Dakota Storm will be up for pre-order soon! Right now I’m working on the blurb <– slightly nightmarish, but necessary. I thought I’d share the first scene today. This is a New Adult Romance set in a small town. New Adult can best be explained very simply: These characters are right out of college. They’re working their first ‘real’ jobs, are experiencing their first ‘real’ relationships, and they are very young – 22/23 years old.
“I didn’t sign up to fix fence by myself today.” Misty Evans raised the pole driver and slammed it down on the steel fence post several times to drive it into the ground. The muscles in her arms stung as though she’d been zapped with electricity from the repetitive gesture, her biceps vibrating from three continuous hours of straightening posts. “Just spit it out. I know something is going on by the way you’re checking your cell every five seconds. If you’re not going to help, you might as well talk. Lord knows you’re good at that.”
She slipped the pole driver off the fence post and stretched her back muscles. She glanced in Matt’s direction when he said nothing. “Well?” she prodded.
Her twin brother flashed his usual shit-eating grin and leaned against Misty’s rusted-out Ford. His dusty jeans and ball cap looked like they’d seen better days. He pointed at her with his cell. “Maybe I’ll wait until you’re finished. No sense in giving you bad news when you have a possible weapon in your hand.”
The news couldn’t be too bad considering he was smiling. “Chickenshit,” she muttered.
“I heard that.”
She’d meant him to. Even if he hadn’t heard her, he’d probably have guessed what she was thinking. Rarely did a day go by that she couldn’t communicate what she was thinking with a mere look when it came to her twin. Came with the territory. She gave her back one last tweak and headed toward him. He sure was getting a kick out of keeping her waiting.
He adjusted his ball cap, bent down to pick up his gloves and pliers off the ground where he’d tossed them earlier, and stood to face her. She had no doubt he was stalling. His trademark grin was gone, replaced with, what she perceived to be, an apologetic grimace. “David’s back.”
“From Afghanistan?” What could possibly upset her about that news? She might walk across a street made of nails barefoot just to avoid running into him, but that didn’t mean she hadn’t prayed for his safe return. She looked down at the ground, not wanting her brother to see the relief on her face. She was more relieved than she cared to admit, but that was an argument for another day. “That’s great. I bet Mike and Nora can breathe a sigh of relief now,” she said, referring to David’s parents.
“David’s back in town.” There was a slight pause. “He’s home, Misty.”
Her stomach plummeted. Standing in the middle of the prairie with endless blue skies and errant wisps of white clouds above, she couldn’t blame her sudden lightheadedness on a lack of oxygen. She’d had four long years to learn to school her expression whenever David’s name popped up unexpectedly, and she’d damn near mastered the knack. But “back in town” had never followed his name before now.
“Say what?” she mumbled. Her lips were numb and useless, much like her brain at the unexpected news.
She imagined she must look like a startled raccoon caught on the side of a busy highway, so she clamped her mouth shut and fought to regain a semblance of the peace she’d owned before Matt had dropped the bomb.
“Guess you want me to kick his ass? Maybe rough him up a bit?” Matt’s smirk was back. Her brother never could stay serious for long.
She ignored his pitiful, misplaced attempt at humor. Gossip ran rampant in this town, and most of the time a person couldn’t weed out the bullshit from the truth. It was likely just a rumor. Please be a rumor. “Are you sure?”
“Has no one texted you yet? Hell, my boots hadn’t hit the dirt before I’d gotten fifty texts about him. Tucker saw him at the gas station yesterday. Shane ran into him at the grocery store this morning. Word in town is that he’s staying at Caroline’s.”
Seriously? Caroline’s? No matter how many years had passed, that bit of news still felt like a punch in the gut. David was back in town, but he wasn’t staying with his parents—he was staying at Caroline’s. Figures. Misty had always known those two had a thing, no matter how many times he’d tried to deny it.
Why had no one told her? Texted her? Called her? Damn.
She snatched her phone out of her back pocket, completely forgetting to keep her usual don’t-give-a-shit expression on her face when it came to anything involving David. The second she glanced at her cell she remembered she’d put it on silent before she’d gone to bed last night. Her closest friend, Abby Spencer, had kept bugging her to go to the Longbranch even though Misty had to get up at the butt crack of dawn this morning. Having overslept, she hadn’t taken the time to look at it yet.
A line of texts popped up, nearly blocking the image of her lock screen, which was a picture of her and her boyfriend, Brandon, at their college graduation last week. One of the texts had a picture attached. She clicked on the image to bring it up.
