|Cowboy in a fall roundup on a West Texas ranch
|Tumbleweed rolling with the wind
|West Texas cotton field ready to harvest
Here’s an excerpt from this modern day Cinderella story. The set up is that hero Derek Corrigan arranged for his best friend Rusty to be heroine Courtney Madison’s date for a neighborhood potluck the previous Friday. Derek would have asked Courtney himself, but he’d already made a date with an old friend, Janelle, before he learned of the party. Things didn’t go well at the social event, and now it’s Monday morning.
HOME, SWEET TEXAS HOME Excerpt
After wrestling with himself all weekend, Derek had come to apologize to Courtney. The two of them
At church yesterday, she’d evaded him or looked right through him. That wasn’t even Christian. And just when he was getting used to having her to talk to. Of course, for Rusty she’d been all sugar and cream. Derek smiled in spite of himself. She’d made Janelle spitting mad with that little imitation act. He’d never seen anyone get the best of Janelle, but Courtney had. Everyone got it, and laughed. Except Janelle.
In Courtney’s house the next day, Derek grabbed a cup of coffee as he passed through the kitchen. Courtney was in the living room consulting with two painters. He stopped dead in his tracks. What the hell did she need with painters? Hadn’t this house been plenty good enough for Maggie and for Sam just as it was? Sure it had, and plenty good enough for him too. Why did Courtney have to go changing things?
When she saw him standing in the kitchen doorway, she paused. “Joe and Juan helped me get our trucks to Buddy’s garage. Buddy will call you when yours is repaired.” She stared, eyebrow lifted. “Did we have an appointment about something else today?"
An appointment? In his own house? He kept forgetting it wasn’t his house anymore. The house wasn’t Sam’s either. A pang of sorrow stabbed his heart and sliced downward. This had been his place with Sam and Maggie—the place they’d built especially for him. That was then; this was now. The whole place was hers and she could make any changes she chose. He had no say in anything she did with the house and farm. Instead, he was now the interloper in her house.
He exhaled. “No, but I’d like a word with you when you have a minute. I’ll just wait in Sam’s, um, your study.”
Ten minutes later she came in and he’d swear the room’s temperature dropped twenty degrees. She closed the door softly behind her. Man, but he had the distinct feeling she’d have preferred to slam it—and hard.
The second the door clicked shut, she launched into him. “Derek Corrigan, I realize you think I’m an incompetent social pariah. However, do not ever, ever take it upon yourself to find dates for me. No matter how nice the man might be. Do I make myself clear?”
Her quick breaths recalled the way she’d looked with only the sheet covering her breasts. Admiring her fire, he wished she wouldn’t direct it at him. Oh, hell. How had she found out about that? Rusty never would have told her.
He threw up his arms. “I thought it would be nice for you to have an escort since you don’t know anyone here yet. Okay? What’s so wrong with that?”
“For your information, I had a date the weekend before the party.”
He froze, and blood drained from his body. Who had she been out with? He’d bet it was that creep Lance Thompson. Damn the man. “I was only trying to help.”
She shook a finger in his face. “You should have asked me first. Do you have any idea how humiliated I was to learn Rusty didn’t ask me on his own? I had to hear from Janelle that I was a charity case.”
Damn, damn, damn. His fingers clenched and he wanted to punch the wall. He should have guessed Janelle was the culprit.
Courtney turned and paced. “And to think I fell for that fake visit to Rusty’s where he just happened to have fresh coffee and a cake from his mother. Oh, brother, I guess you both got a laugh out of that.”
“No, we did not laugh. Hey, you needed to meet him, right? And once he met you he said he would have asked you anyway, so what's the difference?”
When she opened her mouth and stepped toward him, he tried again before she could launch another attack. “Look, Janelle shouldn’t have told you, but you shouldn’t have made her cry, either.”
“Humph.” Courtney narrowed her eyes. “Puhleeze, me make that woman cry? Give me a break. That woman hasn’t cried since she got her first training bra.” She paced the office as if she were being paid by the step.
Man, Courtney had one smart mouth on her when her anger took over. “She cried because you called her a piranha after she tried so hard to make you feel welcome to the community.”
She stopped pacing again. “Your girlfriend certainly made no effort to welcome me. In fact, she did everything within her power to make me feel unwanted.”
Hell, how had he come to be defending Janelle? “She’s not my anything. We...um, she’s just gone through a rough divorce.” He suddenly remembered that this was Janelle’s third divorce, but Courtney didn’t need to know that. “Neither of us wants to remarry. She likes to have a presentable escort when a twosome is called for—“
“Please spare me.” She held up a hand. “I’m not interested in the sordid details of your sexual liaisons.”
“They’re not sex…” He swallowed hard. “Not liaisons of any kind, just two people going out with no strings attached. Okay?”
Courtney faced him and jammed fists on her hips. “If you believe that woman is not interested in marriage, and to you, then what I heard was right.”
Anger raced through him. How he hated gossip. He’d been hurt too deeply by rumors, first as a child about his parents’ lifestyle and poverty, and later by his wife’s escapades. No, he’d never speak a word of gossip himself. How he’d like to shut Courtney up now by kissing her senseless instead of waging this stupid argument.
“Oh yeah?” He took a deep breath and glared. “What did you hear?”
She stepped toward him and leaned into his face. “That where making money is concerned, you’re King Midas, but where women are concerned, you really are dumb as dirt.”
“Who says?” He clamped his jaw tight. Damned if he’d apologize now. He’d bet Elaine made that wisecrack. She’d been mad at him ever since grade school when he’d called her a chipmunk. “Was it Elaine?”
“Everyone who knows you says it.” She stamped her foot. “Do you hear me? Everyone!”
“Yeah, well at least Janelle is nicer than that creep Lance Thompson. I suppose you plan to keep seeing him?” He didn’t trust that man and couldn’t understand why she didn’t see through Lance’s fake so-called charm.
“As a matter of fact, I am. He’s an interesting date.”
The ring of the telephone forestalled her next comment. She gave him another of her molten glares before she picked up the receiver. “Hello.” She staggered backward to a chair. Her eyes widened as color drained from her face. “I’ll be there right away.”
He stepped forward. “What’s happened? Who’s hurt?”
With shaking hands, she leaped up and grabbed her purse and keys. “Jimmy’s been in a fight at school.”
HOME, SWEET TEXAS HOME is available in print and e-book from The Wild Rose Press at www.thewildrosepress.com/caroline-clemmons-m-638.html and at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other online stores. I hope you’ll give it a read and let me know what you think.
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