Friday, February 2, 2018

First Kiss Friday – An Excerpt from “Stormy Hawkins” by Ana Morgan

Today on First Kiss Friday, we welcome romance author, Ana Morgan, and an excerpt from her Historical Western Romance, “Stormy Hawkins (Prairie Hearts Series Book 1).”

Land speculator Blade Masters wants to convince Stormy Hawkins’ father to retire so he can buy their South Dakota cattle ranch. He’s bought jeans-and-boots-wearing Stormy a fancy dress and escorted her to the Founders Day dance. Last year, everyone laughed at her clumsiness. Blade intends to change that, starting with a first kiss:
First Kiss Excerpt
Wearing his best shirt and the jeans that didn’t have rips from barbed wire, Blade sat on the leather couch sandwiched between Running Bear and Brownie.
Brownie was gussied up in pressed corduroy slacks and wide suspenders. A thick coat of new polish on his boots reflected the late afternoon sunlight.
Running Bear’s deerskin vest was embroidered with green vines and colorful flowers. Blade didn’t feel comfortable asking if his dead wife had done the intricate beadwork. For all he knew, the big man was handy with a needle and thread. He was good at everything else.
Running Bear stretched out his legs and scuffed the sole of his boot across Brownie’s boot toe. His eyes gleamed devilishly. “So sorry.”
Brownie glared at him, and then returned his focus to the stairs. “What’s takin’ so long up there?” he yelled.
Privately, Blade seconded the question.
Three knocks sounded from the hallway upstairs. A door opened and shut. Then, it was silent again.
“Crimeny.” Brownie jumped up and paced around the sitting room. “She knows I need to tune my fiddle. Now we’re gonna be late, and—”
Zed rapped on the upstairs wall like a majordomo. He wore ironed pants, a bright yellow shirt, and a tailored black jacket. He started down the stairs.
A step behind him, Stormy followed.
Blade leaned forward and gripped his knees.
She looked lovelier than a pampered St. Louis Society debutante. The flowing skirt of the emerald dress swirled around her legs. The top hugged her curves, breasts to waist to hips. Unbraided, her hair shimmered like the western sky at sunset, and her eyes shone with a vulnerability that made him ache to be her protector.
“Saying goodbye to your heart, Little Brother?” Running Bear asked softly.
                                                                 ~~ ~
As soon as he rode onto the field next to Prosperity’s schoolhouse, Blade knew his plan would work.
Twenty teams and wagons had already formed a wide semi-circle, and more were pulling in behind the Hawkins’ buckboard.
     Women in dancing dresses arranged platters of food on long tables. A short distance away, men dipped tin cups into an open barrel and toasted each other. Roughhousing children raced around poles topped with glowing lanterns, ignoring their mothers’ shouts to stay clean.
     Ginny Dunn waved as Zed set the buckboard brake.
Carrying his weather-beaten fiddle case, Brownie rushed toward a cluster of musicians, tuning their instruments.
Running Bear walked toward the food tables with cloth- covered baskets.
Blade dismounted and helped Stormy down from the back of the buckboard. Tonight, everyone would see her in a new light. The gossip would spread like a wildfire.
     To enhance his plan, Zed had suggested Stormy wear her mother’s light blue cape to protect her dress during the ride into town. With her dress hidden until she started to dance, she’d stun the townspeople who usually mocked her.
He pulled her into the shadows cast by a tall-sided wagon. “Time for another dance lesson, Stormy.”
She nodded without looking up at him. He could tell she was nervous, eyeing the growing circle of wagons and people.
He understood her fear of ridicule. He’d quit St. Louis in the middle of the night, rather than endure Society’s gossip about why Miss Candace Kennedy had discarded him for his younger brother, Jared.
He went on. “Waltzing requires communication and leadership. I am the man, your superior. You are a woman, my—”
“Good. I have your attention.” He faced her, picked up her hand, and slid his work-roughened fingers across the silky small of her back. “Put your hand on my arm. When it’s time to go backwards, I will do this.” He raised his elbow slightly. “When I want to go forward, I will press like this.” He pushed his fingertips against her back.
Her mouth formed an ‘o’ of astonishment.
“All you have to do is follow my lead. Step forward, step to the side, step together.” Fighting her stiff-legged hesitancy, he pulled her along. “Think of it this way, Stormy. We’re a steer. I’m the head, and you’re the tail.” He waited a moment to let the description sink in.
She smiled half-heartedly.
“Let’s try again. This time, we’ll go backwards. Back, side, together.” He lifted his arm. “You’re doing great. Now a quarter turn.” He pivoted as he stepped forward.
Her nose crashed into his chest, and she hopped back. “I can’t do this. I’ll never be good at dancing.”
“Just turn off your thoughts and listen with your body.” “I don’t know how.”“You can do anything you set your mind to, Stormy. You’re a smart, talented, beautiful woman.” To convince her, he lowered his head and brushed his lips against hers.
The soft rush of her sigh warmed his cheeks. Mesmerized, he pulled her close and bent to truly kiss her.
Before his lips reached hers again, he came to his senses. She was engaged, and his heart was off limits—for life.

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