Monday, June 05, 2017

Win an Advance Copy of Tougher in Texas!


It's Almost Rodeo Time!


55 days until the release of the next book in my Texas Rodeo series, Tougher in Texas! It sounds like a long time but if your summer plans are anything like mine, it'll be the first of August before we know it.


Like the first two books Tougher centers around a fictional family of rodeo stock contractors, Jacobs Livestock. Well, sort of fictional. I grew up going to Montana rodeos produced by the very real Jacobs Rodeo company, and the name in the book is an intentional salute to a lot of great memories. Last weekend we went to what has been one of the first rodeos of the summer season for at least half of the years of my life, and I was able to catch a behind the scenes video that is an almost perfect replay of the opening of Tougher.

Almost perfect because the real crew does it flawlessly--but flawless doesn't make for a good story, so...

Here's the video, and the opening scene. Meet Cole Jacobs. And if you click on the link in the right tool bar and subscribe to my newsletter by Sunday, June 11th at midnight PDT, I'll toss your name in the hat for one of two signed Advanced Reader Copies of Tougher in Texas.




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Chapter One


All of Cole’s problems would be solved if he just found a wife.

The thought popped into his head at the exact instant that a ton of bovine suddenly bellowed and kicked, slamming into the steel gate Cole was holding and knocking him flat on his ass. If Cole hadn’t stood six foot six, he probably would’ve lost some teeth. The gate caught him in the chest instead, and sent him sprawling in the dirt. His red heeler, Katie, barked once and launched herself at the bull to protect him, but Carrot Top just trotted off down the alley, more interested in checking the empty pens for leftover hay.

Cole scrambled to his feet and snarled as his gaze zeroed in on the bright-yellow cattle prod in the hand of one of the men who rushed to his aid. “What the fuck are you doing with that thing?”

The cowboy took a hasty step back, then another when Cole stalked toward him. “Just hurryin’ things along.”

“My stock moves just fine without a hotshot.” Cole made sure of it, training them from birth to handle easily.

The rodeo season was a cross-country marathon of long miles and strange places. Less stress equaled better performance, and even though the low-current buzz of the cattle prod was more startling than painful, Cole wanted his stock as relaxed as possible until the moment they exploded from the bucking chute. Carrot Top was an old pro. He’d earned the right to inspect the loading chute before setting hoof on the steep ramp.

And to come unglued when some asshole zapped him.

The cowboy ran out of room and backed up against the fence. Cole snatched the hotshot, busted it over his knee, and then tossed it back, the ends dangling by the wires that ran down the long shaft. "Pack that and the rest of your shit and get out of here.”

The cowboy clutched the broken prod to his chest, jaw dropping. “But I’m your pickup man.”

“Not anymore.”

Cole turned his back and strode down the alley to retrieve Carrot Top. As far as he was concerned, the conversation was over.

Half an hour later, his cell phone buzzed. He was tempted to ignore it, but she would only keep calling until he answered. There was a strong undercurrent of stubborn in the Jacobs gene pool. He heaved a deep sigh and put some distance between himself and the rest of the crew before he accepted the call, holding the phone three inches from his ear in anticipation of his cousin’s displeasure.

“What the hell is wrong with you?” Violet yelled.

“He used a hotshot on Carrot Top.”

“So ban him from the stock pens. Hell, ban him from the whole rodeo grounds except when he’s working the performances, but did you have to fire him?”

“He used a hotshot on Carrot Top,” Cole repeated, slower this time.

“I understand. It was stupid. But what do you suggest we do next weekend when you’re the only pickup man in the arena?”

Cole hadn’t thought about that at the time. He’d been thinking about it since, but hiring contract personnel was Violet’s job. If she was here like normal, he wouldn’t have had to put up with a stranger. He wouldn’t have to put up with any of this crap. He could go back to just taking care of his stock and leaving all the people bullshit to Violet. He couldn’t say that, though, and as usual, his brain collapsed under pressure and offered up only the one sentence in his defense. “He used a hotshot on Carrot Top.”

Violet huffed out a breath so exasperated he swore he felt the breeze on his end of the line. “You do realize the doctor sentenced me to bed rest because my blood pressure is through the roof, right?”

Cole ducked his head, crushing a dirt clod with the toe of his boot. He wasn’t trying to aggravate anyone, especially Violet. She was command central for Jacobs Livestock. The hell she’d been going through had thrown all of them for a loop, Violet most of all. She hadn’t been sick a day in her first pregnancy, though Beni had decided to make an appearance six weeks early. She’d been prepared to be cautious and watchful. She had not expected to be sick as a dog practically from the moment she and Joe had seen the telltale line on the home pregnancy test.

Besides, Cole was almost as excited about the baby as its parents. He loved being Uncle Cole, and now a little girl? He grinned at the thought of a future full of ponies and pink cowboy boots—assuming his family didn’t string him up for driving Violet into another premature labor.

Cole huffed out a breath, leaning a shoulder against the back of the infield bleachers. Around him, the empty rodeo grounds looked like a hangover—garbage cans overflowed with empty bottles, corners of banners drooped along the fences, spilled popcorn and a smashed glob of cotton candy littered the ground. Katie nosed around under the bleachers and came out packing a half-eaten hot dog. It all looked ill-used and abandoned—sort of like Cole felt.

Yes, he had put them in a tight spot, but there were some things he wouldn’t tolerate when it came to his stock. Okay, many things. Obsessive-compulsive prick was another way of putting it, though only Joe dared say that to his face. He was family. Plus, he was a lot faster than Cole.

“Don’t try to say I didn’t warn you,” Violet said, her voice laced with grim amusement.

Cole froze. She couldn’t mean… “I thought you were kidding.”

“No, I was not, any more than I was kidding when I told you to make this one work, or else.”

Panic churned Cole’s gut. “Violet, you can’t. There must be somebody else—”

“I refuse to even ask. This makes three perfectly good pickup men you’ve chased off. If you can’t force yourself to get along, I’ll send someone you can’t fire.”

“Don’t. Please.” He didn’t hesitate to beg. If she followed through on her threat, he’d either be insane or under arrest by season’s end in September. “Just one more. I promise—”

“Nope. I’m done. If you can find a replacement before tomorrow morning, I’ll hire him. Otherwise…” He could hear her smirking, dammit. “Your new partner will meet you at Cuero.”

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For more about Tougher in Texas AND handy dandy links to pre-order a copy of your very own, visit my website at: http://karilynndell.com/tougher.html

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