After being left at the altar, Catalina Lane hops in her Mustang and flees with no destination in mind. When her car dies on a deserted Arizona road, she starts walking. Things couldn't possibly get any worse. Until she finds herself whisked to 1896, where she falls in love with a gunslinger she knows is destined to die violently. Soon.
Jackson Cady, aka Kid Creede, thinks the woman he finds in the desert is loco. There is no other explanation for her words, her behavior. But all too soon he finds himself captivated by her, loco or not. He'd thought himself incapable of love, but she proves him wrong.
Can Catalina change history and save the man she loves? Or is she meant to ultimately lead him to his death?
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About the Author
After publishing more than seventy books, I’ve finally admitted to myself that I just can’t make up my mind about what, exactly, I want to write. Since 1994 I’ve written romance in several different sub-genres. Historical; fairy tale; romantic suspense; paranormal; fantasy; contemporary. As so many authors do, I write what speaks to me in that moment. Who knows what will come next?
Whatever the genre, I believe the perfect romance should provide a tear and a couple of laughs, a chill or two, and by the time the story is over, the reader should be left with a smile and the feeling that all is right with the world in that moment.
I hope you’ve enjoyed the story you just read. For more information please check out my website at www.lindawinsteadjones.com. You can sign up for my newsletter there, if you'd like. Free to drop me a note at email@example.com, or visit me on Facebook at www.facebook.com/LindaWinsteadJones or www.facebook.com/LindaHowardLindaJones. I'm also on Twitter, @LWJbooks.
Read an Excerpt
Smoke was pouring from the hood, obscuring the narrow and deserted roadway, and Catalina slapped her palm against the steering wheel. Not now. Please, not now. She loved her white Mustang convertible, and it had never given her a minute's trouble.
Until now. It jerked and surged, and then the engine died in the middle of the Arizona two-lane road that stretched straight ahead and seemingly forever. Catalina steered her cherished vehicle to the side of the road and it rolled to a stop.
Catalina laid her forehead against the steering wheel. She could have cried a little more, but it wouldn't have done any good. Besides, she was all cried out. The tears had poured from her eyes all afternoon, torn from her more in anger than in sorrow. She didn't even know where she was. She'd just climbed into her Mustang and taken off. No destination in mind, but away from the church and all those sympathetic, prying eyes.
She threw open the door and stepped onto the highway, grabbing the full skirt of her wedding dress and reluctantly carrying the burden with her. Her white satin heels were already scuffed, and the gown was likely to be in no better shape by the time she reached the gas station that was still a good ways down the road.
Catalina pushed her wire-rimmed glasses up on the bridge of her nose and looked down the highway as she slammed the car door shut.
She didn't hesitate but walked forward with her skirt in her hands, held just off the asphalt. Her feet hurt. The shoes she wore had been bought with fashion in mind, not comfort, and the heels were a good inch higher than anything Catalina ever wore.
It didn't matter now. She'd been leftat the altar. Almost literally. At least Wilson had had the decency to tell her before she'd walked down the aisle. Of course, she'd been ready -- dressed in her white wedding gown -- and the church had been filled with her friends from Indian Springs and Wilson's friends and family from Phoenix. There were flowers and candles and bridesmaids and a very reluctant groom.
Everything he'd said was true, she told herself as the station down the road appeared to get a bit closer. They were friends, never lovers, but they'd talked that out and decided that was all right. Perhaps more than all right. Perhaps perfect. No passion clouded their disagreements or plans. They both wanted to be married, and they both wanted children, and neither of them had ever been in love. She was twenty-seven years old, and she'd decided that she'd never fall in love. Not like her moony-eyed friends who seemed to lose every speck of common sense they had when they "fell in love." She'd expected that the affection she felt for Wilson would grow, that they would learn to love each other.
Her glasses slid down her nose a little farther, and Catalina pushed them back up forcefully. It was true that her eyes were not very bad, but she always wore her glasses to drive, and to work at the library. Wilson had said he liked the way she looked in her wire-rimmed glasses. Smart. Classy. But Wilson had also said he wanted to marry her. Jerk.
Catalina looked over her shoulder. Her Mustang was far behind, a speck on the horizon, and it was still a good walk to the gas station. It didn't matter, she told herself. She would make it there with no more trouble. What else could go wrong?
At that moment the heel of her right shoe snapped off, and Catalina stumbled off the road, regaining her balance just as she was about to fall face-first into the sandy soil on the shoulder. She picked up the broken heel from the black asphalt and threw it as hard as she could away from the road. There was nothing there but sandy soil and a few scrubby bushes that struggled to survive. She removed what was left of the useless shoe and threw it aside as well. Then the left shoe followed, kicked away with a swing of her leg, leaving Catalina on the side of the road in her stocking feet.
