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.
Note: I am an Amazon affiliate. If you follow the link above and buy something on Amazon I receive a small percentage
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!
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.”
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!
Daughters of the Wolf Clan Book 2
copyright Maddy Barone 2017
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.
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!
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.
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!
This is my favorite time of the year! Snow! (Hopefully. For the last two years we’ve had a brown Christmas, but maybe this year we’ll have snow) Christmas music! Lights on the trees, cookies in the oven, and presents!
Speaking of presents, it’s almost time for me to send out my newsletter for my December giveaway! I have two packages to go out. Each one has a calendar, a paperback book, a pair of earrings, a magnet and a few other swag goodies. If you would like to win the items below, just enter using the entry form that will come in my newsletter. That newsletter will go out tomorrow night and the drawing will be held on Saturday evening. If you don’t get my newsletter, there is a sign up on the right.
Good Luck, Everyone!
Right now the books I own the rights to are on sale at Amazon until Monday November 28, 2016!
Sleeping With the Wolf=FREE
Wolf’s Oath, Sherry’s Wolf and Wolf’s Lady=$0.99 each
You can find my books on Amazon at my author page.
And did you know that if you get Sleeping with the Wolf free on Amazon you can get the audio book for only $1.99? That’s a sweet deal! Same for Wolf’s Glory. Buy the kindle book for $1.99 and the audio book is $1.99. If you own others if my books in kindle format, the audio version is also just $1.99. Just go HERE to see a list of my books available in audio from Audible.
“Hello, World!” is usually the title of the first blog post anyone makes on WordPress. It’s been so long since I made a blog post that I thought that title was appropriate.
I wanted to make posts, but I didn’t have anything to say. I didn’t think anyone wanted to hear me whine about the day job, or complain about my health issues, or grumble about my upstairs neighbors, or gush about how adorable my cats are. OK, maybe posting about the cats would have been alright, if you like cats. But if you don’t … well.
Here is what I’ve been up to these last few months:
- Sneezing and hacking. Stupid sinus infection is back and it likes living here. It’s not moving out, no sir. Biaxin? Augementin? We laughs at your puny antibiotics! And hey, as the cherry on the top of your misery, here’s a yeast infection. Have a lovely day.
- Writing. Deleting. Changing the middle. Changing the end. Re-writing. Deleting some more. Re-writing… Brave Hearts was supposed to be a quick little story for fun. Somehow it took me months to find the story. That hasn’t happened to me before, and it was hard on me and my self confidence. I’m not sure what exactly happened, but after writing about 70,000 words and deleting 50,000 of them, the story finally came together. I am really happy with it now. It is with the editor at the moment. That story releases in January.
- Knitting. I completed a glamour wrap, and some hats, and and wrote a hat pattern. The heroine of Brave Hearts owns a yarn store and she teaches the hero to knit. One of the things he knits is a simple hat for his mom. That pattern will be included in Brave Hearts. I’ll also post it here when the book releases.
What is up next?
Tomorrow I start my Christmas novella Under A Christmas Star. This book is going to be published under my own name, Terese Cascio, and it will be an inspirational contemporary romance. I plan to write from November 26 through December 31, 2016. If it’s done, yay!! If it’s not, it gets put away for a few months. The story begins the day before Thanksgiving and ends on Christmas. I thought writing it between those times would make it easier to get into the spirit of it. So far it is too warm and sunny to feel Christmas-y. *sad face*
On January 1 I begin writing Victoria’s Cat. Victoria has her sights set on Marty Madison. It’s not that Marty is running away from her. He thinks she is absolutely gorgeous. But after a “subtle” hint from her dad and brothers, he decided it was better for his health to keep a little distance between them. He figures that won’t be hard, since he has to go to Omaha for the legislative session which lasts 4 months. But the mayor of Omaha/President of Nebraska has called for all the communities in the area to send a representative to the legislature. Guess who goes (along with a bodyguard of brothers) to represent the Clan?
I hereby swear to post more often. Even if it is just pictures of my cats. 🙂 I hope everyone has lots of good books to get you through the holiday season!
