Back 2 School – Western

REJOICE! The children are back in school.

For those who live to read…here are some awesome books provided by the incredible authors who wrote them. All in celebration of the new school year.

While a few of these books might be oldies, but goodies…others could be new and fresh off the presses.

Relax and find your new favorite author.

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WESTERN

Western in traditional literary terms is a genre of various arts which tell stories set primarily in the later half of the 19th century in the American Old West, often centering on the life of a nomadic cowboy or gunfighter armed with a revolver and a rifle who rides a horse. Cowboys and gunslingers typically wear Stetson hats, bandannas, spurs, cowboy boots and buckskins. Other characters include Native Americans, bandits, lawmen, bounty hunters, outlaws, soldiers (especially mounted cavalry), settlers and townsfolk.

Please enjoy these books that focus on Western and all its sub-genres. The list is available in alphabetically order by title.

Don’t forget to enter the Rafflecopter for a chance to win an Amazon Giftcard.

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Annabelle – The Soiled Doves Series Book 3 by Susan Horsnell

Western Historical Romance

Annabelle was tricked into having relations with a man she thought she was to marry, now she is a soiled dove with no chance of a decent future.

Chase is a Ranger who is besotted with the young girl the first time he sets eyes on her.

Can Chase overcome Annabelle’s indiscretions to give the young woman the future she desires?

Award winning authors Susan Horsnell and Margaret Tanner, have joined forces to create an exciting new Western series – Soiled Doves.

Each book in the series will be a stand-alone novella with a happily ever after ending.

Matt by Susan Horsnell

Western Romance

When Matt Carter helps to rescue a young girl who has been ferociously beaten and left to die, he doesn’t expect she will capture his heart.

Maddie Chandler has no idea why someone would want to kill her and she is terrified they will return and finish the job. And, why can’t she remember who she is or where she is from?

Can Matt protect her from the vicious outlaws who are determined to take something from her?

Will local Law Enforcement, Texas Rangers and Indian Trackers find the vicious outlaws before someone is killed?

A story about tender love, murder, greed and intrigue.

Outrageous Offer by Lola White

Western Romance

Hyacinth Woodley is a desperate woman. Officially deemed a spinster with no marriage prospects in sight, alone after the death of her parents and out of money, she answers an ad for a mail order bride, only to be rejected by her groom upon her arrival in Creek Bend. She has a choice to make—work in the saloon or accept an outrageous offer of being one man’s unpaid mistress.

Offer O’Neal is the new, less-than-proud owner of the Double O Ranch. After sinking every cent he had into the property, he’s left pinning his dreams of success on stud fees from his horse, the only thing of real value he’s got. He can’t afford a wife, but a willing woman in his bed is an appealing prospect, and Hyacinth’s got nowhere else to go.

Just as Offer starts thinking of Hyacinth as the one bright spot in his otherwise stressful and unlucky life, the bridegroom who rejected her returns demanding repayment for his investment. Ernest Horsham feels he’s spent a lot of money on getting the woman to Creek Bend under false pretenses, and the judge is on his side. But it’s only when Hyacinth is arrested as a thief and a fraud that Offer realizes how much he values her company.

Slammed by Liza O’Connor

Western

Davy Hill goes from obscurity to fame by riding the rankest bull alive. Coming from a life of poverty, the young cowboy expects his life to change for the better now that he’s a successful professional bull-rider. Yet, with every occurrence of good luck comes an equal dose of bad. He suffers a potentially career-ending injury, a string of betrayals, and much worse. Despite all the brutal slams he takes, he keeps getting up, because he’s a bull-rider and they never give up.

Two Indians and a Dead Man by C. Forrest Lundin

Western

“Someone behind him pulls the hammer back on a rifle. Now James understands why his horse didn’t want to move.

Two Fingers McCracken doesn’t want James’s money or supplies; the Metis wants help. The man who kidnapped his daughter knows McCracken’s face. James agrees to help. The Civil War veteran doesn’t realize the situation is far more complicated than he first thought.

Emmalee McCracken is a pawn in a bigger struggle than anyone anticipated. But getting out alive and staying out of jail will take all James Madison Robertson’s intellect. And keeping Emmalee in Oregon may prove to be beyond him.

