Welcome to my Friday bonus feature called Karen’s Killer Fixin’s **Author Special**!! Today, in lieu of one of my own recipes, I’m going to introduce you to a new author who will share one of her favorite recipes. Not only will you and I occasionally learn how to make something new and delicious, but we’ll get a chance to check out some wonderful authors. Introducing author, TESS THOMPSON, and her favorite recipe for Easy and Quick Abondigas Soup!
Angel Falls Series Book 1
BY TESS THOMPSON
IS HE HER HERO OR HER WORST NIGHTMARE?
Russell Murphy emerges from the New Mexico wilderness as a man on the run from tragedy and guilt. He walks straight into the life of Magdalena Morales, a proud, headstrong woman trying to keep her family’s centuries-old legacy out of the hands of a ruthless enemy.
Despite his best intentions, Magdalena and her Grandmother, Bella, draw Russell into a life he has never known, and he vows to protect these women at any cost. When an unimaginable truth from Russell’s past confronts Maggie, she is forced to choose between the man she loves and the cold hard facts.
A Thrilling Romantic Suspense with a Touch of Paranormal
The low growl followed by deep, rapid barks startled Maggie, and her head shot up from the pile of bills she had been shuffling through for most of the afternoon. Pushing back her chair, she watched as the dog clawed at the door.
A sting of alarm prickled Maggie’s skin. This dog did not bark or growl without a reason. Even when she’d found him struggling to walk across the campground to search for food near the empty garbage can, he’d stood his ground, trembled, and wagged his tail. At that moment, she had fallen in love with the skinny, malnourished animal whose backbone protruded through the long, dirty layers of matted black and white hair. The name Boney seemed to fit.
“What is it, boy?” she said as she opened the desk drawer and pulled out her loaded revolver. She shoved it into her waistband and pulled a shotgun down from the rack on the wall. She heard the shuffle of her great-grandmother’s feet in the hall and turned to see the older woman reaching for the remaining shotgun.
“Bella, you stay here. It’s probably nothing.”
“No, Chica. Something is out there. Boney’s no fool dog.”
“Please wait and let me look.”
The old woman nodded and shrugged her shoulders. “Muchaca terca. Hardheaded girl. Exactly like your mama.”
Maggie smiled, grabbed her jacket off the peg and opened the door. Boney ran out into a cloud of dust while dodging a dozen frightened horses. “Ah, hell,” she spat. “It’s the horses, Bella. They’re out of the pen. I’m going to close the main gate so they can’t get to the road.” She looked up and spotted a rusty pickup truck trailing dust as it raced away. This was no accident, she thought. Someone had let them out.
The early October weather was turning colder, and long afternoon shadows spread across the thirsty soil. She glanced up toward the mountains where she usually saw snow-covered peaks, but today bare rocks shone in the fading light.
A small figure bobbed up and down as it made its way down the deer trail. Maggie squinted and lifted her palm to shield her eyes. It wasn’t the right shape for a deer and was more likely a bear looking for water or food. She took a couple of steps back, focused her eyes on the descending figure, and clutched her long gun tightly. Then, she caught a glint of red between the trees. It wasn’t an animal. It was a man.
Maggie wasn’t a large woman, and she knew she would be no match physically for a man intent on harm. The incident with the horses was only a fraction of the mischief she believed her ex-husband had caused. She didn’t think he would send someone to harm her, but she wasn’t taking any chances. Her marksmanship more than compensated for her small stature. She was an excellent shot and didn’t believe she would lose any sleep over putting a bullet through someone if it meant protecting her great-grandmother and their property.
The horses had settled down after their initial scare and were milling around by the barn. She needed to get them back into the pen before nightfall but didn’t dare take her eyes off the figure of a person rapidly making his way down the mountain. She was sure now that it was a man. A large man with long, shaggy hair and a full beard.
She glanced back at her great-grandmother and saw the heavy shotgun resting in Bella’s arms. “Someone is coming. Go back inside until I find out what he wants.”
Maggie watched the determined scowl spread across her face and knew the words were wasted. “All right then, but at least stay up there on the porch. You’ll know if I need help.”
