The Mama C Countdown

I’m in the hard push to finish this book.  I’m determined to have it finished, polished, and submitted by the end of this month.  Sooner if I can manage it!  So it’s balls to the walls.  I want 2014 to start out with a bang.

3055 words today.  It’s a good start.

To keep myself motivated, I’ll try to post little snippets as I go along.  I’ve only shared the first draft of the opening scene with you so far.  I mentioned that I was going to have to go back and explore Ty and Virginia’s relationship thirty years ago… so here’s the first part of how they got together.

First draft, subject to revision.

According to her fashionable mother, seventeen-year-old Virginia should have been interested in shopping and boys, not show horses.  But horses were her life.  She’d rather spend a whole day sweating in the ring with a stubborn horse than talk for five minutes with most of the humans of her acquaintance.

The recently hired tall, lanky handyman was one exception.  For one thing, he hardly ever spoke.  When he did, he revealed a surprisingly sharp wit that as often as not infuriated her even while she had to grudgingly admit he was exactly correct.   As far as she knew, he was only a few years older than her, but he’d had a hard life compared to hers of privilege and ease.  He’d roamed the country chasing rodeos, and when he ran out of money, he paused in some town and got a job, working just long enough to earn enough cash to put a little more gas in his old beat up Ford and haul his roping horse to the next dusty falling-down arena.

He’d been more than forthright with Colonel Healy when he’d taken this job, but Daddy had hired him anyway.  Virginia still couldn’t quite believe her hardcore by-the-book father had hired such a bum, but she had to grudgingly admit Tyrell Connagher did more than his fair share of work on the ranch and he never stuck his nose up at a job.

Even when she deliberately sent him to do something disgusting or petty, just to see if she could get a rise out of him.  Instead, he’d push his sweat-stained straw hat back on his head and look up at her with that leathered tanned face and say, “Yes’m.”  The last few times, she’d sworn there was a twinkle in his eyes.  Deep blue eyes the color of ocean on a perfect sunny day.

She pushed such a ridiculous thought away as she led Dancer out of his stall.  It was pitch dark outside and the ranch was silent.  Miss Belle and Daddy had gone out to some charity ball, both acting like it was the crime of the century for their only daughter to refuse to go.  When they knew she hated such fancy events.  All of the major families of the area would be there, the doctors and lawyers, the politicians.  Ugh.  All fake smiles and sparkling gowns and expensive perfumes while they plopped down a couple of thousand bucks for some charity none of them really cared about.

Then Miss Belle had dared say that Dr. Garrett’s son expected her to be there, like Jebadiah had bothered to ask her on a date or even spoken to her about the event.  Everyone assumed they were a “thing” when nothing could be further from the truth.  Before he’d left for college, everyone had kept checking her finger like they expected him to pop the question any day.  Now that he came home only for holidays, it was even worse.  Those snide smiles as if they knew he’d only come home to see her.

They weren’t even dating.  They’d never dated.  They’d just happened to attend a hundred charity balls over the years because the Healys and Garretts were friends.

Great, just great.  I’m engaged and the man’s never even asked me out.

She turned around and ran into a solid wall of muscle.  She jumped back with a squeak that made her blush, even while she tipped her chin up.  “Get out of my way.”

“Now hold on, Princess,” Tyrell drawled out.  “Surely you aren’t thinking about heading out in the middle of the night.”

Princess?  She couldn’t help but snort.  “What I do is none of your business.”

He pushed his hat back further on his head.  In the moonlight, his eyes were dark and intent on her face.  “It is my business when I know for a fact your folks are gone and most of the other hands have the night off.  So if you get lost or hurt out there in the dark, I’m the only one here to make sure you get what you need.”

His words made her shiver, as if he meant something else entirely.  She was suddenly aware of his size.  The fact that he was more hobo than respectable man, that he’d only been working for them a few weeks.  Nobody knew what kind of man he was, not really.  For all they knew, he was wanted in a dozen states for petty crimes.  Or worse.

And here I am alone with him.

Fear curdled in her stomach, which only served to piss her off.  She hated to be afraid.  When she’d stared at her first triple-pole jump and felt that sick pit in her stomach, she’d marched over to her horse and jumped it a dozen times until she’d conquered the fear.  She refused to ever let fear cripple her.  As Daddy always said, it was time to saddle up and ride on anyway.

Dancer snorted and pranced sideways, picking up on her anxiety.  He almost tugged the lead out of her hand, but she couldn’t spare a glance at him, not with this danger threatening her.  She clutched the crop in her left hand, glad she’d snagged it out of habit.  “I told you to get out of my way.”

“No’m.  I’m sorry but I can’t.”

Ignoring him, she led Dancer forward, planning to use the horse to push him out of the way, but he was on to her and stepped across the aisle, closer to her.  She started to turn, swinging Dancer his direction, but her horse was too polite to step on a human, even if the man might cause her harm.

His fingers closed around hers in a punishing grip, trying to yank Dancer’s rope free.

Panic flared but her anger burned hotter.  None of the help ever laid a hand on her.  They were too respectful—and too scared of her Marine father.  If she said boo, every man she’d ever met jumped.  Even Jebadiah Garrett, the boy she’d watched turn into a man who was too damned polite to even ask her on a date away from their parents.  Before she could stop to think, she brought the crop down in a sharp crack on Tyrell’s left shoulder.  “Get your filthy hands off me!”

Instead of letting her go, he clamped his hands on both of her shoulders and hauled her up against the long, lean lines of his body.  God, he was so tall, a tower of strength that sent her pulse hammering frantically.  She brought the crop down again, swinging awkwardly against his back, but he didn’t let her go.  In fact, he bent down and slanted his mouth over hers.

He was hungry, hard, his lips and mouth melting away the fear into something else that was wild and reckless and still pissed.  She swung her arm up toward his head, the crop handle clubbing him against his temple and knocking his hat off.  She wrenched out of his grip and stomped away.  “Pack your bags and be gone before Daddy gets home or he’ll shoot your rangy hide.”

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