Based on a real situation that happened in 1880, two towns in Union County, Oregon engaged in a vicious battle to get the railroad to come their way. The conflict resulted in harsh feelings that persisted into the 20th century.”

Will by Susan Horsnell

Western Romance

Will Carter, a deputy in Gold Springs, has no intention of settling down and the furthest thing from his mind is marriage.

He insists his brothers would have to hogtie him to get him down the aisle.

Until…..

He meets Rebecca Nolan.

Their first meeting results in a bruised jaw, a sore backside and a stay in jail.

Will’s attitude regarding women is proven right by the feisty hellcat.

So, why does she get under his skin?

Will she be able to save his life?

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Val and Pals

VAL & PALS series

by Margaret Lashley


Genre: Humor/Women’s Fiction/Chick Lit

The first 2 books will be specially discounted to 99 cents on Sept 19th.

 

Absolute Zero: Misadventures From A Broad


A Midlife Meltdown…with a Side of Fries.

Val’s long-suffering life as a patient daughter, dutiful wife and reliable workhorse has turned her into a snarky, miserable nag.
She has the house, the husband and the career. The only thing missing is the happy.
Before she’s set out to pasture, Val wants one more go around the track. Unbridled. In Italy.
La dolce vita or bust. 

Will Val find her happy ending abroad? Or someplace she never thought to look? And will she get there before her money and her sense of humor run out…
If you’ve ever dreamed of ditching your life and running off to Europe, now’s your chance! Join Val on a roller-coaster ride through Europe that will leave you gasping! From gut-busting hilarity to gut–wrenching gaffs, finding yourself again is always worth the price of admission. Buy it now!

The plane came to a halt. A mechanical bell binged. I looked around nervously. I slung my purse across my shoulder and sardined myself into the line of passengers inching their way down the narrow aisle. When I reached the plane’s exit door, I paused hesitantly, like a convict who’d gotten free of her cuffs without anybody noticing. My mind swirled with excitement and abject terror. Goosebumps rushed across my body. The hair at the base of my neck pricked up like a scaredy-cat.
What the hell was I doing? 

Mere days before, I’d slammed every single door – including the screen one – on my life back in Florida. The last chance to change my mind had come and gone, as unheeded as a speed limit sign at a NASCAR rally. Every safety net I’d ever known was thousands of miles away, across the Atlantic Ocean, out of sight and out of reach.
I took a deep breath to steady myself, then stepped off the plane into the complete unknown. I glanced back and waved goodbye to the Air Italia flight crew. I turned again and meandered down the gangplank behind a frail, elderly couple holding hands. Their long-standing marriage triggered flashbacks of my own, long-suffering one.
Seven weeks ago, I’d signed the final divorce papers ending fifteen years of matrimony to Jimmy Johnson, a man I no longer knew. I envisioned the beautiful house Jimmy and I had shared together. I’d sold it and my advertising business just days before the flight. After splitting the pot with Jimmy, I’d netted a hot-damn jackpot of $473,000. I pictured my best friend, Clarice Whittle. I’d left my Ford in her garage, along with a few boxes that held the final remains of the cranky, resentful woman I hoped this trip would get rid of for good.
I’d brought next to nothing with me. I’d left even less behind. No kids. No pets. No job. No husband. No responsibilities. No nothing.
I’d spend the last forty-one years in perpetual motion – Val Jolly’s non-stop stint as dutiful daughter, long-suffering wife and brown-nosing business woman. I’d catered to everyone else’s needs for as long as I could remember. Somewhere along the way I’d turned into a crabby, shrill woman that even I didn’t like. I’d forgotten who I was and what I wanted. This trip was going be my R&R&R – relaxation, romance and re-invention.
I was in Italy to try my hand at living irresponsibly, like my trampy cousin Tammy Jeter. She’d always done as she damn well pleased. Up ‘til now, I’d thought she’d been selfish. Especially when she left Whitey Large and their five pit-bulls (One with puppies!) to run off with Tater Johnson. Turns out, that girl had had it right all along.



Available for only 99cents Sept 15-19

Glad One: Starting Over is a …!


How Many Do-Overs Do You Get in One Lifetime?

