UPDATE: The winner is Katherine Robinson!
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My daughter has perfect teeth. Not a cavity. Not ever. Thanks to genetics and modern dentistry. I, on the other hand, have horrible teeth. I have soft, chalky back teeth, prone to cavities. Which means, I have a few crowns back there. Last night, while I sat on my daughter’s sofa, she of the perfect teeth, one of my crowns fell out. Do you know, I had that one so long, I didn’t even know there was a crown on that tooth. Color me surprised!
Which really makes today a shitty, shitty day. I am going to call the dentist this AM to request an emergency appointment. This afternoon, I have a doctor’s appointment at the VA in Little Rock (oh joy). I had hoped for a little time to write. Now, I have a microscopic window open to write. So, I have a related question. Comment and you might win a free story! Don’t you love how I work real life around to having something to do with books?
For a chance to win your choice of one of these
Cowboys on the Edge stories, answer me this!
Do you have perfect teeth? Have you ever had a dental emergency?
(Click on a cover if you’d like to learn more!)
Don’t know what you’re missing in this cowboy series? Read a sexy excerpt…
This flame doesn’t need a match…
One high school prank gone wrong shouldn’t define the rest of Carly Lohan’s life. But setting fire to Caldera Canyon isn’t something townsfolk will ever forget. As the last part of her final act of restitution, she’s among the group of volunteers assigned to keep a prescribed burn of underbrush and grass from “running over the rim” into the ranches ringing the park.
Local rancher and volunteer firefighter Jeremiah McCord doesn’t trust the reformed firebug anywhere near the canyon’s controlled burn. Determined to keep her on a short rein, he’s everywhere she is, watching her. His distrust and determination sparks a plan for some sexy revenge—one that will get them both too close to the flames.
Long excerpt from Controlled Burn
Caldera, Texas had been aptly named by its founders. Although technically late winter, the air was unseasonably warm—hot as a witch’s cauldron, and the town just as cursed.
Or, at least the place was so far as Carly Lohan was concerned.
Carly closed her car door and drew a deep breath, thinking she’d as soon have a root canal as walk into the midst of the people gathering inside the community center. All gazes would turn her way. They’d nudge their friends, and the ugly whispers would begin.
She might as well have had a big “A” branded on her forehead, but not for adultery like Hester Prynne—her crime was far worse. Arson wasn’t something folks around here would ever forgive.
Not that she thought of herself as an arsonist. However, a charge like that, even against a minor, clung like skunk spray. Which was why she’d headed to college as soon as she’d graduated high school and now lived a town away. Tonight, she had to face Calderans one last time.
Gripping her purse like it was a shield, she strode toward the door. Before she even reached the steps, she heard a whistle sound from behind her.
“Well, would you lookie there. If it ain’t Carly Lohan. Long time, no see.”
If she were ninety, she would have recognized Tater Johnson’s nasal twang. He’d taunted from her first day in kindergarten and had been the biggest thorn in her side all throughout school. The fact she was here today was partly because of him. She forced a smile and turned. “Good to see you, Tater.”
He smoked a cigarette while sitting on the edge of his truck bed. “Burn up any canyons lately?” he drawled.
Wow. He didn’t even take a second to work up to that. Carly stopped the automatic wince before he could see it. The last thing she should do was rise to a single one of his taunts. “Not lately. You going to the meeting?” she asked, tilting her head toward the open doors.
“Course.” He tipped back his cowboy hat and gave her a narrowed stare. “Keepin’ Caldera Canyon safe is important to me—which is why I’m wonderin’ what the hell you’re doin’ here.”
Carly felt her face heat. Before she could think of a more mature reply, she shot him the bird and turned on her heel. Good Lord, she’d only been back for five minutes and was already reverting to her old ways.
His grating chuckles followed her inside the large hall. The instant satisfaction she’d felt at giving the rude gesture faded as she entered and searched the rows of metal folding chairs. All seats were taken—of course, except for a couple right in front of the speakers’ table. Shit.
She didn’t have a choice. She’d be sitting across from the current sheriff of Caldera County. Her gaze snagged on the man sitting beside him, Jeremiah McCord, and her stomach sank at the glare he leveled. Shit-shit-shit.
Only to herself would she admit the man intimidated her. He was a large man—well over six feet and broad. And he was handsome when his features weren’t set into grim lines as they were now.
“Let’s call this meeting to order,” a man dressed in a park ranger’s uniform said. “We’re all here to talk about the prescribed burn we’re implementing inside the park four days from now.”
She turned her attention to the speaker. At least, he wasn’t staring at her. She didn’t know him, so she kept her gaze glued to the ranger as he started the slide show.
Pictures of happy campers sitting around campfires flashed on the screen, followed by more photos of the rugged bluffs surrounding the park. “Our goal, come Monday morning, will be to burn brush and dried vegetation from the canyon floor, while keeping the fire under control and halting it before the blaze runs the rim of the canyon, endangering local ranches. We won’t touch the areas around the campgrounds or the park service buildings. Those have been kept clear of excess brush by camp personnel. We’re focusing our efforts on the areas north of the campgrounds, through the upper canyon, toward the north rim of the park.”
The next picture was of a jackrabbit hiding in the brush. “A prescribed burn is good for the canyon’s plants and trees, and for its wildlife. By removing underbrush and new seedlings, we give the forest a chance to grow and deprive wildfires of fuel.”
The next photo was of rows of volunteers digging firebreaks, with flames licking across dry grass. The flames blazed orange, yellow, purple—so pretty—she couldn’t stop herself from startling when the slide changed to a photograph of those same volunteers, covered in soot, but smiling as they stood in front of a scorched patch of earth, trees with their bark only slightly singed.
“This is the outcome we want. A safe burn. A way to renew the earth and prevent uncontrolled blazes in the future…”
Carly drew a deep breath, and then made the mistake of again looking at Jeremiah. His gaze bored into her, cold and hard. Had he seen how the picture of the fire held her mesmerized? Her stomach tightened, and she felt a little sick.
Keeping her expression neutral, she returned his stare. She wasn’t that same reckless girl. She’d done her penance, and then some. Performing this last act of restitution would expunge her juvenile record, and she could function without worrying someone would discover her past mistake. She could submit a job application without her hand shaking, because she feared a background check would reveal her crime. And maybe she could finally make use of her teaching degree.
Thank God, she didn’t have to work around here. Jeremiah would consider it his civic duty to make sure everyone kept a close eye on her. He wasn’t exactly the most forgiving man, and if she couldn’t find a better job, she’d never be able to repay him for what he’d lost.
The rest of the presentation droned on and on. The park ranger was followed by the local fire chief, and then the park service expert they’d brought in to help supervise the burn. She tried to pay attention, but felt as though a hundred accusing fingers were pointed at her back. So she sat rigid in her seat, arms crossed, waiting for the briefing to end. She’d get her team assignment and head back to the motel where she’d left her suitcase. Then she could close her door and sleep until Saturday’s training.
Seven years hadn’t been nearly long enough to ease the feeling of guilt that weighed her down. Moving away had helped her live a more normal life, but she’d had these little reminders every so often, part of the deal the judge had made with her to protect her future. Participating in the controlled burn inside the park would be the last time Calderans would have to suffer her presence. And she theirs.
At last, the park ranger turned off the projector. Everyone rose and made their way to the board where team assignments were listed.
She waited patiently while being jostled—probably deliberately. At last, she scanned the list.
Her name was listed on a team of ten—and led by Jeremiah McCord. Shit.