Friday, January 28, 2022

Chaplain May Preston Slosson-Wyoming Territorial Prison by Zina Abbott


Dr. May Preston Slosson’s introduction to the Wyoming Territorial Prison started shortly after her 1891 marriage to Edwin Slosson in Centralia, Kansas. In 1892, they moved to Laramie, Wyoming, and both became professors at the University of Wyoming. 

In addition, Dr. Slosson became chair of the prison committee of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union. She launched a lecture series, to be given by University of Wyoming professors, for the prisoners at the Penitentiary. She was also a speaker in the series.


When the position of chaplain at the nearly all-male prison became vacant in 1897, at the request of the inmates, she was appointed to the position. On August 1, 1897, Dr. May Preston Slosson signed a contract for $25.00 a month to replace Reverend J.W. Taylor as Prison Chaplain.  

Dr. Slosson continued to the “civilizing” work of Fannie Marsh and other predecessors. In addition to conducting Sunday services, she continued to organize and provide the series of lectures by university professors and visiting speakers, which included her husband. These lectures were always well-attended, not only by prison inmates, but by members of the Laramie community. One of the most popular lectures was the Fourth of July lecture given by Judge Carpenter on the acquisition of the western territories in the United States. According to Warden McDonald, during her time as chaplain, punishments decreased 50%.

In 1899 Dr. Slosson began another important tradition: the annual “Flower Service,” which was carried out in conjunction with the Women’s Christian Temperance Union. Prisoners were awarded with bouquets of flowers tied with white ribbons to remind them of the beauty outside the prison and the benefits of sobriety. Inmates considered this one of their favorite programs to attend.

Dr. Slosson organized a 'War College' of sorts for the convicts wanting to improve themselves. In fact, one of the convicts was so fascinated with mathematics, upon his release, he became a civil engineer. She continued these programs until she resigned in 1901 when the prison officially closed. She continued to serve until 1903 when the last of the prisoners were transferred to the Wyoming State Prison in Rawlins, Wyoming.


The inmates often showed their loyalty and gratitude to their chaplain by presenting Dr. Slosson with gifts made in the prison industries building. One was the above table made of ribbon cut Oak, which is currently in the May Preston Slosson family collection. (This photograph is part of the display at the Wyoming Territorial Prison State Historical Site.)

Life History of May Genevieve Preston Slosson, also known as May Gorsline Preston:

May was born 10 Sep 1858 in Ilion, Herkimer County, New York, to Reverend Levi Campbell Preston and Mary Gorsline Preston. She grew up on a farm. Her father, a preacher, supported suffrage and higher education for women. Her mother, herself a seminary graduate, was a student of languages and an advocate for philosophy and science.

In the 1870s, her parents moved to Hillsdale, Michigan, while their daughters earned degrees as Hillsdale College. There May earned a BS in 1878 and an MS in 1879. 

In 1880, she earned a PhD from Cornell University for a thesis titled "Different Theories of Beauty." She was the first woman to earn a PhD in philosophy in the US. For a few years, she was a professor of Greek at Hastings College in Nebraska. After that, she moved to Kansas where her relatives were living and became the assistant principal at Sabetha High School.

In 1891, May married Edwin Emery Slosson, seven years her junior, in Centralia, Kansas. In 1892, they moved to Laramie, Wyoming, where Edwin took a position as professor of chemistry at the University of Wyoming in Laramie. May also taught at the same University. It was there she became chair of the prison committee of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union.

While in Laramie, two children were born to the couple. The oldest, Preston William Slosson, was born in September 1892. He lived to be ninety-one and died in Pennsylvania.

Alfred Raymond, the couple’s youngest son, was born in January 1894. At the age of six, he died of scarlet fever in September 1900. He was buried in Laramie. The child had been ill less than seventy-two hours with the disease.

In 1903, her family followed Edwin’s career to New York City, where he worked as a newspaper editor and later helped found Columbia’s journalism school;

May Preston Slosson, accustomed to the right to vote in Wyoming, along with other rights denied to women in most states at the time, became active in the suffrage movement.

She served as the Director of the Young Women's Christian Association in New York City (1903-20),

A collection of her poems, From a Quiet Garden, was published in 1920.

