by Caroline Clemmons
Copyright © 2012 Caroline Clemmons
Jacquie invited me to tell you how I came up with the story idea for one of my books. I write books set in Texas, usually with a rancher as the hero. Since I live in North Central Texas amid cutting horse and cattle ranches and I see cowboys on a daily basis, writing books set in the west appeals to my sense of history as well as my location.
On a trip home to the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex from a visit in our hometown of Lubbock in West Texas, we were in a hard downpour as we drove from Post toward Snyder. I remembered a high school teacher’s story of seeing a watertight Volkswagon swept off the road up onto the high railroad bed. My teacher’s old leaky Renault was safe, so he could help the flood victims.
Every event sends an author’s mind playing “what if” for story ideas. That day, instead of worrying about our car being swept away (my husband is an excellent driver and we were in a heavy car), I started playing around with the flood and what if a woman were swept away and had to walk toward safety on the rails and what if a rancher saw her...You can see how this story emerged to become Be My Guest.
I love the topography just below the Caprock area. My favorite is around Benjamin and Guthrie with the red clay ravines and the 6666 Ranch. But I also love the land between Snyder and Post where the Caprock is visible and the highway passes over little creeks and a fork of the Brazos River.
Since I have trouble controlling my weight (or trying to), I wanted a heroine who could eat all she wanted without gaining. Not all fiction, because my mom could and my brother can. Unfortunately, my body is like my mother’s sister, who battled weight all her adult life. Sigh. I also always wished I had looked like a young Maureen O’Hara with thick auburn hair. My grandmother and uncle had red hair, but I started blonde which turned mousy brown and is now...ahem...enhanced by lovely blonde highlights. ;-) You see how I created my heroine, Aurora O’Shaughnessy.
The hero, Will Harrison, is a rancher. Easy peasy. I know a lot of ranchers and an image popped into my head. But I needed to make helping Aurora more difficult, so I broke his leg. No, not me personally, but I created a fall which left him with his leg in a full cast. And what is it about a cast? You can’t get it wet! Yet he had to get Aurora out of the floodwater and to safety. We have to be so nice in real life, that I have fun being mean to my characters. Writing is cheaper than therapy. Probably.
Here’s a blurb for Be My Guest:
|Caroline Clemmons, author|
Aurora Kathleen O’Shaunessy comes by her flaming auburn hair naturally, and this independent city woman has an inner fire to match. Nothing stops Aurora--that is, nothing short of a Texas flash flood. This super-organized businesswoman might be running from the past, but she’s using this journey to stop and smell the roses--rather the spring flowers in bloom across the Texas prairie. A brush with two rough men doesn’t faze her. But a handsome rancher with a precocious daughter makes her rethink her plans.
Rancher Will Harrison rescues her from the raging waters and she’s his guest for the next thirty-six hours. That’s long enough for Will to fall head over heels in major attraction, and he has a hunch she might feel the same. He has a plan to keep her around until he convinces her to move out of the fast land and in to his life forever. He plans to ask her to marry him at his birthday celebration. First, he has to save her from two rough kidnappers who have other plans for Aurora.
An excerpt of Be My Guest:
The clock on the dashboard displayed one o'clock when Aurora found herself free to concentrate on lunch in Snyder. Clouds gathered and rumbled with thunder over the West Texas town. Aurora's empty stomach rumbled with them. After a hazardous morning, fatigue overshadowed her usually cheerful nature. She passed by the fast food places before she spotted the family restaurant recommended to her by the Texas State Trooper a few minutes ago.
Cars and trucks filled the parking lot. What a lucky break, she thought, when she spotted illuminated taillights and a car backed out of the prime parking slot at the entrance. Aurora saw the lone man in the dusty red pickup truck facing her, waiting for the space. He sat in the very same type and color truck used by two ruffians who had terrorized her earlier in the morning. Although she knew this man could not be one of those two men, an unreasonable anger bubbled up in her directed toward all cowboys, especially those in red trucks.
Her normally pleasant nature turned aggressive and she zipped the Mustang into the vacated park before the less maneuverable truck could occupy the space. The man honked the truck horn at her as she got out of her car. She just smiled and blew him a saucy kiss as she hurried into the restaurant. After all, any real gentleman would have let a lady have the only space in the first place, she told her nagging conscience.
