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

New Release Excerpt from Romancing Rosalie by AnnMarie Oakes (Ladies of Cascade Creek) #historical #western #romance

Romancing_Rosalie_AnnMarie_Oakes_200x300Hi Readers! I’m very excited to release Romancing Rosalie as a stand alone novella. Please take a peek at the blurb and excerpt!

*****

Rosalie Weld’s fiancé has a mistress, and he doesn’t intend to give her up just for marriage. After breaking her engagement, Rosalie flees Boston for her cousin’s homestead in the Colorado Territory and it might just be the perfect refuge, if she can learn to accept the hard work and solitude of frontier life.

Even on her journey, she can’t avoid womanizers like Garrett Ballinger, who stumbles out of a brothel and straight onto the stagecoach. But Rosalie will be safe when she arrives in Cascade Creek; the local marshal will escort her to Audra’s homestead.

Trouble is, Garrett is the marshal and he’s plenty interested in the pretty Easterner. He may not be the man she thinks he is, but she can’t trust him–until she’s forced to. Can a Christmas miracle warm up Rosalie’s frozen heart?

*****

Romancing Rosalie can be previewed or purchased at the following retailers.

Amazon | Amazon UK | Barnes & Noble | All Romance

Coming soon to iTunes and Kobo.

*****

Excerpt

Rosalie winced as she stepped into the parlor. Her corset bit into her in places, rubbing her skin raw. Annie, her maid, always pulled it too snug. Rosalie’s mother took a keen interest in fashion and that meant wearing the latest styles with no regard to comfort. Her mother didn’t care for the looser dresses that some ladies were wearing. She deemed them inappropriate and forbade Rosalie from wearing one. After she married, Rosalie planned to take a greater hand in her own wardrobe. It was one of many benefits she anticipated would accrue to her after marriage to her fiancé, Winslow Dudley, in January.

Laughter rang out across the room and Rosalie made her way to the conversation group. As she approached, talking stopped and everyone avoided her gaze. Her closest friend, Katherine, immediately launched into a description of new hats she’d seen the previous day at Jordan Marsh, and soon conversation resumed.

Rosalie couldn’t shake the feeling that she’d been the topic of discussion and the surreptitious glances she intercepted cemented her opinion. There was no reason for anyone to be gossiping about her that she knew of. She was always very conscious of her comportment. Her mother never would have allowed it to be otherwise. Rosalie didn’t care to risk a week’s worth of lectures for a momentary lapse.

Tea was served and Rosalie took a place on a settee next to Katherine. “Did you purchase a new hat yesterday?”

Katherine didn’t meet her eye and her words came out in a rush. “Why no I didn’t, though they were lovely. I have so many hats already. I’m having a few new dresses made for Christmas. We’re doing so much entertaining after all, and I thought I’d see what I needed.”

“Is something amiss?” Rosalie and Katherine had always had a special kinship. Katherine’s mother was as domineering as Rosalie’s and they often took solace in one another’s company. Out of their common experience, true friendship had blossomed.

Katherine wrung her hands. “Of course not. Everything is quite fine with me. And yourself?”

“Everything is in place for the wedding, of course. I just hope the weather won’t be too harsh come January.” Cold and a dusting of snow wouldn’t interrupt the plans, but a full-blown snowstorm would be a disaster. Rosalie would have preferred to wait until spring or even summer, but she hadn’t been given the choice.

Katherine jerked at the mention of the wedding. Her fingers fiddled with the brooch pinned to her dress.

Rosalie placed her hand over Katherine’s. “I know something is bothering you. Is it your mother?” Rosalie spied the sheen of tears in Katherine’s eyes.

Katherine shook her head. “Perhaps you could offer me a ride home after tea in your carriage.”

Rosalie hid her surprise. “I’d be glad to.” Katherine’s suggestion was unusual, and though she was glad to grant the request, it made her uneasy. Rosalie’s discomfort grew until she suggested they take their leave early.

