Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Release day for my new book!

I'm thrilled to announce my new book Fortune's Folly has been released on Amazon.

Women's historical fiction with elements of spicy romance.

Blurb:

In 1867, Eden Fitzgerald marries, not for love or money, but to persuade her influential in-laws to obtain her father's release from a contrived prison sentence. Cleverly evading those who believe she, like her father, is a smuggler and Fenian collaborator, Eden does what she can, what she must to achieve her goal. When legal methods are exhausted, she dons a mask, carries a pistol and, using her wiles, wits, even her seductive beauty, robs wealthy citizens to amass enough money to arrange her father's escape.

Her life grows ever more complicated by the lustful attentions of several men who profess to love her, and the one man she loves but dares not trust. As her crimes worsen, culminating in what may be treason, and her enemies grow more dangerous and determined to apprehend her, she must run for her own freedom.






--Cat

Tuesday, June 04, 2019

Final excerpt -- The Queen of Paradise Valley

From chapter 46





He arrived in town well after sundown. The air was rife with the scent of bloodlust and greed. Packs of hunters patrolled the roads, individuals loitered along the wooden walkways. A platoon of gunslingers guarded the hotel, a restless crowd milled outside the jail. Abner Doyle's cottage was under surveillance, as was every South Street saloon.
Del prowled the back lanes, found a certain building. An unlocked window slid open without a creak. The dim chamber he entered reeked of death, embalming fluid, and something unpleasantly familiar.
He lit one of the candles the undertaker provided for his customers. A closed casket sat on a raised platform. When he pushed up the lid, Del knew at once why the aroma in the room was so familiar. It was her perfume, the scent of wilting flowers that suited her so well.
Yeah. Cinnamon curls arranged on a satin cushion, claw-tipped fingers folded upon her white-sheathed breast.
"Come to pay your final respects, Injun Boy?"
Before Del could turn, something hard slammed against the side of his head, propelling him toward the casket. The last thing he saw before he slid to the floor was Lonnie's plum-colored mouth, as lush in death as it had been in life.
When he came to, he felt something wet trickle down the side of his face. Propped in a chair, his wrists handcuffed in front of him, a rough sisal rope cinched around his neck, he couldn't see Stevy. But as the roaring in his ears abated he heard the man's breathing like he heard his own thundering heart. He reached for his boot.
“Looking for this?" Stevy stepped forward, Del's knife in one hand, the end of the rope in the other, a rifle balanced in the crook of his arm. "I figured you'd come here, and now I'm gonna get five thousand dollars for you." His grin convoluted the scars on his cheeks. "You don't need to worry none 'bout your Missus, not with Mr. Lord taking care of things. He was a mite upset when she was brung in and didn't want to see him, but he'll wear her down. He always gets what he wants. Now what he wants most is you dead."
As he spoke, Stevy wrapped the rope around his hand, tightening the noose until it bit into Del's neck. The gunslinger touched the tip of the knife to a spot beneath Del's ear. "I got an urge to test this knife. What part of you should I cut off and send to Mr. Lord?" The knife tip grazed skin. "Your ear? A finger? How about the part Miss Loretta liked best?"
He shook with silent laughter, seized Del’s braid, and with a sawing movement severed it. "You sure are quiet, Injun Boy. Well, get up now. We're going for a ride." He poked the rifle barrel between Del's shoulder blades. "Slow and easy. Horses is outside." He stopped beside the casket, dropped the black braid atop Lonnie's breast and lowered the lid. "Hell of a shame."


