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Toni J Strawn: The one night stand…
Sunday, July 2nd, 2017

There is something wickedly tempting about the thought of a one night stand. Throw away your inhibitions, be somebody else for a night, go a little crazy. More often than not, the one night stand is between two people who already know each other—that forbidden friend moment when you ‘try’ them out to see if there might be a spark of something more. It either explodes into the beginnings of a full-blown relationship, or feels like you’re making out with your brother. Blech.

With nearly fifty percent of the adult population admitting to participating in a one night stand, what is it about these three seemingly innocuous words that turns the average, self-controlled human being to a lust-fuelled predator stalking their prey. While alcohol is often used as an excuse, it’s not the only reason we shake off the last of our restraint and get down and dirty without the emotional connection.

Perhaps that is part of the answer too, the lack of attachment which is the only real difference between a first date and a one night stand. There is no promise of on-going affection, no declaration of love. It is sex, pure and simple. And with less than twenty percent of one night standers admitting to having regrets, it is no wonder the one night stand is still a popular way for people to meet their happy ever after.

So, have you ever indulged in a naughty one night stand? In the deliciously erotic One Night Stand Series, our heroes and heroines explore the many of the reasons for an illicit night of pleasure. Who knows, it may even end in love.

HIS RULES 

One Night Stand Series

Who will break first… 

Abby Harkness believes sex is a full-contact sport to be played by the rules.

Rule #1? One night only.

That is, until she meets the one man who makes her body scream for more. Instinct tells her to run, but Abby is determined to exorcise the demons of her past and prove she can handle anything he has to give.

Marcus Brookhein is competitive to the core, and he will bend the rules to win Abby’s heart. Its all-out war . . . and it’s about to get dirty.

Get your copy here!

Author Bio

Toni J Strawn is the author of the super-spicy contemporary One Night Stand novels, which include His Rules, The Rebound and Her Release, with His Redemption coming soon. These can be read on their own, or as a trilogy.

Toni loves everything romance. Hot, bad, crazy, out-of-control romance. In the One Night Stand series the characters are set up for ultimate one night stand, before turning it into happily ever after—no matter how much they have been through. Because everyone deserves to find love. Right?

While not locked away in her Romansion—a tiny writing shed at the bottom of the garden—Toni can be found with super-hubby Chris and the kids, or feeding her addiction to reading…you guessed it…romance.

What are you doing for the holiday? Play my puzzle!
Saturday, July 1st, 2017

This is a huge travel day for a lot of folks here in the U.S.! If you’re sitting in the passenger seat, and you’re bored with the company or the scenery ( :) ), I have a fun little puzzle for you. I’m trying to find games I can embed in my posts, because I’m addicted, and don’t addicts love leading their friends into the same addiction?

Let me know whether you enjoyed it! And share your 4th of July plans!

Hidden Words

Puzzle by mypuzzle.org

Love cowboys? Adore Blue Collar bad boys? Lust for Navy SEALs?
Friday, June 30th, 2017

Is your summer flying away like mine? I can’t believe tomorrow’s the first day of July! I’m renewing my vows right now to swim every day, enjoy the kids every day, and figure out how to write and have a life… Too many promises? Probably. Which do you think will fall by the wayside? Yeah. Probably the last one.

But that’s good for you, right? Seeing as this is Friday and you have the weekend stretching out in front of you, I’m here to remind you of the stories you may have missed this month. If you start now, you can read every one of them this weekend! You don’t have to waste time at Amazon, flipping through screens to find something you love. Love cowboys? Adore Blue Collar bad boys? Lust for Navy SEALs? Well, you’re in luck…

And don’t forget to drool over the covers of the stories coming in July…

If you missed this month’s releases…

Sometimes it takes a cowboy, or maybe four, to unleash a woman’s wild child…

Being the pretty daughter of the town whore was reason enough to ensure Shauna Davies lived a circumspect life, stepping out of line only occasionally with her favorite cowboy, boyfriend Bo Crenshaw. But her untamed spirit is forcing her to make a new start in another place where no one knows her past–but not before she fulfills one last wicked fantasy…

Cowboy Bo Crenshaw has loved Shauna since they shared their first sexual adventures as teenagers, but he hasn’t found the way to show her he accepts the wild child she keeps hidden inside–at least, not until she confesses a long-held fantasy. Now Bo is determined to give her a send-off that will make her think twice about blowing out of town.

