Wednesday, August 17, 2022

What I'm NOT going to do for the rest of the year by Rhonda Lee Carver

 YOU read that title right...

What I'm NOT going to do for the rest of the year.

1. Procrastinate. 
For some, procrastination works. For me, it does not. I've been overwhelmed this year...a bubble in my chest overwhelmed. WE all feel that way sometimes. Disorganization needs tossed out the window and I need new organizational habits. Maybe I should hire a professional organizer...?

2. Feeling guilty for making myself a priority.
You all know what I'm talking about. Juggling a career, family, invisible fires. One day we wake up and we haven't worked out in weeks, secretly eaten a tub of ice cream for dinner two days in a row, and haven't watched our favorite juicy reality show in a, a month. Or has it been two months? Who can remember because we're being pulled in all different directions. If we're not good for ourselves then we're sure as hell not good for anyone else.

3. Sweat the small stuff.
Easier said than done, right? I've always been a worrier. Over everything. That's my personality. Change doesn't happen overnight, but where there's a will there's a way. Sometimes it takes sitting down and making a list of the things that matter and those that don't. Which list do you think always turns out to be longer? Will you remember that your house was a mess ten years from now? Five years? Even three months? Will it matter that you finally told nosy Aunt Jahosey that she should mind her own beeswax?

4. Go to bed angry.
I've heard this all my life. Don't go to bed angry. When I was younger, I didn't lose a wink of sleep after having an argument with someone. Something happens as we age. Is it that we start to see that life doesn't last forever? That our social circles get smaller and we need to nurture what--who--is left? Back in my twenties I would have had no problem jumping out of a plane, bungee jumping, being in the center of a mosh pit at a rock concert, or sleeping in my makeup (a rebel I was :)). I had life by the horns. Then one day something switched in me. Now I'm kept awake thinking of what I could have done differently. How others are feeling. Did I leave the stove on? Did I pack my kid's lunch? Did I pay the bills? Did I make my best friend angry? Will nosy Aunt Jahosey not come to anymore Christmas gatherings? Aging isn't for the weak, let me tell you...

5. Doubt myself as a writer.
Yep...I said it. I have doubted myself as a writer for the last ten years. There are always better writers. Bestsellers. Those who can post on social media and within minutes have a thousand likes. Writers who make this all look so easy. Wrong! This isn't easy. Imagine being in a room with thousands of people and asking each of them what they'd like on their pizza. Well, writing is similar. I'm sure I'm not the only author who cares what my readers want in the next book. However, I have to write what inspires me. I have to stay focused on where my characters are headed. You all understand that, right? After all, sexy Cowboy Joe is a figment of my imagination.

Life is short. Be kind to others and to yourself.

Here's an unedited excerpt from All Cowboy and Bodyguard

“Yes. Yes. Yes! That’s it. That’s the move. Doesn’t that feel right? Move those hips. Make a circle.”

“No, it feels off. Too tight. I told you I wouldn’t be any good at this.”

“Stop complaining and relax. Let the feeling take you. You have an amazing body, lots of core strength and perfect rhythm. You’re a natural, but you just have to let go of all your worries.”

Blue Dawson shook his head at the petite brunette who stared up at him in complete instructor mode. Her eyes were wide, surrounded by long, thick eyelashes, and her plump, cherry-lip-tint-shiny bottom lip was tucked between her teeth.

“Is it too late for you to find someone else?” he groaned. “It’s best for both of us.”

With a dismissive sigh, Maggie March sashayed across the dance studio, the cute little shorts showing off her firm bottom. He practically salivated and moisture beaded his forehead. He’d been sweating buckets. She switched off the music and turned back at him with a tapered gaze. She’d always been a confident spitfire, but the closer to the competition they got the more stressed she became, and the more she kicked his ass in the studio.

For a good ten seconds they had a staring contest, neither saying the obvious. She tapped the toe of one cowgirl boot in annoyance. “How many times have we been through this? Yes, it’s too late for me to find another dance partner. You agreed we would perform in the Texas Amateur Country Dance competition and share the money. This is big. If we win we’ll be the faces for the Master Dancing League which includes a paying contract. We’re lucky that the video and essay we sent in earned us a place in the dance off. But we have to practice. Competition will be stiff and you can’t win this by your handsome looks alone.” She reached for a towel from the stack and padded her forehead.