Her conscience would not be quieted so easily. She must be in shock from her morning encounter. Never had she acted so rudely. Regretting her impetuous actions already, she thanked goodness the exchange occurred with a stranger and not someone she might meet again.
Seated in the corner booth, Aurora ordered a hamburger, French fries, and a large Dr Pepper. While she waited for her food, she reviewed the items listed under the town of Snyder in her Texas guidebook. Suddenly, she sensed someone standing beside her booth. As she looked up--and up--a huge cowboy with most of his left leg in a cast leaned his crutches against the side of the booth. He slid onto the seat beside her, which pinned her in the booth with him.
Aurora scooted to the right as far as possible. "Hey, who do you think you are? This is my booth, and no one invited you to share it with me!"
"Your car's sitting in my parking space, so I'll sit in your booth," he said calmly as he removed his Stetson and ran his fingers through sandy brown hair. He turned in his seat to hang the hat on the hook at the end of the booth by his crutches.
Aurora blushed when she realized this must be the man whose parking space she mischievously stole. Oh no, how terrible. He must have had to park a long way from the door and hobble in on those crutches. How embarrassing. The one time in her life she acted rudely, her victim turned out to be a man handicapped by a leg cast and crutches. Still, he had his nerve sitting beside her without so much as a "may I."
Her chin came up defensively. "Okay, I apologize. If you used one of those disability placards on your rear view mirror, people would know you have a problem."
"Lady, my problem is that you stole my parking space," Will Harrison said coolly. He lifted his left leg so that the cast-encased foot rested on the seat facing them, then swiveled to gaze at her.
Aurora smelled the cowboy's after-shave mixed with the clean scent of his breath when he turned his face toward her. His stone gray eyes met hers. She saw anger drain from his eyes, replaced by stunned amazement. He leaned toward her.
Her awakened senses rocketed into response. Each thread on the sleeve of his blue chambray shirt seared where it touched her arm. For a moment Aurora had the astonishing thought that this cowboy might lean further forward and kiss her right here in public. Equally astonishing, but fleeting, came the thought that she wouldn't mind a kiss from this man. Her tongue flicked across her lips and she gave herself a mental shake, unable to turn away from his mesmerizing gaze.
What can you be thinking? You have absolutely no business falling for some good-looking cowboy out here in the middle of nowhere. Get a grip on yourself.
Her heart quelled the voice of reason within her mind. Aurora’s her stomach somersaulted from butterflies to flip-flops as she stared into the cowboy's wide gray eyes. She broke his gaze and peered at her folded hands a second before she threw them up in capitulation.
"Okay, Okay. I just don't know what came over me. I know you saw the parking space first, but I'm on Bubba-overload. Look, it's a long story, but it's been a real killer morning. Once again, I apologize and plead temporary insanity" She placed her hands palms down on the table.
His gaze raked over her, and one eyebrow elevated. "Well, well. I'm almost convinced there's remorse here. Almost--but not quite. Would you like to explain to me what 'Bubba-overload' is and what it has to do with me?"
"Listen, I apologized. Let's just drop it. Okay?" Surprised at the petulant tone in her voice, she adjusted the dark green scarf that held the hair back from her face
The man peered at her steadily, his voice polite but firm when he spoke. "No, ma'am, we can't drop it. I think I deserve an explanation after that 'Bubba' line. It sounded very much like an insult to me."
This man obviously had his hackles up and wanted a full explanation. After her morning's adventures, she found herself impatient with this cowboy, even though her mind recognized his request sounded reasonable. Finally, Aurora swiveled at her waist to face him as much as the limited space allowed. "Oh, well, if you insist. You wore that western hat and were in a pickup truck. At a glance, you looked like the typical red-necked Bubba. All you lacked was a big wad of tobacco bulging in your cheek."
She raised her hand and shook a finger at the man as if he were a delinquent school boy. "Listen, I've had my fill, and then some, with you guys. You follow me, whistle at me, lean out a truck window to sing to me, shout, or wave to me. I even receive various very rude gestures and get mooned. Believe it or not, I do nothing either to initiate or encourage any of this behavior."
A skeptical smile appeared and he raised his eyebrows. A flush of color heated her face at the memory of her behavior in the parking lot. She held up one hand to stop any comment he might make before she continued.
