Release day is 13 October, three weeks from today!
It’s time to do the reveal for my next release, and it’s the second installment of The Sawtooth Mountains Stories!
You might remember that last year I blogged about the odd birth of this series, how the inspiration for the first book, Somewhere, hit me out of the blue in 2016, and when it was finished I wasn’t sure it fit my “brand” or whatever, so there was this whole angsty and misguided decision to publish it under a pen name–and then immediate regrets about using a pen name and a very quick decision to pull it from publication. It languished on my hard drive for months, but I love these people and their world, and I wanted to write more about them. (I still want to write more about them–in fact, I’m currently working on Book 3.) So I sucked it up and put Somewhere back out in the world, this time under my own name.
Even though this series is pretty different from my other series (specifically, there’s a lot less mayhem), Somewhere did quite well. I’m so glad it found its audience, some who like my other work, and some who don’t, and I’m so grateful for your support while I navigated my personal anxieties about publishing it … twice.
So today I’m thrilled to announce the upcoming publication of Book 2! Someday is Logan and Honor’s story, and it will be released on Saturday, 13 October. I’ll set up the preorder next week. I’ve set up the Goodreads page, if you’d like to add it to your TBR. As usual, Someday will be available on multiple digital platforms as well as paperback.
For those who want to know, my visual inspirations for Logan and Honor are Anson Mount (Hell on Wheels version, *swoons*) and Katheryn Winnick. I have a Pinterest board for the Sawtooth Mountains Stories, if you’re interested.
Here’s the description for Someday:
Honor Babinot is one of the best defense attorneys in Idaho, with a long list of high-profile wins on her resumé already. But her elite law firm is an old-boys’ club, and to the partners she’s just a ‘little lady,’ despite her success. After another major win in the courtroom, she makes a bold move to leave the swanky office behind and step out on her own.
Someday, she’ll reach the success she’s worked so hard for, and on her own terms.
Logan Cahill is the eldest son of a powerful rancher, and heir to the Cahill family legacy. He’s also a notorious ladies’ man, who’s avoided commitment to anything but his family. Now that he’s past forty, and his younger siblings have the next generation of Cahills handled, Logan is well set in his ways and perfectly content to be married to the Twisted C Ranch.
Someday, he’ll be head of the family he loves, and he wants nothing to draw him from it.
Since Honor saved Logan’s younger brother from conviction for a murder he didn’t commit, she’s taken up acreage in his head. Honor certainly remembers Logan. A chance encounter brings them back together, and sudden trouble draws them close. They can’t deny or resist the fire that ignites between them.
Honor is married to her career. Logan is married to the Twisted C. Neither wants to need the other. Neither has room in their plans for love.
But love has plans of its own.
And here are the first few scenes of Chapter 4 as a preview. NOTE: some spoilers here for Somewhere. Someday can be read as a standalone, but it is a continuation of the series, too.
Not surprisingly, there was a lot Honor didn’t know about how a law office worked, or how a small business worked. There had always been people to do the work of keeping things running. Even as an intern, she hadn’t had to attend to the minutiae of the business itself. Now, she was getting a crash course in the terrifying truth of independence.
It wasn’t just a matter of putting a desk in her crappy new office and finding clients. She’d known that, of course, but what she hadn’t known was how very much had to happen before she could even legally have the window repainted and call the place her office.
She’d applied for a small business loan, and her parents had lent her some money for start-up expenses, so Honor spent the first week studying up on all the legal forms she had to complete, inspections she had to pass, and fees she had to pay to become an LLC and open her doors. While she worked on all that, she ordered office furniture—inexpensive but not embarrassingly obviously so—and paper products like letterhead stationery and business cards. She designed the letterhead and her office sign herself, using Photoshop, and found a sign painter to do the work.
And she figured out a budget. That was terrifying, and the clearest indication of how much her circumstances had changed—because the very nature of her work had changed. No longer could she simply be a criminal defense attorney. Working out of a strip-mall office, with a client list of exactly one name so far, Honor would have to take all comers until she had her feet under her again. Personally, she’d have to economize quite a lot so she could be sure to keep her apartment, and hopefully her car, too.
She also figured out how much she could afford to pay an assistant, and when she called Debbie and told her what she could offer, there was a long, long, painful silence on the other end before Debbie said she had to think it through and asked for a day to give her answer.
That was yesterday. Today, while Honor waited to find out if she’d have to place an ad and hire someone she didn’t know to manage her office and hopefully do some research and case prep, too, she was at the courthouse to file all her paperwork and become an official business owner.
It was disorienting to be in a courthouse she would have said she knew well and yet wander around unsure, because she’d never had to find the offices one went to to file papers.
Her phone rang while she stood in line for the third time, after being sent back for more information twice, to register her business license. She’d been scrolling Twitter to keep her mind occupied, so she saw it was Debbie right away, and her stomach leapt up and slapped her heart. “Hey, Debbie.”
“Hi. I’m not calling with an answer. I need a little more time for that.”
It was Friday. Honor had been out of work for more than two weeks now, spending money but not earning it. She had savings, and her parents, but she didn’t want to deplete either any more than she had to. “Okay, how much time?”
“Just the weekend. I’ll know one way or the other by Monday.”
“Okay.” Over the weekend, she’d draft an ad and be ready to post it widely online Monday, if Debbie said no.
“That’s not why I’m calling, though.”
“Oh. What’s up?” The line inched forward as a broad-shouldered man with thick, longish salt-and-pepper hair stepped to the counter and leaned on it—seeing only his back and his posture, Honor, who read people for a living, knew him to be the kind of overly confident man who flirted with every woman he met and was quite certain they all responded to him.
That made her think of the driver from her last night out with the girls. Tyler. He’d been broad-shouldered and long-haired, and that kind of confident. Drunk, she’d been totally into him. Sober, she’d been mercilessly ashamed of herself and deeply suspicious of his smug cockiness.
He hadn’t tried to take advantage of her drunkenness, however. That was nice. She’d never called him—she’d been too mortified the day after, and anyway, she had far too much going on to start dating anyone right now.
