Book Releases

Tempting Fate (Colorado High Country #4) —
Chaska Belcourt’s story is out! Head back to Scarlet Springs for more Rocky Mountain Search & Rescue Team adventures and more humor and sexy romance. The book is available in ebook and paperback at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Kobo, Smashwords.


Barely Breathing (A Colorado High Country Novel) — The first book in my new Colorado High Country series is now only 99 cents at all ebook retailers! This new contemporary series is set in the small mountain community of Scarlet Springs and focuses on the lives and loves of members of an alpine search and rescue team.


About Me

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I grew up in Colorado at the foot of the Rocky Mountains, then lived in Denmark and traveled throughout Europe before coming back to Colorado. I have two adult sons, whom I cherish. I started my writing career as a columnist and investigative reporter and eventually became the first woman editor of two different papers. Along the way, my team and I won numerous state and several national awards, including the National Journalism Award for Public Service. In 2011, I was awarded the Keeper of the Flame Lifetime Achievement Award for Journalism. Now I write historical romance and contemporary romantic suspense.

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Seductive Musings

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Tommy sticks and whisky — the history of Scarlet Springs



When is old junk not junk? It’s not junk when it tells a story.

I’m putting the pieces together for the next book in the Colorado High Country series and spent Friday up at the Nederland Mining Museum, gleaning what I could about the area’s hard-rock mining history. The museum has so many artifacts from that era — some of them huge pieces of equipment — that they flow out the door and around to the sides of the building.

Joe and Rain’s story — A Scarlet Springs Christmas — will give us flashbacks into the town’s past. You’ll read all the same last names in those flashbacks — Taylor, Jewell, Hawke, Ahearn, etc. — but the characters will be the great-great-grandparents of the people you know and love.

Joe Moffat, the man who owns Knockers and the mothballed silver mine above town, has a unique relationship to the history of the area that brings with it a sense of responsibility. You’ll see what I mean in his story.

In the meantime, I thought I’d share what I saw at the mining museum.


When most people think of the gold and silver rushes, they think of rustic men panning for gold. That happened in Colorado during the gold rush (1859), but that was never the backbone of mining in my state. Here on this old wagon are a variety of different tools used in placer mining (panning for gold), including a small sluice, several gold pans, hammers and shovels for digging and smashing ore and a basket for sifting through crushed ore.


After seeing this display on the evolution of lighting, I knew immediately that I would never have been able to be a gold miner. Back before Edison and electricity, miners went down into the dark wearing tommy sticks (candles) on their helmets or stuck them into cracks in the rocks or timbers using iron candle holders. Some — those who had a bit more money — made little oil lamps using bacon fat or lard. They burned much brighter than the candles — and advantage when you're in the dark — but were also smoky.

Miners had to work quickly because they had only three candles per shift. When that last candle went out... You can see why I wouldn’t be down there.

Later, they wore carbide lamps on their helmets. A small chamber holding water dripped down onto calcium carbide, creating acetelyne gas. The light from the burning gas was directed using a little mirror on the front of the helmet. But this is later than the period of my story.


Here are more light and helmet artifacts. You can see a candle standing in a wooden candle holder the iron-tipped end of which would have been hammered into the rock or a nearby timber.


Here are some rail cars for moving ore. One of them is hand-pumped. When I saw it, my mind flashed on an episode of Scooby-Doo with Shaggy and Scooby frantically pumping their way down the tracks inside some mine. I have such dignified thoughts.


When I got to the museum, I met a volunteer named Susan, who told me she didn’t know much. She then proceeded to answer all my questions and tell me things I hadn’t thought to ask, using her own very extensive notes. Susan knows a lot, whether she thinks so or not.

This photo above shows the tools a single miner might use in the course of a day — hand drills and hammers. Miners used the drills, which were really iron spikes, to drill holes for blasting. There was single-jacking, where one miner held both the hammer and a short drill. He would strike the drill, turning it 1/4 turn after each blow. But a single man couldn't dig a very deep hole. Double-jacking involved one man holding a larger drill and turning it, while the other hit it with a heavier hammer, or dago, as the hammers were called. You can just see one of those iron candle sticks next to a candle there on the display.

Susan told me that two men could drill a single 1.5-foot-deep hole in an hour. That’s an hour of very hard manual labor. Before dynamite could be placed, they had to drill dozens of holes in a specific pattern in the rock. Those holes would be filled with dynamite, which was connected via long fuses for detonation.

This does not sound like easy work to me.


They have a diorama of the Caribou Mine, the fictional version of which Joe’s family owned. Here you can see the shafts dropping from below the shaft house into the mine below.


How did miners get down there? I’m so very glad you asked. The either climbed down a very long ladder or rode in a kibble — a big iron bucket — together with their tools. The kibble was lowered and raised by a hoist engineer, one of the highest paid men at the mine. He had to be a non-drinker and very reputable because lives were in his hands. In emergencies, he had to move that hoist quickly to get men out of the mine.

Susan told me that the Cornish miners who came here from Devon after the copper mines ran out were a very superstitious lot. They refused to ride down in the kibble but had no problem taking it back up again at the end of their shifts. So they would go down the ladder and then ride up in the kibble. She said men who rode in the kibble would put their tools in the center and then straddle it — one leg in and one leg out. If they were short, this would have put their nuts at risk, but that’s just my observation.



Speaking of dynamite...

See that steel box in the center of the table below, the one with the holes in it? That's a dynamite thawer. Life at altitude is chilly, and dynamite becomes volatile at 40 F — well above freezing. This meant that they had to keep the dynamite warm. One way to do that was to place sticks of dynamite into the slots a dynamite thawer, pour water into the box around them, and then set the box on a warm stove or above a few burning candles. Miners from smaller operations didn’t have newfangled, luxury devices like dynamite thawers and so slept with sticks of dynamte in their armpits. Shut the front door, you say? No, seriously, they did.



Below, you can see some tools that were used by the blacksmith. It was his job to make all the tools used for mining and to maintain them as well. The average drill lasted about six hours in a mine before it had to be resharpened. He spent a lot of time on drills. He was one of the better paid employees. Without a good blacksmith, all work at a mine came to a stop.



If you’re ever in Nederland (Scarlet Springs) stop at the museum. There are fun things for kids to do, like gold panning and putting on period costumes. They have artifacts from mining camps and towns also, including this very fine cook stove and waffle iron. Lots of booze bottles, too. 



So that’s the end of our tour. I learned a lot and came away with new questions. I’m doing research for the historical scenes in the novel now and am really looking forward to hanging with everyone’s ancestors for a while. Eric Hawke’s great-great-granddaddy was a rabble rouser. That’s for sure.

If you haven’t tried my Colorado High Country series yet, now is a great time to dive in. The fourth book, Tempting Fate, was just released a couple of weeks ago, and the first book, Barely Breathing, is only 99 cents. The series is straight contemporary romance, not romantic suspense, something that seems to confuse some readers. In other words, there’s no suspense/thriller threat — except that I do sneak some elements of suspense into the stories. It’s not part of the main narrative, however, like it is with the I-Team series, which is romantic suspense.

You can read excerpts from all the books in the new series on my website.

If you had no idea I was writing this series, you might want to sign up for my newsletter so that you can get word of new releases without missing anything. I don’t send out newsletters unless I actually have news, so don’t worry about being spammed. Be sure to check your spam folder for a confirmation email.

Hope you’re having a great week!


Friday, July 14, 2017

A trip to Scarlet Springs




I thought it might be fun to take you all with me on a trip to Scarlet Springs. Everyone needs a vacation, right?

I grew up in Boulder, Colorado, right next to the mountains. My view of the world every single day included the incredible Flatirons. We lived a 10-minute drive across town to hiking trails and spent most summer weekends hiking somewhere on the Mesa or McClintock Nature trails or in the Chautauqua Area in general. I know those trails by heart.

