Hello Read Happy friends! Welcome to this secret page on my website! You, alone, have the key! (Well, all several hundred of you, but you know what I mean.) ANYWAY, here is a sneak peak of my work in progress.
I hope you like it! (But please read it with the full awareness, of course, that this is a very rough draft of a work in progress, so know that this might not be the final version of the scenes.) Okey-doke! Here goes…
Working title: Save A Horse
Tentative publication date: September 2019
Montana. Big Sky country. Panoramic vistas. 80 mph speed limits. And the thing no one told you about: the biggest freaking potholes in the country.
“Seven hundred dollars? Are you kidding?” Molly Parker tried not to yell—or cry for that matter—as she did a quick accounting in her head of the contents of her bank account. It wasn’t pretty.
“I’m really sorry,” the mechanic said, truly sounding sympathetic, “but you’re lucky you didn’t bend the rims. And we could go with cheaper tires, but, uh… You’re new here. And I wouldn’t feel right giving you tires you’ll just need to replace again in the spring.”
“I’m new here,” Molly repeated with an inward sigh. Was it that obvious?
The man coughed as he gave her a quick onceover. Then he shrugged. But rather than note what she had to begrudgingly admit was her blatant greenhorn status, he mumbled, “Lucky guess.”
With a reluctant nod, she pulled out her wallet. “How long will it take?”
Not looking her in the eye, he began writing out the receipt on one of those old-fashioned triplicate forms mechanics everywhere still seemed to use. “Just a day. Or, er…” He coughed again. “Maybe two.”
A whimper escaped Molly’s mouth. “I’m guessing Lyft isn’t big around here?” ‘Here,’ being Sparhawk, Montana, population just shy of 2000.
The man had the decency to only crack the briefest of smiles. “No, ma’am.”
An adventure, she reminded herself. She had a spirit of adventure, a strong constitution—according to her grandmother, at least—and a newly minted PhD. Plus she was one of the lucky few English Lit grads with an actual job in her field. She’d even hit the jackpot as far as academic coupledom was concerned—not only had she been offered visiting professor jobs from three separate universities in her chosen area, but her boyfriend of four years had been offered a job in his area at one of them as well. And although she’d gone back and forth between the position in Vermont, i.e., only four hours from where she’d grown up, and Hamilton, Montana, which was…not her ideal location, she’d been enough in love that she’d gone and accepted the one that would have them venturing West together without running it by Aidan first. After six weeks of him not being nearly as excited as she’d hoped, she’d gone out and gotten herself a cowboy hat and a pair of red shiny boots and come home early with the plan of lifting his spirits—and other things—by playing cowgirl for the whole night.
Stupidest. Freaking. Idea. Ever.
Well, except for telling UVM “no” and UMT “yes” before finding out he had actually been celebrating that whole time. She just hadn’t known about it because the woman he’d been celebrating with hadn’t been her.
And now here Molly was, in the most beautiful place she’d never wanted to be with a car that didn’t work, a rental house she hadn’t yet seen, and no idea where it was or how she was going to get there. Because she apparently no longer had a working car.
“Are there any bars around here?” In walking distance, she didn’t need to add.
The mechanic’s eyes lit up in amusement. “Next block over. Johnny’s Saloon.”
Fantastic. Alrighty, then. She was going to get her honky tonk on sooner rather than later, apparently. Except…was honky tonk a thing in Montana, or was that just a Texas thing?
Was it even a Texas thing? She honestly had no clue.
As she walked up the street, she had to admit that, based on pure aesthetics, the scenery was actually pretty stunning. Having grown up in New England, she was used to beautiful views and she hadn’t been sure she could truly live in a place nowhere near an ocean. But this main street with its retro Wild West looks was something she could get used to. And the mountains rising up on either side of the town took her breath away in a you’re-not-in-Kansas-anymore—or, to be more accurate, in Connecticut—kind of way.
The bar the mechanic had directed her to definitely wasn’t of the tourist variety. It looked kind of run down, actually, with only one window too high up to see inside and a dark and dingy porn shop vibe from the outside. The mechanic had reminded her of her uncle, though, and he’d been kind, so she was deciding to trust him even if that maybe wasn’t the most obvious of choices. Hell, the choices she’d made up until now hadn’t exactly worked out, so going against the obvious might actually be the way to go.
She opened the door and walked inside and, oh… There were cowboys in here. Actual cowboys with their dusty boots and broken-in hats and those starched shirts that everyone kept talking about. Lordy. When she made her way over to the bar, the older woman behind it gave her the warmest of smiles and a, “Welcome to Johnny’s,” that sounded truly genuine. “Bart called ahead so the first one’s on us. What can I get you?”
