Get ready for a Grand Canyon tour de force by award-winning author Mary Connealy. Gabe Lasley and Shannon Dysart are an unlikely pair. He’s an aimless wanderer who wants nothing other than to be left alone. She’s a fearless female determined to find a city of gold. When they are forced together the mayhem begins. As they set out to find the treasure, trouble is hot on their trail. Will the dream of gold color every decision Shannon makes? Will Gabe fail yet another helpless female in his life?
|Publisher:||Barbour Publishing, Incorporated|
|Product dimensions:||5.66(w) x 8.38(h) x 0.86(d)|
About the Author
Mary Connealy writes romantic comedy with cowboys. She is a Carol Award winner, and a RITA®, Christy, and Inspirational Reader’s Choice finalist. She is the bestselling author of the Wild at Heart series, Trouble in Texas series, Kincaid Bride series, Lassoed in Texas trilogy, Montana Marriages trilogy, Sophie’s Daughters trilogy, and many other books. Mary is married to a Nebraska cattleman and has four grown daughters and a little bevy of spectacular grandchildren. Find Mary online at www.maryconnealy.com.
Read an Excerpt
By Mary Connealy
Barbour Publishing, Inc.Copyright © 2011 Mary Connealy
All rights reserved.
Where's the gold?"
Shannon Dysart staggered back in the face of her guide's fury then squared her shoulders. Showing weakness to Lobo Cutter was a mistake. Hiring him was a mistake. Leaving St. Louis was a mistake.
"Mr. Cutter, I employed you to help me find an ancient city. We've done that. It's spectacular. Imagine the research—"
"A city of gold." Cutter stormed right up to Shannon's face. The spurs on his boots made an ugly metallic ring with every step. "Them was your own words when you asked me to sign aboard this trip into the West."
Shannon stepped back again, and her foot slipped into nothingness. She glanced back at the dead drop behind her.
Cutter's fists clenched and moved too close to the Colt six-shooter in his holster. He was a brute of a man, brought along mainly to handle the pack animals. But once they'd found this place, he'd worked as hard as any of the six people in their expedition searching these ruins.
But he'd finally faced the same fact Shannon just had—after three days of searching this ancient cliff city: there was no gold.
"I wasn't searching for this city to make myself rich, Mr. Cutter. My father's research was—"
"Your father was an old fool. Everyone in the West has heard the stories of Delusional Dysart."
Everyone in the West? Shannon flinched. She hadn't realized that. Everyone in the world of ancient studies, yes, had come to reject her father's work. Professor Delmer Dysart. The Delmer had been twisted into Delusional. Everyone in the three universities that had fired him sneered at his theories. But everyone in the West, too? What had her father done to be so infamous? It was the rejection and outright mockery by the other scholars of ancient history that drove Shannon to retrace her father's footsteps and prove him right.
The rest of the world was enamored of ancient Greece and the ruins of Rome, but her father had believed America had its own ancient wonders. Chief among them the Seven Cities of Gold. He'd devoted his life to searching for the lost kingdom of Quivera. But these abandoned cliff dwellings were fascinating. A find of great importance. No gold, true, but still of scientific merit.
"Where are we going next?" Cutter stepped closer and jabbed Shannon in the chest with a beefy finger. She had no room left to back away. He looked savage, more animal than man. His teeth were bared.
No man had ever put hands on her before, and her heart pounded with fear even as she fought to remain calm and use reason on this unreasonable man.
Her father's maps, what was left of them, were hidden in a pocket she'd sewn into the lining of her riding skirt. Shannon had been painfully careful never to let any of this group see where she hid them.
"I want to stay here longer, Mr. Cutter." Shannon could take notes for weeks, and just this place alone would help her gain respect in the field of ancient studies. But her father's name would be even more deeply blighted because he hadn't brought out news of this place. Instead, he'd ignored it and gone on searching for gold. "We've got all summer to travel on. These ruins are beautiful. There's no gold, but—"
Cutter grabbed the front of her gingham blouse with one hand and her hair with the other. "Shut up."
Shannon saw her dark braid gripped like it was a leash in his massive hands and was so shocked she couldn't even cry out in fear. She was an academic like her father. She'd spent her life studying books and artifacts. This expedition was her first attempt at finding old ruins. And it was certainly her first time to be threatened and abused by an uncivilized brute.
"We go now." He lifted her to her tiptoes. "I know you've got another map. Hand it over."
"Stop this right now." Shannon's temper erupted. "I am paying you—"
Cutter, with Shannon's blouse clutched in one hand, shoved her backward. She felt the ground crumble under one foot and grabbed at the man's ugly fist.
