Sunday, December 02, 2018

Excerpt 5 – The Queen of Paradise Valley

From Chapter Fifteen

Del followed the guests into another large room,
where an orchestra was setting up on a dais. A variety
of colognes eclipsed pine scents from scattered boughs.

He wove through the crowd to where Lord stood with
Diana, her hand tucked into his arm.

Lord wore his earnest face. “Miss Rennie, I was
hoping to learn something about you at dinner. I wish to
be your friend.”

She slid her hand free and smoothed her hair. “I’m
not very interesting.”

He gestured at the orchestra. “Do you like music?”

Del stepped before them. “Does she like music?
You should hear her play the piano.”

Lord’s assessing gaze moved from Del to Diana.
“Will you play for us?”

She pressed her lips together. Not hard to guess
what was going through her mind. “I’d rather not. I

“Ah, she’s modest.” Maybe this was as reckless as
riding a wild mustang. Del didn’t care. Why should she
always get her way? “Don’t listen to her. Sit her at a
piano, and she won’t stop.”

She didn’t look at him. Likely planning to punch
him in the mouth.

Lord guided her to the shiny black piano, pulled
out the seat, and turned to his guests, clapping to
capture their attention. “We have a treat in store. Miss
Rennie will entertain us until the orchestra is ready.”

People gathered. Diana sat on the bench, smoothed
her skirt, and removed her gloves. Del took them and
leaned against the wall, facing her. She glared at him,
mouthed the word bastard. The others formed a half
circle behind her. She flexed her fingers and tested the
keys, delivered a quick arpeggio, added fluttering trills
and a smooth glissando.

Killer eyes, but her voice was pleasant. “What
would you like me to plunk, Mr. Russell?”

And there was the challenge. “Chopin? Nocturne.
Do you know it?”

— Cat

Thursday, September 27, 2018

New Excerpt

Excerpt 4 -  The Queen of Paradise Valley

From chapter 11

Diana’s face burned. She slid the letter back into the envelope. Instead of messing things up, she had played into her father’s interests and helped condemn Del to prison. She rubbed her cheeks and tried to wipe away a torrent of guilt. How could she ever face Del?
But Owen did this for her, a rationalizing voice piped up in her mind. He was thinking of her future. And oh–
She pushed herself away from the table and snatched up the envelope. Where had he gone? Where had that sneaky bastard gone?

In the stable, Del, having let his anger wash through him and dissolve, brushed bits of straw off Diablo’s back prior to saddling him. He glanced up at Diana’s rapid approach and said, “If you’re here to justify Owen’s actions, save your breath.”
Stiff in posture and voice, she said, “I don’t need to justify anything he did. He was protecting me.” At his scornful laugh, she shook the envelope at him. “How dare you read something addressed to me? Where did you get this?”
What a bitch she could be. She had no right to be offended when the letter proved he was the victim.
“Are you going to answer me?”
Bright color in her cheeks, righteous fury in those killer eyes. He said, “The inkwell was dry. I searched for more. Evidently no one's looked through the desk for four years. The letter was stuck in with papers in the bottom drawer. I did what you'd have done if it was addressed to me.” He threw the brush into a bucket of tools where it landed with a rattling clang. The mustang twitched his ears and stepped forward.
Del slipped a saddle blanket onto the horse, smoothed it, and turned to Diana. “Now you know for a fact that old bastard--I'll call him what I damn well want--is the one who should've rotted in prison. Not me.”
"You threatened him--"
Stubborn woman! "I threatened his possession of this ranch. My pa's lawful share. My lawful share." The earlier anger bubbled up again. "Do you have any idea what it's like to be in prison? Locked up, chained, treated like shit, hell, living in shit." As he spoke he moved closer to her, but rather than retreat she stood rigid, hands linked behind her, mouth a flat line, eyes daring.  He put out his hand, growled, "Give me the letter."
"It's addressed to me."
"Give it to me, dammit, so I can show it to the judge as proof I was innocent."
She stared at the envelope as if she wanted to rip it to pieces, then threw it at him, swung about and departed as rapidly as she had come, without one word of apology. What a surprise.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Excerpt 3 - The Queen of Paradise Valley

