Thursday, 7 January 2016

GIVEAWAY - BEFORE SUNDOWN

My latest release, Before Sundown, is a love story between an ornery ranch hand and the landowner's son. I am giving away two ebooks and all you have to do to be in the running is leave a comment telling me your favourite cowboy film... Mine is The Searchers, John Wayne :) My glamorous assistant will pick a winner on Monday!

Blurb:
Samuel Somerfield is used to the oppressive heat of the Texas plains, and in the year 1892 things get even hotter when ranch hand Eli Watkins walks onto the job. Every stolen glance, every searing touch from Eli tilts Samuel’s world on its axis. He wants only to spend the rest of his life in Eli’s arms. But Samuel’s cruel and domineering father has other plans for him. Samuel must marry Eleanor Johnston and give his father the social standing he craves. 

Eli knew falling in love with Samuel would cause problems, yet even he never dreamed Mr. Somerfield would go to such lengths to keep his son and him apart. After Somerfield orders a beating that leaves Eli disfigured and embarrassed, Eli takes a job on another ranch far from Samuel. 

News of Samuel’s impending wedding eventually reaches Eli, and he realizes he must return to the man he loves, despite what might await him, and try to save Samuel from a life he was not meant to live.

Excerpt:

Chapter 1

San Antonio. 1892

“ENDA THE trail, son.”

Eli Watkins stretched his arms above his head and grimaced as his own stink filled his nostrils. He groaned loudly and yawned. The trek from Dallas had been long and uncomfortable, his clothes stuck to his skin under the relentless heat of the Texas sun, and his ass was numb from sitting on the unforgiving wooden floor of the cart. He gazed up at the sign atop the tall fence posts and smiled at the single word carved into it: Somerfield.

Eli had been working a spread in Dallas a few weeks ago when Somerfield’s foreman had arrived with some cowboys to take the horses his boss had purchased back to San Antonio. After seeing how Eli handled the animals, Garrett Jackson had offered him a new job for more pay. Eli accepted without hesitation. Everything Jackson told him about Somerfield piqued his interest, especially the “more pay” part. Now he was here, ready to embark on a new chapter, and the familiar tingle of excitement curled his toes in his worn-out boots.

“Ya just gonna sit there?”

Eli grinned at the owner of the gruff voice, then grabbed his saddlebags and stood up. He clambered over the side of the cart and jumped to the ground, his boots sending dust flying in all directions. He’d met the farmer in the saloon in town and gratefully accepted his offer of a ride to the ranch. He only hoped the hospitality that awaited him beyond the imposing sign was as genial as the old man staring down at him.

“Thanks for the ride, Homer.” Eli tipped his hat. “I’m much obliged.”

“Di’n’t cost nothin’,” Homer replied. “Manners never do, son. Ya’d do well to remember that. Good luck, boy. From what I’ve heard, yer’ll need it.”

Eli watched the cart until it had moved away. He briefly wondered what Homer meant—but only briefly. His feet itched to carry him toward the big house visible at the top of the drive as if eager to get him to his destination. Eli threw his saddlebags over his shoulder, pulled his hat down firmly to shield his eyes against the sun, then began to walk.

The sun was hot on his back as he trudged along. Eli could feel sweat running down his spine. Not the most pleasant experience in the world, but he hoped there’d be a bucket of cold water he could clean off in. He smiled as he heard his mother’s voice in the back of his mind.

I swear, Eli, yer the only boy I know who likes to spend more time in the bath than out of it.

She may not have understood his desire to be clean more often than once a week before church, but he was the apple of his mother’s eye, and he knew it. When he’d decided to leave the farm to look for work, she’d tried to talk him out of it, but they both knew he didn’t have a choice. Farming wasn’t for him and they needed the money. Which was why he’d been so quick to accept Jackson’s offer. Usually he’d try to find out a bit about a spread before he worked on it, but the thought of sending more money home to his family had been too tempting an opportunity to pass up. After Homer’s parting remark, though, he hoped he wouldn’t regret that oversight as he drew closer to the house.

