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Tucker's ClaimUpdate: CONTEST will close Sunday 8/30/09 @ midnight CST. Post a link to your review for either Hell’s Eight Book in the comments (Caine’s Reckoning, Sam’s Creed) and I will enter you twice (info in the comments).

Have we got a treat for you today!  In celebration of The Great Western Drive, we have ourselves a tasty excerpt from Sarah McCarty‘s next book, Tucker’s Claim, which is due out on October 1, 2009! 

But wait, there’s more!  More, you ask?  What could be cooler than a tasty excerpt?  Well how about a chance to win a copy of the book.  Thanks to the fine folks at Harlequin, we’ll be giving away one copy of Tucker’s Claim to one random commenter on this post.  Please note: This will be a final copy of the book (not an ARC) and will be sent to the winner closer to the book’s publication date.  Read on, comment, and good luck!

Copyright © 2009 by Sarah McCarty
Permission to reproduce text granted by Harlequin Books S.A.

Sally stood in front of her mirror, studying her reflection. Tucker McCade was waiting for her out in the woods. The illicit thrill that went through her was very much out of place, but exciting. Staring at the mirror, she wondered what he saw in her. She was a plain woman with plain ways, wearing a plain dress. She had nothing frilly under her dress, such as the saloon girls wore to entice a man. No fancy scents to please his senses. She was just Sally Mae Schermerhorn, widow of Jonah Schermerhorn, mother to none, daughter to none. A woman who’d come west in the hope of finding the sense of belonging that she’d never had, even amidst the accepting arms of the people who had taken her in when she was ten. Even in the arms of her husband.

She touched the demure white cap she always wore over her coronet of braids. Nothing like what was worn by the other women Tucker had known, she was sure. Tucker, with his big bones, big muscles and bold face with the aggressive slash of his cheekbones beneath his incredible silver eyes was a harshly exotic, handsome man. There was nowhere he went that women’s eyes didn’t follow. A dart of insecurity pierced her anticipation. Which meant he could have his pick.

She pulled the cap off slowly, watching in the mirror as it revealed the tightly pinned braids. Suddenly she hated the hairstyle and all it represented. Conformity. Control. Acceptance.

Tonight, she wanted to be the woman that Tucker imagined. Someone as fanciful as a moonbeam. She studied the cap, her image. Tonight, for whatever reason, he wanted her. And tonight she wanted to be more than plain Sally Mae. Tonight she wanted to drown in the attraction between them and just bury the pain that festered inside beneath some sort of joy. Since that horrible night when the sheriff had brought her Jonah’s bloody body, along with his last words, she’d been silently screaming. She didn’t want to be silent anymore, locked in her mind with her screams. And tonight she didn’t have to be. Tonight she could give Tucker what he wanted and take a little for herself. No promises would be made. No one would be hurt. Just two bodies coming together to satisfy separate needs. And when it was over, she’d go back to her silence and plain ways and Tucker would go about his wild ones. There was no worry that he would gossip. The added benefit of taking a man with Indian blood as her lover was that he wouldn’t—couldn’t—say a word for fear of being strung up. She didn’t personally care about his heritage. God created all men and women equally, but societal issues did offer her that guarantee.

Another pause as she considered how selfish she was being, using a man to relieve pain. But then she remembered the look in Tucker’s eyes as he’d stood in the back of the cemetery on one of her recent visits. He had stalked over the rise like some wild cougar, his torn-off shirtsleeves and leather vest showcasing his massive chest and powerful muscles, giving him a primitive intimidation, making everyone and everything else seem insignificant. The ever-present bullet hanging on the leather thong around his neck completed the image of a cold, lethal predator. Until his silver gaze met hers. There hadn’t been any sympathy there. No pity. But as she stared into his eyes, understanding arced across the distance between them, and she saw the pain he, too, felt.

Sighing, she put the cap on the polished vanity top. She was going to take a lover. A man not of her race, not of her beliefs. A man who, supposedly, was built of nothing but violence and darkness. Sally knew there was a wildness in her that could match the wildness in Tucker, but knowing it and experiencing it were two different things. Raking her teeth across her lips to give them a bit more fullness and color, she turned away from the mirror. She would have to do as she was. Jonah had always enjoyed taking her hair down for her. Maybe Tucker would enjoy it, too. Smoothing her skirts, she headed down the stairs and into the sweetness of the night.