I’m thrilled to introduce y’all to Joe Lonnigan and Katia Stefanski, the hero and heroine of my newest release, THE DEPUTY’S DAMSEL. This story takes us to Austin where Katia is wrongly of accused of murder, and Joe, a deputy, believes she’s innocent. Joe hides Katia, protecting her from being arrested, which is at great cost to himself. He’s risking his livelihood and perhaps his life.
But his actions caused an even stickier problem that was quite interesting and heart wrenching to write.
Joe’s cousin, Conner, happens to be the sheriff. So, not only is Joe deceiving his boss, he’s also lying to a member of his family. The scenes between Conner and Joe were just as fraught with tension as the moments of fear and despair Katia experiences being wrongly accused of murder.
The family elements in my books are strong and add so much depth to the characters. And as I wrote THE DEPUTY’S DAMSEL, I found the characters having some very real, very gut-wrenching conversations. My heart pounded hard through the last ten chapters!
Reading this romance will give you ALL the feels, I promise!
Pike’s Run, Texas, 1887
Katia Stefanski is stunned when
she learns her recently deceased step-father has arranged a marriage for her.
Even worse, her step-brother intends to honor it. Despite numerous attempts to
convince her brother to let her make the choice, she fails. She flees during
the party intended to cement her engagement.
Deputy Joe Lonnigan crosses paths with Katia Stefanski and is struck by her beauty and fighting spirit. When he learns she's been accused of the murder of her not-wanted fiancé, he can't believe it. With her step-brother's help, Joe risks everything to keep her hidden and prove her innocence.
But Katia can't let Joe destroy his future. She’s determined to take matters into her own hands, even if it means the noose.
Deputy Lonnigan sat tall in the saddle, his front dark as the moon shone from behind him. He put her in mind of a mysterious night rider, capable of taking what he wanted.
She remembered how strong his chest was, how long his arms. She refrained from gulping and strengthened her resolve. “I’m not going home. I refuse. My friend is just up this road, and I intend to stay with her for a few days.”
A moment of silence passed then the deputy said, “Well, I’m not taking you home. But you are coming with me.”
Confused, she couldn’t think of a reply.
“It’ll be the safest option.” He dismounted.
“Oh!” she gasped and back pedaled. “Don’t you dare,” she warned. “I’m not going anywhere with you.”
“I’ve got no time to argue.” He advanced on her quickly.
She spun on a heel, preparing to run, but he grabbed her around the waist and lifted her off her feet. She bucked and kicked, dropping her bag in the process.
“Get your hands off me!” she screamed, terror fueling her jabs.
He gave slight grunts then flipped her over his shoulder.
Her breath whooshed out of her, and blood rushed to her head. “Put me down! How dare you!” She pounded her fists on his back.
He bent easily and picked up her bag with his free hand.
Frantic, she hit him harder, squirming against his hold, but his arm was a vise on the back of her legs. Tears gathered. She had no control. No power. She bit her lip to keep from sobbing in frustration and tasted blood.
After putting her bag on the back of the animal, he righted her and dumped her in the saddle. She knew the moon shone enough to reveal the silver tracks of wetness on her face, but she didn’t care. Panting from the exertion of pummeling him, she surged forward to grab the reins. But he was faster and gathered them before she could reach them. He climbed up behind her, just like yesterday, enveloping her in the cage of his arms.
A handkerchief appeared in her line of sight. Her chin wobbled, and she refused to take it.
“Please don’t cry,” he said softly, as he withdrew his offering. “I don’t have time to explain things to you. We’ve got to get off the road.”
She didn’t understand what he meant, but it wouldn’t matter if she asked. The men surrounding her weren’t listening to her anyway. She kept her mouth shut.
He clucked to the horse then kicked him into a gallop.
She tried to pay attention to her surroundings, noting that he passed the lane that led to the Cummings’ farm. They went through a shallow creek then over a rolling meadow until the shadow of a log cabin loomed.
“This belongs to a friend of mine who’s a Ranger. He’s in west Texas fighting cattle rustlers.”
She didn’t care. This man was abducting her. Her heart pounded hard, and her stomach churned with fear. If she couldn’t get away from him on the road, how would she manage to escape him once he had her tied up somewhere?
When they reached the yard, he dismounted first then lifted her at the waist. He kept his arm around her as he led her into the dwelling.
“I’m not gonna tie you up, Miss Stefanski. You’re not my prisoner. I’m trying to help you, so…” He gently disengaged from her. “Don’t run, all right? I’m gonna light a lantern, and then we’ll talk.”
He’d left the door open. The horse was still saddled. She curled her hands into fists as an insane plan developed like a lightning strike. She nodded slowly, not trusting herself to form a verbal reply since she was no good at lying.
As soon as he stepped away, she dashed out into the yard.
“Don’t,” he called.
She clutched the pommel and put her foot in the stirrup, but before she could pull herself up, he circled her waist with an arm and wrenched her back. Using all her strength, she spun and pounded on his shoulders. “Let me go!”
He switched his grip to her wrists, stopping her hits. “Stop. Please, ma’am.”
His hold wasn’t too strong, and she tried to yank away from him, but he tightened his grasp.
“Miss Stefanski, please, I don’t want to hurt you.”
“Then let me go,” she wailed, choking on her fear.
“I can’t, damn it!” he thundered. “You’re wanted for murder.”