He was almost there, wondering whether to go around to the back of the house to the kitchens or head straight to the barn, when he heard someone call his name.

“Hey! Watkins!”

Eli looked to the left of the house where the corral was situated and lifted a hand in greeting to the Somerfield foreman as he walked toward him. “Mr. Jackson, sir! Good to see ya again.”

Jackson stopped in front of him and shook the hand Eli held out. “Was expectin’ ya two days ago, boy. I reckoned ya’d changed ya mind.”

“No, sir. Had a little trouble getting a ride. Had to wait,” Eli explained. “Got me as far as San Antone, where I met a man who let me tag along for the last bit. Name a’ Homer.”

“Homer Petersen.” Jackson nodded. “Owns a farm ’bout five miles from here. Good man. Well, no matter, yer here now.” He turned and waved his arm in the general direction of the corral and other outbuildings. “Welcome to Somerfield Ranch. C’mon.”

Eli hitched his saddlebags higher on his shoulder and fell in step beside Jackson, heading toward the corral. Inside the fenced-off arena, a boy led a horse around in a wide circle. Eli’s lips twitched. The boy couldn’t have been more than seventeen, and the intense concentration on his face reminded Eli of himself at that age. He liked the boy’s technique: the soft, soothing mumblings he uttered and the way the horse responded to each pull on the rope. The kid had potential. Eli could sense it, one horseman to another.

“Willie!” Jackson called out the boy’s name and Willie trotted over to where they leaned on the fence.

“Yes, Mr. Jackson, sir?” Willie’s curious gaze flitted to Eli, but he didn’t acknowledge his presence.

Manners too. Even better.
“Willie, this is Eli Watkins. He’s gonna be breakin’ in the new arrivals.” Jackson turned to Eli to finish the introductions. “Watkins, this is Willie. He’ll be workin’ with ya. Boy’s already got a way with the beasts, an’ I was thinkin’ you might be able to teach him a thing or two.”

“Good to meet ya, Mr. Watkins, sir,” Willie said brightly, tipping his hat at Eli.

“Mr. Watkins is my pa,” Eli replied. “I look forward to workin’ with ya.”

Willie flushed red, and Eli bit back a smile, not wanting to embarrass the boy further.

“C’mon.” Jackson slapped Eli on the shoulder. “Bunkhouse is this way.”

The bunkhouse was behind the corral: a sturdy wooden structure with an open kitchen and dining area. A small corridor led to the sleeping quarters. Eli gazed around him, taking in the ornaments on the wall and the scent of strong coffee filling the room. An older man stood at the stove, stirring something in a large saucepan.

“Bradley,” Jackson said. “This here is Eli Watkins.”

Bradley wiped his hands on a piece of cloth and nodded at Eli. “Heard good things about ya, son. Jackson’s talked ya up a storm since he got back from Dallas.” His gaze slid over Eli from head to toe and he pulled a face. “Yer too skinny. When did ya last eat?”

“Day before yesterday, thereabouts.”

Bradley motioned to the huge wooden table in the center of the room. “Sit. I’ll git ya some vittles while the two of ya talk. The boys’ll be in from the field soon, and then it’ll get real loud around here.”

Eli sat down at the table and pushed his saddlebags under his chair. As the aromatic smell of the beef stew Bradley put in front of him drifted into his nostrils, Eli was pretty sure he was gonna like it here. Getting to work with horses all day, a roof over his head, three squares, and enough money to send extra home to his mama—what could possibly be bad about that?

A couple of hours later, after they’d eaten dinner, dealt with the dishes, and he’d been introduced to the rest of the hands, Eli retired to the barn. The men had seemed like the usual mixed bunch you found on a spread like this—men working to send money to their families, rovers who spent their lives flitting from one spread to another, and the occasional deadbeat who only worked to support their gambling or drinking habits. Eli had met them all in his time. They tended to band together in little groups, and the men on Somerfield land were no different. For the most part, Eli liked to keep to himself, so he was relieved not to be in the bunkhouse with the others.

Jackson had informed him the bunkhouse was overflowing, so he would have to make do with the barn—for the time being, at least. He had assured Eli that there would be a place for him once the rovers moved on after they drove the horses and cattle to Dallas, but Eli didn’t care. Surrounded by the scents and sounds of the ranch was where he was most comfortable.

His mama had called him her lone cowboy, although, squashed in a tiny wooden shack with eight brothers and sisters, moments alone had been few and far between. The thought of making idle conversation with a bunch of rowdy ranch hands after working himself into exhaustion was not his idea of a good time. He’d rather be with the horses.

He lounged with his back against the wooden jamb of the pitching door, legs stretched out in front of him and hat pulled down to shield his eyes as the sun slowly began its descent. The early evening rays cast lengthening shadows around the hayloft, and he inhaled the rich, earthy scent of the bales, then let his breath out on a long, contented sigh.

Eli gazed at the main house and marveled at the folly of men with more than two cents in their pocket. He’d heard about the Somerfield Ranch from one of the rovers on the last spread he’d worked. Heard all about how Somerfield wanted to make his ranch the biggest in San Antone. Hell, the biggest in the whole United States, if he had his way. But staring at the house, a million miles away from the shack he’d been brought up in, it was obvious to Eli that Richard Somerfield had no idea what a ranch house was supposed to look like. Instead of a one-story building like the ones he’d encountered before, the big boss’s home resembled a mix of mausoleum, Mexican hacienda, and a barber shop he’d once seen in Chicagee, except the columns weren’t striped. And there ain’t no hot shave for a nickel.

Snickering quietly to himself, Eli tossed his hat onto the nearest bale and rubbed his hands through his hair, grimacing at the dust flying around him. He scratched at his scalp with blunt nails and moaned softly in disgust as his own stench came up to meet him. He’d have to talk to the foreman and find out if there were any baths in town or a creek where he could clean himself of his journey. The way he stank at the moment would keep the horses awake all night.

“That’s my boy.”

Eli started at the sound of the voice from below the hayloft. He turned over onto his belly, crawled across the hay to the edge of the loft, and peered down into the barn. A man led a beautiful black horse into one of the stalls and proceeded to take off the animal’s tack. Cursing the fact that he couldn’t see the man’s face, Eli watched the gentle ripple of muscles beneath the sweat-dampened cotton shirt sticking to the stranger’s flesh. His gaze traveled lower, over the curve of the most perfect peach of an ass he had ever seen, snug in what looked like deerskin breeches. Eli climbed down the ladder from the hayloft as quietly as he could and stood just out of sight in the darkening gloom of the barn. He strained to get closer to the man who was now checking the magnificent animal’s legs and feet.

The man handled the horse with confidence and a gentle hand. Eli was impressed with the way the man kept up a stream of soft whisperings to the beast as he ran his hands over muscled legs and lifted each hoof in turn. It was the sign of a natural horseman. Eli watched in silence as the object of his fascination turned to hang the bridle on the hook beside the stall. He couldn’t contain his gasp at the glimpse of the square jaw when the cowboy stretched his arms high above his head.

Like honey fresh from the hive. Wonder if he tastes as good as he looks?

Eli had known at a very early age that girls didn’t appeal to him. He knew he was supposed to grow up, meet a nice girl, and have a ranch of his own. But when he’d dreamed of sharing those things with someone, his imagination hadn’t conjured up a simpering girl. His dreams had been of a man with a pretty face and an ass that would fill his palms as he buried himself inside it. Of course, it was against the law—of God and man, people said. But the way he figured it, all he wanted was someone to love and to love him back. How could God be against that? As far as he knew, not one of the Ten Commandments said, “Thou shalt not suck dick.” No longer satisfied with watching, Eli ventured closer and heard the man whisper again to the horse.

