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Good morning. Lovely to have you drop by today. I want to share an excerpt from Desire’s Embrace with you, my readers. If you aren’t familiar with my latest paranormal romance set in post-war New Orleans, circa 1872, then here’s the blurb:
An orphan with a goal to become her own woman. Quite a challenge for a woman in 1872. Still, her drive leads her to answer an ad placed by the mysterious man from Louisiana. He’s known for being the sugar baron of the south and his good looks. Can she become the independent woman she wants to be under his roof as the nanny to his children? Or will the attraction between them drive her into his arms despite her questions about his secretive nature? Join Laura Sinclair as she takes on the greatest challenge of her life with her employer, Morgan Latimar, sugar king of New Orleans.
Morgan Latimar seeks a nanny for his children. The woman who accepts the position can never know he is a wolf shifter. Despite his Wolfen wisdom, Morgan is mesmerized by the passionate, Laura Sinclair. Will she be his salvation or his downfall?Enjoy the
Enjoy the excerpt and have a wonder-filled day.
Chapter 7 – The Governor’s Ball
“Show me what to do with this thing.”
A lace and feather encrusted mask dangled from the eye opening on one finger of her gloved hand. Laura’s expression proved what Morgan had known all along. The hostess arrangement did not make her happy. Laura enjoyed the children, and teaching seemed her forte. She resisted the social aspect of their arrangement with some vigor. “Here, let me show you how fetching you’ll look with the mask in place.” His arched eyebrow with a debonair slant did not impress her. “You position the paper mache thus. You then tighten the ribbons like so and with a couple of hairpins your costume is secure. Cherie, you’re ready to turn heads wherever the night may take you.”
The lack of enthusiasm she wore dealt his positive statement a harsh blow. “You are going to make me wear this thing, aren’t you, sir?”
The use of such a formal address pressed on his already stingy patience. “Why yes, my dear, you look marvelous.” With a wink, he smiled. “I for one would dance with you every dance just to discover who the beautiful creature is under the mask. Besides, we had an arrangement – remember?” Hating the reminder, he vowed to be on his best behavior.
Laura rolled her eyes to the ceiling as he adjusted the black lace shawl about her bare shoulders. The tall mirror in the foyer proved his point.
“See, you look stunning.”
She glanced at him in the mirror.
“Forgive me, Laura, but I’m only telling the truth.” His tone must have sounded sincere because she turned to peer closer before returning his gaze in the mirror’s reflection. Something stirred in his gut. Morgan hesitated to put a name to the sensation, more a swirling of energy, a tingling of feelings each time he took her hand in his. “The carriage is here.” Propriety allowed for a hand upon her low back to assist her inside. The heat from the touch startled him making Morgan wonder if, in fact, she did possess a streak of magic. Something perhaps even Laura wasn’t aware she owned. Mystical and tantalizing, the sensation held the same mystery as the first time he had touched her. Her mother’s illness perhaps was not an illness after all. Laura’s mother may have been a true seer or even a witch.
“Where are we going tonight?” She glanced out the window, watching, yet not seeing. Her hands relaxed atop a velvet purse and gloves in her lap.
He couldn’t help the smile that crept across his face. She hated the gloves and removed them often. “Tonight’s fete’ is at the governor’s home. Despite my misgivings about socializing with a reformist Democrat, I must keep up appearances.” He waved a hand in the air. “The coach is a symbol of the Mardi Gras season. Though a bit old-fashioned for my tastes, they’re used by all the krewes’ for parties and balls. We’ll stay until the Governor arrives and leave soon after we’ve thanked him for the invitation. The whole affair shouldn’t take more than a couple of hours.” Leaning close, he lowered his voice. “I promise not to be too much of a bore during our time together.”
She turned, yet said nothing.
Reaching out, he took her hand in his. She tensed. “Easy, my dear. By the way, you smell enchanting tonight.” He held her gaze a moment and then glanced out the window and sighed. “I’m certain. I’ll have my hands full fighting off the young bucks tonight.”
Her brow furrowed. “Young bucks?”
He grinned. God, what an innocent she was. “I’m referring to the men with their youth and vigor which will try to steal you away.” They crossed a deep pothole, causing the coach to lurch. Pain shot through his bum leg. He eased back into the plush cushions of the seat.
A quick glance proved Laura was riding out the obstacles in the street as well.
She held the leather strap attached to the ceiling with a frown on her face. “I’ve never been interested in those young bucks as you say. I prefer a man with life experience.”
His breath caught.
Laura studied him in the dim light. “Forgive me for being blunt, but how old are you-thirty-five? It has been said; a man is like a fine wine, which requires aging to ensure its quality. You, sir, possess that quality.” Her eyes remained on his. “You have control over impulses – the kind that would derail a younger man. Yours is a quiet confidence without arrogance. Younger men always seem to have something to prove.”
Clear blue eyes held his gaze without wavering. Always outspokenly truthful, Laura hit her mark. She could have spouted the Rosary in Latin and not have had a more profound effect on Morgan. He stared for a full minute before finally swallowing and glanced out the window into the misty darkness of the street. A sickly ill sensation swam in his gut. What a boon she had been since her arrival. She deserved – a whole man– one without flaws and deception. Pain speared him again, and he sucked in air. The devil takes him, but he wanted her. Perhaps, he would have to settle for her in his arms for the leg throbbed anew, and Morgan closed his eyes. In the darkness, all he saw was Laura.
“We’re here.” She slid the gloves back on and gathered her purse, rearranging the shawl more closely. The footman opened her door, and she got out. Morgan had difficulty standing. Cursing silently at the damn leg, he adjusted the brace as the mechanical mechanism hissed and spewed. With the footman’s help, he pulled the crippled leg out to stand. Laura took his arm as they made their way up the low-slung porch to the massive door. He gave her points for her accommodating nature.
The lively music coming from the double doors drew their attention. Inside, dancers swirled and twirled to the sound of an old-fashioned waltz.
“It is beautiful. Laura cut Morgan a sidelong glance. “Where would you prefer we start – at the receiving line or the dance floor?”
Morgan patted her hand on his forearm. The glib way she asked the question told him she wanted to dance. “I’ll wager you’ll surrender before I get warmed up. What do you say?”
Her laugh of pure delight trailed after them as they descended the stairs to a large ballroom. Sparkling lights eliminated the dancers. Her enthusiasm bolstered his confidence. Soon they disappeared into the wave of guests. Next, accordions and fiddles replaced violins and harps as they shuffled at a dizzying pace to a Cajun tune. A dip and twirl had Laura holding on to him.
“You dance so well, sir.”
“This old dog hasn’t forgotten everything. Hang on, Cherie.” Giving her a good squeeze, Morgan faded before twirling her out and back into his arms.
Genuine surprise crossed her face. “Oh, Monsieur, you are an accomplished dancer. Why didn’t you tell me this?”
He noted the stain of pink in her cheeks. “Be truthful – would you have believed me?” The directness of his question caught her off guard.
“To be sure, I didn’t believe you so light and steady. But, you are confident as well. There’s no hesitation, no uncertainty in your direction.” Her eyes traveled over his face in speculation. “You’ve been trained no doubt.”
He noted the pulse in her neck throb with the blood coursing through her veins. His blood surged at the sight of such life. “Yes, we were trained in dance, theater, music appreciation and the accordion as children. My mother insisted though my father found the instruction tedious.” Her light laughter filled the air as the music ended. The sensation of real pleasure washed over him. He lifted her hand, kissing her knuckles. “By the way. I like it when you call me by my French title – Monsieur.” With a flourish, he released her hands. “It’s a pleasure to be of service, madam.” Bowing formally, Morgan gave her a satisfied grin when she continued the private joke by curtsying before accepting his hand to leave the floor. “Can I get you some refreshment?”