Hoping he’s found the key to unlocking her heart, he turns to the Kinzie brothers, his three closest friends, to provide her a single night of unrestrained passion.

Get your copy here!

* * * * *

Romance sparks between a bounty hunter and a SEAL on the hunt for an escaped terrorist…

A former military police dog handler, Jamie Burke, along with her former bomb dog Tessa, are still trying to adjust to civilian life. With a jaded, testy personality, Jamie has few friends. Now, a bounty hunter, she’s tasked to help federal and local law enforcement search for an escaped terrorist in the Crazy Mountains of Montana.

Former SEAL, Sky Reynolds can’t believe Jamie Burke is part of the task force. The last time he saw her was in Afghanistan. Back then, he thought he’d never stand a chance with the pretty, ballsy blonde, sure she had someone waiting for her back home. But here she is, still single, still prickly as hell. Assigned to stick close to her and her dog Tessa during the hunt, he’ll use the situation to get close. This time, he’s not letting her slip away.

When Jamie’s captured by the terrorist, it’s up to Sky, his fellow SEALs, and her motley crew of bounty hunters to save her…

Get your copy here!

* * * * *

When it comes to love…Blue Collar is better!

It’s time to set aside those sexy billionaires and enjoy stories about the everyday, even sexier bad boys you meet in real life. They may have dirty hands and wear tool belts and jeans instead of Rolex watches, but they’re earthy alpha males unafraid to get down and dirty when face to face with a woman in need–whatever her need may be!

Just a few of the titillating stories inside…

In “Elevation” by Megan Mitcham, an always-in-control policewoman trapped in an elevator shaft gets a sexy rescue from the handsome repairman. A lonely woman drives a thousand miles to meet an oil field roughneck ready for a long night of laying pipe in Mia Hopkins’ “We Drill Deep While Others Sleep”. Jennifer Kacey shows the lengths to which an enterprising gal will go to get the owner of an oil change shop to check her fluids in “The Boss”. And those are just a few of the sexy stories inside this collection about the everyday hero next door.

These are men who’ve built their powerful muscles from hard work rather than inside any gym, and they sure know how to use their hard-earned skills to pleasure a woman…

Get your copy here!

* * * * *

Three cowboys…one for remembrance…one for healing…and one to steal her heart forever…

Chrissi Page has tried to find one man who heats her bed the way the Kinzie brothers did one shameful night years ago. She’s failed miserably, leaving her with no choice but to bank that inner fire–and keep a lid on her inner bad girl.

Way back when, she’d been weak, unable to choose between three cowboys who appealed to her in very different ways. After they’d each tried to win her for their own, they’d confronted her, demanding she choose. Confusion and anger had boiled over into a passion so wild, that to this day, she’s still trying to live it down.

Since that night, Ezra, Cade, and Joshua have individually sewn their wild oats with pretty much the entire available female population of Two Mule, Texas. Yet nothing and no other woman has ever erased the attraction they still feel for Chrissi. When she’s stranded on the road near their ranch, it’s their last chance to turn their mutual obsession into an unusual proposition…

Get your copy here!

* * * * *

See what’s coming in July!

  

Psst! Four-Gone is ready for pre-order!

Desiree Holt: Happy Birthday to me with a lot of gifts for you (Giveaway)
Thursday, June 29th, 2017

Today is my birthday. Yup, today I am 81 years young. And you now what keeps me young? Writing my books and “talking” to you, my readers. Now, I’m not giving away 81 books today (pause to giggle) but I will give away three titles which I’ll post at the end.

I’m really celebrating today, because June 27 was release day for Where Danger Hides. I love all my books but this one is extra special. I wrote it while still living in Texas (as I did with so many of my books). The hero is part Comanche. I lived near Fredericksburg, the center so long ago of Comanche settlement in that area. My husband and I drove to Fredericksburg to do some research at the museum there and (gasp!) you’ll never believe it but a man walked in to give something to the museum who look EXACTLY like my hero, Noah Cantrell. My husband had to promise I wasn’t crazy when I asked if we could take him for coffee. The soul of Noah was born out of that conversation.