"The map. Where is it?"
Keeping control of her maps was something Shannon was fanatic about, but she was also a bit paranoid, which might make all the difference now. She wouldn't give up too easily. "No, they're mine."
Another shove and her feet went out from under her. She dangled over the edge of the cliff dwelling. His grip was the only thing keeping her from plunging to her death.
A frantic look around the cave showed the avid greed in the faces of the others, including two women she'd brought along for propriety's sake. They'd seemed so helpful and honorable, excited even, as they'd searched the cliff dwellings for the last three days. Until they'd reached this last cave and found only more rock.
The people with her were all on Cutter's side. She'd hired the man on a recommendation from someone she respected at the university. Cutter was known for tracking in the West. He'd offered to find a crew, including women, so all would be proper. Including her, six of them had made this journey. Now all of her traveling companions practically licked their lips as Cutter tried to shake loose a secret that led to a city of gold.
"The map. Now. Or I let go then search your dead body." He shook her so hard her head whipped back and forth. She was strangling, and a rending sound told her the fabric Cutter had a grip on wasn't going to hold.
A compulsive glance down was dizzying. They were on the highest level of the cliff houses. A ladder was the only way up. Cutter was showing her there were two ways down.
"I'll give it to you. Please, pull me back."
Cutter yanked her back to solid ground then threw her down at his feet. Her head struck rock, light burst behind her eyes, and the air was battered out of her lungs. Gasping and disoriented, she could only scoot away, on her back, as one of the women knelt beside her and dug deep in Shannon's pockets.
"No!" Shannon shoved at the woman's hands. Ginger. With tight curls of hair and crooked teeth that hadn't looked ugly until just now. "Get away from me."
Ginger backhanded her across the face, and her head cracked against stone again. Her vision blurred.
Cutter went to her knapsack that she always kept at hand.
"Go down and search her bedroll," Cutter ordered.
Shannon felt warm liquid run over her lips and reached up to find her nose bleeding. Ginger frisked Shannon with crude, rough hands and glared as if she wanted an excuse to strike again.
Pressing her wrist to her nose to staunch the flow of blood, Shannon let the woman's hands roam over her. What choice did she have? She could only pray Ginger wasn't smart enough to suspect Shannon's tricks.
The two other men in the expedition scrambled down the ladder, the rungs creaking. Shannon wondered how old that ladder was. They'd found it lying on one of the lower levels of the cliff houses and had used it, but very carefully. It was missing every other rung at least, and the wood was brittle from age. There were no trees close by to build another.
They'd found handholds to climb to the lower caves, but when those had revealed no gold, the upper levels had taunted them. This morning they'd risked using that ladder and climbed up here to search and find ... nothing.
Shannon had talked of research and history and truth, and these ruins were magnificent. But when she'd risked her neck to climb that old ladder and found only more rock and dirt, she'd admitted in her heart that she'd wanted the gold, too.
"I've got something." Ginger pulled a map out of Shannon's pocket triumphantly. She unfolded it with reckless speed.
"Be careful of that." Shannon sat up and reached for it.
Ginger shoved Shannon flat on her back. With a harsh laugh Shannon had never heard from the woman before, Ginger rose to her feet and turned to the other woman in the expedition.
Lurene was a quiet woman, dark haired and hardworking. Of all of them, Lurene had been the friendliest. But none showed on her face now. Only cruelty and sharp intelligence as she reached for the battered map Shannon had found among her father's effects. "Just take her whole saddlebag," Lurene ordered. Yes, the woman ordered Cutter. When had Lurene started giving orders? Lurene studied the papers Ginger had found.
"You'll never understand that map without my help. My father encoded it."
"I've been watching you." A smile revealed a row of wolfish teeth that looked sharp enough to rip someone's throat out. "I've figured out the code you're using."
Shannon's stomach twisted as Lurene took one short stride to be right at her side. "We don't need you anymore, Miss Dysart."
Shannon got her elbows braced, waiting for the next shove.
With a soft whoosh of metal on leather, Lurene produced a razor-sharp knife.
A moan of pure terror escaped Shannon's clenched jaw.
"Don't kill her." Cutter came up beside Lurene.
"We have to. I don't want her alive. If she gets to a town, she can call in a marshal, and we'll all have a price on our heads."
"I've got a better idea." Cutter's smile chilled Shannon's blood to ice.
Lurene looked away from Shannon. "We've got no choice."
"Sure we do. A choice that's a lot more fun than slitting her throat."
