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Tuesday Teaser 2/14/17 Victoria’s Mate Part 7

Happy Valentine’s Day!

I hope everyone is having a wonderful Valentine’s Day. It just happens to be Tuesday, so that means a new teaser from Victoria’s Cat. We haven’t gotten to the actual romance part of the story yet (although Vic does her best to let Marty feel her attaction to him), but I’m giving you a slightly longer than usual bit so you can see Colby meet his mate and … *cough* … show her how tender, patient, and sweet he can be. Yeah, let’s go with that.  LOL


Chapter Five

 

“This is the city center,” said Marty. “Too bad it’s only March, because the fountain is beautiful in the summertime.”

The wide sidewalks in this part of town where clear of any ice, leaving Victoria with no excuse to lean on Marty’s arm. She had declined the offer of riding in the bus. First of all, she hated that contraption, and secondly, she wanted a chance to actually talk with Marty. Walking at his side would be the best way to do that. Besides, when she had to walk over any ice, she laid her hand on his arm to supposedly steady herself. She felt positively infantile getting a thrill from having her fingers rest on his coat sleeve, but she would take her thrills where she could find them.

She walked between Marty and Eagle into a wide open area and looked around at the architecture of the Times Before. Ray, Rock, and Colby were behind them. Even in March, this section of Omaha was impressive. There were tall buildings on three sides of an open square whose centerpiece was the fountain. Nothing was growing yet, but she could picture colorful beds of flowers and velvety green lawns. They must have been here yesterday, because the building behind them was the railroad station, but Victoria had no memory of the fountain.

“I bet it’s real pretty,” she agreed. “Those stone benches would be a nice place to sit and watch the fountain on a hot day. What’s that building over there?”

“That building is the City Hall, where we’ll go tomorrow for the start of the legislative session.” Marty turned his head so the three behind him could hear. “The ground-level holds jail cells. The next floor is where the court meets to try criminal cases. The legislature meets on the top floor. I’m not sure how they’ll get everyone in there. There’s not that much room even when it’s just the usual representatives in attendance. I bet there’s another fifty or sixty people to fit in there now, with all the delegates from the towns here in Omaha.”

The thought of standing in the legislature chambers to represent her clan was almost as exciting as having Marty brush against her. Her breath caught in a pleasurable shiver when he bumped into her hip.

“Sorry,” he said immediately. “Are you cold? The building opposite City Hall is the Cultural Center. There’s a coffee shop there if you’d like to get a coffee or hot chocolate.”

Victoria wasn’t actually cold, and her brother and cousins certainly weren’t, but at the mention of hot chocolate, they all headed for the Cultural Center. Marty insisted on paying for all of them, which was good. Victoria had no cash. Her brother and cousins didn’t either. Currency was a city thing. The Wolf Clan had cash, but normally they bartered for what they couldn’t produce themselves.

Victoria and the clan men took the largest table in the shop, the one in front of the big window in front, while Ray and Marty went to the counter and ordered.

“This is a nice little place,” she observed to Eagle. “A few little tables and chairs, nice view of the square, and a fireplace with big fat armchairs in front of it. I’ll have to come back again.”

Her brother inhaled deeply. “Smells good too.”

Colby closed his eyes and sniffed. “It does. Too bad coffee doesn’t taste as good as it smells.”

Marty and Ray came back each carrying a tray loaded with cups and donuts. Victoria made room for Marty on the padded bench beside her. Eagle and Colby, sitting on the other side of the table, paused a moment while they appeared to debate whether they should protest this seating arrangement, then reached for cups and donuts.

The hot chocolate was the good kind: thick and rich, with a small mountain of whipped cream on top sprinkled with shaved chocolate. Marty watched her enjoyment of the beverage with a smile that looked almost envious.

“You like chocolate,” he commented. “You know they say chocolate is the way to a woman’s heart.”

Normally that sort of remark would have brought the snarling wrath of her brother and cousins down on him, but they were deep into their chocolate. Victoria let her free hand slide down beneath the table to brush over Marty’s thigh. It was the barest touch, but red flowed into his cheeks and he drew in a sharp breath.

“You know what else?” She leaned a little closer to him. “There were two things that the Wolf
Clan loves to eat: raw meat and chocolate. Personally, I could leave the raw meat, but I do really like chocolate. I like watching the sunset over the plains, and I like finding prairie roses in the green grass in the spring.” She watched his Adam’s apple go up and down as he swallowed and lowered her voice to a purr. “And I like you.”

Colby’s head came up with a glare. It would have been more effective if he didn’t have a whipped cream mustache. Victoria gurgled with laughter.

“Vic.” Her brother sounded pained. “Please behave.”

Well, that was an astonishingly mild rebuke. She walked her fingers down Marty’s thigh to his knee, trying to look innocent. A naughty part of her wanted to walk her fingers in a different direction, but stroking his fly would be a little much. A girl had only so much control. But someday, she vowed silently, I will stroke every single part of him. Marty’s hand grabbed hers and held it pressed tightly against his knee. He tried to speak, failed, and cleared his throat to try again.

“There’s a, uh, a …” Marty coughed. “A museum on the floor above. Would you like to go up there next?”

“What do they have up there?” Rock set his cup down and swiped a hand over his upper lip to clear away the remains of the hot chocolate. “Is it like the stuff in the library at Kearney?”

“Some of it.” Marty drank the last of his chocolate, his fingers playing with hers under the table. “Some of it is much older, like from the early nineteenth century.”

There was a trace of chocolate at the corner of Marty’s mouth and Victoria forced herself to look away. If the others weren’t here, she could kiss it away. Would it taste even sweeter from Marty’s lips? She made herself remember the history lessons she had been taught as a child. “That was before the Times Before, right? After the Civil War? Or is that before the Civil War?” She had never been very good with dates.

“The Civil War was in the eighteen-sixties, so before. But there are some Indian artifacts from the eighteen-seventies and eighties that you might enjoy seeing.”

“Lakota?” Like all of them, Colby was very aware of their heritage.

“Yes, Lakota, and Pawnee, Cheyenne, and I think some Kiowa items.”

They all voted that the museum would be their next stop. Before they could get up, the counter girl came over with a large carafe.

“I don’t have any more whipped cream,” she said apologetically, “but there is more hot chocolate. Would anyone like a refill?”

Victoria held out her cup with a smile. “This is great hot chocolate,” she said. “Thanks.”

Surprised that more cups weren’t being held out, she turned to look at the rest of the table. Her brother and Rock were both staring at Colby, who was staring at the girl with an expression Victoria had never seen on his face before. Longing? Fear? Awe?

She glanced back at the girl. She wasn’t especially pretty. Her chin was pointed, her nose long. She was taller than aunt Ellie, but not especially tall. Her hair was mousy brown, scraped back in a limp ponytail that hit her spine a few inches below her shoulders. Her figure was painfully thin, not softly rounded. Victoria was baffled by her cousin’s interest.

Colby’s nostrils flared as he inhaled deeply and for one moment Victoria could almost see his wolf deep inside him. Uh-oh. It couldn’t be… No, this couldn’t be Colby’s mate. Marty held his cup out to the girl and Victoria prepared to defend him from her cousin. But Colby didn’t move. He watched, white faced, as the girl took Marty’s cup with a cheerful smile and refilled it. Victoria let out a breath. That meant either the girl wasn’t Colby’s mate, or Colby’s wolf considered Marty part of his pack. A mated wolf, especially a newly mated wolf, would violently object to a man outside the pack touching his mate.

Victoria went back to watching her cousin. “Hey, Cole? You want some more hot chocolate?’

Speaking slowly, still staring unblinkingly at the girl, Colby said, “Yes, please.”

The girl lost her cheerful, friendly smile under the intensity of Colby’s stare. She held the carafe in front of her like a shield. Impatient, Victoria plucked Colby’s cup from his hand and held it out to the girl.

“Pay no attention to him,” she advised the girl. “We don’t let him out very often so he’s not really socialized.”

The girl gave a nervous laugh and filled Colby’s cup. He reached out quickly, trapping the girl’s fingers between the cup and his hand. “Are you married?” he demanded.

The girl gasped. Victoria huffed. “You see what I mean? No social skills at all.” She said out of the corner of her mouth, “Cole, are you crazy?”

“Mate,” he said simply.

“Wow.” Victoria looked at the girl again. “Are you sure? She doesn’t look any older than sixteen.”

“Eighteen,” the girl flared. “Your manners aren’t much better, are they?” She aimed an impressively cool glare at Colby. “Now let go of my hand. The cup is hot and it’s burning my fingers.”

Colby released her at once. “Sorry. Are you okay?” And with barely a pause,” What’s your name?”

She put his cup on the table with enough force that the liquid slopped over the edge. “You can call me Miss Summer, if you need my services as your waitress. Other than that, you don’t get to call me anything.”

“Summer.” Colby let out a slow breath. “That’s a beautiful name. I’m—”

“I don’t care who you are.” Summer wheeled around and stalked off.

There was silence at their table for a long moment before Colby cleared his throat. “That went pretty well, don’t you think?”

 

Tuesday Teaser 2/7/17: Victoria’s Cat Part 6

It’s Tuesday!! Yay!!