The Slossons later moved to Washington, D.C., where Edwin was director of the Science Service news agency. 


May Preston Slosson, right, poses with her husband, Edwin Emery Slosson, at a British Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in 1927. Edwin Slosson was a chemistry professor and science journalist. (Photo: Smithsonian Institution Archives/Science Service Records)

In 1929, at the age of sixty-four, Edwin Slosson passed away. 

After her husband’s death, May moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan, to be near her son, Preston, and his family.

On November 26, 1943, at the age of eighty-five, May Genevieve Preston Slosson passed away in Ann Arbor, Michigan. She was buried with her younger son in Laramie, Wyoming.

The Wyoming Territory Prison gets an honorable mention in my book, Mail Order Letitia. part of the An Impostor for Christmas series. Once the prison is pointed out to Letitia, and she learns it also houses female inmates, she worries that she might end up there if her new husband learns of her deception. Although this story has Christmas elements, it is a good read for any time of year. To find the book description and purchase link, please CLICK HERE.




Although not set in Wyoming, my book, Abilene Gamble, to be released next month, takes place in nearby Kansas (1871). To find the book description and purchase link, please CLICK HERE.






Display at Wyoming Territorial Penitentiary State Historic Site

Thursday, January 27, 2022

Cowboy Kisses News~ Julie Lence

Greetings Cowboy Kisses! 

Over the past few weeks, Cowboy Kisses has bid farewell to some of its team members. Please help me wish all the best to Paty Jager, Danni Roan, Lynn Landes, Lianna Hawkins, and Stephanie Berget and they continue on different paths in their writing careers. 

All is not lost. Please join me in giving a grand hello to new team members, Rhonda Lee Carver, T.K. Conklin and Raine Rochelle. Each writes western romance and you can get to know them better by checking out their authors pages located on the right hand side bar. Rhonda, T.K., and Raine will begin blogging in February. Look for Rhonda the 3rd Wednesday of each month, for T.K. the 3rd Monday of each month, and for Raine the 1st Friday of each month. And be sure to catch them on the Facebook Group page and the Twitter page. 

Welcome to Cowboy Kisses Rhonda, T.K. and Raine!! We are blessed to have you on our team.


Tuesday, January 25, 2022


 Think about all of the territory west of the mighty Mississippi River, there was approximately One woman for every 200 men.

Suitors may have lined up at your door.

Perhaps you were bargained for like a prized cow.

Would their have been fights for your hand?

How would you have know the man would honor and love you all the days of your life? 

The idea of making a name for themselves drew men west. Whether it was gold, silver, timber or cattle, the vast expanse of the American continent and the idea of Manifest Destiny put the male population on the move. But a man needed more than just his horse, his land, his dreams. He needed to share it with a woman who would hold him fast and give him sons to fill his destiny. But if women were not to be found, how would he achieve the end?

They placed ads in newspapers, magazine, and catalogues that were mailed to homes in the east. Today, we might use dating services on line or off line to snag a mate. And just like in the 1800's, some exaggerated their descriptions or out right lied about their intentions. There was no guarantee that the person you were reading about or writing to was real. It could have been a group of cowboys, timber men, or miners that employed a better educated friend to write on their behalf or even read the letters that arrived to them.

What drew them together was faith. Faith in the art of love. Faith in human nature. Faith in giving with all their heart.

Some of these ads actually were seen in papers abroad on the European  continent. Imagine, paying ships passage to come to America, surviving the landing in New York, Charleston, Baltimore, Savannah, or even New Orleans. Then heading inland by stage to some tiny, dirt filled landmark that was supposed to be paved with gold. Imagine the heart break at seeing streets lined with horse muck, mud, squaller and knowing that there was no turning back.

Yet, women did come. 

The ads were limited to only personal information such as appearances, your height, your weight, what financial situations you were in what social standing you might have.  You could even give a description of what kind of person you were eager to meet. Cost? Oh yes, there was a cost - to men.

Ladies might publish free if under 40 words while gentlemen paid twenty five cents. Any words over both male and female paid a penny a word. Names were not given. Instead each person was issued a number. Replies were sent to the publications in sealed envelopes marked with the number of the ad.