"Oh, I know, I acted brashly with you outside just now. Let me assure you, that's entirely unlike me. In fact, it's truly a first. I've never, ever done anything like that before."
She shook her head in wonder. "I don't know what came over me. As I said, it must have been temporary insanity due to Bubba-overload."
She pinched the fabric on the leg of the neatly creased blue denim jeans she wore. "Look at me. My jeans aren't skin-tight. They’re not painted on me." With a tug at the hem of her hunter-green knit top, she added, "My shirt isn't too tight, it has three-quarter sleeves, and the neck isn't low or revealing."
Aurora moved her knees and elevated a foot to display canvas shoes. "I'm wearing my little Keds, not flashy pumps with stiletto heels. All in all, I think I'm dressed very sedately and not at all in a provocative way."
The cowboy slid his glance slowly up and down her then back to her face before he smiled a slow, lazy smile that lit up his eyes and brought a dimple to his cheek. He reached over to grasp her untouched water glass and took a drink from it, his eyes returning to her face as he sipped the icy water.
Her own mouth opened as she watched his mouth against the rim of the glass. The tip of her pink tongue slid against her upper lip as the water slid into his mouth. She could almost feel his lips as they received the liquid. To hide the rising turbulence in the pit of her stomach, Aurora glared at him. In vain she tried to avoid thoughts of his stare or the dimple that appeared with his smile.
She forced herself to concentrate on her defense. "Um, I just drive along in my little blue Ford Mustang, enjoying the scenery and minding my own business. I do nothing to call attention to myself. I even try to be a good sport about the immature behavior some guys display."
She took a deep breath. "I try to take it all in stride and just keep on schedule but"--Aurora slammed her hands against the top of the table--"this morning, two very frightening Bubbas tried to run me off the highway and hijack me or my car."
His eyes widened and his mouth gaped, but she continued, "I'm only here because a State Trooper happened by in time to interrupt my abduction. Frankly, that scared the life out of me. The longer I thought about it, though, the angrier I became. By the time I got to this restaurant, I had completely lost my cool."
Aurora took a deep breath and gazed at her hands. She recalled the fright that consumed her when she realized the two men followed her. Only quick thinking on her part prevented the two ruffians from succeeding at their attempt to run her off the road and get her out of her car. She shuddered to think what might have happened if not for the State Trooper. And never, never would she forget the faces of those two men!
She waved her hands in a fluttery motion. "When I saw you in a truck the same color as the one that ran me off the road...well...I guess I just went bananas, berserk, crazy. That's why I'm pleading temporary insanity." Aurora leaned back and crossed her arms in front of her.
At this moment the waitress appeared with their food. Aurora stared in amazement as the waitress set the burger, fries and Dr Pepper in front of her and a duplicate of the order in front of the man beside her.
The waitress flashed what she probably thought of as her most seductive smile at the man. In a low, honeyed voice, she asked, "Anything else today, Will?"
He seemed unaware of the invitation in her voice or the hopeful sparkle in her eyes. "Not right now, Norma Sue, thanks. Go ahead and leave the check now and save yourself time."
When the disappointed waitress left, Aurora appraised Will. How could he fail to notice the waitress’ blatant invitation? Had he any idea how attractive he was? Hold on, this guy might be too good to be true.
Aurora gazed over he shoulder at the departing waitress. "How on earth did she know what to bring you? When did you give her your order?"
"When I came in." He leaned across her to get the salt and pepper. Will paused to flash her a truly breathtaking smile and the bottom fell out of her stomach again. "I also told her you would pick up the check.”
♥ ♥ ♥
If this story tempts you, I’m happy to share that it’s only 99¢! What a deal, right? Here are the buy links: Amazon ~ Smashwords
Thanks to Jacquie for letting me guest on Romancing the West. Thanks to you, readers, for stopping by.
Caroline Clemmons writes romance and adventures—although her earliest made up adventures featured her saving the West with Roy Rogers. Her career has included stay-at-home mom (her favorite job), newspaper reporter and featured columnist, assistant to the managing editor of a psychology journal, and bookkeeper. She and her husband live in rural North Central Texas with a menagerie of rescued pets. When she’s not writing, she enjoys spending time with family, reading, travel, browsing antique malls and estate sales, and genealogy/family history.