She always had too much going on for that.
Debbie had just said something that Honor had totally missed. “I’m sorry, what? I’m in line at the courthouse. It’s hard to focus.”
“Judith called this morning, looking for you.”
“Judith Jones? Is she okay?” The girl had been free for less than three weeks. Honor had arranged for a placement for her at a woman’s shelter after the verdict, but honestly, everything in her life had gone topsy-turvy immediately after that case, so she hadn’t thought much about her since.
“I don’t think so. It’s not legal trouble, but she sounds bad, Honor. She says she needs to talk to you. When I told her you weren’t with the firm anymore, she burst into tears. I didn’t know what else to do, so I’m seeing her this afternoon, but it’s you she wants.”
The line inched forward as another clerk opened up. Cocky Wonderhair was still chatting up his clerk. Honor stared daggers at his broad back, encased in a tailored, obviously expensive, dark grey suit coat, which topped fashionably faded jeans.
The sign painter was scheduled to be at her crappy new office that afternoon, and there was nobody but Honor to let him in. At this rate, she wouldn’t make it.
She did not have the time—or, now, the resources—to rescue Judith Jones. She’d done all she could for her already. “I don’t know what to do, Debbie. My office isn’t ready, and I can’t go to the firm. There’s nothing I can do.”
“She trusts you, Honor. She’s overwhelmed and scared, and she needs somebody who understands her. You’re her only friend.”
“I’m not her friend, Debbie. I was her lawyer.”
“Honor. Why’d you leave BWC? Was it just money?”
“No. It was …” She stopped. Why had she left? Money hadn’t even been a factor. She’d earned well there. It was respect. Worth. Justice.
None of those things had monetary value. They all should be the foundation of anything she did in the future. Which was, of course, Debbie’s point. “The sign painter is coming to the office this afternoon, so I have to be there, and I’ve got the Mayor’s Civic Awards banquet tonight.” An event she’d have preferred to bail on, but it was one of the biggest events Emily planned, and she had to be there to provide support and panic-abatement. Besides, it was a great opportunity for networking, and Honor needed all the networking she could manage. Already she’d had to get control of a rumor that she’d been ‘let go’ from the firm.
Judith Jones couldn’t be much help to her career, but Honor could spare some time to see if there was something she could do to help this poor girl who’d been thrown into an adulthood alone, without any preparation whatsoever. “Can you bring her to me on the Bench? Say three o’clock? It’s on La Cassia.” When she gave Debbie the address, embarrassment brushed over her tongue.
“We’ll be there. Thank you, Honor.”
As she ended the call, the line moved forward again, and Honor saw Cocky Wonderhair heading toward her, finally finished hogging the clerk. His head was down as he scanned through his papers, but a bolt of recognition hit her. She knew him. From where?
Then he looked up, and she knew exactly who he was. At the same time, he saw, and recognized, her, and he smiled. “Honor! Hey!”
Logan Cahill, older brother of Heath Cahill, the man she’d defended against a first-degree murder charge six months ago. Salt-and-pepper beard to match his salt-and-pepper Wonderhair. Blue-grey eyes, framed with crinkles. Cocky, white-toothed grin. A white, tailored dress shirt under his expensive blazer, two buttons open at the throat. The pewter rodeo charm he wore on a leather cord around his neck peeked out from under the placket of his shirt, resting on his bare skin.
She hadn’t seen him since just after the trial, and they hadn’t parted on good terms, but damn, he was pretty. Despite herself, she answered his grin with a smile. “Hi, Logan.”
His hand wrapped around her arm, and he leaned down and in to kiss her cheek. His beard brushed her skin, and the muscles between her legs clenched.
“What are you doing here?” he asked while his mouth was still close enough that she felt his breath.
“Filing some papers. You?”
“Same. Doing some work at the Moondancer that’s wound with bright red county tape.”
The Moondancer was a dude ranch just outside the Cahills’ hometown of Jasper Ridge, on the eastern edge of the county. “Oh, that’s right. You guys bought that place, didn’t you?” The Cahills were a wealthy ranching family. Logan’s father, Morgan, the family patriarch, was a serious mover and shaker in politics all through the state. The Moondancer Ranch, and its owner, Catherine Spelling, had featured prominently in Heath’s trial and suffered badly because of it. She’d heard through the grapevine that the Cahills had bought the property at the end of last year.
“Majority share.” He eyed the line up and down. “Don’t you have staff to do the line-standing for you?”
“Not anymore. Don’t you?”
“Family business, darlin’. Today I am the line-standing staff. Had to be in town anyway, for the mayor’s awards thing.”
“You’re going to that?” Well, shit. “Did you win something?”
“No, no. My dad’s sponsoring a new award, and I’m announcing it tonight. So I’m hanging out in Boise for the weekend, and I told Wes I’d file his papers.” He cocked his head. “Will you be there?”
The person standing behind Honor gave a harshly rhetorical clearing of his throat, and Honor saw that another clerk had opened a window, and the line had moved several feet. She was up next. She used the chance to avoid Logan’s question and end their encounter. “Well, have a good time tonight.”
His eyes narrowed a bit, and Honor thought he’d press for an answer to his question, but apparently he thought better of it. “Yeah. It was good to see you, counselor.”
Rather than return the sentiment, Honor smiled and offered him a subtle nod. Then a clerk called, “Next!” and she turned away.
At the counter, as she handed over her completed forms and the check she’d already filled out, she glanced over her shoulder, but Logan Cahill was long gone.
When Debbie and Judith came into the office, Honor felt that accursed brush of embarrassment again. Since she’d left Bellamy White, she’d been caroming violently between hopeful self-assuredness and desperate panic, and she had to get control of her attitude. She. Had. Made. This. Choice. She was in the driver’s seat, in control of her destiny. That was what she’d wanted, so she needed to own this and be proud of every accomplishment.
