Excerpt of :Rainbows in the Moonlight
Koda Jacobs held a steaming coffee mug in one hand and a watering can in her other. She alternated between sprinkling water on the first daffodils and tulips tentatively peeking their yellow, white, orange, red and purple heads above the brown earth and sipping from her mug. The bold sea of colors encouraged her, reminding her of the faith and courage it sometimes took to just wake up and try.
In between those two actions, she paused, standing to simply watch the sun come up. Slowly rising beyond the trees, spearing the darkness with lavender and pink streaks, gradually turning to yellow as the golden orb crested. Finally, the show complete, the night gone and her coffee cooled, she heaved a sigh.
Today was going to be a good day. Now she was ready to face it
She just walked past her favorite painting when the sound of feet slapping the wooden floor reached her. Within seconds a soft weight slammed into her. Giggling happily, Ruthie curled her arms around Koda’s waist.
“Good morning, sunshine,” Koda greeted, swinging her daughter into a hug. She loved how Ruthie smelled in those first few moments of waking up, before she unleashed herself on the day. Settling herself in the chair, she waited as Ruthie wiggled into a comfortable position in her lap, the girl’s small hands curled into her blouse. Once Terry awoke, she’d make breakfast, they’d clean up and go to church. She still had time to think about tomorrow. And she still had no clue what she was going to do about it.
“Read me a story, Mommy,” Ruthie requested, breaking into Koda’s wandering thoughts. She picked up a picture book from the nearby stack and waved it at her mother expectantly, all smiles.
Koda took the book and opened it. “Why don’t you read it to me, sweetheart? Until your brother gets up.”
Delighted at the request, Ruthie placed her finger under the first work, cleared her throat and read, sliding her finger along under the sentences. Koda smiled, encouraging her along, and helping to sound out the tougher words. Ruthie made it to page three bfore the telltale thumps along the stairs made her stop, her face lighting up.
“Terry!” she exclaimed, flinging the book and scrambling down to greet her big brother. Koda set the book aside, dusted herself off and headed for the kitchen. Despite her concerns, the happy cries of her children lifted her spirits.
“Don’t worry,” she whispered to herself. “It’ll all be okay.”
* * *
Dalton Clayton returned to the Bronze Star Hotel, slowing his steps as he neared room number fifteen. As eager as he was to escape the scenes around him, he was also reluctant to enter the room. Honestly, he just couldn’t win.
He snickered, turning away from the couple entwined on the corner. What in the world made him return to his hometown now? Especially when he’d been so all-fired anxious to getaway. Well, that had been a long time ago and he’d foolishly started missing a few things.
Things like the smell of chicken frying and pies cooling on a Sunday. Hearing the wind blow through the tall pines. Spanish moss hanging like ghosts from the branches of the old live oaks. Getting his haircut at the barber shop where the local football game was dissected and argued all week. The snap of flags whipping from houses and passing truck beds. Where people were nosy but caring.
At least he used to think they were. That was before he returned home, a branded man. He thought he’d settled his debt to society. He was ready for a clean slate. That was why he came back. Instead, he found himself out in the cold, barred from each door he tried by his prison number.
Dalton surrendered and unlocked the door, entering his rented room, peeled off his jacket and checked the miniscule fridge for anything. Empty. He glanced at the clock on the battered dresser, over the chipped and marred mirror. He’d been in town for two days now, had made diligent searches for work and was getting kind of desperate. And dejected.
It wasn’t that he was picky either. He’d offered to wash dishes, wash cars, change oil, and sweep floors or stock shelves. Any hours would be appreciated. Any pay would be acceptable. Just something. Once he was forced to explain about his record, he watched the friendly smiles each change into negative headshakes and turned backs. Jamming his hands in the pockets of his jacket, he kept trying, each ending the same, and ultimately retreating to his dingy rented room, hungry and questioning what brought him back here to this seedy backward dot of a town.
He dropped to the bed, laced his hands behind his head and stared at the water stained ceiling. What chance did he have here? Now that he was a branded man.
* * *
12 story collection!
