I’m happy to have Patti Sherry-Crews here to share her wonderful furbabies and her Western historical romance, Margarita and the Hired Gun.
Patti: Growing up we always had dogs. Back-to-back dogs without gaps in between. Because my firefighter father sometimes hunted for sport, the dogs we had were bird dogs. My childhood was peppered with springer spaniels and English setters, and once, the odd Dalmatian. When we got a new dog it went like this: Contact a breeder, anxiously await birth of the litter, and then a long car ride to pick up our new puppy.
As an adult I switched over to Team Cat. I discovered cats are not only good company but they fit in easily with a busy lifestyle.
When I got married and started my own family, it made sense to stick with the lower maintenance pet cat, and so one Thanksgiving week we put our two kids in the car and drove to Orphans of the Storm Animal Shelter. There were rooms of cats and kittens waiting for a home. We walked in with a wish list, and on that list was one calico kitten. We walked out with a tabby cat. How did that happen?
As we went from room to room looking at calico kitties, a volunteer followed us around thrusting a cat at us saying, “Trust me. This is the one you want.” I looked at the common grey tabby, who was not a kitten, and politely said no, and moved on.
“Watch this,” he persisted. He flopped the cat on her back so she rested in his arms paws up, quite comfortable with the arrangement. “See how she lets me do this. It’s very unusual for a cat to let you handle them this way. She’s really relaxed and trusting.”
He went on to demonstrate with other cats, who sure enough, squirmed their way out of being held in this position. He convinced us the grey tabby cat was for us. I mean, if a person who volunteers in a place with hundreds of cat has a favorite, I’m going to listen.
Lucille “Lucy” Bell has been and remains the best pet we’ve ever owned for the last thirteen years. Hands down. The best. Other than regularly destroying house plants and annually plundering the miniature Christmas village, she doesn’t have a bad habit. On top of that, she has magical healing powers and a routine you can set a clock by. And despite not speaking English, she has a way of communicating her needs and feelings in ingenious ways.
Flash forward a few years and the kids are petitioning hard for a dog. It seems the cat was merely a gateway pet. My husband and I resisted because we felt it would be too much work. But eventually we broke down, despite knowing that the contract the kids wrote up detailing how they were going to take care of the dog between them was empty chatter (we were right about that, by the way). We decided to get a puppy rather than a dog because we wanted to bring it up ourselves.
Then came a frustrating period where we couldn’t find a puppy. Every time I’d see an available puppy on a site covering shelters in the Chicago area, we’d pile in the car and head straight to the shelters, and each time the puppy had been given a home before we got there.
One day I looked at the site to see a litter of puppies from southern Illinois had just been brought in to a shelter not far from us. The puppies were said to be a mix of pug, beagle, and golden retriever (The mind boggles at the thought of a pug and/or beagle being “romanced” by a golden retriever—particularly in rural downstate Illinois).
Off we went! By the time we got there all the puppies had already been taken except for one. She was so cute, we almost died of sweetness overload. Plus, the fact that her sisters and brothers were gone and she was alone, did tug at the heartstrings. The volunteer at the shelter vouched for her, saying “she doesn’t have a bad bone in her body”. After a brief get to know you session, we took her home (I can still remember the smell of her puppy breath!).
She was so little! We watched her grow, taking bets on what sort of dog we’d end up with. We all hoped the retriever in her would lead to large dog. My husband hoped she’d be a dog with a downward hanging tail, which sounds strange, but if you’ve ever walked behind a dog, you can see his point.
So, what dog did we end up with? If there is a trace of golden in our dog she hides it well. I’ve even come to suspect the shelter threw in the golden retriever for broader appeal (but, really shelter, you had us at pug and beagle). Our Frankendog, Gracie May, grew into a small, russet dog who walks with her tail held high.