Yes, I have a short teaser for you from my current Work in Progress! Before we get to that, let me get some updates out of the way. The book was going to come out on October 13 as part of Paige Tyler’s Dallas & Rescue Kindle World. I’m sorry to say I’ve withdrawn from the October launch and switched to the January 19 launch. This has a been a crazy summer. Between learning to live with diabetes, driving for days to take my mom to her family reunion, and working extra hours at the day job, writing has been slow.
The diabetes is being managed much better now. I’ve stopped taking the metformin (per my doctor’s orders). Since then my numbers have been a teeny bit high, but still mostly within the “normal” range, with 3 or 4 days in a month creeping up to the high “pre-diabetic” range. It hasn’t gotten above pre diabetic, though, so my doctor is very pleased.
Also a reminder about the newsletter giveaways. I will be doing a contest this coming weekend. This one will be a box containing a hand knit scarf, a few books from authors Karen Marie Moning, S.E. Smith, and of course, me. I’ll tuck in a little bit of swag too. The entry form will be included in the next newsletter. 🙂
Ready for the teaser? This is Dusty Wolfe and Isabel Ybarra. Enjoy!
“I think it’s cooling off,” he remarked. “Let’s sit under that tree. The grass looks soft.”
The grass was soft. She stretched out on her back, looking up at the sky, with him beside her. “This is nice,” she murmured, watching a fluffy white cloud. “That one looks a little bit like a horse.”
From the corner of her eye she saw him squint. “More like a cow. A very pregnant cow.”
That made her laugh again. “I guess it does.” Her smile turned nostalgic. “This reminds me of afternoons with my grandmother. We used to lie in her backyard and watch the clouds. I miss her.”
“When did she die?”
“The year before I enlisted.”
“It sounds like you must’ve been close.”
“Yes, very.” She sighed. “My parents were killed in a car accident when I was eight. Inez was sixteen, Bernardo was twenty, and Eduardo would have been twenty-four. Eduardo had already been married three years then, and he and Carmen had the first of their boys. I remember everybody talking about where Inez and I would live. Eduardo wanted us to live with him, but he wasn’t as well established financially at that point, and Carmen was busy with little Ricardo, so we went to live with our grandparents.”
His hand covered hers where it lay at her side on the grass. “Is your grandfather still alive?”
“Yes, after Abuela passed, he went to live with Eduardo and Carmen. He’s ninety years old now, but he’s still the head of our house, and as sharp as a tack. His manners are old-fashioned, especially toward women. Sort of courtly, you know? But every now and then he’ll cut loose and you can tell he’s a Marine. You and Brutus should meet him sometime. He fought in the Pacific in World War II. He doesn’t talk about his service very much, but every now and then he will, particularly to a fellow Marine.”
“I’d like to meet him. He sounds like quite a character.”
“He is. He takes a lot of pride in the family history too.” She turned her head to cast him a quick smile. “My great, great, great grandfather was Ricardo Ybarra. I suppose you’ve never heard of him.”
“No, I don’t think I have.”
“He was an outlaw on the border between Texas and Mexico back in the mid-19th century. When he was a little boy, he and his mother were captured by the Comanche, and he lived with them until he was in his late teens. Then his father, Don Alejandro, got them back from the Comanche, but he never truly was assimilated back into Mexican culture. They say he was wild. The family stories — which might, or might not, be true — say that he would kidnap the wives and sisters of wealthy Texans and hold them for ransom at his hacienda south of the Rio Grande.”
“Very,” she agreed. “He fell in love with one of those captives and married her. But he never reformed.” She laughed. “I don’t know if that’s something to be proud of, or ashamed of. Quite the family history, huh?”
He turned his head to smile at her. The grass was green against the tumbled black of his hair. “That’s nothing. My family believes we’re descended from werewolves.”
“Werewolves? I thought you were Native American.”
“Lakota,” he confirmed. “Supposedly, we’re part a family line called the Wolf Clan.”
“I didn’t know that Indians had werewolf stories. You learn something new every day, don’t you?”
He was still staring into her eyes, and she stared back, mesmerized by their beauty and their intensity. He raised up on one elbow and leaned over her. “We don’t tell anybody else that story. Please don’t repeat it.”
The moment stretched, each of them staring at the other in silence. After a long pause, he whispered, “I’d like to kiss you.”