A Sneak Peek at my latest Work-in-Progress:
When Bellamy from 2018 meets a handsome rouge pirate in 1718
Hands grabbed at Bellamy, stopping her sensation of sliding down. Rough hands. Strong, unclean smells assaulted her, highlighted by alcohol. Harsh voices, trying and failing at remaining quiet, filled her ears. Instinctively, Bellamy slid into defense mode. Targeting the hands clamped around her left arm, she bent her right arm and swung her elbow horizontally into the creep’s jaw, feeling it crack. She grabbed the length of greasy hair and yanked, bringing him fulling into her elbow. He backed up, moaning.
Swirling, she prepared for a Roundhouse Kick. She raised her leg, horrified to find her jeans replaced by heavy skirting. Shaking off the bewilderment, she drew back, knee bent, and kicked forcefully out at the next attacker, light on the balls of her feet. Or at least she tried to be light. Her sneakers were gone as well, and she nearly tripped on the heeled boots encasing her feet now. Yet the heel would work as a weapon.
Another man down from the kick, she spun, reared back, lifted a length of the skirt and delivered another kick, driving the hard heel into the third man’s midsection. About to congratulate herself on taking down three attackers, and figure out why her clothing was suddenly changed, another attacker slipped in and pinned her arms to her sides.
Brute must have thought she needed arms to fight. Drawing in a breath, she reared her head back, smacking him square on the nose, feeling it yield. He released her and she spun to face him. He clutched his nose, swearing.
Suddenly a man bodily scooped her up from behind and roughly tossed her over his shoulder, as though she were a sack of vegetables. She kicked and pounded, twisting and bite a few times as well. The men waded in, dodging her kicks and punches, and wound lengths of rope around her hands and ankles. Giving the knots good hard tugs, one man grinned at her and smacked her on the butt.
“The little hell-cat is secure now. Let’s get her back.”
Bellamy opened her mouth to scream but clearly they were prepared for that as well and one of them stuffed a cloth into her mouth. She nearly gagged on the sour taste and rotten odors. The scent stung her eyes and made them water.
“The Captain will be pleased,” one oaf commented.
“She will bring a good price.”
Price? Did these Neanderthals intend to sell her? And who was this captain they referred to? He had some explaining to do once she met him.
“I’ve never seen a female that could fight like a man before.”
“Me neither.” His comment was agreed upon, and they launched into a discussion of the hapless women they have known. Unable to budge, and riding in the uncomfortable shoulders of the lout carrying her, Bellamy had no choice but listen silently to their drivel. Every step made her all the angrier. And concerned.
Where was Liza? Where was her clothing? Why didn’t anything around her look familiar? And why did these bohemians want to sell her? To whom?
They left the cobblestoned roads and walled houses, skirted the businesses accumulated at one intersection in what could only be considered the area’s…town…for lack of a better description and entered a plot of trees. Bellamy could smell water coming from the darkness and soon heard water lapping.
The men quickened their pace and soon deposited her into a rowboat. Turning, she saw a big gray ship anchored out in the water. Tall masts stood sentinel against the moonlight. Lights bobbed as the ship rocked. It was a large ship. On a large body of water. In the middle of South Carolina? What was going on here?
Bringing her bound hands up, she yanked the nasty cloth out and tossed it overboard. “I demand to know what is going on,” she said, eyeing each barbaric idiot in turn. A couple laughed at her, the rest ignored her, and concentrated on rowing to the ship. She could not swim in this condition, even if she managed to slip overboard successfully. She’d sink like a rock. It appeared she had no choice but to go to the ship and see what this was all about.
It was a long ship, multiple tiers high, with the back end rising several more feet with additional decks. It reminded Bellamy of the old Colonial ships and the Revolutionary war ships. They drew closer and she made out details. The lights were actually lanterns hanging from pegs and draped along the mast rigging. Lanterns?
She fingered the material of her skirt, seeing now it was a gown, made of brocade and silk cloth with ruffles and endless layers and silk ribbons. Her ponytail was loosened and she felt her loose curls blowing in the sea breeze. She was beyond dumbfounded. What the blazes has happened? As the rowboat slammed against the gray ship, her heart thudded rapidly. Sold or not, she bet she’d find some answers in just a few moments.