One crazy old lady. Two gin & tonics. Three wacko beach-bum friends. Will Val’s fourth stab at starting over add up to a big fat zero?
Val’s down, but don’t count her out just yet. Broke, but not broken (just seriously cracked), Val Fremden returns to her hometown of St. Petersburg, Florida to find everything she knew squashed under the heels of change.
With nothing left to go on but her own dry sense of humor and the life coach advice of a beer-guzzling old lady she meets at the beach, can her life get any crazier? Just wait.
Glad One is a satirical look at divorce, single-hood and climbing back up the social ladder. It’s told through the eyes of a snarky, reluctant, midlife-crisis survivor who lost everything — but regained herself.
Is there a light at the end of the tunnel for Val? Or is that just the headlamp of another train wreck heading her way? Knowing Val, it’s probably both.
If you like wacky, deeply flawed characters and laugh-out-loud situations, you’ll love Glad One! It’s the second book in Margaret Lashley’s hilarious, irreverent Val & Pals Series of seriously funny women’s fiction.

A puff of jaded air forced its way between my pursed lips like steam from a relief valve. I needed a good cry. But this was not the time or place for it. To distract myself, I started counting my blessings.
One decimated pocketbook. Two cottage-cheese thighs. Three maladjusted ex-husbands…. Crap! 

Whoever was running the show up there had a wicked sense of humor – and I was getting damn tired of being the punchline. I scrounged around for my powder compact and opened it, intent on repairing my makeup after the nine-hour flight. One glance in the mirror at my worn-out face made me snap it shut. Why bother? 

In forty-five years, I’d accumulated a good portion of wrinkles, a fair amount of belly fat, and, apparently, precious little wisdom. These questionable assets, along with $5,726 and a suitcase full of inappropriate clothes, were all I had left to launch my latest life makeover. I slumped back into my seat. I was bone-dragging tired. Even so, a wry grin snuck across my lips like a stolen kiss from a stranger. I was not defeated. Not yet, anyway.
The way I saw it, I still had two viable options. One, I could finally learn to laugh at myself. Or two, I could drink myself into oblivion. I fished around the bottom of my purse for a coin to determine my fate. I flipped a tarnished nickel into the air with my thumb. It did a triple gainer, plunged into my coffee, and splashed a nasty brown stain on the crotch of my white stretch pants.
Awesome. Let the festivities begin.

***
My last life makeover had begun over seven years ago, and had turned out to be a spectacular, downward spiral reminiscent of diving off a cliff with a bowling ball in my pants. Drowning in dullness and fueled by movie-inspired stupidity, I’d ditched a tiresome marriage and lucrative writing career, sold all my belongings and took off for Europe. In Italy, I met a German and fell in love with the idea of life with a stranger in a strange land. Things had been great for a while. But then the shiny wore off and the cracks showed up, like they always did.
On my arrival back in St. Petersburg, Florida, I’d discovered that seven wasn’t such a lucky number. In fact, seven years abroad had been just exactly long enough for my entire credit history to be erased – just like most of my money. I’d gotten off that plane with no driver’s license. No place to live. No credit card. No phone. No resume. And, worst of all, no friends. Incredibly, I’d somehow managed to become a foreigner in my own homeland.
As a lifelong lover of irony, I’d had to smile at my own ingenuity. How many other people on the planet could have claimed such a monumental fuck-up?


Available for only 99cents Sept 19-22
Two Crazy: Fickle Finger of Fate


The World is not a Safe Place for Figurines. 

When you’re pushing 50 with an industrial bulldozer, birthdays can be a bitch. What was intended as a gag gift for Val ends up making her gag all right – and lands her in a whole heap of trouble with the law.
With one hot cop on her tail and a mean one on her trail, Val turns to old friends and new ones to help prove she’s not into human dismemberment.
Who’s the good cop? Who’s the bad? And who’s the dwarf in the Halloween mask?
Will a pair of falsies help Val stumble onto the truth? If not, she’s got to rely on her wacky, beach-bum friends if she’s going to escape the fickle finger of fate.
Two Crazy is a satirical look at how life seems to take pleasure in screwing up all of our well-laid plans. It’s told through the eyes of a snarky, middle-aged woman with major trust issues and dubious, yet highly original coping skills.
If you like deeply flawed characters and laugh-out-loud situations, you’ll love Absolute Zero. It’s the third book in Margaret Lashley’s hilarious, irreverent Val & Pals Series of seriously funny women’s fiction.

