AnnMarie Invites You to the Back to Romance Give@way Event #99cent #ebooks #romance

BacktoRomanceGraphicFall is in the air and so is romance. I’ve teamed up with a group of authors to bring you a whole bunch of ebooks on special. Check out the great reads and amazing authors below. These are in many different romance genres – give something new a try.

As part of our event, we have a Rafflecopter. A fifty dollar Amazon.com GC is up for grabs. Check it out and enter here —-> Rafflecopter Link.

My contribution the event is Book 1 in The Ladies of Cascade Creek series.

Loving LucasLoving Lucas by AnnMarie OakesAudra 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.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble


Something TrueSomething True by Malia Mallory

Successful children’s musician Shelley Taylor sings for all kids, but especially the sick ones. After her little sister died in childhood, Shelley founded the music charity KC’s Kidz to entertain hospitalized children.

She didn’t sign up to babysit a rockstar.

Irish bad boy superstar Liam Smith is in trouble with the law–again–and needs to perform community service. KC’s Kidz seems like the perfect fit, especially since Shelley’s as curvy as his favorite guitar and he wants to play her.

Liam’s deep green eyes strike a chord in Shelley, and she makes him want to sing a different tune. But Liam lives in a spotlight so white hot it might burn them both before they discover the true music inside their hearts.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble


Lily's Summer CowboyLily’s Summer Cowboy by D’Ann Lindun

Afraid to love, Lily Halderman is determined to never feel despair like when she lost her husband to cancer. Left alone to continue their custom farming business, she struggles to stay afloat, both financially and emotionally. Until Will comes along to help with the farm, impressing her with his hard work ethics, and presenting a danger to her heart because he is just the kind of man she could love.

Will Wainwright is running from the pain of the past. Feeling responsible for the death of fellow soldier—the woman he loved—Will takes a job working for Lily, hoping the dawn-to-dusk labor will help him forget his sorrow. But, Lily’s grit and determination to move forward catches him off guard.

Friendship turns to passion … but can they heal one another?

Amazon


Rocket ManRocket Man by Melanie Greene

Steady, focused graphic artist Serena Colby has her life perfectly planned out. After a childhood being moved from one place to another, she’s got one overriding goal: a permanent home that’s hers and hers alone. Her career is on the rise and everything is lining up just right. That is, until disruptive copywriter Dillon Hamilton comes blasting into her workplace and spins her personal life out of control.

Serena tries to draw boundaries, but the gorgeous Dillon has a much different script for their lives in mind. He’s pulled towards Serena’s orbit, quickly ranking her skirts and memorizing the scent of her locally sourced organic shampoo. Serena struggles to remain unmoved by Dillon’s kinetic charm, even as she relishes their chats about their mutual passion, the Houston Rockets.

Though order-loving Serena shies away from Dillon’s messy complications, she can’t escape her fantasies. When Dillon’s determined pursuit leaves Serena breathless, it might just be ‘all systems are go’ for ROCKET MAN .….

Amazon | Barnes & Noble


The RingmasterThe Ringmaster by Erika Masten

Cirque de Plaisir. Circus of Pleasure. An upscale underground theatrical pageant of desire and allure. A masked BDSM spectacle bringing forbidden fantasies to life for the select few with the power, wealth, and influence to secure an invitation.

For Donovan Haigh, the man they all call Ringmaster, the Cirque de Plaisir is illusion, showmanship, and domination brought to the level of performance art. It is the culmination and affirmation of his grasp of human nature mixed with business acumen and sheer force of will. And no one dares ask what wounds and personal losses underlie the Ringmaster’s resolve to maintain that unwavering control.

For Olivia Keane, the Circus of Pleasure is a vision in the night, a hunger in the dark, and a promise of freedom couched in the terms of submission. Become the Ringmaster’s slave and escape the grasp of her manipulative, belittling family. Succumb to the tightrope-taut tension between the showman Dom and herself and blossom in the warmth of the spotlight and Donovan Haigh’s embrace.