Katherine was more than happy to oblige and soon they found themselves tucked into the carriage, making their way through the streets of Boston. The coachman drove with care as the packed snow made the streets slick.

Only a moment passed before Katherine grabbed Rosalie’s hands in her own. “I’m so sorry. I … I guess everyone knows. Don’t worry though, it will blow over.”

Rosalie frowned. “Katherine, what are you talking about?”

“Winslow’s … situation.” Katherine released Rosalie and began twisting the ribbons that decorated her reticule.

Rosalie’s eyes widened in confusion. “I beg your pardon?” Winslow was a successful businessman. He hadn’t mentioned a concern of any kind in his business or otherwise.

“Oh dear, you don’t know?” A ribbon on Katherine’s reticule detached from her rough treatment and she stuffed it inside.

Rosalie could no longer hide her growing irritation and spoke more sharply than she would have wished. “Don’t know what? Katherine …”

Katherine’s hands flailed about as if seeking something new to grab on to. “About Winslow’s mistress.”

“Mistress? What are you talking about?” Rosalie took a calming breath as her agitation grew.

“His mistress.” Katherine shifted on the seat.

“Winslow doesn’t keep a mistress.”

Sadness settled onto Katherine’s face. “Yes, he does and she is … increasing.”

*****

Romancing Rosalie can be previewed or purchased at the following retailers.

Amazon | Amazon UK | Barnes & Noble | All Romance

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

Thank you for hopping!

Want to visit the other sites in the hop? CLICK HERE

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

Fall Into Winter Romance Give@way H0p *Winners*

westernkisses-cover-3D-252x300Thank you to all the wonderful sites that participated in the Western Kisses Fall Into Winter Romance Giveaway Hop!

It was a huge success!

I have several exciting things to share. Our Western Kisses Anthology is in the Amazon Top 100! Take a peek at the blurb below.

Without further delay, here are the lucky winners!

Grand Prize $50 Gift Card
Mandy Marie Earles

Ebooks Bundle
Chrisa Changala

Autographed copies of An Unexpected Widow
Shannon Noelle Patch
Paola Zuccaro

Romance Swag Bag
Rachelle Creech

$5 Amazon Gift Cards
Loree Naquin Hayman
Valerie Rhodes
Debbie Ann Hart
Ashley Anne Applebee
Saralyn Miller

*****

Western Kisses – Old West Christmas Romances

Amazon Top 100
#1 Victorian Romance
#1 Western Romance
#1 Holiday Romance

Kick off the holidays with five heartwarming romances from bestselling authors Kirsten Osbourne, Carré White, Anya Karin, Flora Dare and AnnMarie Oakes.

The Man from Cripple Creek by Carré White

After the ravages of Smallpox left her scarred for life, Willow Brady had resigned herself to spinsterhood. A chance meeting with a rugged stranger changes everything, as she’s drawn to his sadness, which mirrors her own.

Almost Lonely by Anya Karin

Lottie Wright’s home town of Almos, Texas, was a vibrant little farming community until just about everyone left, fearing the Civil War coming their direction. Now, she must come to terms with herself and finding love in the most unexpected places when outlaw-on-the-run Colton Howe appears on her doorstep.

Mail Order Matron by Kirsten Osbourne

After a life dedicated to her mother, Julia takes a chance and becomes a mail order bride. Edward, a lonely widower, has no hope that any woman will answer his advertisement. Will this unlikely couple find love together?

Unwanted Bride by Flora Dare

When Heloise’s beau choses her sister, she decides to start a new life as a mail order bride. But the man who wrote the letters isn’t the one she’s marrying, it’s his errant nephew. Can they move beyond their past and have a loving first Christmas together?

Romancing Rosalie by AnnMarie Oakes

When Rosalie flees Boston and her cheating fiancé for the Colorado Territory, it might be the perfect refuge, if she can accept the hardships of frontier life. Trouble is, Garrett Ballinger, the local marshal, is plenty interested in the pretty Easterner. Can a Christmas miracle warm up Rosalie’s frozen heart?

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

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

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.