Category Archives: Much Ado in Montana

My first Sunday Snippet

Welcome!  My first Sunday snippet is from my contemporary small-town romance homage to Shakespeare, entitled Much Ado in Montana.  If you would like to read the first chapter, click on the cover.

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Anyway, enjoy!

Just as he was about pick her up, open the door, and carry her inside, even if it would have been the most idiotic thing he’d ever done, the inevitable happened. Tara saved him from his own stupidity by breaking the kiss. She lifted her hand from its warm clasp of his nape and stepped back out of his embrace. Tim braced himself, ready to withstand anything from tears to a slap.

He didn’t think he could be shocked any more than he had been in the last five minutes, but then she grinned sloppily at him and glanced down at the keys in his hand.

“What do you know? There’s my car keys. Silly me.” She turned to open the door. Reached out and hooked the keys from his limp hand with a finger. “‘Night.”

She vanished into the house, leaving Tim standing dumbfounded on the doorstep.

Much Ado in Montana’s first review!

Is here, on Amazon.  I wasn’t going to launch anything until tomorrow, but now seems like a terrific time to tell everyone that it’s available as a Kindle book on Amazon, an ebook in lots of formats from Smashwords, and as a paper book on CreateSpace.  Other retailers, both E and paper, are coming soon.

All bets are off

Tara Hillerman has lived in tiny, remote Campbell, Montana, all of her life, except for the college years she’d like to forget.  Back where she belongs, she won’t leave again, even on a bet.  Dr. Tim Swanson only came home from Seattle to talk his ailing father into shutting down the clinic he can no longer manage.  He definitely won’t stay, not even on a bet.

But neither of them anticipated their explosive reunion.  No one expected Tim’s father would come too close to ruining their best friends’ lives, either, and when Tara bets Tim that he can set things straight, she doesn’t realize he means with her, for a lifetime.

Much Ado in Montana, Chapter 2

In case you missed Chapter 1, please go here.

Chapter 2

The gathering lasted until the wee hours.  Which would have been fine if the party hadn’t been on top of the eight-hour drive from Seattle.  Tim felt like propping his head on the Prius’s steering wheel and going straight to sleep in the middle of the rutted meadow the Red Dog called its parking lot.

At least he hadn’t had too much to drink, even if the microbrew Charlie’d served him had been as tasty as anything he’d drunk in Seattle in spite of being called Moose Drool.  Tim had rationed himself carefully enough to draw attention from Jack, who’d razzed him about it, but he wasn’t about to take a chance with his brand-new car.  It was the first car he’d ever bought new, and he loved it, not just because it was good for the environment and economical, the latter a necessity because of his med school loans, but because it was his.  Wiping it out somewhere on the fifteen miles of one-lane gravel road into town would break his heart.

Tim was just about to turn the engine on when he heard a tap on his window.  He glanced up to see who it was and found himself staring squarely at two silver gray eyes gazing right back at him.  He tapped the window opener.  “Tara?  Cripes, you about gave me a heart attack.”

“Hi.”  She gave him a wavering grin.

“Hi,” he replied cautiously, and waited.  Nothing more seemed to be forthcoming from her.  Tim watched her curiously.  She hadn’t spoken to him since he’d returned from the bar.  As a matter of fact, he’d have sworn she’d deliberately ignored him the entire evening, as busy gabbing with old friends she’d no doubt not seen in – how long since her last visit here?  He wondered if she came home on a regular basis, then wished he hadn’t.  He wasn’t going to feel guilty about how few and far between his own visits had been.  His father had gone through med school and residency, too, once upon a time.  He understood.  “What’s up?”

She gestured vaguely.  “I, uh, lost my car keys.”

And she was asking him for a ride?  “Do tell.  Don’t you have a cell phone?  Or did you lose that, too?”  He glanced around.  The parking lot had emptied remarkably quickly.   His car and a little blue jeep that must be Tara’s were the only rigs still occupying it, and the Red Dog’s windows were dark.  How long had he been sitting here?  Tim pulled his own cell phone out of his pocket and blinked at the too-bright readout.  No service out here in the boonies, but at least he could see what time it was.  He should have known.  He glanced back up at her and sighed.  “I suppose you want a lift.”

She grinned at him again.  This one seemed to have a bit more oomph behind it.  He eyed her, sniffed.  Was it his imagination or was the smell of beer stronger since he’d rolled down the window?  She leaned on the door.  He sniffed again.  Nope.  Not his imagination.