Shannon swallowed hard. She was very fond of her throat. And considering the cruelty of these people, what could Cutter have in mind that was more ... fun?
"We leave her here." Cutter laughed.
"She might be able to walk out. We can't risk it."
"No, I don't mean here." Cutter made a grand gesture at the rugged wasteland around the cliff village. Then he pointed at his feet. "I mean here."
A smile broke out on Lurene's face that showed those canine teeth again. "And take the ladder."
Their smug satisfaction doubled the pace of Shannon's terrified pulse.
"No, please! You can't!" They'd been here three days. They'd worked hard trying to reach the treacherous upper caves without that ladder. They'd found it too sheer, completely lacking in footholds. Then they'd found the ancient ladder, nearly buried in generations of accumulated desert sand. The very existence of the ladder showed that the folks who built these dwellings had needed them to get to this top row of homes.
She regretted crying out instantly. It only made these outlaws happier that she was frightened.
"After you." Cutter tugged his hat low on his brow. His words sounded grand and gentlemanly. Instead, they were obscene considering what they planned for her.
Ginger headed down. Lurene was right after her.
Cutter turned to Shannon, and his look was pure evil.
She had a heart-sickening moment to realize she was here, alone with him. Defenseless. Bleeding. Trapped.
Then he laughed and left her.
Alone with no water. No food. No way down.
She saw the top of the ladder wobble, and even knowing it was futile, she threw herself at it and caught it, stopping it from falling away. She looked down at Cutter, and the man looked up.
He let go of the ladder with a smile on his face, and for a second she thought maybe he'd changed his mind. Maybe he'd give her a fighting chance to walk out of here.
Instead, he pulled his gun and aimed straight at ... the ladder. Aiming off to the side, he blew one rung away, then a second and a third. His bullets ricocheted and hit the cave.
Screaming, Shannon hung on doggedly to her only chance for escape. Then the side of the ladder in her right hand snapped. Shards of wood cut her hand, and she cried out again to the sound of Cutter's laughter. She pulled her hand back to find she held a foot- long section of wood. Useless.
Then the shooting changed, aimed straight for the roof of her cave.
Shannon felt a bullet hit just inches from her head and shatter a rock that gouged into her skin. She rolled for the back of the cave, screaming in terror.CHAPTER 2
Gabriel Lasley heard gunfire. Next screaming. He spurred his horse and raced toward the trouble with a prayer on his lips.
It sounded miles away, but he couldn't be sure. Sound carried forever in the desert. Canyon walls echoed, and soon enough the sound seemed to come from all directions.
But Gabe had spent years riding with the cavalry, and he knew the land.
The gunfire died away.
The screaming cut off.
The thunder of his horse's hooves and the wind rushing past his ears were the only sounds. But he knew right where the screaming and gunfire had come from. Or he hoped he knew.
Investigating would send him on a long run in the wrong direction—away from the nearest town and a badly needed drink of water. But a woman screaming, out here where there weren't any women, well, Gabe couldn't see he had much choice. Her screams, long faded to silence, were still in his head, begging for help.
He slowed as he drew near the spot where he was sure the trouble had come from. Caution. He saw tracks and followed them to what looked like a dry spring bed up a rugged hill. The tracks were fresh. Whatever had happened here had to be the source of the gunfire and screams. It also was clearly over.
He slipped the tie-down loose on his Colt and followed the tracks with the care of a man who'd ridden for the cavalry for nearly a decade. He was too late to stop whatever had happened, but maybe not too late to dig a grave and see the dead given some respect, see if there were families to contact.
He got to the top of the narrow arroyo and pulled his horse to a dead stop. He was looking at something he couldn't believe.
A mountain carved up into—homes?
Shaking his head, he looked closer, trying to make the structure in front of his eyes something created by nature. But it wasn't. These were man-made. The lowest levels had structure to them. Rockwork that formed walls. There were depressions in the rocks above the structures. Cave openings, multiple levels of them. He counted four layers, one above the other, of what had to be dwellings of some kind. And now abandoned.
Gabe had never heard of this. He was just passing through the area now, but he'd ridden with the cavalry in Texas and the Southwest for years. How could this have gone undiscovered? And who had found it now and died?
Fascinated, Gabe walked his horse into this lost valley, then swung down and tied the gelding to one of a thousand mesquite bushes. The wind whistled through the hills and canyons. It was the only sound, and that moaning wind told him no one else was here.
Those tracks cut in the dust were the only sign that humans had ever passed through here. Seven horses in, seven out. Judging by the tracks, he'd say two pack horses, maybe three. So five people had come in here. How many had ridden out?