I had lived in Tampa before moving to Texas, so I tried to give a flavor of the city by having my heroine live there. But when she goes to Texas, she is seduced by the nature and raw beauty of the state, just as I was.

Where Danger Hides is a revised and revitalized edition of the earlier release, and I am so much happier with this one. Not only that, my publisher, Totally Bound, liked it so much they asked me to develop a series from it, so this is Book One in Corporate Heat. Books 2-4 are currently in development.

Here is a taste of the book below. I hope you’ll all help me celebrate my birthday by taking home a copy. And if you leave a comment, you might win a choice of an ebook from my backlist.

Where Danger Hides

Corporate Heat Book One

Taylor Scott thought she had it all—a good life and a great job. No relationship? No problem. But her world is turned upside down when the father she never knew she had first refuses to acknowledge her, then makes her the sole heir to the major conglomerate he owned. It’s the last thing she wants, but circumstances leave her no choice. She steps into a world of corporate greed and treachery where no one is what they seem.

And the only person to guide her through the treacherous waters? The man with whom she had the hottest one-night stand ever, Noah Cantrell. Noah isn’t what he seemed at first, either, but now he’s the only one Taylor can trust.

As danger stalks her at every turn, she must rely on him for everything. The man who makes her scream with pleasure is the only one who can tell her where the danger hides.

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/where-danger-hides-4
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Where-Danger-Hides-Corporate-Heat-ebook/dp/B0716YXRD5/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1495833969&sr=1-1&keywords=Where+Danger+Hides
B&N: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/hide-and-seek-desiree-holt/1125531148?ean=9781516103676#productInfoTabsTotally Bound: https://www.totallybound.com/index.php?route=search%2Fget%2Fresults&q=Where+Danger+Hides

Excerpt

Leaning back in her chair she closed her eyes and as always these days, unbidden, the image of The Man danced across her brain. She rubbed her eyes, trying to erase the images that were always there no matter how she wished them away. That night had been at once the most erotic and embarrassing night of her life. At least she’d broken out of her shell with a stranger, someone she didn’t have to see again. You want to see him again, though. Quit kidding yourself. You want all those things he did to you, made you do. Maybe even more. That’s why you can’t stop thinking about them. About him.

A commotion in the reception area broke her train of thought and drew her attention. She heard the voice of Sheila, the receptionist, raised in protest over something and the angrier male voice overriding her.

“You can’t go in there,” Sheila was saying as the door to Taylor’s office flew open.

“I’m in. Miss Scott can throw me out if she wants to.”

There he was, standing in front of her.

Him, The Man.

She blinked hard, thinking for a moment she’d conjured up his image. But when she opened her eyes again he was still there. Alive. In her office. In full alpha mode. The man she’d never expected to see again. The man who’d taken her far beyond the boundaries set by her inhibitions and beckoned to her in her dreams each night.

He was even more impressive than she remembered, his presence filling her office and surrounding her. His custom suit and silk dress shirt—were they his uniform?—were window dressing for the barely leashed panther beneath the fabric of civilized clothing. Expensive hand tooled leather boots on his feet. His hair tied back with a leather thong as before. His face still an unreadable mask. The sense of controlled power still there. A man larger than life. The panther was caged today but just barely. This might be her office but he was definitely the person in charge.

Even as embarrassment and anger warred within her, her nipples hardened, her breasts tingled and her panties dampened with moisture. She felt every bit of blood drain from her face and drop to her feet. Waves of hot and cold rolled through her and she was sure all the air had been sucked from her lungs. Gripping the arms of her desk chair for support she licked her lips, trying to moisten them.

Quick, lithe movements brought him to the front of her desk where he stood facing her, his face set, dark eyes probing hers. Eyes that for a brief second held a knowing look.

“Miss Scott?” Sheila’s worried voice cut through her fog. “Shall I call one of the partners?”

Taylor managed to find a functioning part of her brain. “No, thanks, Sheila. It’s all right.”

“Would you like me to send someone in to carry your boxes for you? Walk you down to the garage?” Sheila wasn’t quite ready to let go.