“Do you mind?”

“Of course not.”  He wouldn’t leave her out here on her own.  He wouldn’t leave his worst enemy out here to fend for himself.  Well, obviously, he thought.  They were one and the same, weren’t they?  He’d thought so for the last five years, anyway.  Tim tapped the button to unlock the doors on her side and his.  He climbed out of the car and walked around to open the passenger door for her.  She was still standing by the open door on the driver’s side, so he went back and took her by the arm.

“Your seat is over here.”

The hazy glow in her eyes blinded him worse than his cell phone’s light.

“Oh.  Thanks.”  She allowed him to lead her around the car and help her in.

He rested an arm on top of the open car door.  “Just tell me if you’re going to be sick so I can stop.  Chances are I won’t forgive you if you heave in my car.”

She gave him a vaguely puzzled look.  “Just too much beer.  That’s all.”  Her voice was starting to sound slurred.

That she’d had too much beer was becoming more obvious by the moment.  It was also so unlike the Tara he’d known, even in their hell-bent college days, that Tim began to wonder if this was a new habit or a special occasion.  The stray thought occurred to him that he might be the special occasion.

No, that couldn’t be right, as he was sure she’d inform him if he ever demonstrated enough stupidity as to mention the possibility to her.

Surely, since she’d been the one to dump him, since she’d had no problem replacing him so quickly his head had spun, and, most importantly, since it had been five years since he’d lost her in the first place, for him to be any kind of a special occasion to Tara Hillerman had to be a dream on his part.  Or a nightmare.

When Tim realized that he’d been standing there leaning on the car door long enough for a curious expression to filter through the haze in her eyes, he told her, “It’s okay, I’ll take you home,” and closed the door firmly.

He walked back around to the other side of the car, slid into the driver’s seat, and glanced over at his passenger.  She was already curled up in the leather seats he’d had put in, her warm brown curls contrasting with the black material.

Tim sighed, started the engine, and gently edged the Prius over the rutted grass out onto the gravel road.  This was an interesting development, to say the least.

*  *  *

Tara didn’t have any more to say, and, indeed, looked to be sound asleep by the time the car rumbled over the Flathead River bridge and into town.  Tim drove down the late-night-deserted main drag, vaguely noticing some new sidewalks and changed businesses. Under the cosmetic changes he was still in the same Campbell he’d always known and, well, not hated.  But definitely not loved, not the way his father loved the place.  The silhouette of the Cabinet Mountains rose in front of him, silver snow and black rock against the moonlit night, silent walls of the jail he’d once felt so trapped inside of.

At the first stoplight, one of three in town, Tim leaned over and shook Tara by the arm.  “Are you staying with your folks?”

“Mmbghmph.”  She pulled her arm back and curled up again.

“Tara.”  The light turned green.  Not that it mattered.  His car was the only moving rig in sight.  Tim pulled over to the side of the empty street, anyway, and took the car out of gear.  He reached over to shake her again.

“What?”  Her voice sounded petulant and warm and sleepy, a tone he wished he didn’t remember in a completely different context.  He wondered exactly how much she’d had to drink.  And still, exactly why she’d done it tonight.

He nudged her, her shoulder soft beneath the cotton sweater she wore.  “I don’t know where you’re staying.  Are you at Becky’s?”

Her eyes slowly focused on him.  “Why would I be staying at Rebecca’s?”

“How should I know?” he replied, frustrated.  “Where are you staying while you’re here?”

“My place.”

That startled him.  “I didn’t know you had one here.”

She stared at him curiously, then rubbed her eyes with a fist.  “Of course I do.  I live here.”

“No, you don’t.  You live in Portland.  With what’s his face.”  What’s his face had been the only reason Tim hadn’t gone after her once he’d gotten over the shock of her thinking she could just dump him like that.  Well, that and his pride.  Mostly his pride, he thought ruefully.

Tara stared at him.  “Who?”

Tim shook his head in frustration.  “The bald guy.  The one with all the tattoos.  Where is he, by the way?”

“Hans?  How should I know?  I haven’t seen him in years.”  She blinked at him, then licked her lips.