“That’s unfair, especially when you said my looks would get us a shoe in,” he groaned.

She lowered the towel and some of the severity left her expression. “You’re complaining and disappearing act is on my last nerve. This is serious, Blue.”

“And you think I don’t get that, drill sergeant?”

There it was…the frustration returned on her soft features.  

While she unscrewed her water canister and took a long drink, he tracked his gaze down her white tank and got caught up a second in the visible shadows of her nipples under the thin material. He moved his attention past the sliver of her stomach the knotted waist exposed and tight black shorts that landed high on her toned thighs. Her skin glistened with sweat and her cheeks were flushed, making her eyes look more lavender than usual. 

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Tuesday, August 16, 2022

What to do with those minds-of-their own Secondary Characters By Kathleen Lawless @kathleenlawless

It’s always a thrill to me as a writer when, out of the blue, a secondary character suddenly demands their story be told. I wrote a proxy bride story a while back. A Bride for Shane introduced Lacey, a rich-girl horse breeder in Maryland who heads West as a proxy bride to save the life of her brother’s best friend. I had no idea when Lacey’s former jockey showed up mid-book with some of her horses that he would hang around and fall in love with Lacey’s housekeeper.

Suddenly, right behind my back, offstage as it were, (because I was busy sorting out Lacey and Shane and their HEA at the time) Tom and Kate embarked on their own Later-In-Life love story. The story’s epilogue included the older couple getting married while Shane and Lacey discuss renewing their vows, which eventually takes place in a subsequent Mail Order Bride book.

Meanwhile Tom and Kate really felt that just because they were older, with her twice widowed, didn’t mean they couldn’t experience the passionate ups and downs, the he-loves me-he loves me-not stuff that fuels an angst-filled romance before it culminates in a happy-ever-after.

A thus was born, A Bride for Tom. If you enjoy a shorter read with a few surprises along the way, I’m making this story available free next month for subscribers to my Newsletter. Sign up here: to receive a free Western romance as a thank you right away, plus the link to claim A Bride for Tom next month. I hope to see a few new names on my subscriber list. 

And if you're a fan of audiobooks, Shane will soon be available in that format. It was pretty exciting to hear my words come to life through the voice of a narrator.

All the best for the remainder of August and the cooler days and nights of September. I know some of you have experienced extreme heat where you live, so please take care and stay safe.


USA Today Bestselling Author Kathleen Lawless blames a misspent youth watching Rawhide, Maverick and Bonanza for her fascination with cowboys, which doesn’t stop her from creating a wide variety of interests and occupations for her many alpha male heroes.   

With nearly 50 published novels to her credit, she enjoys pushing the boundaries of traditional romance into historical romance, contemporary romance, romantic suspense and women’s fiction.     

She makes her home in the Pacific Northwest and loves to hear from her readers.

Sign up for Kathleen’s VIP Reader Newsletter to receive a free book, updates, special giveaways and fan-priced offers.



Monday, August 15, 2022

Texas trail in Wyoming


Texas trail in Wyoming, 1866 to 1897

   Growing up in Newcastle, Wyoming, I saw the Texas trail historical markers but never checked it out until recently.  The trail entered Wyoming near Cheyenne and headed north past Fort Laramie. Then to Newcastle, Upton, into Moorcroft and the west to Powder River. 

   Herds between 2000 to 3000 head of cattle would make the long journey. The could be moved 10 to 15 miles a day and 300 to 500 miles in a month. In 1894 32,000 steers passed through the Newcastle area.

   One day I may have to put the trail in one of my books.

   Newcastle keeps the Texas Trail history alive. A "Dogie" is the high school mascot, as well as the name of the local theater.

  Pictured below is the Newcastle stockyard, a busy place for many years. Toomey’s Mill began in 1919 and was the largest flour mill in Wyoming. In 1974 the main building was turned into a restaurant called "The Old Mill Inn". It was a great place to eat.

