Alexa Quinn wanted much more from life than a society wedding. She was determined to make her busy father see her true worth. So when secrets and lies threatened the good work he was doing, Alexa seized her chance to save not only her father, but herself as well.
Enter Wyatt Cooper--ex-lawman, legendary gunslinger and a fine-looking man! He was the best in the West for stopping trouble in its tracks, but for Alexa he meant excitement, adventure and danger. Just what she was looking for....
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April 30, 2008
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Excerpt from Cooper's Woman by Carol Finch
Santa Fe, New Mexico Territory, 1880s
Alexa Quinn stood tensely in the doorway of the ballroom. Although the last half-dozen guests were milling about, her attention and her thoughts fixated on her father and Elliot Webster. The pair stood beside the fireplace, each with a drink in hand. Elliot had dogged Alexa's steps most of the evening and she sincerely hoped he hadn't pulled her father aside to ask for her hand in marriage. Dissatisfied as she was with her life, it would be infinitely more boring if she married Elliot. Even his dashing good looks, wealth and outward charm couldn't overshadow the fact that Alexa didn't like him.
She had learned to trust her instincts, as they pertained to zealous suitors, and they hadn't failed her yet.
"You've done it again, my dear," Benjamin Porter praised as he approached. "No one hosts a better party in Santa Fe. I'm sure your father is exceptionally proud of your skills."
Alexa dragged her anxious gaze away from her father and Elliot Webster to nod graciously to the short, pasty-faced math whiz who was one of her father's closest advisors. "Thank you, Ben. I appreciate that."
The truth was that Alexa didn't give a whit if she could organize a political or social function for her father and see that it ran smoothly. Harold Quinn might have fulfilled his ambitions as the territorial governor's appointed director of finance, who also served in several other capacities, and was considered the governor's most trusted counselor. She even understood that her father was preoccupied with his administrative duties to serve the greater good. Still, it was hard on her pride to know that her father saw right past her more often than not. Furthermore, he hadn't realized her potential. That cut her to the core.
Her ambition extended beyond social director for his political gatherings. Her soul was screaming for the opportunity to find her true calling. She definitely couldn't find it if her father consented to a match with Elliot Webster.
After Ben Porter strode out the door, Ambrose Shelton approached. "Your party was passable," he remarked as he straightened the cuff of his black jacket.
You sourpuss, thought Alexa. The puffy-jowled, round bellied gent never failed to find more fault than praise with his acquaintances. According to her father, Ambrose Shelton had a brilliant political mind. His perspectives and guidance were invaluable.
Alexa was in no position to argue with her father's opinion, but she thoughtAmbrose had the social skills of a cranky grizzly. Keeping her observation of the dour, middle-aged, slightly balding man to herself, she said wryly, "There's a chill in the air tonight, Ambrose. Don't catch cold and lose your voice."
Ambrose snapped up his double chin. His ferretlike gray eyes bore into her. He puffed up to such extremes that she thought he might pop like an over-inflated balloon.
She flashed him a teasing grin, knowing she had gone too far with her father's valued associate. Mentally scrambling she added, "I don't know how Papa would manage if he couldn't hear your wise advice."
A tense moment passed. Then Alexa noticed a small crack in his stern veneer. She thought Ambrose might have smiled slightly, but it was difficult to tell because she'd never seen the man smile. Ever.
"I'm not sure your father deserves you, young lady," Ambrose said finally. "But then, we aren't allowed to pick family, are we? We're just stuck with what we get."
"So true of our families and our family's friends--" Alexa slammed her mouth shut so quickly that she nearly clipped off the tip of her tongue.
Usually she managed to control her thoughts before they flew from her lips. Indeed, she had years of practice at concealing her true feelings. She blamed her lack of discretion on her apprehension over her father's continuing conversation with Elliot Webster. Either that or she had stifled her true nature for so long that it was about to burst loose.
Then the most peculiar thing happened. Ambrose Shelton, the persnickety, faultfinding advisor to Harold Quinn, snickered. Even Benjamin Porter halted on his way down the front steps, pivoted and did a double-take.
"Your poor father," Ambrose said with a slow shake of his wiry red head. "He's stuck with you and with me. Well, good night then." He pursed his lips and added, "Perhaps you should put your snippy tongue to bed early."
What an odd man, she thought as Ambrose waddled off on his tree-stump legs. Benjamin Porter scuttled alongside him, chattering nonstop, same as he did while he labored over accounts that pertained to territorial finances and budgets.