As many of you know I have a new book coming out in September; Courting Trouble.
I love this book–I’ve worked on it for a very long time. This is my second romance and the story is set in Powder Springs, Colorado a town loosely based on Steamboat Springs. I wanted to give everyone a taste of Courting Trouble so here, for your reading pleasure, is the first chapter of Courting Trouble.
by Maggie Marr
Savannah McGrath pushed open the Jeep door and the shriek of old cold metal tore through the frigid mountain air. A grey pall hung heavy in the sky—no sun—no blue—not even the scent of snow. Her legs trembled sending a shiver up her spine. The shiver shifted and hardened in her belly—a thick sick feeling. Her hand tightened around the butt of the Winchester 1897 and her thumb caressed the initials carved into the heavy wood stock nearly a century be-fore by a dime-store pocket knife.
Grandma Margaret always said the only difference between an opossum and a man was that the opossum hissed before you shot it. Savannah’d seen an opossum hiss—this morning she intended to find out about the man.
Savannah’s breath, like puffs of smoke, drifted into the early morning sky. She trudged across the Hopkins’ front yard–a foul looking patch of dirt and rock—past a rusted snowmobile missing both skis that waited on cinder blocks for a rescue that would never arrive. She climbed the porch steps. Rickety and rotted the wood creaked beneath her. On the porch crumpled beer cans lay scattered beside a ripped green leather sofa. The Hopkins didn’t take much interest in caring for things, including their family.
Anger surged in Savannah. Anger fueled by seventeen years of neglect. Anger fueled by her daughter. Anger fueled by Bobby Hopkins. An anger that rushed through her head and caused a pounding within her brain nearly as loud as her fist pounded on Bobby’s front door.
“Bobby, you get your no good ass out here!”
A shadow flickered on the other side of the picture window, but no face emerged.
“I know you’re in there!” Savannah yelled. “I’m not leaving until we settle this. You hear me Bobby?”
She pressed her nose against the cool glass of the picture window. Silent images flickered across the unwatched TV in the darkened living room. Her heart hung heavy in her chest with the emptiness of the room, with the squalor of the house, with the absence of Bobby and his continued cowardice toward their daughter.
Savannah turned away from the window her grim feelings like gravity on the corners of her mouth. She stomped down the steps. Her gaze locked on the window just above the garage and she backed into the front yard. Seventeen years before Savannah thought she discovered the cure to all that ailed her within that bedroom–a lover, a friend, a partner for her life–but what Savan-nah really discovered was a whole lot of sex and very little contraception.
“She is mine, Bobby!” Savannah called out into the early morning air. “Do you under-stand? I raised her! You ran your ass off to Alaska and I raised her!” Her cheeks were too cold to feel her tears. On her tongue the salt tasted bitter. “Damn you Bobby Hopkins.”
Her heart broke wide and pain thrashed out at her ribs and squeezed at her lungs–so tight and so hard that air burst from her lips and she struggled to draw in a breath. The pain wasn’t for her, the pain wasn’t for Bobby, the pain wasn’t even for Savannah’s long lost once upon a time young love—the pain—this pain—that crippled her and stole the breath form her body was for her nearly grown daughter, Ash.
Shame. Embarrassment. Sadness. She and Bobby conveyed those tokens upon their only child much like Savannah’s mother bequeathed to her. Savannah’s mouth clenched closed with a force that might shred enamel from her molars.
Dammit, Bobby would speak to her. Savannah raised the butt of the gun to her shoulder and sighted at the bedroom window. Her finger settled against the cold metal of the trigger. She wouldn’t let Bobby cower and hide like a cur. He would answer for what he did to her, to them, to Ash. He’d answer for what he did in the past and what he tried to do to now. She wouldn’t kill him, but she’d flush out the son of a bitch.
Savannah raised the shotgun’s barrel and sighted just over the roof. She squeezed tight on the trigger and the gun butt slammed into her shoulder. A shaker shingle exploded off the roof.
After the blast of two more shotgun shells and the eruption of two more shingles from the Hopkins’ roof a black and white SUV rolled to a near-silent stop. No flashers. No siren. Quiet and still just like that cold Rocky Mountain morning before Savannah’s shotgun blast.
Self-possessed and without fear Sheriff Jennings slowly stepped from his SUV,
“Wayne,” Savannah said. She didn’t turn. She didn’t lay down her gun. Instead she pressed the butt to her shoulder and considered whether she wanted to squeeze off another shot.
“I’m gonna’ have to ask you to lay down that gun.”
Savannah closed her eyes and took a deep breath. Adrenaline pounded through her body. Her heart hammered within her chest to the righteous beat of a lover scorned. She pointed the gun toward the ground.
“No problem Wayne.” Savannah leaned forward and lay the gun on the ground as if set-tling a baby into a bassinette. When she stood she raised both hands in the air. Not because Wayne told her to, but because she figured that’s what you did when you got arrested.
“Thank you Savannah,” Wayne said. “Now I need you to back away from the gun.”
Savannah stepped back—away from Grandma Margaret’s gun, away from the Hopkins’ house, away from her anger.
“I hate to ask you to do this Savannah, seeing as you’re wearing nice pants and all, but you’ve gotta’ kneel on the ground and put your hands behind your head.”
With her hands raised, Savannah half turned toward Wayne. “Really,” Savannah asked. Her shoulders limp and slumped forward–the McGrath fight drained out of her. Her rage de-flated like a pinpricked balloon. “Can’t you just come on over here and cuff me?
“It’s procedure,” Wayne said.
Savannah knelt onto the yard. The cold wet mud pressed through the material to her knees. With the click of closing handcuffs and the weight of cold steel on her wrists shame lodged in her heart. Savannah’s bottom lip quivered—what had she just done?
Her head hung low as Wayne lead her to his SUV. She couldn’t meet the gaze of the looky-loos now gathered across the street on Linda Landry’s front yard. Her mass of brown curls fell about her cheeks—but she couldn’t hide—Ash couldn’t hide. Growing up Savannah and her sister endured taunts about their Mama’s bad behavior and now Savannah inflicted a similar humiliation onto Ash.
“Damn it,” Savannah muttered.
“What’s that?” Wayne settled behind the wheel and met Savannah’s gaze in the rear view mirror.
“Just the hell to pay Ash will have.” Savannah looked across the street at the women wear-ing nightgowns and whispering behind cupped hands.
“Kids can be cruel,” Wayne said.
Savannah caught Wayne’s knowing gaze in the rear view mirror. Both Wayne and Savan-nah knew from experience just how cruel the kids of Powder Springs, Colorado could be to each other.
Savannah fought the humiliation that settled in her chest and the tears that brewed in her eyes. “Wonder what Grandma Margaret thinks today?” As if she might erase the last ten min-utes, Savannah closed tight her eyes and shook her head. “Me standing on Bobby Hopkins front lawn shooting at the sky?”
“She probably thinks you’re one strong McGrath woman standing up for your own.”
Savannah pressed her lips into a hard line and fought back the tears that threatened to spill down her cheeks. At least Wayne didn’t think she was half-cracked even if she was sitting in the back of his police cruiser with her hands in cuffs.
Savannah’s sister wouldn’t share Wayne’s sentiment. Tulsa would tell Savannah how dramatic she was, how bad for Ash that Savannah’s behavior was, how Savannah jeopardized custody of Ash to release her own anger.
That was, once Savannah told Tulsa, that Ash’s custody was even in jeopardy.
“Tulsa coming back from LA?” Wayne asked.
Savannah locked eyes with Wayne in the rear view mirror, “She is now.”