Welcome to Karen’s Killer Book Bench where, every Wednesday, readers can discover talented new authors and take a peek inside their wonderful books. This is not an age-filtered site so all book peeks are PG-13 or better. Come back and visit often. Happy reading!
TETON SUNRISE by PEGGY L. HENDERSON
(Book 1 Teton Romance Trilogy)
Evelyn Lewis’ secret dream of marrying her brother’s best friend is shattered when he leaves their home town to seek his fortune elsewhere. For six long years, she’s waited and wondered if he would return. After the shocking murder of her parents, her brother is the only family she has left. Refusing to accept a betrothal to a man she doesn’t love, she decides to take control of her destiny and confront her parents’ killer.
Growing up, Alexander Walker has known only violence at the hands of his cruel father. After the death of his mother, he embarks on a journey into the uncharted wilderness to test his resolve as a fur trapper and mountain man. When an impulsive decision leads him back to his childhood home, he finds more than he bargained for.
Amid the rugged Teton wilderness, fate suddenly throws Alex and Evelyn together. The quiet protective boy she remembers is now as strange to her as the world she’s been forced into. Wary of the hardened man he has become, Evelyn must put her trust in him in order to survive. Alex’s memories of Evelyn are of a pesky little girl, but he can’t deny his growing feelings for the beautiful and spirited woman she is now. His biggest obstacle in winning her heart may not be her uncertainty of him, but a fear that has haunted him all his life.
In a primitive and brutal world, can Alex and Evelyn forge a love as solid as the mountains, or will the past come back to haunt them both?
TETON SUNRISE by PEGGY L. HENDERSON
(Book 1 Teton Romance Trilogy)
Evelyn fingered the cotton material in her hand. Alex Walker was the most perplexing man she had ever met. One minute he behaved in ways that sent her temper soaring, and the next his thoughtful actions left her breathless. Shaking her head to clear her mind, she tried to focus on the task at hand. She had caught a glimpse of the torn flesh on Alex’s arm where the bear had raked him with its claws. Alex had dismissed it as a minor wound when she noticed it while he held her after her impulsive kiss. She could sense he wanted to kiss her again, had seen the longing in his eyes even as he scolded her and called her insufferable.
“I’ll tell you who’s insufferable,” Evelyn had voiced loudly, staring at Alex’s torn and bloodied shirt. “It’s you, Alex Walker, and your damn stubbornness.” She’d pulled away from him, and pointed a finger at his chest. “I may not have the skills and knowledge of a healer, but I do know a wound when I see one, and yours needs to be treated. At the very least, allow me to clean it and wrap it, and perhaps it won’t fester.” She hadn’t given him a chance at a rebuttal, and stormed off to find her leather pouch that held her meager belongings. Her most treasured item was the length of muslin.
Evelyn peered over her shoulder. Alex hadn’t argued, and headed for the creek that flowed at the edge of their camp. He unbuckled his belt from around his waist and pulled his shirt up and over his head. Even from a distance, several wide, angry-looking red gashes visibly slashed across his upper left arm where the bear had clawed him Evelyn hoped the wounds weren’t too deep. She didn’t have Aimee Osborne’s skills to treat Alex’s injuries.
With a will of their own, Evelyn’s eyes remained fixed on Alex’s profile. Heat slowly crept up her neck, and into her cheeks. Well-sculpted, chorded arms hung from wide shoulders. He knelt at the creek’s bank, splashing water on his face with his good hand, giving her a pleasing view of his broad and chiseled back. Fascinated, she watched the play of muscles along either side of his spine bunch and relax. He clearly favored his injured arm by letting it dangle at his side. Without having to see the front of him, she envisioned an equally solid and firm chest and abdomen. The skin on her back tingled with the memory of pressing up against him during the night, his strong arms shielding her from the cold.
Alex chose that moment to look up and glance in her direction. Evelyn whipped her head around. Her cheeks flamed in embarrassment at having been caught staring. Her pulse pounded at her temples, and the sensation of drowning took hold in her. She drew in a deep breath of air to fuel her deprived lungs. Had she been holding her breath while admiring his physique?
Raising her chin, she swallowed back the lump in her throat. She swiped some hair away from her face that had come loose of the confines of her braid, and gathered the strips of muslin. Evelyn pushed herself up off the ground, and with a determined set of her mouth headed in Alex’s direction. With each step she took, her heart sped up.
Good grief, Evie! It’s not like you’ve never seen a man’s nude torso before.
Her father and Henry often removed their shirts in the summer months when coming in from the fields, but neither her father nor her brother looked like Alex. His lean body and sculpted muscles exuded strength. The memory of his strong arms holding her gave testament to that fact. Evelyn shook her head to clear her mind.
“Are you in a lot of pain?” she asked, hoping her voice sounded normal. There was no need to give Alex a glimpse of what she was thinking.
