Tuesday, April 3, 2012


BLURB: Evan Jones thinks his troubles are over in 1886. He’s married his love, the Mexican healer Reyna, and started horse ranching outside of Tombstone in the Arizona Territory. But tragedy strikes when least expected to nearly tear their union apart. Evan and Reyna soon face more than one phoenix rising from forgotten ashes of his past that threaten dire—and possibly deadly—consequences.


The vision abruptly overpowered her. Down she plunged into frigid water--feet, legs, chest, arms, and her head rapidly submerged. Agonizing muscle spasms constricted her ribs and forced the air from her lungs. Her heart galloped, frantic for escape. Bitter muck and mangled vegetation assaulted her nostrils and filled her mouth as she fought for breath—

Reyna Montoya Svenson Jones gasped and returned to herself. She stood at her kitchen window, shivering, her hands gripping the edge of the sink, every tendon a taut bowstring as she interpreted what she’d just experienced.

¡Dios mio! Evan is drowning!

Thunder crashed and a thousand brilliant shards of crystal lightning shattered the midday dark. Diamond chips of rain whirled in an erratic wind and exploded against the window pane. She ran to get her oilskin duster. Within minutes, she saddled and urged her reluctant buckskin into the gale. Fear manifested itself as anger.

Damn stubborn Welsh man!

Her husband had insisted on searching for the lost red colt alone, though the summer thunderstorms--los chubascos--had punished the Arizona Territory for the past three days. Tombstone was already flooded, the stagecoach to Bisbee hopelessly mired in the middle of Allen Street. But today’s storm was the worst, by far. Why hadn’t he let her ride along or told her where he planned to look? Two years of marriage and still he hesitated to share his worries.

As willful as his Red Dragon totem--El Dragón Rojo. He thinks to protect me. I’ll tell him again that is nonsense, if I find him alive. Madre, ayudame a buscarlo. Help me find him--and give me strength not to kill him when I do.

Water sheeted a suffocating curtain against her face. Suddenly, a black form loomed ahead within the grey veil. A saddled horse galloped toward her. The sorrel gelding Evan had ridden this morning thudded past, scared and heading for the barn. She pushed her mare forward into the maelstrom.

Raindrop knives assaulted her from every direction. A quarter-mile, then another of nothing. Reyna reached the southeast arroyo, now running bank to bank. Chunks of cactus, tree limbs, and scrub bushes rumbled past at frightening speed. She watched, her fear rising as fast as the floodwaters, but she fought it down as she’d been taught as a child living with the Apache.

I must find Evan and get him home. Then I will have time to indulge the luxury of hysterics.

She shook her head of the notion. She would never readily surrender self-control.

Reyna scanned the ground with a practiced eye. As she’d suspected, every track out of the gully had been obliterated in the deluge. She nudged the buckskin to move on.

Far beyond the bend, another dark shape slowly materialized. The errant colt stood, mud-caked, legs splayed and head down, sides heaving. A filthy rope tangled with branches and weeds girthed its belly.

A body hung ensnared in the lasso by one arm, face down.


She leapt from the saddle, trying to swallow fear and panic, and hurried to disentangle his arm and turn him onto his back. His hat, a leather work glove, chaps, and both boots were gone. Rain beaded his scratched and bloodied cheeks. She wiped mud from his mouth and felt for a pulse. Nothing.

“No! Damn you, no!” Reyna slammed her fist against his chest again and again, her efforts fueled by anger, adrenaline, and frustration. “Don’t you die on me, Evan Jones! Not now!”

With a shudder he gagged, coughed, rolled sideways and vomited brown muck until he dry-retched. He collapsed, unconscious but breathing.

Reyna leaned over and cupped his face in her hands, her forehead touching his. Hot tears dripped as the thunderstorm eased around them. “Stupid man! Hombre tonto, you drive me mad. Pero te quiero. Now how to get you home?”

She ran her hands over his body as the rain slowed and stopped. His right shoulder bulged, definitely out of the socket. One--no, two breaks in the left leg--she’d have to splint that to move him. But there were no trees, only scrub sage and creosote bushes of spindly, stunted sticks. She hurried to pull the serape and rope from her saddle where the mare stood nuzzling the trembling colt.

