Wednesday, April 23, 2014

First Peek at Kit's Ultimate Deal

I'm now reading the galley for any final typos and fixes so feel safe to give you all an excerpt. The book will be out the first weekend of May in electronic formats with the print version to follow later in the month. I still want to put that lovely cover on my wall  and am tempted to give away a nice print of it on glossy photo paper. Any takers?

Anyway, here's an excerpt from near the beginning when Kit and Bret first meet! Enjoy!. Buy link and related info will be along in the next couple of days and probably dates and possible links for some guest blogs etc. BTW, this is longer than the usual novella excerpt but this one is a full length novel!

Bret McClintock peered through the windshield of his Dodge Ram, straining to find traces of the road. Even though he knew it almost as well as his own drive—make that the drive at Aunt Melba-Jean’s, where he’d lived the past eight years—nothing looked normal. The snow covered everything, and visibility was down to a nose and a half.
He should have stayed home, but when Jason called last night to tell him old Tracks Three was willing to talk, he’d jumped at the chance. The oldest man in the White River Apache tribe, Tracks Three had first-hand knowledge of events long forgotten by most people. He’d heard tales of the legendary Apache leaders from people who had actually fought and fled with them. The old man’s tales might confirm some of Bret’s personal theories. Though not yet accepted by anyone else, they were ideas that, once published, could change the academic view of Native American tribes of the Southwest and their history. Storm or no storm, he couldn’t miss this opportunity.
The clouds brought an early twilight. Even with the truck’s lights on, Bret couldn’t see much besides snow. Then he saw a dark shape, only half-covered with white, loomed ahead. The sight sent jumbled thoughts racing through his mind. A car? What’s someone doing out here on a night like this? I bet whoever it was missed the turn-off to Sunrise. Hope he had sense enough to stay in the car’s shelter. The wind chill must be twenty below.
Bret braked gently so he wouldn’t skid. The truck crunched to a stop behind the stalled vehicle. Leaving the engine running, he got out to investigate. As he approached the driver’s side, the door cracked open to reveal a woman’s pale face, surrounded by a damp, fur-edged hood.
“Oh, thank God! I was beginning to think nobody would evah come by. Surely there ought to be more people going to Sunrise. The skiing will be great once this storm cleahs.”
The voice sounded feminine, a strong hint of Boston in the dropped Rs. In the dim light, Bret couldn’t clearly see her face.
“You aren’t on the road to Sunrise, miss. You passed that turn-off three miles back. This road leads to an Apache settlement down in White River Canyon.” Darn newcomers, why can’t they stay out of harm’s way?
“Oh, no! How am I going to get to Sunrise? Would it be asking too much for you to pull me out and help me get turned around?”
Bret shook his head; snow fell off his battered Stetson. “Wouldn’t do much good. Your little car’ll never get there in this weather. There’s one more steep grade before you reach the lodge. I’m starting to have trouble on the level here, even with high clearance and four-wheel drive.”
The woman sat silent for a moment, apparently contemplating his statements.
“What am I going to do?” Her voice held both a plaintive note and a touch of frustrated arrogance—almost as if the storm was a personal affront, interfering with her plans.
“Come with me. We’ll get your car tomorrow or the next day, whenever it clears. I’m going to try to make it to a cabin, about a mile farther on. It’d be suicide to go down into White River or attempt to get to the lodge tonight.”
He heard her ragged sigh.
“Oh-kay. My car won’t start again, and without the heater, I’m chilled to the bone. I guess I can’t stay here, can I?”
“Not unless you want to freeze.”
She clambered out, sinking into the snow. “I’ve got to get some things in the trunk: my overnight bag, my briefcase.” She waded toward the rear of the car, weaving as if the whirling whiteness made her dizzy. Once there, she fumbled, scraping snow away to find the lock, while she struggled not to drop her keys.
“Here.” Bret took the key from her stiff fingers and jabbed it into the icy lock. After he twisted hard, there was a grating sound and then the trunk swung open. Snow slid in soft chunks to the ground. He reached in, grabbed the cases, and slammed the lid shut. “You’ll have to get into the truck on my side. Try to step in my tracks—that way you’ll get less snow in your boots.”
When she followed him without protest, instinct told him she was being uncharacteristically mild and obedient. Bret snorted.
