Friday, June 29, 2012

The Wild Bunch: Casa (PG13+ excerpt)

The Wild Bunch: Casa by Deirdre O'Dare

I might add that the three stories are available in a print volume tittled simply The Wild Bunch and can be found on my page at

Blurb: Spark, Stace, and Casa have been best buddies since their high school rodeo days. Now they work for a very special guest ranch that caters to gay men who need a break and escape from their high stress fast lane lives. Rainbow Ranch has a reputation for providing precisely the Wild West adventures each guest needs and desires with the cowboys of their hottest dreams.

Casa is worried when he sees Stace and Spark have found special partners in guests who’ve visited the ranch the past few months. He hates to be the only one left, but he doesn’t think that will work for him. He’s carried a secret torch for his boss way too long to change now. When Jason is hurt in a rodeo accident, Casa is the one who steps in to help and keep things going while Jason recovers. A few small incidents lead him to wonder if maybe—in spite of all that says it is impossible—Jason might be a little bit interested too. Having dealt life long with prejudice because he is Latino, Casa is afraid to let the other man know. Will matters be taken out of his hands?

Stace’s new partner Jared bears a striking resemblance to Jason which makes the three cowboys wonder. Is there some connection and maybe bad blood between the two men? In an effort to bring the two face to face, the three cowboys engineer a barbeque, unsure whether the result will be terrific or terrible.

Excerpt: (This is after Jason's accident as he is struggling to handle the ranch from his office unable to get out and take an active role.)
That afternoon, Casa and Spark worked together to change shoes on several of the horses. Casa pulled the old shoes off one horse, while Stace trimmed the hooves and tacked new ones on another. Casa jumped when his cell phone vibrated against his right hip where he wore it clipped on his belt. Dropping the Paint's leg, he fumbled for the phone. The short text on the screen snagged his total attention. Need U N office. The words came from Jason, of course. An icy chill snaked down Casa's spine, along with an immediate hunch something was wrong.

"Gotta go take care of somethin'," he said to Spark as he headed from the barn. "Be back to finish with old Splash in a bit." The red-and-white Paint had gained the name both for his splotchy coat pattern and his habit of ducking his head in the water trough and shaking it with wild abandon, splattering water everywhere.

Casa led the horse into a stall so he could relax until the cowboy returned. He hoped it would not be long. If it was, Spark had sense enough to see to the horse.

"Okey-dokie." Spark muttered his response around a mouthful of horseshoe nails. He did not even look up as Casa hurried past him.

When Casa got to the main house, he went straight to the office, skidding to a stop when he saw Jason on the floor. Clearly, the other man had slipped and fallen and now could not get up without some help. His right knee and ankle were both immobilized by the cast. He wore only a pair of cutoffs and moccasins since the weather had turned warm and he wasn't outdoors much these days.

"Hey, boss, you aren't supposed to work on the floor," Casa said. "What happened?"

Clearly embarrassed to be helpless, even briefly, Jason muttered a curse. "I was getting some paperwork out of the file cabinet, bottom drawer. Damn phone rang. When I turned around to go answer it, my lousy cast slipped on the tiles. I couldn't grab anything fast enough to keep on my fuckin' feet. Son of a bitch! Why did I have to do something so stupid?"

Casa wasn't sure if Jason referred to his current predicament or the initial arena accident, but his heart went out to the other man. It was no fun to be stove up, hurting and not able to manage your normal routine. He sensed how embarrassed and angry Jason felt and tried to handle the situation with as much calm panache as he could.

"Shit happens. You didn't hurt yourself any more, did you?"

Jason shook his head and snorted. "Only my pride. If you can give me a hand to get back on my feet, we can try to forget this happened."

Casa stooped, allowing his boss to put one arm over his shoulders. With his own arm around Jason's body, Casa straightened and lifted. Using his sound leg, the other man levered himself up. Once back on his feet, Jason swayed a few seconds, trying to regain his balance. The foot-square tiles that floored the office were shiny as glass and almost as slick. The metal heel bracket on the cast wanted to slide on them like the blade of a skate.

Keeping his arm around Jason's waist, Casa held him steady. All at once, a keen slash of awareness swept through him. As dark eyes met hazel, Casa saw Jason felt it, too. He'd already experienced a warm joy knowing Jason had chosen to call him instead of one of the others. The trust that choice implied meant a great deal. Now, standing intimately close, near enough to feel each other's suddenly accelerating heartbeats and quickened breath, that warmth escalated to a searing heat.

Casa lifted his free arm, brushed his fingertips along the lightly stubbled line of Jason's jaw. He looked into the clear steady eyes inches from his and saw the tangled emotions mirroring his own. Jason's lips quirked, one corner lifting in a crooked grin. Beneath Casa's other hand, the bare skin of Jason's back felt warm and inviting.

"Hey, is this a simple case of proximity and maybe goin' without too long...or something else?" Jason's words seemed to be meant as a joke, yet they still sounded intense, laden with meaning.

Against his hip, Casa felt the throb of Jason's cock through the layers of denim. His own had gone iron-hard in seconds and strained against his fly. Blood surging everywhere but his head left him dizzy. If he let go of Jason, he'd likely end up on that floor himself.

As Jason's question soaked in, Casa gulped. Was he ready to make a confession? Could he risk blurting the long-withheld words that crowded his throat? Once said they could not be recalled. In a flash, he decided against it. This wasn't the time. He wanted to be sure Jason knew sympathy or pity had absolutely nothing to do with this attraction. When the time was right, if it ever came, he'd spill it all, but not now, not here.

Risking letting go instead of acting on his powerful urges, Casa lowered his arm and stepped back. He concentrated grimly on keeping his own footing while he watched to be sure Jason was able to do the same.

After a moment, he had both his physical and mental balance back. "A touch of the hornies, I 'spect." He forced a chuckle. "We'll survive. You okay now? I left ole Splash with three shoes off and one still on. Best get back and take care of that if you're all right."

Jason nodded, took a cautious step toward his desk and then another. "Yep, I'll be a little more deliberate when I go to move from now on. Thanks." He paused. "I'd appreciate it if you'd keep this to yourself, okay?"

Casa nodded. "You bet." He waited to be sure Jason got to his desk without incident. Then he hiked back to the barn and resumed his farrier task.

Even concentrating on the job he could not quite tear his thoughts away from the sensations of Jason's strong body pressed against his side, the fierce current that had flowed for a short time between them. He might be crazy, but something told him Jason felt at least a hint of the powerful longing Casa had nurtured in secret for five years.

Wow. Oh man. What if...

He didn't dare think that notion through, but even the slightest trace of it sent a sizzle of raw energy along every nerve. Then he felt a stir of defiance.

Well, why not? Spark has his Italian Stallion and Stace got his Hollywood Hero, so why not someone for me?

But for that someone to be Jason? The thought both scared and elated him. After admiring and lusting after Jason from a distance for so long, it was hard to visualize a real connection, coming together to discover what Casa saw his two buddies had gained. He'd managed to tame the burgeoning hard-on before he got back to the barn, knowing Spark would give him all kinds of hell if he noticed and want to know what was going on. That was the last thing Casa wanted to deal with right now. Private dreams were simply that, private. That's what they needed to remain for the time being, too.

