Sunday, September 9, 2012

Sunday Sampler

Today's Sunday Sampler will feature the opening of my latest book Eight Seconds to Glory released at the end of August. The Book is at Crimson Romance, Amazon, and Barnes and Nobel. Look for the links at the bottom of the sample. I hope you enjoy reading this contemporary cowboy romance.


Sunday Sampler.... Eight Seconds to Glory

Holding tight to the rails, Travis Hargrove slid his legs around the sides of the 1,500 pounds of pure dynamite. Feeling the human on his back, the bull lurched forward, rattling his horns against the metal bars of his cage, giving Travis a taste of the power coiled beneath. The bull's ragged intake of air made the roar of the crowd sound hollow.

Travis dampened his lips with the edge of his tongue and tasted sandy grit that rolled against his teeth. Hands reached out from the safety of the sidelines to steady the animal as he drew the rope tight over the palm of his hand, binding the two together. Around him, the activity in the arena and the noise behind the chutes had become an indistinguishable whirl of sound as his concentration deepened.

He pounded the thick, braided rope deep into the pocket of his gloved right hand and yanked it tighter. His lungs burned, competing against the muscles of his gut, which tightened, holding the air inside, refusing to let it rush from his lungs. All he needed was eight seconds, a good ride, and a safe landing. He adjusted the protective jacket and took a deep seat. The heels of his spurs rolled against the gate, vibrating the metal. Below him, the bull snorted, hot air forming mist around his nostrils as if the fire of Hades sat lodged in his lungs. Beneath Travis‟s long legs, the beast‟s muscles twitched and bunched, yearning to be free. The bull was as ready as he was.

Travis used his free hand to shove his hat down tight upon his head. He didn't want to lose it on the first twist and buck. His legs locked the muscles of his upper thighs by pressing his knees tight against the animal's sides. He looked at the man to the right of him. Travis couldn't see his face. Suspicion inched up his spine. A deep-down foreboding climbed on his back almost as if he'd been here before. Once more, he filled his lungs with air. Then he gave a tight nod.

Metal scraped.

Air flowed around Travis's legs. Leaping from the narrow confines of the cell and into the great arena where the crowd screamed their approval, the animal jerked to his left. Like some giant undulating wave, the bull rose, and then came down stiff-legged, driving all four legs into the ground. The first bone-jarring hit seemed to loosen Travis's teeth. Sand and sawdust flew back, pitting his skin. In an effort to regain control over his tilting center of gravity, Travis moved his hips forward.

The animal seemed to anticipate his moves. The bull shifted, leaped, and jerked its hind feet out, corkscrewing into the air using all his cunning to unseat him. Travis heard his neck snap from the centrifugal motion. Still, he clung on counting to himself—four...five...six seconds. Bellowing in anger, the beast turned and circled tight to its right.

In the distance, Travis caught the flash of the clown‟s maddening red wig. His ears
rang with the roar of the crowd in the stands as they rose to their feet. He felt his chest heave at the unrelenting pressure on his body. His arm popped. He felt the pull as it moved from its socket. To keep from screaming, he gritted his teeth against the rubber mouth guard as the hot pain surged up his arm and across his chest. Still, he didn't let go. He would not admit defeat.

The beast stopped so abruptly Travis nearly lost his seat and found himself thrown onto the massive hump just behind the bull's neck. But before he could regain his breath the animal began to spin in the opposite direction at a dizzying speed. The faces of the crowd rushed past his eyes in a blur.

Somehow air got between him and the hide of the bull he was riding. His body tilted 90 degrees. An overwhelming urge to jump free swelled, yet he couldn‟t break free. The rope dug into his palm. His fingers refused to let go. The ground loomed in sight.

Something snapped. The strap gave way. The air rushed from his body as he collided with the hard-packed sand and sawdust on the ground. The earth shook as the animal danced around him. A red-hot poker skewered into his side and a foot landed precariously close to his face. With a self-protective instinct, Travis rolled into a ball and did his best to raise his good arm close to his head. From beneath the elbow, he saw the rough edges of the horns lower.

Christ! He hadn‟t planned to be gored.

