I'm thrilled to have fellow SCP and Tuesday Tales author Kathleen Ball here on a special Friday edition of my Author/Book Spotlight. Her newest historical western, Cinders' Bride, just released this week!
Blurb- Shannon McMurphy travels to Asherville, Texas as a mail order bride expecting to marry a rancher. Instead, her intended is a saloonkeeper. Her refusal to marry enrages John Hardy and he slices her cheek with a knife so no other man would want her. She runs into the street and no one helps her until Cinders comes along.
Sexy, Rancher Cinders saves Shannon and offers her a job. To protect her reputation he marries her. They both agree it’s a marriage of convenience. He admires her spunk and willingness to learn everything about surviving the Texas frontier. He waits for her to ask to go home but she never does.
They learn a lot about each other through, stolen horses, Indian troubles, a cattle drive and the busybodies of the town. Their attraction for each other grows, but can they learn to trust enough to love?
Shannon McMurphy jolted awake as the stagecoach came to an abrupt stop.
“Asherville, Texas folks!” The driver yelled.
“This is it, Asherville, Texas,” the brown-toothed man sitting across from her announced. He spit once again on the stagecoach floor and leered at her. “Are ya sure ya want to get hitched to Ole John Hardy? I can be your husband if ya like.” He leaned toward her and she quickly turned her head from the fetid smell of his rotting teeth. She wished he wouldn’t speak.
Shannon shuddered, trying not to glance at him. He’d made her uncomfortable with his stare the whole last leg of her trip. Until then there had been other passengers and he behaved himself, but now she never wanted to be in his company again. Opening the shade, she looked out the coach window. The bright sun made her eyes squint from the glare.
It didn’t look to be much of a town but beggars couldn’t be choosers, and in this situation, she was definitely the beggar.
The driver opened the door, and Shannon expected to get off first, but the nasty passenger pushed past her and left. Maybe this is what manners are in the West.
The driver extended his hand. She took it and carefully stepped out of the stagecoach. Taking a deep breath, she released his hand and glanced around. Where was Mr. Hardy? He promised to meet the stage, but she saw no one else on the wooden walkway. He was probably delayed at his ranch. Being a successful rancher must be hard work.
The driver put her bag down next to her and she smiled her thanks. “You wouldn’t know—”
“I usually drive straight through Asherville. I have a schedule to keep and can’t stand around jawing. Never had time to meet the folks.” He stroked his black mustache and shrugged. “Someone will be by to pick you up. A man would have to be crazy to leave a pretty gal like you standing out here alone and unescorted.” He climbed back on the coach, grabbed the reins and yelled. “Haw!”
Not one to stand around waiting for something to happen, she grabbed her bag and strode down the boardwalk. There wasn’t much in the town to recommend itself. The biggest building was the saloon followed by the mercantile. On the other side of the street, she saw, a place called Eats and next to it was a barbershop. Somehow, through Mr. Hardy’s letters, she anticipated booming town, not a sparsely populated wide spot in the road. There was a sign on the bank, which said, closed, and someone had nailed a plank of wood across the door to the Sheriff's office.
She plodded to the mercantile hoping they’d know where her intended could be. If nothing else, the store would get her out of the blazing sun. She stopped before entering and slid her hands down her skirt trying in vain to remove some of the dirt and wrinkles. All she'd created was a big puff of dust around her. What she wouldn’t give for a bath, but it would have to wait. Maybe she could ask for a cup of water to wash away some of the grit in her mouth.
The bell dangling above the door rang as she entered the mercantile, and immediately everyone stopped and stared at her. She always believed that first impressions mattered greatly but there was no help for it now. Plain and simple, she was covered in dirt. Smiling, she nodded in greeting to the customers.
A tall, well-dressed woman in her thirties, patted her dark hair in place. She stepped from behind the counter and headed right for Shannon, putting forth a big, gracious smile. “Welcome. You must be new around here. I’m Edith Mathers, and I'm the proprietor of this fine establishment. Are you and your husband settling in our town?”
“It’s so nice to make you’re acquaintance. Actually, I’m here to marry John Hardy. Perhaps you could tell me where I might locate him?”
A hush fell over the entire store. As she glanced around, she noted many patrons staring at her with their mouths dropped open.
“Do you think he got tied up at his ranch? If it isn’t far perhaps I could rent a driver and a buggy to get out there?” A few of the customers whispered to each other. Her heart thumped painfully against her ribs as a shiver went up her spine. “Is something wrong?”
Edith took her bag from Shannon and led her to a fine upholstered chair near the window. Edith gestured for her to sit down. “Oh dear, how should I say this?”
Shannon sat in the chair and her shoulder slouched. “Is he dead?”
