Friday, March 29, 2013

Today's Special Guest, The Very Talented, Janet Elizabeth Jones!

Hello Readers,
Do I have a treat for you today. Please welcome romance author, Janet Elizabeth Jones. Not only is the lady a super author, but she also builds web sites and designed both of mine. I'm so honored to have her here today, so please leave Janet a comment for a chance to win a copy of Revenant, a wonderful vampire romance by Janet, you won't want to miss.

From modern vampire tales to Victorian historicals to epic fantasy, Janet writes a wide range of romance for adults and teens. Her favorite thing about writing romance is creating evocative characters who are deep, passionate, tender and vulnerable in their heart of hearts, whether they are a self-reliant, autonomous heroine who knows who she is or an uber-powerful vampire who kills to protect his family of fledglings.
Janet's interests include history, German, building computers, reading, web design, creating digital art, composing digital music, and playing MMOs. Since 2004, she has provided web design services for fellow authors and other professionals in the publishing industry. She currently partners with The Author's Secret to provide ebook conversion services and cover art.
Talisen Rudyard is determined to honor her late grandmother's memory by finishing the unwritten chapter of the Rudyard family history. To do so, she must unravel the secret that has eluded generations of Benedikts and Rudyards alike: the fate of eighteenth-century sea captain Arthur Ellory Benedikt, who vanished on the night of his wedding to her distant ancestor, over two hundred years ago.
Having grown up with her grandmother's stories about heroic Captain Benedikt, Talisen has come to feel a passion for him no other man has ever inspired, in spite of the centuries that separate his lifetime from hers. But facing the truth about his alleged disappearance could break her heart. Eyewitness accounts claim Benedikt turned up in Europe only weeks after he vanished, that he was seen in the company of a mysterious noblewoman. Talisen can't bear the thought that the larger-than-life hero of her dreams could be so faithless.
From the moment Ellory meets Talisen, he aches to prove her love for him is deserved. He longs to be that man for her, the one and only man who holds her heart. But how can she love him once she learns the price she must pay for the truth she's seeking?
That her beloved Captain Benedikt is alive--and a vampire.

She might come to love him. It could happen. But how many years did they have together? One mortal lifetime. He shook from head to toe. Not enough. Not nearly enough to begin to love her the way he wanted to.
Desolation devoured him at the thought of giving her up. Oh, it would be so easy to turn her. A night never to be forgotten, feasting on one another, and he'd have her forever.
No. He curled his lip. He really was a monster, if he could consider such a thing. Drag her down into the darkness with him? Never. She was his sun. He would be her moon. That was enough for him. He would make it be enough. And when he had to let her go, he'd walk into the morning and simply cease to be. By then, his fledglings would be old enough to survive without him.
Come what may, he would have order in his house, if not peace. The fledglings would accept Talisen. And Talisen would accept whatever was necessary to keep her safe. They'd all learn to live together, or they'd fragment into easy prey for the likes of Dylan. Beginning tonight. None of them would like what he had to do, least of all Talisen. But at least she would be safe.
Right now what she needed from him was honesty.
He reached into the refrigerator for a bottle of mineral water, opened it and took it to her. Setting it on the table, he crouched by her chair and seized on the uppermost question that hovered in her mind. She wouldn't be human if she didn't wonder. "Though you're probably not going to ask, yes, I have killed humans."
She sipped the water slowly. "Why did you kill them?"
"Does it matter?"
"Does to me."
"Necessity demanded it." He returned to his chair with a heavy sigh. "I am motivated by two things. Feeding and protecting my domain. That is my world. That is what I am. You can't measure my behavior by human standards. Among vampires, there is only the common Law of the Mark: what I make mine will remain mine, and I'll kill to keep it that way."
He folded his hands in front of him on the table and watched her beautiful face for signs of contempt.
Her eyes glistened like green glass. He watched a tear roll down her cheek and could hardly keep from touching it. She wiped it away less gently than he would have done. "I'm sorry."
He blinked. "What?"
"I figure I'm the first human who's had the chance to tell you that, so I'm saying it. I'm sorry it happened to you. And I'm sorry you have to live like this." Her face crinkled, and she put a hand on her chest. "I'm not saying I can handle it, but I know if it happened to me, the first thing I'd want somebody to say to me is, 'I'm so sorry.'"
Disbelief made him tremble. He couldn't make a sound, so he just stared at her. Over two hundred years of estrangement from humanity, and she'd just made an effort to erase it. With sympathy. The last thing he expected.
He reached across the table and took her hand in both of his, bending over her palm to kiss it. "If I live a thousand years, Talisen Rudyard, I'll never deserve you."
Site, Blog, Social Links
Website: Romance for the Night Raven

Blog: The Night Raven Muse

Facebook fan page:

Buy Links: (Amazon) (B&N)
The trade paperback edition will be available at Amazon in about a week.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Special Guest Today Is Lynn Rae!

Hello Readers,
Please welcome, Lynn Rae, romance author extraordinaire. Leave her a comment. Yes, we authors love to know someone dropped by to scope us out...Today we're doing a short interview, so enjoy...

Blurb for Bent Boot Road:
Lydia Back has problems; a dead end job cataloging artifacts no one wants to see, an office in a dusty basement storage room, and she’s just discovered that her friend is missing.  Adding to her frustration is the arrival of a too-charming private investigator who needs her help.
Carter Harris has no problems; he has his own successful business and is enjoying a few days in a scenic southern Ohio town to gather information on a missing professor.  But his local contact turns out to be an uncooperative woman who prefers traipsing around the forest to having a civilized conversation with him.
While working together, they begin to uncover the secrets that lurk under the surface of other people’s lives and also discover an inconvenient attraction.  When danger looms, Carter and Lydia realize it will be impossible to survive without each other.

