Recently I did a radio interview (listen here), and the host asked about the inspiration for my new release SPURRED ON.
As an author, I suck in my surroundings like a Dyson on crack. And I love to drive. This particular day I was going to town about half an hour away. I pass this farm all the time and never see human life. Only a few cows grazing on the emerald grasses. But on this day I spotted a dog. You know the type of farmer’s dog I’m talking about–white and black, a patch over one eye, smiling and tongue lolling to the side.
The animal was on full alert, staring into the open door of the barn. Immediately a whole plot leaped into my head. I saw the dog, the owners, and even the man the dog bit. Read on for an excerpt and see how my inspiration manifested on the page!
Zoe Beth jerked as the warning woof sounded. She’d heard that sound from her dog more than once.
Heart racing, she scoured the land between her father’s house and outbuildings. The yard was empty, the turf so bright green it hurt her eyes. “Where are you, Tripod?” she whispered though she knew her dog wouldn’t hear her.
Zoe Beth sneaked around the corner of one of the barns. Inside, the quiet shifting of animals would ordinarily comfort her, but she strained to hear footsteps or even a whinny that might suggest an intruder was in her family’s barn again—stealing.
The Coles’ ranch had always been a target. As it was set between two poor towns, it wasn’t surprising that the ranch and the rich outbuildings would lure thieves. But lately they’d been stealing cattle. Two calves had come up missing in a month. Teams of cowboys had ridden all over the countryside, hoping to find them lost and wandering or even stuck in some brush.
But the calves were simply gone.
Damn, I wish I had my shotgun. As far as she could tell, she was alone at the moment. After their shared five o’clock breakfast, her daddy had ridden out with some of the ranch hands to see to an issue. That left Zoe Beth, an intruder, and her wits.
Oh and Tripod, her trusty three-legged dog. As a pup the black-and-white spotted cattle dog she’d named Banjo had gotten a leg stuck in a hunter’s trap. Her father had been adamant that Banjo needed to be put down, but Zoe Beth had sobbed until he’d given in and taken the dog to the vet. After an amputation, the puppy had learned how to walk on three legs, and he’d been Tripod ever since.
Another short, low woof raised the hackles on Zoe Beth’s neck. Near the other barn. Gathering her courage and grabbing a shovel—to thwack an intruder over the head in greeting or bury him if she got a chance—she strode across the expanse of yard between barns.
She sank into ground sodden from last night’s strong rains. Her boot heels made a sucking noise with each step. Tripod sat at the door of the barn, ears twitching and body stiff.
Zoe Beth tightened her grip on the shovel handle and approached the set of doors opposite the ones Tripod guarded. Between the shovel and the dog’s vicious jaws, the intruder would regret his decision to trespass on their ranch.
Easing into the dim barn, she blinked rapidly to adjust her eyes. The fecund scents of animal barely registered as she caught movement along one wall. Cowboy boots echoed on the wooden floor as the man stepped toward the door—and toward Tripod.
The dog growled.
“Easy, boy. Won’t hurt ya none. Let’s be friends.”
Zoe Beth stared at the man’s broad back chiseled down to a backside most women would swoon over. But not her—she was going to brain him with a shovel for being in her barn. After he was facedown and unconscious, she might take a gander at his ass.
The thought made her lips twitch.
The man continued to wheedle her dog with a soft, deep voice. “How ya doin’, boy? A good guard dog, but it won’t be necessary with me around.”
“Why is that?” Zoe Beth’s voice rang to the rafters, clear and forceful. Thank goodness, because her emotions were awhirl. She didn’t need the intruder to catch the wobble in her voice.
He spun. Across a span of twenty paces, they sized each other up. His jaw was square, hat tipped low over his eyes so only the bridge of his nose was visible.
“Umm…” He raised both hands when she jerked the shovel menacingly toward him. “I mean no harm.”
“What the hell are you doing on my property? Get over by the wall. Put your hands on it and spread your legs.”
Mouth open, he did a double take. “What? You watch too many crime shows, woman.”
Annoyance rippled down her spine followed by warmth at the way he drawled “woman.” He took a step toward her, and Tripod rushed him with a snarl. White incisors flashed as the dog tore into the guy’s leg right around the top of his boot.
“Owww! Jesus Christ! Call off your dog. I’m the new foreman.” Teeth gritted against the pain of Tripod’s bite, he glared at her.
She swung the shovel, letting the metal slice the air inches from his T-shirt.
“What the hell, woman? You’re crazy! This dog’s latched on to me like I’m a prized steak, and you’re swinging at me. Who raised you to greet newcomers this way?”
She set the point of the shovel on the floor and stared at him. “Valentine Cole,” she said slowly. “My father.”
Shock crossed his face followed by a grimace of pain. “Call off your dog.”
At a snap of her fingers, Tripod released the man’s calf and trotted to her side. The dog sat at her feet, ready to tear into the guy again upon her order.
“Shit.” He dropped to the floor and clutched his calf. His jeans were torn and blood seeped from the wound. “He ruined my boot too, dammit! Hope that dog had a rabies shot.”
Zoe Beth waved a hand. “Nah. We don’t bother with that out here in the country.”
He peered at her. “You’d better be kidding, doll. Because your daddy isn’t gonna be happy to find out his new manager needs shots.”
She stiffened. “What did you call me?”