Sucking in his belly, he felt the searing scorch of the horn drive along his skin, ripping it open, catching his vest protector, and lifting him from the ground. His body flipped like a rag doll with a mighty fling of the beast's head. A ripping sound filled his ears. The fabric of his chest protector and shirt parted company. Travis was tossed to the ground. A hoof shoved against his chest. A snap, then a sharp stab followed, with air rushing from his lungs. Travis couldn't move. He
struggled to breathe. A prayer tried to form in his mind, but the clang of clown‟s bells drove it away as they attempted to divert the devil's beast.

Fearing the worst, he glanced upward. The sound sidetracked the bull's attention for only a moment. Travis turned his head toward the side of the arena. Letting go of his ribs, he reached out. His hand strained to touch the wooden rails on the far side of the arena.

Boots hit the ground as cowboys rushed toward him. The bull bellowed in rage. He glanced over his shoulder. The last thing Travis heard was the terrified screams of the crowd and the bull as the animal rose up on his hind feet.

Chapter One

Travis Hargrove opened his eyes and realized he stood outside the doors of the Broken Bow Civic Center. Heart hammering, he watched the continuous line of people move through the entrance. Each face beamed with excitement, wondering who would be the cowboy with enough luck to bring home the coveted gold buckles this go-round. Yet, even in the daylight, he couldn't forget. His lips pressed together in a thin line while his right hand tightened around the brass of the walking stick anchored to his side, and he wondered if they saw the way his damp shirt clung to his chest. Even in the daylight, he couldn't escape the tortured dreams he had every night.

A little over a year ago, it would have been him waiting below to step up to the draw. He'd be the one to reach in the hat, draw, and unfurl the paper that contained the name of his ride. But, that was before he‟d met Six Killer. The canes, the limp, and the pain were constant reminders that his dream kept fading further out of his reach. Lips pressed firmly together, Travis knew he needed to put it behind him. He needed to rejoin the rodeo or go back home in defeat.

He shifted his weight on to his good leg and watched Jon Parker move across the concrete walkway. At sixty-eight, the former World Champion bronco rider now worked behind a corporate desk, riding a new type of beast called paperwork. He did it while continuing to play surrogate father for the younger men on the rodeo tour. Today, he'd forgone his usual suit, reverting back to his roots with boots, jeans, and a white snap-front shirt. Travis caught his grin of welcome beneath the brim of his white straw Stetson. Easing forward, the man most cowboys called Big Jon, extended his arm and they shook hands.

Travis's mouth pulled to a one-sided wry grin. “How's it going, Jon?”

“Good,” he answered and nodded toward Travis‟s injured leg. “Glad to see they finally let you loose.”

“Thanks, it feels good to be outside,” he told him.

“Come on, we'll go inside and get out of this heat.”

Taking slow and careful steps, the two men wandered toward the entrance, Jon held the door so Travis could walk through. A gust of cool air swept down from the ceiling, wiping away the perspiration beneath his hatband. It had been a while since he'd been in an arena. The sites, the smells, hadn‟t changed a bit. He smiled to himself and let the feeling of returning to the fold wash over him as he waited for Jon to join him.

His friend moved up beside him, pulled his sunglasses off and instinctively tucked them inside his shirt pocket. Then he looked around to get his bearings. “Looks like we‟ve got a full crowd this afternoon, follow me.” He gestured to the ramp leading down to the section where the ranchers who owned cattle clustered about judging stock and made deals with buyers on the circuit. At the opening to the lowest level, a guard motioned for them to stop. Jon flashed his badge.

“Watch your step,” he murmured as they moved down the aisle to the seats behind the chute.

Travis turned sideways to avoid two women as they headed toward the mezzanine behind him. In passing, the woman closest sent him an appreciative glance, her rich red lips turned up at the corners in a coy smile as her eyes perused his body. He paused and gave a nod. She blushed and turned away. He watched the swish of her backside encased in those tight designer jeans. A vacant feeling hardened in the pit of his belly. Another empty promise he would not fulfill. Once she found out he wasn't the golden boy or even allowed to ride, he'd wind up a footnote in her search for some sugar daddy. Unlike his brother, Rory, Travis wouldn‟t play up the scars on his body for a one-night invitational in the hay.

“Some of the nicer sights of Colorado.” He heard Jon mutter and caught him looking as well. The big man beside him gave him a grin. “It's a shame that Father Time has robbed me of what Mother Nature once endowed.”

To purchase your copy of Eight Seconds to Glory, use the links below. Happy Sunday.

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