In less than three weeks, she’d secured a small business loan, leased office space, furnished it, outfitted it with sufficient supplies, designed and ordered letterhead and business cards, hired a sign painter to change the window from MARTY HIBBERT, CPA to Honor Babinot, Attorney at Law. On Monday, she would open her doors, though she’d be doing all the work herself until she could hire a paralegal.
She’d crested the first hill already. She had nothing to be embarrassed about.
“It looks nice,” Debbie said as she led Judith in.
“Thanks,” Honor said and made herself hold back a self-deprecating comment about it not having quite the same view she’d had before. “Hi, Judith. How’re you doing?”
The sign painter, standing on a ladder at the window, did a double take, stared for a second, then offered Honor’s guests a polite nod. Had he recognized Judith from all the news coverage? Honor had just said her name, which wasn’t particularly common.
The girl—woman, she was a young woman, not a child, which was why there was no one to help her—wore the same ill-fitting navy blue suit and white urethane pumps she’d favored at trial. Honor had used the firm incidental fund to buy her a couple of nicer dresses for trial, but she’d thought they were too fancy and refused to wear them to court. For weeks, she’d worn that blue suit, with a limited cycle of a few rayon shells in different pastels. In every single photograph of her taken during the trial, she looked exactly as she did now.
She smiled shyly and tucked her hair behind her ears. “How do, Miss Babinot. I’m glad to see you.” She darted a glance toward the sign painter, standing on his ladder. Honor decided they needed to get away from the interloper.
Honor gestured toward the sole interior door, which led to a stunted hallway, the bathroom, and her private office. “Let’s leave Greg to his work. We can talk in my office.”
Though in the outer room, which would serve as both the waiting room and her assistant’s office space, she’d economized as much as possible, in her own office, she’d taken some time to make it appealing—for herself and her prospective clients. She hadn’t spent too much money, though. Mostly, she’d pillaged from her own apartment, emptying out her home study and swiping a set of Danish armchairs from her living room.
“Oh, this is nice,” Judith gushed as she sat, swiveling to take in the whole windowless space. “You must be doin’ real well, to get a whole place like this to yourself.”
“I’m doing okay.” Honor sat at her desk. “What’s going on, Judith? Why’d you want to see me? Are you in trouble?”
“No, ma’am. Not law trouble. But I don’t like that place you put me.”
The shelter was generally regarded as the best in the county. Residents had comfortable rooms shared with only one roommate. They all shared family-style meals for breakfast and dinner. Life skills and occupational training classes were provided, as well as remedial reading, writing, and math classes. Not to mention therapy and security—most of the residents had histories of abuse, and many were still under threat from their abusers. Honor couldn’t think of a better place for a damaged girl like Judith to be. “Why not? What happened?”
“They keep tellin’ me what to do. When I got to get in by, when I can go out, when I got to go to class, what class I got to take, when I got to do work, what work I got to do. I was locked up my whole life, my daddy telling me every day what to do, and this place ain’t much different.”
“Is anyone bothering you? Hurting you?”
“Not hurting, but they all bothering me. I just want to be free for a change and do what I want.” Her quiet defiance fragmented, and her lip began to quiver. “Miss Rupert, she said I was on a warning now, but all I did was tell her I’m not cleaning up after other people no more.”
“That’s not all you did, Judith,” Debbie cut in.
Judith chewed on her lip. “It is. But I slammed a door and the window in it broke.”
Honor made herself imagine this pale, frail woman slamming a door that hard, and remembered the violence she’d done to her father. “What would you like me to do?”
“Can’t you find me a different place? Maybe a little house of my own?”
She’d never been in the world, never had any experience except what her father had done to her, and then jail and trial. There was absolutely no possible way for Judith Jones to manage out in the world alone. But Honor could see why she found the shelter so constraining. She was a young woman with a child’s understanding of the world and her place in it; she’d been chained all her life, and she rebelled against any restraint now.
Honor glanced at Debbie, sitting quietly beside Judith, looking every inch the PTA mom she was. She got the sense that Debbie had a lot of opinions about what Judith should do, and maybe had shared them with her already, but now was working hard at letting Honor handle things her way.
“You don’t have to stay at the shelter, Judith. You are old enough that you can leave whenever you want. But if you leave, you’ll be totally on your own. There’s no better place I can help you with. If you’d like a little house of your own, you’ll need to get educated and find a job and start earning money. The counselors at the shelter are there to help you learn all the things you never got a chance to learn before, and help you get ready so you can have the life you want. They have rules so that everything’s fair for everyone, and so that you have a chance to learn. But honey, nobody gets to do whatever they want. Being a grownup, living on your own, means having to do things you don’t want every single day, and having to do what other people say. You just get to choose who you have to listen to and who you can ignore.”
“You have to do what people say?”
“Sure! I have to pay bills on time, I had to file papers and pay fees so I could open this office. Being free doesn’t mean you don’t have obligations and responsibilities. It just means that sometimes you get to pick what responsibilities you have.”
“That’s not what I thought at all.”
“I tell you what. Why don’t you go back to the shelter, tell Ms. Rupert you’re sorry for what you did, and give the place, say, three months. Follow the rules, take the opportunities they offer, and see if it doesn’t help you figure out how to be free.”
“If I stay, can I see you sometimes? I don’t got nobody else to talk to.”
“You can talk to your counselor, Judith. They’re there to help you.”
“But they don’t know me. You know me. You understand.”
Honor took one of her brand-new business cards from the brand-new holder on her desk. With the silver Mont Blanc pen her father had given her when she passed the bar, she wrote her personal cell number on the back. “Okay. Here’s my number, this office on the front, and my cell on the back. You can call me when you need to talk, and when I have some time for lunch or something, I’ll call you. But in the meantime, you try to make it work at the shelter, and maybe try to make friends with the other women there. They have stories, too. I’ll bet they’ll understand you, too. Does that sound good?”
Judith took the card and stared at it. Her reading skills weren’t great, but they were sufficient to read a business card. “Okay. Thank you. Can I stay here for awhile now?”