I’ll be damned. There was her proof—wearing jeans and a white T-shirt as he walked out of the grocery store with a few plastic bags in his hand. She enlarged the photo before she thought better of it. Her heart raced as she saw David for the first time in four years. He sure wasn’t the tall, lean eighteen-year-old anymore. The bigger she tried to make the picture, the blurrier the damn thing got.
Matt cleared his throat. She glanced up at him, almost immediately dismissing him to look back down at her phone. She didn’t want to eyeball the picture like a sixty-year-old with bad eyesight, the phone only inches from her face, but she couldn’t stop herself.
Had she been the very last person to find out he was back? Judging from the number of people who’d texted her, it seemed the entire town was aware that David Buchanan was back in Garner, South Dakota.
Stands to reason. A person couldn’t take a crap in this town without people knowing what it smelled like. No less than twenty texts, fourteen missed calls, and one grainy picture had blown up her phone. She slipped her cell back into her pocket and tried to ignore the fact that her hand was shaking. She’d known this day would come. Time to suck it up.
With one palm wrapped around the smooth steel handle of the pole driver and the other settled on her hip, she looked up at her brother. She hoped she could snag back that blasé attitude before she lost it completely. She lifted her chin. “You think you can still go a round with him?”
His blue eyes narrowed underneath his ball cap. “Hell yeah I could. He joined the Corps, he didn’t become an MMA fighter.”
From what she’d seen in that picture he looked like one. She refused to look at the photo again, although she really didn’t need to. The image had been burned into her brain cells like a tattoo that a person regretted the instant it was finished. David looked like he enjoyed lifting weights as much as Caroline liked to party. And he sported ink as though he held stock in it.
Most girls in her boots would refer to David as The One That Got Away. But not Misty Evans. Nope. She called him The Coldhearted Prick Who Took My Virginity and Hightailed It Out of Town.
She wasn’t bitter though. Not even a little.
The way she saw it, he’d saved her the trouble of getting in too deep where he was concerned. They had names for men like him. They were graffitied all over the women’s bathroom stalls at the Longbranch, Garner’s go-to bar for getting shit-faced on a Friday or Saturday night.
Unfortunately, they had names for girls like her too. Just one night with a cowboy and you never lost a name like that in a small town. Dirty rotten son of a…
“Just leave it alone,” she mumbled. All she needed was her brother getting his ass kicked for something that happened years ago.
Misty set the pole driver into the back of the truck, made a bill out of her hand to shield her eyes from the sun, and glanced at Matt. “Is he planning to work on the ranch?” He better not. His parent’s ranch bordered on their family’s ranch. Hopefully he was just on leave and would be out of town within a week. If he was staying with Caroline, then perhaps he was just visiting her and would be gone soon.
“I don’t know. I haven’t talked to him yet.” Matt tossed the pliers into the air and caught them. When he glanced back at her, his grin was wide enough to annoy her. “So, what’ll it be? An ass-kicking, or do I buy him a beer and welcome him home?”
She hadn’t been joking. She wasn’t sure Matt could take him in a fight now.
Matt and David had both been tall and muscular growing up, though Matt was blond like her, and David was dark. From what she’d seen in that picture, David had at least fifteen pounds of muscle on her brother now. But that was where their differences ended.
Matt and David had been buddies their entire lives. The two had been inseparable until the middle of their senior year in high school when David started hanging with the wrong crowd. Back then his only contributions to society had been to get shitty drunk, getting tats, and allowing his grades to slip. David hadn’t come around her and Matt much during those months—until she and David hooked up one hot, humid night in the back of his pickup two weeks after graduation.
Gossip ran like a river through Garner. Juicy, fresh gossip tore through town like rapids.
Misty never should have texted her bestie when she got home that night, because when Matt had put two and two together the very next morning, with Abby’s help, he’d been livid. You couldn’t keep a secret in Garner, town of three hundred, and most over the age of sixty, even if you tried. And when her twin decided to throw punches at his best friend at the only gas station in town? Game over.
All the old men who hung out at the gas station drinking coffee and playing cards had excellent memories when something piqued their interest. Their war stories changed over time. The story of her brother nailing David in the jaw after yelling, “You slept with my sister?” didn’t need any embellishment. The truth of the night’s events were good enough on their own.
Misty had literally gone from being the nerdy salutatorian the whole town had been proud of, to “Did you hear what Misty did? BTW, you didn’t hear it from me…”
The next day David joined the Marine Corps and she hadn’t seen him since.
