Wild Lilly:

Willow Creek, Book 1

Novel Length

Historical Western Romance

Heat Level: Spicy M/F

Editor: Rei Langdon

Cover Artist: Patricia 'Pickyme' Schmitt

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When Connecticut socialite Lilly Brooks inherits land in Caldwell, Kansas, she finally has the chance to break free from the gilded cage of Victorian society and chase after her dreams of excitement and romance in the Wild West. Excitement arrives with angry Indians, smelly dogs, and drunken cowboys who won't take no for an answer. Romance comes in the form of a ruggedly handsome rancher named Paul McGregor. Too bad he calls her a whore within the first minute of their acquaintance.

Paul has spent the last three years trying to hold his family and ranch together after the death of his parents. When he saves a stunning blonde, who he thinks is a soiled dove, he tries to do the right thing and get her work at a good saloon. He soon discovers the woman whose favors he would love to buy owns land key to his family's financial future. Paul decides to use his best weapon to win Lilly over and get her property: seduction.

A wicked cattle baron wants Lilly’s land as well and threatens to kill anyone who stands up to him. Paul must decide what he needs more, the land or the beautiful and courageous, wild Lilly.




Jackson Brooks twirled his niece, Lilly, on the red Oriental carpet, her petticoats flaring about her chubby four-year-old legs. With a mock growl, he chased her around the elegant parlor room. Her blonde curls escaped the careful confines of her pink bonnet.

"And then the black bear ran after me all around the camp, roaring and growling at me like the devils of hell themselves!" Jackson got down on his hands and knees, not caring if he wrinkled his expensive suit, and chased Lilly with a throaty snarl. A large blue vase teetered as they raced past the fireplace, righting itself before it could shatter on the expensive Italian marble.

In short order, he caught her and kissed her rosy cheeks.Wide, hazel-green eyes twinkled at him as she asked, "And then what happened, Uncle Jackson?"

He set her on his knee and continued his tall tale. "Why, I jumped into the cook's tent and grabbed a sack of beans." He tilted his head. "Bears love beans."

Lilly laughed and clapped her hands together, the palms of her white gloves a dirty grey after crawling like a bear past the fireplace.

"So I made that bear a big pot of my world-famous beans, and he was so happy he gave me a present."

"Uncle Jackson, bears don't give presents!" Lilly giggled, apparently overcome by the notion of a bear carrying a pretty package festooned with bows.

"Oh, but they do, my fine girl. A nice big trout that he caught in Willow Creek to go with our beans. I ate it while I watched the sun set over the plains. Never a more beautiful sight than a sunset out west. Nothing but endless sky as far as the eye can see. Great oceans of grass that move and dance with the wind." Jackson sighed happily and cuddled Lilly close.

"Do you think I can come with you someday, Uncle Jackson?" Lilly asked, playing with the gold chain of his pocket watch.

A stern woman's voice snapped from the carved wood doorway of the parlor's entrance. "Certainly not. What in the world have you done to your gloves, Lilly? A lady's hands proclaim her station, and your gloves are filthy!"

Wincing, Jackson turned around to face his sister-in-law, Rosetta Brooks. She was a thin woman with golden hair and an icy demeanor, and Jackson often wondered what his brother saw in her. Behind her, trying not to laugh, were his three teenage nieces and his brother Abraham. All his nieces were blonde and beautiful, with skin like peaches and cream. He pitied Abraham when they got old enough for courting.

In his lap, Lilly peeked at her mother through her fair lashes. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to get dirty. Uncle Jackson was just telling me about the bear—"

"I don't care what your Uncle Jackson was saying. We are going to be late for church." Rosetta sniffed at Jackson, who still sprawled on the floor. "Some of us believe living a godly life is important."

Behind Rosetta, Abraham placed a gentle hand on his wife's elbow. "Now, Rosetta. We can still make it in time. Alice will take Lilly upstairs and fetch a new pair of gloves while we take a seat in the carriage."

Lilly reluctantly removed herself from Jackson's lap and took Alice's outstretched hand. With Lilly in the lead they both hurried away while Rosetta made a disapproving noise and straightened her husband's tie. Small feet stomped down the stairs as Lilly ran ahead of her older sister, who descended in a more refined manner after a scalding glance from her mother. Before Lilly joined her parents at the door, she darted over and gave Jackson a kiss on his scruffy cheek. "Someday I will come out west, Uncle Jackson. We will feed bears beans and watch the sunset together."

Jackson exhaled and held her close, regretting he had never found a woman to settle down with and have children. "You never know what the future holds, Lilly. You may get to see the glory of a prairie sunset yet." He pulled back and gave her a kiss on her freckled pixie nose as Rosetta watched with a disapproving glare.

Chapter One
Go West, Young Woman!

"Absolutely not!" Her mother's voice ripped through octaves, from disbelief straight to fury.

Lilly smoothed the skirt of the bright blue silk dress with a trembling hand and examined herself in the mirror behind her parents' back to reassure herself that she was maintaining her composure. A grown woman, she had a mass of deep gold curls with white-blonde highlights. Her chubby baby cheeks had melted away, revealing a delicate bone structure that gave her an angelic appearance. Behind her curls and dimples lay a rather unladylike temper. And right now that temper made her want to beat on the needlepoint pillow next to her in frustration.

