SATURDAY SPOTLIGHT: A Necessary Woman by A. E. Easterlin

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Suzanna Worthington wants what most women want, a husband to love her, a home to shelter her, and a child to bring her joy.

The battle at Manassas has stolen her fiance and destroyed her dreams. Channeling grief into healing, she assists the local doctor at a makeshift hospital, while her friends plot to find the one man who can fulfill all her desires…and his.

Now the war is over, and Jake Cantrell has come to find a wife. A self-made man with a huge ranch in Wyoming, he’s ready to settle down and raise a passel of sons to carry on his legacy.

Who will win her love? It could be the doctor who admires her, the Indian chief who captures her, or the man who wants to possess her and finds himself possessed by this necessary woman.

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EXCERPT

His gaze offered himself, letting her search deep within, allowing her to see through to the heart of him, inviting her to explore his innermost person. In it she saw a different Jake. A man revealing himself, his vulnerabilities. A man alone and lonely. Wanting her, needing her, and by that very need offering to her the fulfillment of all she dreamed. Warm arms to keep her safe. Love and laughter to bring her joy. The hope of children to bless her days.

He no longer seemed adversarial. More a godsend.

Spent, Suzanna exhaled a heavy sigh. The sheltering walls of her comfortable home beckoned invitingly. Ideas about changes, new directions, possibilities and responsibilities—so much, so fast. She needed to slow down, to think. The entire evening had sapped her strength. She should put an end to this and be on her way.

Perhaps it was the stress or the uncertainty, but she couldn’t hide the resentment that everyone thought they knew better what she needed than she herself.

“Annie, some things are meant to remain as they are. I understand your intentions come from your love, but enough is enough. Thank you very much for putting your brother-in-law on the spot and embarrassing us all.

“You’ll have to forgive Annie, Jake. She’s on a mission to find me a husband. She and Nathan are convinced I can’t survive on my own.” She addressed the couple directly. “Which I can. I’m going to be perfectly all right whatever happens. I know this because nothing could be worse than what I’ve already experienced. I’m a strong woman. I can take care of myself.”

“That does not mean you should have to, Suzanna,” Jake said, taking her gently in his arms again. “Don’t be angry with Nathan and Annie. It was I who contacted my brother asking him to find me a suitable woman. Before you start another rant, think of this. The world can be a cruel and lonely place. You might find you like having a good man to warm you on a cold winter’s night. Somebody to talk to at the end of a long day. A person to share your life, someone to give you sons and daughters. Nothing wrong with that.”

Hadn’t the same thought haunted her since the end of the war? Was it possible they wanted and needed the same things?

She’d given him the perfect out, and he’d ignored her. He must be serious about wanting her for a wife. Being thrown into the arms of a stranger was not the way she envisioned meeting her future husband. Yet she stayed. Rather than bidding everyone a good night and taking her leave at that moment, she stayed within the cocoon of his embrace, and a vision of her future scrolled through her mind. Sons, tall and strong like their father. Daughters, with silver-blonde hair and eyes flashing bright blue fire.

It was not such a horrible thought. Not at all.

Suzanna looked at Jake—really seeing him. This rough-and-tumble cowboy stirred something deep inside her—a flush of adrenaline rushed through her at the thought of sons and daughters begat by a man like him.

Before she could rein in her tongue, she asked in a halting voice, “What is it you want, Jake?”

Did he have any concept of how he affected her? Of what the tantalizing thought of the two of them sharing the marriage bed conjured in her heart? Could he comprehend the depth of her loneliness and desire? The longing that she kept locked away inside?
Down in the honest place where her soul lived and no lies were allowed, did he truly see?

One word was his answer: “You.”

It wasn’t enough. She needed to know more.

“You think a man and woman should come together for a warm bed, a tender touch, to make babies, and it should be enough of a reason to marry? What of love?”

Jake took a while to consider, but when he answered the candid expression in his eyes took Suzanna’s breath away. “You’re talking about infatuation. Or romance. I have little experience with either. Nothing wrong with romance, except that it tends to fade like flowers wilt at the end of a long, hot summer. To my way of thinking, love—the real kind of love—grows over time. It comes with living a life shared over good times and bad. Lots of folks mistake that first quick rush of attraction for love. Not that it doesn’t have its place, mind you. But if you’re talking about a durable kind of love—that comes with time, with trust proved often, with surviving the challenge of years.”

She had to admit his answer impressed her. He wasn’t as shallow as he appeared. Not at all. His words had the ring of thought and truth and conviction.

“That’s true, Jake. But a woman has a need to feel loved and cherished. If you fail to add that to the mix, the long-lasting love you describe won’t grow, and the marriage will prove to be little more than a lesson in endurance, resulting in regret and unhappiness. Be careful not to discount the importance of romance—for a woman or a man. It’s the connecting stitch in the tapestry of a life well lived.”

No one spoke or moved. As she stared at Jake, Suzanna wondered if his cynicism was the result of a love lost. Had he experienced the death of a romance that left him skeptical and bitter?

She had no way of knowing, but looking into the window of his soul, she realized there was more to the cowboy than first met the eye.

As his fingers tightened about her waist, he leaned in for a gentle kiss. “I thought you would have figured it out by now, Suzanna. I’ve come to make you my bride.”

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

South Florida author, Elayne Cox, writing as A.E. Easterlin, loves spending time at her computer putting down in black and white stories of heroes and heroines, living and loving and learning in the process. An interest in music and performing led her to majoring in vocal performance at Alabama College and Music Education at UAB. Married 49 years to her husband, Clyde, they have three children and two grandchildren, as well as three granddogs. While rearing a family, Elayne and her husband work at their family business which they have owned since 1986.

Writing has always been a secret passion until being published in 2015, with her debut novel, Sonata by Moonlight, first in her Heroes and Half-notes series. The second novel in the series, A Little Night Music, will be released in 2016. Her books deal with universal conflicts, experienced by exceptional characters, and always with a happy conclusion. Traveling is another passion Elayne loves to indulge, having visited the enchanting capitols of Europe and Canada, as well as motor-coaching throughout the USA in search of story lines and real people to inspire her creativity. She’s an active member of Romance Writers of America as well as the local chapter, Florida Romance Writers, and is busy refining her craft and offering the reading public “a taste of love, a touch of heat, and a story that captivates the heart.”

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