Please note: The story excerpt below is a rough draft. I did not proofread it before I posted it. It is for enjoyment purposes only. My editor (the English teacher/journalist/award winning author) will go through this story with a fine-tooth comb when I am finished with the first draft. I’ll take care of errors at that time. 😀
Taken from Chapter Eight of Shotgun Groom:
April returned to Sep who waited for the stranger at the open door. As the rider approached, she tried to get a good look at him, but it was hard to do that when he was bundled up in a coat and had a hat lowered over his head, probably to protect him from the bright glare of the sunlight as it bounced off the snow. Glancing at Sep who placed the gun against the coat tree, she wondered if this was going to be good or bad. Sep looked back at her, his expression as uncertain as she was sure hers was. They turned their gazes to the rider who stopped in front of the porch and tied his horse’s reins to the post.
The blond man appeared to be in his late twenties or early thirties. He bore a striking resemblance to Joel, and that worried her. She and Sep might manage to get Joel to a preacher if he was alone, but if one of his brothers came to get him, then there was no way she and Sep would succeed.
Thankfully, Joel was still upstairs fixing a hole in the wall. Maybe they could deny Joel was even there. It might get Joel’s kin to back off long enough for her to get married, and then once the vows were exchanged, it didn’t matter what his kin did; the marriage would be a done deal.
“Good morning,” the blond said as he took off his hat. “My name is Tom Larson. I’m Joel Larson’s brother, and Doctor Adams is concerned that something bad happened to him during the storm we had two days ago. Did Joel make it out here to check on your child?”
April swallowed the lump in her throat. This was it. She had to lie. Even if it was wrong, she had to do it for the sake of her family. Just as she opened her mouth to speak, Sep spoke up.
“Yes, he made it, but then he left and we haven’t seen him.”
April swore her heart stopped beating in the tense moment that followed. Would Tom believe Sep? Would Tom want to come into the house and see if they were lying?
“Hmm.” Tom glanced at his horse. “Did Joel happen to say where he was headed before he left?”
Sep shrugged. “I assume he’d go back to town, unless Doctor Adams sent him to check on another sick person.”
“Dave checked the route Joel usually takes to town, and he didn’t see him,” Tom said thoughtfully.
“Dave?” April asked.
“Our brother,” Tom replied.
April’s gaze turned to Sep. Another brother. Clearing her throat, she asked, “How many brothers do you have?”
“There are four of us boys all together.” Tom put his hat back on his head and smiled. “Well, thank you.”
Just as Tom turned to go down the porch steps, Nora ran over to the doorway and cried out, “Joe!”
Shooting a frantic look in Sep’s direction, April let out an uneasy laugh and picked Nora up. “No, sweetie, that’s not Joel.” She patted Nora’s back and told Tom, “You two look a lot alike. If it weren’t for the age difference, I’d swear you were the same people.”
“You’d be surprised by how often we hear that one.” Tom chuckled and indicated to Nora. “She’s as cute as a button. Reminds me of one of my little girls. Have a good day, and I’m sorry to have troubled you.”
As Tom stepped down the porch, Nora stretched her arms out. “Joe!” April had to restrain her from jumping out of her embrace. She had no idea Nora had become so attached to Joel in such a short time. He really did have a way with children!
Sep was in the process of closing the door when Joel called out he was almost done. Sep paused and Tom turned back to them. April silently cursed her luck that Nora had to yell out for Joel when she did. If she’d waited just a few more seconds, they would be in the clear.
Tom narrowed his eyes at them and returned to the doorway.
“I can explain,” April quickly said, her eyes pleading with him to hear her out.
“Be careful on what you say,” Sep warned her before he took Nora and rushed for the stairs.
Taking that as her cue, she motioned for Tom to come into the house. “Please hear me out first?”
His gaze went from the hallway to her and to the parlor couch.
“It’s important,” she added, trying to keep the desperation out of her voice but not sure she succeeded.
After a tense moment passed, he took off his hat and wiped his feet on the rug by the door before he sat on the couch. Placing his hat on his knee, he said, “Alright. What is my brother doing here and why were you lying about it?”
I can’t give the whole story away, but I wanted to show how Tom was able to wiggle his way into the plot after all. I wasn’t sure if he would, but he insisted I try the scene again. (I failed the first time.) I rearranged a few things and sure enough, it worked. Now to discuss Joel’s upcoming wedding, Joel, Tom and Dave Larson agreed to come in for an interview! Dave hasn’t shown up in the story yet, but he will later. The only reason Richard didn’t show up is because he’s busy packing for his move back to the East to be with his wife’s family. Sorry guys, but I have no desire to keep writing him, Amanda or their kids into the stories. There will be a family Larson get-together later in the book when they say good-bye to Richard and his family. Okay. So to start this off, we’ll see what Joel has to say…
Joel: Are you kidding me? This is what was going on downstairs when I was repairing that hole in Sep’s bedroom?
Ruth: What are you doing with a cell phone?
Joel: Reading what you wrote today. I like to find out what’s going on behind my back, even if I can’t do anything to stop it.
Ruth: Okay, so if this whole wedding thing is so horrible for you, why are you dressed up?
Joel: This is all I could find in the old trunk that April and Sep’s father had.
Ruth: *rolls eyes* Sure, Joel. Keep on lying to yourself. We all know you want to get married but you’re too proud to admit it.
Joel: I’ll have you know the look of shock I have in the picture above is for real.
Joel: This book isn’t over yet. I’ll figure out a way to get even with you for this, Tom.
Tom: Oh come on. April’s story is so sad. How can you not want to help her out? Any reasonable man would step in to save the day and marry her. Besides, she’s a looker. