Friday, July 13, 2018

Chapter Reveal: First Three Chapters of Miss Etta

Hi all,

We are about a month-and-a-half away from the publication of my novel, MISS ETTA, and I'm getting excited about sharing this novel with all of you. MISS ETTA is a fictional novel about a real-life woman, Etta Place, who lived an extremly exciting life, then vanished into thin air. She rode with the famous outlaws, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and was also Sundance's girlfriend. She was described as being beautiful and well-mannered, yet could ride and shoot as well as a man. Still, no one knows her real name or what became of her, and that is what I find the most interesting of all.

Below are the first three chapters of MISS ETTA. I hope you enjoy them.


Miss Etta: A Novel
Historical Women's Fiction

Release date: September 4, 2018

Preorder now:
Amazon Kindle: http://ow.ly/Q2HP30kmYjM
Barnes & Noble Nook: http://ow.ly/JOeu30kjekn


Also coming to paperback and audiobook



Prologue


San Francisco, CA

1972



Susan Sheridan hurried out of her car and headed across the street to the assisted-living facility where her grandmother lived. She checked her watch as she waited for the cable car to pass. As a reporter for The San Francisco Chronicle, Susan usually sprinted from place to place to catch a story for the paper. But today was different. Her grandmother had called and requested she come to see her. Susan loved her grandmother dearly, but she wished she could wait until the weekend to talk to her. But Grandma Em wasn’t normally an impatient woman, so Susan felt she should at least check on her.

She entered the building and waved to the receptionist in the office near the entryway. As a frequent visitor, Susan was recognized and didn’t have to check in. She slipped into the elevator and shared the ride up with Mrs. Jenkowski, who complained that her grandchildren never came to visit and proclaimed Susan to be a very good girl. Susan didn’t feel like a good girl. She felt guilty about wanting to rush her visit with her grandmother so she could leave.

Susan walked down the plush carpeted hallway, and sure enough, there was her grandmother waiting for her in the apartment’s doorway. The receptionist had obviously buzzed her to let her know her granddaughter was on her way up.

Grandma Em gave Susan a hug. “I’m so happy you could come by this morning.” She turned and walked to her favorite rocker in the living room.

Susan noticed that her grandma walked a little slower these days. But at ninety-six years old, it was expected that this once lively woman would slow down.

Susan followed and sat on the sofa across from her grandmother. In-between them on the coffee table sat an antique carved wooden box with a tiny gold key. Susan gazed at the box, enchanted. It had intricate leaf detailing decorating the lid and looked to be made of very fine wood. She was surprised she’d never seen it before.

“That’s for later, dear.” Grandma Em settled back in her rocker. “For now, we need to talk.”

Susan noticed that her grandmother sounded weary. Her long, silver hair was styled in its usual bun on the top of her head, a few loose tendrils framing her face which was wrinkled and soft with age. Her eyes were a beautiful lavender-blue that Susan had inherited. Susan thought her grandmother’s eyes looked different today, though. They weren’t just tired; they looked resigned.

“Is something wrong, Grandma?” Susan asked, beginning to worry why she’d been summoned here on such short notice. Was her grandmother ill? Her grandmother had always been the picture of good health. Susan hoped whatever was wrong wasn’t serious.

Grandma Em shook her head. “No, dear. Nothing is wrong. And I know you’re a busy woman, but I have something I need to tell you. A story that’s waited a long time to be told. Do you have that recording device of yours I asked you to bring?”

Susan nodded and dug through her purse for her small tape recorder. She used it on interviews to report quotes accurately. After checking to make sure the tape in it was new, she set it on the table in front of her. “Grandma, I’m sure what you want to tell me is interesting, but maybe we could do this on Saturday. I have two stories on deadline and one interview I still have to go to and…”

“Dear,” Grandma Em interrupted. “I think you’ll want to hear this. I’m not sure I’ll ever be as ready to tell it as I am today.”

Susan took a deep breath and nodded. She could never deny her grandmother anything. They had always been close, but after Susan’s mother had died of cancer when Susan was fifteen years old, their relationship had grown even closer.

“Okay, Grandma,” she said, resigning herself to staying put for a while. She clicked the tape recorder on. “Whenever you’re ready.”

“Susan,” Grandma Em began, settling deeper into her rocker. “You know me only as your grandmother, the retired teacher. And your father knows me only as his mother and the wife of his stepfather, Edward Sheridan. But once, a long time ago, before I met your grandfather, my life was different. Very different indeed.”




Chapter One

Pine Creek, MN

August 1911



Emily Pleasants stepped off the train onto the platform, scanning the small station with her lavender-blue eyes. It had been a long trip across country from California to Minnesota and she felt weary. The August afternoon was hot and humid, forming beads of perspiration under her corset. She raised a slender, gloved hand to smooth the back of her already perfect chignon, making sure her small hat was still in place, as she continued to scan the Pine Creek train station. She wanted nothing more than to find the gentleman who was supposed to meet her and be taken to her rooms.

From beside her came a soft sigh. Emily smiled down at the small boy standing there. Dressed in a brown suit and hat, he looked like a miniature adult, his gray-blue eyes staring up at her in question.
Emily lifted her gaze to the platform again, but the only people she saw were the ones who had also stepped off the train. At the far end, she caught sight of a man neatly dressed in a navy three-piece suit, impatiently staring at a gold pocket watch as if he was late for an appointment. He didn’t look like a small-town school board member to her—he looked like a banker. Emily chuckled softly. She could spot a banker in a crowd any day. She’d had plenty of experience with bankers.

Sighing, she gave up waiting and decided to go inside the station’s building. Perhaps the manager would know who was picking her up. Leaving her bags on the platform, Emily offered her hand to the boy beside her.

“Come along, Harry,” she said, her voice gentle but authoritative. The little boy took her hand and followed her into the plank board building.

***

Edward Sheridan stood at the end of the platform studying his gold pocket watch for the hundredth time. He watched as the passengers disembarked and scattered, becoming impatient when he didn’t see the new schoolteacher among them. A pretty, young woman with a small child beside her caught his eye, then he dismissed her immediately. He was not waiting for a young mother. He’d been sent by the school board to greet the new schoolmarm.

Edward watched the woman and young boy enter the station and turned his brown eyes again toward the train. No one else alighted from the passenger cars. Sighing, he contemplated what might have become of the woman. Perhaps she’d missed one of her transfers and would arrive on a later train. That wasn’t entirely impossible, considering the distance she was traveling. His biggest fear was that she’d decided not to come after all. It had taken the board months to find a new schoolteacher and her references had been impeccable. Perhaps she’d decided Minnesota was too far a distance, the weather was too dreary, or the pay was too low for her liking. He truly hoped not. Finding a teacher for their small town was becoming more difficult with each passing year, especially with the larger cities paying higher wages and offering more opportunities for advancement. Small towns had so little to offer. They were lucky to keep a teacher for an entire school year.

The heat became increasingly unbearable and Edward felt trickles of sweat under his three-piece suit. He adjusted his vest over his waistline and studied his watch once more before deciding the train held no more passengers. Dropping the watch back into his vest pocket, Edward walked into the station to inquire about the next train.

“Well now, here’s just the man you’re looking for,” Ernie Carlson, the station manager, blurted out as Edward entered the stuffy building.

Edward looked up to see the young woman with the child standing in front of the counter. The woman turned and stared at Edward, a look of relief on her face changing into one of confusion.

“Mr. Sheridan?” she inquired in a soft, yet purposeful voice. The boy beside her only stared.

“Yes, ma’am, this here’s Edward Sheridan,” Ernie replied as if the question had been directed at him. “This here’s the new schoolteacher, Mr. Sheridan. She’s been asking about you.”

Now it was Edward’s turn to be confused. He stared at the handsome woman before him, studying her with furrowed brows. She had hair the color of shinning mahogany piled expertly upon her head and skin so smooth not a line showed on her face. Her traveling outfit and small hat looked to have been made of the finest materials and fit her slender figure as if cut specifically for her. Just above her left breast hung a lapel watch that glittered of gold with an intricate leaf design etched on its cover. This was a woman of substance and quality standing before him, not a woman of meager means, scratching her way through life on a schoolteacher’s salary. Surely, there was some mistake.

“Mr. Sheridan?” the woman inquired again, this time her voice holding a more commanding tone. 

Realizing that his eyes were still upon the watch that hung above her breast, Edward snapped them up to her face, feeling his face flush all the way up to his hairline. A small chuckle came from Ernie behind the counter. Edward thought for certain he would perish from the heat rising inside him from his embarrassment than from the temperature outside. Anger at his lack of discretion caused him to draw his full lips into a thin line under his neatly trimmed mustache.

The schoolteacher, however, seemed unaffected by either Edward’s rude stare or Ernie’s chuckle. She crossed the space between them, offering her gloved hand in greeting. The little boy followed quietly at her side.

“Mr. Sheridan, I’m Emily Pleasants. It is so nice to finally meet you.” She stood there, hand in mid-air for several seconds before Edward had the good sense to grasp it in his own. Her petite hand was practically lost in his large one.

“Miss Pleasants?” he asked, still not quite believing this was the woman they’d hired.

“Mrs. Pleasants,” she corrected, returning her hand to her side and placing it around the boy’s small shoulders. “This is my son, Harry.”

Hat in hand, little Harry stretched out his other hand to greet Edward. Still somewhat dazed, Edward reached down and shook the tiny hand. Little Harry smiled up at him with shinning eyes, his blond head bright in the dim light of the station.

“Pleased to meet you,” Edward mumbled, and Harry only smiled then stepped back to his mother’s side.

Silence filled the small station as the seconds ticked by. Outside, the train whistled in announcement of its taking leave, heading east to St. Paul.

The shrill of the whistle pulled Edward to his senses. He cleared his throat and focused on the woman before him, who continued to watch him in anticipation of his making the first move. Finally, he found his voice. “I’m sorry for my confusion, Miss, ah, er, Mrs. Pleasants. I wasn’t expecting a married woman.”

Mrs. Pleasants gazed calmly at him. “I’m a widow, Mr. Sheridan.”

“Oh, yes, of course, er, I mean, I’m sorry.” Edward stumbled over his words once again, feeling awkward, yet not understanding why. He was a successful merchant in town. Talking was as much a part of his business as selling. He was also part-owner of the town bank and held prominent positions on both the school board and town council. Yet, here he was, tongue-tied in front of this widowed schoolmarm while she stood there with perfect posture, looking in complete control of the situation. 

She had not a hair out of place, not even a bead of perspiration on her person from the extreme heat. And he, under his suit, was sweating like a farm animal. The lack of control he felt over the entire situation made his anger rise, and her complete coolness fueled it on.