 

I’ve been going back through Victoria’s Cat and I see one major problem. There hasn’t been much interaction between the hero and heroine. In other words, Victoria and Marty have barely spoken. That is going to change when Marty takes her and her brother and cousins on a tour of Omaha, but … I think I’ll need to find a way to get them a little private time sooner. But there is no way for them to do that with all her relatives hanging around. Can you imagine Marty sneaking up to her room? Like Eagle and Stone wouldn’t hear him? Dang it, I’ll have to think about it. Meanwhile, here is the rest of chapter four.  🙂

 


Marty hefted the twenty-five-pound slab of bacon in its waxed linen bag higher on his shoulder. “Come on,” he said to his nephew. Ray was only a year younger than he was, so they were more like brothers than uncle and nephew. “Mrs. Renee needs this bacon to finish making breakfast.”

“Mmm,” sighed Ray, licking his lips and hefting his own sack of bacon to his shoulder. “I love eating her bacon. Or anything else she makes.”

They left the butcher and hurried up the street. Marty cast a teasing glance at his nephew. “Do you think that marrying Patia will let you eat Mrs. Renee’s cooking every day?”

“No.” Ray sounded hopeful. “But I’ll get to eat it sometimes, and Patia learned to cook from her aunt. Even if Patia cooks only half as well it’s better than what I make.”

“Have you set a date for the wedding?”

“Actually, we’re still just courting. Dad thought I should wait until after all this business here in Omaha is settled before I asked her to marry me.” He was quiet for a minute. “I wish we were already married. We could be here on our honeymoon.”

Marty cocked a brow. “With her brother in the same house?” He shook his head. “With his wolf hearing you never have any privacy. Some honeymoon that would be.”

“That’s a good point.” Ray gave an exaggerated shudder. “No, thank you.”

They paused on the curb to allow a car to pass in a billow of suffocating fumes. The early morning air was brisk, but spring was here. Dawn had broken while they were in the butcher shop and now the golden light of morning made everything seem new and fresh. It would be a beautiful day for the tour he was going to give to the woman he wanted to marry. Just remembering his first sight of her last night made his heart beat faster. Ray must have read his mind, or maybe he just scented his excitement. His nephew nudged his forearm.

“So, when are you proposing to Miss Victoria?”

“As soon as I’m sure she wants to marry me.”

Ray skirted an icy puddle on the sidewalk and smirked at him. “Even though her father told you he would never allow his daughter to marry you?”

“Yeah.” His mouth compressed in a flat line when he remembered Wolf’s Shadow and a bunch of the other wolf clan men confronting him at the gala in January. He had gone outside the old sports center where the gala was traditionally held to cool off after vigorous dancing and found himself in the center of a ring of threatening men. Shadow had told him Victoria was off limits and if he didn’t break off his courtship there would be trouble. He’d said Victoria wasn’t interested in marriage to him. He had acquiesced only to avoid trouble at the gala. “Yeah, even though. It’s Vic’s decision. I’m betting she’s not the woman to let anyone else make the decisions for her. If she wants to marry me, she will.”

At least he hoped she would. Her father’s concerns about his fitness to be a husband were invalid. That was his politician-polite term for it. Stupid was the better, if not wiser, word. And if Vic asked, he’d tell her so.

As they walked up the drive to the Limit’s gate, Ray shook his head. “I don’t get it. When I spoke with Taye Wolfe about courting his daughter, he was okay with it. But Shadow won’t let you court Victoria? I have the same, uh, issue that you do. So why will Taye accept me as a son in law, but Shadow won’t accept you?”

“Because your intended father-in-law is sane and reasonable, unlike the father of the woman I want to marry.”

Ray slanted a look at him. “Ah. That must be it.”

“Do me a favor, Ray. On the tour, try to get me a little time alone with Vic. You know, talk loud and keep the men’s attention on you.”

“I’ll try.” Ray laughed out loud. “This is going to be a very interesting morning.”

*

The breakfast buffet was scrumptious. Victoria always enjoyed breakfast. It was the most important meal of the day, and a woman of her height and figure needed plenty of calories to maintain her curves. She enjoyed this breakfast, too, but half of her attention was on the table behind her where Marty and Ray sat with Jon and Tanner from the Brotherhood Commune. All the small square tables were full. This time the delegates and their escorts from the Wolf Clan did not push tables together to sit as a group. Victoria sat with her brother, Colby, and Sand at the table nearest the open staircase. Rock, Quill and others were at other tables around the reception room turning dining room.

Over the clatter of cutlery and the morning chatter in the dining room, she couldn’t make out many words from Marty’s table, but the tone of his voice when he chatted with Jon and Tanner was friendly. Ray sounded reserved but pleasant. Marty couldn’t like those two idiots, could he? If he did, he would lose serious brownie points with her.

Her brother’s hearing was far sharper than hers. Eagle, seated on her left, paused in chewing and cocked his head as if listening. Colby, on her right, did the same. She was dying to know what they heard, and she didn’t have to wait long to find out. Eagle and Colby threw down their forks at the same time and leaped to their feet to face the table behind.

“No!” they snarled in unison.

Sand, the fourth person at the table, stood up more slowly, but only watched the two younger wolf warriors without speaking. Victoria jumped up too, to see what was going on.

Jon rose to his feet, face set. “No? What do you mean, no?”

“No, you’re not going on the tour with my sister,” Eagle snapped.

The arrogance in the tilt of Jon’s head almost made up for his lack of height. “There is no law against it. If I want to go, what will stop me?”

Victoria’s eyebrows climbed up her forehead. Was he blind? Or just stupid? Anyone who knew anything about the clan knew that her menfolk lived for opportunities to crush would-be suitors. Almost entertained, she folded her arms and waited for her brother’s reply.

At six feet and five inches, Eagle was nearly a foot taller than Jon. He stepped close, kicking a chair out of his way. To give him credit, Jon didn’t retreat.

“I’ll stop it, moron.”

Colby stepped up beside Eagle. “And I’ll help him.”

Tanner jumped up. “You can’t do that!”

He might have said more, but a voice from the door rang out with authority. “Stop,” said Renee.

Incredibly, Jon proved he was indeed the moron Eagle had called him. “I don’t listen to a cook,” he said, flicking his fingers dismissively toward Renee.

An awful silence fell, laden with a combination of shock, horror and disbelief. Victoria simply gaped at the fool, waiting for thunderbolts and lightening to strike him down. Thunderbolts and lightning in the guise of Hawk. All over the dining room she saw the men of the clan stand and prepare for battle. Hawk advanced like grim death on the table where Jon stood.

He was cut off by Ms. Mary. The tiny, frail lady took dainty, tottering steps right in his path without seeming to notice him. Even an enraged mate of the wolf clan gave way before a lady, especially an elderly one. Her lined face was set into an offended frown as she shook a finger in Jon’s face.

“I’ve never heard such rudeness,” she announced. “If you wish to remain a guest in this house, you will apologize at once, young man.”

Jon cast an angry look around the room. The men of the clan stared back, a silent promise of retribution. For a long minute, no one moved. Victoria wondered if Jon even realized what a colossal blunder he had made.

Into the silence, Stone spoke in Lakota. “I wonder if this is how he treats the women at his village? Perhaps that is why he must come all the way to Omaha to find a wife.”

Colby snorted with reluctant amusement. Rock gave a harsh bark of laughter, and Sand showed his chipped tooth in something not quite a smile. Jon’s square face turned red. Victoria was sure it was rage, not embarrassment. He turned stiffly toward the door where Renee stood. Hawk shifted half a step to block his mate from the younger man’s line of sight.

Victoria stared as Jon’s face underwent a transformation from sullenly angry to charmingly rueful. He lifted his hands with puppy dog eyes. “I am so sorry,” he said with every appearance of sincerity. “I’m a bear first thing in the morning. I shouldn’t have let my temper get away from me like that. Please forgive me.”

Renee jerked her chin down once, and disappeared back toward the kitchen. Hawk gave Jon one long, hard look, and then followed his mate. One by one, the men of the clan returned to their breakfasts, but Victoria noticed they positioned themselves so they could still see Jon. Last of all, Eagle and Colby came back to their table and sat down.

Ms. Mary patted Jon’s arm. “There now. That’s better. You have a nice breakfast, my dear.”

The clatter of forks and spoons and the murmur of voices rose again as the elderly left the dining room, but the noise was more subdued now. Victoria could clearly hear Marty say that maybe the Allerton boys could ask their father to give them a tour of Omaha. The leader of the Falls City commune had been to Omaha many times. A few minutes later, he and Ray excused themselves and came to Victoria’s table.

“Good morning, Miss Victoria,” Marty said warmly. He nodded at Colby, Eagle, and Sand. “We can leave on the tour anytime you’re ready.”

She waited for one of the men to make some protest, but they were silent. Maybe they were comparing Marty and Ray with Jon and Tanner and deciding that Marty was the far lesser evil. Cheered greatly by that thought, she smiled at the man she planned to marry.

“I can be ready in ten minutes.”

“Perfect.” Not being a fool like Jon, Marty nodded again at the men. “We’ll meet you in the foyer.”

“Ten minutes,” Victoria agreed. She watched him saunter up the stairs and tried to keep her pulse steady. The way he moved made her mouth water. The curse of having wolf warriors for watchdogs was that they could smell when she was excited. She turned back to the table. “Are you coming, Sand?”

He shook his head, biting into a piece of toast. “I’ve been in Omaha before. But Colby and Eagle are going, aren’t you?”

Both young men nodded eagerly. “She won’t be alone with the Madisons.”

She dabbed her mouth with her napkin. “But better the Madisons than the Allertons?”