The Scarlet Springs series is set higher up in the mountains — about a 30-minute drive up Boulder Canyon. In real life, the town of Nederland sits there, nestled in a little valley surrounded by mountains with the Indian Peaks as its backdrop. This is a look at Scarlet/Nederland from the other side of the reservoir where Moretti likes to boat and where Hawke taught Victoria to wakeboard.




A couple of weeks ago, Benjamin, my younger son who is a park ranger, went up there with me to show me his secret patch of columbines. I took advantage of being up there to take pictures to share with you.


At the top of this page is a small glimpse of that secret columbine patch. Why is this field of flowers a secret? It's a secret because people don’t follow the rules. When you go into the mountains DO NOT pick flowers. Not only will you be ticketed and fined if you’re caught, but you will be depriving plants in a harsh environment of their one and only chance to make seeds this year. If enough people do this in an area, those flowering plants die off, and there are fewer flowers in the mountains. That's why this is a SECRET columbine patch. It absolutely enrages me when I see people picking flowers in the mountains. It’s not your garden, folks. It belongs to everyone.

When I was little, my father, a semi-pro rock climber and alpinist, taught me this:

“Take nothing but photos, leave nothing but footprints.” 

That’s the proper ethic for time spent in nature. If everyone takes a pretty rock/pine cone/flower, there won’t be any left.



Here’s a closer look at Colorado’s state flower. Columbines are so delicate. They tend to cling to shady areas, often in glades of aspen where you also find poisonous hemlock.




On the hike up to the columbine patch, we passed this little pond where you can often find moose. There were no moose there that afternoon.



 Here’s a look at Mud Lake, what I call Moose Lake in the series. There are often moose there. I’ve seen them myself. This is the lake where Chaska takes Naomi where they see the mama bear and her cubs.



These are some of the wildflowers alongside the trails as you hike up to Mud Lake/Moose Lake. Penstemon was in high bloom, along with cinquefoil, columbine, and many other flowers. The pink/purplish flowers in these two photos (above and below) are penstemon.



On our way up to Scarlet/Ned, we stopped to hike up to the Crow's Nest, a feature on a parcel of country open space that gives you a 360-degree view of everything. The view below looks out over the damage caused by the Four Mile Canyon fire toward Sugarloaf, that rounded mountain just to the right of the dead tree. Sugarloaf is the place Chaska takes Naomi to watch the sunset. It truly does have the best views of the area. 


The tree itself was fascinating, and I took many photos of it. Wind shaped it; fire killed it. One of my readers felt there was a kind of poetry to this image. It was very poignant, she said.



This is a slighly better look at Sugarloaf. I’m going hiking there soon, and I’ll get photos when I do.



Cinquefoil blooming next to an old log fence.



 A pond near sunset. Still no moose, darn it!




Now, we’re in the town of Scarlet Springs. Above, you can see the little roundabout where two highways come together. That’s Bear's roundabout, where he likes to expound on the Gospel for spare change.



The average street in Scarlet Springs, busy with summer tourists.



The geod store I mention in the stories.

There isn’t a cryogenics business in Nederland, but there is a famous dead guy in a freezer in a tough shed. Locally, we all call him “Grandpa in the Tuff Shed.” A Norwegian guy who lived here many years ago put his deceased grandfather on ice in his Tuff Shed for the day when he might be brought back to life. After he lost his fight to stay in the US, locals felt they had an obligation to take over paying for the electricity and maintaining the Tuff Shed for Grandpa’s sake. Hence Frozen Dead Guy Days, probably the biggest event in Nederland each year. The cryogenics place in my series is a nod to this cultural element. A local ice cream store sells a Frozen Dead Guy flavor of ice cream — blueberry ice cream with crushed Oreos and sour gummy worms.

You can’t make this shit up. The real world truly is stranger than fiction.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this little glimpse of the area around Scarlet Springs (Nederland). I am headed up there today to visit the Nederland Mining Museum to do some research about the town’s mining history for Rain and Joe’s story. We’ll get Joe’s back story, which is really the history of the town itself. There will be historical flashbacks that show the ancestors of the characters you all love. I’m really looking forward to writing it.

If you haven’t tried the Colorado High Country/Scarlet Springs series, the first book, Barely Breathing, is only 99 cents. The fourth book in the series, Tempting Fate, came out a couple of weeks ago and is getting overwhelmingly positive reviews.

Have a great weekend everyone!
Tuesday, July 11, 2017

What's next in Scarlet Springs?



Thanks to all of you who’ve posted reviews about Tempting Fate. Your love for this series is so incredibly gratifying. Your support means everything.

Being an author is something like being a cook. A cook works for hours — sometime days — on a meal, only to watch it be devoured in a fraction of that time. An author works for months — sometimes years — on a book, and readers finish it in a matter of hours. Before the author has slept off the post-writing hangover, they ask, “What’s next?”

That’s a good question. Here’s what I can share with you.

In May, I bought my way out of my contract with Penguin, which means I am free to write and publish anything I wish to write an publish. I no longer have any contractual obligations that prevent me from writing romantic suspense (I-Team or an I-Team spinoff), historicals (Kenleigh-Blakewell and MacKinnon's Rangers), or straight contemporary (Colorado High Country series).

Though the I-Team series is the most popular series I’ve written, my historical fans are hardcore. Hardcore. They have waited years for the next book in the MacKinnon’s Rangers series. I-Team fans, meanwhile, are hoping for Joaquin’s story and perhaps a revamp of the series or a spin-off, while my contemp fans just want the next Scarlet Spring book yesterday (but no pressure).

My plans through the end of this year include giving Rain and Joe their story as part of a Scarlet Springs Christmas novella. This will include some history of the town complete with historical flashbacks. I’m really looking forward to writing it.

I also want to write book 5 in the series. I’d imagined that Conrad would be the hero of Book 5, and I did leave him wandering the Himalaya in a state of grief over a fatal accident on Everest. I need to bring him home. His heroine might be a woman on the team. I’m not certain yet.

That will bring me up to three full-length novels and a novella in 2017 — a record for me. My novellas are the size of some people’s novels (around 50,000 words), so really, it’s almost like four novels.

What about next year?

For 2018, I plan to give historical fans Joseph’s story. Set just at the end of the French and Indian War (Seven Years War), it will give the last “MacKinnon” brother his own HEA and get us back in touch with Iain, Morgan, Connor, Dougie, Killie and the rest of the motley Ranger crew. If I have a very productive year, I will continue the series with Lord William’s story, which I have wanted to write for so very long.

I also plan to give Joaquin Ramirez (I-Team) his HEA in 2018. I haven’t settled on a concept for his story yet. It might be straight romantic suspense, or I might tie his story together with Scarlet Springs somehow. I’m exploring a variety of ways to bring the two series together. Gabe Rossiter (Naked Edge) is a member of the Rocky Mountain Search & Rescue Team, and Zach McBride (Breaking Point) has made a couple of cameo appearances, too. But it would be so fun to get Julian, Marc, and the others in on some kind of action in Scarlet Springs.

I’d like to launch an I-Team spin-off series with Derek Tower getting his story as we follow the exploits of Cobra International Solutions, Javier and Derek’s private security firm. This would definitely include Nick and Holly, who work for Javier and Derek, as well as Laura and other I-Team members.

And then I’d like to get another Colorado High Country book and novella written.

That makes for a very busy year, but there will be something for everyone.

In the meantime, if you haven’t tried the Colorado High Country series because it’s straight contemporary and you don't like straight contemporary romance, you might want to give Chaska’s book a try. No, it’s not suspense, but it’s sexy.

Tempting Fate has a 4.8 average on Amazon after 51 reviews and a 4.51 average on Goodreads after 184 ratings. One reader told me she thought I could never write anything she liked as much as she liked the I-Team series but that now she couldn’t choose between the two series. That was wonderful to hear. The book is available in ebook and paperback.

Barely Breathing, the first book in the series, is only 99 cents in ebook — a great way to get caught up.

A lot of you have asked about the Colorado High Country series as well as Dead by Midnight and when they’ll be out in audiobook. I don’t have an answer for that yet, but I know it won’t be soon.

