On Tuesday night, I finished Moonlight Deception and sent her off to the publisher!
The lure of the moonlight, and the deceptions that whisper on the shadowy fingers of the night is now available through my publisher, Gray Lady. As soon as I have sales links and prices, I'll let everyone know!
Moonlight Deception, a historical romance set in 1890s Texas, I wrote nearly thirty years ago. The tale of Reynaldo Montoya and Aramettea Hunter sat around, careful preserved in a box, until last year.
The characters whispered from the pages, begging to be brought to light, and I've finally done so.
After all these decades, Reynaldo and his lady-love are free...
Aramettea Hunter’s past was a secret, as wild and untamed as Texas, and unknown to her uncle. The call of the west pulled at her heart, forever drawing her back from the comfort of society, and into the world of her youth. One man, a man she knew to be lost to her years past, haunted her memories.
Reynaldo Montoya wished he could alter the moments of his past. One particular day troubled him, filling him with pain, regret, heartache, and scars he would wear forever. When the entrancing American is thrust into his care, he struggles to keep his sanity, while he longs to hold her delectable body in his arms.
Under the shimmering glow of the night sky, the pair would discover lingering secrets when one chooses a moonlight deception…
“I do declare, Emmett, why must we stay in this God-forsaken town?” Wilhelmina Hunter whined. She mopped her profusely perspiring brow and upper lip with the edge of a delicate lace handkerchief, grimacing.
“You knew Santo Domingo was the lay-over the conductor spoke about, Wilhelmina, when we discussed this trip.” Emmett muttered thickly.
“Heaven only knows, if I would have recalled this was the intended route, I wouldn't have insisted on accompanying you.” She fanned herself rapidly with the flip of the handkerchief, longing for the slightest trace of a cooling breeze. “I don't know how much more of this heat I can tolerate, Emmett.”
“Wilhelmina!” He growled warningly. His jaw tightened and his gaze became steely.
“The fare is absolutely atrocious, if this slop could even be referred to as food.” She continued as if she hadn't heard him. She pushed her untouched steak aside with a disgusted grimace. “To think, when I consider the food and the hotel….” She rolled her eyes in disbelief before the protruding orbs narrowed. “Emmett, I was intent on having a delightful vacation, but this leaves much to be desired!”
She glared malevolently at her husband's down bent head, silently willing him to respond. When she didn't receive the slightest shrug, she huffed loudly. She reached for her recently refilled glass of claret, staring at the depths with orbs that bounced with unnatural speed, betraying her inebriation. Unsteadily, she downed the contents in one swift and unladylike gulp.
You’re a damnable drunken biddy, Wilhelmina.
The words remained unspoken. Annoyed, he eyed his wife’s skeletal from beneath the concealing weight to iron-gray brows. He inhaled deeply, forcing himself to bite the explicative rising to his lips. Instead, he lifted the fork from his dinner plate and surreptitiously eyed the piece of slightly pink meat held captive in the long prongs. He twirled the utensil between his thick fingers, his expression grim.
“You're well aware, my dear wife, this trip is not a vacation.” His voice held a slightly exasperated edge. His attention didn't waiver from the utensil he held. “This is business and I could have made this journey without you.”
“I wouldn't allow you to do such a thing!” She smirked, a slow dribble of wine leaking from the corner of her mouth. “As long as I’m alive, I have some say over how you spend my father’s money! Remember, you didn’t get everything he promised, my father made conditions when you married me.”
The reminder annoyed Emmett, but he held his tongue. “Shall I remind you, darling, there is only one route to San Francisco?”
“You don’t have to remind me of anything. I’m far smarter than you give me credit.” Wilhelmina chastised bitingly. “You could have made the attempt to find better accommodations.”
“Yes, my dearest,” Emmett complacently responded, although his words bore a wealth of unavoidable sarcasm. “As you like to remind me, until your death, your father’s will grants you the purse-strings and the final say on all financial matters.”
His wife’s lips tightened into a thin line of displeasure and, surprisingly, she remained quiet.
“You understood this delightfully rustic town was a necessary ill. To spend numerous hours on a train, without respite, would prove maddening to your more gentle senses.” Emmett continued with mock suaveness. The iciness of his nearly colorless eyes rose to her pinched features before dropping to the silverware. “Santo Domingo is an essential layover, and the stop gives me the opportunity to consider the strategies to use when we arrive in San Francisco.”
