A Convenient Risk was inspired by…believe it or not…an unplanned trip to a cemetery. I have a writer friend that is my conference buddy. We go to writers’ conference together. Well, we were on such a conference trip when I discovered that she likes to visit cemeteries (she is a history fan, like I am…well, maybe not just the same as me). I conceded a trip during the daytime. We found many interesting things. And our writer-brains went into overdrive.
We did find one set of stones that indicated a younger woman who married a man much older than she, he died, then she married a man closer to her own age (who then died some time later…not really relevant information). But it got me thinking of second marriages. This situation in the cemetery might have been an arranged first marriage (it was the early 1900s), then when her husband died, perhaps she married her sweetheart.
At any rate, I thought about how people tend to memorialize our loved ones who have passed on. Not that it’s bad…but we do tend to gloss over their flaws and only remember the good things. How does a second marriage partner compete with “perfect memories” from a first spouse. Especially if you’re not truly remembering the whole picture. Some more considering on these lines, throw in the complications of a marriage of convenience…and this story was born.
Some of you who follow my work, may or may not realize that I “marry” my fictional stories to something solid in history. So, what to connect this story to? What if I complicated the story further with a legendary American outlaw? So, Billy the Kid (during the time of this story, known as Kid Antrim) plays a role in this story. These elements went into the blender of my mind and this is what was spit out…
A Convenient Risk
A widow with a young son is in trouble.
Amanda Haynes must put aside her grief and do something to take care of her son. Marrying a struggling rancher who wants her dead husband’s herd appears to be her only choice.
Only…she’s never going to love again. No one can replace the only man that ever loved her.
Butting heads over managing the ranch, her frustrations seem insurmountable. What has she gotten herself into? Is there any way out?
You’ll never put down this marriage of convenience romance, because everyone has hope.
Enjoy an Excerpt
The bull continued to eye Amanda. She rose to her feet with slow movements. Was it her imagination or did the bull tilt its head?
Should she run? Glancing the fence line out of the corner of her eye, she noted the distance that fell between her and her destination. She would never make it.
The large animal nodded its head, up and down, up and down, its horns rather prominently displayed. And the warmth drained from Amanda’s body.
Then the bull looked past her. Somewhere into the distance. Why?
Straining her ears, she heard it—hoof beats—slowing as they approached. Dare she turn to see who was brave enough to come to her rescue?
“Do not move,” a calm voice said.
Brandon! Relief poured through her. He would know what to do, wouldn’t he?
The calf continued to screech. And though it tugged at her heart, she could do nothing to help the injured animal.
Brandon was near. She could sense it. And he continued to inch his horse forward. The thumping of the horse’s hooves on the grass allowed her to track the mare’s location.
The bull flicked his tail back and forth, but kept watching her.
Warmth now emanated from the horse’s body as Brandon pulled up next to her.
Brandon spoke, his words coming as if chosen with care. “I’m going to take off my shirt…”
What? What was he doing? Why would he take off his shirt? Her heart raced. Still, she had no choice but to trust him.
In her periphery, she saw movement as Brandon unbuttoned his shirt and slid it off.
“Raise your right arm to me. I’m going to lift you onto the horse and then I need you to hold on to me. Tight.”
Licking her lips, she nodded. Would she be able to do this? Then she closed her eyes. She had to.
“Are you ready?” His voice was calm. Too calm.
Amanda opened her eyes. “Yes.” Would she survive this? With a shaky hand, she raised her arm closest to him.
The bull snorted.
A strong arm grasped her, catching her upper arm and dragging her onto the horse. As soon as she was solidly on the animal, she grabbed ahold of Brandon as tightly as she could.
They took off. The bull pawed at the ground, making all manner of grunting noises, but as if by some miracle, he ran off to the left. All of this happened as if time had slowed.
The horse continued to push forward. And as they neared the edge of the fence, Brandon urged the horse to go even faster. Were they going to break through? What would happen to the cattle with the fence destroyed?
But as they approached the fence, the horse leapt. Amanda gripped Brandon impossibly tighter. Jolted when the horse landed, her teeth chattered.
Only then did Brandon slow the horse. He then placed a hand on her upper arm and pushed.
She released him.
He sucked in a deep breath and expelled it.
Had she been holding him too tightly? Her face warmed.
He took hold of her shoulders. “Are you all right?”
She nodded, and though their faces were but a breath apart, she was not quite able to meet his eyes, fighting tears in her own. Only then she found herself staring at his bare chest. Jerking her head away, she averted her gaze.
“Do you realize what could have happened?” His voice rose.
She nodded, still not able to meet his eyes. The force of his emotion hit her. Was he so concerned after her?
“I would have had to shoot that bull.”
What? Eyes wide, she tilted her face up to look at him.
“That bull is worth half my herd.”
So he was only worried about the cattle. Not her. His precious cattle.