“It stings a little,” he said, his eyes on her. Evelyn hesitated for a moment, then sank to her knees beside him. Her nose caught a whiff of his distinct male scent of sweat and rawhide, and her heart fluttered again.
She dipped one of the cotton rags in the cold water, resisting the impulse to use the wet muslin to cool her own face and neck. Instead, she wrung out the excess water and dabbed gingerly around Alex’s wounds to clean away the dried blood. She repeated her actions over and over, until finally the area was free of blood. He remained motionless while she worked, and Evelyn raised her head to find him watching her intently. She couldn’t tear her eyes from his at that moment if her life depended on it. An intense gleam shone in the depths of his stare, and she swallowed the lump in her throat. Intense longing smoldered in his eyes, along with regret and uncertainty.
Give him time, Laurent had told her. He is afraid he will become his father.
“I think a bandage to keep the wound clean should suffice to allow it to heal.” The words barely escaped her dry mouth. If she could make time stand still, this was a moment she wanted to hold on to. To divert her attention away from Alex’s stare, she grabbed for another swath of muslin. Gently, she wrapped the material around his arm to cover his wound.
Evelyn tied off the end of the bandage in a knot, and pulled her hands back. She adjusted her knees on the hard ground, intent on standing up. Before she could move, Alex reached out, and his calloused fingers grazed against her cheek with a feather light touch. Heat seared through her body at his tender gesture. Wide-eyed, she glanced at his face. His mouth curved upward at the corners. Slowly, he leaned forward.
Evelyn closed her eyes, and she held her breath. Her lips parted and tingled in anticipation of what she knew was to come. Alex’s hand slid behind her head, cupping the back of her neck. He pulled her toward him, and just when she thought he wouldn’t kiss her after all, his lips brushed against hers. Her hands reached out to brace against his chest. The feel of his warm skin against her hand, the strong beating of his heart, and the solid strength beneath her fingers sent ripples of some unknown need racing through her. Just when she thought she would drown in the sensation, Alex pulled away, ending his gentle kiss much too soon. His fingers lingered just a moment longer against her cheek, then he broke off all contact with her. Evelyn’s eyes flew open, and she fought for a breath of air.
“I’ll ask Laurent to take you back to St. Louis,” Alex said, and stood. Avoiding her eyes, he reached for his torn shirt lying in the grass, and then turned his back, his gaze fixed across the water at the distant snow-capped mountains. Evelyn stared in stunned disbelief. It was the last thing she expected him to say. The muscles in his shoulders and back tensed.
“I don’t understand,” Evelyn said quietly. Dumbfounded, she reached up to touch his arm.
“He should have never brought you here,” Alex said firmly. He turned his head, and his mouth was set in a firm line. “You need a husband who will take care of you, not someone like me.”
“Alex, I don’t think—”
“No arguments. I free you of your ties to me. You’re going back.”
“And what if I refuse to go back?” Evelyn moved around him to stand in front if him, and glared at his face. It was time to put her foot down. All her life, someone else had made decisions on her behalf, telling her what was best for her. “What would you have me do in St. Louis, Alex? Marry the man who killed my parents?”
Alex faced her fully. “A week ago you thought you were already married to that man.” He scoffed.
“And I’ve changed my mind,” she said. “I realize I was wrong about you, Alex.” Evelyn stepped closer, inches from him. The heat coming off his body seeped right through the fabric of her shirt. “Perhaps it’s time that you come to the same conclusion,” she whispered. Hesitating for only a second, she placed her palm on his chest over his heart. Alex’s jaw clenched.
“Same conclusion?” His eyebrows scrunched together. “I know I didn’t kill your folks.”
Evelyn laughed quickly, and shook her head. “You really are as dumb as a warthog, Alex Walker. When will you realize you are wrong about yourself?” She shook her head. What did she have to do or say to prove to him that he wasn’t like his father? “Why I am even in lo—”
TETON SPLENDOR by PEGGY L. HENDERSON
(Book 2 Teton Romance Trilogy)
Naive and spoiled, Sophia Yancey believes she is the only daughter of a wealthy Boston businessman. She’s always struggled to fit in among the city’s elite due to her dark hair and bronze skin. When a rugged mountain man from the faraway Teton Mountains arrives to reveal her true identity, Sophia is in denial.
Joseph Walker made a promise to a dying friend: travel east to find the old Indian chief’s granddaughter and bring her back to her people. Unsure whether the girl is even alive, Joseph arrives on the doorstep of Byron Yancey, his only clue to her whereabouts. He expects to find Little Raven, a girl of Indian heritage. Instead, he meets stunning socialite, Sophia Yancey, and realizes that the journey home to the Tetons will challenge him in ways the wilderness never could.