Taylor forced a smile. “No, I can manage. Thanks for your concern. And for all your good wishes today.”

Sheila gave her a last worried look before she closed the door.

His eyes burned into Taylor’s, mesmerizing her as they’d done that night in San Antonio.

What is he doing here?

As if he’d heard her, he reached into his inside jacket pocket, extracted a card from a small leather case and dropped it on top of the folder. She picked it up with fingers that trembled and stared at it.

Noah Cantrell, Vice President of Security, Arroyo Corporation

Her father’s company.

Oh, hell!

*~*~*

Check me out at:
www.desireeholt.comwww.facebook.com/authordesireeholt
@desireeholt

Happy Birthday to Me! (Giveaway)
Wednesday, June 28th, 2017

This giveaway is now ended! Thanks to everyone who dropped by to help me celebrate by birthday!

* * * * *

My Facebook is blowing up already this morning with good wishes. Thank you, all! How does one celebrate her own birthday in a public way? I’d look foolish singing “Happy Birthday” to me, so instead, I’ll keep this easy…

I’ll give away the gifts. For everyone who posts a birthday wish below, I’ll give away a free shorty. All you have to do is post your wish (and thank you very much in advance!), post your short story preference (link below to the page), and leave your email address in the comments. Happy Birthday from me to you!

Choose a story from this page!
(All excerpt “Invite Me In”)

Psst! And how about giving me a gift? See the “Follow My Blog” on the left? Sign up!

 

Nearly halfway through 2017! (Contest)
Tuesday, June 27th, 2017

Can you believe it?!

I’m staring at what remains of 2017 and wondering where the hell the time flew! Did the year crawl for you or blur as it flashed by? Seeing as we’re almost to the midpoint, I thought I’d go ahead and post my list of stories I’ve published thus far in 2017, as a reminder—there’s a lot for you to peruse. Granted many of these are “reissued” stories for which I received rights from Ellora’s Cave or Samhain. So, if you’ve been following me a while, you’ve already read them. But there are new stories interspersed…

My personal favorites from among these?

Ride a Texas Cowboy Begging For It 

Bad to the Bone  

This is the complete list of all my releases, January through June 2017…

  1. 01/10/17 – STEPBROTHERS STEPPING OUT: ULTIMATE COLLECTION, Box Set 
  2. 01/24/17 – RIDE A TEXAS COWBOY, reissue
  3. 01/31/17 – SOMETHING TO TALK ABOUT, Texas Billionaires series
  4. 02/14/17 – HARD SEAL TO LOVE, Uncharted SEALs series
  5. 02/19/17 – FUN WITH DICK AND JAYNE, reissue
  6. 03/11/17 – BEGGING FOR IT, reissue
  7. 03/24/17 – SWEETER THAN HONEY, reissue
  8. 03/28/17 – STEPBROTHER’S STEPPING OUT: WITH HIS SEAL TEAM-4, short story
  9. 03/31/17 – SADDLED, reissue
  10. 04/18/17 – RAW SILK, reissue
  11. 04/11/17 – WHO’S YOUR DADDY, Texas Billionaire Club series
  12. 04/18/17 – BAD TO THE BONE, Night Fall series
  13. 05/06/17 – UNBRIDLED, Lone Star Lovers series, reissue
  14. 05/10/17 – STEPBROTHERS STEPPING OUT: WITH HIS SEAL TEAM-4, short story
  15. 05/16/17 – UNFORGIVEN, Lone Star Lovers series, reissue
  16. 05/20/17 – NERD’S BLIND DATE, short story
  17. 05/27/17 – JANE’S WILD WEEKEND, reissue
  18. 06/02/17 – FOUR SWORN, Lone Star Lovers, reissue
  19. 06/08/17 – BIG SKY SEAL, Uncharted SEALs series
  20. 06/13/17 – BLUE COLLAR, Boys Behaving Badly series
  21. 06/16/17 – BREAKING LEATHER, Lone Star Lovers series

Contest

Real easy… Have you read any of my 2017 releases? Which did you like best?

Comment below for a chance to win a small Amazon.com gift card!