Building on the left was the restaurant and bar. The rest of the Mill went on to house pigeons. In 2012 the Mill and restaurant were torn down. The lot is now a gas station. 

Series starter sale!!!

Promise of Tomorrow (Book 1 of the Rimrock Series) and Outlaw's Redemption (Book 1 of the Wild Love Series) are on sale for .99 until the end of August!

Promise of Tomorrow

She needed a fresh start...

Kidnapped by a ruthless man, Shyfawn Tucker has given up all hope of ever being free. Luck turns in her favor and she begins anew in a place she least expects - working as a cook and housekeeper for the rancher who reluctantly helped in rescuing her. Determined to make the best of the situation, until she is able to move on, Shyfawn finds that she loves her new life. But when the time comes will she be able to leave him? She's finally found happiness and passion in his gentle hands and heated kisses.

He didn't want a house keeper...

When Matthew Reeves went on a mission to help rescue a saloon girl, he never expected to suddenly find her in his employment. This beautiful, sassy and very desirable woman is the last person he needs on his ranch. She proves to him that she's nothing like he expected. It doesn't take long for him to realize that his ranch is exactly where she belongs. He's finally found the woman he can't live without. When their new found happiness is threatened, Matthew will do anything to keep them together.

Apple Books





Outlaw's Redemption

A promise made to a dying man brought Boone Cain to the town of Rimrock. Four years of war had left scars on his body and soul and years of drifting had turned him into a dangerous gunman. He had been prepared for a lot in fulfilling his promise, but he hadn't been prepared for Leslie Barkley. She melted the ice surrounding his heart and his need for her could make keeping his promise extremely difficult. Getting involved with her was something he couldn't let happen, but his need for her could win and put her in danger.

Leslie's gift of premonitions had not warned her about the gunman that came to her boardinghouse looking for a place to stay. Nor had it warned her of the trouble that would follow this handsome, haunted man. Though Leslie had never met Boone before, he is familiar to her. A past premonition? This secretive gunman is connected to her in a way she never imagined and the truth will test her feelings for him.

Can they put the past to rest and live the lives they were destined for?

Apple Books





Thursday, August 11, 2022

For the Love of Quilts

Quilts have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. I took them for granted as a child, but now I appreciate the beauty, the skill, and the history. One day, when I finally retire from nursing, I want to spend some of my non-writing time making quilts.

My maternal grandmother lived in a wooden farmhouse with a large porch and high-ceiling rooms. The house has since been torn down, but I can still remember the large wooden frame suspended from the ceiling in one of the bedrooms. It was a frame for quilting that could be lowered down to work on the quilt and raised back up, out of the way, as needed. I never saw it in use, but I knew what it was.

My mother would pull out some of the everyday quilts and use them to make pallets for us kids when we needed a temporary bed on the floor. She would also add one to our bed in winter to keep us warm. She was a busy teacher who usually made clothes when she had time to sew; but one summer, she cut a bunch of hexagons and pieced a quilt while supervising us at the neighborhood pool.

Years later, I had some photographs transferred to fabric and made a family picture quilt top for her and my dad for Christmas. It was my first effort at piecing. The photos were different sizes, and I had to make it up as I went. Mom hired someone to quilt it, and it hangs over a display frame in her den.

I love antique sewing machines, too. When Mom got a Bernina, she gave me her old Singer. (It looks a lot like this stock image, except it's electric.) The cover for it has dry-rotted and can no longer be used to pick it up, but the machine still sews.

I joined a Facebook group of quilters in anticipation of eventually taking up the hobby. I love to see the beautiful quilts they post. The traditional patterns revive treasured memories, but I also love the gorgeous modern patterns.

The National Museum of American History has a National Quilt Collection that you can view online. It features quilts back to the 1700s. Some of them look plain until you click to expand the picture. Wow.

Do you quilt? Do you love them like I do? 

I'd love to hear your stories and your memories!


Would you like a free book?

What’s worse than being a mail-order bride without a groom?
Marrying the only man in town who doesn’t want a wife.

Get 'Bride for Sale' FREE when you subscribe to my newsletter! Just click the link and follow the directions.