I woke the morning after my birthday party with a cop in my bed and a dead body in the kitchen. Okay, it was just a roach carcass. But I swear it was big enough to draw a chalk line around. It was legs-up in the middle of the floor. I’d fumbled, bleary-eyed, toward the cappuccino machine in nothing but Tom’s t-shirt, and had managed, of course, to step right on it. The disgusting crunch of its carapace underfoot made me scream like a little girl.
“Aaahhhh!”
As a native of the Sunshine State, I’d grown up learning to deal with the worst that Florida’s flora and fauna had to throw at me. Poison ivy. Cabbage-palm spikes. Daddy long-leg spiders. Fire ants. Kamikaze tree frogs. Ghoulish house geckos. Deadly rattlesnakes and cottonmouths. Even the occasional gator on the road or in a swimming pool. I’d managed to make my peace with all of them – except one.
Let a roach get anywhere near me – especially a flying one – and my bravado disappeared faster than Oreos at a Weight Watcher’s convention. When I’d stepped on that nasty bug, I’d let out a scream that could be heard on the International Space Station. If that marked me as a sissy, so be it. But there was something abhorrently primeval about a creature that could live for months without its own head.
“What’s going on in there!?”
Tom dashed into the room. He was naked except for his state-issued revolver. The sight of his tan, muscular body almost made me forget about my predicament. Almost.
“A roach,” I grimaced. I held up my foot like it needed stitches.
Tom grinned at me and shook his head.
“There appears to be no permanent damage. What happened to my fearless partner? Valliant Stranger?”
“Hey. Roaches are my kryptonite, okay?”
“Duly noted. I thought you put out some traps. Roach Motels, right?”
I took a paper towel off the roll and ran it under the tap. I bit my lip in disgust and wiped my foot.
“Yeah, I did. I guess there was no room left at the inn.”
Tom sniggered. “Don’t those things come with ‘No Vacancy’ signs?”
“Very funny, Mr. Morning Sunshine. Can we please change the subject now?”
“Okay.”
A dirty grin crept across his face. Tom sidled up to me and put his hands on my hips.
“Have you got a vacancy that I can fill?”
I knocked his hands off of me.
“Geeze, Tom. I think that may go down in history as the most disgusting foreplay line ever.”
Tom scooped me up into his arms. His naughty grin deepened his dimples and crinkled the corners of his hypnotic, green eyes.
“Okay, how about this? I’ve got a gun, lady. Better do what I say.”
Both my hormones and my imagination went haywire.
“Now that’s something I can work with.”
Three Dumb: Wheelin’ & Dealin’


Baloney and Cheesed.

They say three’s the charm. But charming isn’t Val’s style.
Val Fremden is a lot of things. Quirky. Jaded. Disaster prone. But more than anything, she’s afraid of commitment.
When boyfriend Tom tells her he loves her – then trades away her mom’s ashes for a tiki hut – Val’s just not feelin’ it.
On the warpath with Tom, Val’s forced to rely on her oddball friends to help track down her mom’s cremains. But three botched stakeouts and two disasters later, she still hasn’t got peanuts. Through trial (but mostly error), Val discovers it’s not easy to outwit a mobile master of disguise when she’s stuck driving a paddy wagon full of nutcases.
She loves Tom…she loves him not. Knowing Val, she’s gonna need a bigger flower….
Three Dumb is a satirical look at how life, over time, changes our perception of love and the things we value. It’s told through the eyes of a snarky, middle-aged woman with legendary commitment issues and a gnawing reluctance toward romance.
If you like deeply flawed characters and laugh-out-loud situations, you’ll love Three Dumb. It’s the fourth book in Margaret Lashley’s hilarious, irreverent Val & Pals Series of seriously funny women’s fiction.

