Monday I announced the release of my new book bundle – The Blood Blade Sisters Series. For just a few more days, the entire bundle will be on sale for 99 cents!!
Here is a little about each book in the bundle – and the entire first chapter of book, A Bandit’s Stolen Heart!
The Wild West just got a little wilder…
In a time when justice is hard to come by, three unconventional sisters become one notorious bandit—The Blood Blade—robbing from the corrupt lawmen to give back to the innocent.
A Bandit’s Stolen Heart
Under the persona of the bandit, Blood Blade, Cilla Richardson robs from the corrupt and gives to the poor. But an accidental kidnapping leaves her with a very handsome captive named Leo Forrester…and an idea to save her town.
A Bandit’s Broken Heart
Determined to make a fresh start with her daughter, widow Brynne Richardson gives up her bandit activities and leaves California for Boston. Working for a handsome doctor fulfills her need to be useful and independent, but he creates another yearning she can’t deny. But will he understand when she has to resurrect the Blood Blade?
A Bandit’s Betrayed Heart
Lucy Richardson’s bandit sisters may have taught her to sling a gun and pick a stubborn lock, but nothing prepared her for the agony of her first heartbreak. Her sisters taught her to fight like hell for what she wants… and she wants Finn.
Excerpt from Blood Blade Sisters Series
by Michelle McLean
Copyright © 2014 by Michelle McLean. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce, distribute, or transmit in any form or by any means. For information regarding subsidiary rights, please contact the Publisher.
Cilla glared at her horse through the pouring rain, refusing to allow the old gelding the satisfaction of staring her down. He glared back with such a human expression of irritation that she nearly burst out laughing. She wasn’t happy with what they were about to do either, but then she had little choice in the matter. If she could risk life and limb for her family, then so could the annoying beast in front of her.
“Ah, come on, Maynard. We’re almost done for the night,” she murmured as she leaned against his side. The horse shifted away, denying her the brief respite from the rain his bulk provided.
“Spoilsport.” Cilla inhaled, sucking the damp rag tied around her face into her mouth. The stale sweat and horse odor of the cloth tasted as bad as it smelled. She plucked at it, longing to rip it off. But announcing her identity to the good citizens she was about to rob wouldn’t be wise.
The faint sound of horse hooves carried on the wind and she grabbed Maynard’s reins. The horse might be a stubborn old bag of bones when it suited him, but he also knew when it was time for business. He stood steady while she swung up into the saddle. Cilla turned as her sister, Lucy, rode into view.
Lucy was nearly invisible in the pouring rain. Like Cilla, her black duster covered dark brown pants and a brown homespun shirt left over from their father’s riding days. They both wore their long auburn hair plaited and shoved under floppy hats. Even in the daylight, Lucy and Cilla looked eerily alike, except for the scar that dissected Cilla’s left eyebrow, running from her forehead down to the corner of her eye. They could have been twins if they hadn’t been born four years apart.
Cilla tugged the brim of her hat lower over her eyes. In the dark of the night, the sisters were nothing more than shadows, nothing showing but the faint white gleam of their eyes.
Lucy pulled her horse alongside Maynard. “The carriage is coming.” Her muffled words sent Cilla’s stomach dropping into her well-worn boots. She couldn’t tell if Lucy’s voice was full of excitement or fear, though she suspected it was the former.
Lucy had only recently been allowed to join in Cilla’s nighttime runs.
Maynard pranced beneath Cilla, echoing her anxiety. Something was off. She glanced around. The silent trail showed no signs of life. Everything was hiding from the downpour that spilled onto the thirsty land. Maybe she was just worried about Lucy. It was all well and good to be enthusiastic about your work, but being overly excited could get you killed. Or worse, caught. The thought of Lucy in the hands of the sheriff, their despised half-brother Frank, was more than Cilla could stomach. He’d have to put a bullet in her brain before she let him get a hold of her sisters again.
“How many passengers?” Cilla asked, trying to rein in both her misgivings and Lucy’s excitement. This was business, and business was best conducted with cold calculation.
“Three, just like you said. Mr. Langley, his fat old wife, and their daughter.”
“Old Jesse driving?”
Lucy hesitated. “I’m not sure. The driver was hunched over like Jesse usually is, but…I don’t think it was him.”
Cilla didn’t say anything. An unexpected change in drivers wasn’t good. Damn! They needed what was in that coach. Or more specifically, the fee it would bring when they turned it in. To supplement the meager income they kept from their raids, the sisters had begun doing a few jobs for hire. Though they only took the jobs that fell under their definition of “justified.”
People who had something Frank wanted didn’t hold on to it for long. The brooch they were supposed to retrieve from the Langleys had been coerced from the rightful owners because Frank had locked up their only son until the couple had ponied up the brooch as payment for his release. Therefore, Cilla felt no guilt in getting it back. Especially when they were being paid in hard currency.
They didn’t have many clients who paid in cash. Most traded goods in return for the sisters’ retrieval services. Cilla appreciated the gifts of food, clothing, and other items or services that kept the sisters’ living conditions tolerable. But the promise of gold wasn’t worth Lucy’s life if something went wrong.
