The Best-Laid Plans…result in a plot

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?

Magic Mike meme

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.

       “Bullshit.”

        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?

Happy reading!

Deb

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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.

iBooks

KOBO

Amazon

Get your zip on!

My company has arrived and we are off on our Gold Rush country adventure today. One of our first stops is at Moaning Caverns in Calaveras County where some of us will be zipping.

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Show of hands. How many of you have done a Zip Line? Did it look anything like this one?

I’ve zipped twice and I found the experience thrilling and a major attitude adjustment. Embracing your fear to look at the world in a new way is very liberating.

The hero of my upcoming release MONTANA ROGUE is building a zip line near Marietta, Montana. He’s the rogue.

MontanaRogue-MEDIUM

I can’t wait for you to meet Tucker Montgomery, definitely one of the most…umm…unique characters I’ve ever had the pleasure of writing. A Hot Shot firefighter, along with his two best buddies, Flynn Bensen (MONTANA HERO) and Justin Oberman (MONTANA REBEL), Tucker’s off-season job is a dancer/performer with American Male, Inc.–a Magic Mike sort of burlesque show.

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Tucker loves his life, but the physical demands of both jobs have taken a toll, so he’s looking ahead, and Montana called to him. He’s invested everything he’s got–and then some–to build Mountie’s Marvelous Montana Zip Line and Enduro Course.

Here’s a sneak peek from the zip he makes with his summer “roomate-with-benefits,” Amanda Heller:

The morning air couldn’t have been more perfect, Tucker thought the next day. Cool with a hint of the heat to come.

July, he’d been told, was a favorite month for sporting enthusiasts. From online conversations he’d had with other zip line owners around the country, the weather could make you or break you in this business. One place in California kept rain gear on hand for the winter months. Tucker would have to stock up for the spring, but he planned to close the gate and hit the dance circuit at the end of September. Or mid-October at the very latest.

At least, that was the plan. Justin had other ideas.

“Cross-country skiing, man,” Justin said, as he helped Amanda into her harness.

“I’ve heard snowshoeing is popular, too,” Amanda added.

“Great. Who’s going to build the lodge? Cold-weather sports need a place to warm up. The tent won’t work,” Tucker said, stepping into his harness. He pulled it up snug and leaned over to work his shoulders through the top straps like a pair of suspenders.

Glancing to his right, he saw Justin apply the locking carabiner to the two attachment loops at Amanda’s chest. “Get out of the way. Let me do that.”

Justin rolled his eyes. “Picky.”

“Letch.”

Amanda snickered, obviously beginning to loosen up. She’d offered a slew of excuses to avoid testing out the zip line this morning, but Tucker remained adamant that she needed to experience the thrill in order to sell the thrill.

Mountie’s Marvelous Montana Zip Line was set to open in twenty-four hours. Most of that time would be devoted to zipping the guides so they could get down every safety measure, but the business side of things was equally important.

That’s where Amanda came in. His website looked great and seemed to be running smoothly. Since Ryker Bensen was still on his honeymoon, Amanda had hired Ryker’s photographer friend to take still shots to plaster around the Internet. And she had a professional videographer lined up to film testimonials from guests as soon as the lines were operational.

“Did I tell you Mountie’s Marvelous website already has had more than a 100K visits and zips are being booked at a phenomenal rate considering we don’t have any reviews posted yet?”

“Yes, you did,” Amanda said. “Did I tell you Bailey Zabrinski and Kat Robinson are bringing a carload of kids to test it out–and talk it up–this afternoon?”

“Cool.”

But the morning belonged to Tucker and Amanda.

“Sit into the harness and lift up your feet so I can make sure it’s snug enough,” he told her.

He made a couple of adjustments, his fingers lingering on the sun-kissed skin of her upper thighs. “How’s that feel?”

“Perfect.”

He noticed Justin watching so he quickly made the same adjustments to his own harness. “I haven’t done this since Mexico. Fell completely in love with the idea of affordable cheap thrills.”

“Isn’t that redundant?” Justin asked.

“You’re redundant.”

Amanda stepped between them. “Welcome to Testosterone City,” she said with a laugh. “Are we going to do this or not? My mother is coming, remember?”

She’d broken the news that morning.

“My mother is making an unplanned site inspection,” she’d told him, with such a flat, dispassionate tone she had to have practiced the delivery. “She also plans to attend Molly’s competency hearing.”

Tucker wasn’t completely surprised, since June’s lawyers were the ones who’d initiated the petition to have Molly declared incompetent.

“Are we ready?” Justin asked, taking charge of the zip. “You’re going to make a lateral practice run first. Nice and easy.” He looked at Tucker. “Do you want to go first?”

“You bet.”

“Wait,” Amanda said, her hand settling with familiarity and a certain amount of concern on his bare forearm. “Are you sure your doctor cleared this?”

“Yep,” Tucker fibbed. He hadn’t asked his ortho doc specifically if it was safe to zip, but the man had given him the okay to resume normal activities. Jumping around was normal for Tucker. He’d wrapped his ankle just in case and he’d chosen to wear hiking boots that laced to the mid-shin. The boots had protected his ankles through some of the most difficult terrain on the planet. A little zip was not going to be a problem.

As per protocol, one of their newly trained guides, a college girl named Kelly, went through the step-by-step safety instructions. “Feet extended, sit back in the harness and let gravity do its job. Squeeze to brake with a four-to-six-foot lead. Ease to a stop.”

He caught most of her words, even though his gaze remained on Amanda, who appeared to be having a serious conversation with Justin. What are they talking about? Me? The business? The grand opening? The possibilities were endless, and he had no reason to be jealous. Absolutely zero.

So, why was he?

He recognized the emotion, even though he went out of his way to avoid feeling enough of an attachment to anyone or anything to ever be jealous.

“Are we good?” Kelly asked.

“Yes.” He regretted his testy tone when she frowned and looked a little hurt. Hurting the feelings of cute girls was so not his style, but he was too preoccupied at the moment to care. He turned toward his destination pole, pushed off and picked up his feet.

Did his ankle twinge a tiny bit? Maybe, but nothing to worry about. This was a piece of cake.

Except for the fact he completely misjudged his braking distance and wound up dangling like a dufus fifteen feet from the landing pole. Justin’s bark of laughter carried across the pure mountain air. Proof, of course, that Tucker’s focus was shot.

With a little help from the guide who had been braced to prevent his collision with the padded pole, Tucker managed to make it to the platform. His guide disconnected the line and directed him to a safe spot to watch the next zipper. Amanda. Considerably lighter–and with a great deal more grace–she zipped right to the platform, braking like a pro.

Tucker barely noticed. All he could see was the light of joy in her face, the unguarded pleasure in her eyes and the smile that lassoed his heart and squeezed the air out of his lungs.

Oh, good God, he thought. It’s finally happened. I’m in freakin’ love.

Next week, I’ll share some more pics from our travels. In the meantime, have a great weekend!

Deb