Hi guys! We have Eli Easton popping in today with the tour for her new release Robbie Riverton: Mail Order Bride, we have a brilliant guest post where Eli shares an exclusive excerpt and we have a fantastic $25 Amazon GC or one of three ecopies of Five Dares giveaway, so guys check out the post and enter the giveaway! ❤ ~Pixie~
Robbie Riverton: Mail Order Bride
Being a fugitive in the old west shouldn’t be this much fun.
The year is 1860. Robby Riverton is a rising star on the New York stage. But he witnesses a murder by a famous crime boss and is forced to go on the run–all the way to Santa Fe. When he still hasn’t ditched his pursuers, he disguises himself as a mail order bride he meets on the wagon train. Caught between gangsters that want to kill him, and the crazy, uncouth family of his “intended”, Robby’s only ally is a lazy sheriff who sees exactly who Robby is — and can’t resist him.
Trace Crabtree took the job as sheriff of Flat Bottom because there was never a thing going on. And then Robby Riverton showed up. Disguised as a woman. And betrothed to Trace’s brother. If that wasn’t complication enough, Trace had to find the man as appealing as blueberry pie. He urges Robby to stay undercover until the danger has passed. But a few weeks of having Robby-Rowena at the ranch, and the Crabtree family will never be the same again.
Robby Riverton Excerpt – Meet Cute!
By Eli Easton
AUTHOR’S NOTE – The first time my two main characters meet is always a fun challenge—to make it interesting and unique. In the case of Robby Riverton, they meet for the first time when one of them is in disguise….
Trace left his horse at the Santa Fe livery stables and started toward the barber shop. He was just crossing the dusty central plaza when a ruckus attracted his attention.
Two men accosted a young lady in a green gown and red shawl in the middle of the street. The men wore black pants, black city boots, red shirts, suspenders, and tall stovepipe hats. Belts around their hips holstered guns and knives. Their clothes were like nothing in these parts. They looked like immigrants or like they were from out East, New York or Philadelphia or some such, and they looked like bad news. The lady was demanding, in a very cultured voice, that they unhand her. Trace scanned the street. There were a dozen men in view and none of them even looked toward the argument. A woman led a small boy by the hand, hurrying along the wooden sidewalk in the opposite direction.
Trace might have ignored the argument too, except for three things. First, goddamn but it chafed his hide when men abused women. Second, there was something about the lady that drew his notice. She was a beauty but in an unconventional way. She was tall and thin with wide shoulders. Her face was striking, long and narrow with a square jawline that would cut glass. Her mouth was full, her nose long and straight, and her green eyes sparked with fire. Dark hair peeked out from under her bonnet. Her words were defiant, but Trace knew terror when he saw it.
The third thing was, he heard her say, clear as day, “I told you, my fiancé lives in Flat Bottom, and he’ll be here shortly to escort me!”
Gritting his teeth, Trace approached the trio. His hand loitered gracefully near his gun. “What seems to be the trouble here?”
The two men stared at him flatly. They did not let go of the lady.
She, however, searched his face, her eyes pleading. “Sir, I beg your assistance. I was making my way to the fonda to seek a room. I just arrived from Missouri, and I need to send a message to my intended to come for me.”
“You’ll get your room when you’re done answering our questions,” one of the men snapped. His accent was hard and flat—definitely an Easterner. It was an odd situation to run across in the middle of Santa Fe, but the wagon trail brought all sorts of garbage west.
“But I have answered your questions. Repeatedly!” The lady’s eyes swam with tears.
The manhandling of the woman ticked Trace off. But it was the way the two men dismissed him as irrelevant that really lit his fuse. He drew his gun and cocked it. This got their attention. The younger one looked slightly puzzled as to what his problem was. The older one stared, his eyes as cold as ice. He was a big man and he looked dangerously strong despite being soft around the middle. There was not a speck of conscience in those eyes. Trace really didn’t like him.
Cold-Eyes shifted one hand.
“Stop.” Trace leveled the gun at the man’s stomach. “You’ll be gut-shot ’fore you can draw.”
