WooHoo! Just in time for Christmas, the second novella in the Brides of Texas Code Series, MATELYN AND THE TEXAS RANGER, is available on Amazon and Apple iBooks.
Overcome by the death of his wife, Ian Benning leaves his small son in the care of best friends, Katie and Dermot McTiernan. He rejoins his old outfit with the Texas Rangers to keep his mind off the loss of his only love, Emma. His assignment takes him to Galveston on the Texas Coast in pursuit of a group of bank robbers, and to the middle of a horrific hurricane.
Matelyn O'Donnell accompanies her employer, Veronique de Marceau, from New Orleans to Galveston, Texas to reunite Veronique with her cruel and conniving husband, Gerard. Introduced to Ian Benning while aboard ship, Matelyn dismisses him as a criminal in cahoots with Gerard. When their ship is capsized from the vicious winds and waves in the Gulf of Mexico, Ian Benning rescues her from certain death.
Will she accept that he is undercover and help him bring de Marceau to justice? Will she be able to ignore her overwhelming attraction to this lonely, distraught man? Can Ian tuck away his deep feelings for his lost wife to keep from losing this beautiful, feisty dark-haired beauty?
Later that evening, Ian joined John on the porch after supper. He liked John and had great respect for the man. It seemed they were of a kindred spirit, almost as if they'd been friends all their lives.
"We did good getting the roof repaired this afternoon."
"Sure appreciate your help, Ian. Having the house back in order will go a long way toward helping Nancy feel safe again."
He took the cigarette John offered, lit it, and looked out over the yard at the neighboring houses. Some were occupied with candle light glowing from the windows. Others were abandoned and dark. "Soon as I can, I need to ask the ladies what their plans are. If Veronique is truly a widow, she'll need to decide what she wants to do. She may have to go back to New Orleans to settle de Marceau's estate."
Drawing deeply on his cigarette, John nodded, slowly exhaling the white-gray smoke. "That's a distinct possibility. She'll probably have to reconcile his assets in the state where he filed the will."
Ian glanced toward the house as the screen door opened. Matelyn and Nancy came onto the porch carrying a tray. He stood, grabbed another chair, and scooted a crate to the middle to act as a table.
John took the tray while the women seated themselves. "What've you gone and done?"
Giving her husband a knowing smile, Nancy said, "I know how you love my apple crumb cake and I so want normalcy back in our lives." Reaching for the knife, she cut several slices. "We were able to salvage enough from the pantry to make your favorite dessert."
"I thought I smelled the oven earlier, but figured my mind was playing tricks on me." Ian accepted his share. Gazing at Matelyn, he tasted a bite. He hadn't eaten anything this mouth-watering since Emma's pies or Katie's biscuits. "Thank you, ladies, for your efforts."
"This was all Nancy," Matelyn said, picking at her slice with her fork. "While I can sew a fine seam, I'm afraid I can't boil a potato."
Placing her plate on the tray, Nancy cut another slice each for John and Ian. "We discussed this while at the hotel this morning. Matelyn will sew new dresses for the women who've lost their belongings if Mr. Hollis will donate several bolts of fabric and patterns."
"That's quite an undertaking. Are you sure you're up to it?"
"Yes," Matelyn said. "We've been so blessed, it's the very least I can do to help."
"It was all Matelyn's idea." Nancy beamed. "She approached Mr. Hollis and he agreed."
"Well, I think you're biting off more than you can chew, but if you're determined—"
Ian studied the dark haired beauty closely. She sat ramrod straight, her blue eyes determined, almost belligerent. Ian covered a laugh with a cough. Instinctively, he knew if he laughed that'd be a mistake. He'd encountered fierce Irish pride before. While she looked nothing like her cousin, their personalities were practically identical. The only difference being, where Katie was quick to ignite, Matelyn's embers glowed beneath the surface waiting to be stoked.
A sudden urge to stir those coals caught him off guard. He cleared his throat but his voice sounded ragged when he spoke. "Let me know if I can help you."
As if Nancy sensed the tension between them, she stood, stacked the empty plates and picked up the tray. "We should follow Veronique's lead and rest up for tomorrow."
Standing with them, Ian held the door until they'd gone inside.
John prepared to follow behind them. "You ready? We'll be starting early."
"You go ahead. I'm going to sit for a bit longer."
After John went in, Ian sat back in the chair, stretched out his legs and propped his boots on the porch rail. While the thought of a bed called to his aching back, he couldn't bring himself to face the new found urges that lurked behind closed eyes. Emma had been gone barely six months. He had no business having wants and desires. Thinking of another woman, no matter the reason, wasn't conducive to his job either.
He had to get his head back into the pursuit of de Marceau, Captain Jones and the crew. He just couldn't shake the feeling they weren't dead. What happened to them and where they were was anybody's guess at this point. He and John had an impossible task ahead of them. He wondered, not for the first time, if Veronique could shed some light into her husband's behavior. So far he'd been unable to get a good read on her. What had been the relationship between her and her husband? Perhaps he'd stop by the hotel tomorrow and make more of an effort to know her better.
Thinking of Veronique brought on thoughts of Matelyn. Exactly where he didn't want to go. Dropping his feet from the rail, he stood and stretched the kinks from his back. He needed to sleep. Needed to turn his mind off, let his sub-conscious help him concentrate on the case, not Matelyn O'Donnell. As he turned to head upstairs, he knew he was only kidding himself.
* * *
Tired of staring at the ceiling, Matelyn gave up trying to sleep. Events of the past few days fought for space along with worries of their tenuous situation, their safety and the task of how best to aid the people of Galveston. Thoughts of Katie occupied a corner, too. Had word spread that far about the hurricane? If it had, there was no way to let her cousin know they were all right. She'd promised to send a telegram as to her approximate time of arrival in Dallas. With communications down, that wouldn't happen any time soon.
She decided, since everyone had turned in ages ago, she'd slip downstairs to have another bite of Nancy's crumb cake. Maybe doing something other than thinking would quiet her head. The house felt like an oven. With the high temperature and not even a hint of a breeze, she didn't bother with her wrapper. She'd be back upstairs long before anyone stirred.
Matelyn couldn't remember when she'd tasted anything so good. The cake practically melted on her tongue. Covering the pan with a towel, she returned it to the back of the counter.
"It's good, isn't it?"
She spun around at the sound of Ian's voice. Her left hand flew to her throat and she bumped against the counter's edge, while her right fisted the lace neckline of her gown. "Oh, good Gussie," she scolded, her heart racing. "Ye startled the stuffin' right out of me!"
Reaching out for her, he grinned. "I'm sorry. With these clodhoppers I call feet, I assumed you heard me walk up behind you."
He might've been remorseful, but he still wore that lopsided grin. Skirting his grasp, she backed toward the doorway. Embarrassed he'd seen her in her in her night dress – again, and mortified she'd been caught sneaking cake. Truth be known, she'd been so involved in eating that bite of heaven, she doubted she'd have heard a thunder clap. "Well, I didn't."
"Matelyn, I apologize."
"Good night, Mr. Benning."
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I hope you can check out this new story. I wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!