Now, An Inconvenient Christmas is, as I call it, a “companion” novella. Kind of a sequel, but not in the traditional sense. Yes, it occurs after the first book, but not like I left a cliff-hanger. I picked up a thread in the book that could have been developed further and went with it for this Christmas novella…
An Inconvenient Christmas
***SPOILER ALERT IF YOU HAVE NOT READ THE FIRST BOOK IN THE SERIES***
A companion novella to “A Convenient Risk”
Brandon and Amanda are ready for their “Happily Ever After”. This Christmas will be a time to share with their little family and maybe experience some much needed peace on earth.
That’s when the letter comes. And everything is turned upside-down. Nothing is as it should be and tensions mount. Will they make it through this holiday season unscathed? Or will they be torn apart by the time Christmas Day comes?
***SPOILER ALERT IF YOU HAVE NOT READ THE FIRST BOOK IN THE SERIES***
Enjoy an Excerpt
***SPOILER ALERT IF YOU HAVE NOT READ THE FIRST BOOK IN THE SERIES***
Amanda Miller tied another red ribbon into a bow on the fireplace mantle. Hopefully she was nearing the end. As much as she loved decorating, it could become tedious.
Hands slid around her waist, and she was pulled against a strong chest. Her husband’s masculine scent filled her nostrils, and she leaned into him. How had she become so blessed?
He planted a kiss to the side of her face. “Any chance we can slip away?”
She turned her head to peer at him. Was he serious?
A playful gleam in his eye answered her unspoken question.
Her lips tugged upward. How she loved this man! Laying hands atop his on her stomach, she relished the feel of him. His strong arms and secure hands were well known to her. Worked by ranch life, they were capable and calloused. Yet gentle as well.
“Momma,” a little voice called from across the room.
Pulled from her reverie, Amanda’s attention fixed on the small girl toddling toward them.
Reluctantly, she pulled free of Brandon’s embrace and, squatting, put arms out to receive the girl. “That’s it, come to Momma.”
It didn’t matter that Louise said the word a million times a day; it was glorious.
A grin broke out across the child’s face, creating dimples in her chubby cheeks.
The wriggling bundle, teetering with every step, somehow made it to Amanda’s outstretched hands before falling.
She lifted her daughter, swinging her into the air and kissing the baby-fine skin. When she stopped, she caught Brandon’s eye.
“I see you’ve forgiven her for saying ‘Daddy’ first.” He reached forth a hand for Louise to capture it.
She did, pulling at his fingers.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Amanda spoke to Brandon, but she looked at Louise and spoke in a sing-song voice. “Do we, Louise Ann? We don’t know what Daddy is saying.”
“Oh, Louise knows good and well.”
The child grinned and pulled two of Brandon’s fingers into her mouth.
He jerked them back with a catch in his breath.
“Oh, no!” Amanda became instantly concerned. “Did she bite you?”
Brandon looked at his hand and nodded. “It’s not so bad.”
“I’m sorry. I think she has teeth coming in. She’s been biting everything.”
His brows furrowed, and he let out a concerned grunt.
“Yesterday, Samuel brought Daisy closer so Louise could pet her. And what we thought was going to be a kiss from Louise turned out to be an attempt to bite the poor dog’s ear.”
A chuckle escaped Brandon. Was it something to laugh about?
“It wasn’t funny.” She widened her eyes. “The dog could have been hurt.”
He cleared his throat and tightened his mouth. “No, of course.”
Amanda shifted Louise to her other hip. “I don’t want her to become a biter.”
Brandon furrowed his brows and let out a long breath.
Amanda fingered the curls in the child’s soft hair.
“Let’s not jump to that while she is still teething. But we can watch out and make sure she doesn’t hurt anyone.”
Was that truly all they could do? What more would she suggest? Perhaps Brandon was right.
“After all, she comes by that feistiness pretty honest. It’s one of her mother’s more…intriguing qualities.” His voice was husky as he put an arm around her, drawing her near.
Amanda’s head cleared of all but him. She was helpless when he spoke to her like this.
He pressed a kiss to her forehead, his breath lingering on her skin.
The door opened, and Louise wriggled for freedom, but Amanda didn’t let her escape.
“Aw, Ma, do ya have to?”
Amanda spun toward Samuel. Where had he been? Shouldn’t he have been helping her with the decorations? She opened her mouth.
“Did you finish with the horses?” Brandon’s chest vibrated as he spoke.
The horses? What did Brandon have Samuel doing with the horses?
“Sure did.” Samuel grinned.
Amanda clamped her mouth shut. She would not disrespect Brandon in front of her son, but this was not over.
“Good. I think Cutie and Slim are going fishing.”
Samuel’s eyes lit up. His gaze shifted toward Amanda.
“Go on.” She pulled away from Brandon and set Louise on the floor with her blocks. “You don’t want to miss them.”
A clapping of the door on its hinges was his only response.
Standing, she eyed Brandon, brow raised.
He tilted his head. “What?”
“You have him working with the horses?”
“It’s good for him.”
“That’s what you said about mucking stalls.”
“Was I wrong?”
Amanda crossed her arms. Dare she concede? Could she not? Why did she want to keep her boy close to her skirts? Why must Brandon constantly be pushing him further away?
Reaching out, he pulled her toward his chest. “You know I’m right.”
She looked away and bit at her lip. “Maybe.”
He hooked her chin with a finger. “Probably.”