“No, I’m sorry. I have work to do, and I’ve got plans in a couple hours. But soon, okay?” Honor could feel the skidding pebbles of a slippery slope under her feet, but she didn’t know a better course of action. She had defended this young woman against a murder charge and seen her freed. The law had no more interest in her, until and unless she was again suspected of a crime. Honor did feel responsible for her; Judith was out in a world she didn’t understand because Honor had won her case—and that had been the just result. What Judith had suffered her whole life was beyond comprehension. If she hadn’t killed her father, she would still be suffering. Her act had been true self-defense.
But the girl was capable of real violence, and Honor had turned her loose in Boise. She couldn’t ignore her now.
As she led Debbie and Judith back to the front door, Honor turned and said, “Call me if you need help, and I’ll call soon and take you to lunch. Okay?”
Judith grinned. “Okay. Thank you, Honor.”
It was the first time she’d used her first name. Honor found it strangely unsettling.
But as Debbie stepped across the threshold to the parking lot, she turned back and said, “I need to give them two weeks. Can you hold the fort until then?”
All her worries about Judith Jones evaporated at once. “Yes! Yes! That’s great! Thank you!”
“I can’t take a penny less than you said on the phone. Be straight with me right now if you’re not sure you can pay me that, and do it on time. I’ve got a teenage boy to keep in cheeseburgers.”
Honor had been diligent and careful in working out a salary. For Debbie, she’d added a bump over what she’d pay a stranger, and she’d taken it straight from what she meant to earmark for her own living expenses. “I can pay you, Debbie.”
“Then I’ll be here two weeks from Monday. Earlier, if they do me like they did you.”
That wouldn’t be the case; Honor had had a clear schedule when she’d given notice and Silas had sent her packing. Debbie was working on cases. They’d squeeze every last second out of her.
“I’ll see you in two weeks!” She had a surprising, and strong, urge to hug Debbie, but Honor wasn’t a hugger, so instead she clamped her hands together until the urge passed, and she watched her former—current?—client and her new—old?—paralegal walk across the cracked parking lot.
“That was that girl who killed her daddy, huh?” the sign painter mused as he packed up his supplies.
Honor turned without answering and studied his handiwork. She was reading it backward, but it looked good—clean and classy. “You did a good job.”
“Thanks. You did too, helpin’ that girl out. I saw the news about what her daddy did. Wasn’t right, her gettin’ arrested.”
“No, it wasn’t.”
She hoped it was right setting her free.
“You look real good, counselor.”
The words were purred right at her ear. Standing at the bar waiting for another round of wine for the girls, Honor sent a sidelong glance in that direction. “Hi, Logan.”
She’d known she’d see him here—she’d dressed for that eventuality, in a sleek black off-the-shoulder cocktail dress—but she hadn’t thought it would be so soon, while people were still wandering the room. It was like he’d been looking for her—but she hadn’t told him she’d be here.
“Hey.” He lifted an eyebrow as the bartender set three glasses on the bar before her—Emily was busy running the banquet, so Lizbet, Callie, and Honor were on their own, taking up half of one of the tables Lizbet called ‘Event Siberia’—for the unremarkable guests without a plus-one. “Either you’re not alone, or you had a very hard day.”
“I’m not alone.”
“But you’re not here with a date, either?”
“What makes you say that?”
“Three glasses. Somebody’s the odd one out.”
“And you assume that’s me? Are you here with a date, Mr. Cahill?”
“No, ma’am, I am not.” He nodded toward one of the head tables, for honored guests. “That poor, lonely empty seat is mine.”
Honor shifted her body, turning to face the man directly. Despite his beard and shoulder-length hair—longer than before—he wasn’t the least bit scruffy. He had the debonair good looks her mother would call ‘dashing,’ and Honor had been truly into him during the months of his brother’s trial and its preparation. At first, he’d been contentious with her, arguing with her every explanation or piece of advice, angry when she didn’t tell him what he wanted to hear, but then, during the trial, his attitude had changed, and he’d made it quite clear that he was into her as well. He’d pressed the point a few times, once or twice going right up to the line where it would have stopped being flattering and become harassment.
He’d probably crossed that line, but she’d wanted him, so her line had been pretty flexible at the time.
But Honor had a firm rule about fraternizing with clients or their families—it wasn’t only her rule but a serious breach of professional ethics—and she’d held him off, telling him they had to wait until she wasn’t representing his brother any longer.
When the case was over and she was free to be with him, Logan vanished.
During her preparation for Heath’s trial, Honor had researched every crack and corner of his life. All his family members, all his friends, his whole town. She’d learned just about everything there was to know about the entire Cahill clan. Its wealth and power, its history, the personalities and personal skeletons of every member. And she knew very well how to interpret facts to make understanding. To see truth.
Thus, she knew that Logan Cahill, eldest child of Morgan Cahill, had never been in a serious relationship, though he had a prodigious reputation as a ladies’ man. Logan was the kind of man who preferred unattainable women. He’d fuck just about anything, but he wooed women he couldn’t have. Other men’s wives, for the most part.
During the trial, when she was working sixteen hour days seven days a week, at constant maximum stress, trying to build a story out of thin air that would win an unwinnable case, Logan had wooed her hard. His calm, lighthearted presence had been like a cool breeze on her overheated brain, his attention had given her something else to think about, and she’d worked herself into a crush powerful enough to discount what she knew of his predilections. She’d fallen into the old trap of thinking she was different, that his feelings for her were the real deal.
But then, when she’d won his brother’s case and been available, Logan had been gone. She hadn’t been different at all.
Standing before him again for the first time since she’d confronted that realization last fall, Honor felt both the allure of her crush and the sting of its disappointment. She’d spent weeks reliving a single kiss, waiting for the opportunity to really dive in to the next one, and a not-insignificant part of her brain (or maybe it wasn’t her brain) still wanted that chance. But the rest of her pretty much wanted to send the pointed toe of her nude Louboutin into his balls and walk away.
“Don’t flirt with me, Logan. You had your chance.”