I hope everyone is having a safe and happy summer!
Monday, July 03, 2017

What readers are saying about TEMPTING FATE



Thanks so much to those of you who helped make the launch of Tempting Fate so successful. I’m thrilled that you enjoyed Chaska and Naomi’s story and am already working on the next Scarlet Springs novel. It’s been very touching to hear how many of you feel at home in this fictional world — and how many of you laughed until you cried over the “jalapenis” scene.

If you missed the release, you can still grab your copy, or start with Barely Breathing, the first book in the series, which is only 99 cents. All books in the series are available in ebook and in print.

Here’s what readers are saying about the story:

"Pamela Clare is a gifted writer, but this story puts her over the top. The knowledge and nuance of understanding Lakota culture, the passion and pain of finding your true half, the beauty and ugliness of human nature-- it's all there."
—Gem, five-star review, Amazon, verified purchase

“Chaska is a real hero, and I loved how that was told in relation to his heritage and what he was raised to believe. Naomi is a woman with so much courage yet vulnerable and I can totally relate to her difficulties in asking for help. All the characters in this story, and this series, are so well-drawn it feels like they really live in a real town called Scarlet Springs … I recommend the whole series.”
—M. Sayre, Amazon verified purchase, 5-star review

“Tempting Fate is an incredible story. I learned so much about the Lakota people while immersed in a can't-put-down romance! Pamela Clare is amazing, as always.”
—Purple Cow, Amazon verified purchase, 5-star review

“This latest book is my very favorite in this series. I loved Chaska and Naomi together. The gentleness, caring, and passion Chaska had for Naomi was wonderful ... Naomi is a courageous woman, who was dealt a crappy hand at birth but got the life she so deserved in the end. I am truly fascinated by all the Native American traditions so eloquently explained throughout the story, and it made for a nice change in contemporary romance.”
—Sanneke, Amazon verified purchase, 5-star review

“I hate to pick favorites.... because I love alllll my books... But every now and then, a story gives me goosebumps when reading it, makes me want to start all over again as soon as I'm reaching the last chapter.
Tempting Fate was one of those books. I loved it.”
—Gail, 5-star review, Amazon paperback

You can grab your copy here: Kindle US Kindle UK Kindle AU Kindle CA Nook iBooks Kobo Smashwords Paperback

In the meantime, I wish my readers and friends in the US a safe and happy Independence Day!


Thursday, June 29, 2017

TEMPTING FATE is out!



Tempting Fate, the fourth book in my Colorado High Country contemporary series, is out! Chaska Belcourt finally has his story, and I’m so excited to share it with you!

The book is available via Kindle US, Kindle UK, Kindle AU, Kindle CA, iBooks, Nook, and Smashwords (all ebook formats, international). Watch for it on Kobo in the next couple of days and in print in about ten days.

For the first chapter, read my prior blog post. Here’s the blurb from the back of the book:

A woman with no roots…

Naomi fled the cult-like nightmare of her childhood and learned to rely on one person—herself. Her resourcefulness keeps her alive during a catastrophe in the mountains, but it’s no help at all when it comes to Chaska Belcourt, the sexy EMT who saves her life. Raised to feel shame about her body and sex, she is putty in Chaska’s hands as he strips away her armor, exposing the vulnerable woman beneath, awakening desires in her that she’d been taught to ignore.

A kiss that changes everything…

Chaska Belcourt grew up on the reservation, the son of a hereditary Sun Dance chief. He left all of that behind for a new life in Colorado as an engineer with an aerospace firm and a member of the elite Rocky Mountain Search & Rescue Team. He doesn’t share his sister’s belief that he was led by fate to find Naomi. But from the first moment their lips touch, he can’t get enough of her.

A love that transforms…

As the passion between them turns into something more, Chaska is forced to admit that his sister is right. There’s no other way to explain the depth of his feelings for Naomi—or the fact that he and his people might hold the key to unraveling the mysteries of her past. But she will have to learn to trust again before the two of them can find the answers she needs—and claim this once-in-a-lifetime love.



For those of you who've missed the series, Barely Breathing, the first book, is available for 99 cents in ebook at all ebook retailers. All of the books in this series, including this one can be read as stand-alones, but as with my I-Team series, you get more out of them if you read them in order.

REMEMBER: This is NOT romantic suspense. There is no suspense thread of the kind you find in the I-Team series.

Thanks so much for your support. I hope you love Chaska and Naomi as much as I do.

Thanks in advance for sharing and helping to get the word out. You are the best!
Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Your First Glimpse of TEMPTING FATE — EXCERPT



Hey, everyone.

I hope you're not melting. Last time I posted, we had just come through a blizzard. Right now, it’s 99F/37C outside.

I have been busy finishing our transformation of our backyard from lawn to orchard. We planted eight fruit trees, 11 raspberry bushes, a strawberry bed, three blueberry bushes, and two blackberry bushes. We also put in a sprinkler system that can water all of this. Now, our peach tree is laden with peaches, as is our honeycrisp apple tree. There are three — yes, three — cherries on one of our cherry trees. One of our blueberry bushes is covered in blueberries; the others aren't. We didn't expect anything to set fruit this year.

In addition to all of that, I have been hard at work writing. Yeah, I thought you might like that.

Let me tell you a little bit about TEMPTING FATE, which will be out in about ONE WEEK. Tempting Fate is the fourth book in my Colorado High Country contemporary romance series. The first book in the series, Barely Breathing, is only 99 cents in ebook if you’ve fallen behind and want to catch up before this book comes out. The others in the series are Slow Burn, with its firefighter hero, and Falling Hard, a story about a Gold Star wife and a veteran with PTSD.

Chaska Belcourt, son of a Lakota Sun Dance chief, is the hero of this story. We’ve seen him in action before. A member of the Rocky Mountain Search & Rescue Team and a mechanical engineer who designs propulsion systems for satellites, he meets his heroine in a rather unusual way.

Naomi Archer, the heroine of the story, is a survivor who is making her way in this world alone. She has built success for herself, one day at a time, as a maker of artisan jewelry.

This story gives me a chance to put into words my experiences reporting on issues from various reservations, this time Lakota lands. More on that some other time.

For today, I thought I’d share an excerpt from the story.

You’re welcome!

Enjoy!



~ ~ ~

CHAPTER ONE
Monday, July 10
Roosevelt National Forest
Above Scarlet Springs, Colo.

Naomi Archer put another log on the fire, the blaze offering warmth against the evening chill. The sun had set behind the mountains a few minutes ago, its last rays stretching pink across the sky. Although it was July, there were still patches of snow on the high peaks, their summits bright in the waning light.

It was breathtaking.

She sat back in her camp chair and inhaled, the soft crackling of the fire and the mingled scents of smoke, pine, and fresh mountain air bringing a sense of peace. How long had she dreamed of this vacation?

Forever, it seemed.

She’d first come to Denver for a silversmithing workshop, had seen the mountains through the dirty window of her cheap hotel room, and had promised herself she’d come back to visit those mountains one day when she could afford it. It had taken her five long years of waiting tables and making jewelry on the side to keep that promise, but here she was—not in a cheap hotel room, but camping on National Forest land with her own gear.

A big raven landed on a pine branch across from her and gave a throaty caw.
Naomi wished she had her camera within reach. “Hey, there.”

Corvus corax.

She used ravens in her jewelry more than any other creature, and when a client had asked her why, she hadn’t had an answer. She’d mumbled something about ravens being intelligent and playful. Only later, after she’d had time to think about it, had the answer come to her. For her, ravens were a symbol of freedom.

She had watched them fly over the fields of the farm where she’d grown up, watched them tumble in the wind, watched them defy Peter’s attempts to keep them out of his corn, and she had envied them.

The bird cocked its head at her, its feathers gleaming blue-black in the twilight. It hopped down the branch and cawed again, moving a bit closer.
Oh, this would have been the perfect shot. Damn!

She supposed the little guy was hoping for a handout, but she knew better than to feed wildlife. Even if it weren’t bad for the raven, National Forest rules prohibited it. “Sorry, buddy. I don’t have anything for you.”

