Lisa's Lair

Hi everyone!

Before we get to this week’s story, I have some big news! In the next day or two I’m going to have my first eBook available!!! Across the Veil, my short story that won the Paranormal Fight Club has been edited and will be available as a .99 download! Here’s a sneak peek of the cover… Here’s the blurb:

Princess Talia from Summerland has been hiding across the veil in the human world for the past five years. Starring in a hit television show as human actress, Natalie Thurmont, her charmed new life is shattered when the past comes knocking on her door.

Across the Veil” won Romance in the Backseat book review’s Paranormal Fight Club short story contest. Short Fiction (6K Words)

Once it’s available I’ll post a link… Can’t wait to share it!!! I’m still working on editing the short story anthology, Forgotten Treasures, which will be available as an eBook and a paperback. My goal is to have it available by the end of March… *fingers crossed*

So the time changed today and it feels like there’s something in the air… Spring? I hope so!

Anyway, onto the story…

I got a chance to see Rango on opening day and I loved it so much that I downloaded most of the soundtrack and was inspired to write a western! I started writing it last week, and derailed myself when I found so many cool research references! Yow!

Anyway, welcome to the wild west….

Thanks for reading and commenting everyone!

Lisa J

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

The Gambler – By Lisa Kessler

He squinted into the sun, wetting his chapped lips.  Judging by the angle of the light on the horizon, he figured he should reach Bodie before dusk.  His lungs rattled with each breath, enticing him to cough.  Zane tightened his grip on the worn leather reins, resisting his body’s urge to hack up the fragile tissue in his chest.

One of the players in his last card game in Virginia City must’ve been carrying some sort of miner’s sickness.  Not that it mattered now.  He had it and only hoped it wasn’t consumption.  Gripping the reins in one hand, he slipped the other inside his vest and took a swig from a small blue bottle.  He winced as Dr. Pierce’s Golden Medical Discovery burned through his gullet.  The snake oil claimed to cure whatever ails you, but he was far from cured.

At least the foul tasting syrup numbed the burn in his throat and soothed the scratch that dared him to cough up a lung. 

He was coming into town on a winning streak.  Following the gold and silver rush spreading through the west, he found card games with eager players and weak hands.  A dream for any gambler worth his salt.

And Zane was worth much more than salt.

But it wasn’t a poker table that lured him toward the new California boomtown.

He spat tobacco into the dust and urged Smoke to pick up the pace.  Hot wind stung his cheeks as his black gelding broke into a slow lope across the prairie.  While the days were hot, the nights were treacherous with the temperatures dropping and unforgiving winds that could freeze a man sleeping under the stars.

Zane hadn’t slept in days.  For once, insomnia felt like a twisted blessing.

The sky was a brilliant orange by the time he saw buildings in the distance.  “Almost there, Smokey boy.”

His horse flipped his head in agreement, and jumped to action when Zane brushed his side with a spur.  He leaned forward, closer to Smoke’s black mane, giving the wind a smaller target as they raced toward Bodie.

He pulled up on the reins when they reached the city limits.  “Easy boy,” he mumbled to Smoke.

It didn’t take long to figure out the dance-halls were on the North side of town.  He followed the sound of music and debauchery until he stopped in front of the Scarlet Dance Hall.  The corner of his mouth twinged into a shadow of a smile.

This had to be her place.

Zane swung his right leg over the back of the saddle and dropped to the ground.  Smoke followed him to the tie post, and he wrapped a rein loosely around the post before kicking the dust off of his boots and heading inside.

The air was thick with cigar smoke, and his gaze fell onto the two card games along the back wall.  Instead of joining in for a hand, he turned to the bar.  When the bartender met his eyes, Zane grumbled, “Whiskey.”

A drunken cowboy sidled up next to him.  “You’re not from around these parts are you?”

Zane glanced over at him, narrowing his ice blue eyes.  “Nope.”

The drunk leaned closer and lowered his voice to a slurred whisper, “Ya found any gold or are ya lookin’ fer some?”