Furrowing his brows, Edward blurted out in a razor-sharp voice, much louder than he’d intended, “Mrs. Pleasants. I’m afraid you’ve caught me at a disadvantage. I was expecting a single woman without a child. As you can imagine, I am shocked to find the situation different than anticipated.”

Mrs. Pleasants straightened her shoulders and stood as tall as her five foot, three inch frame allowed. With eyes bright and blazing, she stared directly at him. “I see no problem here, Mr. Sheridan. I was hired to teach the children of Pine Creek. I intend to do just that.”

Edward returned her intense stare only to find himself speechless once again in her presence. Her eyes completely distracted him. They were the most unique color he’d ever seen, not blue, but lavender-blue. Trimmed in thick, brown lashes, they were riveting. Absolutely beautiful.
Another chuckle from Ernie shook Edward awake. Bending his head close to Mrs. Pleasants, he suggested softly, “Perhaps we can discuss this outside.”

Mrs. Pleasants tipped her head in agreement then turned back to Ernie. “It was very nice meeting you, Mr. Carlson,” she said. “I look forward to having your son and daughter in my classroom.”

“Pleasure’s all mine, Mrs. Pleasants,” Ernie said, tipping his cap.

Edward watched as Mrs. Pleasants took her son’s hand and stepped up to the door. She paused in front of the unopened door for a moment before Edward remembered his manners and rushed to open it for her. Nodding her head in appreciation, she stepped outside with Harry, Edward close behind, as the sound of Ernie’s chuckle followed him through.

Mrs. Pleasants walked over to her bags still sitting on the platform. There were only two, a large one for her, a smaller one for Harry. They looked well-worn and well-traveled.

“These are mine,” Mrs. Pleasants told Edward, who still felt unnerved by the situation. “Will we be walking, or did you bring a carriage?”

Edward’s mind drew a blank. Nothing about this situation was as he’d anticipated. He’d expected an older woman of single status, mousy, shy, and unsure of herself. Hadn’t the last teacher been like that? Proficient at teaching numbers and letters but uncomfortable in social situations? Not that it mattered; she had been plain as a board and had no need for social graces. The only determined action she’d had in the year she’d worked there was to hand in her resignation. She had no liking for this small town on the plains of Minnesota, and was homesick for her family in Illinois. Just as the schoolmaster before her had quit and just as the schoolmarm before him had left. Edward simply wasn’t prepared for a self-assured woman like Mrs. Pleasants.

“Mr. Sheridan?” Emily said again to catch his attention.

“Yes?” he replied, confused.

“Walking or carriage?”

“Huh?” Edward squinted at her in the bright sun before realizing how stupid he must sound. Flustered, he tripped over his words again. “But we haven’t settled our dilemma yet. I mean, we haven’t decided what we’re going to do about this situation.”

Mrs. Pleasants sighed, her patience seeming to wane from the humid heat. Beside her, the little boy squirmed restlessly. Edward couldn’t blame him. He was feeling restless in this heat too.

Mrs. Pleasants said in a steady voice, “Mr. Sheridan, I don’t understand what there is to decide. The school board hired me. I have a contract for employment for the school year of 1911-1912. I’ve just spent four days shuffling from one train to another, making the trip from California to here. I’m hot, I’m tired, and I’d appreciate getting settled in my rooms.”

Edward couldn’t have agreed more. He was also hot and tired, and had to return to his store. Resigned that they were not going to resolve the matter standing here on the platform, Edward decided to let the school board deal with the situation. He’d finish what he came here to do—deliver the new schoolteacher to her quarters.

Nodding his assent, Edward said, “Carriage.”

Mrs. Pleasants looked puzzled. “Excuse me?”

Edward smiled a true smile for the first time since meeting her. “I have a carriage waiting behind the depot,” he explained. “I’ll take you to your room.”

Looking relieved, she returned his smile. “Thank you.”

He lifted her two pieces of luggage and led the way. Mrs. Pleasants reached her hand down to Harry, who dutifully took it and the two followed Mr. Sheridan to the open carriage.

Chapter Two

Pine Creek, MN



Nestled one hundred miles northeast of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and sixty miles southwest of Minneapolis, Minnesota, Pine Creek sat alone in the middle of prairie land. The Minnesota River flowed through the north end of town on its way to the southernmost part of the state. Named for the variety of pine trees that grew along the river’s edge, the remainder of Pine Creek was open prairie, a small but prosperous town surrounded by fields upon fields of farmland growing hay, wheat, and corn.

From the simple beginnings of a single train depot when the Union Pacific first laid tracks through the area, Pine Creek grew from the need of nearby farmers for a place closer than Minneapolis or St. Paul for supplies. Zachariah Sheridan complied by moving his family from Illinois in 1881 and building the first dry-goods store in the fledgling town. It was a much-needed addition to the saloon, blacksmith shop and stable, and combination boarding house and restaurant that were already there.  
Soon, several businesses sprouted up in the prairie town: a hotel, another restaurant, several saloons, a church, and eventually as more families moved there, a schoolhouse. Zachariah’s son, Edward, continued the tradition by expanding the dry-goods store over the years, offering luxury items as well as staples to the growing population of townspeople. Whatever he didn’t stock, he could order and have delivered promptly by train, making the need for trips to the big city unnecessary. He and two partners also opened the first area bank that sat adjacent to his store.

