Long a Ghost, and Far Away–in the anthology, The Good, the Bad, and the Ghostly
When Lizzie Adams returns as a ghost to a life she led in the 1800s, she is surprised to find herself on a ranch in Wyoming, but delighted to learn she was married to a handsome and loving man. The reasons for her return become clear when she discovers how she died, yet the unresolved issues surrounding her death leave her unable to either live in the 1800s or return to her present life.
Colby Gates misses the wife he loved, yet a ghost is a poor substitute. Re-married to a woman he doesn’t care for, and with outlaws searching for buried gold on his ranch, the spirit of his wife is a further complication.
But perhaps if the questions surrounding Lizzie’s death can be answered, the two can be together.
For all time.
“OH! I do beg your pardon. What year are we pretending this to be now?”
Colby raised a brow in what looked like slight irritation. “It’s 1897.”
“Ah! Of course! 1897. That would explain a whole raft of things. No cell phones. In fact, no phones—”
“Well, there are phones, but not here.”
“I see.” Lizzie shook her head as if she would go along with this whole pretense. “And so I can’t phone a friend to collect me in their car because, of course, there are no cars.”
“Well.” Colby hesitated. “I’m afraid I have no idea what a ‘car’ is other than the car of a railroad train but, yes, there aren’t any. Or do you mean automobiles? We have them—”
“But not here,” Lizzie finished for him. Unable to help herself, she burst out laughing. Jason had really done a good job, and this Colby fellow was a really good actor. He stayed in his part throughout, gave nothing away. “Okay, listen….” She tried to take in a breath but the corset was really biting into her now. “Is there someplace we can go, is there someplace I can go and get the hell out of this corset or whatever the heck you call it, and then perhaps you can give me a cup of tea or something, and we can sort this out?”
“Elizabeth, there is something you should know.” His voice was strained, hesitant.
“There’s a lot I should know, Colby Gates, but what specific item have you got in mind?”
“I’m married. I remarried.”
Lizzie covered her eyes with her hands and sighed with the weight of the universe on her shoulders. “Okay, listen. Really. I don’t want to intrude on you and your wife, I don’t want to be part of this ridiculous farce any more, and I sure as hell don’t want anything more to do with Jason Beeme. Just let me go home, all right? Let me go home? Please? Pretty please?”
Colby blew out a breath and shook his head. “Elizabeth. Lizzie. I have no idea who Jason Beeme is, and this ‘farce’ as you call it, it puzzles me as well. I don’t know how you are here; I only know what I’ve told you. We were married, happily married—very happily married and then….”
“And then? What?”
“I died. I’m dead. I see.” Hysteria was now setting in, and Lizzie couldn’t help the small giggle that escaped. “I’m dead, but I’m here, is that it?”
“Soooo, like, if I’m dead, but I’m here, I’m a ghost?” This made her laugh out loud.
Colby didn’t answer. It was as if he hadn’t thought that at all, just been confused as much as she by the situation. He seemed to mull this over now. “Am I now a ghost as far as you are concerned?”
His “yes” came out almost as a breath.
“Hmm. Well, I’m not a ghost, you’re not a cowboy, and this, for sure, isn’t 1887.”
“Ninety-seven,” he corrected her.
She looked him in the eye, nose to nose. “I don’t give a good flying…you-know-what, what year you think it is. I want to go home, and I want to go home now, so just let’s stop playing around with this shit and—”
“You never used to use such language.”
“Mister! Colby! Please stop! The year is 2016 and I can say whatever the hell I please. Women are liberated. We’re free.”
“But…it isn’t lady-like.”
“Well, excuse me! ‘Lady-like’! Okay, I’ve had enough now. Take me home, please.” She rubbed her face with exasperation; this whole sham was un-be-lieve-able.
“Elizabeth…Lizzie…you are home, you know that. Only now…now—”
“Well, good for you. I’m glad. I hope you’ll both be very happy. So, just take me to my apartment on Washington Avenue in St. Louis.”
She thought he was gagging as he rubbed his forehead.
“Lizzie: you’re in Wyoming. We’re on a ranch near Buffalo, Wyoming. You’re miles from St. Louis.”
