Tuesday Teaser 9/16/14 Sky & Rose

Sky WolfeWell, we’re done with Wolf’s Lady. That means I need to find something else to post on Tuesdays. Maybe I’ll start a new novella to share, but for now I want to concentrate on Sky and Rose’s story, so I think I’ll just post short snippets from Wolf’s Princess. Here is a bit  with Rose and Sky weeding the garden at the den and talking. Imagine them on their knees in the grass at the edge of the garden on a cool early fall morning. They’re not quite comfortable with each other yet, not sure where their relationship is going to go. I’m including a pic, just in case you forgot what Sky looks like now that he’s been living in the big city.

 

Sky said, “The woman was Ms. Mary, owner of one of the business establishments in Omaha. She took us home with her, gave us a hot lunch, and offered us each a freebie in gratitude.”

“A freebie?” Rose could guess what a freebie at a whorehouse would be. A slender little snake of jealousy uncurled in her belly. “Did you accept?”

“No! Be careful with that claw thing. You could hurt somebody.”

Rose sent the claw thudding deep into the earth and glared at him. “I bet you wanted to.”

He raised his hands. “I was a seventeen-year-old boy. Of course I wanted to. But even if I had tried to go through with it, my wolf wouldn’t have let me. You were the only one he would accept.” His voice dropped to a sexy whisper that sent a heated shiver through her. “And you were the only one I wanted.”

What do you think? Sexy? Dorky?

 

Without Words by Ellen O’Connell

The newest book by one of my favorite authors of Western Romance has just gone up for pre-order today. If you enjoy western romance, why not head over to Amazon and order it? Ellen’s heroines are strong without being stupidly feisty. Her heroes are to die for. Rugged, strong, and just a little different than the typical run of the mill cowboy. It sounds like bounty hunter Bret Sterling will be another hero to make me dream. I can’t tell you how much I’m looking forward to reading Without Words. I have mine already ordered, and now I can’t wait for September 30!

 

Without WordsBounty hunter Bret Sterling kills Rufus Petty, thief and murderer, less than ten feet away from a frightened, half-starved woman. Rufus should have surrendered. The woman should have kin to help her. But Rufus went down shooting, and the woman has no one. Bret figures by the time he finds a safe place to leave Hassie Petty, he’ll earn the five hundred dollar reward several times over.

Hassie doesn’t mourn Rufus, but the loss of the ten dollars he promised her for supplies is a different matter. The bounty hunter gives her nothing, takes everything, ties the body on one horse and orders her on another. Afraid if she defies him, he’ll tie her down tighter than Rufus, Hassie mounts up and follows the icy-eyed killer.

Mismatched in every way, the sterling man and petty woman travel the West together, hunting thieves, deserters, and murderers. Wary traveling companions, friends and partners, lovers, Bret and Hassie must decide what they want, what they need, and the price they’re willing to pay for love.

To order or learn more about Without Words, click below

Without Words

Tuesday Teaser 9/9/14: Wolf’s Lady Part 34

This is a sad day and a happy day. This is the last Tuesday Teaser for Wolf’s Lady.  After 8 months, I have completed the rough draft of this novella. Yes, at last Sand and Amanda have their happy-ever-after. I’m going to put it aside for six or seven weeks and work exclusively on Wolf’s Princess. Then I’ll come back to it, polish it up, send it out to the beta readers and then publish it on Smashwords for free on or around December 5.

This is the last snippet. What do you think?

 

Three days later Mrs. Sand Wolfe walked into Omaha’s train station, escorted by her husband and his three cousins, all of whom were loaded down with her luggage. Amanda felt bad about that, but she’d given more than half her things away. It wasn’t as hard as she’d expected to part with her black leather dominatrix boots and collection of whips. She had divided her working wardrobe between the other ladies at Sky’s House and kept only her street clothes, her jewelry and a few mementos of her family.

The station wasn’t crowded, so she had no problem seeing the plump girl in a gray novice dress standing beside the tired-looking man in a threadbare suit. “Daddy!” she cried, and Sand gave her hand a quick squeeze before letting her go.

This might be the last time she would feel her father’s arms around her. Then Sara was hugging her and trying fiercely not to cry. “I have another letter for stone if you’ll take it.”

