Hard Rain Coming- Excerpt

Book 3: The Bridgestones Of Montana

Chapter one

                  The honkytonk in High Wind, Wyoming, looked the same as any other honkytonk in a one-hundred-mile radius. Perched a stone’s throw from a motel that looked older than Elvis, it boasted tired neon Budweiser signs, dark tables and chairs, and floors that stuck to the bottom of your boots. Or, in this case, Vivienne Bridgestone’s four-inch stilettos.

                  She glanced around and shook off the cold as a blast of early October wind followed her inside. The old jukebox in the corner played low, though the unmistakable sounds of Patsy Cline reached her ears. The music she could appreciate, she just wished it didn’t come with a side serving of grease and stale beer. But, with no other place to grab food this close to midnight, she’d have to make do.

                  Aware that as the lone woman in the place (other than a server behind the bar) she was the object of several sets of male eyes, Vivienne adjusted her jacket, held her chin high and kept her gaze forward. Male attention she was used to, but it had been a long ass day, and she didn’t want to make small talk with a bunch of cowboys who were six beers deep or more.

                  She found a small table not far from the bar. There was enough distance between her and the men gathered near it, that she would be able to relax. She doffed her coat and slid onto the seat. The bartender made her way over, and after fumbling for a small note pad, gave Vivienne a smile.

                  “Evening. I’m Jenny.”


“You’re not from around here,” the woman said.

“No.” Not in the mood for conversation, Vivienne kept her reply short and sweet.

Jenny looked to be in her early thirties, with dirty blonde hair pulled up into a high ponytail, and enough makeup on her delicate features to make a dance mom proud. She wore faded jeans and a pink tank top, and eyed up Vivienne’s pale blue dress with interest.  A vintage Dior, Vivienne had thrifted it the previous year though she hadn’t had the chance to wear it until tonight.

What a waste.

 “That is the prettiest dress I ever seen.” Jenny winked and shook her head. “Where in heck are you coming from looking like that?”

                  “Some place I wish I’d never been.” Vivienne attempted a smile, but it fell short.

“One of those nights, hon?” Jenny winked. “Well let’s get you a drink and you’ll feel better.”

 “A soda is good. And a burger with fries.”


                  “Root beer.”

                  The server got busy with scribbling in her book. “Anything else?”

                  “That should be good. Thank you.”

                  “All the fixings on your burger?”

                  Vivienne nodded. She watched as the woman walked to the kitchen and disappeared from view, then sank back, her bones so tired they ached. Jackson Hole had been a disaster. Why she’d ever agreed to meet up with her old friend Jenna Buchanan was anyone’s guess, but if she were being honest with herself, she knew it was nothing more than an excuse to leave the ranch. To get away from the memories she couldn’t seem to shake, and a family she didn’t feel she belonged to anymore.

                  If she were really being honest, the trip to Wyoming was to get away from him.


She couldn’t even say his name in her mind without getting riled. Vivienne had been back in Montana for well over a month now and not once had he come to see her. Or talk to her. Or even check to see if she was alive. Or okay. Or something.  It was as if she’d been erased from his life. Like he’d pressed the backspace on a keyboard until she was gone.

                  And that was a bitter pill indeed, because as long as Vivienne had been away from Montana, and it had been years, she’d thought about him most every day. Even now, tonight, at the tail end of what had been a miserable day, he was on her mind.

                  “Here’s your soda. Dave will have your burger up in a jiffy.”

                  Vivienne accepted the root beer from the server and checked her phone to see if her brother had responded to her SOS. The truck she’d borrowed to drive to Jackson Hole had died. It had begun making weird noises about ten miles back and she’d managed to limp it off the interstate and luckily, the motel’s sign had been a beacon.

                  She booked a room but was hoping Benton was on his way to get her. If she had to spend the night, Vivienne supposed it was better than pulling over on the side of the road and hoping for the best.

                  “But not much better,” she muttered, just as Jenny came back with a large platter of fries and a burger that smelled like heaven.

                  She dug in and ate quietly, while she listened to some of the conversations at the bar.

