Tuesday, February 17, 2015

FREE First Chapter Read - Callahan's Fate by Lee Ann Sontheimer Murphy


 

 

New York City.  It’s a city like no other.  Whether it’s a glittering Gotham to a country mouse, a city brimming with possibilities and pleasures, or the Big Apple, center of the known world, nothing else compares.  My trip to New York last summer made me familiar enough with the city to be dangerous and I’ll be heading back this year to RWA.  Among other things, the trip gave me inspiration for a new romantic suspense novel, Callahan’s Fate.  It’s out from Evernight Publishing, just $4.99 at Amazon.com, Bookstrand, All Romance, and more.  Buy it direct from Evernight and save a little, too.

It’s a story that involved me on an emotional level and I think it’s a story readers will enjoy.  Although the setting is vastly different from the rural background of Ryker’s Justice, the winner of the suspense category in the 2014 Evernight Reader’s Choice Awards, I think it has the same emotional depth, fast paced action, and story.

Here’s the blurb and then the first chapter in its’ entirety followed by buy links! Happy reading.

He’s a cop, one of New York City’s finest.  She’s a transplanted teacher, new to the Big Apple.  Callahan is streetwise and world weary.  Raine is lost in the urban setting.  When they meet, the attraction and the emotional connection are powerful.  When a former student stalks Raine, he’s also part of Callahan’s unfinished business.  The closer they become, the more their lives intersect, the greater the danger.  Callahan must put his past and burden of guilt aside.  Raine needs to adapt to big city life.  Both seek a happily ever after together but with old scores to settle, they have to survive first.

 

 

Chapter One

 

On a rare Saturday off duty, Callahan had nothing much to do.  Later that evening, he’d probably drop into the never-ending poker game some of his buddies hosted at the firehouse down the street. But for now, the day stretched out empty but filled with possibilities.  He should sleep but he wouldn’t, since he was a lifelong early riser.  Under a deep blue sky with no more than a few clouds, the mid-October day intensified his recent restlessness.  He wanted to be outside and he needed diversion, so he decided to ride the Staten Island Ferry.  As a kid, he’d loved it but as an adult, he couldn’t remember the last time he had ridden the ferry.  The prospect of time out on the water with the sun on his shoulders and the wind in his face appealed, so he grabbed his keys and headed for the subway, seizing the moment before he talked himself out of it.

He ran a few errands en route, stopped to pay a couple of bills, and grabbed a sweet bun from a favorite bakery along the way.  Callahan descended the steps at Fulton Street Station to catch the train to South Ferry and stopped, transfixed by a woman who sat on one of the old wooden benches, head bent over an MTA map.

          He knew right off she wasn’t a New York girl.  It wasn’t just the waist-length hair or the way she clutched her purse, but something in the way she hunched her shoulders tight.  Callahan couldn’t remember seeing a gal with hair down to her ass lately, but he liked it.  I bet she’s pretty under all that hair.  He wanted to see her face so he waited until she stood, and when she did, he wasn’t disappointed.  A classic, heart-shaped face featuring brilliant blue eyes, a petite nose, and generous lips radiated with beauty.  If she’d been smiling, he thought, she would be stunning.  But at the moment, she wore a frown and if he wasn’t mistaken, she might burst into tears at any moment.  Callahan didn’t think—he reacted.  He moved close enough to catch the scent of her perfume.

“Hey, do you need something?”

          She stepped backward, and for a moment he feared she might tumble onto the tracks. People did, every year, and some of them died.  To prevent a tragedy, he grasped her arm tight.  Her eyes widened as she flinched at his touch.  Shit, I’m scaring her. Callahan released her. “Hey, calm down.  All’s I’m doing is offering help.  What’s your trouble?”

“I can’t find the right train.” Her voice came out soft, like a small summer breeze.  It trembled and he sought to reassure her.

          “I can help you find it,” he said.  Then he considered the fact he wore blue jeans faded almost white, an old New York Yankees T-shirt, and his worn-out Reeboks.  He probably resembled a bum.  “You don’t need to be afraid.  I’m a police officer, one of the city’s finest.”

          She arched one eyebrow. “Are you?”