What did an ad look like:  A widower, merchant and stockman lives in Kansas, 46 years old, height 6 feet, weight 210 pounds, brunette, black hair and eyes, wishes to correspond with ladies of same age, without encumbrances and with means, must move in the best society and be fully qualified to help make a happy home: object, matrimony. (

The answer might appear: There is a lad in Missouri with a foot that is flat, with seeds in this pocket and a brick in his hat, with an eye that is blue and a number ten shoe. He's the bull of the woods and just the man for you. (

What ever worked the ladies came. They came with their dishes, their books, their dreams and they put down roots. Those of us now living thank them.


Till next time,


If you want to get in touch a sweet historical series about mail order brides be sure to check out Sweet Promise Press ' Pioneer Brides of Rattlesnake Ridge.


Sunday, January 23, 2022

Interview with Skylar Clark


Hello, and a big thank you for joining me here on Cowboy Kisses! 

I've brought a special guest in today and she's agreed to an exclusive interview only with Cowboy Kisses.

RUTHIE: "Welcome, Skyler. It's so nice to have you here. As a matter of fact it feels as if I already know you." 

SKYLAR: "It's my pleasure to be here, Ruthie. Thank you for writing mine and Jesse's story."

RUTHIE:  "I enjoyed writing 'The Tombstone Ghost Cowboy' series renamed and rewritten now as The 'Chasing Time' series, but the truth is it practically wrote itself. You realize from the moment you appeared in Jesse's rented room at The Historical Bird Cage Theater, where my family and I were on the tour, you and Jesse took possession of my mind for the rest of my vacation and a few more years after that."

SKYLAR: she chuckles, "It sounds to me like we still have possession of your mind."

RUTHIE: "You've got that right. There's still a few more stories to tell, but we'll get back to the rest of the Clark family later. For now, Skylar, why don't you tell us your first thought after entering the Historical Bird Cage Theater?" 

SKLAR: "Excitement, I was transferred back in time from the get go. The Saloon was absolutely incredible. The famous cherry wood bar, the portrait of Fatima, old photographs of famous people who had lived and many who had died there. Knowing there were ghosts from the past still lingering in the building made the Cage even more enticing. There was something about the cage and, well, the entire town of Tombstone or as some call it 'The town to tough to die' that made me feel like I was finally home. Back to my roots. I guess I watched too many westerns with my mom while growing up." 

RUTHIE: "Sounds familiar.  What did you find was the most interesting part of the Cage?"

SKYLAR: (She lifts one perfect eyebrow) "Ruthie, I think you already know the answer Is my husband Jesse Clark." 

RUTHIE:  I smile, then wink at her, "Let me rephrase. Besides the handsome Ghost Cowboy, what interested you the most?"

SKYLAR: "Well, I guess that would be the fourteen cages built up on the walls where the naughty ladies of the night would entertain their guests, unseen if they pulled the red drapes closed. I thought it interesting that the Black Moriah was stored inside the building as well. You know it's said, "it ate a man for breakfast each morning."

RUTHIE: "Yes, that's what I've heard. So many deaths in what was a small town that grew to thousands almost over night during the great silver boom." 

SKYLAR: "As you declined the stairs to the small casino where it is documented that the longest poker game in history was played, did you feel the presence of paranormal activity?"

SKYLAR: "It was either that or a sense of nostalgia. As I stepped downward I searched the portraits hanging on the wall to see if there was any one I recognized from history, books and old western movies or TV sitcoms. Because of the large crowd it was a slow decline. I recognized the famous Earp brother's, Doc Holiday, and other notorious outlaws of the day. When we reached the small casino I imagined those men slouched comfortably in them chairs playing poker or faro and frolicking with the doves as they served them drinks."

RUTHIE: "Tell me about what happened when you turned from the poker hall to the rented rooms and peeked through the peeping hole where Wyatt Earp and Josephine frequented."

SKYLAR: "Let's start from the beginning. I was talking to my mom on my cellphone and I told her to 'wish me luck that I would spot a handsome ghost cowboy.' So, when I peered through the peephole at first everything seemed normal of what you would imagine to be in a room from the nineteenth century. Dresser's lamp's and a bed. Then my eyes landed on the bed and I felt this tingling at the back of my neck. And that's when it happened."

RUTHIE: "That's when what happened?"