The scowl remained firmly plastered on Bella’s face, but at least she wasn’t moving toward the steps, Maggie thought. Her Bella had a spine of steel and the courage of ten men, but unfortunately, age and crippling arthritis greatly limited her physically.
Boney darted up to the porch and then back to Maggie with his tongue lolling from side to side. His eyes were fixed on the approaching figure.
The man was now about a hundred yards away. He wore a red plaid shirt, denim pants, a baseball cap, and a backpack. He didn’t appear to have a weapon and put both of his hands up as he approached her.
“Sorry, ma’am, didn’t mean to frighten you.”
Maggie lowered the gun and studied the stranger standing in front of her. He was tall. Well over six feet, with a lean, raw-boned face and striking blue eyes. She licked her lips and pulled her long dark hair behind her ears. “Where did you come from?”
He pointed back toward the mountain and said, “Up there.”
“That’s obvious. But that’s national forest land on the other side. We don’t get many strangers walking down from the wilderness. As a matter of fact, you’re the only one.”
“What is this place?” He looked around at the rows of compact cabins, the barn and horse pens, and at the older woman standing on the porch of a large log home.
“Cielo Verde. That’s Green Heaven in Spanish.”
She was surprised when he said, “I know what it means. This a ranch or something?”
“No, it’s a lodge and campground, and it’s my turn to ask questions.”
He shrugged, and she noticed the shadows under his eyes. It was impossible to tell his age because of the scruffy beard and mustache. He could be anywhere from his middle twenties to late forties. She stepped back a couple of feet and looked him up and down. “You look like something that walked off an eighties Grisly Adams movie set, and you stink like it too.” If what she said offended him, he didn’t show it.
“Now, let’s try again. I know you came from up there.” She pointed and sighed. “I’ve been watching for the last few minutes. I want to know what are you doing here on my property?”
“This is where the trail led me.”
Maggie wanted to stomp her feet and scream. Instead, she calmly said, “Are you lost? People don’t usually come here unless the lodge is their destination. We’re tucked in here backed up to the mountain with the lake on the other side. Only one way in and one way out.”
“Obviously not,” he said and smiled.
He had a nice smile, and Maggie thought he probably didn’t show it often. She waited for him to speak again and when he did it was to say, “No, I’m not lost.”
Once more she waited, and when it was apparent he wasn’t going to elaborate she asked the only logical question. “Then you’re here for a visit? To stay at the lodge? This is the off-season, and we rarely get any guests this time of year. We’re down to a skeleton staff now and have none of the amenities.”
“No, I’m only passing through. But I’d appreciate it if I could fill my canteen.” He reached down and patted Boney’s head and scratched under his chin. “Nice dog.”
Maggie watched the man’s large hand stroke her dog and suddenly realized that Boney had not barked. This man was a stranger, a large, scary-looking stranger, and the dog was acting like his best friend.
They walked toward the house where a green hose lay coiled around a faucet already covered for the first freeze. Maggie turned it on and watched as the stranger filled the dark, olive-green bottle that looked like it was a reject from an army surplus store. He capped it and swung the strap over his shoulder.
Maggie held out her hand and said, “I’m Magdalena Morales, and this is my great-grandmother Bella Morales.”
“Ma’am,” he said looking at Bella.
When he didn’t offer his name, the exasperation must have shown on her face because he quickly cleared his throat as if it hurt to talk and said, “I’m Russell Murphy. Thank you for the water.”
He turned toward the dirt road and stopped when Bella said, “You know horses, Mr. Murphy?”
“Can’t say as I do.”
“Are you afraid of them?”
“I don’t think so. I’ve never thought about it?”
“My great-granddaughter could use some help.”
His grin flashed briefly. “I was wondering if you always kept your horses on the front lawn?”
Maggie’s mouth dropped open, and she snapped it shut before she could comment. That string of words was more than the man had said since he arrived, and if she was not mistaken, he had made a joke.
“No, we usually keep them in that pen, but lately we’ve had a string of vandalism and just plain meanness. Right before I saw you, someone opened the gate and let them out,” Maggie said.
“Can you help Maggie get them back where they belong? It would be a favor to me, and we can offer you a free meal for your trouble,” Bella said.