* * *
Bellamy was once more bodily picked up and handed off to the men in the ship above. Two carried her along the wooden deck, along the wood and brass railing, to the next level of decking. They deposited her, pulled her to her feet, and stood, each one clamping a hand around her arms.
“Captain. She’s here.”
A tall man stepped from the shadows, slowly crossing the deck to her. He circled her, lifting a dark eyebrow at her rope bonds, and finally stopped before her. He leaned in, inhaling a deep breath, momentarily closing his eyes as if in bliss. Quick as a cat—or a rattlesnake—his black eyes flew open.
“What is your name?”
His question came like a fiery bullet. “Bellamy Wingate. And I demand to know what is going on here. Who are you?”
“Wyngate?” He stepped back as if she reeked. Had he smelled the oafs surrounding them lately? Their combined stench burned her nostrils as bad as that nasty cloth they had stuffed in her mouth. She nodded her head in affirmation of who she was.
He stepped back to her, and picked up a pendant she hadn’t noticed hanging between her breasts. Large, silver, with a small pearl beneath it, she knew she’d seen that piece of jewelry before. He looked up, a new pallor to his tanned skin. She gasped. “You!”
“How could you possibly know of me?” Dismissing her, he turned to the oaf on her right. “Spaulding, explain the meaning of this immediately.”
He fumbled. “You said to find a pretty young lass and fetch her back, Captain.”
He eyed her again. “You got half of that right. Except she’s not just a lass. She is Earl Wyngate’s daughter. The Earl of Southwycke.”
Strangled gasps went up through the crowd of men. “No I’m not. My name is Bellamy Wingate. I am not Earl anyone’s daughter. My father was named Thomas.”
“Then why do you bear the Wyngate name and wear Lady Elizabeth’s silver pendant?”
She faltered. “I…I don’t know. I can’t explain it.” She shook her head. “What I’m wearing doesn’t matter to you. I demand to know what you are doing by kidnapping me.” She met his cold stare with her own defensive glare. “I demand to be released this moment.”
“You talk like a Lady. This is my ship. I am the captain. I made the demands.” He turned from her, addressing the thug at her right again. “Spaulding, why is she in bonds?”
“Well, Captain, sir, she fought us. We had no choice.”
He raised both eyebrows, dark slashes across his forehead. “A Lady fought so furiously against five men, you had no choice but to bind her?” Sarcasm laced his words, dripping in doubt. “Untie the fair Lady Elizabeth Wyngate.”
Knives were instantly produced, cutting her bonds. She stamped her feet and rubbed her wrists to restore circulation. Again, she glanced at the heavy dress she wore, running her hands over the thick fabric. It was a lovely gown, admittedly, but what happened to the sneakers, jeans, and sweatshirt she had on before?
“Now, Lady Wyngate, I do apologize for my men.” He moved up a step, reaching for her hand.
“You’re men!” she huffed, snatching her hand away. “You mean baboons, don’t you? Your overbearing boors attacked me with brute force. They left me no choice but to defend myself. I will not be man-handled by drunken louts and thugs, captain.” She sneered at his title. “Now take me back to land.”
Amusement lightened his face, and he once more stepped closer. “That will be Captain Ronan Standish, to you, Lady Elizabeth.” He raised a hand, resting his finger gently against her cheek.
She slapped his hand away, and blocked his return with her forearm. “I know who you are, Ronan Standish,” she grit out through clenched teeth. “I know things about you. Lots of things.” He moved again to grab her arm and she tightened her fingers and chopped her open hand alongside his neck. Retreating, he winced, gingerly touching his neck, his eyes round as a cat.
“How does a Lady know how to do that?”
“I am not your Lady Elizabeth. I am Bellamy Wingate and I teach martial arts history.” She stepped into full defense mode, arms raised, expression dark.
Smirking, he advanced. She Roundhouse kicked him to the abdomen and again, pivoting, to the groin. For good measure she slashed her fingernails across his cheek, eliciting a pained snarl from him. A man stepped in, to assist, and she blocked him with another palm-heel strike.