He dug out his badge case, something he always carried, and flipped it open to show his ID.  Her shoulders relaxed and she sighed.  She glanced up with a small smile. “So you are.  Thanks, I could use some help.  I always get mixed up at Fulton Street.  I don’t know why.”

Callahan laughed. “You ain’t the only one, doll.  It’s a notorious mess since they started remodeling it.  Someday, if they ever finish, it’s supposed to be great, but right now it sucks. Where are you trying to go, anyhow?”

          “Times Square on the number two train.”

          “Yeah, the Seventh Avenue Express,” he said with a nod. “It’ll get you there.  I can help you track it down, pardon the pun.”

          “Thank you,” she replied.  Then she tossed her head, which rippled her hair in a way he found both beautiful and provocative. “I really appreciate any help I can get, Officer…”

          “Callahan,” he told her. “You can call me that, or Cal for short.”

 Her head dipped in a brief nod. “I’m Raine Teasdale.”

“Pleased to meetcha,” he said. “So you’re off to Times Square? Are you going to see a show or just the sights?”

          He pegged her for a tourist, but she surprised him when she shrugged. “It’s just someplace to go on a weekend. I haven’t made many friends yet, and I don’t feel so alone when I’m in a crowd.  I thought maybe I’d just hang out for a while, watch people and all that.”

“So you live here?”

Raine nodded. “Yes, since late August.”

Any other time, he minded his business and kept his mouth closed, but curiosity got the better of him. “So what brought you here?”

          Please don’t let her tell me she plans to star on Broadway, write a best-selling novel, or sing to a packed house at Madison Square Garden, he thought.  Too many people poured into New York every week with big dreams and empty pockets, then were crushed under the heel of the big city.  He didn’t want this pretty thing to share their sad fate. 

“I teach at-risk kids,” she said. That surprised him.  She seemed fragile and somehow too delicate to work with edgy students.

“Oh yeah?” he replied. “High school, middle school, or what?”

“Mostly teens,” Raine told him. “I work with kids who are in juvenile detention, in the hospital or some other facility, in orphanages, and a few of the schools.  I’m someplace different every day of the week.”

“Whaddya teach them?”

A smile lit her face, the first he’d seen, and it made her beautiful. “I teach them literature,” she said with apparent pride. “We read everything from Charles Dickens to Carl Sandburg, from The Outsiders to Harry Potter, with a little Shakespeare and some Dr. Suess.  Or, I hope we will.  It’s early in the year.”

“That’s awesome,” Cal said and meant it.  A teacher had turned him on to reading in the sixth grade, and he’d been an avid reader ever since.  Books had been his salvation from the sometimes tough streets of his boyhood on the Lower East Side and the Jacob Riis housing project where he had lived.  Without the escape that reading had provided, he might have fallen prey to drugs like his Aunt Brenda, the one everyone had called “Birdie,” who died of a cocaine overdose when he was twelve.  When his mother died two years later, he had moved across the East River to Brooklyn and lived with his grandmother until he graduated from high school.  “I had some good teachers, but I could’ve used someone like you back in the day.  You’ll make a difference.”

          Raine blushed. “I hope so.”

          A subway train rushed out of the dark tunnel on one side of the platform, and she turned toward it. “Is that my train?”

Callahan shook his head. “No, it’s a number one train, so it’s mine.  It’s headed the opposite direction from where you want to go.”

          Her expression wilted. “I was hoping you’d help me get on the right one before you had to leave.”

“Don’t sweat it, sweetheart.  I can miss it,” he said. An idea struck. “Or you can change your plans and come with me. You wanna ride the Staten Island Ferry?”

She grinned. “Do you mean it? I’d love to!”

“Then let’s hustle,” he said and grabbed her hand.  The subway cars came to a stop, and as the doors opened to release passengers, Callahan pulled her toward the front of the train.  As soon as the people got off, they stepped into the car.  With standing room only, he maneuvered her toward the opposite corner and secured one of the straps.  “You’d better hang on,” he told her.

In the crowded car, he could smell her perfume and the scent of her shampoo.  Raine stood in front of him, her back against his torso. Then she turned toward him and stood on her toes. “I will,” she whispered into his ear.