Her tiny paper fan appeared. Laura batted her eyelashes at him. “Yes, thank you. That would be lovely.”
“Good, I won’t be long.” Depositing her along the wall where chairs offered a quiet repose, Morgan winked as he left. The night was going well, he mused. Laura’s reluctance seemed to ebb. Thankfully, a cheerful demeanor won out. He could only hope the mood carried the night. Humming a light-hearted tune, Morgan made his way across the room to the dining hall where food and drink abound.
Morgan Latimar knows what it is to be lonely. He’s reminded of his predicament every day when he reaches for the cane which he uses to walk. He watches over his shoulder constantly and examines what people don’t tell him more closely than the words they utter. He has many responsibilities of which he guards with his life. No one knows his secret, not the full extent of his misery. For if they did, he would have to eliminate their existence. So, this is Morgan’s world.
Soon, a young woman will come into his world and turn it upside down. Her mere presence will rip the cloak from his secret and leave him exposed to the dangerous knowledge he is not what he appears to be.
Laura Sinclair, a bright, exuberant, young woman who’s on her own for the first time in her life is anxious to meet the mysterious man from Louisiana. His letters painted a picture of beauty and home and she wants to see for herself the wonders that await. Her first job as a nanny and governess to two children will drop her amidst this storybook world. She’s on her way to becoming independant. A dream of hers for so many years. So, as she stands on tiptoes and crains her head to see the man waiting for the new nanny, she imagines all the splendor of a new adventure.
This is the backdrop for Desire’s Embrace. While writing this tale of deception and discovery, I strove to prove that though, things aren’t always as they seem, the heart is still a magical place where forgiveness and trust form a bond so strong, nothing can tear it apart. I invite you to discover the world of Morgan Latimar and Laura Sinclair in Desire’s Embrace. Enjoy the excerpt and happy reading.
Desire’s Embrace – Chapter 1
“Give it back!”
“No, get your own!”
“Children.” As Morgan Latimar entered the kitchen, he admonished his quarreling children for the noise. It did not matter that their escalating argument was over who got the last piece of bacon. The scene was the third such episode in a week. Tensions were running high in his household. The situation needed a resolution. This morning, Morgan was on a mission that would cure their unruliness. “I’ll be back as soon as I can,” he told Ruby, the housekeeper. Not breaking his stride as he scooped up the last piece of bacon, Morgan divided it into two portions and presented it to Sara and Jacob. Then he exited the kitchen door. Hearing their laughter, he hoped the peace would last, yet knew it would not.
As the screen door smacked shut a second time, Bertrand, his manservant spoke up. “That solution will last about five minutes.”
Morgan did not respond. Instead, he decided not to glance back at the small disturbance mounting as Ruby tried to establish order in the kitchen with her demand for quiet. His manservant was right. Lately nothing had calmed his children. They were out of control. It was past time he found a nanny for them, someone who could give them the loving, yet strong hand of a guiding force in their lives.
The temptation to shift into a wolf and bound off into the woods sounded better and better these days. Coming to a stop just shy of the barn doors as he waited for Bertrand, Morgan realized he desperately wanted to run. However, the reason was not the children. He loved his son of seven years and his daughter of five. Jacob and Sara meant more to him than life itself. His desire to run lay in the loss of their mother and his soul mate. Diana, the only woman in the world he had ever loved, was lost to him now. Sara’s birth had taken her five years ago despite everything they had tried to do for his beloved wife. And yet, it felt like it was only yesterday on a morning like this. Sometimes he could hear her calling to him from the fields, or he would see her standing on the ridge of the mountains beyond his family’s land. She waited for him in the cool of the evening breeze as the sun settled quietly over the horizon. He yearned to race with her once more over the fields and through the woods of Bay Ridge. His family’s sugar plantation held nothing except memories now. The discomfort in his leg spiked. Morgan sighed as he propped open the barn door and adjusted the mechanized brace holding his useless limb upright. The old war injury plagued him daily. Life had changed.
Diana had died early on a June morning as the world started to stir. Perfection – no one expected anything less of Sara’s birth. Diana’s pregnancy had been a normal occurrence. She was healthy throughout the months as they awaited the arrival of their second child. Something had gone dreadfully wrong, and Diana had slipped away from him as he held her in his arms. Time passed, as time always does, and Morgan forced the daily responsibilities to consume him. A way to survive he supposed. After all, there were the children to consider.
“Where are you going?” His brother, David’s voice held concern.
“This morning I’m going to meet The Creole Belle, a paddle-wheeler out of Memphis. The children need more than Ruby, the housekeeper or me or even your dear wife Jacquie can give them. They need supervision from a dedicated caregiver. Not to say Ruby and Jacquie haven’t done all they can to help with the children.” He slowed, shaking his head. “No, they’d been wonderful since Diana’s death.” Glancing out at the tree lined boundary, a pang of longing shot through him.
The overwhelming urge to race through the fields would simply have to wait. There was trouble brewing. Morgan did not fully understand how he knew this, yet things were not right.
“I understand the need. I just don’t understand how you’re going to accomplish this without jeopardizing your safety as well as the safety of the family.”
Turning, Morgan studied his brother. “Don’t worry. I’ll manage. The children need a nanny. She will arrive before I get to the dock if I don’t hurry. Give my best to Jacquie. I’ll be back as quick as I can.” Climbing into the steam buggy, Morgan gripped the wheel. Bertrand, his manservant, rode shotgun as they sped off.
Checking his hydraulic watch, Morgan parked the buggy as close as possible to the dock. Crowds always gathered when a paddle-wheeler dropped anchor, especially one as refined as the Creole Belle. Carnies and hobos scouted their next grift while ladies of refinement awaited the unloading of their luggage. Men of color labored in the already oppressive heat of a youthful spring day. Some, visiting the city for the first time, gawked at the chaos while frequent visitors to the Crescent City dove into the bedlam as a matter of routine. He scanned the dock for the woman he had asked to come to New Orleans. She was probably already lost in the congestion of the crowd. The city, still the commerce center of the south, was growing exponentially since the war of northern aggression. Thriving in a climate of renewed business, the unique pleasures the city always proved noisy and rude.
In Morgan’s opinion, the rude and noisy overrode the immense and busy when the topic arose about his beloved New Orleans. Then there was reality, which took a back seat to customs and superstitions. Voodoo, the dark religion, ran rampant throughout not only the alleys and byways of the city. The religion also consumed the parlors and drawing rooms of the enticingly mysterious region. The city’s underbelly thrived on superstition embedded in fear.
“Do you plan to divulge anything about your background, sir?”
Morgan cut a cool gaze at Bertrand.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” The hour was early for so many questions concerning his common sense. The irritation rolled restlessly in his gut. His French father would have said the timing was bad. His Indian mother would have soothed his concern with a prayer to the Great One. “Are you trying to get under my skin, Bertrand, or just bored?”
The manservant flicked a piece of lint off his cuff before cocking a brow. “Perhaps both.”
“I’m Creole, not stupid.” Morgan slapped the buggy door shut. Steadying his leg brace, Morgan glanced up. “You are a free man of color and as such, you may find employment where you wish. There’s nothing holding you.”
The comment did not sit well with Bertrand. Sniffing lightly, the manservant glanced outward, rather than dignify his employer’s comment with an answer. The routine was an old one the two friends rehearsed practically daily.
