My first published novel happened in 1997, twenty years ago this fall. The title of the book was The Wild West and was published under my legal name at the time, Kim Whalen. When “the call” came from editor Hilary Sares at Kensington, I was, of course, ecstatic. That book, now titled Rawhide & Roses, has seen a makeover or two in these past 20 years and has been translated into German by Amazon Crossing.
Rawhide & Roses
She’s roses… Playing good sport to appease her best friend was one thing, but sophisticated Kim Martin was hardly equipped for a Colorado camping trip. Especially when their mountain guide was a rough-edged cowboy who was as untamed as the wilderness. His outdoors style might jump-start some women but a strictly indoors woman like Kim found him—almost resistible.
He’s rawhide… Thad Winchester’s patience for city women was wearing as thin as the seat of his jeans. But there was something about Kim that was putting his hard-and-fast don’t-touch rule to the test. The plucky blonde was just the woman to share his Flying W. Ranch. All Thad had to do was bring out the wildflower in the refined beauty, and convince her that he was her man. Bar nothing.
Over the years, I’ve had numerous email notes from readers asking “Where is Mack & Jillie’s book?” Mack and Jillie were secondary characters in Rawhide & Roses who had a love story of their own, but not the happily-ever-after everyone expected, or wanted. I’m happy to say that after several starts and fits (a computer malfunction lost the half-finished manuscript years ago) Mack & Jillie is slated for release in September 2017. I hope you’ll look it up!
You can find Rawhide & Roses at all retailers using this buy link.
Here’s a sneak peek at the opening to Mack and Jillie’s story–their break-up that you didn’t see in Rawhide & Roses.
“I don’t understand.”
Behind her, Jillie Abernathy heard the early morning rustlings of the camp. Horses nickered. Utensils banged against pots and pans in the makeshift kitchen. The low voices of the wranglers peppered the early morning as they prepared for their last day of the pack trip, along with the muffled sounds of tents collapsing and guests chattering while helping pack the mules. Wind whistling through a stand of Colorado mountain pines provided a steady backdrop to the conversation she’d been having with Mack Montgomery.
This had been her life for the past two weeks. Now it was over.
All of it. Over.
She looked hard at the tall, lean cowboy standing in front of her. He’d been a dream. Fulfilled her every cowboy fantasy. And she’d had him for two weeks. Since Mack wasn’t responding, she repeated, “Mack. I don’t understand.”
It was a statement, but it was really a question. The question mark trailed off in her brain, even though she tried to sound firm and matter-of-fact.
Inside she was dying.
This isn’t happening.
Mack searched her face. She watched his gaze flick back and forth unsteadily over her features and land on her eyes, as if he really didn’t want to stare—yet couldn’t drag his gaze away.
“I know you don’t, Jillie, but let’s face it. These past two weeks were great. Real great. Lots of fun. Now it’s time to move on. You have to get back to Kentucky, and I have to get back to work.”
Lots of fun. Shit.
She tilted her chin. “I know that.”
“So you understand.”
In disbelief, she shook her head. “Not really. I don’t understand it at all, Mack.” What does he think I am? Some silly schoolgirl who thinks we are going to ride off into the sunset on those big pack horses behind us and live happily ever after in the mountains?
Well, that thought had crossed her mind. Hadn’t it?
“I guess you are going to have to explain it to me,” she said. If he thought she was going to make this easy for him, he had another think coming.
He glared. “You get that we can’t have a relationship, right? The distance and all, and well….”
“There are these things called phones, Mack. And email. And texting. Even damn snail mail letters if you prefer. And guess what? Airplanes. And cars. There are ways to do a long distance relationship.”
The staring again. “Of course. If one wants to go that route.”
Jillie couldn’t believe what she was hearing. “So, the bottom line is you don’t want to go that route.”
He nodded. “That’s right. I don’t.”
“What are you really saying, Mack?”
“I’m saying that it ends here. I’m not the kind to get attached, Jillie. I don’t want to be joined at the hip with any woman.”
She laughed. “Just say it. You’re not the marrying kind.” She paused. Hell, she’d said the M word. Then she added for good measure. “Mack, I’m not trying to snag you into marrying me.”
Not yet, anyway. She mentally slapped herself for thinking that.
His face turned stoic. Obviously, he didn’t think that was funny. “No. I’m not.”
“You’re just the screwing kind then?”
