I'm delighted that the lovely Christi Corbett is back on my blog today to tell us all about her latest book.
Tainted Dreams is the standalone sequel to Along The Way Homeand is a Historical Western Romance/Frontier and Pioneer Romance.
They survived the Oregon Trail but claiming a legacy would be
their biggest challenge yet...
Sometimes, the end justifies the means…
Kate Davis arrived into Oregon City transformed from a pampered daughter of fortune into a determined woman with a plan--fulfill her father's dream of starting a horse ranch in Oregon Territory.
She quickly discovers a harsh truth--even thousands of miles from home, on an unsettled land America doesn't yet own or govern, gender still takes precedence over ability. Refusing to be ruled once again by the stifling laws and societal norms she'd escaped by leaving Virginia, Kate begins creatively claiming what is rightfully hers.
Until a visit to the land office changes everything.
Jake Fitzpatrick guided Kate across the Oregon Trail, and fell in love with her along the way. Now he wants to marry her and build a life together, but a ruthless man from Jake's past threatens to reveal a dark secret, and destroy everything he's worked so hard to achieve.
READ AN EXTRACT:
Excerpt #1: (Jake, Kate, and two people they rescued on the Oregon Trail, William and Margaret, have entered Oregon City. They are looking for the hotel.)
At the end of the block a man burst from the saloon and stumbled into the street, stopping mere inches from Jake's horse, Plug. Instead of backing away, the man lurched forward and reached for Jake's saddle horn.
"Hey there!" Jake said. Raising his left leg, he ignored the resulting twinge of pain and shoved the stranger aside with his boot heel. "Watch it!"
The man drew back and stared at him, his eyes bloodshot and unfocused. He raised an unsteady finger, slurred an unintelligible response, and then fell face-first into a patch of mud.
"Drunken fool," Jake muttered, then faced the others. "Let's keep moving."
High-pitched squealing foiled his plan.
On the upper deck of the saloon a horde of harlots stood clustered together, giggling and shrieking as they pointed toward him. Clenching his jaw, he focused on the street ahead, all the while hoping Kate didn't notice one woman in particular who'd separated herself from the others and was now hanging over the railing, calling him by name.
Jake pressed his boot heels into Plug's side, urging him to a steady trot. Thankfully the others followed and they quickly left the saloon behind.
Minutes later, Kate motioned to the end of the street. "William, we're running out of road and I still don't see a hotel."
William pulled a rumpled paper from his pocket. He studied it briefly and then eyed the surrounding buildings. "My uncle sent me a rough sketch of where it's located, but there are so many new buildings, it's useless. Jake, do you know where it's at?"
Jake shook his head. "There wasn't a hotel the last time I was here."
"Perhaps one of those men sitting in front of the apothecary would know?" Margaret suggested.
"We'll find it ourselves," Jake replied. He led the group around the corner and onto the next street.
Buildings, so new their fresh pine scent still hung in the air, lined one side of the street while the other side held only two—an enormous livery and a two-story building with the word Hotel prominently displayed on a white sign with black lettering. A matching sign beside a light-rimmed window read Rooms Available by the Day or Week.
They dismounted, secured their horses to the empty hitching posts in front of the hotel, and headed for the door. William reached for the glass knob, then turned to the others with a worried frown.
"I haven't seen my uncle in over seven years, so I don't know what to expect. Though from what I've observed so far, living out west doesn't seem to improve manners." He stepped inside and ushered Margaret and Kate through the doorway. Jake followed them, then stopped cold.
Behind the hotel's front desk sat Theodore Martin—the one man Jake never wanted to see again as long as he lived.
Excerpt #2 (Kate meets a man from Jake’s past.)
Kate entered the hotel lobby and stood behind William and Margaret. While she waited for Jake to join her, she gazed around the spacious room.
Rag rugs dotted the gleaming pine board floor and a marble-topped oak desk sat in the back left corner. Navy plaid curtains on both windows—one overlooking the front steps and the other facing the alley—were pulled closed, yet the room was well lit by three oil lamps and warmed by flames flickering in the stone fireplace at the back wall.
Behind her, Jake shut the door and then stepped so close she felt the brim of her hat brush against his chest.
Jake—the man who'd hired on as her family's guide across the Oregon Trail.
Jake—the man who'd supported her through the darkest time of her life.
Jake—the man she loved.
"William! You're finally here!" The man Kate assumed to be William's uncle rose to his feet and hurried around the desk and across the room. Though by the creases around his eyes he looked to be in his early forties, he had hair the color of coal, broad shoulders, and a trim waist. His clothing, while outdated by nearly a decade, was impeccable, and a brown silk cravat perfectly arranged at his neck and embellished with a gold pin completed the outfit.
