Brand Spanking New Covers

I had my covers redesigned for the Destiny in Deadwood series and I’d love your comments. On the left is the new cover on the right is the old one. I changed them so they better reflected the stories.

First is Redeemed by a Rebel

redeemed_by_a_rebelJake Anderson killed a man defending his fiancée from a brutal attack, but lost her and his redeemed_by_a_rebel 200 x 300freedom in the process.  Now he’s on the run, tormented by the need for vengeance.

Becky Finnegan will do anything to escape her drunken father’s fists, including slave away at their mine.  Her only hope is to strike gold and make a new life for herself somewhere far, far away from Deadwood.  But then Jake arrives and does the unthinkable…forces her to feel, to hope…and to love.

Jake would give his life to protect Becky, but all he can offer her is a broken heart, a criminal’s life, and a past haunted by failure.  How can he save her when he’s already lost himself?  Will he destroy everything, or can the beautiful rebel redeem Jake’s lost soul?



Second is Healed by a Heart

healed_by_a_heartAll Liam Anderson wanted after the War Between the States, was a little peace.  After healed_by_a_heartseventeen years in the army, he’s tired of fighting and killing. Having lost his beloved wife to influenza, he’s tired of hurting.  And seeing his baby brother framed for murder, he’s tired of injustice.  He left everything behind to help his brothers escape, packed up his children and possessions, and took them all to a gold claim in Deadwood.

Miss Eleanor Smith is a thirty-two year-old spinster. She gave up her dream of a home and family a long time ago. Instead, she has spent her life traveling the world, ministering to the weak, the injured, the poor, and the forgotten, following her preacher father from one hell hole to another.  From what she’s seen of men and the world, she’s better off taking care of herself.  And she gets along just fine, until she literally falls into Liam’s arms, gets in the middle of a fight that isn’t hers, and becomes a pawn for an enemy’s revenge.

Deadwood was supposed to be a fresh start for Liam Anderson and his younger brothers, but trouble followed him and his children. And when Eleanor disappears, only Liam can rescue her. The headstrong, independent woman awoke his dead passion, but refused to surrender to his touch.  Can he convince her that merely surviving isn’t enough? Despite his sins, he’s the only man who can save her, and she’s the only woman strong enough to heal his broken heart.


Third is Seduced by a Sinner

seduced_by_a_sinnerZach Anderson is a desperate man. He needs to find a killer before the man destroys Zach’s seduced_by_a_sinnerentire family. He also must convince one Lily Sutter, the woman he loves, that she loves him and wants to marry him.

Neither task is an easy one.

Lily Sutter is a sinner. Just ask anyone in Deadwood. She had a baby out of wedlock and she doesn’t deny it. She was seduced and left by one man; she refuses to be taken in by another. The fact that Zach makes her blood boil and her heart race, just by being near, has nothing to do with anything.


SEDUCED BY A SINNER by Cynthia Woolf

This is the first kiss scene from Seduced by a Sinner. Hope you like it. Leave me a comment and you could be chosen to receive an ecopy of the book. One winner will be chosen at random.

seduced_by_a_sinnerWhen he got there, he saw Lily was waiting up for him, as she always did.

“Did you find him this time?” she asked, putting her book on the side table and rising from the chair where she’d been reading.

“I did.” Pride filled him when he set the money, a mixture of bills, coins and a bag of flake, on the table.

Lily came up behind him and helped him off with his coat, then hung it on one of the pegs behind the door.

“Thank you,” she whispered, her back still turned to him.

“Don’t thank me yet. All he had left was a little more than eighteen hundred dollars.”

Her gaze snapped to his. “Oh, God, that’s not enough. The note is due and I owe Al Swearengen three thousand dollars.” She held herself, arms wrapped around her waist.

Zach went to her and took her hands in his. “Let me give you the money.”

“No. I can’t do that.” She shook her head. “I refuse to take money from you or anyone.”

