Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Odessa is here!

Born on February 7th, around 3:30 PM EST, my latest baby made her appearance.  This was a fun book to write, and as most of my other western historical romances, is sweet enough for your teenage daughters to read. 

Here's a blurb and a short excerpt:

The wagon carrying Odessa Clay and her father overturns, killing him.  Alone and scared in the middle of the desert, she faces finding her way to Phoenix and Aunt Susan. Food and water run out, and Odessa is near death when Zach Johnson finds her.  Squinting up into his tanned and handsome face, Dessie believes she’s died and gone to heaven.

Would-be-outlaw, Zach Johnson finds an unconscious woman alone in the middle of nowhere.  Where did she come from?  First glance: she appears young, but the curves beneath the dusty gingham say otherwise.  He didn’t plan to become someone’s hero, but how can he leave her stranded?

Will the promise of Odessa’s sweet lips lure Zach from the secret mission that has his gut twisted into a knot?  His father’s ranch isn’t the only thing at stake—now it’s his heart.


Odessa Clay struggled to lift the overturned wagon off her father. Her muscles burned and splinters dug into her palms, but Papa’s ashen face and eyes squinting with pain inspired her determination. She bit her bottom lip and struggled to stay calm.

“God, please help me,” she muttered through clenched teeth, as she pushed, shoved, and lifted with every ounce of strength she had left. The veins in the backs of her hands bulged, but the wagon didn’t budge. At one hundred pounds and barely five feet tall, she proved no match for solid wood. Her chest heaved and
each breath took effort. She brushed sweat-dampened hair from her brow and knelt. All her struggling had only succeeded in setting the left rear wheel into a slow spin and creating an eerie whirring in the silence.

“Hold on, Papa. I’ll find some way to help you.” Her nails bit into her fisted palms.
His pale features contorted, and fear clutched her heart. She rose and stared up and down the trail. Nothing stirred except the hot wind that whipped her long hair into tangles and sent a dust funnel swirling in the distance.

Turning her attention back to her father, she again attempted to lift the wagon’s cumbersome weight and failed.

“Can anyone hear me?” She screamed the words as she searched the trail again. 

The dirt road unfurled like a brown ribbon between the expanse of cactus and sagebrush. Odessa, refusing to let her father see her hopelessness, blinked back tears.

Anger heated her blood. This was all her fault. First her mother died giving birth, and now her father was dying because of her.

He wanted her to have a woman’s influence in her life—have more opportunities. Their trip had gone smoothly until Papa failed to see a treacherous spot in the trail in time for the team to avoid it.
The same wheel that spun now had been the one that slipped into a ragged rut and tipped the wagon over. She’d jumped clear, but her father remained pinned beneath the sideboard from the waist down. The accident snapped the harness rigging, and the animals ran off. What she wouldn’t give for one to wander back right now.

She rushed to the other side and pulled with all her might on the front wheel. Praying for strength, she gritted her teeth and tugged until splinters from the prickly-wooded spoke tore into her flesh. There was nothing she could do. The wagon wouldn’t shift.

Something stung above her left eye and she swiped her knuckles across the spot. Blood mixed with the dirt on her hand and created rust-colored mud. She wiped the stain on her sleeve and scanned the area for something to use for leverage. Her father had often lifted things by using a piece of wood or a log from a fallen
tree. She hitched up her skirt and traipsed through sparse knee high
weeds, praying to find something—anything.

“Stay with me, Papa, I’m looking.” She cast another hopeful glance at the trail. Still no one in sight. Why had they decided to make this wretched trip to Phoenix? Just because Aunt Susan lived there? Odessa’s stomach churned with fear and her mind
spun in a hundred directions. What if she couldn’t get Papa out?

She spied nothing but rocks, boulders and a broken saguaro arm too rotten to use. Her shoulders sagged as she returned empty handed to the wagon. Her father’s face appeared even more ashen and his breathing ragged. A scarlet pool colored the dirt beneath him. She hunkered beside him and took his hand. Why had God let this happen?

Before she found her voice, his eyes fluttered open. “Don’t fret, Dessie. I’m not afraid to die. Your Ma is waiting for me.” His weak voice faded into a cough then his face puckered into a grimace. He licked his lips.

“Do you want water, Papa?” She swiveled to fetch the canteen, but he grabbed her arm.“

No.” He took a shallow breath. “I’m worried about you, darlin’. Find your Aunt Susan and let her know what happened. She’ll take care of you.” He moaned and swallowed hard. “All I know is she'd somewhere close to Phoenix.  Tell her I'm sor..."

Odessa squeezed his hand. “Don’t leave me, Papa.”

His hand slackened in hers, and a final breath escaped his already blue lips. She remembered the distinct death rattle from when her grandmother passed away a few months back. Odessa collapsed across her father and wept. The day had started out with such excitement, and now she’d become an orphan. Being alone
in the middle of nowhere magnified the pain of her loss. Was she destined to die too?

She sat up and gazed through blurred eyes at her father’s face. Her chest ached as though someone embedded a knife within her heart. If not for the smudges of blood and dirt on Papa’s cheeks, he almost appeared to be sleeping. In a way he was. The eternal sleep of the angels. She splayed her fingers through his hair and sobbed. 

“Please wake up. I don’t want to be alone.”

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