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Excerpt (ARC - Currently in Editing)
Returning to the farm, Melanie slid out of the saddle and led her lathered horse into the barn. Julie met her there as she exchanged bridle for halter and hooked the cross ties to the halter.
“Did you get him?” the teenager asked, tears in her big, brown eyes.
“Yeah, I got him,” Melanie replied as she unfastened the cinch, let the girth hang free, and pulled the saddle and sweat-soaked pad from the mare’s back. She hefted the saddle onto its designated stand. She flipped the wet saddle over and draped it across the saddle to dry. The warm, slightly sour scent of horse sweat wafted upward. She inhaled deeply, the fragrance calming her nerves.
She grabbed a lead and snapped it to the halter under the horse’s chin. Unfastening the cross ties, she led Fizz to the wash rack and picked up the hose.
“Who’s that?” Julia asked, pointing at the tall man silhouetted by the afternoon sun.
Melanie looked up at him and then back at her sister. She clamped a hand over her sister’s shoulder and in a low whisper said, “Get to the house. Now. Tell Daddy another one of those bikers from the rally is here.”
Julie blinked and looked at her, fear widening her eyes.
“Don’t run, Julie. Walk.”
“If he touches you, I’ll run.”
Melanie gave her a small smile and said, “You do that. Get. I’ll talk to the guy about Buster.”
Julie nodded and walked toward the old farmhouse. The biker turned his head to watch her, but made no move to go after her. Melanie turned on the water and directed the cold stream toward the mare’s front hooves. She looked over the horse’s back and called out, “What do you want?”
Satin Boots: Six Short Western Romances
“Var är jag?” she muttered. “Är jag död?”
Tony set down his plate and gaped at the prettiest green eyes he’d ever seen. Although he did not understand a word she said, he assumed she was confused as well as in pain, and probably thirsty.
He held a cup of water to her lips and said, “Drink.”
He slid his hand behind her head to help her drink. She took a sip, then another. Water dribbled from her lips and trickled over smooth, pale skin. He gently lowered her head back to the pillow. She blinked again.
“Vem är du?”
Guessing as to her questions, he pointed to himself and said, “Antonio.” He pointed at her and said nothing, but gave her a small smile of encouragement. He pressed his fingertip to his chest and repeated his name, then pointed at her. Awareness flickered in her eyes. He pointed to himself and she said,
“Antonio.” Tony thought her accent charming. He pointed to her and she said, “Linnea.” He repeated it, savoring the syllables on his tongue and giving them a Latin inflection she thought charming.
“Är du spansk?”
Tony shook his head, not understanding the question. He held up the cup and offered it to her. She nodded and he helped her drink.
Consuela returned with her arms filled. She smiled when Tony told her that his guest had awakened and spoken with him. She chuckled with him when he informed her that they hardly understood each other. She agreed to look after the girl, because it just wasn’t seemly for a bachelor to do so. The undertaker had a respectable reputation to maintain.
Tony returned his attention to business. He sold two of his premade, elegant caskets to the two most prominent families in the area. He took his dinner on a tray at his guest’s bedside and enjoyed a slow exchange of words to communicate before thinking to ask her if she spoke English.
“Ja, a little,” she replied.
He smiled. “Oh, good.”
Her expression took on the desperation of hope. “My mamma? Pappa?”
Understanding that question, Tony shook his head.
She closed her eyes and looked away from him. Tears trickled.
“I am sorry,” Tony said.
Satin Boots: Six Short Western Romances
“Cordell, you got a minute?” Daniel Harper asked his foreman. Being the newest hire on the Lazy Five, he didn’t want to stir up trouble.
The foreman, a man around Daniel’s age who had his eye on the boss’ daughter, got to his feet and replied, “Sure, Dan.”
Dan followed the man who still carried a tin cup full of coffee. They walked to the picket line, a good distance from the campfire, for privacy.
“What is it?” Cordell asked without preamble. “It’s … well, it’s about Jesse.”
Cordell raised a blond eyebrow. “Yeah?”
“Well, I was washin’ up in the creek and … well … I saw her.” Dan looked around to assure himself that no one listened in. “Jesse’s female.”
“Yeah, we know,” came the laconic reply. “But … but—”
“But nothin’, Dan. The whole crew knows. She’s like a little sister to all of us, and iff’n you think to bother her, don’t.”
“But she’s a girl!” Dan protested, every particle of his being outraged and offended. He’d thought himself going loco because something about the boy attracted him.
“Yeah, we know.” The foreman took a sip of his now- tepid coffee. He sighed, because he went through this with every new hire, especially the handsome, cocky ones like Daniel who enjoyed a little too much popularity with the ladies in town. “She does her job and does it well. So, what’s the problem?”