“You could do the same on the train,” Wilhelmina whined, her tone akin to a spoiled child.
“Had I known you would resent such a sojourn, my dear, I'd have insisted you remained behind."
She scowled before her attentions settled on the dining utensil her husband held. Suddenly, she shivered, unable to control herself, not failing to notice how intent Emmett appeared with the small metal device. A claw like hand crept to her throat when he looked up and nodded. Displaying an overly exaggerated shrug, he smiled, before returning his attention to his dinner.
She frowned, her ferret like eyes narrowing, glaring at Emmett’s balding pate. Her hand trembled slightly while she reached for her refilled glass, a sudden light-headedness encompassing her. Thirstily, she gulped at the deep purplish liquid.
“You can wish to your heart's content, Emmett. You won't be rid of me so easily!” Wilhelmina’s breath escaped in a small hiss from between her clenched, red stained teeth. “If it wasn't for my father's money, you be some common Jack-Of-All-Trades, like your brother. You’d have that damnable Irish name and be scraping out a living on the dock front, begging for food.”
“Mina, will you kindly compose yourself!” Emmett managed beneath his breath, his nearly colorless eyes narrowing.
“I will not compose myself!” She hissed, although her tone did lower, each following syllable becoming more scathing. “Shall I remind you how your brother’s foolish pride rewarded him? Hell, Emmett, look what happened to your brother! All he got was a shallow grave at an early age, and a worthless daughter. He didn’t have the benefit of my father’s money to cushion his life. Certainly, he didn’t enjoy the house on Chelsea Street, the servants, the fancy office on the waterfront, or the wealth you covet.”
“This isn’t necessary, Mina,” Emmett muttered.
“Oh,” his wife’s brows lifted sharply. “I think it is, don’t you? Here were are, and that miserable little wretch is right along with us. Who got the last laugh, Emmett? Was it your brother, after all?”
A wickedly sinister twist curved her thin lips, stretching them hideously across her gaunt and colorless face. Her vindictive gaze roamed from her husband's head before settling on the bent blond cap of the woman seated directly across from her. She watched the female tuck away her small steak with the mannerisms of a refined lady, each action deliberately poised and delicate. By the high color in the younger woman’s face, it was obvious Wilhelmina’s tirade hadn't gone unnoticed.
Only Seamus Lafferty would believe society would consider accepting his daughter into their tight circles, especially after the shame bestowed on her spotless family name! Her eyes strayed to the regal blueness of the gown the girl wore, and she secretly longed to rip the material from the honey colored shoulders. This girl enjoyed her wealth with regal silence, while her father scorned every cent!
If it hadn't been for the demise of her brother-in-law, she wouldn't have had the responsibility of caring for the worthless chit. Furious, she nearly wept, turning her face away from the younger woman’s bright image. As an upstanding figure of the elite social society, socially outward appearances were everything, which forced Wilhelmina to display exemplary behavior toward her husband’s niece. Unable to present anything other than a forgiving heart to the injustice wrought by the girl’s father, she falsely demonstrated she was made of a forgiving material.
Aramettea concentrated intently on her plate, feeling her aunt's heated glare. She was unable to comprehend the animosity display by the members of her father's family. Since her arrival to their luxurious home, Mattie endured constant humiliation, despite her compliance to their every rule. She imagined her lack of a refined education brought on their disgust and lack of civility.
She understood her background would be a scandalous issue her father's brother wouldn’t accept. Discreetly, she kept her upbringing a secret from her aunt and uncle. Instead, she used the excuse of safety to explain her boyish attire when she first arrived at their estate. They didn't understand travel was far safer when a lone woman dressed as a man. Her explanations had met grumbles of irritation but, in her pocket, she carried a letter written by her father. In the faded script, he pleaded with Emmett to place the past where it belonged, and to tend to Mattie in the event of his death.
Grateful the pair had given her a home when she needed one the most, Mattie’s obedience was beginning to wear thin. She hungered for her freedom, but remained indebted by the vows she made to her father--to do more, and accomplish more, than he had in his life.
Life is getting hard, Papa. Fancy dresses and manners are more difficult than cattle and horses, or mucking out a stall.