She sounds like a real New England princess, so it’s probably a safe bet she’s never suffered much discomfort. Like Barb—she thought roughing it was a regular motel instead of the five-star hotels she was accustomed to. Might do her good to learn how being scared and miserable feels. Why do I always have to get mixed up with these damned society women?
After Bret boosted the woman into the cab, she slid across the wide bench seat to let him in. He shoved her bags onto the floor at her feet before he settled behind the wheel. Gingerly, he backed up enough to clear her car, then started on once more.
He stared into the gray infinity ahead, mesmerized by the slow sweep of the wipers. They shoved sluggishly at the accumulating snow, barely clearing the glass. The headlights faded into the grayness; he couldn’t see more than one truck-length ahead. Bret swore under his breath. Another mile was going to be tricky. He didn’t attempt to make conversation. Distraction from the difficult task of driving was the last thing he needed. Tracks Three and his stories would have to wait. Right now, Bret’s primary goal was survival.
This must be the longest mile I’ve ever traveled. Even worse than the last mile of the Mule Mountain Double Marathon last May. Probably slower, too. Bret wiggled his shoulders, fighting off the ache of tension that tightened his back and arms. He relaxed one hand at a time, flexing fingers going numb and stiff.
Finally, he recognized the lightning-blasted old Ponderosa pine that marked the turn-off to the cabin. A solid, ageless structure, the stone and log building belonged to an old family friend. Over the years, he’d spent a lot of time there. He eased the truck off the road, rolling to a stop with the bumper almost touching the porch rails.
Turning to his passenger, he saw she’d slumped, leaning against the door. He flicked on the cab lights so he could look at her. Somehow, she’d gotten wet before he picked her up. Even the blast of the truck’s heater hadn’t counteracted the resulting chill. He realized she was slipping into hypothermia. Bet she started to walk and changed her mind. Lucky for her, or she’d be as good as dead now.
“Wake up. We’re here.”
She jumped, shook her head, and muttered something. Yep, she was overcome with the typical grogginess brought on by drastically lowered body temperature.
“Le’ me ’lone. Wanna sleep.”
“No way. Come on.” He reached over and grabbed her arm, pulling her toward him. She moved, floppy as an old rag doll. Scooping her up, he backed out of the truck, heading for the cabin door. Hope the old key still works. Hope Bill Kent hasn’t sold the place or changed the lock. Ms. Boston needs to get warmed up fast, and I’m feeling a bit chilled myself. Good thing I brought the old sleeping bag along.
Kit came awake slowly, loathe to leave the warmth of sleep, the comfort of a pleasant dream in which she snuggled in the arms of a man, the perfect man she’d never had time to look for. His masculine strength and heat surrounded her, protective yet not restricting… She jerked upright, shoving aside the restraining flap of a down-filled sleeping bag in the process.
“What the hell’s wrong? You’re letting the warmth out. Get back here before we both freeze.”
The surly words were not part of her dream. This voice didn’t murmur sweet assurances or tender phrases of tribute, but it was a masculine voice with a pleasant western drawl. Panic briefly arrested, Kit turned, peering down at her companion by the uncertain light of smoldering logs, flickering dimly in the massive fireplace to her right.
“Where am I and why am I in my underwear? What are you doing in my bed with me?”
“This is my bedding, Boston. My grandpa gave me this sleeping bag in 1998 when I joined the Boy Scouts.”
Kit refused to be mollified. She wanted to hit something, to jump up and get the blazes out of here, to scream for help—none of which were feasible. From the looks of things, she was totally alone with this stranger in a place she’d never seen before. She wanted answers and she wanted them five minutes ago. “Who are you and how did I get here?”
“My name is Bret, and I carried you in here. Now lie down and pull up the damned bag, okay? You aren’t in any danger except from the cold.”
Kit still couldn’t make out the man’s face, but his voice sounded gruff, unfriendly.
He probably isn’t bent on rape or he’d already have done it. Anyway, I’m getting cold again—fast. She scooted into the warm cocoon of the bag, drawing the edge up over her bare shoulders. She didn’t want to touch him, but she had to until she turned on her side and scrunched away as far as she could. Then she touched the zipper, which felt like a long narrow ice cube.
“So you say you rescued me?”
“You got stuck in the snow yesterday evening, remember? I came along and brought you here to this cabin. You were getting hypothermic, so I did the best I could—rolled out this sleeping bag and got in with you. Works best if everyone’s nude, but I figured I could leave our skivvies on.”