“Of course I will.” Amanda took the envelope and pushed it into her handbag.

“Tell him … Tell him…”

Amanda hugged her again. “I will. I’ll tell him you’re good and brave. I’ll tell him what a good nurse you are, how you took care of Sand.” She frowned. “And I’ll tell him to get his ass to Omaha and fetch you. I wish you were coming with us.”

“Me too.” Sara sent a glance up at her uncle. “I wish we were all going with you. But we don’t have the money to get me released from the city.” This time her glance was at the City Guardsmen who stood at their posts in the station. Their job there was not only to keep the peace, but also to interview anyone coming into the city and anyone going out.

“It won’t be too long until you leave Omaha,” Amanda said bracingly. “We’ll see each other again soon.”

“Soon,” Sara agreed.

Amanda looked at her dad and touched a hand to the brooch pinning her mother’s shawl closed over her heart. “I’m going to miss you.”

“I’ll miss you too, little girl.” His eyes were misty. “Your mother would be so proud of you. You’ve come through hard things and still you’re standing tall. You’re going to have a fine life, with a fine man.”

Amanda kissed his cheek. “Daddy, please don’t be embarrassed, but I have to tell you. The hard things? You mean working in Sky’s House, don’t you? Well, that wasn’t so hard. I didn’t mind it. Not so much, at least. But now that’s over, and I’m glad. I never have to worry about how to please an appointment. I never have to worry again about what to do, or say, or wear, to make a man happy. Sand is happy with me no matter what I wear, or do, or say. He loves me.” She swallowed a trembling sigh with a smile. “And I love him.”

A tear slipped down her father’s face, making a wrinkle into a silver river. “Then I know you’ll be happy, little girl. Give me one more kiss, then you better get back to your husband and get on that train.”

She tore herself away from her family and found Sky and Sand waiting for her. She gave Sky a hug. “I’m going to miss you, you know,” she told him.

“I’ll miss you too. We’ll see each other again. I’m not staying in Omaha forever. Just until…” He glanced quickly around, noting how close some Guardsmen were. “Just until business is settled here.”

“You should come now,” she urged. “Think of Rose.”

A shadow crossed his face, so quick she almost missed it, but he shook his head. “I can’t. What would happen to Ms. Mary? Think of Cayla, Aimee, Tasha, and all the other ladies.” His voice dropped to a whisper. “What about all the women in Omaha? No, I can’t leave yet.”

Sand clasped his hand. “I understand,” he said. “You’re doing a good thing.”

Sky slipped an envelope out of his coat pocket and handed it to Sand. “Give this to Rose, will you?”

Sand was wearing jeans and a slightly too-tight undershirt. He held the letter with one hand and patted himself with the other, looking for a place to put it. Amanda took it and put it in her bag with Sara’s letter to Stone. “We’ll be sure she gets it.”

Dean Erikson approached with a clipboard under his arm and gave her a deep, respectful nod. “Mrs. Wolfe, are you ready to conclude your release paperwork?”

Amanda pulled the whistle from around her neck, dragging her long hair out of the beaded neck loop. “I am.”

She read the form that said that she was no longer a resident of Omaha and signed her name with large, bold letters. Dean countersigned and gave her a copy. “Keep your whistle. It will remind you of what Omaha has become.”

That was an odd thing for a Guardsman to say. Amanda put the whistle back over her head and sent a glance at Sky, wondering if he had gained the lieutenant’s loyalty.

“Safe travels, Mr. and Mrs. Wolfe. Omaha will miss you.” Dean offered a hand to Sand and spoke in a very low voice. “We’ll be watching Askup. Thank you for letting us deal with him.”

Sand showed his teeth in a silent snarl. Amanda put a hand over his clenched fist. “Thank you, Lieutenant. Sand, did our luggage get loaded?”

With an obvious effort, Sand pulled himself back. “Snow and Paint took it on the train already. We should go.”

They walked slowly through the station to the platform outside. Sky, her father, and Sara went with them. Dean and another Guardsman came too, a few yards behind, their gazes on Sara. Did they think Sara was going to hop on the train to escape Omaha?