--Cat

Sunday, May 12, 2019

New excerpt--The Queen of Paradise Valley


From The Queen of Paradise Valley, chapter 42


They made a wild escape: dashed into the corridor past the watchman, down the stairs, and through the lobby. A mad escape: they ran into the street, leapt into Barbara's buggy, wheeled a tight circle in the middle of the road, and raced to the edge of town. Diana almost laughed out loud, but afraid she would sound hysterical, kept her mouth closed.
Several miles from town Barbara slowed the pace. She glanced over her shoulder and released a sigh. "No one followed. I was afraid he'd stop us."
“Mr. Lord? No. He wouldn't."
Barbara gripped the reins. "You've been ill, so you don't know what's happened. Mr. Lord has been using the drought to further his ends. His men have been poisoning water holes. Some children got sick last month but no one could prove who was behind it. Even on your ranch forty cows were lost. The men moved the herd high into the mountains. They guard them night and day. And they patrol the pastures because they fear another fire."
Diana’s head swam. A tiny regret that she had left the sanctuary of the hotel began to swell. She couldn't cope with any more disasters. Drought, poisoned water, fire--wouldn't it be easier to give Mr. Lord what he wanted? There would be no more troubles. And the pain would stop, wouldn't it? She'd be able to sleep, wouldn't she?
She shifted her gaze. The Sangres rose from a silken haze, towering kings with granite faces beneath glittering crowns of snow. Their shoulders were sheathed in pine mantles, their grass robes flowed like golden rivers.
Tears rose in her throat. Her mountains, her valley. There could be no truer sanctuary. The land was hers. And Del's. She couldn't let him fight for it alone.
“And mother has the payment for you."
"I don't know what you--"
"You mean he still hasn't told you?" More tsking. "Del bought mother's and six others' business loans, right out from under Mr. Lord's nose. That was back in February, and he gave them all six months before any payments were due."
Diana wiped her perspiring brow. "Any payment would go to Del."
"Diana, he put the mortgages in your name."
"My name--"
Barbara was driving past the ranch. Diana said, "Turn in. I must see what's left."
Though she frowned and shook her head, Barbara made the turn. Diana sat forward, her hands, her breath clenched. The parched earth, littered with shriveled grasses and stunted shrubs, their leaves black as if from frost, seemed to be slowly expiring. Stooped and withered cottonwoods dropped dry furled leaves like they did in late autumn.
As the buggy approached the crest of the long rise, Diana cried out in surprise. Where the house had stood, where she expected charred ruins, there was--nothing. It was gone, as if blown away by a powerful wind, gone without a trace, the hillside plowed and turned, a new field ready to be seeded.
She whispered, "Keep going." She felt disoriented. Her landmark was gone and she had no bearings, no way it seemed to tell north from south, up from down. She needed a new focus, a new starting point. She needed to find herself. She needed Del.
Ebony bounded toward them. Clem came running from the bunkhouse, as did Bullfrog, Windy, and Tag, who seemed a foot taller than when she’d last seen him. Diana stepped down and faced them, her heart tripping.
"Sure is good to see you, Miss Diana." Clem grinned, lifting his hat in salute.
Hands on hips, Windy turned to Bullfrog. "Didn' I say she'd be back?"



--Cat

Saturday, April 27, 2019

New excerpt - The Queen of Paradise Valley

Excerpt from chapter 39, The Queen of Paradise Valley: 

The fence was cut in five places along a stretch of meadow bordering Lord's property. Del and Clem rode along the line, but found no more gaps. Stoney and Jim recovered the few cows that had strayed and made repairs by lantern light.
"What d'you think?" Clem asked as they rode back. "I don't like this kinda trouble. The cows are restless enough with water holes drying up every day."
"Look around in the morning. Maybe you’ll find some clues." Though disturbed, Del wasn't going to let new worries interfere with his plans to have a long-overdue talk with Diana.
Clem sniffed the air. "Stinks kinda like–“ He stopped. “Will you lookit that?" Awe in his voice, he pointed to the house.
Del jerked on the reins. Brilliant light issued from the lower floor windows. The light of a thousand candles. Unbelievable. Impossible.
Ebony bounded forth, yapping. Diablo flattened his ears and, grunting, tossed his head, while Clem's horse pranced and whinnied. Clem said, "What the--" The front windows bulged as if the room behind was being inflated, and simultaneously exploded. Slivers of glass showered to the earth like burning raindrops. Smoke billowed from the yawning openings and formed pillars that ascended high above the roof.
"Hell!" Del set the mustang into a hard gallop and chased after Ebony. When Diablo snorted and skidded to a stop, Del jumped off and ran, gripped by an unnamed fear.
Pandemonium reigned in the yard. Men shouted as they ran about with shovels, beating out sparks as they fell. Where was Diana? Del swung about. Where in hell was she?
He shouldered through the men and found the servants: Alfredo in his shirtsleeves, struggled to hold the frantic dog; Teresa, hands to her heart, wailed, "Dio mio--;" Nita, tears glistening on her cheeks, tried to calm her mother; Marion, wild-eyed, hugged her thin shoulders.
Del shouted, "Diana--where--?"
Each of them turned about, eyes wide, as if Diana should be there with them. They stared at him, aghast.
Alfredo rubbed his knuckles across his brow. "Upstairs, she went--"