The man’s breath could’ve knocked out a horse.  “Just lookin’ for a card game.”  Zane tipped his whiskey back and set the glass back on the bar.  He tossed a silver coin to the bartender and left the drunk alone at the bar.

The lure of the poker tables made his fingers twitch.  Painted women worked the room, carrying drinks, sitting on eager laps, and a few led paying customers up the back stairs.  Cigar smoke twisted up from the table, the scent awakening the beast inside of him, the animal that hungered for a royal flush more than food or drink.

The same monster that cost him the only woman he ever loved.

He settled in at the table and anteed up.

After winning his second hand, the music got louder.  The piano man in the corner by the small stage pounded out the ragtime tune as the curtain opened in the middle.  His heart stopped when he saw the woman who walked to center stage.

Her red skirt was hiked up in the front, giving all the men in the saloon a gander at her gorgeous long legs.  He gnawed at the end of his cigar as he laid his cards face down on the table. 

“What the hell are you doin’?”  The stocky miner to his right grumbled.  “This is horseshit.  The game doesn’t stop for whores.”

Zane hit the man so hard the chair fell over backwards along with its unconscious occupant.  He didn’t give him a second look.  “She’s not a whore.”  He mumbled, making eye contact with each of the remaining players at the table.  “Anyone else got a problem with holding the game?”

Not a single head nodded.

“Good.”  He turned toward the stage, making his way through the salivating dogs.  He could almost see their goddamn tails wagging.

The crowd parted, and if they didn’t, his broad shoulders knocked them out of his way.  Nothing would get in his way.

The moment her brown eyes turned his way, he heard her gasp.  She stopped singing and took a step closer to the edge of the stage.  “Zane?”

He rushed to the stage and pulled her free, carrying her away from the angry patrons.  The piano came back to life behind him as he set her feet on the ground outside the swinging doors of the dance hall.

Her initial surprise melted away, and before he saw it coming, she slapped his face so hard his teeth rattled.

“What was that for?”  He rubbed at his cheek.

“You left me to chase a card game.”  Her brow furrowed and her red lips pressed together.  Dear Lord he missed kissing those lips.  “Did you think I’d be happy to see you?”  

“Maybe not happy.”  He settled back in his boots, crossing his arms.  “But I didn’t expect to find you selling yourself.  Men strike more than gold in this town.”

This time he saw the slap coming and caught her wrist before she made contact.  He took a step closer to her so that their bodies made contact.  Seeing the rebellious spark in her dark eyes and feeling her curves pressed against him sent his pulse racing, pumping blood below his belt.

With his mouth closer to hers, he growled, “I didn’t come here chasing a card game, Kittie.  I came here for you.”

She wrenched her wrist free, but he was pleased that she didn’t step back or break eye contact.  She was still the most fearless, gorgeous creature he’d ever seen.

“So you came all the way to California to insult me?”

“Nope.”  He leaned down toward her lips.  “I came all the way to California for this.”

He kissed her, hard, his mouth claiming hers.  She still tasted like springtime.  Her tongue mingled with his as he clutched her to his chest.  Behind him he heard glasses smash.  He spun around just in time to see the man he hit lurch through the doors.

Zane stepped in front of Kittie, eyes narrowed, his trigger finger twitching against his thumb.  The man’s right eye was swollen shut.

“How much is he paying you?”  He tried to see Kittie around Zane’s shoulders.  “I’ll double it.”

“I told you she’s no whore.”  That was all the restraint Zane had left.  Now that he’d found her and tasted her lips again, there was no way any other man was going to touch her.  Never again.  “Now get the hell outta my face.  I fold.”

The battered man attempted to raise his misshapen brow.  “You come in, mess up my game, assault me, and now you think you’re gonna decide where I wet my wick?”

“You son of a…”  He tackled the other man, knocking him to the ground.

They grappled in the dirt in front on the saloon.  He saw something flash in the lantern light and Kittie screamed, “He’s got a knife.”

