Hi E. Elizabeth and welcome to HJ! We’re so excited to chat with you about your new release, The Cowboy’s Texas Heart!
Thank you so much for having me on Harlequin Junkie again! I’m so glad I get to stop by to talk about my new release, The Cowboy’s Texas Heart, with you.
To start off, can you please tell us a little bit about this book?:
Tyler Dixon has been burned before, and it left him with two sons to raise solo. He’s always been stalwart, a pillar for his family to rely upon, even if it meant giving up the one thing he wanted more than anything: his law career. Now he has a family ranch to protect from an unscrupulous oil company on top of all his other responsibilities, including protecting his children from the past. He lives by rules about women, until a one-night stand turns into more than he ever bargained for and makes him question whether or not he wants to be alone anymore.
Heart Carvalho is a party girl, or so most people think, but her carefree exterior hides a vulnerable core, and grief she’s kept to herself for years. Men are light-and-breezy-keep-it-easy, until her truck breaks down in a deadly storm outside her one-night-stand’s ranch, and she realizes that the geophysical survey the state sent her to conduct there will likely help an oil company bent on taking advantage of him. That, and neither of them can forget how explosive their night together was. She needs to open up and let him and his kids in if she wants him to keep bending his rules for her until they break.
Please share your favorite lines or quote(s) from this book:
I have so many favorite lines! But rather than single quotes, they’re little exchanges of dialogue especially where they tease each other about being either carefree or strict rules followers. Here are a few:
“Are you being spontaneous, Mr. Rules?” she teased, dusting kisses to his forearm.
“Lemme check my spreadsheet and get back to you,” he teased back, earning that musical laugh of hers that danced on his eardrums and made him wish for forever.
“OMG, do you want help or not?” she muttered, exasperated, laughing so that she didn’t slap him, and swiped up her notes. “It’s no wonder there are so many lawyer jokes. I swear you’re doing that interrupting crap again. Also, have you ever wondered why Seth thinks you sound like a drill sergeant? Because, Counselor, I rest my case.”
He rubbed the bridge of his nose, a smile playing across his lips, plopped his hat back on his head, and slouched his hands on his hips. “I’m listening.”
“Holy hell, that’s a responsive truck!” he whooped. “Must be a woman to melt beneath my touch like that.”
Heather’s head was tipped back as she laughed, and she rolled it his way, their eyes locking. “No way! He handles like a beast and loves the way you grip his stick.”
A laugh huffed up his throat and he glared at her as she waggled her eyebrows. Her finger reached out. Traced a path down his cheek. “There it is.”
“There’s what?” he retorted.
Her smile had grown wistful. “That dimple. It’s like you’re happy and don’t have a care in the world.”
He nipped at her finger and pressed a kiss to it as it lingered on his lip, the burning path her nail had left on his cheek firing through him. Enough time with her, and he might start to believe he didn’t.
“Like, you bought it online?”
She laughed, a pretty sound he liked hearing, yet feeling confused, wanting to kiss her again, but still feeling an ounce of sting from that smarting remark about attachments. “Yeah, yesterday afternoon.”
“Without test-driving it?”
“OMG, I bet you’d put together a spreadsheet of choices, list pros and cons, test-drive them all, list prices, gas mileage, recall histories, and then brood over it for a month.”
“Ain’t that the smart way to make expensive decisions?” …
Heather flashed him a smile, her eyes glittering in the sunlight. “I know what I like.”
Yes, she did. And she seemed to like him for the time being.
What inspired this book?
I love geology, and paleontology. While I studied archaeology, I used to volunteer at a vertebrate paleontology lab sorting fossil fragments, and almost minored in geology. (I ended up minoring in French, ha!) I was such a nerd, too! I bought roadside geology guides to take with me during fieldwork or even just driving across state so I could stop on the side of any road and look up the nearby types of rock stratigraphy. To say paleontology inspired the heroine’s character would be an understatement. I loved the idea that all the heroines in this series would be scientists, and so I picked sciences I loved and valued. The Texas landscape is always an inspiration, too. The state is so vast and varied, with multiple types of ecological zones: piney woods, coastal waters, prairie, mountains, deserts. It has such cool flora and fauna, that I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to write about Texas without those things factoring into the story. I’m also a conservationist at heart, and so the idea of protecting the land from development appealed to me. Giving Tyler and Heart a common cause to join forces on was the perfect way to help bring them together, for them to both realize what they would sacrifice for the other as they fell deeper into lust and love.
How did you ‘get to know’ your main characters? Did they ever surprise you?
Tyler Dixon is the oldest son of the cattle dynasty, Dixon Cattle Co.. He’s the big brother to Toby, the hero in my Amazon bestselling book The Cowboy’s Texas Rose, and Travis, the middle brother wounded in battle in The Cowboy’s Texas Sky. Tyler is the lifeline of his family. Broody and responsible, he’s a Harvard educated lawyer, a perfectionist, deliberate and convicted, and has it ingrained in him to man-up and take care of his brothers. Therefore, he often deprives himself in favor of everyone else’s needs. He gives Heart stability, and the roots she needs to feel like she belongs somewhere.
Heather (Heart) Carvalho is the daughter of a Portuguese Immigrant father and a Texan mother, who spent her coming-of-age years in a Dallas preparatory boarding school or on her grandparents’ vineyard in Beira. She rebelled against the rigid path in life they’d laid out for her by becoming this free spirit, a geologist (thanks to summers exploring the rugged hills around her grandparents’ land), and who shunned the mold her parents tried to force her into following a harrowing family tragedy. She floats wherever the wind takes her, drawing Tyler out of his shell.
This book was a process of peeling back layers. I tried many times to start writing it, and failed at first, because it took a while for my characters to speak to me and tell me who they were through the actions I was writing on the page. If that makes sense, ha!
What was your favorite scene to write?
