Today is the inaugural post for Romance Weekly. A bunch of us romance writers have gotten together, where we link to one another’s posts. In each post, the authors will answer three questions, which are different every week. So here are my questions/answers!

1. What made you start writing romance as opposed to any other genre of literature?

Honestly, it’s because every story that I ever loved had at least some element of romance to it. Part of writing romance is about the HEA. We don’t always get those in real life–sometimes, the best friend dies. Sometimes, the hero stays dead. Sometimes, you won’t get your happy ending, no matter how hard you try or how much you beg your higher power for it. There will be times when the answer you get from heaven is no.

But in romance, that answer is always yes! No matter what obstacles stand in their way, the hero and the heroine will live out their happy ending. Every. Single. Time. There is something comforting about that. These are books that you will read over and over again, books that are an escape from the tragedy we are so often dealt. I write romance because I want that escape–my life is complicated enough. When I read for pleasure, I want to know that things are going to work out. I don’t pick up a romance because I want an ugly cry–I pick up a romance because, when I turn the final page, I want to think to myself, “Darn right. As it should be.”

2. Why do you think romance continues to be a market leading genre?

Well, first, I think it’s that people want a happy ending. In this age of high speed communication, we are inundated with bad news: kids shooting each other at school, people killing doctors in hospitals, flu outbreaks across the nation, starvation in Africa and the Middle East, war, famine, poverty. Bad things. I think, after awhile, people just get tired of it, drained of compassion and hollow inside.

I think romance balances that out. When someone picks up a romance novel, they know they’re getting a happy ending. That love will conquer all, despite all the bad stuff that happens to them. What romance novels offer, and what so many major critics of the genre fail to understand, is that romance is the one genre that consistently offers hope. It’s not all pain and blackness. In the end, the characters find real joy. There is beauty in that message, and in it, an implicit promise that, no matter how bad things get, everything will turn out as it should. I love the optimism in that. It’s why I started reading romances in the first place.

3. In what way do you see romance today reflecting the way women’s role in society has changed?

Well. That’s a good question. I suppose it could be summed up this way: in the past, women had to wait for the men to rescue them. Now, the women can rescue the men. We expect our men to be strong and brave, but we expect the same thing from our heroines. We don’t expect our heroines to be able to punch out a bear (all the time), but we do expect that they will behave in a manner that will allow her to solve her problem for herself. When I think of the older romances, the women were relatively helpless. Certainly this was part of the zeitgeist–women were supposed to be domestic, young, virginal, subservient, and generally well-behaved. Romances today allow for poorly behaved heroines, older heroines, and working women and single mothers. Instead of having only those two infamous depictions of femininity–the Madonna and the Whore–most heroines today are painted with shades of gray, with flaws and strengths. Not every heroine is a virgin, but neither is she a fallen woman. Not every heroine is young, nubile, and sublimely beautiful, either. I think this reflects society’s changing values, where we are honoring people who are like ourselves rather than some idealized, false notion of perfection.

I really hope that answers that question. Shucks, that was hard!

Want to know what other people think on these topics? Follow the link to read more! I can’t wait to read what she has to say!



Title: Son of Thunder
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Heat: Sizzling

The son of the Thunder God, Thor, has a lot to live up to…and no time for love.

The man looked like a god. Then again, he was one. . .

Jord Thorson was a god– the son of Thor, the Norse God of Thunder. In his search to find his missing father, Jord seeks out the mortal, Meghan Larson, who is in possession of his only clue–Megingjörð, Thor’s magical belt of power.

But when the belt decides to take matters into its own hands, locking itself around Meghan’s waist, Jord and Meghan are plunged into the middle of a massive conflict that rages across the heavens.

Giants, magical artifacts, and a golden city in the clouds weren’t exactly what Meghan Larson expected when that amazing belt arrived at her museum. Now Megingjörð is stuck around her waist and talking to her in her head. She’s got to be dreaming, but with the wonders around her and hunky Jord Thorson at her side, Meghan’s not sure she wants to wake up.

