Sunday, July 22, 2012

Ginger's Sunday Sampler - Western Roundup Event

Yee Haw!!! Today, I have the unique opportunity to share a bit of my newest release while still participating in the Western Roundup Giveaway Hop.  Today, Sarah's Heart is my offering.  I love this story, but because some people didn't truly GET the reason for the different-type ending, I have just completed a sequel (novella) to tie everything up for those who needed a little more.  I'm very pleased with the outcome, so you get a twofer today...first Sarah's Heart:

Blurb:

Will the man of mixed blood save her life, or will she save his?

When Sarah Collins sets her sights on California for a new beginning, she never dreams a war party will attack the wagon train she travels on. She and her new-found friend Molly are the sole survivors, but when Molly succumbs to her injuries, Sarah is left alone to find her way back to civilization. While trying to mount a stolen horse, she suffers a rattlesnake bite that threatens to accomplish what the Indians failed. Is it her time to die or does Sarah have a purpose she's yet to discover?

Excerpt:

1850 – Somewhere on the Santa Fe Trail

Sarah Collins struggled to open her eyes against the glare, but the pounding pain in her head urged her to keep them closed. She swept the tip of her tongue across cracked lips, her mouth as dry as the feathers in her pillow—yet she felt no downy softness beneath her, only an uncomfortable jabbing in her back. Her palms groped along something gritty. Where was she?

Suddenly patchy memories flooded back. The taste of bile filled her throat. She struggled to sit, groaning as she pushed herself up from the dusty ground and the offending stone stabbing at her spine. Her eyes misted with tears, and fear clutched at her chest as she surveyed what remained of the wagon train.

Grasping her constricting throat, Sarah stood, scanning the eerie site. The bodies of her new friends lay scattered amongst the smoking ruins, some oddly contorted and others positioned just as they’d fallen. Her heart ached for the mother who sat propped against a wagon wheel, clutching her baby to her breast—both obviously dead. Sarah covered her mouth to stifle a scream. Oh sweet Jesus, why kill a defenseless infant?

Was she the only survivor? As evidenced by an attacker’s body lying a few feet from her, someone had interceded and saved her life. There had to be someone else alive. There had to be! The hair on the back of her neck bristled.

If not for the carnage, the day would be beautiful—wispy clouds floated in a powder blue sky, and an endless sea of waving prairie grass announced the arrival of spring. The only sound came from water bubbling in the nearby stream as it traveled over a rocky bed.
Sarah remembered everything now. They had just made camp when war cries sliced the air. A few hours of daylight remained, but one family’s illness prompted the wagon master to halt travel for the day. Supper fires hadn’t even been lit when a band of whooping Indians with painted faces stormed the group. There must have been twenty or more on horseback. The last thing Sarah recalled was running to fetch her rifle.

She dusted off and inspected her body for injury. Other than her throbbing head, she assumed she was all right until something warm trickled into her eye. Her fingertips reddened from touching a sticky substance on her temple, and she flashed back to the terror of looking into the scarred face of the brave whose tomahawk struck only a glancing blow. Recalling those hate-filled eyes sent a shudder through her.

Her bonnet dangled down her back, its ribbon annoyingly tight across her throat. She pulled at the ties, easing the choking feeling, and then inspected the stained head covering. After wiping her bloodied hand on the yellow gingham, she tossed it to the ground where her body’s partial outline still etched the dirt.

The sun hadn’t risen very high above the horizon. She must have been unconscious all night. Releasing a pent up breath, she lifted her dress and ripped a piece from her petticoat, folded the cloth and held it to her wound. Fear clutched at her core, and unbridled tears ran down her cheeks as she prayed to see another living soul. Surely she was no better than the rest of these simple folk who were trying to find a new start. Why would God spare only her?

“Hello, can anyone hear me?” She called out in a faltering voice, then scanned the campsite and listened, but no answer came. Nothing moved.

Sarah started toward her smoldering Conestoga, now barely recognizable. She’d used her last penny to buy the wagon to make this trip, hiring a driver and packing everything she owned into the beautifully crafted prairie schooner. This wasn’t how things were supposed to be. Headed for California, she wanted to leave all her bad memories in Missouri and forge new and happier ones. Maybe any minute she would awaken and discover this was all just a horrible nightmare. The pain in her head dragged her back to reality.

The smaller wagon behind Sarah’s, unscathed except for the arrows jutting from the canvas covering, bore testament to the violent attack. In contrast, the delicate feathers decorating the shafts gently swayed in the breeze. Drifting smoke stung her eyes. She called out again, but still no response.

Gathering her wits, Sarah forced her reluctant legs to move. Unsteady at first, her determination gave her strength. She fought the urge to retch when passing the body of the wagon master, Mr. Simms. The top of his head had been slashed off, leaving a bloody pulp. She jerked her gaze away only to see three more male bodies, one clutching a lance stuck deep in his chest. All had been desecrated in the same manner.