The bird cawed once more, then flew off, as if it had understood her.

She watched it until it had disappeared into the forest canopy. She’d seen a small herd of mule deer and a tiny kit fox while hiking today. They hadn’t seemed afraid of her but had gone about their business with barely a glance in her direction while she photographed them. She was hoping to use her photos and sketches to inspire jewelry when she got home again—if she went home.

She’d been here for only two days, and already she was in love with Colorado. She could imagine herself living in a little mountain cabin, stands of aspen for a front yard, maybe a little creek gurgling somewhere nearby. True, she would have to start from scratch, meeting with merchants, getting her jewelry into their shops, building her clientele. But most of her income came from her website and catalogue sales. If she wanted to relocate to Colorado, she could make it work.

The idea excited her. If she relocated, she’d be able to spend every day up in the mountains, not just rare vacations. She might even be able to open her own boutique in one of these small mountains towns. Best of all, she’d be able to make a new start far from everything that reminded her of her past.

She got to her feet and washed her supper dishes, then packed them and the rest of her food in the back of her battered old Honda CR-V, her mind lost in thoughts of her imaginary boutique. It would carry her jewelry but also that of other artisans, along with paintings and photography and maybe even textiles if—

“Well, hello, there.”

She spun around, a startled cry trapped in her throat.

Two men stood just beyond the firelight. She took in their appearance at a glance—unkempt hair, scraggly beards, ill-fitting jeans and jackets—and took a step backward, instinct telling her to jump into her vehicle, lock the doors, and drive.

One of the two raised his hand in greeting, his unshaven face breaking into a smile. “Sorry to spook you, miss. We’re just camping yonder and thought we’d say hello. I’m Arlie, and my buddy here is Clem. We’re from Texas.”

“Hey.” Clem gave her a nod.

“Hey.” She slipped a hand in the pocket of her jacket, searching for her cell phone, then remembered she’d left it in her backpack, which was in the tent a good ten feet to her right.

Damn it!

She couldn’t be sure the two men meant her harm, but she knew better than to ignore her instincts. These men were predators.

Arlie pointed toward her license plate and turned to Clem. “Don’t you have a cousin in South Dakota?”

Clem nodded. “Small world, I guess.”

“Mind if we share your fire for a while, keep you company?” Arlie took a step forward. “If you’d rather keep to yourself, we can go. We don’t mean to intrude.”

There was something silky in his voice, as if he desperately wanted her to trust him. Too bad for him.

She took a step to her left, ready to pivot and run. “I came up here to get some space, so I’d really like my privacy. Please go.”

Her pulse ticked off the seconds as she waited to see whether they would respect her wishes—or whether they were as bad as her gut told her they were.

“That’s not very friendly, is it, Clem?”

Shit.

Naomi tensed to run—then froze, heart seeming to stop in her chest.

A gun.

Clem held it in his right hand, the barrel pointed straight at her. “We haven’t had a decent bite in a few days. You’ve got plenty of food. Get to cookin’, woman.”

# # #

Naomi sat near the fire while Clem and Arlie ate the chili they’d forced her to make for them, a needle file she’d snuck from her toolbox hidden in her coat pocket. She knew where this was headed.
Arlie’s wandering hands and the slimy grin on Clem’s face left no doubt in her mind what they planned to do once their stomachs were full.

She wouldn’t give them the satisfaction.

There are two of them and one of you, and Clem has a pistol.

She squeezed that thought from her mind. She couldn’t let fear get the best of her, not if she wanted to get out of this untouched and alive.

Naomi had gleaned from the men’s conversation that they had escaped from a Texas prison and had been hiding out in Roosevelt National Forest for at least a week, eating food stolen from campsites and sheltering in some old abandoned ranger cabin. She and her SUV were their ticket to getting out of here and moving down the highway.

Arlie belched. “Bring some firewood, squaw. The fire’s burning low.”

Naomi glared at him, got slowly to her feet.

“That’s what you are, ain’t you?” Arlie reached for her, but she dodged him. “You’re part Indian. Your daddy must’ve been white on account of them blue eyes.”

She didn’t answer. She couldn’t have answered even if she’d wanted to because she didn’t know. Not even the people who’d raised her had known who her parents were or where she’d come from.

“She’s part Indian?” Clem sniggered. “Which part? Seems like we open her up and find out.”

His vile words sent frissons of fear through Naomi. She picked up an armload of firewood from the stack near her truck and carried it back to the fire, the needle file burning a hole in her pocket. She would do whatever she had to do to defend herself, though the idea of killing someone made her stomach hurt.

Don’t think about it.

She dropped the wood beside the fire, took one of the smaller pieces and poked at the fire, embers glowing orange. And then it came to her—a way out.

She adjusted her hold on the wood, jabbed at the fire again, her body tensing, her pulse beating faster. All at once, she scooped up flaming wood and embers and flung them into Clem’s lap, then swung the wood like a bat into Arlie’s face, knocking him onto his back.

“Son of a bitch!” Clem howled.

Arlie grunted. “Fuck! Get her!”

Naomi bolted toward forest. She didn’t wait to see how badly the bastards were hurt or to find out whether Clem was pointing his gun at her. If she could just get far out of the firelight where they couldn’t see her…

BAM!

A gunshot split the night. The blast made Naomi shriek, turned her blood to ice, but she kept running. It was only after the darkness of the forest had swallowed her that she realized she’d been hit.

# # #

Chaska Belcourt hiked up the trail with his sister, Winona, the sun just up, the air fresh and cool after a night rain. Ahead of them, Shota loped down the trail, stopping every so often to sniff something before taking off again. The wolf had a large enclosure—almost a square mile—but he got restless if he didn’t get out to run a few times a week. In his heart, Shota would always be wild.

The only place they could let him run free was on National Forest land. No, it wasn’t strictly legal to run a wolf off leash here, but it was better than scaring people. Folks had a tendency to freak out when they saw a big, gray wolf running toward them down the trail.

“Are you going to do it?” Winona asked.

“Do what?”

“Ask Nicole out.”

Not that again.

“I like Nicole. She’s a good climber. She’s smart. She’s—”

“She’s pretty—and she really likes you.” Winona said that last part as if it were impossible to believe.

“She’s on the Team, Win. You know how I feel about that.”

“Don’t dip your pen in the company inkwell, I know. Okay, but you don’t work together. You volunteer together. Lots of people meet that way.”

Chaska had been a primary member of Rocky Mountain Search & Rescue Team for a little more than four years now. Though the Team was an all-volunteer organization, he and everyone else took it every bit as seriously as they did their day jobs. “I won’t risk getting distracted or bringing personal baggage with me on rescues.”

Lives were at stake.

“Oh, come on. I don’t believe for a moment that you or Nicole are so unprofessional as to let your relationship get in the way during a rescue.”

“We don’t have a relationship.” He aimed to keep it that way. “Besides, she’s not my type.”

“A gorgeous climber who adores you isn’t your type?” Win looked up at him. “Is this because she’s wasicu?”

“You know me better than that.” It’s true that Chaska had always imagined himself settling down with a woman who shared his heritage and way of life, but that didn’t mean he’d turn away from loving a woman because she was white. “Why are you still going on about this?”

“You’re thirty-three. When our parents were your age, they—”

“Were already divorced, and Mom was drinking.”

Alcohol had killed their mother as surely as if she’d put a gun to her head.

Winona was quiet—for a moment. “I just don’t want you to be alone.”

He reached over, tousled her dark hair. “I wish I were alone, but I have a pesky little sister who thinks she’s my granny and acts like a matchmaker.”

Win laughed. “Someone has to watch out for you.”

He supposed that was true. They were far from family, far from Oglala Oyate, far from Pine Ridge. Then again, he and Win had looked out for each other ever since they were small children. When he’d left the reservation to study mechanical engineering at the University of Colorado in Boulder, he’d known she would follow. Now he worked on propulsion and launch systems for satellites for an aerospace engineering firm, and she was a wildlife vet with her own clinic.

Life was good.