This book has been approved for most audiences. It contains some mild cowboy cursing and a kiss or two.

*'Bride for Sale' is a newsletter exclusive and is not available from retailers.

Thank for visiting!

Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Emma F. Langdon - Mother Jones and the Colorado Labor Wars

Post by Doris McCraw aka Angela Raines

“THE state of Colorado ceased under the administration of James H. Peabody, to be republican in its form of government, and became a military oligarchy. The expressed will of the people was ignored by their chosen representatives; thus bringing upon the state a series of calamities, the magnitude of which may now readily be seen.”

The above is taken from the introduction to Emma's book “The Cripple Creek Strike, A History of Industrial Wars in Colorado 1903-04”. Regardless of your belief in who was right or wrong during this tumultuous time, this book is considered the definitive work on the region and events of the time and area. That it was written by Emma F. Langdon makes it even more amazing. 

Emma Langdon
from Wikipedia

Emma was born September 29, 1875, in Tennessee. Charles Langdon, whom she married in 1896 was born June 9, 1870. In 1903 Emma and Charles moved to Victor, Colorado where they both worked at the Victor Daily Record. 

In 1903 the tensions between miners and mine owners increased in the Cripple Creek Mining District.  Although the miners had won a victory of $3.25 for an eight-hour day, the miners union supported the smelter workers who were working longer hours for less pay.

The situation became so volatile that the mine owners censored and arrested anyone who opposed their story. As a result, the workers at the pro-union Victor Daily Record were rounded up to stop the next issue's release. When Emma was told of the 'arrest' she went to the paper and that night barricaded herself in, set type, and put out the paper on schedule. When she delivered the issue to the men who had been taken to the 'bullpen' (and outdoor holding area) the laughter of the captors (jailers) changed while those incarcerated rejoiced.

When the strike ended in 1904 those who had supported the union were requested to leave. Emma moved to Denver Colorado, continuing her work on behalf of the union, until her death on November 30, 1937.  

"Mother Jones"
from Wikipedia

Mary Harris (Mother) Jones, born around 1930 or 37 in County Cork Ireland, was according to Reese Blizzard, a West Virginia DA, “The most dangerous woman in America” Clarence Darrow reportedly said she was “one of the most forceful and picturesque figures in the American Labor movement.” 
Her family moved to Canada when she was a child, and she studied to be a teacher at the Toronto Normal School. She in fact worked briefly as a teacher and dressmaker. She married George Jones an ironworker and union organizer in 1861. They had four children, but she lost them and her husband to a yellow fever outbreak. After their deaths, she moved to Chicago where she worked as a dressmaker but lost everything in the Chicago fire of 1871. From that point on she became involved in the labor movement. Her history in Colorado involves the Ludlow Massacre on April 20, 1914.

A sample of her writing on the labor movement comes from an article in the “International Socialist Review” published in 1901. In part, it reads, “I visited the factory in Tuscaloosa, Ala., at 10 o’clock at night. The superintendent, not knowing my mission, gave me the entire freedom of the factory, and I made good use of it. Standing by a siding that contained 155 spindles were two little girls. I asked a man standing near if they were his, and he replied they were. How old are they?” I asked. “This one is 9, the other 10,” he replied. “How many hours do they work?” “Twelve,” was the answer. “How much do they get a night?” “We all three together get 60 cents. They get 10 cents each and I 40.” 
I watched them as they left their slave-pen in the morning and saw them gather their rags around their frail forms to hide them from the wintry blast. Half-fed, half-clothed, half-housed, they toil on, while the poodle dogs of their masters are petted and coddled and sleep on pillows of down, and the capitalistic judges jail the agitators that would dare to help these helpless ones to better their conditions.”
The story of the Labor Wars in Colorado is full of people from both sides that made their mark on the history of the region. From 1893-1914, Colorado was a hotbed of conflict between the haves and have-nots with errors in judgment on both sides. Not an easy read, but a fascinating one, and these two women were in the center of and writing about it.

This post is a reposting of an earlier blog. The book "Under the Stone: Early Women Doctors in Evergreen Cemetery"  is heading to the printer. So excited.

