From her home in the forest, bestselling author Marsha Ward offers up an eclectic collage of musings on life, insights into the writing process, sample scenes and snippets from her work, book spotlights, and author interviews. Now including "The Characters in Marsha's Head."
Sweet Saturday Sample: Excerpt Three from Ride to Raton
This week for Sweet Saturday Samples (clean fiction excerpts from authors), here's another excerpt from Chapter Two of Ride to Raton. Amparo learns what the paper says, and what it means for her. The excerpt is rated PG for violence and sexual innuendo:
Amparo raised her arms from the washbasin and dropped a skirt into the rinse tub. “What is that?”
Catarina regarded the girl with a cold look in her narrowed eyes. She tapped the paper against the open palm of one hand.
Why does she hate me so much, Holy Mother? Amparo asked silently.
Presently the woman spoke. “It is a way out of our difficulties, chica.” She turned away.
“What do you mean?”
Catarina cocked her head, then slowly pivoted on her high-heeled shoes. The smile on her lips sent a chill up Amparo’s neck, and she felt a prickle at her scalp. The woman held the paper high. “If you must know, this is your salvation.”
The girl took two steps forward, then stood stiffly beside the washbasin as Catarina came toward her, looked her over, then circled behind Amparo, trailing her free hand along the girl’s shoulders.
Amparo shuddered at her touch.
“When your papá had the poor taste to die, I asked my friend Señor Fuentes for his assistance.” Now Catarina was again in front of Amparo, her carefully rouged upper lip curling as she tilted Amparo’s chin upward with two fingers. “He saw you in the marketplace one day, and suggested that there is one good solution to my struggles.”
The woman turned Amparo’s head from side to side with her hand. “I am sure now that he was right.” Catarina loosed the girl’s face and tapped the paper. “Señor Fuentes received this communication yesterday. There is a man, a young man, who lives in the Territory of Colorado.” She paused, again arching a brow. “He is seeking a wife.”
“You are going to remarry?”
“No. It is not I who shall be a bride.” Her thin lips twisted toward a smile, and her eyes went hard as she gloated.
“¡Ave María, Madre de Dios!” Amparo whispered as comprehension froze her heart. Her body went rigid, her hands in midair.
“You are to meet him in a small village known as Leones on the twenty-sixth day of October. Señor Fuentes is making arrangements for your jornada.”
“My journey?” Amparo’s hands dropped to her sides.
“Yes.” Catarina consulted the paper. “In the mission church you will marry the man, one Julio Rodríguez y Guzmán. In a few days, he will make a fine settlement on you. I, of course, will see to the disposition of the money.”
“Vaya, mi mamá,” said the girl, almost whispering. She swallowed, trying to wet her arid throat. “It is too soon to talk of marriage. I am not seventeen for two more weeks. I know nothing of men.” Virgen Santísima, intercede for me now in this time of trial.
“You’ve gone pale, chica. You do not appreciate our wonderful news?”
Amparo shook her head to clear it, then took a deep breath to settle herself.
“I suppose you do not want to go to the man? You would rather stay here and starve?” The woman laughed as Amparo shook her head again. “You need not worry, chica. It is very simple to please a man.”
Catarina approached Amparo and, taking her by the hand, drew her out into the middle of the courtyard. She tilted her head and looked at the girl.
“First, you will undress, so that he may appreciate your charms.” Catarina’s voice was low, seductive. “Do not look so shocked, chica. After all, you will be married. He will touch you.” The woman caressed Amparo’s cheek, and the girl shrank from her. Catarina laughed and drew her handkerchief from her pocket. “He will probably kiss you. Then he will take you to the bed, and you will lie down, perhaps upon silken sheets and pillows.” The woman trailed the scrap of silk across Amparo’s hand. “That will be pleasant upon your skin.” Catarina gave a bark of a laugh, and waved one hand in the air matter-of-factly. “Then he will do what he will do. You will pretend that you like it.”
Amparo lowered her head, attempting to hide her horrified face. After a moment, she looked up to find the woman appraising her.
“Will you like it?” Catarina smiled on one side of her mouth. “Will you like it when he touches you, strokes you, when he makes you a woman?” She laughed. “No, I do not suppose that a timorous child like you will appreciate the pleasures your bridegroom will bring to you.” She shrugged her shoulders. “Of course, it is possible that he will not be gentle. No matter. I will have cream in my coffee, and you will be the mistress of a large rancho. Make an heir for the man quickly, chica.” She turned away dismissively.
Amparo drew a quick breath. She took another, then angry words burst from her mouth. “You are selling me to this stranger! You are selling me like a...whore!”
Catarina gasped, turned, and struck Amparo across the face. The girl fell to the tile floor, hitting her arm against a large carved chest. She hunched her shoulders, clasped the injured arm against her chest with her other hand. Her eyes were tearless. Santa María, I will not cry.
“It is impossible to help you, chica. You appreciate nothing. Nothing!”
“You cannot make me do this hateful thing,” Amparo cried out, her back braced against the chest.
“Evil, willful girl, if it takes a stick to teach you, that is how you will learn to be obedient.”
“I will not do this,” Amparo whispered.
“Ungrateful child! Because of your thoughtless, selfish deviltry, your papá will weep in Purgatory forevermore!” The woman swept from the room, skirts rustling.
Forever in Purgatory? It cannot be so! Amparo fell forward onto the cold floor before the shrine. Blessed Virgin, tell me my papá is safely in Heaven! ~~~
Ride to Raton is available from Smashwords.com in many electronic book formats, and from Amazon.com in print and Kindle editions. Also available at Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.de, and Amazon.fr. Search term: "Marsha Ward"