This is a brand new release set in the Colorado Territory.
Take a look at the blurb and an extended excerpt below.
Loving Lucas is available for preview or purchase at the following retailers.
Audra Canton’s suitors have an odd way of making their case: they keep shooting at her. The Colorado Territory of the 1870s is tough on women alone; the two Canton sisters have no one but each other after the death of their father. All the locals want to marry Audra for the Canton homestead, and they’re not above scaring her into it. Audra needs help learning to protect herself and her sister.
That’s when Lucas Blake drifts into Audra’s life. She takes him on as a hired hand, though he’s anything but. He’s a lawman hot on the trail of a hardened criminal, and working the Canton homestead is the perfect cover.
But just when Audra thinks she’s out of the line of fire, Lucas accidentally puts her straight into the sights of a new, more deadly gun that makes her drunken suitors look like toy soldiers. Now Lucas and Audra must fight for their lives—and each other.
Lucas kicked away the small rocks and twigs on a flat section of ground. The smell of moist earth and pine trees filled his nostrils. It had been a long day of hard riding. He was bone tired and looking forward to rest. He laid out his bedroll over the scattered pine needles and glanced at the remains of his small fire. The coals glowed orange in the dark of the woods. They’d provide a bit of heat through the night but not much. He’d be chilled by morning at this elevation, even at this time of year. It was late spring and the forest was well past budding. The tips of the evergreens were bright green with new growth and wildflowers were popping up in every clearing.
Lucas moved his saddlebags to the side, but within reach, and placed his hat on top. He checked each firearm in turn, his rifle and two revolvers, and then slipped them under the edge of his sleeping pallet. Continuing his routine, he fingered his knives—one in his boot and the other at his waist.
As he eased himself down onto the blankets, the crack of gunfire ripped the air. He grabbed both revolvers and instinctively rolled into the underbrush before it struck him that the sound was far off. He stood up, holstered his weapons and ran to the nearby clearing where he’d left his horse.
Joe grazed lazily, undisturbed. He wasn’t prone to wandering off so long as he had food and water.
Lucas turned and headed toward the edge of the canyon. When he’d scouted the area, he’d come upon an established homestead that encompassed the canyon and the surrounding area. The gunfire came from that direction. He’d kept well clear of the perimeter of the tidy farm, not wanting to bring unwanted attention to himself.
He’d selected his campsite for its inaccessibility but now it hindered him. He hurried down the slope into the canyon, skidding in places. He caught himself on rocks and sturdy pines as he descended, scraping his palms and fingers. The canyon wall wasn’t sheer but it was steep and made slippery by fallen leaves and debris. A recent rain left his route muddy in spots and he slid more than once.
Lucas reached the canyon bottom as more shots rang out. He crouched a moment and then skirted the canyon wall using trees and brush for cover as he moved in the direction of the log cabin he’d spied earlier. He paused, honing in on the direction of the shooter, whose whooping and hollering traveled through the night air. Lucas flattened himself against the side of an outbuilding and stepped toward the corner. Sinking low, he peered around.
A good distance from the front of the cabin, a spark lit the dark as a gun fired. The bullet hit the thick logs of the cabin with a dull thud. Lucas crawled to the chicken coop. The birds inside were squawking at the disturbances to which they were being subjected. His nose twitched as the odor of ammonia hit. The coop needed a good cleaning.
“Now, you come on out, Miss Audra. I don’t want to hurt you none. I want to marry you!” The drunken shout was punctuated by another gunshot.
“It’s truuue!” The second voice sounded more soused than the first. “There’s two of us and two of you.”
Lucas didn’t like the sound of that. The implication that two women were inside the cabin made his blood run cold. Did those drunks think that shooting at the cabin would reassure anyone?
“You two come out and we’ll stop shooting!” Another slug lodged itself into the outside wall of the dwelling.
Two shots exploded from the cabin, one after the other. Buckshot flew everywhere, falling far short of the targets. The chickens renewed their squawking protest.
“Hey now! Don’t be shooting at us!” The indignant screech was followed by another gunshot and the sound of shattering glass.
Lucas shook his head. That was enough. He slipped away from the chicken coop and into the trees, skirting around toward the location of the shooters. He came upon two horses tied to a tree. The mounts were prime horseflesh with quality gear. Lucas considered turning them loose, but he wanted these men to ride out and quick like.
He moved silently, tree to tree, until he knew he was close. Glowing moonlight fell on the outside of the cabin but it was completely dark inside. He discerned two hulking shadows barely visible at the edge of the trees.
One man stepped forward into the clearing, shaking his gun in the air. Lucas aimed and pulled the trigger. The man let out an outraged howl as he fell. Lucas had gone for the leg, not wanting to deal with a killing. He’d hit something, but it wasn’t clear what. He melted back into the trees.
“Damn bitch! She done shot me!” The injured man emphasized his outrage by shooting into the air.
“Well, hell, I knew this was a bad idea. How you gonna explain that to the boss?”
“I don’t give a shit. Help me on my horse. Let’s get the hell out of here.”
Lucas crawled back to the chicken coop and crouched in the darkness. The birds were quiet but still fluttering about inside. He heard the two men ride away. He’d have to check the house. At least one bullet had made it inside and someone could be injured. However, he didn’t want to get shot at himself. He considered his options.
Lucas called out, “Those men are gone now. Do you need help?” The night air was still and becoming chilled as the residual heat of the day faded from the ground.
Silence was the only answer. Damn. Maybe they couldn’t respond.
There were no windows on the chimney side of the cabin and he approached from that direction. “Hello? Can you hear me? I’m here to help.” He didn’t blame them for not answering. After all, they didn’t know him from a hole in the ground.
He moved silently down the rough, exterior wall and edged onto the slumping porch. “My name’s Lucas. Is anyone hurt?”
The front door opened a crack and a shotgun barrel appeared. “What do you want, Mister?” The woman’s voice was young but steady.
“I heard the shots from my camp. I came to see what was happening.” Lucas kept his voice low and smooth.
“Some drunken fools decided to pay us a visit is what happened,” the feminine voice answered tartly.
“Apparently so.” Lucas coughed to suppress his chuckle. He knew it was no laughing matter. The danger had been real. But something about her indignation struck him as humorous.
“That John Duncan was carrying on about being shot. I know I didn’t hit him. Was that you?” She sounded merely curious and not one bit concerned about the injury.
“I must confess, ma’am, that I did try to hasten their departure.” Maybe humor would help to defuse the tense situation.
“I suppose you better come in.” The door swung open.