Time for a new featured work

The next release as I count forward toward today was The Wild Bunch: Casa which released in September 2011. It is the final installment of my Wild Bunch series and wraps up the subplot that ran through all three tales. Casa was my favorite of the cowboys in many ways, He's a Latino and grew up on a Texas ranch where his parents worked, knew poverty and hard times. He had tried to find his fortune in rodeo with his two buddies, Stace and Spark, and then came with them to work on Rainbow Ranch. He's found his niche there and a haven he cherishes. He too has been a love 'em and leave 'em tumbleweed and never settled with a long term relationship. That's partly because he developed a big crush on his boss when the three first went to work for Jason. He knows he is probably too young and certainly too far below his hero in social standing and much else but he knows that even if Stace and Spark slowly pull away from their ties to the ranch with their new loves, he will stay--until doomsday if it comes to that. As with Spark, it takes an unexpected and near tragic situation to break the inertia and start a chain of events that will lead to a happily ever after, or at least happy for now conclusion for the third of our cowboys.

Again the setting is in Grant County, New Mexico. Most of the places are fictitious but the area is very real and one of which I am quite fond. It's ranch country, rugged wild country for the most part, some real wilderness with no roads and not a lot of human intervention. The tragic fire this summer proved just how rugged and remote parts of it are--the fire actually burned in several counties but the area I feature is kind of the gateway to the Gila Wilderness. At this moment, the blaze is still  not out but contained in some very rough areas where there is no threat to property and little to human life. The summer rains will douse it this month, probably, and also wreak some havoc in flooding as bare slopes shed the water and debris rushes with it to clog canyons and rivers. But that is not part of this story... The region can live pristine forever in the tales I've set there. And a couple of pictures as I lasts saw it...

Sunday, June 24, 2012

A glimpse of "Indian Country"

I am not sure where this shot came from or how it wound up in my picture collection but it really spoke to me and still does. This scene could be right out of Powerful Medicine, or you might see Adam Bolt of Rez Dogs and Scooter Trash zipping down this two-laner on his Harley.

I grew up with Arizona Highways magazines in the house--and many pictures a bit like this. The venerable editor of the magazine for decades, Raymond Carlson, often called Arizona, "The land of room enough and time enough." That is a pretty good description of the Rez as well--at least the region of the Navajo and the Hopi in the northeastern part of Arizona and a bit of New Mexico.

I drove across there a couple of years ago coming back to Colorado, then home, from a trip to the south. I can see in my mind a quilt, one of the pictorial ones, that shows the incredible nature-sculpted buttes and bluffs in their many colors, the expansive sky probably strewn with clouds like this one, and the tough foliage that grows in spots in the red sand. Maybe someday I will make it. But anyway, if you read either tale, visualize this scene as a backdrop for some of the action. It's the high desert country that my spirit calls home and that's why I write a lot of what I do.

The other two pictures are mine, not as great but then I am not a pupil of Ansel Adams or Joseph Meunch! Were that I had their talents.... Yes, the sky really is that blue--this was in mid-September after the summer rains were gone and before winter began to approach so it was the clear, bright days of early fall. Which happens to be my favorite season when I am in my heart's home....

Excerpt and info: Homeless in Heaven PG-13+

Homeless in Heaven by Deirdre O'Dare

This is not my favorite cover and does not represent the two men in my story but it gives the feeling and mood very well. Merl might have been bigger and burlier and rougher looking and Nate was not dressed in a suit nor the 'high and mighty' one yet the feeling is there--a man with everything and one with nothing but his pride and dignity....

Homeless for over two years, Merl has hunkered down to endure a second winter in Eden, Colorado. He has lost the ability to trust or accept kindness as anything but a sneaky attempt to weaken for an attack. He sells aluminum cans and other trash to survive, knowing he should attempt to get back into the mainstream but he lacks the will to try.

Nate has led a sheltered and privileged life as the only child of wealthy older parents, now deceased. He is working on a photo journalism piece about the homeless people in Eden when he first encounters Merl. The big man impresses him so much that when an early blizzard hits, he goes back to the camps try to bring Merl and others to shelter in his own home.

Can he win Merl’s trust and cooperation in an effort to provide positive long term help to other homeless people in the area? Even more important, can he forge a real partnership with the suspicious older man?

Excerpt: (Meet Merl and Nate)
Late November

Eden, Colorado

Merl Weishart hefted the lumpy black bag and settled it on his shoulder. About thirty pounds. Even at the current prices for aluminum, oughta be enough for a hot meal.

He'd collected soda cans for over a week to fill the bag. With the bite of the north wind ahead of an approaching cold front, a hot meal would be good, almost necessary.

Smartest thing would be to buy the food and fix it himself. Still, it would be nice to sit inside at a table to eat for a change. The makeshift stove in his camp cooked, but not very well, and he had no table, much less a chair. Juggling a tin plate on his knees made mealtime awkward. The tent and tarps he'd rigged for his shelter cut the wind some, but from now until spring, warmth was going to be a stranger to him.

Since this would be his second winter in the homeless camp straggling along Goldrush Creek, he knew what to expect: cold and more cold. There would be lots of days when all he could do was huddle in his old army sleeping bag and wait for the snow to stop and the blizzard winds to die down. Cold was bad, but wind and getting wet made it worse. A man could freeze. Some did. Several had died in the camp last year. Although he wasn't sure why, he chose to survive if there was any way he could. Surrender, quitting, giving up, and death were not options.

Damned if I know what I'm living for, but life still feels better than death. Maybe someday I'll figure out why.

He settled the bag into an easy balance and started off at a brisk pace. The recycle place down on VanAlwyn Street was a good two miles away, so no use poking along. The sooner he got there, the sooner he'd have a few dollars in his pocket and the means to get that meal.

* * * *

Nathan Bloom turned the fuzzy collar of his down parka up around his neck against the biting wind.

I'm certifiable, coming out when I could be home in a cozy house. But the light today with these broken clouds is perfect. It'll set off the starkness of the camp and the pathos of the situation. I ought to be able to get some great photos.

He shifted the classic Nikon and the Canon digital cameras that hung around his neck, gloved hands a bit clumsy in the effort. To actually use the cameras the gloves would have to come off, but he'd wait until he was ready to shoot before he removed them. Otherwise, his hands would be too stiff to operate the controls.

Looking ahead, his gaze probed down the path meandering along the creek under disordered platoons of towering trees, now leafless. The stark, barren shapes added to the bleak mood. He snapped a couple of fast shots in hopes of capturing the feeling. When he looked back at the path, he checked the stride he was about to make.

His gut clenched with brief anxiety at the sight of the man who approached him. The fellow looked like a grizzly bear or a gorilla in mismatched cold weather clothes. The first item was a hugely bulky parka, mostly red with patches of other colors scattered here and there. The pants might once have been blue, but now were a dull gray-brown, as if coated with grease and soot. A ragged wool cap striped in red and dirty white topped his head. Twigs and wisps of rich brown hair poked out from under it, hair that matched the tangled beard hiding most of the man's face. He carried a bulging bag on one shoulder, probably one of those heavy-duty black construction-weight trash bags.