Interview Q & A:

What are you listening to when you write?
Right now I am loving the Hanna movie soundtrack by the Chemical Brothers, and the soundtrack to Girl With a Dragon Tattoo by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross.  They are both electronic instrumentals without distracting vocals.
How long does it take to write a book?
Four to five months for 70,000 words or so in a not-too-rough draft. If I put forth an effort I can do a read-through and fix major problems in about two to three weeks.  Some stories just need to sit a while before I go back in and really work on them.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Special Guest Today, Romance Author, Tamara Hoffa!

Hello Readers,
Today's guest has a very special excerpt to share with you. Make welcome, the amazing, Tamara Hoffa. Please leave her a comment.

BIO:Tamara Hoffa lives in central Tennessee, with her husband of 30 years, her three grown children, two grandchildren, 3 dogs and 2 cats. Tamara started reading when she was four years old and has rarely been seen without a book at hand since. At home you will usually find her in “nana’s chair” with her kindle, her laptop or one of her precious, precocious grandson’s in her lap. Tamara is a reviewer, a professional reader and can now add author to her repertoire. Tamara is proof positive that it’s never too late to reach for your dreams.
BLURB: Soldier Jameson Hunter faces the battle of his life, winning the heart of Charlotte Mackenzie, widowed mother of a young recruit.
EXCERPT:Charlie and Bethany dish
Slow your roll girl! One question at a time. No, I didnt manage to talk Evan out of joining up. But, I did get a lot of information. More than Ive been able to process yet. The recruiter was…”
Charlie hesitated and smiled.
Bethany rolled her eyes.
Oh, man I know that look. The recruiter was hot. Right? Oh boy. Is he single? Did sparks fly? Do you have another meeting?
Charlie laughed.
Do you ever take a breath, girl? Yes, he was hot. Leroy Jethro Gibbs combined with a little Harrison Ford. Tall, dark, handsomeand I bet you could wash clothes on his abs, yum. He appears to be single, no ring anyway, and he asked me out. So I certainly hope hes single. Bethany squealed; there was no other word for that sound.
Seriously? Did you say yes? Mrs. I havent been on a date since Clinton was in the White house.
Charlies mouth turned down at the corners.
You make it sound like a crime. I was happily married for thirteen years, Bethany. Phillip and I went on dates all the time. Charlie knew she sounded defensive, but she had loved her husband. Was it so wrong that she hadnt jumped right back into the dating world after Phillips death? She had thought they would be together forever. They were soul mates. It wasnt that easy to let go. But, Phillip was gone, and she was so alone. She lay in that big bed every night, wishing there was someone to hold her, to make her feel safe, secureloved. Tears pooled in her eyes, but she refused to let them fall. Charlie tried to smile, but knew she failed.
Im sorry baby. I didnt mean to make you upset. Bethany grabbed her hand and gave it a squeeze, But, you know Ive been telling you for months that you need to get out there and meet someone. Youre still young. Your life isnt over just because Phillip is gone. He wouldnt want you to be alone either. You know Im right.
I know Bethany, I know. And believe it or not, I did say yes. But, I cant say Im not having second thoughts. There is definitely a physical attraction there and I havent felt that for anyone since Phillipbut, with this thing with Evan Im just not sure if its the right time.
Heart of a Soldier Buy Links:
 Contact Links:

Monday, March 18, 2013

Today's Special Guest, Romance Author, Paloma Beck!

Hello Readers,
Please welcome the multi-published Paloma Beck. Leave her a comment so she'll know you dropped by.

Paloma Beck is a Romance Author living a life of contradiction... she's a happily married carpooling mom writing erotic romance. It's almost naughty! Paloma writes in both the Contemporary and Paranormal realms, journaling the stories her characters tell her, and they are anything but PG. She dabbles in vampires, witches, menage, spanking and bdsm - all in her books, of course. Paloma believes a daily dose of espresso and a good book make any day better.
Vanished Pride (The Seven Sin Sisters 4)
Placing Paige ever so gently onto their bed, Donovan lay beside her anank from her lips. He used a gentle touch, working her mouth in a tender and reassuring kiss. He needed simply to join with her in every way possible and he wanted to savor every moment along the way. He felt their connection reach out and bind them together as her body melted against him. She eagerly took everything he offered.
Donovan pulled away to look at her. She was still in her gown, a magnificent traditional red gown that had the shimmering hue of purple, her favorite color. Her breast peaked from the top, the corset style design pushing them further up so they spilled out slightly. He ran his hand along her leg and felt the sheer fabric hanging lower than the shorter silk skirting underneath. The fabric was soft to touch, but he was seeking her skin.
“I want to make love to you in your gown.” Donovan spoke as he moved down slowly to lift her layers of skirting up, bringing it to her waist and exposing the tiniest scrap of purple lace. A soft growl emanated from his chest. He simply couldn’t hold it back as his eyes feasted on her ivory skin decorated with this sexy piece of lace. “What you do to me, Paige.”
“You affect me the same,” Paige responded as she watched him through her lowered lashes. He could see the lust in her eyes and hoped his own desire was reflected back at her.
Donovan massaged Paige’s thighs, slowly circling his thumb closer to her panties. Her muscles grew relaxed just as he knew they would. He worked her legs farther and farther apart, then placed his palms on either side of her panties, gently running his thumbs under the elastic. Paige sighed at the sensation and Donovan moved progressively closer to where she needed him most. Her sighs turned to moans as sensations turned hotter and Donovan leaned down to kiss directly over her clit. Only her panties were between them.
“Take them off, Donovan,” Paige encouraged him.
He moved them aside and puffed a breath of air onto her slick folds. Paige trembled and, needing the touch as much as she did, Donovan slipped two fingers into the tiny panties and drew them down her legs. Yes, he could’ve willed them away with his power, but tonight he wanted his mate in the purest form. For tonight, he’d set his powers aside.
“I find myself hungry,” Donovan spoke in a rough voice as he kissed his way back up her legs. He returned to her unrestricted core. He could see every delicious part of his mate. She was wet and slick for him. Her desire so evident, Donovan wanted to scream out his good fortune.