New excerpt – from chapter 7

Diana and Del Russell stared into each other’s eyes, measuring, assessing, searching. She tore her gaze away. As if the pull wasn’t bad enough, she was swamped by guilt.
No, damn it. He was the guilty one, the criminal, and his arrival could only be a threat. She swallowed her apprehension and lifted her chin. "I heard you were dead."
He tipped his hat. Cleaner-looking than that day in town two weeks ago, his black hair collar-length, he wore redolent rawhide and moccasins. "Guess you could say I'm back from hell." A half-smile twisting his lips, he reached down and scratched Ebony behind the ears. No longer growling, the dog closed his eyes, and sporting a foolish look of bliss, allowed this stranger to fondle him.
Jolted, Diana pointed to the back of the house. "Ebony, go. And you, don't touch him. He could tear you apart."
Head down, ears flat, the dog loped away. Del shook his head. "Yeah, that dog’s a real killer. Aren't you going to invite me in?" He pushed past her into the main room. “Still the grand room I remember, the room touched by Midas." Having completed a slow circuit, his silvery gaze rested on her. "And you, China Doll, are better looking than I recall, even dressed like a man." His eyes moved from her head to her feet and back again in such a thorough manner her skin tingled as if touched through her clothes. Heat rose to her cheeks.
He ambled to the piano and swept a hand along the satiny white surface. "Didn’t see this before. Do you play? Maybe you can plunk a tune for me."
The keyboard cover creaked as he lifted it. With a low hiss she elbowed him away. Owen’s last gift to her. Not to be handled by a criminal. "Don't touch it. The piano is not for 'plunking'. It’s never been played."
He raised a brow. "The piano's a virgin? Kind of like you?"
"And it will never be played." Oh, damn, their marriage hadn't been annulled! She whirled and darted to the office. There she pulled desk drawers open and shuffled papers until she found what she sought. Prepared to tear the document to shreds, she jumped when Del closed a hand over hers, crushed her fingers and slid the paper from her grip.
He scanned the words. "Destroying this won't change anything. You're my wife. Get used to the idea." He tossed the page onto the desk, turned, and studied the room. 
A sour taste in her mouth, she backed away. "Why did you return? Owen is dead. You're too late for the revenge you promised."
He walked to the bookcase, read some titles, returned and settled into the chair behind the desk. "Yeah. But for two years while I counted stones in Snake Canyon I planned a thousand ways to kill him. It's what kept me alive. That and the thought of you. It would've been easier going to prison if I was guilty of something."
She compressed her lips, shook her head. "You were guilty. You stole our horses and--"
"You still believe that? The old bastard didn't tell you the truth?"
Incredible, the tale he now told. "My father wouldn't lie to me."
"He would and he did." Del stared hard at her, eyes unblinking. "I have an interest in this ranch and I'm going to protect it."
Heat, this time of anger, flushed her cheeks. "The ranch is mine."
"Some of it, yeah. But legal ownership of Paradise Valley was set up in both our fathers' names. A fifty-fifty partnership, properly registered, never dissolved. That alone entitles me to half the ranch, but if you insist on denying it, then I'll insist you honor your brother's debt."


— Cat

Thursday, August 23, 2018

New excerpt from The Queen of Paradise Valley

The Queen of Paradise Valley   —   second excerpt:

