A woman on the run . . .
The terrified eyes in the middle of the highway belonged to a woman--battered, bruised, and barely conscious. Nick Red Shield swerved his pickup and empty horse trailer to avoid her, but neither he nor the mysterious Lauren Davis could avoid the collision of their lives . . . though Nick's loner instincts kick into high gear, Lauren's vulnerability tugs at him in ways he'd thought long since shut down. More comfortable with horses than people, he's drawn to the secretive runaway. But even in the safe haven of his South Dakota ranch, among the magnificent painted horses of Western legend, the danger shadowing Lauren's life will compel her to new acts of desperation to save her young son and force Nick to confront demons bent on destroying them both.
Kathleen Eagle is a mother, grandmother, teacher, chief cook and bottle washer, and best-selling writer. She has published over fifty books during the course of her long career. She lives in Minnesota with her husband of over 40 years, the Lakota cowboy who continues to inspire the stories readers treasure.
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Read an Excerpt
Twenty-seven miles of dark road and driving rain were all that stood between Nick and the bed he'd reserved for what was left of the night. He might have pulled over and waited for the downpour to pass, but he was set on having himself some pleasure this night. Real, rock-solid pleasure. He was this close to laying himself down f lat, stretching out his whole long, bone-tired body over fresh white sheets and soft pillows. If he had just pulled over, he might have spared himself the one thing he always took care to avoid. Nicholas Red Shield hated surprises.
But more than the surprise of a pair of wild eyes staring back at him in his high beams, he hated making roadkill.
Eyes left.Wheel right.
It was a tricky maneuver. His empty horse trailer fishtailed as he shifted into Neutral, kicked the brake and arced the steering wheel to the left. Getting the trailer in line was only half the battle now that the rubber no longer met the road. Every scrape against the pickup's precious chassis felt like a bloody gouge in Nick's own leathery hide. His beautiful blue twoton dually—as near to new as any vehicle he'd ever had—mowed down a mile-marker post, jolted, shuddered and went still.
Rain pelted the roof of the cab.
Nick took a deep breath and slowly loosened his grip on the steering wheel. He glanced in the rearview mirror, searching for familiar eyes.
"You okay back there, Alice?" His passenger popped her head up to assure him that she was only slightly less bored with him than usual.
Nick was okay, too, thanks for asking. A little shook up, but he wasn't going to let it show, even when nobody but the cat was looking. Bad form was bad form.
Andstuck was stuck. He couldn't tell whether the main cause was mud or the mile marker, but his efforts to get loose soon had six tires spinning in all gears.
Nick was not a man to curse his luck. He wasted nothing, including breath. Ever equipped to handle his own problems, he practiced taking care of business to perfection. If the mile marker was the hang-up, he hoped the business of jacking his baby off the damn thing wouldn't take all night. He chuckled and started humming as he reached under his seat for the f lash-light. "Jackin' my sweet baby off," he sang softly. Times like this, a little humor couldn't hurt. He exchanged cowboy hat for yellow rubberized poncho and climbed out of the truck with an unconscious smile. He could really be funny when nobody was listening.
But the sight of his truck's skewered underbelly was nothing to laugh at. It would take more than a f lash-light beam to assess the damage, especially with the cold spring rain rolling off the hood of his poncho. He could have sworn he heard her groaning softly, just like a real woman.
"What do you expect me to do in this rain, girl? Beam you up?"
Something behind him snapped. Nick pivoted and swept the light over the roadside slope until it hit on a clump of bushes and a clutch of bobbing branches. Damn, had he clipped that deer after all? He grabbed his pistol and a loaded clip from the glove box and then sidled down the steep, wet slope. He'd been lucky. Better his precious pickup had impaled herself on a post than gone tumbling trailer over teakettle down the hill.
The bushes weren't much taller than he was, but they were dense and filled out with new foliage. And they weren't moving on their own. There was definitely something in there. Nick parted the branches with his gun hand, f lashed the light into the tangled thicket and found two more of the night's thousand eyes.
They weren't doe eyes, but they were almost as big. "Don't," a soft voice pleaded as the eyes took refuge from the light behind a small, colorless, quivering palm. "Please don't."
A woman? A child? Nick's heart wedged itself in his throat. He f lashed the light away from her face.
"It's okay. I won't…" He shouldered branches aside and dropped down on one knee to discover a woman who wasn't much bigger than a child. "That wasn't…" He could barely get the words out. She was curled up, soggy and shaking to beat hell. "Jesus, that couldn't have been you in the road. Could it?"
