Guess Who’s Talking Now

It’s too early to say how quickly it’ll go, but Virginia aka Mama Connagher has been talking to me loud and clear since last night.  I sat down late last night–minutes before I said I was going to bed–and suddenly had 1200 words carved out.  This scene has been on my mind for a long time, so it didn’t take much effort to write.

I don’t know what the “plot” will be for this book — I think it’ll be more of a basic character-driven romance with a Connagher reunion on the side.  We’ll see though.  I don’t have it plotted at all, just a few key scenes I know need to happen.  I really don’t know how it’ll unfold yet.  But here’s a snippet while I wait for Charlie to tell me what his OTHER name is…

Rocking in her chair on the front porch, Virginia Connagher watched the sun set as she’d done every night for thirty years, ever since she and Tyrell had first bought this ranch.  It’d been a rough mess of two hundred acres and a tiny shack barely livable with falling down fences and more weeds and cactus than pasture.  A lifetime of sweat, tears and blood had turned this land into her dream—one of the finest stables in all of Texas.  Her show horses were becoming famous.  And it didn’t mean a damned thing.

Not without him.

Pink darkened to violet and stars dotted the velvet canvas.  A whippoorwill called from one of the blackgum trees he’d planted alongside the driveway when they’d first moved out here.  She loved the bird’s calls…and yet hated it too.  He’d always loved those damned noisy birds.

“This always was your favorite time of day.”

She turned her head, shocked to see him sitting beside her in the matched mate to her chair.  Dusty, stained cowboy hat tipped back on his head, sun-lined weathered face, eyes so blue and brilliant it hurt to look into them, and big Texas mustache.  He wore faded denim from head to toe and worn boots that had seen better days, the same thing he’d worn just about every single day of his life.  She could even smell his Stetson cologne, the only thing he’d ever worn.  “What are you doing here?”

“Just visiting.”  His slow, easy drawl made her throat tighten, her eyes filling up with tears.  “Thought it was past time.”

“You died fifteen years ago.”

He tipped his hat back further and gave her a solemn nod.  “I sure did, Princess.”

He hadn’t called her that in…she couldn’t even remember how long.  Early in their courtship—perhaps warfare was the better word—he’d called her a snooty princess and the name had stuck.  She’d called him a lowlife cattle rustler.  Then they’d married and had a wonderful life together.  Until it all ended.  “You never came to see me before.”

“You wouldn’t let me.  You’re a hard woman, Virginia.  Besides, you didn’t need me then.”

She stared at him, gripping the chair arms so hard her fingers ached.  He’d always done this.  Infuriated her to the point she wanted to lay into him with her fists, her hair brush, a whip, anything she had at hand.  Once she’d accidentally given in to that temptation, she’d finally figured out he’d deliberately been trying to drive her to unleash some violence on him all along, to their mutual enjoyment.

“I didn’t need you,” she repeated slowly, carefully enunciating each word.  “When you left me alone to raise our children.  When I had to organize your funeral.  When I’ve been alone all these years.  Yet now you decide to mosey back into my life?  What on earth for?”

“You’ve been alone too long.”

She let out a harsh laugh that jarred her ears.  “Don’t tell me you’ve come back from the grave to tell me I need to move on and find a new man.”

“You’re too much woman to be alone.  It ain’t right.”

“No, I’ll tell you what ain’t right.  You leaving us.  Me having to bury you in your wedding suit.”  The memory of how fake and stiff he’d looked in his coffin made her bury her face in her hands.  “It wasn’t right, Ty.  I should have buried you in jeans like the boys wanted.  But I just wasn’t myself and Miss Belle said you didn’t care one way or the other, but I hated seeing you in that suit.  It should have had only good memories.”

He gently pried her fingers away from her face and lifted her right hand to his mouth.  Funny, she’d forgotten how much his mustache tickled.  She’d cursed that thing, complained how the whiskers had poked her nose when he kissed her, but now… I’d give anything to feel those damned whiskers against my cheek again. 

“Miss Belle’s always right, don’t you know that yet?  I didn’t care one way or the other.  All I want you to remember about me is this.”

His palm on hers, big and strong and rough.  He’d worked as a ranch hand all his life, when he wasn’t rodeoing.  He’d busted just about every bone in his body including his skull and tore up his hands doing hard work under the unforgiving Texan sun.  She gripped his calloused hand tighter, desperate to keep him with her.  “How could I ever find another man who moved me like you still do?”

“He’s there.  You just have to open your eyes.”

“I don’t want no one else.”

He brushed his mouth against her knuckles again, deliberately tickling her skin with a wicked knowing glint in his eyes.  “You will, if you let yourself think about it.  I know you too well, Virginia Connagher.  If you set your mind against a thing, you’ll never surrender the fight come hell or high water.  It’s a miracle you ever loosened up enough to let me into that stone cold heart.”

“It’s colder and stonier now, Ty.  You said I’m a hard woman, and you’re right.  I don’t think I could ever let anyone in again.”

He nodded solemnly.  “I know it.  That’s why I’ve come to help you see the way.  I love you too much to watch you hurt alone any longer.”

Hurt alone. Those words stung, sinking deep beneath her skin to pierce her heart.  She wanted to avert her face and keep the desperation and hunger hidden away, but she couldn’t take her eyes off him.  He might fade away and she’d never see him again, not until she met St. Peter at the Pearly Gates.  “There’s no other way, Ty, and you know…”

“I know,” he broke in, his deep voice rumbling like distant thunder.  “You’ve been hurting alone.  I don’t like it.  Not at all.  Virginia Connagher shouldn’t ever hurt alone.”  He squeezed her hand hard enough that the fine bones began to grind together.  It made her blood thicken with the sweet memory of their shared secrets.  How he’d been able to feed that hungry side of her that feasted on pain.  “Not my woman.”

“I don’t want to forget you.”  It came out plaintive, making her wince, because she hated nothing more than being weak.

He laughed, a dark chuckle that came against her ear, his breath hot and moist in her ear.  “You’ll never forget me, Princess.  But that don’t mean you can’t take another man in my absence.”

Something shook her whole body.  Lightning arced through her mind, making her body twitch uncontrollably.

“Ty…”

Darkness swallowed her.  She lost the sensation of his hand on hers.  She couldn’t see him any longer, though his cologne filled her nose one last time as though she’d buried her face against his chest.  “I’ll always love you, Virginia.”

Voices crashed and rattled inside her.  Lights streamed by, like she was flying.  So fast.

“Female, fifty six years old, broken arm, severe concussion.”  Hands probed her stomach, sending her gasping in pain.  “Probable internal injuries.”

She opened her mouth to ask what had happened, but her brain didn’t want to work.  Nothing hurt.  That was probably a very bad sign.  The scent of Stetson still lingered.  She closed her eyes, trying to hold on to him, but already his image had faded in her mind.  The brightness of his eyes had dimmed, the edges fuzzed and softened by time.  She started crying and she didn’t care who saw.  “Ty.”

“Mama!”  Vicki suddenly appeared, her face white, her eyes huge and dark with fear.  “What happened?”

“We lost her pulse for a minute or so, but she’s back with us now.”  One of the nurses grabbed Vicki’s arm, holding her back from following into the next room.  Lights blazed everywhere, too bright, too painful.

“Mama!”  Vicki cried out.  “Victor’s on his way!  I’ll call Conn too.  Don’t worry about a thing!”

Virginia tried to turn and see her daughter, to find out what had happened, but someone put something over her mouth and she slid into nothingness where not even a sweet dream of Ty could find her.

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