Hey y’all, Beth Williamson here!
In case you missed my news, I’m proud as can be to announce the release of CIRCLE EIGHT: BENJAMIN in both ebook and print. This is the 8th and final book in the Graham family series. I put my heart and soul in this story – I struggled to find the right HEA for Benjy. He deserved much more than he was handed in his life so I set out to right that wrong. I’m hoping y’all agree I succeeded!
It wasn’t, however, an easy path. I hope y’all enjoy his story and getting to know Grace, the woman who yanks him back into life and her tragedy is the catalyst for everything that happens to them. She’s had a rough road of her own to travel. Now they’re going to travel together.
I’m including an excerpt below – links after that! 🙂
Grace had spent the last year sleeping, eating, bathing, and riding alone. She thrived on that loneliness. It fed her fury and filled her empty belly. It kept her going day after day and night after night.
Now she was no longer alone and she wasn’t sure she liked it. No, she was sure she didn’t. Riding beside Ben Graham was disconcerting and uncomfortable. She kept glancing at him, as though he wasn’t supposed to be there. However the only reason he was there was because of her.
She’d forced him to help her by turning herself inside out and exposing the gaping wound in her heart. He knew her deepest secrets and she knew very little about him. That made the situation worse. It was as though she were naked and he fully clothed. The scar on her neck itched from the sweat that pooled at her collar. It only added to the misery of the situation.
Therefore, her mood couldn’t be worse. He didn’t speak or even acknowledge her presence as they rode, but his very presence annoyed her. It was nonsensical, but true.
Grace wasn’t a social creature by nature. She’d always gone her own way, no matter if no one else liked it or approved of it. That kind of behavior led her to little choice for a husband, not that Alfred wasn’t a good man. He ended up being the perfect mate for her because he’d respected her and let her be that odd duck.
Now he was gone and she was alone once more. Or she was until she convinced Ben Graham to help her. She was the one who had to adjust to not being alone, but then again, so did he. Two people who were desperate to shun company forced by circumstance to be together. That would’ve made her laugh at the absurdity of the situation if hadn’t been her cross to bear.
The sun was no more than an orange wink in the western horizon when she remembered she’d be spending the night with Ben. Every night. Until they found Henry at least.
She didn’t want to spend the night with him. She wanted her privacy, and a stranger’s eyes on her wouldn’t allow her any time alone. During the year she spent living as a man, she still managed to keep herself separated from others. Now there was no choice.
Being with other people made her feel and brought her emotions to the surface. Control slipped through her fingers and she had to let it happen.
She started searching their surroundings for a likely place to spend the night. Regardless of whether she wanted to, they couldn’t continue in the dark or risk their horses.
The one thing she could do was find a safe place to sleep for the night. After spotting an ideal spot, she headed for the grassy spot under some trees. A large rock separated it from a larger open space, which would be a good wind block.
“Where the hell are you going?”
She didn’t slow her pace. “Setting up camp.”
“I thought you were in a hurry.”
She pulled her horse to a stop and dismounted without responding. The man must know they couldn’t proceed at night. He wasn’t an idiot. Or all least, she hoped he wasn’t. Given how smart his sister was, it seemed likely he was intelligent as well. Besides, Grace wasn’t used to telling anyone what she was doing or why.
She pulled the saddle off the gelding she now thought of as Swift. She grimaced at the idea that Ben had named the horse. She hadn’t given it a moniker because she assumed she wouldn’t have it for long. She didn’t want to get attached since nothing in her life had ever seemed permanent. Yet it’d been a year. Swift didn’t have the speed of the horse she’d lost when she raced and lost to Catherine Graham. Yet the gelding had heart and a gentle temperament.
She was rubbing down Swift when Ben spoke again. She’d heard him ride on, then ride back. She almost wanted to grin but it wasn’t really a victory. They would be spending the night together, the one thing she didn’t want. But she would endure. Grace was a survivor. There was much she could get through. Sleeping near this man was minor compared to other things she’d endured. She ran a finger along the scar on her neck.
Minor for certain.
“We could’ve ridden another hour.” His tone was accusatory.
She set the cloth down on the saddle and led the gelding to the very tiny creek that was barely more than a puddle. Swift lapped up the water with an enthusiastic horse sigh.
“Damn it.” He had more to say but it was under his breath and no more than a murmur. She didn’t want to hear it anyway.
Paladin nudged his way beside the other horse to drink. Grace was pushed in turn by Swift and landed on her behind. Hard. Her teeth clacked together, sending a sharp pain up into her skull.
She got to her feet and wiped off her trousers. Ben didn’t glance at her as he unsaddled his horse. Just as well; she didn’t need his concern. She’d disguised herself as a man for a year and not once did anyone offer to pick her up off the ground. Why would today be any different?
A small ache echoed through her lower back. Figured she’d hurt herself and would have to sit on a horse for days with a sore behind. Damn.
“I’ll get a fire started.”
A grunt was the only sign he acknowledged her words. With less than charitable thoughts about Ben Graham, she gathered kindling and set about constructing a small fire pit in the shelter of the large boulder. The winds were calm and it was ideal to build a small blaze.
Grace took some solace in the mundane task. She was proud of the skills she’d learned to take care of herself. There wasn’t anything she was hesitant to do, even if it meant bloodying her hands. She’d long since given up on feeling anything but hate, desperation, and revenge.
There wasn’t room for anything else.
“A fire isn’t a smart idea.” Ben dropped his saddle on the ground.
“It’s gonna be cool tonight, a taste of fall I think. We need hot food and coffee.” She dug into her saddlebags for the dented coffee pot. It had a leak right below the spout but she learned to pour out a little sideways, although she’d burned herself several times.
“I thought you were tough. Lived like a real man for a year.” Ben sat, crossing his ankles and leaning against the saddle. From three feet away, he was enormous. The shadows beneath the brim of his hat hid his expression.
“That doesn’t mean I don’t get cold.” She fed more kindling into the fire.
“You’re sending out a signal in the dark.”
She narrowed her gaze. “A signal to who?”
“Whoever is following us.”
Her heart slammed against her ribs. “No one is following us.” She resisted the urge to peer into the twilight. She had always been careful, almost too careful, and to her knowledge, no one had ever been able to track her.
He didn’t respond except to continue to spear her with an eerie gaze.
Keeping her outward calm, although her stomach danced with anxiety, Grace used a rock to crush coffee beans, then scooped them into the pot. As the fire grew larger, she got to her feet to scout for larger pieces of wood.
“Where are you going?”
She decided that the man chose to annoy her. To keep her off balance. She huffed an impatient breath and went about her task.
“Somebody has to gather wood for the fire.”
She stomped around in the dark, finding sticks and larger chunks of wood and filled her arms. She’d be damned if she let him tell her when to build camp or if she could have a fire. Grace was a grown woman who’d taken care of herself all her life. Ben didn’t need to worry about her or how she did things.
Grace returned with an armload of wood to find him kicking dirt on the fire. Anger ripped through her. How dare he?
“What the hell are you doing?”
“Get down and shut up.” He yanked her to the ground, spilling the wood everywhere. His hard body covered hers and pushed her into the loamy earth.
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