His voice was calm, but it conveyed all the malice he felt. Cold-Eyes froze. The lady looked at Trace with wide, frightened eyes. She was wearing far too much makeup for a woman who spoke in such a genteel manner. But then, Trace wasn’t up on the latest fashions. Beneath all that rouge, her face was white with fear.
“Now,” Trace said evenly. “Where did you say your intended was from, ma’am?”
“F-flat Bottom. It’s supposed to be near here. Do you know it?” Her gloved hand fluttered near her high collar.
“As a matter of fact, I happen to be the sheriff of Flat Bottom.”
The two men exchanged a dark look.
“I have a letter. And a legal contract,” the lady said firmly. “I showed it to these men, but they—”
“Aw now, listen, Sheriff,” Cold-Eyes interrupted. “We’re looking for someone. We’re not going to hurt the lady, just talk. So, put that fooking gun away.” The man’s tone was cajoling now. As if they were all men of the world here.
Trace considered it. He slipped his gun back in the holster, knowing he could have it out again in a second. From the way the men studied the action, they knew it too.
Cold-Eyes signaled the other man with a single look. The other man was in his thirties with a fleshy face, stringy blond hair, and a blue feather in the band of his stovepipe hat. He pulled out a large piece of paper, unfolded it, and showed it to Trace. “We’re looking for this man. Name’s Robby Riverton, aka Nick Smith, but he could be called anything now. You seen him?”
Trace glanced at the poster. It was a theatrical notice featuring an actor. His prissy, old-timey costume, and the pose with one foot up on a stool reminded Trace of a play he went to once in San Antonio. The actor was a young man with dark hair and green eyes outlined in black like a raccoon. He looked heavenward with the attitude of a martyred saint.
He looked too soft to be anyone in these parts.
“Did you check the saloon?” Trace asked with a dismissive shake of his head. “That’s the only place they have shows like this.”
“He’s on the run,” Cold-Eyes said. “He’s not going to be putting himself on stage, is he?”
Trace had no clue and didn’t care. “Can I see that letter you mentioned, ma’am?”
“What business is it of yours?” Cold-Eyes asked.
“Well,” Trace said with exaggerated slowness, “the way I see it, this lady is on her way to Flat Bottom, and I’m the sheriff of Flat Bottom, so she is my business.”
“But we’re not in Flat Bottom,” Cold-Eyes argued.
“It is an amazing coincidence,” Trace agreed.
The lady tried to open her purse, glaring at the two men until they released her arm. She dug inside and presented Trace with an envelope. It contained a handwritten letter in exaggeratedly careful handwriting and a one-page legal document stating the terms of a pending contract of marriage between one Rowena Fairchild and—good God—Clovis Crabtree.
“Aw hell,” Trace muttered.
Pa had done lost his mind completely this time. He’d sent for a mail-order bride! Trace could hardly believe it. And look at her—fine silk dress, elegant bearing, high-class way of speaking, and natural beauty to boot. It was like ordering all the way to Washington D.C. for fancy china then putting it in the pig trough. Trace would lay money this gal would run screaming from Crabtree Ranch within a week.
Trace wanted to spit onto the dusty street, but he refrained on Miss Fairchild’s account.
“Do you know my fiancé?” Miss Rowena Fairchild asked sweetly.
“Yeah,” Trace said grudgingly.
“I thought someone would be waiting for me at the stockyard,” she said, clutching her shawl more tightly around herself. “But Mr. Stoltz said we made excellent time, so my intended probably didn’t expect me so soon. I’m sure once I send word—”
“Pardon my fooking French, but we was talking,” snapped Cold-Eyes.
Miss Fairchild clamped her mouth shut and looked heavenward as if entreating God for patience.
“You sure you ain’t seen this man?” Blue-Feather demanded of Trace.
“Never in my life,” Trace drawled.
As he said it—never in my life—there was a funny tickle in his stomach as if that weren’t true. He glanced at the poster again, frowning. There was something about the actor’s face that rang a bell. Trace had seen his share of song and dance routines, from Texas to the Arizona Territories and all over the West. He didn’t deliberately seek them out, but he liked to drink in places that had that sort of entertainment. The music was nice.
He was pert sure he’d never seen this actor before, though. Usually saloons had gals in fancy clothing. If shows had men who looked like this one instead of pretty girls, he’d have taken more of an interest.