She expected to be surprised. But she was astonished. No longer the dun colored settlement she remembered, Rennieville had tripled in size, was now a sprawling town teeming with noisy transport rigs of all sizes and types. People, young and old, rough and refined, bustled from one place of enterprise to another. As she maneuvered the buggy along South Street she passed many saloons and bordellos, their business already brisk in early afternoon.
Main Street used to be a pathway that began on an empty prairie, passed nine or ten buildings and thirty or less homes, and ended between wooded hills rising to the Sangre de Cristo range. Now it boasted plank walkways on both sides that served a multitude of storefronts, their colorful business signs protruding above their doors.
For her venture into town Diana wore a high-necked, long-sleeved black serge gown, and despite the heat maintained a glacial facade. She was glad her simple hat sported a net veil, for she sensed curious stares from everyone she passed. No doubt they knew who she was with the silver Double R, the ranch brand, emblazoned on the sides of the buggy.
The hotel was more than twice its former size and displayed a decorative frieze below the roof line. The word pompous lodged in her mind as she stepped onto the boardwalk, her eyes drawn to a sign that proclaimed in flourishing letters, Rennieville Grand Hotel. Pompous and arrogant. She turned, collided with a solid body. She tottered and dropped her reticule..
"Sorry, ma'am." The man reached for her arms to steady her.
She pulled away, stepped back. Like a ranch hand after a sweltering day of work, he stank of sweat and horse; prairie dirt layered his clothes and the saddlebags slung over his shoulder. He stooped to retrieve her reticule and she lifted her veil.
He tipped his hat. “Here ma'am--"
Their eyes met and his polite half smile vanished. Her heart plummeted with dizzying speed, her feet lost contact with an earth no longer there. Breath hissing through her teeth, she snatched her reticule, turned and fled into the hotel.
She leaned on the door and fought to compose herself, to cast off fear that descended like a suffocating blanket. It could not be him.  He had died two years ago. She remembered the day Clem told her. A prison break. He'd been hunted down and killed. And she had wrestled with alternating waves of shock, dismay, guilt, and relief.
Relief had won.
With slow, deliberate steps she crossed the lobby to the desk. Her voice taut, she requested a room and asked if her brother was in his suite.
"He's out.” The clerk peered at her through round spectacles. “Did you say Randolph Rennie is your brother? Then you are--"
“Yes, I am." She managed to sign the register with a steady hand.
"Miss Rennie, for you our best room." He snapped his fingers and a boy arrived to show her the way. She barely noticed climbing two flights of stairs and walking along a dim hallway. Inside the room her control began to crumble and her hand shook as she thrust a coin at the boy. The door closed behind him and she shot to the window.
The man was gone; a sturdy couple with a cavorting boy now stood on the spot. It must have been someone with a slight resemblance. Those eyes though, variegated slate and silver irises, inky pupils widening with--what? Suspicion? Curiosity? Not recognition. Not that!
But she remembered his eyes most of all, how he had looked at her with the smoky passion of a lover, then the crushing contempt of a criminal on his way to prison.
Deep breaths. Deep and steady. Panic ebbed; heartbeat steadied. She had important things to do today and couldn't afford to sit here revisiting her biggest mistake.


— Cat

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Read excerpt from Historical Western Romance

