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A Midwest Summer Night's Dream (MF)

Siren-BookStrand, Inc.

Heat Rating: SENSUAL
Word Count: 23,692
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[BookStrand Western Romance, HEA]

Open sky, Shakespeare, solitude. All Jebediah Greene needs. Alone since his teens, he’s never known loneliness, until he leaves Winona Young in California. Worse, he fears she’ll trap herself in a loveless marriage of convenience. After acting as her guide to San Francisco, how far will Jeb go to win her heart?

Reading provides escape for Winona Young. Usually. Fleeing Philadelphia, she learns her distant suitor isn’t who he seemed. Neither is her mountain man guide, in a good way. Intelligent, but muleheaded, Jeb’s impossible to speak to, in any language. Winona falls in love with the stunning beauty of the wilderness, with the simple ways of the Osage people, and with Jeb. But books can’t teach her how to tame a mountain man.

A BookStrand Mainstream Romance




Men, women, children all sat in a tight circle, listening as Jeb recited a passage from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Since meeting Miz Young, colors appeared more vivid, the stars shone brighter, and time had a strange way of standing still when she looked at him. The way his heart kept an uneven beat around her, he might have been part of Shakespeare’s play, another victim of fairy enchantment. The firelight played across her face, enhancing her beauty as she stared, though less enthralled than the rest. Of course, she had no idea what he said. She’d only jeer at his less-than-accurate translation, embellished a bit so the Osage would better relate.

Giving a dramatic flair to the finish, Jeb bent his chin to his chest, crossed his legs, and sat, satisfied with his recital and with its reception. Except his companion’s. Back stiff, tense as a rabbit surrounded by foxes, she hardly moved until the rest dispersed, their soft murmurings filling him with pleasure as they argued the follies of Lysander, Hermia, Helena, Demetrius, Oberon, and Titania. And Puck, how they loved the mischievous Puck.

One glance at Winona Young wiped it all away. Whatever spell he’d cast with his recital hadn’t affected her, apparently, and she made no attempt to disguise her glare.

Wariness sank into his bones. “What?”

“What was that about?”

“I don’t know what you mean.”

“Shakespeare? Or am I mistaken?” The challenge in her tone rang through the night, drowning out the lull of crickets.

“Pardon?” No one else had ever guessed right.

“I listened quite carefully. You repeatedly said the names of characters in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The work of William Shakespeare.”

Cockiness replaced wariness. “Did I?” So she knew the play.

“Come now, Mr. Greene. A few mentions of Lysander might only mean the Osage have a similar word, but Puck? Titania?”

He leaned his elbows on his knees. “Are you a fan of The Bard?”

Her rosebud lips parted. She ruined it with a sharp huff. “Are they?”

Riled, his spine snapped straight. “Why not? They appreciate the absurdity of people smitten by love.” It made them act like damn fools, something he intended never to suffer again.

He regretted his sharp tone when she blinked and eased away. What could she know of love?

Eyes glazed, she stared at the fire. “Yes. I suppose it is a kind of absurdity.”

“Yes.” At least they agreed on one thing. And perfect timing. He stood. “It’s late. I hate to break it to you, but we’re bunking together tonight.”

Oh yeah, that gave her her gumption back. She shot to her feet. “No.”

“All right. You can sleep with the horses then. Good night.” He almost felt sorry for her when he strode off and left her there, mouth agape. “Oh, if you hear any rustling in the bushes, it’s probably just wolves. But you might want to keep the rifle handy beside the bedroll.” He stifled a chuckle when she scurried behind him.

“This is outrageous,” she hissed.

He whirled to face her, and restrained himself from catching her in his arms when she stomped toward him, but she pulled up short. “No. They’re offering us their best accommodations. And I’m not going to offend our hosts. Neither should you.”

His resolve weakened when he opened the door to the hut and stepped inside, her following close. Beside the fire in the center of the round room, a large blanket atop straw awaited. They stared at it a moment.

He broke the silence. “You can sleep nearest the fire.” If warmth penetrated her thick skin. He unfastened his belt and boots, but thought better of removing his trousers and shirt, though he preferred sleeping in his skivvies. He lay on his side, facing away from the fire. And her.

Damn it to hell. How would he get any rest with her beside him?

The crackle of the fire the only sound, he willed himself to think of anything else. But when he closed his eyes, all he saw was her hair fanned behind her head on the blanket. Her soft lips moving as she whispered his name. He squeezed his eyes shut to block it then nearly jumped out of his skin when she spoke.

“Shakespeare?” she asked.

The single word acted like a match to gunpowder, igniting his anger. “Yes, Shakespeare. Do you have something against him?”

“No, I love him. I just—”

Her soft voice, too close for comfort, blackened rational thought. “Didn’t think an ignorant saddle slouch like me would have any knowledge of him.” Until he said it, he didn’t know how much it bothered him.

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