The town was a nice place to live and for area farmers to shop. With its neatly painted buildings, boardwalks, and cobblestone Main Street, Pine Creek showed its prosperity on its sleeve. Many lovely two-story Victorian homes were built on the fringes of town; green lawns sprawling toward the gravel roads and flowerbeds lining white picket fences that separated the yards.

This is what Emily saw first of her new home, the neighborhood of well-kept houses, for Edward had taken the west road into town, heading north to Main Street. She was confident he wanted her to see Pine Creek’s best side. Emily had been in enough small but prosperous towns to know there was a seedier side to them as well, possibly a red-light district with questionable boarding houses filled with young, eager women and saloons that could become bawdy at night. But she said nothing as she surveyed her surroundings with a keen eye as they slowly rounded a curve to Main Street. The streets changed from gravel to cobblestone, much to her surprise. Of the many small, mid-western towns she’d experienced, she’d rarely seen one as refined as Pine Creek.

To her left, she noted a large building with a bell on top.

“That’s the schoolhouse,” Edward said, as if reading her mind.

“It looks like a fine building,” she said, pleased to see its neatly painted exterior and well-tended lawn.

“Our town is very proud of its commitment to education,” Edward told her.

The businesses ahead of her were built in an orderly fashion, as if the entire town was planned and constructed all at once. They passed Doctor Jenson’s office, his gaily-painted sign swinging slightly in the gentle breeze. Next was a restaurant that emitted sumptuous aromas, immediately tempting Emily’s appetite. They stopped at the building beside the restaurant, Sheridan’s Dry Goods Store, which was attached to the First National Bank of Pine Creek. Emily found the proximity of the bank amusing.

Edward alighted the carriage with an agility that defied his stuffy suit. He came to Emily’s side and raised a polite hand.

She accepted, stepping down beside him without a word. Next, he reached up and took Harry into his arms as easily as if he’d done it a thousand times before. Setting the young boy down beside his mother, Edward cleared his throat.

“Here we are.” He raised his hand toward the store. “Your room is upstairs, over the store. I’m afraid it’s not much, but it’s what we’ve always given the teacher in the past.”

“I’m sure it will be fine,” she said, reassuringly.

He reached into the back of the carriage and pulled out the bags. Then, with a nod inviting them to follow, he led the way through the propped open door into his store.

Holding Harry’s hand, Emily glanced around. It was one of the nicest stores she’d ever seen in a small town. The oak counter stood in the center. To the left of it were food supplies, and to the right, necessities for the home and of a personal nature. Bolts of fabric, sewing supplies, ready-made clothing, toiletries, pots, and kettles sat on shelving down tidy rows. Just about everything one might need was here. All items were neatly organized, displayed like the larger, big-city stores. Emily silently approved of Mr. Sheridan’s store. It gave her a little insight into the man who owned it.

From behind the counter bustled a short, pudgy woman with graying hair piled askew upon her head, and a warm smile.“Well, here she is, our new school mistress herself,” the woman said, her bright blue eyes peering at Emily over gold-rimmed spectacles.

“Mrs. Pleasants,” Edward began formally, “this is Gertrude McAffee, my assistant.”

“Call me Gertie,” the woman told her as she raised her hand to shake Emily’s outstretched one. Her touch was warm and gentle. Motherly, Emily thought, as Gertie’s friendliness touched her heart.
“It’s very nice to meet you, Gertie,” Emily said, their hands still clasped.

The small woman turned her eyes to the little boy at Emily’s side. “And who do we have here?” she exclaimed. “What is your name, young man?”

The kindness in her voice made Harry smile up at her. “I’m Harry.” He offered his small hand. A slight nudge from Emily reminded Harry to remove his hat indoors, and he did so promptly while shaking the older woman’s hand.

“Well, well. Harry, you say? What a fine young man you are,” Gertie said. “You look to me like a boy who would enjoy some licorice. Follow me and we’ll find a piece.”

For one brief second, Harry glanced up at his mother for approval, and with a nod of Emily’s head, he dashed off behind his new friend.

Edward laughed at Harry’s exuberance, making Emily smile also.

“That’s very nice of her,” she said. “I’ll be happy to pay for it, though.”

Edward shook his head. “Believe me, she loves giving candy out to the children. We both do. Sometimes, it’s a contest as to who will get to the candy jar first when a child comes through the door.” He chuckled and Emily liked the gentleness she saw in his face. “I’m sure Harry will be eating far more candy than you wish him to,” Edward said, still beaming. Emily liked how his smile softened his features, making his face appear years younger.

As the silence grew between them, Edward soon appeared self-conscious again and his smile faded. Returning to the task at hand, his expression sobered, and he cleared his throat, returning to his position as Chairman of the School Board.

“Well, I shall show you your room,” he said, all business now.

Emily found humor at his quick transformation, understanding, of course, that appearances were everything. If she’d learned anything in life, it was at least that. She nodded in answer, and he lifted her bags and carried them through the store as she followed. They caught up with Gertie and Harry, the latter sitting on the counter, gleefully swinging his short legs while chewing on a string of licorice. Gertie sent Emily a sweet grin.

“This young man tells me he’s your son and he’s all of three years old. What a pleasure it will be to have a young person around here.” The excitement in her voice matched the gleam in her eyes. 
“Young Harry,” Gertie said, turning back to the boy, “you come visit me here in the store often, you hear?”

Harry nodded enthusiastically, and Emily reached over the counter and grasped Gertie’s hand affectionately. “Thank you, Gertie. You’ve made us feel very welcome here.” The two women held hands for a moment longer, both smiling kindly at each other, then Emily let go and stepped back. 

Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Edward shuffle his feet in discomfort, embarrassed no doubt by the fact that he hadn’t welcomed them so sincerely.

She ignored his uneasiness, saying aloud to Harry, “Come along, dear. Mr. Sheridan is going to show us our room.”

Harry scooted off the counter and, without prompting from his mother, turned to Gertie and said, “Thank you for the candy, Miss Gertie.” Plopping his hat back on his head, he turned to follow his mother.

“You are ever so welcome, my dear.” Gertie’s words floated to them as they followed Edward to the back of the store.

Edward led them to a storage room behind a velvet curtain. There they found a set of stairs and they all walked up to the second story. The steps curved as they ascended until they had made a half-circle when they reached the top doorway. There was only a frame, no door, and the three stepped through into a long, narrow hallway. To the right stood a door and a small window overlooking the back of the store’s property. To the left was only a long hallway with two doors, one on each side.
Emily and little Harry followed Edward down the hallway and he opened the door on the right.
The afternoon sun poured in through both of the room’s windows, giving off a cheerful glow. The room was large, Emily assessed as Edward placed her bags on the floor. It was wide and long. She guessed it was the size of half the store below.

To her left, at the front of the building, there was a double bed covered with a cheery patchwork quilt of blue, green, and yellow. Beside that stood a nightstand with an oil lamp. A round table with two chairs sat under one window, and at the other end of the room was a pot-bellied stove, a shiny copper tea kettle upon it. An oak armoire stood against the far wall, and a screen made of mahogany and bamboo sat in the corner for privacy while dressing. Oil lamp sconces hung on the walls to light up the room at night, and yellow calico curtains adorned the windows.

The room was large, airy, and gave off a comfortable, welcoming feel. Despite the hot sun outside, it felt pleasant in the room, an early evening breeze drifting through the open windows, caressing the cheerful curtains.

Emily smiled, pleased with the room, but Edward was immediately apologetic about it.

“I’m sorry it’s not much. It will be cramped with the two of you here, I’m afraid. But it’s the room we usually provide for the schoolteacher.”

Emily turned to him. If he’d seen the small, sparse room she and Harry had shared at the convent over the past three years, he would not be apologizing. “This will do just fine, Mr. Sheridan. It’s lovely. The coverlet and curtains brighten the room beautifully.”

Edward’s serious expression brightened. “That was Gertie’s work. When she heard the new teacher was coming, she took it upon herself to make new curtains and a quilt. She said the room had become far too shabby over the years.”

Emily watched Edward as he spoke, noting the admiration in his voice when he talked about Gertie. She wondered in what capacity were his affections for the kind woman. Perhaps he admired her like a sister, or a mother? Or as a lover? She tried hard to keep a straight face over this last thought. She couldn’t imagine the two of them together.

“Please thank her for me,” she said, erasing the last thought from her mind. It certainly was not a thought that should have been there to begin with.

Edward again cleared his throat. “Evy’s Restaurant next door has always supplied meals for our teachers. The Townsend’s own it, and they make delicious food and are very nice people. I eat there quite a bit myself.”

“That sounds wonderful,” Emily said. She stifled a yawn. The long trip and hot day were beginning to wear on her. Harry, too, was fading fast. Emily noticed he’d sat down on the bed and his lids were drooping.

Edward seemed to notice too. “I’m sure you’re both tired. If you need anything, please don’t hesitate to ask.”

She pulled off her gloves and couldn’t wait to slip out of her suit jacket. “Thank you, Mr. Sheridan, for seeing us here and showing us our room.” She followed him to the door. Reaching up, she slid the pin from her hat, releasing it from her hair. Her long hair tumbled about her shoulders.

When Edward turned at the door, his eyes widened as he stared at her hair, seemingly entranced. Emily held back a chuckle over the dumbfounded expression on his face. Had the poor man never seen a woman’s hair down before?

She smiled up at him. “Is that all?” she asked politely.

Edward regained his composure. “Oh, well, yes,” he answered. “Good evening, Mrs. Pleasants.” And with a final nod, he hurried from the room.

***

Edward stood in the hallway for a long time after Emily had closed the door, trying to compose himself before going downstairs. What an idiot I must have sounded like, he thought. She must think I’m a complete fool!

And what was all that throat-clearing about? As he’d spoken to Mrs. Pleasants, he’d noticed he’d done it several times. What an annoying sound. When did I develop such an awful habit? She must think me a dolt! Every time he’d spoken to her, he’d had to force himself not to clear his throat. What in heavens was wrong with him?

When she’d taken off her hat and her hair had fallen, it had completely unnerved him. He just stood there and stared. Her hair was the color of mahogany, gleaming as a table would after it had been hand-rubbed for hours. And her eyes. They weren’t a color he’d ever seen before. Not blue, but lavender-blue. So beautiful, so intense, and yet so kind.

Edward had always prided himself on being professional in all situations. But for some reason, being around Mrs. Pleasants had turned him into a tongue-tied fool. And, if acting like an idiot wasn’t enough to worry about, realizing that he cared what Emily Pleasants thought of him rattled him to his core.

Chapter Three

Pine Creek, MN



Emily lay in bed, her mind swirling in the darkness that surrounded her. The room was quiet, even with the windows open to let in the cool night air. All the businesses were closed, the last street light extinguished, yet she was unable to sleep.