SKYLAR:  "A handsome half-dressed cowboy appeared out of thin air. His eyes caught mine. They were angry eyes. He bellowed for me to get in there and do my job. The ghost could talk!"

RUTHIE: "That must have been alarming. What happened next?"

SKYLAR: "I closed my eyes and leaned against the door thinking my over-active imagination was at it again. I believed when my eyelids rose he'd be gone. He wasn't. Right away I realized I was no longer behind the safety of the door. The dingy old room that was covered with antiques a moment before was suddenly bright and shiny and the antiques were not antiques but were brand new.  Then I noticed my clothes were different and about lost my breakfast. I had on a red dress the type that the doves wore instead of my jeanshorts and T-shirt I had dressed in that morning. I later figured out I had transported from the 21st century back in time to the 19th century and Jesse thought I was a whore who was late arriving to his room. He was rude, angry, and drunk. He was trying to get me naked and I was fighting his every move until he kissed me and all reason left my thoughts."  (She chuckles).

RUTHIE: "Isn't it amazing how true love can mend a shattered heart? Given a chance would you time-travel all over again?"

SKYLAR: "Absolutely. As a matter of fact Jesse and I plan to return again next December for Kate and Daniel's wedding reception, and if I'm not mistaken Marissa and Little John plan on bringing John's older brother Peyton along with them. They're praying that the modern medicine of the 21st century will be able to help Peyton with his leg injuries sustained from his time at war."

RUTHIE: "That's a wonderful idea. I wish I would have thought of it first."

SKYLAR: "Get busy writing, girl. The rest of your characters and I are tired of waiting around in your head. We prefer to be out riding the ranges, chasing the bad guy's or holding our lover close." 

RUTHIE: "Tell them I'll be starting on book 4 as soon as I'm finished with my standalone 'Cowboy Crush' I've written this last year and am now editing. I'm hoping to publish in the spring. Thanks' for visiting and I hope you'll come back soon."

SKYLAR: "It was a pleasure. By the way, Valentine's day will be coming soon and I hope you and your sweetheart Jon enjoy a real special day!" 

RUTHIE: "That's right, and my next post isn't until the end of February. Skylar I wish the same to you and Jesse, and while I'm at it 'Happy Valentine's Day' to all of you reader's as well!๐Ÿ’–๐Ÿ’–๐Ÿ’–

As a token of my appreciation to you reader's I'm giving JESSE of The Chasing Time series away for FREE the week of Valentine's Day 2022! The link is below. xoxoxo

I hope you come back and visit me on the fourth Monday of February. I'm also on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and more. 



Thursday, January 20, 2022

New Release from Lynn Landes

 Lynn Landes is a Best-Selling, Illumination Award-Winning Author. Lynn is the author of multiple novels that span several genres and timelines. Action-adventure and romance always seem to find their way into her books. If you love faith, romance, and action-adventure with a touch of suspense, you will love Lynn's books. You can learn more about her at 

Check out Lynn's new release, Saving Taylor!

She is a woman on the run…

Taylor Allen is an eyewitness to a double murder. Raised in the church, she sang for the Lord to raise money for the community. Taylor’s voice is a magnet that draws in crowds but not even her talent can save her from a murderer. After a brutal attack she jumps on a train and runs for her life.

He’s taken hostage by a desperate young woman…

John Fielding Jr. is on the way home from a business trip. How did a beautiful killer end up in his private sleeping car with a gun pointed at him?

Time is running short as they search the train to New York, seeking the woman that robbed and set fire to a saloon. They say she killed the owner and burned down several buildings in the process. Taylor claims she was framed and John Fielding Jr. is determined to help prove her innocence and claim her heart in the process.

Monday, January 17, 2022

An Easy Misunderstanding By Kathleen Lawless @kathleenlawless

Organized religion played a key role during the settling of the West where Churches and synagogues were crucial in forging ‘social boundaries’ needed by the settlers in order to survive.  In many spread-out areas, attending service provided these homesteaders their one chance to occasionally congregate with their neighbors.

The area they served was vast, and clerics handled the challenge by taking to the road to serve their scattered congregations.  Most carried a portable “mass kit” or “communion kit”.  Western clerics, who were usually well-educated, also stepped in wherever needed as counsellors, teachers, and general purveyors of ‘culture’.  Many communities looked to them to help with schooling.