Honestly? Molly almost cried. Sinking down onto a stool, she attempted a smile instead. Sure, it was a little early to start drinking—especially for someone who didn’t actually drink—but it had been a helluva few months, lord knew. And, damn, she was tired. She’d driven straight through the night from her parents’ house in Connecticut, which hadn’t been her original plan. Not even the original original plan, which had been for her and Aidan to take their time driving cross country, a road trip to celebrate successful completion of grad school as they embarked on their next phase of life. Of course, that had only been the plan for the six weeks when she’d thought they’d be traveling together, and there had been another three months since then. So it wasn’t like she hadn’t known she’d be doing the trip solo.
But once she’d gotten on the road and headed west, reality sunk in and she’d been afraid that if she stopped anywhere for too long she’d lose her nerve and head right back home to her parents’ house. Twenty-five hundred miles, thirty-eight hours, and two blown tires later, she most definitely had earned herself a drink.
“How about Fireball? I wouldn’t mind a shot of that if you have it.”
The woman, who looked kind of like a cross between Mrs. Claus and a truck driver, arched an eyebrow. But then she nodded. “You got it.”
Molly settled onto her barstool, taking in the old maps and pictures on the walls that highlighted both the completely foreign territory in which she now found herself and its stark beauty. The town of Sparhawk was about halfway between Missoula and Hamilton, making it halfway between her and Aidan’s respective jobs. Since they’d already put a first and last month’s deposit down on a cute, little yellow house here in town—a house Molly had fallen in love with online whereas Aidan most certainly hadn’t—here she was for the next year, after which she would be hightailing back east. Or anywhere else she could find a job as long as it got her as far away from Aidan as possible.
But no matter how much she liked the house, it was still twenty miles away from where she’d be teaching in a state that was on the other side of the country from anywhere she’d ever called home. “You know what? Make that two.”
Cole Haverson didn’t make it into town that often, but when he did, the first place he hit was Johnny’s. Johnny herself was behind the bar so he made his way over, stopping at a few tables along the way. The boys’ football team was having their first scrimmage today and it looked like he wasn’t the only one who’d decided to take advantage of the timing and run some errands. By the time he placed his hat down and took one of the empty stools, Johnny already had a cold one drawn and waiting.
She gave him one of her rare smiles as she polished the bar in front of him. “Hey, Haverson. It’s been too long. How’re your folks doing?”
“Not too bad.” He looked up at the board showing the specials. Though Cole’s favorite food group was Grade A Prime beef, Johnny’s Chicken Pot Pie was something to behold. He ordered one of those to eat now and a few more to take back home. “How about you? Have you heard from Bodie lately?” Bodie being Johnny’s nephew and Cole’s best friend from high school. They’d lost touch when Bodie moved to Nashville after college. Since he’d made it big for a little while there with a string of hits based on his high school girlfriend—a not very flattering portrayal of his high school girlfriend, who also happened to be one of Cole’s neighboring ranchers—Cole relied on Johnny for updates. It was better for all concerned. “How’s he holding up in the big city?”
With a huff, Johnny’s lips set into a grim line. “That boy’s got some woman putting crazy ideas in his head. He’s talking about following her up to New York City. Thinks she’s gonna actually marry him.”
From off to Cole’s left came a snort. He turned to see a woman wearing a University of Virginia t-shirt that had seen better days but fit her curves in a way that would have caught his attention even if she weren’t a little unsteady on her feet. It wasn’t an unusual sight to see an unfamiliar face a little farther up Main Street where they were closer to the casino and catered more to the tourist crowd; this was more of a local place, though, and she clearly wasn’t from around here. He would have remembered those greenish-gray eyes anywhere.
She was very determined to make it back to her barstool, that was for sure. Her voice a little on the slurred side, she shook her head and jabbed at the air, saying, “Bad idea. S’very bad idea. Marriage sucks. Men suck.” Then she grabbed onto the edge of the bar and stepped onto the bottom rung of the stool in order to hoist herself back on.
At least that’s what Cole assumed she was trying to do. She’d misjudged the effort needed and so would have gone right past the seat and probably directly onto the floor if he hadn’t reached out and caught her by the elbow.
Her eyebrows went up and her eyes zeroed in on his chest before coming back up to meet his. “Do you suck, cowboy?”
He wasn’t proud of the image that flashed through his head or the thought of how she might taste were he to do that very thing. Yet he still found himself answering, “When the circumstances require.”
Rather than be offended by his interpretation of her question, however, she gave a sharp laugh as she slapped the edge of the bar. “Now that’s what I’m talking about.” Except it came out more along the lines of Nowthat’sschwhatI’mtalking‘bout.
Yeah, she was trashed.
Turning to face a glaring Johnny when the other woman cleared her throat, he gave the most innocent look he possibly could. Having gotten into more than his share of scrapes with Bodie when they’d been growing up, he was highly familiar with that glare. He was a respectable adult now, however. Respectable enough to be raising his two nephews, thank you very much.
As if she could read his thoughts, however, Johnny said, “How are those adorable children of yours?” and gave an innocent look right back.