"Wh-who are you? Who sent you?"
"No one sent me. Listen, did I…did I hit you?"
"Who are you?" she demanded, pumping up the volume.
"Name's Nick Red Shield. I could've sworn I missed the, uh…" He gestured toward the scene of the crime with the barrel of his pistol. "Sorry. I was expecting a deer." He tucked the gun in his belt and then pulled the poncho over his head. She needed it worse than he did. "How bad are you hurt?"
"I don't know."
"Anything broken? Can you move your…" Move what? The arms she'd knotted around her knees? He felt like some idiot hunter who'd awkwardly wedged himself into a rabbit's hole. They were nearly nose to nose, but he didn't dare touch her, and she didn't dare move. She couldn't draw back any farther without becoming part of the undergrowth. Her violent quivering made his bones vibrate.
"Let me help you." He offered his hand, palm up, as though she might want to sniff it f irst. "I'll be real careful."
"What kind of a name is Red Shield?"
It seemed like a crazy question, under the circumstances. Check out my hand, sure, but my name?
"I'm an Indian." He couldn't help bristling. Squaring up, he braced the rebuffed hand on his upraised knee. "Sioux. South Dakota. Look, I didn't see you until you were right in front of me, and I did everything I could to avoid hitting you. If you want me to try to f lag someone else down, I will, but there isn't much traffic tonight, and I don't have any way to call anyone. Do you?"
"A cop or an ambulance."
"You…you'd call the police?"
"I would, but I don't have a phone. And if I leave you here and go for help, I'll damn sure get charged with hit and run. So make up your mine. What'll it be?"
"What are my choices?"
"Trust me or don't. Can you walk?"
She stared at him, sizing him up while she drew several breaths, miserably shaky on the uptake. Finally she loosened her grip on her folded legs and felt around for something besides him to hang on to. She didn't seem to care what the bushes were doing to her hands, and he could barely hear her answer.
"I think so."
But it was tricky. She was such a little thing, he could have carried her like a baby if the rain hadn't made the hill slicker than a cat's ass. He put the f lash-light in her hand, covered her with his poncho and hauled her up against his side, which left him one hand for grabbing whatever solid ground he could find. And, like a cat, she hung on. He could feel her trembling, feel her fighting for control against chills, pain, fear—probably all three—and he gave her credit for holding back on the noise she could have been making, tears she should have been crying, curses she must have been saving up for a time when the man who'd done this to her wasn't the only help around.
He put her on the backseat of his crew cab, took the wet poncho and started backing out the door.
She grabbed his arm. Shivering and scared, she was little more than the huge pair of eyes that questioned his every move.
"I've got blankets in the trailer, and maybe something to…" What he could see of her face now gave him pause. Mean dark patches spattered over frail and pale skin added up to battered f lesh and f lowing blood. "Listen, lady, I've gotta get you some help."
"Can you…please…get me away from here?" She had him by both arms now, had him with her eyes and surprisingly strong hands. "Can you, Nick?"
"Yeah." He nodded, swallowed hard, tried to ignore the goose bumps crawling over his shoulders and down the back of his neck. He slid into the seat beside her and felt her relax her grip. "Sure. I can do that." He reached over the front seat and felt around for his denim jacket. Locating the jacket also meant he found the cat, but he was able to claim the jacket without trading a strip of skin. Alice wasn't totally pitiless after all.
"What's your name?" He didn't mean to pry, but he'd told her who he was, and he needed to say something while he was wrapping her in his jacket.
But the question set her off on a sobbing jag. Damn. Now what? He drew the jacket tight around her, his fists coming together beneath her chin, whispering, "Try to keep it together. You've been doing so good. Do you live around here?"
"No. Oh no." Head bowed, she slumped toward him, shuddering and sobbing and saying, "Oh no, oh no, oh no."
"Shh. Just tell me your name."
"Ohh…" She was like a wet rag, starch draining away, drooping, dripping, sagging against his chest.
"Joe-eeey, Joey, Joey…"
But she was all out of answers. And he'd never been one to ask too many questions. Part of a name was enough for now. She could give the rest of it at the next stop, where somebody with a form and a uniform would be writing it all down. "You want some dry clothes?"
Still leaning on him, she shook her head against his chest, forming his chilled nipple into a glass bead.
"You'll have pneumonia on top of—" She shook her head again and whispered blubbery words that made no sense but sounded as desperate as he was beginning to feel.