The rainbow ended on a street that appeared to be paved with silver stones. Jord pulled up to the first building, a tall tower of a structure. As he turned off the cycle Meghan jumped from the seat and swatted his shoulder.

“You might have warned me a bit, about what to expect.” Her heart was still racing, but now that her feet appeared to be on solid ground again she felt herself calming down.

“Be honest.” He smiled at her. “Would you have believed me if I’d told you?”

Had anything that had happened to her lately been believable?
Title: Son of Thunder
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Heat: Sizzling

The son of the Thunder God, Thor, has a lot to live up to…and no time for love.

The man looked like a god. Then again, he was one. . .

Jord Thorson was a god– the son of Thor, the Norse God of Thunder. In his search to find his missing father, Jord seeks out the mortal, Meghan Larson, who is in possession of his only clue–Megingjörð, Thor’s magical belt of power.

But when the belt decides to take matters into its own hands, locking itself around Meghan’s waist, Jord and Meghan are plunged into the middle of a massive conflict that rages across the heavens.

Giants, magical artifacts, and a golden city in the clouds weren’t exactly what Meghan Larson expected when that amazing belt arrived at her museum. Now Megingjörð is stuck around her waist and talking to her in her head. She’s got to be dreaming, but with the wonders around her and hunky Jord Thorson at her side, Meghan’s not sure she wants to wake up.

The rainbow ended on a street that appeared to be paved with silver stones. Jord pulled up to the first building, a tall tower of a structure. As he turned off the cycle Meghan jumped from the seat and swatted his shoulder.
“You might have warned me a bit, about what to expect.” Her heart was still racing, but now that her feet appeared to be on solid ground again she felt herself calming down.
“Be honest.” He smiled at her. “Would you have believed me if I’d told you?”
Had anything that had happened to her lately been believable?

“No,” she admitted.

“Jord!” A husky voice called from the doorway of the building. “Welcome home.”

A large man in blue jeans and a black t-shirt with an ornate sword belt strapped around his waist leaned on the doorpost of the tower entrance. He had short blond hair and a very full beard. The sword at his side had to be almost four feet long. He was smiling and waving.

“Heimie.” Jord went to take his outstretched hand. “Any news of my father?”

“None that I’ve heard,” Heimie replied. “Your grandfather has been looking for you though. Maybe he has some news I haven’t heard.”

“There isn’t anything you haven’t heard, Heimie.” He patted the man on the shoulder.

The man then looked a Meghan, raising one of his eyebrows. “And what do we have here?”

Jord turned to her. “Heimie, meet Meghan Larson. Meghan this is Heimdall, guardian of Bifrost, the Rainbow Bridge. He’s kind of like the TSA at airports.”

“Welcome, Meghan Larson,” Heimdall said. “Welcome to Asgaard.”

You can purchase Son of Thunder at:
Amazon Author Page:


What’s it Worth to be a Writer?

Like many writers I know, I also have a day job.

Many of us tell ourselves that it’s just temporary, just until we can get our big break. Sure, I’ve been guilty of that, too, but over time I’ve become more realistic.

And here is my reality: in 19 years, I will retire from my day job.

The good thing about this is that I love my day job. I don’t think I’d quit, even if I could. So the idea of retiring in 19 years isn’t especially heart breaking for me. I’m not slaving away at a job I hate while I wait for the big break. I have a job I love at a site I love with coworkers I adore. And you can’t beat the clientele for cuteness (3-6 year olds, now that mine are almost seven and nine? Awesome. I get my baby fix every day. Not many people can say that). So I’m not sad about that.

But here’s the reality, folks. Writers don’t make a ton of money. Certainly, not for the hours we put in. For a long time, I felt bad that my books hadn’t taken off. Sure, I never expected to be the next Dan Brown or Sylvia Day, but I thought a little extra cash on the side would be nice.

Then I found this article.

I don’t feel so bad, anymore.

Last year, I did pretty well comparatively. Not enough to retire on, or even enough to put down a down payment on a new car, but it was enough to buy myself a new laptop, so that’s something.

I don’t write for the money. I don’t teach for it either, because I won’t become rich doing either one. The recognition of all that work is nice, but I write because I love it, because I have a story to tell and I’m the only one who can do it justice. Since I’m no bard (no one needs to hear that from me), I guess writing is the way to do it.