Not really. “It’s not like we were a thing, Matt. I didn’t get my heart broken.” The hell she hadn’t, and they both knew it. Tough talk and tender hearts were commonplace for cowgirls. She was no exception. “The only thing that broke that week was your knuckle when you punched him.” The wind picked up her hair and whipped it into her face. She swiped the strands back and wished she’d worn her ball cap. “Besides, you two should be the ones to make up. No reason to throw your friendship away because of what happened.”
It wasn’t like she hadn’t been a willing participant. Everyone in town knew she’d followed her brother’s best friend around like a puppy for most of their lives.
Matt settled his forearm on the lip of the truck’s bed and adjusted his ball cap. He spit on the ground and shook his head. “He could have taken his licks and that would’ve been that. But he took off, Misty. We both know you were in it for more than the–”
“Can we not talk about it anymore?” God, how mortifying, even after all these years. Everyone in Garner knew what had taken place that night thanks to her talkative best friend, her good-hearted but prone-to-temper brother, and the fact David left a few days later. Some guys in town even nicknamed her the ball buster. Part of the word could still be seen on the back of her Ford where someone had the nerve to tag it with red spray paint. She still didn’t know who’d done the spray-and-run, but if she ever found out, she was going to tag their ass.
“Townsfolk are having an impromptu welcome home party for him at the bar tonight. Older generation will probably trickle out by eleven.”
Not in a million years or for a million dollars. She was surprised Matt even mentioned it to her. “You have fun.”
She wasn’t the type to throw her heart—or anything else—at that man again. Once burned, twice hellz naw. Jesus, he hadn’t even had the common decency to say goodbye to her. Or to anyone, really. Even her brother. David’s actions had been so unlike him that she’d given up trying to figure out what had happened a long time ago.
“You sure you don’t want to go?” Matt asked again.
“As sure as death and taxes.”
“I’m guessing Brandon wouldn’t be too thrilled anyway.”
She shrugged. No, probably not. “Yeah, well, you have fun.” She grabbed the wire stretcher off the ground, tossed it into the rusty bed of the truck, and wiped the sweat from her brow with the back of her hand. “Brandon and I are going out for dinner and a movie tonight.”
The town’s theater only had one screen, so she hadn’t even bothered to check. Whatever was playing was what they were going to see. “Don’t know.”
Her brother scrunched his face. “Sounds…exciting. If you change your mind, you can ride with me. I need a DD.”
She grunted. “Fat chance.”
He stared at her for a few beats before he must have finally concluded that she wasn’t even going to consider it. “So, did you hear anything back from that interview with the superintendent?”
“Yeah. He wants a follow-up interview in a few weeks with the board.” Getting an Ag teaching job in Rapid was going to set her life on the path that she and Brandon were gunning for. They’d fallen in love with Rapid City, a gorgeous part of South Dakota, when they’d gone skiing there during their junior year in college. Rapid had hills, trees, and a population of more than a scant three hundred people, unlike Garner.
“You really want to leave all this behind?”
All this? She stopped and looked around at the never-ending prairie in confusion. All what? The few tree lines her grandparents had planted that helped to break the continual wind? Field after field of crops? The scattering of cattle by the barn, and the incessant smell of hay and manure?
Her brother loved the country. She’d loved it once too. It was the kind of small town living where you knew everyone by their first name. You could drop whatever you were doing and go horseback riding, fishing, or hunting. But things changed. People changed. And she’d changed—for the better.
“Absolutely. I don’t think I’ve prayed harder for anything in my life.” That wasn’t exactly true, but she wasn’t about to go there.
“Well, if that’s what you want.” Matt started making his way to his Ford Ranger. “Tell Brandon I said hi,” he called over his shoulder.
She told him she would as she walked around the bed of her truck. She opened the door and slid onto the bench seat. When she started the engine country music filled the dusty cab. Throwing the truck in Drive, she felt an unfamiliar tug in the middle of her gut. And if she were honest with herself, she felt something a little lower as well.
Hell with it. She wasn’t one of those dumb chicks who chased after someone who didn’t want them. Been there, done that, burned the T-shirt. She was going to steer clear of that bar tonight, and the muscled manwhore who’d no doubt be there. Even if it killed her.
Didn’t matter that they’d once been close friends. Didn’t matter that he’d stood up for her just as much as her brother had while they were growing up. And that necklace he’d brought her back from the Black Hills when they were sixteen? Going straight in the trash when she got home.
She stopped the truck and leaned over to one side to fish the cell from her back pocket. She had no plans on running into David. No plans on ever speaking to him again. Didn’t care if he was back in town or not.
If only that damn picture of him weren’t so blurry.