UPDATE: The winner of the gift card is…Mary Preston!
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Honey is heeerrrre! It’s a gorgeous cover, isn’t it? Enjoy the excerpt I’ve included. It’s just a tease. Things get zanier and sexier in a hurry. Honey has heart, too.
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Something’s on the rise in Two-Mule, Texas. And it ain’t just the temperature.
1880, West Texas
Honey Cafferty lives a happy, if precarious, existence as a traveling saleswoman. She sells her elixirs and potions while searching for the one thing she hasn’t been able to brew from the back of her colorful wagon—a sense of belonging. She arrives in Two Mule, Texas, with her Elixir of Love, a potion that improves a man’s libido but might just get her run out of town.
Sheriff Joe Tanner is protective of his little town. Downright hostile toward anyone who might take advantage of the fine folk under his protection. Any snake-oil salesman who rolls into town better just keep right on rolling.
Honey isn’t what Joe expected, from her vibrant red hair and cat-green eyes to her curvy mouth and hips. And when the men of the town begin to plead exhaustion—and place the blame squarely on her sweet-smelling shoulders—Joe has no choice but to launch an investigation. A very, very deep investigation…
Warning: Contains a sheriff who prides himself on keeping his town running as smooth as a well-greased wagon wheel, and a wandering saleswoman who’s more than a bump (and grind) in his road.
“Sheriff, you’ve gotta do somethin’ about that woman.”
The note of exasperation in Curly Hicks’s voice was one Joe Tanner had heard often in the past couple of days—at least from the unmarried men of the town. He didn’t need to ask which woman Curly was talking about. He already knew who was responsible for Curly’s agitation. Her name was on everybody’s lips, although the tones with which her name was spoken varied widely.
He was curious what the normally reticent shopkeeper had to say about the lady in question. “Just what do you want me to do about her, Curly?”
“Send her packin’! She’s up to somethin’. Cain’t tell you ’xactly what, but ever since she came, nothin’s been the same.”
So he wasn’t the only one to notice. Since the day Honey Cafferty’s fancy-painted wagon had rolled into town, the mood around Two Mule had seemed…expectant, like the town itself was wakening from a long slumber and had suddenly discovered every joyful holiday was all wrapped inside one bright, shining moment.
Which posed a dilemma for Joe. Two Mule had elected him to keep the peace and things had been riding smooth like a Conestoga over flat land—no bumps, no bone-jarring thuds. So far, the townsfolk had been pretty satisfied with their lives. It was a quiet place—the right kind of town to set down deep roots—and he intended to keep it that way.
However, Honey Cafferty had a way about her that was anything but quiet. She radiated shimmering sensuality, from her vibrant red hair and cat-like green eyes to her lushly curved lips and body. Everything about her shouted like Fourth of July fireworks and crazily spinning whirligigs, eliciting a restless hunger in him that had no place in his tidy little life.
Just looking at the woman made his teeth ache, made him want to touch the fire he sensed smoldered just below the surface of her sweet-smelling peaches-and-cream skin.
“Whatcha gonna do, Sheriff?”
Not what he really wanted to, that was for damn sure. “Has she committed a crime?”
Curly’s cheeks reddened. “You’re not list’nin’ to me. Amos Handy didn’t open his smithy shop ’til half past noon yesterday. That ain’t never happened before.”
“Why do you think Miss Cafferty had something to do with that?”
“Amos’s wife bought a bottle of her special ee-lixir the day before.”
“So you think Miss Cafferty poisoned Amos?”
“I’m not sayin’ she did it on purpose, but Letty was sure lookin’ happy when I came to see what was wrong. And you know that woman has the sourest disposition of any female this side of the Mississippi.”
“What about Amos? Did he look like he was sickening?”
“Well, no. But he’s mighty tired, he says. Said he was gonna close his shop for a couple of days—take a vacation. You ever heard such a load of horseshit in all yer born days?”
“Still don’t see where Miss Cafferty fits in with all this.”
“Sheriff, you need to open your eyes,” Curly said, his own eyes bugging wide. “Look at all the married folk. The men are lookin’ glassy-eyed and the women are hummin’ like mosquitoes. I tell you, it’s that woman’s fault.”
“What about you, Curly? Do you have any complaints?”
“I’m plain tuckered out keepin’ one step ahead of Sally. She’s been tryin’ to get me to stop by for her apple pie, but she has that look in her eye again.”
“Which one’s that?”
“That marryin’ look. The one what’s got me too sceert to step outside her mama’s parlor for a kiss. It might be all over for me,” he said dolefully.
Joe suppressed a smile. Not that he blamed Curly for his skittishness. Despite his longing to set down roots, the thought of marriage made him itch too. “Do you know anything about this special elixir the Cafferty woman’s selling?”
“Nope. Soon as she sold her dyspepsia cures, she shooed the menfolk away for a private chat with the ladies. They sure as hell aren’t talkin’ about what she give ’em.”
“Have you asked her straight out what she’s been selling to the womenfolk?”
Curly’s cheeks grew a fiery red. “I cain’t do that, Sheriff,” he said, his tone mournful. “I open my mouth to have my say, and all she has to do is aim those pretty green eyes my way and I’m meltin’ like ice cream on a hot summer day. Before you know it, she’s done sold me somethin’ else I don’t need.”