So, to all of you who are aspiring: the odds are you won’t become rich writing. But just because the majority of writers never hit it big doesn’t mean that Lady Luck won’t smile upon you. Or me. Even if it takes more than 19 years to do it!

Romance Weekly: Coming Soon to a Blog Near You (or, at least, this one)


‘Do you like to read romance novels? Wouldn’t you like to know more about your favorite authors? Well you came to the right place! Join the writers of Romance Weekly as we go behind the scenes of our books and tell all….. About our writing of course! Every week we’ll answer questions and after you’ve enjoyed the blog on this site we’ll direct you to another. So come back often for a thrilling ride! Tell your friends and feel free to ask us questions in the comment box.’

So join me next Thursday as I embark on my Romance Weekly Blog! And click on the links to read about fabulous authors!

The Care and Keeping of an Allergic Celiac–Recipe Time!

Cooking, in my family, is a dangerous proposition.

I’m allergic to eggs and beef. I also have celiac and, even after having my gallbladder removed, too much fat sends me into fits of agony.

Husband is Type I diabetic.

Daughter gets stomach migraines from artificial colors.

Son is lactose sensitive. He can have dairy, but I limit it. Otherwise, he’s moaning in the bathroom, and that’s no bueno. (He’d take the hit every day if left to his own devices, though)

Anyway, so I made these cereal bars. They’re pretty easy (have to be, with my schedule), everyone liked them, and it was easy enough to adapt to GF. They’re good snacks to put in lunches, too! Just freeze and let them defrost in the lunch box. My child is particularly messy, so sure, he might come into my office after school looking like a crime scene, but hey. That could happen anyway, so I’ll take my chances.

Very Berry Oatmeal Bars

1 3/4 cups gluten free flour of your choice
(all purpose is easy; a sorghum/quinoa/tapioca/arrowroot blend has more protein and fiber, but that’s a lot of flours to have on hand. And a pain. And I’m lazy)
1 1/2 cups GF oats (many celiacs are sensitive to oats, so you have to be careful with this. I do okay, so here we are!)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
3/4 cup melted butter
(you could just as easily use margarine if you want to go totally vegan, but margarine gives me the willies.)
1/2 cup agave nectar (I have replaced this with stevia and whey sugar. If using a dry sugar, decrease flour by 1/4 cup, and increase butter by 1/4 cup)
1/2 cup frozen mixed berries, defrosted and drained (Jam can be used, and because of the consistency, holds up better for lunches–it’s less like a crime scene–but I like the decreased sugar of mixed berries. Hm… I bet that apple compote I made in October would be great with this.)

Mix together flour, oats, baking powder, and salt. Stir in agave nectar and melted butter until crumbly. Press half of the mixture into a prepared 8×8 inch baking pan (because the last thing you want to do is expand your child’s vocabulary in new and exciting ways because the darn bars got stuck! Incidentally, darn was not one of the words I used.) Spread the fruit or jam over the top. Sprinkle remaining oat mixture on top of the fruit layer, pressing down to cover.

Bake in a 350° oven for 30 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool completely and the cut into squares. I refrigerate mine before I wrap each bar individually and then put in a freezer bag and freeze them!

(I was going to include a picture, but we ate them all. So, uh, sorry?)


Here is the second post for today. I’m participating in Collette Cameron’s blog hop, where, for following the authors involved, you have the chance to win some awesome goodies…one of them being my book, The Marker!

All you have to do to win my book is leave a comment on the blog, and I will randomly choose the winner on January 30. But to win other cool prizes, including a Kindle paperwhite, visit Collette Cameron’s blog!


THURSDAY THREADS welcomes Sandra Harris

Title: Alien, Mine by Sandra Harris
Genre: Science Fiction Romance
Heat Level: Sizzling


Torn from modern day Earth and stranded on the far side of the Galaxy, Sandrea Fairbairn must use every particle of courage she possesses to adjust to her new life and live for tomorrow.