The drive-in movie. The chemistry between the characters is already there—they’ve been hot for each other since their one-nighter, but now we’re getting a peek at their vulnerabilities. Tyler is forced, to a degree, to let Heart in when he gets a phone call from his kids’ summer camp that his older son is in trouble. Again. He’s trapped by an NDA, having never been able to open up to anyone about his marital struggles because of it, but having Heart with him day after day is pushing him over the edge. Heart is realizing for the first time, she’s wading into dangerous territory: wanting Tyler to trust her enough so he confides in her, not trusting herself enough to do the same, and yet, it’s profound, because whether she realizes it or not, she’s offering him a glimpse of her demons that she keeps locked away beneath her good-times vibes and free-spirit. It’s the first scene where they both capitulate, and acknowledge, that there’s something more between them that they’re both desperately trying to ignore in attempts to keep their relationship light and casual. The end of the scene always gives me goosebumps in the best way, because they need each other so much.
“Lean forward,” he ordered softly by her ear. It did nothing but induce more shivers, more excitement for one of his toe-curling kisses or that intense stoking of heat she felt when he loved her body.
She did, his face mere inches from hers, as his plaid dropped behind her, and he draped it over her shoulders. Warmth enveloped her, dregs of his body heat lingering in the fabric, making her goose bumps more sensitive against it, as his cedar scent—she now knew was 250 dollars’ worth of Truefitt & Hill luxury men’s shaving supplies from sharing the same bathroom as him—filled her nose and the faint hint of his body odor mingled with the scent that was unique to him, his palms on her shoulders straightened it out, then pulled it across her chest, his knuckles grazing her breasts.
Her eyes fluttered shut at the sensation, then rose to his gaze. His brown ones gazed back at her, still riveted with concern. Men didn’t offer their shirts unless they like-liked a woman.
“Something wrong? You okay?”
She laughed and deflected, like she was always good at doing. Had he realized he’d touched her breasts? Or maybe he was comfortable enough with her that he hadn’t noticed. Which definitely meant there were roots attaching them- selves.
“I ought to be asking you that. What happened with your son?”
This time, he seemed more prepared for the topic. He didn’t stiffen at her question or stalk off to the concession stand to buy another pile of junk food they couldn’t possibly eat—impulse buys, she smiled. He mulled over her question, his hand fiddling with his shirt on her frame as if tucking her in, then pulled her against him as if they spent all their nights in such easy warmth with each other.
He took a deep breath. His eyes searched hers, impassive, perhaps weighing whether or not he wanted to talk about it again. Perhaps formulating what he’d say.
“Sure you wanna know?”
He stared out the windshield at the movie and chewed his cheek.
“A kid insulted Seth’s momma so he threw some punches and tipped his canoe over.”
She stiffened, then nestled into him, that slight twist of unease in the pit of her stomach still clenching, her treacherous body wanting to relax into his embrace, like they’d sat together moments ago with easy chatter.
“Is he okay?”
“Got a split lip.”
“He clearly loves his mom,” she replied. Was it the right thing to say?
No reaction. Then he huffed an ironic laugh, as if to himself more than anything. “He doesn’t even know her. That’s a sore spot for him. Because he really wishes he did, and…” Tyler shook his head as if trying to conjure the right words but failing. Chewed his cheek. “I don’t know what to tell him.”
He fell silent, as she sat against his heat and tucked her knees back up on the seat, felt the comfort of his heavy arm draped around her, and slid her hand around his stomach as she rested her cheek in the crux of his shoulder.
“Why not tell them the truth?”
He stiffened. A glance at his lips showed a white line. Either angry, or refusing to speak.
“She’s not someone I’m allowed to talk about to anyone.”
Not allowed to talk about? A celebrity would be the likeliest bet, then. Someone famous had a lot at risk with their public persona, and it was growing clearer by the second that his ex didn’t want the world to know she was a mother. Or perhaps doesn’t want the world to know she’d nearly killed her babies.
“But my kids are smart. They’re figuring it out. And they’re gonna hate me for keeping it from ’em.”
His teeth seemed to grit harder. He looked…furious. Yet his arm around her was gentle.
“You gonna be okay?”
If he was a dad worth his salt, he’d stew on that phone call for the remainder of the night.
He harrumphed. “Yeah. If this kid ain’t the death of me first. Twelve’s a hard age as it is. Just wish I knew how to reach him. Feel like I’ve tried everything. He needs a momma, and I ain’t it.”
“Twelve was a hard age,” Heart muttered, remembering that shy twelve-year-old and the chaos surrounding the accident, the blinding, flashing emergency lights, the EMTs shouting, “Found a pulse! Watch her neck! (This part omitted so I don’t spoil the story!)” the static of their walkie-talkies, her weak whimpers, police dashing to and fro, the jostling of the ambulance, the pain…excruciating pain, so excruciating that the chaos seemed warped and bleary, as if seen from within a fish bowl. The empty hospital room bathed in moonlight. “Add on top of that, he doesn’t have a mother. He probably feels cheated.”
Heart owed Tyler that story in return for his confidence in her, but now didn’t feel like the right time, and her story didn’t have a happy ending. He might have alluded to a contentious relationship with his dad after spinning donuts, but everyone in the Dixon brood seemed to be alive and well. His kids, even, had survived a harrowing experience.
(This part omitted to prevent from spoiling the whole book!)
This was why distress wasn’t her M.O. She couldn’t change the past. Only make peace with it. Which was easiest done with cheap hookups, transient work, and the wind in her hair. She just wished making peace with it wasn’t a constant emotion she had to negotiate.
“After Seth, we tried one last time to make a go of it. Ended up with Stevie. In hindsight, it only made it worse.” Deep breath. “She didn’t want ’em,” he whispered so softly, it was as if he was trying to unravel a thread from a spool.
“Seth probably knows.” Heart’s thumb traced circles up- on his navel.