I’d spent Sunday evening alone, cooling down slowly, like the nuclear reactor at Chernobyl. I’d avoided a critical meltdown, and when I woke up Monday morning, I’d found myself on the verge of no longer being a lethal danger to other life forms.
After a cappuccino and a long, cool shower, at 8 a.m. I called Lefty’s Hauling again. It rang fifteen times, unanswered. This was, of course, totally unacceptable. It was time for Plan B.
I slipped on a sundress and sandals, put my hair in a ponytail and climbed into the red pleather driver’s seat of Maggie, my 1963 Ford Falcon Sprint convertible. With a little encouragement in the form of smashing her gas pedal to the floor, Maggie carried me north along Gulf Boulevard. The four-lane road, lined with two- and three-story beach resorts, skirted the Gulf of Mexico like stiches in a hem.
Year round, tourists flocked to the quaint mom-and-pop motels and sugar-white beaches. I couldn’t blame them. All-in-all, St. Pete Beach was a great place to be.
I turned east on 107th Avenue. Immediately, the salt air and kitsch beach shops disappeared, replaced with anywhere-USA strip malls. At 66th Street, I turned north in the direction of good-old Pinellas Park.
Every major metropolitan area had a section designated especially for rednecks. How they found each other, I didn’t know. Maybe they were all related, or there was some special redneck hotline I wasn’t privy to. At any rate, in Pinellas County, the mecca for country bumpkins and politically incorrect-and-proud-of-it folks was definitely Pinellas Park.
If it weren’t for Florida’s history of hurricanes and tropical storms, Pinellas Park would have choked to death on doublewide trailers decades ago. But in 1993, a freak storm took out all but the very highest quality manufactured homes. It had been dubbed the “1993 Storm of the Century” by some, the “’93 Super Storm” by others, and the “Great Blizzard of 1993” by the Yankees up north. But we locals simply called it the “No-Name Storm,” because it had come up so quickly and unexpectedly not even the weather forecasters had had time to register it with an official moniker.
It had begun on March 12th as a cyclonic storm in the Gulf of Mexico, then quickly grew into a beast that stretched from Cuba to Canada. It moved into Florida around midnight, catching us unaware with winds over 100 mph. It spawned 11 tornadoes and a storm surge in St. Pete that topped out at seven feet. For folks along the coast, bay and rivers, it had been devastating. It wiped out or damaged over 18,000 homes in the Sunshine State and killed 47 of our citizens, more than Hugo and Andrew combined. Suffice it to say, it was not a good time to be living in a tin can on wheels.
WHAT FOUR
November 7, 2017


Most Definitely Contains Nuts.

All Val wants is a quiet holiday away from her oddball family. But a promise pried from her lips earlier in the year has blown that wish out the henhouse window.
When Val and her boyfriend Tom arrive at her mother’s house in Hicksville, USA, the annual Family Fruitcake Competition is well underway. And there’s more than a few fruits and nuts in the running.
But the biggest contest is between Val and her mom.
As their battle of wills heats up, unexpected ingredients get thrown into both women’s batter. It may be time to call in a referee….
Who will get best in show? Who will get their just desserts? And will Val’s half-baked family turn out to be too much baggage for Tom to handle? Order a copy and find out!
If you like deeply flawed characters and laugh-out-loud situations, you’ll love What Four. It’s the fifth book in Margaret Lashley’s hilarious, irreverent Val & Pals Series of seriously funny women’s fiction.

Like the characters in my novels, I haven’t lead a life of wealth or luxury. In fact, as it stands now, I’m set to inherit a half-eaten jar of Cheez Whiz…if my siblings don’t beat me to it.

During my illustrious career, I’ve been a roller-skating waitress, an actuarial assistant, an advertising copywriter, a real estate agent, a house flipper, an organic farmer, and a traveling vagabond/truth seeker. But no matter where I’ve gone or what I’ve done, I’ve always felt like a weirdo.
As a child I lived in my own pretend world of tickling fairies and talking cats. I began writing when I found an ancient black typewriter on my grandparent’s back porch. (Inspired by my brothers, Boys are Stupid was my first masterpiece.)
I’ve learned a heck of a lot in my life. But getting to know myself has been my greatest journey. Today, I know I’m smart. I’m direct. I’m jaded. I’m hopeful. I’m funny. I’m fierce. I’m a pushover. And I have a laugh that makes strangers want to join me at restaurants. In other words, I’m a jumble of opposing talents and flaws and emotions. And it’s all good.
In some ways, I’m a lot like Val Fremden the main character in my Val & Pals Series. My books featuring Val are not autobiographical, but what comes out of her mouth was first formed in my mind, and sometimes the parallels are undeniable. I drink TNTs. I had a car like Shabby Maggie. And I’ve started my life over four times, driving away with whatever earthly possessions fit in my car. And, perhaps most importantly, I’ve learned that friends come from unexpected places.