She swallowed hard and forced herself to continue her search, circling the camp and finding more bodies as she went from wagon to wagon. Next to what remained of her own, she found Fred Tanner, her driver. His eyes stared lifelessly at the sky; an arrow protruded from a dried circle of blood in the middle of his shirt. He, too, had been scalped. Bending, and focusing only on his placid face, she gently closed his lids, fighting guilt. In their business arrangement, he had ended up paying far more dearly than she had.

****************

Although this is a Western Roundup, the "dream" man continues in modern day in this contemporary sequel.  Everyone has a tie to the past, and here's what's available today on Amazon.  (Whoot!)  Sarah's Passion!

Blurb:

Do dreams really come true? Sarah Collins awakens from one so real that tears still dampen her cheeks. Like a dust devil in a dying windstorm, all traces of the handsome half-breed with whom she shared a passionate farewell kiss have vanished…until he appears at her door, a new neighbor, and no longer her guide to safety from the wagon-train massacre she survived. Has fate given them another chance at romance, or will modern-day events prove as challenging as the prejudices of the old west?
 
Excerpt:

“Nathaniel Elder.” Sarah Collins leaned her elbows atop the manuscript spread across her desk and rested her chin between her raised palms. Her editing chore forgotten, she stared into space, picturing “Wolf’s” handsome face and puzzling over the amazement that led him to her doorstep directly from a dream so real she awoke with tears still wet on her cheeks.

“Something wrong, Miss Collins?” A brusque voice sliced through her thoughts.

Sarah jerked upright and stared into the pockmarked face of her supervisor, Mr. Crane. He stood in her doorway, his unibrow crooked upward with piqued curiosity. “No sir, nothing’s wrong. I-I was just thinking.” Shaking fingers straightened the manuscript pages she’d scattered to find where she’d left off. The mere presence of the man raised the hair on her arms, much the same the horrid banker from her dream had. Silas McCann. She shuddered at the memory of his horse-like yellowed teeth.
 
“Think on your own time, Miss Collins. You get paid to edit not daydream.” Mr. Crane disappeared down the hallway, his heels clicking against the aged brown tile. Maybe she’d read too many western historical tales, but the term, ‘burr beneath his saddle,’ came to mind. He never smiled and always acted like he was pissed at life. If only he knew how miserable he made his employees, but surely no one had the nerve to confront him--needing job security and all.
 
Tucking thoughts of her night vision and miserable supervisor aside, Sarah pulled her chair closer to the desk and started reading. The words didn’t register, and she re-read the same sentence five times before giving up. She tossed her head back and sighed. “It’s no use, I can’t concentrate.” Pushing away from the desk, she closed her eyes and massaged the bridge of her nose.
 
How could she feel so attached to a man she’d only dreamed about? They’d never met, at least not in this lifetime. Past lives? Dreams? The entire situation was far too confusing for her feeble brain. Her new neighbor had moved here from God knows where, with his sister, Molly, who by the way, just happened to share the name of someone else in the dream. What were the chances that Nathaniel also had the same ‘nickname’ as the Indian-named ‘hero’ in her dream?
 
This day couldn’t pass fast enough. She checked the clock on the wall, anxious to get home. Four more hours? No one could effectively edit in her condition. She’d just have to fake being busy, just in case the ogre happened by again. Her thoughts focused on dinner and what to fix. Her new neighbors were coming to dine. She’d asked them as a way of welcoming them to the neighborhood. Yeah right! His drop-dead gorgeousness had nothing to do with the invitation, nor did the fact that in her dream they’d just shared the most passionate kiss ever. One could only hope she wasn’t losing her mind. Considering the memories rolling through her brain, even a psychiatrist probably couldn’t sort them out.
 
She made another attempt at the editing task--another historical manuscript, but each mention of the Indian hero summoned forth visions of Nathaniel and the way they’d met, journeyed together, and fought the growing attraction between them. Sarah rolled her eyes. How crazy to expect tonight to resolve her confusion. 
 
She pictured herself trying to explain why she felt she knew them both. “Hi, Molly, nice to see you again, and alive this time. I’m really sorry I couldn’t heal your wounds after the war-party attacked, but…” Yeah, that wasn’t a one-way ticket to the loony bin. Now her insides quaked, but for an entirely different reason. How did one act normal around people you felt certain you already knew--people you loved and lost?

***************
Both of my stories are available on Amazon, along with my other western works and tales in different genres.  Rita will take over tomorrow, but I'll be back on Wednesday with yet another book to share.

Don't forget to leave a comment to be entered in the drawing for your choice of a book from both my 'pardner' and me.  Also...scroll down and visit the other sites for more changes to delve into the wonderful world of westerns.  You can find the completed list and links here and view the participants below:

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