Rosetta paced circles across the throw rug of the family room, her bustle bouncing behind her in agitation. The only things Lilly had in common with her mother were long golden hair and hazel green eyes. On the inside, they were as different as could be.

Lilly tugged Rosetta wailed, at the lace extending from the sleeve of her dress with a shaking hand. "I have already accepted the teaching contract and bought my train ticket, Mother. I will be leaving for Caldwell, Kansas, in five days."

"Abraham!" Rosetta gasped, clutching her ample bosom. "You must talk some sense into your daughter. You were the one that let her go to school to learn how to be a teacher. You were the one who assured me it was just until she secured a good marriage!"

Abraham replied in a mild voice, "Oh, I'm sure a cowboy would make a nice son-in-law." His eyes twinkled with mischief as she threw her hands in the air in horror at the idea.
He tapped a finger on the leather arm of the chair, watching his wife huff and puff, before he turned to Lilly. "Are you sure this is what you want? You do know the West is a very dangerous place, especially for a proper young lady such as yourself."

His lips twitched in a suppressed smile as Rosetta glowered at them. Growing up, Lilly had been anything but a proper young lady. She found climbing trees, catching grasshoppers, and fishing with her father much more interesting than ladylike skills her older sisters excelled at. She had been the son her father never had, and the hellion who'd given her mother fits.

"Yes, Father. I'm certain Uncle Jackson left me his land in Kansas for a reason. He knew that's where my heart wants to be. He gave me the chance to live my dream." She closed her eyes, missing her uncle. He'd left her three thousand acres of land in Caldwell after his death five months ago. Jackson, a professional gambler, died in San Francisco during a poker game that had turned into a shootout.

"I won't have it," Rosetta screeched while glaring at Abraham. "We have a duty to see our daughter married to an acceptable man, not some filthy farmer in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by savage Indians and wild animals."

Abraham rolled his eyes at Lilly when Rosetta turned her back. "You have three grown and married daughters, Rosetta. And ten grandbabies to spoil. Let Lilly have her chance at happiness, too."
Rosetta whirled and jabbed at the air in front of Abraham with her finger. "You've sheltered her too much. She has no idea how treacherous the world is. She lacks the common sense to run away from danger. In fact, she seems to attract it like lightning to a weathervane!"

"Now, Rosetta." Abraham rose from his chair and tried to approach his pacing wife.

"Don't you 'Now Rosetta' me! Did you forget about the incident in Boston when she was seventeen? Your daughter decided to chat up a strange man in a robe while having tea at the hotel. He then offered you two thousand dollars to make her his third wife and take her back to the Ottoman Empire!"

Lilly groaned inwardly as her mother's hands began to flap around, a sure sign of an impending fit. How was she to know that man had been looking for a wife? His turban and dagger were so fascinating, and he really was charming. Before her older sister caught them in the solarium together, he'd showed her kissing with your tongue could be quite exciting.

"I won't be alone out there, Mother. And I do try to stay out of trouble. The mayor of Caldwell assured me I would have all the help I needed to settle in. Uncle Jackson left me a farm and a log cabin." She bit her lower lip in regret as soon as the words 'log cabin' passed her lips.

Abraham stood and placed a hand on Rosetta's elbow, stopping her pacing. It was a move he used on her during those few times he opposed his wife's wishes. "Rosetta, she will only be gone a year. When she comes back, if she has not found a suitable husband, I'm sure Lilly will be more than happy to have you find a good match for her."

Lilly bit her cheek in an effort not to speak. She'd managed to avoid her mother's and sister's matchmaking so far. Now that she was twenty, her family's efforts to marry her off had tripled. As if she wanted to be shackled to some pompous little man who spent more time fixing his hair than she did. She wanted a real man, the kind that would sweep her off her feet, a man who was not afraid of hard work and danger. Someone who lived his life for the glory of the day.

She needed a rugged cowboy who would stand up to her and match her passion. All the men she had courted were taken aback by her enthusiasm, or were like kissing a bowl of bland porridge. The thought of a man strong enough to dominate her wild spirit made her shiver.

Tying a bonnet around her fair curls, Lilly announced, "I have to go visit Grand-mère Colette." If anyone would understand her craving for the spice of life, it would be her grand-mère
Abraham nodded while Rosetta lifted her nose and gave a disdainful sniff. "You do that, Lilly. Your mother and I will have a talk while you are gone."

She pulled the blue silk shawl over her smooth shoulders, and gave her father a grateful smile as she left to see the one person in the world who would understand.

"Oh, ma chérie, that is too wonderful."

Colette clasped Lilly's hand in her own, a bright smile crinkling her kind face. Lilly stared at her still-beautiful grand-mère, thankful she shared the woman's high cheekbones and pert little nose in addition to her love of adventure.

"I have often imagined going west myself, but I am afraid that is a dream for the young. My old bones would shake apart if I had to ride on a stage coach." She glanced at the portrait of Uncle Jackson hanging next to the bookcase. "I cherish every letter I have from my Jackson about his adventures on the frontier. I can't think of a better place for you to be."