After one last round of hugs, Amanda allowed Sand to help her up the steps to the train. The conductor tipped his hat and opened the door for them. Snow and Paint were already in the car, keeping the other four passengers away by the force of their glares alone. Amanda walked to the seats Paint indicated and stood at the window with her back pressed against Sand’s front. On the platform she saw her father put an arm around Sara, and the girl lean her forehead against his shoulder. Amanda knew her cousin was crying. Sky stood a little behind them, arms folded, face sober.

“This is so hard,” Amanda whispered, pressing her hand on the window. “I’m glad to be going home with you, but I’ll miss my family.”

“I know. They’ll come to the den soon and then we’ll all be together.”

The train jerked, then crept forward. Her father raised a hand. She smiled for him until the platform was left behind and she couldn’t see him anymore, and then she collapsed in her seat, fighting tears.

“Well, this is stupid,” she said, trying to make her voice cheery while she dug in her bag for a handkerchief. “I told myself I wasn’t going to cry.”

Sand took her hankie and wiped her eyes. “Nothing wrong with crying. I sure like the way your eyes look when you cry. They’re bluer than the sky.”

She gave him a tiny frown.

“And your skin gets kind of pink when you cry. It’s real pretty.”

She snorted and took the hankie back to blow her nose. “I’m fine now.”

The warmth of his arm around her shoulders was comforting. “You know, I heard what you said to your father.”

She sniffed and looked up at him. “You did? About what?”

“Uh-huh. You said that you didn’t have to worry anymore about how you should act or what you should wear or what you should say to make a man happy. And that’s right. I know that a lot of your appointments wanted you to dress up a certain way, like maybe a little girl, and pretend to be that while you were with them.” He gazed down into her face with a solemn smile. “I don’t love you because of what you wear. You don’t need to pretend to be anything for me. I love you, Amanda Irene Felts Nelson Wolfe, and you can dress whatever way you want as long as you keep loving me.”

Damn it, that started the tears again. She dug her hankie back out. “I’ll always love you. And I know you love me. You gave up your revenge on Terry Askup for me.”

For a fraction of a second the shoulder she leaned her head against stiffened. It relaxed immediately. “Taking you home with me is more important. Sky will take care of Askup.”

When she put the handkerchief back in her bag her knuckles brushed over the two letters there. The one from Sara was fat, and so was the one in her suitcase, the one Sara gave her a week ago at supper. The one from Sky was thin, probably only one page. Poor Sara, pouring her heart out to a man who barely responded. Poor Rose, getting a letter that probably covered no more than half a sheet of paper.

It was easy to feel sympathy for those two women because while they languished without their husbands, she had hers sitting right beside her. She lifted her hand to one of his long, thick braids and slid her hand down it.

“I love you, Caleb Running in Sand Wolfe.”

She tried to pronounce his name in Lakota, which she had learned at their wedding, and was sure she had butchered it. But a happy glow lit his eyes. His kiss was tender.

“I can’t wait to show you off to my Clan,” he told her. “They will love you.”

With every whoosh of the train rolling over the tracks, Omaha fell further and further behind her. Her old life was over; a new one was beginning. She settled into her seat faced forward to meet that new life head on. Sand’s hand clasping her own reminded her she wouldn’t be walking into a new life alone. The man she loved would walk beside her.

 

The End

 

Look for the complete, polished story to be available the first week of December!

Tuesday Teaser 9/4/14: Wolf’s Lady Part 33

Oh my gosh! I was going to post this as soon as I got home from work but I starting reading and forgot. I’m so sorry.  This snip from Sand and Amanda’s story is a bit steamy, so I’m posting a link to the scene. You know the routine. If you’re under 18 years old, or whatever the age of adulthood is in your country, please do not click the link. This is intended for adults only!  As always, this is completely unedited. I haven’t even read through it for basic typos, but I hope you’ll enjoy it.  :)

 

On the third morning after he came home from the hospital, Sand woke feeling utterly content with his mate lying warm and soft by his side. He turned his head on the pillow until his nose was buried in her hair. As always, her scent soothed the wolf even while it aroused the man. It was four days since he’d made love with her. For a newly mated wolf, that was an eternity. Amanda refused to believe he was nearly healed. After the stitches came out yesterday he’d kissed her but she’d scolded him and pushed him away.