“There’s no way he could—”
“Trust me,” she interrupted solemnly. “He doesn’t need to hear the words to know he wasn’t wanted.”
Tyler’s arm tightened on her. As if she was the one deserving comfort. She nearly scoffed, her hand tightening upon his belly, resuming soft caresses over that steel grate beneath his T-shirt. Then he reached into his pocket and withdrew a small piece of paper, and held it to her.
“I got this for you. Almost forgot. They had ’em at the concessions in the prize machines.”
She took it. A gift? Oh, he was straying far from the no- attachments agreement, but then again, so was she, promising exclusivity and attempting to be his shoulder to lean on… Her eyes fell to it. Her fingers holding it trembled. It wasn’t a piece of paper. She swallowed hard.
Why the hell was this man making her feel so much? She traced her finger over the butterfly sticker’s wings. Felt him watching her.
“You had one on Buford,” he said. She cracked a smile at the twist of his lips at the name of her old truck, in spite of the mist dampening her eyes. “Figured your new truck needed one, too.”
Her eyes lifted to his. For all his brooding, this man was beyond sweet. He was definitely going to be a heartbreaker. “Thank you.”
“You sure you’re okay?” His eyes furrowed at the sight of her unshed tears, his voice reverberating through his chest against her ear.
She nodded. Choked out a laugh. “I’m fine. Just me, being weird.” She bobbed her head back and forth. “Which shouldn’t surprise you by now.”
His mouth pulled up into a grin. He pecked a kiss to the top of her head and nestled her closer like she was a stuffed animal, slouching in the seat to get comfortable, and propping his foot on the emergency brake so his knees straddled the steering. His eyes fixed on the screen.
“I think I like your weird, Tie-Dye. You’re different.” His fingers tightened almost imperceptibly on her shoulder, the movie action flashing across his face as another roar rumbled through the bass. “You’re like a breath of air I didn’t know I needed.”
Her breath caught. Arm tightened upon him. Fingers tightened on the sticker.
Butterflies always remind me that I’m where I belong.
“I think we’re beyond attachments, Ty,” she whispered, listening to his heartbeat.
His hand slid off her shoulder to palm her head, sifting his fingers into her locks and cupping her to his chest.
His lips pressed to her hair. “I know.”
What was the most difficult scene to write?
The hardest part about this book wasn’t so much a difficult scene, so much as it was difficult at first to pinpoint where to start the story. At first, the book started with Heart’s truck breaking down at Tyler’s front gates, but in order for them to get cozy as quickly as they did, it made more sense that they had some history first, a reason for them to be familiar with each other, which was hard to do when my characters live by a one-and-done rule. Once I realized that Tyler was actually living by a set of rules he’d written out, literally, on a bar napkin years ago following his bitter divorce, I knew right away in order for him to fall for Heart, he needed to be thrown out of his comfort zone in a way that was out of his control. So I thrust him face-to-face again with the one-night stand he couldn’t forget. In the final stages of writing the draft I planned to submit to my editor (meaning only a couple weeks before the whole book was due—I was biting my nails, y’all!), my inspiration exploded and I furiously typed out a brand new prologue which made the whole book fall into place!
Scene snippet (Warning: it gets a bit spicy!):
“He’s gonna need a minute, ladies!” T.R. laughed, flashing his megawatt smile as more ribbing, and this time, some booing, increased the cacophony. “Booing? Actually…” T.R. leaned out, shielding his eyes and scanning the room, pretty-boy blues squinted.
“Naw, man,” Tyler grumbled, knowing his cousin’s probing stare. Tyler stepped back into the dark perimeter out of the dance lights’ reach—
“Ty!” his cousin shouted into the mic, his gaze honing in on him like a probation officer on an ankle monitor. The crowd silenced a degree.
“Nope,” Tyler muttered. He didn’t do “spotlight” of any variety, big or small. Didn’t do front and center, had some damn good reasons for it.
“No? Aw, don’t hide, man!” T.R. teased. “Come fill in a riff or two while our boy here takes a breather and gets another beer!”
Just what your guitarist needs. Another beer. Tyler chuckled wryly.
He was too old for this shit. It was like hanging out with Toby, his littlest bro, playing that super fun game where Tyler was always the babysitter and Toby the little trouble maker. Trav, their middle bro, didn’t play that game anymore, thankfully. He’d lost his innocence in the worst possible way in Afghanistan, but at least he’d grown the hell up.
“Come on, Ty! Won’t take no for an answer!” T.R. turned to the crowd, flashing lights distorting their shadowed faces. “You guys wanna hear some music!”
The dance floor pulsated, whooping. The sound grated on Tyler’s eardrums as horribly as the feedback had. There was a dangerous storm brewing on the weather Doppler, ready to hit tomorrow. He and T.R. ought to be back at the farm, preparing, before it swept across the county. That geophysical surveyor from the state would also be there tomorrow to check into Tyler’s guest cabin, and Tyler needed to be there ready to greet him and then follow him like a bloodhound to make sure the fucker didn’t nose around his property where he didn’t belong—
“Hear that, Ty? Get your ass up here!” T.R. cut through Tyler’s mental planning. Again, Tyler shook his head. “He’s shy, y’all!” Cue laughter. Cue Tyler’s exasperated eye roll and another sip of beer. “C’mon, man, it’s your, like, one night out of the decade! Get your ass outta your bubble and live a little!”
He grunted at the public shaming and ensuing cheering. He liked his bubble and frowned as eager patrons turned his way, searching for the guy T.R. was shouting at.
He nursed another lazy bottle tilt, slouching his hand on his work-worn denim, ignoring the ladies who’d spotted him, eyeing him up and down as if they wanted to climb him like a tree.
