Shadow Ochoa is lying low in the western Kansas Territory, waiting for his fellow Texas Rangers-the Hell's Eight brotherhood-to clear his name. That is, until he's unjustly strung up for horse thieving... and pretty Fei Yen intervenes. Invoking a seldom-used law, the exotic lady prospector claims Shadow as her husband and rides off with the bridegroom shackled to her buckboard. Savvy, fearless Fei is single-mindedly devoted to her hidden claim and all it promises: wealth, security and freedom. A husband is just a necessary inconvenience and a name on paper to hold the claim she cannot. Shadow isn't a man to take orders from anyone, especially from lovely Fei-except that the daily friction between them ignites into nightly blazes of all-consuming passion. Soon Shadow is dreaming a little himself: of the life they could have if only Fei could see past the lure of independence. If only bounty hunters weren't closing in on him. If only he's left standing when the impending showdown has ended... .
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January 31, 2012
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Excerpt from Shadow's Stand by Sarah McCarty
It had to be done. Fei Yen Tseng stood in the doorway and stared through the gloom at her father sitting at the table, his head down, his back bent by years of manual labor. His long queue draped listlessly over his shoulder, the end dangling in his untouched bowl of porridge. The silk overcoat he insisted on wearing morning, noon and night was stained and torn. It was hard to believe he was once the commanding head of the family. Always well dressed. Always scheming. In charge of a hidden empire he'd built out of nothing. The man who'd taught her so much, good and bad. He looked up then and, for a moment, she saw the man Jian Tseng used to be before the blankness came over his eyes and the scowl settled between his brows. A scowl that would have sent everyone running just two years before.
"You! What do you do there in the doorway?" he rapped out in Chinese. The force of the words couldn't cover the fear behind the question. But the shoe was on the other foot, as the Americans said. Now, it was he who lived in fear. But the fear was not contained in this room.
"Nothing. I am just leaving," Fei Yen whispered, slowly pushing closed the heavy door that last inch before dropping the wooden bar across it. So many things needed to be done. So many wrongs needed to be righted. She was but a female, it was not her place to make decisions or take action. In China, she never would have. But she was no longer in China and there was no large family to take over, to tie up loose ends left by her father's illness. It was just her and the dragon that stalked her luck. She could feel the fire of its breath on the back of her neck; feel the weight of its claws on her shoulders. It wanted her to fail. Expected her to fail. She was not even a son. Just a worthless girl child of mixed ancestry. Or so it thought.
Beyond the door, she heard her father begin his ritual of pacing and prayer. Soon it would switch to ranting and threats. Nighttime was always the worst. She touched the bar. Rough slivers bit at her fingertip. The shouts were heavily muffled by the thick dirt walls of the cellar and the solid planks of the wooden door, but the anger and sense of injustice swelled through the barrier and wrapped around her, joining the dragon on her back. Once, she'd been the prisoner. Now, she was the guard. Life went in circles. The debts her father had gathered in his life were now hers to pay. His path was now hers.
Turning, she climbed the ladder out of the storm cellar to the barn floor. Lowering the trapdoor carefully, she pushed dirt back around it to disguise the opening and sprinkled hay across the surface. No one could discover this secret. Discovery meant the end of everything. The dragon's paw got heavier.
Their old horse, Grandfather, nickered a greeting. Fei's pockets were empty. She had no carrots for him, so she gave him a pat and a promise. "Later."
She sighed. She was always saying later. Always making promises. Always doing the impossible, hoping to make the dragon surrender, but it was the way of dragons to accept challenges and she was no closer to succeeding than she had been eight months ago when she'd started on this path. Eight months during which her ancestors frowned and her beliefs died.