Russell nodded. “Show me what you need me to do, Magdalena.”
~ ~ ~
Getting the horses back into the pen wasn’t as hard as Russell thought it would be. For the most part, they were eager to get to the piles of hay that Magdalena threw into the feed bins. The light was fading quickly, but he could still see her dark curly hair bouncing on her shoulders, and he admired the way her trim figure fit nicely into her jeans.
Her great-grandmother had called her Maggie, but she looked more like her given name Magdalena. With her olive skin and her flashing brown eyes, she was the image of a Spanish dancer. He took his eyes off her, but not quick enough to see the excited horse’s leg kick backward and strike a painful blow to his knee.
He cringed and sucked in his breath. Damn, he thought, that hurt. The first time he’d looked at a woman in months, and he’d been punished for it. Served him right. He stood up straight and hoped he could push through the pain. He’d had his share of bruises and breaks growing up and had become adept at fooling teachers and coaches.
Maggie shut the gate and put a padlock she’d taken out of the barn through the chain. “That should take care of that,” she said wiping the rust from the chain on her pants.
It was full-on dark now as stars began to spread across the sky. He loved the outdoors here in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains of New Mexico. They were his solace and his refuge. When he looked at the sky, he could almost forget.
He took a step toward Maggie and said, “I was wondering if I could stay in your barn tonight? It’s too dark to set up camp down the road anywhere.”
“You’re welcome to use one of the cabins. They’re quite comfortable and have hot, running water. We even have soap and shampoo,” she laughed. “Let me go get the keys to the ATV, and I’ll run you over there. You can get cleaned up, and I’ll drop by in an hour and take you back to the house for supper.”
“What about your great-grandmother? Will she mind if I stay?”
“Oh, I don’t think so. I believe for some reason you made a good impression on our dog. He didn’t bark or growl at you, even though he doesn’t like men as a whole. I’m pretty sure one must have abused him.” She smiled and said, “So you are definitely an enigma. And as for Bella, she’d have run you off instead of asking for your help. I guess you could say she’s an enigma too. You’ll see. She’s a little different.”
~ ~ ~
Russell didn’t recognize the face he saw in the mirror. He’d lost some weight, and his cheeks looked hollow. He didn’t have a razor or scissors, but he did have a relatively clean change of clothes he’d washed in one of the small towns he’d passed through.
He moaned aloud as the nearly scalding water fell on his head and across his shoulders. He soaped his hair and body three times before he felt clean. Somehow, what Magdalena thought was important to him. He knew it shouldn’t be since he would be leaving early in the morning, and he would never see her again.
He wondered what the story was. Why were two women running this lodge all alone? Where were all of the workers? Even in the off-season, there should have been people to do repairs and upkeep. He wasn’t going to ask. He had no intention of getting involved or learning more about vandals and meanness.
He looked down at his knee and the dark red mark and knew that by morning it would be stiff and swollen. After he left, he’d have to find a good valley to settle in for the next few days until it got better. Thank the Lord he didn’t have to walk up to the house, and the sooner he got away from those haunting Spanish eyes, the better off he would be.
~ ~ ~
Maggie saw a different man standing in the cabin doorway. This Russell Murphy was clean and smelled like fresh mint. He had changed clothes, and she could see that without the coat and backpack, even though he was thin, he was a large man. She unconsciously took a step closer. “Wow, you clean up pretty good.”
“You do too.”
Maggie had changed into a clean pair of denim jeans and a black and white checked flannel shirt and black winter vest. She’d looked at everything in her closet and then finally pulled out the closest blouse. She didn’t care what he thought. Why should she? He was a stranger, and for all she knew he could be a serial killer or worse. But all those thoughts were lost when she looked up into his blue eyes. Bella would say they were old eyes. That he was an old soul.
Maggie saw him wince when he stepped down from the four-wheeler and walked toward the steps of the main house. “You okay?”
“I’m fine. I twisted my leg a little, that’s all. No problem.”
“Okay, if you say so.” She opened the door to the smell of roasted chiles and garlic. “I hope you like green chile stew. Bella is a master in the kitchen. Me, not so much.”
