Weekend Excerpt–Sneak Peek at Redheads & Ranchers

My current WIP is actually a three-book series called Redheads & Ranchers.  The stand-alone novels will be connected in that they’re about hot ranchers and the redheads they can’t resist.

The first book is called RESCUED BY THE RANCHER.

Earlier this week, I posted this brand new teaser in my Facebook group, Pandora’s Passionista Paradise.   Want to see new stuff before anybody else?  Click the name to join us!

Here’s the new teaser…

Cole felt a familiar sense of relief settle over him as he locked the gate behind the horse trailer and climbed back into the cab of the truck. Arriving home at the ranch where he’d grown up, locking out the world at large, always gave him a feeling of peace.

It was home. He couldn’t put it more simply than that. It was where he’d spent his entire life, with the exception of the time he spent in the Marines. Following a year in Afghanistan, he’d worked out the remainder of his enlistment in Bridgeport, where he’d trained horses and soldiers for combat missions. He’d been thrilled to be back in the saddle, and the fact that home was a short couple of hours away had been the cherry on top.

When his enlistment had ended, he’d returned to the ranch and built his reputation as an in-demand horse trainer. Happy that Cole was back in the fold, his parents had sold some stocks and retired to Santa Fe, leaving him in charge of the ranch. His older sister Beth had been more than happy with that turn of events. As much as she’d loved growing up in the country, she was far happier living in San Francisco and pursuing a career in law enforcement.

Cole pulled up in front of the white barn, put the truck in park, and turned off the ignition. He climbed down and closed the door, heading to the back of the trailer.

“Here we are, Dahlia. We’ll get you all brushed, then we’ll put you in your new stall. Your supper’s already there.” As the sun slid lower in the sky, Cole sighed, glad he’d thought ahead to prepare the stall early that morning before heading west to Carmel Valley. He was tired, and ready to be home.

He unlocked the tailgate and lowered it, starting to step inside when he froze. Someone was crouched down in the front of the trailer. Instantly, his senses snapped to high alert.

With two determined strides, he covered the distance between himself and the stranger, who was completely covered in his own black hoodie. “What the hell are you doing in my trailer?” he growled, reaching to grasp the front of the jacket and lift the person off the floor, pressing whoever it was hard against the wall of the trailer.

He heard a soft gasp as he used his free hand to whip off the hood, revealing a young woman, her red hair matted down from the hood, her face swollen and bruised. One eye was completely swollen shut, while the other, the most piercing shade of green, stared back at him in stark terror.

“Holy shit,” he muttered, gently setting her down on what he realized were bare feet. “Are you okay? How did you get in here?”

The woman just stared at him in silence, her battered mouth gaping in a silent scream.

Frustrated, Cole lifted his hat and ran a hand through his dark brown hair. “I didn’t mean to scare you, I was just startled, is all.” Glancing down, he saw that his jacket extended to the middle of her thighs, and her legs were as bare as her feet. Fleetingly, he wondered if she was dressed at all.

He reached toward her and she flinched, gasping again. “Easy now,” he murmured, “I’m not going to hurt you.” He placed a hand on her shoulder and felt her quaking, whether from the chill of the late March afternoon, or from fear, he couldn’t say.

“Are you okay?” He leaned down, searching her good eye for some sign of communication. She just stood shaking.

Cole blew out an exasperated breath. “Okay, I have to get this horse settled. After that, we can try to sort things out. As long as you’re okay. Are you hurt anywhere besides your face?”

Her swelled lips were closed now, and she trembled violently, but she made no effort to respond to him.

“Fuck it,” he breathed. “We’re going to put you in the truck,” he told her. “We’ll turn on the heat and get you warmed up while I take care of Dahlia, here.”

Carefully, with an arm around her waist and his other hand on her shoulder, he guided her out of the trailer and to the passenger door of the truck’s cab. He opened the door and lifted her onto the seat. She was so light, like a little bird or something, he mused.

Hurrying around to the driver’s side, he started the truck and turned the heat on full blast. Then he looked back to her.

“Are you thirsty? Can I get you some water?” He reached into the small cooler he’d put behind his seat and pulled out a bottled water. When he held it out to her, she snatched at it, using shaky hands to try to open it. She couldn’t manage it so he took it, unscrewing the cap and handing it back to her. Shakily, with both hands she lifted the bottle to her lips and drank greedily, spilling some down the front of herself. She’d drained the bottle in no time, and Cole handed her a second one after he’d loosened the cap for her. She fixed him with her bright green eye and nodded in thanks.