“Naw, don’t gimme that indifference! Ladies and gents, my cousin is mean as hell on the guitar! He can play literally anything! Used to play at SXSW and Austin City Limits! And around the Boy Scout campfire, y’all!” More laughter. Tyler inhaled hard for patience. “C’mon, chant with me. We want Ty! We want Ty!”
What the hell? Did T.R. think he was some country music star plying millions of adoring fans instead of playing for tips in a dingy honky-tonk on the outskirts of Nacogdoches? Yet the room responded. The crowd crammed into this petri dish chanted. He scowled at T.R. who flashed that shit-eating grin and folded his arms smugly, glowing in his local stardom.
Tyler exhaled. Hard. Set down his beer and eyed it longingly, then swiped a bottle of water off the bar, climbing onto the plywood stage. The crowd erupted. He tilted his Stetson over his eyes. Why was he capitulating? To shut my cuz the hell up, that’s why.
He took the guitarist’s instrument from where the man sat swaying on a stool, slinging the strap over his shoulder as he yanked the man’s beer out of his hands. “Hey man, I was—”
“Sober the hell up,” Tyler grumbled, thrusting the water at him and jabbing the beer onto a 2 x 4 ledge in an unfinished portion of wall studs, strumming his fingers over the strings to familiarize himself with another man’s guitar and fine tuning the D string he could hear had been the tiniest degree flat, unnoticeable to most.
“Hell yeah, cuz!” T.R. crowed as he leaned against Tyler’s shoulder.
“Thanks a lot, Thaddeus,” Tyler grumbled through the side of his mouth.
T.R. laughed but pulled the mic away from his mouth. “Don’t ‘Thaddeus’ me, asshole. Just play and have fun for once in your life. Seth and Stevie are safe at summer camp. You’re a single dude with two weeks of freedom. Use ’em.”
Correction: divorced dad, not single dude. He ought to check on the boys again—
The drummer cracked his sticks together while Tyler deliberated on a reply, leading into a country cover. Tyler worked the frets, ad-libbing until he found the melody and his flow, keeping his head shadowed and averted from the crowd dancing as if he didn’t have a care in the world, when purplish waves, bouncing haphazardly flashed in his periphery. He side-eyed the girl to whom they belonged.
Willowy, toned arms that she pumped over her head, sensual twists of her hips, tie-dyed tank top that had some sort of…dinosaur on it? His side-eye honed in. A tattoo flared across her shoulders. An over-twenty-one wristband dangled among a twining of leather bracelets. Completely in her element in her flirty skirt, sexy ankle boots… Okay, so he wasn’t side- eying her. He was full-on eye-screwing her expanse of bare skin, legs that didn’t stop, like she was some ethereal creature he couldn’t look away from. The platinum-blond woman she was dancing with, in equally mismatched clothes—like the two had robbed a thrift store—nudged her, eying him, having caught onto his staring.
His vision corrected itself, landing on a painted crack in the stage floor. He focused his attention on working the strings—Had her hair been purple? Or was it the artificial lighting? His eyes darted back to verify as T.R. led them into a cover of Luke Bryan’s “Kick the Dust Up.” The bass pulsated through the speakers near his ears, undulating energy of pretty women dressed to let loose and impress, and the purple-haired chick and her Baywatch-blond friend bounced up and down, laughing, wild and free, skirts fluttering up and down their miles of clothing-less thighs, tits bouncing—purple-haired chick’s rack was easy on the eyes. This time, he realized she stared back at him, grinning playfully, the brightest, gloriously wide eyes, color that was light and crystalline and most likely distorted by the dance floor lights, plushest lip pinched seductively between her teeth, making him wonder what they’d look like stretched around his—
Fuck, he’d clashed a chord!
T.R., mouth mashed upon the mic, turned his way, waggling his brows. He’d noticed the mistake and noticed to where Tyler’s eyes had wandered. Tyler didn’t make mistakes. The guitar was like a fifth appendage, even if he didn’t normally play in public, and he put his eyes right back where they damn well belonged: on the painted crack on the stage. Women. Distractions. The lot of ’em.
“Knock, knock, knock goes the diesel, if you really wanna see the beautiful people,” shouted the crowd as some chick flashed her chest, followed by thunderous cheers.
He resisted another heavenward glance that he was in the thick of this Girls Gone Wild mess. Please, goddammit, no photos of me on this stage acting like my last brain cell died yesterday. He’d be disbarred in a hot minute. Or someone, somewhere, would recognize him…
Yet somehow, his stupid eyes had migrated back to Tie-Dye’s mouth, watching her shout the lyrics, as her friend and she dissolved into laughing, swigging their beers. From her angle now, which seemed suspiciously closer to the stage, to him, he could see the design of her shirt across her breasts, and how in the hell had he ended up staring at her again? Texas Paleontology is the Pits, with a dinosaur holding a shovel and a litany of sponsoring universities in fine print. Huh. College girl, maybe? Not his scene. He had no business imagining someone a decade or more younger than himself on her knees—
She was still watching him. A warning kick throbbed below the belt buckle. A twinkle in her eyes and a smile screwed those pretty lips sideways like a knowing secret that popped the most kissable divot at the corner of her mouth, like welcoming pillows he wanted to rest his lips upon to taste her honey for himself—pillows? Shit, I’m an idiot. Another kick in his Levi’s between his thighs.
It had been a while since he’d hooked up. Dad-life came first. Farm next. Law practice after that. Libido last. But now that he was imagining her on her knees, her lips stretched around his pecker, imagining what those tousled waves would feel like sifting through the calluses on his fingertips as he gripped her and plowed home, he felt the familiar rush of blood away from his brain on a direct flight south to his less intelligent head, the head that had gotten him into more trouble on one painfully similar night so long ago…
He finished the song, passed off the guitar to T.R.’s guitarist, and hopped off the stage to retreat to his beer, if it was even still there. Naw, maybe he oughta jet right out the door—
A hand snagged his forearm. Skin tingling on skin where his shirt sleeves were rolled up shot electricity up his arm. Vanilla-almond deliciousness wafted around him, and on instinct, he drew in a satisfying breath, a sensual relief from the honky-tonk air perfumed with beer and stale cigarette residue embedded in the walls even though smoking had been banned inside for over a year.