She no longer tried to hold her wedding dress up off the road. The skirt dragged against the asphalt as Catalina plunged straight ahead.
If only Wilson hadn't cried. If he'd been cold and heartless, she could've screamed at him, called him every name in the book. With tears in his brown eyes and real heartache in his voice, he had told her that he couldn't marry her. He did love her, he said, as a friend. As his best friend. But there was this woman ...
He hadn't even known her a full week, this mystery woman, but he wanted desperately to marry her. And it hurt him horribly to bring pain to Catalina. It hurt him?
Why had he waited until the last possible moment to break it off, to cancel the wedding? He'd stood before her in a rented tux that fit him perfectly, with a fresh haircut and a white rose in his lapel. Had he decided to sacrifice himself and go through with the ceremony? His mother was there, all his family was waiting ... and he just couldn't go through with it.
She had run from the church and taken off in her Mustang before anyone could stop her. Everything she owned was in the trunk. Her clothes, her books ... that was it. She'd given Kim what little furniture she owned when she'd packed her belongings. Wilson had a great apartment, much larger and better equipped than the one she'd shared with Kim for the past three years. Kim, her best friend and maid of honor. The last time she'd seen her roommate, Kim had been wearing a long, pale yellow dress and carrying a bouquet of mixed flowers. Pretty Kim, who fell in love on a regular basis, and fell out of love just as quickly. And who seemed to like it that way.
The gas station was close at last, and Catalina sighed deeply when she got a good look at the place. At first she wondered if it was even open, and then she saw the figure of a man sitting out front. Parts of the building had once been red, but most of the paint had flaked off, exposing the original white. There were three pumps out front, and a small garage to the side.
And a tow truck out back, she noticed as she came closer. It didn't look to be in much better shape than the building, more rust than paint, but she prayed that it would work. Surely something would go her way today. Surely something ...
Catalina straightened her spine as she entered the parking lot. She would not lose control now, tempting as it would be to cry on someone's shoulder. My car broke down and my groom left me at the altar and I broke my new shoes. She wondered, briefly, why she thought of her losses in that order. Did her Mustang come before Wilson Ross? Maybe it did.
Ignoring the old man who seemed to be asleep in his chair by the entrance, Catalina threw open the door and stepped inside. A welcome blast of cool air hit her face, and she took a deep, calming breath before she spoke.
"I've had some car trouble," she said calmly to the two occupants of the small room.
A man sat behind a battered desk, looking over what could have been bills or invoices, and a woman perched on a stool in the corner. They stared at her for a moment, saying nothing but watching her with surprised and skeptical eyes. It was the woman, a slender woman with graying brown hair who was maybe forty -- maybe not -- who spoke first.
"We can help you out, can't we, Stu?"
Stu nodded his head, but he didn't even blink as he continued to stare.
It was the woman who stood and smiled, walking slowly toward Catalina. It was a nice smile, Catalina thought absently, like she really meant it.
"My name's Allie, and this is my husband, Stu. Forgive us for staring. We don't see many strangers out this way anymore. Most of our customers are locals, since the interstate was finished, except when they're filming one of those Westerns down the road. Those movie people," she shook her head slowly, indicating that she just didn't get the Hollywood crowd. "Now, when my daddy ran this place, years ago, it was a bustling place all year round. Tourists mostly."
Catalina realized that Allie was chattering nervously, filling what had quickly become an uncomfortable silence. She took another deep breath of the cool air that circulated through the small office. Besides the desk and Allie's stool, there was a glass-front refrigerator full of soft drinks, a candy machine, and a rack of cigarettes. Catalina stared almost longingly at the frosty-cold glass bottles of soda and realized that she had left her purse in the trunk of her Mustang. All her money, her checkbook, her credit cards, her driver's license ... everything was abandoned with her car down the road.
But Allie must have recognized the longing in her look. "Have a cold drink while Stu has a look at that car of yours."
Catalina gave Stu directions in a lifeless voice as she sipped a grape soda and gestured languidly. Allie watched her sharply, seeing everything, it seemed, and Catalina decided that it really didn't matter. She'd killed her car, given up her apartment -- though she was certain Kim would have her back without hesitation -- and she had been absolutely humiliated in front of everyone she knew. What did it matter what the owner of a dilapidated gas station out in the middle of nowhere thought of her?
When Allie offered the key to the rest room with the suggestion that Catalina might want to freshen up she took it wordlessly, wondering why the key was attached to a plywood sign that said LADIES, each letter a good six inches high. Was that for the benefit of those with poor eyesight? Or did Allie think she was going to forget whose key it was and slip it into a concealed pocket of the wedding dress?