On second thought, the man really did not look threatening, just rough and very big. Nate drew his gloves off and readied a camera. When the man drew close enough, he spoke a greeting.

"Hello. Not the greatest day, is it? Would it be all right if I take your picture?"

The big man halted, a quizzical expression crossing the visible part of his face. "Me? Why would you want a picture of me?"

"I'm working on a photo-journalism piece about our local homeless camps and the people in them. You look like a unique member of the camp residents, maybe a leader? Not many of them display the vitality or size you carry."

The big man shrugged. "Nope, hardly a leader. Kind of a loner, I guess. Oh, I'll try and help if somebody's being bullied by other campers or hassled by the cops, but mostly I keep to myself. But if you want a picture, I don't care."

Nate raised the Nikon and snapped a couple of pictures, centering the man's bulk against the glowering clouds piling up to the north. Then he got a couple of shots with the digital.

"What's your name?" he asked, more to buy a few more minutes than from an actual desire to know.


"Just Merl?"

The man shrugged again. "That's all there is of it anymore. Used to have two names and even a title of sorts in front of them, but that was in another life. How about you?"

"My name's Nate Bloom. I live here in Eden, about a mile to the west." He held out a hand before he put his gloves back on. The big man wasn't wearing gloves. He shifted the bag to his left shoulder and met Nate's offered clasp.

"Pleased to meet you, Nate." Although the big man's hand felt cold, a strange sizzle of energy still zipped up Nate's arm from the contact. He noted the other man did not squeeze hard, although the clasp felt firm and positive. Well, you wouldn't expect a limp shake from such a bear of a man, would you?

"I need to be getting along," Merl said. "Gotta get these cans sold down at Kardamian's Recycling today. You be careful, Nate. Most of the folks here are okay, but there are a few rotten apples--they'd shove you in the creek to take your coat, maybe try to rip off those cameras to pawn."

Nate saw what seemed to be genuine concern in the other man's deep-set dark eyes. "I'll be watchful," he said. "I've been down here quite a bit and never had any trouble."

He thought of mentioning he had a permit and carried a small handgun in a concealed holster, but decided against that. It was nobody's business whether or not he could defend himself. Still, the big man's advice and apparent care warmed him. The people he'd met here in the camp never ceased to amaze him, in ways both good and shocking. Few fit the stereotype of folks lacking ambition or education, maybe dragged down by drugs or alcohol. Oh, there were some of them, of course, but the population held great diversity.

Most of them had a story, too. Maybe in time he'd get to know Merl better, enough to learn his tale. He sensed the big man had to have one because he spoke with an educated accent and reflected a quiet dignity, despite the total indignity of his present life.

As Nate continued down the path, he again recognized how fortunate he was.

I'm one of the lucky ones. Mom and Dad left me in good shape--a home and enough money to last my life if I don't get too profligate with it. I'll never be homeless. Maybe that's why I want to tell the world about these people...

Nate sensed it took a strong man, an unusual one, to live as Merl did and still radiate the calm, sure confidence he displayed. He knew he could never do it. He'd been almost a complete stranger to personal hardship. Other than coming out when he was in his late teens and telling his parents he was gay, knowing they would disapprove, he'd lived a protected, near-perfect life. Even that had gone better than he had feared. In time they'd come to accept and tolerate his sexual orientation, so long as he was discreet about it.

And when they died together in a plane crash four years ago, he'd inherited everything with no restrictions or stipulations. Yep, he was one fortunate guy. Maybe he could somehow help those whose luck was not so good. That was his goal for this project, anyway. If more people knew the extent of the problems and saw behind the bum and bag lady images, maybe more help would flow to these unfortunate people.

He walked on, even managed a jaunty step despite the nip of the wind and the bleak surroundings. Now and then he snapped some scenes featuring the tents and rude hovels the campers had created from salvaged junk. He shook his head over most of them--such flimsy and pitiful shelters to rely on in the coming harsh winter. These people lived in a style hardly a notch above folk in the Middle Ages or even prehistoric times, and in some ways even worse since better conditions were all around them. How could modern humans survive like this?

* * * *

Merl compromised. The cans proved to be heavier by a few pounds than he'd estimated, so he wound up with a couple more dollars in his pocket. He went to a hamburger joint and got the largest of the special bonus meals he could order. It might not be a five-star restaurant, but the food was solid and filling. At least he could sit indoors to eat and even linger a while since the midday rush was long over by the time he got there.

Between the food, hot coffee and the indoor warmth, he felt warm through before he got up to leave. He put his parka back on to hold onto as much of the heat as he could.

On his way back to camp, he went by the grocery store he knew to be the most economical within walking distance and spent the rest of his money on a few staples to see him through the next several days. By the time he left the store, snowflakes had started to sift down, swirling like feathers on the wind. They stung when they hit his face. He hunched against the sharp northerly blast and walked fast. Still, by the time he got to his camp, the warmth had long since faded.

He crawled into his shelter, concealed his food under a pile of junk and then wriggled into his sleeping bag. It would be a long night. Times like this he missed having a radio or stereo--something to play some music to help distract him from the constant discomfort. Here in the homeless camps it never seemed to be just right.

Summers were stifling hot, the mosquitoes came in swarms, and the whole area stank. In winter, you were always cold, always seemed to hear the wind, and often felt utterly alone. Everyone tended to den up and keep to themselves in the winter. During the summer, some were more sociable. Then you could get out and go to a park or even listen to some of the open air concerts from the fringes. Was there a spring or fall? If there had been, he must have missed them.

His thoughts turned to the strange man with the cameras. What the hell did the guy think he was doing? From his clothes and manner, he clearly had enough money and a good place to stay, so what brought him out on a cold and miserable day to wander around as if he didn't? Merl sighed.

If I had a home and all that, I sure wouldn't be here. I guess if I really tried I could get a job, gradually find my way out of here. The question is do I want to? Once I had a regular pay check coming in again, some lawyer would probably find me and take half of it. But half of something is a hell of a lot more than all of nothing.

Maybe I should go to the VA or some other agency and ask for help. Some folks do, and I guess some get it. They leave and don't come back.

It's just so easy to tell yourself what's the use and why bother. Still, if you follow that line long enough, you just lie down and die. I've refused to do that for months now, so maybe it's time to turn around. Another winter here is sounding worse every hour.

He drifted off to sleep about then, but his meandering thoughts had taken root. He dreamed about a warm house, a table piled with food and clean clothes, enough of them he could change every day and take a shower every night, too. Compared to the camps, that would seem like heaven...

Background-Homeless in Heaven

The next release in 2011 came out in May. It was part of another PAX group called Rich Man, Poor Man. We were going to feature a dichotomy between two men from totally different status and lifestyle, drawn together perhaps because of their differences instead of in spite of them or maybe both. Anyway, the title was the very first thing that came to me for this one. I had the theme or idea running through my mind--what could be farther apart than a homeless man and one who had an independent income and a comfortable life of ease?