It was her. He didn’t need to look to know it was the wild child from the dance floor with messy, purple—no, mahogany (?) hair, but he was looking nonetheless, like she was a drug and he was jonesing, eyes trailing over her classically beautiful face, her perfectly fistable tresses. Up close, he could see those eyes were light. And makeup-less. On stage he’d assumed she wore mascara, but no, her lashes were naturally dark and thick. Her lips seemed glossy, but it could also be the lingering sheen of beer he wanted to kiss off that flesh—no.
Her porcelain face was painted by the grace of nature’s paintbrush, not Dior. Not an ounce of foundation clogged her pores. She had a couple tiny freckles. An adorable nose that a man could litter kisses upon until the cows came home and probably never get tired of doing so. And bangly earrings that he wanted to tug with his teeth, and—
“You were good!” She grinned. He nodded his thanks at her obvious line, turning away. “The way you jumped all over the frets, barre chords to picking. Impressive, Ricky Scaggs. And also, thanks for tuning that D string because it was killing me!”
He eyed her openly. So, she wasn’t feeding him a line? She knew her music. Or played?
“Dance with me!” she shouted over the noise, a coy smile glinting those sparkly eyes.
His dick gave another warning throb. Feeling her skin on his was the hottest foreplay.
“Naw, I don’t dance.” Wait. He was walking out on the dance floor, letting a one-sided grin tug up the corner of his lips, playful tugs of her hands luring him.
T.R. grinned, the bastard, notched his chin toward the woman during a lyrical interlude, mouthed Guitarists always get laid, man. Tyler scratched his cheek with his middle finger, eliciting a laugh from T.R. at the surreptitious bird, who launched into a chorus again. And yet, just the mere suggestion of sex had his bronco buster below the belt ramrod straight and itching for a rodeo, growing uncomfortable trapped in the leg of his jeans.
He stood on the floor as undulations pushed and pulled around him, as this party girl with the not-purple hair and perfect cheekbones and magical eyes—were they brown?— who smelled like his favorite ice cream shimmied against him, lost in her own little world and soaking up the moment. He took her in, folded his arms, let her show him what she had as if she was his own personal dancer, eyed those legs, that nice ass as she twisted and dipped, her hair adorably in her eyes, those curves and that grabbable waist.
His hand snagged her hip on a primal instinct to claim, anchored her against his thigh as they began to move together. She flashed her eyes at him in pleased surprise. Definitely brown. And wide. The kind a guy lost himself within as he made lov—got off. Felt her tug his belt buckle as if to pull his thigh, wedged between hers as he dipped lower, harder against her. His hands slipped around her waist, up her back. Tight. Yet supple. Natural curves, lean muscle. Sexy as hell. Like a model. And didn’t he have historically poor taste when it came to models?
Somehow, he missed T.R. calling the set. Missed the recorded music transitioning onto the sound system, lost in this woman’s energy that pulled him in like the proverbial moth to the flame. He knew better; he’d been fried by this flame before. He buried his face in her neck sucking in lungfuls of her vanilla-almondness while her body rubbed mercilessly against his erection, mesmerized by her carefree laugh and singing, memorizing the shape of her curves with his palms inching dangerously close to the underswells of her tits as he stoked hormones up and down her body, as she did the same and unbuttoned his shirt over his T to let it hang loose, leaving trails of gunpowder ready to ignite all over his skin, felt himself…laughing?
What the hell?
She popped his hat off and cocked it on her own like a cowboy’s fantasy. He felt her in his arms as they stumbled off of the dance floor and she snagged his hand and hurried them toward the bathroom where she dragged him inside a tiny unisex closet.
Her back fell to the door as his chest pinned her in and his hands braced her hips where he wanted them. She dragged him down to her lips when he stopped short. Fuck, he didn’t kiss. But her breath smelled like peppermint. His favorite candy. And IPA. Both favorites of his. He didn’t dare touch her lips, or he wouldn’t resurface for air until he’d gotten himself drunk on them and found himself begging for her number. Even lips like these that he’d been staring at for God knew how long now, that looked so bitable, that he was allowing to ghost gently against his as he fought for self-control, then relented to dusting his lips along the corner of her mouth to her cheeks.
He could hear her excited breath hitch in his ear as he nipped her jaw, her neck, that earring, her nails scoring his nape as she rolled against him, making a groan rumble up his throat as his pelvis rocked into her, satisfying his need for friction and yet, stoking his erection into frustration. He reached shamelessly down his jeans to readjust it.
“How many beers you had, Tie-Dye?” He forced the responsible question out.
“Tie-Dye? My name’s—”
He put a finger to her lips. This was one and done. He didn’t want a name. Thanks for that, Isabella. “If you’re three sheets, we’re done here.” No matter how much his dick would argue.
Her eyes landed on his, so close. In the dim single bulb with the chain pull cord, he drank in their beauty. Light brown, like honey. With a flicker of something he couldn’t peg. Surprise?
“A gentleman,” she murmured with that playful twist of the lips, pressing a kiss onto his fingertip shushing her. A rumble welled up his throat as he pressed his finger between those lips and she sucked on it, letting it pop out. Her fingers swirled contemplatively on his nape.
Naw, a gentleman wouldn’t lift her skirt in a honky-tonk piss pantry. Yet something about the contemplative way she’d said that… Was she not often treated with basic respect?
“What the hell sort of guys you been with that they don’t make sure you’re sober?” he grumbled, resuming his devouring of her neck and jaw and relishing the flutter of her pulse along the smooth flesh against his mouth.