Her hair fanned out and brushed against his bare arm.  It tickled, and the intimacy of it sent a shiver through Callahan.  His dick twitched in response, and for a moment he wanted her with an unreasonable urge so strong he imagined taking her where she stood.  It would be easy enough to raise the black skirt she wore and nail her from behind.  The moment passed and he chided himself for the thought.  Jeez, she’s a nice gal, a teacher yet, and I’m thinking dirty thoughts already.  He would never have made a knight, not when he wanted to fuck the damsel in distress, but he’d never claimed to be either a gentleman or noble-minded.

At Rector Street, when anyone heading to South Ferry had to cram into the first five cars, he grabbed a pair of seats.  She sank down beside him with a smile. “Thanks.”

“For sitting down?” he asked. “You’re welcome.”

“Thank you for inviting me to ride the ferry,” she told him. “It’s one of the things I’ve wanted to do and haven’t yet.  Is it as cool as I’ve heard it is?”

“Better,” he replied. “It’s one of my favorite things to do, and I’m a native New Yorker.  You’ll love it, I bet.”

At the South Ferry station, they got off the train and climbed the steep stairs to street-level.  Along the way, he held her hand, telling himself it was because he didn’t want to lose her in the crowds.  Truth was, he enjoyed the contact.  He told her how the brand-new, multimillion-dollar subway station had opened but had been destroyed by Hurricane Sandy. “This is the original one, built back in the early 1900s.  I’ve always liked to imagine the ladies in their long skirts and picture hats, and the men in suits and waistcoats or wearing fedora hats.”

He couldn’t believe he shared that. His sometimes fanciful imagination wasn’t something he shared.  He wished he could snatch the words back, until she smiled. “I love those images,” she said. “I know I haven’t even seen the ferry yet, but it brings to mind Edna St. Vincent Millay’s poem, you know, “Recuerdo.”

Cal didn’t, but he did know the word meant something like remembrance in Spanish. “Tell me how it goes, teach.”

Raine quoted a few lines, “We were tired, we were merry, we had gone back and forth all night on the ferry.” 

He snapped his fingers. “Oh, yeah, I do know it.  Part of that is on the wall somewhere at the ferry terminal. I don’t read much poetry, never did, but I like that one.”

They entered the terminal and ascended to the second level.  Callahan got a kick out of the way she gawked at the food vendors, the uniformed officers with drug dogs, and the crowds.  Seeing the place through her eyes gave him a fresh perspective.  As they stood among the others waiting for the next cruise, he leaned down and brushed her hair back from her face. “There,” he said. “That’s better.  So this is okay? You don’t mind missing Times Square?”

          She shook her head. “No, I don’t.  It’ll be there, and I’ve been, once.  I just didn’t have anything else to do today.”

“I know the feeling,” he told her.

          Together they boarded the John F. Kennedy, one of the older ferryboats still in service.  Callahan had ridden it since childhood, but he still experienced a thrill when he stepped on board.  He maneuvered Raine to a spot near the railing on the right side as they headed out into the bay so they’d have the best view of the sights.  Acting like a tour guide, he pointed out the sights as they passed.  They made small talk, and he delighted in watching the expressions change on her face from delight to wonder and back again.

  She intrigued him and evoked a deep curiosity.  Everything about her shouted small-town-raised and country girl.  He could imagine her doing rural things, maybe milking a cow or pulling eggs from beneath a hen.  Of course, he didn’t know anything about such chores, and his notions came from books or movies, not personal experience.  She possessed a delicious combination of beauty and vulnerability.  Callahan wanted to French kiss her—hell, to be honest, he ached to take her hard and fast.  He also wanted to hold her hand, too, though, and cherish her like a virgin on prom night.  Cal yearned to know what she liked and what she didn’t, to discover her thoughts, and get acquainted.

From the moment he saw her at the subway station, he’d gone from admiration and a desire to offer help to something deeper.  He had never believed in love at first sight—and he still didn’t—but Cal wanted to, and that was huge.  By the time they docked at the St. George terminal on Staten Island, he knew he wanted to spend the rest of the day getting to know her.  He liked her company and wanted more.  The poker game he’d planned to join for the evening no longer seemed as desirable or fun.