“Bind her,” Standish rasped, as he doubled over. “Take her below to the brig. Mind that she is tightly secured and behind bars!”
Hands engulfed her, too many to fight off. She managed a few kicks and jabs, but not enough to keep calloused hands from grabbing her. More ropes encircled her hands and feet again, pulled taunt. Scooped up by two, she was carried like a corpse toward a black hole in the deck, down a set of stairs. Another man went ahead to carry the torch and light lanterns along the way.
They carried her another set of stairs, and down yet another set. The first two levels had windows to allow light in. Further levels were void of windows, light, or fresh air. Stale and musty air assaulted Bellamy, making her cough. Finally they reached what had to the bottom of the ship. She was afraid they’d open a hatch and toss her into the sea.
Instead one of the man opened a rusty iron gate. They bore her in, set her on a pile of musty straw, rising dust and making her cough again. Leaving, they wordlessly closed the gate, enclosing her in what could only be called a jail cell.
“Hey, aren’t you going to untie me?” she called to their retreating backs. Wriggling, she realized she could only move a few inches in any direction. “You can’t leave me tied up like this!” Ignoring her, they took their lights, leaving her only two small lanterns swinging outside her cell.
As her eyes adjusted, she picked out the darkened shapes of barrels and crates, another bale of strew and piles of rope. The whole placed smelled rank and foul with odors she could not begin to identify. Everything was wood and rope, it seemed. And they used fire for lighting? How intelligent was that?
So she’d met Captain Ronan Standish. He was every bit as glorious as his pictures. Yes, he could definitely grace one of her book covers, better than many of the models used. Except he was long dead. So what was she doing here? Dressed like this? Wearing a necklace from one of her very distant ancestors?
Squirming around, she spotted a spider hanging in a large web. Gasping, she tried to squiggle away. She hated spiders. She looked around for a weapon. Except, bound hand and foot, she was powerless to flatten it. She rolled as far away as she could, choking on the dust rising from the old straw in her wake. Resting her head against the wall of the ship, she felt the rough wood on her cheek and heard the slosh of water on the other side. Doubtlessly this part of the boat was under the water’s surface. Great. Hopefully the darn thing didn’t spring a hole. She could feel movement as the boat slowly chugged, clearly leaving the port.
Not one to usually give in to her miseries, Bellamy felt two hot tears trickle down her cheeks, followed by more. She missed Liza. She had no clue what was happening. She really met the most gorgeous man ever—dead or alive--and he had her kidnapped, trussed, and thrown in a ship’s jail. Now he was taking her out into the water to who knew where.
Yeah, she had a reason to cry.
Excerpt for Crazy Woman
Creek.( part of Craving:Country)
He swung the top half of the Dutch door open to cool the room and listen for any shouts before he returned to his pasta and beef. The sporadic cow bawl wafted in. What was Faith doing? Did she like the clothes? Did he—?
“Is your door broken?”
He jumped at her soft question. Head jerking up, he realized he had not heard her because she was stocking-footed. She wore green plaid knickers and a blood red top. Hell’s bells, had he really picked that out? Mercy! She looked like someone’s granny fixing to go golfing. What a waste of a good piece of land. And what a waste of yardage of clothing on a beautiful woman. One of his old t-shirts would be better. What had he been thinking? Was everything he got her as hideous as this outfit? Well, he’d just proven the fact men can’t shop.
At least she was game about it, and not complaining. Then he realized she was looking over his shoulder at the door.
“Naw, it’s not broken. It’s called a Dutch door. Haven’t you ever seen a split door?”
“Do I look Dutch to you?”
From the look in her eyes, he had a feeling she was talking about more than a door. Her silent agony slammed into him. What was it like to know absolutely nothing about yourself? He shoved the casserole into the oven and reached for her hands. He rubbed his thumbs over her wrists, studying her. “Naw. If I had to guess, I’d say…probably Italian.”
He guided her to the mirror in the parlor and sat her down facing it. Gently he traced her face, locking his eyes with hers in the mirror. His heart beat skipped faster.
