25 March 2010

Excerpt Thursday: Deborah Schneider

This week on Excerpt Thursday we're welcoming Deborah Schneider as she celebrates the release of PROMISE ME, a new western. Published by The Wild Rose Press, it's now available in paperback. Join us on Sunday when Deb will be with us to answer questions and give away a signed copy. Here's the blurb:

After spending years in an arranged marriage as the repressed wife of an older man, Amanda Wainwright has learned the hard way that money can’t buy happiness. She arrives in Willow Creek determined to keep a deathbed promise to her husband and do something to help other people. When Amanda meets a handsome, mysterious stranger who tempts her with sweet promises and long nights of passion, she discovers a fiery, passionate nature that could lead her to disaster.

For Samuel Calhoun, falling in love wouldn't just be foolish, it could be deadly. He's in Willow Creek, Montana as an undercover agent for the Secret Service. In order to maintain his secret identity, he accepts an offer from a consortium of mine owners to seduce, humiliate, and ruin the Widow Wainwright. Before long, Sam knows he’s met the woman who can banish the aching emptiness in his soul, and he's willing to risk everything--even his life--to be with her.

Amanda swung the kitchen door open and nearly dropped the candle when her eyes clashed with a surprised amber gaze. A man. A strange warmth coursed through her as his eyes moved slowly down her body, lingering on her breasts before rising to scrutinize her face. Her cheeks flooded with heat, and she nearly turned to hurry back to her room, when a deep but gentle voice stopped her.

"I beg your pardon, ma'am, I didn't mean to alarm you."

Intrigued by the handsome stranger, she stepped closer. He was standing now, and she marveled at the way his wide shoulders, long, lean legs, and muscled arms seemed to fill the room to the corners of the kitchen.

She wet her lips, took a deep breath, and stepped even closer. Close enough to notice a gleam of mischief in his honey-colored eyes.

She lifted her chin to peruse him with the same bold look he was giving her. "I couldn't sleep, so I came down to fix myself some warm milk. I didn't expect to find anyone else up at this hour."

He grinned, his eyes challenging her. "You gave me quite a scare, you know. I thought you were one of the Lord's minions come to carry me away. But, I notice you don't have any gossamer wings, so I suppose I'm safe."

Amanda looked over her shoulder and gave him a flirtatious smile.

"We always take them off at bedtime; it makes it easier to sleep." A shiver of excitement rolled over her as the man's gaze flickered along the curves of her body. It was very inappropriate, yet her skin burned as he slowly considered her.

"Besides, are you quite sure when your time comes angels will be the apparition you'll be seeing?"

He held his hand to his chest, as if wounded, and moaned. "I hope with just a glimpse of me you haven't discovered I'm bound for hell. It usually takes at least a short acquaintance before a woman proclaims I'm destined to dwell with the devil."

Amanda laughed. Despite the awkwardness of the situation, she was having fun. It had been such a long time since someone had teased her, and she had missed it.

She knew she shouldn't be talking with a handsome stranger in the middle of the night, but that made it even more delightful. As tempting as forbidden fruit, despite all the warnings to leave it alone.

"Well, I agree, not knowing your identity or character, it's possible you are of good virtue and shall be escorted by seraphim to the hereafter." She gave him a playful grin and narrowed her eyes. "But, I really don't believe so."

He responded with a hearty laugh. The sound echoed in the small room enticing her with its promise of something delicious and secretive. She shivered as warmth spread through her limbs, and the beat of her own heart pounded in her ears. She'd never experienced such a feeling, and wanted desperately to explore it.

Amanda enjoyed the sound of his laugh; it was as warm and sweet as maple syrup. She knew she shouldn't be engaged in such outrageous behavior. After all, she was the poor Widow Wainwright. Of course, he didn't know who she was, and for a just a little while it was fun to pretend she was some other woman. She wanted to be a woman who didn't concern herself with the iron-clad rules of etiquette and propriety. A woman who flirted unabashedly with a man she didn't know.

She glanced down at the table, and swept a hand towards him. "Please, do sit down and finish eating. I'm sorry to disturb you, but I couldn't sleep. I'm afraid my restless wandering isn't such a good idea." With some reluctance, she turned to leave.

"My mother had a cure for insomnia. Perhaps you'd allow me to fix you a hot toddy. I guarantee it will make you sleep soundly as a baby."

The sultry tone of his voice mesmerized her.

All the deportment lessons she'd suffered since childhood came back to her in a flash. She should keep going back to her room, but his dark and hypnotic voice promised secret delights, and she didn't want to leave. She wanted to sit down and continue to banter with this mysterious man. If he thought her a brazen hussy, so much the better. For a few moments tonight, she'd be that other woman, the one who didn't care what others thought of her.

Swallowing her apprehension, she tossed her braid over one shoulder and crossed the small kitchen to take a chair at the table. She settled her candle next to the oil lamp and gave him an inviting smile.

"A hot toddy sounds perfectly wonderful. Are you sure it won't be too much trouble?"

The man leaned forward. The corners of his lovely mouth lifted slightly. "It would be my pleasure to assist an angel to bed."

She warmed from her cheeks down to her bosom. She had never in her life done anything as brash as this. What would Father Mikelson say? She didn't want to think about the penance she'd do when she confessed. Flirting wasn't the same as adultery, was it? Could she still be an adulteress if her husband was dead? Good Lord, why was she even thinking about such a thing?

When he turned his back to her, she knew what fueled her illicit thoughts. As he poured a concoction into a cup, Amanda forgot to breathe as she stared at the thick, dark hair curling at the edge of his collar, his lean torso and long legs.

"It's you," she whispered.