My contemporary western romance with a touch of suspense, BE MY GUEST, is set in and near Post, Texas. Please let me tell you a bit about this fascinating West Texas town.
In the early 1890s, Charles William Post developed a popular caffeine-free coffee substitute called Postum and later made a fortune on breakfast cereals such as Grape Nuts and Post Toasties. As Post's wealth grew, his interests began to expand into other areas. One project that had always intrigued him was the creation of a planned community of model homes and industry. His success in the prepared foods industry provided the financial resources to make this dream a reality.
|Caprock Escarpment near Post|
The new site is the present-day location of Post, Texas. Post is located at the edge of the Caprock escarpment of the Llano Estacado, the southeastern edge of the Great Plains. Post is at the junction of U.S. highways 84 and 380, east of the Caprock escarpment near the west central part of Garza County.
|Statue of Post in front of Garza County Courthouse|
He purchased 200,000 acres of ranchland and established the Double U. Company to manage the town's construction. The company built trim houses and numerous structures, which included the Algerita Hotel, a gin, and a textile plant. They planted trees along every street and prohibited alcoholic beverages and brothels. The Double U. Company rented and sold farms and houses to settlers. A post office began in a tent during the year of Post City's founding. Two years later the town had a school, a bank, and a newspaper, the Post City Post. The railroad reached the town in 1910.
|Garza County Historical |
The town changed its name to Post when it incorporated in 1914, the year of C. W. Post's death. By then Post had a population of 1,000, ten retail businesses, a dentist, a doctor, a sanitarium, and Baptist, Methodist, and Presbyterian churches.
The Post estate pledged $75,000 and the town raised $35,000 in 1916 to bid unsuccessfully to become the site of the proposed West Texas Agricultural and Mechanical College, later known as Texas Tech University. Thank heavens, because I grew up in Lubbock, the actual site of Texas Tech University. (And also where Celia Yeary, my husband, and I attended university.)
|After an unusual beginning, Post TX is |
now a typical West Texas town
In case you’re yawning and thinking who cares, I hope you will stay with me. I have long been fascinated that C. W. Post founded this town. My husband and I have driven through Post what seems like a million times in trips to and from Lubbock to visit relatives. I decided it was the perfect setting for BE MY GUEST.
|Deceptively sleepy Double Mountain Fork of the|
Brazos River becomes a torrent in downpours
In a heavy rain, this area quickly floods as water rushes to the Double Mountain Fork of the Brazos River. That’s what happens in BE MY GUEST, when Aurora O’Shaughnessy is quickly marooned with rancher Will Harrison at his ranch for 36 hours. That is long enough for Will to decide to keep her in his life as long as possible. Like forever. Aurora is on the move to Colorado, though, and takes convincing. This excerpt from BE MY GUEST actually takes place at the next county seat over in Snyder, Texas:
|Cover Model Jimmy Thomas poses as if |
he's in my photo of Texas wildflowers
The clock on the dashboard displayed one o'clock when Aurora found herself free to concentrate on lunch in Snyder. Clouds gathered and rumbled with thunder over the West Texas town. Aurora's empty stomach rumbled with them. After a hazardous morning, fatigue overshadowed her usually cheerful nature. She passed by the fast food places before she spotted the family restaurant recommended to her by the Texas State Trooper a few minutes ago.
Cars and trucks filled the parking lot. What a lucky break, she thought, when she spotted illuminated taillights and a car backed out of the prime parking slot at the entrance. Aurora saw the lone man in the dusty red pickup truck facing her, waiting for the space. He sat in the very same type and color truck used by two ruffians who had terrorized her earlier in the morning. Although she knew this man could not be one of those two men, an unreasonable anger bubbled up in her directed toward all cowboys, especially those in red trucks.