                  There was leather jacket guy who thought he was in love with his girlfriend, Natalie. He wanted to put a ring on her finger because it would get his mama off his back, and maybe some extra special loving from said girlfriend.

His pal, backward ball cap guy disagreed. Vehemently. His opinion was that the girlfriend was already a nag and that if leather jacket guy had to lie in order to have a night out with the boys how in hell would that work?

He wasn’t wrong.

                  Then there was the big burly man in the mickey mouse sweatshirt who was trying to explain what a hobbit was to a guy who was clearly asleep on the bar.

                  If Vivienne wasn’t so damn tired, she would find it all amusing. Maybe write it down. Make a story of it. But the fact was, she was tired and with a full belly all she could think of was getting some shut eye.

                  She checked her phone again. Still no response.  With a sigh she finished off her root beer and was about to grab cash from her bag when she noticed one of the men from the far end of the place heading her way. He was a good-looking guy, with a headful of dark wavy hair, a handsome face, and some beef on him. The kind that spent his days outdoors. And maybe if it were another time and place, she might consider getting that itch that needed scratching, scratched. Nameless, faceless sex was in her wheelhouse after all. But she wasn’t in the mood for this stranger. Not tonight.

                  She bent her head, made a show of rooting for cash, but when his boots stopped a few inches from her, she knew things would probably get ugly. She could smell the whiskey. Envision the attitude.

                  “Hey there, girlie.”

                  She didn’t bother to look up. “I’m not interested.”

                  “Ouch. That’s one helluva cold wind in here.”

                  Vivienne grabbed two twenties and gritted her teeth. She looked up. “Can you move please?”

                  “Sure can.” He grinned and stood to the side. She got to her feet, and when he tried to grab her jacket, she shifted a bit and shrugged into it. Great. He was the handsy type. And built like a Mack Truck. This might be harder than she first thought.

                  “The name’s Gary. I’d like to buy you a drink.”

                  “I’m good, thanks.” She tried to go around him, but he grabbed her elbow.

                  “Come on. One drink.”

                  Vivienne looked pointedly at her arm. “Let go of my elbow.”

                  “Why you being so squirrely? Let me buy you a drink.” There was an edge to his voice now.

                  “I don’t want a drink, but if I did, I have my own money. I don’t need you to buy me anything.”

                  “Ah, I see,” he said, with a half sneer. “You’re one of those women. I bet you get real mad when a man opens the door for you, or God forbid tells you you’re pretty. Does that offend you?”

                  This was headed south faster than she’d anticipated. Where in hell was Jenny?

                  “Gary, I’m asking you nicely to move.”

                  “You think you’re too good for me.”

                  “What I think, is that this conversation is over.”

Vivienne considered her options and decided there was only one way to handle this. She’d go for his nuts with her knee and jab him in the throat with her fist. If that didn’t work, she was screwed because no one seemed to care that she was cornered, and he had several inches and at least one hundred pounds on her.

                  Gary took a step closer, his expression black and Vivienne prepared herself. A part of her liked this. Looked forward to this. The fighting. It was a flaw to be sure, but one that had served her well many times over, especially growing up on a ranch with older brothers.

                  “I’d be real careful about your next move, friend.”

She froze and time stood still for a moment.

Then came crashing down as Gary swore and turned, but Vivienne didn’t need to. She knew the voice intimately. Had listened to it late at night when the shadows were as long as her loneliness.

Dallas Henhawk leaned against a table not more than two feet from them.  He wore a plain black T-shirt, a pair of old weathered jeans and big ass boots. His hair was a lot longer than she remembered; the ends bleached from working in the sun, and his square chin and strong jaw sported a thick, dark beard. His features were up there with Adonis, and in another world, he could have been a model. Or an actor. Or someone who was put on the earth to fuel the fantasies of every woman who crossed his path. He looked more like a biker than a ranch foreman, but then, he’d never cared much for convention. Dallas was tall, six-foot-six, a mountain of a man with muscles, tattoos, a mouth made for sin and…

He took her breath away. Literally. Vivienne felt like she’d just been punched in the gut.

Dallas’s eyes narrowed, moving from Vivienne to Gary, and white teeth flashed when he smiled. “Leave the lady alone.”