“You have a heart-shaped face, rosebud lips, and your complexion is olive. Your cheekbones are high.” Slowly he outlined each part with his finger as he spoke. “And I noticed the first food you went for was the most Italian-smelling one. You seemed to really enjoy it.”
She swallowed. “Have you known many Italian women?”
“Nope. You’re my first.” He cupped his fingers under her chin and tipped her face up. Leaning down, he kissed her, feeling her warm skin now apple scented from the bath and tasting mint from her toothpaste.
Easing her up, he brought her close, deepening the kiss. She slowly yielded to him, uncertain at first, but bolder as he held his patience. He liked she had to think about what she wanted to do. Fresh desire swept over him. His fingers gripped the worn fabric of her granny shirt and he yearned to yank it off her but sensed that would be too much. There were too many unanswered questions at the moment. However, he was a patient man and he knew she felt the sparks zapping between them as much as he did. He heard the low moan rumbling from her throat and saw how she closed her eyes and relaxed her face as yearning pulsed through her.
The buzz of the oven timer startled them both. Dawson pulled back, taking pleasure in Faith’s reddened checks. Hauling in a ragged breath, he stroked a knuckle down her face, winking.
Excerpt of Wild Whispers:
Dinner was a grand feast, fit for a king and queen. Ty rushed through the piles of food, his eyes staying on Season as she slowly savored every bite.When hot melted butter escaped the lobster fork, trickling down her chin,
he ached to catch it with his tongue, tasting the buttery goodness of her lips. Then she brushed it away with a dainty dab of her napkin, looking embarrassed by her messiness.
Ty felt no shame for his thoughts. He impatiently fretted for dinner to be over, so he could take her out onto the dance floor, away from the people at their table foolishly bent on conversing on boring topics. Once they escaped to the dance floor, he could hold her there the rest of the
Tonight, she belonged solely to him and damned the social
photographers who implied anything. Tonight, he wanted to dance in the air with Season and know he held the most wonderful woman in the room.
At long last dinner was finished, the conversation died down and the music began. Ty was ready to whoop with unbridled joy. All but jumping from his chair, Ty leaned in for Season. “A dance, my lady?”
One more delicate dab with her napkin, a smile around the ring of people at their table, a final sip of wine, and then she allowed him to guide her out to the wooden floor.
“Mr. Masters, you restrained yourself very well.” She laughed, taking his hands into her gloved ones, amusement making her eyes dance and sparkle like the jewelry at her ears and throat.
“Was it that obvious?”
“Only to me.” She caught his rhythm, feeling his excitement. “And I’m very flattered. Again, thank you for the lovely gown and the accessories.”
He wagged his head. “They do you a fine justice.”
Pausing, she gave a brief curtsy as the music changed songs.
“Ready for some fun?” she asked, a wicked gleam in her eye.
“Naturally.” Already more dancers were coming onto the floor. What could his little vixen have in mind now? That gleam intrigued him, setting his thoughts on fire.
“Hold on tight,” she whispered, gliding across the floor, pulling him to the far corner where the light was dimmest. Closing her eyes and leaning into him, she concentrated on just the two of them and the music.
Ty felt her grow tense, gathering herself. His heart skipped a beat or two as he felt his feet coming off the floor. Tempted to look down, he forced himself to hold her alluring and wicked eyes instead. She actually levitated
them off the bloody floor!
How far off they really were, he could only guess. A few inches? More?
“I just wanted to make sure this evening was unforgettable to you,” she drawled softly, with that alluring smile, drawing him in closer, making him feel as if he were drowning.
“You have succeeded,” he breathed, a bit undone by the fact there was no floor under their feet as they swayed to the music. He wouldn’t look down. He wouldn’t. Oh yes, she’d succeeded.
She purred low. “Want to kick it up a notch?” Her eyes lit up dangerously as her lips parted.
Tempted, he reconsidered. “No, this is fine. Unforgettable enough.” What else could she do with her abilities? Impossible to say. Hard to resist. Her soft laugh into his shoulder teased him further. What a woman.