 

He wouldn’t let her push him away this morning. Her forehead was smooth and warm under his lips. He brushed light kisses over her eyelids, her cheek, her lips, her throat, until she sighed and arched in her sleep, presenting him with a perfect breast primly hidden under white cotton. How could he resist that?

 

Continue Reading

 

 

Winner of the $10 Amazon Gift Card & Head Shot Voting Results

The winner of the $10 Amazon Gift Card was Emily Kristen. Congrats, Emily!

 

Do you wonder which head shot got the most votes? Well, here are the rankings:

Head Shot #4 received 42 votes.

Head Shot #3 received 21 votes

Head Shot #2 received 19 votes

Head Shot #5 received 17 votes

Head Shot #1 received 10 votes

Thanks so much everyone for playing along, and especially for your comments.

 

The next snippet from Wolf’s Lady will go up tomorrow night, and it’s a teeny bit steamy, so check back.

Help! Which Author Head Shot Contest!

Good morning, and Happy Labor Day! I am having a fantastic mini-vacation here at home. It’s been wonderful to sleep late, and read, and knit, and write. Really fantastic. I need to do this more often!!

 

Anyway, I’ve received the headshots done by Gary Lura Photography. I hate even looking at pix of myself. In my mind I’m tall and willowy and young, but when I look at a picture of myself I discover I’m short and plump and middle aged. Can you imagine my disappointment?

 

So I’d like some help choosing which pic should be my new author head shot. Look over the pix below and leave a comment saying which one you like best and why.  To sweeten the pot, I’m going to offer an Amazon $10.00 gift card to one person who leaves a comment. I will draw tomorrow evening, September 2 (Oh my gosh, it’s September already?!!) at 7pm central time.

 

A Reading & Writing Weekend

Here in the States it’s a holiday weekend. Labor Day weekend is the traditional end of summer and beginning of the school year. It is also the Gimli Weekend. For those in the Kingdom of Northshield, in the Known World of the SCA, Gimli is a camping event held on Lake Winnipeg in Manitoba Canada. I really wanted to go, and even had travel arrangements made. But I’ve had some tummy bug for a few weeks (nausea and diarrhea, but let’s not go into details) and trying to get to the restroom at the campground every half hour could be … unpleasant. I have a doctor’s appointment on Tuesday, and meanwhile, per the nurse’s direction, I’m keeping a strict food diary and listing  all my symptoms on a timeline. I am planning a quiet 4 days at home, reading, writing and knitting. Although I hate to miss seeing people, I think a quiet weekend at home will be heavenly.

I’ve been on a bit of a reading binge lately. Anyone else? With four days off, I should be able to get through at least a few books on my To Be Read (TBR) list and get some writing done on Wolf’s Princess. A few weeks ago a Western Romance author I enjoy made a blog post about her upcoming release.  I just about jumped on the table and did a can can dance. I was instantly dying to read that book. I mean, seriously jonesing for that book. The rough draft was complete, and the manuscript was out  with the beta readers, so I figured it couldn’t be long before it was out.  I then re-read every book she’d written.  (Does anyone else do that? When a favorite author is going to have a new book out, do you go back and re-read?)

 

Who is this author? Ellen O’Connell.  If you enjoy western romances and haven’t read her yet, I strongly recommend her.  Her heroes are to die for, and her heroines aren’t too stupid to live. Her ladies are strong (not spunky, or feisty, or silly). If you don’t enjoy westerns you might still want to give one of her books a try. It’s hard for me to pick a favorite, but it would be either Beautiful Bad Man or Eyes of Silver, Eyes of Gold. If you like Native American romance, Dancing On Coals is excellent too. And there is sort of a sequel to Beautiful Bad Man called Into the Light.

Badman Eyes of Silver

 

Barnes & Noble:

Beautiful Bad Man

Eyes of Silver, Eyes of Gold

Dancing on Coals

 

Amazon:

Beautiful Bad Man

Eyes of Silver, Eyes of Gold

Dancing on Coals

 

I hope everyone has a terrific weekend. I’m off now to write a bit in Wolf’s Lady. Time for one more love scene (you want to know for sure that Sand is healing, right?) and an epilogue. Happy Reading!