These men of the cloth played the same vital role in setting up systems of health care in various regions.  The Catholic church established numerous hospitals in mining and railroad towns, which were then entirely run by nuns. Thus, my orphaned heroine Lucinda, in A Bride for Riley, finds herself on the train headed West to complete her training to become a nun.

She’s greeted at the train station by a man and two children whom she assumes are from the convent, yet somehow before the day is over, she finds herself married to this total stranger, and helping care for his niece and nephew.

Excerpt from A Bride for Riley  all right reserved

          Riley drew the carriage to a stop outside of the train depot in Butte and turned to his two young charges.  “You two stay here.  Kenny you mind your sister, hear?  Vicky, you’re in charge of your brother.” 

          Both children looked up at him with wide blue eyes that reminded him so much of his sister it hurt.  He knew what they were thinking.  Was he really coming back?  Or would he disappear the same way their father had shortly after their mother died? 

          “I won’t be long.  I promise,” he said as he climbed down.  He felt their eyes boring into his back as he strode into the train station.  He didn’t know a hill of beans about raising youngsters, but he’d promised his sister he’d do his best.  Which, to his mind, meant getting them a new mother as soon as possible.

          The train pulled in minutes later and stopped with a belch of coal smoke and the grinding sound of metal wheels on metal tracks.  Shortly after, the doors opened and the porters stepped off first, followed by the passengers. 

          One by one, he searched the face of each woman traveling alone.  There weren’t many.  That had to be her, the plain one standing by herself and looking around all wide-eyed and nervous.  She wasn’t wearing a single fashionable adornment like most of the other women passengers, but beneath her plain brown bonnet he glimpsed an escaped strand of reddish hair. 

          He frowned.  She’d sounded different in her letters, flirty and not the least bit shy.  He approached her slowly, half expecting her to bolt when he said her name.


          She started before a look of relief spread over her features and she gave a jerky nod. 

          “I’m Riley.  Let’s go get your things.”

          “This is all I have.”  She indicated the shabby valise at her feet. 

          “That’s all?”  Funny, he’d been expecting his mail-order bride from Boston to arrive with a fashionable East coast wardrobe.

          “I was told I’d be supplied with whatever I needed.”

          “That a fact?”  He pressed his lips together and reached for her valise.  It felt almost empty.  No doubt that old busybody from the matchmaking agency had told her she was marrying a wealthy man.

          “The carriage is this way.”  As they walked out of the station, he wondered how to introduce the children in such a way that his mail order bride didn’t light out of here first thing.

I loved writing for the Mistaken Identity Bride series.  It was so fun to figure out how the grooom would pick up the wrong mail order bride. 
You can get your copy of Riley here. 
And check out the entire series here:

Thursday, January 13, 2022

New release from Josie Malone

Josie Malone lives on the family farm, a riding stable in the Cascade foothills. She organizes most of the riding programs, teaches horsemanship, nurses sick horses, holds for the shoer, and trains whoever needs training – four-legged and two-legged. And she writes in her spare time, to include two paranormal western romance series, Liberty Valley Love - "Where no matter what, soulmates find each other." and the Baker City Hearts & Haunts series, "Where love is real and so are the ghosts!"  Hero Spell is her latest release and can be purchased here:  


Extraordinary pony farm manager Audra Dawson does it all, training ponies, teaching children to ride and looking after the livestock at Silver Lake Pony Ranch. She sets her sights on the man of her dreams—a man she adores, despite the fact he has other plans. He sees her as a friend, a potential sister-in-law, and a woman more capable than most Army generals—a cross between Gunga-Din and Alexander the Great—but not someone he wants to be involved with romantically. Meanwhile her employer’s two mischievous kids are determined to find the “perfect” man for her and they cast the Hero Spell.

The Magic is Back!

A legend in his own mind, veterinarian Joe Watkins knows his destiny when he sees Audra again. She needs him as much as he does her. He'll capture her stubborn heart. Between Audra's family who puts the "fun back in dysfunctional," apparently random animal poisonings, a stranger who claims to have traveled through Time, and the trials and tribulations of the summer season on the pony farm, tensions increase with the summer heat. Will the magic last this time or is it just a fling brought about by the Hero Spell?

