Kari Lynn Dell is a ranch-raised Montana cowgirl who attended her first rodeo at two weeks old and has existed in a state of horse-induced poverty ever since. She lives on the Blackfeet Reservation in her parents' bunkhouse along with her husband, her son, and Max the Cowdog, with a tipi on her lawn, Glacier National Park on her doorstep and Canada within spitting distance. Her debut novel, The Long Ride Home, was published in 2015. She also writes a ranch and rodeo humor column for several regional newspapers and a national agricultural publication.
What was your favorite scene to write?
I sort of dread the “What’s your favorite scene?” question. After all, I—along with my editor and eagle-eyed beta readers—have sweated blood to be sure there are nothing but great scenes in my book. So I picked this one because it’s based on one of those family stories we routinely use to embarrass my cousin Beau at holiday dinners.
One summer day, my cousin and her husband were visiting our grandmother. While they had coffee, little Beau went out in the fenced back yard to play, and what did he find but a garden hose, conveniently hooked up to a faucet and sporting a spray nozzle.
When his mother walked out the back door, Sploosh! She was met with a jet of cold water. She squealed and fled.
“I’ll take care of this,” his father said, all stern and fatherly. “Beau, you put that hose—”
Sploosh! Along with a whole lot of gleeful, childish cackling.
My grandmother stepped up. “I’ll go out. He wouldn’t spray his Grandma.”
And then his dad went out the front door, snuck around the side of the house, scaled the fence and turned off the faucet—much to Beau’s dismay when his mother came after him again.
I also chose this scene because it stars my favorite recurring character in the Texas Rodeo series, Beni. Or as his mother calls him here, “Benjamin. Steven. Sanchez.” And we all know what it means when Mom cracks out your middle name.
Beni Sanchez is an arena rat who has spent most of his five years behind the rough and tumble scenes at Jacobs Livestock rodeos, seeing too much, hearing too much, and running circles around the adults. I’ve never had more fun writing than when Beni saunters onto the page.
Definitely not their new bullfighter. Shorty was, well, shorter. Violet judged this guy to be close to six feet, long, lean, and as potentially hazardous as the Corvette he stood beside. His shrewd gaze cataloged every rusty nail and weathered board of the aging rodeo grounds, snagging for a moment on Violet, and then moving on as if she were just part of the scenery. The intensity of that gaze contrasted oddly with his shaggy brown hair, bleached to gold at the tips, and the wrinkled T-shirt that hung loose on broad shoulders. When he turned to reach into the backseat of the car, she wouldn’t have been surprised to see him pull out a skateboard instead of a pair of road-weary duffel bags. Who—
A blast of water hit the stock tank and ricocheted, drenching her in slime. She shrieked, whipped around, and a second blast caught her square in the face. Beni cackled in delight as Violet choked and sputtered. She made a lunge for the hose, skidded, slipped, and landed flat on her butt in the middle of a rapidly growing puddle. Beni giggled louder and doused her again as she wallowed around, trying to get her feet under her.
“Beni!” she heard her mother say. “Give Grandma that—” Then a shriek as Beni hit the trigger on the hose nozzle.
“Benjamin. Steven. Sanchez. You stop that right now!” Violet made another grab for him.
Beni ducked and dodged, howling like a hyena with the nozzle gripped in both hands, using the powerful spray to fend her off. Suddenly, the water stopped. Beni shook the nozzle and squeezed the trigger. Nothing happened. His eyes went wide and his mouth made an uh-oh shape. He dropped the hose and ran, diving under the fence and tearing past the skater dude, who stood with one hand on the lever of the water hydrant.
Violet glanced over at the car then back at the hydrant, at least thirty yards away. He’d covered the distance in the space of a few heartbeats.
So he didn’t just look fast.
She started to wipe the water from her face before she realized her hands were coated in rancid mud, which she had now smeared across both cheeks. Awesome. She brushed the drips from her eyebrows with one forearm then squelched across the pen to where the stranger stood outside the fence.
“Can I help you?” she asked.
His eyebrows rose. “Looks like it’s the other way around to me.”
Up For Grabs:Violet Jacobs is fearless. At least, that’s what the cowboys she snatches from under the hooves of bucking horses think. Outside the ring, she’s got plenty of worries rattling her bones: her young son, her mess of a love life, and lately, her family’s struggling rodeo. When she takes business into her own hands and hires on a hotshot bullfighter, she expects to start a ruckus. She never expected Joe Cassidy. Rough and tumble, cocky and charming, Joe’s everything a superstar should be—and it doesn’t take a genius to figure out he’s way out of Violet’s league.Joe came to Texas to escape a life spiraling out of control. He never planned on sticking around, and he certainly never expected to call this dry and dusty backwater home. But Violet is everything he never knew he was missing, and the deeper he’s pulled into her beautiful mess of a family, the more he realizes this fierce rodeo girl may be offering him the one thing he never could find on his own.
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