At this time of year I’m as bad as any child. I love the Christmas season. Our tree and lights went up Thanksgiving afternoon so we could turn them on that evening, thanks to my husband. He is the gift I’m most thankful for all year!
Was it at Christmastime or another season that the idea for BE MY GUEST came? I honestly don’t remember, but it was on one of the gazillion trips we made between our home in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex to visit parents in Lubbock in West Texas. Believe me, we traveled that route so often we knew when a rancher or farmer painted his barn or house or got a new truck. We even knew when the mercury vapor light salesman made it through the area.
Let me tell you about BE MY GUEST…
BE MY GUEST is a romance with suspense. Aurora O’Shaughnessy is her way from Houston to buy a gift shop in Colorado. She’s vibrant and outgoing redhead, but a woman in control, a woman with a plan to which she expects to adhere no matter who or what might tempt her from her charted path. Yes, she’s a control freak. No falling head over heels for her! No sireee, she is going to be a successful businesswoman before she lets herself become involved with any man. But fate doesn’t always follow our plans, does it? Not enough that two ruffians almost hijacked her and her car outside Snyder. As she’s driving from the West Texas town of Snyder toward Post in a torrential downpour, her car is washed off the highway. Not to be defeated, she lugs her suitcase, her attache case holding her laptop, and trudges along the raised railway bed toward–she hopes–the town of Post. But then that huge snake frightens her and…
Rancher Will Harrison is a widower with a young daughter, Kelly. Kelly and Will’s other relatives have banded together to get him back in circulation. He isn’t cooperating…not until he meets Aurora in a restaurant in Snyder. He has to admit he’s more than a little attracted and thought she shared the sparks, only to see her shut down and disappear. Too late he realizes that his wedding band misled her and she must have thought him a cheating philanderer. When she reappears that evening, drenched from the storm that’s isolated his ranch, her rescue is hampered by Will’s broken leg. He’s a true hero, though, and successfully saves Aurora from the rushing floodwaters. They’re cut off from the world for 36 hours, long enough for Will to decide to change her mind and keep her in his life forever.
Yes, that’s model Jimmy Thomas of www.romancenovelcovers.com posing as Will Harrison. Actually, Will (in my head) has lighter hair. I took the Texas wildflower photo behind Jimmy one spring. My sweet husband integrated the two photos for the cover.
Here’s an excerpt from 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 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.”
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