Chapter 1

Everett, Washington - February 1st, 2018

Audra Dawson watched as her best friend casually sauntered into the Fandango Room at Billy-Bob’s Cowboy Bar & Grill. Ginger’s curvy body was wrapped in a fringed blouse, green suede skirt, and high-heeled cowboy boots. Pink and red curls framed her face and brushed her shoulders. Her makeup was better suited to a Saturday night out than an afternoon party. But the look worked for her, as the ample tips she made bartending at Billy-Bob’s could attest.

“So,” Ginger drawled, as she approached, “how are things coming along? You look ripe for murder. You look like someone kicked your dog, then stole your man. Or maybe,” she eyed Audra critically and amended, “like you’ve been talking to one of your sisters.”

Audra slowly lowered the roll of green crepe paper and tape dispenser she held, placing them neatly on a nearby table. “Clancy just blew through long enough to tell me the wedding is off.”

After you made special arrangements for the lingerie shower, she and Kate insisted they had to have two weeks before the ceremony?”

“You wouldn’t believe all of the begging, conniving, and family blackmail it took to get this place, plus the hefty deposit I had to pay. And that’s not even counting the big family Christmas and all the extra stuff the twins ‘couldn’t live without’ at school this quarter. I’m so glad,” Audra said with mock solemnity, “that someone who knows their way around duct tape, rope, and a shovel, is here to help me bury the bodies.”

“That’s me.” Ginger did a little victory dance, more suitable for a twenty-something than a woman fighting her fortieth birthday. “I’ll break out the champagne so we can get good and soused before we clobber them.”

“Don’t tempt me. This is a damn nightmare.”

“More like the day of your dreams. You’ve been patient. You respected your sister’s boundaries while she played holy hell with everyone’s heartstrings. Now you finally have a shot at Ethan.” Ginger headed for the bar and the bottles of champagne. “Are you going to call him and offer a sympathetic shoulder?”

“Not until I figure out what to do about this shower.” Audra pulled out her cell phone and dialed her sister Kate’s number. It went straight to voice mail, so she had to be on the line with someone. “It’s me. I need to know what has your tail in a knot. And what the hell am I supposed to tell Mom?”

Thirty minutes later, she hadn’t heard back from either sister. She and Ginger were on their second glasses of champagne when the door opened. Her mother came in, followed by her older sister, Marlene.

Darlene Dawson looked around the half-decorated lounge—obviously checking the streamers that weren’t hanging from corner to corner, the unfinished party favors that hadn’t been arranged in plastic cowboy boots. “What’s going on?” She pinned Audra with the cobalt blue gaze that made everyone in the Dawson family ‘fess up to a million and one sins. “Why are you slacking? Where are the twins? Shouldn’t they be helping you?”

Audra blinked. She’d forgotten all about the two baby drama queens. She had five younger sisters, all of whom saw her as a cross between Public Enemy Number One, General MacArthur, and Dear Abby. “They got tied up with some college thing and said they’d be late.”

“Those two have lazy down to an art form,” Marlene said. “What can we do to help, Audra?”

“I don’t know.” Audra shrugged. “Clancy came in and told us the wedding is off. She and Kate have changed their minds. They’re not marrying the Killian brothers, not in two weeks, not on horseback on Valentine’s Day at the Lazy B, not ever.”

“Lions, tigers and bears—oh my.” Darlene eased out of a denim jacket and eyed Audra, then Ginger. “Pour us each a glass of champagne, Ginger. Give me your phone, Audra. I left mine at home in my other purse. I need to call and warn the boys’ mom before she arrives with her entourage and that gossip gal from the local paper. It’ll be okay, honey. Better broken engagements than divorces.”

Audra stared at her. At fifty-seven, her mother was more of a realist than a romantic. While she claimed she loved both men who proposed to two of her daughters, Darlene was the first to quote divorce statistics and remind everyone that “happy ever after” belonged in movies and books, not real life. She’d even told Kate and Clancy that marriage was an institution, and they didn’t have to be committed yet. Why didn’t they live with the guys and forego getting hitched?

“What do we do now?” Audra asked. “How do we handle it when everyone arrives expecting a party?”