·         Lustful Cravings, Seven Sin Sisters, book one (8/2012)

·         Eternal Envy, Seven Sin Sisters, book t10/ 2012)

·         Holiday Gem, Seven Sin Sisters, book thr2012)
·         Vanished Pride, Seven Sin Sisters, book four (2/2013)
·         Frozen Fury, Seven Sin Sisters, book five (anticipated 4/2013)
Talk to Paloma on any of these sites:

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Romance Author, Holly J. Gill!

Today's guest is romance author Holly J. Gill. Please her a comment so she'll know you dropped by.
Wife and Mum of three living in England, work as a care assistant and love writing about intimacy and passion, with plenty of spice. In my spare time I enjoy reading, seeing friends and travelling around visiting Stately Homes and Castles.

Desires—a place where fantasies are made flesh and dreams become real. From BDSM to being a dog, Desires can provide it with bells on, if that’s your kink.
 Stacie Clifford’s only desire is to regain her sexual confidence after her recent escape from an abusive marriage. She joins Desires looking for re-education in the joys of her body. There is only one condition; her contract states emotional attraction between tutor and student is forbidden. Stacie is fine with that; her heart is so battered she has no desire to give it to anyone else.
Then she meets her instructor, Dan. Instantly attracted, at first Stacie thinks it will help to make her sexually comfortable with him. But when she realizes she is falling in love, she can’t tear herself away, contract or no. Stacie knows that, no matter how kind and caring Dan appears, he’s just doing his job. Can Stacie overcome her own Desires and walk away?
Stacie glided her fingertips over her naked arms, the sensation sending quivers throughout her body. Her tension trickled away, her shoulders dropped and her breathing slowed down. Stacie felt her inner vaginal muscles tighten of their own volition.
She began to move her hands more quickly over her body.
“No, Stacie, take it slowly and enjoy the sensation,” she heard him say in a quiet voice.
She listened to his command, placing her hands back on her tummy to knead the area. The lower part of her body jiggled with pleasure. How could she be turned on just by touching her own stomach and arms?
“Where would you like to touch yourself next?”
My breasts, was her immediate thought. Here it is. Can I really play with my own breasts in front of a total stranger?
Pretend he’s not there, she advised herself. But he is, she argued back. In the end, her hands, despairing of her pathetic indecisive brain, decided the matter and headed north by themselves. One brush of her fingers against her sensitive nipples and she wondered why she’d ever doubted Dan. Her breasts were swollen and responsive. She let out a tiny involuntary noise as she cupped both breasts together, squeezing them, sending pulses running around her body like shockwaves. An image came into her head of Dan moving behind her, taking over, touching her, fondling her. The thought shocked her to the extent that she almost stopped, but after a second, decided to go with the fantasy. Fantasy Dan placed his hands on either side of her waist, sliding them across her stomach and up to her breasts. He caressed her breasts and lifted them up, rubbing his thumbs over them.
Then she nearly jumped ten feet in the air when she felt real, warm, man’s hands on her waist. “Keep your eyes closed,” she heard him say. She felt Dan’s fingers stroke her waist through her blouse, then his fingers moved away. She almost protested, but then she felt him start to unfasten the buttons of her blouse. Her own fingers froze.
“Are you okay with this?” he said, pausing.
Am I? Stacie wasn't sure, but her head nodded all by itself and Dan continued with the buttons. Her only thought then was that she wished she’d worn a sexier bra, but then she’d thought she was coming here for an appointment. She hadn’t expected to start straightaway. The blouse slithered off her shoulders and she wondered if Dan would take off her bra also. Dread and hope warred within her, and the disappointment when he made no move to do so cut deep.
Stacie kept her rhythm, moving her fingertips over her lace-encased flesh, the sensations even more intense through one less layer of material. Her nipples poked hard through the bra cup and she tweaked them between her fingertips. She found herself grinding into the bed, pussy twitching, whilst her fingertips ran over her ultra-sensitive skin.
She wished Dan would come back. She wanted to feel those warm hands on her again. She half-opened her mouth to ask him, then chickened out.
But there was no stopping her fantasies. Her mind ran crazy, as she continued to touch and knead and caress her breasts. She heard Dan moving away from the edge of his stool and her heart almost leapt out of her throat. Stacie held her breath.
She felt him move behind her on the bed. Touch me! her mind screamed. She felt his hands on her back, unclasping her bra. Stacie moved her hands from her breasts, allowing the bra to drop onto her lap. Now. Touch me now! She leaned back into him, feeling the heat of his body behind her. But he still made no move to touch her so she seized her own breasts, imagining him lowering her to the bed and taking her. She floated her fingertips over her aroused nipples sending white-hot sensations bolting around her body. She pinched harder, the pain pleasurable. Her pussy throbbed almost unbearably, seemingly on a direct link from her breasts.
 Coming soon Touching Angels Desires the second book in the series!
Thank you for having me!!
 Links to buy:

Friday, March 15, 2013

Today's Special Guest, Romance Author, C.L. Pardington!

