Thursday, May 30, 2013

Cowboys, Cowboys, Cowboys

At five o'clock  in the morning this past Saturday, I was busy attempting to chase five cows and a calf off my property. I only have enough hay to last until the first cutting at the end of June, and if those ladies had decided to raid my haystack, I would have been in trouble. So there I was, in my jammies, carrying a shovel
handle, because you never know what kind of mood a cow might be in--especially one with a calf. Usually they run, but every now and then they fix those big brown eyes on you, put their head down and that's when you'd better either have a shovel handle or run for the fence. I usually drop the shovel handle and run for the fence anyway.

The reason I had to chase cows off my property was because the rancher next door had penned 200 cows on the ten acre fenced lot next to my place in preparation for branding. Not only had the cows bawled all night long,  some of them had decided to go through/over my fence. Believe it or not, I was cursing that rancher as I "guided" the ladies through the waist-high, scratchy sage brush toward the gate. 

All in all, now that my hay is safe and the cows are gone, I'm glad it happened. Guess how my next cowboy story will start? 

Speaking of cowboy stories, Superromance has four coming out during June and July--two set in Montana, one in Texas and one in Colorado. To whet your appetite for this veritable smorgasbord of cowboys, I'm posting a brief excerpt from each.

June 2013 ~ Once a Champion by Jeannie Watt

What on earth had happened to the Bailey Ranch?

Matt Montoya slowed his pickup to a crawl as he drove over the cattle guard that marked the northern boundary of the property, taking in the sagging fences and weed-choked hay fields that should have been cut at least a week ago. What the hell?

He hadn't been to the Bailey Ranch in years, not since he'd come to look at some cattle after he and Trena had first married. The place had been immaculate then. Well-farmed, well-maintained. This was not the ranch he remembered.

Matt stepped on the gas and continued down the drive to the ranch house, half a mile away. A few steers stood in the pasture, heads down, tails swishing as they ate. At least they looked fat and well fed, but again, the last time he'd been here, Tim Bailey had had at least a hundred Angus in this field that now held ten.

So was his missing horse here, on this disturbingly rundown ranch? If so, Matt didn't know why. Tim had never been a horseman, preferring to do his cattle work on a four-wheeler, but one of the local team ropers had insisted that he'd seen Matt's gelding here when he'd come to repair a gas line.

All Matt could do was hope. He'd been looking for Beckett for over a year now and this was the first solid lead he'd had. Ironic if the missing horse had been on this ranch, two miles from his own home base, all this time. Ironic and aggravating.

After parking under the giant elm trees that shaded the old ranch house, Matt got out of the truck, moving carefully to avoid banging his healing knee, and then for a moment he stood, getting the feel of the place. It wasn't good, smacking of neglect and abandonment.

White paint hung in tattered strips off the sides of the house and the once blue trim was now mostly gray wood. Weeds poked their heads up through the gravel and the lawn looked as if it hadn't been cut in about a year. Or maybe two. Matt felt as if he were standing square in the middle of a deserted ghost town, except that this place wasn't deserted. Two trucks and a small white sedan were parked next to the barn. Someone was there. But where?

If he couldn't find Tim, Matt wasn't above exploring the pastures and barns on his own. He needed to know if Beckett was on this ranch and if he was, then he had to formulate a plan to get him back. Tim Bailey was a notoriously stubborn guy, so it might take some work, but Matt was going to reclaim his horse. He needed him.

Matt had just reached the sidewalk when the front door of the house swung open and a slender woman with a long reddish-brown ponytail stepped out onto the porch. She closed the door behind her with a gentle pull, as if trying not to disturb someone inside. Matt stopped dead in his tracks.

"Liv?"

It'd been a dozen years since he'd seen Tim's daughter, his former tutor who'd helped him maintain his GPA so that he could compete in rodeo during high school. He missed so much school being on the road that he'd had to get some kind of help to keep from flunking, and brainy Liv Bailey had been the perfect person for the job. Shy, but no-nonsense when it came to studies, she'd guided him through the first semester of his senior year, had helped him make grades. Liv had always been there for him and now here she was again.

