Dear Reader,

I’m thrilled with the success of the first two books, Under Her Skin and Lip Service, in the Lone Star Sisters series, and I want to thank you for sharing my books with your friends and family. Both titles hit the New York Times bestsellers list because of the tremendous support you've given me and I couldn't be happier.

July sees the release of book three, Straight From The Hip and I'm hoping you'll enjoy Izzy's story just as much as you did Lexi's and Skye's.

Izzy has always been the fearless Titan sister. But an accident on an oil rig leaves her barely able to see and emotionally withdrawn. When her sisters enroll her in a survivor training camp, Izzy is not happy. To add to her frustration, Nick, her instructor, is determined that she won’t be left in the dark. In more ways than one. But if he tells her the terrible truth behind why he’s helping her, he’ll probably never see her again. Unless they’re both willing to take the biggest risk of all.

In other news, I've been on a bit of a Fourth of July glom recently. I found the cutest recipe the other day for a pie that’s decorated like the American flag: Old Glory Cherry-Blueberry Pie. If I make this, I’ll probably do a major simplification, and just fill the pie crust with a can of cherry pie filling. I might even buy the crust. (Is that heresy?) I’m dealing with major time constraints these days because of deadlines.

The reason for those deadlines is really exciting. I’m working on a super-fun new series that’ll be out next year. I don’t want to tell you too much now, so I’ll leave you with just a hint. The series is set in a California town that’s suffering from a definite shortage of men. Oh, the tragedy!

And now I’d better get back to work on my book. Keep your eye out for Straight From The Hip. It should be hitting stores next week and is already available for pre-order!

Susan


Excerpt from Straight From The Hip

© Susan Mallery

Izzy put one foot in front of the other. The sun beat down unmercifully, burning her exposed skin. Sweat poured down her face and her clothes stuck to her. Her mouth was dry, her head ached and if there had been an extra drop of moisture left in her body, she would have actually considered crying.

As it was, she argued furiously with herself. Going back made the most sense. She should just turn around and walk into the sun. That would get her to the barn. But it felt too much like giving up.

Nick would come for her. Or send someone. She knew in her head, he wasn’t going to let her die out here. Except if she kept walking, she might get so lost, no one could find her and then what? Did she really want to risk it?

“I don’t want this,” she said aloud. “Any of it.”

Not being outside right now, not being at the ranch or being blind.

“Why did it happen to me?”

She wanted to scream at the unfairness of it all. Only that would take too much effort.

She stumbled on something she couldn’t see, then caught herself. As she straightened, she heard a sound behind her. Fear tightened her chest, then she recognized the steady steps of a horse. She drew in a breath and stopped.

“You’re probably feeling stupid about now,” Nick said casually.

She raised her chin. “Not at all.”

“Then more than your eyesight got damaged in that explosion. Are you finished making your point or do you want to keep walking? In another twenty minutes, your sunburn is going to blister. That’ll hurt.”

“Is this your way of convincing me to accept your help?”

“You don’t need convincing. I’ll give you this. You’re the first blind person I know who would willingly walk into the wilderness with no idea of where she was going. I can’t decide if that makes you brave or an idiot. I’ll get back to you on that.”

“Don’t bother. I was fine.”

“You were lucky. You could have fallen and cracked open your head or been bitten by a snake.”

“I would have preferred a snake to you.”

She heard him get off his saddle.

“Now you’re just talking sweet to make me like you,” Nick said. “Here.”

He handed her a bottle of water. She took it and unscrewed the top. The liquid was cool and sweet on her dry throat.

“I wouldn’t drink too much of that all at once,” he told her.

She ignored him and kept drinking. She finally stopped, took a step, then bent over and threw it all up. Her insides twisted, forcing her to retch and gag. She coughed and did her best to catch her breath.

“Not the brightest bulb,” he murmured.

“Shut up,” she said with a gasp.

“Drink it slow and this time it’ll stay down.”

