June 4, 2014
I recently turned in my latest manuscript to Harlequin, finishing out a multi-book contract with the final book in the Mansfield Brothers series. Yay! Instead of pursuing another contract, I actually called my editor and agent and asked if I could write without a contract for a while, at my own pace, giving me time to do some special projects, both writing and home improvement, that I’d been procrastinating on. They said, “Fine. No problem.” So I was looking forward to some downtime, a little creative rest, a chance to replenish the muse and catch up on life.
But within the hour of turning in THE MANSFIELD RESCUE (December 2014!), I got a call with an offer to participate in a continuity. Due this fall. I wanted in on this continuity, as it is another Coltons series and the Coltons have been good to me. I’ve loved the past continuities I’ve written with this family and couldn’t say no. So I shelved my ideas of DVD afternoons and making my way through my to-be-read pile, and told my editor I was in.
I mean, rest is overrated, right? Work is good. The TBR pile will still be there, the DVDs can keep for weekends, and the bathroom wallpaper can peel off the walls another year.
I’m rubbing my hands together and getting ready to dive in (with a little ranching info help from Kari Lynn Dell).
While I gear up for the new book, how about an excerpt from my June release, Protecting Her Royal Baby? Enjoy!
The car was coming right at him. Weaving. Speeding. With him at twelve o’clock.
Adrenaline shot through Hunter Mansfield. Irritation and alarm nipping the back of his neck, he slowed to a stop along the rural Louisiana road where he jogged every Sunday afternoon. He assumed a ready stance on the balls of his feet, prepared to jump out of the way of the erratically lurching vehicle as it neared. The glare of sunlight reflected off the windshield, preventing him from seeing the driver. A drunk? A distracted teenager?
The small blue Honda’s engine roared, and the car lurched forward, its wheels kicking up gravel as the passenger-side tires moved from the pavement onto the narrow shoulder. Hunter braced, rapidly weighing whether to dive for the four-foot ditch to his left or feint right into the road, assuming the car wouldn’t correct its path in time. Both posed risk.
Just as he shifted his weight to spring to his left, the sun slipped behind a cloud. He caught a glimpse of a face behind the steering wheel. A woman. A startled, frightened look. A last second swerve, tires squealing.
He jumped aside but not fast enough. The sedan clipped his hip as he launched himself toward the ditch. He landed with a tooth-jarring thump. Rolled. Pain streaked from his shoulder down his arm.
He twisted to watch the Honda rocket past, grumbling an invective under his breath.
Still traveling at a high speed, the car over-corrected from the swerve to miss him and fish-tailed. In seconds, the driver had lost control. The sedan careened off the road at high speed, flipped and rolled into the ditch.
Horror punched him in the gut. Scrambling to his feet, Hunter ran down the road to the inverted car and crouched at the broken driver’s window. “Hey, are you okay?”
A pained and panicked cry came from inside.
Unable to see the front seat even from a squat, he got on his stomach and peered inside. The sight that greeted him backed his breath into his throat.
The woman lay crumpled on the roof of the sedan, which was now below her. Her forehead was bleeding. Her face was wrenched in a mask of agony. And she clutched her…rounded belly.
Hunter’s anxiety racheted up a notch. She was pregnant. And judging from the pool of bloody fluid under her hips, her water had broken in the crash.
Another wail of pain from her confirmed it. She was in labor.
“Damn,” he muttered as a chill slid through him, despite the warm autumn sun. “Ma’am, are you hurt anywhere other than your head?” He reached in far enough to put the car in park and turn off the engine.
She turned wild blue eyes toward him. Frightened eyes. “Don’t hurt me!”
He raised his palms. “I’m won’t. Calm down.”
“Please! Don’t hurt me. I’m not— “ She stopped with a gasp and a moan, holding her stomach. Hurt her? What the— ?
“I’m not going to hurt you, ma’am. Why would you think—?”
“My baby!” she gasped between shallow pants. “It’s coming!”
“Yeah. I see that.” He jerked at the velcro strap that held his cell phone strapped to an arm band while he jogged and dialed 911. “I’m calling an ambulance now. Try to slow your breathing. You’re hyperventilating.”
