That’s right, that magical day of release has come! This is the final NaNo 2011 piece that I had sent out into the shark pond. Initially, I had a Valentine’s Anthology in mind for it. In my mind-numbing rush during NaNo, which suckles at your muse’s soul, I forgot to add a Valentine’s Day element to it. Oh I had one in mind but there I was, in a sleepy haze, smashing the ‘send’ button in my email.
To my surprise, Still Moments wanted to publish it as a stand alone. My very first attempt at a western romance. I’ve been waiting for this one to be ready to go so no more babbling. On to the teasing!
BLURB: Ella Gilby lost her husband to the perils of living in the wilderness of the new frontier. When her son finds a wounded man in the barn, she does what any Christian woman would do for a needy soul. She takes him in until he’s able to move on but never expects the attraction to blossom between them. When she realizes that her mysterious guest, Travis, has a deadly past, she has to come to terms that it may just be the cause of her husband’s untimely death.
“My wife has a proposition for you, ma’am.” Mr. McCleary adjusted his sleeves and wrapped his arm around Ella’s waist. He walked her over to the bench in front of the store. “Our boy and his wife are looking for a place, and if’n you are agreeable, they want to buy your homestead. I’ve got an addition on my house you’re welcome to. I’d be most grateful if you’d consider working in my store too.”
“I don’t know.” Ella sat on the bench. “The homestead was Owen’s dream. He had a deal to get a bull in two months and start raising cattle.” She couldn’t leave her home. Owen was buried there, and she wanted her final resting place to be right beside his.
“Well, I’ll let you think about it.”
She nodded. “Oh, Mr. McCleary? I need a few medical supplies for my guest. Gauze, mainly, and whatever you have for pain. I don’t know if he’ll need it, but I’d rather have something on hand.”
“Already in your supplies. Doc wrote down the instructions for his salve.”
“Thank you.” With the help of McCleary, Ella climbed back in the wagon. The ride home went by in a blur, her head full of the days she lost to sleep. Remorse that her boy not only had to bear the brunt of the chores, but feed himself too, gnawed at her conscience.
“Ma?” He snapped the reins to urge the horses faster.
“I caught a few rabbits in the trap. Can you make that one meal with them that I like?”
“Sure. Anything for my little man.” She fought the urge to rub his head, determined to treat him like the young adult he’d shown himself to be.
Entering the homestead, Eli stopped just short of the barn. Ella jumped down and dug in the back for the medical package. “I’ll help with the supplies, Eli, but I want to make sure our guest is okay.”
“Not if I get it all off first.”
She chuckled at his exuberance. Opening the door, Ella almost flew out of her skin at the sight of her guest—in nothing but the outfit God gave him—propped up against the wood trim to the back rooms. She spun away, embarrassed to be looking at a naked man. Owen had been her first and only lover. She’d never even peeked at another man undressed.
“Mister, ah, it’s best if you go back to bed, please.” She gripped her supplies, willing him to shuffle to the back and cover his nakedness. Instead, she heard a distinct thud. The floorboards vibrated beneath her feet. She whirled around and gasped as he pawed at the archway. Grabbing his arms, she helped him to his feet and guided him into the bedroom. His weight caused her shoulders to burn with the strain, but she stumbled and dropped him onto the bed. Groaning when she realized he was on top of the coverlet, she picked up Owen’s discarded shirt and covered his unmentionable area.
She rushed outside to get some water. Anything to clear her mind from seeing the man’s private area. A sigh of relief left her lips when she saw he managed to get underneath the covers. He drank a good bit of what she offered, his hand unsteady at the rush to get the cool liquid to his lips.
“You’re quite welcome, mister. Can I get you anything else?”
“Pardon?” Bolts of lightning coursed through her body when he stared right into her core. No lust or ill will lingered behind his glittering blue eyes, but something in them brewed like a storm on the horizon.
“My name is Travis.” He winced as he sat up in the bed and inspected his wounds.
“My name is Ella. My son Eli is outside…with a gun. He’s a pretty good shot.” She grimaced. Why did she say that to a man who couldn’t stand for more than a few seconds without assistance?
“Is he the good shot who did this?” A hiss escaped his throat when he touched his shoulder.
Ella was crestfallen. “You don’t know who shot you?”
He sighed. “I was hoping you did. I hate to impose on you, ma’am.”
He cocked his head.
“You want me to call you by your Christian name so you might as well return the favor.” She smiled.
“Ella.” He paused, his jaw working the name out. “I’d be real grateful if you had anything spare to eat. I’m a bit famished.”
“I’ll be making one of my son’s favorites. From the sound of it, there’s plenty to go around.” She took up the tin cup for a refill and he grabbed her arm. She flinched.
“If I haven’t said it through my fever, thank you. I hope I can repay you for your kindness. Your husband is lucky to have such a good woman.”
Her lips quivered. “My husband is dead, mister. Most likely by the same man who shot you.” She jerked out of his grasp, refilled the cup and left the room in haste.
You can read more about it on Goodreads.
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Now for the fun stuff! A giveaway! That’s right! Comment on my blog or on my Facebook page listed above (look for the released post for Mended Hearts) and that enters you to win a copy!