Humiliation joined the heat of the sunburn. She sipped cautiously.

“See?”

He sounded smug, which made her want to hit him. But she’d already tried that and it hadn’t worked at all.

“Come on,” he said. “Let’s get you back.” He took her free hand and led her over to his horse. “I’ll get on and pull you up behind me.”

“Or you could walk and I’ll ride.”

“Do you think that will happen?”

She saw blurry movement, then heard him settle in the saddle.

“Give me the water,” he said.

She passed it up to him, then found the stirrup with her hands and put her left foot in it. He grabbed her arm.

“One, two, three.”

On three, he pulled her as she pushed off the ground. For a second, there was an uncomfortable sensation of moving through nothing, then she settled behind his saddle, on the horse’s rump. He pressed her bottle of water into her hand.

“Hang on,” he told her.

“I’ll be fine.”

“Do you have to argue about everything?”

“Yes. It’s one of my best qualities.” As she spoke, she reached around his waist to hold on. If she didn’t, she would slide off and it was a long way to the ground.

The horse moved forward.

Sitting on the back of a horse was a lot different from sitting in a saddle. Instinctively Izzy held on with her thighs and tightened her grip on Nick’s waist. She rocked with the movement and found her nose pressed against his back.

He was warm and his shirt still smelled like soap and fabric softener. Underneath that was the scent of male skin. Her fingers encountered nothing but muscles at his midsection. She might not know much about the guy, but based on how he’d swung her over his shoulder, and rode a horse, she would guess he worked out.

Under other circumstances, and assuming she could see, he might be someone she found attractive. Not that it mattered anymore. Did the blind girl ever get the guy? Did it matter? She was hungry and tired and her skin burned from the sun. She just wanted to go home.

Except she didn’t technically have a home anymore. Her quarters on the oil rig had disappeared in the explosion. When she was off work, she stayed with her sister Skye at Glory’s Gate, but Skye wasn’t there anymore. She’d moved in with her fiancé. And Izzy wasn’t comfortable with living in the family house with just her dad, mostly because she didn’t think she actually belonged there.

Thoughts for another day, she told herself.

A large shape came into blurry view. She squinted, but that didn’t help.

“The barn?” she asked.

“Yes. I’ll help you down.”

“I’m good.”

She held out the water until he took it, then pressed her hands between her thighs, on the back of the horse, swung her right leg around and lowered herself to the ground. She hit a couple of inches after she’d expected to but didn’t stumble.

Nick dismounted and handed the horse to someone. She tried to see who it was, but couldn’t.

“This way,” he said.

Dinner, she thought longingly. She would kill for a meal. Or even act nice. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d been so hungry.

But the building they approached didn’t look like the house. She couldn’t see the details but the shape was all wrong. He opened a door, then waited, maybe for her to go first. There was no way she was stepping into that pit of darkness.

Seconds later he reached past her and flipped on lights. She saw a big bright room, but no details. Cautiously, she walked inside.

The ceiling was a long distance up—she couldn’t say how far. The floor was hardwood. She saw shapes she didn’t recognize. The place was familiar, although she couldn’t say why.

“Where are we?” she asked.

“The gym. I heard you’re into rock climbing. I thought we’d take a few minutes before dinner so you can practice.”

She spun toward his voice. “Are you insane?”

“There have been rumors, but technically, no.”

“What’s wrong with you? I’m thirsty, sunburned, tired and hungry. I’m not climbing a wall just to amuse you.”

“Sure you are. Besides, isn’t there a part of you that wonders if you still can?”

She could accept a lot, but not that he was having fun at her expense. The bastard. She’d been right—Nick was a bully

“I’m blind!” she screamed. “I can’t see.”

“You don’t climb with your eyes. You climb with your hands and your feet. Come on, Izzy. Once to the top. Think of how it would feel.”

Terrifying, she thought, angry and scared and hating life. It would feel terrifying. To be all the way up there, in darkness, or near darkness.

