You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
Today's Wild Card author is:
and the book:
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (November 11, 2012)
***Special thanks to Lynnette Bonner for sending me a review copy.***
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
That fall, she traded to a new duet--one of traffic and rain--when she moved to Kirkland, Washington to attend Northwest University. It was there that she met her husband and a few years later they moved to the small town of Pierce, Idaho.
During the time they lived in Idaho, while studying the history of their little town, Lynnette was inspired to begin the Shepherd's Heart Series with Rocky Mountain Oasis.
Marty and Lynnette have four children, and currently live in Washington where Marty pastors a church and Lynnette works as an administrative assistant.
Visit the author's website.
SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:
He broke her heart.
Now he’s back to ask for a second chance.
Heart pounding in shock, Sharyah Jordan gapes at the outlaw staring down the barrel of his gun at her. Cascade Bennett shattered her dreams only last summer, and now he plans to kidnap her and haul her into the wilderness with a bunch of outlaws…for her own protection? She’d rather be locked in her classroom for a whole week with Brandon McBride and his arsenal of tricks, and that was saying something.
Cade Bennett’s heart nearly drops to his toes when he sees Sharyah standing by the desk. Sharyah Jordan was not supposed to be here. Blast if he didn’t hate complications, and Sharyah with her alluring brown eyes and silky blond hair was a walking, talking personification of complication.
Now was probably not the time to tell her he’d made a huge mistake last summer….
Two broken hearts. Dangerous Outlaws. One last chance at love.
Step into a day when outlaws ran free, the land was wild, and guns blazed at the drop of a hat.
List Price: $14.77
Paperback: 286 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (November 11, 2012)
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:
Sharyah had just bent over the papers she needed to grade when the small rock landed on her desk with a soft thud. The titter of laugher ceased as she snapped her head up to study her students. Everyone seemed to be in deep concentration and intent on their lessons. She focused her gaze on Brandon McBride, but he looked as innocent as an angel and sat attentively reading his history lesson, just as he should be. Sonja and Sally Weaver both gave her sympathetic glances, from the last row of desks where they were working on their math lesson together.
Sharyah sighed, knowing from past experience that asking the class who had done the deed would prove futile. She’d been here two weeks, now. Two weeks in the God-forsaken little back-water town of Beth Haven and for a solid week-and-a-half she’d been longing to pack her bags and return home.
She had been approached about teaching in Madras, but upon arriving learned that the former teacher had decided to stay on for another year. Disappointed, she’d been all set to go back home when the head of the board told her that Beth Haven had been having trouble keeping a teacher and he thought they might be searching for one again. When she’d arrived and informed the Beth Haven board of her interest in the teaching position, they’d been ecstatic. She could see why, now. No teacher in their right mind would want to stay and deal with this, but she was determined to make it work.
The first week, she’d spent countless hours grilling the students both collectively and individually as to the identity of the trickster, but whoever the little devil was, he had a fierce grip on the loyalty of everyone else in the class. No one would give him up.
For the last several weeks, she’d tried to ignore the incidents in hopes that the prankster would give up out of sheer boredom.
Never one to be squeamish, when she’d found the snake in her top desk drawer she’d calmly picked it up and tossed it out the window. A few of the boys had gaped in disappointment, but the next day a tack had appeared on her chair. She’d noticed it before she sat on it, thankfully, and had whisked it out of sight and plunked herself down on the chair with zest. But, even though she’d been watching their faces carefully as she dropped into the seat, she hadn’t been able to determine which child was the most disappointed when she didn’t cry out in pain.
A couple days ago, she’d actually almost laughed when she’d discovered that all the chalk had been replaced with garden carrots, fuzzy green tops and all. Thankfully she’d had an extra piece in her satchel.
Today however, the large spider in her lunch pail had been almost more than she could bear. She shuddered at the memory and thanked her lucky stars that Papa had never allowed her to luxuriate in a fit of the vapors – because if ever there was a moment when she’d been tempted to, that had been it. The thing had been so large she could see its beady eyes looking right at her! And fuzzy! She rubbed at the goose-flesh on her arms. All afternoon her stomach had been grumbling its complaint. The thought of eating her sandwich and the apple that a spider crawled all over had been more than her fortitude could handle.