But when the Ringmaster’s slave becomes the star of the show, drawing the lion’s share of attention and princely sums for private command performances, will Donovan be willing to share either the spotlight or his submissive? The Ringmaster’s hold on Olivia and his own self-control begins to fray as powerful admirers try to woo her away, and at least one suitor proves he is not who he seems. Old pains and family hatreds will not be so easy to escape for the Ringmaster and his slave, even in their secreted world of glamour and passion.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble


Winner Takes AllWinner Takes All by P.J. Adams

When a guy in a tux walks into a bar in the middle of nowhere, dripping wet from the storm, and pulls out a sodden roll of hundred dollar bills, you just know he’s going to be trouble.

Denny McGowan has lost his girl, his best friend and millions of dollars. All he has are the clothes on his back, the money in his pocket, an easy, wise-cracking charm that could melt the hardest of hearts … and two gangsters on his tail and out for revenge.

Cassandra Dane is down on her luck, and on the run from a father fresh out of jail. She’s probably the last girl you’d expect to hook up with someone as hot and exciting as Denny – and she knows it. But things are not always what they seem and sometimes you’re just on the tail-end of a string of bad luck and worse decisions.

When a one-night stand looks like becoming something more than that, Cassie must decide whether she can trust a complete stranger like Denny and work out what he’s really after. As matters of the heart become matters of life and death, Cassie has some tough choices to make.

And foremost among these: just how many chances do you give a guy like Denny McGowan?

Amazon | Barnes & Noble


Cold Moon RisingCold Moon Rising by Sarah Makela

Passions flare when the cold moon rises…

Kelly: a normal college girl, who knows what she wants—to survive her final exams, and find someone to share her life with. Studying with Jacob is becoming too hot to handle; she’s falling for him, but he’s going too fast…

Jacob: a not-so-typical frat guy, who hides a secret—he’s a werewolf. Whenever the moon is high, he’s driven to shed his human form and satisfy his powerful desires. He craves Kelly, but she’s pushing him away…

Fallout: Jacob can smell Kelly’s arousal, but she insists she doesn’t want him. A wolf can only take so much before his natural instincts win out. When the tension between them explodes, Jacob has no choice but to walk…

Amazon | Barnes & Noble


The Reluctant BillionaireThe Reluctant Billionaire by Danielle Duncan

When BBW Sophie begins her new job as chef in William Blackwell’s mansion, she wants a new start. Her last job led to a romance with her billionaire boss which ended in heartbreak. This time, she swears she’ll stay away from workplace romance…a vow that’s put to the test when she meets the enigmatic Rhys, one of the mansion’s gardeners.

William “Rhys” Blackwell might be a billionaire, but he still loves digging in his gardens. When he meets Sophie he feels instantly attracted to her. But Sophie says she doesn’t want to date anyone from the mansion, and Rhys knows that goes double for him, so he keeps his identity quiet. Maybe if she gets to know him first, she’ll change her mind.

In the midst of the growing attraction between Sophie and Rhys, they have other problems to deal with, too…a lawsuit, a billionaire ex-lover and more. In the end, there’s just one question: what are they willing to risk for a chance at love?

Amazon | Barnes & Noble


Outlaw RevengeOutlaw Revenge by London Casey

Emily didn’t want to go watch a bunch of bikers fight each other, and by the time the fight is over, her best friend is shot dead and Emily finds herself clutching the leather cut of a hot guy named Gaige as she’s on the back of his motorcycle, escaping gunfire.

As Vice President of Back Down Devil MC, Gaige Gaen’s world is consumed by the club, the life, and finding a way to make it all work. The last thing he needs on his plate – or in his bed – is a woman like Emily. He can’t stop looking at her, and he definitely can’t stop touching her. He promises to avenge the death of Emily’s best friend, Rachel, but then the situation takes a turn for the worse when Rachel’s father – a rich man hell bent on revenge – shows up and wants answers that the MC doesn’t have.

Emily is in fear of returning to a past she had escaped. She and Gaige can’t seem to stop their feelings for each other, and as her dangerous past digs its way into the present, Gaige and Back Down Devil are now in the line of fire.

The war in Emily and Gaige’s hearts rage on, but the war outside needs to be fought… the question is, who is going to make it out alive?