Eugen Mhartak, a general in the Tri-Race Alliance Army, refuses to bow to the merciless Bluthen. Haunted by the loss of far too many innocent lives he has vowed to drive the ruthless invaders from Alliance space.

The strength and valour of Eugen Mhartak attracts Sandrea as no man ever has, but she struggles to read the enigmatic general’s heart. Determined to help him triumph over the Bluthen she uncovers a diabolical plot against the Alliance.

Drawn by the courage and exotic beauty of Sandrea, Mhartak battles to overcome the barriers of cross-cultural differences that separate them and claim her ardent interest. He must conquer his deepest fears to be the man she needs. When his principles are betrayed by his own government and he is faced with the impossible prospect of taking Sandrea’s life in order to save his home planet, Mhartak desperately searches for a way to keep safe both his world and the magnificent woman who has stolen his heart.


“I’m sure Miss Sandrea is safe, Sir.” Sergeant Kulluk’s voice interrupted Mhartak’s sombre contemplation of his moon-speckled boots.
He shifted his back against the rock he leaned against and stretched his legs before him. Trying to get comfortable while wearing body armour was still an art he had yet to master, even after all these years. The subdued murmurs of Corporal Shrenkner and Privates Ragnon and Dovzshak drifted from the dark behind him. Their quiet discussion on the aptitude of the Magran villagers and their resolve to defend their settlement with the weapons reaped from the fallen Bluthen heartened him.
Pride in his team warmed him as no fire could. They’d routed the Bluthen despite being outnumbered five to one. Cold and weary, with nothing but combat rations to satisfy hunger, they nevertheless followed covert procedure without murmur. He hadn’t even had to issue an order to prohibit fires. They were no keener to advertise their position than he.
“Your brother is a good man,” Kulluk continued. “He’ll ensure nothing harmful befalls our little human.”
A bristling sense of possessive anger flared through Mhartak’s gut. The only ‘our’ Sandrea belonged to was him and her, even if he was yet to convince her of that.
“He’ll protect her,” Kulluk offered.
Yes, T’Hargen’s protective instincts ran deep—too deep for his own good.
“And she’ll feel safe. He always was a charming . . . person.”
That, Sergeant, is what concerns me.





The Year That Is

Well, last week I promised to tell you about my New Year’s goals, so here they are:

1. I’m hoping to get in shape. Not Jillian Michael’s shape or anything like that–my goals are somewhat more modest. I used to think I wanted to run a 10K, but not anymore. Now, I just want to be able to hike the trails I want without sounding like Darth Vader about to throw a thrombo. We loved the camping so much last year, and there are some pretty fantastic trails I want to conquer.

2. I’m going to finish my current WIP, and then I’m going to write another historical, I think, because I need a break from the series (and I’m finding myself missing historicals). Once that’s finished, I hope to write the second in the series. In theory, I can do this in a year. We’ll see how it goes in practice.

3. After that? Well, I’m going to try to get an agent, but I don’t think that will happen this year. While I can write two full length books in a year, it’s really hard because I can’t dedicate myself to writing full time (unless someone wants to drop major bank on my head, and then yes, I can quit the day job with all the nice benefits. I don’t write for the money–obviously–but I won’t lie and say it isn’t a powerful motivator. Right now, the money lies in the day job. That, and I like the day job. I like it enough that when Hubs and I play, “What would you do if we won the lottery?” I’m actually hard pressed to say I’ll quit. Cut back on my hours, sure. Go half time? Absolutely. But quit? I don’t know about that. I think I need to socialization)

4. I am going to master baking gluten-free bread. I’m okay at it now, but I get bogged down with the various flours. This past year, I tackled sugar free, gluten-free, and egg-free carrot cake. I know, I know, it also sounds taste-free too, because, let’s face it, eggs, gluten and sugar make things delicious! But it was actually pretty good. I substituted whey sugar and agave nectar for refined white sugar. While the agave nectar will raise blood sugar, it doesn’t spike it in the same way that sugar does, and the whey sugar is supposed to be diabetic friendly. Not that carrots are, but hey, it was Husband’s birthday. Monk even liked it well enough that she requested it for her birthday in a few weeks.