I was living in Colorado Springs at the time, and yes, Eden, my fictitious town, was patterned after it in many respects. The Springs was having an issue with homeless people who were camping along the  several streams that run through town. Now and then when it got bitterly cold--and it does!--shelters would be opened and some would go but others did not. As I said when I spoke about Love is Snowblind, my Alaska musher's story, I don't do cold well and I really hated the times it got below zero and stayed there for several days. But, I thought, how much more terrible could it be if one one had no real shelter, no heated home with food and everything you needed at hand? That was scary!!

So all at once here came my homeless guy--big and thus able to take care of himself to a considerable degree even under severe conditions, but facing another winter coming on fast and dreading it. He strode out of the chilly mist and into my mind that day, and told me a few things--he was slow to open up but I knew I would have a story. Then my well off man appeared, a guy with a tender heart, a guy trying to find a purpose and direction since he did not have to work for a living. He stepped out of his SUV with a camera around his neck and an expensive down parka to shield him from the November chill. I was in his head in an instant and saw the scene through his eyes.

Wow, this was going to be a good story!! As usual, I tackled too big a tale for the space I was going to have to tell it and so a lot did not get covered; maybe I rushed things. Those are my most frequent reader and reviewer complaints but I did put my heart in this one, even a little more than I sometimes do! Anyway that is some background on this tale one that has been pretty popular.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Powerful Medicine--blurb, buy-link and excerpt

Powerful Medicine by Gwynn Morgan ISBN: 1-58749-169-9 (P)
 (the link is broken on the site at present)
(You can also search under Gwynn Morgan on
for both print and e-forms)

Blurb: You can't go home again. Or can you? Half Native American, Fran Jonas has seen the best and worst of life on the reservation and in the city. Although she fled the rez's restricting limits as a teenager, now, ten years later, she's back. This time she's seeking escape from the abuse and degradation which put a sudden end to her glamorous days as a New York model. Her life has been a series of wrenching losses, leaving her afraid to care for anyone.

Ben Yazzie, a former Marine aviator who's started his own small airline, has been burned by one too many women who demanded more than he could give. He's come home to lick his wounds but also to prove he can be a successful businessman rather than a drunkard and failure, like too many of his fellow Native Americans. He's also seeking to reunite the split halves of his person, part InDinay, and part of the Outside World.

Ben becomes Fran's bulwark against danger, offering protection and a way to become an accepted member of the InDinay community once more. She soon learns she can trust him with her physical safety and even her spiritual healing, but what about her heart?

Fran idly watched a red and white truck pull up and park three lengths ahead of her. When two men got out, their vast differences caught her attention. The driver was Cody Jonas, while the second man looked shorter and heavier. He wore a shirt in colors even louder than Cody's, a shirt so new it still had wrinkles from its packaging folds. With that shirt, he sported stiff new jeans, flame-red cowboy boots and a big white western hat.

The attire might not be familiar, but the walk was. She'd often seen that swagger, the flaunted arrogance. It could be no one if it wasn't Sal Gambruzzi. Nobody else had quite the same exaggerated parody of cocky coolness he affected. Without further conscious effort, she made her decision.

Although the map in the phone book wasn't the greatest, she had studied it intently. She'd already looked up Ben Yazzie's address, too. Starting the SUV, she drove off, followed the directions she'd memorized. They led her right to 3252 Mariposa Way. The small tan-stuccoed and flat-roofed house faced east. Two juniper trees grew in the front yard, and a blue and white pickup sat in the carport. Unless Ben had another car, he was home.

Fran parked behind the pickup, climbed down and walked a few steps along a curved sidewalk. With a hand that wouldn't stay quite steady, she rang the door bell. When the chime sounded faintly from within, she held her breath.

For a long moment, she didn't hear anything else. Finally, the sharp rap of footsteps approached the door and it jerked open in front of her. Ben stood just inside, dressed in jeans and boots, a denim shirt hanging open to reveal a wedge of bronze, muscled chest.

Fran's gaze slid reluctantly up to his face. He scowled, his eyes hard and his mouth drawn into a taut, thin line. Whoops, had she arrived at an awkward time?

"Yes?" His gruff tone added to that impression.

"I . . . er . . . ."

"Fran? I didn't recognize you at first. That's some get-up. Something wrong?" His expression softened slightly as he recognized her.

Her nerves were too taut to allow her to appreciate the humor, although she knew she looked peculiar. "Can--uh--may I come in?" As much as she hated to intrude, she had to find shelter. Maybe within a set of walls, the chill expectancy shivering along her spine would ease. Although she kept trying to tell herself Sal would have no way of tracing her here, she couldn't convince her fearful heart.

Ben nodded as he stepped back. "Sure. Come on in. I called the Lake View while ago. When they told me you'd checked out, I didn't know what to think. What's going on?"

Fran eased past him and walked to the nearest seat, a simple sofa upholstered in textured beige. Because her legs felt as if they would not support her another moment, she didn't wait for an invitation to sit. Sinking onto the sofa, she took a deep breath and let it out slowly.

"I guess I've got to tell you. It's not just me now, not just my trouble. Sal Gambruzzi is here! I saw him with Cody Jonas, not ten minutes ago, walking into a bar down on Canyon Boulevard, the one called 'The Kiva'."

Ben made a face as if he'd tasted something nasty. "I know the one. But who in hell is Sal Gambruzzi?"

"Guest" my alter ego, Gwynn Morgan

Most know that my 'good twin' has been writing a bit longer than I have and was published first. We happen to share a body and so have to be lenient with each other LOL. I have been taking up the space since this blog kicked off but Gwynn says she needs to have a bit of time and space too so I turn things over to her today!

Gwynn here. Hello all. I quietly say that I taught Deirdre all she knows but that is not strictly true. She has boldly gone where I never would and explored a depth of human interaction that I was timid to enter. I think that is good--mostly. I still blush to read some of her tales but behind the explicit parts, the same imagination and muse speaks. We both write about the places we love and try to make the settings totally real to our readers, almost a critical secondary character in the story. Our people are 'real' in the sense most of them are  folks you could meet in New Mexico, Arizona or other places in the southwest and even those in futuristic or past times are generally ordinary everyday folks. We do not write much about royals and celebs--you can get that on TV and the news, the tabloids and People magazine. So anyway let me talk a little bit about my work.

I began writing as a small child and by my teens was scribbling 'ranch romances' in steno notebooks and reading them aloud to some of my girlfriends. That pretty much set the tone--everything Deirdre or I write has a love story, often as the main plot or an equal plot to whatever action or adventure is going on. Our work has both as a rule. People do not fall in love in a vacuum. True, we may totally focus on a loved one, at least early on, but there is still life and other issues. Writing real demands that we recognize this.

I'd gone thru most genres in my reading over the years and stumbled onto romance in the 1980s when it was emerging as a growing and powerful genre. Most of the novels I read earlier had a love story--those that didn't seldom held my interest except for a few fantasy/sci-fi tales--and it was great to find books that focused on this! Of course I soon began to draft my own. In the early 1990s I joined RWA and entered contests--as a grass-green newbie. I didn't even know how to do correct manuscript form at first! I was in on the development of the Outreach Chapter and came to find a number of mentors and partners who helped me develop my professional level skills. I tried to sell to Silhouette and Harlequin and got some great rejections but soon realized I was not writing in their box and probably never would. That was when I discovered the new e-book phenomenon and the small publishers growing up with it. Voila! A place for me!