Before Zane could grab his arm, the blade sunk into his skin, slicing through the muscle of his bicep.  Distracted by the pain, he let go of the other man. 

The weasel scrambled to his feet and grabbed Kittie.  Holding the bloody blade to her neck, he ran his other dirty hand up her bare thigh, licking his swollen lips.  “How much will you charge if we let him watch?”

Zane drew his pistol.  “Let her go.”

The man pressed the knife against her skin until she gasped, her eyes begging for help.  “You don’t get to call the shots.”

Zane cocked his weapon and fired, knocking the man back into the dirt.

“I just make ‘em.”

Kittie rushed to his arms and he scooped her up and onto his horse before the mob lost interest in their fallen friend.  He swung up behind her, squeezing his spurs into Smoke’s sides.  His horse launched into a gallop as Zane held his wife tight.  He thought she was weeping, but gradually realized she wasn’t crying.

She was laughing.

He peered down at her with a raised brow.  She smiled up at him.  “Lord I’ve missed you, Zane.” 

She shook her head and kissed him.  He was breathless when he came up for air, relieved to see that Smoke remembered the way out of town.

“You followed me all the way out to California.”

He nodded.

She looked over at his bloody arm.  “You gonna stop and let me clean that?”

“Eventually.”  He shrugged, hoping he wasn’t letting on how much he’d missed her attention.

Her gaze met his.  “How’d you know I wouldn’t shoot you?”

“I didn’t.”  He kissed her again.  He couldn’t resist.  “It was worth the risk.”

“Always the gambler,” she hummed against his lips.

“Always,” he growled.

But the woman in his arms was by far the best bet he’d ever made or won.