Caught off guard, the hairs along Morgan’s crisp, white collar stood at attention. An eerie, old witch with knarled fingers curled atop a crooked cypress cane poked him in the side.
“You got a coin for an old woman?”
“Be gone with you, hag. I don’t have time for your nonsense.”
The witch clucked her tongue. “You’ll be needing my kind of wisdom soon. The stirrings are multiplying. The child grows restless. Be warned. You’ll seek that which can save those you love.”
“I want nothing you have, woman. Be off with you.” Tossing a coin in the old hag’s basket, Morgan moved as quickly away as his leg would permit. The sheer shock of the witch’s words had him scurrying to safer ground. Shame in his fear had nothing to do with his wish to rid himself of the needling sensation the witch was right. How had she known a child of his grew restless? Unease clawed at his insides. He gripped his silver-headed cane until his knuckles grew white. No one outside of his immediate household had witnessed Sara’s spells. Sweat trickled slowly down his backbone one vertebra at a time.
Surely, there was a reasonable explanation for her dilemma. For three nights past, she had awakened screaming. Crying, she had begged Morgan not to go.
“Don’t go into the dark, daddy. Please don’t go!”
Stroking her silky blond hair, Morgan had prayed desperately for help with her nightmares. That is what they were after all. Nothing more and certainly nothing like he had experienced over the years. He would not believe she had succumbed to the same fate as he. The damned Voodoo Mambos with their potions had tried countless times to rid him of the misery of the shift. No one could break the curse. Marie Laveau had done this to him. In the darkness, Morgan prayed the plight he faced was not hers as well.
“You’re safe, my sweet. Don’t worry. I am here, and I will not leave you. Rest, Sara. Get some sleep. I’m right here.”
The child clutched the covers tight. Vigilant, Morgan sat as she fought the trouble brewing inside her small frame. Soothing her with soft assurances, he did his best to calm both their fears. Surely, the gods were not so cruel as to burden his only daughter with the curse.
The loud clap of board against board brought him back to the present. The Creole Belle had docked. Ropes flew through the air landing unceremoniously onto the planks as crew members worked to secure the vessel. The Belle crept closer to dry land. Shipment planks fell from deck to dock, and the unloading commenced. Laborers went about pulling heavy pallets of cotton, sugarcane as well as grain, all bound for market, with a swift indifference of pure purpose. The passengers, attempting to disembark early, found themselves caught in the chaos. Such noise as the laborers toiled at their task.
Wiping the sweat from his brow, Morgan straightened his frock coat as he glanced into the sky. The morning had broken clear and bright. Squinting, he gazed across the channel as the sun danced on the water. Spring was coming. With the shift in the season, a change was upon them.
Bertrand walked up beside him, breaking his concentration. “I never dreamt anyone would answer your ad. Who in their right mind would seek employment in this postwar confusion?”
The needle, thou well selected, did not set well. Touché old chap. Morgan glanced askance at the man who had been loyal to his family for two generations. Bertrand was overly opinionated. He always knew, exactly, how to play his pawn without regard of reprimand. After all, he was a free man, a Creole, who worked where he chose. Unwilling to let the jab get under his skin, Morgan faced the water once more. “You sound surprised.” Morgan did not wish to rehash the tired topic. Not since everyone in his household had a negative opinion of his plans. Taking a step toward the gangplank, he planted his feet firmly before continuing to stare out at the horizon rather than let Bertrand’s innuendos get the best of him.
The fact was he had placed several ads in the eastern papers. After numerous correspondences, Morgan had almost given up. One morning several weeks past, a peculiar missive had arrived from Georgia. A young woman had written to inquire about the position.
Out of the corner of his eye, Bertrand appeared at his side. Apparently misreading his employer’s silence as his opportunity to elaborate on his opinion, Bertrand expanded on his theory. “Undoubtedly, sir.” This woman has very little experience, despite the fact she comes with glowing references from her school instructors. There must be something about her that has bewitched you.” He cut his eyes at Morgan’s profile.
Morgan had to marvel at the precision of his man’s barb. Truth resided in Bertrand’s assumption. For despite the woman’s lack of hands-on practice with young children, Morgan was fascinated with her determination and persistence in securing the position. Not only had she written him three different times, she had telegraphed him as well. Besides, she was far more pleasant to look at than the prune-faced old maids he had interviewed thus far. Morgan answered her missive, inviting her to come out for a face-to-face interview. Wondering if the tintype in his vest pocket was recent, his mouth drew up in a quirk at the thought of the young woman’s dark hair and slim build. Irritated with his train of thought, Morgan limped closer to the Belle’s gangplank. The smells of leather and hay invaded his nose as he made his way to the edge of the dock. “Haven’t got anyone to best in poker this morning, Bertrand?” Morgan knew the man was only a step behind him. “I’m sure I can scrounge up a game for you with the local card sharks if you’re bored.” With a cutting gaze, he arched a brow. “Better enjoy your entertainment while you can, old man. I am looking forward to a little boredom. With this woman in charge of the children, maybe our lives will return to some level of normalcy.” Eying his man, Morgan smiled as the barb hit home.
Still, a twinge of guilt mingled with longing washed over him as he realized he was about to place his children in the care of a stranger. Would Diana have approved? His heart began to ache with the things he knew were true. She had wanted a large family, something they had dreamt of such on those nights as they lay awake planning their future together. The painful truth he understood too well. Diana was not coming back. Their lives changed forever.
The coal-fired engines of the paddle-wheeler spewed smoke into the sky in perfect unison with the churning of the pistons. The Creole’s massive boilers belched out identical, dark plumes of smoke from matching stacks into the morning sky. The commotion sent a signal to the rest of the passengers on board to disembark. Morgan watched as men in finely tailored suits and ladies in proper bonnets with matching gloves scurried to leave. Soon the dock overflowed with all manner of people.
He stretched to his full six-foot-four-inch frame. His superior height allowed him to scan the milling crowd. The woman in the tintype, a dark-haired, doe-eyed creature, resembling a life-sized doll in her starched pinafore was not there. Glancing down at the picture once more, he realized Miss Sinclair would not be wearing a school uniform. Morgan closed his eyes briefly, trying to envision her in a traveling suit – probably a dowdy gray, ill-fitting spinster suit with an ugly hat, which did nothing to accentuate her features. Chiding his inner demons once more, Morgan reminded his wayward mind, how she appeared did not matter – only that she perform her duties responsibly. Tapping his index finger against the cane he leaned on, he scowled at the vessel, wondering if, after all their correspondence, Miss Sinclair had changed her mind. Perhaps she had gotten a last minute marriage proposal and sailed off to Atlanta to keep house for a young, well-to-do banker whose pockets bulged with ill-gotten gains since the war’s end. Only prune-faced old maids came looking for employment while the youthful grasped their future in their fists, taking what they wanted despite anyone else’s problems. “You fool.” He growled under his breath. “What made you think a lovely young woman like Miss Sinclair would accept a nanny position for a middle-aged, crippled, old war veteran. Stupid.” Morgan was well aware his man heard the comment, yet to Bertrand’s credit, he did not jump to answer.
As they both stood carefully watching each passenger disembark, Morgan never saw the young woman until she tapped him purposely on the shoulder. Slowly turning, he came face to face with a tall, regal vision. The woman stood with her back to the paddle-wheeler.
The Creole Belle picked that particular moment to release the remaining steam from its great boilers. As the vessel did, the sudden blast of evaporating moisture created a perfect backdrop for her lovely form. Certainly a vision, yet with purpose, to be sure, he mused. What a look of irritated inquiry on her angular face. Her doe’s eyes narrowed as she sized him up.