Colby looked sour, but admitted, “Much.”

Victoria, as she went to up to her room to freshen up, chalked up a major victory in her campaign to win approval for her marriage to Marty Madison. Jon truly was a moron extraordinaire, but his idiocy had done wonders to show what a good choice Marty was. She smiled as she combed her hair. Now to move on to the next skirmish.

Tuesday Teaser 1/31/17 Victoria’s Cat Part 5

Wow! It’s almost February. I’ve been slacking off a little on my writing. Bad Maddy! No cookie!  But I do have a good sized snip for you from Victoria’s Cat.  Enjoy  🙂


Eagle bristled. “If they so much as smile at my sister…”

“Smiling is acceptable,” Stone said. “No fighting unless they step out of line.”

Victoria waited for him to define what constituted stepping out of line, but he didn’t. She tapped her chin with a forefinger as a wicked idea came to her. Compared to the Aller-Jensen boys, Marty must be much more acceptable to her menfolk. She smiled.

“You’re right, Uncle Quill. Dad told us we should present ourselves well here in Omaha. Beating up strangers because we don’t like their lifestyle would be wrong.” She swallowed and forced the next words out. “We should invite them to sit with us at supper.”

Every one of her relatives snapped his head around to stare at her. “What?” they chorused.

“Well, you know, just to be nice. I mean …” She faltered under their combined outrage. “It would be neighborly. Right?”

Hawk voiced their collective response.” No,” he said with flat finality.

Victoria sighed to hide her relief. “Oh, alright. Where’s Uncle Sand?”

“He went to deliver some letters for Amanda.” Hawk seemed glad of the new topic. “You know his mate grew up here in Omaha.”

“Uh-huh. Oh, look, Mrs. Theige is waving at us.”

The housekeeper came to stand by the stairs. “The buffet is ready, gentlemen. And Miss Wolfe,” she added quickly.

At home, when someone said food was ready, there was a stampede to the where ever the food was to be serviced. Here, no one moved, but all the men were looking at her. Eagle nudged her with an elbow. “They’re being gentlemen, sis, so lead the way before we all starve to death.”

Victoria cast a glance over her shoulder at the corner where Marty was. He and his nephew, Ray, were standing now. He gave her a subtle nod and a slow smile. Good. Marty would join her for supper. Her tummy made a little shimmy of anticipation. She hadn’t spoken with Marty in more than a month. How odd, she thought, that she had missed him so much when she’d barely known him a few months ago.

Once she took a plate from the staff at one end of the table against the wall the men flooded to form a line behind her. She went along the table, taking generous helpings of all the offerings. Anything that Renee made was guaranteed to be delicious. She carried her plate to one of the small square tables, put it down, and went to the next table.

Eagle was right behind her. “What you doing?”

“Let’s put some of these tables together so we can all sit together.”

“That’s a good idea.”

Eagle and Colby shooed her out of the way and moved the table themselves. She grabbed another of the tables and dragged it over.

Colby frowned at her. “We don’t need that many tables.”

“Yes, we do,” she said. “There’s me, you, Eagle, Hawk, Rock, Quill, and Stone. Sand will be coming soon, so we should save a chair for him.” She added in a casual tone, “And don’t forget Ray and Marty.”

Colby stopped dead. “The Madisons don’t belong at our table.”

“Don’t be rude, Cole. Ray Madison is going to be your brother-in-law.”

Apparently, Colby couldn’t find an argument against that. “Oh, fine.”

It wasn’t a gracious acceptance, but Victoria would take it. She wasn’t stupid enough to smile where he could see her. Now if she could just arrange it so Marty sat next to her. Maybe she could say she was saving the seat on her left for Sand and then wave Marty over?

That didn’t work, of course. Stone took the chair on one side of her and Eagle was in the other. Darn. Victoria cut the beef roast on her plate and took a bite. She closed her eyes to savor the flavor of it as it melted in her mouth. No one made beef roast as tender as Renee. She opened her eyes to look for Hawk so she could compliment his mate’s cooking, and saw Marty sitting across the table from her. Her smile grew.

“Hello, Marty,” she purred. “Nice to see you. How have you been?”

If he could sell his mile, he would be a rich man. “Good, thanks.” He aimed his smile at Stone and Eagle. “How was your trip?”

“Long,” she replied before the men could. “We rode the fifty miles to Deadwood to catch the train. Well, I rode, but most of the escort was in wolf form. It’s a good thing Deadwood knows us. I think there might have been a couple of visitors who were surprised to see a lone woman ride into town with three packhorses and twenty wolves running alongside her.”

He laughed. “That must have been a sight.”

Eagle grunted. “There were some visitors. They looked at my sister with too much hunger. Like maybe they wanted to steal her.”

“I bet the twenty of you around her discouraged that idea.”

Eagle grunted again, looking very satisfied.

“And then you took the train here. I hope it wasn’t too uncomfortable.”

Her brother shoveled in a spoonful of mashed potatoes. “I didn’t like being cramped up in that train car for nearly two days, but it wasn’t too bad.”

“Good.” Marty smiled at Victoria. “I know some of your uncles have been to Omaha before, but I don’t believe you have?”

She scooped up a spoonful of mashed potato herself. At this time of the year, the potatoes must made from spuds that had been dried and ground into powder, but the butter and cream Renee whipped them with made them very tasty. She really missed eating Renee’s cooking, but even that couldn’t compete with the appeal of the man across from her. “No, this is my first visit.”

“The legislative session begins the day after tomorrow. If you don’t have plans for tomorrow, I’d be happy to take you on a tour of the city.” When Eagle looked up sharply, he added smoothly, “All of you, of course.”

Hiding her smile and speaking quickly, before any of her relatives could forbid the trip, she said, “That would be great. I’d love to see the city.”

Eagle’s spoon clattered on his plate. “No.”

Victoria jabbed her elbow into her brother’s side. “Yes.”

From her other side, Stone said with exaggerated patience, “Of course you can go, Vic. I’m sure Colby and Rock would like to go too, even if Eagle doesn’t.”

With their sharp ears, Colby and Rock, sitting a little further down the table, had followed this exchange. By leaning forward, she could see them both frowning at her. “We’ll go,” Rock affirmed, transferring his frown to Marty.

“I’ll go,” Eagle said, grumbling.

“Wonderful,” Marty said, as blithely as if he didn’t have three wolf warriors glaring suspiciously at him. “Tomorrow after breakfast?”

“Great.”

Victoria happily contemplated her dried apple pie. She would be with Marty for the whole morning. There had to be a way to get rid of her brother and cousins for at least a little while. She made eye contact with Marty, willing him to see that she was interested in him as more than just a friend of the clan.

His eyes were gorgeous, a vivid shade between blue and green, fringed with eyelashes longer and thicker than her own. Their true beauty, though, was in their warmth. She had seen some eyes that always looked cool and distant. Her uncle Dan, for instance, had eyes of glacier blue that only warmed when he was looking at his mate or his daughter. Every time she had seen Marty looking at her, his eyes had been warm. He would have been a very handsome man regardless, but that warmth made him devastating.

When Stone cleared his throat, she realized she had been staring at Marty too long. She busied herself cutting into her pie. “How is your mom doing, Marty?”

His eyes clouded. “She’s not getting any younger. I’m afraid we might not have her with us much longer.”

“I’m sorry.” Marty had been a surprise child born when Mrs. Madison was in her mid-forties, so she must be at least seventy now. She didn’t know Mrs. Madison well, but she had every intention of becoming the woman’s daughter-in-law. “That must be so hard.”

“Thank you. How are your parents?”

They spoke of generalities for the rest of the meal. The tone was casual and impersonal, which seemed a great contrast to how she was feeling, but none of her relatives growled or glared any more than they usually did. She considered it a great success. Tomorrow will would be her chance to move the relationship past casual and impersonal.

 

Chapter Four

Victoria woke earlier than usual the next morning. Winter was her favorite time of the year because the long nights gave her more time to sleep. Sleeping was one of her favorite activities. But spring was just about here, and the flimsy curtains at the window didn’t keep the light out. She sat up in the saggy bed and stretched. Going by the amount of light filtering in, breakfast was still an hour off. Good. Today she was going to spend time with Marty. There was only one thing standing in the way of that, and she was going to take care of it before breakfast.

Dressed in jeans and a pale blue sweater, she went across the hall and knocked on the other bedroom door. “Hey, you guys awake?”

Her brother’s voice sounded. “Yeah, come in.”

When she saw that Rock, Sand, Quill and Colby were there as well as Eagle and Stone, she smiled with satisfaction. “Good morning.”

Sand stood up from his lean on the wall and came to give her a quick hug. His chipped tooth flashed when he smiled. “Good morning, Vic.”

She smiled back, devising her plan of attack. When she was a girl, her mother had taught her that the best way to handle a bunch of wolf warriors was to put them on the defensive at the start and not give them time to regroup. She looked around the room, considering. Rock and Colby were on the bed. Eagle was propped against one corner of the dresser and Quill was on the other. Stone lounged against the wall beside the head of the bed. Taking a deep breath, she marched to the wall opposite the door and folded her arms.

“Uh-oh,” murmured Stone.

Sand closed the door and leaned on it, looking at her with one eyebrow raised.

“I want to talk about our plans for this morning,” she announced.

Colby nodded. “Yeah, we were just—”

She cut him off with a sharp chopping motion. “I’m talking.”