Mock-up of the Cover

Until next time.

Doris McCraw

Sunday, August 7, 2022

Sharing Women of the West by Jan Scarbrough

You can find many things on Facebook. Look what I found today! An article about women of the Old West!

Take time to look at these remarkable photos of real women who paved the way for all of us. The website is True West: History of American Frontier.

And I love the quote that begins the article:

Alexis de Tocqueville came to America to study democracy. At the end of his two-volume Democracy In America, he wrote, “if one asked me to what do I think one must principally attribute the singular prosperity and growing force of this people, I would answer that it is to the superiority of its women.”

Long before we received the right to vote or managed corporations, we were making a difference, weren’t we?

An FYI – my contemporary Western romances are now at #applebooks, #Nook, #Kobo as well as #Kindle.









Friday, August 5, 2022

Working on a New Series ~ Raine Rochelle

Hi there, I hope this finds you well. I’m busy putting together the

next four books which will follow on from the The Billionaires of

Brightside Ranch, and follow their cousins, the Johnson Brothers. I

thought it was time to introduce you to the star of the first book in

the series, so here he is!

Meet Tyler Johnson…



Being the eldest of the Johnson brothers isn’t always easy – in fact it’s

seldom easy! I know the guys sometimes think I’m just bossy and a little

too hard on them, but the fact is, there are times when I have to be.

Dad’s not getting any younger, and I know that one day I’ll be called

upon to take over the running of the family ranch. Trouble is, Dad’s a

little too set in his ways and reluctant to teach me all I need to know to fill

his boots when that day comes. I’ve tried explaining to him that having

me learn the ropes would make life easier on him, as well as prepare me

for my future role, but he’s as stubborn as a mule sometimes and just

doesn’t seem to want to show me the books or anything. I’ve spoken to


Mom about it, but she says that we have to respect that he’s the head of

the household, and knows what he’s doing. I sure hope she’s right!

And then there’s the band. We’ve always been into country music as a

family, and it only seemed right that we boys would form our own band

one day. The Johnson Brothers (catchy name, huh?!) started off just

playing at small gigs, but have since won a few competitions and made

a bit of a name for ourselves. Pat O’Malley owns the large bar in

Brightside and he asked us to play there a time or two. The girls, in

particular, seem to enjoy our music, and we must be doing something

right, as we now play there quite regularly. Everyone knows us, and we

rarely have to buy our own drinks. Well, every job should have its perks,


As well as playing in the band I’m also the one who manages it. Kind of.

I usually book the gigs, and we all discuss which numbers we want to

play at each one. I’ve been trying for the past couple of years to land us

something real big, and have one or two ideas up my sleeve, but haven’t

told the guys yet in case they get disappointed if it doesn’t work out.

Lately, though, I’ve been working extra hard to secure us a good event

as I think we all need something good to focus on. Dad’s driving us real

hard on the ranch right now, and won’t say why, which is a worry to me

but a real pain to my younger brothers who just see it as unnecessary

extra pressure.

I’ve got a beautiful girlfriend, Sasha, who works over at Brightside Real

Estate. She’s real good at her job – and can be very persuasive! Not

only is she gorgeous to look at, that girl also has a heart of gold. Despite

being treated badly by her last boyfriend, she’s as warm and kind as

they come. She’s becoming almost like part of the family around here,

as she gets along with everyone, especially my mom. I really love her

but we’re just taking things slow right now – we’ve both got a lot going


Did I mention that I’m tall, dark and handsome? Probably not, as I’m not

one to brag, lol! Actually, when I say tall I’m talking way over six feet. 6’

7” to be exact. I’m kind of noticeable in a crowd!

Well, that’s about all I can say about myself right now. I look forward to

getting to know you, and hope you enjoy reading my story when it gets  

released this summer. Till then, take good care of yourself, and keep it


I hope you’ve enjoyed hearing from Tyler, and that you’ll look out for the first

book of the new series The Johnsons of Junova which is due to be released in

August 2022.