Hello Readers,
Please make welcome, the awesome, C.L. Pardington. Leave her a comment. She'll love it!

My husband and I have been married for ten years, but have been together a total of fifteen. We have four sons, one daughter, a Bernese Mountain Dog named Aspen and a bird-watchin', mouse-catchin' cat named Stitch! 

Originally from Miami, Florida, we'd had enough of living within the 'cone of death' during each hurricane season. And after having a house destroyed during Hurricane Andrew and another destroyed during Hurricane Wilma, it was very easy for us to make the decision to move to the magnificent state of Colorado in 2008. But then as fate would have it, we were delayed from moving due to Hurricane Faye which decided to hit the week we were leaving. 

After being a stay-at-home mom for twelve years, I've decided to put my creative energy into writing books.
A member of the Romance Writers of America.

Talin Ariskan’s whole life has been spent being groomed as the heir to Atlantis.  It’s left him little time to find his future empress, much to his mother’s dismay.
Headstrong and dreaming of love, mer-princess Echo is fleeing from a forced mating with a merman she can’t stand.  When she discovers a hidden abyss, an unexpected transformation begins...
Suddenly in a strange world, unsure of everything and hiding her true identity, Echo meets Talin and realizes that he is the one she’s been waiting for.
As passions flare and love blooms, Talin and Echo must find a way to bridge their separate worlds.  Can their love survive when he discovers what she really is?   Or will they be torn apart forever?