Tuesday Teaser 8/26/14: Wolf’s Lady Part 32

Wolf's Princess Plotting BoardLast week I found myself floundering with Wolf’s Princess. I was getting bogged down on too much description and losing my focus for the story, so I did some re-plotting. I’ll probably spend the rest of this week re-writing, re-arranging and cutting to get the story back on track. See? Here’s the revised plotting board.

 

One of the things I like about Wolf’s Lady is that I get to give readers a first glimpse of what Omaha is like. I give you fair warning, it isn’t like Kearney or the den at all.  Sky has changed in his time in Omaha, so focused on what he feels he has to do that he’s pushed his wolf to the background. He certainly isn’t the impatient boy Rose remembers. He’s been wheeling and dealing to make alliances, feeling out who might be sympathetic to a new form  of government in Omaha, trying to find a way to give women back their rights. You see that in this tidbit in Sand and Amanda’s story.

 

 

Amanda had to look for Sky. He wasn’t in the waiting room or the hallway. He was found in the corner of a dark patient room, in a huddle with Dean Erikson and Johnnie Case. When she first opened the door and the weak electric light streamed in, Johnnie’s face showed excitement, and Dean looked nervous. The Guardsman pulled his usual cold mask over his face, but Jonnie seemed to struggle to bring himself under control. Sky’s face showed its normal smooth imperturbability. Amanda nodded at Sky.

“Sand’s awake. He wants to talk to you.”

His face lit with relief. He gave Johnnie’s arm a squeeze and slapped Dean on the shoulder. “We’ll talk more later,” he murmured.

Amanda had to hurry to keep up with his long legs as he rushed down the hall to Sand’s room. “Wait a second,” she hissed at him, catching his arm. “You were awfully friendly with Johnnie and Dean.”

Sky stopped and leaned down to whisper in her ear. “It seems Lt. Erikson is offended when wrong doers aren’t punished. Judge Case doesn‘t like it when a man ignores his warning and hires thugs to steal a lady he admires and kill her husband.”

Her heart pounded. “Are they going to do something? Arrest Terry?”

“I believe I talked them out of that, at least until you and Sand leave Omaha.” His voice lowered even more. “Maybe we have another two allies in the fight.”

She was sure the fight to depose McGrath and set the women of Omaha free was the only reason Sky was in the city. He gave her a small smile and strode down the empty hall to Sand’s room.

Sand smiled at his cousin, but held his hand out to Amanda. She went to him and held his hand tightly.

“I love you,” he whispered. “Are you okay? Are you hurt?”

Something deep inside untwisted and she smiled at him. “Yes. I’m fine.”

“I should have asked before.”

Until he’d said he loved her just now, she hadn’t even been aware of a tiny annoyance that he hadn’t said it earlier. She perched on the edge of the bed and squeezed his hand. “You sort got distracted, throwing up.”

“Sand, how are you doing?” Sky asked.

Sand smiled at her, weakly pressing her fingers with his own before turning to Sky. “Not too bad. Whatever they gave me is wearing off.”

Amanda clutched his hand and looked him over. “Are you in pain?”

He looked away. “Some. Sky, you have to get me out of here.”

He didn’t even need to explain why. Amanda saw Sky’s eyes narrow and comprehension cross his face. “It’s too late tonight; it’s nearly midnight. Tomorrow you’ll come home.”

Sara gasped. “The doctors will never allow that.”

“Never?” Sky tilted his head. “I think they will, with a little incentive.”

And they did. The next morning at eleven o’clock Sand was asleep in her bed in Sky’s House. Sara had asked to come to be his nurse, but Sister Roberta forbade it.

“A novice in the Order of the Sisters of Healing does not attend a man in a house of ill repute.”

Amanda opened her mouth to blast the stiff necked nun, but Sara beat her to it, and in a much more humble and reasonable way than Amanda would have.

“Sister, it is our duty to care of the sick, and Sand is my cousin’s husband.”

Amazingly, the sour-faced nun smiled. “Very true,” she said approvingly. “And I’ve no objection to you visiting during the day, but you cannot stay overnight. If Mr. Wolfe needs care in the night, I will stay and help him.”

Only Amanda caught the slight widening of Sky’s eyes and wondered if a nun on the premises would hurt business. Not that she cared right now. Sara had confirmed, in a low, awed voice, that Sand’s wound was already healing. It looked like it was a week old after less than twenty-four hours. Amanda was so relieved she crushed the younger woman in a bear hug that made her squeak.