The End

~~~

This story was inspired by a story I found in the Library of Congress newspaper archives…

April 1, 1880, Samuel Black was shot and dangerously wounded by Jesse Pierce…” The story went on to describe an altercation over a harlot named, Kittie Welles.

http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/beta/lccn/sn82014381/1880-04-01/ed-1/seq-1/;words=California+Bodie?date1=1860&date2=1899&sequence=1&lccn=&proxdistance=5&state=California&rows=20&ortext=&proxtext=&phrasetext=Bodie+California&andtext=&dateFilterType=range&page=1&index=2

I think it’s amazing that we have so much history at our fingertips now! J I also used Dr. Pierce’s Golden Medical Discovery from an advertisement I saw in the 1880 newspaper! Dr. Pierce was one of the most successful snake oil salesmen in America!

And if you’re interested in the California mining town of Bodie, it’s now one of the larget ghost towns. I’ve been there twice and I highly recommend it. Such a cool glimpse into the wild west… http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bodie,_California

(For Marvin we had “Something in the air”, Zane was the repeated Z word and a silver coin was the currency…)


  • Ken

    Great story, Lisa! Makes me want to watch “Silverado” again!

    And congrats on the new ebook! Can’t wait to get my copy!

    Ken

    • Thanks Ken!!! I’m so glad you enjoyed the story because I had such a blast researching and writing it! 🙂

      I can’t wait for Across the Veil to be out in the world… I hope it makes people smile!

      Lisa

  • Congrats on the new book, Lisa. Awesome. That is a fantastic story. I love how you blended history and fiction!

    • Thanks Ciara!!! I’m glad you enjoyed the story!!! Mixing real history with fiction is one of my favorite things to try when I write…

      Thanks for reading and commenting!!! I hope you have a wonderful week…

      Lisa 🙂

  • Marvin Martian

    8 points Earthling! 🙂
    Nope Zane doesn’t call the shots…”he just makes ’em”!
    Great story Lisa!!

    Congrats on your first E Book! WOOT! (that’s martian for way cool!)

    • Ha! I’m so glad you liked that line Marvin! It was my favorite too! LOL

      Thanks for the points and all your encouragement!!! Where would I be without my blogophilia buds??? 🙂

      Lisa

  • That’s great about the e books – I don’t have a reader !

    My writing “teacher” who is disliked by the entire class tells us to always use “said”. However, you, like all my other good writer friends rarely use it. As I “said”, he is not a good teacher.

    Excellent story !

    • Hi Sue! *waving*

      I try to leave off dialogue tags and use action instead. But if you have to use a dialog tag, “said” is often the least obtrusive. Some people go over board with “he screamed” “she cried” “He retorted” “She argued” and those types of tags can be annoying because they stick out as “telling” insted of “showing”.

      He migth be trying to sway you in that direction and he’s just not describing it very well?

      Or he might just be a bad teacher! LOL I hope you signed up for the flash fiction class! I promise we’ll have a blast… 🙂

      Thanks for reading and commenting Sue!!! Hope you have a fabulous week!

      Lisa

      • yes the prof is big on telling not showing but also insists on said – though the author in the group does not do that and he never comments – he does not describe well and does not critique at all really – luckily the others in the class are pretty good

        yep signed up for Oct class with you !!

        Thanks for your support !!

        • YAY!!! It’ll be great to have a familiar face in the workshop too! 🙂

          Good luck with your current prof… Hope it gets better!

          Lisa

  • Hey – great story! I love that they turned out to be married. I really enjoyed this. 🙂

    • Hey Rebecca! *waving*

      Thank you! I’m glad you enjoyed the story! When I read the newspaper article from 1880 I was trying to figure out why someone would shoot a law enforcement officer over insulting a “harlot” and Zane and Kittie came to life… 🙂

      Thanks for reading and commenting! Hope you have a great week…

      Lisa 😀

  • Congratulations on the ebook, Lisa!

    This was a wonderful story, love how you write! Ghost towns can be so cool, walking in the past, what an inspiration.

    • Oh I love ghost towns too Peggy!!! 🙂

      I’m glad you enjoyed the story! I really had a great time researching and writing it!

      Thanks for reading and commenting!!!

      Lisa 🙂

  • Great read! Romance is still my favorite!
    Congrats on your new ebook.

    • Thank you Eda!!! Great to see you you! 🙂

      I’m glad you enjoyed the story! Thanks for reading and commenting…

      Hope you have a great week!

      Lisa 🙂

  • I am curious where the profile picture of me came from. I usually use my book cover- Retired NOT Expired

    http://www.edasuzanne.com
    http://www.edasuzanne.blogspot.com

    • Ha! You crack me up! LOL 🙂

      I think if you don’t have a wordpress account it just assigns you a little monster avatar… 🙂

      Lisa

  • Very NICE!!! Wow, congrats on the releases. You go, girl!

    • Thanks Lynn!!! 🙂 An agent encouraged me to dip my toes into self-publishing some of my short stories since large houses aren’t really interested in shorter stuff. It’s been interesting, and hopefully I’ll figure out what I’m doing soon! LOL

      Thanks for reading and commenting!!! I’m glad you enjoyed the story…

      Lisa 🙂

  • Kim Bowman

    cool! congrats

    • Thanks Kim!!!

      And thanks for reading and commenting too! Have a great week!

      Lisa 🙂

  • fiddlbarb

    Awesome Blogophilia! I always love your stories. ~Barb K~

    • Awww thanks Barbara!!! I’m glad you enjoyed the story this week… 🙂

      Thanks for reading and commenting!!! Have a wonderful week….

      *HUGS*

      Lisa 🙂

  • I bought my copy! Woot!

    • YAY!!!! Thanks so much Ciara!!! I hope you enjoy the story!!!

      Lisa 😀

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Lisa Kessler's books on Goodreads
Moonlight Moonlight (Moon, #1)
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ratings: 660 (avg rating 3.76)

Night Walker Night Walker (Night, #1)
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Beg Me to Slay Beg Me to Slay
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Hunter's Moon Hunter's Moon (Moon, #2)
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ratings: 246 (avg rating 4.16)

Across the Veil Across the Veil
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