Lizzie could feel her eyes grow big; she thought they might pop out of her head. “Wyoming? Boy, Jason really did a job on me. Brother, how long was I out?”
Colby shook his head. “I have no idea what you’re talking about. As I said, I don’t know a Jason, I can only tell you it’s 1897, you’re in Wyoming, you’re my wife—or were my wife—before you…you…died.”
Lizzie felt the breath was being pressed out of her, and if she didn’t get out of this barn, and out of the corset soon, she would, indeed, die for real. “Okay,” she said giving in, “I’m dead. But this corset is killing me, so can we go some place and let me take it off. Maybe your wife could help?”
“Sylvia is visiting her aunt over in Kelly. She won’t be back for a few days.”
“How convenient!” Ha! One less actor to deal with.
“I’ll take you in the house and we can sort things out there.” He offered her his hand, which she took, looking up into his pale eyes, and let him lead her out of the barn into chill air. The sun was laying its colors on the horizon and she figured it must be late afternoon, wherever she was.
“So, I’m dead,” she said conversationally.
“Well, you were. You seem very much alive at the moment, I have to say, but that’s quite impossible.” He stopped.
Lizzie glanced over at what was no doubt the house, a log structure of good proportion, with a lantern lit and glowing through a window. The last rays of the sun elongated their shadows, and for a moment, she tried to breathe in the cool air deeply.
“Impossible,” she whispered. “To be here like this.” She turned to him, the attraction so great suddenly she wished this wasn’t all some huge act laid on to fool her. “So, I’m dead,” she repeated once more.
“Yes. I think so.” There was a depth of sadness in his voice she couldn’t fathom.
“And how did I die, may I ask?”
Colby Gates stood stock still beside her and let her hand go. He turned to her in the fading light, and Lizzie could see him swallow hard as he removed his Stetson and brushed an invisible speck from its brim before replacing it on his head. Then he looked her in the eye.
“I shot you.”
Bad Boy, Big Heart–part of the Come Love a Cowboy anthology:
When New Yorker K.C. Daniels heads to Wyoming for a summer job, she wants nothing more than to fit in with the staff of the Lazy S Ranch. Yearning to be independent of her mom and dad, and have a taste of the west before she starts her Master’s degree, getting involved with a cowboy is the last thing on her mind—especially when she’s greeted with warnings about ‘Bad Boy’ Chay Ridgway.
High school dropout Chay Ridgway sees summer as his time to be a rodeo star and win a girl in his life, while facing the responsibilities he has for his father. Although working to bring in cash to help his dad, he’s never had a problem finding a woman who’s happy to be that summer love—until K.C. Daniels appears on the scene.
As two different worlds collide in a season that will end all too soon, is this going to be another summer romance or a love that will last for years?
K.C. was licking her lips over a piece of cheesecake when Breezy ambled over.
“I heard,” she said in an undertone. “I’m so sorry, K.C. I really didn’t know or I certainly would have told you. All I knew was Jamie could be very unpleasant but nothing like that. You know, spoiled brat unpleasant.”
K.C. gulped down another mouthful. “Well, he certainly was ‘unpleasant’ and a ‘spoiled brat.’”
“Are you all right? You know if you ever want to talk about it or need a shoulder, mine is at the ready. And you know where to find me, though I suspect you have another shoulder in mind.” She tipped her head toward Chay, who had just come in and was chatting with one of the guests.
K.C. glanced across as he squatted down to speak with a little girl, tilting his hat back off his face and giving the child a wink as he rose again. Her stomach did a back flip.
“So how do you like the cheesecake?” Breezy was saying. “It’s my own recipe—chocolate mocha cheesecake. You seem to be doing pretty well with it but, of course, you may only be eating it to be polite.” She sauntered off in a stream of giggles.
And then a second fork was coming from above into that cheesecake.
“Do you always just take what you want?”
“Oh, shit, I’m supposed to ask! Sorry.” Chay slid into the chair opposite her at the long refectory table. He looked her in the eye. “May I please have a bite of your cheesecake?”
“Why don’t you get your own? In fact, shouldn’t you be starting with lunch and then dessert?”
