Friday, July 24, 2009
Tempted by a Cowboy
Please welcome my friend, Melissa MacNeal. She's written an exciting new novella in TEMPTED BY A COWBOY, which features a scene from the Wyo Rodeo. When I used to live in Wyoming, the Indian Relay Races (I'm not being politically incorrect--That's what the race was called.) were the most wildly exciting part of the Wyo, so I'm jazzed about this story. As usual when I have a guest, my words are in bold, my guest is speaking italics. Take it away, Melissa!
Ok, so you’re sitting alone at the counter at your local diner, drinking a Diet Coke, when the younger, totally hot Native American stranger on the next stool propositions you. Do you:
1) Stare blankly and say, “You wanna what? With me?”
2) Look around frantically to see if anyone you know heard him
3) Say, “Oh, no, I’m not that kind of woman.”
4) Say yes and have the time of your life in a no-tell motel room.
You probably won’t have to guess which option Diana Grant chooses, given that she’s my heroine in an erotic novella, “Long Hard Ride,” but believe me, she was not expecting her day to go that way! She’s just learned that the bank is foreclosing on her ranch, because paying for her late husband’s liver transplant totally drained their accounts. Worse yet, the bank prez is really after her land so he can develop it into resort condos, and his wife has already decided she wants her luxury digs right where Diana’s cozy home now sits. The bulldozers are poised, ready to rip the guts out of the Montana horse ranch she and her husband Garrison have loved for twenty years.
I knew that much shortly after my Aphrodisia editor invited me to write a story for a cowboy anthology (TEMPTED BY A COWBOY, out now!), but then I had to get past the premise and actually concoct a story for this gal! As often happens for me, I sorta set my brain out of gear for the next week or so and the pieces of backstory and research came at me from several different directions! It’s a process that just happens for me, mainly because I’ve come to expect it…and because I now believe it’s how the Universe works for me when I invite it to.
So, I had this premise in my mind, about this beleaguered widow around my age…and I decided I was in the mood for a Native American rodeo rider. Used to live in a rodeo town, so I love the sport and am familiar with its inner workings. And hey, if the fantasy of broad shoulders, cinnamon skin, and long black hair works for me, it works for millions of women, not? Was flipping through my assortment of folders and saw one with a white horse on the front. Ta-DA! Michael White Horse became my hero!
Then I ventured to the RT conference and saw my writer friend, Emily Bryan—yeah, you KNOW her! ; ) We caught each other up on our current projects, and she proceeded to tell me about the Indian Relay at the rodeo in Sheridan, Wyoming. And as she described all these young red-skinned guys riding bareback at breakneck speeds, wearing only loincloths and body paint, I knew I had to include such a scene in this story! Got a few pertinent details from her, as research, and my imagination was off and running!
Day or so after I got home, I mentioned the premise to my old college flame, Jack, with whom I exchange the occasional email. So happens Jack, an accountant, used to do the books for a Native American casino on a nearby reservation in upstate New York, and he couldn’t wait to tell me how totally messed up the accounts were. Seems the guys in charge were more bookies than bookkeepers: they went from running a penny-ante Bingo hall to managing a casino that brought in hundreds of thousands each week. Large sums went unaccounted for—or were spent for questionable causes—and Jack, as a white guy, knew damn well he was not being told everything that should’ve been reported.
So voila! I had Michael’s back story and a family conflict he wasn’t at all comfortable with: he’d quit keeping the books for his tribe’s casino. Went back to riding saddle broncs before he got too old to realize his dream of winning at the ProRodeo championship in California. He’s on his way to his first small-time event when his truck breaks down, in the pouring rain, and he’s waiting for the tow truck in the local greasy spoon when Dejected Diana plops down on the stool beside him.
But it’s not enough to assume the rest of the story happens at that nearby no-tell motel, even if this is erotic romance! To make your characters real—the kind readers worry about--they have to have an issue or two that seems insurmountable.
So happens, my oldest brother had just left his job to go on total disability, in preparation for a liver transplant. As we heard about the preparation process, and the way his anti-rejection drugs would run him $6,000 a month in addition to the expenses of the transplant, I was gobsmacked. Unless you have really good insurance (not part of the package for the very small company where my brother worked, unfortunately) how can you even dream of undergoing an organ transplant? Yet if you’re his forty-something wife, how can you not insist that he sign up for this life-saving procedure?
So Diana’s backstory and present conflicted situation was partially drawn from what I was hearing about a real-life family situation. I’m very thankful my brother is still hanging in there, awaiting a donor match. Diana’s husband underwent his transplant, but didn’t fare so well. And after he passed on, his expenses did not: not only is Diana a worn-out widow from being a caretaker, she’s about to lose her home, too.
And Michael, bless him, is a sucker for a damsel in distress. Even if she’s a forty-something damsel with red-rimmed eyes who wears careworn clothes and has a crass bank president posting auction signs on her property.
I did a little online research to figure out Michael’s rodeo circuit route, and to place Seven Creeks ranch in Wolf Point, Montana (where there just happens to be a Native American casino), and from there, my story wrote itself.