Yes, packing up and returning to home would be heaven. But, in a way that would be just like succumbing to the vapors, and she wouldn’t allow herself the weakness of retreat. She would get a much-needed break in the spring, just a few short months away, when her entire family came over for Jason and Nicki’s March wedding. Tears pressed at the backs of her eyes as longing to see them all welled up inside her. But she blinked hard and reined in her emotions. Until then, she would simply have to forge ahead.
All her life she’d wanted only one thing.
Well, two things if she were honest, but she wasn’t going to think about Cascade Bennett today. She sighed and glanced out the window. If she was smart she wouldn’t ever again waste another moment of time pondering the way he’d broken her heart. God promised in his Word that goodness and mercy would follow her all the days of her life, so obviously the good things God had for her didn’t include Cade Bennett.
Samuel Perry - that’s who she should be thinking on. Yes, Sam. If he ever got around to asking her, he would make a very…suitable husband. She could learn to be happy and satisfied with a man like Sam.
Giving herself a shake, she returned her focus to her students. The one thing she’d wanted ever since she could remember was to be a teacher. She loved children, loved to see their eyes light up when understanding dawned. Loved their frank outlook on life and their quickness to forgive and move on. Loved to help them make something of themselves. That love was the reason she was here, and she had to figure out a way to get these children to accept her, or at least respect her.
She glanced at the clock and stood from her desk. “Alright, children. It’s time to head home for the day.” She gave them all her sunniest smile. “See you bright and early in the morning, and don’t forget tomorrow is our day to go leaf collecting, so bring a sack or pillowslip from home to carry with you.” She pinned Brandon with a look. “Brandon, if I could have a moment of your time up by my desk, please? Everyone else, you’re dismissed.”
Purposely she turned her back and began to erase the chalk board, but inwardly she cringed, waiting for some missile or projectile to bombard her. With a determined clench of her jaw, she threw back her shoulders. Show no fear!
Amazingly enough nothing happened and soon, other than Brandon shuffling his feet as he waited for her to finish, the room filled with silence.
Finally, she hung the rag on its hook by the board and turned to face her little nemesis. My, but he had the most alluring big chocolate eyes. And right at the moment they were dripping with innocence. Future women beware! Brandon McBride cometh! She bit off a grin and folded her hands carefully in front of her.
“Did you need my help, Miss Jordan?” He looked around as though expecting her to ask him to carry something for her.
“No, Brandon. But I want you to know that I’m not going anywhere.”
He seemed puzzled. “Not going anywhere, ma’am?”
“No matter the number of tricks played on me, I will finish out the school year. Now,” she held up a hand to still his protest, “it can be a good year for both of us, or it can be a miserable year. Your choice.”
“But ma’am, I don’t…” Suddenly his eyes widened. “You think I’m the one that’s been playin’ tricks on you?” He shook his head, dark eyes wide and gleaming with sincerity. “It ain’t me, ma’am. Honest it’s not.”
“Isn’t. ‘It isn’t me, ma’am,’” she corrected automatically, then sighed. “You are dismissed, Brandon. See you tomorrow.”
“Yes’m.” He turned to fetch his lunch pail and slate.
Was that an impish gleam in his eyes? Or simply relief at not being in too much trouble?
She watched him dash out the door, his ever-present slingshot cocked at an angle in the waistband of his pants, and then sighed as she sank down onto her chair.
Wasp-venom-pain stabbed into her backside. With a yelp, she leapt to her feet. And pulled the offending stick pin from her posterior.
Her eyes narrowed. “Why that little—”
The back door crashed in, startling the rest of the thought from her mind.
A man tromped in, black bowler pulled low over his brow, red bandana covering his nose and mouth and a gun leveled at her chest.
Cade Bennett stood in the alley, his heart beating a competition with the tinny piano playing inside the saloon. Judd Rodale and his younger brother Mick had gone in only moments ago. He took a calming breath and checked his weapon one more time, then stepped around the corner and pushed through the bat-wing doors of The Golden Pearl.
The room looked the same as it had the night before when he’d scouted it with Rocky and Sky. Upright piano in the back right corner. Bar along the wall to his left. Stairs leading up to the second floor along the rear wall. And six round tables scattered throughout the room. Judd and Mick sat at a table close to the bar. They’d already been dealt in to the perpetual poker game The Pearl kept running. The dealer wore a white shirt with black armbands and a visor cap, and looked a little nervous as he dealt out a card to Judd. The other two men in the game must be locals. Cade didn’t recognize them.
He sidled up to the bar and rested his forearms there, lifting a finger to the barkeep.