As for having a woman in his life, yeah, that would be nice, especially at night. But sex was a bad reason to rush into a relationship. As far as he knew, no Lakota man had ever found his half-side — his perfect, matching female half — by going wherever his dick led him.

“Don’t you want to be with someone?”

“Of course, I do, but I’ll wait till the right woman comes along. Creator can feel free to put her in my path any time.”

Ahead of them on the trail, Shota stopped. He raised his head, seemed to sniff the wind, then gave a strange howl. His ears went back, and he took off, running off the trail and disappearing among the trees.

Damn.

Chaska ran, following the animal through the forest, Winona’s voice following him as she ran behind him, calling for him, shouting for him to stop.

“Shota! AyustaƋye!”

But Shota didn’t stop, didn’t so much as glance back, running until he had disappeared from sight.

Chaska stopped when he came to the place he’d last seen the animal, Win close behind him and breathing hard.

“Do you think you can track him?”

The ground was wet from last night’s rain. “Maybe.”

From nearby came Shota’s howl. He was calling to them, calling his pack.

“Maybe I won’t have to.”

“That way.” Winona set off again.

Chaska ran beside her, the terrain rocky and dropping steeply to a ravine below.

“There!” Winona stopped, pointed with a jerk of her head.

Shota lay on his belly partly concealed in what looked like a small cave or an old mine shaft, his gray fur like camouflage in the shadows. He craned his head to look over at them and whined.

Chaska moved toward him. “What’s gotten into him?”

 “You’re asking me?”

“Aren’t you the vet?”

They approached Shota slowly, not wanting to spook him into running. Chaska let Win take the lead. She was the expert, after all, and Shota’s official guardian.

She switched to Lakota, spoke in a soothing voice. “Waste, Shota. Lila waste.”

The wolf stayed where he was, tail thumping on damp pine needles.

Winona reached him first. “Oh, God. Chaska!”

But Chaska had already seen.

There beside Shota lay a woman, eyes closed, blood on her jacket, her dark hair damp, tangled, and full of pine needles. She was partially hidden inside a shallow depression that must have been a collapsed mine shaft.

Had the wolf attacked her? No, the blood was old.

The wolf had scented her—and come to help.

Chaska dropped to his knees beside her, felt her throat for a pulse, relief rushing through him to find her alive.

“What happened to her? There’s blood and bruises. Did she fall?”

“I don’t know.” Chaska had seen a lot since he’d joined the Team, and this didn’t look like a simple accident to him. A half dozen ideas chased each other through his mind, none of them pretty—kidnapping, sexual assault, partner violence.

He shrugged off his backpack, pulled out his first aid kit and radio and hand mic. He turned the radio on, waited for traffic to clear. “Sixteen-seventy-two.”

“Sixteen-seventy-two, go ahead.”

“I’m at about the four-mile mark of the Lupine Trail with an unconscious adult female, break.”

“Sixteen-seventy-two, copy. Go ahead with your traffic.”

“She appears to have multiple injuries, possibly from falling or a physical altercation. Tone out the Team and medical emergent. Better send a deputy as well. I’ll be on FTAC Two going as Lupine Command.”

“Sixteen-seventy-two, copy. Six-twenty.”

It would take most of an hour for the rest of the Team to get here. Until then, it was Chaska’s job to do what he could for her—which wasn’t much. She had a pulse and was breathing. He pressed a hand to her shoulder and gave her a little nudge, taking in the bruises on her cheeks, her long lashes, her pale brown skin, the blood on her jacket. “Ma’am, are you okay? Can you hear me?”

She moaned, but didn’t wake up.

Shota whined, inched closer to the victim, licked her cheek.

Chaska tried again. “Are you okay, ma’am?”

Her brow furrowed, but her eyes didn’t open.

He grabbed his hand mic again, switched his radio to FTAC 2, the county’s tactical and rescue channel. “Sixteen-seventy-two.”

“Sixteen-seventy-two, go ahead.”

“I’ve tried to rouse the victim without success. Her clothes are damp. I suspect she’s hypothermic. There’s also blood from unknown injuries.”

“Sixteen-seventy-two, copy. Six-twenty-two.”

He set the radio aside and reached into his pack for hand warmers. “We need to get her core temp up.”

Hypothermia killed people every summer in Colorado’s mountains.

He bent the metal discs at the bottom of the gel packs to start the exothermic reaction and handed them to Win. “Massage those to distribute the crystals evenly, and then tuck them inside her jacket. Don’t put them against her bare skin.”

While Winona did that, he reached into his pack again and drew out an emergency blanket.

“Look.” Win held up a leather cord that hung around the woman’s throat, a small beaded medicine wheel dangling from it like a pendant. She tucked it back inside the woman’s jacket. “Do you think she’s Lakota?”

Win might have time to wonder about such things, but Chaska didn’t.

“I think she needs to get to the hospital.” He knelt over her, about to tuck the emergency blanket around her, when he noticed something in her clenched fist. He pried her fingers open and took a small, needle-sharp something from her hand.

“Is that a knife?”

He handed it to Win. “It looks like a file.”

“Maybe she was trying to defend herself.”

“Maybe.” Chaska studied his sister for a moment. “Are you okay?”

Two years ago, she’d been assaulted by an injured fugitive who’d forced her to give him medical aid. The bastard had paid her back by drugging her with an overdose of animal tranquilizer that might have killed her had help not arrived. Chaska wouldn’t be surprised if seeing a woman in this state dredged up those memories.

“I’m fine.”

Chaska covered the woman with the blanket, tucked it around her. It would help hold in her body heat and the heat from the hand warmers. “Ma’am, can you hear me?”

This time, the woman’s body went stiff, and she cried out. “No!”

Chaska found himself staring into a pair of terrified blue eyes.

~ ~ ~

I hope you enjoyed it! Watch this blog or follow me on Facebook page and Twitter for the release of TEMPTING FATE. It should be out by June 28 or 29. Also, if you’d like to sign up for my newsletter to make sure you never miss a new release, click here.

Copyright (c) 2017 Pamela Clare


Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Remember the urban farm?



Hey, everyone!

Thanks so much to those of you who helped make the launch of Falling Hard a success. One reader suggested I buy stock in a tissue company, given how many of you talked in your reviews about being moved to tears by the story. I cried when I wrote it, so we’re even.

If you were in a cave at the end of February and missed the book’s release, it’s available on Amazon for Kindle and in paperback. It’s also available at Smashwords (all ebook formats), IndieBound (paperback), Kobo, Barnes & Noble, and iTunes.

If you haven’t tried my new contemporary (NOT romantic suspense) series yet, Barely Breathing, the first book in the series, is only 99 cents.

And now for something completely different.

Before cancer, there was spinal surgery. But before spinal surgery, there was the urban farm. Who remembers my blog posts about planting and harvesting — all those green beans and homegrown broccoli and arugula?

There was a time not that long ago — back in the days of Project: Happiness and Man-Titty Monday on this blog — when we grew most of our own veggies. That was taken away from me when spinal surgery in my neck left me unable to bend over for long. Elevated beds were obviously the answer, but there was no time or money or energy for that after my breast cancer diagnosis.

I am now a survivor of two years and three months, and life is moving forward. Spring is more or less here in Colorado. And the urban homesteading bug has bitten again.

I've always been a believer in self-sufficiency. Gardening is in my blood. My great-grandparents were farmers. My grandparents on both sides of the family grew most of their own food. I had my first experience gardening at about the age of 2-1/2. I attemped to help my Grandpa plant onion sets then, to the delight of all the adults, told them, “This is hard work,” and walked away.

Yes, I still hear about this, and I’m 53.

Given the state of our nation and the state of this world, it’s not a bad idea for all of us to plant our own version of a Victory Garden and do what we can to rein in our expenses and increase our self-reliance. My gut as someone whose ancestors came to the Americas in 1610 tells me we’re headed for rougher times. This brings out my inner pioneer and makes me want to prepare. A big part of me wants dive into urban farming with a backyard orchard, elevated veggie and strawberry beds, raspberry, blueberry and blackberry bushes, grapes, along with chickens for eggs and bees for honey.