“Then let me loan you the money. What difference does it make if you owe me or him? It’s still a loan and you can make payments, as you can. You won’t have to worry about losing the store or becoming a prostitute for Swearengen. Better yet, let me be your business partner. A silent business partner. I’ll provide whatever capital you need for a small percentage of the net proceeds of the business. What do you say?” Please say yes, anything so I can stay close to you.

She stared at him for what seemed like forever.

“You would do that for me? You wouldn’t try to tell me how to run the business? You’d be a truly silent partner?”

“Truly. Not a word about how to run the business. Seems that you’re doing rather well as it is. You don’t need me coming in and messing with a good thing.”

She started to cry, covering her face with her hands.

He wrapped her in his arms, knowing she’d agreed to let him help her. “Don’t cry, honey. It’s alright.” She was wearing her nightgown and robe, the cotton soft beneath his fingers as he rubbed up and down her back in what he hoped was a soothing gesture.

She looked up, her pale blue eyes full of tears.

“Kiss me. Please, Zach, just kiss me.”

She didn’t need to ask twice. He lowered his head and took her soft lips with his. She tasted so good, like coffee and molasses cookies. He could taste her all night.

He tried to be gentle. But he needed her closer and clasped his arms around her, bringing her lush curves against him. His body responded immediately and his shaft became rock hard against her belly.

With reluctance, he broke the kiss. “Do you feel how much I want you? Marry me, Lily, so we can make love every night. So we can be together always. Marry me and put me out of my agony.”

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SEDUCED BY A SINNER by Cynthia Woolf

Here is an excerpt from the third and final book in the Destiny in Deadwood series. It is currently available from Amazon
Two lucky commentors will win an e copy of the book in their choice of formats

seduced_by_a_sinnerThursday, June 28, 1877

Zach reined to a stop in front of the Deadwood mercantile. He was looking forward to seeing Lily, but more importantly, Lily had a spare room and he needed someplace to live. Hopefully, she’d be willing to rent to him.

He probably should get a bath and a shave before he talked to her, but he was just too dog-tired. Over the past three weeks, he’d chased Jordan to Cheyenne and then southwest toward Denver. Always behind him perhaps only minutes, but still behind. Only getting close enough once in Cheyenne, to have seen him. Jordan could have killed him then, but Zach had seen him at the last moment and avoided most of the intended damage. The knife only cut him from below his eye to his mouth. It could have slashed his throat. Bleeding like a stuck pig afterwards, Zach had to find a doctor and get stitched up. By then, he’d lost Jordan and didn’t find him again until just outside Deadwood. Jordan was returning to Zach’s home. Returning to the scene of his crime, when he stabbed Ellie, returning to finish what he’d started but Zach would not allow him to hurt his family.

The problem was finding him in the throng of people that now occupied Deadwood. Thousands of people had come and more were on their way. Looking for the same kind of riches that he and his brothers had been lucky enough to find. They’d struck the mother lode with the gold claim that Lily Sutter had sold them.

He should go next door and get cleaned up, especially if he hoped to have any chance of convincing Lily about the room. She wouldn’t want a boarder who was as dirty as he was. He would ask her for meals, too. He needed them and sharing a meal, spending time together at her table, would be a good chance to get to know more about her and Gemma. The little girl needed a father but until the threat that Jordan presented was eliminated, until Jordan was eliminated, he couldn’t think about that. Couldn’t think about a family of his own.

They’d been in Deadwood for ten months, nearly a year before he left to go after Jordan and he’d been trying to court Lily all that time to no avail. She was having none of it. In all his thirty-eight years, he’d never been turned down by a woman. But she said he was a Yankee and too handsome for his own good and wouldn’t have more than a passing friendship with him.
Well, he wasn’t too handsome now, not with the scar on his face from Jordan’s knife. Red and angry, the wound still had the stitches. He needed to see Doc Cochran to get them out, today if possible, after he’d bathed. Then he could get a shave afterward and there wouldn’t be any stitches left for the razor to catch on.

He dismounted and tied the horse’s reins to the hitching rail then noticed a new bathhouse next door to Lily’s store. The sign said ‘Bath, shave and haircut’ five dollars. He went in there first. The old man, Richardson, was there working.

