Some people dream of life in simpler times, but when dreams turn into reality, Amy learns that even simpler times can be complicated.
New Prints in Old Calico (written as Jennifer Lynn) was my first real foray into historical romance, so I made it easy (or so I thought) by doing it as a time travel. That way I could have my modern heroine see history through my eyes. I mistakenly thought it would make research all the easier, because if I didn’t get things quite right, I could chalk it all up to how my heroine perceived things from her own time line.
Oh my goodness, I was so wrong. It wasn’t easier at all. In fact, I think it made it a wee bit harder. But that didn’t matter. I fell in love with the era, and the townspeople of Calico. How can you not, when the story leaps off the pages and begs to be told. And it doesn’t stop here! I really meant it when I said I fell in love with the era and the people, because this one story has morphed into a ‘series’ of other stories set in Calico. I’ll tell you more about that in a wee bit but for now, enjoy this little preview of Amy and Matt’s struggle for love in the old west.
Amanda Bradshaw, a librarian from modern day New York City, is suddenly transported to Calico, a small 1880s era western town. Without warning, she becomes the new schoolmarm in Calico instead of a librarian. Bewildered by this sudden change in scene, she is befriended by the sheriff, Austen Riley, and a sympathetic saloon owner named Lil. Riley is a man with dark secrets and an axe to grind with rancher Matt Mallory, who turns Amanda’s life inside out. Matt is handsome, determined to win her as his wife, but his shady reputation leaves a lot to be desired. Still, Amanda is attracted to him as they flirt and tease, argue and banter their way towards love.
As Matt, Amy, and Matt’s young daughter, Molly, struggle to become a family, Marshall Riley plans to destroy Matt and claim Amy for his own. But how can Amy prove Matt’s innocence to the one man who wants him dead?
“I’m sorry,” her tear smothered voice whispered behind him.
“Oh?” He continued his task as his tone turned incredulous. “Why on earth could you be sorry?”
“You know what I mean.” Her voice barely rose above a whisper.
He turned on one knee, his expression stony. “No Amy, I don’t. I’m just a simple, old-fashioned rancher. I don’t understand the complexities of personal relationships. Why don’t you explain it to me?”
He moved to the chair opposite Amy, seemingly paying no mind to her obvious distress. He hunched over, resting his elbows on his knees and folded his hands together. “Explain to me why you think I’m a murdering, thieving coward whose sole purpose is to abuse innocent women. Go on…explain it. I’m listening.”
Amy’s stomach knotted and she stiffened under his withering glare. Even though she could tell he was doing his best to remain cool, pain still lingered in the brown eyes staring so intently at her. Pain and something else. Anger.
“I don’t think that at all.”
“No?” He quirked an eyebrow questioningly. “Then what is it you’ve been thinking?”
“I’ve been thinking I’ve done exactly what I used to pride myself on not doing. If that makes any sense.” A dim heat raced like a fever across her face. “I’ve misjudged you terribly. I know you haven’t done any of those things I keep hearing about, but I made a mistake and got caught up in the town gossip. I know I’ve been wrong to let those influences cloud my own personal opinion. And I’m so sorry.”
“You know? How do you know?”
“I just know.” Her voice was firm, final and she felt as if her dormant wits had renewed themselves.
The great divide in the living room narrowed as he leaned forward in his chair, and reached out to capture her hands in his. The look on his face mingled eagerness and tenderness. “Does this mean you’ve come to your senses about us?”
The shadow across Amy’s heart lifted, and she smiled tentatively. “Now listen here mister.” She lifted a brow and tilted her head. Don’t go gettin’ all cocky on me now. It simply means I’m willing to reconsider my previous thoughts on the subject.”
“Just reconsider?” His voice took on a low, silky edge as he moved closer, dropping down on one knee in front of her. Matt’s hands slipped sensuously up her arms, sending a tingling of excitement racing through Amy.
She trembled, feeling his fingers lightly caress her cheek, then trail along the line of her jaw. Then he slowly moved one finger back and forth over her full lower lip. He was so close she could feel his breath fanning her face.
“Have you any idea how special you are? How much I want you, Amy?” Huskiness lingered in his voice.
“Do you believe in love at first sight, Angel? I didn’t… before I met you. The first time I saw you, I knew I wanted you in my life.”
A small smile broke Amy’s lips and Matt stopped the mesmerizing caress of her mouth. “Was that when you came to my apartment that night?”
“I’ve been aware of you for a very long time.” He grinned and placed a quick, and not so satisfying, kiss on her lips. “Now, let’s take a look at that ankle. You’ve been off it all day. I’m hopin’ it’s getting better.”
Amy gave an exaggerated huff and folded her arms across her chest. “Will you ever admit that you were following me in New York?”
“If you think that’s when I saw you first, then I guess that’s it, isn’t it?”
“Ooooh! You’re the most frustrating man I’ve ever met!”
A low chuckle rumbled through his chest. “Funny, Hannah said the same thing.”
“Gee.” Amy’s eyes grew wide with an exaggerated innocence. “I wonder why?”
“Now that, Angel, is one I can’t answer. I was always the model of decorum while I was married.” His eyes wandered over her bandaged foot and ankle, then made a pretense of raising the hem of her gown a wee bit higher than modesty would allow.
“I’m glad you clarified that, Mr. Mallory.” Keeping her expression stern, she snatched the fabric out of his hands, but failed to keep the smile in her eyes from moving to her lips. “Because now methinks you have a one-track mind.”
Another snicker and a look that could thaw all of Antarctica was his only reply before he raised her foot to rest on his thigh and bent to the task of unraveling the bandage.
“It feels better.”
“Swelling’s going down.”
Amy giggled. “I guess Molly was right. You can make hurts better.”
Matt’s thumb lightly caressed an angry purple bruise. A mischievous shine entered his eye. “And just imagine how good you’d feel if I kissed it better, too.”
“Well, kiss away.” She raised her foot off his knee and collapsed into a fit of giggles as he began planting kisses all over her ankle and calf, reminiscent of Gomez and Morticia Adams.
The light in Matt’s eyes changed. Maybe it was her imagination and it was just the firelight twinkling, but Amy wasn’t so sure. In fact, as his tongue lightly touched the underside of her knee, she was quite certain it wasn’t the flames reflecting in his eyes. At least not the flames from the fire. There seemed to be something new flickering deep in Matt’s eyes. Hope. Desire. Love.
The pit of her stomach tingled. Matt pulled back for a moment, his eyes never leaving hers while his warm fingers softly massaged the naked flesh behind her knees. Amy’s heart jolted and her pulse leapt to the spot he touched, beating out a crazy rhythm that betrayed the calm in her facade.
She reached out and drew him in to her, pulling his face up to meet hers and her lashes fluttered downward. Her mouth parted under the gentle pressure of Matt’s kiss. Still on his knees, he shifted closer drawing some of her gown and petticoat upward with the motion. He stroked a bare thigh as their kiss deepened and tongues melded. A small moan caught in Amy’s throat as she buried her hands in Matt’s hair. The coals of attraction smoldering deep in her body suddenly burst into flames of desire.
She quivered, the muscles of her thighs contracting lightly around him as he leaned in so close their bodies touched. His lips seared a molten trail down her throat as he greedily drank in her flesh, sending shivers of delight to race along the sensitive skin.
Impatient to feel the return of his mouth on hers, Amy cupped the sides of his face between her hands and returned his lips to their rightful place. His kiss was more demanding this time, reaching deeper into her soul with each flick of his tongue. Seemingly of its own volition, a soft thigh came up to encircle his waist, holding him tightly against her.