But another part of me thinks I should leave the house to my younger son and take off for Scandinavia, where my sister and most of my friends live. Both are my dream — an almost self-sufficient urban farm and living in Copenhagen with my friends or Stockholm with my sister (or both). Sadly, they’re not really compatible. Benjamin would not appreciate it if I left him with a ton of garden work, four chickens, two hives of bees, and two cats.

Yeah, so I have to work that out, don’t I? If I hold off on chickens and bees, however, I might be able to do both, living seasonally in Scandinavia.

In the meantime, we took the first step toward relaunching our urban farm. A couple of weekends ago, we worked in record heat for March (80 degrees! In Colorado!) to cover a big section of our back lawn with weed cloth and transplant seven established rose bushes into a portion of that new garden. This past weekend, we took delivery of 14 cubic yards of mulch — SO much mulch — and spent pretty much all of Saturday hauling it into the backyard and dumping it on the new beds. The weedcloth and mulch together will kill the lawn beneath.



The next step is planting berry bushes and trees. Regardless of any other decisions, we want more trees so that we can help expand the urban forest and do our part to sequester carbon emissions. (Yes, we believe what science tells us about climate change.) And so the debate is ongoing.

Which trees do we plant?

I’ve spent far too much time — dozens of hours — researching the kinds of fruit trees that do well in Colorado, with our unique combination of extreme heat and extreme cold, arid climate and clay, alkaline soils. There are a lot of options, and trying to fit them into the back yard is the real trick. I’m considering espalier and columnar apple trees that won’t take up much space, as well as dwarf and semi-dwarf varieties of other fruit trees.

We planted a bigtooth maple in our backyard last fall. Native to Colorado, their leaves turn brilliant orange and red in the fall. So that much is settled.

Right now, we’re looking at planting a peach tree (Reliance), an American plum, Bartlett and Red Bartlett pear trees, an espalier or columnar apple tree, and a sweet cherry tree. Sweet cherries and peaches are tough to grow here because of our tendency to follow warm early spring days with weeks of frost and late-spring snow. The trees bud and bloom — and then the blooms freeze and die. But I know people who have peach trees and get good harvests most of the time.



(The new beds are much bigger than they appear in the photo above. They’re more than six feet deep and as wide as our house.)

We’re also committed to blackberry bushes, raspberries, and a blueberry bush because, damn it, I  love blueberries. (In fact, when my younger son was little, he called me Pamela Blueberry.)

The trick is setting it up so that the trees are planted where they’ll thrive and where they won’t be crowded.

If you’ve never heard of espalier trees, google it. They’re trained to grow flat against a fence. The cool thing about an espalier apple tree is that it often combines more than one variety of apple in the same tree, so no pollinator is needed. If a pollinator is needed (as with most apple and pear trees), then you must have two trees. We can’t manage that.

We’d also like to fit a desert willow (so pretty), some kind of evergreen, and a serviceberry tree into the landscape somehow, along with additional flowers because we both love flowers. We have concluded that we need an extra backyard to plant all this stuff. Probably true. But we’ve only got the one. Still, I think we can pull it off.

The south side of our house where our old veggie garden sits fallow is big enough to accommodate some trees, though it’s so warm that it might make the more tender trees bloom too early. Our front garden might have room for a desert willow or evergreen. We just need to get out there and walk it out.



On my agenda for this spring, too, is learning to can — something I’ve never done — and learning to dry fruits and veggies. The point of growing an abundance of food is to set some of it aside. All I know how to do at this point is eat it.

All of this, plus I’m starting a new book. I’ve got a sloppy sort-of outline for Chaska’s story — or rather the first chapter of it. That’s all I really have when I start, so I guess I’m ready.

I hope to have his story to you on/around Mother’s Day, with another Colorado High Country novel for late summer. After that, we’ll see where the Muse takes me.

Yes, I do plan to give Joaquin (I-Team) his own story. Yes, I plan to write more historicals — and sooner than you might think. We’ll have to see how the next few months unfold before I can be more specific.

In the meantime, happy reading!










Monday, February 20, 2017

FALLING HARD is out! CONTEST


FALLING HARD is out! 

I am so excited to share this story with you. It has all the deep emotion of an I-Team story but it’s set in Scarlet Springs, where people take care of each other and there are no election politics.

It is availble at Amazon:

Kindle US
Kindle UK
Kindle AU
Kindle CA


You can also find it at Barnes & Noble.

Nook

And, of course, it’s out in iBooks.

iTunes

You can also find it in all ebook formats at Smashword.

Smashwords

Watch for it to pop up soon on Kobo.

It will be out in paperback probably by March 10.

Here is the blurb on the back of the book:


A Gold Star wife alone…

Ellie Meeks promised her pilot husband that if he was killed in combat, she would live her life to the fullest. Three years later, she is still alone, raising the twins he never met. She has no interest in dating or meeting men—until one snowy night when a stranger helps her get her sick kids safely home. That stranger turns out to be a former Army Ranger and a member of the elite Rocky Mountain Search & Rescue Team. He’s also tall, rugged… and irresistibly sexy. 

All it takes is one kiss…

Jesse Moretti came to Colorado to get Iraq out of his head, using the adrenaline of extreme sports and high-risk mountain rescues to keep his mind off the past. But getting involved with Ellie might be the riskiest thing he’s ever done. It’s not just their explosive chemistry. There’s something about Ellie that gets inside him, opening him to feelings he’s tried hard to ignore. 

When passion ignites…

Ellie feels alive in Jesse’s arms and happier than she ever thought she’d feel again. But their relationship comes at a price for him, and soon Ellie sees that she must help Jesse fight the demons of his past to protect the love of a lifetime—and save the heart of a hero.



If you haven’t tried the series yet, Barely Breathing, the first book is only 99 cents at Amazon, B&N, iTunes, Kobo, and Smashwords. Slow Burn is available for $4.99, also at at Amazon, B&N, iTunes, Kobo and Smashwords. Both books are also available in paperback online via Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Indiebound.

Let’s celebrate with a contest!

Comment on my blog for a chance to win a signed paperback copy of SLOW BURN, Eric Hawke’s book (book 2).

In the meantime, sharing is caring. Thanks in advance for helping to spread the word on social media and in the real world. You’re the best!






Saturday, February 18, 2017

COVER REVEAL — Falling Hard cover & back blurb



I’ve been so busy finishing edits and everything else for the release of FALLING HARD that I hadn’t had time to write the back blurb or share the super-sexy cover with you.

Now, here they are! The cover was done once again by Seductive Designs/Carrie Divine, who did a fabulous job in a small amount of time.

Meet Jesse Moretti. I think you’ll like him.

The book will be out on Tuesday, Feb. 21, if not a day or two before. There aren’t pre-order links because the book will be out as soon as we can get it to you.

For an excerpt, read the post prior to this one.

Moretti’s story has I-Team levels of emotional intensity, though no suspense. I hope you come to love him and Ellie as much as I do.

Also, sharing is caring! Thanks in advance for helping me to get the word out on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads and in your readers groups. You are the best!

Here’s the back blurb:


A war widow alone…

Ellie Meeks promised her pilot husband that if he was killed in combat, she would live her life to the fullest. Three years later, she is still alone, raising the twins he never met. She has no interest in dating or meeting men—until one snowy night when a stranger helps her get her sick kids safely home. That stranger turns out to be a former Army Ranger and a member of the elite Rocky Mountain Search & Rescue Team. He’s also tall, rugged… and irresistibly sexy.

All it takes is one kiss…

Jesse Moretti came to Colorado to get Iraq out of his head, using the adrenaline of extreme sports and high-risk mountain rescues to keep his mind off the past. But getting involved with Ellie might be the riskiest thing he’s ever done. It’s not just their explosive chemistry. There’s something about Ellie that gets inside him, opening him to feelings he’s tried hard to ignore.