Take care,


PS – If you haven’t read them yet, there’s still time to catch up with The

Billionaires of Brightside Ranch and The Brides of Brightside Ranch here:

Wednesday, August 3, 2022

Hair, Shoes & Jewelry ~ Julie Lence

Women world-wide are faced with the same decision everyday--what to wear. Once out of the shower and standing before the closet, those who work outside the home are faced with deciding if they should wear a dress or pants, what shoes go best with the outfit (and are they comfortable for all day wear), how to arrange their hair, and what jewelry to add to the ensemble. Those who are home are more likely to opt for comfy sweat pants, slippers (that's me!) and maybe some jewelry. But women of today's times aren't the only generation to face this daily challenge. Our comrades before us met with the same plight. Those living on a farm or ranch most likely had a quick two minutes to scramble into a skirt and apron before they dashed into the kitchen to light the stove and get the coffee cooking. Those who had the luxury of sleeping in (and a maid) had more time to ponder the day's wardrobe. It's these women of the 1800's I'm featuring today and some on the choices they may have made each morning.       

Here are some hairstyles. I'm partial to #.


courtesy of Trendium

courtesy of Whizzpast

courtesy of Trendium

Take a look at these shoes. #3 doesn't look comfortable. 

courtesy of Shoe Zone

courtesy of
History of boots


Jewelry to finish the ensemble




courtesy 1st Dibs

Based on the wardrobes, I am Thankful to be living in this generation! 

Tuesday, August 2, 2022

National Coloring Book Day


Today is National Coloring Book Day.

The celebration was first marked back in 2015, and has continued to celebrate a hobby many adults and children love. 

The first coloring books are credited to the McLoughlin Brothers. In the 1880s, they produced The Little Folks' Painting Book, in collaboration with Kate Greenaway. 

Many educators at the time concluded that all students, regardless of their background, would benefit from an art education. It was a means of enhancing their conceptual understanding of the tangible, further developing their cognitive skills, and improving skill that could be useful in a profession. 

The McLoughlin Brothers continued publishing coloring books until the 1920s, when their company became part of Milton Bradley Company. 

Coloring books have been used for more than a century for educational purposes. And fun.

They've also been used as a rehabilitation tool. Accident victims have found aid with hand-eye coordination by coloring, and the act of coloring has been considered a great way for many to destress.

I loved coloring books when I was a child, although I tended to color outside the lines. There are those who might say I still do that in a figurative sense. 

Regardless of my coloring skill, I thought you might enjoy some free coloring pages today! 

Enjoy and happy coloring!

Do you suppose any cowpokes ever take along a few colored pencils and a coloring book to pass the time around a lonesome campfire on out on the range? 

USA Today bestselling author Shanna Hatfield grew up on a farm where her childhood brimmed with sunshine, hay fever, and an ongoing supply of learning experiences.

Today, Shanna draws on her rural roots to create sweet romances filled with hope, humor, quirky small-town characters, realistic heroes, and women of strength.

When this award-winning author isn’t writing or testing out new recipes (she loves to bake!), Shanna hangs out at home in the Pacific Northwest with her beloved husband, better known as Captain Cavedweller.

Find her online at

Monday, August 1, 2022

The Starling Releases Tomorrow!!


By Kristy McCaffrey

I'm pleased to share that The Starling is out tomorrow. Don't miss this new, full-length novel in my Wings of the West series.

Colorado 1899

Kate Ryan has always had a streak of justice in her. When she decides to apply to the Pinkerton Detective Agency, nothing will stand in her way. Initially hired in a clerical position, she quickly works her way up to field agent with the help of her mentor, Louise Foster. When Louise is injured, Kate gets her first assignment and the opportunity of a lifetime.

Henry Maguire has been undercover in the household of wealthy entrepreneur Arthur Wingate. Employed as a ghostwriter to pen the man’s memoir, Henry is also searching for clues to a lucrative counterfeiting scheme. When Henry’s “wife” shows up, he’s taken aback by the attractive woman who isn’t Louise. Now he must work with a female agent he doesn’t know and doesn’t necessarily trust. And because he has another reason for coming into Wingate’s world, Kate Ryan is unavoidably in his way.

Kate Ryan is the daughter of Matt and Molly from THE WREN, and THE STARLING is the first of five novels featuring the second generation of Ryans in the Wings of the West series.