Tim absorbed the shock.  So she’d dumped bald and tattooed, too.  Tim could almost rustle up some sympathy for the guy.  Almost.  He wondered if he and Hans were only the first two in a long line of dumpees.  Or if she was in a relationship now.  No one had been cozying up to her at the Red Dog.  It was none of his business, he decided firmly.  He wasn’t going there.  No matter how tempting that beautiful mouth was.  “If that’s the case, may I have some directions?”

Three minutes later he pulled up in front of a little white frame house on the edge of town.  Two enormous Douglas fir trees swept the ground in front of it, partially blocking the moonlight and the mountains.

Tara appeared to have spent the time doing her best to wake up, and she was out the door before he could make it around the car to open it for her.  He trailed her to her front door, anyway.  Some habits of good manners simply refused to die.

Her smile was a bit sheepish, but a little less fuzzy.  “Thanks for the ride, Tim.  I’m glad I didn’t make a mess in your car.”

Tim chuckled.  “I’m glad you didn’t, either.  I didn’t know you’d come back home –”

She interrupted him.  “I’m sure I’ll see you around while you’re here.”  She fumbled with her key in the lock until Tim took it gently from her.  He unlocked the door, noticing that her car keys were still on the ring with her house key.  He was glad she’d asked him for the ride, anyway.  The last thing he wanted was for her to end up in his father’s clinic, or worse, airlifted to the hospital in Kalispell after wrecking her car.

She turned to face him, leaning on the doorframe.  “I hope you realize I don’t make a habit of this.”

“What, accepting rides from ex-boyfriends?  That’s probably a good idea.”

She smiled up at him.  Tim sternly ignored it.  One, she was drunk and probably had no clue she was aiming that lethal smile at him.  Two, when she was sober she probably still hated him.  And three – three went completely out the window when Tara tilted her head up, reached a cool hand around behind his neck, pulled him down to her, and kissed him.

Ohmygod.  Where the hell had this come from?!?  Warm soft lips and warm soft breath and sensations he’d thought relegated to his dreams for the last five years.  She tasted like beer and peanuts and deep dark turbulent Tara, and she kissed as if the world had stopped spinning.  Maybe that was because it had, Tim thought dazedly.  His world certainly felt like it.

No soft breeze in the trees, no gentle light from the porch lamp.  More like a tornado with fireworks attached.  The cataclysm only got more disastrous when she opened her mouth on him.  Her tongue came searching for his, and he gave it up without a whimper.

He’d completely forgotten how wonderful she tasted.  And felt.  But his body hadn’t.  Tim felt his arms wind possessively around her of their own accord as she swayed against him.  Felt her soft breasts flatten against his chest, felt himself stiffen against her.  Half of him waited for her to realize how far things were going and pull away.  The other half simply took the good fortune and ran with it.

Just as he was about pick her up, open the door, and carry her inside, even if it would have been the most idiotic thing he’d ever done, the inevitable happened.  Tara saved him from his own stupidity by breaking the kiss.  She lifted her hand from its warm clasp of his nape and stepped back out of his embrace.  Tim braced himself, ready to withstand anything from tears to a slap.

He didn’t think he could be shocked any more than he had been in the last five minutes, but then she grinned sloppily at him and glanced down at the keys in his hand.

“What do you know?  There’s my car keys.  Silly me.”  She turned to open the door.  Reached out and hooked the keys from his limp hand with a finger.  “‘Night.”

She vanished into the house, leaving Tim standing dumbfounded on the doorstep.

Much Ado in Montana will be available on April 1st.

Much Ado in Montana, Chapter 1

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Chapter 1

Timothy Swanson stamped the dirt from his boots and shoved open the swinging doors to the Red Dog Saloon.  He was glad he hadn’t given into the admittedly juvenile impulse to wear his normal Saturday night duds tonight.  He’d have been as out of place here in Italian wool and leather as his Prius was out in the Red Dog’s gravel and mud parking lot.

Still, he had to resist the impulse to shoot the cuffs of his flannel shirt, one of several he’d bought specifically for this visit.  At least it wasn’t plaid.  This one was navy blue, shades darker than his jeans.  Tim hated flannel.  He’d grown up in flannel shirts.  Gone to college in them.  But as soon as he could ditch them and still fit in, he had.  Stupidly enough, they made him feel like a hick.  But when in Rome…

No one had noticed him yet.  Tim couldn’t decide if that pleased him or ticked him off.  The big, low-ceilinged, wood-paneled room was packed with people.  Everyone looked as if they’d just come off shift at the mill or in the forest, which most of them probably had.  Peanut shells littered the scarred plank floor.  Country music poured from enormous speakers that looked like they dated from thirty years ago because they did.  The place smelled like beer and sweat, and, whether he wanted to or not, Tim felt himself relaxing after the eight-hour drive from Seattle.

