No cover yet, but River’s Edge, my historical western romance releasing in February, takes place during a period in the Old West when Eastern art collectors were clamoring for Western art.
Blurb: River Prescott is unusual in more than one way. She’s an 1887 Texas ranch owner who rides a bicycle and supplements her income by drawing and selling her paintings of horses, herds of cattle and sometimes cowboys at work.
But her favorite subject–whether he’s wearing clothes or not–is Edge Grayson, a retired gunslinger who inherits the rundown ranch beside hers.
Excerpt: River stretched out in her green retreat, hiding behind the cascade of foliage that fell like a waterfall from the weeping willow tree. Gritting her teeth, she willed away emotions, concentrating on the tranquility of her setting as air rippled through the branches and whispered across her face.
Wind… I need to convey that movement. Before beginning her sketch, she mentally traced the lines, picturing the light strokes she’d use. Her meditations were suddenly interrupted when a man rode to the other side of the riverbank and dismounted from his horse. She froze on the tree limb, remaining hidden from his sight, watching him as he retrieved tools from his saddlebags.
Without wasting any time, he set to work fixing the broken-down fence separating them. His activities were riveting. River sketched muscle, sweat and brawn as he hammered and nailed, bending and twisting, sometimes cursing when his aim was wrong.
By midmorning, she regretted her initial silence. A full bladder warned her that shortly she would be forced to climb from her perch revealing her presence. As she considered methods of getting away unseen, he stopped work.
Tensely, she watched him gather his equipment, putting it back in his saddlebags. Instead of leaving, he led his horse to the gate in the fence, opened it and came through. His actions were innocuous enough. He scratched his horse’s muzzle affectionately murmuring words she couldn’t hear.
Surprising her, he mounted, riding the animal to the water and then into the river, splashing across until horse and man stood on her side, much closer to the willow tree. So close in fact that she could see details of his features—lined forehead, bushy dark brows, strong jaw, nose marred by a bump indicating it had been broken. His expression fascinated her. As she watched, he tilted his head, drawing a deep breath as if inhaling the perfume of the day.
“Yep,” he said approving the scent.
Before she could anticipate his intentions or call out a warning of her presence, he dismounted, ground tied his horse and pulled his shirt over his head. Dropping it, he unbuckled his gunbelt and then removed the chaps he wore over his denims.
Swiftly he shed the rest of his clothes, discarding them as he walked toward the water. Filled with excitement, River grasped her pencil, preparing to draw the sun-kissed figure below.With an artist’s appreciation, she studied her first nude subject.
Standing thigh deep, his back turned toward her, he leaned forward splashing water in his face. She noted the taut muscles in his buttocks and the jagged scar ruining the perfection of the left cheek. And then he turned around displaying the rest of his form–magnificent, sculpted perfection.
Peering from behind a screen of willow branches, River detailed the heavy shoulder muscles, the pelt of dark chest hair, and the sharp hipbones framing the flat belly. She bit her bottom lip, concentrating as she feathered light pencil strokes mimicking the fine hairs that led to his groin.
It startled her when he fisted his hand around his shaft, pumping the flesh until it became engorged. A blush started in River’s toes, rising in a flood of heat scalding her insides. She stifled a nervous gasp, forcing her gaze away from the intimate act and back to the harsh planes of his face.
Almost casually, he rinsed, walked out of the water to his pile of clothes, picked up his gun, and pointed it at the approximate place where she crouched in the tree.
“Come down from there now or I start shooting.”
“Please go away,” she called to him, hastily cramming her sketchbook into her satchel.
At the sound of her voice, he lowered the gun, pulling on his trousers and stepping into his boots before walking beneath the willow.
“You coming down?” he growled.
“No,” she answered, measuring the distance to the ground from the limb where she perched. She couldn’t see what he intended since the screen of branches she hid behind, cloaked his actions too.
“Guess I’ll have to come up to meet you, then.” The tree swayed under his weight as he began to climb.
“I’d rather you didn’t.” She called to him.
“I’d rather peeping-toms didn’t watch me bathe. It appears we all get disappointed sometimes.” His voice held an unexpected edge of humor, as if he thought the situation funny.
River prepared to defend herself, holding her pencil as a weapon as she called out another message. “In point of fact, you’re trespassing.”
The man stopped. Instead of arguing or continuing his climb he said, “That I am. Beg pardon.” He retreated down the tree, stopping to retrieve his loose pile of belongings before mounting his horse. Without so much as a backward glance, he rode across the river and through the gate.
Her gaze followed his progress down the trail until he disappeared from sight. At that point, River swung from her hiding place, landing adeptly on her feet before hurrying to where she’d leaned her bicycle against a tree at the top of the hill.