                  The look on his face, the words that he said, lit a spark inside Vivienne. Leave the lady alone? Since when did he care about her welfare? That spark grew into a fire and all that pent up stuff she’d been hiding for weeks now erupted and there was no way to stop it.

                  “What are you doing here?” she snapped.

                  “Collecting you.”

                  “I don’t need collecting.”

                  Dallas slowly straightened his body, and though he smiled, his eyes were wintry and cold.

                  “Seems to me you do.”

                  “Listen, bud,” Gary, too stupid to know the danger he was in, puffed up his chest. “The lady doesn’t need you.” He turned back to Vivienne, his brain thinking he’d won, and reached for her.

                  She was done. Over this idiot. Over this night.

                  She kneed Gary in the groin, hard, and then jabbed her hand into the base of his neck. The surprise on his face was comical, and he went down, roaring like an animal, grabbing hold of his family jewels along the way.

                  She sidestepped the cursing, groaning Gary, and walked to the bar, glaring at every single male turned her way. Itching for one of them to start something. She smiled at Jenny, who was obviously shocked at the turn of events, and handed over the two twenties in her hand.

                  “Thanks. This should cover my bill.”

                  Vivienne headed for the exit, the men parting like the red sea. By this time her knees were shaking as her adrenaline waned, and it took some to keep her body upright. She almost made it out when she felt him at her back. She didn’t turn around, just angled her head to the side. “I’ve got a room. I’ll stay the night and get the truck fixed in the morning.”

                  “Sounds good.”

                  She made a face, took a step, and then that little demon inside her couldn’t help but stir things up. She whirled around—wrong thing to do—he was so close she could count his lashes if she wanted to. So close, his woodsy smell filled her nostrils.

                  So close the heat of his body crept over hers.

                  “Why are you here?”

                  “I thought we just had this conversation.”

                  “I called Benton.”

                  “Benton was busy.”

                  “Doing what?” she scoffed.

                  A hint of smile lit up his face. “Busy doing what men do at this time of night.”

                  The meaning didn’t hit at first, and when it did Vivienne’s cheeks reddened. “That I didn’t need to know.”

                  “You did ask,” he pointed out.

                  “Look, it’s late, I’m tired and pissed off and you’re literally the last man on the planet I want to be around. I have a room and I’ll get the truck looked after in the morning.”

                  “So you said.”

                  She narrowed her eyes and watched him closely. Dallas Henhawk never gave in. She started forward, eyes on the motel. “I’d say safe travels, but I don’t really give a crap.”

                  Stones crunched under her feet, and it took less than a minute to cross the parking lot. She headed for room number four and grabbed the key from her coat pocket. It was about that time she realized Dallas was still behind her. She swore under her breath and turned around but didn’t get a chance to say anything.

                  “I’m not leaving you alone in a place like this out in the middle of nowhere.”

                  “I didn’t think you cared,” she retorted, voice dripping sugar along with a generous helping of sarcasm.

                  His eyes glittered and the air between them shifted. “Maybe I should rephrase. I wouldn’t leave any woman alone in a place like this.”

                  “Out in the middle of nowhere.”

                  His eyebrow shot up.

                  “You forgot that part.” Her heart was in her throat, the beats ten times faster than only a few moments ago. Vivienne sensed a darkness in him, and it touched the same darkness that called her soul home.

                  It had always been that way between them. This pull. And it had nearly destroyed her all those years ago.

                  “You’re not coming inside,” she managed to say through tight lips.

                  His eyes held hers for what seemed like ages, and then he stepped away, expression shuttered and unreadable.

                  “I wasn’t planning on it.”

                  She watched Dallas head to his truck and with wooden fingers unlocked her motel room. She closed the door behind her, turned the lock and latched the bolt, then leaned back feeling utterly defeated.

                  All this time she’d been in Montana, Vivienne had told herself Dallas meant nothing to her. That the only reason she was upset he hadn’t shown any interest or come around to check on her was because of stupid wounded pride.

                  But that wasn’t the case. There was still something there. Something dark and heavy and intense. As far as she could tell it was a one-way road. Her road.

                  She looked up at the dirty ceiling and shook her head.

How inconvenient was that?


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