Cold-Eyes nodded at Blue-Feather and the poster was rolled up and put away.
“Well, we’re looking for him. Came all the way west after him. And this lady here shared a wagon with Riverton all the way from Missouri.”
“I told you, it wasn’t proper for us to fraternize. We barely spoke,” Miss Fairchild said prissily.
“For three months? He had to say something about where he was going and—” The man shot a look at Trace. “—what he was running from. Where’d he get off?”
“The only place he mentioned to me was San Francisco, but I have no idea how he intended to get there. He was in and out of the wagon all the while. I didn’t realize he’d left for good until yesterday, but if I must guess, I’d say he stayed on at Fort Union.”
“We was at Fort Union. Riverton ain’t there!”
“Well, then, I have no idea.” She turned to Trace. “Please. I’m just so awfully tired.”
Trace got caught by those sleepy green eyes. They were the prettiest he’d ever seen—clear and intelligent, a soft shade that glowed like pond slime in the sun and deepened to moss where her lashes shaded the iris. Those lashes were thick and velvety, like the coat of a chestnut horse Trace once had. And right now, they were imploring him to take charge of the situation.
He cleared his throat, feeling a little discombobulated.
“What did he say about San Francisco?” Cold-Eyes demanded, grabbing Miss Fairchild’s arm hard to get her attention. “The words. Tell me the exact words.”
“Ow! You’re hurting me!” Miss Fairchild cried.
Trace’s patience evaporated in a flash of rage. He put a hand on his gun. “Let. Go.”
With a glower, Cold-Eyes released her.
Trace stepped forward and took Miss Fairchild’s elbow, getting between her and Cold-Eyes. “The lady’s answered your questions. If you’re lookin’ for someone, I suggest ya talk to the Santa Fe sheriff. The office is that way.” He jabbed his finger down the street.
He turned and steered Miss Fairchild toward the fonda.
Trace didn’t turn around to see if the men followed, but he kept his right hand on the holster of his gun and his ear cocked for the sound of a gun hammer.
Cold-Eyes called out, “We know where to find you, Miss Fairchild! If we decide to renew our conversation.”
Miss Fairchild’s expression didn’t alter, but her arm trembled. Trace’s first assessment had been right. She was more afraid of them than she let on. She had a hell of a poker face.
They reached the wooden sidewalk and turned left toward the fonda. Trace wondered what the hell he was going to do next. He couldn’t take Miss Fairchild back to Flat Bottom with him unless he hired a rig. He’d need a chaperone too, damn it all. A young lady didn’t go traveling alone with a man, not even her fiancé’s brother. And he wasn’t about to cross that line with Clovis’s bride and give Pa cause to rant and rave. But what choice did he have? He couldn’t leave her in Santa Fe. Those two men would be back to harass her the minute he walked away.
Where was her chaperone, anyhow? Had she really been in the same wagon with that Riverton fellow all the way from Missouri? Something didn’t smell right to Trace. But then, nothing about this smelled right.
He glanced at her as they walked past the shops. She clutched her shawl tightly, hiding her figure, so he couldn’t see much. But she was tall for a woman—only a few inches shorter than Trace. Of course, Trace had met tall women in his day, so that wasn’t unheard of. Her gown was ill-fitting and pulled tight across the shoulders. Her high lace collar and red shawl seemed too fancy for the pale green dress. It seemed odd for someone who owned such expensive pieces not to match them up any better. But then, maybe that was the style in the East.
She looked up at him, her expression wary. “Are you really the sheriff of Flat Bottom?”
“Oh. I surely appreciate the rescue. You’re my knight in shining armor.” She gave him a coy look from under her lashes.
He returned her look with a scowl, and Miss Fairchild looked away demurely. He didn’t lay great odds on her working out with Clovis, but if she made a habit of flirting with men, especially as pretty a gal as she was, the whole dang thing could be a nightmare. It was a good thing Trace was immune to women himself.
At the fonda, she reached for the front door handle. Trace got there first. She withdrew her hand with an abashed look and let him open the door.