She set the blanket next to her husband. Placing her right foot onto his upper chest, she grasped his right arm and shoved his shoulder into place. He cried out and lay still.

Rolling the serape lengthwise into a long, firm snake, she placed the center beneath his foot and arranged equal lengths on either side of his leg. Threading rope under, over, under, over, she wove a taut support similar to an Apache cradleboard. She knotted the makeshift brace tight at mid-thigh.

“Ayudame, amiga,” she clucked to the mare and tapped the horse’s knees to get it to kneel.

Crouching at Evan’s head, Reyna slid her hands beneath his shoulder blades. She worked her forearms around his ribcage, lifting while she crept forward to take his weight against her torso. At last she got her arms around his belly and lifted him to sit. She only had to scoot him a foot or so closer to the horse. “Dios mio, corazón, estas muy pesado. No more pie for you.” She took a deep breath and hefted him across the saddle on his stomach, his head and long arms dangling down the other side. The mare grunted and staggered to stand, but remained in place.

Reyna went to the red colt and carefully disengaged the lariat, noting where the hide had abraded raw. “Maybe now you stay con su mama, ¿si?” She scratched its ears, listening as it huffed against her, satisfied she heard no gurgling noises of water in the lungs. “He can’t keep chasing you like this, it’ll kill him. Then who will bring you sucre, eh?”

Returning to the mare, she mounted up behind the saddle. She couldn’t leave him flopped over the saddle this way, not with that shoulder. Plus blood would already be rushing to his head, possibly worsening any undetected injury. She’d need to travel far more slowly than she had through the storm, take much longer to get home. No, she couldn’t leave him hanging upside down for an hour or more. She had no choice but to get him into a sitting position and prop his body against her.

“I can do this,” she muttered aloud. “Just have to decide how to go about it.”

“Stay,” she commanded her horse and worked her feet forward to stand in the stirrups. Bracing her stomach muscles, she grabbed Evan’s shirt and the waistband of his dungarees, and rolled him awkwardly toward her until he was nearly supine, the upper ridge of his left hip against the saddle’s cantle. She shifted her grip and then, with every ounce of her strength and muscles screaming in protest, she hefted his torso and pushed his pelvis backward until he sat sidesaddle. The splinted leg protruded like a bent branch.

The mare shifted weight with the gyrations, but true to its training, held in place.

“¡Hijuela!” Reyna pulled her feet free and sat back, winded. “Not…another…bite…of pie...for you…ever again.”

Evan moaned and leaned heavily against her. His head lolled over her shoulder.

Taking a moment to catch her breath, she removed her duster one arm at a time. She draped it around her husband and tied the sleeves in front to secure his arms.

She reached around him for the reins and tapped her heels against the mare’s sides. “Vámanos.”

Obediently, the buckskin moved forward. The red colt followed like a chastised puppy.

She knew finding him alive was but the start. She wanted to hurry, but a faster gait than the mare’s smooth walk would aggravate the broken leg. Unsure if he’d been hit in the head by debris or if there was another reason he remained unconscious, she didn’t want to risk worsening that situation, either. As an accomplished curandera, a healer of no small skill, she knew she could set his bones and tend his cuts once they got back to the ranch. But how much water had he inhaled? Pneumonia was a devious and deadly opponent she hoped not to battle.

Time. Everything requires time Evan might not have.

The more she thought about his lack of communication that morning, the more anger simmered in her chest. If he’d told her what he’d planned, if he’d let her come with him, he might not have been caught in the flood and injured at all.

Hombre tonto,” she muttered as the horses squelched along. “Your stubbornness will be the end of me.”

Jude Johnson is the author of Dragon & Hawk, Book One of the Dragon & Hawk trilogy. Book Two, Out of Forgotten Ashes, is scheduled for release April 2, 2012, with Book Three, Dragon’s Legacy slated for July 2012.


  1. This the makings of a good story. Congratulations, Jude

  2. You're just popping up all over aren't you Jude. Celebrity status just keeps growing and growing and . . . you see where this going.

    1. LOL I think just everything seemed to be posting this week!

  3. Wait, what? That's all I get to read? Noooooo! I want more, and I want it NOW!

    1. LOL Well, here you go: