In all these years of marriage, my husband James's love for B-Western movies has rubbed off on me, especially an appreciation for the stunt work involved, to the extent that my longest-running series features Lucas Hallam, a private detective and Western movie extra who works in 1920s Hollywood. (Hallam is a supporting character in my story "Tinseltown", from the PRESENT FOR A COWBOY anthology.)
I love writing action scenes, so when I set out to write "Guarding Her Heart", I wanted to include the sort of spectacular stunt that took place in so many B-Westerns: a great stagecoach chase scene culminating with the coach plunging off a cliff. You can see two amazing stunts from the 1938 serial Zorro's Fighting Legion.
Of course, in a story no stuntmen or horses are actually at risk, but I hoped to achieve the same sort of pulse-pounding thrills, as the movie trailers put it. And Grant and Julia have plenty of other thrills coming their way in "Guarding Her Heart" as well...
Julia Courtland was on her way west to marry a man she had never met. Henry Everett, the marshal of Flat Rock, Texas, was the grandson of her uncle's best friend. It seemed like a good match for both of them, and the wedding was scheduled to take place on Valentine's Day.
Grant Stafford thought the young woman who got on the stagecoach at Buffalo Springs was the prettiest thing he had seen in a long time. She wasn't too friendly, mind you, but she was sure easy on the eyes. Not that Grant had time to worry much about such things. He was the shotgun guard on this run, but more than that, he was an undercover Texas Ranger on the trail of the vicious outlaw gang responsible for a string of stagecoach robberies.
Fate threw Julia Courtland and Grant Stafford together on a cold February day in West Texas, but it also threw deadly obstacles in their path. A runaway team, a terrible crash, and bullets flying through the air threaten to steal not only their lives but also any chance they have for happiness. If they're going to survive, they will have to learn to trust each other . . . and maybe steal their hearts back from fate.
The sharp crack of a rifle shot interrupted Grant. Beside him, Scalphunter grunted and rocked back against the seat. The old frontiersman struggled to hang on to the reins.
Grant searched for the source of the shot, but at the same time his worried gaze darted to Scalphunter. A red stain spread on the old man's shirtfront, blossoming like a crimson flower.
From the corner of his eye, Grant spotted a man standing on top of a boulder with a rifle. He lifted the shotgun and touched off one of the barrels just as the man fired a second shot. This bullet hit the brass rail running around the top of the coach and spanged off. As far as Grant could tell, his buckshot didn't hit anything.
More shots cracked. They had driven right into an ambush. A bullet creased one of the horses and made it let out a shrill whinny as it leaped ahead.
That was all it took for things to get even worse. The team bolted, leaving the road behind and taking off across the flats.