What do you get when you cross a pug with a beagle? A Puggle! Puggles, combining the best of both breeds, have come on to their own. The Scrabble Dictionary even added the word “puggle” to their list of new words this year. Puggles can run a gamut of tan to black, curly or straight tailed, short snout to longer, beagle-like face. But whatever mixture of pug and beagle they possess, once you know a puggle, they are instantly recognizable to you. When puggle owners run into each other on the street, we have to stop and talk about our dogs.
Another expectation that got left at the wayside was that we weren’t going to let the dog on the furniture. That idea lasted about a day. Good thing too, because pugs are bred to be lap dogs, and there is no place she’d rather be. Even when I take her to the dog park, she’d rather try and climb into the laps of the dog owners than socialize with the other dogs. I like to plop down on the couch after a long day and call out “where is my couch buddy!” and she comes running and settles across my lap. When she’s not in a lap, she’s usually stretched out on her back on the couch with her sock monkey doll.
Our cat-who-is-not-a-calico-kitten and our What’s-it-going-to-be-dog are the best additions to our family. I may be projecting, but I sense rescue animals know they were saved and are eternally grateful.
Bio: Patti Sherry-Crews lives where she grew up in Evanston, IL, where she can frequently be seen walking behind a little dog. She writes contemporary romance, women’s fiction, historical western and medieval romances.
Her first historical western romance, Margarita and the Hired Gun has been recently re-release in the collection Under a Western Sky, which features six full-length Prairie Rose Publications novels.
Blurb for Margarita and the Hired Gun:
Pampered Margarita McIntosh is not used to being forced to do things she doesn’t want to do—but when her father, Jock, sends her away for her own safety, she has no choice. The long journey from Flagstaff to Durango tests her personal strength of will as never before, and the secret she carries in her saddlebag could be the death of her.
A rough Irish gunman, known to her only as “Rafferty”, is entrusted with getting her to her destination “safe and intact”—something he fully intends to do to claim the reward he’s been promised by Jock McIntosh. With a price on his head, the promised money is Rafferty’s ticket to a new life, and he’s not going to jeopardize that for anything—not even love.
But there are steamy nights and dangers all along the arduous trail for MARGARITA AND THE HIRED GUN, with deadly secrets between them that passion cannot erase. With her father’s enemies after her and the secret she conceals, will Rafferty’s protection be enough to save their lives? And will the heat of their passionate love be enough to seal their future together—if they do survive?
Speaking of leaving your expectations at the door and falling in love, here is an excerpt: This is the scene when Margarita first meets “Rafferty”, the man who is to accompany her to safety. He has a massive hangover and unbeknownst to her, they are in a brothel.
“The saloon must serve as a hotel,” she said.
Homer gave her an odd look as he stood up. “Something like that. I’m going to go find Rafferty.”
Now, she waited uncomfortably, alone at a table, while Homer went
up the stairs at the far end of the room. With relief, she saw him
returning, just one of the cowboys at the nearby table
half rose out of his seat as if about to approach her. Homer nodded to
them as he walked by, a warning in his face directed at the cowboy, who
sat back down.
Homer pulled out a chair next to her. “He’ll be down directly.”
The girl who had been sweeping minutes earlier, put down a pot of
strong smelling coffee and two chipped enamelware mugs at their table.
“Make that three mugs. A guest will be joining us. Can we get
something to eat?” Homer asked.
“Biscuits, eggs, and bacon.” The young woman headed off
without waiting for a reply.
Margarita’s attention was drawn to the stairs again. A man in a fancy
brocade waistcoat under a black jacket was making his way down the
stairs. He had long, silver hair, and a mustache curled up at each end,
defying gravity with the aid of mustache wax. Catching her eye, he
tipped his hat to her.
“He’s older than I expected,” she whispered to Homer, who turned to
look over his shoulder.
“That ain’t him,” he said, as the gentleman joined the card game in
After a beat, another man appeared at the railing overlooking the
The tall man with black hair leaned on the railing. With his
arms stretched out at full span he took in the room below with a
predatory gaze. He was powerfully built with broad shoulders and long
limbs. Like a bird of prey, he held his head still while his eyes shifted
around the room. Margarita felt like he was deciding which one of them
he would swoop down to pick off first.