(I keep diverting off topic. Sorry. It’s early, and I’m off coffee for a little while)

5. I really, really hope to garden this year. My back yard was kind of destroyed last summer when the sprinklers broke while we were on vacation. It was during a heat wave, and my grass died.

Given that state of affairs, I now have a blank slate to work with for my garden. I want to grow kale, tomatoes and peppers (Pasillas and jalapeños are my favorites, but anaheims are good, too), and maybe some cucumbers and squash. Maybe even collard greens, since I’m so fond of them right now, and green beans.

I’ve never been successful at growing greens or beans (my experience with greens is limited, and I can’t seem to make beans produce more than two beans per plant), so I guess we’ll see how that goes.

For now, that’s it. It’s a pretty short list, but I think a rather ambitious one. I want to write and play in the dirt. All in all, those seem like admirable goals to me.

A Year in Review

I elected to post this a few days after New Year’s for a couple of reasons:

1) I didn’t want my post to get in the way of the Thursday Thread

2) I wanted to be able to leave this up for a little bit longer while I think about the year ahead.

This year was… busy. At the end of 2012, I’d decided to go to graduate school and get a PhD in Speech Pathology. I took the GRE, did okay, I guess, and, indeed, got accepted to the program.

But I didn’t take it.

The pay cut was too big. Sure, they’d pay for classes, but I had to work for them for 20 hours a week, and the pay was less than half of what I would make if I just worked per diem. I could work half time for the school district, pay for all my classes myself, and still come out ahead (that’s how little it was). But I was told that I had to work for them, regardless of who paid for my classes.

So I said thanks, but no thanks. I’m a little sad I didn’t take it, but it’s okay. I’m not unhappy doing what I’m doing, and I never was. That wasn’t why I wanted to the PhD.

Anyway, I had surgery again in May to repair yet another hernia. It was my fourth hernia repair in three years, and was not my favorite thing in the world. Yet another reason why I was reluctant to leave my job for a PhD: I have okay insurance, but coupled with husband’s insurance, it’s pretty awesome. Double coverage pretty much rocks, when it comes to surgery and hospital stays.

Also in May, because I wasn’t going to graduate school and putting us in the poor house, husband and I bought a small, used travel trailer. It really is pretty tiny, and husband and I sleep on what is supposed to be the dinette, but it works for us. We went camping several times over the summer, to places I have always wanted to go, but never been: Crater Lake. Bend, OR. The Oregon coast. Various places in CA. We saw salmon running, watched a bald eagle catch a fish early one morning, and had deer munching on grass right across from our trailer. We also learned that our very scary looking German shepherd is great with throngs of people and super with little kids, but terrible with other dogs. Lord, he’s barky.

I think we had the best vacations we ever had. If we didn’t want to be in town for a weekend, we weren’t. We dry camped for a couple of those weekends, which meant that it was basically free. The burn restrictions kind of stunk, but better to follow the rules and NOT cause a forest fire, right?  We had enough of those this year without us adding to it.

Also this year, I started learning how to bake. I’ve never been a baker in the past–heck, if I wanted a bagel/muffin/cookie, I would just go down and get one. But with the celiac disease and the egg allergy, I have to make my own stuff. I make good cookies and muffins. I think I’ve finally gotten okay at gluten free, egg-free bread. Almost all the recipes I found for gluten-free bread required the use of eggs, which I can’t have. So the bread I make tends to be denser than normal bread, but it’s good. I’ve made quinoa/millet bread, and breads with buckwheat, and another type of bread with teff. I’m learning to appreciate things like chia seeds and arrowroot and xanthan gum.

I’ll admit, I really miss sourdough, but not enough to do my own starters with cabbage leaves and stuff like that. I’m not that ambitious. And I don’t miss anything enough to take the hit for it. I did that for years–I can’t go back to that. By the end, right before I was diagnosed (after two GIs told me, No, you don’t have celiac, despite the fact that ALL of my path reports going back three years say that I do),  I was getting pretty desperate. I threw up after almost every meal, so I only ate once a day–at night, when I had the time to hang over the sink and feel miserable. And, more often than I care to admit, I would live on nothing but one small cup of applesauce a day for up to five or six days. It was pretty miserable.