This man was a welcome change from the other men she’d seen so far in the town.
"I've been waiting for you to walk through that door for weeks." He grabbed William into a fierce hug, then pulled back to look at him again. "I was worried you'd run into trouble."
"We did," William replied.
"We?" William's uncle finally took note of the others lingering at his door. His eyes scanned the ragged group, narrowed briefly when they reached Jake, and then returned to his nephew.
William removed his hat and beckoned Margaret a few steps forward to join him. "Uncle Theodore, I'm proud to introduce you to my wife, Margaret. We married the day before departing from Independence."
Theodore took Margaret's hand and bowed with a grace and confidence Kate hadn't seen since the ballrooms of Virginia. "Please pardon my initial shock. My nephew is a lucky man to have a bride as lovely as you."
"Thank you," Margaret murmured, absently running her free hand along the curve of her waist.
"You're welcome." Theodore released her hand. "ʺI consider it a privilege to have you as a member of our family." He straightened and eyed the lobby doorway, where Kate still waited with Jake at her back. His smile faded. "William, you mentioned trouble earlier, a fact that doesn't surprise me now that I see who you kept company with on the trail."
Kate's mouth dropped open. What had she or Jake done to offend this man?
"The return to civilization can be a tough adjustment." Theodore motioned to William's bare head, then to his hat clutched against his leg. "I'm pleased to see you haven't forgotten the formalities of polite society."
Kate's cheeks flamed. Propriety had been ingrained in her since birth, but she'd only been wearing a man's hat since July—her father's hat, willed to her on his deathbed. While she had no intention of replacing it with a bonnet any time soon, she did intend to do her best to act according to society's conventions. She quickly pulled off the hat and ran her free hand from her forehead to her collar several times in a futile attempt to tame her wild curls.
Sighting Theodore's slack-jawed astonishment, Kate bit her tongue to stifle a laugh. He likely regretted his pointed words; she didn't need to further add to his embarrassment.
"Seems your companion has better manners than you." Theodore nodded toward Jake, who, to Kate's surprise, still hadn't removed his hat.
"Seems so," Jake replied, slowly pushing up the brim with one finger.
Kate kept quiet, but wondered what would possess Jake to purposely be so rude to someone he'd just met. Especially a prominent business owner, one that could potentially serve as an ally if she ran into trouble with her future plans.
"William," Theodore said, smoothly turning to address his nephew again, "who is this beautiful creature hiding beneath those ill-fitting clothes?"
William glanced at Jake and gave a nearly imperceptible shrug of apology, then focused again on his uncle. "I'm pleased to introduce Katherine Davis—"
"And the infamous trail guide, Jake Fitzpatrick," Theodore finished.
"You know each other?" William asked, his tone mirroring Kate's own surprise.
Jake gave a curt nod. "We've met."
"And then some." Theodore's laugh seemed more smug than jovial. "We came across the trail together a few years ago."
Margaret clapped her hands together in delight. "Isn't that something? Two friends meet again after all this time."
"Friend isn't a word I'd use to describe him," Jake said, removing his hat and stepping beside Kate in one fluid move.
End of Excerpt
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Along The Way Home
They lost everything but their dreams on the Oregon Trail…
Kate Davis is intrigued when her father reveals his dream of starting a horse ranch in Oregon Territory. Settlers out west value a strong woman, and though she manages the financials of her father's mercantile her competence earns her ridicule, not respect, from Virginia's elite society.
Jake Fitzpatrick, an experienced trail guide, wants land out west to raise cattle and crops. But dreams require money and he's eating dandelion greens for dinner. So when a wealthy businessman offers double wages to guide his family across the Oregon Trail, Jake accepts with one stipulation--he is in complete control.
Departure day finds Kate clinging to her possessions as Jake demands she abandon all he deems frivolous, including her deceased mother's heirlooms. Jake stands firm, refusing to let the whims of a headstrong woman jeopardize the wages he so desperately needs--even a beautiful one with fiery green eyes and a temper to match.
Trail life is a battle of wills between them until tragedy strikes, leaving Jake with an honor-bound promise to protect her from harm and Kate with a monumental choice--go back to everything she's ever known or toward everything she's ever wanted?
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
The home's location holds a special place in her writing life; it stands just six hundred feet from the original Applegate Trail and the view from her back door is a hill travelers looked upon years ago as they explored the Oregon Territory and beyond.
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