The story: Daughter of a famous Texas Ranger is kidnapped by outlaws and the only man who can rescue her has ridden with the gang. He’s got an eye toward going straight, but that will only happen if he can bring in the Captain’s daughter unscathed.
I have a new Western romance out in February 2013 from Harlequin. This story is a fast ride–exciting and sexy.
THE TEXAS RANGER’S DAUGHTER has a feisty heroine, Laurie Bender, the daughter of a famous Texas Ranger, who is trying so hard to be the perfect lady that it nearly kills her.
Her hero, Boon, has had none of the advantages Laurie enjoyed but also none of the expectations. He’s the son of a whore with no daddy and no last name. But he is more than the rough, tough outlaw he appears. Inside he longs for the respect and belonging that comes with wearing a Ranger’s Star. Unfortunately, past mistakes have closed that door to him forever. He’s ridden with the most notorious gang in Texas and she’s a lawman’s daughter. He knows what he wants and can’t have it. She knows what’s expected and doesn’t want it.
In this excerpt, Laurie has been captured by a notorious gang of outlaws and awaits rescue by her father or for her ultimate dishonor at the hands of desperadoes. She also is vigilant for any opportunity for escape.
Laurie’s attention went to the new arrival. He rode a shod bay quarter horse with a white blaze down its nose and entered the camp at a slow walk as if he owned the place. The rider’s lean body was sheathed in a tan canvas duster. A gray hat with a wide flat brim shaded his face. Beneath he wore a navy blue work shirt, fawn-colored kerchief, a scarred leather vest and dark striped trousers tucked into narrow black boots with pointed toes that fit neatly into the stirrups. He swung gracefully from the saddle, holding the reins as he lifted his gaze and scanned the group of men. Each stood at alert, hands poised to reach for their guns. Was this unarmed man so dangerous?
Laurie glanced to the rider’s narrow hips, noticing he wore no holster but had maintained possession of a knife, judging from the antler handle protruding from the top of his right boot.
Boon stepped closer, approaching Hammer. He had a square jaw covered with dark whiskers that didn’t obscure the cleft. He lifted his chin and now she could see his face. Her breath caught as she realized he was young and handsome. His size, confident manner and liquid grace had fooled her into assuming he was older, but he seemed to be her own age, perhaps only eighteen or nineteen. The firelight cast his bronze skin orange, but she could see his eyes were pale, like seawater.
“Thought you was dead, Boon.” George Hammer stepped forward, grabbed Boon’s collar and tugged, exposing his neck. “Don’t see no rope burns.” He pushed him away.
Boon caught himself easily and his spurs jangled. Laurie noticed one hand ball to a fist before he relaxed, stretching out his long fingers.
“Why ain’t you dead?”
Boon met the outlaws’ gaze with a steady one of his own.
“Don’t know. My horse fell on me. Don’t recall what came next. When I woke up you fellers were gone and the Rangers, too.”
“Caught my horse and rode the other way.”
So he was an outlaw, just like the rest of them. Laurie’s hopes flagged. Why had she let his beautiful face make her think he could not be a criminal? She had enough experience to know that looks were no indication of whether a man or woman was good or bad.
“You been gone awhile.”
Boon nodded, sticking his thumbs beneath his belt. “When do I get my gun back?”
George held Boon’s gaze. Boon didn’t look away as the others always did. Hammer didn’t like that kind of challenge, so the outlaw drew his gun and aimed his weapon at the young man’s middle.
Boon held his easy stance, giving no indication he was frightened. George laughed.
“I think I’ll keep your pistol for a while, Boon. You understand.”
Boon nodded. The man was either the coolest customer Laurie had ever seen or just plain crazy.
The young outlaw turned back to his escorts and motioned with his fingers. The guard who accompanied him into the camp made a face, glanced at their leader and then handed over a Winchester repeater. Laurie recognized it, for it was similar to the model her father had given her for her tenth birthday, back when they were best friends instead of strangers.
Boon offered the repeater, butt first, to Hammer.
“Took it off a cowpoke who tried to stop me taking one of their beeves.”
Hammer nodded, an absent smile returning to his face. He accepted the offering, spun and aimed at the men standing by the fire, shooting one round after another. The dust at their feet flew up as the men dove behind the ring of logs.