Her normally pleasant nature turned aggressive and she zipped the Mustang into the vacated park before the less maneuverable truck could occupy the space. The man honked the truck horn at her as she got out of her car. She just smiled and blew him a saucy kiss as she hurried into the restaurant. After all, any real gentleman would have let a lady have the only space in the first place, she told her nagging conscience.
Her conscience would not be quieted so easily. She must be in shock from her morning encounter. Never had she acted so rudely. Regretting her impetuous actions already, she thanked goodness the exchange occurred with a stranger and not someone she might meet again.
Seated in the corner booth, Aurora ordered a hamburger, French fries, and a large Dr Pepper. While she waited for her food, she reviewed the items listed under the town of Snyder in her Texas guidebook. Suddenly, she sensed someone standing beside her booth. As she looked up--and up--a huge cowboy with most of his left leg in a cast leaned his crutches against the side of the booth. He slid onto the seat beside her, which pinned her in the booth with him.
"Your car's sitting in my parking space, so I'll sit in your booth," he said calmly as he removed his Stetson and ran his fingers through sandy brown hair. He turned in his seat to hang the hat on the hook at the end of the booth by his crutches.
Aurora blushed when she realized this must be the man whose parking space she mischievously stole. Oh no, how terrible. He must have had to park a long way from the door and hobble in on those crutches. How embarrassing. The one time in her life she acted rudely, her victim turned out to be a man handicapped by a leg cast and crutches. Still, he had his nerve sitting beside her without so much as a "may I."
Her chin came up defensively. "Okay, I apologize. If you used one of those disability placards on your rear view mirror, people would know you have a problem."
"Lady, my problem is that you stole my parking space," Will Harrison said coolly. He lifted his left leg so that the cast-encased foot rested on the seat facing them, then swiveled to gaze at her.
Aurora smelled the cowboy's after-shave mixed with the clean scent of his breath when he turned his face toward her. His stone gray eyes met hers. She saw anger drain from his eyes, replaced by stunned amazement. He leaned toward her.
Her awakened senses rocketed into response. Each thread on the sleeve of his blue chambray shirt seared where it touched her arm. For a moment Aurora had the astonishing thought that this cowboy might lean further forward and kiss her right here in public. Equally astonishing, but fleeting, came the thought that she wouldn't mind a kiss from this man. Her tongue flicked across her lips and she gave herself a mental shake, unable to turn away from his mesmerizing gaze.
What can you be thinking? You have absolutely no business falling for some good-looking cowboy out here in the middle of nowhere. Get a grip on yourself.
Her heart quelled the voice of reason within her mind. Aurora’s her stomach somersaulted from butterflies to flip-flops as she stared into the cowboy's wide gray eyes. She broke his gaze and peered at her folded hands a second before she threw them up in capitulation.
"Okay, Okay. I just don't know what came over me. I know you saw the parking space first, but I'm on Bubba-overload. Look, it's a long story, but it's been a real killer morning. Once again, I apologize and plead temporary insanity" She placed her hands palms down on the table.
|Rancher Will Harrison|
(Yes, it's really Jimmy
"Listen, I apologized. Let's just drop it. Okay?" Surprised at the petulant tone in her voice, she adjusted the dark green scarf that held the hair back from her face
The man peered at her steadily, his voice polite but firm when he spoke. "No, ma'am, we can't drop it. I think I deserve an explanation after that 'Bubba' line. It sounded very much like an insult to me."
This man obviously had his hackles up and wanted a full explanation. After her morning's adventures, she found herself impatient with this cowboy, even though her mind recognized his request sounded reasonable. Finally, Aurora swiveled at her waist to face him as much as the limited space allowed. "Oh, well, if you insist. You wore that western hat and were in a pickup truck. At a glance, you looked like the typical red-necked Bubba. All you lacked was a big wad of tobacco bulging in your cheek."
She raised her hand and shook a finger at the man as if he were a delinquent school boy. "Listen, I've had my fill, and then some, with you guys. You follow me, whistle at me, lean out a truck window to sing to me, shout, or wave to me. I even receive various very rude gestures and get mooned. Believe it or not, I do nothing either to initiate or encourage any of this behavior."