“Good day, Richardson. I’d like a bath now and a shave later.”

“You can do the bath but you have to pay Miss Lily,” he said, the few strands of long gray hair combed over the bald patch on top, though not covering it very well. “And then bring the token back here. She’s the one who does the shaves and haircuts since Sam left. You have to come back later for that, after she closes the store.”

“Alright, let’s just do the bath. Good and hot. I’ll go get the token. I haven’t had a good bath in weeks and am looking forward to this.”

Zach walked next door to the mercantile. The bell sounded as he entered. The one customer in the store took one look at Zach, and left hurriedly, keeping her face turned and her hand over her mouth as she passed.

“Be right with ya’ll,” said Lily.

He walked up to the counter. “No hurry,” said Zach, his voice still gravelly from lack of use.

Lily’s head snapped up and she stared. “Zach. Is that you?”

“In the flesh.”

She came around the counter. “You’re injured.” Reaching up toward the jagged cut on his face, she pressed her lips together, a gentleness crossed her features before she rallied and the starch came back. “You’re a mess. Where have you been? Why didn’t you say goodbye?”

“Enough time for questions later. I need a bath and Richardson said I need to pay you. Here’s the five dollars.” He handed her a “half eagle” gold piece.

“All right, I won’t bother you now. Here’s your token.”

“Thanks.” He turned on his heel and left. When he got to the door he turned, as he always did, to see if she was watched. He released a pent up breath, gratified that she was, tipped his hat and walked out the door.


Lily Sutter watched his retreating form as he walked out her front door, unbelieving the man she just saw was really Zach Anderson. The rugged, dirty man in worn buckskins was unlike any side of Zach he’d ever shown. He definitely wasn’t the pretty boy, she’d thought him to be. Not with his face covered in scraggly beard and the jagged cut, new and still full of stitches that ran from his eye to just above his lip. It would affect his smile.

She’d always loved his cocky smile. But the man she just met didn’t seem to know the word, smile. No laughter twinkled in his eyes, as there had been only a month ago. Now all she saw was hard resolve. She wasn’t sure she liked the change in him. She knew how to handle the other Zach, she didn’t know about this one. What had happened to Zach to make him the somber, serious man who had stood before her, asking for a bath? Where did the playful, fun loving person go?


Zach was done washing his body and his hair and stood in the tub. “Richardson, pour that bucket of water over me.”

“Yes, sir, Mr. Anderson.” The old man responded as quickly as he could, grabbing another bucket from next to the roaring fireplace and climbing on the stool next to the tub, he lifted it as high as his stooped shoulders would let him.

He poured the hot water over Zach, rinsing away all the dirt and grime from the last three and a half weeks. The water couldn’t rinse away the memories of a trip that seemed a lot longer. Hard days in the saddle, being so close to Jordan he could smell him, then finally cornering him in an alley in Cheyenne, only to meet Jordan’s knife with his face. Yet, all that encounter did was make Zach more determined to take care of this vermin, before he could hurt Zach’s family.

Liam couldn’t do it. He was newly married and had two children to think of, as well. Jake was no different—he had a new baby and a new wife. Both his brothers had wives, kids…families that Zach didn’t. There was no one to worry about Zach. He was the only one who could stop Jordan. Stop the evil son-of-a-bitch before he killed the only people in Zach’s life that cared about him, or that he cared for.

Zach dressed with care in the cleanest clothes he had in his saddle bag. He’d have to go to Liam’s and pick up his clothes, but first he needed to ask Lily about the room. Angling his body to see himself in the broken piece of mirror, he combed his hair straight back from his forehead, then put on his hat. He’d needed a haircut before he left town; now his hair nearly reached his shoulders and curled on the ends.

His hat was covered in dust, but there wasn’t much he could do about it. He’d had Richardson brush his hat and coat while he’d bathed but they were both still the worse for wear. Rain and blowing dirt had ground the soil into them, and it wasn’t coming out anytime soon.