Away from the confines of polite society, Sophia must rely on Joseph as they travel a long road of danger and discovery, wary of a killer seeking revenge. As love ignites between them among the grandeur of the Tetons, will Joseph be able to keep her safe, or did he make a grave mistake in removing her from the only life she’s ever known?
TETON SPLENDOR by PEGGY L. HENDERSON
(Book 2 Teton Romance Trilogy)
Joseph gave his horse a final pat on the neck, then left the stall. Coming to Boston had obviously been a big mistake. It was too late in the day to leave the city. He’d get an early start in the morning. The sooner he was away from here, the better. He wasn’t going back to that fancy house, either. After what happened this afternoon, he had most likely worn out his welcome. Miss High and Mighty Society Princess wanted nothing to do with him or knowing more about where she came from.
Joseph scoffed. Hell, she wouldn’t last a day in the wilderness. The pampered way she’d been raised had spoiled her for the kind of life she would have had among her mother’s people. He couldn’t possibly present her to Two Bears looking and acting like the white woman she so obviously chose to be.
He cursed again and climbed the ladder to the hayloft. What he needed was a good night’s sleep. He unbuckled the belt at his waist, and dropped it at his feet, then pulled his cotton shirt off over his head. Spreading out his bedroll over a pile of straw, he eased himself onto his back. With both hands clasped behind his head, he stared up at the wooden rafters. Daylight still streamed through the cracks in the walls, and a slight breeze made the countless spider webs hanging from the ceiling sway lazily back and forth.
He closed his eyes, wishing for sleep to come. Joseph focused on the relaxing sound of horses rustling in their stalls below. Outside, people chattered as they went about their late afternoon business, and the constant clopping of hooves on the cobblestone and the creaking of buggy wheels were a testament to the hectic life in the city. Everyone seemed to be in a hurry.
A sudden yearning for the mountains that had been his home all his life seeped through him. He missed the crisp morning air, the smell of sage and pine, and the quiet that surrounded the valley at the base of the mountain range the Indians called the teewinots. Joseph imagined hearing the screech of an eagle as it soared high above the clouds and the bugle of a bull elk in an attempt to drown out the harsh grating sounds of the city.
His efforts were hindered by the prattle of two women arguing. Joseph raised his head. One of the voices sounded familiar, and a jolt of recognition hit him. His heart rate suddenly increased. Sophie? What was she doing in this part of town? Joseph tuned out the other sounds and focused on the women’s voices. Judging by the increase in volume, they were headed for the livery.
“I still can’t believe you’d want to come here, Miss Sophia. Of all your foolish schemes in the past, this one takes the cake. A lady doesn’t belong in this shady neighborhood. I should have informed your father of this.”
Joseph raised his upper body off the blanket and sat up. The woman sounded almost like his mother when she used to scold him as a child. Yancey wasn’t married, and she’d addressed Sophie formally, so she couldn’t be a family member.
“We’ve been over this already, Lucy,” Sophie said, a note of exasperation in her voice. “I have to find Mr. Walker.”
Joseph’s eyebrows shot up in surprise at hearing her mention his name. He couldn’t think of one good reason why she’d be looking for him. The older-sounding woman huffed audibly.
“I don’t like that man. He’s dirty, and looks like a savage.”
“I don’t like him much either, but I need to speak to him.”
The corners of Joseph’s lips raised in a grin. Yeah, she definitely hadn’t changed her mind about him.
I never thought I’d be a writer, much less publish a book some day. I always wanted to be a veterinarian. I guess life just had other plans for me. When my husband and I decided to start a family, vet school pretty much went out the window. I used to work with a vet who had three children while going through vet school. To this day, she is my hero.
I live with my husband and two teenage sons in southern California. I have a Welsh pony and a miniature horse (down-sized from a barn of six horses). A crazy Labrador retriever who is a food vacuum, three cats, two parakeets, four bearded dragons (my compromise with my sons when they wanted a snake), and a small flock of chickens complete our menagerie of critters. I can’t imagine my life without my animals. My dream is to live in Montana some day.
Four years ago, I began writing a story that, for whatever reason, was stuck in my head for almost a year. I have been an avid romance reader for a long time, and the idea took hold to – why not? – write my own! What a simple idea, right?
It has been a long and difficult journey from my first sentence to a completed, and hopefully polished, manuscript. Today, I have a completed series of 5 books and a novella in what I called The Yellowstone Romance Series, a first book in my new Second Chances Time Travel Romance Series, and I am currently working on the final book in a trilogy set in the Grand Tetons.
Links to PEGGY’s website, blog, books, etc.
Amazon author page: https://www.amazon.com/author/peggylhenderson
**SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT: Peggy will give away an e-book copy (Kindle, Nook, or PDF) of her release, TETON SUNRISE, to one of her lucky readers who comments on either her Monday Interview or Wednesday Book Bench blogs!! Winner will be randomly selected and announced Monday, August 5, 2013. Thanks, Peggy, for sharing your stories with us!