He narrowed his gaze. “It wasn’t like that and you know it.”
“Then how was it? It sure meant more to me than a casual vacation fling.”
“But that’s just what it was, Jillie. And it ends now.”
“And when did you decide this? Before or after we had wild monkey sex last night? Or did you know this all along?” Suddenly, she was nauseous. Hell, the last thing she wanted to do right now was puke.
“Don’t go there, Jillie.”
Nausea hit her stomach like a cannonball. Crap. “Then this is it.”
He glared hard into her eyes, and then dropped his gaze to his boots. Shuffled his feet. Glanced to his right. Then back to her face. “Yes. This is it.”
Every bit of air pushed out of her lungs. Now she was light-headed. “Like, good-bye? We’ll never see each other again? Vamoose? Have a great life?”
He nodded. “If you want to put it that way, yes.”
She didn’t want to put it that way.
“Why?” The word squeaked out smaller and weaker than she would have liked. She felt like yelling at him. Wanted to yell at him. All sorts of words flew around inside her head. Words like liar, and bastard, and lying bastard sonofabitch. But only one little word fell off her lips. Why?
“I told you why. It’s for the best. For you. For me. Look, just head back home to Kentucky and I’ll bet you’ll find someone new to be with before football season starts.”
Jillie scowled. She could feel her face screw up into a ball, and imagined the result wasn’t very pretty. “I don’t want someone else and I don’t even like football.”
“Just a metaphor. Or whatever,” he said. “Hey, we had a great time though, didn’t we?”
A great time. She fought the sting of tears. “Just peachy.”
Jillie crossed her arms, stepped back, and looked over the cowboy she’d spent the past two weeks with, cuddled up in his sleeping bag every night. Riding beside him over the mountains. Working alongside him when they made camp. And yeah, the sleeping bag part….
“Just what I was after, to be somebody’s great time,” she muttered. What a fool I have been. Then she said louder, “I thought we had something special. Different.”
He shifted again, and gazed off behind her shoulder.
She added, “You told me you loved me.”
He closed his eyes briefly. Mack stepped back a few steps and shoved his hands into his pockets. “Jillie, look. You’re a great woman. It’s easy to get caught up in things here in the mountains, away from home. I know you have this thing for cowboys but you know how it is—you’ll go back home, reminisce about how you got your fantasy lover, and I’ll be old news before the week is out. You’ll be on to some other fantasy, some other guy.
His words wounded her to pit of her gut. Some other fantasy? “What in the world do you think I am? I’m appalled you would think such a thing of me!” Her stomach hurt and she rubbed it. She hoped she wouldn’t throw up right here at his feet.
He shifted. “Face it, Jillie. I was on your bucket list, right? It happens all the time with girls from back east. They want to fuck a cowboy so they can go back and brag to their girlfriends.”
“Oh my God!” She bristled and squared her shoulders, then rushed toward him to stab a forefinger into his chest. “I did not! I never thought such a thing at all!”
Laughing and standing firm, he countered, “Oh sure. I heard you and Kim talking. Cowboy lust, right? You were telling her you had it. You were aching to have a cowboy. Well, you had one. Now it is over. Besides, you live in Kentucky. I live in Colorado….”
“You are an ass.”
“Yeah, I am.”
“You weren’t like this a week ago. You were a gentleman. You said and did the right things. You were happy to be with me—you even told me you loved me—and now you are telling me you think all I wanted was a cowboy conquest? What the hell, Mack? You know me better than that!”
“Like I said, I’m an ass.”
She whirled and took a few steps away, then turned back to glare at him. “Yes, you are. And you are still avoiding my question. Twice now.”
“I didn’t hear a question.”
She cocked her head and crossed her arms. “True. It wasn’t a question, it was a statement. You told me you loved me. So that was a lie?”
He retreated a step.
“Look. It’s the last day of the trip,” he said. “I’ll be busy and won’t be able to talk to you when we get back to the ranch, so…”
“So this is goodbye.” Jillie jerked her chin up again. How many times am I going to make him freaking say it?
His lips thinned out and finally, his gaze stopped shifting. “Yes. Goodbye, Jillie. Safe travels home.” He turned and began walking toward his horse.
“Go screw yourself. You lying bastard.”
Mack pulled up short, paused, and then walked on. Jillie watched him move further away, a lump in her throat the size of Durango. Why was this happening?
He didn’t look back. And she promised herself she wouldn’t either.
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