It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old…or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!
You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
***Special thanks to Althea Thompson | Publicity Coordinator, Charisma House | Charisma Media for sending me a review copy.***
Martha Rogers’ novel Not on the Menu debuted on May 1, 2007, as a part of Sugar and Grits, a novella collection with DiAnn Mills, Janice Thompson, and Kathleen Y’Barbo. Her series Winds Across the Prairie debuted in 2010 with Becoming Lucy, Morning for Dove, Finding Becky, and Caroline’s Choice. Her other credits include stories in anthologies with Wayne Holmes, Karen Holmes, and Debra White Smith; several articles in Christian magazines; devotionals in six books of devotions; and eight Bible studies. Martha served as editor of a monthly newsletter for the writer’s organization Inspirational Writers Alive! for six years and is the state president. She is also the director for the annual Texas Christian Writer’s Conference and is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, for whom she writes a weekly devotional. Martha and her husband are active members of First Baptist Church.
Visit the author’s website.
Libby Cantrell’s life has gone from bad to worse since her mother’s death. After working in a brothel to support her abusive father, she sees no hope for her future until one cold winter night when she finds the courage to escape.
When she collapses in Portersfield, Texas, exhausted, ill, and hungry, Sheriff Cory Muldoon finds her and takes her to the doctor. Against Cory’s better judgment, Seth and Erin Winston take her in and offer her a job as a nanny for their young son. As a minister, Seth sees it as his duty to take care of her. As a deputy, Cory needs to know the truth about her even as he is attracted to the waif of a young woman.
As Cory’s feelings for her grow and winter becomes spring, will he be able to accept her as she is now and truly forget and forgive her sordid past?
List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Realms (May 15, 2012)
AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:
THE COLDEST NIG!IT of winter thus far chilled Deputy Sheriff Cory Muldoon to the bone as he made his rounds in the alleyways of Porterfield. Cold wind howled around the corners of the buildings now closed up for the night. Most everyone in Porterfield had gone home to their families and warm homes. This was all the winter he cared to experience, and even this would be only a few days, as the weather in Texas could change in a heartbeat, summer or winter.
Lights and music from the saloon rang out and mocked the dark silence of its neighboring buildings. Friday nights found cowboys and lumberjacks both squandering their hard-earned money on liquor and women. Tonight would be no different
despite the cold, near freezing temperatures. Most likely at least one or two of them would end up in the jail for a spell.
Cory turned up the collar of his sheepskin-lined jacket and shoved his hat farther down on his head. When he rounded the corner of the livery, the gentle nickering and snorts of the horses boarded there broke the quietness of the night.
A cat skittered out from behind the general store, and a dog barked in the distance. Ever since the bank robbery last fall, he or the sheriff had roamed the alleys behind the main businesses every night to make sure everything remained locked tight and secure. So far he’d seen only a typical Friday night, with everything as routine as Aunt Mae’s boarding- house meal schedule. Of course, being Friday the thirteenth, anything could happen.
They already had two men put up for the night back at the jail. Sheriff Rutherford took the night duty to keep the jail cells warm so Cory could have Saturday off for his Aunt Mae’s wedding. Ole Cooter probably got drunk and disorderly just so he’d have a warm place to sleep tonight and not have to go out to his shack. Cory held no blame on the man for that. Durand, the saloon owner, caught the other man cheating at cards and had him arrested. Maybe the card shark would move his game on to some other town.
He shivered despite the warm coat and hoped Abigail and Rachel would have dinner waiting for him back at the board- inghouse. What with Aunt Mae’s wedding tomorrow, those two women had taken over mealtimes until his aunt returned from her wedding trip.
What appeared to be a pile of trash sat outside the back
door of Grayson’s mercantile. Ordinarily the store owner
wouldn’t leave a heap out in the open like that. Cory hesitated in making an investigation, but the snuffling and nickering of a horse grabbed his attention. His hand caressed the handle of his gun. No one and no animal should be here this time of night.
The horse, a palomino, stood off to one side. He wore a saddle, but the reins dangled to the ground. Cory went on alert, his eyes darting about the alley in search of a rider. He reached for the reins and patted the horse’s mane, then ran his hand down its flank. “Whoa, boy, what are you doing out wan- dering around?” No brand on his hindquarters meant he didn’t belong to a ranch around here, and Cory didn’t recognize the horse as belonging to any of the townspeople.