Kris Norris: Iron Will (Giveaway)
Monday, June 26th, 2017

GIVEAWAY

In honour of my upcoming release, Iron Will, I’d like to do a giveaway. In order to entre, just comment with your favourite Wild West movie below. I’ll choose a winner at random. Winner can either get a copy of Iron Will when it releases mid July, or can choose a book from my backlist. I’ll announce the winner on here on Sunday night.

The Wild West…

Note… Iron Will is an MMF novel, where the men interact.

Sheriffs, Marshalls, Gunslingers. Men who were tough as nails, in a land just as rough. The heroes of the old west aren’t strangers. Hollywood has given us more hot men than we can count. Sam Elliot. Clint Eastwood. Robert Redford, Paul Newman, Leonard DiCaprio, Kurt Russell… the list is endless. But today, I want to talk about the ladies.

Being a woman in 1890—wow, now that would have been an adventure. And far more difficult than it is today. Modern technology aside—while women still don’t have true equality in many aspects, can you imagine what it was like for those brave women who traveled first by wagon train, then later by stream train, to make a new life? The battles and resentment they faced if they dared to dream of a life outside the social norm?

Maybe that’s why most of my leading ladies from my old west books are on the fringes. Doctors, Marshals, Gunslingers… they not only brave the wilds of the landscape, but the views and beliefs of the people around them. Female doctors often traveled thousand of miles just to get work—places so desperate for any kind of medical training that they’d hire a woman because no man would take the job. And once there, often every new case was another test they needed to pass, or be asked to leave.

But they persevered. Forged new territory for those of us who followed, regardless of our occupation. We all have some pretty big shoes to fill…maybe that’s why I’m so drawn to that era, and why I keep coming back to the courageous men and women of the 1890s.

In my upcoming release, Iron Will, my leading lady has one advantage. Those tough-as-nails heroes I mentioned? Dr. Hollis Chambers is lucky enough to have two larger-than-life men that realize she’s their mate. Did I mention they’re bear shifters? And that they’re in the midst of trying to finish a railroad? But if they think she’s going to be easy to tame…they’re about to meet their toughest match.

Here’s a bit more about it and a quick excerpt.

Iron Will

Cullen James…

I’m not a patient man. It’s not a secret. I don’t hide this quality, and I don’t care if people don’t like it. I’m trying to build a railroad, not win a contest. I don’t do contests, because when I see something I want, I hunt it down. Whether it’s the bear lurking beneath my skin or just my dominant personality isn’t clear. Not that it matters. Because I get what I want, and there’s nothing I want more right now than Lucas Quinn and Hollis Chambers. Hot. Naked. Laid out before me like a sacrifice. Lucas knows my thoughts, my desires. We’re mates, even if he hasn’t allowed me to consume him. Own him in a way only his mate can. He was waiting. But the wait’s over.

Hollis doesn’t know what she’s gotten herself into. We might have handled our initial meeting poorly, but that doesn’t mean we’ll let her go. She belongs to us. Our missing piece of the puzzle we can’t let slip away. She might try to distance herself, but like our bears, we’re relentless. We stalk, we circle, we pounce. We’re going to make her so damn desperate to have us claim her, the only words she’ll be able to shout are, “Yes,” and, “more.” I don’t know if she’s a virgin—don’t really care, because she won’t be once we get out hands on her. And we will. It’s just a matter of time.

The West isn’t the only thing that’s wild in town. And we’re going to use that to our advantage. Let the chase begin.

Check out Kris’s books!

Excerpt

Devil’s Gate rail camp, Southwestern Colorado, 1899

“What the Hell do you mean we lost two more men?”

Cullen James turned, ignoring the way his voice seemed to bounce off the walls of the sheriff’s office as he grabbed his hat, clenching it in one hand as he scrubbed the other down his face. He hadn’t been gone more than forty-eight hours, and somehow they’d managed to suffer another setback, making his job that much harder.

He crushed the growl rumbling through his chest. This day was quickly taking a turn for the worse, and the sun hadn’t even set, yet. That’s when the liquor started talking, making otherwise calm men act like bullies with something to prove. And he couldn’t afford to let a stupid fight over cards or a working girl at the saloon lead to more injuries.