He combed his mustache and beard, smoothing the curly black hair as best he could. Taking a last look in the mirror, he decided he’d done as much as possible to make the best impression on Lily. He wasn’t the same man that left here a few weeks ago. That man was gone, in his place was a hardened version. A version determined to protect his family by whatever means necessary. He would kill Jordan, the event was just a matter of when.

Zach walked next door to the mercantile and stepped inside. Lily was waiting on a customer, and Zach killed the time by collecting supplies to restock his saddlebags. He wanted to be ready to leave at a moment’s notice, if he needed to. He picked up hardtack, jerky and tobacco. He’d also have to get a bag of coffee. His supply ran out a week ago and he sorely missed it.

He put his purchases on the counter and went over to the potbellied stove where the coffeepot sat. A shelf holding several cups hung above the stove. He grabbed one and poured himself some of the fragrant brew. As he took the first sip, he closed his eyes and let it slide down his throat, relieving dryness from the trip.

The bell above the door sounded and he turned to watch the customer leave. Now the store was quiet with just him and Lily.

“Zach. Are you ready to talk now?” She grabbed her coffee cup from under the counter where she kept it when there was a customer in the store. She walked over to the stove and filled the cup with fresh coffee.

He wasn’t, but he couldn’t avoid it any longer. “Sure. I guess you know why I left. I had to. I couldn’t let him get away.”

“Did you find him? Is it over now?” she asked with a pinched mouth.

“No.” He didn’t want to admit he’s failed, not to her, not to Lily. “He’s back in Deadwood and he knows about the family. I’ve a proposal for you.”

Available from Amazon Two lucky commentors will win an e copy of the book in their choice of formats.

A Wonderful Time at Romcon and the We Love Cowboys event

Romcon was this past weekend. It was a total BLAST. One of the events I sponsered was WE LOVE COWBOYS. I along with Debra Holland, Sylvia McDaniels, Molly Cannon and Kim Boykin sponsored two handsome cowboys to come in and take pictures with our attendees. Here are a couple of the pictures. The first is with both cowboys, Brett and Thiago. Brett is the blond the the right (my left). Thiago received some interest from other author attendees about posing for their covers.

Then we have me with Brett.

The picture of all of us is, left to right, Thiago, Debra Holland, Cynthia Woolf, Kim Boykin, Molly Cannon, Sylvia McDaniel and Brett.



we_love_cowboys (1)_2

TAME A WILD HEART – special excerpt by Cynthia Woolf

TAME A WILD HEART is on sale right now for just 99 cents. In honor of that sale I’m posting one of my favorite scenes from the book and will give a $5 Starbucks card to one commentor. Tell me if you like the scene and why.

tame_a_wild_heart_5x8_3Catherine led the way to the springs. She was careful, taking a roundabout route, making sure Walker wasn’t still tailing them. When she was certain, she turned Wildfire west and urged him to a gallop.

Duncan, on Jake, had no problem keeping up.

“Sure you want to go with me? I might try to drown you and solve all my problems,” she shouted to be heard over the thud of the horses’ hooves hitting the ground.

He laughed. “You couldn’t drown a kitten. Besides, I’ve always wanted to see the hot-springs.”

“I’m only taking you because I don’t have a choice. You’re going to be my husband, and I expect you to keep the secret.”

He twisted an invisible key against his lips. “You’ve got my word.”

Working their way through the narrow canyon one at a time, Duncan was glad it was a short one. He didn’t like enclosed spaces, and the rock overhangs in this canyon made it seem more like a cave than a canyon.

Holding his arm in front of his face so the branches wouldn’t smack him, the canyon opened up into a beautiful, tiny valley. Green and lush with vegetation, the valley wasn’t more than ten acres total.


“Is that all you can say?” They walked the horses to the last pool where Catherine slid off Wildfire to the grass covered ground near the edge of the water. She loosened the saddle and put it on a downed aspen tree, laying the blanket over the top to dry. Duncan followed suit, setting his saddle next to hers, like it belonged there.

“Come on. The water is heavenly.” She was already removing her moccasins, heading toward the water.