Presenting a hand, she proceeded to introduce herself. “My name is Laura Sinclair.”
The vision stood only inches shorter than he did. Her shoulders squared as she extended her gloved hand in a gesture normally reserved for dealings between businessmen. Her set jaw and thin-lipped smile gave her the appearance of a woman with unwavering determination. He could not find his tongue. Her eyes, the color of rich, blue pools of azure, bore into him. His inner wolf stirred despite Morgan’s attempt to quell the urge. The suit she had chosen for the trip was a smart blue and gray tweed, which accented those amazing eyes. She had cinched her waist with a leather corset, which accentuated her firm, round breasts. Secretly he congratulated her on the choice of a smart, veiled hat of the same blue hue as the suit. . She was a breath of fresh air in their dull environment. Proper, yet with a sparkle of courage, Miss Sinclair stood out in their postwar city. Seconds passed in silence as he decided she would have looked marvelous in anything she wore. Her skin reminded him of Georgia peaches. Glancing down, he noted she carried a derringer in her skirt hooked to the leather corset about her waist. Despite her beauty or perhaps because of it, the young woman was serious. Her demeanor spoke of confidence.
The boat’s whistle took that moment to blast a loud arrival signal. The distraction proved effective. Now vexed at the trail of his musings, Morgan shoved the image of her wearing nothing at all away, before growling under his breath. “What a stupid man you are.”
“I beg your pardon?” Confused curiosity bloomed in her eyes. “Are you not Mr. Latimar? Mr. Morgan Latimar?”
“I am.” His mouth felt like he had swallowed a handful of sawdust.
Her hand remained out in anticipated acceptance. “I’m Laura Virginia Sinclair. I’ve come to apply for the position of nanny you posted.”
His brain drug its feet. Staring at her extended hand, Morgan moved in slow motion. Observing her slim fingers, covered in lace, he noted she wore intricately carved leather bracelets encircling her slender wrists. The bracelets connected to metal rings circling both her pinkies. Fascinated with the daring fashion accessory, he faltered in his response. He would have taken her slender hand, bowing low before dropping an air kiss above her knuckles, as was the polite custom in his world. However, her bold stance and the blood rushing to his loins gave him pause as he realized he was still staring. Since she did not budge and squared her shoulders once more before giving him another narrow-eyed perusal, Morgan hesitated a moment before taking her hand in his. When he did, he discovered strength in her grip. Her flesh lay coolly in his palm. He detected a minor tremor. Morgan warmed to the way her hand fit neatly in his. The thought stole the remainder of the composure, which had not already drained to his crotch. She was no average woman. She was young, which meant she was of the new notion the world splayed, fresh in anticipation of her.
Snapping back, Morgan nodded as irritation rippled up his spine. “This is my man, Bertrand. He’ll get your luggage.” Despite the awkward step back on his bum leg, he made a sweeping gesture indicating the steam buggy he had driven into town that morning. “My carriage awaits,” he quipped as he moved aside for her.
Laura eyed him without words. He indicated she move ahead of him. She continued the rigid, no-nonsense posture, without asking for his assistance into the carriage. The young woman struck him as serious for her young age. Having been an orphan, she had probably grown up fast. Truth – she appeared to be ready to handle what came her way. He, on the other hand, had a needling urge to protect her.
Lifting her booted foot to the landing, Miss Sinclair alighted in the shotgun seat. In his younger days, Morgan would have enjoyed the view of trim ankles and a well-defined waist accentuated by the lady’s darkly tooled corset. That man had flourished in a world untouched by the war and its life-changing aftermath. The present day Morgan Latimar remembered little of the flirtatious ways of a gentleman groomed as a wealthy, affluent plantation owner. So, with Miss Sinclair seated and Bertrand securing the bags in the boot of the steam buggy, he concentrated instead on leaving the congestion of the dock.
The reins lay loosely in his hands as Morgan let the horses have their heads. Responsibilities – he had them in spades. The time to think of seducing a woman, even one as lovely as Miss Sinclair was long past. He sat straighter in the seat. Now he was a single parent, a rebel against a regime gone mad, not to mention a shifter with much to lose. Clearing his throat, he tugged at the reigns, snapping the horses to attention.
She cut him a contemplative eye. “This is a lovely buggy.” Her dark head had bowed briefly, before she asked pointedly, “Why did you go to such trouble? You could have sent your man, Bertrand to fetch me back.”
Clearly spoken with a lovely twang. Morgan smiled to himself. If he wasn’t mistaken, he heard Tennessee in her voice. It reminded him of his days in the Confederate Army and a march through Tennessee. First impressions were important, even if she had no training for the position. “I wanted to make sure you were safe and-” A prickle of idiocy nagged at his tongue. The words were there, right there, yet he would rather die than admit his real reason for coming after her himself. Did the idea of seeing if she resembled the breath-taking beauty in the tin type mean he was behaving irrationally? Probably. “The steam buggy is a much more comfortable ride. I am the only one who would recognize you,” he lied. After a pause he added, “Besides, I’m the only one who can drive the fool contraption.”
“I see.” With her eyes focused straight ahead, Miss Sinclair folded those long, slim fingers in her lap.
If he was not mistaken, she did not believe him. Well, the devil take her. Why should he care? He was her employer. Why should he care what she thought of him? Still, Morgan wondered what they would talk about on the long trip home. He was so out of practice with people he barely knew where to begin. “How was your trip from Savannah?”
“Fine. The train kept a perfect schedule. When we boarded the paddle-wheeler, we didn’t suffer any delays either.”
Precise and to the point, she did not elaborate or attempt to flirt like many of the others he had encountered since becoming a widower. The slight turn of her head in his direction was the only indication she had finished what she had to say. The first stirrings of panic swam in his gut. What was he doing? She was a perfect stranger. Morgan Latimar had so much to hide. Bertrand was right – she was not qualified. The menacing urge to yank the buggy around, taking her back to town rode heavy in his thoughts as they traveled in silence. His mind would not fix on one problem at a time. To hell with it! Mention the points of interest if you must, you imbecilic oaf, but get her to talk. “Have you ever been to Louisiana before, Miss Sinclair?”
Her smooth yet short replies gave the panic in his stomach a reason to churn. Well, bloody hell! He closed his eyes and prayed for inspiration.
After all, he did not want the woman who had traveled all the way from Georgia to change her mind simply because he could not manage a polite conversation. What must she think of him? The fact he wore a mechanical brace around an injured leg bode ill for most people, he mused. To have lost the ability to converse was mortifying. Morgan inhaled slowly and tried again. “The children are looking forward to meeting you. I have shared your correspondence with them. They are happy you agreed to make the trip.” Flicking a glance in Miss Sinclair’s direction, he hoped she would take the bait. He thought his heart stopped when she smiled. The transformation was illuminating.
“I must confess I can’t wait to meet them as well. However, there is some anxiety I had not expected to face. Please forgive me for speaking so frankly…”
Her pause set small warning bells off in his head. Did she suddenly reconsider after all? “There’s no reason to feel anxious about the position. The children will love you. You’ll fit right in at Bay Ridge.”
The smile was warm as her mouth turned up at the corners in a smooth, fluid expression of pleasure. The response was like a sucker punch to the chest. Sucking in air, Morgan willed away the darkening of his peripheral vision as his heart beat quickened. He had to maintain he reminded his befuddled brain. The damn young bucks at the plantation were going to trip over their tongues when Miss Sinclair flashed her smile their way.