Father, you can’t force me to marry him!”
            King Atargatis watched his oldest daughter, Echo, float before him, her arms crossed in defiance. Her flowing white hair swayed across her pale face and down along her arm, hiding her markings. She had always been strong-willed and he usually let her get her way. Not this time.
            “You will marry Aramis and that’s final! Do you hear me?” he shouted back, harsher than he intended.
            Echo balled her hands into fists, fury burning at her insides. “Why would you make me marry him when I don’t love him?”
            “Your mother and I’d like for you to have an heir or two, to take over the throne someday. And at the rate you’re going—”
            She cut her father off before he could finish. “If you think for one minute I’d ever let him touch me, then you have clearly lost your mind!” A chill ran down her spine. What a disgusting thought, to have Aramis’s hands touching her.
            “I will not have you speak to me like that!” Whether or not he was her father, he was also the Ruler of Oceania. He couldn’t allow someone to swim in on their heated exchange and overhear her speak to him in that manner.
            “If you’re going to force me to marry Aramis against my will, then I’ll speak to you however I choose!” She gave him one last look through narrowed brown eyes before she flicked her tailfin and swam as fast as she could out of the royal cavern and far away from her father.
Streaks of sunlight from the surface beamed through the holes in the coral rocks which made up the palace walls, casting a beautiful reflection of waves throughout the entire room as Naia entered. Frowning, she watched from the doorway as her husband held his forehead against the palm of his hand.  He sat on his gold throne across the vast room which was filled with ornate items that had been collected throughout their kingdom’s history. The coral walls were filled with life. Small groupings of anemone lodged themselves sporadically throughout the room, and protecting themselves within the security of the anemone’s venomous tentacles, were small Percula Clownfish. 
At that moment her attention was drawn to a small school of Yellow Tangs passing through. She loved watching the surrounding sea life thrive. It meant all was well in the kingdom, even if all was not well at home. 
Naia turned her attention back to her husband and gave out a long sigh while looking at him. The passing years had been very good to him. He was still as ruggedly handsome as the day he made her his queen. She loved the way his gold crown complimented his dark tan complexion. The way the sunlight shimmered on the golden brown scales of his tailfin sent shivers down her flowing pink fin.
She swam over to him and brushed a strand of his white hair away from his face, then cupped her hands on his cheeks and looked into his brown eyes.    
“Before I came in, I heard your conversation with Echo through the door. You can’t expect her to abide by your commands instantly this time. She’s always dreamt of falling in love and having a family of her own. Being told to marry someone she’s obviously not in love with can’t be easy for her.”
            The lines hardened across Atargatis’s forehead. “She has no choice! And neither do we,” he growled. Staring back into his wife’s shimmering brown eyes, he couldn’t help but soften his expression. Nearly whispering now, he said, “How much longer am I supposed to hold my patience with her? Echo’s almost twenty-eight years old for Triton’s sake! That’s nearly three years past when she should’ve mated. We can’t postpone this any longer.”
            Dropping her hands from his cheeks Naia settled onto her own throne. “Well, you already know how I feel about this situation,” she said with disappointment in her voice. “You shouldn’t have promised our daughter to Hekili’s son in the first place. Giving him a position in the Guard would’ve been reward enough.”
            She didn’t feel Aramis treated their daughter with respect. And she definitely didn’t see love in his eyes when he looked at her. No, in Naia’s opinion, Echo was merely a means to embed himself deeper into the family in an attempt to further his position in the Guard.
            She knew her husband would never allow that to happen! The only position above Captain was General; that rank was only held by someone from their bloodline. Their oldest son, Sian, held that privilege. Even if something were to happen to Sian, their other son, Finn—who currently held the rank of Guardian—would become the new General, skipping right over Aramis.
            “Yes. I’m well aware of your feelings, or lack thereof, toward Aramis. But I didn’t have a choice. Hekili saved my life and in return I had to give him whatever he wanted,” Atargatis responded. Although he regretted promising his daughter’s hand, he had every intention on keeping his promise.
                                                                        * * *
Letting the flowing current of the water assist her, Echo darted through the dimly lit passages toward her chamber. The sun above was starting to set and soon the floating orbs of light that laced the passages would brighten to full capacity, making it easier for the Mers to see. Even though they had the capability to see in full darkness, it was a draining magical power they reserved for when they truly needed it.
Upon entering her chamber, she spied her younger sister’s orange tail and flowing long brown hair. Nerissa had been waiting by the entrance for her. Echo swam by her without a word, too upset to speak. Nerissa started to enter the chamber after her, but paused when she heard Echo’s best friend, Ariana, call her name.
            “What’s wrong with Eck?” asked Ariana.
“I’m not sure yet,” Nerissa answered. “She just swam by me without saying a word, but I’d bet my life our father is involved somehow.”
Nerissa and Ariana entered Echo’s chamber and found her resting on her kelp bed. Cradling her face in her hands, she was crying with an occasional wince thrown in. Mers hated to cry because clear crystals would form in the corners of their eyes instead of tears, stinging them.
            Echo looked up and dropped her hands to her lap when she realized she was no longer alone. They could then see the last of the tiny crystals falling from her eyes.
            Ariana hung back as Nerissa swam over and rested beside her sister. Growing up, Nerissa and Echo had always been very close. And although many of their physical features were different, she and Echo were very much alike.
Putting her arm around Echo, her voice laced with concern, she asked, “What has our father done this time?”
            Before she answered, Echo looked around her spacious chamber. Her eyes fell upon the layers of coral rock adorning the farthest side, some of the layers protruding out farther than others. Those particular layers were the ones she used to display the numerous treasures their father had given her throughout her life. She’d spend hours looking at them when she was alone with just her thoughts. Her favorite was a palace her father had carved from seashells when he was a young merchild. But now she looked at them as if they were his way of buying her off so she’d do what he wanted—to marry and mate with the person she hated the most—Aramis.
            “He’s refusing to budge! He won’t release my obligation to marry you-know-who!” she finally answered. It made her almost ill to say his name, so she avoided it whenever possible. “I just don’t understand why he’s forcing me to marry that blowfish!”
            “I wish I had an answer for you, sis. But who knows what runs through our father’s mind when he does the things he does.”
            Nerissa was all too familiar with the way their father tried to control their lives. She knew she was fast approaching mating age as well and was already preparing herself to have to deal with him. He could go to Scylla or Charybdis before she was going to let him have a say in who she married. 
            In the next moment Ariana swam up to Echo. They’d grown up together. Her father was once a Guardian for the Royal Guard under the command of then General Atargatis. The girls had become fast friends and were inseparable.
Stopping in front of Echo, Ariana tucked her turquoise fin beneath her and gently settled against the sandy bottom. She brushed the strands of her long brown hair away from her face, draping them over her bare breasts and then rested her hands on top of Echo’s.
“I hate seeing what this is doing to you Eck. And I’m so disappointed in your father for putting you through all of this.” She turned her head and winked at Nerissa before looking back at Echo. “But we promise to find a way to help you get out of this mess.”
C. L.'s Sirens Facebook Group:

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Read a Free Chapter of Send Him an Angel!

Elizabeth and Gabriel—more than one war is brewing in the Black Hills…

Send Him an Angel

Book One in Angels of Deadwood Gulch
(Elizabeth Bonner and Gabriel King's Story)

Tabitha Shay

Chapter One

Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.