Catalina had to step outside to reach the rest room, and she walked silently past the sleeping man. His chair was leaning back against the wall by the door, and, if she wasn't mistaken, he snored very lightly under a wide-brimmed hat that covered his face and hair.
Inside the dimly lit rest room, Catalina stared at her reflection in a cracked and cloudy mirror, finally understanding why Allie and Stu had been shocked into momentary silence.
Black mascara ran down her face, smeared and streaked across her cheeks and around her eyes. Pale blond hair that had been so carefully styled that morning had been whipped in the wind as she tore aimlessly down the highway, torn from a once tidy knot. A single remaining silk flower hung precariously just over her ear, tangled in a knotted strand of hair. She had even added a purple tinge to her lips with that grape soda, a circle on her lips and just above.
Catalina placed her glasses on the rim of the sink, dampened a length of brown paper towel, and proceeded to scrub her face clean. All the mascara, from her lashes and her cheeks, what was left of her lipstick, and the grape soda. Her eyes still burned and were red-rimmed and bloodshot, but there were no more tears.
She pulled off her panty hose with a vengeance, tossing them into an empty wastebasket with more vigor than was really necessary. She hated panty hose anyway. They were hot and confining, and no matter what size she bought they were either too large and sagged at the ankles or too small and pinched her waist. As soon as Stu was back with the car she'd change out of this cursed wedding dress, slip into a pair of stretch pants and a huge T-shirt and her sneakers, and comb the tangles out of her hair.
The air was a little cooler, the sun a little brighter as Catalina stepped from the dim rest room and slipped her glasses back on. Her life wasn't over ... not because Wilson Ross had dumped her. Not because she had to stop and rethink her future. Plans could be forgotten, changed, abandoned altogether, just like those panty hose with the blackened feet.
"No more tears, Goldie?"
Catalina's head snapped up at the sound of the gravelly voice. The old man who had been sleeping by the entrance had removed his hat and lifted his head to watch her closely. He was an Indian, dressed in old jeans and a plaid shirt, with a deeply wrinkled face seemingly as old as the red rocks in the distance. He was smiling at her, a wickedly knowledgeable smile, and his narrowed black eyes twinkled.
"No more tears," she said, to herself as much as to the old Indian.
She stepped past him, and he pointedly looked down at her bare feet. "I sell moccasins."
Catalina tried to glance into the cardboard box at the man's side, but all she could see was another plaid shirt, folded neatly over the contents.
"Maybe when Stu gets back with my car. I don't have any money with me... "
"Here." He reached into the box without even looking as his hands disappeared beneath the plaid shirt and came up with a pair of white moccasins beaded with blue and white.
"They are beautiful," she said, allowing him to place them in her hands. "I'll pay you as soon as Stu returns with my ... "
"One more thing," the old man said, shaking a finger in her direction. "You need to change your luck, Goldie." A hand delved into the box, and again he didn't bother to look. This time he withdrew a yellow crystal, several small crystals growing together and forming an oblong shape that fit nicely in the palm of his hand. It caught the light as he handed it to her. "Wulfenite. Very pretty. It catches the sun like the gold flecks in your eyes."
Observant old man, Catalina decided, to have seen the tiny flecks of gold in her amber eyes.
"Thank you," she said, taking the rock he laid reverently on her palm.
"With this rock comes some advice."
Oh, no. She almost said it aloud. The last thing she needed as she sorted through her feelings was the advice of a self-appointed sage. Like it or not, here it comes.
"Open your heart and your mind, and all things are possible."
Simple, heartfelt advice. Not so hard to take after all.
"I have a gift for you," Catalina said impulsively, ripping the diamond engagement ring Wilson had given her from her finger. He would never get it back, and she didn't care if he had to pay on the cursed thing for the next hundred years. "Sell it. Keep it. Eat it. I don't care."
He ignored her statement but took the ring, studying it carefully as he turned it over in his palm again and again.
Catalina took the opportunity to slip inside. She stepped into the moccasins and helped herself to another soda from the refrigerator. Not grape this time. Something clear. Some lemony-limey carbonated drink that she gulped too quickly.
Stu wasn't back yet, and Allie was pumping gas for a regular customer. Catalina knew the man Allie laughed with was one of the regular customers she had mentioned, just by watching the two of them. She couldn't tell what they said, but they bantered easily and laughed again.
A walk. It seemed a stupid idea, after already walking so far, but she wanted to move. Maybe it would clear her head. Maybe she could work all this through while Stu fixed her Mustang. If it could be fixed. It was better than twenty years old, but she'd been so careful to maintain the car after her grandmother had willed it to her. Grandma Lane had always been a real stickler about her Mustang.