He took one step toward her, leaving barely two inches between them. His head dipped to hers. “No second chances?”
“Are you sure you want one? Like I said, I’m not here with a date. There’s nobody for you to get over on by fucking me.”
He blinked and took a step back, his Cary Grant grin erased. “Whoa. That was …”
“Entirely warranted. Go back to your bored trophy wives, Logan.” She picked up the full wineglasses with one hand, using a skill she’d honed in high school and college, working summers at a country club restaurant.
He set a hand—large, strong, manicured, but on the rough side—on her arm, at the crook of her elbow. “Honor, wait. I’m sorry I didn’t call you. There was a lot going on, and Jasper Ridge is two hours away. I didn’t know how it would work, if we got together.”
Could they not have had this discussion at the time? Yes, of course they could have. Well, they weren’t going to have it at this late date. “Have you packed up the town and moved it?”
He chuckled. “No, can’t say we have.”
“Then Jasper Ridge is still two hours away. So what is it that’s changed?”
His eyes clashed fiercely with hers. He didn’t like this, being rejected. Honor was surprised, and irritated, to realize she felt a little bit sorry for the guy—and for herself as well.
Not enough to let him off the hook, so she stared back and waited for him to remove his hand.
He finally did. “Nothing, I guess. Have a good night.”
She walked away—and saw that Lizbet and Callie had been hawkeyeing that whole exchange. They were practically drooling in anticipation of their chance to grill her about the handsome, tuxedoed cowboy at the bar.
Honor sighed. She should have asked the bartender for the whole bottle.
“Who was that?” Lizbet asked, taking a glass from Honor’s hand.
“Logan Cahill.” Honor handed Callie a glass and finally took a long, restorative swallow from her own. “I know him from the murder trial I worked last year. His brother was my client.”
“Oh yeah!” Lizbet nodded. “The sexy cowboy who didn’t kill the man who killed his little girl. Damn! The gene pool in that family is wide and deep.”
“He’s still looking, Honor,” Callie observed. “Did you reject him?”
Honor looked over to the bar. Logan stood there, watching. It didn’t appear that he’d even ordered a drink yet. Seeing her see him again, he didn’t look away, or try to interact again. He just met her eyes and locked on.
She turned back to her friends, away from him. “It’s complicated, but yes. Logan Cahill and I are not, and will not be, a Thing.”
“Well, that’s a crying shame. Nothing that pretty should be left behind. I might have to introduce myself.”
Honor felt a flare of jealous irritation at Lizbet’s suggestion, but she smiled. “Be my guest, but I warn you, he only likes women he can’t have.”
“Ohhhh,” Callie and Lizbet said, in unison. “That’s it, then,” Lizbet added.
“It’s your ice queen mystique,” Callie said. “You are a woman he can’t have—hence his fascination. I mean, not that you aren’t fascinating as a rule.”
Usually it was Lizbet who came up with the snarky barbs. From there, Honor was prepared to take them. Snark wasn’t Callie’s style, and it hurt more coming from her.
“I’m not an ice queen!”
Lizbet snorted, and Honor lifted her middle finger off her glass.
“Of course you’re not, honey,” Callie soothed, patting Honor’s knee. “We know the real you, and you’re warm and sweet and wonderful. But you’re always so buried in work, and you see everything like a case to be won.
Ouch. “You work as much as I do, Cal. We’re all obsessed with our work.”
“Not like you. We all work long hours, but the rest of us can set it aside. I don’t have my fingers in a patient’s brain when I’m away from the hospital. Liz doesn’t sit at the table grading papers. Emily is more like you, but even she can turn it off. You, though—until we get enough booze in you, you never stop thinking about work.”
It sure felt like her friend had her fingers in her brain right now. Honor finished her wine. “You know what? This conversation really sucks, and I am too stressed out to keep having it. I need more wine. Liz, why don’t you go up and get another round. You can find out if you’re unavailable enough for Logan while you’re there.”
She didn’t miss the glance that fired between her friends, and that just pissed her off more. Feeling sullen and entirely overwhelmed by every facet of life, Honor sagged back in her seat and crossed her arms. The very second she could get out of here without hurting Emily’s feelings, she was gone.
© 2018 Susan Fanetti
Today is reveal day for the cover, title, and description of Stand, The Brazen Bulls MC Book 7. I’ll set up the preorder next week, in advance of its release on Saturday, 1 September–four weeks from today!
Stand is Caleb and Cecily’s story. If you’re caught up with the series, you know that Caleb and Cecily have had a couple thorny encounters in the past, and that Cecily has NOT been in a good place since her dad’s death. She’s basically a mess, and she knows it.
Caleb’s gotten into some serious trouble for his encounters with Cecily, and he’s got the scars to show for it, but he’s a patch now, with full standing in the club. Still, Cecily has a whole lot of stand-in fathers who’ve taken on the responsibility to keep her safe. Maverick in particular. Caleb is going to have to be right with them to get close to her.
They’re not the only family he’s got to get right with. He’s got troubles of his own at home, with a grandfather and a brother disappointed in the direction he’s aimed his life.
This story takes place mostly in 2001. Another major upheaval in the club is brewing, and chaos is about to hit the world as well.
Here’s the description for Stand:
Tulsa, Oklahoma, 2001.
Caleb Mathews is caught between two worlds: Osage Nation, the world of his ancestors, and the Brazen Bulls MC, the world of his brothers. Straddling both, he struggles to be steady in either. The pull he feels most strongly is to his club. There, he knows he’ll someday find his place to stand. But to choose them is to betray his blood.
After her father’s violent death, Cecily Nielsen turned her back on the Brazen Bulls—the world that her father helped create, and the only family she’d ever known. Now, she’s lost in the dark, unsure of what she has or who she is. Going nowhere, toward nothing, and spiraling out of control.
When Cecily finds herself in danger, it’s the Bulls she calls for rescue, and Caleb who answers. She doesn’t want to need the Bulls, whom she blames for her father’s death—and she especially doesn’t want to need Caleb, who’s seen her at her worst. But in her lowest moment, she calls out for the family she remembers, and Caleb brings her home.
