With: Nika Dixon
Hi all! I’m Nika Dixon and I’m here with you today to celebrate the release of my new book, DEVIL’S WAY OUT!
Still angry over the death of the woman he loved, rancher Marshall Boyer wants nothing to do with women or love. But when the mysterious Emma drops into his life—barefoot, broke, and running scared—he can’t let her go.
Artist Emmaline Katz has a dangerous secret. After escaping a ruthless criminal who exploited her for years, her quest for freedom crashes to a halt in rural Montana. Out of money and options, she finds an unlikely haven with a handsome cowboy. But no matter how much she wants to believe his offer of protection, he doesn’t know the truth about her, her secret, or the man who will stop at nothing to get her back.
In this scene, Marshall is taking Emma back to his ranch, and teaching her how to ride his horse, Castor.
Despite Emma’s precarious position on top of a rock that made her a foot taller, she still believed Castor was far too big to try and sit on. Marshall had assured her it was perfectly safe, promising he wouldn’t let her fall, but she still held her breath when he moved the big horse closer to her side.
“I don’t know…”
“You’ll be fine. Now, put your hand here.” He pressed her fingers around the polished horn on the front of the saddle. Then he pointed out the spot where she was to put her left foot and told her all she needed to do was pull herself up, swing her leg over, and sit.
“Pretty sure there’s a lot more to it than that,” she said with a scoff.
“Nope. Not really. Now come on. Up you git.”
She took a deep breath, then exhaled with a whoosh. She could do this. Taking a little hop, she pulled herself up, making it as far as getting her belly onto the saddle before she remembered she was supposed to do something with her leg. She tried to hoist herself up onto it the way Marshall told her, but her left foot slipped free of the foothold, leaving her dangling awkwardly across Castor’s back, staring down at the ground on the other side.
“I don’t think this is right,” she said with a giggle. She started to slide back down to her feet, but Marshall placed his hands on her hips, keeping her in place.
“Swing your leg over,” he prompted. “No. Your other leg.”
She squirmed sideways until she had one leg on either side of the saddle and was thankfully facing in the right direction. She slowly pushed herself upright. “Oh, this is high up.”
“Relax.” He pried her fingers from their panicked hold on the front of the saddle. “You don’t need to strangle it.”
She reluctantly loosened her grip.
Okay…maybe this wasn’t going to be so bad, after all.
When Castor suddenly shifted his weight, she panicked, grabbing for the only stable option—Marshall. With her immediate desire to get back to the safety of the ground, she clamped her hands on his shoulders and tried to pull herself off the horse, but he hooked his arm around her to keep her in the saddle.
She froze, her face inches from his. For a long moment, she had no sense of anything except the color of his eyes. A thousand hues of blue swirled together to give them a shade unlike any other. At some point—her past, her future,
another world, another life—she would try to recreate the exact hue but would never succeed. She didn’t question how she knew, it was just a fact.
He moved his head a tiny bit closer. “Easy,” he said softly.
She wasn’t sure if he was talking to her or the horse. The absurdity nearly made her laugh, but the sound was caught beneath the nervous energy flowing through her, and she wasn’t at all sure it was her own.
She slowly pushed herself off him, switching her clutching fingers from his shoulders to the saddle horn.
He slipped his arm from her waist, leaving her sitting in the saddle, solo.
“Ready to go home?”
She almost corrected him but bit it back. A home was warmth. Safety. Love. Family. Something for dreams and memories. Her one true home had died with her mother all those years ago.
She’d long since given up believing in the word.
Thinking of her future yellow house, she clung to the hope that he wasn’t wrong. Maybe she really was going home—just not yet. And not here.
And likely not on horseback.
She smiled at her own joke and nodded. “Let’s go home.”
He tugged Castor forward. When she gasped at the sudden lurch, he placed a reassuring hand on her knee.
“Relax. I won’t let you fall.”
Gazing at the man walking beside her, she let another lost emotion sneak into her heart.
Her smile widened, and she let the adventure take hold and carry her away.
Parched for knowledge, she pestered her escort with questions all the way back to the barn. How did they keep the saddles from falling off? How did Castor know which way to turn? What kind of food did horses eat? Every curiosity that popped into her head was fair game, even though she knew she wasn’t going to remember a single thing other than the fact that, for the first time in her life, she, Emmaline Katz, was riding a horse.