The expression of outrage on Colby’s face almost made her laugh, but she suppressed it. Accustomed to her speeches, Eagle folded his arms over his chest with exaggerated patience.

“Marty Madison will be taking some of us on a tour of Omaha this morning, and I expect him to be treated with respect.” She looked around at her kinsman to be sure they were paying attention to her. “I will walk beside him—” She raised her voice to be heard over their growls “— so that I can hear what he says. I don’t have super hearing like you do.”

“No one needs super hearing to be able to hear you,” Rock muttered sourly.

She ignored that, congratulating herself for finding the excuse of needing to hear Marty as a way to walk beside him. Even her idiotic brother couldn’t argue with it.

“So I don’t want to hear anybody growling or complaining about me being too close to him on the tour. In fact, if I put my hand on his arm so I can keep my balance on the ice, I don’t want to hear one peep out of any of you.”

Into the shocked silence, Stone shook his head with a smile. “She’s just like her mother,” he commented to Quill.

“Scary,” agreed Quill.

Victoria re-folded her arms over her chest with a scowl. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Nothing.” Stone held up his hands in surrender. “Your mother is a wonderful woman with strong opinions and a way of running over opposition.”

“I just want to make sure that everyone has a good time on the tour today.” She jabbed a finger toward Colby and Rock on the bed and then glared at her brother on the dresser. “No growling. No howling. No dragging me away if I actually brush against Marty.” She would brush against him, and it wouldn’t be on accident, but they didn’t need to know that. “Okay? Are we on the same page?”

Eagle pushed away from the dresser. “You’re doing this just so you can be with Marty Madison.”

Busted. Her brother had seen right through her plot. So what. She walked around until she stood toe to toe with him. “You make it sound like a crime. I happen to like Marty Madison. I happen to like spending time with Marty Madison. And if I want to be with him, I will!”

“He’s not the right man to be your husband,” Eagle shouted.

“And who decided that?” she demanded. “Dad? I love him, and I love you, but you have no right to tell me who is the right man to be my husband. If it was up to you, I’d never get married!”

“Do you think dad would decide something like that without good reason? Huh?” Eagle was every bit as angry as she was. “Trust him on this.”

She was glad of her height. If she was one of Stone and Sara’s daughters, she never could have glared right in her brother’s eyes. “He’s so overprotective I can barely walk across camp without a guard. And you’re no better. Who you think would be good enough to be my husband? Maybe that little runt Jon Allerton?”

“No,” Eagle began, sounding horrified, but Victoria cut him off.

“I’m the oldest virgin in thousand square miles. And I’d like to lose that title sometime before I die.”

They all swung around when the door opened. Sand stepped out of the way for Hawk to come in. The eldest of her uncles looked at her with a severe expression. “Do you realize that everyone downstairs can hear your little discussion?”

Victoria froze with horror. “Marty?”

Hawk his head. “No, he went out to buy more bacon for breakfast. The little runt is out too. And I exaggerated slightly. You can be heard but many of your words could be understood.”

She let out a quick breath with relief.

“Your father does have his reasons for not wanting you and Marty to be together.” Hawk shook his head. “If you want to spend some time with him while we’re here in Omaha, you can. But never alone. Do you hear me, Victoria? Don’t forget you’re not here for romance. You are representing the clan to the Omaha Legislature. That has to come first.”

Chastened, Victoria nodded. “I know.” A hot thread of shame worked its way down her back. She had manipulated her way into being the clan’s delegate in order to see Marty. But she would do her best to speak for the clan. “I’m sorry.”

Hawk nodded and held a hand out palm down to indicate the subject was closed. “Breakfast should be ready in a few minutes. Let’s go grab a table.”

Tuesday Teaser 1/24/17 Victoria’s Cat Part 4

Okay, this is a little later than I had hoped, but it’s still Tuesday, at least here in North Dakota, so this still counts as a Tuesday Teaser  😉

 

Before we get to the teaser I wanted to take a minute to thank all of you who bought Brave Hearts and especially those who left a review. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

 

And now, here is the next little snip in Victoria’s story. Again, parts of this are flat and more “telling than showing”.  I am considering having Colby find his mate in Omaha. I can’t decide though. What do you think?

 

Chapter Three

 

Victoria started toward Marty’s corner, but was cut off by her cousin Colby. She couldn’t smack him here, with all the witnesses in the room, so she gave him a smile. Hopefully no one would notice her clenched teeth.

“Cousin,” he greeted her silkily. “Come say hello to the rest of the family.”

She saw that Hawk and Rock had stayed against the far wall. Obeying the pull on her arm, she went with Colby to greet them. She gave Rock a hug. He was the elder son of Des and Connie, the Alpha and Lupa of the Plane Women’s House. A little younger than she, he was painfully shy with women, but just as belligerent as any other wolf warrior of the clan. His hair was long and so dark a brown that it looked black. She stepped back and turned to the older man in the group. Hawk was one of the oldest of her uncles, and had been her surrogate father while she stayed at the House last fall. She’d always thought of him as calmer and less aggressive than the Alpha males in the clan. His embrace was warm.

“So, Victoria,” he murmured in her ear. “You are the delegate from the clan.”

His voice was carefully neutral, but she was sure she could hear amusement in it. Since they were nearly the same height, she could look him right in the eye.

“Is there something wrong with that?”

He lifted his hands in surrender. “Absolutely nothing. I’m just wondering how you convinced your father to send you.”

Victoria slumped a little. “It wasn’t me. Mom spoke for me. But I think the person who really swayed him was Aunt Sherry.”

His brow hooked up. “Sherry?”

“I know. I don’t think she’s ever spoken in council before.”

“Huh.” He smoothed his silver-streaked hair behind his ear. “When a quiet hearted person like Sherry lifts her voice, the wise listen.”

At the sound of Colby growling, she turned away from Hawk. The two brown haired men from the little couch had approached. They stood elbow to elbow with nervous expressions on their faces.

“We, uh, we thought we’d like to, uh, welcome the lady.” The one on the left seemed relieved to have gotten the sentence out. When Colby and Rock continued to growl, the young man swallowed hard and looked at Colby. “No offence.”

“Of course not.” Victoria smiled at him but didn’t try to step around Rock or Colby. She had been dealing with over protective males her whole life. She’d learned long ago that fighting this particular battle was useless. “I am Victoria Wolfe.”

The second of the two men poked the first. “I knew it,” he whispered. “See?”

“Shut up.” He took a deep breath and tried a smile at Victoria. “I’m Jon Aller-Jensen from Falls City. This is my brother, Tanner. We’re real happy to meet you, miss.” He extended his hand to shake, but when she didn’t move from behind Rock and Colby, he dropped it. She was a little sorry to disappoint him, but who knew what Colby would do if she touched a stranger?

“Pleased to meet you.” Victoria looked the brothers over. They were tidy and well dressed, but going by the tans that hadn’t completely faded and the callouses on Jon’s hand, they weren’t soft townsmen. “So, what do you do in Falls City?”

“Farm, mostly. Run some cattle. Brother Anthony is here for the legislature, but me and Tanner came along to see Omaha. Never been here before. We’re—uh, hoping to meet some ladies.”

He was nervous. Victoria hid a smile. Nervous men tended to ramble on, and it seemed men were always nervous around her. If her heart wasn’t already given, she might have enjoyed a little flirtation with Jon. “My first visit too,” she said. “Have you met my cousins? This is Colby Wolfe and Rock Wolfe, and my uncle, Hawk In Flight Wolfe.”

No one shook.

“Falls City,” Hawk said flatly. “That’s the Brotherhood Commune?”

Both young men nodded. “Yes, sir.”

To her complete surprise, Hawk took Victoria’s arm and steered her firmly away from the brothers without even telling them good bye. “What are you doing?” she demanded in a low whisper. “I was only talking to them.”

“That’s all you’ll be doing with them, and it’s the last time you’ll do it.” He let her go when they got to the bottom of the staircase between the big rooms. “Let’s go up to my room until supper is ready.”

She blinked up at her uncle. Had she thought Hawk was the reasonable one? Colby caught up to them at the first step. “What’s the Brotherhood Commune?” he asked.

Quill, Rock, Eagle, and Stone joined them. Victoria went up a couple of steps to get away from the testosterone. It gave her an elevated view of the reception room. Jon and Tanner were standing with their heads close together, whispering furiously. Marty was still in his corner chair, smiling at her. She smiled back, tempted to wave, but not wanting to draw her menfolk’s attention.

“The Brotherhood Commune?” Stone said with a frown. “I think I’ve heard the name, but I can’t place it.”

“Brotherhood,” spat Hawk. “They say they are all brothers and share everything.”

Rock looked confused. “We all call ourselves brothers.” He glanced at Victoria. “And sisters. Even though most of us are cousins, and some only distant cousins at that. Some of us aren’t blood related at all. Is that what they mean by brotherhood?”

Hawk looked up at her. “Why don’t you go upstairs, Vic? We’ll call you when supper is ready.”

“Ha.” She folded her arms and stared him down. “One of the reasons I’m in Omaha is to meet men. If those two aren’t suitable husband material, I need to know why.”

“An Omaha man wouldn’t be suitable,” Colby stated.

“Oh?” She tilted her head. “Isn’t that why you are here? To see if your wolf will claim a mate?”

“That’s different,” he growled.