He set his jaw, staring at the man off to his left, wishing his feelings for the guy didn’t lessen some of the anger coursing through his veins, but it was pointless. Just looking at Lucas eased the tight feeling in his chest. Took the edge off the uncertainty gnawing at his gut. “I sent three men on horseback as guards. How did those idiots manage to get themselves shot?”

Lucas leaned against the wall just inside the doorway, arms crossed over his massive chest, one foot braced against the wood paneling. He gave Cullen an arch of one brow as he shrugged. “Dangerous times, Cullen. You know that. For every armed man we send out to stand watch, three more gunmen are waitin’ in the trees, ready to attack whenever the situation looks promisin’. We should consider ourselves lucky. Could have lost the whole damn crew.”

Cullen tilted back his head, fighting the urge to slam his fist into the wall, or drown his anger in a bottle of whiskey. Ten weeks. That was how long they had to finish the damn spur before the heavy mountain snow set in, and if the men weren’t having shootouts in the saloon, the bloody gangs were raiding the town or ambushing crews on their way back from the rail.

He raked a hand through his hair, cursing under his breath when it flopped back into his eyes. “Any others get injured?”

“Not this time. I just happened to show up before those bandits had gotten off more than a couple of rounds each. Managed to convince the gunmen it was in their best interest to leave, though they did manage to help themselves to some of our supplies. But it was just dumb luck I was headed back from the outpost, otherwise we’d be faced with a room full of patients with no one to treat them.”

“What you mean is you’re damn lucky you didn’t get yourself killed.”

Lucas grinned. “You almost sound as if you’d miss me.”

“Fuck off. You know what you mean to me.”

Lucas’ gaze dropped to Cullen’s crotch. “You keep promisin’—”

“And you keep turnin’ me down…mate.”

The other man’s shoulders drooped, his smile fading into a thin line. “You know why.”

“You still think we’re missin’ a piece of the puzzle.”

“Not a piece…a third.” He huffed at Cullen’s glare. “Don’t give me that look. I know you sense it, too. If you didn’t, you would have pressed the subject far more than you have.” He released a rough breath. “I’m not saying I’m not your mate. Trust me, my damn grizzly is feeling more than a bit possessive where you’re concerned. It doesn’t like waitin’ anymore than your Kodiak does. But… We both know we have another mate out there. And somehow claimin’ each other first… It doesn’t sit well with either part of me.”

Cullen sighed. Fuck, he hated when Lucas was right. And the man was definitely right. Cullen had known the moment they’d met he was bound to Lucas. His scent, his skin, his sheer presence affected Cullen in a way he’d never experienced before. But he also couldn’t deny that he’d sensed something was off. Lucas hadn’t been lying. The fact they’d been around each other for several months and hadn’t yet given in to the fury involved with mating—that was proof enough. Though damn if the other man didn’t make Cullen want to put that theory to the test. Slam Lucas against the wall and taste that cocky mouth of his. Feel the man’s tongue tangle with his, the hard planes of his body firm against him.

Lucas grinned, the smug tilt only fueling Cullen’s possessive feelings. “I know that look, too. And Hell yeah, I want all of that and more…just as soon as we find that missin’ piece, as you put it.”

Cullen fisted his hands, breathing deeply in the hopes of stemming the fire beneath his skin. Keep his other half from seizing control. A hint of claws scratched at his palms before he managed to pull the animal back—temper it with token promises. Ones he wasn’t sure would ever come true. A hand landed on his shoulder, and he turned to gaze at Lucas.

His mate smiled. “I won’t be able to fight the urge much longer, either. But until my damn bear decides it’s done waitin’…”

Cullen nodded, giving the man a good-natured shove to help calm his beast. “So…do I have a couple of bodies out on the spur I need to tend to? Or did they manage to make it back before succumbing to their injuries?”

“I managed to drag their asses back on the wagons. Wounds weren’t all that bad, but without any form of treatment…they bled out.” Lucas shook his head as he paced to the other side of the room before turning again. “We need a doctor, Cullen. A real one. Not some drunk barber who thinks bleedin’ the men with leeches is the answer to every damn problem that stumbles through his doors. The jackass hasn’t saved a single life since that holier-than-thou physician the company hired packed up his clinic and rode out of here three months ago. And we don’t have the resources to keep replacin’ these men.”

