ClaysQuestCover (1)

She’ll do anything to get her way.

Tall, elegant and beautiful, Emma Thorpe has wanted a baby for years. The yearning for a child occupies all her thought, her time, her effort, and any money she and her husband can scrape up for medical intervention. After trying and failing to conceive, the solution that finally comes to her is to leave her husband and hope to find a man—any man—capable of fulfilling her deepest desire.
Big, handsome Clay Thorpe isn’t the kind of man to let his wife just wander away. It takes a few months of Emma’s absence from his bed to devise a plan, but he’s determined. Eventually, Clay lures Emma home with a convoluted strategy only he could concoct, involving an antique diamond ring, sex three times a day, and…a turkey baster?

Caution: This is a work of fiction. Please don’t attempt duplicating Clay’s methods!

 

 

Chapter 1

The cowbell attached by a copper spiral to the front door chimed.
Emma’s hands stilled at the sound. She’d been standing at the glass display counter that faced the front door, hands busy untangling the delicate chains of a snarl of antique pendants that had arrived with the rest of what she’d bought at an estate sale the previous month. She hadn’t had time to thoroughly examine all the various items that she had acquired by the boxful. But now traffic in her store slowed with the arrival of cold weather and put a virtual stop to outdoor sales and auctions in southwest Wyoming for the year. She looked up, and when she saw who it was she forced her fingers to be still and not tremble.
She doubted if this visit was professional, even though he wore the full complement of official paraphernalia in Velcro pouches on his belt and clipped to his shirt beneath the faux sheepskin-lined winter jacket. He knew her well and would know she was asking, without asking, what he wanted. In the middle of a chilly workday. In her shop. Where if he wanted to start up again with the questions that she had no answer for, she couldn’t very well turn and run.
“Emma,” he said as he removed his tan ball cap with its seven-point gold sheriff’s department logo, which he held in one hand by its curled visor. He stretched out the opposite long forefinger with a clean, neatly clipped nail to give the chains she was working on a tiny bit of a swirl on the glass. Not enough to make the job of disentangling them harder. But enough to let her know he acknowledged he was interrupting her day. “Quite a mess,” he said of the situation with the pendants. Or of the situation between them, perhaps. She couldn’t be completely certain at this point, what Clay meant.
She wasn’t sure what to say either. May I help you? or What can I do for you today? were both out of the question. He had made clear on several occasions since she moved out exactly how she could help him and what she could do for him. Some of his requests had to do with sex, between old friends, if friendship was all that remained between them. Those she steadfastly refused. But most of his appeals had to do with her moving back home. Which she couldn’t do, so there was no point in talking about it anymore.
“Place looks nice.” He nodded at the various Christmas displays which she had put up early in an effort to make herself feel better: the tree in the middle of the worn plank floor with its antique glass ornaments and strings of popcorn and colorful paper chains, the gifts in foil and ribbons of gold and red and green under the tree and distributed here and there among the rest of the store’s merchandise.
“Thanks.” She had spent many hours decorating the shop, even though her heart had hardly cooperated with the effort. She felt more like Scrooge than Santa this year. But it was her own fault, and so she just got on with things whether she felt in the proper spirit or not.
“I need something,” he said, and she thought, Oh boy, here it comes. And, truly, she didn’t know at this instant what her answer would be. Sometimes she dreamed about Clay and what had been between them, specifically the fleshy ax handle he carried in his pants and that he wielded so well and that she missed so much, and more generally what a good life they’d had together. She had been determined to leave him, but lately she had been questioning whether her decision hadn’t been rash. Perhaps, as Clay had insisted more than once and which she had refused to consider, there was another way.
But instead of the plea she expected from him, his regular entreaty for either a quickie or for her to come back home, he continued, “I need something special. For a woman. A special woman.”
He looked up. His hazel eyes glinted, crinkling at the corners as if he were holding back a smile from the lower part of his face but that he couldn’t entirely conceal from her.
She held her immediate reaction at bay. He wanted a gift for a woman, a special woman, and he made a beeline to her shop to buy it? The news that he was seeing someone else hit her hard, although it shouldn’t have. He was a man. A damned attractive man, if it came right down to it. Tall, well-proportioned and well-built, he was as physically compelling as he’d been when she first laid eyes on him in her late teens. If he let himself smile, he would display even white teeth along with the familiar endearing dimple in his right cheek. If he unclasped his webbed belt and let his pants drop to the floor with a clunk of holstered gun and pouches full of cop gear, she well knew he could show her another impressive part of himself, a part she had enjoyed the use of on many a memorable occasion.
She wanted to curl her hands into claws. She wanted to sweep the snarl of pendants from the counter. She wanted to cry out, to protest his involvement with anyone new, to grab him and reclaim him for herself. She could remind him they were still married. Neither had seen fit as yet to begin divorce proceedings, although she couldn’t have said why that was the case. But she didn’t cry or protest or grab at him. She couldn’t. Shocked at her own initial reaction, her hands still remained resting to either side of the pile of chains, and she forced them by sheer will power to hold their relaxed position.
“What is your price range?” she asked instead in as reasonable a tone as she could manage.
“Oh, money’s no object,” he replied with an airy wave of the hand holding his ball cap, as if she was unaware cops didn’t make near the kind of salary the local miners and oil and gas workers made and spent so freely.
“Furniture?”
He shook his head.
“Pictures or objets d’art?”
He grinned, but to his credit didn’t sneer at her use of such posh foreign terms. Again he shook his head.
“You weren’t thinking…jewelry?” God, she’d hesitated, almost choking on the word. She didn’t want to give away what she was thinking. She didn’t want him buying jewelry for another woman. Especially not in her store. She tried to hide that sentiment, but Clay hadn’t made it to patrol sergeant by being fooled by emotional women, especially one he knew so well. When he just gave a cool nod of his head, she asked, “A necklace, perhaps? It will take me a while to get the snarls out of these chains, but you can see what the pendants look like. There are all kinds of stones, emeralds, sapphires. There is even a rare black opal, very pretty. Or a bracelet? Or a squash blossom necklace? I have some lovely authentic Navajo pieces in silver and turquoise and coral on consignment.”
He was peering into the glass case under the pendants, not listening to a word she was babbling. He was looking at rings. Emma’s heart sputtered. Surely he wouldn’t ask to see rings.
“I’d like to see some of those rings,” he said, pointing to the top glass shelf of the old display case. He leaned over oak trim darkened through age and the touch of many hands over the years, his own hand resting where the palms of generations of people who stood before this cabinet to peruse and buy had rested.
So, Emma thought. Clay was changing tactics. No more asking her to come back. He obviously didn’t need her anymore. He’d come in today to announce by this oblique method that he had found someone new. Specifically, she suspected he had probably come in to her shop with every intention of punishing her. Show her what she had thrown away. Rub her nose in it. Make her eat dirt for ever leaving him in the first place.

Christi’s offering an ecopy of CLAY’S QUEST to one (1) lucky commenter.  What do you think of married romances?  Giveaway ends @12am est 3-7-14.  Good luck y’all!  

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My fiction is contemporary, so the settings and the characters are completely modern and struggle with today’s issues. But the men and women in my writing leave a big footprint, because their personalities and their solutions to problems hark back to the iconic days which really don’t exist anymore. My characters truly live by the Code of the West.
Christi Williams writes contemporary sensual romance set in Wyoming. My strong heroines love cowboys and lawmen!
I love hearing from readers, so please contact me.

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