Eagle opened his mouth with a frown, glanced toward Marty Madison, and closed his mouth without saying anything. Victoria smiled sweetly at her brother.

Hawk cleared his throat. “The Brotherhood Commune,” he began with a quelling frown, “Is a farming community about five miles south and east of Falls City.  They share everything. No man owns anything. Everything belongs to the commune and the commune belongs Brother Anthony Jensen. Everything.”

“Like the plows?” asked Rock.

“And the harvest?” put in Eagle.

Colby frowned. Somehow, frowning made him even more handsome. That thought irritated Victoria. Such a stubborn man shouldn’t look so handsome. His frowned deepened, making him look darkly handsome instead of sulky. “Their clothes and furniture belong to this commune?”

Hawk shrugged. “Maybe not their clothes. The men sleep in bunkhouses. They share everything else.”

Quill sounded thoughtful. “That doesn’t sound so bad. Lots of single men stay in dormitories or bunkhouses. What aren’t you telling us?”

“Wait.” Eagle had forgotten about Marty to stare at Hawk. “What about the married people? They don’t stay in bunkhouses, do they?”

“There aren’t any married people at the Brotherhood Commune.”

Rock chuckled a little at Hawk’s statement. “They won’t be around long without any children to continue their line.”

Hawk was silent for a long moment. “There are women and children, but the women aren’t married.”

“Well, what’s wrong with the men in this commune?” Rock demanded in disgust. “They don’t need to go to Omaha to find wives, not if they have women right there.”

Hawk allowed himself a sigh. “The Brotherhood share everything,” he began patiently.

Eagle made a choking sound, head swiveling to stare from Hawk to the brothers below, and back to Hawk. “They share their mates?”

Hawk nodded. “The women there are treated just like any other communal property.”

Victoria slapped a hand over her mouth and turned her back on the brothers. “I am going to throw up.”

Colby looked like he was about to launch himself over the banister at the Aller-Jensen boys. “Excrement of diseased dogs,” he snarled in Lakota.

It was his own made up curse word, since Lakota didn’t have the wealth of swear words that English enjoyed. Victoria used to hide a smile when he said things like that, but right now it had never sounded so appropriate.

“Women abusers,” Eagle agreed, scowling fiercely, obviously prepared to back Colby in his attack.

Hawk laid a restraining hand on Colby’s shoulder. Quill grabbed the collar of Rock’s flannel shirt with one hand and Eagle’s with the other. “Just hold on,” Hawk said. “I’ve never heard that the ladies aren’t happy with that arrangement.”

Victoria made a gagging sound. “Really? They probably aren’t allowed to talk to strangers.”

Stone chuckled. “Some women like having the attention of a lot of men.”

Victoria cast a glance of loathing at the two brothers. They must have noticed, because they quickly turned away, shoulders hunched. “That’s disgusting,” she snapped. “And they are here in Omaha to meet ladies? Ha! Probably looking for new blood for their harem.”

Eagle shook off Quill’s hand. “They won’t get it.”

Quill sighed and looked at Stone. “When did we get so old that we are the voice of reason?” He turned back to the younger generation. “No. We are not here to pick fights with the other delegates. Just cool down.”

Eagle bristled. “If they so much as smile at my sister…”

“Smiling is acceptable,” Stone said. “No fighting unless they step out of line.”

Victoria waited for him to define what constituted stepping out of line, but he didn’t. She tapped her chin with a forefinger as a wicked idea came to her. Compared to the Aller-Jensen boys, Marty must be much more acceptable to her menfolk. She smiled.

“You’re right, Uncle Quill. Dad told us we should present ourselves well here in Omaha. Beating up strangers because we don’t like their lifestyle would be wrong.” She swallowed and forced the next words out. “We should invite them to sit with us at supper.”

Every one of her relatives snapped his head around to stare at her. “What?” they chorused.

“Well, you know, just to be nice. I mean …” She faltered under their combined outrage. “It would be neighborly. Right?”

Hawk voiced their collective response.” No,” he said with flat finality.

Brave Hearts is Out!

Brave Hearts is now available on Amazon!

I am very, very excited. And a little nervous! I’ve only written paranormal romance in the past, but when Paige Tyler invited me to submit a story for her Dallas Fire & Rescue Kindle World I thought I’d give it a try. The hero is Dusty Wolfe, a great uncle of Shadow, Taye, and others of the Lakota Wolf Clan.

Check it out by clicking the title below.

BRAVE HEARTS

 

Note: I am an Amazon affiliate. If you follow the link above and buy something on Amazon I receive a small percentage

Tuesday Teaser 1/17/17: Victoria’s Cat Part 3

Hello, hello! I hope Mother Nature is treating you well where you are at. North Dakota (at least my corner of it) is enjoying a January thaw after lots of day of never getting above zero. So sunshine and 35 degrees is like paradise for us.

 

I am not sure that I’ll be posing the Tuesday Teaser on 1/24, so you are getting a bit more than usual here. Poor Victoria. She will never admit it, but Omaha is a little overwhelming for her.  😉  Enjoy!

 

Chapter Two

 

Stone stepped off the train at Omaha’s station and looked around. “This is sure different than the last time I was here,” he remarked.

He turned on the platform to take Victoria’s bag. She gave it up and stepped down beside him, anxious to see what Omaha looked like. “What was it like when you were here?”

He shook his head. “Not good. Lots of people, like this, but lots of men in uniform, too. The City Guard kept the peace, but they followed the orders of the old mayor, and he was an evil man.” He noticed they were blocking the way of other passengers, and moved her over a couple of yards. “Eagle!” he called in the low voice that only other wolf warriors would be able to hear over the noise of the train and the people on the platform. “Over here.”

Victoria noticed the stares that followed her brother as he carried all the rest of their luggage over to where they stood. It might have been his height that caught people’s attention, or the strength he displayed by carrying their trunks. He was as tall as their father, and as muscular. Or perhaps it was his handsome face. Victoria admitted her little brother was extremely good looking. But it was probably his hair, which was jet black and hung in two thick braid down his back to almost his knees, and the fact that he wore only moccasins and a breechcloth. Everyone else on the platform was bundled up in wool coats and scarves, shivering in the cold. Her uncle, his waist length braids untouched by gray, wore jeans and boots and a flannel shirt. Victoria wore jeans, knee high boots, and a sheepskin coat.

“Did you have to bring all this crap, Vic?” her brother rumbled, oblivious to the stares. “You got enough clothes in here to dress half of Omaha.”

“I do not,” she retorted. “I have to look good in the legislative chambers. Mom said so.” Even Gray Eagle wouldn’t argue with Mom’s decision. “Besides, you brought all your regalia. Feathers for your hair, your best blue wool breechcloth, the leather pants with the silver bells down the legs.”

He looked down his nose at her, one of the few men she knew tall enough to do it. “I, too, want to look my best to represent our clan.”

“Now, children” Uncle Stone soothed. “You’re twenty-six and twenty-five years old. Try to act like it.”

Victoria stuck her tongue out at her brother and then laughed. His mouth pulled into a reluctant smile. He looked around. “There sure are a lot of people here.” His tone suggested that he thought there were too many people here. “Where do we go?”

Stone jerked his head at the station house. “There will be an information desk inside.”

Stone took her arm and gave her a gentle tug. With Eagle’s bulk parting the crowd before them, they headed toward the red brick station. As tall as any of the men on the platform, and taller than most, Victoria could see over a sea of heads to get a good look around. Eagle was right. There were a lot of people here, maybe two hundred. The train hissed and screamed on the tracks to their rear, the people shouted, laughed, and argued around them, and roars of a type she’d never heard before came from the city past the station. For a woman who had grown up in the heart of a nomadic warrior tribe, it was fascinating. A little overwhelming, perhaps, but Victoria would never admit it out loud.

Nor would she admit the leap of relief she felt when she saw Uncle Quill standing just outside the station door. Long lines fanned out from the corners of his green-gold eyes when he shook Stone’s hand. “I’ve been waiting for you. Good to see you.”

“You too,” said Stone. “When did you get here?”

“Yesterday’s train. Me, Colby and Sand from the den. Hawk, Renee, and Rock from the Plane Women’s House.” Quill moved over a few inches so people could squeeze past them into the station. “We’re all staying at the Limit. Ms. Mary wants you to stay too.”

“Good,” Stone grunted. “Let’s get out of here.”

The roaring grew louder as they approached the street on the other side of the station. Cars lined the street. Victoria stared. She had seen cars when the clan drifted up north to Fargo and but only from a distance. And never had she seen more than one at a time. There were ten just on this section of street in front of the station. Quill gestured them over to one at the end of the street.

“Ms. Mary sent the minibus,” he shouted over the noise of the engines. “Eagle, put the trunks in the back.”

It was ugly. Victoria tried not to stare, but she’d never seen anything like it. It was taller than she was. The rectangular box had an open space in front for the driver to see out of, and sat on top of four big wheels made from some thick metal. At the back was a door that lowered. Her brother approached cautiously, as if he thought it might kick like a horse. He coughed in the noxious fumes. Victoria wanted to gag from the stench. She could only wonder how her uncles and brother with their wolf-sharp sense of smell could bear it.

Quill introduced the driver, a small leathery man named Sal, and helped Victoria into the minibus and onto a long bench seat in the middle of the box. He climbed in next to Sal, and Uncle Stone sat on one side of her and Eagle sat on the other.

Riding in the bus made her stomach feel like a bottle bobbing up and down in a stream with a strong current. The vehicle jumped and clattered on its metal wheels over the slushy road, and jolted in and out of every pothole in its path. Sal held the big wheel tightly in both hands and scowled at the other cars they passed, screaming insults at them.  Victoria clung to the bottom of her seat to keep from being thrown around. Only pride kept her from clutching her brother’s arm. He looked a little green too. Victoria wished heartily that they had walked.

She’d heard bits about the Limit while growing up. It has been a whore house run by her Uncle Sky back before the old mayor had been killed. Now it was a restaurant. Aunt Renee had probably already taken over the kitchen. That made Victoria smile. Renee was Hawk’s mate, and she had the reputation of being the best cook between Kansas City and Denver. She wondered what the Limit would serve for supper tonight? Whatever it was, if Aunt Renee made it, it would be fantastic.

Of course, if her stomach didn’t settle down, it wouldn’t matter how good it was.

They pulled up to a gate in an impressive stone wall, and the driver thumped his fist into the center of the wheel he held. A horn blasted. He continued to thump the horn until someone opened the gate.

“Lazy sonsabitches,” he muttered, driving through the gate.

Stone nodded to the gate guard as the bus drove past them. “How many guards?” he shouted, directing his question at Quill.

“There are eight men on the roster. They keep up the grounds, do general repairs, drive, and guard the gate. One on at a time on the gate except during the hours the restaurant is open. Then there are two.”

Eagle frowned. “How many women live here?”

Over the seat back, Victoria saw Quill’s shoulder lift in a shrug. “Ms. Mary. Kim, the house cook. Julie Theige, the housekeeper. The rest of the staff, like the waitresses and kitchen help, come in daily but don’t live here.”

“One man on the gate.” Eagle made his disapproval plain. “How many patrol the wall?”

“None.” Quill looked over the seat at them. “This is Omaha.”

The house was situated on top of a slight rise. It was one of the biggest structures Victoria had ever seen. Eagle was staring too. “Looks like one of those palaces in mom’s paintings,” he murmured.

It kind of did. It was three stories tall, made of red brick trimmed in white. There was a fancy porch supported by white pillars in front. Victoria wilted under the feeling of being small and grubby in the face of this urban grandeur.

The bus roared up the rise and around to the back of the house. Two long single story buildings were in the back. If this was out west, Victoria would have called them bunkhouses. Here in the glory of the big cities they were probably called something fancy. Servants quarters?

“It looks the same,” Stone said quietly. He pointed at the nearest of the bunkhouses. “Right there is where Sara stayed while she was taking care of Odell.” His voice lowered to a murmur. “That’s where I finally got my head out of my butt.”

The bus rocked to a halt and turned off. The sudden cessation of noise was a jolt. The little driver hopped out. “Come on,” he snapped. “Unload your stuff so I can put the old girl away.”

Eagle grabbed the trunks and followed Quill inside. Stone led Victoria up three steps into what looked like a mudroom. “I don’t remember him being that crabby. Sal, the driver.”

“He’s older now,” she pointed out. “And maybe he doesn’t like that car.”

Stone chuckled. “That could be it. The noise of the beast alone is enough to make me want to kill someone.”

There were two closed doors on one side of the mudroom, and a narrow corridor on the far end. Quill directed Eagle to put the trunks on the floor by the doors, and led them through the corridor. As they entered a large, bright kitchen, Victoria looked around with approval at the deep sinks for washing dishes, the multitude of pots and pans hanging from a grid suspended from the ceiling, the large wooden table for chopping vegetables and prepping food, and the three ovens. It reminded her of the time she had recently spent at the Plane Women’s Eatery in Kearney.

Three women were standing at the wooden table, apparently engaged in some sort of battle of wills. One of these women, with silver shot black hair tied back to show a faded scar down the side of her face, was familiar to Victoria. The other two were strangers. One was a very frail, elderly lady with a puff of silver hair gleaming like a halo around her face. The other was younger, maybe fifty years old, with steel gray hair cut short, and a belligerent set to her mouth.

Eagle stopped dead. Victoria almost plowed into his back. “Uh oh.” His voice dropped to a whisper. “I don’t know who the other two ladies are, but if they are trying to convince Aunt Renee to do something, good luck to them. “

The ladies turned around to look at the newcomers hovering in the doorway to the kitchen. The eldest of them came forward with quivering hands out reached. “Sky?” Her hands dropped. “Oh, you’re not Sky. But you are familiar.” She approached Stone with a smile. “Do I know you?”

“Yes, ma’am,” Stone said, politely. “It’s been nearly twenty years, though.”

Quill hurried forward to put a gentle arm around the frail shoulders. “Ms. Mary, this is my cousin Stone. He was here when Ryan McGrath became Mayor.”

The old lady squinted her eyes. Her chin bobbed as if palsied. “Yes,” she squeaked. “I knew I knew you. Who are the rest of these nice people?”

“This is Stone Eagle, and his sister Victoria Wolfe. They are the children of Sky’s older brother.”

Ms. Mary didn’t come up any higher than Victoria’s shoulder. Victoria took the delicate hand in a gentle grip. She had never met anyone this old. “I’m pleased to meet you.”

Another woman entered the kitchen. She was tall, although not as tall as Victoria, with thick blond hair in a short bob, and large blue eyes. Victoria estimated her age to be between thirty-five and forty years old. She smiled at them all with the comfortable air of a woman in charge.

“Wonderful,” she said warmly. “You’ve made it in. I am Julie Theige, the house manager. Your rooms are ready for you. If you will please follow me.”

It sounded more like a polite order than an invitation. She strode to the mudroom and opened on of the doors, revealing a steep staircase going up. As she began to climb, she looked back at them with a smile. “I’m so sorry to have to put you upstairs, but all of our other rooms are full with the usual guests we host during legislative sessions, plus some. With so many new visitors coming to Omaha for the legislative session, it’s very hard to find enough rooms to put them in. Any place in Omaha with a spare room is full. We have other guests in the bunkhouses outside, but Ms. Mary wants you to stay in the house.”

They went all the way to the third floor. The ceiling sloped so low that Victoria had to hunch until she made her way to the center of the hallway. There were two bedrooms on either side of the hall way, with the bathroom at the head of the stairs. Mrs. Theige indicated one room.

“The lady can have this room. And this one here is for the gentlemen. There are fresh towels in the bathroom. Supper will be served at …” In her voice trailed off for a moment, and Victoria remembered Renee squaring off against the other woman in the kitchen. “I believe supper will be served in about an hour,” Mrs. Theige went on. “After you refresh yourselves, please come downstairs. You’ll have to pass through the kitchen to get to the rest of the house. I apologize for the inconvenience. Go through the private dining room and pass through the first reception room to the second reception room. You can mingle with the other guests there and get acquainted before we sit down for supper.”

She moved to go back down the stairs, but Stone spoke. “Excuse me, ma’am. How many guests do you have right now?”

The woman appeared to count silently. “Twenty-one.”

“Full house,” Stone said.

“Yes, indeed.”

Eagle carried her trunk into the little room Mrs. Theige had said was Victoria’s. He came back to where she stood with Stone at the door of the opposite room. Stone had a soft smile on his face as he looked in at the bed.

“So many good memories,” her uncle said. “Right there, in that bed, is where Sara and I consummated our mating.”

“Ugh!” Victoria slapped a hand over her eyes and borrowed one on her mother’s sayings. “TMI, Uncle Stone. Too much information!”

He laughed and waved to the bathroom. “You can get cleaned up first.”

Victoria couldn’t wait to see the rest of the house. Unpacking her trunk, she put her clothes into the bureau and the closet. The bed looked ancient. When she thought of Uncle Stone and Aunt Sara … She made a face and selected a fresh sweater and blue jeans. She washed her face and combed her long blond hair, and paused to examine her reflection in the bathroom mirror. The glass was so old that bits of the silvering had worn off the back, but she could see that her face was clean and her hair neat. For just a moment she wished she had some of that lip stuff that townie girls wore. After a moment, she shrugged. There was only one person in Omaha she wanted to look her best for, and he already knew what she looked like.

She smiled at herself in the mirror, and went to meet the other guests. In the kitchen, supper prep was in full swing. Whatever dispute had been in progress must have been resolved. Aunt Renee was directing three girls and the older woman in preparing chicken, and Victoria hurried through, anxious to not be put to work too.

The next room had a long table with benches. It would probably seat ten or twelve, not enough for the twenty-one guests. The private dining room, Mrs. Theige had called it. There was a short hall, and then Victoria entered a large room with a glossy hardwood floor made cozy by a fire glowing in a fireplace. There were about a dozen small tables set and ready for supper. But what caught her attention was the elegant staircase that swept up to second floor above. Victoria gaped, staring up at the mezzanine balustrade that formed an open oval above her. It was more beautiful and elegant than anything she had ever seen before. She could have stared up at it all day.

Voices from the next room interrupted her rapture. She would have time to explore up there another time. On the other side of the staircase was a room that mirrored this one, except that it didn’t have tables and was full of people standing by the fireplace and sitting on chairs and sofas. Uncle Hawk was talking to Gray Shirt and Colby, but he broke off when he saw her, and all three of her kinsmen started toward her. She gave them a quick smile, and looked around the room at the dozen or so strangers. They were all men. All the male faces turned to her, staring in the sudden silence. There were a pair of men on a small sofa, both her own age, with brown hair and handsome faces. There was a cluster of older men, with distinguished gray hair and lined faces, standing to one side of the fireplace. And, in the chair in the far corner, was a handsome man with a mane of wavy hair of burnished gold, turquoise eyes, and a dazzling smile.