"Okay, Joey." He patted her hair clumsily. "Okay, we'll get movin'."
With a hydraulic jack and a heavy dose of cowboy ingenuity, he was able to lift the pickup off the hook he'd accidentally made of the steel post, then twist the thing out of the way without ripping the guts from his sweet ride. He'd unhooked the gooseneck trailer in the hope of getting the truck back on the road. But nobody ever expected great traction from a dually, and his four back tires were only spinning themselves deeper into the Missouri mud. Without a push, his baby would soon be up to her axles in moonshit. He threw her into Neutral, braced his chin on his left arm and glowered at the road untraveled.
A glance in the rearview mirror revealed nothing. He hadn't heard a peep out of her since he'd turned the heater on full blast and she'd thanked him before he'd gone back out into the rain. He turned now and found her huddled up in the corner with the cat. The two pair of eyes peered expectantly toward the front seat. "Joey, I need you to help me. Do you think you can take the wheel? I need a driver."
"I need a hand to rock the cradle, so to speak. You know how to do that?"
She made a funny sound, like laughing through tears. "Rock the baby?"
"Yeah. Rock my baby. With a little rockin', a little pushin', I know she can get us out of here. You rock; I'll push. Can you help me?"
"I think so."
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I try to read all of Kathleen Eagle's books. This one did not disappoint. Horses, Indian cowboys, and a twist make it easy, fun, quick and very good reading.
Kathleen Eagle never disappoints. If you like a western romance with horses, laughter , sighs, and that makes you gasp at times pick any Kathleen Eagle book. This book had a little different slant to it but I could not put it down.
Nick Red Shield finds a woman in the middle of a highway. She's been beaten, she's bruised and bleeding, barely knows who she is. At first, Nick thinks he has hit her with his pickup truck and horse trailer, but thankfully that isn't so. So how did this mysterious woman, going by the name of Joey, manage to get there? Lauren Davis was once an up and coming jockey .. until she met a man who made her feel special. She didn't know how controlling and manipulative he could be until she had her baby. Trying to take the baby and leave him led to her near death and her son being kidnapped. Red Shield is a quiet, introspective man who is much more comfortable with horses than he is people ..especially women. But he does have a protective streak a mile wide and this particular woman is getting under his skin. Kathleen Eagle is well-known for her contemporary western romances. This one did not live up to the expectations. The beginning was really good .. well-written. Nick Red Shield seemed to be written to stereotype .. silent American Indian. I liked Lauren "Joey" in the beginning, but once at her host's ranch, she became this simpering female. I expected a strong woman and didn't get one. It did get better after that, but by them I wasn't much interested in what happened to any of them. I did enjoy the location descriptions and talk about horses, mainly Indian Ponies. While I didn't particularly like this one, when looking for a romance with just a hint of suspense, I would definitely look at some of her older books. Many thanks to the author / BelleBooks - Bell Bridge Books / Netgalley for the digital copy of this book. Opinions expressed here are unbiased and entirely my own.
There is nothing I enjoy more than cowboys and horses and this story filled both categories. Wonderful characters and easy to get involved in the story, I am not surprised that I continue to read and love any story written by Kathleen Eagle.
While I throughly enjoyed this contemporary western romance, I was pretty sure I recognized both the title and author. I personally think ALL reprints of earlier works should have to be noted on the book cover. Nothing pisses me off more than to dole out my hard earned money for a book that I've previously read. That said, this was an awesome read that I loved. I enjoyed the suspense and the mythology of he painted ponies. The book moved along at a pretty fast pace and other than the ending not showing us what happened rather being told by a character what happen, completely satisfied me.
Ride a Painted Pony, Kathleen Eagle Review from Jeannie Zelos book reviews Genre: romance, woman’s fiction I so, so wanted to love this story, romance, a touch of suspense and horses – it sounded perfect, and yet it just didn’t work for me :-( Maybe if I pick it up in a few months and try again I might enjoy it – there’s nothing I specifically disliked about the story. Its well written and has characters that feel real, it was just that I didn’t actually like them. I need to love the leads, need to be worried about them, down when they’re sad, happy when they’re on the up, but they just left me feeling nothing, indifferent to them. I just didn’t really care where they went, what was going to happen. I felt the story was very slow paced too, I enjoyed the start but once they got to the farm I seemed to be always waiting, waiting for some action, something to happen and it just didn’t feel real to me. I can see others love it and that's great, I’m happy for them and maybe at a different time I might enjoy this but I don’t think so. It has happened but I think this is just going to be one that I’ll pass on finishing. I gave it to halfway but just wasn’t invested enough in the characters or plots to continue. There’s too many other books I could be reading. That’s not a reflection on the book of course, just on how I feel about it. Reading and what we enjoy is as individual as we are, and there will never book a book everyone loves, we all look for different things, have different priorities. Liking stories is a very subjective thing, what one person adores another will feel indifferent to and yet others will hate. . Stars: Two, a miss for me but a hit for others. ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers
I bought this expecting it to be faster moving and more suspenseful. I am about 1/2 way through and am pushing myself to finish it! I find Lauren/Joey not to be very likeable & am unable to feel any sympathy for her. I keep waiting for Nick to push her into either telling him what is going on or to get out. Both characters are rather wishy washy in my opinion.