Life had suddenly got easier.

"Matt," she replied coolly, shifting her weight and taking a stance in front of the door as if guarding it from an intruder. Or from him. Not the greeting he'd expected.


July 2013 ~ The Ranch Solution by Julianna Moore

"We're almost there," Jacob said, glancing at Kittie, garbed entirely in black, including her nail polish and lipstick. He'd decided to deal with her abysmal wardrobe later; getting her out of Seattle had been a big enough struggle.

She blew a bubble with her gum and stared ahead silently.

"You'll be able to ride horses there. You used to enjoy riding. Remember?"

"Whatever."

He gave up and checked the GPS for how much farther they had to go. They'd flown to Billings, Montana, in an O'Donnell International company jet. Upon arrival Jacob had rented a car for the rest of the trip.

Along with losing her MP3 player, Kittie's punishment for smoking and accidentally setting fire to the girls' locker room was having to pay for the damages out of her allowance and composing a written apology to the school. An acceptable written apology, since Kittie could easily make an apology sound more like an insult.

Oh, yeah, and she was grounded for life, plus ten years. Jacob had told her if she shaped up during their trip, he might shave a few years from that part of the punishment.

Kittie hadn't even blinked.

Tough love sounded cliched, but he was desperate. He'd try anything.

Guided by the GPS, Jacob turned onto the U-2 Ranch road and after a mile came over a hill. Laid out in a shallow valley were the ranch buildings and, on the opposite slope, an array of white canvas tents. He winced--he hadn't slept outdoors since he was a boy. A ranch vacation was a far cry from the Caribbean resort where he'd taken Kittie for Easter a year ago.

Jacob pulled to a stop in the parking area. There was plenty of space, likely because the school year hadn't ended for kids who were still attending classes instead of being expelled.

"Hello, there," called a voice as Jacob opened the trunk of their rental. The speaker was a white-haired man who looked older than the hills. But the weathered cowboy had steel in his face; he might be a worthy match for a surly teenager. "I'm Burt Parsons. Welcome to the U-2 Ranch. You must be the O'Donnells."

"Duh," Kittie said sarcastically.

Burt didn't seem surprised. "And you have to be Kittie."

Without a word, she spit her gum to the grass.

Before Jacob could say something about it, Burt gave her a stern look. "We don't allow littering here," he informed her. "Put it in the trash."

Kittie didn't move.

"Pick it up, young lady, unless you'd rather shovel horse manure from the barn."

A Texas Hero by Linda Warren

Abby Bauman believed in real forever love. Until she got married.

That's when fantasy and reality collided like a chemistry experiment gone awry, stinking up the room and blowing out windows. That described her two-year marriage. It stunk. And blew all her dreams to hell.

Douglas Bauman, her ex-husband, did not know the meaning of the words foreverand monogamy. Nor did he grasp the concept of the word divorce. After a year, he was still trying to weasel his way back into her life by manipulation, using their three-year-old daughter as leverage.

She swerved in and out of traffic like a Formula One driver, which she wasn't. If she got one more ticket she wouldn't be able to afford insurance. But thanks to her conniving ex, she was late.

Doug had Chloe every other weekend, and this was his weekend. As per his pattern, something had come up and he couldn't pick up their daughter until noon. She told him to forget it and that she would be talking to her lawyer on Monday to change the custody agreement. Hanging up before he could respond gave her little satisfaction. Once again, she had to call her father to ask him to babysit, which took a strip off her pride because she did not get along with her stepmom, who was a Sue Sylvester ofGlee double. Gayle shouldn't be allowed around children.

Since Abby had to be at work at 8:15 a.m. and Doug had called at 7:15, she had few options. And it was a Saturday. Her friends had other plans or liked to sleep in on the weekends. As did Gayle.

Her dad lived twenty-five minutes away in Barton Springs, while she lived near downtown Austin, Texas. She had to ask him to pick up Chloe because there was no other way if she was to make it to work on time. As usual, he agreed. He was a sweetheart. She just hated to cause friction in his marriage. But frantically looking for a babysitter would change once she spoke to her lawyer on Monday. She wasn't putting up with any more of Doug's crap.

