The release of Rodeo Reunion is bittersweet since the Heartsong Presents book club is ending. I’ll miss the line. Yesterday, I shared the inspiration for the 8th title in my Texeas Rodeo series. Today, I’m sharing the scene inspired by that long ago attempt at batting practice with my son. Comment on any post dated June 1 – 5 to enter the drawing for copy. Details for a special drawing are at the end of the post. Deadline: June 13th, 11:59 pm central time.
Clockwise from top left: Inspiration for Slade Walker, Raquel Marris, Blizzard & Hunter Marris
Excerpt from Rodeo Reunion by Shannon Taylor Vannatter:
“Mom.” Hunter got two syllables out of the word. “Throw it right.”
“I’m trying, sweetie.” Raquel concentrated on the spot where the seven-year-old’s bat would swing and threw the baseball with all her strength. Her shoulder protested. She’d probably thrown it out of socket.
The pitch looked good. Right height, but it sailed two feet out of Hunter’s reach.
“Mom.” Two syllables again.
“I’m doing the best I can.” She massaged her shoulder. “I never pitched. Maybe Uncle Brant can help.”
“He’s on tour, and besides, he never pitched either.” Hunter poked at the piece of two-by-four—their makeshift home plate—with his bat. His shoulders slumped. “It doesn’t matter. I can’t do it anyway.”
“Don’t say that.” His defeat squeezed her heart. “You can do anything you set your mind to.” With Hunter’s first baseball practice next week, she’d wanted to encourage him. Instead she’d discouraged him with her lousy pitching skills.
Why, why, why did Dylan have to die? Hunter needed his father. If Dylan had been here, Hunter would already have been hitting home runs. But Dylan wasn’t here. And Raquel had to do this alone.
“I wish my dad was here.”
Her vision blurred. “Me too, sweetie.” But all Raquel had left of Dylan was his seven-year-old spitting image waiting for a decent pitch. And Hunter would never really know his father, no matter how hard she tried.
“Surely there’s somebody in this town who can pitch a baseball. We’ll find somebody.”
Like Slade Walker. He’d pitched for a short time in the major leagues. What were the odds of running into him a few weeks ago? But he’d probably been only passing through.
“Who’s that man?” Hunter looked past her.
A man and a large white dog stepped through the line of dormant crepe myrtle trees lining her property.
She stiffened, ready to protect her cub, but recognized the familiar smile.
“Did I hear something about needing a pitcher?”
“Mr. Walker?” As if she’d wished him into existence.
“The one and only.” Slade grinned.
And his grin revved her heart. She clasped a hand to her chest. Maybe it was the surprise.
“What are you doing here?”
“I was taking Blizzard for a walk.” He stopped beside her and patted the dog’s head. The dog settled in at his feet. “And I heard some baseball going on.”
“Can I pet your dog?” Hunter cut around her to get to the dog.
“Sure, he’s a big softy.”
“Hi, Blizzard. My name’s Hunter. What kind of dog are you?”
“Great Pyrenees. They’re bred to protect sheep.” Slade knelt beside the pair and scratched the big white head. “I knew from the size of his feet when he was a pup he’d end up being too big to be called Snowball.”
“You have sheep?” Hunter giggled as the dog licked his cheek.
“No. But I used to work with a lot of horses, and Blizzard’s breed is good with livestock, too.”
“You live here?”
“Just rented the place next door.” Slade glanced at their ranch-style house. “You live here?”
“We moved here last May.” Hunter grinned as Blizzard crouched in his “wanna play” stance.
Next door? Raquel had seen vehicles and a camper earlier but hadn’t had time to be neighborly. She’d never dreamed Slade would move in.
Slade seemed to remember Raquel was there and stood.
“Mr. Walker just happens to be a pitcher, Hunter. A major-league pitcher. Remember that autograph I gave you?”
“Really?” Hunter’s eyes grew wide.
“That was a long time ago.” Slade rubbed his shoulder.
“Can you pitch for me?”
“I’m sure Mr. Walker doesn’t have time right now.”
“It’s not a problem. It’s what I came over for. Unless you think Dylan might have a problem with me helping Hunter.”
Her gaze flew to Hunter, but he’d forgotten about baseball for the moment and was rolling and giggling in the grass with Blizzard.
“Dylan died three years ago,” she whispered.
“Oh.” Slade swallowed hard. His eyes reddened. “I’m sorry. I had no clue.”
“I tried to contact all of his friends.” Something went soft inside her and tears burned the backs of her eyes. After three years sometimes it still hit her as if she’d just lost him. Especially when she had to tell someone new. And especially when that someone had known and loved Dylan, too.
She blinked hard. “Hunter, baseball. I’m sure Mr. Walker doesn’t have all night.”
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 and once climbed a mountain wearing gold wedge-heeled sandals which became known as her hiking boots. 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.
About the book – Rodeo Reunion:
RAQUEL MARRIS NEEDS A MAN WHO’LL STAY PUT
And Slade Walker’s not a likely candidate. Even if the former major league pitcher just agreed to coach her son’s little league team. The single mom can’t risk everything on a bronc-riding chaplain who’s only passing through Raquel’s small Texas town.
Slade is taking a hiatus from the rodeo circuit to meet the sister he never knew he had. But the pretty widowed nurse next door is making him think twice about hitting the road again. He can’t turn his back on the cowboys who need him, but Raquel and her boy need him, too. Can Slade fulfill his calling and finally find a place to hang his hat?
Want see my Rodeo Reunion Pinterset Page with lots of pictures I used for inspiration: https://www.pinterest.com/stvannatter/rodeo-reunion-book-8-texas-rodeo-series/
Question: Are you a sports fan? Which is your favorite sport?
Blog tour giveaway: Here’s something special to commemorate the Heartsong Presents line since it’s ending this month. Comment to enter the drawing for a copy of Rodeo Reunion. Ten copies will be split among names drawn during the blog tour from June 1st – July 1st. One winner will receive a baseball themed memory board personally crafted by me. Deadlines according to each blog’s guidelines for the books. Deadline for the memory board, July 18th, 11:59 pm central time. Winners will be revealed on this blog on July 22nd.
Blog Tour Dates:
June 17: http://sarahruut.com/
June 19: http://junefoster.com/
June 23: http://gailpallotta.blogspot.com/
June 23 & 25: http://brendaandersonbooks.com
June 26: http://writersonreading.blogspot.com
Come back June 8th for Elizabeth Maddrey!