Guys, you have no idea how happy I am that Opposites Attract, the first book in my Nerds of Paradise series about contemporary Haskell, Wyoming is out! I’ve wanted to write this series for so, so long, and it’s finally here! I’m, like, literally jumping up and down! But make sure you get out there and purchase Opposites Attract for the low, low price of 99 cents TODAY, because as of tomorrow, it’s going up to its regular price of $3.99! And if you want to get started reading, here’s a chunk of Chapter One!
Casey Flint loved her family more than anything on earth, but there were times when she wanted to strangle them.
“So let me get this straight,” she said as she sat between her father, Roscoe, and her brother, Ted, in Roscoe’s truck as they drove into town. “You went ahead and actually sold off five acres of our ranch to some stranger?”
“He’s not some stranger,” Ted explained, an edge of impatience in his voice. Roscoe merely frowned at the icy road in front of them. “He’s one of the engineers from Paradise Space Flight.”
The explanation did nothing to soothe the sting of betrayal pricking at Casey’s already unsettled heart. “You sold off a part of our family ranch, a ranch that has belonged to the Flints since the late 1880s, to some dorky engineer who probably wears a pocket protector and Spock ears all the time?”
Ted huffed a laugh. “I think that guy you met at the grocery store last month wasn’t the typical Paradise Space Flight employee.”
“I wouldn’t be so sure.” Casey couldn’t stop herself from grinning just a little bit at the memory. The man she’d run into was a hoot. Nerdy as the day was long, and as far as she was concerned, typical of the wave of new residents in Haskell. They’d been a simple, although unique, ranching town since the original Howard Haskell founded the place in the 1860s. But now, a fresh crop of engineers, mathematicians, and astrophysicists had shown up to knock the whole town off-balance.
No one more so than Casey. And her life was already off-balance enough now that her mom was gone.
“My point is—” she went on.
“Oh, you were making a point?” Ted teased her.
Casey frowned and elbowed him hard. “My point is,” she repeated, “that all these guys—”
“And girls,” Ted quickly added.
“—that Howie Haskell is hiring to build his spaceships—”
“Supply rockets and independent vehicles to launch commercial satellites,” Ted butted in once again.
“—are not the sort we’re used to in Haskell,” Casey finished in a growl.
“Now, Casey,” Roscoe said in his gruff but steady voice. “I didn’t raise you to be prejudiced against anyone for any reason.”
“I’m not being prejudiced,” Casey insisted. “I’m just saying that Haskell has a certain rhythm, a certain pace and feeling. We’re a town of cowboys and we always have been.”
“If we’re such a town of cowboys, why did you stop competing in the rodeo?”
Ted was teasing, but his question struck straight to her core, filling her with guilt and regret. “I grew out of it,” she lied, gut twisting. “That’s not the point. We’re a traditional town full of traditional people, and it should stay that way.”
“Actually, Haskell has always been on the cutting edge of social justice issues and inclusion of new and sometimes radical ideas,” Ted corrected her.
“Shut up, nerd.” Casey elbowed him again, even as her heart swelled with pride in her brother and their hometown.
“Ah ha!” Ted laughed. “So by your own admission, nerds have always been an integral part of this town. I mean, if you consider one of your closest family members to be a nerd….”
Casey blew out an exasperated breath. “Brothers,” she muttered, as if that explained it all. She shook her head and went on with her train of thought. “All I’m saying is that I don’t like all this change. Things are changing way too fast. Why can’t everything just stay the way it was? We were all happy the way things were. Life was simple and easy. The town was like one big family. Now….” She shrugged, feeling a shiver race down her spine. The ache in her heart that had been there since her mother’s final, painful days throbbed. She sighed. “I just don’t like the way things are going.”
Rather than cracking a joke, Ted glanced over her head at Roscoe. Roscoe glanced briefly back. They both wore looks of deep concern and sorrow.
“What?” Casey asked.
Neither of them answered right away.
“What?” Casey pressed when the silence grew too awkward.
Ted cleared his throat. “Ah, sis? Are you sure you’re not confusing your feelings about Mom’s death with everything that’s going on in town?”
“No,” Casey answered right away. “And keep Mom out of this. She wouldn’t like all the changes around here either. She certainly wouldn’t approve of you ripping out a part of the ranch and feeding it to the wolves.”