The Wings of the West Series Reading Order
Book One: The Wren
Book Two: The Dove
Book Three: The Sparrow
Book Four: The Blackbird
Book Five: The Bluebird
Book Six: The Songbird (Novella)
Book Seven: Echo of the Plains (Short Story)
Book Eight:  The Starling

Click here to pre-order a digital copy (available for Kindle, Nook, Apple Books, Kobo, and Google Play). Or grab a paperback copy.


Kate used the glass of sherry as a shield. It was obvious undercover agent Henry Maguire was stunned to see her and less than happy with her presence. Luckily, she had known who to look for from a photograph Mr. Jones had given her, although it hardly did justice to the man before her.

Henry Maguire had presence. There was simply no other word for it.

His intense blue eyes accented the hard line of his jaw like the frozen slopes of Colorado where her cousin Molly Rose had lived. Kate couldn’t help but notice his clean-shaven face and the citrusy smell coming from him. It was pleasant in a way that unsettled her, and she was entirely uncertain why.

But she had been warned … Henry was expecting Louise Foster, and he would have no idea who Kate was. It was unfortunate that Mrs. Wingate had caught Kate right at the door and had started speaking with her, because it had made contacting her “husband” fraught with danger.

But it was over. Henry had accepted the charade, and they were now working together. He had said he wanted to speak privately, but as yet he hadn’t, so Kate could only conclude it wasn’t safe to do so while at the party. She vowed she wouldn’t break protocol. She wouldn’t say anything to Henry that his loving wife, who had been separated from him for nearly two months, wouldn’t say.

“When did you arrive?” Henry asked.

“Earlier this evening.”

“How did you get here?”

“A man named Francis O’Malley brought me. I hired him.” The Pinkertons had hired him, but she couldn’t say that aloud. “I believe he’s a blacksmith in town, and he runs a livery too. He offered to stay, but I assured him that you would be here and see me home.” Her lips stretched into a smile, but she couldn’t hold Henry’s gaze as he watched her rather intently, so she took in the room.

It was quite festive. The Wingate wealth was on grand display with sparkling crystal chandeliers hanging from tin ceilings, a tiled floor covered in ornate rugs, and stuffed chairs likely imported from Europe.

As she brought her attention back to her “husband” she caught him still staring at her, those ice-blue eyes holding her briefly spellbound. He must have been watching her the entire time she had scanned the room. She shifted, feeling a bit uncomfortable, wanting to clear the air more than anything.

Had she done something wrong? Was she dressed inappropriately?

But a second glance around the room revealed that while her gown might not be quite as fancy as the many ladies in attendance, it was good enough. It had been Louise’s dress, after all, and Kate had to believe her mentor had been very prepared to enter this operation as Henry’s wife.

That was it. Henry was upset about Louise.

She turned to him. “I’m sure you’re worried about my dear sister, Louise.”

He regarded her with interest. “I am,” he replied in a measured tone. “Is she well?”

“Unfortunately, no. She’s indisposed at the moment, but she should be better soon.”

Henry accepted the news with a nod, his gaze conveying a glimmer of concern. Suddenly, Kate felt terrible. It had been clear from Louise that she valued Henry’s expertise, as well as his friendship, but Kate hadn’t thought any further than that.

The additional assignment that Louise had given Kate—privately and outside the dictates of the job—now seemed to take a different tone. Louise had asked Kate to keep an eye on Henry because eight years ago his father had died in an accident in Trinidad, apparently falling to his death down a mine shaft. Kate had inferred that Louise considered Henry compromised, and that it could place him at odds with the job the Pinkertons had been sent to do.

But now the worry in Henry’s eyes, however brief, said something else. Did he and Louise have a relationship that extended beyond business associates? Is that what his irritation was about? Did Henry love her? And why did that thought cause another ripple of unease in Kate?

Ignoring it, she added, “She’ll be all right. You’ve no need to worry. The bullet missed all vital organs.”

His eyes flicked back to her, reflecting shock.

Oh, no. He did love her.

Copyright © 2022 K. McCaffrey LLC