Then one head turned, and another, and another, astonishment chased by ear-splitting grins and shouts.  Tim braced as he was engulfed by the crowd.  As he fielded their boisterous greetings.  Got slapped on the back.  And was yanked forward as the door swung shut behind him.  A mug of, yes, that was Budweiser, was shoved into his hand – Tim hid his grimace as he took his first sip and wondered if the Red Dog had anything else on tap these days.

He was home again.  Whether he wanted to be or not.  Then he saw her face, and froze.

*  *  *

It took him longer than he’d have liked to break free of his impromptu welcome-home party and make his way to the table where Tara Hillerman sat, big as life and twice as beautiful, as if she was holding court at one of the battered tables.  She leaned forward, an elbow on the red-checked plastic cloth covering the rough planks, and watched him approach.

At least she looked as astonished as he felt.  Her gray eyes were wide, and, as he came closer, she almost seemed to shrink away, even though he could have sworn she hadn’t moved.

The last time he’d seen Tara had been at the University of Washington five years ago.  She’d been snuggled under the arm of a fellow library school student.  The guy could have won a “least likely to be taken for a librarian” contest with no problem whatsoever, given his abundance of tattooed muscles and shaved head.  The last Tim had heard, not that he’d tried to find out or anything, she’d been planning to follow him, and a job, to Portland.

Tim glanced around.  No bald heads stuck up out of the crowd, but then most heads here were covered with cowboy hats or gimme caps.  Maybe she was visiting home on her own.  But why this weekend?  Tim almost felt like that line in Casablanca.  “Of all the gin joints, in all the world,” he muttered, “you had to walk into mine.”

Tara’s expression of consternation didn’t last long.  By the time he reached her table, her expression had gone from shocked to sly.  But she shifted in her seat.  Was she uneasy to see him?  No, of course not.  After all, he wasn’t nervous about seeing her again after five years.  Then again, she’d dumped him, not the other way around.

“You came a long way for a party,” Tara commented dryly.  “I try to draw the line at a three-hour drive unless it lasts overnight.”

Tim leaned forward onto the back of a wooden chair on the opposite side of the table and set that gawdawful beer down.  The chair’s occupant, little Becky Thorstein, picked up her glass of soda and toasted him.  Tim grinned at her briefly before aiming his gaze back across the pitchers of beer at Tara.  “The drive or the party?  Or do you make a habit of spending all night on a three-hour drive?”

Tara glowered at him.  “I suppose you terrorized the state police and got here in six?”

Tim straightened and folded his arms in front of him.  “I’m a law-abiding citizen these days.”

“Meaning that you’ve got enough traffic tickets to make you worry about losing your license.”

Her smug expression made him long to wipe it off her face.  “Who was it almost took a header into the Ship Canal trying to beat the drawbridge?”  He could hear snickering, wanted to laugh himself but it wasn’t worth ruining the effect.

“Better than getting caught by the campus police popping wheelies in Husky Stadium.”

Her smug expression was back.  Of course she’d have a comeback, he thought.  Why would he expect things to change in five years?  “Which didn’t do any damage.  That bridge will never be the same.”

“Neither will you, Tim,”  said a new voice.  Tim turned to see Jack Rasmussen striding towards him, the saloon doors of the Red Dog swinging behind him.  He was brown from a summer in the plains of eastern Montana digging for dinosaur bones, and it looked as if he’d come straight here, not bothering to change clothes and get cleaned up on the way. His jeans and plaid flannel shirt wore dust like a badge.  His worn boots crunched on the peanut shells and other debris strewn over the plank floor as he came closer.  Voices rose in welcome again, this time sounding more like the people in the bar on that old TV show.  Jack was obviously known and loved here.  Tim was not envious of that fact.  Jack went around the table slapping backs, and gradually made his way back to Tim.

Jack clapped Tim on the back. “I figured you wouldn’t be in town till at least next week.”

Tim turned gratefully from Tara’s frustrated glower to the mile-wide grin on the face of one of his oldest friends. “Plans change.  I see you got home from the back of beyond in one piece this time.”

“Sure did.  Found some interesting stuff, too, but I won’t bore you by dragging you out to see it.”