“So you want a soda or something?” he asked as they walked into the terminal with the crowd. “Or you just wanna go back?”

Raine gazed up at him. “No, I don’t, unless you have somewhere else you need to be.  I’d love something to drink.  I’m thirsty.”

They settled for bottled green tea in the terminal, then boarded another ferry for the return trip.  This time, they stood on the upper deck against the rail and watched Manhattan as it grew larger.  Minutes before they reached the Whitehall terminal, Callahan turned to her. “You wouldn’t want to ride it again, would you?”

Her grin answered before she spoke. “I’d love to, Officer Callahan.”

He looped one arm over her shoulders, friendly more than intimate. “Aw, don’t insult me like that,” he said. “I told you, call me Callahan or Cal.”

“Don’t you have a first name?”

“I do.”

One small giggle escaped her mouth. “I figured you did.  So what is it?”

“That’s on a need-to-know basis,” he said. His parents had saddled him with a proud, old family name, one his grandfather and great-grandfather had endured before he did.  During grammar school, he’d taken his share of ribbing about it.  He never shared it willingly with anyone since, and even his closest buddies had no idea. Callahan could never understand why his parents saved it for the last kid, the third son.

Raine lifted one finger and touched the corner of his mouth, then traced his upper lip.   He kissed it, more a reflex than a romantic notion.  “I think I need to know,” she told him. “I wouldn’t want to think you’ve been holding out on me.”

Her touch affected him like a match to a short fuse.  His body tingled with something close to anticipation, and he resisted the overwhelming urge to kiss her.  “If I tell you, you gotta promise not to call me by it,” he said. “And make a pinky-swear you’ll never tell another living soul.”

Laughter erupted from Raine, and she crooked her little finger around his. “I promise.”

“Awright, awright, I’ll tell you.  It’s Aloysius.”

Cal cringed as he said it, the long, old-fashioned moniker still able to bring embarrassment, and waited for her reaction.  He figured, like everyone else, she would laugh like crazy, but she didn’t.  Instead, she repeated it as if committing it to memory.

“Al-oo-wish-us,” Raine said. 

“Yeah.”

“That’s not so bad.  Didn’t your family give you a nickname or something?”

He dredged it up from the past. “Yeah, they called me Buddy. So whaddya think, doll?”

Her eyes met his and held the gaze. “I think it’s a fine, old family name, an heirloom of sorts, but I can understand why you don’t like to use it, Callahan.”

God, he liked the way his name sounded on her tongue.   Somehow, in her soft voice, sweeter and kinder than a New York accent, it became almost a caress.  Cal snaked one arm around her waist as the ferry docked and when the boat shifted in the process, he pulled her tight. “I like you, Raine,” he said.  “Something about you gets me here.”

Callahan tapped his chest somewhere near his heart.

Raine put her hand over his. “You had my attention from the moment you asked if I needed help.  I don’t know what happened. I’m usually shy with strangers, but I’m not with you.”

“Good.  Then let’s go get lunch somewhere, then we’ll come back and ride the ferry again.”

“Okay.  What happens after that?”

A rush of joy washed over him, so potent he could all but taste it.  Cal wanted to laugh.  His feet yearned to dance and he wanted to sing, even though he knew he sang off-key at best.  “We’ll figure it out then,” he said. “Are you willing?”

Her lips curved upward into a quirky smile as she answered. “Yes.”

“Then let’s go,” he said.

He grabbed her hand and they merged with the crowds spilling back into the terminal, then made their way through the building and outside.  Cal couldn’t remember when he’d been happier, and for once he forgot the tragedies in his past and lived in the moment.

 




Saturday, January 3, 2015

Welcome to 2015! What Lies Ahead.....

