Friday, October 14, 2011

Lonestar Angel; The Lady'sMaid

Lonestar Angel
Colleen Coble
Copyright 2011 © by Colleen Coble
ISBN: 1595542698

For Eden, hope is rekindled when her estranged husband delivers the astounding news: that their lost baby girl has been found.

Years ago Eden and Clay Larson's baby was stolen. Kidnappers demanded a ransom, but something went horribly wrong at the exchange: the kidnapper's car crashed into the river and was never recovered. Eden blamed herself, Clay lost himself in work. Their young and rocky marriage ended. Or so Eden thought. Now she and Clay must work together to reclaim their child—and their lost love—all while escaping the danger swirling around them at a remote ranch in Texas.

Excerpt from Chapter One

Silverware tinkled in the dimly lit dining room of Twenty, an upscale restaurant located inside a classy boutique hotel. Eden Larson smiled over the top of her glass of water at Kent Huston. His blue eyes were filled with intent tonight, and she had known what he had planned from the moment he suggested this place for dinner.

The piano player's voice rose above the music as he sang "Waiting for a Girl Like You." Kent had spoken that very phrase to her often in the year they'd been dating.

"Warm enough?" he asked.

"It's a perfect night."

"In every way," he agreed. "I want to—"

"Kent." She reached across the linen tablecloth and took his hand. "I need to tell you something."

Before he asked her to marry him, he needed to know what baggage she carried. She'd intended to tell him before now—long before. But every time she tried, the pain closed her throat.

Kent smiled. "Are you finally going to tell me what brought you to town? I don't really care, Eden. I'm just thankful you're here. I love you."

She wetted her lips. "Kent . . ." The sense of a presence behind her made her pause.

"Eden," a man said.

Her heart seized in her chest. She'd recognize the deep timbre anywhere. It haunted her dreams and its accusing tones punctuated her nightmares. The deep vibrancy of that voice would impress any woman before she ever saw him.

She turned slowly in her upholstered chair and stared up at Clay Larson, who stood under the crystal chandelier that was the centerpiece of the intimate dining room. "Clay."

How could he be here? He hadn't changed a bit. His hair was still just as black and curly. His dark blue eyes were just as arresting. And her pulse galloped the way it had the first time she'd set eyes on him.

"I need to talk to you," he said, stepping toward her. "It's important."

Oh, she should have told Kent before now. This was the wrong way for him to discover her past. He was beginning to frown as he glanced from her to Clay, whose broad shoulders and vibrant presence loomed over their table. Her pretend life vanished into mist. What had made her think she could escape the past?

"Who are you?" Kent said. "And what right do you have to interrupt a private conversation?"

"The right of a husband," Clay said, his gaze holding her.

"Ex-husband," she managed to say past the tightness of her throat.

"No, Eden. Husband." He held up a sheaf of papers in his right hand.

"What are those?"

"I never signed the divorce papers," he said quietly, just to her. "You're still married to me."

She heard Kent gasp in the silence as the song in the background came to an end. "That's impossible." She stared at Clay, unable to take in what he'd said. "We were divorced over five years ago."

"You sent the papers over five years ago," he corrected. "I just never signed them."

She stared at the blank signature line he showed her. Why had she never followed up? Because she'd been too busy running. "Why not?"

He shook his head. "I had my reasons. Right now, there's something more important to discuss."

"What could be more important?" she asked. Fingers clutched her arm and she turned her head and stared into Kent's face. "I . . . I'm so sorry, Kent. I was just about to tell you."

"Tell me that you're married?" Kent's eyes held confusion and hurt. "I don't understand."

She shook her head. "I'm divorced. Or at least I thought I was. I haven't seen Clay in five years."

Kent's frown smoothed out. "I think you'd better leave," he said to Clay. He scooted back in his chair.

She laid a hand on his arm. "Let me handle this," she said. Anger was beginning to replace her stupor and shock. "Why are you here, Clay?"

"Would you like to step outside so we can continue this in private?" Clay asked, glancing around the room.

Heat flamed in her cheeks when she saw the interested stares from the two nearby tables. "Just go away. We can talk tomorrow."

His firm lips flattened but he stayed where he was. "I've found Brianna, Eden. She's alive."

She struggled to breathe. She searched his face for the hint of a lie but saw only implacable certainty. She shook her head. "That's impossible. She's dead." She could almost smell the sweet scent of her lost baby, even though she'd been dead for five years.

Beside her, Kent jerked, his eyes wide. She half rose.

"I never believed it," Clay said. "Her body was never found so I kept looking. She's alive, Eden."

She studied his expression. He returned her stare. His face was full of conviction, and she felt a tiny flutter that might be hope begin to stir. "You're serious?"

"I know she's alive. I can't retrieve her alone. I need you to come with me."

"How do you know these things? I don't understand anything."

"I'll explain all of it. But come with me now."

She wanted to believe him, but it was impossible. "I need to talk to Kent first," she said.

"I'll wait outside your apartment."

"How do you know where I live?"

"I know everything about you. I always have." He strode away through a gauntlet of interested stares.

Lonestar Angel is available at bookstores everywhere.

Visit Colleen's website at

* * *

The Lady's Maid

By Susan Page Davis

The Lady's Maid is Susan Page Davis's new book from Barbour Publishing. It's first in her new Prairie Dreams historical romance series. Elise Finster accompanies her young British mistress, Lady Anne Stone, on a voyage to America in 1855. Lady Anne's father has died, and her Uncle David is the new Earl of Stoneford—if he steps forward and claims the title. But David disappeared into the American West when Anne was a baby. Now it's up to her and Elise to find him. They join a wagon train in Independence, Missouri, not realizing they're leading a killer straight to David.