Lilly placed her hand over her grand-mère's. "Thank you, Grand-mère. I was afraid you would join the choir of disapproval. Mother seems to think I cannot cross the street without a chaperone."
Colette clicked her tongue and poured more mint tea. "Silly girl, I was younger than you when I decided to leave Paris for America." She set the teapot down, a distant look in her cloudy blue eyes. "I remember it well, the sense of anticipation almost lost beneath my fear as I ran from my parents mansion in the middle of the night. At least you told your mother and father. Mine didn't find out until I was out at sea." She gave Lilly a wink and popped a sugar cube into her mouth.

"I have never regretted that decision. Oh, I could have been happy in Paris in a dreadfully boring manner. Married to some stuffy old vicomte and simpering my way through life. But I wanted to go someplace new, someplace where the air was clear and there was a chance for a young painter to make her mark. And I never would have met your grandfather if they had not sent him after me, to bring me home."

Lilly glanced around the room with a fond smile. Watercolors of various sizes covered every surface of the walls. Quite a few featured handsome young men in the nude looking out of the canvas with challenging stares and hard muscles. Before her eyesight began to fail, Colette had been one of the premier painters of the northeast. Her artwork hung in some of the finest homes, and graced the walls of a few local museums. Of course, she shared the nudes only with her family and close friends, at least those who didn't voice their disapproval.

This had always been a place of refuge for Lilly. When she refused to learn to dance from the stuffy instructor who'd called her a graceless cow, it was Colette who taught her in this very parlor. Colette would bring her to the seashore in the summer, showing her how to shoot skeet and swim. She'd even shown her how to throw a punch and not break her hand while doing it. Grand-mère taught her by example that a woman could take care of herself, and still be a lady.

"Now, I have something for you." The older woman left the pale peach parlor room and returned with a blue velvet box. "I was going to give this to you when you married, but I think it will serve its purpose much better now."

She scrunched her brow in confusion. "What is it?"

"Your dowry." Colette lifted the lid of the box and revealed a cluster of exquisite jewelry. Pearls, diamonds, emeralds, and gold flashed in the afternoon light.

She covered her mouth as she gasped. "Grand-mère, I cannot take this!"

Colette smiled with amusement and thrust the box into her hands. "Silly girl, what is an old woman like me going to do with this? They are baubles from my suitors back in Paris. They have no sentimental value. Go, keep what you want and sell the rest. Start your adventure with a full purse and an open heart." She reached over and stroked an age-spotted hand down Lilly's pale cheek. "Do this for me, Lilly. I love all my grandchildren, but you are the only one who inherited the Bertrand spirit of adventure."

Lilly closed her eyes and hugged the box to her chest. She knew coming here was the right thing to do. Her mother's harsh words had almost made her break the contract to teach. "Thank you. I can never thank you enough for believing in me." She blinked back the tears that threatened to spill from her eyes.

"Hush now, no crying. You took to the life of society no better than I did. Well, maybe a bit better—there were no scandals about you and a handsome young painter caught posing in the nude."
Lilly blushed and laughed. "No, just a few small scandals about falling from trees."

"And beating a silly beau in the park with your parasol. I thought your mother was going to send you to a convent after she found out about that on the society page of the newspaper. The drawing of him cowering on the ground before you was quite good." Colette's mischievous grin deepened the lines on her face.

"I told that coot I could carry my own parasol. He wouldn't let go!" Colette started to laugh and Lilly tried to maintain her dignity, but she soon found herself giggling along with her Grand-mère as they made jokes about the poor, traumatized man wetting himself at the sight of parasols.


Five days later, biting her lower lip in an effort not to cry, Lilly stared out the train window at her family on the platform. She wouldn't acknowledge the tears threatening to spill down her cheeks as crying. They were simply a reaction to the smoke from the coal engine.

The train lurched forward, and she began her journey from Connecticut to Kansas. It was a long ride, and she brought her schoolbooks to read through for the trip. There was so much planning to do. She had a week to settle in and prepare, and then it would be time for school to start.

She traced her fingertips over the alabaster cameo at her throat. It depicted a cream lily on a Wedgwood blue background, the only piece of jewelry she kept from her Grand-mère's collection. She found strength in its carved surface. If Colette could board a ship to America with only the clothes on her back, and the smuggled jewelry hidden in her skirts, then she had no excuse for letting cowardly feelings stop her from chasing her dreams.

This was a grand adventure, a chance to live the stories of the West she had read so much about. The idea of seeing a real cowboy was thrilling, and to live in a genuine log cabin was beyond exciting. She was finally going to be on her own, without chaperones watching her every move. Apprehension made her stomach tight, but she chased the feeling away with daydreams of cowboys like the utterly masculine ranchers she'd read about in her dime novels. Surely, it would not be as dangerous as her mother feared. Caldwell was an established town with a population of over 1,500 people. They couldn't be that uncivilized.


Copyright Ann Mayburn 2011-2012. All rights reserved. No part of these publications may be reproduce, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted by any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, recording, or otherwise, without prior written permission of the author.