“Mr. Latimar, I need to be frank with you.” She glanced down at her hands knotted in her lap before meeting his gaze. Turning, she faced him more completely. “I lack in experience as a nanny. However, I love children very much. I am looking forward to meeting Jacob and Sara. In addition, I am educated and capable of teaching them all I know. Furthermore, being young and strong are qualities I consider necessary if an individual is to care for others.” Her spine straightened as she locked eyes with his. “I resolve to do everything in my power to be the best nanny. I’ll take care of your children as if they were my own.”
Morgan blinked. She had stopped talking. Relaxing a fraction, he attempted to appear composed. “To be sure, Miss Sinclair.” He watched as her chin lifted right above level. The line of her elegant neck stirred something in his gut. “I consider your frank honesty refreshing, Miss Sinclair. What do you say we give the arrangement a trial run…to see if the children take to you?”
Again, there was that smile. The stars in the sky could not shine any brighter, Morgan thought, as when Lara Sinclair smiled.
Thanks for dropping by,
I came upon this delightful review today. Thank you so much for your kind words.
By Marilyn on April 27, 2016
Morgan Latimar seeks a nanny for his children. Being a Creole and a shifter makes the search hazardous for him as well as his family. The woman who accepts the position can never know his secret. Yet, despite his Wolfen wisdom, Morgan falls for the passionate, Laura Sinclair.
Laura Sinclair answers the post from the mysterious man from Louisiana. Soon she’s thrown into the world of Voodoo magic deep in the heart of Creole New Orleans in 1872. How can she perform the job she was hired to do when she’s falling in love with the handsome Morgan Latimar? Will he want her once he knows her secrets? Where can she turn for help?
It’s been five years since I began writing. Sometimes, I wonder what I’d have done if I hadn’t found writing as an outlet for my thoughts, concerns, ideas, creative energy.
Lately, I enjoy writing in a historical setting with paranormal elements such as wolves and werewolves. The mysticism allows my mind wander and ask ‘why not?’
There are times I sit and simply read through the story in my head. Getting to know the characters and their personalities, quirks and talents always prove to be a challenge I love tackling.
What would you say, if I told you, the next book will include the 3rd great granddaughter of Laura Sinclair as well as an ancient sorcerer’s nephew? ‘Magic Man’ is the latest work in progress based on the adventures of the sexy seer, Aubry Slone, and devilishly delicious, Logan Latimar, 3rd great grandnephew of Morgan. Can he shift? We’ll see. So many ways the story could unfold when you write by the seat of your pants, a.k.a. – a ‘pantster.’
In case you are interested, I have ‘Desire’s Embrace’, ‘Comanche Haven’ and ‘Casey’s Gunslinger’ on sale at Smashwords.com and AllRomanceEbooks.com at least until the end of November. Just my small way of saying thanks for all your support. Here’s an excerpt from ‘Desire’s Embrace.’
Morgan could still feel her touch. The burn ran along his skin in a most enticing way. He straightened his back, giving the steam buggy a good surge forward. Eyes on the road, hands on the wheel. Mind on Miss Sinclair. Damn it! Who was he kidding? The woman had somehow gotten past his guard. A quick glance in her direction and he had to grin. The whole episode in his room earlier was totally inappropriate. Every ounce of blood in his body had surged right to his groin with the feel of her hand on his neck. Who knew a fool thing like a collar could be useful in sexual arousal. Irritation rippled along his backbone. Again, he reminded himself he did not need the added weight of yet another problem. An affair with Miss Sinclair would be a problem. Truth!
“I promised you an interview with the Queen of Voodoo, Marie Laveau. This woman ruled life as it was in 1872, New Orleans. She reigned as the Mamba of the Voodoo religion in Louisiana for countless years. Her talent is legion among the believers.”
“I had the opportunity to sit down with her and ask her some difficult questions. Here is the interview.”
“Good day, Marie. Thank you for agreeing to this interview.”
“Thank you for having me, Catherine. I sense you have an interest in Voodoo but hold back because of your social position. Am I right?”
“Ah, well, I suppose you’re right. I’m here today to talk about you, Marie. What is your title among the believers?”
“Some call me Mamba, some call me priestess, some call me Marie and some even call me Mother. I go by many names. I am a servant of the great one. I serve the believers.”
“You serve the-the great one. What is his name? Who do you serve?”
“I told you, Catherine. I serve the great one. He is known by many names. He is our leader, and I await his pleasure.”
“Really? Because I have information, that states you perform many rituals that involve some very disturbing elements. Is it true you eat the hearts of newborn babies and the young among the believers. Sacrifices continue to include human offerings despite the constables raids and arrests.”
“Catherine, forgive me. I don’t want you to think I am using the position I have been given as a catalyst for my own desires. The constables are mistaken. I govern the believers in the name of our leader.” Marie shares a short laugh. ” You see, I want nothing but the power of our father to shine through.”
“Yes, yes, of course. You want what’s best for the believers. Correct?”
“Yes, and with that said, I want to thank you for the opportunity to share this space in time with your readers. Their belief in our devotion is welcome and cherished. I invite them to contact me for more on our religion and the strength of discovery.”
“Marie, one last question? Are you responsible for the curse on Morgan Latimar? A simple yes or no will suffice.”
“No. It is an insult for you to ask me that question. I curse no one in such a way. My power is to heal. This interview is over. Good day, madam.”
Purchase your copy of Desire’s Embrace at Amazon! http://www.amazon.com/Desires-Embrace-Catherine-Wolffe-ebook/dp/B0130OFQCE/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8
Sounds like a Halloween Sci-fi movie trailer doesn’t it? The fact is the pest is real and living among us daily! I’m about to share a serious post with you which has nothing to do with romance. Most of you will lose interest immediately or catch the “willies” and run, but for those who remain, the information may save your life one day.
As an individual who battled MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) last spring, I consider Dr. Mercola’s article on resistant strains of bacteria in our lives to be a major concern for everyone.
With that warm and fuzzy statement, I want to share an eye-opening article about MRSA and other antibiotic resistant bacteria.
For instance, were you aware that meat loaded with bacteria is a catalyst for the contraction of MRSA as well as other “super bacteria strains?
Dr. Mercola explains the growing problem of these bacteria and their correlation with overuse of antibiotics in humans and animals.
The good news is, there are things you can do to protect yourself. If you read nothing else, check out his suggestions for arming yourself with ways to combat these “Monster Bugs.”
The Race to Stay Ahead of Antibiotic-Resistant Superbugs
By Dr. Mercola
Antibiotics are a foundational component of modern medicine, without which many of our current treatment modalities and medical procedures become exceedingly dangerous.
Due to overuse, and the downright reckless misuse of antibiotics for growth promotion purposes among livestock, bacteria are becoming increasingly resistant to these drugs. As a result, even “simple” infections like urinary tract infections can become lethal.
A recent example that drives home this point is New York Giants player Daniel Fells, whose foot may have to be amputated due to an antibiotic-resistant infection.
As reported by Scientific American:
“ The NFL reports that Fells was taken to the emergency room with high fever a week after getting a cortisone shot to relieve pain from toe and ankle injuries.
Doctors found that his ankle was infected with a bacterium called methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, and they fear that the infection might have spread to Fells’ bone, which could make an amputation necessary…”
Most MRSA Infections Are Acquired in Hospital Settings
According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 75,000 cases of life-threatening MRSA infections were reported in 2012. The vast majority of them, nearly 60,000, were acquired in health care settings.