“Seems to fire a little low,” said Hammer conversationally to Boon.
“Every weapon takes getting used to,” he answered.
Hammer nodded, using the lever to expel the final empty round and then relaxed his arm so that the weapon now hung at his side.
The outlaws dusted off their trousers and chaps as Hammer turned toward the dilapidated house. Laurie saw her opportunity, bolted to her feet and ran toward the horse Boon had vacated. She leaped and Boon caught her in midair, spinning her around as he captured her in his strong arms. He brought her back to the ground, keeping hold of her, pressing her back against his chest so she faced the others.
He held her as she struggled, his body hard and his grip unbreakable.
George Hammer stalked back to Laurie, opened his hand and slapped her across the face. The sting of the slap made her eyes water, but the damage could have been much worse had her captor not pulled her away from the direction of the blow the instant the outlaw struck.
Laurie blinked in shock, waiting for the second blow, but George Hammer seemed oblivious to what had just happened.
He narrowed his eyes on Boon and raised his voice. “Least one of my men ain’t too drunk or too stupid to make himself useful.” He whirled and kicked at the closest man, but he dodged, scrambling backward over the log.
“She gets away and I kill someone.” He stalked toward the house.
Laurie turned her head to look back at her captor. His face was cold and grim, his jaw muscles bulged.
“Thank you,” she whispered.
“Shut up,” he growled then grabbed her elbow and dragged her back to the logs, pressing her into place none to gently. “Don’t move.”
He left her to return to his horse and released the girth before swinging the saddle free and setting it on the rail beside the others. Then he rubbed the gelding down with a hank of dried grass, before setting him loose in the paddock.
One of the men sat too close to Laurie. She inched away. His breath stank of rotting teeth as he lifted a lock of her hair and rubbed it between his dirty fingers. She tried to pull back, but he jerked the hank of hair. When she cried out he laughed.
Laurie glanced to Boon and noted his eyes shift, but he made no move to help her. So she faced the man herself.
“Are you trying to get shot? Hammer said no one is to touch me.”
He stopped laughing, narrowing his eyes on her. Laurie held her breath. Their leader had not exactly told his men not to touch her. She waited to see what he’d do.
He took another swallow of whiskey and then rose to his feet, making a show of adjusting himself before joining the others. The men now sat on one side of the fire and she on the other, predators facing their captured prey.
She had never felt more alone in her life. The fear choked her and she grew dizzy from the worry. She knew what would come next and the dread made her nauseous.
She sat still and watchful as the men passed the whiskey and got louder and meaner by the minute.
The outlaws ate, scraping their beans and bacon off tin plates with day-old biscuits. But no one fed her. Laurie’s stomach growled as she watched them, hoping for a chance to run again into the night.
At last George Hammer reemerged from the hovel of a house with Cal.
“So, who’s first, boys?”
Laurie swallowed back the bile rising in her stomach. The time had come. She glanced frantically about for somewhere to run.
But the men weren’t looking at her, they were eyeing each other, sizing up the competition.
She rose, but Cal shoved her to the ground. “You’re not going anywhere.”
Laurie sank in the dust, leaning back against the log and watched the men. Some hung back, remaining in their places. Others stood, casually as if just preparing to take a stroll.
Boon stepped into the firelight, the first to stake a claim.
“Me,” he said.
I simply loved telling Boon and Laurie’s story. The words just flew onto the pages. I hope you enjoy their adventure as they escape from outlaws and run for their lives. For more about THE TEXAS RANGER’S DAUGHTER, and how Laurie’s clothing act as a metaphor for her transformation, visit my website at www.jennakernan.com and look for my STORY BEHIND THE STORY page.
And, as always, enjoy the adventure. Giveaway 1 print copy to US winner – good luck!
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Jenna Kernan is the author of over sixteen Western historical and paranormal romances and has been twice nominated for the RITA Award from Romance Writers of America. She won the Book Buyers Best Award in 2010. Jenna’s final book in The Tracker Series, BEAUTY’s BEAST, and her latest Western Historical, THE TEXAS RANGER’S DAUGHTER, are both available now.