Raised in this wild country through which they were traveling, Aramettea remembered roaming from ranch to ranch with her father. The aspect of being a widower, with a young daughter, meant more than one prospective landowner would deny him work. Starvation would have been imminent, or even worse would have occurred. Her father knew, if a cowhand lived with his teenage daughter, he would invite trouble from every male hand within a hundred mile radius.
After her mother's unexpected demise, Aramettea posed as her father’s son, knowing he had her best interests at heart. Still young, and thin as a reed, her father’s employers accepted her as an awkward boy on the brink of manhood. She had assisted her father in the corral and numerous round ups and, under his constant and expert tutelage, she learned the same abilities as any well-skilled cowhand.
Mattie brushed a stray golden curl from her temple, and stifled a poignant sigh, missing her carefree past. Life had been sheer and unadulterated bliss, despite the grueling work, compared to the one she presently endured. Little did Aunt Wilhelmina, or Uncle Emmett, comprehend the immense pleasure a life of hard work gave her.
She had leapt at the opportunity arose to travel west, for she loved this land to the depth of her soul. Filled with endless blue skies, the state had a world or startling sunsets and smiling dark faces, a place she proudly claimed as home. Each bit of this desert landscape she held cherished to her bosom on the long and dark nights in the freezing Northern clime where she presently resided. The sight of the purplish mountains in the distance brought the sheen of tears to her eyes, and her heart welled. She couldn't deny a sense of moving remembrance filling her with comfort, and didn’t understand how Aunt Wilhelmina could curse the panorama as being a dull and barren wasteland.
Mattie set aside her heavy silverware, her appetite sated. A bored sigh escaped her, and she looked around the hotel’s opulent dining room. Sumptuous, rich, and overly decorated, there were not enough words to describe the luxury of the newest establishment in Santo Domingo. Her uncle had been adamant on this particular site with the announced layover, and she couldn’t fault his superb taste.
Surrounding her were many of the elegantly attired and influential businessmen from the train, as well as people she didn’t recall. As the meal progressed, and libations flowed among the rich, their voices became slightly boisterous. The coveted image of money seemed to flit above each diner, wealth flaunted as easily as the poured wine. Mattie frowned, careful not to make her displeasure too apparent. There didn’t seem to be a single person present capable of handling their lives without the aid of the all-mighty dollar.
Her gaze strayed across the tables, coming to rest on the last set of occupants seated in the back of the dining room. Barely visible beneath the glow of flickering gaslights, the trio lingered at a table many patrons avoided. Curious, she wondered why they wished to remain anonymous. Her curiosity assumed the most of her common sense and she found herself searching the shadowed faces of the occupants.
Abruptly, she stopped, an involuntary shiver creeping down her spine. A single occupant of the distant table captured her gaze, and stared into the darkness of familiar glittering eyes, unable to pull away. His companions faded into nothingness as she stared at him, noting the thick waves of nearly blue-black hair framing his darkly tanned face, a heavy scar distorting the contours of a single cheek.
Oddly enough, the twisted flesh didn’t deter from his handsomeness. Aramettea realized the wound accentuated the mysterious pull drawing her unresistingly to him. Her breath whispered from her parted lips, recognition, and figments of the past darting before her wide eyes. Her gaze slipped from the roguish tilt of almost demoniacally arched brows before sliding to the supple line of the diner's full mouth.
Nervously, she flicked the tip of her pink tongue over parched lips. Suddenly aware of the seductive suggestion she presented, Mattie colored hotly. Her action had been misinterpreted, obvious when she spied the beckoning glimmer in the man's narrowed scrutiny. The blood pounded in her ears, draining her of the ability to think coherently. She stared in wide-eyed innocence at him, his scarred features dancing wickedly in the luminous glow of the lights.
Shock and recognition filled her.
Only one man was capable of having any sort of effect on her, and she knew him to be dead. She watched him die, a lifetime ago, in the dusty soil of his family estate. However, every tingling sense in her body told her otherwise. She knew him from the insolent tilt of his head, and the way he looked at her through sloe-shaped eyes filled with pain and anger. Despite the horrid scar marring his once boyishly handsome face, she knew his identity as clearly as she knew her own.
She would recognize Reynaldo Sebastiano Montoya anywhere.