Her lips twinged at the edges. She fought the smile. “Don’t push it.”
His mouth curved upward, but his brown eyes rested on her lips. “I might just take the risk.” Leaning forward, he pressed his lips to hers.
Would she ever become numb to this feeling? This excitement, this heat coursing through her? Or would his kisses thrill her for as long as they both should live?
She hoped so.
His arms wrapped around her back, and he tilted his head to deepen the contact.
But after a few moments of bliss, she pulled back.
Brandon traced a finger down the side of her face. “Is it time for Louise’s nap?”
No, she couldn’t get distracted.
“I’m afraid not. And I need to talk to you.” She drew farther back.
“Oh?” He watched her every movement.
She glanced at Louise. Had she caught hold of something dangerous? There was no end to the child’s mischief.
The small girl sat where Amanda had set her. For once.
Amanda reached for the box of ornaments, picking it up and, moving toward the dining space, placing it on the table.
“Everything all right?” Brandon called from where he had remained.
She pushed her hair back and sighed. How to broach the subject? Why was she so nervous? Couldn’t she tell Brandon anything?
She turned toward him and leaned against the table.
“I know that look.” His brows furrowed.
What look? How did she look? Did her features display her worry? Her trepidation? It would be best to just be out with it.
Drawing in a deep breath, she closed her eyes briefly and then met his gaze. “Cook and Uncle Owen won’t be coming for Christmas.”
“Oh.” He set his hands on his hips. “That’s not at all what I expected. But it is their first Christmas as man and wife.”
“But that can’t be what has you so worried.” He crossed the room, closing the distance between them.
She chewed on her lip.
“What is it?” His eyes were caring. Concerned.
Guilt filled her. She had to tell him.
“Are you nervous about making the big meal alone?”
Her eyes widened. That had not occurred to her.
“Oh, no.” He gently clasped her arms. “Forget I said that. I’ll help. Anyway I can.”
She waved a hand between them. It wouldn’t be easy, but she would manage. “It’s not that.”
“Then what is it?” He rubbed his larger hands along her upper arms.
“A letter came.”
She reached into the pocket of her apron and pulled out the lightly crinkled envelope. “From your parents.”
Brandon’s jaw clamped shut. She watched as the muscles twitched.
How long had it been since he had heard from his parents? Years? Decades? And all of a sudden a letter comes? Why now?
“About two hours ago. While you were…”
He nodded. “Out with the cattle.”
She searched his face, holding the envelope between them, ready for him to take it.
But he just stared at it.
“Did you read it?” His eyes met hers, and there was a darkness to their depths she had not seen in a long time.
“No.” She pushed the word out.
His hands on her arms had grown limp.
Should she insist he take the letter? Or offer to read it for him? Was this something he needed to do?
Louise let out a cry.
Amanda looked in her direction. There was a block in her hand that was well wet.
Louise broke out in fierce tears.
Had she been chewing on the block and hurt her gums? Or bitten her finger by accident?
Amanda glanced at Brandon, pushing the letter toward him. She could no longer give him time to think.
Brandon stood, holding out his hand with the envelope.
She rushed to Louise and picked her up. The child immediately snuggled into Amanda’s chest, her cries now muffled by Amanda’s shoulder.
Amanda rubbed her back. “It’s all right, sweet girl.”
As the crying let up, she shifted the child to her hip and examined her fingers.
“What happened? Did you bite your finger?”
Sure enough, there was a reddened place on the forefinger of her right hand.
“Oh, my baby!” Amanda put a light kiss on the tiny finger. “There. All better.”
Louise looked at her finger and then at Amanda. Her cries waned as if she wasn’t sure what to do. But they soon vanished as the small girl stuck her finger toward Amanda’s mouth again.
Amanda grabbed her little hand and pressed several kisses to the finger. “Yes, Momma kiss it. Make it all better.”
Then Louise stuck her hand in the direction of the dining room. “Daddy kiss!”
Amanda spun toward Brandon.
He stood just as she had left him, staring at the unopened letter.
She moved toward him. Drawing close, she put a hand on his shoulder. “Do you need some time alone?”
Shaking his head, he met her gaze. “No, I need you.”
What could she do? What could she offer him? She stopped herself. That was the old Amanda. He needed her support. Her love.
“And I am right here with you.”
She reached for a dining chair and pulled it out.
Brandon all but fell into it.
Grabbing for the chair next to him, she sat with Louise on her lap.
His eyes met hers, and she nodded.
He slid a finger under the flap and tore through the seal.
Freeing a hand, she squeezed his arm in reassurance.
Pulling the papers free, he unfolded them. His eyes drifted over the writing.
He let out a long breath.
“It’s not possible.”
More About the Author
I’m a coffee lovin’, word slinging, Historical Romance author who’s super power is converting caffeine into novels. I love those odd little tidbits of history that are stranger than fiction. That’s what inspires me. Well, that and a good love story.
But of all the love stories I know, mine is my favorite. I live happily with my own Prince Charming and our gaggle of minions. Three to be exact. They sure know how to distract a writer! But, alas, the stories must be written, even if it must happen in the wee hours of the morning.
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