It’s unclear whether Fells’ MRSA infection was transmitted via the cortisone injection he received. Dr. Bo Shopsin, who was interviewed for the Scientific American story, noted he sees up to 10 people a year who acquired a staph infection from a medical injection.
Either way, cases such as these show just how risky it can get when there are no effective antibiotics left. It’s also driving up health care costs — a price that livestock manufacturers do not take into account when calculating the cost of not using antibiotics.
As previously noted by Scientific American:
“ Researchers estimate that antibiotic resistance causes Americans upwards of $20 billion in additional healthcare costs every year stemming from the treatment of otherwise preventable infections.”
One in 25 Patients Contracts a Hospital-Acquired Infection
MRSA infections are only one type of infection resistant to drugs. There are many others.
In the CDC’s 2013 report “Antibiotic Resistance Threats in the United States,” no less than 18 superbugs were identified as “urgent, serious, and concerning threats” to humankind.3
The majority of these dangerous bacteria are in the gram-negative category because that variety has body armor that makes it extremely resistant to the immune response.
Most disturbing of all, some forms are now exhibiting “pain resistance” — meaning, resistance to every antibiotic in existence. One of the latest multi-drug resistant bacteria that is gaining ground is Carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE), which produces an enzyme that breaks down antibiotics.
Hospitals are again the most common source of this infection, which is lethal in about 9 percent of all cases. When the CRE infection affects the blood, the death rate jumps to 50 percent.4
According to the most recent CDC data, five hospital-acquired infections now affect 1 in 25 patients. In 2011, an estimated 722,000 patients contracted an infection during a stay in an acute care hospital in the US, and about 75,000 of them died as a result of it.
Moreover, a study6, 7 published online in The Lancet Infectious Diseases on October 15, 2015, warns that half of all post-surgical infections, and over a quarter of infections occurring after chemotherapy, are now caused by antibiotic-resistant organisms!
As reported by Medical News Today:
“A 30 percent reduction in the efficacy of antibiotic prophylaxis (preventive use of antibiotics) could result in 120,000 additional infections and 6,300 infection-related deaths every year in the US alone.”
A report9 commissioned by the British government estimates that by the year 2050, drug-resistant diseases will cause more than 10 million deaths and cost the global economy $100 trillion annually.
But that’s not all.
Add to the danger of drug-resistant infection the increased risk for other more chronic health problems, such as obesity and allergies10 — both of which have been linked to antibiotic overexposure — and the cost of overuse antibiotic mounts even further.
The Routes of Contamination in Hospitals Are Many
Besides injections, other common modes of transmission of infections in hospital settings include invasive procedures such as central lines and catheters.
However, researchers have also discovered that health care personnel often transfer pathogens onto their skin during the removal of protective gear such as gloves and gowns.
Using a black light to check for contamination, the researchers found that contamination of the hands, forearms, neck, face, hair, or clothing occurred 46 percent of the time. What’s worse, when personnel failed to use proper protective equipment technique, contamination occurred 70 percent of the time.
This drives home the point that even minor flaws in anti-contamination technique, such as putting on or pulling off your protective gear in the wrong sequence, can have a dramatic impact on the spread of deadly bacteria. Senior author Dr. Curtis J. Donskey told Scientific American:11
“Most of the participants appeared to be unaware of the high risk for contamination, and many reported receiving minimal or no training in putting on and taking off (personal protective equipment).”
Antibiotic-Susceptibility Testing Is Flawed, Experts Say
Interestingly, researchers have also discovered that the routine test used to determine which antibiotic to use for hard-to-treat infections doesn’t work properly when used on antibiotic-resistant bugs, because while they behave one way in the lab test, they behave differently in the human body. And this only adds to the difficulty in treating these kinds of infections.
As reported by Bloomberg:
“‘We’re saying the standard way the world does this is wrong,’ said Michael J. Mahan, a professor of Microbiology at the University of California, Santa Barbara. That standard protocol, established in the 1960s, is called antibiotic susceptibility testing: Bacteria are grown in a solution called Mueller-Hinton broth, and then attacked with various antibiotics to see which one works best.
When [Mahan’s] team tested salmonella in the petri dishes that labs typically use, an antibiotic called polymyxin killed the bacteria. But when they grew salmonella in petri dishes formulated with a material that more closely resembles the cells the bacteria infect, the antibiotic was useless. They concluded that the bacteria’s defenses — essentially the mechanisms that make superbugs ‘super’ — can switch on or off depending on their surroundings.”
Another study found similar results. In this case, the antibiotic azithromycin failed to kill antibiotic-resistant bacteria in the lab test, yet worked fine in infected mice. Apparently, once inside the animal tissue, the perceived “superbug” lost its super powers.
According to the lead researcher, the antibiotic susceptibility test does not accurately translate into how the drug will perform in an actual patient, noting that, “The patient’s not made out of Mueller-Hinton broth.” Stanley Maloy, former president of the American Society for Microbiology also told Bloomberg that:
“It’s really clear from these papers that there are key examples where the way we’ve been doing things up until now is probably inadequate. It is a substantial shift.”
Agriculture Is a Primary Driver of Antibiotic Resistance
It’s important to realize that just about any infection can become life-threatening these days. This is why the irresponsible approach of the agricultural industry is so egregious. Use of antibiotics in food production is a major factor driving the development of antibiotic resistant bacteria, yet the industry is doing little to address its role in this growing health threat.
The US uses nearly 30 million pounds of antibiotics each year to raise food animals.13,14 This accounts for about 80 percent of all antibiotics used in the US,15 and nearly 70 percent of these antibiotics are considered “medically important” for humans.16
Even the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) acknowledges that antibiotic-resistant disease can be spread via ingestion or contact with contaminated foods, yet despite that knowledge the agency has opted not to ban the use of antibiotics in agriculture. Instead, three years ago the FDA simply recommended that pharmaceutical companies voluntarily re-label certain antibiotics,17,18 reserving them for use in sick animals only. As reported by Mother Jones,19 this has had virtually no effect on the way antibiotics are used:
“The FDA’s policy phases out growth promotion but leaves prevention intact — even though giving animals small daily doses of antibiotics to ‘prevent’ disease is virtually indistinguishable from giving them small daily doses to promote growth.
A 2014 Pew analysis found no fewer than 66 antibiotic products that the FDA allows to be used for ‘disease prevention’ at levels that are ‘fully within the range of growth promotion dosages and with no limit on the duration of treatment.’ In other words, you change the language you use to describe the practice and continue giving your herd of 4,000 confined pigs the same old daily dose of antibiotics.”
California Passes Law to Curb Use of Antibiotics in Food Production
To address these federal regulatory shortcomings, California recently passed its own state law to restrict antibiotic use in livestock.20 While the bill still allows antibiotics to be used as “prophylaxis to address an elevated risk of contraction of a particular disease or infection,” the drugs cannot be used “in a regular pattern.” This minor detail closes the loophole that allows farmers to simply change the stated reason for why they’re dosing their herd. The bill, which was signed by on October 10, will go into effect in 2018.
Between now and then, California livestock producers will have to figure out how to keep their animals healthy without the routine use of antibiotics. As reported by Aljazeera,21 researchers are investigating the use of probiotics, probiotics, and certain herb and plant extracts, such as oregano and thyme, known for their antimicrobial properties. Others are working on more potentially disturbing alternatives. According to the article:
“Other scientists are tinkering with genetic innovations that boost animals’ immunity… Animal scientist Mark Cook and his team at the University of Wisconsin at Madison discovered a way to disable an off switch in chickens’ immune systems and have replicated the results in cattle. ‘It works in all of them,’ said Jordan Sand, an associate scientist with the University of Wisconsin team and the chief technical officer of Ab E-Discovery, the spinoff company the team founded to continue its research and take it to market.”