Tim chuckled.  “Thanks.  I appreciate that.”

“Is that your itty bitty rice burner out there?”  Jack nudged Tim away from the back of Becky’s chair, leaned down, and kissed her.

Hello, Tim thought, watching Becky wrap her arms around Jack, dust and all, and return the kiss with interest.  What’s going on here?

A few long moments later, Jack pulled up a chair, placing it as close as humanly possible to Becky’s.  He pulled her hand into his lap, where she seemed quite content to let him play with her fingers.  He then resumed the conversation as if nothing had happened.  “I sure wouldn’t want to take a toy like that up the Yaak,” he said, referring to the rugged, sparsely populated area north of town.

“Huh?”  Tim tore his eyes away from the unexpected display and took a surreptitious glance around the table.  No one else seemed surprised.  He guessed it was what he got for staying out of touch so long.  What were they talking about?  Oh, yes.  The Prius.  “I wouldn’t want to take anything with less than two feet clearance up the Yaak, Jack,” he replied, as the half dozen people seated around the table groaned at the familiar rhyme.  “I drove here from Seattle on one tank of gas.”

“I’m sure you did.”  Tim turned back to Tara as she spoke.  His surprise at Jack and Becky had only deepened the smug look on her face.  “And you probably even managed to cram a change of clothes in there, too.  So, to what do we owe this rare appearance in our fair city?”

Tim cleared his throat, prepared for a small dose of crow.  “Ah, I came home for a visit.  Dad’s going to be seventy-five this month.  The least I could do was show up to celebrate it with him.”

Tara eyed him.  “You can’t possibly be here for that party yet.  It’s still three weeks off.  People were taking bets –”  She broke off, blushing slightly.  Tim wondered that she had the grace to be embarrassed.  He suddenly remembered why he hated small towns.  Everyone knew everyone else.  Butting in on private business was a common pastime.  And no one was ashamed to wager on anyone else’s behavior.

Well, he had to salvage something.  “How much money did you just lose?”

“What do you mean?”  Tara tried to look innocent, but Tim wasn’t buying it.

He leaned forward on the narrow table across from her and watched with satisfaction when she pulled back in her chair.  “How much money did you lose because I showed up?”

“None of your business.”

“Must have been a lot.”  Someone snickered. Tim ignored it, the same way he ignored the heads following the conversation as if it were a pingpong match.  Having Tara on the defensive was something he hadn’t been able to accomplish frequently.  Certainly not often enough to be blasé about it.

“I didn’t say that.”

“You didn’t have to.”

“Children, children.”  Becky glanced up from where she’d been gazing at Jack as if he was a mirage and laughed, but the sound was distinctly uncomfortable.  Tim could hear her tone over the female singer belting out how she wished she hadn’t shot him, the rattle of glasses, and the half-dozen loudly-conducted conversations in his immediate vicinity. Becky Thorstein had never been very fond of the way Tim fought with her best friend.  All the way through their lives.  Right up till five years ago.  “You don’t have to kill each other tonight.”

Tim smiled down at her and noticed the look of relief in Becky’s eyes.  And then, inevitably, his gaze wandered back over to Tara, who naturally looked triumphant.  “No, I suppose not.  But don’t ask us to declare a truce, Becky.  You might get struck by lightning.”  As he went to the bar to get himself a real beer, Tim shook his head.  The more some things changed, the more they stayed the same.

Tim couldn’t see that five years — or her bald, tattooed librarian — had changed Tara one bit.  Her gray eyes still shot sparks, and she still had a line of malarkey a mile long.

She’d never been classically beautiful.  Her features were too strong for that description.  When Tim had been young and stupid, they’d always struck him as being perfect for her quick intelligence, even when she’d used it to aim snarky barbs at him.  Her mouth, though, was another story.  Her mouth was a work of art, wide and pink and soft, and it brought back unwanted memories that didn’t involve snark or barbs.  She’d left it unpainted tonight, the way he’d always liked it.  He refused to wonder if bald-and-tattoeed liked it that way, too.

The little he could see of her figure hadn’t changed, either.  He wondered, absently, if she would still fit against him as well as she had five years ago, and brought himself up sharply as he reached the bar.

The chances of him finding out if Tara Hillerman was still as desirable as he remembered in his fantasies were less than none.  And if he was to maintain his sanity over the next few weeks while he figured out what had his mother so upset, he’d better remember that.