Then the pile by the back door moved, and along with the movement, a moan sounded. With his hand on his gun, Cory approached the mound. An arm flung out from the heap, and another cry. This was no animal. He knelt down to pull back what looked like an old quilt.
When the form of a young woman appeared, Cory jumped as though he’d been shot. Every nerve in his body stood at attention as he reached out to remove more of the cover. A woman lay huddled under the quilt, and her body shook from the cold while a cough wracked through her chest, followed by another cry.
On closer inspection he realized she was younger than he first thought. Her smooth, unlined face and tangled hair were that of a young woman. She couldn’t be more than twenty, the same age as his sister Erin.
He bent over her to pick her up, and she started to scream,
but another coughing spell prevented it. When her blue eyes
peered up at him, they were so full of fear that they sent dag- gers of alarm straight to his soul. This girl was in trouble.
“Don’t be afraid. I’m the deputy sheriff. I won’t hurt you, but tell me your name and let me take you to the doctor.” He pointed to his badge in hope of reassuring her.
Instead her gaze darted back and forth as she pulled the blanket up under her chin. Her ungloved hands trembled with the cold. He removed his glove and reached out a hand to touch her forehead then yanked it back. She burned with fever. “You’re sick. We need you to get you to Doc Jensen’s right away.” He slid his hands beneath her to scoop her up into his arms. He almost lost his footing as he rose, thinking she’d be a heavier burden than she was. Light as a feather meant she was
probably malnourished too.
She moaned against his chest. “I’m so cold.”
Her voice, weak and hesitant, touched a nerve in him. He had to get her warm. Cory made sure the blanket covered her then grasped the horse’s reins. A low whistle brought his own horse closer. “Follow us, Blaze. We’re going to the infirmary.”
He held the girl tight to his chest to transfer some of his warmth to her. The quicker he could get her to the doctor, the quicker Doc could warm her up and treat that cough.
No time to worry about drunken cowboys or lumberjacks tonight.
The man who called himself a deputy carried her in his arms. With his gentle touch and voice, this man wasn’t like others she had known. Her body burned with heat then turned ice
cold with shivers. So much pain racked her body that she didn’t have the strength to resist him anyway.
The man cradled her to his chest. “We’ll be at Doc Jensen’s in just a few minutes. Hang on, little lady.”
Little lady? Little, maybe, but certainly no lady by his stan- dards. Another cough wracked her chest and set her throat afire with pain. Her thin jacket and the quilt had been no match for the cold, especially after she’d crossed the river. Not enough heat in the day to dry her clothes before chilling her to the bone and causing this cough. She’d lost count of the days since she left home and had no idea how far she’d come. She’d avoided towns as much as possible, only entering long enough to pick up food at a mercantile.
Pa had to be on her trail by now, or he’d have others searching for her. Either way, she didn’t plan to get caught and be dragged back to Louisiana. Even now the memory of all that she had endured because of Pa made her stomach retch. She’d die before she let anyone take her back to that.
The man called for someone named Clem to go get the doc, and he’d meet him at the infirmary. Maybe he was a sheriff after all since he was sending for help. She didn’t dare open her eyes, lest he’d see her fears again. Until she could be absolutely certain he meant her no harm, she’d stay still and quiet.
She inhaled the masculine scent of horses, sweat, and leather. He smelled like hard work and not a trace of alcohol. Unusual for a man, even a lawman. In the background raucous music came from a saloon. She’d recognize the tinny sound of saloon piano anywhere. It disappeared in the distance, and they proceeded down the street and up what felt like stairs or
steps onto what must be a boardwalk or porch.
He set her on her feet, and she peeped with one eye while he fumbled in his pocket then pulled out a ring of keys. In the next minute he had the door open and strode through it, car- rying her once again.
Antiseptics, alcohol, and carbolic acid greeted her nose. This must be the doctor’s office. Not until he laid her on a hard surface did she open her eyes, half expecting him to be leering over her. Instead he had walked away to light a lamp, which filled the room with flickering shadows dancing on the walls. A glass door cabinet stood against the wall, and another bed sat a few feet away from where she lay.