My first novel to get into print--and e-form--was one I had worked with for some time. It is still available and still holds a very special place in my heart. I could do it better now and someday may pull it and revise but Powerful Medicine will always be the first. It hit some issues that were unresolved at the time (reservation casinos) and delved into the struggles of many young Indians (most that I know prefer this to Native American if their real tribal identity is not used) in melding their traditional world with the modern one in which most of them come to live. Another aspect went into some spiritual and semi-paranormal areas and to avoid offense in this I created a tribe, and named them InDinay, since they combined much I knew of the Apache and Navajo people. The setting is real, the events were often right out of the days' news and I am still proud of this story!  I'll share the cover and an excerpt shortly. The book was ten years old last summer--it was released in August 2001. Hard to believe it has been that long!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Guilty by Innocence, m/m adult excerpt

Guilty by Innocence by Deirdre O'Dare

Jax is a cop by choice and to honor his father who was killed in the line of duty. His allegiance to his fellow officers and the code of ethics he lives by are the ruling factors of his life. When he finds an unconscious young man at a hideous crime scene with a bloody machete in his hand, Jax confronts a quandary. He can hardly believe this beautiful youth could have committed such an atrocity but if he didn’t, who did?

Gabriel awakes to blood and horror—and to a total blank of who he is, what has happened and how he got there. He finds himself charged with horrific multiple murders. Unless he can regain his memory, how can he prove he’s not guilty? Protective custody soon assumes new aspects as Jax and Gabriel develop a strange friendship that wants to blossom into much more. Can someone be guilty by innocence?


Jax dropped the three pages of careful notes on his desk. Not a lot there to go on and the girl's report shed no light on Gabriel Suarez at all, although it did hint someone else had been the killer. Still, Gabriel had been found holding the bloody machete. It made no sense.

Wonder if the kid has gotten his memory back? Maybe talking to him again would prove productive. Probably by now he'd overcome his confusion and fear, but not much chance he'd speak without a lawyer. It was almost funny how fast the low-lifes caught onto that ploy.

They might pretend not to know two dozen words of English, but they could demand, "Quiero un abogado" with complete confidence and refuse to say one word more. There seemed to be plenty of do-gooder lawyers who showed up, glad to work pro bono, unless they were paid under the table by the cartel. These days, you never knew.

No harm in trying, though. He walked over to the jail section and asked to talk to detainee Suarez. A few minutes later, one of the jailors led him to an interrogation room as another brought Gabriel in by a different door. The young man looked pale still, hunched in the orange jump suit and wary as he sat carefully on the edge of one straight chair across from Jax.

"I'm Detective McDermott. I was wondering if your memory has started to come back. Have you got anything to tell me today?"

For several seconds, Gabriel looked down at his clasped hands. "I remember some, but still not what happened or why I was at that house. Not even when or how I got there. I know my name, for sure. I started to remember my old home and I asked to call my father. He refused to accept the call.

"After that I began to recall more. About a year ago, I finally told my parents I was gay. My father disowned me that very day, cut off the money he gave me to go to college, took away my car, my computer--almost everything and drove me out of the house. Left with nothing, I ended up on the street."

He hunched even tighter, as if he tried to shrink into himself. "It gets worse from there," he said, barely above a whisper. "After a few weeks, Armando Contreras took me in. I didn't know at first, but he's a hoodlum, maybe with the cartel. I never dared ask. He put me back on the street, sometimes as a decoy or a courier and then as a male prostitute, but I had food and clothes and shelter. So long as I did what he said, he took care of me and provided some protection. People knew I was his property, so few tried to hurt me. I'm not proud of this, but I had to live."

Despite his rigid moral code, Jax felt a stir of sympathy. The young man had been raised very sheltered, probably over-protected. Then suddenly he was cast adrift in the jungle of the street, as innocent as a child, more naïve than Catalina Rodriguez, although he was six or eight years older. When a clearly powerful older man offered him aid, he expected another father figure; instead, he got a master who saw in him only a useful tool, little more than a slave.

Still Jax knew he had to push in a final effort to jolt some more information out of Gabriel. If nothing else, maybe some fact that would help to clear him.

"Contreras ever asked you to do anything like a hit, maybe a drive-by shooting?"

Gabriel shook his head. "I... " He looked down at his clasped hands again, twisting them in his lap. "I don't think he believed I could do anything that critical, that huge. He called me names like baby and sissy; treated me like a boy instead of a man."

"What if there was a witness, one who can place you at the scene of the killings? Someone who managed to survive?"

Gabriel's dark gaze flashed to Jax's for an instant, something almost like hope in his face. "Is there? Did you find someone, a person who saw it? I would sell my soul to be sure, to know the blood of those people is not on my hands by my deeds. Yes, I know, I was holding that machete when you arrived. But I cannot, I will not believe I slashed people to death--old people and children. Por Dios! There are not enough drugs in all El Paso to twist me that far. If Contreras told me to do such a thing, I'd tell him to kill me because I could not obey him."

The young man's vehemence sounded real and sincere. Jax studied him in silence for a few seconds, waiting to see the liar's squirm or some other hint he knew more than he admitted. No such sign came. Finally, he had to speak his own mind.

"I don't think you did it. We do have a witness, a survivor. She speaks of another man who broke into the house, a man who doesn't resemble you at all. And she says he's the one who did the butchery. I'm not sure if she has a name or not, but the description was clear and detailed. I'm just not sure where you come in--that's what we need you to recall."

"I keep trying," Gabriel said. "I try all the time. Slowly, I do remember more of the past, but nothing of that day...not yet. I think, I pray it'll come back in time. Until then--I can stay here in jail, can't I? I have nowhere to go now for sure."

Jax shrugged. "Probably. You're still a person of interest, and we'll see after your arraignment tomorrow. It's up to the judge whether we have enough to charge you or not. With the witness' statement, he might say to let you go."

Gabriel went stark white. "No! Oh, please, God, no. I mean I don't think I'm guilty, but I don't want to get out, to go back on the street. I'd be dead in hours. They--Contreras or someone in the cartel must've put me in that house for a reason. I know how he thinks and works. I was supposed to die or be found guilty to take the heat off someone else. He decided I was expendable when they needed a scapegoat. If you let me out, I might as well kill myself."

Jax had to restrain himself from laying a hand on Gabriel's shoulder and offering reassurance. Since he could not do that, he did what he could. "If you get your memory back, you might become a witness. Under such conditions, you'd probably merit protective custody. That's what's being done for the survivor, a young woman. You'd better pray for that."

He stood then and wheeled around to leave. If he stayed any longer, he'd very likely say or do something he shouldn't. Cops and sympathy made a bad combination. He had to remember the blood and the machete clenched in this young man's fist. That was real. Until evidence and hard proof changed the scenario, he had to stick with that one.

Jax knew a jailor was watching through the one-way glass and would immediately take Gabriel back to his cell so he did not look back. He stepped out the first door when it swung clear for him, heard it click behind him and then the next one opened to let him back out into the normal world. He couldn't say right off if the interview had helped him understand the case better or not, but he did have a lead or two to pursue. The name Contreras was one he knew.

