Despite just a little over 4 hours of sleep, I’m alive this morning and working on getting the monsters out the door for school. I’ll post one last snippet from Victor, and then I’ll have to find something else to entertain you for Friday Snippets. It might be January before I start that tradition up again, because Dec. will be finishing Victor and Revision Hell, on not one but two books.
First up, it’s past time for me to revise Return to Shanhasson, last year’s NaNo novel that took me until Dec. 23 to finish (105K). I have something I’d like to try, and I can’t do it unless this book is ready to go. If it works out, I’ll post details later.
After Victor has sat for a couple of weeks, I’ll be ready to tackle him again. My goal is to have both books submitted by the end of January. Then it’ll be back to Deathright full steam ahead, in conjunction with Seven Crows.
In this snippet, I introduce Mama Connagher, a woman to strike the terror into any daughter in law. Well, hopefully. Unedited, first NaNoWriMo (shitty) draft. This happens after the dark moment when Victor thinks he’s lost it all.
Virginia Connagher waited on the wraparound porch as though she’d known her son was coming home, even though he hadn’t made the hour drive up from Dallas in months. She wore the same thing she always did: riding jodhpurs, English riding boots, and a spotless white shirt, even though her hands and knees were dirty from digging in her garden. Her black hair was sprinkled with a bit more gray, her eyes lined with a few more wrinkles, but her eyes still snapped with the fiery spirit that had captured Tyrell Connagher’s heart forty years ago.
“Son.” She looked him up and down and he couldn’t help but straighten his shoulders and widen his stance. He braced for her to begin questioning him, but instead, she smiled. “Come on down to the stables and see the new foals.”
Relieved although he tried not to show it, Victor walked with her down the red-dirt road to the long horse barns behind the house. She proudly showed off the new stud she’d shipped in from Ireland, the yearlings in the paddock, and bit by bit, he managed to relax. The smells of sweet hay, feed, and horse were as familiar to him as the two-story farmhouse where he’d grown up. He’d worked with Mama in the show ring and Daddy in the fields, rounding up the cattle and shipping them to market. He’d ridden every inch of their acreage, spent hours with Conn down at the creek fishing and swimming, and fixed countless feet of fence with him and Daddy after a storm had knocked a few trees down.
Watching a sleek bay mare with her spindle-legged baby, he felt the last stone of guilt fall away. Here, he knew exactly who he was. He was the Victor, the oldest Connagher son, football champion, and proud of his hard-working parents. Maybe he could convince Shiloh to drive out here with him. If she saw him here, the real Victor, then maybe…
“I saw your show last night,” Mama said, her voice too careful for him to tell what she’d really thought about it.
He propped a boot up on the bottom rail but didn’t turn to look at her. “What’d you think?”
“I was wishing your Daddy could watch it with me so we could recreate a few of those challenges ourselves.”
Victor practically choked on his tongue.
Mama chuckled at the look on his face. “Surely you wondered where you got such an inclination. Did you think I’d be horrified at my baby boy with a crop in his hand?”
“Yeah, I did,” he admitted sheepishly. “I guess I should have known better when Conn called me a few years ago for help.”
Nodding, Mama leaned against the fence and turned that steely blue gaze on him. “He’s not as hard as you. He never was.”
“Not as mean, neither.”
“Oh, Victor, is that what you think? That you’re mean?”
I’m one mean sonofabitch, Mama. I like to hurt people. Especially the woman I love.
He ground his teeth and averted his gaze.
“I suppose you think I’m mean, then.”
That made him jerk his gaze back to hers. Just a few inches over five feet tall, she possessed the kind of quiet, commanding presence that made people snap to attention whenever she walked into a room. No one would claim she was a ravishing beauty, but once someone met her, it was hard to take their eyes off her.
Reluctantly, he had to admit it was the same kind of power he’d always had. People listened to him. He never had to raise his voice, and if he did, he scared the shit out of people. He’d always assumed he’d inherited that top-dog attitude from Daddy.
Thinking back over his childhood, he tried to remember a time when Mama had ever overruled Daddy. They’d always worked like a team, smooth and well-oiled. Daddy wasn’t a big talker, but he’d always handled the discipline. A look from him could strike terror into the most recalcitrant boy’s heart, so he’d never gotten into much trouble beyond the normal boyhood scrapes. They’d both been there for him, through heartache and disappointments, like when he’d blown his knee and kissed his future goodbye.
They’d seen him at the lowest point of his life. His dreams turned to shame, his love lost, his victor’s heart broken.
His gaze fell on the old barn in the distance. Worn gray wood still stood, lost and forgotten amidst the shiny redwood and white picket fences of the newer horse barns. When his last hope of returning as a pro-quality quarterback had died, he’d retreated to that old barn, too ashamed to come home and face Daddy. Too heartbroken to risk their pity.
“As soon as I noticed my old crop was missing from the barn, I should have had a talk with you,” Mama whispered, her voice as gentle as the hand she dropped onto his forearm braced on the fence. “But you’d been through so much already, and you didn’t ask any questions. I watched, I waited, and you seemed to move on with your life. When Conn went to you for help, I thought you were settled and comfortable with your needs, but maybe I was wrong. Maybe I should have talked more openly with you.”
