Each week I welcome a guest author to share a first meeting excerpt. Today Lauren Linwood brings us her western historical romance, Written in the Cards. Lauren is a former history teacher who sprinkles all kinds of historical tidbits and trivia into historical romances.
SETUP OF SCENE: Ben and Maggie saw each other from a distance in the Abilene stockyards as he brought in a herd of cattle from Texas.
Ben stepped up on the wooden planks that ran along the outside of the saloon and stopped. Standing next to the swinging doors was the copper-haired beauty from earlier. She spoke to a cowboy and then waved him off, sending him into the bar with a laugh.
Without thinking, he rushed over to her. “What on earth are you doing standing in front of a saloon? Do you realize how rough and rowdy –”
“Oh, there you are.” Her hazel eyes twinkled, as she looked at him from head to toe. “My, you certainly clean up well.”
Ben stood dumbfounded at the beautiful stranger assessing him like a buyer would a Longhorn steer.
“I’ve been looking for you everywhere. You’d left the stockyards by the time I headed back your way. I checked the bathhouse, but you hadn’t been there yet. I went to the biggest mercantile, but they said I’d just missed you.”
She shook her head. “I figured sooner or later you’d make your way to this street, so I thought I’d simply wait for you to turn up.”
She smiled at him as if waiting for a strange man in front of a cow-town bar was the most natural thing on earth for a pretty woman to do.
“You are some crazy lady,” he blurted out.
The woman chuckled, deep and throaty. Ben swallowed at the way the sound made him tingle. “You have no idea, sir. My aunt Harriet thinks I went off the rails years ago. But that’s another story. I’m here to hear yours.”
He frowned. “Beg pardon?”
“Oh, I’m making a mess of this, aren’t I? Usually I display better manners.”
She held out a gloved hand to him. “I’m Maggie Rutherford, formerly from New York City. And you just came off the cattle drive. The Chisholm Trail, I presume?”
He nodded, unsure of where their conversation headed.
“Perfect!” she declared. “You are exactly the man I’d like to interview.”
“Interview?” He viewed her with suspicion. “Why me?”
She laid a hand on his sleeve. Electricity crackled between them. She pulled her hand away, a puzzled look on her face.
“I, sir, am a dime novelist. Have you read any Lud Madison books?”
“Yes,” he said, still wondering about the brief contact between them. “Madison’s actually my favorite of the dime novel authors.”
Her hazel eyes sparkled. “You are talking to Lud Madison in the flesh. And whom do I have the pleasure of speaking with?”
Ben sputtered his name. This heavenly creature wrote dime novels?
Maggie smiled, and his heart did a flip-flop. “I see I’ve given you a bit of a start. It’s true, though. I am Lud Madison. I simply write under a pen name because there are those who deem it unlikely that a woman could write such adventurous tales of the West. I not only write my novels, but I illustrate them.” Pride was evident in her voice.
“How can I help you, ma’am?” he asked.
“I’m doing research for my next novel, and I need to talk with someone who’s familiar with cattle drives. You caught my eye, Mr. Morgan. I feel you have a story to tell, and I’d love to incorporate some of it into my next book. I am happy to pay you for your time.”
Ben had no intention of sharing any of his life’s story with Maggie Rutherford, no matter how interesting the fiery redhead seemed.
“I’m sorry, ma’am –”
“Please, call me Maggie.”
“What I mean to say is –”
“You don’t have to tell me, Mr. Morgan. I’ve waylaid you from your mission. You intended to have a drink and unwind after long weeks on the trail. Well, I know with your fancy new clothes and those rather expensive boots, plus the bath and haircut, you probably have very little of your trail pay left.”
She turned and started to push open one of the swinging doors.
He grabbed her elbow, ignoring the heat in the contact. “You can’t go in there! It’s not respectable.”
Maggie’s brows rose. “You need a bottle of whiskey, sir, something you sorely can’t afford at this point. I aim to remedy that situation. We’ll sit. You’ll have your drinks. I’ll ask you some questions about being a cowboy on a cattle drive, and I’ll even pay for a night’s rest at a decent hotel.”
She tugged and pulled away from him, entering the bar full steam ahead.
A bemused Ben followed her inside. Under his breath, he muttered, “The little spitfire sure has gumption.”
END OF EXCERPT
How intriguing to have a writer as the heroine! If you want to visit more with Lauren or find Written in the Cards, try these links.
Lauren and I welcome any questions or comments. Please come back every Saturday for a new first meeting excerpt.