Death of a Sculptor

DEATH OF A SCULPTOR in Hue, Shape, and Color

by M.C.V. Egan


Genre:
Women’s suburban fiction

Color-coded love stories and revealing female anatomies lead to the puzzling death of world-renowned sculptor, Bruce Jones.

In life, the artist loved women, almost as much as women loved him. Adored for his art, colorful personality, and sexual prowess, Bruce is mourned by the world. The multifaceted perspectives of his four ex-wives, the current wife, his new love interest, and their children narrate this pulse-pounding tale.

Loose ends are tied up by the insights of Sylvia, his son Aaron’s wife and a trusted keeper of secrets; Scott, the private investigator and family friend; Nonna, the quintessential grandmother everyone loves but to whom few are truly related; and Detective Jim Miller who will not rest until he discovers Bruce Jones’ murderer.

Mary: Wife No. 1

Thunder, lightning and rain, that was what we had at our wedding. However, on the day of his funeral, the Florida heat and humidity made my face shiny with perspiration. My hair looked like a dark Brillo pad. My children requested I attend the funeral of my first husband. Bruce Jones, the world-renowned sculptor.

The parking lot was already packed with an unexpected variety of cars. I then realized that it was not peak season. The South Florida snowbirds are attached to their cars and they migrate with them back and forth each year.

I noticed a police car and a uniformed man by the entrance. Even for Bruce a bit much; however, since 9/11 security has been tight everywhere.

The valet attendant opened my rental car door. “Welcome ma’am. Your daughter is waiting for you.”

“Thank you. Please make sure you keep the car in the shade. August Florida heat and sun are not my friends.” I pulled a five-dollar bill from my purse to tip him, but he shook his head and mumbled, “No, thank you.” After all It was Palm Beach. I probably should have pulled out a twenty.

I was surprised that the building looked like an actual church, at least from the outside. The church had a long name. It was Universal something or other; apparently, a place of worship with neither affiliation nor strictures. Bruce’s life had, after all, been too outré to pretend he followed any conventional religious norm.

“Thanks for coming, mom.” Clair’s voice shouldn’t have surprised me, but I stood still, focused on carefully dabbing my shiny nose. I clicked the compact shut, smiled and answered, “Anything for you and Aaron sweetheart.” She nodded as she guided me where to sit. It was toward the back of the church; the ex-wives’ pew.

“Please mom, don’t look at me that way. This funeral is a time for forgiveness and closure.”

Clair always found a way to get me to do whatever she wanted. The last thing I wanted was to be in the company of the women sitting there. I touched my frizzy hair, regretting my rejection of the keratin treatment.

Wife number two, Leslie, was the first to say hello. “Mary, you look lovely. It’s been years.”

“It has, thankfully,” I replied. The other two simply nodded, and I nodded back. Leslie, the one Bruce left me for, handed me a packet of tissues and winked. Forcing a smile, I took them. The idea that she assumed I planned to cry had not crossed my mind. I pulled the compact out of my purse again to check my makeup; it looked fine. Through the mirror I saw the reflection of the fifth and last Mrs. Bruce Jones, the widow. She was standing waiting for the ushers. I shook my head in disbelief. There next to Brooke was the coffin. The ushers waited with the coffin for the minister’s signal. It had images of Bruce’s artwork. Digital photography makes it possible to decorate anything in living color. Some of the images were blocked from my view by the ushers, but not mine. There I was paraded as a nude sketch. Each one of Bruce’s loves had a color and mine was pink. It was kitsch…even worse, it was downright tasteless.

Bruce had a type. We all had brown hair, and pretty faces with full lips and straight noses. The eye color varied as did our size and build. His type was limited to our physiognomy. I clicked the compact shut, and the other ex-wives faced me, startled by the sound. I shrugged with a coy apologetic smile. Look at the five of us; he had a type.