Joe pressed his lips into a straight line to keep from laughing. Yes, siree. Looking into the woman’s eyes did test the mettle of a man. If a man wasn’t on guard against her charm, she’d tie his tongue in knots and swell his…
Best not let his mind head down that dusty trail. “Tell you what, Curly. I’ll pay a visit to Miss Cafferty. See if there’s anything to your story.”
“Don’t have to go out to her campsite. She’s in the saloon right now. That was the other thing I was gonna mention. No righteous woman like she claims to be oughta be rollin’ on the floor of a saloon with Paddy Mulligan. It’s just not seemly.”
Joe stiffened. “She’s in the saloon?” At Curly’s solemn nod, he grabbed his hat and stomped out of his office onto the planked walkway, making a beeline for the Rusty Bucket. Miss Cafferty had seemed so coy, so modest, when he’d sold her the permit to solicit. She’d dressed in an outfit any Eastern-raised schoolmarm would have given the nod. He should have listened to his gut in the first place. No decent woman had ever made him so damn out of control. She was just like the rest of those independent-minded women who thought society’s rules somehow didn’t apply to them.
The red hair had been a bright, glaring clue to her true nature—no matter that it was always neatly styled and pinned. She’d snookered him just like she had the rest of the townsfolk.
He slammed his palms against the swinging doors leading into the saloon and came to a halt. A ring of men filled the center of the room. Those on the outer perimeter stood on tiptoe to peer over the shoulders of the men standing at the center of the circle.
He elbowed his way inside and sucked a slow breath between his teeth to calm the anger that burned hot and fast as a match to gunpowder.
The sight that greeted him only raised the pressure pounding in his head another notch. The shy and modest Miss Cafferty straddled the barrel chest of the town drunk, her petticoats rising above her knees. Her woolen stockings hugged an expanse of ankle and calf that drew every male eye watching her wrestle the behemoth.
Paddy Mulligan groaned beneath her, sounding like a cross between a drunken bear and a man in the last throes of lust. Given his sorry state, Joe suspected his moans were due more to the heat from the woman’s open legs rubbing his wide belly and her bottom bumping his private parts than the wicked set of shiny pliers she had shoved inside his mouth.
Joe’s own body reacted swiftly, urgently. This was the last damn straw. “Woman, what the hell do you think you’re doing?”
Honey Cafferty blew an errant curl of flaming-red hair from her eyes. “Not now,” she said, not looking away from Paddy’s tonsils. “Now, Paddy, if you’d let me give you my special painkiller first—”
“Smelled like skunk fart,” one of the men in the circle said. “Don’t blame him for refusin’.”
“Shoulda just let him get drunk first,” another said.
“Drinking spirits makes a man bleed faster,” Honey muttered and twisted her wrist, eliciting a strangled groan from Paddy.
“Yeah, but then he wouldn’t give a damn,” said the bartender, who stood with his arms folded over his chest, a glower darkening his usually jovial face.
“Someone’s standing in my light,” Honey said and looked over her shoulder. When she caught sight of Joe, her eyes blinked and she gave him a weak smile. “If you’d just shift to your left, Sheriff, I’ll be done with this extraction in just a minute.”
Joe narrowed his eyes, but he moved sideways, taking a deep breath to calm the fury building inside him. He’d bide his time for now, but he and the little lady were gonna have a talk.
She twisted her hand again, and Paddy’s eyes rolled back in his head.
“Thank the Lord, he passed right out,” said the bartender, looking as pale as a ghost.
Both Honey’s hands wrapped around the pliers and she leaned back. Everybody drew a deep breath and more than one man’s face winced as she yanked a blackened tooth out of Paddy’s mouth.
“Got it!” She raised it high for everyone to see. “When he wakes up, he’ll feel so much better.”
She plucked the tooth off the end of her pliers and tucked it inside Paddy’s shirt pocket. Then she reached for a tapestry carpet bag lying on the floor beside her. She pulled out a small folded paper and poured a rough yellow-brown powder into her palm. She packed the powder into the bleeding hole she’d left in Paddy’s gum. “That should stop the bleeding and help him some with the pain.”
She wiped her hands on a bar towel, clambered off his chest and smoothed down her skirts. She pulled her cuffs back down her forearms, cool as a cucumber, while the crowd of fascinated men watched her put herself to rights.
Joe had no doubt that every man there was reversing the process in his mind. His cock surged again against the placket of his trousers, which only made him madder.
When she finished, she flashed a bright smile. “Now, if anyone else has trouble with an aching tooth, you know who to come to.”
There were a lot of heads shaking and low mutters among the men. However reluctant they might be for a visit from her plier-wielding hands, half a dozen men still reached down to pick up her bag.
“Thank you, gentlemen,” she said, reaching for the bag. “I’ll leave you to your business.”
The crowd parted like the Red Sea for Moses, and she sailed right through, brushing past Joe with a ladylike nod.
He clamped his jaw tight and turned to follow her out the doors. On the planked sidewalk, he caught her arm. “Now wait a minute there. You and I are gonna have us a little talk.”
“Oh? Do you need a tooth pulled too?” she said, a smile tugging the corners of her lips.
He narrowed his eyes. She wasn’t wriggling her way out of this with charm. A quick glance behind them, and he realized the swinging doors were open and the men had spilled onto the walkway to watch them.
All he needed now was for a few of the beer-guzzling crowd to decide a rescue was in order. “You’re coming to my office.”
“Anything you say,” she said, her voice soft and a little breathless.