Our autographed print giveaway this month is Heat Wave, Book Two in Riders Up. Contest details below, after the excerpt.
There’s always a piece of us in any story we write, but I suspect there are far more than usual in our Riders Up series. You already know both my husband and I loved horses long before we met, and you might know that as adults we were finally able to own or partially own six horses, one or two at a time. Five of these were racehorses; the sixth was not, and we’ve saved him for the final book in the series, Detour Ahead.
So it goes without saying we’ve poured what we learned about caring for and training race horses into this series, but there’s more. Just as Cassie’s Hope (Book One) drew on our ancestor’s family farms in McHenry County Illinois, Heat Wave draws on early family history in rural central Iowa, somewhat north of Des Moines. It’s set in the year 2000. Iowa farm values had dropped precipitously during the 1980s and were beginning to recover, but many family farms were still struggling and went under, especially as corporations moved in to purchase them. We used this knowledge to place our widowed heroine’s family farm in danger and force her to make a bold decision.
Our hero, Ed Harrington? We ourselves have never been horse trainers, though we co-owned our racehorses with a local trainer. But Ed has struggled with alcohol, and Heat Wave focuses on his recovery journey – a journey we’ve walked alongside some close family members. They helped us out with those sections of the book for authenticity. We hope some of the depth, struggle, and love from our own journey shines through as Ed and Maggie come together to save her farm.
Ed didn’t blink, staring at the single shot-glass of whiskey and a stein of beer sitting on a tiny, circular table.
He gripped its pedestal between his knees. The darkened corner of Mel’s Tavern in Beaverhill provided a welcome hiding place. Almost as good as a cave.
He’d driven for hours after leaving the farm—after running as quickly as he possibly could from that menacing woman. That night had been spent in his car…
He ran a finger around the rim of the shot glass. Long moments dragged by while his mind resembled a blank slate. He knew if he drank enough, he could make those blank periods last longer. Blackouts—they enticed him and terrorized him. He would be able to function, but not remember. Was that bliss, or a coward’s way out? It wouldn’t take long, if he only had the courage to take that first drink.
Hah. So many people in those meetings he’d been attending talked about the courage necessary to avoid that next drink. Here he was asking himself if he had the guts to lift a single glass to his lips and let the stinging, hot whiskey glide down his throat. He could practically feel the familiar burning. So why didn’t he just gulp the damn stuff down and get on with it?
He could leave them all behind. No Maggie harping at him, wanting more than he could give. No worrying about which kid was going to get injured next. No wondering when they’d all figure out he didn’t measure up—that he was some kind of fake, a figment of their imagination.
Ed glanced furtively around with renewed awareness. His senses sharpened. How long had he been sitting like that, gawking at his future? The waitress and bartender were staring at him as if he were an alien. He scratched the two-day growth of beard. He swore inwardly at the booze. He swore at the memories.
Why couldn’t he just walk away from her? He didn’t owe her anything. Not anymore. He’d paid his debt. But she wanted more, much more.
The bouncy, buxom waitress stood in front of him. “Listen, Bud, if you’re gonna drink, drink up. We’re gonna be closing soon. And don’t forget my tip.” Leaning over, jiggling huge breasts, she whispered, “Or maybe you’ve got something else in mind. You’ve got possibilities. I can see that.”
She withered under his icy glare. “Okay, I get the message, Bud. Why don’t you just get out of here? You give me the willies. Any man who buys whiskey and beer and then just stares at them for more than an hour can’t be much of a man in my book.” The waitress brushed back curly brown hair and then flounced off to serve other customers.
Ed hardly knew she’d left. He wet his lips. Trying to steady his hand, he reached for the whiskey glass. Lifting it, he paused, and then slammed it down, splashing its contents over the scarred table.
He might be able to run from all of them, but he knew he’d never be able to run from himself.
Pushing his chair back, Ed stumbled getting up. He threw some coins on the table and rushed toward the exit.
Outside, Ed gulped for air. His hand shook like some ancient reminder of what used to be and could so easily have been again. He placed a hand in his pocket and curled his fingers around the ninety-day chip.a Rafflecopter giveaway