Thanks, Delilah, for the opportunity to come say hi on your blog!
As a native Angeleno, I spend an awful lot of time in my car. The other day as I was driving home late from work, I found myself engaging in unexpected and somewhat inappropriate behavior, especially for someone stuck in L.A. traffic.
I was enjoying myself.
For some reason, the sunset sky was extra beautiful that evening. Pink clouds lashed with deep purple drifted west toward the horizon and the light that shone through my windshield was golden. If there hadn’t been all that traffic, I would’ve been content to speed right past all that beauty without looking up.
Second, a really good song came up on the radio. It was Dierks Bentley’s “Come a Little Closer,” a sexy country song about making amends. Here are some of the lyrics.
Come a little closer, baby
I feel like layin’ you down
On a bed sweet surrender
Where we can work it all out
There, in the middle of rush hour gridlock, I found myself actually smiling. The song reminded me of Cowboy Cocktail, a story I had just finished about two broken-hearted people trying to put themselves back together. Wanda is a busy single mom and Tom, the owner of the local cowboy bar, is her ex-husband’s brother. The attraction they feel is complex, forbidden, and hotter than a blast furnace.
Music is important to me when I write, so for fun, I’ve compiled a short list of sweet, mellow songs that I like to listen to when I’m working on a cowboy romance. Pour yourself a cowboy cocktail—which I’ve been told is whiskey and soda, hold the soda—and turn up the volume. You’ll be smiling in no time, I promise!
- “Come a Little Closer,” Dierks Bentley
- “When You Say Nothing at All,” Keith Whitley
- “A Thousand Miles from Nowhere,” Dwight Yoakam
- “Here Comes the Rain,” The Mavericks
- “Always on My Mind,” Willie Nelson
- “The Grass is Blue,” Dolly Parton
- “Springsteen,” Eric Church
- “Gettin’ You Home,” Chris Young
- “Remember When,” Alan Jackson
- “Neon Moon,” Brooks & Dunn
I’d like to give away an ebook copy of Cowboy Cocktail to a random commenter below. Please answer this question: What music do you listen to when you unwind?
Wanda always assumed that Tom had been sleeping in the back room of the Silver Spur among the empty kegs and stacks of bar towels. As she sat at his table, she looked around in awe. With its wood paneling, recessed lighting, and thick oriental floor rugs, his bachelor pad was downright classy.
“How do you like you eggs?” he called from the kitchen.
Fertilized, she thought. Then she shook her head. That’s Tom, you pervert. Cut it out.
“Scrambled is fine,” she said.
“You sure? I can do all the fancy eggs, no problem.”
“I like ‘em scrambled. Save your fancy eggs for the fancy ladies.”
She stood up and walked around the clean, cozy living room. Tom had thrown his cowboy hat on a sofa of caramel leather. The sofa sat alongside a matching armchair draped with a wool Navajo blanket and lit with a copper reading lamp. A huge wooden shelf filled with books stood behind the chair. There was a brand new flatscreen TV on one wall, which Wanda had expected to see, and a happy, healthy houseplant on the coffee table, which she hadn’t.
Wanda sat back down, deeply impressed. The smell of cooking bacon wafted out of the kitchen and completed the effect: this man had his shit together.
Tom came out of the kitchen and set the plates down in front of her. He went back into the kitchen and brought out silverware, napkins, and two glasses of orange juice. Before he sat down, he poured a little ketchup heart on her eggs with a squeeze bottle.
“There you go,” he said. “Happy Valentine’s Day.”
“Aw,” she said, smiling. “Is this what all your fancy ladies get in the morning?”
He took his seat and waggled his eyebrows at her. “Sure. But they get something else first.”
She swatted him with the back of her hand, then picked up her fork and took a bite, feeling the warmth spread through her body from the inside out. She hadn’t been up past midnight in a long time and having a late-night meal felt oddly like naughtiness. She looked up at Tom, who to her surprise was looking at her.
“What?” she asked, automatically wiping her mouth with a napkin.
“Tell me,” she said.
He leaned forward. She blinked slowly, trying not to ogle the long line of his broad back. “Why do you waste your time with ridiculous men?” he asked.
“You mean like your brother?”
“Yeah. Like Sean.”
“Well,” she said, frowning. “I didn’t know Sean was ridiculous until much, much later.” She cleared her throat, dislodging all the insults she usually kept in reserve for her ex-husband and swallowing them down for now. “But that other guy, today,” she said with a sigh, “I suppose I knew he was ridiculous from the start.”
“Then why waste your time?”
“Beggars can’t be choosers.”
It was Tom’s turn to blink. He shook his head slowly and slid his eyes over her. Suddenly feeling naked, she reached down and tugged the hem of her dress down over her thighs. Her skin tingled warmly against the touch of her own hand. She licked her lips, her mouth suddenly gone dry.
“The hell you say?” Tom said softly. “You’re certifiable. There’s nowhere on this green earth you’d be classified a beggar, woman.”
“So…what am I?” she said. “A chooser? I don’t seem to have chosen this life, Tom.”
“Maybe not. But you’ve risen to it.”
She frowned. “Then I’m a…”
Wanda considered it. “I like that. A riser.”
“Yep,” he said, “and you sure as hell get a rise out of me.”
She froze mid-bite and put her fork down slowly. She looked up at him and didn’t flinch, even though her knees were trembling under the table. It had been a year and a half since she’d slept with Sean. Her body was betraying her, getting fired up over Tom—Tom, whom she’d known forever, her ex-husband’s brother. Tom, who hadn’t touched her or even made a pass at her.
Or had he?
She took a breath and broke eye contact, pushing her chair away from the table. “I’d better go,” she said, standing up. Her brain was mighty proud of itself, but her body was furious, throbbing for contact and release.
Tom was quick. He took her forearm; his grip was warm and firm. She gasped but didn’t pull away.
“Fucking hell,” he whispered, closing his eyes. The pain in his face mirrored the deep ache in her bones. He lifted her hand to his mouth and traced his lips slowly across her palm. With incredible gentleness, he pulled her arm toward him and pressed a warm kiss to the pulse on her wrist, his breath washing over the delicate skin and casting a spell as bottomless and dark as shame.
She stared at him, awestruck. He opened his eyes and seared her with irises the color of a high sierra lake.
“Tell me I’m not crazy, Wanda,” he rasped. “I want you so bad I can’t breathe.”
She was so close to him she could smell the musk of his skin, a combination of aftershave, laundry detergent, and clean sweat that suddenly made her tongue ache to know what he tasted like.
When she pulled her hand out of his grasp, she could almost feel his heart collapse in his chest. His guilt was palpable.
“Jesus Christ,” he murmured. “I’m sorry, Wanda. I didn’t mean to—“
Before he could finish the sentence, and before she could second-guess herself, she stepped into the space between his legs, put her hands on his rigid shoulders, and pressed her lips to his.