Bruce’s love also had a shelf life. He took the seven-year-itch need to scratch very literally. Some marriages were shorter, because sometimes the divorces got complicated and his new loves always overlapped with the old. Public or private, his relationships always lasted seven years.

I was nineteen when I first walked into his classroom. He was tall and muscular. I felt a tingle at the base of my neck when I saw his back, as if somehow I already knew. When he turned to face me, I was gone and completely in love. I fell in love with Bruce and the sculpture next to him all at once. I soon learned he made love in a way no other man did─not that I was very experienced then─Bruce traced every inch of my body with every part of his. At twenty-four, he already made a good living from his sculptures, but teaching remained his passion. As he grew older and wealthier, he taught short workshops in different parts of the world. His last one had been just a few months before his untimely death. He was after all, only sixty-two.

It was clear by the careful shape of his sculptures that he knew the shape of my legs, ankles, feet, and every other part of my body. His sculpture venues varied, his talent knew no boundaries. Bruce loved and sculpted as instinctively as the rest of us breathe. Whoever inherited the rights to his art would be wise to market his sketches as limited edition lithographs. Bruce liked to keep those private, but he always added color to the sketches in a way that made them works of art unto themselves. Bruce was as gifted with hue and color as he was with shapes. Those were the sketches that someone had the poor taste to use for the coffin. As the ushers moved around I heard the reactions of the other ex-wives, a blend of gasps and giggles. We recognized all the shapes and colors.

Focused on raising our children, I had not noticed when the sculptures started to change. That was when Leslie entered the picture. Bruce may not have planned to divorce me, or at least for years I tried to believe that, but then Leslie got pregnant.

Our marriage, his first as well, was the longest marriage, it lasted ten years. Three of those, Bruce had spent loving Leslie, but playing house with me. His marriage to Leslie was far shorter. I could tell by the sculptures he had loved her for seven years. We all met him through his art in one way or another. Wife number three, Petra, worked in an art gallery. Although not an artist she was very involved with his work. I derived great pleasure from the public scandal when he hurt Leslie that way, leaving her for a mere merchant. By then Bruce had a name, an art, and a face that was recognized everywhere. Leslie had ended my marriage, so curiosity as to who had ended hers interrupted my life for a time. Hers was the only one of Bruce’s love stories I followed carefully, aside from my own.

Aside from relishing in Leslie’s pain, his personal life did not pique my interest. I knew my children were always respected and old enough to voice concern if anyone mistreated them. I could not remember if it was the third or fourth wife who was the only one of us who did not have children with Bruce.

Chopin’s somber Marche Funèbre snapped me back to the moment. The elaborate coffin encasing Bruce’s body had been placed on a movable catafalque. The catafalque with squeaky wheels carried Bruce’s body in a guided procession down the aisle. He was always a large man and had managed to become larger as he aged. His appetite for food and drink superseded all his other appetites.

Leslie whispered in my ear, “She doesn’t look sad.”

Glancing over at the person in question, I nodded in agreement. The widow could not be described as grieving. Grief is, of course, different in all of us. The body language of grief, though, is universal; the defeated, slumped shoulders, head bowed, tears flowing. Leslie was right. The widow was crying, but they almost looked like tears of relief.

A montage of Bruce’s works on a screen at the side of the altar shaped in a semicircle created the focal point. The aisle inclined and my pew toward the back provided a good vantage point. The incline was slight, but pronounced enough to give those of us in the back a full view. The ushers seemed to be holding back the coffin so it would not speed down the aisle. The wheels continued to squeak. Bruce would have hated this. The minister or priestess─I am not sure what title this universal church gave them,─had a very unpleasant voice and thus was difficult to listen to. No voice, even a pleasant one, could compete with Bruce’s art. For all the rotten things I would be happy to tell you about Bruce Jones, his art was not something anyone could criticize. Even the most prestigious critics raved about his talent and his work.

The slides were in chronological order. The memory and pain from the sting of betrayal flooded me as it had twenty-eight years earlier. I could see Leslie through the corner of my eye and the blush that betrayed her shame.

As wife number two, she had been party to betrayal because she too had been betrayed. I know Leslie grew to love my children very much. I guess she saw me as an extension of that love in some ways. I felt terrible. I had been so curt.