He nodded, too. “Okay, you stay here and get warm. I’ll take care of the horses, then we can go to the house and figure things out.”

He closed the door and headed back to get Dahlia out of the trailer, but his mind was racing. Who is she? What happened to her? How did she get into the trailer?

He led Dahlia to an empty stall between two other horses. She offered light resistance until she was inside, where she stood still long enough for him to remove the rope halter. He spoke soothingly to the horse as he offered her a bucket of feed.

From inside the barn, Cole could see the young woman in the truck. She’d pulled the hood back up, and she stared straight ahead, sipping the water. From his vantage point, he saw the right, unbattered side of her face. Apparently, she’d been beaten by someone who was right-handed.
Beaten. The idea of someone laying hands on this woman made his blood boil. He took a deep breath and tried to consider the situation logically.

Clearly, she’s been assaulted. By? Cole shrugged. Her husband? A boyfriend?
He chewed on that idea for a moment. A domestic abuse situation makes sense. So when did she get into the trailer?

Hanging buckets of feed in the other stalls, he considered the question. I stopped twice after leaving Meredith and Carmel Valley. Once for lunch. The other time, for gas about half an hour before we got back to the ranch.

He shook his head. When I stopped for gas, I paid at the pump. I never left the truck. It had to have been at the truck stop.

He rubbed a hand across his mouth and looked back toward the truck. The woman was resting her head against the passenger window.

He distributed fresh hay into each stall, running the scenario in his mind. She was beaten, and she ran away. He thought of her bare feet. So fast, she didn’t even bother with shoes. She was in a hurry to get away, so she climbed into the horse trailer, hoping to be taken away from the person hurting her.

Putting away the wheelbarrow, he glanced back at the woman in the truck. So now what?

I’m hoping RESCUED BY THE RANCHER will be out before the end of the year, with books 2 and 3 to follow.

In the meantime, have you read the Dream Dominant Collection?  It’s a series of four stand-alone novels featuring a light BDSM theme–hot Alpha males and the sassy subs they can’t resist.

Start with LUKE & BELLA, Dream Dominant Book 1,
available at your favorite online bookseller.
books2read.com/LukeAndBella1

Weekend Excerpt–Now That Warrior Mine is Out…

WARRIOR MINE, Dream Dominant Book 4, launched to terrific 5-STAR reviews.

For my next project, I’m stepping away from the Dream Dominants to a ‘spicy vanilla’ suspenseful erotic romance I’m tentatively calling Voices.  I’m pretty sure by the time it’s ready to be published, I will settle on a better name.

Jenny Stone is on the run from the thugs who killed her parents and have held her prisoner.  For the last two years, she’s been unable to speak due to the trauma she experienced the day her life changed forever.  When she sees her chance to escape, she takes it, secretly hitching a ride in the horse trailer of a handsome rancher.

Cole Caldwell has no clue about the battered girl he finds hiding in his trailer.  She can’t tell him who she is or where she came from.
But he knows he’ll never let anyone lay a hand on her ever again.  Not as long as there’s breath in his lungs.

Here’s a little (unedited) peek at this WIP…

Warm breath on her face startled her, and her eyes popped open to see a shiny black nose and two soulful brown eyes resting mere inches away.

Jenny smiled.  Hi, puppy.  She reached to pet his head, and the dog whimpered softly.  Jenny frowned.  Do you need to go outside? 

Carefully, she sat up and looked around.  It had been dark when she’d gone to bed.  Now, golden sunlight streamed through the two windows of the corner bedroom.  To her, it was a beautiful space, all pastel colors and feminine details.

Her prison of the last two years popped into her mind, the tiny cubicle with its stark white walls, the air mattress she’d been allotted, the black blanket that had kept her warm.

No more.  She shook her head and her gaze fell back to Blue.  Oh.  Puppy needs to go out.

She wondered where Cole was.  The house was utterly still.  She slid out of bed, still wearing the clothes he’d loaned her the night before.  Quickly, she made the bed, replacing the throw pillows and making certain the arrangement was pristine.

She crossed to the bathroom, pausing to check her image in the mirror.  The swelling around her eye had definitely abated.  Now it was merely a noxious shade of purple.  She used a comb she found in a drawer to sort out her ginger waves, wishing she had a hair tie.  Instead, she tucked her hair behind her ears as best she could.

In the hallway, she glanced around, but since the house seemed empty, she headed downstairs.  A rectangle of white paper on the kitchen counter caught her eye.  It was a note.