~Alexander Pope
An Essay on Criticism

New Orleans
June 30, 1875

“Another letter arrived, mademoiselle.
“Only one?” Elizabeth Bonner quelled her impatience at yet another interruption and turned from the Queen Anne desk where she busied herself scribbling names on an invitation list for her wedding. “What is it, Henri, someone else hinting for an invite?”
“Henri can’t say, mademoiselle.”
“Can’t or won’t?” she teased, quirking a brow. “Just put it over there with the rest of them.” She motioned toward a Hepplewhite Game table standing across the room. A large silver server set on it smothered with white envelopes. Henri had started stacking wedding presents from day one near the table until now, the entire south wall was stacked four deep in gifts. She didn’t even want to hazard a guess how wide.
“Aren’t they one and the same?” he asked politely, showing remarkable restraint at her lack of interest in the packet and gifts.
She knew very well Henri peeked at every letter that arrived though he was always very careful to reseal it. But why bother to read it when she knew the servant would inform her of anything of importance? She didn’t mind that he perused the mail first. It saved her time, and Elizabeth had no secrets from her staff. Most of them had been with her since the day she was born, and with her Nana Marie before that. In all honesty, she loved the staff more than she loved what little family she had left.
Elizabeth smothered an urge to laugh. Poor Henri, he always referred to himself in first person. Over the years, she’d grown used to it, but for some, it was a bit startling. She knew the aged butler was as tired of all the endless presents and letters as she was.
He made dozens of trips to the front door, graciously accepted all deliveries, and brought them to her as they arrived even though he knew she wouldn’t look at them. It exhausted her just watching him.
“Two more gifts arrived today,” he informed her.
“We’re running out of space, Henri.”
“They will keep coming, mademoiselle.”
“Yes. I know.” Elizabeth swiped a strand of loose hair out of her eyes and tapped the quill on a piece of stationery. “Perhaps we should have the furniture removed from the blue room and all the presents moved in there.” That way she wouldn’t have to look at them when she was working at her escritoire.  “I’d be glad to hire you a helper,” she offered, noting his red face.
His snowy-white brows beetled together. A scowl settled on his lined face. He drew back as if she’d insulted him. “The day Henri can’t handle bringing the mail from the front door to the parlor, mademoiselle, is the day he will have the monument erected in the cemetery.”
“I meant to help move the furniture out of the blue room and move the gifts in there.”
“You doubt Henri can perform his duties?”
“Of course not, Henri, how thoughtless of me to make the offer.”
His faded blue eyes twinkled. “Henri accepts your apology.”
Indeed. She felt properly chastised and forgiven. Elizabeth sighed. She was surprised that today had only brought one letter. Not that she wanted more. She didn’t. Her wedding was still a year away, the date not even set yet, and already she was inundated with daily reminders that so-and-so had been friends with her family for five generations.
She thought at least five different people had made the same comment, ‘Did you know my cousin Beau is a fourth cousin to your great-great grandmother twice removed?’
Elizabeth always nodded politely and hurried away before she gave into a fit of giggles. She doubted a cousin Beau even existed, at least for that person. She didn’t think her family had been here for five generations either, three or four, maybe, yet she remained gracious, not contradicting anyone.
The quest from strangers to wring an invitation out of her boggled the mind. She’d had no idea so many people would claim friendship or kinship just to attend her marriage ceremony. Everyone was predicting it to be the social event of the year.
It didn’t matter that the big day was still in the planning stage, everyone wanted to attend. Every day she added more guests. At this rate, come next spring, her wedding was indeed going to be the biggest social event of the season. The list was out of hand, but she didn’t dare snub anyone. Snubs in the South carried a lot of weight. She could ruin someone’s life by doing such a thing. She didn’t want something like that on her conscience.
“Henri thinks the mademoiselle should not ignore this letter.”
Elizabeth drew a resigned breath and accepted the creased envelope off the mini silver tray the butler held before her. Blowing aside a pudgy blonde curl bobbing in front of her eyes, she placed the quill back in the inkwell and set it aside. “Who’s it from, Henri?” Without doubt, not only had the butler opened and read the letter, but also very carefully perused the envelope before he brought it to her. Nothing got past him, especially if it was one of her mother’s outlandish bills.
A warm fuzzy feeling settled in the pit of her stomach. She adored the elderly butler. He had been the father she never had. Henri always smelled like pipe tobacco, though she’d never seen him use it. Henri had always dwelled in this house, his father before him and so on. Looking dignified in his black and gold butler suit, soft white gloves and powder-gray hair, he tried to stand straight, but his knees bowed outward with age and his bones popped and creaked when he walked.
In all honesty, he should have retired years ago, but he refused to give up his position and she didn’t have the heart to break his. When this Henri finally retired, there wouldn’t be another to take his place. So she ignored the creaking, the bow-legged creeping when he walked, and his shaky hands.
Looking directly ahead, he reminded her of an aged statue, though deep inside he was a softie.
 “Who’s it from?” he repeated. “Do you accuse Henri of snooping?”
Elizabeth remained straight-faced. “Of course not, Henri, I know you would never do such a thing.”
“Then Henri has no idea who the letter is from, mademoiselle.” He sniffed. “Henri doesn’t recognize the name on it.”
Elizabeth glanced at the butler. Hiding a grin, she decided against a second apology. “Thank you, Henri.”
The butler nodded. “Qui, mademoiselle,” he replied crisply. “The letter, it has traveled a far distance, all the way from the West.”
“The west? What west?”
“The West-west. Mademoiselle surely knows of this place where the west savages dwell?”
“West savages?”
“The ones who shoot buffalo with little arrows?”
“Ahh, I see. Well, yes, I’ve heard of them and the West, but…I don’t know anyone from there.”
“Of course not, mademoiselle, it’s a distant land. You’d never consider leaving New Orleans to visit it.”
Curious, Elizabeth read aloud the name on the return address. “Gabriel King.” It wasn’t one she recognized, either. “Perhaps it’s someone Nicholas is acquainted with, someone sending us well wishes for our upcoming nuptials.”
The gray-haired butler tightened his lips with silent disapproval. “Qui, mademoiselle. Perhaps.”
Elizabeth lifted a brow. She shook her head and sliced open the envelope with a pearl-handled letter opener. For the life of her, she couldn’t figure out why her staff disliked her fiancĂ© so much. Even though Nicholas was a bit stuffy at times, he was always kind and polite.
“Will there be anything else mademoiselle requires?”
“No, Henri. You may go. And thank you.”
He nodded a curt move of his head, slowly crossed the room, and pulled the double doors closed behind him. Elizabeth hesitated a moment, but curiosity got the better of her. Intrigued, she unfolded the single slip of paper and read.