“What’ll it be?” The man wiped his hands on a rag that looked like it would leave more behind than it would clean off.
“Whiskey. Make it a double.”
The bartender sloshed the liquid into a glass and slid it his way.
Cade lifted it in a gesture of thanks and turned to face the room, propping his elbows on the bar and one boot on the rail below. He sniffed the whiskey but didn’t taste it. He would need all his senses to pull this off.
The poker hand came to an end and Rodale raked in his winnings.
Time to turn on the charm. Lord, a little help here. “You gentlemen care to let a weary traveler in on a bit of the fun?”
Judd Rodale didn’t even look at him. “You gonna drink that whiskey, kid? Or just look at it?”
Mick snickered and organized his stacks of coins, taking his brother’s lead in not even glancing Cade’s way.
Cade chuckled. “Well, I need all my wits about me if I’m going to go up against you Rodales in a poker game. I’ve heard you’re the best.”
Judd looked up then, scanning him from head to toe.
Good. He had the man’s attention.
“I’m sorry, kid, but I can’t say your reputation has spread as far as mine. I have no idea who you are.”
Cade grabbed a chair and circled around so that his back would be to the wall when he sat. He turned the chair backwards and straddled it, setting his whiskey on the card table. “Well now, I’m going to ignore the fact that you called me kid in that tone, because basically I’m nobody.” He stretched his hand across the table giving Rodale what he hoped was an irritated smile. “Name’s Schilling. Cade Schilling.”
The dealer fumbled the cards he was shuffling.
Judd’s eyes widened a bit as he studied Cade, ignoring his proffered hand.
Cade felt his first moment of ease. So their planning ahead on this one had paid off. These men had definitely heard of Cade Schilling.
One of the locals gathered up his money and stood. “Time for me to call it a night, fellas. Catch you another time.”
No one seemed to notice his departure. All attention at the table was fixed on Cade.
Mick cursed. “You are Cade Schilling? The Cade Schilling who—”
Judd cleared his throat loudly.
Mick caught himself. “—well, the Cade Schilling?”
Cade grinned. “Never met another one of me. So what do you say? We playing cards, or not?” Casually he removed a stack of gold eagles from his jacket pocket and laid them on the table.
Judd flicked a gesture to the dealer. “Deal him in.”
"Now you’re talking.” Cade stood, flipped his chair around the right way, removed his jacket and hung it over the back. He rolled up his sleeves as he sat down again, and grinned at the men who were all staring at him in question. “Had a friend get shot once. Someone thought he had a card up his sleeve. I watched him die, choking on his own blood.” He shrugged. “I’ve made it a point to roll my sleeves up for every poker game since then.”
Mick chuckled and picked up his hand of cards.
The kid would be easier to win over than Judd. But if he could get Judd to like him, the rest of the Rodale Gang would fall in line.
Cade let the first two hands go, cringing inwardly at the amount of money Judd was taking off him. He reminded himself that the money was Sam’s anyway – all part of the ruse.
They were halfway into the third round when Rocky and his brother Sky pushed through the doors, their badges plainly visible. Sky sauntered to a table and Rocky eased up to the bar. Cade’s heart rate kicked up a notch. The other local folded, snatched his hat from the back of his chair and quickly strode from the room. The only other patron in the room hurriedly followed him out the doors.
Smart men. A little more of the tenseness eased from Cade’s shoulders. Less potential for casualties. Less witnesses. The bartender, piano player, and dealer were the only others left now, and they would be easily convinced to keep quiet about the events that were about to unfold.
Cade thought through the plan one more time, making sure he had every detail of what was to happen figured out. Jason had wanted to be here too, but Nicki, the widow Jason had fallen in love with, was due to have her baby any day now and they’d all convinced him they could pull this off without him.
Lord I hope we were right on that count.
He laid a card aside and took another from the dealer. It was time to put everything into play. He lowered his voice and kept his perusal on his cards as he said, “Judd, unless I miss my guess, your dandy of a brother here has been sneaking down to town and has caused a little ruckus. Two lawmen just came in. One at the bar, one at the table near the door.”
Judd’s voice was just as low, barely audible over the plinking of the piano. “I see ’em. We don’t have anything to worry about. Sheriff Collier wouldn’t know an outlaw from a bread roll. This is his town.”
Pretending great interest in his cards, Cade lifted one shoulder. “The barber said they brought in a couple new men. This must be them.”