The research involves the protein interleukin-10 (IL-10), which acts as a signaling agent, telling the immune system when to stop working. The team vaccinated egg-laying hens to create antibodies for IL-10 and then mixed the antibody-producing eggs into feed given to chickens infected with an intestinal disease.
By eating the eggs, the chickens became “immune” to the IL-10 signal telling their immune systems to shut off, and few ended up developing the disease. The question here is, what does eating such chickens mean to human health? Will it provide a benefit, or might it affect human health in some unsuspected negative way?
Shoddy Drug Manufacturing Practices Also Promote Antibiotic Resistance
The pharmaceutical industry also shoulders a significant burden for promoting the spread of antibiotic resistance. As noted in a recent paper22 published in Chemical and Engineering News, makers of antibiotics promote resistance by dumping the drugs right into wastewater during the manufacturing process.
Forbes Magazine23 addressed this issue in a previous article, noting that many drug companies have located their manufacturing facilities in countries where production costs are low, such as China and India. But such countries also tend to have far less rigorous water treatment protocols.
For example, in Patancheru, India, 90 different pharmaceutical companies discharge 400,000 gallons daily24 into the local water treatment plant, and less than 25 percent of this wastewater undergoes treatment. As reported by Forbes:
“Researchers from Sweden have studied the area around Hyderabad for a number of years, publishing a series of reports since 200725… The worst pollutant was ciprofloxacin, with concentrations up to 31 mg/L and in only one day totaling ‘44 kg, which is equivalent to Sweden’s entire consumption over five days, or, expressed in another manner, sufficient to treat everyone in a city with 44 000 inhabitants.’
These researchers also found that the effluent was toxic to many organisms and that it promoted resistance genes.26 Almost two percent of DNA samples from downstream sites sampled had resistance genes.27” [Emphasis mine]
Contaminated wastewater also finds its way onto crop fields via irrigation and sludge (biosolids) used as fertilizer. In this way, drug resistant genes are spread far and wide throughout the environment. According to a 2008 CDC report,28 E.coli bacteria resistant to multiple drugs have even been found in the Arctic; brought there by migrating birds!
What’s the Solution?
The impending superbug crisis has a four-prong solution:
Improved infection prevention, with a focus on strengthening your immune system naturally. Avoiding sugars, processed foods, and grains, optimizing stress reduction, sleep, and vitamin D levels are foundational for this. Adding in traditionally fermented and cultured foods is equally important, as this will help optimize your microflora
More responsible use of antibiotics in human medicine
Limiting use of antibiotics in livestock animals, along with a return to biodynamic farming and a complete overhaul of our food system
Innovative new approaches to the treatment of infections from all branches of science, natural as well as allopathic. Fortunately, Mother Nature gives us a cornucopia of botanicals with the inherent antibiotic activity that does not promote resistance like antibiotic drugs do. Natural compounds with antimicrobial activity include:
Garlic Cinnamon Oregano extract Colloidal Silver
Manuka honey (Clinical trials have found that Manuka honey can effectively eradicate more than 250 clinical strains of bacteria, including some resistant varieties, such as MRSA) Probiotics and fermented foods Echinacea Sunlight and vitamin D
How to Avoid Promoting Antibiotic Resistance
Optimizing your immune system function will help keep you safe from developing a potentially lethal infection in the first place. I also urge you to consider the following strategies, which will help curtail the spread of antibiotic resistance in general. While the problem of antibiotic-resistance needs to be stemmed through public policy on a nationwide level, the more people who get involved on a personal level, the better.
Such strategies include:
Use antibiotics only when necessary. For example, antibiotics are typically unnecessary for most ear infections, and they do NOT work on the common cold or flu, both of which are caused by viruses. Antibiotics only work on bacterial infections, and even then, they’re best reserved for more serious infections.
Avoid antibacterial household products, such as antibacterial soaps, hand sanitizers, and wipes, etc., as these also promote antibiotic resistance by allowing the strongest bacteria to survive and thrive.
Properly wash your hands with warm water and plain soap, to prevent the spread of bacteria. Be particularly mindful of washing your hands and kitchen surfaces after handling raw meats, as about half of all meat sold in American grocery stores is likely to be contaminated with pathogenic bacteria. Avoid antibiotic soaps that typically have dangerous chemicals like triclosan.
Take common-sense precautions in the kitchen: Kitchens are notorious breeding grounds for disease-causing bacteria, courtesy of contaminated meat products, including antibiotic-resistant strains of E-coli. To avoid cross-contamination between foods in your kitchen, I suggest adhering to the following recommendations:
Use a designated cutting board, preferably wood, not plastic, for raw meat and poultry, and never use this board for other food preparation, such as cutting up vegetables. Color coding your cutting boards is a simple way to distinguish between them
To sanitize your cutting board, be sure to use hot water and detergent. Simply wiping it off with a rag will not destroy the bacteria
For an inexpensive, safe, and effective kitchen counter and cutting board sanitizer, use 3 percent hydrogen peroxide and vinegar. Keep each liquid in a separate spray bottle, and then spray the surface with one, followed by the other, and wipe off
Coconut oil can also be used to clean, treat, and sanitize your wooden cutting boards. It’s loaded with lauric acid that has potent antimicrobial actions. The fats will also help condition the wood
Purchase organic, antibiotic-free meats, and other foods. Reducing the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria is significant reason for making sure you’re only eating grass-fed, organically raised meats and animal products. Besides growing and raising your own, buying your food from responsible, high-quality, sustainable sources is your best bet, and I strongly encourage you to support the small family farms in your area.
Thanks for dropping by. I hope I’ve been able to arm you with new defenses for waging your own war against “Monster Bugs.”
Thanks Kristen. This is information I can really use.
We have dreams and deadlines and most of us have grown fond of clean clothes. Also, our family is all needy and whiny and says things like, “Mommy, why is there no food?”
Connect with other participating blogs here!
Comanche Haven by Catherine Wolffe (Amazon link)
Seth sank into the steaming tub of water the housekeeper had prepared for him, almost immediately, after reaching his room. Steam rose in a cloud around him. He leaned back and closed his eyes. The numbing power of the hot water was doing a fine job on the aches and pains in his body. What the water couldn’t fix, the whiskey in his hand could, so he closed his eyes and tried to forget the trouble brewing around him.
Dark hair and cool green eyes appeared in his mind’s eye. Ty and he had traveled hard to make it back by sunset. He hadn’t wanted to leave Celia alone any longer than was absolutely necessary. Jake’s report on her activities had him wishing he’d sent the foreman to Tyler in his stead.
While the bath and whiskey did their job, Seth had time to consider what Jake had told him. Celia had slipped out and gone to meet Red Bear. It didn’t set well. But the fact she’d gone alone and told no one was more disturbing. Right now, he was in no mood for deceit under his own roof.
The knock at the door startled him. Seth sloshed water as he sat upright in the tub. “Who is it?”
“It’s me, Celia… ma…may I come in?”
“Wait a minute,” he snapped, more harshly than he had intended. It took a moment of stretching at the low-slung table just out of arms reach, but Seth managed to retrieve and strategically place a towel over the tub for her sensibilities. “Come on in. It’s open.”
“I didn’t get a chance to speak to you when you arrived,” Celia said as she slipped into the room. Her polite but prim demeanor faltered when she spotted him in the hip bath. “Oh! Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t know you were bathing. I’ll come back later.”