Dakota Territory
May 26, 1875

~Dear Miss Bonner,
My name is Gabriel King, and it is with heavy heart I find myself penning this letter to you. Sadly, Pete Bonner was killed by the warring, murdering, scalping Sioux yesterday. At present, I’m the closest thing to an attorney in Deadwood, so your father left a copy of his last will in my trust.
 I’m sorry to say your father left a widow behind, a lovely woman who grieves deeply for Pete. Although he left her a reasonable amount of gold, the bulk of his holdings were left to you. His widow is quite content with her share and so will not give you any problems.
The short story is you have inherited most all of Pete’s earthly treasures, except for the five hundred thousand in gold he left his wife. He left his personal items—a gold pocket watch that keeps perfect time, a sound horse named, Bother, along with fine equipment, saddle, bridle, reins and bit, a set of pearl-handled colts that are precisely balanced and dead on the mark, a rifle, a nice pair of leather boots, a few coins, five shirts, two pair of trousers, two pair of socks, two pair of long johns, and one Sunday suit—which I made certain he was buried in—a shaving mug, straight razor, a leather strop, multiple bags of gold dust that are currently locked in my safe with your name listed as the owner, a rich producing gold ore mine in the Hills, and a general stock and trade store with the shelves fully stocked, to you.
For your peace of mind, Pete was given a right nice send off with his widow and close friends in attendance. His final resting place is Boot Hill overlooking Deadwood Gulch. I wasn’t stingy with the cost, but had a nice pine box made for him with a good tight lid attached so no critters could get to the leftovers, although by the time the savages finished chopping him up, there wasn’t much left to bury.
 Above the store is spacious living quarters your father called home. Here in Deadwood, that is like gold, much better than a tent. Considering the rapid growth and development of my fair town, the store is quite profitable. It will be even more so once I add lumber and building supplies to sell with the current merchandise.
I completely understand your desire not to uproot your life in New Orleans and move to Deadwood to oversee the adverse challenges your properties here represent to a delicate, city-bred Southern lady such as yourself, or even risk a visit here on the frontier, a quite lawless land to be sure.
I’m most happy to offer you a fair price for the mine, store, and its contents. If you wish to keep a token to remember your father, I’ll be glad to mail you his gold pocket watch. I’ll disperse the rest of his property to the needy, if this meets with your approval.
Included with this letter, you’ll find a generous bank draft for the afore mentioned properties. I hope it suffices your expectations. If you’re careful, it is sufficient funds to last a lifetime. Please feel free to deposit it anytime. If you will sign the deeds to the properties I’ve enclosed and return them to me, I’d be most grateful.
Please accept my sincere condolences at the loss of your father.