Lucas walked over to him. “Word’s getting ‘round. Everyone knows Buford’s gang is shootin’ up every damn town within a hundred miles of Durango, and rail camps and lines are easy picking—gives them a steady supply of explosives and ammunition. It’s getting harder and harder to find good people to fill these spots. This isn’t a large-scale undertaking like some of our previous jobs. Being privately commissioned as we are means limited funds, which in turn means smaller crews, less support. We can’t afford to lose any more men…not like this. Work’s dangerous enough without worrying a trip to the clinic will kill ya.”

“I’ll send more guards. Ride out myself if I have to.”

“And when one of those bastards clips you with a bullet?”

“Cold day in Hell, my friend. We both know that.”

“Not if half your attention is focused on worrying about how far we got on the line instead of which scraggly bastard is hidin’ behind the next hill.”

“Even if that happened, I’ll heal. We’re not like the others, Lucas, you know that. And I’m far from an easy target.”

“Being a shifter doesn’t make you invincible.” Lucas clasped Cullen’s shoulder. “I suppose we could get a few more of our kind out here, seeing as they wouldn’t really need medical support, but—”

“But that would end in bloodshed of another kind. If we were fully bonded, we could tolerate having other shifters cross over into our territory, but in our current situation…”

Lucas nodded. “I’ll see to the crews. Find more men if we need to, but it won’t mean much without a doctor.”

“You think I haven’t fucking tried?” He stomped across the room, kicking at a chair. It clattered to the floor, the loud sound soothing some of raw feelings burning in his gut. “I’ve requested a replacement every day for the past three months. No one wants the job, simple as that. Hell, they don’t even get off the damn supply train, just stare at the makeshift town through the window and go right on back to Boston or New York or wherever the Hell else they came from. Face it, the kind of man that’d be willin’ to come this far and work in these conditions quit after the war. And these new doctors simply don’t want to make that kind of sacrifice. Not when they can find work in the big cities or established towns. The kind with money and shops and federal marshals.”

“The war’s been over for thirty years.”

“Land’s still tainted with blood. You don’t clean that kind of horror away in a hundred years. The farther we go, the worse it gets.” He scrubbed a hand through his hair, pushing the damp mass out of his eyes. “I’ll send another telegram. Maybe if they believe the line’s in jeopardy, they’ll find someone who won’t quit before they’ve stepped onto that platform.”

“The line’s always been in jeopardy.”

Cullen scowled when the door squeaked open, the glare of the setting sun streaming through the open space. He raised his hand, shielding his eyes from the light as a dark figure walked through the doorway, a long shadow stretching across the floor.

“Bloody Hell.” Cullen shoved his hat back on, adjusting it low over his forehead. “Shut the damn door before we all go blind and the room fills with dust.”

The floor creaked followed by the slamming of the door. Cullen blinked as the room dimmed, staring at the person standing just inside the doorway. Blue eyes held his gaze, tousled strands of brown hair fluttering around her face. She took a step forward, placing a couple of bags beside the door before removing a black Stetson and shaking out a mass of long hair across her shoulders. It disappeared down her back, the lazy curls bouncing as she settled her weight on one foot, the other tapping restless against the wooden floor. Her oilskin jacket covered her body, the open section in the front displaying a white shirt and tan trousers. He didn’t miss the belt slung low over her waist, or the twin handles resting against her hips.

Cullen gave her body a long slow sweep, then focused on her face. “Can we help you?”

She glanced between the men then stepped over to him, the hollow echo of her footsteps ringing through the room. “They told me I could find a Mr. Cullen James in here.”

Cullen smirked. “Guess that depends on whether you’re here to help me or issue a duel.”

Her lips quirked, a hint of a smile lifting one corner. “I try to avoid killin’ people unless it’s absolutely necessary.” She rocked on her heels, seemingly uncertain before tilting her head. “Mr. Gilmore sent me. The name’s Hollis Chambers.”