More background on writing efforts

My next release which came out in April 2011, was inspired by a number of things. AA group of  Amber Quill authors were developing a PAX, a collection of five tales with a common theme. This one was called Crime and Punishment. Perhaps influenced by Nora Robert's enigmatic or paradoxical titles, I came up with Guilty by Innocence as a vignette of a man waking in the midst of a horrific crime scene and no memory of what has happened there only to be arrested for the grizzly murders surrounding him.

The detective has a heap of unanswered questions about the scene--he stepped out of some shadows shortly after that first scene appeared to me--and a gut feeling the obvious culprit is really not guilty but he is also determined that no one will escape justice on the basis of bad police work on his part. Thus the stage and conflict is set.

I've written a lot of  "police procedural" fiction over the years. My yet unfinished trilogy written as Gwynn Morgan, The Copper Stars of Cochise (Penny's Luck and Mollie's McGuire, both now out of print) were early efforts in that vein. My late husband was in or near law enforcement for much of his working years and my middle step-son went into corrections and is now the senior sergeant in the Cochise County, AZ  jail staff so I heard a lot of tales and had some technical advisers handy. My youngest brother was also an attorney and just getting into defense and criminal work at his untimely death, another resource.

My late hubby got really incensed at the flamboyant and preposterous stuff presented in many movies and TV shows and even in some books. As a result I have avoided those fifty car chases clear across Texas and most of the "Dirty Harry" drama. This may make some of the stories less thrilling but at least I know they are pretty realistic. While some scenes, especially some of the legal proceedings, may take some liberties with fact and common practice, the actual police work is pretty close to being dead on. Detectives are not always doing glamorous and exciting stuff and there is a lot of blood and guts to deal with in these violent times. I set this story in El Paso, TX which has become a battle ground for the drug cartels and smuggling issues with shooting wars sometimes spilling across the border. I think most of the officers who work there would nod at my portrayal of their city. It isn't pretty. Guilty by Innocence is one of my grittier works but of course it is a romance and thus has a happy ending, or at least happy-for-now.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Wild Bunch: Spark (Adult excerpt)

The Wild Bunch: Spark by Deirdre O'Dare

Blurb: Spark, Stace, and Cass have been best buddies since their high school rodeo days. Now they work for a very special guest ranch that caters to gay men who need a break and escape from their high stress fast lane lives. Rainbow Ranch has a reputation for providing precisely the Wild West adventures each guest needs and desires with the cowboys of their hottest dreams.

Spark is all a-twitch when he learns Lou Vetrano is coming back for a second visit. He’s not used to guests making a lasting impression but there was something about the dashing Chicagoan he can’t get out of his system. Is too much change coming into his life too fast?

Lou had a great time on his first visit to Rainbow Ranch. He knows a lot of it was due to one blond hunk of a cowboy he can’t wait to see again. Soon he senses things are starting to get a lot more serious than he expected or planned. How can he make a cowboy fit into his high finance life and why does he want to try? Then an unexpected attack by a hungry puma helps him put all the pieces of this puzzle together.

Rainbow Ranch

Gila, New Mexico
Early March

What the fuck is wrong with me?

Josh "Spark" Diamond skidded to such a fast stop the horse he led through the aisle of the big barn almost ran him down.

Why am I daydreaming and all revved up over a guest, just 'cause he's been here before, 'cause he attached himself to me and 'cause he's really hot? No way! Me and Stace and Casa are the love 'em and leave 'em trio, the tumbleweed cowboys who never settle down. We don't hook up with guests except for their stay. That's always been our rule. We're the Wild Bunch.

Except that wasn't strictly true any more. Stace had broken the taboo with Jared Langford--and now Jared was relocating his digital media business from Burbank, California to Las Cruces, New Mexico just a two-hour drive to the southeast from Rainbow Ranch. That meant Stace would likely be spending considerable time there or Jared would be at the ranch... despite some undefined issues between him and the ranch owner, Jason Langford.

The three cowboys still speculated among themselves about that situation and the uncanny resemblance between the two. Still, this also meant the Wild Bunch was starting to unravel after the three of them being inseparable since high school.

For a few seconds, an icy fist clenched in Spark's chest. He might not be scared of bad horses, tough bulls, the wild predators in the Gila Wilderness or much else but this change thing bothered him a lot. And now Louis Vetrano was coming back for a second visit.

In a few more years, Vetrano would be able to play a Mafioso don on screen to perfection. Right now, his thick, wavy black hair was only air-brushed with silver along the temples and down in front of his ears and his handsome olive-toned face bore only the first traces of lines. He could pass for a movie star, but he ran a company in Chicago. He'd been vague about his business, and Spark had not inquired much. You didn't butt into guest's personal lives. It was apparently a very successful company anyway since he could afford two vacation trips to Rainbow Ranch in under a year. Spark knew such visits didn't come with a small price tag. This time, the Chicagoan had booked a full two weeks.

Usually, the three cowboys tended to divide up the special guests their boss marked for unique and individualized packages of adventure among themselves even before the guests arrived. At times, though, a guest would select the cowboy he wanted for his private host shortly after he arrived and force things to switch around.

That had happened a few months back when Jared Langford, Vetrano and a Texas oil and real estate mogul had all arrived about the same time. Stace had opted to take Langford and that match stuck from the start. Casa was supposed to host Vetrano, and Spark, who was from Texas, would take charge of the Texan, but it had not worked that way. Instead, Louis picked out Spark from the beginning and pretty well monopolized his time.

Tomorrow, the Chicago don would be back. Oh, he probably really wasn't a don, but he sure looked the part. Anyway, Spark would drive to Las Cruces to meet Vetrano when his plane arrived. That was routine. What was not routine was the way his heartbeat speeded up and his cock began to twitch at the mere thought of the masterful and fascinating Italian-American. Spark had almost insisted Casa go collect the returning guest but he couldn't do it. The idea of Louis with someone else simply did not compute.

Oh man, I think I'm in deep shit. Spark pulled himself together and focused on the immediate job--changing shoes on his big white-stocking sorrel so the horse would be ready for some travel the next few days. The twitchy nerves almost went away while he worked.

Shoeing even a gentle horse like Quatros Zuecos took a man's full attention because so much could go wrong. One false move could lame a horse or earn the farrier a nasty gash from a nail or a slipping steel shoe. Spark was too wise to go into the job distracted, but finding his focus didn't come easy today.

* * * *

"Hey, Lou, whattsa matter? You're as fidgety as a whore in church."

Louis Vetrano barely restrained a snarl at the question. Mike's not trying to be a wiseass--he really doesn't get it. He knew his assistant to be loyal to a fault and simply concerned by his boss's lapse from his normal calm and steady demeanor.

"Just too many loose ends to tie up, Mike. I've gotta leave first thing in the morning. Mixing business and pleasure this trip. That's why I want you here and ready to jump on some things if I send word. I'm looking into some hot investment possibilities in New Mexico. Getting a toe in their green technology door could do wonders for Vetrano Enterprises. Then maybe I'll squeeze in a week or two to relax at the dude ranch again. This winter has been hell on a skateboard."

