Today I’m sharing an excerpt from the first chapter of Rodeo Queen. And two copies are still up for grabs. Comment on any post dated Nov 4 – 8 to enter the drawing. Deadline: Nov 16th, 11:59 pm central time.
“Great job, as usual, Caitlyn.” Pete met her near the corral and took her final flag for the evening.
Only the second round of bulls was left, but her flag-bearing duties were done until tomorrow night.
“Thanks.” All she needed to do was change clothes and go home. But the dark outside waited. What if the letter writer wasn’t a coward? Did he know what she drove? Was he waiting in her car? Natalie had rattled her. But it wouldn’t hurt to have backup. “Do you think you could walk me out tonight, Pete?”
“I’ll see you out.” Glen, her boss’s assistant appeared out of nowhere. “Bob wants to see you in the office before you leave, though.”
“It seemed urgent.”
Caitlyn frowned. “What for?”
“Didn’t say.” Glen shrugged skinny shoulders. “Just let me know when you’re ready.”
Why would her boss want to see her? Trying to ooze confidence, she strode through the lobby to the office and knocked on the door.
“Come in.” Bob’s gruff voice came through the thick wood.
Caitlyn swung the door open. Ornate, wood-paneled walls framed Bob sitting at his desk, frowning. “Sit down.”
“Is something wrong?”
“You tell me. Your sister told me about the letters.”
Natalie. Caitlyn’s jaw dropped. How could she?
“Don’t you think you should have told someone about this? Me? The police?”
“This is the first one that’s…” Caitlyn sank to the bench lining the office wall.
“Natalie shouldn’t have bothered you with this.”
“Your sister is worried about you and, quite frankly, so am I.” The seriousness in Bob’s voice tugged at her, making the letters seem even more worrisome.
Despite shaking legs, Caitlyn stood. “What do you plan to—?”
A knock sounded at the door. She jumped.
“Come in.” Bob sounded even gruffer. “That’s probably Ranger Warren. He’ll be handling the case for us.”
Warren? Her dazed brain stopped functioning. The door opened and Mitch Warren strode in. His cowboy hat shadowed short dark hair and vivid sea-green eyes capable of looking into her soul. Ten years since high school. He’d gotten even better looking.
“Hello, Caitlyn.” His rich, honeyed baritone turned her name into a caress.
Weak kneed, she sank to the bench again.
“Aren’t you going to say hello?” He tipped his hat in her direction.
“You two know each other?”
“We went to school together.” We were high school sweethearts. Her heart still hadn’t recovered. Say something. Stop staring like a slack-jawed teenager. She licked her lips and forced her gaze away from him back to Bob. “You called the Texas Rangers?”
“I’m trying to look out for the safety of my staff.”
She covered her face with both hands. “This isn’t necessary.”
“From the sound of that letter, I think it is.” Mitch walked toward her. “I need to see all of them.”
Too close. She caught a whiff of spicy, woodsy cologne. Thank goodness, she was already sitting down. “They’re in my locker.”
“When did they start coming?”
“My second weekend as queen. About six weeks ago.”
“How much time in between letters?”
A sigh escaped her. “I didn’t mark my calendar when they came.”
“I only get my mail on Fridays and Saturdays when I’m here. I’ve gotten one letter every Friday, but I didn’t pay any attention to when they arrived here initially.”
“Do you have the envelopes?”
“With the letters.”
“We’ll check the postmarks and maybe we can get some latent prints. Shall we go get them?”
Unable to stand if her life depended on it, she needed a moment to digest his presence. There wasn’t anything personal in her locker. She grabbed her keys from her purse. Her hands trembled as she slid her locker key off the ring and held it out to him. “Help yourself. Glen can show you where the dressing room is. Everything’s on the top shelf.”
Instead of letting her drop the key into his palm, his fingers brushed against hers as he reached for it. Electricity flared and the key slid from her hand. It landed with a metallic clang near her foot, but she was powerless to pick it up.
Mitch knelt, as if he might propose. Again. Instead, he scooped up the key, almost touching her ankle.
“And from the looks of you—” he studied her face “—I’d say that letter upset you more than you’re letting on.”
Yes. Please let him think she was weak and trembling over the letter instead of him. The letter frightened her, but Mitch scared her more.
About Shannon: Central Arkansas author, Shannon Taylor Vannatter is a stay-at-home mom/pastor’s wife. She lives in a town with a population of around 100, if you count a few cows. Vannatter won the Inspirational Readers Choice Award in the short contemporary category, The 18th Annual Heartsong Awards 3rd Favorite New Author and #1 Contemporary Award.
Her books are available at christianbook.com, barnesandnoble.com, amazon.com, harlequin.com, and barbourbooks.com. Learn more about Shannon and her books at check out her real life romance blog at https://shannontaylorvannatter.com/blog/. Connect with her on Facebook: facebook.com/shannontaylorvannatter, Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/stvannatter/, and Twitter: @stvauthor
About the book – Rodeo Queen:
CAITLYN WENTWORTH LOVES BEING A RODEO QUEEN
Until she starts receiving threatening letters from a stalker. The good news is, the Texas Ranger assigned to her case is none other than her former sweetheart Mitch Warren—the man who chose his career over love.
Mitch vows to focus on protecting the woman he’s never forgotten. But Caitlyn stirs up memories best left in the past. When Mitch insists on hiding Caitlyn away on his family’s San Antonio ranch, will he keep things professional or seek out a second chance?
Come back Nov 11th for Tina Pinson!