She’d been exhausted when she’d first entered the room. Gertie had appeared at the door soon afterward with a tray of food from Evy’s Restaurant. The older woman had instinctively known the two travelers would be hungry but too tired to go out to eat. The creamed potato soup and fresh homemade bread had been delicious, and Emily was thankful that such a kind soul as Gertie existed in this new place they now called home.

Harry had barely finished eating when he crawled under the covers and fell fast asleep. Emily, too, thought tonight of all nights she’d fall soundly asleep when her head hit the feather pillow. She was wrong.

Night was always the most difficult time of her day. Or the best, depending upon how she felt. It was when memories flooded back to her; memories that caused pain, but also reminded her of some of the sweetest times of her life. It was only when morning came that she had to face the cold reality of her life now and of her future without little Harry’s father.

Emily glanced over at the small form sleeping beside her. Harry. What would she do without her precious reminder of the man she’d loved? Harry was the spitting image of his father in every way except one—he’d never grow up to live the life his father had lived. Emily would make sure of that.
She had come a long way since that first day she’d met her son’s father. Many more miles than her trip from California to Minnesota. Miles that had taken her from west to east, north to south, stretching to the farthest reaches of another continent. And it all started with a simple meeting in Texas.


San Antonio, Texas

1895



Ethel Emily Pleasants walked hurriedly through the streets of San Antonio’s red-light district. She had a piano lesson to give on the “proper” side of town in less than half an hour and she needed to pick up her music sheets at Fannie’s.

The petite eighteen-year-old woman with shining mahogany hair pulled up in an unassuming chignon looked oddly out of place on this street of saloons and bordellos. Anyone watching her would believe she had lost her way from a church meeting or ladies’ tea. But Ethel knew exactly where she was headed. She ducked into Fannie’s Boarding House, a respectable name for a not-so-respectable business; a place that rented rooms by the hour and held far too many lady boarders who entertained gentleman callers.

It was just past noon when Ethel entered the quiet parlor and walked directly to the upright piano in the corner of the garishly decorated room. Daytime was rest time for most of the inhabitants, although an occasional gentleman caller might be lounging on the parlor sofa, enjoying a cigar or a bit of brandy, relaxing before the night’s entertainment.

Ethel was used to such people lazing about and ignored the gentleman in the corner as she sifted through the sheets of music. She often practiced here in the early afternoon and occasionally met some of the customers, but everyone knew to keep their hands off Ethel. Although she lived in the apartment above the kitchen, she did not work here.

Feeling the man’s eyes on her back, Ethel turned slightly and gave him a curt nod. He lazily tipped his hat and she returned to her searching, hoping her gesture would be enough to warn him off. To her surprise, he rose and stepped toward her. By the time she straightened, he was standing directly behind her.

“Morning, miss,” he said softly. When she didn’t respond, he continued with a grin, “Something I can help you find there?”

Ethel didn’t know what to say. She wasn’t sure of his motives, but in a place such as this, she could guess. She studied him a moment, trying to read into his gesture. He looked older than she, but not as old as many of the men who passed through this parlor. His hair, peeking out from under his short-brimmed cowboy hat, was sandy blond, as was the trimmed mustache that dressed his lip. He wore a respectable three-piece suit with freshly polished boots. His skin was deeply tanned, as if he worked out in the sun, and his eyes were a deep, steel gray. He seemed comfortable in his suit, yet she couldn’t help but think he’d be just as comfortable in work pants and a flannel shirt, riding astride a powerful horse. Yet, there seemed to be no coarseness about him. She could see that his eyes were kind.

“Now, Harry, don’t you be bothering my young Etta here. She’s not one of the girls.” Fannie Mae Porter’s voice boomed from the wide staircase in the hallway just outside the parlor. Both occupants beside the piano turned and looked her way.

Fannie stood on the last step of the paisley carpeted stairs, covered in a long black satin nightdress with a red satin robe thrown over it. She was a buxom woman, not overweight but big enough to handle any man who got out of control. Her thick, red hair was piled flamboyantly upon her head and even now, long before her workday began, she wore a heavy coat of face paint, her lips and cheeks a brilliant red.

Ethel could only smile at the ‘Madame’ who stood before her. Fannie was like a second mother to her, taking her in and watching over her after her own mother died.

“Didn’t mean any disrespect, Miss Porter,” the man Fannie called Harry said. “I was just offering this young lady my assistance.”

Fannie stepped down off her perch and strutted over to Ethel. “Assistance my ass,” she said, her eyes twinkling. “I know what kind of assistance you have in mind and it’s not the polite kind. Now, take that hat off your head, boy. You’re in the presence of ladies.”

Harry obliged with a grin and a soft, “Sorry, ma’am.” Although his words were directed at Fannie, his eyes were on Ethel.

Yes, Ethel thought, his hair was highlighted blond by long days in the sun. Harry grinned at her and Ethel dropped her eyes, embarrassed that she had been caught studying him.

His grin did not go unnoticed by Fannie. “Don’t you get any ideas about my girl Etta,” she said, her tone serious. “She’s like a daughter to me and I protect her like a mother bear. She’s from a good family and she has a fancy Boston education and a teacher’s certificate. She’s going places, places much bigger and better than here, and she’s going to do special things. She’s not going to get herself hooked up with the likes of you, son, so don’t even think about it.”

Harry seemed to contemplate this speech, all the while his eyes on Ethel. Finally, with a nod to Fannie, he spoke. “Sorry to have bothered you, miss. Good day.” He turned and walked out the stained-glass door with Fannie hollering after him, “Come back later, Harry, and I’ll introduce you to some of the other girls.”