He returned to stand beside her, and she almost shrank in fear at his size. Well over six feet tall, he’d removed his hat to reveal a mass of dark red hair curling about his forehead. His hand caressed her forehead, but she did not flinch, even though every inch of her wanted to. No need for him to know her fears.
“I see you’re awake. The doc will be here in a minute. He’ll fix you right up.”
Instead of resisting, her body relaxed at the gentle tone of his voice. He certainly didn’t fit her idea of a lawman or a cowboy. No one but her ma had ever treated her so kindly. Most people treated her like trash under their feet and didn’t care whether she was well or sick. Still, he was a man. She had to be careful.
A woman’s voice sounded, along with another man’s. She turned her head to find a beautiful red-haired woman and an older man entering the room.
The one who must be the doctor stepped to her side.
“Well, Cory, what have we here?” His eyes held only concern and kindness behind his wire-rimmed glasses.
“I found her in the alley behind the general store. She must have come in on horseback and fallen there.”
The woman brushed hair from Libby’s face. “Can you tell us your name?”
Her heart thumped. What if Pa came looking for her? But if she lied and stayed here, she’d have to keep lying. Another fit of coughing had the woman holding her upright and rubbing her back. When the spell ended, Libby whispered her name. “Elizabeth Bradley.”
The woman helped her lie back down. “Hello, Elizabeth. I’m Kate Monroe, the doc’s nurse, and this fellow who brought you in is my brother, Cory. He’s deputy sheriff in town.”
Just having her there gave Libby a sense of safety she needed with two men in the room. Her kind eyes, a green color that reminded Libby of the fake emeralds some of the saloon girls wore, had a tender look to them.
The doctor listened to her chest with a funny-looking bell on something hanging from his ears. He frowned then pulled the contraption down around his neck. “I hear a lot of conges- tion in your lungs, young lady. How long have you been out in the cold?”
“I don’t know. I think it’s been several days. I left home in the middle of the night on Tuesday.” The days and nights had run together as she lost all track of time.
The doctor shook his head. “This is Friday night, so you’ve been out at least three days. No wonder your lungs are so con- gested.” He turned to the one called Kate. “Get a bed ready for
her. She’s staying the night and maybe longer.”
Libby tried to sit up but began coughing again. She couldn’t stay here. Pa would find her. Her plan had been to head west then south, where the winter temperatures were not as severe. She’d lost all sense of direction after the first night and had no idea which way she’d come.
Kate’s warm hands pushed her back down gently but firmly. “Lie still, Elizabeth. The doctor is right; you have to stay here.”
Tears welled in Libby’s eyes, and she squeezed them tight to keep the tears from falling. Though hard, this bed was so much better than the ground where she’d slept the past nights. Hospitals and doctors cost money. That’s why Pa wouldn’t go for the doctor until Ma was too sick to recover.
The doctor gave her something that tasted bitter, but she swallowed it and then lay back against the pillow Kate had placed beneath her head. The low murmur of voices ran together in a blur. One of the men said he’d stay, but the other one said something about a wedding. Who was getting mar- ried? Maybe they’d forget about her.
The tension ebbed from her body as the medication took over. Someone, most likely the deputy since the doctor was an old man, picked her up and took her into another room, where he laid her on the bed. She almost sighed at the cotton softness of the mattress beneath her. So much better than pine straw and hard-packed dirt.
Kate’s voice followed behind then shooed the man from the room. “I’m going to help her get settled for the night, so she doesn’t need you. Go on back to the boardinghouse. I’m sure you’ll find Abigail has something for you to eat.”
A few minutes later Kate had removed Libby’s still damp
and dirty clothes and slipped a warm gown over her head.
When Libby slid her arms into the sleeves, she realized it was her own gown. “How did you get this? It’s mine.”
“Cory brought in the satchel you carried on your horse, and I found the gown in it. I warmed it by the wood stove in the other room.”
That warmth, along with the medication earlier, eased away the pain, and Libby let her eyes drift closed. Perhaps this was the place she should stay after all. She pulled up the covers and turned on her side. She’d think about that tomorrow. Tonight she’d sleep warm and dry for the first time in too many days