“This isn’t the kind of thing a man wants to discuss with his mother.”
She laughed again, shaking her head. “You could have asked your Daddy, but he could have only helped you understand the other side.”
That made him whip his head back to her face. “Daddy was a submissive?”
She snorted. “There wasn’t a submissive bone in your Daddy’s body. He never wanted to be conquered or tied up. He wasn’t into that kind of game and neither was I.”
Dreading her answer, Victor asked, “What were you into?”
“Pain,” she answered simply. “I used to joke that a bronc rider would have to be a masochist to get back on after getting trampled a few times.”
Victor tried to think of something to say, but he couldn’t. He couldn’t imagine his weathered father submitting to the sting of a lash, let alone asking for it. The man had worked from sunup to sundown every day of his life, raised three God-fearing respectful children, and died loving only one woman his entire life. Victor had always thought him the strongest man in the world, fearless on a horse, even the wildest, rawest green broke mare. He just couldn’t imagine the same man asking someone–a woman, his wife, no less–to whip him.
“Do you think I liked knowing that I yearned to hurt your Daddy?” Mama asked sharply, her fingers tightening on his arm. For a woman, she had a fearsome grip. He’d always assumed her strength came from a lifetime of training show horses, but now he wasn’t so sure. “Do you think it made him feel like a man in our day and age? To lock the door of our bedroom, strip off his shirt, grip the bedpost, and ask me to whip him within an inch of my life? I had to, son. He had to. The need was there, eating away at him constantly. He needed the pain as much as I needed to give it.”
She turned away, but not before Victor saw the sheen of tears in her eyes. “He said once that he wished I were a man so my arm didn’t give out quite so quickly. He’d meant it as a joke, but it hurt, son. He could have taken much more than I could ever give him. For years, I worked out with the whip and crop, training my arms and body to make sure I met his need to the best of my ability. So don’t you look down on yourself, Victor Connagher, or you’re looking down on me and his memory.”
“I don’t want to hurt anyone, least of all someone I love,” Victor whispered, hanging his head in shame.
“The young lady on the show?” Mama asked softly. He nodded, so she said, “When do I get to meet her?”
“Maybe never. She left me.”
“I saw the way she looked at you, son. Even on television, I could see that woman would give her heart and soul just to see you smile. So why would she leave you?”
“She needs more than I can give.”
“Can, or will?”
He growled deep in his throat and jerked his hair tighter, but the pain didn’t help. Not this time. Nothing would ease the raw, aching need burning in his gut. Nothing but Shiloh.
“It’s got to be difficult for a woman to find the right man when she needs to be hurt. Women in our society have fought tooth and nail to get to the place where they can demand what they want in bed, but pain is a different beast all together. It’s not politically correct for a woman to play the submissive, but it’s somehow even more horrible if she needs pain, too. If someone had dared hurt Ty in a way he wasn’t interested in, he would’ve plowed his fist into the bastard’s face. What’s your woman supposed to do, son? Walk up to a stranger and ask him to hurt her? How’s she going to be able to get him to stop when she’s had enough?”
Rage exploded in Victor at the thought of another man laying a hand–or a whip–on Shiloh. He wanted to hold her, love her, and yes, hurt her. Exactly the way she needed it.
“If she needs to be hurt, son, then it’s better done by someone who loves her and cares for her wellbeing than an arrogant fool with a whip who doesn’t give a damn about anything but putting on a show. Do you love her?”
Victor clenched his jaws and nodded. God, yes, he loved her. He hadn’t been able to sleep last night, tormenting himself with the memory of the pleasure she’d given him, mixed with the guilt. He’d lain there all night, hating himself but rock hard and aching with the need to do it all over again. All I could think about was how f*cking good it’d felt to hurt her.
“You can’t deny this side of you, son. You’re only lying to yourself.” Mama gripped his upper arms, leaning closer so she could stare up into his eyes. He might be a foot taller, but she made him feel like a little boy again. “We didn’t raise you to be a liar or a quitter. You might have lost a game, but everything’s on the line now. This is the biggest game of your life. You’ve searched your whole life for a woman who could love you and accept the pain you need to give. Are you going to let her get away?”
He smiled, not the nice, gentle smile a son would give his mother, but the grin of a confident conqueror bent on razing his enemy to the ground. Even–especially–my own stupid hang-ups. “No, ma’am.”
“You go get her, son, and you bring her home this very night. I want to meet the woman who finally claimed my Victor’s heart.”
“Soon,” he promised, leaning down to kiss her cheek. “But not tonight. We have to finish taping the show first.”
“Then you’ll bring her to the ranch?”
“If she’ll come, yes.”
“Remember, give her the pain you both need, son, but hurt her with love and hold her when you’re done.” Mama smiled back and Victor felt a chill dripping down his spine. “And don’t worry. She’ll come, or I’ll fetch her myself.”