It’s so much better now.

So, I can live without the bread. It’s hard sometimes. I have yet to master the gluten-free roux–every attempt I made at making gravy was pretty pathetic. It was more like gak than something you can eat. But I guess that’s okay. I can live without gravy.

This year, my M had a health scare, too. We’d known he was diabetic for about six months when his blood sugar started going haywire. He lost so much weight. His cheeks became sunken and hollow, and I was getting scared (not that I told him that, though he probably knew, since I was hounding him to go to the doctor). Turns out, he had Type I diabetes–his poor pancreas doesn’t do much. He’s on insulin now, and we’ve had some kind of scary moments where his blood sugar dropped precipitously, but he’s doing great at managing it. He tests his blood frequently, and he’s gotten really good at administering the shots. It still scares me, but I’m adjusting.

So, given this new information, learning to cook for all of us has been an interesting endeavor. Luckily, I rarely cook with potato starch–I use garbanzo bean flour, millet, quinoa, and sorghum, which tend to be higher in fiber and protein than other breads. And I don’t give him very much of it. We’re slowly learning to adapt to our health issues, and the kids have been pretty good about it.

Also, this year, I sold another book: Highland Deception, a book set in Scotland in 1725. It comes out in a few months, and I’m excited to share it with you. But I am busy, busy. I started doing some editing on the side, which is nice and brings in a little extra money. Also, because I decided not to get the PhD in speech, I decided to pursue my TESOL endorsement (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages), mostly because, if I get above a C, the classes are totally paid for, and I don’t have to quit my job to do it. So that’s cool. The coursework isn’t hard, but I do have to work on it, so it does take time. I guess I should have been doing some of the work over the break, since I have stuff due that week we get back to school, along with report cards and three IEPs that first week, but hey. I’ll get to it. Maybe Friday.

The kids are doing well. Chewey isn’t in as much trouble as he was last year. He has gotten into some trouble this year, but it’s not as bad as last year, so that’s good. He’s getting older, and he’s learning to control himself a little better. He loves his time with his dad and his sister, playing D&D, while I get some largely uninterrupted work time. And Monk? Well, she’s learning to manage her time better, and is coping well with the increased work load of her new school. We try to go to basketball games when we can, and they’re both in Scouts and swimming. I think it’s been good for both of them.

In a few days, I’ll post my list of hopes for the coming year (I am loath to call them resolutions). I turn 39 in a few months, so I have some time to reflect on my list from a few years ago: 40 before 40. I’m pleased to say that I hit some of them already. Some of them will have to wait for the bucket list, I think. 🙂

So, to all of you out there…. Happy New Year!


THURSDAY THREADS Welcomes Wareeze Woodson!

Conduct Unbecoming of a Gentleman by Wareeze Woodson
Genre: Regency Romance
Heat Level: Sensual

Recently widowed Lady Laurel Laningham flees Landings to escape her untenable position. Alone now and at the mercy of her sister-in-law, she decides to nestle under her aunt’s wings for a spell. To add to her burdens, her young son’s new guardian, Lord Adron Gladrey, has announced his intentions to take complete charge of his ward. The killer is stalking her and a devious jewel thief is stealing the family jewels. Can she convince her son’s guardian she is not a dangerous lunatic and is perfectly capable of raising her son or will he always consider her untrustworthy as a mother to his ward? Will his stubborn blindness send her straight into the path of the murderer, or will he relent in time to save her from following her husband into the grave?