“I can’t.”

He jingled something that sounded like a harness.

“You can and you’ll feel better if you do. You’ll feel like there’s hope.”

“Are you talking? I can’t really hear you. There’s a lot of static.”

“Ignore me if you want, but I’m right. Come on. One quick climb to the top, then we’ll have dinner.”

She was so weary. Exhaustion hung on her, pulling her toward the ground. She just wanted to curl up and whimper.

“Can I kick you in the balls if I make it?” she asked.

“No, but you can have dinner.”

Her sisters had done this to her, she thought bitterly. Turned her over to this stranger who got his rocks off by bullying those around him. Resentment built up inside of her. It burned hot and bright, until she could only think of pounding him into the ground. Of frightening him and making him whimper.

But that wasn’t going to happen. Not anytime soon. She was trapped and there seemed to be only one way out.

She grabbed the harness. The shape was familiar in her hands and she slid into it easily.

“The shoes are over here.”

She pulled off her sandals, not caring that her feet were probably filthy, and slipped on the climbing shoes, then allowed him to guide her to the wall.  He offered her chalk for her hands.

She rubbed her fingers together. The room was cool and quiet. She could hear herself breathing and nothing else. Her skin burned from the sun, her body ached and she was so hungry she felt hollow. But none of that mattered. Not knowing where the need came from, she suddenly knew she had to climb the wall.

She closed her eyes, because then not seeing felt like a choice. She put her hand on the smooth surface in front of her, then felt around until she found handholds. When she’d gripped them, she moved her right foot forward and up. Nick moved behind her and clipped the safety line to her harness.

She ignored him. There was only the wall in front of her and finding the next place to hang on.

Slowly, she climbed the wall. She found her rhythm in the movements. He was right—she didn’t need to see to do this and each step gave her more confidence.

About twenty minutes into the climb, she moved her foot higher, found the foothold and shifted her weight. Her foot slipped. Suddenly she was hanging in mid-air, with no idea of where she was or what came next. Panic surged, but she ignored it. She hung on with her hands, scrambling with her feet until she found another hold. Cautiously, she centered herself on it, easing her weight off her hands and onto her legs again.

Her heart pounded in her chest. Sweat soaked her. She kept her eyes closed. When she’d caught her breath, she began moving up again.

Nick watched Izzy’s careful progress. He’d wondered if she would refuse to climb, but she hadn’t. Now she worked her way steadily to the top of the wall, her body moving easily as she remembered what she was supposed to be doing.

His gaze slipped over her bare arms. Something inside of him tightened when he caught sight of the curve of her breast. She was wild enough to be appealing but not so crazy that she made him wary. In other circumstances, before everything had changed, he would be interested. As it was—he could look but not touch.

She took the last few feet at a faster pace and slapped the top of the wall.

“I made it,” she yelled.

He reached for the safety rope and lowered her to the ground.

“Next time you can take it at more than a crawl,” he told her.

She touched the floor and unhooked herself, then grinned at him. “Next time we’ll race and I’ll so kick your ass.”

“In your dreams.”

She laughed. “No, Nick. In yours.”

Amazon Barnes & Noble Borders

Contest!

The first two books in the Lone Star Sisters series hit the New York Times bestsellers list and Susan is still celebrating! She'd like to share the fun with you by giving away a book from her backlist to five lucky winners! For a chance to win, please check out Susan's website to answer this question:

How long has Lip Service been on the New York Times List?

Then email us at staff@authorsoundrelations.com with your answer and mark the subject heading as Straight From The Hip. Be sure to include your full name and mailing address.

Please note, emails sent to any other email address will be disregarded. Send your entries to staff@authorsoundrelations.com only.

Contest deadline - July 5th, 2009.

Winners will be contacted via shortly thereafter. Good luck!

Designed by AuthorSoundRelations.com
We'd love to know what you think of this newsletter. Please email us with your comments!
Not a subscriber? Sign up here!