She sat in her vanity chair, watching Sand’s bandaged chest rise and fall with his breathing. His hair, freshly washed and braided, lay over his shoulder to spill over the blanket. His color was better, his full mouth soft in sleep, his thick lashes a crescent of black against his cheek. Even his hand, relaxed and brown on the white sheet, was dear to her. He was the most beautiful man she’d ever seen on her bed, the most precious. If he had died … God, she couldn’t bear to think of it.

A hot tear slid out of her eye and ran down her cheek. She blotted it away. She hadn’t prayed since her mother died, but she said a short wordless prayer now: Thank you, thank you, thank you.

One of Sand’s eyes opened a crack. “You’re tired, mate. Come sleep with me.”

“I couldn’t!” she protested. “You’re hurt.”

“Hm,” he grunted. “Too hurt for much more than just sleep, but I’ll rest better with my mate beside me.”

She slipped her shoes off and lay on the covers beside him, stiff to avoid touching him. With a fumbling hand but surprising strength he dragged her under the blankets with him. “Sleep, Amanda,” he mumbled.

Within a minute they were both fast asleep, heads close together on one pillow. A half hour later he roused when the bedroom door opened. Sara poked her head around the door, and her brown eyes widened at the sight of them snuggled together under the blankets. She opened her mouth to say something, but he pressed a finger to his lips. After a moment, she nodded and closed the door.

Sand curved an arm more tightly around his mate. Her scent seduced him into wanting more than sleeping beside her, but her warmth caressed him into drowsiness. He was still too weak for more than snuggling, but soon he would show his mate again just what her luscious scent did to him. He would never been finished showing her that. Maybe tomorrow…

New Cover For Sherry’s Wolf!

Have I mentioned how I HATE trying to do cover art? Well, I hate it. I did Sherry’s Wolf myself, but it pretty much sucked. I try, but I just don’t have the skill necessary to cut out the images I like and put them together. So when  a reader who is going to school for video design asked if she could do a cover for me just for practice, I said YES!!! I figured she couldn’t do any worse than I had, right?  LOL Now I want to show it off to you.

Here is what she did for Sherry’s Wolf.

Sherry’s Wolf

Cover design by Caryn Ertel

Sherry's Wolf2sml

Tuesday Teaser, 8/19/14: Wolf’s Lady Part 31

Well, this novella is up to 31,080 words now. Another couple of thousand ought to wrap this up. Just for comparison, Wolf’s Oath is 35,380 words long and Sherry’s Wolf is 32,899 words long. So Wolf’s Lady will be the usual length of one of my novellas.

 

I’m falling down on the job for my goal of finishing the rough draft of Wolf’s Princess done by mid-October. Either I’ll have to pick up the pace or push the target date back. I still have two months, so all is not lost yet. I think I need more sexual tension between Rose and Sky, so i’ll need to go back and sprinkle some in. it can’t be hard. Sky has wanted Rose since the moment he laid eyes on her in the Lakota Wolf Clan camp. Now that she’s finally within reach, he’s going crazy trying to control himself. Rose is leery of Sky, but he’s very handsome and she’s very curious about sex. Living in the den with all those wolves and their highly developed senses of hearing and smell means she hasn’t dared experiment in private.  Wish me luck in powering through the last two thirds of the book!

 

Do you recall that when we left Amanda and Sand last, he was in surgery and she was in the waiting room at the hospital? The judge who married them has just walked into the waiting room and announced he was going to write an arrest warrant for Terry Askup.  Please remember this has not been proofed at all, so there will undoubtedly be errors.  Feel free to point them out, but I’m sure the beta readers will catch anything that we miss.

 

 

sandAmanda gulped and shot Sky a glance. Seeing Terry locked up would give her a lot of satisfaction. Pissing Mayor McGrath off could result in widowhood for her and trouble for Sky. Sky moved smoothly toward Johnnie and led him out of the waiting room. Dean looked from their retreating backs to her.

“What’s that about?” he asked.

She considered whether or not to be honest and decided on honesty. “We don’t have any proof of who paid to kill Sand and steal me.”

“Hm. Terry Askup is a logical suspect.”