Amazon


Fall RushFall Rush by Meda White

Embry Harris is desperate to turn things around her senior year of college. She’s determined to make more responsible choices and rid herself of the stigma plaguing her. But because of her job and the hot bartender who goads her into making impulsive decisions, it isn’t going to be easy.

Stede Bennett’s mission since returning from his overseas tour is to get his degree. The last thing he needs is a spoiled sorority girl distracting him. Being a Marine taught him many things, except how to handle a beautiful woman in constant need of saving.

Protecting Embry from the jerk threatening to ruin her reputation is how Stede begins to lose his heart. Being empowered by Stede’s words is how Embry starts losing hers. If the schemer responsible for pushing them together gets his way, they could lose their chance for happiness.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble


My First My LastMy First My Last by Lacey Silks

Matured, more experienced, pierced, tattooed and hot as hell, Adrian steps back into Mia’s life to reclaim his first love.
And the moment she sees him she can’t even remember her own name.
Adrian Reed had always remained in Mia’s heart. After all, he was her first boyfriend and the man she’d lost her virginity to, but that was twenty years ago. His sudden appearance at a bar, on a girls night out, has Mia acting like the fifteen year old girl she was when they parted.
But life now is not as simple as it was twenty years ago. With two kids, a hopeful ex-husband and new insecurities, Mia finds opening up to a new relationship more challenging.
Will she give her first love another chance, or will she push him away, this time for good?

Amazon | Barnes & Noble

AnnMarie Oakes’ Loving Lilah 99 cents Now #historicalromance #westernromance #newrelease

Loving_Lilah_AnnMarie_Oakes_200x300

Because I have such awesome readers, I’m going to offer Loving Lilah at the sale price of $0.99 for one week! Check it out – thirty positive reviews already 🙂

On the run from the law … and falling in love.

Lilah Canton never expected to see her childhood neighbor Ash Thompson behind bars. Even more, she never expected to care. Ash needled her all through their childhood.

But discovering him in the Barden Falls jail stuns her. He’s accused of murdering the son of Abner Barden, the most powerful man in town, and they both know he won’t live to see a trial. Lilah’s the only one who can help him. Against her better judgment, she aids Ash’s escape.

Now they’re on the run from the law and a bounty hunter they can’t shake. Ash says they’ll be safe in the Colorado Territory, but first they have to survive the harrowing cross-country journey.

And Lilah has to decide how safe her heart is from Ash.

*****

Loving Lilah can be previewed or purchased at following retailers. Read on for an excerpt.

Amazon | Amazon UK | Barnes & Noble | All Romance | Apple iTunes | Smashwords

Coming soon to Kobo and paperback.

Spicy Excerpt

Ash soothed the jumpy geldings with soft whispers. He untied a rolled blanket from behind his saddle, shook it open, and tossed it on the ground.

When Ash turned, Lilah was right behind him, and she fetched up against his chest. As she gazed deep into Ash’s eyes, she saw strength. She saw reassurance. Her heart knocked wildly against her ribs. She leaned in and pressed her lips to his jaw.

Ash dipped his head and caught her mouth with his own. His tongue traced the curved seam between her lips and darted inside.

Lilah trembled and the warmth in her belly expanded. Her skin grew hot as a nameless need rose within her.

Ash’s hand tightened on her shoulder, and he eased her down onto her back atop the blanket.

Lilah didn’t protest. It never crossed her mind. Kissing Ash was as natural as a breeze and as inevitable as the sunrise. The warm tingle spreading through her body enthralled her and she ached for more. She wanted Ash to touch her everywhere, and her fingers itched to touch him in return.

Ash placed his palms on the rough fabric of the blanket and leaned over her, closing the space between them. When mere inches separated their bodies, he stopped and his eyes met hers.

Lilah blinked as she gazed into the expanding black of his pupils. Her lips widened into an unconsciously seductive smile. Her breasts burned for his touch and she reached out, placing her palm on his chest. But it wasn’t to halt him. It was an invitation, and her fingers curled into his shirt. She pulled him closer until the hard wall of his chest met hers, and her nipples puckered beneath the fabric of her sodden dress.