One stormy night, Nick Red Shield finds a battered, lost woman on the road. She gives her name as Joey, and refuses to go to a hospital or contact authorities. Nick takes her home to heal, not knowing she is Lauren Davis, a young mother on the run from the mob boss who stole her son and wants her dead. Lauren has no plan to make her dream of regaining the real Joey come true, until she gets to Nick's home. His new horse is a champion racer, with the right jockey, and she is that. The horse is also the perfect bait to lure her ex. The only flaw in her plan is that to achieve her goal, she will have to leave Nick, the man she has come to love. **** There is no waiting for this story to kick into high gear. From the first page, the reader is intrigued, and things only go up from there. Lauren's quest is both suspenseful and heartwarming. In the past, I've considered this author's pace too slow, sometimes. There are no complaints at all in this book. ****
I was very excited when this book came out as I usually love Kathleen Eagle's books. I'm sorry to say this one just didn't do it for me. The book wanted to be too many things at one time. It wanted to be romantic suspense, and yet there really wasn't much emphasis on the suspense between the very beginning and the very end of the book. It wanted to be a good love story, but the whole suspense plot really distracted me and I did not like the heroine at all. I loved Nick Red Shield, but Lauren Davis often seemed shallow, manipulative, and very 2-dimensional. Many of her decisions made little sense. All-in-all, it wasn't a bad book, just not what I was hoping for from one of my favorite authors.
Kathleen Eagle¿s newest release, RIDE A PAINTED PONY, is part suspense and all romance. It¿s the tender story of a strong, quiet man protecting, caring for, and, ultimately, falling in love with a woman who gives as good as she gets. Late one rainy night, Nick Red Shield finds a bruised and terrified Lauren Davis beside a long, lonely stretch of highway. Against his better judgment, he folds this woman with secrets under his strong wings and takes her back to his South Dakota ranch. Lauren Davis barely escaped a powerful and abusive ex-boyfriend, but was forced to leave her young son behind. She recovers under Nick¿s protective presence, regains her strength and passion for training and riding horses, and finds herself falling inescapably in love with Nick. Ultimately, though, she can¿t hope to build a new life without getting her son back. And that means facing the little boy¿s father, Raymond Vargas, the ex-boyfriend who¿s already ordered her death. Rich with the details involved with in raising, training, and racing horses as well as Native American legends of painted horses, Nick and Lauren¿s story will undoubtedly satisfy long-time Kathleen Eagle fans and intrigue new ones.
During a terrible storm, Nick Red Shield finds the battered female on the side of the road. He gives her a lift offering to take Joey, as she calls herself to a hospital. She says no so unsure what to do except he knows that he cannot abandon her he takes her to his South Dakota ranch.---------------- However, Nick will learn the cost of being a Good Samaritan. Joey is Lauren Davis, who is on the lam from dangerous mob connected Raymond Vargas, who has arranged for her to be killed. He also has kidnapped her son Joey. When she realizes that his home is a ranch with a champion horse racer, she thinks her luck may have changed. Nick needs a jockey and Lauren is quite the rider. Besides which, she hopes the horse will serve as a lure that will enable her to get Joey back from her dangerous former husband the only flaw in her logic is that she is falling in love with her kind host.------------------- This is an action-packed romantic suspense thriller in which the audience anticipates a High Noon showdown and will not be disappointed when it occurs. The story line is driven by Lauren who fears Vargas and what he will do to her, but is more frightened of what he might do to Joey as he is a deadly monster. Though Vargas is somewhat over the top, readers will root for Nick and Lauren to defeat this seemingly invincible psychopathic adversary who defines the rules of their deadly cat and mouse game.------------------ Harriet Klausner