Marty Madison. Brother to the Mayor of Kearney. Appointed representative to the Omaha Legislature. Carpenter, furniture maker, wood turner.

The man she was going to marry.

 

 

Brave Hearts Cover Reveal!

The day has come at last when I can show you the cover of Brave Hearts, my newest book. This releases on January 19. It is a stand alone in Paige Tyler’s Dallas Fire & Rescue Kindle World. The hero is the great uncle to Shadow, Taye, and Tracker from the After the Crash series.

 

Brave Hearts

Isabel Ybarra. A soldier who lost her leg in Iraq.

Dusty Wolfe. The medic who saved her life.

When they meet again in Dallas twelve years later, they’re not who they were. Dusty is an EMS with Dallas Fire & Rescue, with dreams of someday having a wife and family. He just needs to find the right woman. Isabel, now the owner of a yarn store, has left her dreams of love and a family firmly in the past. She’s happy with the peaceful life she’s built. She doesn’t want any reminders of what she left behind.
Dusty has finally found the right woman, and he refuses to be ignored. Her quiet courage and brave heart are irresistible to him. He will do whatever it takes to win her love. If that means signing up for her knitting class to get her attention, he will. Can he figure out the difference between knitting and purling? More importantly, can he convince her that he is her future?

Tuesday Teaser 1/10/17: Victoria’s Cat Part 2

NOTE: This is coming out slightly early because on Tuesday evening  I am doing the cover reveal for Brave Hearts.

Ready for the next bit in Victoria’s Cat? This is a bit info-dumpy. That is, there are several paragraphs where I just list the information that I think the reader needs to know, kind of like an encyclopedia entry. I will go back and blend that in a little more smoothly when I revise. Also, the description of the council is wordy and confusing. Please be gracious and overlook the awkwardness.  🙂

 

Councils were held in the open area in the center of the camp. During the summer, when the clan roamed over the prairie, or when they were staying in the winter camp, the camp was set out in concentric circles of houses or lodges. Councils were always held in the open ground in the center of camp. The clan didn’t have a lot of laws like the towns did, but tradition ruled them. Councils open to every member of the clan, and every member of the clan was expected to attend and participate. As Alpha, her father had the final word in all decisions, but he rarely made a big decision without the input of his clan.

Victoria stepped into the open area in the center of camp where the clan were already assembling. The Council attendees sat in a circle around a fire. There were over two hundred people living in the winter camp, so the circle was four rows deep. Her father and mother, as Alpha and Lupa, were in the innermost the circle. The two dozen women of the clan sat on either side of them, flanked by her father’s betas and the holy men. The human women felt the cold more than the wolf warriors did, so they were so bundled up in coats, hats, and scarves their faces could barely be seen. The second circle consisted of the clan’s greatest warriors. The third and fourth circles were made up of the rest of the clan. Victoria moved through the Council to the deer hide laid over the snow at her mother’s side.

Council was not the place to chat or giggle. People came, unrolled canvas or leather mats, and sat down in silence. They were probably wondering what the Council was about, and wondering why Sky was here. Sky sat beside her father, silent and solemn. Victoria stifled impatience. It was cold. She wanted to say her piece and get back indoors. She glanced over heads to the tall conical lodges pitched beyond the circle of wooden houses. Most of the unmarried men preferred to live in their lodges even in the worst of winter.  Until her mother insisted on four walls and a roof for winter, the clan had lived in canvas or skin teepees all year around. She shuddered.

Her father rose to feet. “My brother, Blue Sky At Midday, has come with news from Omaha.” He spoke in English so some of the women who were not fluent in Lakota could understand. He nodded to Sky and sat down.

Sky stood up. “I am Blue Sky At Midday, of Taye’s den north of Kearney.” Everyone knew who he was, but he was following the traditional format for council. Victoria listened carefully. “The man who calls himself President Todd of Kansas-Missouri has sent emissaries to Mayor McGrath of Omaha. He offers an alliance.”

There was an almost imperceptible flutter through the circles of people. No one spoke though. To interrupt the standing speaker was the height of rude hubris. They waited for Sky to continue.

“Mayor McGrath knows that President Todd has offered such alliances before, and two out of three times he has become not an ally but an overlord. Mayor McGrath fears the outcome of a refusal will be war and death.”

Another tiny ripple went through the young men in the outer circle. War probably appealed to them.

“A defeat in war would result in Omaha being subjected to Kansas-Missouri authority, heavy taxes, and conscription of men into their army and the women taken to marry their men.” Sky’s voice was grim. “An acceptance of the alliance could have the same result.”

He reached into the back pocket of his jeans and withdrew a grimy folded piece of paper. “Mayor McGrath is sending messages to all the settlements in the area.” He cleared his throat and read. “To all those living in Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota, greetings from Ryan Thomas McGrath, Mayor of Omaha. Benjamin Todd of Kansas-Missouri has approached me with an offer of alliance. If this alliance is successful, it will open safe and easy commerce between our regions and give us a strong ally to our south and east. If this alliance is not trustworthy, it puts all of you at risk. Omaha’s legislature is meeting on March tenth. I urge all settlements to send a delegate to represent their interests to Omaha to help us decide what our course of action should be. The delegate may be escorted by two others from his settlement, no more. All will be housed in Omaha at the city’s expense for two weeks.”

Sky folded the paper and put it back in his pocket. “That is the news I bring.”

He sat down and her father stood up. “We must decide if we’ll send a delegate to Omaha. If we decide to do that, who should go.”

He sat again and discussion began in its usual, tedious fashion. Starting with the youngest of the men, each person stood and spoke his concern. No one interrupted and no one stood until it was his turn. Her youngest brother, sixteen-year-old Young Bull, said they should not send a delegate and wondered why the matters of Omaha should affect the clan. They weren’t subject to any town. Quiet Water, her next youngest brother, stood. At eighteen, he had fully mastered his wolf and always weighed his words carefully.

“I say we send a delegate to Omaha. This concerns the wellbeing of the clan. If this president from Kansas-Missouri wants war, he will follow the river through our lands and find us.”

The discussion dragged on, each person either speaking or holding their hand palm out and moving it from side to side to signify they had no words to say. Most of her aunts had nothing to add. Neither did Victoria, since it seemed most were in favor of sending someone to Omaha. That fit with her plans perfectly. Her father boomed in his outdoor voice that the clan would send a delegate, and the discussion started all over again about who should go. Victoria listened as various people were suggested. Her eldest brother, Gray Eagle, was put forth many times, as were Uncle Stone and Uncle Stag. Uncle Snow was nominated a few times. When the discussion finally made it to the innermost circle, Victoria stood up. She looked around at the two hundred faces turned to her.

“Jumping Stag is too important to the clan to go. We cannot afford to have our holy man gone so long. Spotted Stone Wolf has children here who need him. Gray Eagle is ruled by his passion. I am the best choice to represent the Clan in Omaha. I will go.”

She observed shock on nearly every face. Her brother Gray Eagle  was halfway to his feet before he remembered they were in council, not their mother’s house. Victoria suppressed a smile. He had just proven her words true. His black eyes glowered at her as he lowered himself back down.

“I am the daughter of our Alpha,” she went on, projecting all the confidence she had. “I know all of us, so I can represent our interests in Omaha. As a woman, I will have instant attention and respect in Omaha. I know how to listen. I am the best choice for delegate.”

As soon as she sat down her brother leaped up. “You only want to go so you can see Marty Madison!”

Victoria smiled serenely. Nothing irked her brothers more. She saw her father’s big hands clench into fists on his knees. She caught his black gaze. Her smile faltered slightly. He was unhappy. Really unhappy. At her brother for nearly breaking tradition? Or at the mention of Marty’s name? She tilted her chin up to a challenging angle. It was risky to challenge the Alpha, even if he was the father who doted on her. To back down would make her look weak. No weakling could represent the clan.

“I am the best choice for delegate,” her brother argued. “I am the second beta of the clan. I know the clan and I know what we need.” He glared around at the council before sitting.

More of the men stood to vote for either Gray Eagle or Stone, but no one spoke for Victoria. She held her back perfectly straight and kept her face confident. There were a few gasps when Aunt Sherry stood. She was a foot shorter than Victoria, and a hundred pounds lighter. Victoria could not remember Jumping Stag’s tiny mate ever speaking in council before.

“Jumping Stag is needed here,” she said in her quiet, delicate voice. “I think Victoria should go. She is right, people will listen to her. She is tall and beautiful. We can send two escorts. I think Stone should go. He has been to Omaha before, so he can advise her. He will know if people are lying. And I think Gray Eagle should go. He is very strong and brave, so people will give him respect.”

Amid utter silence, the tiny woman sat down next to her mate, who put an arm around her. Victoria closed her gaping jaw and looked at her father. He and her mother seemed to be talking to each other with their eyebrows. After a long pause, her mother rose.

“I vote for Victoria to be our delegate. In the Times Before, plenty of women represented their people in government. She will be safe with Gray Eagle and Stone as escorts.”

Her father’s jaw bunched and smoothed a dozen times. His was the final decision. Victoria held her breath. He sighed and stood up.

“Victoria will be our delegate. Stone and Gray Eagle will escort her.” He looked down at her and muttered very softly, “Don’t make me regret this, Vic.”