At Cecily’s side as she finds her footing, Caleb finds his as well. Together, they stand on solid ground, and they keep each other steady when the club and the world itself fall into chaos.
The one who’s seen the worst of you and stays strong at your side is the one to hold close.
And the first half of Chapter One as a teaser:
“Can you give me a hand, Chief?”
Closing his eyes against the clench at the base of his skull that word always brought on, Caleb sighed and turned back to the truck. When he didn’t move right away to help, Van, one of the Great Plains Riders, tried to pull the last crate of AKs out on his own.
Caleb had had his top rocker almost a year—long enough that these assholes owed him some respect. Van knew Caleb’s name as well as Caleb knew his.
He was of a mind to let Van try to carry that crate his damn self. Instead, he stalked over and jumped up into the nearly empty compartment. “Call me ‘Chief’ again, and I’ll lift a tomahawk from a museum just so I can scalp you with it, motherfucker.” He shoved at the crate and pushed it around, then jumped down and grabbed hold of the side Van hadn’t been struggling with.
Van gaped at him. “Fuck, man, no offense meant. Didn’t know you were so sensitive.”
He wasn’t, generally. It always pissed him off, but he usually let it go without comment. If he fought every asswipe who threw that word his way, he’d never stop fighting. But there were some times and places he wouldn’t tolerate it. This was one of them. “Now you know. Lift.”
They lifted, and carried the crate into the quiet factory in the middle of Bumfuck, Nebraska, where Colin Murphy, the Riders’ VP, and Becker, the Bulls’ new VP, were heaving the crates through a trap door and into the basement below.
Setting this final crate on the floor, Caleb stood straight and looked around. The factory didn’t run on weekends, so the only people in the place right now were bikers on this job.
It wasn’t much, just a corrugated steel building with a cement floor and a framed-out storage area in the basement. About two dozen sewing machines, some pretty standard-looking and others pretty weird, were set up in neatly organized rows. He imagined that all those machines were run by hunched-over women during working hours, and this place was loud as hell.
Liberty Embroidery, it was called. Murphy’s cousin or something ran the place. They did embroidery for uniforms and patches—including the patches and flash on the Bulls’ and the Riders’ kuttes. And on hats and uniforms for Little League, and regional high schools, and all that. It was a humble family business and a great, low-profile location for short-term storage of black-market Russian weaponry.
It reminded Caleb a little bit of the beading business his grandma Jewel had run. That place was even smaller than this—just his grandma and his mom, his aunts, and a couple other women, and they’d mostly worked by hand, but they’d had a little storefront shop and worked in back, and their tables had been lined up a lot like this place.
The Osage were known for their elaborate traditional beadwork. Some patterns were sacred and only for their people, but the white suburbanites who wanted to hang tribal art above their sofas didn’t know a traditional Osage beading from a wallpaper pattern. As long as it was crafted by Osage women, they were content to pay top dollar. The shop had made a reasonable living for them all.
Most of what he knew of the shop, or his grandma, or his mom, came from old photographs and stories his grandfather told. His memories of them were sketchy and blurred; he’d been only seven when an overtired delivery driver had lost control of his truck, driven through the back of the shop, and killed them all. Every female member of his family gone, all at once. His grandfather had raised him and his brother.
Every time he stood in this place, his hazy memories of his grandma’s shop, and every woman of his family, rose up and perched on his shoulder for a day or two.
A hand slammed onto his shoulder now. “You ready, brother?” Apollo asked.
Caleb looked around—the crates were gone, and the trap door was closed up, with one of the sewing stations moved over it. Four Bulls and three Riders stood idle.
He shook off his ghosts. “Yeah. Let’s ride.” Time to get his ass back home.
Tulsa to just outside Lincoln and back again in one day was a long fucking haul, long enough that they couldn’t do it when Delaney or Eight Ball rode this run—Delaney because he was too old to ride all day, and Eight because his bad leg wouldn’t hold up for ten or twelve hours in the saddle. But this time, one of the few times that they ran all three runs at once, it was Becker, Apollo, Fitz, Slick, and Caleb riding north—nobody too old, everybody spry. With the truck empty of dangerous cargo, they got some speed going, too, and carved off an hour or so from the trip home.
The riders on the northern run would be back in town first; the other runs planned to stop for the night. With Delaney still on the road, and no call to the chapel likely, Caleb peeled off from his brothers near Ponca City and headed east, toward his grandfather’s place in Pawhuska.
This whole portion of Oklahoma, the huge wedge from Tulsa north and northwest to the Kansas state line that was Osage County, was Osage land, but there wasn’t an actual reservation in Oklahoma. Not like other reservations, which worked in part like separate countries, with firm borders. Through a series of political moves on the part of the federal government back in the 1800s and into the 1900s, moves that Caleb, much to his grandfather and brother’s chagrin, hadn’t studied well enough to entirely understand, the state of Oklahoma sort of overlaid Osage Nation, and tribal members coexisted with other Oklahomans. The result was that the Osage were a minority on their own reservation. But the Osage had three towns in Osage County that were substantially populated by tribal members, and they still held communal mineral rights as well. Including oil rights.
Those ‘headrights’ had been bones of contention between the Osage and whites for all the years the tribe had existed in Oklahoma—and they were here only because they’d been forced off their ancestral lands to the north and east. Back in the Twenties, Caleb’s great-grandfather had been murdered by a white rancher and his mob, set on stealing his land and the oil beneath it. Dozens of Osage had been killed in a span of a few years back then, in a plot worthy of a novel.
The tribe wasn’t nearly as rich as it had once been, but the land was still Osage land, and honestly, Caleb thought they were better off than most tribes. Not being fenced in had given them power in negotiation with Washington that others never had. That murderous rancher and his accomplices had been found out and imprisoned. They had good ranchland. They’d had oil. The elders were in talks with the federal government to remediate losses taken from the tribe through fraud and coercion. And now the tribal council was arguing, with the state and with each other, about casinos.
