Monday, September 29, 2014

Feels Like Home – by Dani Collins

I’m a small town girl at heart. I grew up on ten acres that had been logged and farmed by my father’s Finnish grandparents. There were three houses on the property. My grandparents lived in one, we lived in another, and the ‘little house’ closest to the road was a rental.

My mom planted a garden every year, my dad had cows and pigs and chickens and ducks, and my grandmother made a trip ‘up country’ to the Okanagan a couple of times a year for canning fruit. Canned pears with a piece of toast is a trigger food for me, turning me six years old again, sitting at her yellow table, the specific cadence of my grandfather’s accent fresh in my ears.

I climbed apple trees and got shouted at for eating raspberries and related easily to Laura Ingles Wilder and Ann of Green Gables. We were a shade more modern. We eventually got cable TV, but fancy things like bought bread were for other people, not us.

My husband had a similar experience, mucking out chicken and rabbit pens, helping his dad clear their property, living very rural so a trip into town was Going Into Town.

By the time we married, however, our little town had become a thriving suburb of a busy urban center. The mountains and river were still very pretty, but the traffic was appalling, the drug users were infiltrating, and the cost of real estate was so high it was a non-stop rat race to make the mortgage payment. When our kids came along, we knew we wanted for them what we had had.

So we loaded up the car and drove for eight hours, until we found a town that has a stunning lake, a school house of a hundred kids, and a year round population of fifteen hundred. It’s twenty minutes from ‘town’, and that town is only five thousand people. It was built on mining money, so the municipal hall has a clock tower like the one in Back To The Future.

Are there drawbacks? You bet. You really learn the difference between want and need when buying something means a three-hour drive to the nearest city.

But the sense of community is worth any of those little inconveniences. The pace of life is calmer. And because you know everyone--your neighbors and your kids’ teachers and the ladies at the bank--you can’t help but feel safe.

I love small town living. I didn’t realize quite how much until I began writing my first Montana Born novella, Hometown Hero. Chase Goodwin is a local ballplayer who made it to the Majors. His goal all through high school was to escape Marietta, but he has a younger half-brother he comes home to help and bumps into Skye—the girl he didn’t let himself want because he knew she was a lifer.

Skye gets it. She’s small town to her quiet-living core. She knew Chase was out of her league even before he made it to the big one, but when he comes back for a visit, they strike sparks off each other and wind up with some hard decisions. Small town isn’t for everyone, especially when a career is at stake.

How do you feel about small towns? Are you drawn to a faster city pace or do you prefer a quieter life? Do you have any special small town memories from your early years?

Hometown Hero:

**SPECIAL INTRODUCTORY PRICE – 99c – SEPTEMBER 29th & 30th, 2014**
Skye Wolcott planned to marry, have children, and live happy ever after in her hometown of Marietta, Montana.  Then her marriage imploded in a cloud of scandal. Now she’d be happy if people would just stop talking about her.

Chase Goodwin worked hard to get away from Marietta, where poverty colored his past. Living his dream as a major league baseball player, he has no reason to return beyond helping his half-brother escape as successfully. The last thing Chase would consider is staying.

Then he sees Skye Wolcott, a girl he always had a thing for in high school. They get off to a rough start, but are soon carrying on like high schoolers.  Chase wants her to join his fast-paced, larger than life world, but Skye’s a small town girl at heart. Can she convince him that Homecoming is more than a game,
and he’s back where he belongs?

Here's an excerpt:

If he had come to apologize, she was going to tell him where to shove it.

This had been the worst day of her life, worse even than when Terry came out. Then, at least, she’d been the wronged party. Today people were asking, What were you thinking? Even Terry had defended stupid Chase Goodwin. He’s not a homophobe, Skye. I, uh, think he always knew I had a bit of a crush on him. He was really decent about it.

She had not needed to know her ex-husband had shared her crush on the town treasure.

“I’m not interested in talking to you,” she said to Chase, glancing anxiously toward the open door of the counselor’s office, where Brenda had left to fetch a student, then the firmly closed door of the principal’s office, where he was meeting with the VP and one of the trustees.

She didn’t know which was worse, having witnesses to this confrontation or not.