Freedom. Freedom. Freedom. Each rotation of the hired coach’s wheels whispered the word. Laurel cradled her sleeping two-year-old son, the new Lord Laningham, as a heady sense of satisfaction curved her lips. She didn’t even mind the slight musty odor pervading the vehicle, although she leaned over and raised the window cover for a breath of fresh air. With a sigh she settled back against the seat. At least for a while, Rhonda’s constant complaints would no longer ring in her ears and for that she was devoutly thankful.
Out of nowhere, a rider flashed by the coach window and her startled gaze locked with his brief glance. Although she’d caught only a glimpse of the stranger, in that instant his intense, deep-brown eyes mocked her and unease shivered down her spine. She stared after him for a second before instinctively gathering her child closer. Laurel planted a kiss on his blonde curls, drawing reassurance from the nearness of his warm little body. As long as she had Jamie nothing else mattered. Her son must remain safe.
Everything happened at once. The coach lunged to the right and scraped against the bushes beside the road, sending a shower of droplets splashing inside the window. Her book and Jamie’s wooden horse thumped to the floor. The racket of brakes screeching shrilled in her ears as the vehicle rattled and lurched out of control.
“Jamie,” she cried.
The horses’ screams echoed through her head and the sudden jerk of the coach as the team broke away from the trace chains added to her fear. When the doomed coach started to roll onto its side, she braced her feet against the opposite bench and clutched her son tightly against her chest. Tumbling against the seat, she scraped her elbows and banged her head. The sensation of falling forever tensed every muscle in her body before the force of the impact threatened to tear Jamie from her arms. She landed between the banquettes against the door, her howling child clutched in her arms. The carriage lantern, suspended from a hook on the wall, swayed overhead scraping metal against metal and briefly caught her attention.
Laurel struggled to a sitting position, gulped a deep breath and wiped dirt from Jamie’s face. With her heart in her throat, she examined a tiny trickle of blood at his hairline. Thankful his injury appeared minor she clutched him to her bosom and kissed his cheek, comforting his cries as her pulse slowed to normal.
The accident left her shaken. Frightened, she felt more alone than ever. If only Robert were still alive. She stifled that thought immediately—nothing could be accomplished by wishing for the impossible.
Laurel drew a shaky breath and tilted her head back in order to peer at the window above. Panic overwhelmed her and her breath came in short gasps. The banquettes seemed to close in on her. She fought to escape her trapped position in the overturned coach. Holding Jamie with one arm, she grasped the seat with her other hand and struggled to her feet. Her head whirled for a second before settling back into a deep pounding pain, while her knee and elbow throbbed in rhythm.
Ignoring her discomfort, she glanced around. As she studied the problem, she heard the murmur of voices and listened intently. With a sigh of relief, she recognized the driver’s voice however the other deep tone was unfamiliar.
“Help me,” She cried, “I’m in here.”
Only silence echoed back and the sound of voices moved off. For a second, panic clenched her stomach and her head pounded even harder.
“Stay calm,” she whispered, and the words spoken aloud steadied her. She listened for several long minutes before someone climbed atop the overturned coach. The door was yanked open with considerable force and she breathed a sigh of relief. Gray clouds added gloom to the inside of the carriage and a dark figure blocked out what little light was available. She couldn’t see his face clearly, but his broad shoulders and the arrogant slant of his head were a shadowy outline against the stormy sky.
His voice floated down to her. “Are you or the child injured?”
“I think several scrapes and bruises at most.” Laurel trembled and brushed her bonnet out of her face. She heard his quick intake of breath.
“You’re positive? You must have taken quite a tumble when the coach overturned. Possibly you’re more injured than you know.”
“Only a little shaken.” She took a deep, calming breath then continued with more force. “I’m certain we’re both fine.”
He hesitated and exhaled deeply. “A damsel in distress then. Do you perhaps have a name?”
Authority rang in his voice. She clutched Jamie a little tighter and offered him a tremulous smile. “Laurel Jane Laningham. Thank you for coming to our rescue.” She shaded her eyes with one hand, waiting for him to return the introduction.
“Let’s get you out of there. Hand me the boy first.”
He reached down into the overturned coach and Laurel lifted Jamie above her head into the waiting arms of the stranger. Her rescuer leapt to the ground with her son. A chill of foreboding curled around her. He’d said the boy. An unknown man shouldn’t know the child was a male. With every one of her senses alert, she listened intently for the stranger to return. Saddle leather squeaked and the thunder of hooves struck the ground in retreat.
Laurel screamed, “Bring my son back. I’ll see you hanged for this, you blackguard. Come back here. Help. Driver, help me.”