“Had a sack lunch and got in earlier than expected.” His fork dangled threateningly over the waiting slice before he swung the fork like a pendulum.
“Oh, go on then. I guess you deserve it.”
Chay shoved a forkful into his mouth, having obvious difficulty chewing as he was smiling so much. Finally he got it down, stretched to grab a napkin from another clean place setting, and gave a wide grin to K.C. “Am I your hero, then? Riding in to save the day? How are you?”
“I’m fine. Thanks. Fine, but reluctant to keep telling everyone I’m fine.”
“Okay then, message received.”
K.C. studied him for a moment, melting at his pale green eyes. She suddenly reached across and gently poked the small dimple in his chin. Oh dear, what was she going to do about this man?
“You’re supposed to ask, aren’t you? You can’t just go around poking people in the chin, can you?”
“Golly. What have I started?”
“I don’t know. What have you started?” The smile was replaced by a very direct look.
“I…I’ve been told things about you. I don’t want to be a summer romance. And I do have to leave at the end of the summer, and the summer is fast fading.”
“It’s only June, K.C.” He hesitated before, “What sort of things were you told?”
K.C. looked around to make sure they weren’t being overheard. “That you like to…to date the girls who work in the office because we leave at the end of the summer, and it makes for a clean break.”
K.C. blinked at his honesty.
“But it doesn’t mean it will always be the case.” Chay fidgeted on his chair. “What time do you get off? Let’s go for a ride. You do ride, don’t you?”
“Oh, yeah. Bob said something about that. That can be fixed. So what time?”
“Five-thirty weekdays, Saturday noon as long as the check-outs are complete. Sunday is hit or miss; I work virtually all day until all the check-ins are done.”
“Hmmm. I’m taking out a pack trip tomorrow, back Friday. Meet me down at the barns as soon as you’re off Saturday.” Chay swung out of the chair and stood, then leaned in and stabbed one more bite of cheesecake. “Saving you calories,” he said. “You’d be amazed at what goes into this.” And with that, he stuffed the piece in his mouth and was off.
K.C. sat there, turning over Chay’s words in her mind: ‘It doesn’t mean it will always be the case.’ Yet the fact was, her Master’s degree meant two years…oh, what was she thinking? That was way ahead and, while she knew she was deeply attracted to Chay, it didn’t necessarily mean…. She stared at the remaining cheesecake on her plate, then pushed it away.
What was ‘the case’?
Dances of the Heart
Successful, workaholic author Carrie Bennett lives through her writing, but can’t succeed at writing a man into her life. Furthermore, her equally successful but cynical daughter, Paige, proves inconsolable after the death of her fiancé.
Hard-drinking rancher Ray Ryder can find humor in just about anything—except the loss of his oldest son. His younger son, Jake, recently returned from Iraq, now keeps a secret that could shatter his deceased brother’s good name.
On one sultry night in Texas, relationships blossom when the four meet, starting a series of events that move from the dancehalls of Hill Country to the beach parties of East Hampton, and from the penthouses of New York to the backstreets of a Mexican border town. But the hurts of the past are hard to leave behind, especially when old adversaries threaten the fragile ties that bind family to family…and lover to lover.
“You know how to Texas Two-Step?” he asked.
“No,” she said, laughter just below the surface.
“Well, sweetheart, you have come to the right place. Or at least got yourself the right man. By the time I finish with you, you’ll be the best dang stepper on the floor.”
Carrie looked around. “There isn’t anyone else on the floor at the moment, Ray.”
“Well, heck, I know that. That’s perfect for learning.”
As soon as his hand closed around hers, the leather of his palm a strange glove over her own fingers, a sudden frisson of connection ran through her she hadn’t known in a very long while. He moved her to face him squarely on, a small smile tipping the edges of his mouth, the dark, impenetrable eyes shining with his captured prize.
“Just follow me,” he said as his right hand went to her back. A cover of a Vince Gill ballad started, the mournful tune setting a moderate tempo. “Perfect.” He held her right hand high and applied slight pressure to move her backwards. “Fast fast slow slow, fast fast slow slow.”
Carrie felt a light bulb go on. She got it. It was good. It was fun. And she relaxed in his embrace. He was an excellent teacher, a fabulous leader on the dance floor. Would wonders never cease?
