Today I’m welcoming DeAnn Smallwood again with another of her western romances, entitled ONE SHINGLE TO HANG—a story of a strong woman in a man’s job in the wild west. What’s not to like about that?
ONE SHINGLE TO HANG
By DeAnn Smallwood
Accused of rustling and facing possible hanging, Drew needed a lawyer—one good man. He wasn’t prepared for L.M. Wentfield, a beautiful blonde with a sharp tongue and fiercely won independence.
Everyone knew Lil Wentfield would never marry. What man would want her? She was too old by society’s standards, too set in her ways, and too damned opinionated. Granted, she was a real beauty.
Lil’s parents were long-suffering. In fact, they were ashamed of their ugly duckling yet to turn into a swan. They made sure all their society friends, and Lil, knew of their disappointment. To compound this disappointment, Lil had done the unthinkable. She had pursued a career as an attorney, thereby cluttering her weak female mind with knowledge meant only for a man. Knowledge that could only result in insanity.
Lil purchases a run-down mansion in the small Colorado town of Chesterfield, and hangs her shingle advertising L.M. Wentfield, Attorney At Law.
One of Lil’s first clients was a grey-eyed cowboy that came looking for an attorney to keep him from the hang-man’s noose. Chesterfield had one attorney, L.M. Wentfield. This was an answer to Drew’s prayers. He needed a strong man to guide him through the legal snarls and possibilities of his looming demise at the hands of a liar and cheat. When he finds out that L.M. Wentfield was not a strong man, but a strong woman, he refuses her help.
Drew is drawn to this beautiful woman. But Lil feels she has nothing to offer him. She’d make a terrible ranch wife. Drew feels he isn’t worthy of Lil, knowing she comes from money and he doesn’t even have a house on his fledging ranch.
Will Drew’s pride stand in the way? And will Lil be able to tell Drew of her love in spite of her inabilities?
One Shingle to Hang Excerpt
Everyone knew Lil Wentfield would never marry. What man would want her? She was too old, too set in her ways, and too damned opinionated. Granted, she was a real beauty, if you could get past all the other flaws. Long blonde hair, equally long legs, sparkling blue eyes, flawless skin, with just a hint of a European ancestor in the coloring. And lips, well to call them kissable would be doing them an injustice.
But spinster she was, with her hair coiled into a tight knot at the nape of her neck, as tight as the expression habitually worn on her lovely face. Wire rimmed glasses perched on her small nose, obscured flashes of emotion in those beautiful eyes. Except when it came to outrage. Then her eyes snapped, her spine stiffened, her chin raised, and she peered disdainfully at the offender.
Lil was like a badger when it came to proving her point and winning an argument. Her mother liked to say Lil was born arguing. What her father liked to say was more colorful and filled with disappointment. His only child compounded being born female, by having a mind of her own. Once Lil made a decision, she planted her feet firmly on the chosen path, and didn’t step off until her goal was accomplished.
Men found her unnerving. Lil Wentfield wouldn’t be any man’s ‘little woman’, her place in the home, serving her husband, and mothering children. She was unsettling; not material necessary for being the calming homemaker and acquiescent wife needed to soothe and support a man as he went about his business.
A loud knock broke into her thoughts. “Come in,” she called out.
Nothing happened, then another knock. “Please, come in,” she called again.
Getting no response, Lil came around her desk and, with some irritation at the interruption, jerked open the door, nearly toppling the tall man who held the doorknob on the other side. He muttered something under his breath, and tried to regain his balance only to bump into Lil, throwing her off stride. She stumbled backwards and would have fallen if not for the man’s quick reaction. He grabbed Lil and, wrapping both arms around, pulled her to him. Then, in a parody of the two-step, he danced her to safety.
Lil felt herself falling, then rescued by two strong arms. Not only was she pulled up short, but she was wrapped tightly against a rock hard chest, her nose buried in the man’s damp shirt. A very pleasant smell greeted her nose. The scent of summer rain and witch hazel. She found the masculine odor intoxicating.
Neither moved. Then Lil raised her head and looked into a pair of dancing gray eyes. His arms never relaxed their grip; in fact, they seemed to tighten around her as his mouth twitched, then broke into a smile.
