As part of our spotlight on Rough Edges we wanted to give those people who haven’t yet read the anthology a bit of a taste of what the stories contained. With that in mind, please enjoy these short excerpts:

Excerpt from “Lady of Lacrymosa” by Brantwijn Serrah:

For a wonder, no one else paid the lady any attention. Glasses were raised to the other three and some of the local boys made excuses to wander over and offer regards. A gaggle of the saloon girls hovered, no doubt hoping to catch the eye of the generous man who appeared to be in charge.  Nobody watched the lady, though. Nobody except Katarina.

Like a desert heat mirage she moved; like a thunderhead. Kat studied her with a subtle swell of interest and even a little envy. All at once she wanted to join the dance too. She wanted to be pulled close to the heart of the gunslinger’s languid, elegant storm.

“I want you,” she whispered in a tiny voice, before she even knew she’d said it.

And as if she’d heard, Lady Gunslinger’s dark eyes flew open, and her sharp gaze landed directly on the startled saloon girl.

I huffed out a breath, faking a composure I didn’t quite have. “If I have to call you Gabe, you have to quit calling me ma’am. My name is Anna.”

Now the smile stayed a little longer, and I was suddenly very, very sorry he was sleeping all the way out in the living room. “I can’t promise that. My mama drilled the word into me at a young age. But I’ll do my best, Anna.”

With that emphasis on my name he turned back again to the living room. I closed the bedroom door behind me, and flopped back onto the bed with a groan.

My dreams that night were filled with heat. Teasing touches, trailing fingertips, the brush of lips, the bite of teeth. A flash of dark brown eyes in the moonlight, a gentle smile and limbs entwined with mine.

Suddenly I opened my eyes; it was the middle of the night, I was alone, and my body was on fire. I wasn’t prone to erotic dreams, but tonight every nerve ending was alive, begging for completion. I slid a hand under the covers and down my belly…

Excerpt from “Hunted and Haunted” by Jen DeLuca:

Excerpt from “Jump Without Looking” by TJ Dodd:

To Jackie’s surprise, Russ got off his horse, took off the same clothes she’d taken off, and waded out to join her. She stayed there, in water up to her breasts, and tried to relax.

Soon he was sitting next to her but not touching. They watched the lowering sun throw sparks onto the ripples and turn the river rocks pink and amber. A whippoorwill song accented the soft murmur of water and there was a leafy thud and clucking back in the woods—wild turkey roosting for the night.

“Sorry for whatever I did wrong back there,” Russ finally said.

“It wasn’t you. I have a thing about being held too tight.” Jackie hadn’t said that to anyone. She pulled her knees up and felt cool evening air filter through the wet denim of her jeans.

“So, the rest of it was—okay?”

“The rest of it was great. You were great, Russ. With Bluebell too. I couldn’t have done it without you.”

“Can we do it again some time? Not the calf pulling, the kissing.”

Rose sat cross-legged in a corner of Tank’s new stall. The donkey’s eyes remained on Finn, who leaned on the opened half-door.

“What’s his problem, anyway?”

“He just started attacking everyone around him but there was nothing wrong with him. Nothing medical, I mean. Your six hundred bucks covered all that testing.”

“So you made me buy an angry donkey with mental health issues?”

Great. Surly Finn was back. Suddenly, all the awful things he said to her eight years crowded her thoughts. Just a human. Was never interested in you. Just leave. Rose rubbed her temples. The raised scar under her fingertips throbbed.

“Take your shitty attitude and negative energy elsewhere,” she snapped. “I was supposed to euthanize him this morning. My plan was to heal him last night but instead I’m here because the long arm of Finnegan Ranch demanded it. Tank deserves a chance. I can’t fix him as a vet but I sure as hell am gonna try to fix him as a healer.”

Excerpt from “Coming Up Roses” by Anna Kyle:

Excerpt from “Emma’s Ride” by Christine Morgan:

Mama, passionless as a nun, had to hate Emma for what she’d done.

What she’d almost done, Emma amended. She hadn’t, not really, not fully, and that was the bitterest pill of all.

If she had done it—which she would have, and gladly, if Papa hadn’t come home early—that would be another matter. She could have understood their rancor. A ruined daughter. The scandal. The whispers.

But he hadn’t even put it in! What angered Emma the most was that she was being punished for something she hadn’t done. Or, rather, that because she was being punished for it, she wished she’d gone ahead and done it.

How easy it would have been, how delightful! And they had, almost. If she’d been less coy, dash it all! If she’d not played at maidenly demure resistance, and made him pant vows of undying adoration in her ear… why, it might have been long over with by the time Papa came in, and the ache, the terrible need in her, might finally have been met.

Ben grabbed my elbow and led me toward the escalator. He pressed into me. “Get on the tram and take off your panties.”

“I’m in jeans.” The words flew out of my mouth and Ben’s hold on me tightened.

“Figure it out.” Ben’s untamed personality was raw and dangerous.

When we descended the escalator, I spotted a boutique

I pulled away from Ben and ran toward the store.

I barely made it inside before the saleswoman approached the doors to lock them.

“We’re closing,” she said.

I leaned toward her. “I just need to buy a skirt. I had a minor mishap on my last flight and my jeans are… ”

Excerpt from “My Midnight Cowboy” by Pumpkin Spice:

Excerpt from “Time Machine Cowboy” by Trayce Primm:

She was tempted, drawn to him, but she hesitated, still reeling at the sudden change in reality.  Bronco took off his hat and ran a tanned hand through his tangle of golden hair, looking straight at her, mesmerizing her with the most intense blue eyes she’d ever seen.  They were dark as navy, yet not clouded or dull, shining brightly as if lit from behind by a hidden source.  She swayed on her feet, then moved slowly toward him, pulled by an irresistible magnetic force.

There was a dreamlike sense of inevitability, a floating sensual state of freedom.  If it was a dream, she didn’t want to wake up yet—not until the fantasy was completed.  She walked closer, breathing heavily, her breasts rising and falling with each gulp of the sweet, thick air.  He held out his hand and she stopped just shy of his outstretched fingers, frightened that his touch would be ephemeral, less vibrant than the vision she had somehow conjured.

Rough Edges

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