“You’re doing well. You’re doing fine,” he assured her. “We’re gonna try a little promenade now, and then a twirl, so get ready.”
Carrie couldn’t stop herself from smiling, anticipation bubbling for just a second. And then out of the corner of her eye she caught Ty watching them, beer half-raised in salute and a smirk plastered on his face. A moment’s hesitation and she missed the step.
“What happened there?” asked Ray, oblivious to the effect the on-looker had on her.
Other couples were finally joining them on the dance floor, but despite the company, Carrie’s discomfort increased. “That boy, that Ty,” she told him. “He was watching us. It made me feel…uneasy.”
Ray scanned the sidelines, but Ty had gone, nowhere to be seen. “Oh, don’t pay him any mind. He’s harmless enough.”
Stuck in a life of servitude to her penny-pinching brother, Emily Darling longs for a more exciting existence. When a packet with travel tickets, meant for one Ethel Darton, accidentally lands on her doormat, Emily sees a chance for escape. Having turned down the dreary suitors that have come her way, is it possible a new existence also offers a different kind of man?
Daniel Saunders has carved out a life for himself in Wyoming—a life missing one thing: a wife. Having scrimped and saved to bring his mail-order bride from New York, he is outraged to find in her stead a runaway fraud. Even worse, the impostor is the sister of his old enemy.
But people are not always as they seem, and sometimes the heart knows more than the head.
Emily liked the sound of his voice, low but not husky, a slight twang he had cultivated, but not pretentiously so. When he spoke, she envisaged melting caramel, something delicious, the way it could be so appealing as she stirred, with a shine and slow drip from the spoon, before it gradually solidified. Soothing. A liquid velvet.
But he hadn’t spoken today. Not since first thing when he’d told her to get ready. Not through breakfast, or as he helped clear dishes, or gave her a hand up into the wagon.
“You haven’t seen her. You didn’t see her picture, did you?” The questions came sudden, yet without malice.
Emily straightened, alert. “No. No, I didn’t.” Would I understand better? Is that what he meant?
“I keep it with me.” Daniel began to fish in his pocket. “Would you like to see it?”
“No. No, you keep it, please. It won’t change anything.” Emily panicked. She would be beautiful, the other, that would be the answer. So stunningly beautiful that just her photograph had enthralled him, mesmerized him into loving her. Emily couldn’t bear to look, didn’t want to know the answer. Didn’t wish to torture herself further. “And I’m sorry. I’m sorry for reading the letters.” A rush of words, they flowed out of her. “I should never have done that. It’s not like me. But you…well, you understand it seems—”
“You’re probably wondering what I see in her. Or what she sees in me. As for that, what she sees in me, I have no idea. Maybe, like you, she wishes to get away.”
Emily studied his profile, the planes and contours of his face, the eyes set straight ahead, the slouch hat low on his brow. He gave nothing away, was a man in control of his emotions, thinking, maybe still wondering how he had won that woman. Or maybe set on keeping the answer to himself.
Overhead, clouds scudded, scoured the sky, leached the blue, threatened.
“Did you ever ask her? Why you?”
“I did. She never answered. I’m thinking what she sees in me is husband material. I guess. She tells me about her day, the people she knows, what she does. As you read.”
“She just seems so…so outgoing, so…so very social to ever want this life. I found it difficult to believe.” She jutted her chin out, then turned to him, waiting.
He gave the reins a sharp shake. “I don’t know. I never asked if she knew what she was getting into. I described it. I assumed if she wanted to stop the correspondence there, she would have. I was pretty damn amazed and happy she’d wanted to come, written back even though I described the cabin to her, the isolation.” His gaze slid toward her.
“And you think she’ll make you a perfect wife, do you? Be happy living here? Cook your meals, mend your clothes, keep your cabin, have your babies?” Exasperated, she tried to make him think, think of what he was letting himself in for, how long a marriage like that could go on, how it could end up being even lonelier than he was now. Emily would seem to him to be trying to win him over rather than making him see the truth, but push him she must, save him, stop him. She knew those sorts of women, the debutantes, the socialites. Not a one would last out here, not for a single day.