A trace of relief slid across his assistant's well-lined face. Mike Comparo had been with Lou's father for years before Lou inherited his services along with the leadership of Vetrano Enterprises. Mike knew almost as much about the family and its business as Lou did.

Lou was not about to admit the visit to the dude ranch played a bigger and more unsettling part in his thoughts than did the investment opportunities. True, Vetrano Enterprises had taken some losses in the recession, but things were not that bad. A few wise moves could recoup those dollars and add a good many more if all went as planned. But the idea of spending more time with a certain cowboy--now that seemed a risky venture at best, but an opportunity Lou could not resist or refuse.

What am I doing, mooning over a good looking young stud--one who smells like horses and probably has straw between his ears when it comes to high finance and all the things that have always mattered to me? If I wanted a boy toy, I could find plenty more amenable candidates right here at home.

Yeah, the sex was great and probably will be again, but that's not enough to build anything real around. I've got to get a grip. He's not much more than a prostitute--giving satisfaction and playing the game because it's his job. Only thing is, he sure does a fucking good job!

Not until Lou's plane finally lifted into the air the next morning did he manage to settle down. Once on the way, his worries seemed to fade into the hazy sky as the plane nosed up through the clouds. He settled back in his seat, flipped open his latest gadget, the newest smart phone-cum-computer, and set a few business projects into motion. After that, he glanced through the few fast photos he'd managed to capture of Josh "Spark" Diamond, the cowboy he was itching to see again.

He'd looked at them a hundred times, but it wasn't enough. Yeah, the westerner looked good enough from every angle to devour like a rare steak, but until you could hear his husky drawl and lay a hand on his hard, hot body, it wasn't nearly enough.

Soon... just hours now, not days or weeks.

The next release in 2011...

Was  installment two of my Wild Bunch series. This one was about the blond Texan. Spark. Of the three cowboys, he probably had the least baggage and angst. He's a happy go lucky guy and a firm believer in the love 'em and leave 'em pattern--until one guest gets under his skin.

In this series I tried to show that you can't just say a cowboy is a cowboy and let it go at that. They are people too and just as unique and different from one another as the rest of us! I really didn't pattern Spark after anyone I have known or even a combinaton--he is a full blown creature of my imagination. Love those blue eyes and like his carefree attitude but I also knew he was ready to be brought down a few notches when the love bug bit him hard. And Lou, the handsome businessman from Chicago, is just the guy to do it.

Lou likes to make people think he is a youthful mafia don. He's not but he does come from a strong and old school Italian family. They are not happy he is gay and his mother still hopes she can find the right girl to marry him and produce grandkds. But that's not gonna happen!

One more little ace I had up my sleeve and another shockeroo for Spark was to wind up needing help in a dangerous situation, a totally novel thing for him. That's the high point of the story and would be a spoiler if I shared it!

Otherwise the same general background I already provided for Stace's chapter of the overall tale fits here. Sad to say, some of the beautiful country that I used to set these stories has been decimated by the Baldy-Whitewater fire the last 30 days and will not be the same for many, many years. I won't go into a rant about that but I want to! Forest fires as a terrible reality in the southwest these days and one I wish I could make just go away. But it is far out of my control although I'd be happy to have you join me in an earnest prayer that they be contained quickly and few new ones 'spark' the rest of this summer.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Canine TLC--excerpt and info

Canine TLC by Deirdre O'Dare 

Blurb: Wounded warrior Gary Sanchez gets a new lease on life from a visiting therapy dog while in the Veteran’s Administration hospital to recover. He knows at once what he wants to do when he gets out and back on his feet. With the help of Angie, a very special rescue dog, he follows this dream--smack into a young doctor with a major canine phobia and a hard-ass attitude.

Mirmar has struggled and suffered to get his MD and build a life in his adopted homeland. Childhood trauma has left him with a deep fear of dogs. When he sees one in his hospital, he’s ready to kick some serious butt. However, the man on the end of the leash is another matter entirely. What is it about the handsome Latino that draws him like a magnet?

Can these two bridge their differences and find a way to fill the aching empty spot in their lives with each other? Only Angie knows for sure.

Excerpt: Visiting the children's wing at the University Medical Center took a little more persuasion. Apparently, the doctors and management were not as convinced of the merits of pet therapy as was the Veteran's Administration, but after he made several calls, Gary finally received the necessary approval.

He drove the thirty miles up to Albuquerque from his home in Vallecito and found a parking spot in one of the large lots. He had to walk some distance to enter the wing he would visit, but the daily walks he'd been taking with Angie had done wonders to strengthen his wounded leg. He barely limped now, unless he sat in a cramped position too long or got really cold and tired.

Once inside, he headed for the nurses' station to check in as he'd been instructed to do. The charge nurse smiled at Angie and greeted him pleasantly enough. She'd obviously been briefed that he was coming in.

"We have one section closed off where we have communicable diseases and another small ward for the youngsters with compromised immunity, but you're welcome to go anywhere else in this wing. I assume your dog is well trained and behaves herself."

"Angie has her Canine Good Citizen and Certified Therapy Dog credentials," Gary assured her. "She's good with kids and extremely patient and gentle. I wouldn't bring her if she wasn't."

He turned away to start down the corridor. A tall, dark, slender man emerged from a doorway and skidded to a halt. He wore scrubs, a stethoscope and a very dark frown as his gaze lit on Angie.

"What is the meaning of this? Animals have no place in a hospital. We have desperately ill children in here. You can't bring that dog into this area!"

Gary reined in his temper. He took the letter from the hospital director that authorized his visit from his shirt pocket and unfolded it. "We have permission," he said, struggling to keep his voice calm and even.

Angie drew back, pressing tightly against his leg, feeling the hostility the other man radiated. She did not growl, but Gary saw the fur along the back of her neck had lifted and ruffled. This was a test she had not had to pass before.

He held out the document. The other man snatched it from his hand and then drew back a step or two before he read it.

"I'm not sure this is authentic." The man's black eyes flashed wrathful fire. "You wait right here. I'm going to call someone before I'll permit you to go one step farther. In fact, you'd better come back to the nurses' station with me. I can't put any trust in this until I hear it from Dr. Borden himself."

Gary read the tag pinned on the man's shirt. Dr. Hamardi, it said. He was young and probably new, a bit too full of himself and his status. Gary bit down on his temper. This was unexpected and far from the welcome he'd hoped to receive.

"You'll find everything is in order, Dr. Hamardi. I wouldn't try to barge in here without authorization. Hell, I did too many years in the army not to know how to proceed per protocol. Get off your high horse. The benefits of therapy dogs to morale, especially for wounded soldiers, seniors and sick kids are well documented. My dog is trained and healthy; she won't endanger a child in this place, I guarantee."

The doctor sniffed and stalked off in the direction Gary had just come. Rather than create more of an issue, he turned with Angie and followed the indignant medic back to the nurses' station. Of course, Dr. Borden would verify his approval, but this was a damn nuisance. Who did this smart ass young sawbones think he was, anyway?

"It's okay, Angie girl. We'll get this sorted out in a minute and you can go visit some kids. I know that's going to be fun." He kept his tone gentle and reassuring, not wanting Angie to be any more upset than she had been. She was so loving and friendly that hostility confused her.