“Sounds great to me. I could use a bath. Want to go first while I keep watch?” Duncan was doing his best to be a gentleman about this whole thing, though he desperately wanted to watch.
“There’s no need to keep watch. Even Walker couldn’t track us the roundabout way I brought us here. No one has ever found this place except Gray Wolf and I. We can bathe together, provided, of course, that you have something on under those pants of yours.”

“What if I don’t?” He raised one dark brow and grinned.

She blushed. “Well, I guess you’ll just have to stay at one end of the pool and I’ll stay at the other. That should work.”

Lord, he hoped so, but he wasn’t so sure that his body wouldn’t get carried away, even if his mind didn’t.

He grabbed her hand. “Sure. Let’s go get clean.”

They walked down to the largest pool. She pulled off pants and shirt. She was still wearing her drawers and camisole.

When she lifted her arms and began to wind her hair into a long coil atop her head, Duncan sucked in his breath. He was beginning to think this wasn’t such a good idea after all. Her camisole pulled tightly across her full bosom, it was all he could do to turn away before his body betrayed him.

Catherine watched as he turned away and pulled off his boots, then his shirt. When she saw the broad expanse of his back, she couldn’t breathe. Her hands stilled in her hair and she just stared. When he started to remove his pants, she stifled a gasp, dropped her hair, grabbed her bar of soap and dove into the pool. When she surfaced with her back to him she heard a splash as he dove into the water.

Grinning, he surfaced about three feet from her and shook his hair out of his face.

“This feels great. Who could imagine swimming in hot water out here in the mountains?”

“It is wonderful, isn’t it? I’ve got some soap if you’d like to use it. We’re starting to smell like the cows.” She laughed as she lathered her hair, then tossed him the bar.

She scrubbed the long mass and then ducked down to rinse it out. When she surfaced again, Duncan was nowhere in sight.

“Duncan?” she turned a complete circle in the water. “Duncan, where are…?”

He grabbed her ankles and pulled her down, then let her go.

She bobbed to the surface, sputtering and spitting water out of her mouth. “Why you ornery…” Scooping up water with her hands, she sent a small wave in his direction. Laughing, she swam away.
He caught her easily, pulled her into his arms, lifted her high and tossed her into the deep, clear blue water. She came up smiling and swam back toward him, fully intending to push him under water. She hadn’t played like this since she was a child and wondered if he ever had.

When she got close enough to touch him, he pulled her into his arms again. This time he just held her there. His eyes were black with desire. Through her thin bloomers and chemise, she could feel his nakedness. It sent shivers down her spine.

She wrapped her arms around his neck, pulled him closer and whispered, “Would you kiss me, Duncan?” She knew it wasn’t a wise thing to do, but no one had ever accused her of being wise.

He answered by pulling her tight to him, closing his mouth over hers. The kiss was gentle, tender. He traced her lips with his tongue, teasing, tasting.

While he treaded water, she wrapped her legs around his waist, putting his hard erection right at the opening in her drawers. She could feel the tip of his cock, touching her flesh. She started to throb down there and moaned with pleasure.

Oh God!

They nearly drowned!

Duncan had been so stunned when she wrapped her legs around him, he stopped treading water and they sunk like stones. They both came to the top sputtering and laughing.

“Well, that was quite a kiss, Mr. McKenzie. Remind me never to do that again.”

“Next time I think we should try it on dry land. I can’t seem to remember what to do when we’re in water.” He shoved his hair back from his face. “You better get out of here and dry off before I forget that I’m a gentleman and continue what we started.”

When she hesitated, he splashed her and said, “Go on, get.”

Catherine laughed and swam away. She didn’t know what in the world had possessed her to wrap her legs around him like she had. But my goodness, the feel of him, the tip of him touching her down there.

Lordy, she was hot and she didn’t think that it had anything to do with the water.