“Didn’t expect to end up with a beautiful woman in my arms. For a moment there, I expected to land on the rug, Ma’am. With you alongside me,” he added with a chuckle.
He loosened his grip and gently pushed her away from the warmth and safety of his chest. Lil stepped back, feeling as though she’d just had something precious taken from her. She realized her hands still gripped his arms. Like a hot potato, she dropped them and turned away from the man’s disturbing presence. Like a fox heading for her den, Lil scurried behind her desk and gratefully lowered her trembling body onto the waiting chair.
With the desk between them, she was once again in charge. “May I help you?” she asked coolly, hoping the tremble in her voice went unnoticed. “I called come in not once but twice.”
“Sorry, Ma’am. Guess I didn’t hear you. I was just fixing to open the door when you did just that. Are you okay?”
“Yes.” Lil answered with no desire to elaborate. “I—I appreciate you catching me. Now,” she hurried away from that topic, “to repeat myself, how may I help you?”
He smiled, as if knowing her thoughts. Walking over to the desk, he removed his hat and stood with it in his hands. “I apologize for dripping on your floor, but it’s raining like hel—, uh, like heck out there.”
Lil tried not to look at how the ends of his eyes crinkled when he smiled. She focused instead on his hair, black and shiny with rain drops glistening on the wavy strands not covered by his hat. She didn’t realize she was staring at him until he shifted from foot to foot.
“Yes,” Lil answered, pulling herself back to reality.
“What I’m here for is to see L.M. Wentfield, Attorney At Law.” He pointed at the window, in the direction of the sign.
Lil nodded. “Yes,” she said again. At this rate, he’d think she only had a one word vocabulary.
The man tilted his head to one side. “Could you direct me to L. M. Wentfield, Ma’am?”
“Of course I can. How may I help you?”
Two small furrows appeared between the man’s eyes. He peered closer at her. Perhaps he needed to try another approach.
“Ma’am, could I speak with your husband?”
“There is no husband,” Lil said with a hint of asperity.
“Oh,” he nodded as if finally understanding the problem. “I beg your pardon. I guess the person I need to see would be your father.”
“What for?” Now the furrows were between Lil’s eyes.
“Well, because I’m looking for him.”
“You’re looking for my father? Are you in need of a banker?”
“No. Not at all.” The smile was gone and those long lashed gray eyes of his had lost their twinkle. “A banker? Now why would you think I’d need a banker?”
“I didn’t think that, sir. You said it.”
“I did?” He shook his head and took a step back. He’d been thrown from horses and had his brain addled, but nothing compared to what this lovely young woman was doing to him.
“I guess I don’t rightly recall that. But,” he offered a weak smile, “I do remember asking to see your father.”
“Yes?” Lil let the word hang in the air. What was the matter with him?
His hands nervously fingered the brim of his wet hat. “I would like to see L.M. Wentfield, Attorney. If L.M. Wentfield isn’t your husband, and it appears he isn’t your father either, then who is he?”
“Me.” Lil sucked in her cheeks, delighted with the look on his face. Now it was all coming clear. Standing before her was a gorgeous specimen of man. Alas, it seemed he was also a specimen of man that had a preconceived notion of a woman’s role. And judging from the look on his face, it apparently wasn’t sitting behind a desk, attorney at large.
“You? You are L.M. Wentfield, Attorney At Law?”
If you’d like to read about another of DeAnn’s western romances, click here to see an earlier post and excerpt.
Bio: I live in Colorado with my husband and my two Yorkie kid dogs: Stormy, four pounds, and Eli, six pounds. I’m a native of Colorado, but I’ve lived several years in Wyoming and Montana. My historical romances are: Montana Star, Sapphire Blue, Unconquerable Callie, and Wyoming Heather. Tears In The Wind is a contemporary romance. I have just contracted for another historical romance, One Shingle To Hang, that should be published fall of 2014. Then I changed genres from my beloved romances and wrote, under the pen name of D. M. Woods, my first suspense/thriller: Death Crosses The Finish Line. The second book in this ‘death’ series, Death Is A Habit, came out January 8th 2014. I am currently working on the third book of this series, Death Walks C Dock. Truly, I mean it when I say my greatest pleasure next to writing is having my books read and enjoyed. There are many more stories just waiting to be written.
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