A skeptical smile appeared and he raised his eyebrows. A flush of color heated her face at the memory of her behavior in the parking lot. She held up one hand to stop any comment he might make before she continued.
"Oh, I know, I acted brashly with you outside just now. Let me assure you, that's entirely unlike me. In fact, it's truly a first. I've never, ever done anything like that before."
She shook her head in wonder. "I don't know what came over me. As I said, it must have been temporary insanity due to Bubba-overload."
She pinched the fabric on the leg of the neatly creased blue denim jeans she wore. "Look at me. My jeans aren't skin-tight. They’re not painted on me." With a tug at the hem of her hunter-green knit top, she added, "My shirt isn't too tight, it has three-quarter sleeves, and the neck isn't low or revealing."
Aurora moved her knees and elevated a foot to display canvas shoes. "I'm wearing my little Keds, not flashy pumps with stiletto heels. All in all, I think I'm dressed very sedately and not at all in a provocative way."
The cowboy slid his glance slowly up and down her then back to her face before he smiled a slow, lazy smile that lit up his eyes and brought a dimple to his cheek. He reached over to grasp her untouched water glass and took a drink from it, his eyes returning to her face as he sipped the icy water.
Her own mouth opened as she watched his mouth against the rim of the glass. The tip of her pink tongue slid against her upper lip as the water slid into his mouth. She could almost feel his lips as they received the liquid. To hide the rising turbulence in the pit of her stomach, Aurora glared at him. In vain she tried to avoid thoughts of his stare or the dimple that appeared with his smile.
She forced herself to concentrate on her defense. "Um, I just drive along in my little blue Ford Mustang, enjoying the scenery and minding my own business. I do nothing to call attention to myself. I even try to be a good sport about the immature behavior some guys display."
She took a deep breath. "I try to take it all in stride and just keep on schedule but"--Aurora slammed her hands against the top of the table--"this morning, two very frightening Bubbas tried to run me off the highway and hijack me or my car."
His eyes widened and his mouth gaped, but she continued, "I'm only here because a State Trooper happened by in time to interrupt my abduction. Frankly, that scared the life out of me. The longer I thought about it, though, the angrier I became. By the time I got to this restaurant, I had completely lost my cool."
Aurora took a deep breath and gazed at her hands. She recalled the fright that consumed her when she realized the two men followed her. Only quick thinking on her part prevented the two ruffians from succeeding at their attempt to run her off the road and get her out of her car. She shuddered to think what might have happened if not for the State Trooper. And never, never would she forget the faces of those two men!
She waved her hands in a fluttery motion. "When I saw you in a truck the same color as the one that ran me off the road...well...I guess I just went bananas, berserk, crazy. That's why I'm pleading temporary insanity." Aurora leaned back and crossed her arms in front of her.
At this moment the waitress appeared with their food. Aurora stared in amazement as the waitress set the burger, fries and Dr Pepper in front of her and a duplicate of the order in front of the man beside her.
The waitress flashed what she probably thought of as her most seductive smile at the man. In a low, honeyed voice, she asked, "Anything else today, Will?"
He seemed unaware of the invitation in her voice or the hopeful sparkle in her eyes. "Not right now, Norma Sue, thanks. Go ahead and leave the check now and save yourself time."
When the disappointed waitress left, Aurora appraised Will. How could he fail to notice the waitress’ blatant invitation? Had he any idea how attractive he was? Hold on, this guy might be too good to be true.
Aurora gazed over he shoulder at the departing waitress. "How on earth did she know what to bring you? When did you give her your order?"
"When I came in." He leaned across her to get the salt and pepper. Will paused to flash her a truly breathtaking smile and the bottom fell out of her stomach again. "I also told her you would pick up the check.”
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