Ash settled himself beside her and pulled Lilah into his arms, sliding his hands over her back. As their bodies collided, Lilah shivered. She tilted her face toward his and he kissed her, lightly, tenderly, before taking her mouth with hungry passion.

Lilah twisted against him, longing to satisfy the craving within her. She gasped as he pulsed against her belly. Lilah wasn’t ignorant. She knew the nature of things between a man and a woman, but never in her most secret dreams had she imagined how the burn of desire would consume her. How was this possible? She loved Lucas, didn’t she? But Lucas had never made her feel like this, not even close. The hunger Ash roused made her schoolgirl fantasies of Lucas seem like a pale, distant shadow. She didn’t know when it had happened, but her infatuation for Lucas had evaporated, broken by the passage of time and Ash’s searing imprint upon her.

Ash slid his hand over her hip and up between their bodies. He flexed his fingers over her breast, and Lilah jerked and hummed with pleasure.

He rested his forehead against hers. “Lilah, I cannot tell you how much I want you. There aren’t words.”

*****

Loving Lilah can be previewed or purchased at following retailers.

Amazon | Amazon UK | Barnes & Noble | All Romance | Apple iTunes | Smashwords

Loving Lilah Released – The Newest Ladies of Cascade Creek by AnnMarie Oakes #historicalromance #westernromance

Loving_Lilah_AnnMarie_Oakes_200x300I’m excited to announce the newest entry into The Ladies of Cascade Creek series. Loving Lilah is now available.

On the run from the law … and falling in love.

Lilah Canton never expected to see her childhood neighbor Ash Thompson behind bars. Even more, she never expected to care. Ash needled her all through their childhood.

But discovering him in the Barden Falls jail stuns her. He’s accused of murdering the son of Abner Barden, the most powerful man in town, and they both know he won’t live to see a trial. Lilah’s the only one who can help him. Against her better judgment, she aids Ash’s escape.

Now they’re on the run from the law and a bounty hunter they can’t shake. Ash says they’ll be safe in the Colorado Territory, but first they have to survive the harrowing cross-country journey.

And Lilah has to decide how safe her heart is from Ash.

*****

Loving Lilah can be previewed or purchased at following retailers. Read on for an excerpt.

Amazon | Amazon UK | Barnes & Noble | All Romance | Apple iTunes | Smashwords

Coming soon to Kobo and paperback.

Spicy Excerpt

Ash soothed the jumpy geldings with soft whispers. He untied a rolled blanket from behind his saddle, shook it open, and tossed it on the ground.

When Ash turned, Lilah was right behind him, and she fetched up against his chest. As she gazed deep into Ash’s eyes, she saw strength. She saw reassurance. Her heart knocked wildly against her ribs. She leaned in and pressed her lips to his jaw.

Ash dipped his head and caught her mouth with his own. His tongue traced the curved seam between her lips and darted inside.

Lilah trembled and the warmth in her belly expanded. Her skin grew hot as a nameless need rose within her.

Ash’s hand tightened on her shoulder, and he eased her down onto her back atop the blanket.

Lilah didn’t protest. It never crossed her mind. Kissing Ash was as natural as a breeze and as inevitable as the sunrise. The warm tingle spreading through her body enthralled her and she ached for more. She wanted Ash to touch her everywhere, and her fingers itched to touch him in return.

Ash placed his palms on the rough fabric of the blanket and leaned over her, closing the space between them. When mere inches separated their bodies, he stopped and his eyes met hers.

Lilah blinked as she gazed into the expanding black of his pupils. Her lips widened into an unconsciously seductive smile. Her breasts burned for his touch and she reached out, placing her palm on his chest. But it wasn’t to halt him. It was an invitation, and her fingers curled into his shirt. She pulled him closer until the hard wall of his chest met hers, and her nipples puckered beneath the fabric of her sodden dress.

Ash settled himself beside her and pulled Lilah into his arms, sliding his hands over her back. As their bodies collided, Lilah shivered. She tilted her face toward his and he kissed her, lightly, tenderly, before taking her mouth with hungry passion.