It's a brand new year, the calendars have been changed, and 2015 has been launched.  What this year will hold is a mystery although I have hopes and dreams.  Of course, none of us ever know.  When 2014 was just days old, one of my publishers (Rebel Ink Press) dropped me and returned all of my titles to me.  It might have seemed a crushing blow to many authors but I saw it as an opportunity and although it took hard work to regroup and re-launch, it proved to be a good thing.  During 2014, I sold more titles, earned the highest royalties from Evernight Publishing, and saw several of my titles earn bestselling rankings.  When last year dawned, I didn't expect I'd spend part of my summer in New York City or that I'd fall hard for the city.  I thought I might like it but I loved it.  I found family ties, what aboriginal people would call song lines there and I will return.  Nor did I expect I'd make two trips to the Washington DC area.  In any given year, things change, and I hope 2015 will be a year of new goals reached, a time of happiness, health and prosperity.


My first title out this year will be another Patrice Wayne historical, A Desperate Destiny, from Evernight Publishing.  Other upcoming titles from Evernight also include Callahan's Fate, a contemporary romance set in NYC and Fire Rescue plus another Patrice Wayne title, Valley So Low.  Another has been subbed and I'm waiting to hear.


Also, my long awaited Saving The Sin Eater will be out from World Castle Publishing.  I'm working on edits as we speak.


I'm continuing to substitute teach but I'm also looking for something more permanent, some more lucrative if possible.  It's hard in this economy - here in my corner of the world, the economic recovery hasn't really touched most people - and in a small town but I'm trying. 


2014 saw me win an Evernight Reader's Choice award in the suspense category for Ryker's Justice and a runner up award in the interracial for Pink Neon Dreams.


Happy New Year....here's hoping for the best in 2015!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Coming November 18th - my new sweet romance, just in time for the holidays!


Outside my office window, it’s still glorious November.  Today, with temperatures around 70 degrees, it’ll be Indian Summer.  Tomorrow, however, a polar vortex will bring cold and maybe even snow by the weekend.  My Halloween Jack O’Lanterns are still on the front porch and I haven’t picked out my Thanksgiving turkey yet.  I’m clinging to the last little bit of autumn, my favorite season but around me, the world at large is already preparing for Christmas.

Most of the retail stores in our small town had Christmas merchandise peeking out around the Halloween costumes and candy.  Now that trick or treat time is over, it’s full scale holiday displays.  Thanksgiving tends to get almost lost in the shuffle.  And I’ll admit, yes, I have already ordered some Christmas gifts and bought a few new holiday decorations but I’m not quite sharing the Christmas spirit.

Some people are, though, and it’s wonderful.  My next release from Astraea Press debuts on November 18th and the title is Tidings of Comfort and Joy.  And, yes, it’s a Christmas love story, taking place from one holiday season to the next.  But it’s much more – after a brief prologue and some flashbacks so the reader can share the magical night the couple first met – the story begins on the Fourth of July.  The tragic events occur on the waters of the Grand Lake of the Cherokees, more commonly known as Grand Lake, in northeastern Oklahoma.  Oh, before I get too carried away, here’s the blurb:

They met during the holiday season and married in May.  Jessica savored every moment of happiness with her beloved husband Johnny but their newlywed bliss is shattered when he’s caught in a storm on the lake on the Fourth of July.  First missing, then presumed dead, Johnny Devereaux appears to be gone and everyone mourns him except his wife.  Jessica refuses to believe he could be dead and she steadfastly refuses to give up hope that he is alive and will return.

As the months pass, each holiday is another reminder of his absence and it becomes harder to believe but she refuses to yield to despair.  As his family, especially his brother Tad, struggles to accept Johnny’s death, only his great-grandmother and bride hang onto their hope.  Jessica comes to believe he’ll return to her at Christmas so the holiday takes on new significance as she waits for tidings of comfort and joy.

 

Tidings of Comfort and Joy by CoraGraphics

This is the gorgeous, evocative cover, courtesy of Cora Graphics, a very talented book cover artist.

Here’s a little sneak peak….

She sat all the way up, circled his neck with her arms, and he delivered a potent kiss that promised more to come later. Jessica considered heating things up, knowing if she did, she could get him to stay later but she didn't. He loved fishing, and she wanted him to have that solitary time he wanted out on the water.

            "I'll see you this afternoon," Johnny told her. "You be careful driving down, and watch the holiday traffic, okay?"

            "I will," she promised. "Have fun, and catch lots of fish."
            "I'll do my best. See you, honey."