She then smiled smugly as the woman next to him exclaimed, “You do suck. Damn it,” and slapped the bar again. “Another Fireball, please.”
With a frown thrown in Johnny’s direction, Cole swiveled to face the newcomer head on. He wasn’t looking to start something. He’d allowed himself exactly one afternoon off and wasn’t about to waste it on an entirely empty pursuit. There was always time for a little public service, however. “Maybe I could buy you lunch instead.”
Shaking her head violently, the woman said, “Molly Parker does not let cheaters buy her lunch. Cheaters suck.”
His first thought shouldn’t have been how cute she looked when she was angry, but, damn it, it was. And if he thought she’d remember any of this—or that it would make a difference one way or another if she did—he might have shared with her the circumstances under which he’d become a dad and that it hadn’t involved actually fathering his boys. He certainly would have made sure she was aware he was single. But he was a dad and a single one at that and he had no time for even a prolonged conversation, much less getting involved in anything beyond a meal. So instead he went Jedi Mind Trick on her. “Okay. So why don’t you let Johnny buy you lunch and I’ll just pay her for it.”
The woman—Molly Parker, as he now knew—was just drunk enough to think that sounded like an excellent idea. Her face lit up as she turned to Johnny. “Is your Chicken Pot Pie any good?”
Nice enough not to show her amusement too clearly, Johnny nodded. “It sure is, baby.”
Molly clapped her hands. “Excellent. One of those then.” Now it was her turn to frown. “Mr. I’m-Too-Fancy-For-Comfort-Food Aidan can suck it.”
Cole, unlike Johnny, wasn’t nice. He couldn’t help but let the amusement show, although he tried to pretend his out-and-out smile was directed toward Johnny as she placed his lunch in front of him along with a plate of steak fries he hadn’t asked for but loved intensely as she well knew. Hell, given that it was practically ready before he’d ordered it, he’d bet Johnny had already put the order in by the time he’d gotten to the bar.
He turned back to Molly. “You sure are big on the sucking.” And as long as they were on the subject… “Who’s Aidan?”
Rolling her eyes, Molly leaned towards him and grabbed a fry off his plate. “Aidan is the asshole who I moved to Montana for.” The slurring was a little less intense; the asshole in particular was pronounced with exact enunciation. “Excuse me. For whom I moved to Montana.” With a frown, she opened up the ketchup bottle and thoroughly smothered his fries. “Except he decided to celebrate with Annamae Ainsworth instead.” Outraged, her jabbing now involved French fries. “And she was wearing cowboy boots while she rode that wannabe cowboy asshole!”
Probably not the time to point out that ‘wannabe cowboy’ was probably where she should have left it, since, well…
“Not classy. That was my idea!”
“Okay, Molly,” Cole said, removing the fry from her hand and placing a fork in it instead. He pushed his Chicken Pot Pie in her direction. Hers would be up soon enough and he’d just eat that one. “I think it’s time to get some real food in you.”
Although she did sniff a little and brush at her eyes, she didn’t seem overly upset when she sat up straight and primly placed her napkin in her lap. “I’ll tell you what, though. He sucked at sucking, if you know what I mean.” She waved the fork in the air. “Good riddance, Aidan Dickwad. Good riddance to you.”
Then she took a bite of the chicken, closing her eyes as it went down. “Oh, God, that’s good.” She took another bite and then another, licking her lips in the kind of way that made things highly uncomfortable in areas Cole had neglected for a little bit too long. Oblivious to his reaction, she cocked her head and stared at him. “And what’s your name, cowboy?”
Glad Johnny chose that moment to place the second pot pie in front of him—even if she kind of slammed it down on the bar in a warning kind of way—Cole put his own napkin in his lap. “Cole. Cole Haverson.”
“Cole,” Molly repeated. Then she closed her eyes and licked her lips again. “You’re kind of dreamy, you know.” When she opened her eyes again, though, she was glaring. “Too bad you’re a cheater, Daddy.” There went the fork again. “Not cool.”
Nope. It didn’t matter if she remembered or not. He couldn’t let it go by a second time. “I’m not married.”
He shook his head.
Her eyes dropped down to his chest again as she muttered, “Oh, damn. You look like that and you’re a single dad? So not fair.”
What ‘like that’ meant, Cole wasn’t sure, but he sure didn’t mind the moan she made as she shook her head again. When her gaze came back up to meet his, he even thought she might actually make a move that, if she hadn’t been drunk out of her mind and if he did have a little more time, he would have taken her up on without a second thought. It had been awhile and, well, the boys’ scrimmage wasn’t for another hour or so. But she was drunk and he wasn’t an ass. Unlike this Aidan guy, apparently. Plus, he didn’t suck at sucking and if he was going to be with a woman, he much preferred she be sober enough to fully enjoy it.
Thank you for reading! I’d love to hear your thoughts and/or comments! Please feel free to send them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.