Dear Reader,

I love it when something wonderful comes out of the blue. Something I’m not expecting, or hoping for, or planning. It doesn’t have to be big, or fancy, or expensive. Just small moments, gestures, or simple pleasures that take an average day into something extraordinary.

Such an event inspired my latest Harlequin Romance, The Rancher’s Runaway Princess. On a whim, my husband and I decided we’d take the kids camping in southwest Alberta for a few days. I knew just the place I wanted to go. It’s called The Great Canadian Barn Dance and it’s very close to Waterton National Park and the Montana border.

Because I thought the kids would enjoy it and the husband would tolerate it, I bought us tickets for the Wednesday night Dinner and Barn Dance. We had such a blast. My husband even ended up on stage playing a version of a washtub bass called a “gutbucket” and after the meal, we piled onto the back of a wagon for a hay ride.

But the dance was the clincher. The whole operation is family run and that includes the band. There were dance lessons to start off and then lots of two-stepping and line dancing going on. By ten-thirty, the kids were happy but exhausted, so we put them to bed in their sleeping bags and my husband and I sat out in our camping chairs, listening to the music from the dance and watching the stars. It seemed like there were a million of them.

When the faint call came for last dance, my husband took me in his arms and we danced to it together in the starlight.

I knew when I started working on Brody and Lucy’s story such a magical moment had to be included. And I knew how Lucy would feel in Brody’s arms – like the luckiest woman in the world.

Like a princess.

Best wishes,

Donna



Excerpt from
The Rancher's Runaway Princess

© Donna Alward

They reached a promontory and Brody stopped. There was a large boulder to one side, but nothing else besides waving prairie grass. Straight ahead lay the jagged line of the Rockies. They were devoid of snow now in August, but somehow their sharp peaks were softened by a hazy summer glow. She slid out of the saddle and merely dropped the reins... it would be enough for Ahab to stay where he was.

“Wade’s Butte,” she murmured, turning in a circle.

“You knew.”

He’d dismounted and come to stand beside her.

“Mrs. P mentioned it when I first arrived. Said something about getting you to bring me here before I left. I thought maybe we were going there the other day, but you showed me the soddy instead.”

She turned a quarter turn and looked at him. It was hard to believe anything could get to him. There wasn’t a weak spot to be seen. His dark t-shirt showed where muscles dipped and curved through his arms, back and chest, his trim hips and long legs were steady and sure. His jaw was strong, unrelenting. He was, in a word, splendid.

“What?”

His lips formed the single word as he stared out towards the mountains.

“I was just thinking how appearances can be deceiving.”

“Oh?”

She nodded. “Looking at you, Brody Hamilton, no one would guess you were hiding a broken heart.” His head snapped sharply, his gaze clashing suddenly with hers as he opened his mouth to deny it. “Unless,” she continued quickly, “they had also had their heart broken.”

“I don’t do broken hearts,” he insisted, looking away again.

“Oh, I think you do,” she said softly. “And I think your father is the least of it.”

Brody sighed heavily. “Let me turn the boys out, and we’ll sit down.”

He slid the bridles off the horses, letting them graze on the fresh grass free of the bits in their mouths. Lucy perched on the boulder, the surface cool through her jeans even through the glare from the sun. “Wade’s Butte was named after my grandfather,” he said, coming to sit beside her. “He used to come here a lot. He used to take a few days every fall, come out, pitch a tent and go hunting.”

Lucy craned her neck around, searching the grass for evidence that didn’t exist. “He did?”

“He was a real man of the land, Grandad. My Grandma...” he paused and swallowed. “My Grandma used to come along sometimes. They’d build a fire and...”

Again he broke off. Lucy lifted her knees and folded her arms around them.

Brody leaned forward, the gleam in his eyes intense. Lucy’s hands came away from her knees. Her voice was a husky whisper. “They’d build a fire and...”

“You can guess,” he answered, his voice a sexy rumble that came from the centre of his chest. His fingers plucked her hat from her head, dropping it on to the dry grass. As his hands sunk into her hair, her heart trembled. She could well imagine what his grandparents had done around a blazing campfire with the wide open prairie spread out beneath them. Had he brought his wife here too? The thought slid away into oblivion as his dark gaze centered on her lips, clung there.

She took off his hat too, dropping it beside hers and running her fingers through the short black strands of his hair. His eyes closed briefly, and when they opened they stared right into her core. There was no point in denying the attraction now or making excuses. It was all too clear to both of them; it was bigger than any of the secrets they’d been hiding.

They both leaned forward, meeting in the middle. His mouth met hers hungrily, his hands moved to link his fingers with hers and she felt the connection to her toes. She heard a moan and realized it was her own as he released one of her hands to reach around her back, cradling her ribs.

The shift in weight pushed her back until she was laying on the flat surface of the boulder. “Luce,” he whispered, looking down at her as his weight pressed her into a natural cradle in the stone.

“This is why you brought me here,” she said, looking up at him, wishing he didn’t thrill her so but unable to deny it. His using the shortened version of her name drew them even closer together. She knew that any time someone called her that ever again, she’d think of him. And remember. Remember this moment, of feeling strong and protected and wanted.

“Yes,” he replied, the word a dark confirmation as he lowered his head again and her lashes fluttered shut.

For long minutes they kissed, hands exploring over cotton clothing, taking their time.

Her fingers grabbed on to his t-shirt, crumpling the jersey as his tongue swept down the curve of her neck. Images of making love to him here under the sun surged through her brain, making her blood race hot. His hand slipped beneath her shirt and pushed it up, revealing the hollow of her belly, and he slid down, his mouth leaving a hot trail from the collar of her t-shirt down her cotton-covered breasts to the skin along the ribs, making her shudder with want. He kissed the soft skin there, then dipped his tongue in her navel and she gasped, arching her back as desire made her limbs heavy.

And she knew what it was to lose almost all sense. The sun seeped through her eyelids and she lifted her hands to cradle his head. Somewhere in the back of her mind she knew should stop this and get him to talk, like she’d intended. But being in his arms felt too good; too right.

He had to stop, before they couldn’t. Sex would be a mistake, one she couldn’t take back.

She froze, and thankfully Brody seemed to understand. He paused, braced up on his hands above her. Letting out a breath, he pressed his forehead to hers. “I’m sorry,” he murmured.

Her pulse leapt again. “You don’t have anything to be sorry for.” If anyone did, it was her. His conscience was clean. He wasn’t the one lying about who he was.

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Contest

Donna Alward is really excited about her January release and to celebrate, she's hosting a contest just for you! For a chance to enter, just visit Donna's website and find the answer to the following question -

The Rancher’s Runaway Princess is Donna’s first book set in what fictional town?

Then email us at staff@authorsoundrelations.com with the answer and be sure to include your full name and mailing address in the email.   Please also remember to mark the subject heading as 'Donna Alward'.

Do make sure you email your answers only to staff@authorsoundrelations.com or your entry will not be counted!

Five winners will be contacted after January 18th and each will receive a book from Donna's backlist! Good luck!

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