Although nobody moved, the room changed. It felt like
the very air grew hot and dry in his presence, charged with a heaviness
that wasn’t there a minute ago.
When he saw Homer, the man’s gaze came to rest for a second. Then
his stare shifted, and met with hers. He lifted his eyebrows in surprise,
fixing her with such an intense stare that Margarita leaned back in her
“Rafferty,” said Homer, nodding his head in the direction of the man,
who now moved toward the stairs, eyes still on Margarita.
He walked slowly, swinging one long leg after another, a slight
swagger in his shoulders. Unable to bear up under his direct gaze any
longer, Margarita looked down at her coffee. Her throat constricted in anticipation, but still,
he moved down the stairs and across the room at an unnervingly slow pace.
When he arrived on the scene, the women at the table stopped talking and looked
expectantly at him. He didn’t register their presence as he walked past
them—to their apparent disappointment.
The men playing poker watched him with wary eyes. One of them
touched the gun in his holster, nervously.
The cowboys stopped talking and drew closer together.
Without a word or invitation, the tall man pulled out the chair across
from Margarita. The gun sticking out of his waistband put a lump of fear
in her stomach.
He jerked his head in her direction, looking at Homer. “Why is she
here?” he asked in a deep voice, speaking in the same slow pace as he
walked. He had an Irish accent, she noted.
Homer poured out a cup of the thick, dark liquid for him. “Rafferty.
This is Margarita McIntosh, Jock’s daughter.”
“And she’s here for what reason?” he asked in a brusque tone.
Margarita looked up, her face burning with indignation. She was met
with quite a sight. The man across from her had a few days’ growth of
black whiskers covering the lower part of his face. Jet-black hair stood in
loose curls around his head in an uncombed mass in need of a wash.
He was without a jacket, and his long john’s undershirt was
pushed up at the elbows, showing long, muscular forearms. Worse, the
top buttons of his shirt were unbuttoned, exposing the patch of black hair
on his chest. The tight, sweat-stained garment showed every bulge and
indent in his lean torso, including his nipples. He was as good as naked.
Margarita tried to hide her shock at this unseemly display. She’d never
seen so much of a man’s body before, up close.
His eyes bored into her. They were steely eyes the color of indigo set
in bloodshot orbs. Her discomfort seemed to amuse him. He narrowed
his eyes, and a smirk twisted his lips as he observed her watching
him. Other than his lips and eyes, he was as still as if he’d been carved in
stone. Very economical in his movements.
“Well, here’s the thing. She’s the job. Jock wants his daughter
delivered to his sister in Durango. He wants you to make sure she gets
there. Safe—and intact,” Homer said, in a way which made her redden.
The man called Rafferty grinned rakishly, displaying surprisingly
even, white teeth. “If it’s safety he’s after, there’s better ways to
transport his precious cargo, I would think.”
“He wants her movements to go undetected.”
Rafferty leaned over the table. She could smell him now. He smelled
like sour sweat, whiskey—and cheap perfume. There was some other
odor Margarita couldn’t identify, but it repelled her.
She raised her handkerchief to her nose to breathe through its
lavender-scented folds. Catching her gesture, the dark man glowered at
her briefly before the smirk returned to his lips.
“I’m a hired gun. Why does he need me to accompany her? She can’t
take a stagecoach or train? I have to wonder what’s going on that my
particular skills are required.”
Homer raked his hand through his hair, clearly wrestling with how to
answer the question. “Jock is on the run. He got involved in a dispute.
He’s afraid the men that are after him will grab his daughter to lure him
back. That’s all you need to know.”
He jerked a thumb in her direction. “I’m not interested in this job,” he said, starting to stand up.
Get Margarita and the Hired Gun in Kindle at: https://www.amazon.com/Margarita-Hired-Gun-Patti-Sherry-Crews-ebook/dp/B01EAS7F50
Follow Patti at Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Patti-Sherry-Crews/e/B01C7L8QUU/
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