The light ahead was yellow. She pressed on the gas, zooming through, hoping no cops were in sight. This wasn't the first time Doug had bailed on keeping Chloe. It would be his last, though.

Her cell on the console buzzed and she pushed speaker phone. "Hi, Hol."

"Hey, girl. You ready for tonight? Wear something low-cut and short."

"I can't go." Since Doug had Chloe for the weekend, she and her friend had planned a girl's night out. She'd known Holly all her life. They'd met in kindergarten.

"Don't tell me he did it to you again?"

"Yes. I wish I had known you were up this early. I'd have dropped Chloe at your apartment. I had to call Dad again and you know how that goes."

"Sorry. You need a better lawyer, that's all. Someone who is not intimidated by the wealthy Baumans."

"I was thinking the same thing. Since you're a cop, maybe you can get me the name of a good lawyer just in case the one I have gives me any flak."

"You bet."

"Come over this afternoon and we'll take Chloe swimming in the apartment complex pool. Bring your rubber duckie."

"Oh, gee, I can hardly contain my excitement."

"Damn!"

"What?"

"I missed my turn." Without thinking, she slammed on the brakes. A loud thump followed that jarred her car.

"Damn!"

"What's going on?"

"Someone just rearended me. I'll call you later." 

Betting on the Cowboy by Kathleen O'Brien

Brianna Wright pulled up to the Townsends' elegant Boston Back Bay mansion under a starry black sky, handed her car over to the valet with a forced smile and rushed up the stairs breathlessly. Darn it, she was late. Really late. Ten o'clock. No, almost eleven--thank you so much, gridlocked airport traffic!

Now she'd missed three hours of her own party--well, the party her company, Breelie's, had produced, anyhow--and Townsend's fiftieth birthday bash was already in full swing. Music and laughter poured through the open, brilliantly lit windows.

Too much laughter, perhaps, so early? She frowned. The open bar must be getting a workout.

Oh, well. Townsend was a tire magnate, and his millions could cover the liquor tab no matter how high it went. At least it sounded as if the guests were having fun.

She didn't know why that should surprise her--the parties planned by Breelie's rarely flopped. But something about this event had always bugged her a little. Maybe it was just that the "harem" theme had never appealed to her. That didn't matter, of course. Whatever the client wanted, he got. Or, in this case, whatever the client's trophy wife, Iliana Townsend, wanted, she got.

Bree just hoped Charlie hadn't gone overboard. Not that she thought he had. As her fiancée and her business partner, he deserved her complete trust. And he had it...of course he did. It was just that...

She'd been out of town for most of the planning, which obviously accounted for some of her discomfort. She trusted Charlie implicitly, of course, but...

She did wish he had answered his cell phone more often this week. When Charlie went dark, it usually meant he was spending more money than he felt like justifying over the phone. He trusted his ability to persuade anyone of anything, but only as long as they were within the target range of his surface-to-surface ballistic charm.

As she passed under a faux ogee arch and into the unrecognizable entry hall, she suddenly froze in place. She stared, openmouthed, at the glittering, jingling, splashing, sparkling madness before her.

For an instant, she couldn't decide whether to laugh or cry.

This was the high-society party she had hoped would put her event-planning company on the Boston A-list? This...this... circus?

What in God's name had Charlie been thinking? The room writhed with half-naked humanity. Belly dancers. Sword swallowers. Eunuchs. Champagne fountains, ruby-grape pyramids, peacock-feather fans and tables groaning with bacchanalian treats. Charlie had created an entire fake Persian seraglio, complete with a hundred over-the-hill sultans flirting with two hundred giggling harem "girls."

Bree's temples throbbed, and her airplane-food dinner suddenly turned poisonously acidic.

Damn it, Charlie! She'd told him a thousand times that, in the upscale Boston society event-planning business, reputation was more important than anything else. Anything.Even more important than the bottom line.

And, long before this, she'd had a niggling feeling they were getting a reputation for being.

Well, vulgar.

