In honor of its Release Day and with my publisher’s permission, here’s an excerpt from the opening pages of Under Prairie Skies: Book 2 in my Prairie Sky Series!
April 14, 1855, Hollister homestead, Illinois
The sound of a spry whistle froze Charlotte Stanton in her tracks. She tightened her hold on her bucket of creek water, eyes narrowing. Her uncle’s cabin and property had been vacant for nearly a year. Odd someone would be about.
The whistling grew louder, and Charlotte ducked behind a hickory tree, her heart at her throat. She set her bucket on the ground and peered through the timber in the direction of the sound. Something resembling a deer moved along the timberline.
She swallowed. But, deer didn’t whistle.
Craning her neck for a better look, her stomach clenched as the “whistling deer” transformed into the fringed buckskin jacket of a broad-shouldered man. He emerged onto the open prairie, a string of quail draped over one shoulder and a rifle leaning on the other. Long, easy strides carried him closer to her uncle’s cabin.
Charlotte whirled around and pressed her back to the hickory tree, heart pounding.
A squatter. Sure as winter gives birth to spring.
She smacked her fist against the rough bark of the tree. Why hadn’t she thought to bring her uncle’s muzzleloader? Then again, would she have had the gumption to use it? Though Pa had made certain she knew how to shoot a gun, the thought of pulling the trigger, or even pointing the barrel at someone, turned her stomach.
Still, she had to do something. The man was squatting on her uncle’s land.
Another glance at the buckskin-clad stranger assured Charlotte she couldn’t outrun him. He was as close to the cabin now as she was. She scoured the ground for some sort of defense and spied a good-sized rock wedged in the soil.
She arched a brow. A blow to the head should do it.
Stooping, she pried at the rock, then paused. She meant to drive the man off, not bludgeon him. Besides, it looked far too heavy to lug all that way.
To her left, lay a blunt shaft of wood about the width of a rifle barrel. Perhaps she could fool the stranger into thinking she had the upper hand. The risky notion seemed her only hope. Snatching up the stick, she lifted her eyes heavenward. Lord, help me.
She crouched low and maneuvered her way along the timberline until she’d positioned herself at the man’s back. With soft steps, she emerged from the undergrowth, narrowing the gap between herself and the stranger. His steady whistle worked to her advantage, helping to drown out the faint rustle of grass in her approach.
Hands quivering, Charlotte raised the stick, then lowered it. Who was she kidding? With those firm muscles, if the man turned, he could easily overpower her.
A few more paces and he’d reach her uncle’s cabin. Then there’d be no stopping him.
She lifted her chin and wedged the makeshift gun into the small of the stranger’s back. “Drop the rifle,” she ordered, in as gruff and masculine of voice as she could muster.
The young man whipped his face to the side, revealing a square, clean-shaven jaw and a handsome profile. “Hey now, listen boy…”
“Turn around.” With a hard swallow, Charlotte jabbed the stick in deeper. “I said drop it.”
The man faced forward and stooped to lower his rifle.
Charlotte threw back her shoulders. So far, so good. He’d not seen through her guise. She bent to reach for the gun, only to feel strong hands grip her arm and hurl her through the air in one smooth motion. The sky was still spinning as her back hit the ground with a thud. She cringed, the air expelling from her lungs in a soft moan. With a slow blink, she shook her head, struggling to regain her senses. She squinted into the mid-morning sun, and tried to push herself to a sitting position. The man’s shadowed image stared down at her, his firm hold pinning her arms to the ground.
With a frustrated sigh, she lay back, jaw clenched. He’d bested her.
I hope you enjoyed this excerpt from Under Prairie Skies.
Read the rest of my Inspirational, Historical Romance (Prairie Sky) Series:
BOOK 1: UNDER THIS SAME SKY
BOOK 2: UNDER PRAIRIE SKIES