My hand reached to her shoulder in a gesture of solidarity and forgiveness when the images on the screen segued to show the shape of ex-wife number three. My heart ached for Leslie because we had similar builds, and many would not have been able to distinguish when Bruce transitioned from sculpting my body to sculpting hers.

Ex-wife number three, Petra─a very tall woman, with long slender limbs─had a body that blatantly displayed the transition from Leslie to her replacement. The unquestionable change in shape left no doubt Bruce’s affections had shifted again. Leslie, pregnant with her second child at the time, lost the baby to grief, a loss I also knew well.

At that point, I did need the tissues Leslie had given me, but I was shedding tears for her, not for Bruce. I miscarried a child with my second husband. I understood her pain and sense of loss. Mine, too, was the last child, the child I never had.

Bruce never sculpted pregnant women. Consequently, wife number three, the one who had never been pregnant had seven years that boasted more sculptures than the rest of us. At the seven-year mark, Bruce’s transition into a new love story, a new model. Petra’s telltale sobs showed her grasp of Bruce’s tell. After all, loving Bruce was a gamble. The change of model in the sculpture showed his change of heart. Petra was from a foreign country, I never paid much attention where. My kids interacted with her, and she welcomed them with kindness. In tandem, Leslie and I passed her the tissues.

Petra took both tissues we offered and her lips moved in a quiet whisper; the words were obviously meant for Leslie, though I could discern they were, “I am sorry”

My daughter, Clair, had always lived up to the dual meanings of her name; clear and famous. Clair could see things with great clarity, and she could convey them as such. I could only assume that she knew the ex-wives belonged together, ‘for closure and forgiveness’ as she had said.

Clair’s modeling career had started in her teens at her insistence; she was not pushed nor did anyone suggest she should model. She knew she was very attractive, and she knew she could convey her beauty and charm to an audience, a photographer, a camera.

Her modeling spun into acting. She was as natural on a screen as on a stage. It came to her with ease, though she was happy to take classes and learn. My Aaron is also successful, but he is a behind-the-scenes sort of person. I took great pride in knowing that I had always been a good mother. I had known how to allow my children to forge their own paths.

Not everything in my life succeeded, but I was a success at being a mother. I recognized Bruce’s love shelf life because I had one of my own, with a trail of the remains of ended marriages or relationships. Mine perhaps more impressive than Bruce’s.

I guess Bruce might have been the love of my life. But now in my mid-fifties, I questioned whether a spouse or companion had any viable use? I loved art, my passion, and although my work is not as popular or renowned as Bruce’s, I have achieved a certain level of success.

M.C.V. Egan is the pen name chosen by Maria Catalina Vergara Egan. Catalina was born in Mexico City, Mexico in 1959, the sixth of eight children, in a traditional Catholic family. From a very young age, she became obsessed with the story of her maternal grandfather, Cesar Agustin Castillo–mostly the story of how he died.

She spent her childhood in Mexico. When her father became an employee of The World Bank in Washington D.C. in the early 1970s, she moved with her entire family to the United States. Catalina was already fluent in English, as she had spent one school year in the town of Pineville, Louisiana with her grandparents. There she won the English award, despite being the only one who had English as a second language in her class. In the D.C. suburbs she attended various private Catholic schools and graduated from Winston Churchill High School in Potomac, Maryland in 1977.

She attended Montgomery Community College, where she changed majors every semester. She also studied in Lyons, France, at the Catholic University for two years. In 1981, due to an impulsive young marriage to a Viking (the Swedish kind, not the football player kind), Catalina moved to Sweden where she resided for five years and taught at a language school for Swedish, Danish, and Finnish businesspeople. She then returned to the USA, where she has lived ever since. She is fluent in Spanish, English, French and Swedish.

Maria Catalina Vergara Egan is married and has one son who, together with their five-pound Chihuahua, makes her feel like a full-time mother. Although she would not call herself an astrologer she has taken many classes and taught a few beginner classes in the subject M.C.V. Egan’s new series DEFINING WAYS uses Astrology and other Metaphysical tools.

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The Bridge of Deaths4covert2overt A Day In The SpotlightIs History The Agreed Upon Lie?Defining Ways