Chase leaned on the counter exactly the way the students did, like they wanted to order ice cream or a beer. “Maybe you can ask someone else to help me, then,” he said without emotion.

He looked insanely attractive, freshly shaved, lightly tanned, his dark brows stern above his intent green eyes, his mouth a sexy male pout that would make any female swoon.
“I need the parent volunteer forms so I can drive students and help with school events,” he added.

Take that, Skye. As if he’d come here special to see you. Like he owed you an apology.

Her throat stung and she feared she might be blushing. Rising, she turned away to open a drawer in the filing cabinet behind her, willing her composure back into place as she took her time fingering through and tugging out the forms. When she turned back, Chase’s eyes swiftly lifted to clash into hers.

Had he—?

Her butt tingled and her stomach swooped. Don’t, she thought. The last thing she needed was to start imagining he’d been checking her out. Hot and hating herself for it, she set the forms on the counter near his elbow.

“I need a copy of your driver’s license,” she told him.

He reached into his back pocket, the move drawing her eye to the way his T-shirt strained across his shoulders and pecs. Dear Lord, he was beautifully built. Were men allowed to have lean muscles like that without carrying a license for them as deadly weapons?

He offered the card in two fingers. Something in the way he did it made her lift her eyes to his. His brows went up ever so slightly.

He’d noticed her checking him out.

Kill. Me. Now.

She snatched the card from his grip and boiled with self-consciousness as she turned her back on him to make the copy. If he was looking at her backside again—but why would he? She didn’t want him to, did she?

What was she doing with her life that she was going off the rails like this? She was basically a happy person. She didn’t have self-destructive thoughts so why would she long for a spark between her and someone who would devastate her in all the ways Terry hadn’t? It was crazy. Literally not sane or logical.

She took the photocopy to her desk and slapped it into her In tray, refusing to look at his photo even though she was dying to. She’d finish processing this later, after he’d filled out the forms. Sitting down, she set her fingers on her keyboard, determined to carry on with her day and be normal.

He continued to stand at the counter, watching her expectantly.

“What?” she demanded.

“Can I have my driver’s license back?”

Oh for God’s sake. Blushing hard, she shot to her feet so fast her chair rolled back into the filing cabinet with a crash. Get a grip, Skye. She scooped the card from under the lid of the copier and when she slapped it on the counter, she only dared lift her gaze high enough to see he was biting back a rueful grin.

“Look, I know my being who I am made this worse—”

“Oh, no, my life is great,” she snarked, managing to keep her tone a level under shrill. “Isn’t it everyone’s dream these days to be an internet sensation? Give the forms to Max when you’ve filled them out. He can leave them in my tray.” Never come back here again, she willed him.

Then felt inexplicably sad, but honestly. This fixation needed to be carved out of her psyche and cryogenically frozen for a future generation to deal with.

“Hey, I didn’t post that clip. And for the record, I was being sarcastic last night. I know you can’t turn people gay.”

“Sure about that?” she shot back, once again finding herself pushing back for the simple reason that he had the gall to say to her what no one else had. “Wanna put it to the test?”

“I’d love to.”

The smoky look in his eyes, the deeply male timbre in his tone, crashed over her like a tropical wave, softening her bones and put a tickling feeling deep in the pit of her belly. A type of yearning.

One that was beyond misguided. Look who he was. He was mocking her. Had to be. Probably because he wasn’t any happier than she was about the way she’d embarrassed him.

“That’s not funny,” she told him. “It’s mean.” And then, because the backs of her eyes were sizzling, she went into Brenda’s office and shut the door.

“Skye!” he called.

She heard a door open and the principal spoke to him, asking if he was looking for her. After a brief exchange, everything went silent, but she continued to hide, bunching a tissue that she dabbed to keep her makeup under control, until Brenda came back and needed her office.

Award winning author, Dani Collins writes Harlequin Presents, romantic comedy,  medieval fantasy, erotic romance, and now small-town rancher novellas. Whatever the genre, Dani always delivers sexy alpha heroes, witty, spirited heroines, complex emotions and loads of passion.
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Mary Preston said...

I much prefer a quieter life, but cities are fun to visit.

girlygirlhoosier52 said...

I lived outside a large city for years, but I must admit that the traffic and crime keep me in the 'burbs...

dstoutholcomb said...

love small towns