* * * *

Mirman could not believe his eyes when he saw the husky man coming down the hall toward him--with a dog. How in God's name had the man gotten into the hospital, much less past the nurses' station and into this area of all places? He knew visiting in this wing was restricted to immediate family. In fact, no one under the age of twelve, except patients, was admitted without special dispensation from the highest authority in the facility. As for animals...that was so unheard of he didn't even think the rules addressed it.

I'll get to the bottom of this quickly. Someone was not doing their job. I'll see they're called on the carpet for such neglect.

He stepped in front of the stranger and accosted him, keeping well back in case the dog were to take exception to someone approaching its master. He still remembered the dogs his father had kept in the compound, huge, slavering beasts that guarded the area and terrified a small boy, a boy who needed no warning to steer clear of them. The night he and Mama slipped out to escape, he'd been terrified they'd encounter one or more of the dogs or someone would set the pack after them. Of course, this one was much smaller and did not appear vicious, but it still had no place here.

With only a cursory glance at the paper the other man offered, he barely registered the signature at the bottom. It appeared to be that of the chief surgeon, Dr. Ian Borden, but it could have been forged. He'd heard they had electronic facsimile signatures now so the document was probably spurious.

There's no telling what kind of germs and filth a dog might carry. The very idea! He strode off toward the nurses' station, not waiting to see if the other man followed as he'd ordered. If I have to, I'll call security. This is intolerable.

At the nurses' station, Mirman used the house phone to call Dr. Borden's office. The chief's receptionist told Mirman the doctor was with a patient. Mirman fumed. He knew the older man would be miffed if interrupted, but he had to cover his own ass in this case. "He didn't possibly give authorization for someone to bring in a so-called therapy dog, did he?"

He could not help putting a sneering twist on the term therapy dog. As far as he was concerned, that was a complete oxymoron. Therapy involved treatments and equipment and trained technicians working under a doctor's direction. What role a dog could possibly have in it completely escaped him.

The young woman's chirpy tone grated more than usual when she replied, "Yes, he did. I typed the letter myself about a week ago. It's the latest thing, Dr. Hamardi. Dr. Borden was quite enthused about it, actually."

Mirman sniffed as he hung up the phone, a few seldom-used foul words running through his mind. He turned back to the stranger, knowing he'd have to eat a bit of crow, but determined to put a good face on it.

"All right," he admitted. He knew his tone betrayed part of his dismay, but he could not override his superior's order. "I'm told your letter is authentic. You may visit the ambulatory ward where our accident cases are housed, the ones who're well into recovery. I cannot allow the possibility of contagion in the other sections without special precautions."

He had to admit the other man responded in a more polite way than he expected. There was no triumph or smirk, no rolled eyes or any indication of smug victory.

"Thank you. Angie really enjoys kids, and I think they'll enjoy her. It's hard to get back up and going after you've been crippled, hurt badly. I know--I've been there myself."

Something in the other man's tone broke through the outer shell of Mirman's protective barriers. Although there was no trace of whine or poor-me in the man's voice, the shadow of pain and struggle etched his face with a realism Mirman could not help but acknowledge.

"Accident victim?"

The other man shook his head. "Well, I guess you could call it that, but I'd say it was on purpose. Tangled with a roadside bomb in Afghanistan and almost lost my left leg. It's getting better, but my dreams of picking up the athletic goals I'd worked for in school, maybe even getting to the Olympics were blown to bits. I expect some of these kids are feeling as discouraged as I was before I met a wonderful lady and her special dog. Those visits gave me a new lease on life. Now I want to pay it forward. By the way, I'm Gary Sanchez and this is Angie."

He shifted the leash to his left hand and extended his right. Mirman could not refuse to shake without being rude. Reminding himself to go wash soon, he accepted Gary's hand. "I'm Mirman Hamardi, Doctor Hamardi."

Gary's eyes probed his for a moment, a keen and assessing look. "You're from the Middle East, aren't you? Muslim? I heard they consider dogs to be unclean."

"I was born in Darbhur, but I left there as a child and grew up here in America. And no, I am not Muslim."

"Okay. I was in the army, and I did one tour in Iraq and one in Afghanistan. I don't hold any bad feelings for the common people. It's not their fault, but that of the extremists and some of the leaders and politicians, the imams and stuff... Well, I don't know all the answers so I really shouldn't even discuss it. Do you want to escort me and maybe observe?"

Mirman thought for a few seconds and then nodded. "I'd like to accompany you and monitor things for a few minutes. This is a new concept to me--this canine therapy. But never let it be said I'm not willing to learn. A doctor needs to stay up on all the new developments."

The two men walked down the corridor together, Angie staying on Gary's left, while Mirman walked to his right. When they reached the door to the ward, he waved Gary in ahead of him. He paused just inside to watch, still not convinced there was any merit to this cockamamie idea, but having no valid reason to refuse. He was not sure what he was going to see.

Time for more story and behind the scenes stuff!

Wow, turn my back for a few minutes and two weeks go buy. Holy smoke. Well, its been kinda busy as spring fades into summer in the southwest--some off-season thunder storms, lots of smoke from some bad forest fires and wind--which usually blows at inopportune times. Yes, I can criticise my beloved desert lands but I still love them. It's kinda like family, you know?

Anyway let's get back to more fiction. Ready to start on my 2011 releases. I started the year with another Canine Cupids story. This one is set in New Mexico and features a pair of very different heroes, as I often do. The dog is a spaniel mix, a lot like "Madra" who graced my life for awhile many years ago. To read about my dogs you can check my personal/fun blog  I talk a lot about my canine friends there. Anyway the dog here is named Angie and she's a rescue, adopted by one of the heroes who is a wounded warrior. Gary's athletic dreams were shattered by his injuries and he needs to find a new purpose. That's part of the story.

I got the ideas for this one from the news and many other sources. Once when I was a wannabe working very hard to get the romance genre in hand, I read an article about conflict which said, "If you hero is a firefighter, your heroine should be an arsonist." That seems kind of extreme but the point was well taken. I adapted it here when I found another man who would hit the first hero wrong in a variety of ways and yet a friendship and attraction happened against the odds. Isn't that kind of like life is sometimes? We meet someone and are almost put off by them but there is a niggling, nagging little voice that keeps saying we need to get to know the person better. And in time we may end up BFFs or lovers despite the differences.

That makes a good story, too. So jump on to the next post, the excerpt. BTW there is no such town as Gary's home but there are many small settlements along the Rio Grande between Albuquerque and Las Cruces that have similar characteristics. I was living in Colorado when I wrote this one and very much 'homesick' for some of these familiar scenes. The Latino people have  been in New Mexico for centuries and their culture and traditions are  such a wonderful part of the region! I hope you can get a sense of how neat these little places are even though I have to cover that part very briefly. So on to Canine TLC.

The pictures are from Mimbres, not on the Rio Grande but a neat little community in Grant County and the other is looking east from the hill above Las Cruces on the west side of the valley. (the "roadrunner" rest stop). You get a feel for the vast spaces and the rugged mountains here. The line where the river runs is about in the center of the photo running from side to side. Thew highway visible is just before it crosses the bridge. My home now is on the far side of the mountains at the horizon.