Sawbones, Book 3
Genre: Historical / Western / Action-Adventure / Romance
Date of Publication: June 27, 2017
Number of Pages: 416
Outlander meets post-Civil War unrest in the conclusion to Melissa Lenhardt’s fast-paced historical series.
Laura’s worst fears have been realized: Kindle has been taken into custody and she is once again on the run. The noose awaits her in New York, but Laura is realizing that there are some things worse than death. Finally running out of places to hide, it may be time for Dr. Catherine Bennett to face her past.
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Excerpt from Badlands by Melissa Lenhardt
Chapter One, Part 1
The train lurched to a stop and let out a long sigh, exhausted from its trek across the featureless plains of Nebraska. The shouts of the railroad men and the clang of metal against metal pierced the thick air, heavy with the threat of rain.
“She still asleep?”
Fabric rustled as someone in the compartment stood. “Not what I’d call it, but yes.”
With my eyes closed against the sight of Rosemond Barclay’s fine dress and my mother’s necklace around her throat, I heard the sarcasm dripping from the whore’s honeyed Southern accent.
“Want me to stay with her while you stretch your legs?”
“If you don’t mind,” Rosemond said.
“How long it gonna last?”
“Her pain? I’m not sure. I’ve never seen the like. I’ll get us something to eat. I’ll be quick.” The air around me changed and I smelled lavender, Rosemond’s scent. I felt Rosemond’s presence and imagined her leaning down to stare out the window, or at me. “Though with that line, I’ll be lucky if I don’t miss the train.”
“Better hurry, then.”
The compartment door slid open and closed and I was alone with the man who Rosemond called Dunk, a Negro who did everything she bid without question. Standing well over six feet, he was an imposing specimen of a man, but when I was doubled over in pain, or numb from the opiate, he picked me up with soft, gentle hands and carried me.
I opened my heavy eyelids, but couldn’t manage more than halfway. My head rested against an open window warmed by the sun and grimy with coal dust inside and out. I rubbed my fist against the glass and gazed through the small, partially clean circle at the activity outside. Passengers and railroad men scurried across the narrow platform and around Rosemond Barclay as if there was a protective cushion around her, though their heads turned and more than one gawped in appreciation. She made a show of putting on a pair of gloves, reveling in the attention no doubt, before continuing on down the steps and across the wide, busy street. She queued up at the end of line of customers waiting to enter to a narrow building. The whore didn’t need to draw attention to herself; her plaid periwinkle and white dress stood out against the sober mourning attire still worn by the majority of women, even seven years after the war.
“You awake?” Dunk said.
“Is that what you call this?” With a tongue thick and dry from laudanum, enunciation was difficult.
“Miss Rose went to get us something to eat.”
I nodded. “You have anything to drink?”
He leaned down and pulled a flask from his boot. He uncorked it and handed it to me. I took a long pull and coughed, spitting a good portion across the car. I covered my mouth with my hand and tried to regain my composure while Dunk laughed, but not impolitely. “That’s corn mash,” I said, my voice hoarse.
“You’ve had it before?”
“Once,” I said. I cleared my throat and drank again, ready for the taste and keeping it down. “Thank you.” I returned the flask to Dunk and noticed the knife secreted in his boot when he returned the flask to its home.
My gaze drifted to the black and white painted sign nailed to the depot. Grand Island Station. From my vantage point, with dry plains stretching out behind the wide spaced buildings—one thing the West had plenty of was space—and not a river in sight, let alone an island, the name seemed a disingenuous designation. But, Grand Island, Nebraska, wasn’t the first western town built on an ostentatious idea and duplicity, and it wouldn’t be the last.
My eyelids drooped closed and in my mind’s eye I saw a nattily dressed man standing on a barrel, with a young girl on the ground beside him, handing out leaflets.
Timberline is, by far, the most picturesque spot for a town in all of the Colorado Territory. The Rockies, that’s where the future is!
What of the Indian threat?
We will be traveling under the protection of the Army. The Indians will be no threat.
“It’s all built on lies,” I murmured.
Dunk’s expression was open and honest. There was no guile in this man. He would be an easy mark. No wonder Rosemond employed him.
“The West,” I said. My life. “Where are we going, Dunk? That’s your name, isn’t it?”
The man smiled. “Yes, ma’am. We’re going to Cheyenne, then on to Boulder.” His smile turned into a grin. “Then on to the mines.”
“The mines? Rosemond is leaving Saint Louis for a mining town?”
Dunk laughed. “No ma’am. She staying in Boulder. With you.”
“Got a lot there. House on the way. Starting over, she say. I been wanting to try my luck in the mines for years, but Miss Rose always talked me out of it. I knew she been softening to the idea a goin’ West for a few months now. Then she came home with you and we were gone next day. I owe you a debt of thanks.”
“Happy to be of service,” I said.
Melissa Lenhardt is the author the Jack McBride mystery series, as well as the Laura Elliston historical fiction series. Her debut mystery, STILLWATER, was a finalist for the 2014 Whidbey Writers’ MFA Alumni Emerging Writers Contest, and SAWBONES, her historical fiction debut, was hailed as a “thoroughly original, smart and satisfying hybrid, perhaps a new subgenre: the feminist Western” by Lone Star Literary Life. A lifelong Texan, she lives in the Dallas area with her husband and two sons.
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Three winners: 1st – Badlands paperback; 2nd – Badlands eBook; 3rd – Badlands audio download via Downpour
June 27-July 6, 2017
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