by: Peggy L Henderson
I have a new release that just out this month, the third book in my western/time travel romance series, Second Chances. The book is titled Diamond in the Dust. I put off writing this book, pushing it back to write two other books in two different series between Book 2 and Book 3 because, frankly, writing this one scared me to death. Why?
First of all, I don't like writing in a contemporary setting, and this story calls for the hero to come from the old west of 1872 to modern times. Reason #2: It was "suggested" to me when I was nearly two-thirds done writing the second book, Ain't No Angel, that I write the "bad guy" in that book as the hero in another book. Ooookaaay....how to turn a guy with vindictive motives into someone likable, with a slow progression from his old self to someone the reader can root for, and give him his own story and HEA?
Well, the returns so far from my beta readers and my editor have been quite encouraging, some even saying this is my best book to date. Well, we'll see. It's definitely one of the most emotionally-charged books I've ever written, and with the most broken hero I've ever come up with.
Here's a short excerpt from Diamond in the Dust:
Morgan shook her head. “I wonder if Laney would have met Tyler if you hadn’t schemed for her to marry him,” she said. “Have you thought of that?” Their eyes met. “Apparently your brother has forgiven you. Why can’t you forgive yourself?”
“There ain’t no turning back for me, Morgan. I can’t undo my past.”
“But you don’t have to continue down the same road. You can’t go back and undo things, but you can move forward with your life, change things for the better.”
Gabe pulled away from her. He sat on his bunk, and stared at the floor, resting his elbows on his knees. He couldn’t bear to let her see the shame of his past, and the guilt over what he’d done.
Not a moment later, Morgan’s hands were on his arms. He tilted his head to look up at her. She stood right there, concern in her imploring eyes. He couldn’t pull away from her. The draw of her tender gaze was too much.
“You’re trying to push me away, Gabe, but I won’t let you,” she whispered. “Not anymore. You can pretend to be angry at the world all you want, but one of these days you’ll realize that not everything is bad and ugly. You can’t change who your parents were or what they did, but you can change who you are.”
She leaned forward, and brought both hands to his face, framing his cheeks with her palms. Gabe drowned in the depths of her amber eyes, his mind waging a losing battle against the soothing touch of her palms.
“Everyone deserves a second chance. You’ve been given the opportunity to make a new start,” she whispered, smiling as tears rolled down her cheeks. “Your brother thought enough of you that he willed half of his ranch to you.”
“I ain’t a good man, Morgan,” he grumbled. “Because of the way I grew up, I—”
“Stop saying that.” Her voice rose uncharacteristically. For once, genuine anger blazed in her eyes. “You’ve been in the dumps all your life, you’re so blinded when good things actually happen to you. There are people who care about you.” She straightened, removed her hands from his face, and glared down at him. He’d never seen her this mad.
“Just because you had a rotten upbringing doesn’t mean you have to live your entire life that way,” she continued angrily. “Jake Owens thinks highly of you. I saw what you did for that little boy, Aaron, and I’ve seen you with Logan. You’ve had plenty of opportunity to take complete advantage of me, but you didn’t. You’ve never acted anything but honorably with me. I’ll never believe that you’re the horrible man you make yourself out to be. You’re a good man with a bad past. Stop looking back, and start looking toward the future.”
Morgan spun on her heels, facing away from him. She hugged one arm around her waist.
Gabe clenched his jaw and sprang up from the mattress. “Dammit, woman, why the hell do you keep pestering me?” His tone was more forceful than he’d intended. He needed to be angry with her, needed her to understand that she was wrong about him.
Morgan turned slowly, her eyes wide as she stared up at him in disbelief. She chuckled softly, and took a step toward him again. Their gazes locked.
“Haven’t you figured that out by now, Desperado?” Her anger was gone, replaced by the soft, calm voice that always held him mesmerized.
Gabe stared into her eyes. The answer was written there plain as day. No one had ever favored him with the kind of look she offered. Gabe’s chest tightened, and warmth spread through him. He’d seen that look in a woman’s eyes before, but it hadn’t been directed at him. Laney had gazed at Tyler the way Morgan favored him at this moment. It was that same look that had spurred him to find a way to send Laney back to the future, to hurt his brother. A look he never expected to see a woman bestow on him.
“I love you, Gabe McFarlain,” she whispered, and leaned up to touch her lips to his.
Reverend Johnson is in the business of granting second chances to those deserving a new start, even if it means bending the rules of time travel on occasion. In Gabe McFarlain’s case, he may have gone too far . . .
Abandoned by his father, and raised in a whorehouse, Gabe has grown bitter to the world. Fueled by revenge and hatred, his actions leave him facing the hangman’s noose. Accepting certain death, he wakes up in a time and place that is as foreign to him as the tender touch of the woman who rescues him.
Down to earth and level-headed, Morgan Bartlett isn’t afraid to wear her heart on her sleeve. All she wants is independence from her overbearing mother, and the freedom to shape her own destiny. When she aids a badly beaten man along the side of the road, she may have found more than a dusty cowboy down on his luck.
Morgan’s unshakable belief that Gabe is a good man slowly chisels away the walls he’s built around himself. As he comes to terms with living in the future, he must decide if losing his heart is worth more than holding on to the life he’s led in the past.
Peggy L Henderson is a laboratory technologist by night, and best-selling western historical and time travel romance author of the Yellowstone Romance Series, Second Chances Time Travel Romance Series, and Teton Romance Trilogy. When she’s not writing about Yellowstone, the Tetons, or the old west, she’s out hiking the trails, spending time with her family and pets, or catching up on much-needed sleep. She is happily married to her high school sweetheart. Along with her husband and two sons, she makes her home in Southern California.