When passion ignites…

Ellie feels alive in Jesse’s arms and happier than she ever thought she’d feel again. But their relationship comes at a price for him, and soon Ellie sees that she must help Jesse fight the demons of his past to protect the love of a lifetime—and save the heart of a hero.


Tuesday, February 07, 2017

EXCERPT — Colorado High Country #3, Moretti's story



Hey! Remember me?

Sorry it’s been so long since I wrote a new post. It seems most people are on Facebook and Twitter anyway. I’m not really sure who reads this blog these days.

In the past few months, I’ve been very busy with guests and grandkids and holidays. I’ve also been doing some writing.

Jesse Moretti’s book (Colorado High Country, Book 3) is almost done. It will be out in ebook format on Feb. 21 and in paperback about a week after that.

That’s right. The next book in the Scarlet Springs series will be out in just two weeks.

I don’t have a title yet. I told myself I wouldn’t go to bed tonight without one, but I’ve written more than 4,000 words today. That’s all the words for today. There are no words left.

I will have a cover reveal by next Monday, and by then, yes, a title, too.

So what is this story about?

It’s a military romance tucked into a straight contemporary mountain adventure romance. It tells the story of a combat veteran who meets war widow with little twins.

Jesse Moretti is a member of the Rocky Mountain Search & Rescue Team. He came to Colorado after serving in the Army Rangers during ten years of sustained combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. He needed to get the war out of his head and fell in love with Colorado’s mountains. He learned to ski and climb and landed a coveted spot as a primary member on the Team. He works for ski patrol in the winter and a trails crew in the summer.

Ellie Meeks is mentioned in Barely Breathing (Book 1). She’s called Ellen Meeks. We learn that she had twins six months after her pilot husband was killed in Iraq. She’s a registered nurse with two almost-three-year-old twins — Daniel and Daisy —who is trying to get through life despite terrible loss and grief.

Jesse and Ellie are neighbors who finally connect one snowy night when Ellie and Daniel are sick and Ellie’s car won’t start. What happens next? Well, it’s a good thing that strep throat is contageous.

The two are on a long road to discovering that life sometimes does give people seond chances.

This story is not romantic suspense — I’ve tried so hard to let I-Team readers know that these books are not romantic suspense. but rather straight contemporary romance — but it is more emotionally intense than the first two books in the series. I like all of my books to be unique, based on the characters they’re about and not some kind of format that must be followed.

Is the story sexy? Yes. Absolutely. It has some humor, too, and it has some deep emotions. We’re talking about people who work in the life-saving business who have both suffered their share of loss. The chapter I wrote tonight made me cry my eyes out.

But this is a love story, and love triumphs in the end.

I thought I would share an excerpt — the very first glimpse I’ve offered of this book.

If you haven’t tried the Colorado High Country series, now is the perfect time to catch up. The first book, Barely Breathing, is only 99 cents. The second book, Slow Burn, came out in September and is $4.99. Both are available on Amazon, B&N, iTunes, and Smashwords. You can also order them in print via Amazon or Indiebound.

And without further ado, let me introduce Jesse and Ellie....

* * *

Jesse had turned off the water in the shower when his cell phone rang. He reached for a towel, strode naked into the living room, and grabbed the phone off the coffee table. His heart gave a hard knock when he saw the name on the display.

Ellen Meeks.

He answered. “Moretti.”

There was a moment of silence.

“Hi, Jesse. It’s Ellie. I hope I didn’t wake you.”

“It’s not quite my bedtime yet.” That wasn’t strictly true. He was filling in for Travis tomorrow, his normal day off, and had to get up at 4 a.m. 

“I wanted to thank you for helping me and my sister this afternoon.” The nervousness in her voice told him this was not why she’d called.

“I was happy to do it.”

“Also, I appreciated your honesty. I know it’s not easy sometimes—you know, communication and relationships. Not that you and I are in a relationship or anything. I didn’t mean to suggest that.”

Okay, this was funny. “I understood.”

“Anyway, I’m grateful we had a chance to talk today.”

“Yeah. Me, too.” 

Another pause.

“I wondered whether you’d like to come over for a glass of wine. The kids are asleep. I have some scotch if you don’t like wine. I could make tea or coffee if you don’t drink alcohol. I just thought maybe we could ... get to know each other. You know, talk. And, just to be clear, I’m not suggesting anything else.”

So fucking was probably out. “Got it.”

“Would you like to come over?”

Hell, yes, he would. “Give me ten minutes to get dressed, and I’ll walk down. You caught me getting out of the shower.”

“Oh! Oh. Okay.” She cleared her throat. “See you in ten minutes.”

He ended the call and walked back to the bathroom, feeling a foot taller and energized. He towel-dried his hair, then slathered his face with shaving cream, and shaved away two days’ growth of beard.

Was it the kiss that had gotten to her? Had she been thinking about it all day the way he had?


You’d like to think so, wouldn’t you, dumbshit?

Forget kissing anyway. She’d said just talking.

Yeah, okay. He could respect that.

He finished shaving, rinsed his face, and walked off to his bedroom to get dressed. He stared into his closet at the broad assortment of battered blue jeans, T-shirts, flannel shirts, sweaters, and climbing clothes he owned, and he found himself wondering what a classy woman like Ellie Meeks would like to see on a man.

She was married to an army pilot, remember?

Okay, right. She wouldn’t be expecting a skinny tie or pleated slacks. Besides, he didn’t own anything like that anyway.

He pulled on a black T-shirt and slipped a gray flannel shirt on top of that. A clean pair of boxer briefs, some jeans without holes, and a pair of wool socks, and he was good to go. Just to be on the safe side, he tucked a condom into his pocket. 

Yes, he’d heard what she’d said. Yes, he would respect her limits. But sometimes sex just happened. If it did, he wanted to be ready.

He slipped into his parka, grabbed his keys, and stepped out into the night.


# # #

Oh, God! Oh, God! Oh, God!

Ellie stared at her mirror in horror. She had invited a man over to her house—and not just any man, but a sexy man who had kissed her today, her freaking neighbor!

What in God’s name was she supposed to wear? 

Unable to decide, she scurried from her bedroom to bathroom, brushed her hair, washed her face, and put on mascara. She was ready from the neck up, at least.

She hurried back to her bedroom and stared into her closet. Casual. She should keep it casual. It was nine o'clock on a weeknight, and they were getting together in her living room. What could be more casual than that?

She put on a clean pair of panties and her sexiest, pushiest push-up bra, then yanked her skinny black jeans off their hanger, put on a lace camisole, and pulled her heather blue V-neck cashmere sweater over her head. She’d just smoothed her hair back into place when a knock came at the back door.

Shit!

She gave herself a quick once-over in the mirror—and froze. Dan had given her this sweater for Christmas one year.

Panic shot through her.

What the hell had she been thinking to invite Jesse over like this?

Another knock.

It was too late to change her clothes—too late to change what she’d set in motion.

She flicked off her bedroom light, hurried to the back door, and opened it. Every thought in her head vanished.

He smiled down at her, clean shaven and smelling of shampoo and fresh air, snow clinging to his jeans up to his knees. “Hey.”

“Hey.” She might have stood there staring at him if the air hadn't been freezing cold. She stepped aside to make room for him. “Please, come in."

He did his best to stomp the snow off his boots outside, then stepped inside onto the little doormat. “The snow was a little deeper than I thought.”

While he took off his boots, she grabbed a dish towel. “You can probably brush most of it off with this.”

“Thanks.” He set the dish towel on the table and slipped out of his parka, revealing a blue flannel shirt layered on top of a black T-shirt that stretched across the muscles of his chest. 

You’re staring.

She retrieved two red wine glasses from the cupboard, set them on the counter, and chose a bottle of shiraz from her little wine rack, her mind racing for something conversational to say. “Did the rest of your day go well?”

She was amazed by how calm and collected she sounded. She hadn’t felt this nervous around a man since … well, she didn’t know when.

She glanced over her shoulder, saw he was brushing snow off his jeans.

 “A kid hit a tree.”

What was he talking about? Oh, yes. She’d asked him a question.

 “Ouch,” she managed to say. “Was he okay?”