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Healed by a Heart

healed_by_a_heart_2All Liam Anderson wanted after the War Between the States, was a little peace. After seventeen years in the army, he’s tired of fighting and killing. Having lost his beloved wife to influenza, he’s tired of hurting. And seeing his baby brother framed for murder, he’s tired of injustice. He left everything behind to help his brothers escape, packed up his children and possessions, and took them all to a gold claim in Deadwood.

Miss Eleanor Smith is a thirty-two year-old spinster. She gave up her dream of a home and family a long time ago. Instead, she has spent her life traveling the world, ministering to the weak, the injured, the poor, and the forgotten, following her preacher father from one hell hole to another. From what she’s seen of men and the world, she’s better off taking care of herself. And she gets along just fine, until she literally falls into Liam’s arms, gets in the middle of a fight that isn’t hers, and becomes a pawn for an enemy’s revenge.

Deadwood was supposed to be a fresh start for Liam Anderson and his younger brothers, but trouble followed him and his children. And when Eleanor disappears, only Liam can rescue her. The headstrong, independent woman awoke his dead passion, but refused to surrender to his touch. Can he convince her that merely surviving isn’t enough? Despite his sins, he’s the only man who can save her, and she’s the only woman strong enough to heal his broken heart.

Leave me a comment on whether my blurb sounds interesting to you or not and WHY. If you do you’ll be in the running to win a $5 Starbucks card.

My Writing Process – Blog Tour

I was invited to this blog hop by E. Ayers. You can visit her blog at

redeemed_by_a_rebel_2What am I working on?
Editing Healed by a Heart and writing Seduced by a Sinner

How does my work differ from others of its genre?
My works are shorter, usually running around 45K

Why do I write what I do?
I like reading westerns, always have, but when I decided to pursue writing all those years ago, my mom’s story about how she met my dad inspired me. It couldn’t have been anything other than a western, since they met on a ranch.

How does your writing process work?
I’m a pantser, so basically I get an idea, make a few notes about the characters and the plot and then start writing. I write until I get stuck, somewhere around the middle, then I sit down with my critique partners and discuss where the book should be headed and maybe some scenes to get it there.


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Cindy 12.04.2013 200x300BIO

Cynthia Woolf is the author of six historical western romance books and one short story with more books on the way. She was born in Denver, Colorado and raised in the mountains west of Golden. She spent her early years running wild around the mountain side with her friends.

Their closest neighbor was one quarter of a mile away, so her little brother was her playmate and her best friend. That fierce friendship lasted until his death in 2006.

Cynthia was and is an avid reader. Her mother was a librarian and brought new books home each week. This is where young Cynthia first got the storytelling bug. She wrote her first story at the age of ten. A romance about a little boy she liked at the time.

Cynthia loves writing and reading romance. Her first western romance Tame A Wild Heart, was inspired by the story her mother told her of meeting Cynthia’s father on a ranch in Creede, Colorado. Although Tame A Wild Heart takes place in Creede that is the only similiarity between the stories. Her father was a cowboy not a bounty hunter and her mother was a nursemaid (called a nanny now) not the ranch owner.

Cynthia credits her wonderfully supportive husband Jim and the great friends she’s made at CRW for saving her sanity and allowing her to explore her creativity.


LOVE AND MISERY, a very short story

Cover Reveal!! HEALED BY A HEART

Here is an excerpt and the cover for HEALED BY A HEART the first time ever. I hope you like it. I hope to have it out by the end of May if not before. I just finished it and am starting the editing process but I couldn’t wait to give you all a taste.

Leave me a comment for a chance to win a ecopy of REDEEMED BY A REBEL, book 1 of the Destiny in Deadwood series.

healed_by_a_heart_2Passing in front of the Gem Theater he was knocked to the side by someone barreling out the door. He automatically reached for the person. A decidedly feminine person if the breast in his left hand was any indication.

“Are you all right? Miss?”

“Oh! Unhand me, sir.” The spitfire said in a tone that brooked no argument.

“Yes, ma’am,” he said, releasing her immediately

She fell down onto the boardwalk, “Oh, owww.”

“Ma’am calm down. I’ll help you up, if you let me.”

“I…I seem to have twisted my ankle. I can’t stand up,” she cried softly.