She was turned on. She was so earthy and soft in all the right places, a complement to his hard ridges.
She also didn’t answer his second question. “Just the one beer. I don’t like being drunk. Keeps me from fully enjoying the experience.” He felt her smirking against the rough stubble around his jaw as she returned the favor.
She wants her wits about her. Jokes aside, this girl had learned from reckless situations. He growled against her skin, nudging his shaft against her again as she pulled on his belt buckle like reins. Why did it both bother him and turn him on more to know he was only a notch on her belt?
Next question. “You old enough?”
He pulled back and eyed her with a sharp furrow. He was thirty-six. Not a decade younger after all.
“What? Want to check my I.D., Officer?” she smirked, biting that lip.
Yes. He snorted at her amused furrow.
“I’m def not jailbait if that’s what worries you. Want me to sign an affidavit?” she teased.
Shit. He frowned. Not an amusing joke.
“You clean?” he breathed.
“As a whistle,” she exhaled, leaning in to kiss his stubble. “You?”
“As a whistle.” His lips quirked against her skin. “What’d’you want from me?”
he murmured as she looked into his eyes, so close, as he brushed the callused pad of his thumb across her lip. God, she’d look hot on her knees.
She ran her hand onto the front of his jeans. He bucked into her touch, hissing.
“What’s with the twenty questions? If this is your one night out this decade”—screw T.R.—“why don’t you put this to good use?” Her hand made another sweep up his fly, causing him to pump helplessly like an eager virgin.
What was she, T.R.’s female clone? Her teasing, the right kind of husky to make him think of sex, yet a definite soprano, soft and melodic and deceivingly sweet, twisted another rare smile out of him.
“My cousin’s full of shit,” he drawled, pulling the most musical laugh from her throat straight into his ear and down to his pecker. He’d seen her laughing, but he hadn’t heard it until now. Damn. “Just sex,” he murmured, resuming his nips to her neck. “I don’t date.” One and done, sweetheart. They never fully agreed. Coyly, they all hinted at a number swap, forcing him into the awkward post-sex disentanglement.
“Good, because I sure as hell don’t need an attachment,” she replied, surprising him, making him furrow his brow. She’d been burned.
She planted a kiss straight to his lips.
Shocked by the sudden contact, he ripped away, eyed her hard. His lips tingled. Kisses were personal. Kisses required a name and number. She was full of surprises. And yet, that kiss felt like a shove off a cliff. He sank his mouth back to hers, sliding his palms over her cheeks, into her hair, breaking his rules for her, his hat knocking to the floor into God only knew what puddle as he yanked his wallet out, freed a foil square. She popped open his belt buckle, unzipped him, shucked his jeans down his ass, and he bobbed blessedly free, stabbing her in the belly with his anxious appendage. She plucked the condom from him, tore it open and discarded the wrapper as he devoured her lips, as she primed him with pumps until he groaned and buckled and yanked her skirt up.
Would you say this book showcases your writing style or is it a departure for you?
Both? I think it definitely showcases my style, though it was a bit of a departure, too. I’ve always written with sensuality, but never quite so fast as putting the intimacy smack dab in the opening scene. Usually I build up to it a bit more. But this book needed to be sensual. Both the heroine and hero are so closed off. They take care of physical needs but keep emotional needs tamped down deep, depriving themselves of the connections they so badly need with a partner. Therefore the physical intimacy was a big driver for bringing them back together for more and more, until the secrets and vulnerabilities began to pour out and they’re both helpless to resist getting to know each other. At that point, they start to realize they don’t want to be alone anymore but more importantly, they don’t have to be alone if they’d only take a leap of faith with each other.
What do you want people to take away from reading this book?
This book is definitely about hope, about breaking down defenses and overcoming shadows in the past to shine a spotlight on a future. It’s about self-forgiveness, about self-reflection, and realizing that one is both good enough as they are, and yet, one can always become a better person if they try, too. It’s also about redemption and letting others see your broken parts, not just your perfect ones, and about family. Tyler isn’t just a single dad with the weight of the world on his shoulders. He’s always felt alone as the biggest brother looking out for his siblings and trying to live up to his own dad’s strict expectations. His parents’ deaths fractured the family structure and he wants—just like his brothers do—a close-knit family again, for his kids’ sakes and his own. It’s also a book about finding family, that family doesn’t have to be blood to be right. Heart desperately wants roots and doesn’t feel like she belongs anywhere, until Tyler and his kids give her a place to land. I would add that sometimes the thing we fear the most is also the thing we need the most. In Heart and Ty’s case, they needed their other half. If readers take anything away from this book, I hope it’s feeling inspired by these things.
What are you currently working on? What other releases do you have planned?
I’m working on historicals at the moment. I write Scottish and medieval historicals for another publisher, and I have deadlines approaching. That said, I’m also plotting out a new contemporary western series, that may, or may not (I can’t say yet 🙂 ) involve a couple characters introduced in The Cowboy’s Texas Heart.
Thanks for blogging at HJ!
Giveaway: An ebook copy of The Cowboy’s Texas Heart & 3 Tule ebooks
To enter Giveaway: Please complete the Rafflecopter form and Post a comment to this Q: The Cowboy’s Texas Heart is the 3rd and final book in my debut contemporary western series, The Dixons of Legacy Ranch. Each hero is matched with a heroine who challenges him to be a better man. Toby Dixon, from The Cowboy’s Texas Rose is definitely the playboy trope. Travis Dixon from The Cowboy’s Texas Sky is a mash-up of the charmer and scarred soul tropes, and Tyler, the oldest brother, is definitely the stern protector trope!
These are my favorite hero tropes. What are your favorites?
Excerpt from The Cowboy’s Texas Heart:
Heart Carvalho’s windshield wipers snapped back and forth as her truck barreled down the country highway, meandering between rolling hills of unspoiled countryside and stretches of farmland, toward her next job. Nerves spiked through her as she glanced at the ominous storm clouds, angry, dark, and casting the sky in a pregnant, greenish hue in her rearview mirror.