Lilah twisted against him, longing to satisfy the craving within her. She gasped as he pulsed against her belly. Lilah wasn’t ignorant. She knew the nature of things between a man and a woman, but never in her most secret dreams had she imagined how the burn of desire would consume her. How was this possible? She loved Lucas, didn’t she? But Lucas had never made her feel like this, not even close. The hunger Ash roused made her schoolgirl fantasies of Lucas seem like a pale, distant shadow. She didn’t know when it had happened, but her infatuation for Lucas had evaporated, broken by the passage of time and Ash’s searing imprint upon her.

Ash slid his hand over her hip and up between their bodies. He flexed his fingers over her breast, and Lilah jerked and hummed with pleasure.

He rested his forehead against hers. “Lilah, I cannot tell you how much I want you. There aren’t words.”

*****

Loving Lilah can be previewed or purchased at following retailers.

Amazon | Amazon UK | Barnes & Noble | All Romance | Apple iTunes | Smashwords

AnnMarie Oakes’ Invites You to the Valentine’s Day Gift H0p #romance

ValentinesDayGiftHopWelcome to the Valentine’s Day Gift Hop! Thank you to our hostess Skye Warren 🙂

This week, authors and bloggers are giving away books, gift cards and even a Kindle Paperwhite!

All commenters on this blog will be entered to win a $10 Amazon.com gift card. Comment button is a bit hidden at the bottom.

Yesterday, I started thinking about what to do on Valentine’s Day with my husband. It will be a night in for us, as it is unlikely we could get child care and restaurants will probably be packed.

I saw some really nifty ideas on Pinterest for making a candy gift basket. You make some little tags and you stick them on candy. Something like “We were mint to be together” on a box of Junior Mints. I’ll share a few of the other ideas below.

Please feel free to give me some additional ideas in your comments!

I soda think you are amazing. (root beer)

I’m nuts about you. (peanuts)

We were mint to be together. (Junior Mints)

You are my sweettart. (Sweettart)

It’s a joy being married to you. (Almond Joy)

You stole a piece of my heart. (Reeces Pieces)

Life would be unbearable without you. (gummy bear)

You rock my world. (Pop Rocks)

I love to kiss you. (chocolate kisses)

I like the way you roll. (Tootsie Roll)

Bring on the suggestions!

*****

Loving Lilah, Book 2 in the Ladies of Cascade Creek, is on the way. If you haven’t checked out Book 1, Loving Lucas, here’s a little info!

lovinglucas2Audra 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.

Loving Lucas can be previewed or purchased at the following retailers.

Amazon | Amazon UK | Barnes & Noble | iTunes | All Romance | Kobo | Bookstrand

*****

Find the other stops on the hop here!

BloghopPrizes
To leave your comment, click the Comments under the Share This and Tags area below. Sorry it is so hard to find!

AnnMarie Oakes’ Stop on the Mistletoe H0p #MistleToeHop

Christmas Trees. Holiday Music. Sugar Cookies. Glitter and Bows. And Best Of All… the Mistletoe. Romance books enhance our holiday traditions. So hop around with us to celebrate the best romance books of the season.

Take a moment for yourself during this busy season and curl up with a good book!

All commenters on my blog will be entered to win a $5 Amazon.com gift card!

westernkisses-cover-3D-252x300I’ve been very fortunate this year to be a part of the USA Today Bestselling anthology Western Kisses – Old West Christmas Romances. Who knew so many readers wanted a Christmas-themed historical romance?

Western Kisses can be previewed or purchased on the following sites.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes | All Romance

Audra and Lucas, two character from my story Romancing Rosalie (from Western Kisses), have a book of their own!

lovinglucas600x900Loving Lucas Excerpt

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.

*****

Loving Lucas can be previewed or purchased at the following retailers.

Amazon | Amazon UK | Barnes & Noble | iTunes | All Romance | Kobo | Bookstrand

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Sneak a Peek at Loving Lucas #western #historical #romance #newrelease

lovinglucas600x900Welcome! I’m very excited to tell you about Loving Lucas – Book 1 in The Ladies of Cascade Creek series.

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.

Amazon | Amazon UK | Barnes & Noble | iTunesAll Romance | Kobo | Bookstrand | Smashwords

Blurb

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.

Excerpt

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.