Ethel heard the door shut quietly behind him. The clock over the mantel chimed, reminding her of the appointment across town. She picked up the pile of sheet music and hurriedly gave Fannie a hug.
“I have a lesson to give. I’ll be back in a while.”

Fannie squeezed her back and waved goodbye.

Ethel had no sooner stepped outside when Harry matched her steps down the cobblestone sidewalk.

“Mind if I walk with you?” he asked.

She looked at him, wondering if he’d really take no for an answer. “Miss Fannie wouldn’t be pleased if she knew you were following me.”

Harry grinned. “I’m not following you, miss. I’m escorting you. Just want to make sure you reach your destination safely.”

Ethel laughed softly. “Would you stop walking with me if I asked?”

“I’m hoping you won’t ask.” His eyes sparkled mischievously.

Ethel shook her head and sighed. What harm could there be in her walking down the busy street with him? Once she arrived at her appointment, he’d surely disappear and pursue a more willing woman.

As they strolled silently through the streets, the red-light district transformed into reputable businesses, then into elegant homes. Ethel kept up a brisk pace, eager to arrive on time, and Harry kept up with her at what seemed a leisurely jaunt. Although he was not overly tall by any means, compared to her 5’3” frame he needed less steps than she to cover the same ground.

Occasionally, she glanced his way, curious about what he hoped to accomplish by accompanying her. But he only seemed interested in the neighborhood around him, seemingly unconscious of her curious glances.

“Where, exactly, are we headed?” he asked.

“I give piano lessons. One of my students lives here.”

Harry nodded, as if letting this information sink in. “You’re a music teacher?”

“Yes, partially. I’m only doing this for the extra money. I’m actually a schoolteacher, but I won’t be starting my new position until the end of the month.”

Harry nodded again, looking as if he were forming his next question when Ethel stopped suddenly.

“Here we are,” she announced. They stood in front of a large Victorian home with a steeple roof and gingerbread trim. “Thank you for your company, but I must go now.”

“May I take you to dinner after your lesson?”

Ethel hesitated, unsure of how to answer. Could she trust a man she’d first met in a brothel?

Harry seemed to have read her mind. “My intentions are completely honorable,” he said, pushing back the brim of his hat and grinning at her.

Even though he looked older than she was, when he smiled, his face took on a boyish quality. Something about that face made her want to trust him. She decided that as long as they were in a public place, it would be fine to go and eat with him.

“I’ll be finished in one hour,” she offered.

Harry nodded and slipped the hat from his head. “I’ll be waiting,” he told her with a slight bow.

Ethel headed up the brick walkway to the house, wondering if he’d really be there when she came back out. An hour later, to her surprise, he was.









Sunday, July 8, 2018

Book Review: A Widow Redefined by Kim Cano


Hi all,

I purchased A WIDOW REDEFINED by Kim Cano because the plot intrigued me. I thought I knew what kind of story it would be. Was I ever surprised. And it was a good surprise. Kim took the story in a different direction, making it unique and interesting. Below is more about this novel and my review.

A Widow Redefined
Kim Cano



Book Description:

On a cold Valentine’s Day in Chicago, Amy White, a young widow who lost her husband to cancer, visits the cemetery and makes an unsettling discovery: a bouquet of fresh daffodils lying in front of her husband’s grave.

Curiosity grows into obsession as Amy searches for the stranger who left the flowers, while keeping her activities a secret from her live-in mother and seven-year-old son. The search leads to an unusual friendship that transforms her world and redefines her life.


 Buy at:


Or Read for FREE with Kindle Unlimited.



My 5-Star Review:

Two years after the death of her husband, Amy is surprised to see that someone has left a bouquet of daffodils on his grave. Unable to push this from her mind, Amy sets out to learn who the mystery person is. When Amy sees a woman leaving flowers again, she follows her car and confronts her about her relationship with her husband. She is a beautiful woman who was a loyal customer of Amy’s husband. What ensues is an unexpected friendship with a woman who Amy had thought was a rival. Until she learns the truth.

A Widow Redefined is not the story you assume it will be. With well-developed characters and a fascinating storyline, it surprises you with interesting twists all the way to the end. Well written and thought-provoking, this story will stay with you long after you’ve closed the book.  


About the Author:

Kim Cano is the author of four women's fiction novels: A Widow Redefined, On The Inside, Eighty and Out, and His Secret Life. Kim has also written a short story collection called For Animal Lovers. 10% of the sale price of that book is donated to the ASPCA® to help homeless pets.

Kim wrote a contemporary romance called My Dream Man under the pen name Marie Solka.

Kim lives in the Chicago suburbs with her husband and cat.

Visit Kim's website to learn more and sign up to be notified of new releases: www.kimcano.com



Read my review of Kim Cano’s novel HIS SECRET LIFE

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Cover Reveal: Miss Etta: A Novel by Deanna Lynn Sletten

Hi all,

I am very excited to share with you my upcoming novel, MISS ETTA. I have been working on this novel for years...and now I'm finally able to share it with all of you. I'm also excited about the cover - created for me by the talented Deborah Bradseth of Tugboat Design.

Be sure to read below about The Real Etta Place.

Now available for preorder - MISS ETTA.

MISS ETTA

      ~A Novel~

Deanna Lynn Sletten

Book Description:


She rode with the most famous outlaws of her time. Then she vanished.