The Indian appeared to be sleeping again, and Catalina smiled at the thought of Wilson's diamond ring hidden in that cardboard box of junk and treasures.
There was nothing behind the gas station. Sand and a few scrubby bushes, a stack of tires, tall red rocks like towers in the distance. Catalina was watching those rocks as she set out, pushing her glasses up on her nose to secure them. The sand gave way beneath her feet, but it felt good in the moccasins. It would have been impossible to make progress in her abandoned satin heels, but the moccasins were comfortable and protected her feet.
She lifted her lace-covered skirt with both hands and stalked forward. If only he hadn't cried. Then she could have yelled at him and gotten it over with; released some of this horrible anger that had built up inside her. Who really thought it was a good idea for men to suddenly be sensitive? She was sick and tired of sensitive men who cried at the drop of a hat, men who wanted to get in touch with their feminine side. Wilson was a wimp, and she should be happy to be rid of him.
What had happened to real men? History was her favorite subject, the section of the library she knew best. On slow afternoons she would pull a history book from the shelf and read. It didn't matter what time period; she loved it all. Jean Laffite. Daniel Boone. Eric the Red. Would any one of them have cried to her that they just weren't right for one another?
No. All the real men were gone. Where were the knights? The marauding pirates? The conquerors? These days men cared only about how much money they could amass through a minimum of effort. They watched football and basketball and hockey on television, territorial games safely observed from a comfortable chair. Losers. There were no more knights.
And it wasn't fair. Why hadn't she lived in another time? Just a hundred years earlier. As history went, a hundred years was nothing. And everything.
Catalina realized that she was squeezing the yellow crystal the old Indian had given her, and she unfolded her fingers slowly. A sharp edge had cut into her palm just slightly, and a drop of blood marred one corner of the wulfenite.
She lifted her head and looked to the tallest of the red rocks in the distance. She'd like to climb that rock, just to see if she could get to the top. It was calling her, and she realized as that thought came to her just how bizarre it was. But true, just the same.
The wulfenite was burning her hand, and she looked down. The sun struck it so that it shone with a bright light, and it really did seem to burn her palm.
Catalina dropped the crystal, and as it fell it got tangled in a scrap of the lace that covered her satin skirt. A cloud of sand rose from Catalina's feet as she tried to shake the crystal free, afraid to touch it again. Then she forgot about the crystal as the cloud grew, churning and whirling, growing wider and taller until it encompassed her completely. She could see nothing but the swirling sand, could hear nothing but the wind that hadn't been there a moment before.
And then the whirlwind stole her breath. She couldn't inhale; she couldn't move. Her glasses were ripped from her face, and Catalina closed her eyes against the sand that surrounded her.
A sandstorm. Here? Now? With no warning? If only she could breathe. The lack of air was making her light-headed. She felt almost as if she were floating, or flying, or drifting without control into the air. It was frightening, even though she told herself that she couldn't be doing any of those things. Her moccasined feet were still firmly on the sand.
Nerves. It was her last coherent thought before the tightness in her chest and the swimming in her head eclipsed everything else. She'd never been prone to fits of nerves. It was just a simple sandstorm ... there was no explicable reason why she couldn't breathe.
Just when she was certain she would pass out from lack of oxygen, the whirlwind subsided. She took a deep breath and opened her eyes, watching the sand around her fall to the ground like heavy snow.
The wulfenite was still tangled in a torn scrap of lace, and she disengaged it carefully. It no longer glowed, no longer seemed ... alive. Catalina searched the ground around her for her glasses but gave up the search quickly. Buried under the sand, no doubt. No problem; there was a spare pair in the glove compartment.
She looked again at the red rock in the distance. It was as foreboding as ever, but she didn't imagine the towering landmark calling her as it had before. It had just been a very long day. Catalina turned around to head back to the station. There was nothing there. Nothing but sand and sun and those ugly little bushes. Surely she hadn't walked that far! She squinted, cursing the loss of her glasses, and walked in what she was certain was the right direction. Nothing. Not even a speck in the distance.
She veered a little, changing course, then righted herself again. She had left the station and headed straight for the rocks. It had to be there. It had to be.
But it wasn't. She walked, confused and just beginning to be scared, for at least a half an hour. Even if she'd missed the station, she should've found the road. She walked a while longer, and still she saw nothing.
With a resigned sigh, Catalina sat down in the sand and decided it would be quite all right to cry again, if she really wanted to. She was hopelessly lost.
Copyright © 1996 by Linda Winstead Jones
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This book is definately worth reading!