

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Friday First Kiss #120 :: Charity by Sylvia McDaniel (Historical Western)

The moment I crack open a new book, I always rush through the beginning, the budding relationship between the hero and heroine, and anticipate that spontaneous moment when one of them makes their move. The First Kiss. The first turning point in every story.

Every week here on the blog, I’ll be sharing First Kisses from my books and those of other authors.

 

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This weeks Friday First Kiss comes from, 
Charity (Book 1 in the Angel Creek Christmas Brides Series) by Sylvia McDaniel

 

For a man who had been open and honest with her, it seemed like a door had slammed shut. Turning to her, he offered her a spoonful. “Taste it and tell me if you like it.”

Holding the spoon to her lips, she opened her mouth. Mere inches separated him from her and she moaned at the texture of the meat. “Delicious.”

The savoriness ignited her hunger as she licked her lips and he moved even closer. 

“Since the ceremony, I’ve wanted another kiss.”

Once again, his lips covered hers and the caress of his mouth ripped her breath away. Oh no, what would he want next?

* * * *

Lewis longed to kiss her since that first peck in the church. That smooch had been just a sealing of their vows and commitments to one another. 

This kiss…this kiss sent his blood rushing to the center of his body like a wild horse charging across the prairie. Like a bull rider holding on for dear life as he rode that hunk of pure raging terror. Like a lion roaring in the jungle, proclaiming he was king. Lewis was shocked at his body’s reaction.

The feel of her full lips beneath his, soft and resilient, as he pulled her against his chest, her breasts snug. Just when things began to get heated, he heard the chili boiling over. 

Reluctantly, he released her and turned back to the stove and stirred the sauce. When he whirled back to her, she stood mesmerized. Her emerald eyes large, held his gaze as she stared at him in shock, her hand touching her lips. 

Oh yes, that kiss affected her the same as him. A smile radiated from his face and he laid his hand on her arm. “Are you ready to eat?”

“Uh, yes,” she said, shaking her head like she was breaking the spell. 

 

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Charity (Book 1 in the Angel Creek Christmas Brides Series) by Sylvia McDaniel

A Mail Order Bride, Secrets, Lies and a Christmas Miracle

Five Charleston women desperate for marriage minded men and the chance to rebuild their lives, after the Civil War answer an ad in the Grooms Gazette. Charity Kingston has to get out of Charleston or face life working in a brothel. But the past follows her to Angel Creek, Montana, revealing her Irish temper and the brothel owner’s demand for payment of her debt. 

After the war, Lewis Brown is given a chance at a new start in life. Taking a dead man’s identify he begins his new life as a saloon owner in Angel Creek. Imagine his surprise when a mail order bride comes with the saloon. In one twist of fate, his past is exposed, his secrets revealed and his worst nightmare confirmed.

Lewis and Charity need a Christmas Miracle.


 

 

 

About Sylvia McDaniel

Sylvia-7821-LR-Color

Sylvia McDaniel is a best-selling, award-winning author of western historical romance and contemporary romance novels. Known for her sweet, funny, family-oriented romances, Sylvia is the author of The Burnett Brides a historical western series, The Cuvier Widows, a Louisiana historical series, Lipstick and Lead, a western historical series and several short contemporary romances.

Former President of the Dallas Area Romance Authors, a member of the Romance Writers of America®, and a member of Novelists Inc, her novel, A Hero’s Heart was a 1996 Golden Heart Finalist. Several other books have placed or won in the San Antonio Romance Authors Contest, LERA Contest, and she was a Golden Network Finalist.

Married for twenty years to her best friend, they have two dachshunds. One that reigns Queen Supreme over the house and the other a puppy that terrorizes the Queen and a good-looking, grown son who thinks there’s no place like home. She loves gardening, hiking, shopping, knitting and football (Cowboys and Bronco’s fan), but not necessarily in that order.

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