“Oh God.” Kit remembered, all right. She almost wished she hadn’t. She didn’t want to think about how he’d undressed her while she was unconscious. All she needed to do was figure out how to extract herself from the current situation and get to the lodge. “Has the snow stopped yet?”
“I doubt it. Storms like this usually lasts at least twenty-four hours. I don’t intend to look either because that would mean opening the door and letting more cold in. But I’d better put some more wood on the fire.” As he spoke, he began to move, wiggling backward until he could sit up without dislodging the bag from around Kit’s shoulders.
Even in the dim firelight, she saw his chest was bare. He scooted a little farther. She knew she should look away, but she couldn’t. He wore briefs, and that’s what they were, brief. A very minimal patch of navy blue in the strategic area, nothing more.
Oh for goodness sake! Cowboys and outdoorsmen are supposed to wear woolly red union suits that cover them from neck to ankles, not some thong, like a dancer in a male strip club! Still, he does look delicious. With that thought, Kit no longer felt cold.
He stood in a single, smooth motion and stepped out of sight behind her head. A moment later, he reappeared, crouching inches from her, and began to stack an armload of logs in the fireplace. Bending forward, his elegant nearly-bare tush almost in her face, he blew into the coals until the flames jumped to begin their greedy work on the new fuel. He sat back on his haunches for a moment, then gave a self-satisfied grunt. Crawling around behind Kit’s head, he wormed into the sleeping bag.
Kit stiffened and held still. It was difficult, but she tried to banish the image of his beautiful, tanned body, to ignore the touches of his warm flesh against hers.
“Do you have any idea what time it is?” She ground out the question through gritted teeth.
“Prob’ly about three or four in the morning. Go back to sleep. We can’t do a thing until daybreak, anyway.” Moments later, he began to snore.
Every nerve hummed and tingled. She stared into the flickering flames, but that only made her feel hotter, itchier, and more out-of-sorts. She had never been more aware of anyone than she was of the sleeping man behind her. All the while, he slept on, snoring in contented peace. There was no justice in the world, none at all! She should be tucked into a comfy bed at Sunrise Lodge, anticipating a gorgeous day on the slopes. Instead, she lay on a hard floor, with only the inadequate padding of half a sleeping bag between her and what felt like stone. She couldn’t turn over because that would leave her face to face with…a gorgeous man who snored.
He shifted, edging closer, until his hairy, muscular legs pressed against hers. She couldn’t move away. There was nowhere to go. Now, she felt his chest against her back. Its furring of coppery hair, just on the soft side of prickly, brushed her. Her sensitized skin tried to ripple like a horse’s hide shaking off flies, with even less effect.
“Damn it, I’m not cold anymore. Give me some room!” Though her sharp whisper sounded thunderously loud in the silence, he didn’t stir. The snores changed rhythm, but there was no movement to prove he’d heard her. Kit didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. What a dilemma. Any one of her friends, finding themselves in bed with such a hunk, would make the most of the opportunity. Trouble was, she didn’t know how to proceed. Especially since the man seemed completely unaffected by her proximity. Even if she wanted to make the first move, to let him know she was definitely interested, what should that first move be?
Starting college at sixteen, she’d been too busy racking up courses that guaranteed success to spend much time socializing. Dating was for girls who sought a MRS rather than an MBA. What did one do with a man who climbed into bed with you only to fall asleep?
“Try an elbow in the ribs,” an imp whispered in her ear. No, that could hardly excite anything but his wrath.
A Poindexter has certain standards. We make the best of every situation and capitalize on the appearance of misfortune. Her father’s oft-repeated admonishment echoed through her mind. What would you do, Daddy, if you were in my…er…my place? If her father’s ghost heard her plaintive query, he chose not to reply. She was on her own.
Nothing learned at Harvard had prepared her for such an occasion. She could visualize no way to turn a profit from this chance encounter. Probably the best she could hope for was that the storm would end the coming day, they’d get her car out and turned around, and she’d get back to Tucson before Monday morning—with nothing at all to report to Les Bernard. Sheesh! She’d figure out something plausible to tell Joy and Madge, who she was supposed to meet at Sunrise.
Her companion shifted again, slinging one arm across her. His broad, warm hand splayed out, seeming to cover all the exposed flesh between her bra and panties, and there was plenty of that. She bit back a groan. I can’t believe this is happening.

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