She wheeled and her hand was already on the doorknob when Seth called out to her, “No, wait. It’s okay. I’m covered.” His wry smile topped off the smoothing of the cloth over the big brass tub.
Slowly, Celia turned.
He had to chuckle to himself. It was admirable she didn’t turn scarlet or wave away the vapors or some such nonsense at the sight of a half-naked man. He reminded himself of others who would do just that when presented with a bit of male anatomy. Satisfaction surfaced. Probably seen all there was to see in the surgery theater, Seth mused. With a waving of his wrist, he motioned her in as his smile became wicked. “Come on in and keep me company. I might even get you to scrub my back later.” He took a deep swallow of the whiskey before setting his glass on the stand beside the tub. The dark liquor burned all the way down and still didn’t numb the feeling of need growing in him. He watched her out of eyes gone to slits. For the life of him, he couldn’t seem to curb the irritated bend to his mood.
Cutter got up from his post near the hammered brass tub and wagging his tail, before sashaying over to greet Celia as she neared the bed.
Traitor, Seth mused as the dog thumped his tail with affection for the room’s newest member.
Lighting on the bench at the foot of his bed like a butterfly, Celia relaxed fractionally and let out an exaggerated breath when she noticed the hint of mischief in his expression. “I never know how to take you.” Trying to get her bearings back, she reached out and rubbed the cow dog behind the ears. “I wanted to ask if you’d heard anything about the… the… about my father’s murder while you were in town?” She finished in a rush. “You went to the sheriff, right?”
Nodding, Seth cupped water in both of his big hands and splashed it into his face. He was in no hurry to respond as he wiped the back of his hand across his face and then shook his head like a dog sending droplets of water in all directions. “I went to alert Sheriff Cole and Major Chance at the Fort like I said I would.” Seth reached for the bar of soap and began to scrub. “We checked the tracks leading away from Lone Eagle’s campsite. They headed north into Oklahoma territory. We lost them not too far from the boundary to the reservation.” He shook his head. The ponies still carried Army issue shoes. The riders are either U.S. Army or somebody with balls of steel. They left a lot of signs and discriminating evidence. I’m thinking they did it on purpose. Whoever is responsible wants it to look like the army did it.”
His gaze met and held hers for a minute. “I spoke to Jake earlier.” He waited a beat. “How did you like your ride?” Watching her closely, Seth waited.
Celia looked away, “Fine.” She worked her hands in her lap. The knuckles she gripped turned white under the pressure. “Your place is so big. I still have trouble with how vast it is.”
Seth watched as Celia placed her hand on her stomach and rubbed.
“We spent most of the day seeing a great deal of your place. It’s beautiful,” Celia concluded quickly.
Too quickly, Seth thought, Nerves – not a good sign.
“Jake said we’d only skimmed the surface. He mentioned how far away the outlying line shacks sat. He reminded me the Shooter Creek remained the northern boundary of your spread. He said you own everything almost to the Oklahoma territory.”
Seth watched her and only nodded. His expression remained benign.
Celia responded with her hands moving to grip the bench on either side of her. “Do you need help with your back?” She rose.
The question came unexpectedly. To his surprise, Celia got up and walked toward the tub. Leaning over the squat table to retrieve the soap, she began to lather his back.
What was she up to? Seth stalled in the water. His next thought had nothing to do with the cooling temperature of the water. He realized the true reason he’d been driven to get back to the ranch so quickly, which had nothing to do with her safety and everything to do with her.
The stroke of her fingers along his back had him tensing and sent blood rushing to his shaft. Seth closed his eyes and willed himself to focus on something else. His back muscles twitched as her hands glided up and down in a slow, rhythmic dance along his backbone.
“Seth, I wanted you to know how much I appreciate all you’ve done for me.” Her voice sounded like distant music. “I don’t think I would have made it without you.”
Trying valiantly to regain his composure, Seth sat in the water in silence for a time. Her words sounded sincere. Then as if driven, he slowly leaned back in the tub. He had to admit, if she was toying with him, she was damn good at deception. “No need to thank me, Celia. You’ll always be able to count on me.” Seth took mental stock one more time and assured himself he was in control. But the need churning inside him had other ideas. One look into those emerald green orbs and his heart gave a little lurch. His mind simply stopped working.
Celia’s fingers continued to glide over his soap-slicked skin. With each stroke, her fingertips were sending molten heat straight to his loins.
They reminded him of satin. He wanted more.
Before he realized what he was doing, he reached out and clasped the nape of her neck. Feeling her start to pull back, Seth whispered, “Relax girl, I won’t hurt you.” With his eyes on her lips, Seth hesitated briefly, searching for something – anything, which would let him know how she would react. Then he reached up and took her mouth with his. The hunger breaking free had nothing to do with sensibilities. This time he coaxed her mouth to open and let him taste the sweetness of her tongue. Seth’s pulse hummed as her lips gave warm and tender under his. She opened for him like a flower and Seth tasted the warmth of her lips, which were pliant against his. He groaned softly. She tasted like honey and the line of her throat like cream heated by the sun. He thoroughly explored the inside of her mouth and then the slender neckline she offered when her head lolled to the side on her own gentle moan. Slowly he discovered every slick, wet curve of her mouth. His teeth grazed her lips and tasted the salt of hunger in her response. Did she want him as much as he wanted her right now?
Celia exhaled and her eyelids fluttered shut.
The hunger growing inside him knew only one end. Long agile fingers sank deep into the silken strains of her hair as he levered himself up the side of the tub angling for a better hold on her warm skin. Cupping her head in his big hand, he kissed her again. This time it was with the fever of need. A need he’d, long ago, locked away. It surged up from the cold depths of his own desire and rocked Seth with its intensity. Taking her mouth in an attack meant to capture and possess, Seth realized too late he was losing the battle with reason, but he’d lost the will to care. She tasted so good. Her head fell to the side on another soft sigh of pleasure. Seth found himself trailing long wet, ardent kisses down her neck. The soft dip of her collarbone was a perfect place for him to linger. He could feel the blood pulsing there, just under her skin. Her smell, the smell of roses was all around him. Another soft moan escaped. So full of life, a life he’d thought he’d never hold in his arms again. The warning bells were going off in his head by then. His blood was roaring in his ears. He was in too deep to heed any of it. He felt like a drowning man with no desire for rescue.
It took a moment for it to register. She was saying something and the air around him was cooling as she drew back.
“Seth…” Her voice was a fragile murmur as she pushed gently at his chest. “I think I better go and let you get out.” Celia shifted and disengaging his hands. She slowly rose from the edge of the tub.
His eyes were on hers, those deep green orbs, pulsing with a thinly veiled need. He could see it lying there in their depths, a molten-hot, burning fire. Then, as quickly as it had come, it was gone – snuffed out like a candle flame. Logic reined once more.
“You better get out before you turn into a prune,” she said primly. The words, spoken so plainly, sounded strange coming from the swollen mouth Seth saw was bruised red with passion. Her lip quivered before she bit down on it.
He noted a small mark along her neck where, he surmised, he’d used his teeth. Some base demon urged him to pull her back and take what was so close. He simply stared. Unable to say anything, Seth watched her cross her arms over her breasts in a protective gesture. There was no question in his mind she’d been affected by the kiss. She ran her tongue over her lips again and looked away. Seth watched her as she brushed deliberately at the front of her day dress before she spoke again.
Long, sooty lashes rose and Celia looked once more into his face. “I better go,” she whispered. Quietly heading for the door, she quickened her pace when, she heard him sloshing water as he rose.
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