Reviewer Patsy Glans says in the October 2011 issue of Romantic Times Book Reviews: "Davis hits a grand slam with her new historical romance series, Prairie Dreams, which has romance and mystery, with some thrills thrown in. The characters are well rounded and the hero has grit and determination."

An excerpt from The Lady's Maid:

January, 1855--Stoneford, near London

"Come with me, Elise. I can't face him alone."

Lady Anne gripped her hand so hard that Elise Finster winced. She would do anything to make this day easier for her young mistress.

"Of course, my lady, if they'll let me."

The two walked down the sweeping staircase together, their silk skirts swishing and the hems of their crinolines nudging each other. Lady Anne kept her hold on Elise's hand until they reached the high-ceilinged hall below.

Elise paused at the doorway to the morning room and looked at her mistress. Lady Anne said nothing, but straightened her shoulders. A pang of sympathy lanced Elise's heart, but she couldn't bear this burden in the young woman's place. Anne Stone had to face the future herself.

"Good day, ladies." Andrew Conrad, the Stone family's aging solicitor, leaped to his feet from the velvet-upholstered sofa and bowed. "Lady Anne, you look charming. Miss Finster."

Elise murmured, "Hello, sir," while Lady Anne allowed Conrad to take her hand and bow over it.

From near the window, a tall, angular man walked forward—Anne's second cousin, Randolph Stone. Ten years older than Anne, the studious man lived in a modest country home with his wife and two young children and eked out a living on the interest of his father's meager fortune. Elise gritted her teeth, a reaction he always induced in her. With great effort, she had managed to keep Lady Anne from guessing how much she loathed Randolph.

"Anne." Stone took his cousin's hand and kissed it perfunctorily. He nodded in Elise's direction but didn't greet her.

"Randolph. I didn't expect to see you here." Lady Anne arched her delicate eyebrows at the solicitor.

"Mr. Stone had some questions, and I thought that if he came with me today, I could explain the situation to both of you at once."

Lady Anne said nothing for a long moment, then nodded.

"Er, if it pleases you, my lady, this is confidential business." Conrad shot a meaningful glance Elise's way.

Elise felt her face flush, but held her ground. She wouldn't leave until Lady Anne told her plainly to do so. Besides, he'd brought along an extra person. Why shouldn't Lady Anne have that right as well?

"I would like Elise to stay." The lady smiled, but with a firmness to her jaw befitting the daughter of an earl.

Conrad nodded. "As you wish. Shall we begin, then?"

Lady Anne sat on the upholstered Hepplewhite settee and signaled for Elise to sit beside her. Elise arranged her voluminous skirt and lowered herself, avoiding the direct gaze of Randolph Stone. He didn't care for her, either, and Elise knew exactly why, but she didn't believe in letting past discord interfere with the future.

"You must have news," Lady Anne said. "Otherwise, you wouldn't have come."

"That is astute of you, my lady." Conrad reached inside his coat and brought out an envelope. "I've had news that is not really news at all from America."

"America?" Lady Anne's tone changed, and she tensed. "Is it my uncle David?"

Conrad sighed and carefully extracted a sheet of coarse rag paper from the envelope. "You are aware, dear lady, that I sent letters the week after your father died, hoping to locate your uncle—that is, David Stone."

"Earl of Stoneford," Lady Anne said gently.

"Yes, well, that's the point, isn't it?" Conrad sounded tired and the tiniest bit cross, as though he hated being beaten by the Atlantic Ocean and the American postal system. "If your uncle were alive, and if he were here, he would inherit your father's estate and be acknowledged as Earl of Stoneford, it's true. But after three months of dilly-dallying, all we have is a letter from the postmaster in St. Louis, Missouri, U.S. of A., declaring that while a Mr. David Stone did reside in the city some ten to fifteen years ago and apparently ran a business at that time, no one by the name of David Stone has been found living there now."

Anne's shoulders sagged. "Surely they're mistaken. The last word we had from him came from there."

Conrad shook his head. "I'm afraid we've reached the end of our resources, my lady. I had that letter a couple of weeks ago stating that the city had no death record for your uncle."

"That was a relief," Lady Anne said.

"Yes, but all it tells us is that he did not die in St. Louis. Now, the courts agree on the procedure. The trustees will continue managing your father's estate, but the peerage will remain dormant until your uncle is either found or proven to be deceased."

Lady Anne stirred. "And why is Randolph here?"

Conrad sighed. "You cousin is next in the line of succession, provided David Stone is proven dead and does not have a male heir. However, it is my duty to tell you both that those things may be impossible to prove."

"And the title will stay dormant and the estate unclaimed for how long?"

"As long as it takes." Conrad brought out a handkerchief and patted at his dewy brow. "There are titles that have been dormant for decades—one for more than a hundred years. It will probably never be claimed."

"But the estate, the property—"

"The crown may decide to dispose of it in time."

"Surely not, if Uncle David is still out there."

"The trustees will not spend your father's fortune in an attempt to find his heir. If you or Mr. Randolph Stone wants to spend your own money trying, that is your affair."

The Lady's Maid, copyright 2011 by Susan Page Davis, published by Moody Publishers. All rights reserved. No part may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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