Too bad, though.

“Any microbrews, Charlie?” he shouted to the bartender over the noise.

“Got some Moose Drool –”  The beefy man in the dirty apron turned around and beamed.  He stretched out a huge damp paw.  “Tim Swanson!  Come home to take over your daddy’s practice?”

Sighing inwardly, Tim shouted back the answer he knew he’d be repeating till his eyes crossed.  Till he managed to escape back to Seattle.  “Nope.  Just visiting.”

Charlie frowned.  “Your dad said you were.”

And so it begins, Tim thought ruefully, as he tried to explain over the racket to Charlie that, no, he hadn’t changed his mind, that, yes, he’d just taken on a perfectly good practice at Harborview Hospital in Seattle now that he was done with his residency, and, much as he liked the good people of Campbell, he didn’t want to come back to the sticks to live.  Or words to that effect.

It was going to be damned hard to keep explaining all this without hurting anyone’s feelings.

* * *

Tara surreptitiously watched Tim from her spot at the table as he leaned over the bar, yakking with Charlie.  Nice butt, she thought wistfully.  But then he’d always had a world-class butt.  It matched his world-class temper.

Tim Swanson had come home.  It made her wonder if there wasn’t a fatted calf roasting over coals in the county somewhere.

He wouldn’t stay, though, Tara thought, more wistfully than she realized.  The gossip running through town like wildfire recently notwithstanding.  Most of it originated in the clinic, anyway, and anyone with any sense at all would know better than to believe Tim’s father’s wishful dreams.

Tara would bet her life on it.  Timothy Swanson was too sophisticated for Campbell, Montana, population two thousand, six hundred, and fifty-three, sixty miles east of Idaho and eighty miles south of Canada.  A hundred and twenty miles from the nearest mall and the nearest hospital, and – okay, Tara thought, enough already.  It was big enough to have a library, wasn’t it?  Her library.

She’d memorized all the statistics during her high school years, while she waited to make the great escape herself.  It was just that, for her, the wide world had become too lonely.  Her attempts at adventure had been just that, attempts made because she couldn’t simply give in to her own nature without at least saying that she’d been a rabble-rouser once.  A nature that craved home and security more than it did the troublemaking she’d caused during her brief college years in the big city.  She’d tried, but without Tim, she’d found that the wide world wasn’t what she wanted.  She’d rather have the comfort of people who knew her.  Family nearby.  And friends.

Still, he was awfully good-looking.  Eight years hadn’t darkened that beach-boy blond hair, now clipped short and stylishly.  The last time she’d seen him his hair had been carelessly dragging at his collar, because, as she well knew, he couldn’t be bothered to get it cut regularly.  The closely-trimmed beard, just a bit darker than the hair on his head, was new, too.  It looked good.  Gave him a layer of class.  His baby face was gone forever.

The last time she’d seen him, he’d been an unformed college boy, out to raise hell, and darned attractive then.  Now, with a man’s build, a man’s strength, and a man’s awareness, he was far more than just attractive.  Compelling was the word.

Gorgeous, maybe?

No.  Never.  And even if he was, she hoped he never found out she thought so.

No, his hair was no closer to dirty dishwater blond than it had been then.  She’d wished that on him, along with warts and klutziness and anything else she could think of when he’d betrayed her.  His face was smooth-skinned where his beard didn’t cover him and he was athletically graceful.  So much for wishing curses on him.

Some people were born with it, and some weren’t.  Dr. Timothy Swanson had it in spades.  But then he always had, in her book.  Even back when they were kids, best friends palling around together.  Before puberty arrived and made them aware of each other as more than just buddies, before it made them uncomfortable unless they were fighting.  Long before she’d started noticing his physical attributes.  Before he’d started noticing her.

She’d have been better off if he hadn’t noticed her in that way at all.

He wouldn’t be around long, though.  Long enough to celebrate his dad’s birthday with him, then Tim would shake that infamous Campbell sawdust off his feet again.

She could survive his father’s matchmaking efforts till then.

Because that’s what she’d been putting up with lately.  Dr. Swanson – the other Dr. Swanson, Tim’s father – had visited the library a record number of times during the last month, chatting up the big question, which was, of course, whether or not Tim would show up for the party.  Tara had to give the good old doctor credit, though.  There were very few people in town whose first impulse wasn’t to run for their lives when she and Tim were in the same state, let alone the same room.