“Princess, we’ve talked about this,” Roscoe said, his voice as calm as ever. “Ranching is hard work. The market is getting tougher and tougher out there. We’re a small operation, and we’ve reached the limit of our capabilities. Unless we get a cash infusion, our whole operation will collapse. If that happens, we’ll lose the ranch entirely, not just a piece of it. Scott Martin has offered us a generous price for those five acres.”
“Scott Martin,” Casey grumbled, even as the prickly, uncomfortable feeling that her father was right about everything he was saying twisted her insides. “You’re selling a piece of our heritage to a man I’ve never so much as laid eyes on?”
Roscoe nodded patiently. “You would have laid eyes on him if you’d been at the meeting with Ted and me last week.”
“Last week was the week before Christmas,” Casey explained. “I had a ton of shopping to do, not to mention dozens of cookies to bake and volunteering at the senior center.”
“I’m not laying any blame on you,” Roscoe assured her. “Just sayin’ it like it is. The price Mr. Martin was willing to pay ensures that the ranch will continue to operate for at least another five years. After that, we’ll see how the economy is doing and reevaluate our position.”
Admiration and despair mingled in Casey’s gut. Her dad was a man among men. He’d worked hard his entire life, keeping the ranch functioning at peak productivity in a rapidly-changing world. Of course, her mom had been right there by his side, shouldering as much of the load as he did. They’d all been hit hard by her cancer, but Roscoe had continued to get up every day and tend to the herd in all weather and conditions. But Casey would have to be blind not to notice the strain around her dad’s eyes and mouth in the year since her mother’s death, or the way he moved just a little slower, his shoulders stooped just a little more.
“I can step up my game and work harder,” she blurted as the blossom of grief flowered in her chest. “I can take on more responsibility, do more than office work and dealing with distributors. I’ll get up early and help manage the herd too. Will you undo the land sale if I do that?”
A tired smile touched Roscoe’s lips. He reached a hand over to squeeze hers as it lay balled into a fist on the truck’s seat. “I love you, Princess. I know you’re doing everything you can and that your heart is in the right place. But I also know good and well that a broken heart can only take on so much before it breaks down.” He paused, then added. “Selling those five acres was the right thing to do.”
Casey ground her teeth, but there was no way she would contradict her dad. Even though every fiber of her being wanted to scream and thrash and battle against the horrible forces of change that left her feeling helpless and hopeless. It was that same helplessness that made everything she did these days seem somehow hollow and pointless. If only she had something she could do that would make a difference. If only she could really sink her teeth into a cause that would put her family back where it deserved to be and heal the wounds they all had. She had to find something to throw her energy into that would make her feel like she was fighting back, for her mom’s sake.
“Good Lord,” Ted said, laughing, as they pulled into the parking lot of the flashy, new Paradise Space Flight building. “Was everyone in Sweetwater County invited to this thing?”
Roscoe grunted, lips twitching to a grin, as he circled around, looking for a parking space.
Casey’s heartache and frustration were pushed to the back of her mind as she glanced through the windshield at the rows of cars and trucks. “Howie’s email said it was an all-town mixer.”
“All-county is more like it,” Ted said.
Roscoe found a spot to park as Casey said, “Well, you know the Haskell family. They’ve always thought it was their responsibility to entertain the whole town along with providing jobs and homes.”
“True,” Ted laughed. “Remember ‘Ice Cream Social 2013?’”
Casey snorted. “Remember how livid Howie was that we were ten gallons short of the world record for biggest sundae?”
“Or how about that masquerade ball last Halloween?”
“I think they’re still vacuuming up glitter at The Cattleman Hotel.” Casey burst into a fit of giggles as Roscoe cut the truck’s engine and opened the door.
Casey slid out the passenger side after Ted, hugging her vintage men’s pea coat close as a burst of icy air hit her. She, Ted, and Roscoe started walking up through the rows of cars and trucks together. The front door of the garish, five story, glass Paradise Space Flight building was illuminated with colored lights. It was December 29th, so Christmas decorations were still up, but already there were signs of New Year’s Eve decorations. Apparently, Howie had some sort of a light show planned. Cheerful music poured out of the front door every time an arriving guest opened it.
There you have it! Wanna read more? Opposites Attract is available now at all these fine retailers:
Amazon – http://amzn.to/2iuIzGv