They stepped inside the cool, cream-colored lobby with its pueblo walls and potted palms. It wasn’t as grand as a big-city hotel, but it was cooler than the streets and blessedly peaceful. Only a handful of people were lounging in the chairs or at the front desk.
Miss Fairchild shut her eyes for a moment and sighed. She looked truly shaken.
“I’m sorry ya had such a rude welcome to Santa Fe. Perhaps you’d care to sit down, Miss Fairchild?”
She opened those pretty green eyes and turned to him. “I’m fine, Sheriff… I’m sorry. What did you say your name was? I’d like to thank you properly.” She placed a gloved hand on his arm.
Her direct gaze made Trace feel discombobulated again. “Um…” What was his name? “I—Crabtree. Trace Crabtree. But you can call me Sheriff Crabtree. Or just Trace is fine.”
Dear Lord, he was an idiot. Why did Miss Fairchild unnerve him so?
She frowned at him. “Trace Crabtree?”
Make that doubly an idiot. “Sorry. Yeah, I’m Clovis’s brother. I had no idea you were arrivin’, though. Or even that Pa—our father—had, er, set this up.”
“I see.” She withdrew her hand, looking uneasy. “Thank you for coming to my aid, kind sir.”
“Aw. It ain’t no problem at all.” He cleared his throat. “I was thinkin’. We can rest here for a spell, then go to the stables and get a wagon. I’ll see if the hotel has a woman they can send with us. To chaperone.”
Miss Fairchild’s gaze shifted back to Trace, her eyes widening. “Oh, no! You don’t need to trouble yourself on my account. I’d like to rest for a few days. Perhaps if you wouldn’t mind delivering a letter?”
Trace blinked at her. Was she trying to get out of this already? He looked down at himself. He wore his city-going black pants, black vest, and a gray shirt. He thought he was fairly presentable. If she objected to the look of him, poor Clovis was really in trouble. Or maybe it was his gun belts that frightened her?
He shook his head slowly. “No, ma’am. It wouldn’t be wise for you to stay here alone, what with those two men around.”
Her gaze went to the door and she stiffened, but she put on a forced smile. “I’m sure they won’t bother me again. Truly, I’m grateful for your help, but right now, I just want to check in and have some quiet time to myself. I don’t want to keep you. I’m sure your father has made other arrangements on my behalf.”
Her tone was firm. Yup. She was trying to get rid of him, all right. If that didn’t beat all. She really expected him to leave her. Men back East must be spineless creatures if they were this easily ordered about.
Trace pushed his hat back. “I’d like to oblige ya, Miss Fairchild, but that won’t work at all. It would be all kinds of wrong for me to leave ya here. I’m afraid you’ll have to come back to Flat Bottom with me. Today.”
“Nonsense.” Her eyes darted to the stairs and then the windows.
“Now, it’s a three-hour ride in a wagon,” he explained calmly. “So we’ll get there before nightfall. There’s a boardin’ house run by a nice lady named Mrs. Jones. You can stay with her if ya wanna rest up before goin’ on to the ranch.”
“Excuse me,” she said brightly. “I need to find the powder room and neaten up first. If you’ll wait right here, Sheriff. Trace. I won’t be but a weensy moment.” She turned and moved quickly toward the stairs, skirts swishing.
Having been, at various times and under different names, a minister’s daughter, a computer programmer, a game designer, the author of paranormal mysteries, a fan fiction writer, and organic farmer, Eli has been a m/m romance author since 2013. She has over 30 books published.
Eli has loved romance since her teens and she particular admires writers who can combine literary merit, genuine humor, melting hotness, and eye-dabbing sweetness into one story. She promises to strive to achieve most of that most of the time. She currently lives on a farm in Pennsylvania with her husband, bulldogs, cows, a cat, and lots of groundhogs.
In romance, Eli is best known for her Christmas stories because she’s a total Christmas sap. These include “Blame it on the Mistletoe”, “Unwrapping Hank” and “Merry Christmas, Mr. Miggles”. Her “Howl at the Moon” series of paranormal romances featuring the town of Mad Creek and its dog shifters has been popular with readers. And her series of Amish-themed romances, Men of Lancaster County, has won genre awards.
In 2018 Eli hopes to do more of the same, assuming they reschedule the apocalypse.