Good morning, sleepyhead.
I’m out at the barn.  You can join me if you like.
Cole

Jenny smiled, noting that her lip was less sore than it had been.  She looked down at her sock feet.  No trips to the barn today.  She placed a hand on her stomach to still the nerves there.

Besides, Victor is looking for me.

To anyone else, the idea that Victor might find her at some remote ranch all the way in–she realized she had no idea where she was–might seem ridiculous.  But she knew Victor, knew what he was capable of.  She’s seen it firsthand.

Blue whined again, and the thoughts of Victor dissipated.  Come on, puppy.  She opened the kitchen door and the dog ran outside, heading in the direction of the barn.

Afraid to go outside onto the porch, Jenny crossed to the living room windows.  From there, she could see Cole exercising a horse in a round pen not far from the barn.  A few other horses grazed in a fenced pasture beyond that.

Blue trotted up to Cole, and the man leaned down to scratch behind his ears.  Then he stood and looked toward the house, raising a hand in a wave when he saw Jenny at the window.  Jenny smiled and waved back, feeling an uncertain flutter in her stomach.

Cole stopped the horse and walked up to him, rubbing his nose and neck with generous affection.  He opened the pen’s gate and walked the horse into the pasture, where he removed the rope harness and turned him loose to join the others.

Shortly, he and Blue walked in the front door.  “Hey there, Jenny,” he grinned.  “How did you sleep?”

Blushing slightly, she smiled, nodding.  Really well.

“Good,” he said, hanging his straw hat on a rack near the front door.  He turned and tilted his head, gazing at her thoughtfully.  “Your eye looks better today.  Yesterday, you only had one.”  He chuckled softly.  “It’s gonna be quite a shiner for a while, though.”

Jenny self-consciously brought her hand to her left eye, touching the area cautiously.

Cole made his way into the kitchen, and Jenny followed.  “Are you hungry?”

She hadn’t considered it before, but now that he mentioned it, she was.  Yes.  She nodded sheepishly.

He took two plates from a cupboard and set them on the kitchen island.  “How does a sandwich sound?  I have turkey and Swiss cheese.”  He looked to her, and she nodded again.

Jenny felt her stomach rumble.  Turkey and cheese sounded amazing.  She watched as he put slices of white bread on the plates.  From the fridge, he retrieved the turkey, the cheese, a jar of mayonnaise, and a bottle of yellow mustard.

Setting everything on the counter, he held up the condiments.  “Mayo, or mustard?  Or both?”

She pointed to the mustard.

“Not a fan of mayo?”

She shook her head, wrinkling her nose.

“Oh, it’s good stuff,” he contended, slathering his bread with the thick white goo.

She couldn’t stop the snicker, and he looked up at her, grinning.  Her heart skipped a beat as she met his deep brown eyes.  Cole was exceptionally handsome, with his dark hair, so brown it was almost black, and those dreamy eyes.

Just…don’t, she cautioned herself.

When the sandwiches were ready, he cut them on the diagonal and placed heaping portions of corn chips in the space between halves.

As they ate, Cole chattered about his morning and his work with the horses.  Jenny listened, nodding when it was appropriate.

At one point, he looked up at her.  “I have to go into town today to pick up some feed that just came in.  Thought I might wander over to Wal-Mart and maybe pick up some things for you.  Unless you’d like to come with me.”

Jenny felt panic rising.  She had no money, no way of paying for anything, and she certainly didn’t expect Cole to buy things for her.  The reality of her situation sank in.  What choice do I have?

She shook her head furiously.

Cole smiled kindly.  “I kind of figured you’d say that.  Besides, you can’t exactly go gallivanting all over town dressed like that.”  He nodded to her outfit of his hand-me-downs.

She looked down and smiled in spite of herself.

He drew a piece of paper out of his pocket and handed it to her.  “I started a list of things I figured you might need.  But I need sizes.  I’d never venture to guess a woman’s size—I grew up with a sister who could kick my ass.”

Jenny found herself suppressing a smile.  She scanned the list.  Jeans, tops, underwear, jacket, socks, shoes, toiletries.

He pushed a pencil toward her.  “I know how you feel about writing stuff on paper.  But I have to have sizes, or else I’ll buy all the wrong things.”

She chewed her lip thoughtfully as she tried to decide what to do.  Finally, she picked up the pencil and began marking sizes.

As she did, Cole continued.  “If there are any brands you prefer, mark those, too.  And if I know your favorite color, it will make picking out stuff easier.”

Finished marking sizes, she wrote the word ‘purple’ beneath the list of clothing, then handed it back to him.

He looked over the list and grinned.  “Purple, huh?  Good to know.”

The release date for Voices is TBD.

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