Another frightened groan answered him, and she cast a nervous glance around her. “Where am I? What happened?”
Hunter arched an eyebrow. “You don’t remember?”
Her brow puckered and her eyes reflected anxiety, confusion. “Something’s wrong. I can’t…”
He frowned. How hard had she hit her head? Was she a meth user? Mentally unstable? He studied her face, but her smooth, unblemished skin and her white teeth didn’t show any telltale signs of drug use. She was, in fact, strikingly beautiful with a youthful oval face, thick golden blond hair, clear blue eyes, and lush red lips.
“Try to calm down. Take slow deep breaths. No one is trying to hurt you.” When the emergency operator came on the line, Hunter quickly gave the man the bullet points of the situation. Location. One car accident. Woman in labor. Bleeding forehead. Possible delusions.
When he’d been assured an ambulance and police were on the way, Hunter switched the call to speaker setting and put his phone on the ground by the car, leaving the line connected as instructed.
“Ma’am, I’m going to try to open the door, so I can help you.” Crawling onto his knees, he pulled at the crushed door. Though it gave a little, the bent frame was jammed. Hunter rose to his feet for better leverage and tried again. The shoulder he’d landed on when he dove into the ditch throbbed, and he paused long enough to roll his arms and loosen the muscles.
“Ow!” The fear behind the woman’s cry spurred him to act faster, put everything behind getting the door open.
“Hang on, ma’am. I’m coming.” Propping a foot against the dented frame, Hunter pulled on the door with all his strength. Sweat streamed down his already damp back and brow, but with a creak of straining metal, the door finally gave way. Getting on his belly again, Hunter crawled inside the flipped car and sidled up to the injured woman. “Okay, ma’am. Help is on the way, and I’m going to do what I can until they get here.”
Instead of the relief or gratitude he expected, the woman’s expression reflected terror as he drew closer. “No! Don’t hurt me!”
That again? Hunter huffed. She was the one who’d almost killed him with her erratic driving! He took a deep breath and touched her arm lightly. “I’m not going to hurt you. I want to help.”
“But someone was…I think, someone was coming after me. I feel…I can’t remember…” She seemed so distraught that Hunter paused.
“Who’s coming after you? Why were you in such a hurry?” An abusive husband maybe?
She swallowed hard, and her brow furrowed. “I…I don’t know.” She tipped her head and gave him a funny look. “Wh-who are you?”
“My name’s Hunter. I saw you crash, and I’m here to help you. Do you remember any thing about the accident or why you were driving so fast?”
“I…” She closed her eyes, wincing, then gave him a frightened look. “I had a contraction…and then I was upside down and my had water broken and…you looked in the window…and— “ She cried out in pain, drawing her shoulders in and cradling her belly again.
Hunter took her hand in his and patted her wrist. “You’re okay. Take a deep breath and blow it out through your mouth.”
He wracked his brain for what he could remember about child birth from when his nieces had been born. Darby Kent, the mother of one of his nieces, had been one of his closest friends since college, and he’d stood by her through her pregnancy, practicing breathing techniques with her and coaching her on the way to the hospital for her delivery. Though the specifics of the labor breathing wasn’t coming back to him at the moment, he knew hyperventilating was not good. Which was what the woman was currently doing.
“Hey, look at me.” He moved a hand to her cheek and angled her face toward him. Her wide, fearful eyes latched onto his. Their piercing blue hue and vulnerability socked Hunter in the solar plexus, grabbed him and held on tight. “I’m not going to leave you. We’re going to get you through this. I know you’re scared, but you need to calm down. Take slower, deeper breaths or you’re going to pass out.”
She closed her eyes once, then refocused on him. Some of the panic in her gaze eased, and she slowed her breathing. She inhaled deeply, if shakily, and blew it out with a whimper.
“That’s my girl.” He gave her a warm smile and squeezed her fingers. “Now…what’s your name?”
She stared at him blankly for a moment, then frowned. “I…don’t know.”
You can buy Hunter’s book here!