            With another quick kiss, he was off the bed and out the door before she could say anything more. He never said good-bye  — it was their personal tradition something he taught her on the very first night that they met. She remembered that moment as she laid her head on the pillow.

            "I'll call you."

            "If you don't, I'll call you."

            He grinned. "You won't have to, Jessica. I'll see you tomorrow."

            "Promise," she said, and he traced a cross over his chest.

            "Cross my heart," he said. "See you."

            She opened her mouth to tell him good-bye but he held up one hand.

            "There are no good-byes but one, and that one is final," Johnny said. "So don't ever say it."

            Jessica smiled and touched his face with her hand. "Then I'll say' later.'"

            "Later, darlin'."

            Then, she hadn’t understood the reason.  Later, when he explained how devastated his family had been by his dad’s unexpected death and told her how one of his cousins said ‘good-bye’ before heading home to die in a house fire, Jessica understood his reasons.  And it became their custom, their habit.

Look for Tidings of Comfort and Joy available from Astraea Press beginning November 18, 2014 where quality eBooks are sold.

Disclosure: An earlier edition of this book appeared in 2012 as Sing We Now of Christmas from another publisher.  The new edition has been rewritten, enhanced, and thoroughly edited.

Coming November 18th - my new sweet romance, just in time for the holidays!


Outside my office window, it’s still glorious November.  Today, with temperatures around 70 degrees, it’ll be Indian Summer.  Tomorrow, however, a polar vortex will bring cold and maybe even snow by the weekend.  My Halloween Jack O’Lanterns are still on the front porch and I haven’t picked out my Thanksgiving turkey yet.  I’m clinging to the last little bit of autumn, my favorite season but around me, the world at large is already preparing for Christmas.

Most of the retail stores in our small town had Christmas merchandise peeking out around the Halloween costumes and candy.  Now that trick or treat time is over, it’s full scale holiday displays.  Thanksgiving tends to get almost lost in the shuffle.  And I’ll admit, yes, I have already ordered some Christmas gifts and bought a few new holiday decorations but I’m not quite sharing the Christmas spirit.

Some people are, though, and it’s wonderful.  My next release from Astraea Press debuts on November 18th and the title is Tidings of Comfort and Joy.  And, yes, it’s a Christmas love story, taking place from one holiday season to the next.  But it’s much more – after a brief prologue and some flashbacks so the reader can share the magical night the couple first met – the story begins on the Fourth of July.  The tragic events occur on the waters of the Grand Lake of the Cherokees, more commonly known as Grand Lake, in northeastern Oklahoma.  Oh, before I get too carried away, here’s the blurb:

They met during the holiday season and married in May.  Jessica savored every moment of happiness with her beloved husband Johnny but their newlywed bliss is shattered when he’s caught in a storm on the lake on the Fourth of July.  First missing, then presumed dead, Johnny Devereaux appears to be gone and everyone mourns him except his wife.  Jessica refuses to believe he could be dead and she steadfastly refuses to give up hope that he is alive and will return.

As the months pass, each holiday is another reminder of his absence and it becomes harder to believe but she refuses to yield to despair.  As his family, especially his brother Tad, struggles to accept Johnny’s death, only his great-grandmother and bride hang onto their hope.  Jessica comes to believe he’ll return to her at Christmas so the holiday takes on new significance as she waits for tidings of comfort and joy.

 

Tidings of Comfort and Joy by CoraGraphics

This is the gorgeous, evocative cover, courtesy of Cora Graphics, a very talented book cover artist.

Here’s a little sneak peak….

She sat all the way up, circled his neck with her arms, and he delivered a potent kiss that promised more to come later. Jessica considered heating things up, knowing if she did, she could get him to stay later but she didn't. He loved fishing, and she wanted him to have that solitary time he wanted out on the water.

            "I'll see you this afternoon," Johnny told her. "You be careful driving down, and watch the holiday traffic, okay?"

            "I will," she promised. "Have fun, and catch lots of fish."
            "I'll do my best. See you, honey."

            With another quick kiss, he was off the bed and out the door before she could say anything more. He never said good-bye  — it was their personal tradition something he taught her on the very first night that they met. She remembered that moment as she laid her head on the pillow.

            "I'll call you."

            "If you don't, I'll call you."