“Here. Take this.” He handed her his parcel, the steaks wrapped in brown paper and tied with string. Then, he scooped her into his arms. “Let’s take you to see Doc Cochran.”

“You can’t carry me all the way there,” she protested. “I’m too heavy and it’s much too far.”

He chuckled, ignored her protests and started walking toward the end of camp where Doc maintained his office. “I think I can manage.”

Doc’s office was at the far eastern side of camp, just outside the Celestial’s village. Liam didn’t know why he kept it there when most of his clientele was at the opposite end of camp. It made no sense to him but Doc must have a reason. Maybe the rent was cheaper outside Chinatown?

He gazed down into her upturned face and into incredibly wide blue eyes, the color of the sky at dusk and was momentarily mesmerized. “I’m Liam Anderson.”

“Eleanor Smith.” She perked up some. “Are you David’s father?”

Liam frowned. “Yes. How do you know my son?”

“He’s come into camp with Becky Finnegan…er…Anderson.” She closed her eyes for a moment, pain evident in the frown on her face. “Becky is my friend. I witnessed her marriage to your brother, Jake.”

Now he understood. “You’re the reverend’s daughter.”

“You say that with distain. Do you have something against the church?”

“Nope. Just got no use for ‘em. Where was your God when my Mary died? In hiding somewhere, because he sure wasn’t with us.” The anger still prevalent, surprised him. He thought he’d gotten over it by now.

Assaulted by memories still too painful to tolerate, he almost set her down and let her make her own way to the doctor’s place. But he was a gentleman and as such, he couldn’t do that.

“Have you just returned? David and Becky didn’t seem to think you’d be back until sometime next month.”

“I wasn’t expected. That’s why I was coming from the butcher before going home.”

“You…you…weren’t going into the Gem, were you?” she asked, surprised.

“No. I wasn’t.”

She let out an audible breath, like she’d been holding it for a long while. “Oh, I thought you…well you know what I thought.”

Liam watched her color rise. She was quite pretty in an understated way. Rich chestnut hair, deep blue eyes the color of the waning sky. Her bow shaped mouth was full and immensely kissable. Slender, she weighed almost nothing in his arms.

“If you’ll wrap your arms around my neck it will be easier for both of us,” said Liam.

She did as he asked and the action brought her breasts flush against his chest. He hadn’t been this close to a woman since Mary died. Until now, he hadn’t felt any desire to do so. He was feeling a whole lot of things, with this woman that seemed new to him. Maybe he should go visit the Gem and one of its soiled doves. Maybe then he could look at Eleanor with something other than lust on his mind.

“Are you sure you weren’t going to use the ‘offerings’ at the Gem?” she persisted.

He kept walking, debating whether or not he should answer her questions. He answered, deciding he wanted to get to know this woman better and figuring he wouldn’t have a better opportunity. “Not that it’s any of your business, but no, I was not. I was simply passing by when you crashed into me. Do you always assume that every man that passes this way is going into the Gem? What were you doing in there and why were you so anxious to leave?”

She ducked her head and wouldn’t look at him. “Yes, I’m sorry about running into you. I wasn’t looking where I was going. I minister to the women there and Mr. Swearengen doesn’t much like it, he was chasing me out, so to speak. Well, he wasn’t actually chasing me, just yelling at me. I don’t like it when people yell.”

“I’ll have to remember that.”

“Why would you care whether I like it when people yell or not?”

“We might become friends. You already know my son and probably my daughter, too.” He was decided they would become friends. Perhaps even more than friends. Where his children were concerned, he gave his all and if they wanted to be friends with this woman, then so would he.

She smiled up at him. A beam so brilliant it nearly took his breath away. “Ah, dear Hannah. She’s so very smart. You know that don’t you? She knows her letters and is starting to read. And talk, goodness, she’ll talk your socks off if you let her.”

He grinned. “And do you let her?”

“Of course. I encourage all of our youngsters to explore their world. I told you, I also teach school here, didn’t I?”

He shook his head. “No, you didn’t mention it.”