“We tell the truth,” Darlene said, taking a filled glass from Ginger. “Your sisters have changed their minds and then we’ll have a party anyway. I have a horsy sitter doing chores and I’m spending the night at Marlene’s. We can’t return the cake or get back your deposit, so we may as well enjoy the afternoon.”

“The girls will sort this out sooner or later.” Marlene accepted her own glass. “There’s too much between them and the boys to let these engagements end today. Believe me, sooner or later, we’ll see Clancy and Ethan and Kate and Gavin married.”

Ginger brought the bottle of champagne over to Audra and whispered. “I hope not. Snag the guy, quick. You take Ethan and I’ll jump Gavin. They deserve to have grown women in their beds, not temper-tantrum-throwing twits.”

* * * *

April sunlight sparkled off the neatly mown, emerald lawn in front of the two-story log cabin that Ethan spent years restoring on the Killian homestead. Audra parked her Ford 150 near the back door and switched off the engine. She’d debated what to wear for hours before settling on black jeans, low-heeled boots, and a black shirt with a Southwest print. She didn’t want to look desperate even if she was or as if she was chasing the man who thought he loved her sister.

Even though I’m after him, Audra thought, and I’d be soooo good for him. I’d never do anything to hurt him. I wouldn’t break his heart into tiny jigsaw puzzle pieces for fun.

The back door opened, and she beamed at the big man in the opening. Six-foot-six, he wasn’t just all muscle, even if he looked like a lumberjack in a plaid flannel shirt, blue jeans, and wool socks. His corked boots waited on the porch. An engineer for Boeing, he had brains too.

Her pulses thudded in excitement as she slid out of the pickup. “Hi there.” She walked around to the passenger side and pulled out the picnic basket. “Hope you’re hungry. I brought dinner.”

She strolled toward him and watched a smile creep across his rugged features and land in silver-gray eyes. Even with the salt and pepper brown hair, he still reminded her of the boy she’d met so many years before.

“Sweetheart, if you’re cooking, I’m starving.” He took the basket from her. “I smell fried chicken.”

“And the rest of your faves too.” She’d spent her one day off a week cooking for him and loved every minute of it. “So, how was South Carolina? I can’t wait to hear all about the new plane.”

* * * *

Ginger filled a glass with Riesling and put it in front of Audra. “Drink up. You’re spending tonight with me and I’m driving so you can get snockered. How could this happen? You’ve given your heart and soul to Xanadu Arabians for the past three years. How did they have the gall to pass you over for farm manager when you’ve been running the place for the last six months?”

Audra choked down a swallow of wine, trying to drown her tears. She couldn’t cry in Billy-Bob’s, not when everything would be reported back to family, friends, and other horse professionals in the county.

“What are they thinking?” Ginger wiped down the bar. “Didn’t old man Bergstrom say they had the best breed auction ever with you in charge? They actually turned a profit last year.”

“I know.” Audra chugged down the rest of the white wine. “I was there, remember? He said I could stay on as Jack Abbot’s assistant, that Jack would be glad to let me run the breeding program.”

“Jack is a lazy, worthless good-for-nothing, and he’s now reached his level of incompetence.” Ginger picked up the empty glass and replaced it with a full one. “He’d have you doing all the grunt work while he reaped all the bennies.”

“I know.” Audra stared into the depths of her wine glass. How could she say she’d miss the horses more than the people at Xanadu, especially the filly she’d raised from an orphaned foal? And the Bergstroms wouldn’t sell her the horse she loved. She struggled to swallow the lump in her throat and keep up her professional front.

Taking a deep breath, Audra said, “Jack is a good trainer if he gets close supervision, but there’s a lot more to running a purebred horse operation than handling the stock. Bergstrom said that if I went to work at my mom’s, he’d sue her because of the non-competitive clause in my contract. I don’t know what I’m going to do. My family will freak if I move out of Washington State to find a new position.”

“I’ve changed jobs for years, my dear, so let me tell you the proper response when you get screwed by a boss. Tonight, you get drunk. Tomorrow, you move in with me. And then, we call around and find you a stable management job that’s out of Xanudu’s reach. As for your family, it’d do them a world of good if they had to grow up and stop dumping on you.”

