GABE KINCAID blurb set up:
Gabe Kincaid has reasons to hate lies and those who tell them. He moved from Austin to Kincaid Springs and joined his great uncle’s law firm. Gabe believes he’s happy and pushes aside those moments of loneliness, of wishing for more. He strongly believes in the law, in justice, and obeying rules. Doing what’s right is fulfilling, isn’t it? Then why is he so fascinated with a circus fortuneteller who spins tales faster than a cowboy whirls his lariat?
Katie Worthington poses as Dorothy Duncan in a small-time circus. If she isn’t behind the scenes mending costumes or in the circus kitchen, she’s disguised as the fortuneteller, Maharani Shimza, Mystic of the East. Even so, she worries about being killed by the men pursuing her. She fears a brawl at her fortune telling tent that sends her into the Kincaid’s protective custody will end with her exposure and death. Then, a death at the circus implicates her. How can she escape when that attorney pops up every time she turns around?
Will Gabe and Katie let the sparks between them ignite into a passionate romance or will her secrets destroy their chance at a happily ever after?
GABE KINCAID excerpt:
Savannah, Georgia, 1886
Katie Worthington watched Mary Lou Chitwood’s departing carriage. Her best friend’s blond curls danced with the summer breeze and swaying coach as Mary Lou leaned her head and arm out the window to wave farewell. Katie returned the gesture. The new play they had attended had proven boring and the theatre hot and stuffy, so she and Mary Lou had left at intermission. By then the evening had been too advanced for two young ladies to go elsewhere. Except for the fun of seeing Mary Lou, Katie resented that their evening out had been wasted.
Today was the servant’s half day off, so she used her key and crept inside quietly in case GranDa had turned in. Sounds drifted to her and she realized her grandfather had visitors. Should she risk intruding to greet them or slip up to her room? Katie paused outside his study and listened.
“Get these damn papers tidied. Can’t have it looking like there was a struggle.”
Uncle Walt? His voice sounded odd. Cold instead of friendly. Angry instead of jovial. She stepped closer to determine why.
“Old fool never should have challenged us. He had money enough to spare.”
She identified the second man as Douglas Banterman, Uncle Walt’s friend and partner. She had never liked Mr. Banterman. He reminded her of a wolf. The big, bad kind.
Uncle Walt spoke again, “He won’t give us any trouble now. All we have to do is make this look like suicide.”
A terrible suspicion crept up her spine and sent goose bumps along her arms. What struggle? Surely her clever GranDa wasn’t the old fool they mentioned. And make what look like suicide? She tiptoed to the study and peeked inside.
“GranDa?” The words escaped in a horrified rush when she saw the hole in her beloved grandfather’s temple and the gun on his desk. She started toward him but stopped when she saw blood sprayed across the desk and on the nearby wall.
Uncle Walt looked up. His gaze held cold fury. “Kathryn. Your grandfather killed himself. Banterman and I were trying to clean this up and spare you. Go to your room until I call you.” No greeting or soft words of condolence. Instead, his icy tone cut the air like a knife aimed at her heart.
What had happened to her kindly, jovial Uncle Walt? Fear clutched her in its grip and sent frightening thoughts spinning in her mind. Shaking her head, she turned and raced for the front door.
Uncle Walt yelled. “Stop her. Don’t let her leave the house.”
Mr. Banterman caught up with her and grabbed her arm as she reached the door. “You’ll have to come with me now, Miss Worthington.” In his other hand, he held a pistol.
Uncle Walt met them in the foyer. “Lock her in her room upstairs. I’ll decide how to deal with her later.” He hadn’t even bothered to meet her gaze.
Deal with her? Katie hated the man’s ominous tone. “What happened to GranDa?”
Uncle Walt’s glare froze all hope of escape. “I told you he shot himself. If you know what’s good for you, Kathryn Elizabeth Worthington, you’ll go to your room peacefully.”
Only a fool would argue with him now, but she knew he lied. Her heart broke for beloved grandfather’s betrayal by a trusted friend. Pretending a meekness she had never possessed and likely never would, she sobbed and allowed Mr. Banterman to lead her up the stairs.
“My room’s at the end of the hall.” She swiped at her eyes with her free hand. “Poor GranDa. I didn’t know he was sad or worried.”
“Yeah, well, live and learn.” The man’s tone held neither sympathy nor respect. Without another word, he took the key from the door and locked her inside her room.
Sobbing for her grandfather, she sought the comfort of her favorite blue moiré chair. Horror had her pondering the two men downstairs. Uncle Walt wasn’t really related. He’d been her godfather, her own father’s best friend. As such, he frequently visited GranDa’s home and shared many friends in common.
Now he was a powerful Judge. Banterman was a respected attorney. If they said her grandfather committed suicide, no one would question them.
But GranDa would never shoot himself, especially where she would find him. Strong, healthy, and forceful, he had cared for her since the death of her parents ten years ago when she was twelve. He doted on her, protected her, loved her. He would never willingly abandon her.
Suicidal men didn’t make plans for the future, did they? GranDa planned for a trip to the museum’s new exhibit tomorrow. He’d booked a trip for next week on the newly extended Georgia of Central Railroad for Tybee Island and two weeks at their cottage there.