Tara sighed.  It wasn’t that she hated Tim, exactly.  She just wanted to skewer him with his own scalpel for what he’d done to her.  Then wipe that smirk off his face with a kiss he’d never be able to get over.  Nature could then take its course.  Maybe with a tornado.  It was probably the kindest thing nature could do.

Tara deliberately reached for an empty glass and the pitcher of beer Jack had plunked on the table moments ago, ignoring both her soda and the curious glance Rebecca aimed at her.  Carefully she poured the lager, stopping just short of spilling foam all over her fingers.

So what if the last – and first – time she’d had a beer was two sips at a microbrewery in Portland four years ago when Hans insisted she at least give his favorite substance on the planet a try?  So what if she’d hated the stuff so badly she thought she’d never want to taste it again?  She needed some kind of courage to deal with Tim, even if it was the dutch variety.

Making a face, Tara took a mouthful and gulped it down like medicine.  It insulted her tongue and burned all the way to her stomach.  And the smell…  Taking a deep breath, she swallowed another gulp.  Anything had to be better than dealing with Tim.  Even getting drunk on beer.  Deliberately Tara turned towards Rebecca’s friend Cindy, seated next to her, and started a conversation as Tim headed back towards the table.  If he found out she’d been watching him, he’d never let her live it down.

Available at all the usual retailers, April 1, 2014.

And the New Thing begins

So.  As you know, I finished the manuscript for Much Ado in Montana last week.  I’ve still got my new! beta reader’s comments to go through and my excellent copy editor’s comments to receive and go through, but the new! cover designer has finished the front cover, which looks terrific (I’ll show it to you as soon as I can), and is waiting patiently for me to quit dithering over the blurb and send it and a few other details to her so she can create the spine and the back cover.  Making progress, and aiming for a print and electronic pubdate of the first of April.

And yesterday I started the New Thing!  Only 100+ words yesterday, and a lot of “who the heck are you and why did you choose me to tell your story” blithering.  But over 1000 words today.  No, I don’t know why young Stephen Thomas Canning, lately of Savannah, Georgia, who decided to travel West in search of a better climate to help cure his consumption in the spring of 1885, chose me to take his dictation, but I’m not arguing.  I rather like the guy so far.

I love starting a new story.  It’s fun.

Can’t say I’m enjoying researching the history of tuberculosis treatment in the 19th century, though.  Oh, well.  It’s no worse than killing someone off via gangrene from a gunshot wound was in Repeating HistoryThen again, not much would be.

Welcome to Much Ado in Montana

So.  I’m back to my roots in one way, and about as far away from my roots as I can get otherwise.

Back about twenty years ago, when I was rather desperate in a lot of ways, I took a job in a small town in the mountains of Montana.  For someone who’d grown up in suburban Los Angeles, Denver, and San Francisco, it was one heck of a culture shock.  Twenty-five hundred people in town, twenty-five thousand in a county the size of Connecticut.  The nearest mall was ninety miles away, and the the movie theater was only open three nights a week.

I didn’t stay there very long, because I was offered another position near Seattle a few months after I arrived, and western Washington was where I really wanted to be.  But by the time I left, I knew I was going to miss that little town in Montana, where a traffic jam consisted of three cars and a moose, where a federal wilderness area was less than a dozen miles from town, and whose residents called it the Last Best Place.

I still sort of miss the fact that I could not walk down the street there without someone calling out, “Hey, Meg, how are you?”  When I first moved there, my employment as the first degreed reference librarian they’d ever had put my picture on the front page of the bi-weekly newspaper, so everyone knew my name.  I never did get to the point where I could say, “Fine!  How are you?” without wanting to add, “Do I know you?”

Anyway, I’ve always wanted to set a book in my small town in Montana.  Much Ado in Montana, which will be coming out the end of March, is about a small-town librarian who falls in love with the doctor who comes back home.  No, it’s not a Mary Sue.  Tara Hillerman has lived in Campbell, Montana, all of her life except for college, and she wouldn’t leave it again on a bet.  Timothy Swanson, however, has no intention of staying when he comes home to help his ailing father close up the only medical clinic in town.

What happens when bets are actually made and Tim’s father comes way too close to ruining their best friends’ love life is the stuff Shakespearean homages are made of.

If you click on this link, you can read the first chapter.  I hope you’ll want to read Much Ado in Montana when it comes out this spring.