Your humble servant,
~Gabriel King

Elizabeth blinked, read the letter a second time, then folded it with rock-steady hands and stuffed it inside the envelope. Underneath, she simmered like a wash pot over a blazing fire. Good grief! She didn’t know whether to laugh or spit out a few unladylike words.
Swallowing hard, she studied the deeds made out in her name, an X on the lines for her to sign and return. The papers appeared to be authentic, but she was no expert when it came to documents such as these.
The amount of the bank draft from Mr. King both amazed and appalled her.
If you’re careful, it is sufficient funds to last a lifetime.
He was right, indeed, a generous sum—enough money, as he’d written, to last her a lifetime and three times over. Thanks to the munificent inheritance from her Nana Marie, she was already wealthy and those resources, with careful management, would last her a lifetime as well, but if she accepted the bank draft from Gabriel King, then her funds would be limitless. She wouldn’t have to be so thrifty, watch every nickel she spent and wonder if she shouldn’t do it.          
If she held her ground and continued to refuse to cover her mother’s extravagant charges, which only last month she’d warned Charity she was no longer willing to pay, then the money Nana Marie left her could remain untouched, grow, and passed on to her children and their children one day.
Thoughtfully, Elizabeth rubbed a hand over her dry mouth. She needed tea. A lady simply couldn’t make such decisions without tea to fortify her. She snatched up the little gold embossed bell and shook it.
Queenie, the housekeeper, who walked as slow as Henri and was just as ancient, entered the room carrying an oval tray with a pretty pink and blue floral tea pot, sugar bowl, creamer, and a slice of pecan pie.
Elizabeth hurried to unfold the server table.
“Will da missus have need of anything else?” Queenie asked, setting the tray on the round table.
“No, Queenie, thank you. I can serve myself.”
Queenie nodded. “Has da missus had time to read dat strange letter from dat foreign land yet?”
Elizabeth nearly choked on her swallow of tea.
Foreign land?
Of course she knew the servants considered anything a mile east, west, north, or south of New Orleans foreign soil. It wasn’t surprising the housekeeper already knew of the letter’s arrival, either. The servants had a well-oiled gossip mill and it flourished during times of news.
“I did, Queenie.”
“And?” The little black servant tapped her slipper.
Elizabeth felt a flush heat her face. Why, she hadn’t a clue, except Queenie tapping her shoe reminded Elizabeth of when she was a little girl and her hands were caught in the cookie jar. The old servant never thought twice about smacking her hands. “Well, it’s from a man who is both rude, crude, and believes he can have his way with me.”
Queenie’s raisin-dark eyes lit. “Indeed? Dat sounds like a good man to me, the very kind you need.”
Elizabeth pictured the housekeeper rubbing her hands together, hatching some kind of plot. “Don’t get any ideas, the man lives in a foreign country.”
“Miracles do happen, honey lamb. Indeed they do.”
Elizabeth poured herself a second cup of tea and watched the housekeeper exit the room, a new spring to her steps. She shook her head. Queenie had just more or less verified her suspicions of how the servants felt about her fiancĂ©. They didn’t like Nicholas and would do anything to stop the wedding. She’d have to be on her toes. She set her tea cup aside and reached for the letter, re-read it again, and frowned.
If she refused Mr. King’s draft, how much would it change her life?
Would she have to travel out West? Possibly. She didn’t know if she was ready for that huge of an alteration in her life. Neither did she like being rushed into making hasty decisions. She sure didn’t like being bamboozled—sign on the dotted line, indeed. This amount of the bank draft was certainly intended to rush her into making a hasty decision. Curling her lips with distaste, she was beginning to detest that slip of paper.
Elizabeth eyed the bank draft with revulsion.
For some reason, she felt if she didn’t accept the money, her entire future would change.  She’d go down a different path from the one she had planned. Rubbing her shoulders, she wondered at the chills snaking down her spine.
Ridiculous. This was simply unbelievable. Incredible. What is wrong with me? Why do I feel so restless lately?
Of course, she’d accept the bank draft. She had no desire to uproot her life and go to the West, plus she had a wedding to plan, Nicholas to consider. He wouldn’t approve of her leaving New Orleans for an unspecified amount of time.  
She tapped her shoe, much like Queenie had done. The nerve of the Westerner, to simply assume she was too weak-livered, too pampered to make the trip—too–too―female to manage her business and assume responsibility for her properties. That she’d just sell when—
Well, she wasn’t her mother!
She was neither a wastrel nor without a thought in her head. She didn’t appreciate some unknown, uncivilized male from a foreign land assuming she was a feather brain with nothing but hats, gowns, and umbrellas on her mind.
And the way Mr. King described the poor man’s brutal death by the hands of the savages, good heavens, quite barbarous. Did he have no fathom of a lady’s sensitivity? One simply did not write such gruesome details to a gently bred lady.
Marching across the room to the petite, ultra-feminine desk, Elizabeth sat down on the thickly padded chair and reached for quill and paper. Stabbing the tip in the inkwell, she slashed a date across the top of the paper.
Besides the obvious, there was one major mistake in Gabriel King’s letter. Her father drowned in the Mississippi when she was an infant, but aside from that, her father’s name wasn’t Pete Bonner.
As soon as she penned her reply to the overzealous Mr. King, she sent Henri to post it. Then she sat back down and scribbled a hasty note to her mother. Folding it, she paused, ripped it to shreds, and dropped it in a bowl on her desk. No. Much as she dreaded another confrontation with her mother, this wasn’t something they could discuss via cold, impersonal notes.
This was much too personal.
Her mother wouldn’t like her showing up unannounced, but for once, she didn’t care what Charity Bonner liked or didn’t like.
Elizabeth sent a maid for her shawl and gloves, and ordered her carriage readied. She took a deep breath and pressed a hand against her stomach. No, her mother wouldn’t appreciate a visit from her only child, but then that was nothing new. Elizabeth accepted the lacy white gloves from her personal maid and slipped them on. She tilted her chin at a stubborn angle. Too bad Charity wouldn’t welcome her.
She had questions.
And she wanted to know who her father really was.
Charity was going to tell her, even if Elizabeth had to choke the information out of her in a most unladylike fashion.          
* * * *
Henri slipped into the kitchen where Queenie and the housekeeper’s brother, Tutee, the groundskeeper, waited patiently to hear what he had to convey. Their lined and wrinkled faces were filled with anxiety.
“Well?” Queenie demanded, hands on her scrawny hips. “Wat dat letter says all da way from out da West? I couldn’t pry hardly any answers from Miss Elizabeth’s tongue. Dat girl can be real closed mouth when she wants ta be. Does it gives us da way to stop dat infernal weddin’ Miss Elizabeth’s been planning?”
Henri shook his white head. “No. The letter has nothing to do with that pitiful wedding. It’s from some attorney type fellow informing Miss Elizabeth she has inherited a gold mine at a lawless place called Deadwood.”
“Lawless? Humph!” Queenie snorted.
“Maybe da missus, she move dere and give up dis ‘diculous notion of marryin’ dat leech, Nicholas,” Tutee said.
“We gots ta plot a way to stop dat dreadful weddin’,” Queenie stated wringing her hands.
“I know,” Henri agreed with a sigh, “but the letter isn’t going to provide us a way. The stranger’s offering to buy everything Miss Elizabeth inherited. I have no doubt she’ll accept. It would be the sensible thing to do.”
“Sensible?” Queenie snorted again. “What’s sensible about dat weddin’? Dat man gonna git rid of da three of us as soon as he takes charge, and Miss Elizabeth won’t have no say in da matter. Mark my words. We gots ta find a way to stop dat horrible marriage from happening.”
Henri agreed. “I know, but the way isn’t through that letter. It’s just going to provide more funds for Nicholas to steal from our sweet mistress.”
“Dat poor, poor lamb,” Queenie said and flopped down on a chair beside Tutee. She wrung her hands and sniffed. “Dat sorry Nicholas, he a bad man. He gonna hurt our angel. Wait and see.”
“We gots ta find a way,” Tutee said patting his sister’s slender shoulders.
Henri remained standing, although his poor legs quivered with weakness. “What we need is a miracle.”
“What we need is another man to steal Miss Elizabeth away from dat horrible Nicholas man,” Queenie stated. “A man who can make her see dat dey’s better men out there.”
“Like I said, a miracle,” Henri replied.
“We gots our work cut out fo’ us,” Tutee stated, scratching his white frizzy hair. He bowed his head. “Shall we pray?

Available now at Secret Cravings Publishing.