Puzzling out the death, she recalled that Walt Milligan and Douglas Banterman’s firm handled her grandfather’s estate. And hers from her parents. Math wasn’t her favorite subject, but she could add two and two. And the sum equaled embezzlement and murder.
What if those two said she killed her grandfather? No one would believe otherwise. Is that how they intended to “deal” with her later—to make her their scapegoat? They might even intend to kill her and make it look as if she’d killed GranDa and then herself. Or that they’d both been victims of a burglary. She didn’t intend to give them an opportunity to implement whatever evil plan they concocted.
In her grief stricken state she wanted to throw herself across her bed and weep buckets for her wonderful grandfather. Instead she fought for strength. Think. Make a plan.
Images of what might be flashed through her mind. She shook uncontrollably. Her breath burst in and out in gasps. Visions of the worst outcome forced her to make a decision.
Too late to help GranDa, she must save herself. She wiped her eyes and blew her nose. Time for action.
Katie arose and gathered essentials into a valise, including the little derringer GranDa had given her. From the bedside table she grabbed the allowance she stashed in her room. GranDa was generous, and she never spent all of her funds. She counted quickly. Not enough to get her far, but it would have to do.
Tears still streaming for her dear GranDa, she slipped out of her pink silk crepe dress and hung it in her wardrobe. In its place she donned a blue sprigged muslin day dress. Sturdy kid halfboots replaced her satin party shoes. When she’d included the minimum necessary to her survival, she opened her window and dropped her luggage.
She paused for a last, longing look at the beautiful room she loved. Not simply because of the soothing shades of blue accented by white. Not because it represented a portion of her fortune spent decorating to her tastes. Not because of the freedom she had enjoyed here.
No, it reminded her of life with her beloved GranDa. She stepped onto the large branch she’d used most of her life as a second exit and climbed down the tree. Katie jumped from the lowest limb and picked up the valise.
Crying softly, she strode swiftly across the grounds. Walt Milligan yelled her name. She turned to see him leaning out her window. There was no mistaking the gun in his hand. Breaking into a run, she slipped into the night.
She wanted to seek out Mary Lou, but hers was the first place Uncle Walt would check. Besides, she couldn’t put her best friend and the Chitwood family at risk from those two men. Katie needed to disappear where no one would find her.
Where could that be? Think, Katie, think. How could she escape a powerful District Judge? He knew her friends, knew where she might run, knew where to look for her.
What seemed like hours later, Katie’s aching feet protested the miles she’d covered. Her eyes were bound to be red and puffy. Having the derringer with her offered a measure of comfort, especially since she’d stopped long enough to slip it from her valise into her pocket.
The seamy part of Savannah she’d reached offered no hope of decent shelter but plenty of danger for a woman alone. Recalling GranDa’s cautions, she knew not to dally or look as lost and bewildered as she was. She dared not stop and rest or even wash her tear-stained face.
An unkempt fellow staggered toward her. “Hey, girlie, want me to help you carry your bag?”
His companion elbowed him and gave a guttural laugh. “I can help you do a lots o’ things.”
She longed to run, but hadn’t the strength. Her heart pounded in her ears and a vise gripped her chest. Forcing herself to appear calm, she didn’t look their way or pause. Instead, she strode with purpose toward she knew not where. They called after her but didn’t follow, thank heavens.
But what if they had? She didn’t want to shoot anyone, nor even threaten to do so. She couldn’t shoot at those two for being drunk. She was the interloper, the trespasser here. Besides, her little derringer held only two shots. Not much help if a crowd gathered.
Dawn would break in another hour, then what would she do? Surely she’d reach the edge of town or somewhere she could hide soon. Her clothes betrayed her social status, her valise her transient situation. Where would she hide? Suddenly, she spotted the perfect place to vanish.
Smiling with relief at her good fortune, she walked onto darkened circus grounds.
Caroline Clemmons is an Amazon bestselling author of historical and contemporary western romances whose books have garnered numerous awards. Her latest release is GABE KINCAID, book four of her popular Kincaid series. A frequent speaker at conferences and seminars, she has taught workshops on characterization, point of view, and layering a novel.
Caroline is a member of Romance Writers of America, Yellow Rose Romance Writers, From The Heart Romance Writers, and Hearts Through History Romance Writers. Her latest publications include the acclaimed historical Men of Stone Mountain series: BRAZOS BRIDE, HIGH STAKES BRIDE, and BLUEBONNET BRIDE and the audio books of BRAZOS BRIDE and HIGH STAKES BRIDE.
Caroline and her husband live in the heart of Texas cowboy country with their menagerie of rescued pets. Prior to writing full time, her jobs included stay-at-home mom (her favorite), secretary, newspaper reporter and featured columnist, assistant to the managing editor of a psychology journal, bookkeeper for the local tax assessor and—for a short and fun time—an antique dealer. When she’s not indulging her passion for writing, Caroline enjoys reading, travel, antiquing, genealogy, painting, and getting together with family and friends. Find her on her blog, website, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and Pinterest.