“Well, we ain’t done nothing to warrant their attention. They mostly leave us alone so long as we keep to ourselves. I’ll handle this.” Judd swilled his whiskey and took a gulp then started to stand.
Cade flicked the corner of one of his cards. “I hear tell Judge Green’s daughter is sure a pretty little thing.”
Mick shifted uncomfortably in his chair.
Judd cursed softly and sank back down. “Mick?”
Mick couldn’t seem to meet his brother’s gaze.
Judd swore again. “I ought to shoot you, myself! We are just about—” he cut off, tossing Cade a glance before he returned his attention to Mick. “Now I have to figure out a way to get us out of here.”
Cade leaned forward. “Maybe I can help you with that.”
Judd glowered at him.
Cade pressed on. “I’ve been needing a place to…hang my hat, for a bit. I get you out of here and…?” He shrugged. Their whole plan hinged on the decision Judd would make right here.
Mick nodded at Cade. “You get us out of here and you can stay with us for as long as you want.”
Judd wasn’t so quick to take the bait. He lowered his brow. “Why would you do us any favors?”
Cade pushed out his lower lip and eased into a comfortable posture. “Suit yourself. Like I said, I’ve been needing a place to lie low. Word hereabouts is you have the best hide-out around, and….” He lifted his shoulders and resettled his hat, once again leaving the decision in Judd’s hands.
Rocky and Sky stood erect and turned to face their table.
“Judd, just let him help us.” Desperation tinged the edges of Mick’s tone.
Judd glanced toward the slowly approaching lawmen. Then gave Cade a barely perceptible nod.
Cade suppressed a sigh of relief as he stood and swung his jacket over his shoulder. “Gentlemen,” he said loudly, “the game has been fun, but I sense it is time to move on.” He tipped his hat to Sky and Rocky as he stepped past them. They were already drawing their guns, right on cue.
“Mick Rodale, you are under arrest for the molestation of Missy Green.”
Cade palmed his gun, spun around and swung his coat over Rocky’s Colt knocking the aim down and away. He pressed the muzzle of his pistol to Sky’s chest. Sky only had enough time to let loose his scripted cry of shock before Cade pulled the trigger.
The report was a little loud, but about right.
Sky flew backward and crashed over a table, sliding across the surface and disappearing over the other side as the table toppled onto its edge. His body was concealed, only his legs protruded from one end.
Too bad about that. He couldn’t see if the blood packet they’d rigged had worked.
Rocky had recovered from his pretended surprise by this time and had his Colt leveled at Judd’s head. “Drop your gun! I will kill him!”
Calmly Cade turned and pressed the muzzle of his pistol under Rocky’s chin. “Your friend over there is lying in a pool of his own blood. Do you think I’d hesitate to kill you too? You have five seconds to drop that gun.
Rocky’s eyes narrowed.
“Alright! Alright!” Rocky’s gun thumped onto the table and he raised his hands above his head.
This was the critical moment. Now he had to keep Judd and Mick from shooting Rocky themselves.
He kept his pistol aimed directly at Rocky and his body between him and the Rodales. “Have a seat in that chair behind you. Judd, Mick. I got this. I’ll meet you outside of town.”
Mick shucked his gun and pushed Cade aside. He stood trembling in excitement before Rocky. “Let me kill this one.”
Dear God, give me wisdom. Cade hoped his breathing sounded normal to the others in the room. It rasped ragged and thready in his own ears. He made a quick decision, met Rocky’s gaze and then thunked him a good one with the butt of his pistol. Not hard enough to actually knock him out, but Rocky took the cue and slumped over, toppling to the floor with a low moan.
Cade pierced Mick with a look. “You kill a lawman and it will follow you to your grave. Trust me, I know.”
Judd had his pistol free now. He gestured the bartender, piano player, and dealer toward the back wall and they stumbled over themselves to comply. Cade made swift work of tying up Rocky and the bartender while Mick grumbled his way through binding the other two.
Judd stepped over and eyed Sky, then turned to Cade and nodded. “Thanks. We owe you one.”
Cade smoothed down his sleeves, buttoned the cuffs, and swung his jacket on. “Best we make ourselves scarce.” He wanted to get these two out of here before one of them decided to put an extra bullet into either Sky or Rocky.
Judd snapped his fingers at Mick. “Let’s go.”
With a sigh of frustration Mick followed them out the doors. They mounted up and galloped toward the foothills.
A tremor of sheer relief coursed through Cade. First step down. Thank you, Lord.