Friday, February 4, 2022

Moon over Montana

I'm pleased to share the cover design of my novel, Moon Over Montana. Release date will be announced soon. This journey has been a blessing, a bit nerve wracking at times, but one I would do again. Below is an excerpt from chapter one. 


The letter fell from her fingers and fluttered to the floor. Megan Donovan stared but did not make a move to pick it up. She wiped a tear from her eye. Loose tendrils of hair clung to her dampened face. “No more crying. Not for anyone.”

Her emotions ran dry. Megan curled up on the window seat and watched a Western Meadowlark gathering long strands of grass for its nest. She’d spent hours watching the bird tend its home and looked forward to the fledglings that would inevitably follow. The bird ducked into its nest, and if Megan wasn’t so upset, she would pull out her camera. She leaned against the wall and sniffled, the beauty of the day sliding past her.

Spring was in full, glorious bloom. Pink cherry blossoms burst out in vibrant color on the tree outside her window, and birds flitted from limb to limb, the rebirth of the season standing out in stark contrast against snow-capped mountains in the distance and the chill in her heart. Megan embraced nature, one of God’s greatest gifts to mankind. Shrouded by its beauty, she found comfort and solace. Today, however, even that peace failed to touch her heart.

The door creaked open and her orange tabby, Leo, hopped onto the seat. Megan scooped the persnickety feline in her arms and held him close. “Hey, baby. You’re getting hungry, aren’t you? Hmmm? Do you want to eat? Of course, you do. You always want to eat.”

Megan turned Leo loose and picked up the letter before leaving the room. “I’ll feed you, and then I have to heat up the soup for dinner.” Leo howled, and she gave him a gentle boot down the hallway. “You’re spoiled.”

Megan glanced at the clock. Her mother would soon be home from the hospital where she worked as a pediatric nurse. Megan pulled a pot of soup from the refrigerator and set it on the counter.

Leo howled, more demanding this time, and wound around her legs.

“OK, the only way I’ll be able to start dinner is to feed you.”

She followed Leo to the laundry room and reached into an overhead cabinet for a can of cat food, filled his bowl, and set it on the table. “There you go. Eat up.” She scratched him behind the ears as he ate. “You’re lucky, you know that? Everything is so easy for you. I wish I could say the same.”

Megan smoothed out the letter and leaned on the table. “E. Randall Hayes, Attorney at Law.” She walked over to the window and leaned against the marbled glass. “Well, Mr. E. Randall Hayes, perhaps you can tell me where to start.”

Megan flung open the door and ran out before she exploded. Emotions she did not know how to address churned through her. Indecision ran rampant through her mind, tinged with a good old-fashioned dose of guilt. The walls felt as if they were slowly closing around her. Mills Springs, her rustic western hometown to the south of Sheridan, Wyoming, grew stifling. She needed to break free before she smothered.

Megan raced across the yard to the tree line to seek refuge under a stand of tall Sequoia pines. The late day chill seeped through the thin material, and she wrapped her arms around her torso. Lost in tumultuous emotions, she jumped when someone grasped her arm.

Megan gazed upward, her hand shielding her eyes from the blinding rays of the late afternoon sun. A pair of smoky brown eyes stared down at her. “Rex Carson, you scared the daylights out of me.”

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to. Man, you were really out there.” Rex released his grasp and leaned against the scratchy bark of the tree.

“I didn’t expect you back from Idaho for a few more days,” Megan said.

“The case wrapped up sooner than expected.”

“Did you get the injunction?”

“A temporary one.”

“Temporary? How temporary?” Megan asked.

Rex shrugged. “Six months.”

“Only six months?” Megan gasped. “What happens then?”

“The court will reconvene,” Rex answered. “But the horses are safe for now.”

“For now,” Megan muttered.

“It’s a start,” Rex said. “I was worried about you.”

“Rex, I’m so sorry,” Megan blurted out. “I never meant to hurt you. I do love you.”

Rex reached out in a gentle manner and pulled her close. “But you’re not in love with me.”