“Yeah,” Amanda agreed. “Do you know what would happen if you arrested him?”

Dean’s expression didn’t change. “Hm,” he said again, before turning and following Sky and Johnnie out into the hall.

Sara tugged her arm. “Come on. Sand will be awake soon. You should be there.”

When Amanda walked into the small room where Sand lay recovering, her heart clenched. Just for a second she thought his beautiful hair has been cut off, but then she saw it was slicked back into a ponytail. Oh, God, he looked so helpless lying in the narrow bed with the blanket folded down to his waist to reveal the bandage that was wound around his chest. Sara whispered for her to take the chair by the bed and told the nurse she would take over. The male nurse hesitated, then left.

 Amanda traced her husband’s pale face with her gaze, following the slashing line of his eyebrow to his high cheekbone to the straight, stubborn line of his jaw. From the first moment she’d met him in the hall outside her room, she’d thought him handsome. She remembered the first time she saw his chipped tooth. It could have detracted from his looks –maybe even should have– but it didn’t. That one slight flaw kept him from being too perfect. And now that she’d grown to know him, she found his face the most wonderful and beautiful art in the world. Love rushed through her like a tidal wave, crashing over her heart and washing down to her fingertips.

“Oh, Sand, I love you,” she whispered.

The corner of his mouth twitched. Amanda leaned forward to try to take his hand, but Sara pushed her unceremoniously out of the way. The younger woman lifted Sand a finches and tilted his head so he vomited into the basin she held for him.  She held him steady until he was finished then deftly wiped his face with a wet rag.

Amanda swallowed hard, trying to control her own gag reflex. Sara held a glass of water for Sand to sip.

“Now, spit,” she ordered, holding the basin.

He obeyed, and was laid back down. Sara thrust a clean basin into Amanda’s hands. “Here. In case he’s not done. I’ll be right back.”

She walked away holding the used basin and leaving Amanda clutching the fresh one. Her efficiency was almost frightening. Amanda looked at Sand. His face was gray except for the flush on his cheeks.

“Are you okay?” she whispered.

His eyes flicked open. “I’m done puking. I think. Where are we?”

“Hospital. They did surgery to remove the bullet. It broke inside you and they had to take the fragments out. Some ribs were broken too.”

“Oh. That’s why it hurts.” He closed his eyes again for a long minute before opening them again. “If Sky wants to keep the wolf stuff secret, I have to get out of here before they notice how fast I heal.”

“You can’t leave for a while,” Amanda began, but she broke off when Sara came back in, wiping the basin dry.

Sand turned his head to look at the teenager. “Cousin, you are a good nurse. You took care of me quickly and kindly, without hurting me. Thank you.”

“Yes,” Amanda agreed. “I’ve never seen you do your work at the hospital. I’m impressed.”

A flush of pleasure rose in Sara’s cheeks. She ducked her head like a shy toddler. “Will you tell Stone about it? He said I need to grow up and learn to care about someone besides myself.”

Amanda’s head snapped up with outrage. “He said what?”

Sara looked up, lips pressed tight together. “Nursing is the best way I could think of to do that. I’ve only just starting training six weeks ago, but I’ve learned a lot already.”

 “Yes, you have!” Amanda said. “You whipped that pan out like a professional.”

Sara’s brown eyes began to shine with tears. “Thank you. I’m trying.” She looked at Sand. “Tell him that, okay? Tell him I’m trying.”

“I will,” Sand promised. “How soon can I leave?”

Sara sniffed the tears back. “That’s up to the doctor. Four or five days, I’d guess.”

“It’s got to be sooner than that. Tomorrow at the latest.”

Amanda sprang to her feet. “No, you’re badly hurt. You need to stay until you heal—”

He looked right at her. “Darling, I’ll be just about well in four or five days.”

Disbelief made her jaw drop. “What? That’s impos… Isn’t it?”

He shook his head on the pillow. “No. I need to talk to Sky right away. Can you send a message to him?”

“I can do better. He’s here in the hospital. Should I go find him now?”

“Please. Sara will stay with me, won’t you, cousin?”

As Amanda went to the door she heard her cousin say, “You bet. Even if I didn’t like you, I’d stay because it’s my job. But I like you. I always did like you.”

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