The sun had just about set when he made it to Pawhuska. Twilight turned the little town to shadows, but the last rays of sun behind him still flashed amber on the Main Street shop windows and made his shadow roll out long and thin on the road ahead of him. He rolled through town and hung a right, taking that road all the way to the end, where it gave up any pretense of being a paved road and hooked around near Bird Creek. He pulled his bike up on the broken blacktop of his grandfather’s driveway and parked behind his old Ford pickup.
Before he’d killed the engine, he could hear Ace barking, and by the time he had the stand down, the blue heeler had barreled up from the back. The dog jumped up onto his lap, that strident, ear-splitting bark still tearing from his mouth, even as his tongue turned Caleb’s face into a dripping mess.
Holding the wriggling dog, Caleb dismounted and got down on the ground with him to wrestle for a minute, until his grandfather’s whistle sliced the air, and the dog tore off toward it.
Caleb rose from the scrubby yard and brushed himself off as his grandfather ambled to him. They met under the dusk-to-dawn light humming in the front yard. The eerie glow directly above their heads deepened the creases and divots in the old man’s hawkish, pockmarked face and turned it into a death mask.
And then he smiled, and that fearsome look vanished. “Caleb. Didn’t expect you.”
“Hey, Grampa. Coming back from a ride, and I thought I’d stop in and see how you’re doing.”
Caleb was careful not to call it a ‘run,’ but his grandfather’s smile still wavered a bit at his words. He didn’t like that Caleb was a Bull. “I’m good. You hungry? I was about to heat up some stew and cornbread.”
“That’s okay. I can’t stay long. I’m going over to Kelly’s.”
The smile came back, this time with a hook of wry understanding. “So you’re here to get a shower before you go on a date.”
Not a date, exactly. More booty call. Kelly didn’t know he was coming over. But she never said no, and she was almost always around. She worked liked ten-hour days at the market, five or six days a week, so when she was home, she was home. But she was always game for some sweaty sex, and he liked a good fuck after a long run. Got the kinks out.
Kelly wasn’t the only sure thing in his life. In Tulsa, there was a clubhouse full of sweetbutts there for the pleasure of the Bulls. But sweetbutts tried so damn hard. They were all big hair and huge jewelry, and tits and ass everywhere. Most of them were heavily inked, too. There was some appeal, sure, but he liked normal girls, too. Kelly wasn’t the kind of girl anybody noticed on the street; even her Osage features were bland. But she was easy to be with, and sometimes that was exactly what he needed.
“I’m here to see you. And to get a shower. If that’s okay.”
His grandfather laughed. “Come on, son. Wash the road dust off you. I’ll get you a beer.”
Kelly’s roommate opened the door and rolled her eyes. “You’re such a shit, Caleb. You could at least call first. I’m surprised you don’t come to the door with your dick already out.”
“Gena, back off,” Kelly said from within. “Hey, Caleb.”
He looked over Gena’s head and into the room. Kelly was sitting on the sofa, still in her work smock. The television flickered blue over her face. “Hey, Kell.” He held up the flat box burning his hand. “I brought pizza.” He raised the six pack in his other hand. “And beer. Want to hang out?”
Kelly must have nodded or otherwise indicated assent, because Gena heaved a gale-force sigh, shoved the door open, and stepped clear. “There better be enough pizza for me, too.”
“Extra large. Plenty even for your wide ass.”
She kicked at the back of his knee and nearly sent him headlong. “Asshole.”
He stumbled but kept his feet and turned to her with a grin. “Bitch.”
They’d all grown up together, were all Osage kids, and had been friends their whole lives. He’d never dated either of them—or anybody, really, until after high school—but a year or so ago, right around the time he got his top rocker, he and Kelly had started up this semi-regular thing, and Gena had always been weird about it. Not jealous, but hostile. Caleb didn’t have to guess why; she said it outright every chance she got. She wanted more for Kelly than a booty call. But it wasn’t like he was keeping her from having a relationship, or even getting laid by other guys. He saw her once a week, at the most. She’d been spending her nights sitting on her sofa watching television before they’d started their thing.
Kelly got up from the sofa and dragged over to their Formica table as he opened the box and pulled three beers from the pack. Her hair was up the way she wore it for work, pulled hard back from her face and all knotted up on the top of her head. First thing when they got back to her room, he was going to pull that down. Then he’d get that sad smock off of her. And then he’d see if he couldn’t put a smile on her.
“Yeah! Oh God, oh shit! Shit! Harder!”
Caleb clutched Kelly’s hips and shifted his position, bringing his left leg up and planting his foot on her mattress so he could get better leverage and give her what she wanted. With his next thrust, she squealed—the sound had a weird metallic undertone, and it wasn’t until his phone rang again that he understood what it was.
Fuck. His fucking club burner. Fuck, fuck, fuck. He thrust a couple more times, trying to ignore it, but he couldn’t let it go. They had two teams out on runs.
He’d stopped moving, and she was close. The phone rang again. “I have to get that.” When he pulled out, she shrieked in frustration.
“You’re shitting me,” she gasped as he stood.
The phone was still ringing when he dug it out of his kutte pocket. “Yeah!”
A female voice he almost recognized, thought he should know, asked, “Mav?”
“No, wrong number, sorry.” Apollo did some weird shit with the burner phones, collecting them every now and then and wiping them clean. They weren’t supposed to give anybody the numbers but club members, but everybody did it all the time, so he shuffled the phones around to make it harder to use them as personals. It hadn’t worked. By now, all the old ladies had all the numbers, and they just—wait. This wasn’t Jenny, Maverick’s old lady, and it sure as hell wasn’t his little girl, Kelsey. It wasn’t any old lady, he didn’t think. So who the fuck had Mav given this number to? A sweetbutt? No way. “Who’s this?”
“Who’s this?” The voice was so damn familiar. Maybe it was an old lady? The words were badly slurred; even those two syllables had taken a twisty path out of the speaker’s mouth.