The screeching of the National Weather Service cut off the radio song with its sharp, punctuated audio.
“Tornado warning in effect for: Rusk County, Nacogdoches County, Cherokee County, Angelina County…” said the computerized voice. “Multiple tornados, causing heavy damage, confirmed. Seek shelter immediately…”
“Jeezus,” she exhaled, trying not to notice the ugly churning of the cavernous heavens. She liked to live on the edge, but this was taking things a bit far.
If she could just get to McClintock-Dixon Farms, she could take shelter. She raced along the road, her GMC Sierra hydroplaning as she hit a curve too hard and spiking a familiar jolt of awareness through her at the thought of a car accident that she quickly tamped down. Finally, the road opened up to reveal an idyllic stretch of land lined with neat pasture fencing, an old brick farmhouse in the distance perched upon the rise of the fossil-rich escarpment that cut through this county, and the big, rustic sign upon the road: McClintock-Dixon Farms.
The fields were empty. An old barn and silo near the house seemed to scurry with activity: farm crew sealing up the doors, trucks ripping back and forth between the barn, two other more modern barns, a shop, and a milking parlor sided in industrial sheet metal. Yet as she flipped on her blinker to turn through the solar-paneled gate guarding the entrance road spanning over a culvert and drainage ditch, her engine died, the steering locking and the brake pedal stiffening.
“No…no no no!” She banged the wheel with the heels of her palms and pressed her weight on the pedal to bring herself to a stop, tried the ignition over and over, but each twist of the key resulted in slower turnovers that couldn’t catch.
A branch whipped across the road. Pine trees bent dramatically. Wind howled across the windshield—hail? The plinking on glass sounded like BBs scattered from their canister.
Ugh. This couldn’t be happening! There was no safe place to hide. There was no way she could hoof it a mile up the road to the farmhouse in time in her sandals that were cute as hell but wildly impractical for hiking. She should have gotten up earlier after crashing on Charlie’s couch last night, but hot damn, memories of that tall, dark, brooding drink of cowboy with the magical fingers, rough, soft baritone voice that had vibrated upon her eardrums in the most incredible way as he’d sought raw pleasure from her body, and those protein-fed muscles—a prize from winning the obvious genetic jackpot—honed by pure testosterone, had replayed through her mind all night. By the time she’d finally fallen into a restless sleep, she’d wildly overslept.
She’d relived the quiet yet commanding way “Ty” had sauntered out of nowhere, onto the stage, slouched jeans and faded plaid shirt, reimagined glancing toward the bathrooms over and over again like a stalker for him to emerge behind her, anxious for one more peek at his classically handsome face before realizing there must be a back exit, because he’d never emerged. Every time she closed her eyes, she saw his, so dark brown and shiny they were nearly obsidian, soft, dark hair that gently curled behind his ears and across his forehead boyishly, a hint of innocence hidden within the work-roughened armor of a man, the way that hidden smile had quirked his stoic lips when she’d stolen his hat, the way that crease in his cheek had been slow to emerge, whispering of innocence lost…
Ack. Why couldn’t she forget the intensity of his gaze? She was waxing poetic, the way Monarch had always teased. But the man was visual poetry and ought to be described with an artist’s brush, not words: unassuming yet in command, quiet and yet speaking a thousand words with that silence. For the sliver of time that their paths had merged, it had seemed as if she’d had his entire focus, she’d been his sole job, and he was determined to give as much as he was taking. He’d looked so longingly at her once he’d finally capitulated to her silly flirts and hiked up her skirt. His words had said one thing loud and clear: no attachments. But his eyes? They’d been the quietest, most expressive portals to the soul she’d ever seen, and unlike other nameless hookups, this man’s eyes had seemed to linger on her every thought.
She hadn’t wanted him to slip away. Relinquishing his protective hold had meant that the fantasy would burst. She’d been two seconds away from asking for his number, when that question about her scar replayed in her mind and she thought better of it. But in his assessing gaze, she’d wondered if, perhaps, she’d seen that same desire reflected back at her to hold on a moment longer.
Something banged her windshield. Her arms torqued as she gripped the wheel and twisted the key in the ignition to no avail, when she saw an old blue pickup bumbling over the ruts in the pasture. A lone cow stood among the swaying grasses, and a man, tall and broad like her Hercules from last night who’d lifted her like she was a feather, jumped out of the door like some lithe athlete, jogging to the cow, too far for her to see any distinguishing features, head shielded by an old Stetson. A shiver washed over her skin. Would every man she saw from now on remind her of her mystery cowboy? Was she hoping to see him again?
And why the hell was she imagining him when she was about to die? She blew a strand of hair fallen loose from her messy knot off her lip.
Despite the direness of the weather encroaching, a laugh played up her throat. The man was gesturing, arguing with the cow, a hand slouched on his hip, as if trying to get her to move. He looked over his shoulder, made some sort of snap command, and a Texas heeler bounded out of his open truck door and streaked across the field, barking, nipping at the cow’s heels and dodging her moody kicks until she finally began to trot away. The man sent her on her way with a slap to her flank.
Should she call for help? He was texting someone as the dog drove the cow toward the barn, turned back toward his truck and began running for cover. There’s no way he’d hear her shout in this wind, and he’d be gone by the time she scrambled across the road. She returned to fighting with her ignition instead, the turnovers slowing, slowing, her wipers squeegeeing to a stop, until the battery seemed to die. Dead as roadkill. She turned the ignition one more time. A click. Then nothing.
She sank her head to her steering wheel, groaning as she closed her eyes—
Bang, bang, bang!
She jumped at the pounding of a fist upon her window. Head whipped up. Eyes locked on…her Hercules?