His head snapped around to stare at her. “She’s been writing. She hasn’t stopped.”
LAWLESS LOVE: available now from all good ebook suppliers
Marshal Dylan J. Kane is a man who considers everything as black and white, right or wrong. He’s never seen life any other way until he sets eyes on Lacey. Suddenly the straight and narrow that he’s followed has a few twists and turns. Loving Lacey offers the home life for which he hankers…but can he really love a woman who seems to be plain lawless?
Lacey thought of fluttering her eyelashes, but it
was such a silly thing to do. How could women act like that? She just looked up at the marshal and waited, the possibilities turning over in her mind, flitting through her head but never settling.
“You wanna tell me what really happened now so we can try to sort this matter? All I can do is promise I’ll do everything in my power to sort it for you, but I cain’t help you less’n you tell the truth. You tell me lies and make me look a dang fool, there’s nothin’ I can do. You understand that?”
Along with the tiniest nod, she clasped her hands together. She looked up at Dylan Kane and saw kindness in that face, a face she could so easily have loved had things been different. She could sense the heat radiating from his body and knew if she touched his chest, a strength would exist where his heart beat. If she ran her hand down his arms, she would find that same strength in his muscle. How she wanted those arms around her! All her life, it seemed, she had looked after herself, cared for her brother, struggled to make a home for the two of them. What would it have been like if Morgan had not…
“Lacey?” Dylan’s soft voice brought her back from her reveries. “You ready to tell the truth?” With one gentle finger, he lifted her chin so their gazes met for a moment before they each stepped back from the brink of something neither could control. “Lacey?” he repeated.
“Yes, I’m ready.”
LOVELAND — available now, purchase options below
When Lady Alexandra Calthorpe returns to the Loveland, Colorado, ranch owned by her father, the Duke, she has little idea of how the experience will alter her future. Headstrong and willful, Alex tries to overcome a disastrous marriage in England and be free of the strictures of Victorian society –and become independent of men. That is, until Jesse Makepeace saunters back into her life…
Hot-tempered and hot-blooded cowpuncher Jesse Makepeace can’t seem to accept that the child he once knew is now the ravishing yet determined woman before him. Fighting rustlers proves a whole lot easier than fighting Alex when he’s got to keep more than his temper under control.
Arguments abound as Alex pursues her career as an artist and Jesse faces the prejudice of the English social order. The question is, will Loveland live up to its name?
The two men looked over at Jesse who was leading his own horse into the stable, anger etched in every muscle of his face. Joe nodded toward the chuck house and they followed the others in to leave Alex alone when Jesse came out.
She was starting back to the main house when Jesse grabbed her arm and turned her around. “You ever do that again,” he said in a voice she had never heard, intense in its anger, rage just below its surface, “I swear to God, Alex, I’ll…I’ll take you over my knee and give you a lickin’ once and for all.”
“How dare you!” She shook him off. “How dare you talk to me like that! How dare you! Who the hell do you think you are?”
Jesse jabbed his finger at her to emphasize he meant what he was saying. “Who do I think I am?”he snarled back. “Who do I think I am? You ever, ever take a gun off me again and point it at someone, you’ll find out who the hell I think I am. You know that coulda gone off? You know you coulda killed someone? I told you—out there yonder—I told you, you never point that thing at anyone less’n you mean bus’ness.”
“I did bloody well mean business! They were destroying that horse. Furthermore, I knew, and you knew, and they both knew, there wasn’t a shot under the hammer. You taught me that, didn’t you? So there was no chance of an accident!”
“That don’t matter none. You coulda pulled the hammer back twice. Way you was, you were nothin’ better’n a loose cannon, Alex. You ever do a thing like that again—”
“You’ll what?” She shook with her rage as tears pooled against her will. “I apologized to them both and they accepted my apologies. It’s none of your concern—”
“None of my concern! You pulled my gun! You ever do that again— Don’t you walk away when I’m talkin’ to you!”
She turned back to him after a few steps. “You’ll what? You’ll what, Jesse? What will you do? I want to hear it! Say it again. What will you do?” And she stood there in the evening darkness, facing him down, wearing him out like she’d faced down the stallion.
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