Award winning author, Lyn Horner shares an excerpt of Dashing Druid, book #2 from her Texas Druid series.
Tye Devlin is an empath. Assailed by emotions from everyone around him, Tye has learned to block out most of the “racket”. Yet, when he meets cowgirl Lil Crawford, he has no defense against her hidden pain, for it echoes his own sorrows.Wounded by love, Lil guards her bruised heart behind a tough shell. When a handsome stranger with an Irish brogue calls her beautiful, she thinks he’s mocking her, but she secretly wishes such a man might truly want her. Feuding families stand between the two and a perilous cattle drive pits them against menacing foes as they fight their personal demons. Is love worth the risks, and will Tye’s gift prove to be a curse or a blessing?
In this scene, Lil Crawford attends a Saturday night social, escorted by a man her parents would like her to wed. She can’t stand the arrogant galoot, but pretends to let him charm her. The dance is about to begin.
* * *
Lil fought a strong urge to shove Frank away. She hated the touch of his hands. This was a bad idea. Give Frank Howard an inch of ground, and he’d try to take the whole pasture.
She’d purposely led him on, smiling and denying any interest in that black-haired rogue by the door, and Frank hadn’t even questioned her sudden change of heart. The swollen-headed fool probably thought she couldn’t resist him. Now she was paying the price. And why? Just to show Tye Devlin she wasn’t without her admirers. As if he cared.
The fiddler finished tuning up. Beside him on a raised wooden platform, the caller shouted, “Y’all ready to shake a hoof?” He got a loud ‘Yeah!’ from the crowd. “All right, gents, grab your gal and get ready for a reel.”
Frank gave a boisterous whoop, seized Lil’s hand and dragged her onto the dance floor. As they lined up with the other couples, she glanced around and saw Tye standing near where she and Frank had just stood. Had he meant to ask her to dance? Meeting his fierce scowl, she swiftly looked elsewhere, flustered.
Fortunately, Uncle Jeb had taught her how to dance a reel. Not risking another glance at Tye, she got through it without making a fool of herself – or slapping Frank for the way he continued to leer at her. When the dance ended, she clapped without much enthusiasm.
“Yuh dance real good, honey,” Frank commented. “Never woulda thought yuh knew how.”
She smiled tartly. “I’m just full of surprises, Frank.” She glanced toward her mother and received a nod of approval. Her father and uncle were on their way out the door, for a smoke no doubt. Not glimpsing Tye, she wondered if he’d also stepped outside. With a woman, perhaps? The thought caused a sinking sensation in her stomach.
The caller announced a waltz. Without asking if Lil wanted to dance with him again, Frank grasped her arm and swung her toward him. Incensed, she resisted. Just then Tye stepped out of the crowd.
“Might I have the pleasure of this dance, Miss Crawford?” he asked, smiling at her and ignoring Frank.
“Go find yore own gal, mister,” Frank barked before she could say a word. “This one’s mine.”
Tye drilled him with a hard blue glare. “Indeed? Well now, I’ll hear that from the lady’s own lips if ye please.” He grinned in challenge. “Or even if ye don’t.”
Frank cursed and made a move toward him.
Anger drove Lil to step between them. She faced Frank, fists on her hips. “I’m not your property, Frank Howard. And I’ll dance with whoever I please.”
He gaped at her. “But yuh said yuh don’t even like –”
“Never mind what I said. You don’t own me.” Turning her back on him, she scowled at Tye. “Well, you want to dance or not?”
“By all means,” he said, flashing a wicked smile and offering his hand.
Accepting it, she saw him throw a taunting grin past her and heard Frank’s furious snarl. Then Tye led her out to the strains of Sweet Genevieve.
Frank vanished from Lil’s thoughts the moment Tye took her in his arms. A barrage of dizzying sensations shot through her. Where he touched her, even through layers of clothing, her skin burned. The aroma of shaving soap, mixed with his own subtle, manly scent, stirred her blood. His broad, black-cloaked shoulders filled her vision, and she felt an absurd longing to lay her head on that inviting expanse. When she raised her eyes, he smiled down at her in a caressing way that made her feel, well, pretty. That was nonsense, of course.
“Have ye forgiven me at last, colleen?” he asked. “For what I said that day when we rescued the calf, I mean. I’d take back every cruel word if I could.”
She lowered her gaze to his shirt front. “I said some things, too. Reckon we’re even.”
“I think not, but so long as ye don’t hate me, I’m content. Now tell me, who is this Frank Howard who wishes to keep ye all to himself?”
“He’s a friend,” she said falsely, “from up Fort Worth way.”
“’Twould seem he considers himself somewhat more than a friend.”
Lil stiffened. “Listen, I agreed to dance with you to show Frank he doesn’t own me. That doesn’t give you the right to nose into my business.”
His mouth curved downward briefly, but then he nodded. “As ye say, colleen.” He tilted his head, studying her. She was about to tell him to quit staring when he spoke. “And will ye also object if I ask ye, as I did once before, if Lil’s your full given name?”
She blinked at his unexpected change of subject and shrugged. “It’s Lily, like you guessed that day at the barn raising, but nobody ever calls me that. It doesn’t suit me.”
He laughed softly. “Ah, but I think it does, for you’re as beautiful as your namesake.”
Lil forgot to breathe for a moment. Was he mocking her the way he had that day last summer at the creek? Or . . . was it possible he really meant what he said, both now and back then? Suddenly unsure, she felt herself blush and sent her gaze skittering away like a terrified rabbit searching for a hidey-hole.
“Y-you must be addled. I’m not even pretty.”
He sighed and murmured in a deep, husky tone, “Lily, Lily, ye know not your own worth. You’ve the face of a Greek goddess I once saw pictured in a book. Your skin glows as if kissed by the sun, your brown eyes spark with fire when you’re angry and call out to me in my dreams. And your hair . . . ah, colleen, it makes me think of moonlight on dark water. My dearest wish is to bury my face in it and drink in your sweet scent.”
Never had a man said such things to Lil. Melting warmth enveloped her as she lifted her head and got lost in Tye’s radiant blue eyes. She parted her lips, but no words came out. Instantly, his gaze swooped down to her mouth, and it shocked her to realize she wanted him to kiss her. What was left of her rational mind cried out in protest.
“Don’t talk nonsense,” she whispered, sounding breathy and unconvincing even to her own ears.
“Nay, Lily, ’tisn’t nonsense, ’tis the simple truth. And there’s more, much more I wish to say . . . and do.”
She gasped, suddenly fearful.
“Ah, luv, don’t be frightened,” he said quickly. “I’d never hurt ye, I swear.”
Thanks so much for sharing a bit of Dashing Druid with us, Lyn!
Be sure to come back for a special article series on Self-Publishing tips and expertise later this month from Lyn Horner!