The Tiger, Unleashed

The Tiger, Unleashed

Format: ebook
Publisher: Smashwords
Published: October 2010
Price: $5.99
ISBN: 978-1-4523-5155-1
Available: Smashwords.com or Amazon.com

Back Cover:
The year is 1878 and Adella Barnes has lived a normal life in her little sun-scorched California town. The daughter of the mayor, she struggles with the image people expect of her and how to deal with her betrothal to a man of her father’s choosing. When she meets a dark stranger, Blake Stanley, Adella’s need for adventure is fueled by his mysterious existence. Even when his past criminal record is revealed, she longs for the safety she feels when he is near. Discovering that he was accused of killing her brother, her faith in his innocence wavers. Still, her heart speaks to her of a love that can only be born in the heavens and she decides that she will always love him, regardless of his past. To save her love, Adella must prove Blake’s innocence before the real criminal discovers the truth about Blake and kills them both.
The Tiger, Unleashed is a story of heartache, betrayal, and love; a love that can endure the feuds of family and the laws of the state. Through faith and trust, this novel illustrates the trials the heart must endure when faced with incredible odds.


Excertp:

The sun was beginning to set when she rose from the ground and brushed off her skirts. She wiped the remaining moisture from her swollen eyes, and felt the beginnings of an inner sense of peace as she stared at the retreating sun; the pinks and purples painted across the sky. Perhaps this was Layton’s way of telling her that her words had not gone unheard and that everything would work out somehow. She smiled, brushed a final tear from her cheek and began to turn. Stopping abruptly, a gasp caught in her throat as she spotted the form of a man standing ten feet in front of her. She recognized him at once as Blake Stanley. The light was fading, but his expressionless, handsome face was still visible. Once again dressed in black, his loose fitting shirt, which was unbuttoned part way down, clung to his body as it rippled in the breeze revealing his well defined torso. His piercing, steel eyes were the only portion of his face that seemed to give way to any emotion. She gazed hypnotically into them. So alluring yet daunting.
Determined.
Dangerous.
His presence was dominating and she briefly wondered why he was there.
As she began to open her mouth to express her thought, her words were halted by his casual yet steady approach. His eyes never left hers and she found her feet rooted in placed as he stopped only a couple feet in front of her. His gaze held hers captive and then drifted to the marble stone behind her.
“A cousin?”
Violet shook her head as she glanced behind her, wiped a stray tear from her face and then turned back to Blake Stanley again. “No, he was my brother.”
“Your brother?” His eyes narrowed slightly. “How did he die?”
“Why do you ask?”
“Just making conversation,” he mumbled in a low, sultry tone.
Noting that his voice was lower than she remembered, she debated whether or not to answer him with full honesty or only in part. “He was shot in the heart.”
Blake quirked one eyebrow. “He seems pretty young to have been involved in a duel. Was it a hunting accident or was he into something illegal?”
“Oh no,” Violet exclaimed. “Nothing like that.” She looked toward the stone again as she spoke. “He and his best friend were riding horses through the clearing over there.” She pointed toward the clearing. “They must have had a disagreement because his friend pulled out a pistol and shot him. By the time anyone got there, Layton was dead and his friend was in hysterics.”
“I’m sorry for your loss. It must have been very hard on you.”
“Yes. I was only four at the time, but I remember feeling devastated for many years.”
He nodded and changed the subject. “I’m sorry I interrupted your private time. I was out for a walk when I came upon you.”
She smiled at him. “I was just leaving. It is getting very late. I should get back. My mother will send someone to fetch me if I don’t return soon.”
“Please, allow me to escort you.”
“Oh, that’s not necessary.”
“Yes, it is.” He held out his arm to her. “How would I ever face your father or your brother if something happened to you because I did not escort you home? It is, after all, getting very dark.”
Her eyes traveled the length of him and took in every inch of his magnificent, muscular body. She sighed with resignation as her eyes landed on his face again. Her mouth watered excessively as her gaze fell to his lips which were turned up in a smile. As her eyes finally locked with his again, she saw an amused and knowing light in them and felt him take her small hand and put it on his arm. He then turned her and, more slowly than the hour demanded, started for her father’s house.
What a strange man he seemed to be. With polished manners and the charm of the most distinguished of gentlemen, the mystery about him heightened in Violet’s mind. Why would such a gentleman hide from society, which he obviously seemed to do? And what was his interest in Violet? She admitted she craved to know his secrets, and not for gossiping purposes. Something inside her longed for such a man to fulfill all her dreams, but such was not her fate. If things were different, would a man like Blake Stanley take an interest in her and fill the emptiness in her heart?
“Can I ask you something?”
He looked at her with expressionless eyes and she went on before he could answer.
“Why do you always wear such dark colored clothing?”
He seemed to weigh the question before answering. “What makes you think I always wear dark colors?”
“Every time I see you, you look more like a shadow than a man.”
There was silence before he answered again. “Kind of a personal question to ask someone you know so little about.”
“Perhaps, but wasn’t our conversation only moments ago personal?”
He nodded. “I don’t take to being noticed.”
She stopped, and he turned to face her. Somewhere in the back of her mind a small voice screamed how inappropriate it was to stop and converse with a stranger in the dark, especially unchaperoned. Yet for some reason, she felt safe. “Don’t you think you would blend in more if you wore something less conspicuous, such as a white shirt?”
“Do you suggest I wear all the frills that your fiancé does?” His voice was hard.
“No.” She wondered how he knew of her engagement but remembered it was common knowledge even though the engagement had not yet been formally announced. “I only meant….”
“Why does it matter to you what I wear,” he growled. “You hardly know me from your deceased brother.”
His words cut like a knife and she raised a hand and slapped his face. “How dare you speak to me so, you…you brute!”
“Yes.” His growl was fierce and he did not make the slightest acknowledgement that she had just struck him. He stood there glaring at her. “I am a brute and don’t forget it. However, I am not far from the truth, nor did you take my meaning the way it was intended.” With that, he took her hand and placed it on his arm once more.
They walked the remainder of the way in silence. Violet could feel him brooding in his thoughts beside her and tried to decide how else she was supposed to have interpreted his rude remarks. Reaching the stairs to the back verandah, he turned to her. His eyes had softened and his face no longer appeared as though it were carved out of granite.
“I apologize for my rudeness earlier, Miss Barnes.” He placed a light kiss the back of her gloved hand. “I do hope you will permit me to call upon you again sometime.”
“Oh.” She was astonished and put her free hand to her bosom in an effort to still her pounding heart. “But sir, I…I’m….”
He chuckled as she stammered. “As a friend, Miss Barnes. Not a lover.” His eyes twinkled, transforming his usually handsome face into a face that rivaled the Greek Gods in good looks. She was so astonished by this change that she neglected to act appalled at his inappropriate words, as propriety demanded, and stood gawking at him.
“I’ll take that as a yes.” He grinned. “Good night then, darlin’.”
She stared after him as he turned and sauntered away with a casual swagger until he was swallowed up in the darkness moments later.