She reached into the drawer where she kept the wine opener.

“Head injury. We evacuated him via helicopter.”

She turned around, wine and corkscrew in hand, to find him standing a few feet away, his gaze fixed on her. Her pulse skipped. “I forgot how big you are.” 

An image of the bulge in his boxer briefs flashed into her mind. 

Her cheeks burned. “Tall… I mean, tall. You’re very tall.”

Without breaking eye contact, he took the wine from her. “Let me.”


# # #

“Why did you join the Rangers?”

Jesse sat on one side of the sofa, while Ellie sat on the other, looking good enough to eat, her jeans and that fuzzy sweater hugging sweet curves, pink polish on her toenails, her hair hanging thick and blond to her shoulders. Until tonight, he really hadn’t seen her without a bulky winter coat. He certainly wasn’t disappointed.

Wine had taken the rough edge off her nerves. She’d been so edgy when he’d arrived that he’d made extra sure to keep his distance. And so here they were, on opposite ends of the sofa, just talking.

Not that he was complaining...

 “I grew up in a tiny town in Louisiana. My grandfather, my uncles, my dad— they either worked on fishing boats or in the refineries. I just couldn’t do that. I wanted to get away, see the world, be a part of something bigger. I’d always been stronger and faster than the other boys, so I figured I’d join the army, try for my Ranger tab, and kick some terrorist ass for Uncle Sam.”

It was the truth, though not the whole truth.

“How did your family take that?”

“My mom yelled and cried and threatened to shoot me in the knee cap. Her son was not going to go overseas and die in some stupid war. My father took it as a rejection. He and I have never been close.” The truth was darker than that, but he didn’t want to ruin the mood. “I haven’t talked to him since I moved to Colorado.”

She smiled, shook her head, giggled.

“What?”

“You wanted to escape from your small town—and you ended up in Scarlet.”
He could see the irony in that. “Except that Scarlet is the gateway to the mountains, and there’s nothing small about them.”

She took a sip of her wine. “What brought you to Colorado in the first place?”

“After I left the Rangers, I went to New Orleans to live near my sister, but I had a hard time getting back in to the swing of civilian life.” That was an understatement. He’d come back with a head full of death and grief and rage and started drinking. He’d tried to get help at the VA, but the wait times had lasted longer than his patience. “I’d seen pictures of the Rockies and came out to Colorado to try to get Afghanistan and Iraq out of my head. I fell in love with the mountains at first sight.” 

He could still remember that moment when he’d caught his first glimpse of the high peaks with their glittering white summits. “I got my first climbing lesson a couple of days after seeing climbers in Eldorado Canyon State Park, and I was hooked.”

Climbing cleared his mind, cut through the wall that seemed to have grown up around his emotions, made him feel whole and human again.

Ellie gaped at him. “You’ve only been climbing for a couple of years—and you made the Team?”

He nodded. “It was hard work. I climbed every day, no matter the weather. When I realized I needed a job if I wanted to stay, I took a job on the trails crew at Ski Scarlet and then learned to ski that fall, hoping to land a spot on ski patrol.”

She stared at him through wide eyes. “You must be a natural athlete.”

“I guess we all have to be good at something.” Jesse was tired of talking about himself. “Why did you become a nurse?”

She shrugged. “Growing up with a father who was a doctor gave me an interest in the medical field. I didn’t want to go through years of med school and all of that, so I decided to be a nurse. I worked as a surgical nurse until … ”

A shadow passed over her face.

“It’s okay, Ellie. You can talk about him.”

“I was a surgical nurse until Dan was killed. I had just learned that I was carrying twins. He was so excited. I was happy and a little scared. We talked about names over Skype. He liked Otis for a boy’s name and Daisy for a girl. I told him no way could I name a child Otis.” She laughed at this. “The Internet connection was lousy, but he had to go anyway. And then a few days later ... he was gone. Just like that.”

Jesse knew the crushing weight of grief, knew how deeply it cut. And it occurred to him that this was why he’d kept his distance from her all this time. He’d had his own grief to bear and had been certain he couldn’t shoulder any part of hers. 

But now, sitting close to her like this and seeing the pain on her sweet face, it seemed as simple as reaching out and taking her hand.


# # #

“It must have been really hard.” Jesse’s voice was soothing, his hand warm.

Ellie twined her fingers with his and held on. “I just drifted for a while. I took leave from work. Claire came out to stay with me. If it hadn’t been for her…”

She hadn’t meant to talk about this. She didn’t’ want to dump this on Jesse. But now that she had started, she couldn’t stop. “I had him buried at Arlington. I felt he deserved that honor. My sister helped me sell our house and move back to Scarlet. I knew I would need help during my pregnancy and after the twins were born. But nothing felt real to me, not even the babies. I would go to my prenatal appointments, listen to their little heartbeats, and it all felt…”

“Like it was happening to someone else,” Jesse finished for her.

Her gaze snapped to his in surprise. “Exactly.”

It was on the tip of her tongue to tell him that he was empathetic for a man, but even with the two glasses of wine she’d had, she knew that sounded wrong.

“When I reached thirty-six weeks, I started having contractions. I chose a C-section. I was so afraid something might go wrong. I couldn’t lose them, too. One minute I had a huge belly, and the next there were two crying babies. Daniel looked so much like his father. I wish Dan had lived to see them.” Her throat went tight, and she blinked back tears. “Sorry. I didn’t mean … ”

Jesse leaned forward, wiped a tear off her cheek. “Hey, don’t apologize.”

She looked up, saw the concern in his eyes—and slid into his embrace.

For a time, he just held her, his strong body a refuge, one big hand caressing her hair. Maybe it was the wine. Maybe it was his scent. Maybe it was the feel of him. Ellie couldn’t say. Slowly her grief faded, replaced by an altogether different emotion.

She looked up, ran her thumb over the fullness of his lower lip. From there it was so easy. She leaned forward and lifted her lips to his.

He sucked in a quick breath, but he didn’t pull away. “Ellie. You said talk only.”

“I changed my mind. Kiss me.”

He drew back, and for a moment she thought he was leaving. Instead, he took the wine glass from her hand and set it beside his on the coffee table. Then he was back, his eyes looking into hers, so serious. He cupped her cheek. “Are you sure?”

Hell, yes, she was sure. “Kiss me.”

Before she could draw another breath, his lips claimed hers, the fingers of one big hand sliding into her hair, his other arm hauling her against his chest.

Oh. God!

At first contact, her senses reeled, arousal jolting through, making her instantly wet. She was overwhelmed by him—the burn of his lips on hers, the hard feel of his body, the spice of his skin. This is what it felt like to be held by a strong man.

It had been so long, so long.

He caught her lower lip between his, teased it with his tongue, then released it, his mouth covering hers again. When his tongue sought entry, she yielded, his tongue teasing hers with slick strokes she felt all the way to her womb. She stole control of the kiss from him, nipping first his upper and then his lower lip. He moaned, reclaiming his dominance, kissing her deeper and harder, the fingers in her hair clenching into a fist. Then, the kiss grew gentler, until he broke contact and started to pull away.

She caught his face between her palms, her words a whispered plea. “Please don’t stop … unless… unless you want to.”

“Are you kidding?” In a blink, he had her on her back, his weight pinning her to the sofa. “I could kiss you all night.”

Copyright (c) Pamela Clare 2017
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"I am an artist. I am here to live out loud."
—Emile Zola

"I am tomorrow, or some future day, what I establish today. I am today what I established yesterday or some previous day."
—James Joyce

"Let other pens dwell on guilt and misery."
—Jane Austen

"Writers are those for whom writing is more difficult that it is for others."
—Ernest Hemingway

"When I write, I feel like an armless, legless man with a crayon in his mouth."
—Kurt Vonnegut

"The ability of writers to imagine what is not the self, to familiarize the strange and mystify the familiar is the test of their power."
—Toni Morrison

"No tears in the author, no tears in the reader."
—Robert Frost.

"I'm a writer. I give the truth scope."
—the character of Chaucer in
A Knight's Tale