-- Cat

Friday, April 19, 2019

The Queen of Paradise Valley - new excerpt


From chapter 35



The honesty Del hoped for didn't happen the next day, or the several days that followed. Moving at a hard pace over rugged terrain, a distance he estimated at near a hundred miles, they were both too weary to do more than exchange occasional sarcastic remarks or belligerent glares.
Summer in the high country meant crisp nights and hot days, the heat intensifying whenever they descended into a protected valley. Despite the rigorous schedule, Del took time every third morning to shave, and every evening to wash layers of sweaty grime from his face, neck, and chest. Diana watched with her customary tight-lipped defiance. The dirt growing on her clothes and face, the pine needles and bits of grass webbing her hair, the mud on her boots--these were symbols of her independence, her freedom. What a monumental trial she was!
"I'm tired, Del. Can we stop and rest?"
He stopped and turned. Bathed in sweat, she drooped in the saddle, silent pleading in her eyes. Her bandanna hung at her throat like a limp rag, her stained shirt clung to her body, molding to her breasts.
They had spent hours in scalding sunlight on a difficult descent down a bare escarpment, and now the trail threaded through a shadowy forest. Dense young pines and shrubs muted the splashing sounds of nearby water. It was early afternoon, too soon to stop for the day, but in a shady clearing, Del dismounted and trudged through a row of aspens toward the sound.
A stream slid over a smooth rock bank and formed a gentle current around the perimeter of a small shimmering lake. A sandy delta fanned out below the rocks; on the other end the stream continued on its restless way. The margins bristled with cattails and reeds, beyond which orange marsh flowers dotted the green.
A lush corner of paradise. Del dropped his hat, rubbed grit from his eyes, and released his hair from a rawhide cord. Diana tossed her hat next to his, tugged off her boots and, rolling her breeches to her knees, waded into the water. Del shed moccasins and shirt and ran, lifted her by the waist and plunged into deeper water. They fell beneath the surface.
She rose gasping, streaming water, and batted at him. "You son of a--"
His laughter startled a flock of shorebirds into flight. "Even savages take baths." He returned to shore, shook himself, and squeezed water from his hair. She swam out, turned to stare at him. He bunched up his shirt and tossed it to her. "Wash this, will you?" The shirt floated in the water and sank. "I'll make camp in the clearing. You took a hell of a chance sleeping beside a stream. Where there's water, there's wild animals. Or wild mountain men interested in more than food." He paused. She had assumed a blank expression, her way of looking at a person that diminished everything he said and did.
Damn woman, crazy woman. What was she trying to prove? Why couldn't she once--just once--bend a bit? Why couldn't she--hell. If one of them had to crack, it wasn't going to be him.
He found her rolled blanket and returned to the lake, tossing it onto the shore. She watched him and turned away. Some gratitude would be nice.




--Cat

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

New Excerpt!

From chapter 31, The Queen of Paradise Valley




Del told her only that their cargo needed guards, so he and Clem and some hands would form an armed escort for the wagons. But as the days sped by it became harder to convince her to remain behind. A week before departure she still badgered him, declaring at breakfast, arms crossed, "You haven't given me one good reason why I can't go."
He stirred his coffee. "If there's trouble someone could get hurt, even killed."
Killer eyes, full force. "You know I shoot better than most men. If you’re riding shotgun, why can't I?"
He flashed an equally harsh gaze back. "Because no matter how hard you work at it, you're not a man,. Stop being unreasonable. I'm riding with the shipment. You're staying here." He set down his spoon. "Shouldn't you be out telling the men where to drill the seeds?"
"Stop changing the subject. Why don't you admit you don't want me along?"
Was she testing him? "Diana, I don't want you along."

She dropped the subject but her pique continued to fester. It did not seem unreasonable for her to be with Del when the copper was delivered and payment changed hands. Were they equal partners, or not?
Two mornings later she woke well before dawn to sounds of Del packing saddlebags. She dressed and followed him down the stairs. In the office he selected a pistol, shotgun, and boxes of ammunition from the gun cabinet, stepping around her as if she weren’t there.
She trailed him to the stable, where Clem and four others were mounted and ready to ride. Darkness cloaked the valley, the air was heady with the sweet fragrance of green growing things, underlaid by the ever present smell of thousands of warm-bodied cows. Birds chattered, a lightening sky above the eastern horizon indicated daybreak was imminent.
Del led out his horse and turned to her. "Aren't you going to say good-bye?" He tied back his hair and lowered his hat, rendering his features indistinct.
She linked her hands behind her back, muttered, "Good-bye."
He dropped the reins, strode to her and folded her into a hard embrace, his hands sliding down her arms to her wrists, pinning them to the small of her back. While she wriggled to escape, he bent his head and kissed her half-opened mouth with possessive ferocity. She responded with a dark passion that left her gasping.
One by one the mountain peaks erupted with bright vermilion light. Del's eyes were silver lamps burning beneath the brim of his hat. She pulled back. "Let me go. This is--indecent." Over his shoulder she saw the men gazing at the sky, at the ground, grins on their faces.
Rather than release her, Del tightened his hold. His face now bathed in warm golden light, he winked at her. "How can this be indecent after the things we did last night?"