In the fall of 1895, Etta Place falls in love with Harry Longabaugh, alias the Sundance Kid. She gives up everything to follow him and his partner-in-crime, Butch Cassidy, in their outlaw life across the continent and beyond. Breathtakingly beautiful and every inch a lady, Etta can also ride and shoot as well as any man. As their fugitive life begins to crumble, she finds herself alone and living in a convent with her newborn son. Knowing she can’t hide away forever, she moves halfway across the country to begin anew. Etta prays her past won’t catch up with her.

In 1911 Emily Pleasants steps onto the train station platform of Pine Creek, Minnesota with a teacher’s contract in hand and a secret life she’s fled. A young widow with a small son, she’s searching for a safe place to raise her child where no one will recognize her. She meets Edward Sheridan, a successful merchant and bank owner, who quickly falls for her beauty, intelligence, and kindness. Still, she worries her notorious past will threaten the one thing dearest to her—her son.

From the deserts of Texas to the sweeping vistas of Wyoming, the refinement of New York City to the lush valleys of Argentina, Etta followed the outlaw men she loved so dearly. And then, she disappeared.

One woman, two separate lives. What became of the elusive Etta Place?


Historical Women's Fiction
Release Date: September 4, 2018


Preorder now!

Amazon Kindle: http://ow.ly/Q2HP30kmYjM


Barnes & Noble Nook: http://ow.ly/JOeu30kjekn

Apple iBooks: http://ow.ly/pZUJ30kmk9N






Coming soon to Paperback and Audiobook



Harry Longabaugh alias the Sundance Kid
and Etta Place.
The Real Etta Place:


Etta Place was a real woman who was married to the notorious outlaw the Sundance Kid. From 1895 to 1907, she followed Sundance and Butch Cassidy, the leader of the Wild Bunch, along the Outlaw Trail and down to South America where the threesome tried to go straight. She was a young, beautiful woman who was said to be refined and mannered, even though she could shoot and ride as well as any man. No one knew her real name. She went by the alias Etta Place, but some thought her name was Ethel. Sometime around 1906–1908, she disappeared. Some say that during that time, she died in a Denver hospital and Sundance went on a drunken brawl and shot up a bar before returning to South America. Others say she died in childbirth. Stories persist that she left Sundance for someone else, that she came back to America alone, or that she died in the final shootout in San Vincente, Bolivia where it was believed that Butch and Sundance died. In reality, no woman was killed during that shootout, and there has yet to be any evidence that Butch or Sundance died that day.

What became of Etta Place? No one knows. And that is what makes her story so interesting. Using a timeline of true events that are known, I create her past life with Butch and Sundance, while giving a fictional version of her life after she disappeared. Enjoy!

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Book Review: The Prayer by Norma Budden




The Prayer

(The Wish Trilogy Book One)

Norma Budden


Book Description:

University student, Sierra, has become bored with life, unable to find passion for anything. All she desires is to get in her car and drive.

Five-year-old Tamara loves her mom with all of her heart, but the unthinkable happens: her mom falls and suffers a head injury, then goes into a coma. A month later, the heartache has become too much to bear so she insists upon a trip to the ER, where she meets Doc Brady and wishes he could be the dad she never had.

Long after Tamara left the ER, she was still on Brady's mind – so much that, at the end of his shift, he makes a trip upstairs to visit her mother, Katarina. The moment he sees her lifeless form in the bed, he gravitates toward her in a way that takes him by surprise, even as a paternal instinct he didn't know he possessed yearns to shelter Tamara from further emotional pain.

A chance meeting later brings Sierra and Brady together. As they get to know each other, an emotional connection develops between them, but is it strong enough to withstand the pull Brady feels toward Katarina?

When all is said and done, will Brady and Tamara be able to hold onto each other, become the father-daughter team they both desire, or will something greater than either of them imagined stand in their way?

Buy Now on:


Or read for free on Kindle Unlimited


My 5-Star Review:

A college student has yet to find her passion in life. A young girl is desperate for her mother to come out of a coma. A doctor tries to help the young girl, and in the process finds he is being drawn to both mother and daughter. Three strangers are pulled together by fate, design, or as the answer to a prayer.

THE PRAYER, the first book in The Wish Trilogy, by Norma Budden is a heartfelt story about love and faith. Filled with a cast of interesting characters, heartwarming moments, and a few twists and turns, it is sure to hold your interest and leave you wanting more. I highly recommend this story to readers who believe in the power of faith.


About the Author:

Norma Budden currently makes her home in Arctic Canada where she has lived for 25+ years. Working as a department manager at The North West Company by day and writer/mother/grandmother by night, Norma knows what it's like to be busy and appreciates moments of solitude, perhaps, more than the average person.

Though Norma's first serious attempts at writing involved poetry and song, she later went on to write non-fiction titles. However, over recent years, her truest passion seems to be in writing stories to appeal to readers' emotions, with a touch of mystery and romance built into the stories.

Norma is the proud author of the Freedom in Love series which, currently, has five titles published: An Affair to Remember, When Love Abides, Soul Confessions, Divided Loyalties and The Promise. She has recently published the first book in The Wish Trilogy titled, The Prayer. She is also the author of stand-alone titles, Coming Unglued: A Mother's Journey into Hell and If Only, among others.

Some of Norma's greatest passions in life are reading, writing, traveling and taking photos. She enjoys spending time with friends and spending time in the great outdoors.

You can learn more about what is happening in her world by visiting http://www.normasbooks.com

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