Monday, July 13, 2020

Two more days until Release Day, two more excerpts

My Western historical romance What Frees the Heart comes out on Wednesday (!!), so here is the sixth of seven pre-release excerpts.

Context for this one: Jenny broke one of Madam Mamie's rules and as a result, is not allowed in town without someone to keep an eye on her.

Preorder links are at the end.


Today it was Sophie who got the job of going to town along with Jenny. It was Jenny’s good luck, or maybe Mamie doing a little favor along with still insisting on a chaperone, that Sophie was so easygoing and didn’t fuss about it. What’s more, she let Jenny pick where they went first and next. And when Jenny asked her opinion on what fabric would look best for Jenny’s next new dress, she read Jenny’s face and picked the one Jenny was lingering at already.
Then, when they passed the ice cream shop on their way back to Mamie’s, Sophie even let Jenny go inside on her own. “Bessie’d be less’n pleased if I ate ice cream without her. You go on, and I’ll wait for you on a bench in the square. I can work on my bird calls. Bessie likes it when I do bird calls.”
That suited Jenny more’n fine. She liked Sophie’s company, usually, but by now, doing something by herself would be as much of a treat as ice cream.
The owner undressed her with his eyes the way most men did, but he didn’t say nothing rude and handed over her ice cream without making her wait longer’n anyone else. And it was a pretty day, still warm enough that the owner’d propped the door open for breezes, but not humid like a couple of weeks before.
To put the cherry on the sundae, so to speak, a lady just a little older’n Jenny came in with a baby, a cute little boy with a sweet round face, his plump arms and legs all waving around. Jenny loved babies. She’d tended neighbor babies often enough as a girl, all the way up until she left home.
Bringing her plate of chocolate ice cream with fudge syrup, she came toward mother and baby, smiling. “He’s so precious! How old —”
The woman snatched the baby out of his basket and clutched him to her breast, starting him howling. Over the noise, she said, voice colder’n any ice cream, “How dare you approach us, a hussy like you!” Turning her shoulder to Jenny, she crooned to the crying baby, “Don’t worry, sweetheart, I won’t let the nasty lady hurt you.”
The woman stood up as if to hurry her baby out of reach of whatever poison it might breathe in, just from being near Jenny. But Jenny ran out first. Only outside did she realize she was still holding her plate and spoon. She crouched to leave them at the door, took a deep if shaky breath, and walked as quick as she could to find Sophie. It wasn’t until Sophie looked at her with big eyes and wrinkled forehead that she realized she was crying.

Mamie saw them come in and marched downstairs to stand at the bottom with hands on hips, looking like a hanging judge. Jenny still hadn’t managed to stop crying, so Sophie had to do the talking, as much as she could from whatever Jenny had blurted out on the way. Then, for a wonder, Mamie made things better, opening her arms for a hug. Jenny couldn’t remember Mamie giving her a real hug before, nor her wanting such, but now she rushed into Mamie’s arms and fair snuggled up against Mamie’s big bosom. Mamie stroked her hair. “There, there, girl. Bitches will be bitches, and we can’t hardly stop ‘em.”
Jenny had to laugh, which stopped her crying. She pulled back enough to wipe her face on her arm — or would’ve, if Mamie hadn’t pulled a handkerchief from somewhere like a magician with a hat. By now Sophie had gone off somewhere, probably to tell Bessie all about it.
Jenny wiped her face and followed Mamie to the empty small lounge. Mamie gave her a little push toward an easy chair, one usually reserved for the men, and went behind the bar, pulling out a bottle and pouring two glasses. She handed one to Jenny and sat down next to her. “Join me, why don’t you, in a little sherry. It’ll relax you and maybe help you get some perspective on this afternoon’s events.”
Relax her, sure. Perspective, not likely, but getting to drink sherry instead of colored water, the customers paying liquor prices for it, was treat enough. That word in her head made her think of her ice cream, not finished and melting by the door, and she burst into tears again. Mamie looked vexed. “What am I going to do about you, girl? You’re over your monthlies, aren’t you?”
Jenny tried to stop and finally did. She didn’t want to waste the easy chair and the sherry on sniffing and blowing. Mamie, reassured, sat back and sipped her drink. “That’s better. Young or old, we’ve got to be tough in this business.”
Jenny poured half her sherry down her throat in two big gulps. Mamie sat up and plucked Jenny’s glass out of her fingers with half an inch left in it. “That’s enough lazing around. You go on up and wash your face. Plenty of customers’ll be here before you know it.”
Jenny handed Mamie back the handkerchief. “Thanks for the borrow. Oh, you want I should wash it?”
Mamie’s face had gone all business, but now it went softer. “Never you mind, child. I’ll give it to the laundry. Run along.”


If you pre-order now, you won't have long to wait! :-) You can pre-order the Kindle edition here, or the paperback here (Amazon) or here (Barnes & Noble).

Tomorrow, the last excerpt: Jenny talks to Madam Mamie about girls in the life getting married.

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