Available at:


  

indigo   https://www.chapters.indigo.ca/en-ca/books/the-queen-of-paradise-valley/9781509217557-item.html?ikwid=The+Queen+of+Paradise+Valley&ikwsec=Home&ikwidx=0



--Cat

Monday, February 25, 2019

New excerpt from The Queen of Paradise Valley







From chapter 27



Clem waited in the house. "How you been, Miss Diana? Heard there was some trouble."
She hung her jacket and wool muffler in the hall, dropped her hat and gloves on a chair. "What did you hear?"
He hooked his thumbs into his vest pockets. “Well…you and Del had a big fight and you tried to kill him. 'Course, it's also been said he shot himself by accident."
"That's what he told the sheriff."
“Miss Diana--" Clem gave her a searching look, but she shook her head. No. She would not discuss the incident.  Teresa bustled down the stairs bearing a tray laden with empty dishes. Clem turned to her. "How's the patient today? Does he want comp'ny?"
"He is much better.” Her eyes were bright. “But he wishes to see the Signora."
Oh, no. Seeing Del was the last thing Diana wanted to do. "I don't have time now. Teresa, can you please get me a change of clothing from my room?"
With a shake of her head, the housekeeper declared, "You must get for yourself anything you want. You cannot delay seeing him. He is your husband and must be obeyed."
Clem smiled. "I'll be back tomorrow."
Engulfed by a torrent of angry thoughts, Diana didn't watch him leave. Husband? Well, yes. Master? No. Never.
But eventually she went to her room. So warm. Someone was keeping the fireplace well-fed lest the invalid get a chill. Without a glance at the bed, she strode to her bureau and opened a drawer. Why didn't he say anything? If he was asleep she could avoid a confrontation. She took a chance, looked into a mirror and saw her own pink-cheeked face, and Del, gazing at her with half-closed eyes, a cryptic smile on his lips.
Flustered by the weight of his gaze, she lifted several nightgowns out of the drawer, then turned to face him. "I needed some things. Teresa refuses to fetch them."
He didn't speak but continued looking at her. Propped up by pillows, a quilt drawn to his bandage, he was bare-chested, all black hair and hard muscles. Much too masculine for the lace trimmed pillowslips and the elegant roses embroidered on the quilt. Ebony dozed on the floor at the foot of the bed. Another traitor.  Like everyone else at the ranch.
She licked her dry lips. "Will you be able to move back to your room soon?"
A shrug lifted one shoulder. "Soon's doc says I can. Are you keeping my bed warm?"
"I've been sleeping in Randy's room." Face tingling, she hugged the clothes and looked aside. "Why don't you ask Alfredo to give you a shave?"
"Alfredo's busy. Why don't you do it for me?"
Her gaze swung back to him. "Ha. Put a razor in my hand I just might slit your throat."
“Diana." His tone was softly chiding and she stared at him in surprise. "I trust you. Why don't you trust me? Come sit so we can talk."
Despite her reluctance, she perched on a chair beside the bed and looked out the window.  What did he want to say? Why didn't he get it over with? She asked, "How do you feel?"
“Like I’ve had a bullet carved out of my side. Like I've had my flesh stitched together. Want to see it?"
"Oh no. No!" Embarrassed, she added, "I can't look. I–I have an aversion to the sight of human blood. I panic. I can look at animals covered with blood, dead or dying. But wounded people--never." Damn, she was jabbering. She rubbed her brow.  "I--didn't mean to shoot you. It--just happened."
Another awkward silence. At last he said, "I'm sure I deserved this. Go ahead, call me a miserable son of a bitch." He paused, but when she said nothing, he continued, "What do you think the sight of you half-undressed does to a man? Especially when he knows you aren't the saint you pretend to be? Why don't you stop acting the prude?"


— Cat