Running off with a handsome stranger is hardly something Amy McKittrick would do under ordinary circumstances.
Yet, In "Restitution," the second book of the new Historical Romance "Tender Mysteries Series," that's exactly what Amy does!
Excerpts continue with a great one from "Restitution" this week.
November, 1895. Hope Nebraska. For years Amy has been trying to make amends for a crime she’d committed when she was fifteen years old. She’s doggedly, habitually avoided sin since that one infraction, but when Diego comes to town making all kinds of horrible accusations she finds herself lying over and over again. Alone with him in the countryside, on the trail of a thief, as Amy succumbs to Diego’s charms, she feels worse than ever for misleading him, even as she begins to feel whole again by loving him.
(About the “Tender Mysteries Series:” After a flood annihilates a wagon train in 1888, eleven female survivors build a life in Hope, Nebraska.)
Setup: Amy has hurt her ankle during a snowstorm, and they've taken shelter in a cave.
Diego scooped her into his arms, stood and held her tightly against his chest.
She laid her head on his shoulder and forced herself to remain silent, though the pain coursing through her ankle and leg made her want to cry out.
When he reached the bed he’d made for her, Diego somehow managed to get to his knees and gently place her on the wool-covered pine boughs.
“Dear God,” Amy cried, “it hurts so much.”
Diego quickly covered her with two blankets. He tucked them tightly around her as he’d done with Flossie.
As soon as he finished, he went to a bag of supplies he’d piled with the other saddles a few feet away. He returned momentarily with a flask. He moved the lamp he’d left near Amy’s bed, came close beside her and handed her the flask.
“Drink this. It’ll ease the pain,” he said.
“What is it?” Amy asked.
“But I’ve never--” A surge of pain assaulted her again, cutting off her words.
“Please, Miss McKittrick, take a big drink. It’ll burn a little, but you’ve got to swallow it down.”
Amy opened the flask and put it to her lips.
She closed her eyes and drank heartily.
Fire burst inside her mouth, down her gullet and into her stomach.
“This tastes almost as bad as the coffee you gave me this morning,” she said wryly as she struggled to endure the pain of her injury and the burn of her medicine.
Diego smiled at her. “I guarantee it’ll be just as effective, only in a different way.”
He reached for the lamp and took it to the foot of her bed.
“Take another swig of whiskey, Miss McKittrick. I’ve got to remove your shoe and look at your ankle. The more whiskey you can take in before I tend to your injury, the less pain you’ll feel when I examine you.”
Amy took another big drink. She was surprised to find it less offensive than it had been the first time she’d drunk it.
“Take in some more, missy, at least another swallow or two,” Diego said as he sat at her feet.
She drank again. This time she didn’t mind the flavor of the libation at all. In fact, she found it pleasant, pleasant enough to take a bit more.
Diego watched as Amy drank from his flask. He was sicker at heart than he’d ever been, seeing her injured the way she was. Thank heaven he had something to give her to relieve her pain.
“It tastes a li’l better now, Misser Consillo,” she drawled.
The slurring of her words told Diego it would now be safe to remove her shoe and examine her injury.
He began his work immediately.
As he looked closely at her ankle, once he’d removed her shoe, he felt a knot form in his gut. He didn’t like what he saw.
He covered her feet with the blankets and move round her pallet to talk with her.
“Did you fix my ankle a’ready?” she asked when he sat next to her. “It doesn’t hurt anymore. I think you fixed it.”
Diego took the flask from her. He picked up the cap which had fallen from Amy’s fingers onto her belly and returned it to the mouth of the flask.
He lifted the top of her blanket. “Put your arms inside, Miss McKittrick,” he said gently. “You need to warm up as best you can.”
“But I’m feelin’ much warmer now,” she said, smiling at him.
Her smile was the most beautiful thing he’d ever seen--but he couldn’t think about her loveliness now.
“I’m glad you feel warmer, but we need to be sure you stay good and warm,” he said, helping her put her arms inside the covers.
