Dear Reader,

Valentine’s Day! Universally acknowledged as the most romantic day of the year, loved and also despised by women worldwide. Because as fabulous as it is to be recognized by that special someone on February 14, it’s also the one day a year where it feels incredibly obvious if you’re UNattached.

My newest release features a heroine who has every reason to feel a little down about herself. Pretty much every area of her life has fallen apart, she feels like she’s not very pretty and carrying around a few extra pounds. In other words, she’s a completely ordinary, regular woman! But then she meets cowboy Wyatt Black. And everything changes. She starts to fuss with her hair and makeup when she knows he’s going to be around. She feels that queer, tightening sensation when he looks at her a certain way. She feels needed, capable, and best of all – valued.

Today is extra special because I also have an online read featured at Eharlequin beginning today and running three times a week for the next three weeks. It ties in to Proud Rancher, Precious Bundle, and to Valentine’s Day, and to another woman who feels rather ordinary next to the dynamic and sexy Logan Creed. For one evening Carrie Walsh became a Valentine’s Cinderella, but it was too good to be true. Or was it? I had great fun writing this free read and I hope you’ll pop over to www.eharlequin.com and check it out!

Best wishes,

Donna



Excerpt from Proud Rancher, Precious Bundle

© Donna Alward


     Elli woke, an uneasy feeling permeating her consciousness.  Moonlight sent faded beams through the window blind of the bedroom, and it was utterly quiet.  Too quiet, she realized.  Blinking away the grit in her eyes, she slid out of bed and went to the playpen to check on Darcy.

     She wasn’t there.

     But the bedroom door was open half way and Elli padded to the doorway.  She opened it the rest of the way with only a small creak and tip toed down the hall way.  The blanket on the sofa was crumpled in a heap and the pillow held the indentation of Wyatt’s head.  In the slight shadows from the moon, Elli saw them.

     Darcy’s hands peeped out from beneath her blanket and her lips were open, completely relaxed with the tell-tale shine of a dribble of milk trailing from the corner of her mouth to her chin.  She lay ensconced in Wyatt’s arms, the latter clad only in a t-shirt and navy boxer shorts.  His jeans lay neatly folded across the arm of the sofa.  Heat flooded her cheeks at the sight of his bare feet and long legs.  His eyes were closed but she knew he was not quite asleep.  One foot flexed slightly, rocking the chair gently back and forth.

     He would be such a wonderful father, she thought as she watched them. Not once in this whole ordeal had he ever put Darcy somewhere other than first. She couldn’t think of one single man who would have stepped up in the same circumstances with equal dedication and without resentment.  There had been moments at the beginning that they’d fumbled with knowing what to do, but he had taken it on and he’d done it not only out of obligation but love.

     He had so much to give.  She wondered if he realized it, or if what he’d told her about his past crippled him the way that her grief had crippled her.    

     The toe stopped pushing against the floor and the chair stopped.  Wyatt’s eyes opened and met hers across the living room.

     Elli struggled to breathe, suddenly feeling like there wasn’t enough air in the room to fill her lungs.  She was drawn back in the flash of a moment to yesterday morning, and what it was like to be held and protected in his arms.  They’d been stilted and polite since, but now with her feet bare and wearing nothing but a nightgown, the awareness was back, sharper and stronger than ever. 

In the gray light his eyes appeared darker than ever and her nerve endings seemed to stand on end.  The soft curves of the rocking chair and the pink blanketed baby were in contradiction to the ruggedness of Wyatt’s body.  In that moment, with his gaze locked with hers, she understood what people said about men with babies.  Strength and frailty, shadow and light, toughness and tenderness.  It was a combination Elli was helpless against.

     “She woke up,” Wyatt whispered in the dark, setting the chair in slow motion again. 

     Elli put one foot in front of the other and perched on the edge of the sofa, only inches away from where his bare knee moved as the chair came forward.  “I didn’t hear her,” she replied, as quietly as she could.  Not only because of Darcy, but because she was afraid to break the tentative shell around them.