            He grinned. "You won't have to, Jessica. I'll see you tomorrow."

            "Promise," she said, and he traced a cross over his chest.

            "Cross my heart," he said. "See you."

            She opened her mouth to tell him good-bye but he held up one hand.

            "There are no good-byes but one, and that one is final," Johnny said. "So don't ever say it."

            Jessica smiled and touched his face with her hand. "Then I'll say' later.'"

            "Later, darlin'."

            Then, she hadn’t understood the reason.  Later, when he explained how devastated his family had been by his dad’s unexpected death and told her how one of his cousins said ‘good-bye’ before heading home to die in a house fire, Jessica understood his reasons.  And it became their custom, their habit.

Look for Tidings of Comfort and Joy available from Astraea Press beginning November 18, 2014 where quality eBooks are sold.

Disclosure: An earlier edition of this book appeared in 2012 as Sing We Now of Christmas from another publisher.  The new edition has been rewritten, enhanced, and thoroughly edited.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Ronan's Blood Vow


 

Bare knuckles brawler Ronan O’Neill makes a living with his fists as he wanders through the American frontier. But he dreams of a home, a place to call his own. A fight in a tiny Ozarks settlement brings more than he expected and he meets a widow, Jane, who offers to tend his hurts. Without Jane, he’ll never survive but she draws upon all her skills as a healer and fey ways to keep him alive. As he burns with fever and dreams of survival, he’s struck by one thought above all others – he’s come to love this woman. As he heals, he realizes he might – after so long – find his way home if they can overcome a few obstacles along the way.

 

Meet Ronan, my latest romance hero and the newest Irishman to grace the pages of one of my tales.  Maybe you fell in love with Will Brennan, my Irish vampire, or found Quinn Sullivan attractive as well as charming.  Ronan is a lonely man who makes his living with his fists.  He would love to find a home and the love of a good woman but until he suffers injuries in a fight he wins in a remote Ozark settlement, the chance was slim.


Now that he’s met Jane Allen, it’s improved….here’s a taste from the beginning of my latest, Ronan’s Blood Vow, new from Astraea Press and just 99 cents on Amazon and other e-tailers!



With his feet planted on the thick green grass heavy with clover, Ronan O’Neill balled his hands into tight fists and prepared to take on his opponent. Murmurs from the gathered crowd echoed in his ears, but beyond the noise he heard birds singing in the trees at the edge of the grounds. Overhead the noon sun shone down over the gathering. Somewhere Ronan caught the sweet scent of honeysuckle still in blossom in early September, stronger than his own rank stench of sweat and anxiety. No matter how many times he fought or how well he put up a mask of bravado, Ronan always tasted fear until the first punch. Then blood lust, battle instinct, rose up, and he thought about nothing else.

Just as the first contender stepped forward, Ronan saw the woman. She stood apart from the others with a worn shawl across her shoulders and her feet bare. He noticed her dark hair was tamed into a heavy braid descending past her knees. When her dark eyes met his, he noted her pretty face. Few women graced the throng with their presence, and those who did stuck close to their men. But this one stood alone. And unlike the others, she didn’t wear a sunbonnet or hat of any kind. He thought she smiled at him, a sweet, brief expression, and he inclined his head in a brief nod to acknowledge it.

Ronan turned his attention toward the man across from him. He stood more than six feet tall, several inches taller than Ronan, and his broad shoulders made him wider too. Ronan sized up his challenger and, despite the man’s size, detected softness around the man’s middle and what he thought might be weakness in his face. He could take him, he decided with confidence, but it might be difficult.

The master of ceremonies – an older gentleman, someone of importance, if his waistcoat was any indication -  stood beside the two men. “Are you goin’ for blood or being knocked out cold?” he asked in an effort to determine in advance what constituted a win.

“Well, Amos, I say I’m for putting this other fella down and out,” Ronan’s opponent said.

Amos turned his gaze to Ronan, who nodded. “Aye, fair enough,” he said, aware how musical and foreign his brogue must sound to the people here. Their countrified accents were strange to his ears. Although Ronan spoke English well enough, Gaelic remained his first tongue, the one his mother whispered to soothe him as a wee wane. His father had realized English, even though it was the tongue of the British oppressors, would be a vital tool for his son’s generation.