* * * *

Lynn glanced around the cafeteria but didn’t see her brother anywhere. Where had he disappeared to now? He was supposed to eat lunch with her and the other eighth-graders because he didn’t get along well with kids his own age. Granted, he’d made a few friends with some of the sixth-graders, but Jake was just too smart for his own good. Maybe, things would be better at their new school in the fall.

Carrying the tray with her pizza and salad, Lynn headed for the table where Cassie already sat. “Have you seen Jake?”

“Yeah. He took his lunch and went outside. He said he had some serious thinking to do.”

Lynn sighed and put her food on the table. “Thanks. Be right back.” She found her brother sitting alone on a bench in the school courtyard in the June sunshine. “Do you want to tell me what’s going on with you?”

He peeled plastic wrap from his peanut butter and jam sandwich. “We have a problem.”

“I’ll say. You’re out here when you’re supposed to be with me.”

“No, Lynnie. We need to cast a spell and I have to think it up.”

“Oh no.” She shook her head. “Not again. Mom’s fine. She and Sean are getting married and we’re going to Eastern Washington in two weeks. And Audra Dawson is doing great at running the farm.”

“Yeah.” Jake bit into his sandwich and chewed. “She’s a hero and she needs one.”

“What?” Lynn stared at the sandy blond, blue-eyed demon posing as her younger brother. “You can’t do that. Not to a stranger. You can’t conjure up a man for our new manager.”

“She needs somebody who makes her laugh. A guy who loves her best of all.” Jake looked at his watch. “You better go eat your lunch. I’ll tell you when I need you to help me.”

“I’m not doing it, Jake. No way. No more ‘love’ spells. Not again.”

* * * *

He’d left Pullman at five this morning and he’d arrived in Everett in time for a late lunch. He pulled into an empty slot in front of the veterinary office, recognizing the new white Ford 150 his father had posted pictures of on the practice’s website. Joe Watkins eased out of his Jeep, stretching to his full five-feet-eight-inches, and rolled his shoulders. In faded blue jeans and a Washington State Cougars sweatshirt, he didn’t look like the new Dean of the Veterinary Medicine department.

Well, he wasn’t the Dean yet, he reminded himself. He’d been offered the position, but he hadn’t accepted it. He’d asked for time to think about it. For now, he’d come home to visit his father, see a few friends, be the best man at his friend’s wedding provided he liked Sean’s fiancรฉe, and attend his high school reunion.

And for the first time in years, he wasn’t teaching during the summer session. He’d enjoy the ten-week break, call it a vacation, and think about taking a sabbatical to write the perfect book on equine medicine. Or then again, he’d have enough time off to realize he wanted to go back to school with the kids and take over his department.

He headed inside, scanning the waiting room with its comfortable sofas and chairs, magazines on the tables, and chew toys in a basket in the corner. Some things didn’t change, and his old man was one of them. He’d never gone for the new plastic seats. If his patients had to wait, they might as well enjoy their time. And so should their humans.

A heeler-border-collie pup looked up from where it ripped at a stuffed teddy bear and greeted him with a baby yap. The slender brunette, in jeans and a sloppy sweatshirt, flushed. She looked as if she wanted to cringe back in the chair, disappear with the puppy, leash, and all. “Sorry.”

“No worries.” Joe grinned at her and didn’t say a word about recognizing her from the newspaper and TV articles. She’d undoubtedly heard enough about being battered by an intruder to last a lifetime. “Puppy shots?”

“Yeah. It’s the last booster and his rabies, too.” The woman relaxed a little.

Joe lingered inside the doorway. “Aren’t you Nina Armstrong, the gal with the horse rescue place? How’s that going?”

She eyed him suspiciously, then inclined her head accepting the questions at face value. “It’s fine. Donations are up and horse abuse is down, so everything works.”

“Good to know.” With the economy the way it was, he didn’t believe her for an instant, but wouldn’t say so. He nodded at the puppy who kept chewing on the toy. “You have a cute fellow.”

“Thanks. Pooka loves Doctor Art. He’s the best.”

“He’s an inspiration.” Laughing, Joe crossed to the desk but didn’t see Sarah Holmes, the receptionist who’d run the office forever. He walked to the first examining room and opened the door and spotted his dad bandaging a gray kitten’s leg. “Hey, is there a doctor in the house?”


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