The Stone-Cold Heart of Valentine Briscoe

Historical Western Romance

Click to Read Excerpt

Haven’s body tried to gasp again, for the intensity of the man’s jade-colored eyes seemed to burn through her with a fierceness she had never even fathomed could exist. Yet she could not draw a breath, for when she had gasped at first seeing the man, the lemon drop in her mouth had been sucked to the back of her throat. She was choking! After having just warned the children of the dangers of hard candy, she, their teacher, was choking!

Frantically Haven’s hands went to her throat as she tried to cough up the lemon drop. But being unable to draw a breath, she was therefore unable to push a breath to a cough.

“Miss Abernathy? Are you all right?” she heard Johnny McGhee ask from behind her.

Haven could feel her mind beginning to dizzy, felt her face was red from the strain of her body not being able to breathe. Her panicked gaze still held the fierce one of the stranger through the instruction room window, and she saw his dark brows pucker in a frown.

“She’s chokin’!” Oscar hollered. “Miss Abernathy is chokin’ on a lemon drop!”

“Is this one of our manners lessons, Miss Abernathy?” Nancy inquired.

Again, Haven’s body attempted to gasp as, all at once, the door leading from the outside boardwalk to the instruction room burst open, splintering throughout the room—the stranger with the fierce and fiery stare stepping across the threshold.

“She’s chokin’ on a lemon drop, mister!” Margie cried.

The stranger said nothing—simply strode to Haven, reached out, and slapped her hard on the back. But the lemon drop did not dislodge from her throat.

“She’s gonna choke to death right here with us watchin’!” Florence shrieked.

Again the man pounded on Haven’s back. Nothing. She still couldn’t breathe!

“Well, then…” she heard the man’s low, imposing voice rumble.

Haven felt the man’s arms suddenly go around her waist—felt more dizzying effects as he flipped her upside down and began shaking her.

“Cough it up, lady,” the man growled, “else you’re gonna commence yer dirt nap right here in front of these kids.”

Holding Haven upside down with now just one arm around her waist, the man pounded on her back once more. At last, the lemon drop dislodged from Haven’s mouth and, seeming to have a will of its own, leapt out of her mouth and went bouncing across the wooden planks of the instruction room floor.

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