Megan’s tears soaked into the soft cotton of his shirt. “I’m sorry. I was so lost after…”

Rex pushed her back and tilted her face upward. “Hey, it’s all right. I understand. I’ve had plenty of time to think the past two weeks, and I realize you made the right decision. We’ve been friends for a long time. There’s no sense in mucking it up. We’ve always been there for one another, and that will never change where I’m concerned. I’ll always be here for you, no matter what.”

The ring Megan neglected to return the night she broke their engagement further compounded her guilt. She slowly slid it off. “I can’t keep this.”

Rex pushed her hand back. “Yes, you can. I want you to have it. In case you change your mind.” The smile slid from his face. “Sorry, bad joke.”

Megan pressed the diamond ring into Rex’s palm. “Please, take it. I don’t mean to hurt you, but I just don’t feel right about keeping it.” She turned to stare at the mountains in the distant west. “Use it for your fight.” She returned her gaze to Rex. “It will help with the court costs.”

Rex sighed and pocketed the ring. “You’re right. We have a lot of people in our corner, and every little bit helps. Sometimes I feel like this is a fight we’ll never win.”

“You’re the strongest advocate I know,” Megan said. “Those horses in Idaho are running free today because of all you do.”

“I’m not doing it alone,” Rex reminded her. “I’m just a cog in the wheel.”

He took Megan by the hand and led her to a gazebo in the far corner of the yard and wrapped his arms around her. “You don’t have anything to feel guilty about, you know. It’s better you faced your feelings honestly now than to enter into a marriage that would have been doomed from the beginning. We’ve been friends far too long to allow that to happen.

Megan sniffled and wrapped her arms around his waist. “You big lug. I think you know me better than I know myself.”

They sat in silence, the twitter of songbirds the only sound. Megan leaned her head against Rex’s chest. Was she making the right decision? After all, she was letting a good man get away. Rex was everything a woman could want in a man. Loyal, trusting, dependent, and hardworking. He worked dispatch six days a week at his father’s independent trucking company. He wasn’t rich by any means, but he could provide a secure future. As if he wasn’t busy enough at work, Rex was active in various groups embroiled in the fight to save America’s wild horses.

“I wish I could love you the way you deserve,” Megan said, her voice a mere whisper in the early spring breeze. “But I can’t lie to you. That wouldn’t be fair to either of us. You deserve someone who can love you with every beat of her heart. Someone who knows what you’re going to say before the words come out and laughs at your jokes no matter how lame.”

“Hey, you still laugh at my jokes,” he chided.

Megan lobbed a weak punch at his arm. “What can I say? I never could resist your charming wit.”

A cloud breezed by, blotting out the sun. Rex stood and held out his hand. “Walk me to my truck.”

“An offer I can’t resist.” Megan smiled, hoping to hide the sorrow harbored deep in her heart.

“Are you still leaving?” Rex asked.

Megan nodded. “I’m going to tell Mom tonight. Someone has to settle my grandfather’s estate.”

“Sounds about right.” Rex stopped and tugged on Megan’s hand. “Any idea of how long you’ll be gone?”

Megan shrugged. “I have no idea. It all hinges on what needs to be done with the estate. And I might stay on and explore the area a little. I’ve never been to that part of Montana.”

They reached Rex’s truck. He leaned on the open door and traced Megan’s face with his finger. “I guess this is good-bye.”

“For now.” Megan leaned into his touch. “And you didn’t lose me. It just wasn’t meant to be. I’ll always care about you and will always be here for you. No matter what.” A new stream of tears erupted. “You’ll always be my best friend.”

Rex rocked her in his arms. “Best friend, huh? I’ll take it.” He opened the door and climbed behind the wheel. Remember what I said. If you ever need anything, all you have to do is call.” He gunned the engine. “Be careful in Montana.”

Megan answered with a nod, a lone tear trailing down her face.

Rex waved out the window. “Call me when you get there.”

Megan stepped back as he pulled out onto the road. A chapter of her life dissipated in a plume of dust on a quiet country road. She turned and walked away.