I always identify with characters in books that convince themselves they’re doing the right things for the right reasons and tell themselves no one will get hurt. Of course what happens next is the plot of your story.
In my new book, MONTANA ROGUE, my hero, Tucker Montgomery is in a transitional stage of his life, although he thinks this only applies to his career, not his love life, too. My heroine, Amanda Heller, has started the process of breaking free of some weighty, familial bonds to find her own way, but that process is not without challenges–especially in A family like Amanda’s. They tell themselves they can do what they need to do while enjoying a short summer fling–something Tucker calls “roommates with benefits.” They’re grown-ups. Who could possibly get hurt?
Of course, once their hearts become engaged, everything changes.
Here’s a snippet from their “Black Moment”:
Watching her grandmother break down in court–her daughter more embarrassed by her mother’s tears than sympathetic–had crystalized a shell over Amanda’s heart. Screw love. Screw family. Not that either of those words belonged in the same sentence with the name Heller.
“So, you’re throwing in the towel? Rolling over to your parents’ every demand?”
“You don’t know them, Tucker. You don’t know what my father is capable of. I do. I know when to cut my losses.”
He gestured toward himself. “I’m one of those losses?”
The biggest. Even bigger than Molly.
“Let’s cut to the chase. We made an agreement. You upheld your part of the bargain. The house looks great. It should list for well over what the estate would have gotten if we hadn’t spruced it up. In return for your help, I agreed to handle your PR for your grand opening and design your website.”
He crossed his arms, eyes narrowed as if waiting for the other shoe to fall. “Yeah, and now, you’re leaving with three more days of grand opening activities to go.”
She stepped to the dresser to rest her hip against it. Her feet were throbbing and her calves screamed from standing in the heels she’d grown unaccustomed to wearing. But, as much as she wanted to kick them off and go barefoot, she didn’t dare get out of costume for fear he’d see through her performance.
“As someone wisely pointed out when he tried to talk me into setting up my own business in Montana, I can do nearly every bit of the follow-up from anywhere in the world. In this case, I will be hands-on in New York, while you and your team make things happen on the ground. I will file a report tracking the online hits, referrals, and visits to your website. Your sales next week should reflect the word-of-mouth generated from Facebook and Twitter. And I’ve already engaged a dozen rollercoaster enthusiasts who have agreed to blog and tweet and share videos in return for a free ticket.”
She tossed up her hands. “The rest is up to you. I’m positive Mountie’s Marvelous Zip Line and Enduro Course will be a huge success.”
He didn’t say anything for a couple of heartbeats.
The pause gave her time to memorize his face. She thought she detected a couple of new worry lines across his brow. She’d seen behind his carefree Cajun boy mask. She knew how much he cared.
“What happens to the cat?”
“I spoke with the director of Molly’s care facility. If you take Peaches there in a carrier, they will help him acclimate to the change. Apparently, they do this all the time.”
“They’ll probably drug him,” Tucker snapped.
“True. But at least my grandmother will have one familiar face around for as long as she has memory to draw upon.”
“And the piano?”
“I told Mother I wanted you to have it because you paid to have it tuned, and she laughed at me.”
Actually, June had spewed a sip of her fifteen-dollar martini. “What will a man who lives in a tent do with a baby grand?”
The memory fueled the anger Amanda been suppressing ever since she walked into the hearing room to find her mother and the newly hired Montana attorney waiting to brief her on the Heller plan. The only satisfaction Amanda had felt all day was the look on her mother’s face when she spotted Austen Zabrinski, the first lawyer Amanda had ever met who knew how to dress. Austen made her mother’s hired hack look like the “podunk guttersnipe” Molly had called him, loud enough for everyone in the family courtroom to hear.
But even someone as savvy and politically connected as Austen couldn’t prevent the inevitable.
Amanda pushed off from her roost and marched to the closet. Her giant suitcase sat right where she left it after her move from the Graff. She flung it on the bed, unzipped it with a quick, angry thrust that broke a nail. She popped her finger in her mouth to nibble down the uneven nail.
Tucker’s body language changed. “Amanda, slow down. Let me help.”
“No, you can’t help. Nobody can.”
“What’s that supposed to mean? You’re not an indentured slave. This is still a free country. Nobody has a gun to your head, right?”
More like an AK47 trained on the people I love.
“You’re wrong. There might not be a gun to my head, but, believe me, you don’t say no to people like my father.” Not without horrible repercussions. “And, as my mother has pointed out numerous times in the past how many hours since she arrived here, I owe them my loyalty.”
Tucker stood with the powerful grace she loved about him and walked to her side. “Amanda, you’re wrong about that. Loyalty is earned, not bought.”
She turned, grabbed the thickest wad of hanging clothes she could embrace, and walked the armload to the open suitcase. “And they say I’m naive,” she muttered. “Grow up, Tucker. This isn’t a game. This is my life. My career. My future. If I don’t get back on the Heller express now, it’ll run over me.” Along with everyone I care most about.
She pivoted, her heels digging into the carpet. “It’s over, Tucker. We had some fun. We both knew this wasn’t long-term. You’re going back to American Male, aren’t you? As soon as the zipping season ends?”
He swallowed. “Yes, but that’s a couple of months off.”
“So, what am I supposed to do in the meantime? Live in a tent on the mountain with you? Do I look like a tent-living mountain girl?”
Say, yes. Please say, yes. She held her breath waiting for his answer.
His gaze started at her shoes and worked upward, slowly. Finally, he searched her face. She wondered if the make-up she’d borrowed from her mother would successfully hide any trace of her tears.
“No,” he said, shaking his head slowly from side-to-side. “You look like the other Amanda. The New York society girl.”
Awww, heck. I hate when that happens.
Luckily, I believe people can learn from their mistakes and love will prevail. That’s why I write–and read–romance novels. I crave my happily-ever-afters. Don’t you?
PS: below are some buy links to MONTANA ROGUE in case you’re interested, and here’s a link to my Tule Publishing blog – It’s a tough job but… — if you’d like see some of the research that went into this book, including a YouTube video of my own zip line experience.