“I’m good, Misser Diego, and I’m warm too, I think. And my ankle har’ly hurts at all…I think I could dance, if I wanted to… Do you want to dance?”
If he hadn’t been so worried about her injury, he’d have found her state of inebriation quite humorous.
She pulled an arm from the shelter of her blankets and reached toward him. “I don’t like your brother, Diego. He isn’t a very nice man, but you…you…you’re not as bad as he is, are you?”
He took her hand and tucked it under her blanket. He secured her in her covers so snuggly she looked like a very beautiful, living mummy--even if the description was a contradiction in terms.
He grasped her chin with his fingers. “Miss McKittrick, I’m going to examine your ankle again.” He wanted to see how much the swelling had increased since he’d removed her shoe.
“Okay…,” she said, sounding as though she didn’t care one way or the other just what he did to her.
He moved to the foot of the bed and positioned himself by the injured foot. He uncovered it and examined it. The entire ankle, part of the calf and some of the foot had swollen significantly since he’d removed the shoe.
“Is my ankle alright now?” Amy asked in a dreamy tone.
“Not yet,” he said. “I’m afraid I’ll need to get some snow to put on it to keep the swelling down.
“If you think it will help…”
“I’m sure it will,” he said. He moved straight to the stack of supplies and found the leather pouch in which he carried tools and other items which tended to come in handy when a man rides a trail. He emptied its contents onto the floor of the cave and went outside to fill it with snow. Upon his return he placed the pouch on Amy’s ankle.
“That’s cold,” she said.
He went to her and sat next to her. He took off his hat and gloves and set them next to her pallet. He trailed his fingers over her forehead. To his relief, he found she had no fever--yet.
“Mm,” she said, “that feels nice.”
His belly tightened. He’d wanted to touch her this way ever since he first saw her. She was a striking woman with eyes like emeralds and lips like ripe cherries.
“My ankle…it’s hurting again,” she said. She began to shiver.
Diego’s concern for her wellbeing escalated. He knew it was necessary to keep a person warm and comfortable after an injury. Her shivering was not a good sign. It could mean a fever was getting started.
Or she could be cold due to the snow pack he’d placed on her ankle.
He went to the supplies, retrieved the last blanket, and returned to Amy’s side.
She was shivering even more vigorously.
He placed the extra blanket over her, but she continued to quake.
The only thing left to do was to try to warm her with his own body heat.
He removed his coat, pulled back the covers and got into her bed with her.
“Mr. Consillo,” she said through chattering teeth. “Get away from me,” she said softly, her voice weakened by the strength of the liquor.
“I’m sorry, Miss McKittrick, but I’ve got to warm you up as quickly as I can. Please, lie still so you don’t disturb the snow pack I’ve placed on your foot. And don’t…don’t fight me; let me warm you. Can you do that, please?”
“Mr. Consillo,” she said, sounding sober, though he knew she was not, “tomorrow, when I’m feeling better, I’m going to slap your face as hard as I can for violating me in this way.”
Her threat sounded quite convincing, yet, he couldn’t help but smile upon hearing her warning. She was no bigger than a sapling and no stronger than bumble bee.
“If it’ll make you feel better, Miss McKittrick, I promise I’ll offer my jaw to you as soon as you’d like to take out your revenge on me,” he said.
To his surprise, she snuggled closer to him. “Why thank you. And, even though it will not make you feel better, I’ll accept your jaw, and I’ll bruise it quite effectively with a swipe of my hand…”
He chuckled as she drifted off to sleep.
She was no longer shivering, but Diego continued to hold her anyway.
He figured if he was going to be properly slapped in the morning by this lovely woman, he might as well earn his punishment by holding her a little while longer.
"Restitution" is available in e-book and paperback at: Amazon, B&N, Kobo Books, I-Books, and at bookstores and libraries.
Happy Easter to all my Christian Readers. Best wishes for a wonderful Spring for Everyone.
Fran Shaff, Award-Winning Author
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