“Mija, that’s not true. I taught you well. Please sit down, Mr. Murphy, here across from me.”
“You have a beautiful log home, Mrs. Morales.”
Maggie looked at the home she had lived in most of her life. It had tall ceilings that gave it an impressive feeling and huge logs that drew attention to the stone fireplace and large windows along one side of the room. But the great room still had a homey feel, and the antler chandelier over the oak table gave off a warm glow. She looked at Russell while she ladled the stew into large soup bowls. He seemed impressed as his eyes roamed the room.
“My husband’s family has been in this valley for generations. Sadly, Maggie is the last of the Morales line. My son Miguel passed in Vietnam. His brother Ernesto’s heart gave out, and we lost him earlier this year, and Maggie’s mother is gone now too. I came here as a young bride, but of course, the house was smaller then and has since been renovated. Where do you come from, Mr. Murphy?”
“Please call me Russell, and this stew is delicious.”
“The chile’s not too hot for you?”
“No, it’s fine. I like it when it makes me sweat. I noticed the red ones hanging outside. Do you use them for cooking or for decoration?”
Maggie couldn’t help but notice how he had skillfully not answered Bella’s question and steered the conversation in another direction.
“We let them dry and then grind them up into chile powder. Which is your favorite?”
“Oh, I’m easy to please. I’ll eat most anything that’s put in front of me. That was really good, ladies. I thank you for your hospitality and for trusting a stranger.” He put his napkin on the table and stood. “I’ve got to get an early start in the morning. I’d better get some sleep.”
Bella reached across the table and took his hand. “Do you mind?” she said pulling his arm forward forcing him to sit back down.
“Your hand. May I see it?”
“Sure, I guess.”
“Fine strong hands and a good lifeline,” Bella said. “Stubborn, like my girl. You have secrets, Mr. Murphy, and ghosts in your past and guilt. You have so much guilt.”
Russell jerked his hand back from Bella and stood almost toppling the chair over. “What are you, a witch?”
Bella did not reply. Her eyes were dark and unfathomable.
“Something like that,” Maggie said smiling.
Tess Thompson is a pen name for two sisters who combined their two last names into a pseudonym when they begin writing novels as a team in 2002. Charlene Tess lives in Colorado with her husband Jerry, and Judi Thompson lives in Texas with her husband Roger. The sisters collaborate by text message, email, cell phone, and whenever possible get together to plot a new novel.
Links to Tess’s website, blog, books, etc.:
Contact Tess Thompson
I hope you enjoy the recipe Tess is sharing today on Karen’s Killer Fixin’s. Happy Eating!
P.S. We’re at 508 recipes and counting with this posting. Hope you find some recipes you like. If this is your first visit, please check out past blogs for more Killer Fixin’s. In the right-hand column menu, you can even look up past recipes by type. i.e. Desserts, Breads, Beef, Chicken, Soups, Author Specials, etc.
Easy and Quick Albondigas Soup
from Charlene Tess
This soup is perfect for a cold, winter day. Serves 4
(A recipe I created after eating this soup at a Mexican restaurant in El Paso. This is a quick version, but my family loves it. – Charlene Tess)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 yellow onion
4 stalks celery
2 large carrots, peeled and sliced into small pieces
1 clove of minced garlic
8 cups beef broth
1 cup tomato sauce
Bag of frozen cooked meatballs (not Italian)
Place 6 cups beef broth in a large saucepan. (Use more broth to increase the servings.)
Cut up three or four stalks of celery, a yellow onion, two peeled carrots, and a clove of garlic into small pieces. Sauté in olive oil until tender and add to broth. Heat to boiling and gently boil until vegetables are tender. Add salt and pepper to your taste.
Add frozen, cooked meatballs. (I usually add 3 per person.) Add to broth and simmer until meatballs are heated through.
*This recipe can be made gluten free if you use GF beef broth, GF tomato sauce, and GF meatballs.
Garnish with cilantro.
Serve with rice. (Use GF rice if you want to make the meal gluten free.)
Thanks, Tess, for sharing your story with us!
Don’t miss the chance to read this book!