“I asked you first.”
“I need Mav. It’s an em—emer—emercy. I needim. Sposed…callim.”
Jesus hell, he knew who this was. His heart did a weird shifty thing that he hated. “Cecily?”
Cecily was the oldest daughter of Dane, the first Bulls VP. He’d died on the clubhouse floor, at the hands of another Bull, and Cecily had been on some kind of collision course ever since—and doing her damnedest to pull as many people as she could along with her. Including Caleb.
“Mav? Need you.”
“Mav’s in Texas, Ciss. This is Caleb.”
“Need Mav. Hurry.” She’d started to whisper now, and Caleb heard other voices in the background. A lot of them.
“Where are you?”
“Dunno. Bad place. Needmav.” The phone went dead.
Behind him, Kelly had sat up. “What’s wrong?”
He ignored her and dialed the incoming number. When he didn’t get an answer, he called Apollo, who picked up on the first ring.
“Yeah.” Apollo whispered, and Caleb could hear him getting out of bed. Jacinda was pregnant, and they’d had some trouble getting and staying that way. Caleb pictured her sleeping and Apollo tiptoeing out of the room so he wouldn’t disturb her.
“It’s Caleb. There’s a problem with Cecily. Can you trace her phone?”
“She doesn’t have a club phone. I don’t know her number. What kind of problem?”
“I have it. She just called me. I don’t know the problem, but she sounds like she’s in trouble. She was looking for Mav, says she needs him. She said she was in a ‘bad place’.”
“Shit. Shit. I can’t—I don’t have the tech to trace any number I want to. Just ours. But give me the number and I’ll see if I can call in a favor at this time of night. You at your granddad’s?”
Close enough. “Yeah. I can come in, though.”
“You better. If she’s in real trouble, it’s gonna take more than one of us to get her. What’s her number? I’ll call a friend and see if I can get a trace. Meet me at the clubhouse.”
Caleb gave Apollo the number. They ended the call, and he pulled the condom off his deflated dick. “Sorry, Kell. I got to go.”
Kelly had the sheet tucked up across her chest. “I heard. She’s somebody important to you, this Cecily?”
“She’s the daughter of a friend.”
That answer was close enough to the truth. Caleb had been only a prospect at the time of Dane’s death, and he’d mostly been intimidated by the club officers. He hadn’t known the man well. But he’d gotten to know his daughter since his death. A bit too much, if you asked some. Not as much as he’d have liked to.
“Are you coming back?”
He buttoned up his jeans and grabbed his t-shirt. “I doubt it, not tonight. I’m really sorry.”
“That’s okay,” she sighed. “I hope she’s okay.”
“Thanks, sugar.” Caleb kissed Kelly on the cheek, grabbed his kutte, and split.
Apollo was waiting for him when Caleb got there, but otherwise, the clubhouse was deserted. Most of the club was still out on the southern and western runs, and the others were, he supposed, home in bed. Apollo apparently hadn’t called them. Not even Becker, their new VP.
It was hard to get used to the idea that Becker was their VP. Just a couple months ago, he’d been a grunt like the rest of them and not obviously a standout at the table. But with Ox retiring and going off to Mexico to wait for his cancer to kill him, and Rad not wanting the VP flash, Caleb guessed there wasn’t a better candidate.
Honestly, he would have thought Maverick the best fit. He was smart and definitely a standout at the table. But for reasons above Caleb’s pay grade, that hadn’t happened.
“I got her 20,” Apollo said as he met Caleb at the door. “She’s east of downtown, off of 11th Street.”
“11th?” That was all hookers and pushers. “What the fuck?”
“If I’m right, she’s in more trouble than just tonight. But we can’t go thundering in there, or we’ll start some kind of shit. That’s too close to Hounds turf.”
It was still Bulls ground, but that close to Greenwood, in the northern part of the area that used to be neutral before the Bulls won a war against the Street Hounds and claimed that turf in the truce, the boundary was porous. The Hounds had permission to sell there and cut the Bulls in.
The Bulls drew a strange and, from Caleb’s perspective, arbitrary line around drugs. Delaney wouldn’t hear of selling it or running it, he had some kind of moral superiority about it, but every damn thing they did was connected to drugs in some way. The guns they moved went to drug cartels and their dealers. And they took a cut from the Hounds’ drug trade in Tulsa. Caleb thought it was damn hypocritical to get all high and mighty about staying clear of drugs, when most of their income came from a Russian bratva up to its ushanka in every kind of drug there was. But he was at the bottom of the heap, so nobody much cared what he thought.
He got what Apollo was saying—Cecily was in some kind of drug den, almost definitely run by the Hounds, and if they went in hot, they could start more than a brawl. But they had to get Dane’s daughter out of there. “What’s the plan, then?”
“You and me. Just us, no colors. We’ll take the van and see if we can get her out quietly.”
“Should we carry?”
“Oh, yeah. Let’s not be stupid. But if we can avoid starting a new war, let’s do.”
from Stand © 2017 Susan Fanetti
Now that all the events I’m signed up for through next year have been announced, I thought I’d make a quick list with details for each. I’m linking to the FB groups for these events, where you can find links for tickets, merch, preorders, and the most updated information.
First, coming up in just a few weeks, is Motorcycles, Mobsters, and Mayhem in Cincinnati–Saturday, 28 July! This is a one-time-only themed signing event, with an amazing lineup of MC and Mafia romance writers, and I can’t wait!
Next, coming up this fall, is Penned Con 2018 in St. Louis, MO–20-22 September 2018! This will be my second appearance at Penned Con. I had a fantastic time last year, and can’t wait to return to my hometown!
I have a preorder up right now for this signing.
And finally, just announced yesterday, I’ll be attending RARE19 London on 21 September 2019. This will be my first international signing, and the lineup of authors is ASTOUNDING!
That’ll be it for me, I think, until 2020, so if you can make one of these signings, I would love to see you!
Have a great weekend!