Cullen glanced at Lucas, but the man merely shrugged. Shit. Cullen really didn’t have time for journalists or whatever this woman had to offer. He motioned to his partner. “This is Lucas Quinn, the resident sheriff. Now, with all due respect, Miss Chambers, it’s been one Hell of a day. Raidin’ parties are attackin’ my crews, and I’ve got a barber who thinks he can cure men by bleedin’ them dry. I really don’t have time for riddles.”

Her expression never faltered. “Sounds like you have more than a few issues at Devil’s Gate so I’ll get straight to the point. Mr. Gilmore hired me to fill that position you’ve had vacant for some time.”

“Position?”

She reached into an inner pocket, removing a telegram. “I believe this will clear things up for you.”

Cullen took the paper, unfolding it before holding it up. He read through the short sentences, his gaze rising to hers once he’d finished. He gave Lucas a sideways glance before crossing his arms over his chest, her telegram still clenched in one fist. “Are you serious?”

Those perfect lips quirked again as humor crinkled her eyes. “Do I look as if I’m jokin’?”

He snorted, handing the paper to Lucas, smiling when the man had a similar reaction. Cullen nodded at her. “So, you’re telling me my boss hired you to be the resident doctor? You?”

Her eyes narrowed slightly, the line of her jaw firming. “Tell me, Mr. James, which part do you find incredulous? That Mr. Gilmore actually found someone to come out to this Hell hole, or that it’s me?”

“Both.”

“I see. Then let me put your fears to rest. Yes, I really am a doctor. I graduated from Philadelphia four years ago, and I’ve been workin’ in small towns and camps just like this one ever since. No, I didn’t travel all this way on a ruse or a whim or to admire the scenery and yes…I know how to use the guns strapped to my hips.” She arched a brow. “Did I leave anything out?”

He resisted the chuckle that bubbled in his chest. “I admire your tenacity Miss Chambers—”

“It’s Dr. Chambers, or Hollis.”

He glanced at Lucas, slowly releasing a harsh breath. “Dr. Chambers—”

“But?” She scoffed at him. “There was definitely a but coming, so…”

“While I’m not saying you aren’t qualified, I’m not sure how well-received you’ll be.”

She smirked. “So you’re saying that the men in this camp would rather die at the hands of a barber pretendin’ to be a doctor than be saved by a woman who really is one.”

It wasn’t a question, and he didn’t miss the piercing tone.

He sighed, leaning back against a desk. “That’s one way of putting it.”

“Then the men here have all spent far too much time in the hot sun.” She pointed at the telegram. “None of which matters. I was hired, plain and simple.” She leaned in closer, her breath rustling the edge of his shirt. “And just to make things clear, even I didn’t want to come out this far. It’s no secret how many men you lose on a daily basis, or the risks involved in merely taking the train to get here. There isn’t anyone else willin’ to apply for the job. As it is, Mr. Gilmore had to guarantee my wage for the next three months regardless of whether I stay or not. Thinkin’ it’s in your best interest to show me to the clinic—put me to work.” She straightened, plastering on a sweet smile. “Unless you’d rather have the barber continue on as he has. I know where you can get a whole jug full of leeches for next to nothing.”

Lucas took a step forward, offering her the scrunched paper. “With all due respect, Doc… We can’t force the townsfolk to accept you, regardless of your credentials. Afraid the men that work the rails aren’t quite as forward thinkin’ as other, more refined folks. They tend to think a woman has a certain place.”

She hitched out one hip. “Let me guess. On their backs with their legs spread wide?”

He coughed, glancing at Cullen as if seeking help.

Cullen pushed to his feet. “Right or wrong, it’s the way things are in a rail camp, being they’re so transient. The women that travel with us up the spur are either wives or painted ladies. Maybe a teacher or a seamstress if we get lucky. Other than that…”

Hollis laughed, the tension easing from her body. “I see. Well then, I suppose I’ll just head on over to the saloon. Bide my time until I can catch another train out of here. As I said…I’ve been paid either way.”

She placed the telegram on the desk behind him, giving him one more long sweeping gaze. Then she tipped her hat and spun, making it to the door before looking back at them. “Shame, though. The railroad can’t afford to send you anyone else. Guess that means you’ll need those leeches, after all. Good day, gentlemen.”