“Ty?” Were her eyes playing tricks on her? Had she thought about him so hard, she’d willed him back into existence? Was she smiling wide-eyed and awed like a lovesick girl?
As if the swirling clouds had become a peripheral fog, his obsidian eyes—streaked in chestnut and taupe that the crappy lighting last night hadn’t done justice and God they were beautiful—narrowed. His face dropped as recognition dawned. She wasn’t imagining him. A smile ghosted upon his firm lips and chiseled jaw as if cut from steel that vanished as quickly as it surfaced, causing an eruption of fluttering to heat through her belly. He was happy to see her again—
A leaf slapped his cheek, sticking. He flinched, then ripped it away as if snapping him out of his stupor. A laugh bubbled up her throat. He scowled. His eyes dipped to her lips. Then her chest.
“Come on!” he shouted, stabbing her distracting thoughts. “There’s no time!”
So maybe she’d imagined her little utopian fantasy of him checking her out again. He seemed all business.
He ripped open her door, his old, threadbare navy-blue T-shirt plastered to those cattle grate abs that she’d dug her nails into last night, pure farm-fed muscles. Jeezus, her memories were assaulting her to the point that she couldn’t think coherently while he barked at her like a drill sergeant, a 180 from his quiet brooding last night.
He glanced back at his farm. Then her.
“We can’t make it to the storm cellar in time!” He unclipped her belt. Ripped it over her chest. Hauled her out like she was a hay bale and he was about to toss her.
His broad, warm hands gripped her as she jumped into action.
Tornadoes. Death. Got it—“Wait! My backpack!”
“Wait, what? No! What the hell?” He scoured his face, groaned, as she wrenched her hand away. His brow twisted with frustration. She leaned across the driver’s seat, dragging her rusty-brown Carhartt backpack into her hold, patting it to feel for her phone lost within a pocket somewhere and standing upright again, turning over her shoulder to see his gaze locked firmly on her ass.
Ah yes, she was still in the same flowy black skirt from last night, legs bare. She’d seen him eyeing her rear all night long like he’d wanted to sink his fingers into her cheeks, and she’d loved that feral carnality emanating off of him like soundwaves, like a mating call, like he was putting out vibes and waiting for her to follow the waft of pheromones and come to him.
His fists flexed, as if to drive that thought straight home.
“You got a death wish?” His growl cut through her hazy thoughts. “We gotta get to shelter. Light a fire, woman.”
“Woman?” Her Hercules had actually just called her that?
He seemed to suddenly soften. As if he realized how he’d sounded. A glimmer of the longing gaze from last night cut though the intensity of his actions now, and he swallowed his obvious worry down, scouring his face, touched her chin with his thumb as if willing himself to chill the hell out, though his hand trembled. He was serious. She’d forgive him the woman remark. Her skin burned beneath his touch, no, melted, where those calluses—raking memories over her—traveled, stopping upon her lower lip where his gaze seemed to lock momentarily as if he remembered how she tasted, before his eyes flitted up to hers again.
“We gotta get to safety, sweetheart,” he drawled calmly. “You can trust me. C’mon.”
And she could. His ten million questions of consent last night and reminder that their tryst would stop if she just said the word, told her she could put her life in his hands and he’d take care with it. His thumb sadly dropped from her lips, and he put out his broad palm. She placed her hand in his. Their fingers laced intimately. Thank fuck she was certain she’d heard him mutter, and smirked at his back as they dashed across the abandoned two-lane highway.
“All that stuff’s replaceable!” he added over the wind as he hauled her into the ditch beneath his farm road, forcing her to her knees and practically shoving her to crawl into the corrugated metal culvert.
Yeah, for tens of thousands of dollars, considering her truck bed was loaded down with GIS and survey equipment.
“Get inside!” he called, gesturing to the culvert and eying the storm clouds once more.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
It was only meant to be one night of pleasure…
After a failed engagement, paleontologist Heather “Heart” Carvalho has vowed to always protect herself in love. When she’s hired to conduct a geophysical survey for a mineral rights dispute on ancient land, she never expects to be swept up in the arms of a rugged cowboy. After a night of passion, she learns the handsome cowboy is her new client. Even more complicated, he has kids, and soon Heart longs for something she knows she can never have…a family.
Tyler Dixon doesn’t have time for emotional attachments. He has two sons to raise solo, a multimillion-dollar ranch to operate, and a pending lawsuit to protect his land from an unscrupulous oil company. Carrying on with the gorgeous, free-spirited paleontologist will only jeopardize Tyler’s case. So why does he feel the impulse to keep crossing the line with her?
They’re both everything they told themselves they didn’t want. As their chemistry burns, Heart claims she can remain impartial, but soon Ty wants the one thing she’s sworn to never again give away—her heart.
Meet the Author:
Elizabeth is convinced life is better with good coffee, chocolate, and a pair of hiking boots. Ever since her elementary school librarian “published” her epic childhood tales—complete with laminated handmade covers—she’s enjoyed exploring the world through literature. She fell in love with the harsh Texas desert where she found inspiration for charismatic cowboys and the stubborn women who tame them while documenting prehistoric rock art as a student at the University of Texas at Austin.
A recovering archaeologist and biomed research coordinator, Elizabeth spends her days penning heroes ranging from Scottish and Medieval warriors to Texas cowboys crowned with Stetsons. Whether in kilts or pearl-snaps, her heroes wear plaid! Known for her Ladies of Scotland series written for Entangled Publishing, as well as her HEA at USA TODAY recommended Christmas Wore Plaid, she’s excited to join Tule Publishing and introduce her debut contemporary western romance, Texas Rose, in 2022. She currently lives on a mountainside in West Virginia with her husband, sons, and various pets. Always honored to hear from readers, make sure to follow her on Facebook, Bookbub, Twitter, Goodreads, and Instagram.
Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | GoodReads |