     “You were sound asleep,” Wyatt answered, and she saw the corners of his lips tip up slightly.  “You never moved when I went in to get her.”

     Elli looked away, staring at her fingers as they rested on her knees.  Wyatt had been in the bedroom, watching her sleep?  It was intensely personal and she wondered what he’d thought as he’d seen her there in his bed. 

She’d been exhausted tonight and had to admit that until a few minutes ago, she’d had the deepest, most restful sleep in months.  It didn’t escape her notice that it followed the purging of her grief earlier. 

     “What time is it?”

     “Nearly five.”

     Goodness, she’d gone to bed before nine.  For the first time in weeks she’d had a solid eight hours sleep.

     “I’m sorry I didn’t get up with her.”  Elli noted the empty bottle on the table.  She’d slept through it all, including Wyatt heating a bottle. 

     “I enjoyed it,” he replied, smiling.  “It wasn’t long ago I would have thought it crazy to say such a thing.  But for someone so small, she sure has a way of making us come around, doesn’t she?”

     The way he said us sent another warm curl through Elli’s insides.  Right now, in the pre-dawn hours, it could almost be easy to believe that they were a perfect little family.  It felt that way; adorable child, tired mother, husband who got up instead with the baby so mom could rest. 

    But that wasn’t reality.  It was a fantasy, a life she’d wanted more than anything before having to trade in her dreams for new ones.  They were only play-acting.  Darcy was not theirs, and Wyatt was not hers.  

     “Let me put her back to bed,” Elli suggested.  “You need your sleep.  You can get a couple more hours before breakfast.”

    She stood, and Wyatt stood at the same time, and Elli put her arms out for Darcy.  But switching her from Wyatt’s embrace to Elli’s was awkward, the more so because they didn’t want to wake her. Wyatt’s arm brushed hers, firm and warm.  As he placed Darcy in the crook of Elli’s arm, his fingers brushed over her breast.

    Both of them froze.

    Elli bit down on her lip, realizing that she was braless and once more aware that she was clad only in a light cotton nightie that ended at her knees.  And Wyatt… he was holding himself so stiffly, careful not to touch her in any way.  Her teeth worried at the tender flesh of her bottom lip as she tried not to be hurt by that.  He was so close she could feel the heat from his body, the soft fabric of his t-shirt. And oh, the scent of him.  The faded woodsy notes of his bodywash from his earlier shower mingled with sleep.

    What would happen if she moved an inch closer?  Two?  If she tipped up her head to ask for his kiss? Would he accept the invitation?

    Or would he step back, like he had that night on the verandah, and as he had yesterday after Miss Beck’s visit?  She wanted to tell him how she felt, but needed some sign from him first, something to encourage her that she was not alone.  And since the accidental touch, he was not moving any closer.

    And so she stepped back, adjusting Darcy’s weight.  “Goodnight,” she murmured, too late realizing how silly it sounded as it was already nearly morning.  She turned away and took Darcy back to the bedroom, not looking back.

    It didn’t matter. 

    The sight of him there, standing in the dark, was already branded painfully on her brain and heart.   



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Contest!


Donna Alward is really excited about her new release and to celebrate, she's hosting a contest just for you! For a chance to enter, just visit Donna's website and find the answer to the following question -

What is the name of the miniseries for Proud Rancher, Precious Bundle?

Then email us at staff@authorsoundrelations.com with the answer and be sure to include your full name and mailing address in the email.   Please also remember to mark the subject heading as 'Proud Rancher'.

Do make sure you email your answers only to staff@authorsoundrelations.com or your entry will not be counted!

Three winners will be chosen and contacted via email shortly after February 21st.

1st Prize – A $20.00 gift certificate from Amazon.com and a signed copy of Proud Rancher, Precious Bundle. 2nd and 3rd Prizes – a copy of Proud Rancher, Precious Bundle to each winner!

Good luck!

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