Well, practically! I got by with a little help from my friends Emily and Jack, tossed in some real-life financial crises, and when the pieces fell nicely into place I entitled it “Long, Hard Ride.” Seems Michael and Diana play that title from a lot of angles, and I hope you’ll enjoy their story!
Thanks for coming along for this ride! (And gee, if a total stranger in a roadside diner ever propositions you, may your ride be as wild and exciting as this one turned out to be!) As my prize for those who have read this entire post, I’m giving away two signed copies of TEMPTED BY A COWBOY: leave a comment about how YOU would respond to those opening questions, and we’ll pick our winners!
Thanks, Melissa! Did you hear that? Leave a comment after this excerpt from TEMPTED BY A COWBOY and two of you will win a cowboy of your own!
Diana gasped at the spectacle playing out before her. Ebony-haired and bare-chested, the Native American riders leaned into the first turn with a ferocity that drove her to the edge of her seat. It was a rush of glistening dark skin and pounding ponies’ hooves. War whoops rang out as the riders’ feathers and hair flew in the wind. She marveled at the men’s dexterity as the pack thundered around the final turn of the first lap, coming toward her...the proud, lean bodies and intense expressions defined by high cheekbones, sharp noses and raven hair. They made a formidable sight with their team symbols painted on their chests and feathers that matched those entwined in their mounts’ manes.
She raised the binoculars. Michael looked so damn good: confident and competitive as he maintained his place near the front of the group. Her palms itched to cover the shiny red hand prints on his chest, and to feel the thunder of his heartbeat. His bare thighs bunched as he urged his horse toward the first exchange. She longed for the next time his determined squint would be focused on her with such intensity...
What does it feel like to be racing a horse with your privates pressed against its spine? The wicked whisper in her head made Diana squirm. While the contestants varied in height and body structure, there wasn’t a one she’d kick out of bed.
And what an awesome sight as the riders finished their first lap! Each man vaulted from his galloping pony onto the next mount that awaited him, prancing and tossing its head. With a slap and a cry, the hostlers urged them on while other wranglers recovered the spent horses: the handlers’ shirts matched their riders’ paint, so it was easy to distinguish the various teams. And it was a miracle no one got trampled during this complicated, colorful, exhilarating exchange.
Michael was a study in male grace as he urged his second mount into a tight gallop. Diana followed his progress through this lap and the next with the binoculars. When he vaulted midstride onto his final horse, she shot up from her seat.
With a wild cry that sounded suspiciously like her name, Michael shot forward. The frenzied audience cheered, yet all she saw was Michael White Horse riding low and sleek and fast, a raven-haired warrior astride a black. Only the contrast in their coloring distinguished horse from rider as they rounded the first turn. His loin cloth flapped and the pony’s haunches bunched as they galloped low into the next turn. Unbound manes and red feathers flapped in the wind. Her heart was beating so hard she couldn’t breathe. Diana could only gaze in wonder at this primal display of man and animal pitted against time and distance. It was all about testosterone and sweat and adrenaline. And it was the sexiest thing she’d ever seen.
As a fierce whoop rang out above the others, Michael shot forward from the pack as though his life depended on winning. God, he looked glorious! How did he hang on without a saddle? How did he control his mount with only that rope? She was a pretty fair rider herself, but never had Diana witnessed such formidable power--such oneness between horse and rider. Gripping the binoculars, she panted, “Go, Michael! Go, Michael! Bring it on home!”
As he shot across the finish line, the crowd erupted in whoops and applause. With tears streaming down her cheeks, Diana joined in until her throat went raw and her hands hurt.
“And the winner is--Michael White Horse!” the announcer proclaimed as the rest of the contestants galloped past. “Ladies and gentlemen, let’s hear it for this fine rider from northern Montana!”
It was a moment like she’d never known, watching Michael leap from his mount to dance in a triumphant circle with his face uplifted and his hands held high. It gave her a pretty fine shot of his thighs in that skimpy loincloth, too. And when Michael’s eyes found hers, they branded her with his potent fire, as though he’d left a smoldering hand print across her heart to match the one on his own. She held her breath, oblivious to the spectators around her.
“Hey, lady, you want to move it already?”
Diana flushed at the stares of the people in her row. She made her way down the grandstand steps, engulfed by the chattering sea of people, her heart still hammering to the beat of those ponies’ hooves. Michael had told her to meet him at the truck, and as she gazed out over the vast field full of vehicles, she tried to recall which row it was in. The rest of the week was theirs to enjoy as they headed to San Bernardino, California, and she had no trouble imagining how they’d spend most of it.
An arm hooked around her shoulder and she gasped. Up close, red war paint and feathers looked truly startling. Michael laughed, swallowing her surprise in a fierce, ravenous kiss.
“Let’s take a shortcut to the truck,” he murmured against her ear. “Time for the real games to begin, angel.”
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Thanks for sharing, Melissa. Don't forget everyone! Leave a comment for two chances to win a Cowboy of your own!