It’s excerpt Wednesday! But this week, instead of bringing you a bit from my next release, Trail of Kisses, first book in the Hot on the Trail series, I thought I’d show you a little bit of another release that both came out last year and is coming out November 1st! I’m privileged to have my novella The Indomitable Eve included in a box set of historical western novellas put together by some truly brilliant ladies. Here we are!
So without further ado, here’s Eve:
At the front of a wide sanctuary lined with polished new pews, a cluster of children stood in varying degrees of white and yellow and gold costumes, singing their hearts out. A pair of women fussed over a few of them. They adjusted a costume here, or tried on a pair of wings there. The children sang through it, fresh faces turned up to catch the light streaming in through the windows.
Eve had seen almost every stage from California to London, but not one of them could come close to the pure beauty that stood at the front of that church.
“Very good, very good, children.” A man in a simple black suit with sandy-blond hair stepped forward, applauding the children. “Now, once you finish the carol, you will cross the front of the church—yes, just like that—and come to stand over the manger where the baby Jesus will be resting.”
“Rev. Andrews, shouldn’t the shepherds be the ones looking at the baby Jesus?” one of the little angels asked.
The entire group shuffled from one end of the stage—the church, rather—to the other, the mothers with costumes in tow.
“You’re exactly right, Annie. The shepherds will be looking at the baby Jesus, but I bet that the angels couldn’t help but steal a peek as well,” Rev. Andrews answered.
The chorus of angels giggled at his answer, smiles shining.
Eve’s heart caught in her throat. They were all so dear, so marvelous. A few were unruly, twirling or giggling as they took their places above the empty manger. A pair of boys dodged through the others, their hands in the shape of guns that they fired with all the accompanying sounds. One little girl, who couldn’t have been more than three, stared up at the high stained glass windows, her thumb in her mouth.
A bittersweet twinge seized Eve’s chest. Her throat closed up and a hint of tears stung her eyes. She lowered a hand to press to her abdomen. The scar wasn’t noticeable through the layers of her corset and skirt and the wide belt she wore, but she could feel it all the same. It cut her with a finality that went beyond the surgeon’s knife.
Eve blinked to find the sandy-haired man staring at her from across the church. She dropped her hand and smiled to hide the grief she knew was painted on her face. It was foolish of her to break character in public, no matter what caused it.
“Hello,” she answered.
The sandy-haired reverend smiled.
“What are you doing?” a woman’s voice snapped behind her.
Eve turned to see a handsome older woman in a serviceable blouse and skirt about ten years out of fashion yanking the church door open behind her. She had gray hair pulled back in a bun and lines on her face that revealed that she smiled a lot. At the moment, however, she was scowling at Eve as though she were a rabble-rouser.
“I’m terribly sorry.” Eve kept her eyes bright and her chin up. “It’s so cold outside that I assumed you would want to keep the door closed.”
The old woman continued to scowl. “Well you assumed wrong.” She pulled herself to her full height and narrowed her eyes. “I don’t know you,” she went on. “I know everyone in town, even the new people.”
“I’m not from town.” Eve continued to feign ease, though it was a difficult role to play.
“I know.” The woman nodded and crossed her arms. “You’ve got an English accent.”
“It’s because I’m English,” Eve said. She tried leaning closer to the woman and sharing a conspiratorial wink the way she had with Lewis Jones and countless admirers before.
The woman crinkled her nose and leaned back. “You’re not one of the new girls Paul Sutcliffe hired to work at the saloon, are you?”
“No, no, not at all.” Eve tried a breezy laugh.
The woman’s scowl deepened. “Well you look like a whore with all that paint on your face.”
The sting of the accusation dug as deep as the emotion she had felt at the sight of the children. Eve’s act dropped.
“I most certainly am not a whore,” she said, hands on her hips. Indignant as she was, her denial still felt like a lie. “I am Lady Eve deLaurent. The Indomitable Lady Eve,” she went on, convincing herself as much as the outspoken woman.
“Well, I am Sadie McGee,” the woman fired back at her. “And I can assure you that I’m as indomitable as any woman that ever set foot in Cold Springs.”
Eve started, not sure what to make of her declaration.
“Ladies, what seems to be the trouble here?”
She was spared having to come up with an answer to Sadie McGee by the interruption of the reverend. She switched back into the role of charming lady and turned to introduce herself.
Her act evaporated. Up close, the reverend was a sight to behold. He had soft blue eyes to go with his sandy hair, strong jaw, and graceful nose. Tiny lines radiated from his eyes, giving him an air of kindness and humor. He could have played Hamlet or Algernon Moncrieff both and made the audience fall in love with him at a word.
“Just keeping the door open like you wanted, Rev. Andrews,” Sadie said as Eve scrambled to collect herself.
“But why?” Eve stammered. “It’s so cold outside.”
“It is,” Rev. Andrews replied, “but with the door closed people passing by can’t hear the children singing and be drawn in like you were.”
He ended with a smile that was as good as a wink. Butterflies danced in Eve’s gut.
Wild Western Women comes out November 1st, but you can preorder it now for just 99 cents! That’s 99 cents for five novellas, plus a few bonus short stories. And guess what? One of those short stories is a never-before seen story from Cold Springs, Montanta! A Hero’s Heart is a delightful little peek into the life of Cold Springs’s stationmaster, Lewis Jones, who is ready for love. You can preorder the Wild Western Women box set here.