I have never understood the death of the Western. What's not to love? A time when men were men and so were the women. It's a pure American art form.
I have proposals for westerns that would keep me writing until the cows came home. (Ha.) But there was a story that just kept nagging at me, the characters kept whispering--a female bounty hunter who always gets her man. A hero with dark secrets of his own. He sees her for what she is, just as she sees him. And no matter what she does, he's right there, waiting for her to exorcise her demons, even though he can't seem to exorcise his. They fall in love, even as the world around them does everything to keep them apart.
And the first book in my "Once Upon a Time in the West" series, the RITA nominated was born. Cat O'Banyon and Alexi Romanov are some very interesting characters. Read on for a sneak peak of .
When the sun began to slant toward dusk, and the pile of coins on both sides of the table lay about even, Cat lifted her eyes. "Wanna make this interesting?"
"Khriso mou," Alexi murmured. "When you say things like that He moved a card from the right side of his hand to the left. "I get excited."
"How about we raise the stakes to..." She drew out the moment, and even though he knew exactly what she was doing, as he was the one who had taught her to do it, eventually his anticipation caused him to lean forward. Only then did Cat give him what he sought. "Anything."
"Anything?" he repeated.
"Oui." He cast her an exasperated glance as she purposely mangled one of his favorite words. "I win this hand, you give me anything I ask. You win--"
"I get anything I ask."
"You've played this before."
"Not with you."
She doubted he'd played it with anyone. What moron would promise anything?
Only someone with little left to lose or...
Cat considered her cards without so much as a flicker of an eyelash. Someone with a hand like hers.
Ethan stood in the exam room, using a pestle to savagely mash whatever lay at the bottom of a mortar.
“I think it's dead.”
He started, nearly dropping the bowl, then tossed a scowl over his shoulder.
“What did you do with my clothes?” Annabeth asked.
He went back to mutilating whatever he had in the bowl—something that smelled both red and spicy. “Burned them.”
The front door opened and a man came in. The sun was at his back, and she couldn’t see his face. Then he stepped out of the light, removing his sweat-stained Stetson. His hair was gray, his eyes were blue, his hands large, scarred, and capable. The guns at his hips were the same. “Mrs. Walsh?”
She opened her mouth; nothing came out. Legally, that name was hers, but she hadn’t used it in... forever.
“Can I help you?”
Annabeth shivered as Ethan’s breath stirred her hair; at the same time, his heat warmed her from shoulders to shins.
“Dr. Walsh?” Ethan must have nodded, because the man extended his hand. “I’m Ren Eversleigh, U.S. Marshal.”
Ethan stiffened, or maybe Annabeth did. The lawman didn’t seem to notice. He shook Ethan’s hand; Annabeth moved closer to the door.
“I have some questions about the sheriff. I’m told he fell from the upstairs window.”
Only someone who knew Ethan as well as Annabeth did, who had thought about every minute they’d spent together over the hundreds of nights since she’d left him, would have seen the slight flutter of the muscle beneath his right eye and known what it meant.
Ethan Walsh was getting ready to lie.
“He did,” Ethan agreed.
Annabeth coughed. Ethan kept his gaze on the marshal, but his hands clenched.
“How?” the lawman asked.
“I wasn’t here.”
“Hmm,” Annabeth murmured. No twitch there.
Ethan cast her a glare that very clearly said he wished she would go away—preferably the same way the sheriff had—before returning his attention to the lawman. “Since when do federal marshals investigate the accidental deaths of small-town sheriffs?”
“When they aren’t accidental?” Annabeth asked. It appeared fairly obvious to her. It also made her wonder if the sheriff’s death was in some way related to the danger to Ethan.
Ethan put his hands behind his back, no doubt to keep himself from throttling her. She shouldn’t bait him, but she found that sometimes—like when he lied—she just couldn’t help herself.
Rose Varner needed a man. And not just any man, but the one the Cheyenne called the White Ghost With Hair of Fire.
"Folks go into the Smoky Hills," said a barkeep in one of the endless supply of tiny towns in north central Kansas, "and none of 'em come out." He lowered his voice as if imparting a secret. "He done killed 'em and buried 'em up there."
"Why would he do that?"
"He lived with the Cheyenne once. Crazy, murderin' bastards. Done turned the ghost plumb crazy. They say he talks to the spirits."
"If everyone who's ever gone into the hills hasn't come back, then who's saying this?"
The barkeep's forehead furrowed. "Huh?"
Rose gave up and moved on. Everywhere she went she heard tales of the White Ghost. He was tall; he was strong; he was brave, bold and daring. Everyone agreed he'd been a soldier, but some insisted he'd worn blue, while others swore he'd worn gray. He had lived with the Indians. However, opinions varied as to if he'd been captured and enslaved or joined them willingly.
She tried to hire a guide to take her into the Smoky Hills, an area of strange, chalk-shaded rock formations that folks had started to call "badlands," but she could not entice a single soul to accompany her there. The legends terrified everyone.
Except Rose. She was too terrified of what would happen if she didn't go.
She is a New York Times Bestselling Author and the recipient of many industry awards, including two RITA Awards from Romance Writers of America for Best Paranormal Romance and Best Long Contemporary Category Romance.
Lori lives in Wisconsin with her husband, enjoying occasional visits from her grown sons.
Book #2 in the Once upon a Time in the West series
In a time of war, love has its own rewards…
Saving soldiers’ lives at the Confederate army hospital Chimborazo, Annabeth Phelan is no ordinary Southern belle. She’s never known work more exhausting or rewarding. And she’s never known a man like Dr. Ethan Walsh, with his disarming gray eyes and peculiar ways. But now the Confederacy is charging her with another service: find the Union spy at Chimborazo.
Ethan’s one passion is saving lives, and if he can do that by helping to end the war, he will—even if it means spying for the North. He’s gotten used to fooling Confederates, but he can’t bear lying to Annabeth. And together, they are about to discover a new passion—one that could even transcend the chaos of war.
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