“So beautiful.”

Before he could stop himself, Eli said, “You took the words right out of my mouth.”

He could have kicked himself. Stupid, Eli. Real stupid. But when the man spun around, all Eli could do was stare. The movement caused the man’s hat to fall to the ground, and hair the color of burnished gold tumbled onto broad shoulders and fell into eyes the color of coffee beans. A straight nose and full lips, together with a strong jaw and square chin, completed the handsomest face Eli had ever seen outside of those picture postcards Matt Scogie had shown him at the harvest fair.

“Who the blazes are you? What are you doing on this property?” the cowboy snapped, his chin lifting haughtily as he stared Eli down.

“I work here.” Eli crossed his arms and leaned against the stall, lifting his hand to caress the silky black nose of the horse as it came to investigate.

“No you don’t” was the caustic reply. “I know everyone who works here. And I don’t know you.”

“I was hired today, to help break in the new horses, so I guess you don’t know as much as you think you do.”

Eli could tell by the shocked look in those eyes that the man wasn’t used to anyone talking back to him, which intrigued Eli even further. In fact, something in those eyes urged him on, wanting to see what sort of reaction he could get out of the other man. He saw the frustration in darkening eyes, and Eli let his gaze slowly travel the length of the long, lean body, his lips curving into an impudent smile.

“Is there a problem, Mr. Somerfield?”

Somerfield? Shit! Eli flicked a glance over his shoulder at the sound of the foreman’s voice, wondering if he was going to get fired before he’d even started. He was pleasantly surprised when, instead of ratting on him, the cowboy shook his head.

“Everything’s fine, Jackson.” He tossed a cold look Eli’s way, and Somerfield’s perfectly straight nose wrinkled in disgust. “Although there is the all-pervading odor of dead skunk in here. Maybe you could direct the new hand to some soap and water before the stink reaches the house.”

“That’d be the stink of hard work, boss. Dead skunk’s a little earthier,” Eli drawled, unable to keep the sarcasm from his voice.

“I’m not your boss. My name is Samuel Somerfield,” the pretty cowboy said curtly. “And you’ll do well to remember that.”

Watching the man walk away with his head held high, Eli couldn’t resist shouting after him. “Oh, I’ll remember… that won’t be no problem at all.

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19 comments:

  1. fav cowboy film is Blazing Saddles. True Grit and Tombstone are alright as well.

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  2. My favorites are many but at the top of the list are:
    The Cowboys
    Silverado
    Rio Lobo
    El Dorado
    Big Jake
    Chisholm
    OK do you see a theme here?
    Gotta love the Duke!


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  3. My favorites are many but at the top of the list are:
    The Cowboys
    Silverado
    Rio Lobo
    El Dorado
    Big Jake
    Chisholm
    OK do you see a theme here?
    Gotta love the Duke!


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  4. I love John Wayne's westerns and The Sacketts.

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  5. Ooh I don't have this book.
    Don't do westerns so mine is
    Broke back Mountain

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  6. Definitely Brokeback Mountain. One of the best films ever made xx

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  7. I love The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.

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  9. Blazing Saddles loved this was so funny

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  10. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  11. Blazing Saddles love that movie it was so funny.

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  12. Blazing Saddles love that movie it was so funny.

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  13. Blazing Saddles, Two Mules For Sister Sara, Tombstone

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  14. Loved that little snippet :) My favorite cowboy film is The Magnificent Seven; I've probably seen it at least fifty times, and some of those were before the days of VCRs and tapes :)

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  15. True Grit (2010) version is one of my favorites, The Good the bad and the ugly, Blazing saddles is also a fun one.

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  16. I'm more of a The Good, The Bad & The Ugly fan. Can I qualify that by saying the Ennio Moriconne soundtrack got me hooked on his music!
    Did someone scream geek?

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