Tuesday Teaser 1/3/17: Victoria’s Cat Part 1

Happy Tuesday! Today was really my Monday at the day job. It went pretty well but I’m glad it’s over. Anyone else?

Victoria’s Cat is moving right along writing-wise. For those who might be new, here is how my Tuesday Teasers work. I try to post an excerpt each Tuesday in chronological order. You probably won’t get the full story here –after all, I’ll be publishing this in June or July and I don’t want to give away everything 😉 but you’ll get most of it. These are not edited. Usually I haven’t even proof read them, so if you see errors, please be gracious and ignore them. These excerpts are pretty raw. The first chapter –for me– is always really raw. This is where I dump info by the bucket load. On my second and third pass I smooth that out, incorporate it into dialogue, delete some to add later in the story, etc. Also, there is very little description here. I’ll add emotion and setting during my revisions.

So, with all that said, here is the opening pages of Victoria’s Cat. Enjoy!

 

Victoria’s Cat

Daughters of the Wolf Clan Book 2
copyright  Maddy Barone 2017

Chapter One

The glare of the late afternoon sun bounced off the snow, but Victoria saw the wolf loping down the pine-covered slope to the Clan’s winter camp. Uncle Sky. People said wolves all looked alike, but that wasn’t true. She knew every wolf in the Lakota Wolf Clan and could recognize them on sight, whether they were in human form or wolf. She turned from the dormer window of her bedroom and ran down the stairs.

“Whoa,” her mom said, raising an eyebrow. “What’s the rush?”

Victoria slammed to a stop in the hall at the bottom of the stairs, two inches from her mother. Her mom was one of the very few women as tall as she was. “Uncle Sky is coming down the ridge.”

The eyebrow lifted another fraction of an inch. “We just saw him a month ago at the Mayor’s New Year Gala in Kearney. I wonder what brings him here now?” The eyebrow settled into a tiny frown. “Rose. I hope everything is alright.”

“Uncle Sky wouldn’t leave Aunt Rose if she wasn’t alright.” But her mom had a point. Why would Sky run from the den near Kearney, Nebraska to the Wolf Clan winter camp in the Black Hills? It was a four hundred mile trek in February and most of her family had been in Kearney at the end of January. “Maybe he’s brought mail.”

Her mom turned her head sharply at the hopeful note in her voice. “Are you expecting something important in the mail, Vic?”

Victoria almost lied. Instead, she kept her tone casual. “I was hoping to hear from Marty Madison. And Olivia,” she added.

Her mom sighed, raked a hand through her silvering blond hair, and looked at her with pale blue eyes. Seeing a lecture coming, Victoria grabbed her coat from the hook by the door and went out on the porch. Dozens of her uncles and cousins were howling a welcome to Sky. Her uncle trotted into the center of the camp and Victoria’s spirits lifted when she saw the small leather satchel that hung around his neck. Her father came around from the back of their house, trailed by four of her five brothers.

“Sky!” he shouted, as his little brother shifted from wolf to human. “Welcome!”

Sky stood naked in the packed snow and lifted the satchel over his head before being crushed in his brother’s embrace. At an inch over six feet, Sky wasn’t not a small man, but his brother was five inches taller and nearly fifty pounds heavier. The brothers broke apart, grinning.

“I have mail from the den and the House,” Sky said, opening the leather bag. “Glory? Three for you.”

Her mother strode down the porch steps to give her brother-in-law a hug and take her mail. If her mother had embraced a man who wasn’t Clan, her father would have killed him. “One from Carla, one from Connie, and one from Lisa Madison,” she announced, pleased.

It was clan custom to let everyone know who had written. Later, the letters would be read aloud so the entire clan would know the news. The recipient could choose to read only parts of the letter for privacy’s sake, but there was very little privacy in the Wolf Clan. If Marty had written, Victoria silently vowed she would keep the whole thing private.

“And two letters for Victoria.” Her uncle held them out to her with a smile.

Victoria gave him a hug too. He was one inch taller than she was. “One from Olivia, and …” Her heart sank. “One from Aunt Marissa.”

Uncle Sky had a letter for Aunt Sherry and one for Aunt Sara. He handed them out, then looked around the circle of relatives. “I didn’t come just to deliver mail. I have news from Omaha.”

Her father straightened. “Omaha? What do we have to do with Omaha?” He sent his brother a quick look. “You have nothing to do with that place anymore.”

Sky slipped his legs into the jeans his brother Raven tossed him. “Omaha is under pressure from Kansas City to join them in a treaty. Omaha’s mayor, Ryan McGrath, is calling for all settlements with fifty or more adults to send a delegate to the legislative session that starts in March. He wants to hear everyone’s thoughts on this.”

Her father jerked a hand in dismissal. “We have nothing to do with Omaha or Kansas City.”

Uncle Stag, the clan’s holy man, folded his arms. “This needs to be discussed in council.”

Her father nodded. “Call the clan together. We meet in one hour.”

As Victoria hurried back to the house, she heard Uncle Sky say, “You’ve added on again. The second story is new.”

Her father replied, “Glory wanted an art studio with good light. And we put Victoria’s bedroom up there too.”

Victoria ran up the stairs to her bedroom and closed the door. Marty had promised he would write. They had danced together four times at the Gala, and would have danced more if her male relatives hadn’t monopolized her after that. The look in his eyes as they danced made her hope he would ask her to marry him. But he hadn’t written, not even once. Had she imagined it? No. She’d seen that expression a thousand times on the faces of her male relatives when they looked at their mates.

She sat on her bed and tore open Olivia’s letter first. It was full of breezy news of newlywed life, centering on how good it was to be mated to a mountain cat. Victoria smiled. Her little cousin was so happy, and Victoria was happy for her, even if her happiness was tinged with melancholy over her own lack of a husband. She set Olivia’s letter aside and looked at the one from Aunt Marissa. Strange. She and Aunt Marissa weren’t close. What was she writing to her for?

She carefully opened the letter and took out the single sheet of paper.

Dear Victoria,

I ran into Lisa Madison at Martin’s store this morning and she asked if I could pass a message on to you from her brother-in-law, Marty. He says he apologizes if he overstepped and mistook your interest. If you should ever change your mind and want to contact hhim, he will be in Omaha for the legislative session for all of March and the first week of April, and then he will be back in Kearney. Nothing would make him happier than receiving word from you that he has your respect and affection. He also says that if he doesn’t hear from you by May first, he will come looking for you.

Does that mean what I think it means? Were you and the mayor’s brother courting, but you turned him down? Are you crazy? I think it would be wonderful for you to marry Marty Madison. His brother is the mayor of Kearney, he is Kearney’s representative in Omaha, and he’s handsome! Write him a letter today!

With love,

Marissa

Clutching the letter, Victoria closed her eyes. She hadn’t imagined Marty’s interest. He hadn’t been only flirting with her. Where did he get the idea that she didn’t like him? Her eyes flared open, then narrowed, and she ground her teeth.

Dad. The over-protective Alpha must have warned Marty off. Had he and her brothers disappeared for a while at the Gala? Eyes still narrowed, she thought back. Yes, they had, while she’d been dancing with Tommy, Uncle Quill’s eldest son. She could just imagine what they had said to Marty. Curse them.

She carefully slid the letter back into the envelope and tucked it under her pillow, then went downstairs to go to the council. She loved her dad. She even loved her brothers. But they had to learn that she was a twenty-six year old woman, not a six year old girl. She had a few things to say in council.

Happy 2017!

I hope this new year will bring you all the desires of your heart.

For me 2016 was a bit of a challenging year. I was diagnosed with diabetes in May. My blood glucose wasn’t sky high, but my fasting level was 170-189. Normal is 80-99, and pre-diabetic is 100-125. Diabetic is anything over 126. So you see, I was well into diabetic territory. Diabetes can have terrible complications. Nerve damage. Kidney failure. Eye damage. Cardio Vascular disease. Stroke. My grandmother lost most of her feet due to it. I was understandably freaked out. The doctor put me on metformin and sent me to a diabetes educator and a dietitian. I spent the rest of the year  learning how to eat and exercise. And I did pretty good at it. So good that my blood glucose regularly crashed (that is, dropped too low), and after I started passing out, I was taken off the medication metformin in August. Since then I’ve been struggling again to control my eating habits. It is a very hard thing to do! And my writing has suffered from it.

OK, that’s the bad news. The good news is my blood glucose is doing much better. Even the holidays didn’t throw me too much off track. My fasting blood glucose is between 95 and 105.  So just barely tipping into pre-diabetic range. I need to do better, but this is a good change.

That is probably WAAAAY too much information. Sorry! I’m just proud of myself. 🙂

I have good news on the writing front, too. I finished writing Brave Hearts, a contemporary stand alone novella for Paige Tyler’s Dallas Fire & Rescue Kindle World. I am really happy with it. I fell in love with the hero, and the heroine is someone I’d like to know. The hero is Taye and Shadow’s great uncle, Dusty Wolfe.  It will be released on January 19, 2017, and I’ll be doing the cover reveal on January 10 in the Facebook page. You can see that here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/966241843518224/

I began writing Victoria’s Cat. Starting tomorrow, I will post short Tuesday Teasers. I hope you’ll enjoy Victoria. She’s a bit headstrong, brash, and has a loud mouth.  I love her! Off to write some more tonight. Find something good to read!

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