She set her jaw as a trio of belly dancers wriggled by with a tinkle of gold coins in the air and a skitter of gold flickers on the walls. A sword swallower followed behind, ogling the dancers' hips. Behind him--a snake charmer with a real live snake slithering around his shoulders.

Oh, dear God. If vulgarity were an Olympic event, this pretentious absurdity would definitely take the gold.

By the way...I really want to take the cowboy on Kathleen's cover home with me and keep him. Wow.

18 comments:

Mary Preston said...

I know all about cows. My brother had a bully calf to hand rear, but in the dead of Winter I was the one who had to make up the bucket of milk & feed it. Fine when it was little, but it reached a head butting size that sent me & the bucket flying - every morning.

mary sullivan said...

Wow, Jeannie, you have a fabulous opening scene for your next Super! Heroine chasing cows off her property. New next door neighbor is the hero, doesn't know how his fence failed, but will have to fix it—maybe with his shirt off? Teehee.

Hero looks suspiciously like the model on the cover of Kathleen's book. It all sounds good to me :-)

Thanks for the excerpts from upcoming Supers. They're great!

Pamela Hearon said...

Love the excerpts! A month of cowboys? Yum!!!
I never realized cows had an ornery streak. I always see them out in the fields, munching placidly. I had them pegged as the yoga masters of the farm :-)

Jeannie Watt said...

Hi Mary--cows grow fast, don't they? And those bulls do love to head butt. It's fun to see them out in the field playing with one another--not so much fun when they do it to you.

Jeannie Watt said...

Hi Mary S--I agree. I can see the opening in my head. The heroine will be dressed better than me...or maybe worse, in something just awful, when she lays into the hero. Yeah...

Jeannie Watt said...

Hi Pamela--Oh cows can be nasty. Some are quite sweet and some live to kill. Certain breeds are more ornery than others. Charolaise seem to be cranky.

I will confess to not being a cow expert. Everything I picked up, I picked up from my mom and the neighbors, because I don't like handling cows. I don't know how their brains work. Now horses are another matter. I understand them.

kris said...

Jeannie, this sounds like the ultimate lemons/lemonade situation. BRAVO for recognizing the silver lining in this situation. It's going to be a FABULOUS opening!

Kathleen O said...

I have never had to chase cows of the property. Of course I am a city gal, but I love cowboys and especially between the pages of a book..

Anonymous said...

MarcieR

The excerpts were awesome Jeannie!

Can't wait for my 6 to arrive in the mail.

On Memorial Day I got sucked in to watching Alaska:The Last Frontier on Discovery Channel and one homesteader raised cattle and one epi was him moving them to the 'summer range'. Then when winter was on the way, half of his herd made their way home on their own!

Jeannie Watt said...

Hi Kris--Thank you! I love using incidents from real life. The hanging tentacle scene in my second book came from a practical joke in college. I enjoyed reusing it.

Jeannie Watt said...

Hi Kathleen--You may be a city gal, but you know how to write a cowboy! I love your opening scene.

Jeannie Watt said...

Hi Marcie--Yes, cows do find their way home. They know where they winter and when the forage gets sparse, they head home. They are smart animals.

Mary Brady said...

Jeannie, I don't know if this says something about you or me. When I saw the cattle, I thought "This must be Jeannie's blog post." :) And they are lovely cows--especially since they are not eating your hay.

Jeannie Watt said...

Ah, thanks Mary. Cows are my brand :-D

Cecilia83 said...

Cowboy i always love it. Have a lot Diana Palmer books.
Thanks for the share.

linda s said...

Looking forward to the great cowboy stories. Thanks for sharing.
I never lived on a farm, but one morning we woke up to weird noises from outside and there were twenty horses grazing on our lawns. A herd of a hundred or so came down from the open range and found better forage in town. They were pretty wild and it took dozens of men to round them all up and drive them back to the open range.

Jeannie Watt said...

Hi Cecilia--I love cowboys, too! (Even the ones that let their cows jump my fence.) Thanks for stopping by!

Jeannie Watt said...

Hi Linda--Great story. I bet the horses looked very spectacular on your lawns, lol. I'm trying to imagine a hundred of them in town. Another story beginning, perhaps...?

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