Patting Shannon’s hand Edith shook her head. “No, honey, John doesn’t own a ranch. Oh my, what did you say your name was?”
Her stomach knotted and she felt the blood drain from her face. He didn’t own a ranch? He deceived her. “Mrs. Mathers my name is Shannon. What do you mean? Do you know where he is? I’d like to talk to him.”
“He’s at the saloon. He owns it.”
Shannon jumped up. “Is it all right if I leave my bag with you? It appears I have something to straighten out.”
Edith nodded. “Of course.”
Seeing something akin to pity as she passed by the other customers, she lifted her chin and straightened her back as she marched down the walk to the saloon. The scarred, wooden, swinging doors intimidated her. They were imposing as she stood gazing at them trying to gather her courage. A saloon? There had to be a mistake.
The clinking glasses and roars of laughter stopped the moment she stepped through the doors. She didn’t care if they gawked at her, she had to locate Mr. Hardy and get an explanation.
“It’s not often we get a pretty little thing like you entering my place.”
Her heart dropped when she set eyes on the speaker. She studied the rotund man with dirty, greasy, dark hair and the look of the devil in his eyes.
“Are you John Hardy? The John Hardy who proposed marriage to me?” She held her breath wishing for him to say no.
“You must be my Shannon.” He smiled showing the lack of bottom teeth. He stepped in front of her and peered her up and down, his gaze lingering on her breasts. Putting his arm around her waist, he turned so they were both facing the rag tag bunch in the saloon. “What do you think fellas? A new one to add to my little doves?”
The crowd cheered as she tried to loosen his bruising grip. “Now look here, you disgusting liar! You misrepresented yourself. I’m not marrying you or becoming one of your little doves. I’m sure I can find another groom much better than you.” She wrenched free from him.
“Better than me?” he snorted, his voice full of anger.
“Not better than you, I meant someone more suited to me is all.” Glancing out of the corner of her eye, she could tell he wasn’t buying it.
“Are you refusing to marry me?” His body tensed and his eyes narrowed as he grabbed her arm again.
Without thinking, she nodded. The back of his hand flew at her face and sent her crashing into the wall. She stumbled and lunged for the door, but John grabbed her by the hair and led her to the bar. With his elbow, he pinned her head to the countertop as he yanked her hair, forcing her to face him. Quickly she lunged for the door, but John grabbed her by her hair and led her to the bar pinning the side of her face to the top.
Fear paralyzed her and she couldn't move or breathe as John slid the knife blade across her face. The throbbing pain made her scream as he threw her out the doors and onto the dirty street.
John followed and laughed as she wiped the blood from her split lips. “No one will want you now. You might as well get inside before everyone sees how hideous you are.”
Reaching up she touched her throbbing painful cheek and felt the blood before she brought her hand in front of her to confirm it. He’d slashed her face with the knife. The pain almost blinded her as spots crowded her eyes, but she held on. “I’d rather be dead than be with you.” Her voice trembled as she tried to put on a brave front.
John growled and stepped closer. “I can arrange that for you.” His dark eyes flashed at her and she saw such darkness in his eyes that she truly believed him capable of killing.
The world seemed eerily quiet as she pushed herself up from the hard packed dirt, only to fall back down. Her ankle hurt. Tears filled her eyes, as she glanced around. There stood the women from the mercantile, staring, and their eyes full of terror. She’d get no assistance from them.
John Hardy strutted into the street and laughed while he gestured for two of his men to pick her up. “Come on, honey, it’s time for our honeymoon.”
She heard the clomping of hooves and the turn of wagon wheels behind her but the wagon didn’t stop to help her either. By this time, a crowd had gathered and now there were men standing with the group of women. She tried to plead for help with her eyes but they glanced away.
Two men grabbed at her to haul her back into the saloon when a loud cocking of a gun erupted from behind.
“Put her down.” A man's voice threatened.
John stepped forward, thrusting out his chest. “Listen, Cinders, this is none of your business. It’d be in your best interest to leave things be.”
The world began to dim and spin, the smell of blood was the last straw. She fainted.
Links Amazon- http://amzn.com/B010MH9DQ2
Other news—Finalist in the 2015 RONE Award for Spring’s Delight
Sexy Cowboys and the women who love them...
Finalist in the 2015 RONE Awards
Finalist in the 2012 RONE Awards.
Top Pick, Five Star Series from the Romance Review.
Kathleen Ball writes contemporary and historical western romance with great emotion and memorable
Her books are award winners and have appeared on best sellers lists including
Amazon's Best Sellers List, All Romance Ebooks, Bookstrand, Desert Breeze Publishing and
Secret Cravings Publishing Best Sellers list. She is the recipient of eight Editor's Choice
Awards, and The Readers' Choice Award for Ryelee's Cowboy.
There's something about a cowboy..