He tried to remember exactly where that sound had come from, and it wasn't hard to figure out. He could see where people had stood, horses, supplies. A camp had been set up here and had only been torn down a few minutes ago. A chill sliced up his spine in the Arizona heat as he realized he'd barely missed whoever left this place. The folks doing all the shooting.
But who had done the screaming?
He stared at the wonder before him and studied the sign and terrain with no idea what to do next. There was nothing. No one.
The place was eerie, as if whoever had lived here before still watched, testing those who came. He heard wind whistling like a specter, calling to him from the unnatural caves high overhead.
Where had the people gone who had done such work, created such a home? Who would work this hard then leave? Had they died? Had they abandoned all their labor? Had they been killed? And if so, where were those who had done the killing?
His eyes went up four levels of stone homes. Gabe felt a quick chill of fear. No human hand created this. And yet what were the other possibilities? He was left with the sense that it was ancient and utterly empty of life.
He jumped, drew his gun, and whirled around toward where the riders had left. Heart slamming, he looked left and right. Blinked and gasped for air and saw ... no one.
There was no one anywhere. Could the place be haunted? He didn't believe in such things, but—
That cry echoed and bounced until Gabe was surrounded by it.
"Help me, please."
This time it was stronger, and even with the echo, Gabe whirled back and looked up and up and up.
Gabe almost screamed.
Her face was soaked in blood, one arm flung over the edge of the cliff as she lay on her belly, looking down.
Excerpted from Deep Trouble by Mary Connealy. Copyright © 2011 Mary Connealy. Excerpted by permission of Barbour Publishing, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Can this marriage be saved? I don't think I'm giving anything away when I say at the end of the book both couples marry. After all this is a romance novel. I am however finding it hard to imagine that Bucky who never even had a job in his life is giving up his wealthy life to become a cowboy. I'm finding even harder to believe that Shannon would give up her wealthy way of living to become a Wyoming housewife. Opposites attract---they just don' last. Can't see had either marriage would stick. Still its a fun book. Enjoy.
<3 Great read.
Mary Connealy does it again in her book Deep Trouble. This book was a gift from her publisher and of course, I'm biased as I am mentioned in the acknowledgments, but in spite of that, this story rocks. I love the adventure Mary develops in her stories, not to mention the subtle humor. Her characters, especially the women epitomize the Westward Movement. Women had to be tough to survive and Mary's characters are that. Shannon sets out in search for gold in color country of the Arizona Territory, untamed for sure. Gabe has the occasion to rescue her (many times) and they develop a relationship on the spot. Mary's heroes are truly heroic and intriguing. You'll love Mary's rollicking writing style.
Though you wouldn't know it to watch her. She's been researching and studying to try to find the treasure her father found just before his death. She just can't believe that he spent his life trying to find a treasure that meant more to him than the family he left behind. She's not even realizing that she's doing the same thing to others that he did to destroy her. Now, she's off, without Bucky, gallivanting through the desert with a bunch of hired hands and trying desperately to hide the maps that he left for her. Until, she learns that hired hands aren't as trustworthy as the money you pay them with. They've left her high and dry and barely alive. Gabe hears the melee and races to see where the shots and screams originated. And sees, high on an unaccessible ledge above him the most beautiful woman he'd ever seen. Now, all he needs to do is rescue her. Somehow.
Shannon Dysart may have hired a team to travel with her across the country, but she still feels very alone. With heirloom maps of a lost city, she and her party are on the hunt for gold and riches. When months of searching yields no discoveries, her gang steals her belongings and leaves her for dead. Lucky for her, wandered Gabe Lasley hears her cries for help and comes to her rescue. Though tension is high, sparks immediately fly between Gabe and Shannon. And when Gabe agrees to accompany Shannon on her continued quest, the romance is sure to get hotter. But when Shannon's former crew doubles back with hostile intentions, things in the Grand Canyon are going to get quite treacherous. How Mary Connealy managed to write an opening that was even better than all of her other book beginnings, I will never know. But she did it. Seriously. Best. Opening. EVER. This book was great. Gabe and Shannon's dialogue is so snarky and yet never waivers from being tender too. It is obvious to any reader that Connealy loves writing about landscapes and nature just as much as she loves writing strong women and tough cowboys. Her descriptions of the Grand Canyon are never long, but the detail she does provide clearly illustrate the beauty and awe the land inspires. She same goes for her characters. Small snipets like "the man spoke through a mustache so bushy his mouth didn't appear to move" are perfect examples of how one little detail can really cement an image in the readers mind. As always, I am looking forward to her next book!