“All right then,” Amos said. “You’ll go at it till one of you goes down and out.”

Without any further discussion, Ronan raised his fists and ducked the first attempted blow. He hammered the other man hard with a series of quick punches to the face, and as blood streamed from his rival’s nose, Ronan punched the man’s wide belly. When his challenger moaned and bent double, Ronan knew he would win this match and the prize, a five dollar gold piece. As they sparred, the crowd called out encouragement to his adversary.

“Go get him, George! Take the Irishman!”

Smirking like a fool, another shouted, “Knock him out, George!”

George rallied to their calls and battered Ronan’s face in a fierce attack. In retaliation, Ronan jabbed a finger into the soft spot at the base of George’s throat, and the man choked. Ronan thumped him hard and pummeled his head with a series of blows hard enough his hands hurt with the force of delivery. Their fight continued as they wrestled and did their best to damage each other. Ronan found his feet, and so did George. But, the larger man wavered back and forth. Ronan took him down with a series of well-aimed blows to the head and a final punch to the gut. George toppled like a felled tree and didn’t move.

Ronan, blood streaming from a dozen cuts and aching from too many blows, stood, and after a moment’s hesitation Amos declared the Irishman the winner. He handed over the five dollar gold piece, and the crowd, stirred up with the fight, quieted. Their cheers throughout the battle in George’s favor stopped when he hit the ground, and their mutterings sounded hostile to Ronan. Several men knelt down beside George, declared he was breathing, and carried him away toward town. As the crowd began to disperse, one man rushed forward with a harsh cry and a knife in his outstretched hand.

“I’ll get you for this, you sorry Irish dog!” the man shouted. “George is my kin.”

He slashed at Ronan with the blade, aiming for the chest or gut. Swift-footed, however, Ronan sidestepped the attack, so the knife sliced his outer right arm. Sharp pain burned, but Ronan did nothing. A powerful aroma of homemade corn whiskey rippled outward from George’s relative, and Ronan figured the man far too drunk to spar with. Several onlookers came out of the crowd and maneuvered the attacker away. Blood gushed from the wound. Despite the pain, Ronan did nothing but dig into his pocket for a handkerchief. He dabbed at the flow, but the rag did nothing to stem the tide.

After putting the gold piece into his inner pocket, Ronan assessed his injuries. His head pounded, standard enough after a hard fight, and his stomach muscles ached where he’d been struck. He didn’t doubt his shins would be bruised, and his left knee throbbed from a well-aimed kick. His right eye would blacken, and it swelled already, sore. Ronan’s worst wound, the knife cut, still bled, and he struggled to stop the bleeding before it made him feel faint. Alone, without any friends or kin to call his own, he couldn’t afford to be ill, and the possibility stirred his normally tranquil soul with growing anxiety. He concentrated on the task and didn’t pay any attention to his surroundings until a quiet voice said, “You’re hurt.”

Ronan lifted his head to find the woman he noticed before the fight standing at his side. At close range, he found her beautiful. Her delicate features could have been those of an expensive china doll. He could get lost in her dark eyes, so deep and filled with mystery. Her full pink lips begged to be kissed. With interest, despite his hurts, he smiled at her and said, “Aye, well, it’s never so bad. I’ll fare well enough if I stop the blood.”

“I reckon I can tend to your wounds,” she said. “I don’t have anything here, though. You’d have to come home with me.”

Not one to trust much of anyone unless they earned it, Ronan trusted her. He didn’t understand why. But his instincts did and so did Ronan. Her willingness to bring him home surprised him, though, because most women wouldn’t risk their reputation, especially not with a stranger such as him. “Aye, I will, then,” he said. “I hope home’s not far?”

“It’s a little ways,” she said. “But it’s not so far we cain’t walk it.”

Fatigue and weakness threatened, but Ronan drew on his physical strength and his stamina and determined he could make it. “Let’s go then, woman,” he said. “Before I fall down in a faint. If I’m going home with ye, I should make your acquaintance. My name’s Ronan O’Neill.”

“Pleased to meet you,” she said. “I’m Jane Allen.”

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