The rumble of the coach’s wheels echoed up the hill to where they waited. They were out of time. Cilla opened her mouth to tell Lucy it was off, to head for home, but before she could do so, Lucy wheeled her horse around and thundered down the hill toward the unsuspecting coach.
“Damn it all to hell and back again,” Cilla muttered, digging her heels into Maynard’s side.
The horse jumped forward and they flew after Lucy. Cilla reached the carriage just as Lucy darted her horse in front of the coach’s team, blocking their path. The driver shouted, grappling with the reins. The horses reared. Lucy and Cilla flanked either side and the driver yanked them to a halt.
Guns drawn, the girls got to work. Lucy forced a cursing driver down from his perch. Cilla trained her gun on the window of the coach, her other hand flinging the door open. She lost no time. She ignored decrepit old Mr. Langley, who was sputtering in useless outrage in the corner of the carriage. It was harder to ignore the high-pitched squealing coming from his highly coifed and beribboned daughter, but Cilla did her best.
She pointed the gun straight at Mrs. Langley’s head and cocked the pistol.
“Brooch,” she said, her voice as deep and guttural as she could make it. She still sounded like an underdeveloped boy who’d been kicked in the unmentionables, but it was the best she could do.
Thankfully, Mrs. Langley was more attached to her life than her jewelry. She began divesting her fingers of rings and yanked a strand of pearls from her throat, tossing them to the floor of the coach.
“No,” Cilla growled. She pointed the gun at the marble-sized ruby surrounded by diamonds at the woman’s throat. “Brooch,” she said again, as forcefully as her fake voice would allow.
Mrs. Langley fumbled with the brooch, finally ripping the fabric of her dress in her haste. She tossed it to Cilla, who caught it with her spare hand.
Cilla backed away, leaving the rest of the jewelry glittering weakly in the dim light of the carriage’s door lantern. Carefully releasing the hammer of the gun, she tipped her head to the carriage’s occupants.
The pop of a gunshot rang through the air.
Cilla gave the spooked carriage horses a smack on the rump and they lunged forward, pulling their screaming occupants along with them. A shout from her sister sent a jolt of fear racing through Cilla’s blood. She bit her lip to keep from yelling her sister’s name. As soon as the carriage was clear, Cilla sprinted forward.
The driver wrestled with Lucy, cussing worse than a farmer with crickets in his corn. Even on his knees with one arm limp at his side, he was doing a good job of knocking Lucy off her feet. He yanked off her bandana. Lucy stumbled backward, trying to push him away. Her hat went tumbling as she fell.
The driver froze. “A girl?”
Cilla aimed her gun and for a split second thought about shooting him. But burying a dead man wasn’t part of the plan. She strode forward, flipped her weapon around, and bashed the butt into the man’s head with as much force as she could muster. He crumpled to the ground.
Lucy let out a shaky sigh. Cilla bent down, feeling for the man’s pulse. He was still alive. But he was going to have one hell of a headache come morning.
“What happened?” Cilla asked, whistling for Maynard before Lucy answered. They needed to get out of there.
“I don’t know. He was shoutin’ at me, and I was tryin’ to get him to shut up without sayin’ much, and I gripped my gun too tight and it just went off.”
“It wasn’t supposed to be loaded. You know the rules.” Cilla felt horrible coming down on her sister when she was obviously still spooked, but they couldn’t afford such mistakes.
“I know, I know, I’m sorry.” Lucy’s voice trembled and Cilla sighed.
“We’ll talk about it later. Help me,” she said, grasping one of the man’s arms.
Lucy grabbed the man’s other arm and they dragged him the few feet to where Maynard stood. The horse eyed them then looked away. “Maynard, kneel,” Cilla commanded.
The horse nickered, blowing a stream of hot air in Cilla’s face. She held her breath. They’d only done this twice before. If the horse refused now, they were done for.
Cilla sighed in relief as the horse slowly dropped his front legs into a semi-kneeling position.
“How’d you get him to do that?” Lucy exclaimed.
“I’ve been training him to help me out around the ranch. Come on,” Cilla grunted, looping the man’s arm over the saddle. “We’ll talk later.”
Lucy swung the man’s other arm over the saddle and pushed him from behind as Cilla pulled from the other side. A few tense and sweaty minutes later, they had the man draped across Maynard’s back. Cilla patted the old horse, reminding herself to give him a big bucket of oats when they got home, and mounted. Lucy grabbed her horse and had just come up alongside Cilla when another gunshot rang out.
“Ride!” Cilla shouted. She couldn’t see who was behind them, but she could guess.
Frank and his deputies had been roaming the borders of the ranch more and more frequently as of late. He said he was merely concerned for their well-being, with all the robberies that had been occurring over the past several months. But Cilla knew he suspected them. Not that he could prove anything.
Unless he caught them tonight—with an unconscious, battered man hanging over her saddle.
“Hell and damnation,” she said, thankful her words were drowned out by the pounding of their horses’ hooves. “We’re in for it now.”