The Queen of Paradise Valley


Proper ladies didn’t go calling on men alone, even in a safe town like Rennieville. She needed to douse his suspicion. If he saw her as a friend and ally, her chances of success would increase, wouldn’t they? Though she’d never tasted whiskey, she said, “Yes, I’ll have a drink.” A surprised frown notched his brow. She added, “If you put on a shirt.”
“Only business I’m interested in is bed business. Why would I get dressed just to undress again?” Eyes skeptical, he offered her the bottle.
Very well. She wouldn’t look at his chest, however tanned and hard-muscled, however taut and—oh, damn. She lifted the bottle to her lips and swallowed a big mouthful, then gagged and coughed as the whiskey boiled up in her throat.
He jerked the bottle away and held it to the light. “Take it easy.”
Eyes watering, she forced the liquor down and composed herself. A deep breath, a nervous swallow. Yes, better. Her face and body hot, she doffed her gloves and cape, dropped them on a chair, and swept a hand across her burning brow.
His gaze again moved from her feet to her head, pausing on her silky white shirt. “Did the old man send you, China Doll?” A silver flare beneath those thick lashes, a quick feral show of teeth. He took another, longer drink and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand.
She took a steadying breath. “My name is Diana. Miss Rennie to you.” Did that sound too challenging? “Um, my father doesn’t know I’m here.” She sensed his rising animosity and forced herself to meet his belligerent gaze. They must seem to be on the same side. “He hasn’t been himself since the day you came to our house.”
“Must be his conscience getting after him. He tell you how he caused my father’s death?”
“He told me nothing. Whatever Owen did—”
His black brows lifted. “Owen?”
“Owen. My father.” Defensiveness would only stir his hostility. Time for a little history, enough perhaps to gain some sympathy. She paced a slow circle. “I was born on the ranch. When I was three, my mother took me to New York. I returned nearly four months ago upon Mother’s passing.” Seeking his gaze, she added, a small throb in her voice, “I was lost all those years, lost in a big cold city until I found my home again and my beloved father.” She swallowed. “Yet—I couldn’t call him that, so we settled on his given name for now.”
Was there even a smidgen of empathy in his eyes? She couldn’t tell by his stony expression. He set the bottle down with a thump and leaned back against the table, arms out at the sides, hands resting palm down on the plank surface. The lantern dropped a beacon of light on him, capturing her attention despite her vow not to look at his body. There was insolence in his stance, an overt display of virility. She stared at his muscular thighs and the coarse hairs rising above his breeches.
“Yeah, it’s a sad story. I’ve got one too, because when I was ten I watched your old man send my father to his death. But you, miss well-bred, didn’t come here to chat about your past. What’s your real reason for this visit?” He picked up the bottle and took a deep swallow, eyes on her the entire time.
Controlled anger seemed to roll off him in waves. This wasn’t working as she had planned. She stepped to him. “May I have another drink?”
He passed her the bottle, then crossed his arms over his chest and watched her. Eyes squeezed shut, she took another mouthful and felt the same slow burn as before. She managed not to gag this time but couldn’t stop from grimacing.
“All right.” She spoke with careful precision. “Mr. Russell, um, Del, when you said you might kill Owen, I grew afraid. Terribly afraid. I came here to appeal to you to leave Rennieville, leave my father in peace. He—he’s very torn up about this business. He’s remorseful and sad and ashamed, and—oh—it breaks my heart to see him that way.” Was this working? One more mouthful of whiskey. God, it was awful. She shuddered and scrubbed her mouth with the heel of her hand.
He grabbed the bottle and set it away. “You’ll be on the floor if you keep drinking.”
She gazed at him with what she assumed was earnest trust, her hands clasped as if in prayer. “Will you leave town? What would your father want you to do?” Damn. Did that sound right? Her cheeks burned hotter. Would a tear be too much? Shouldn’t have had that last drink. She was losing direction, grasping for words. “Um, didn’t you say he forgave Owen? Can’t you do that too, for your father?”
Outside, the rising wind gusted around the eaves and skidded along the roof, flapping loose wooden shingles. He looked up and listened to the low thrum of the wind as if it were speaking to him.
“And,” she added, “you can look for his remains. Why, I’ll help you.”
He stared at her. “Hell, you must really want me gone.”
“I—I want peace for my father. Can you understand that?”
Another gust of wind scuffled the shingle down s and tossed some to the ground, while in the stove burning wood crackled and hissed. He rubbed a hand over his chin and up the side of his face. He was thinking, considering, weighing; his jaw tightened, then relaxed. “The hardest thing in the world is watching your father die. After all these years it’s damn hard to let it go—”
A chink had formed in his armor. Time to strike. Her voice soft, she said, “But you will, won’t you?” She thrust out her hand.
“You’ve had enough.”
“No. I want us to shake hands on our agreement that you’ll leave.”
One side of his mouth twitched into a half-smile. “If it’ll get rid of you so I can go back to bed…” He clasped her hand, his palm rough and calloused, and she felt a curious vibration in her fingers. Their gazes locked, and she was transfixed by his eyes of pebbled slate webbed with silver. Without another word he placed her palm flat on his chest and covered it with his hand.

— Cat

The Queen of Paradise Valley  available at:

Amazon     Barnes & Noble    The Wild Rose Press       

Thursday, June 28, 2018

The Queen of Paradise Valley

                                          Historical Western Romance

Two strong-willed people, two opposing views—their tempestuous battles become as legendary as the land they both love and must fight together to save.

Diana Rennie, daughter of a wealthy rancher, attempts to persuade mystery man Del Russell to leave his grievances behind and forgive her father for past mistakes. Her careful plan goes awry and results in a shotgun wedding and a prison sentence for Del.

Four years later, Del is back in her life with a vengeance—back for his rightful share of Diana's ranch, back to prove he isn't the criminal she thought he was, back to finish what the two of them started years ago in a passionate daze. And he isn’t going anywhere, no matter what beautiful, treacherous Diana does or says to try to get rid of him.

available at: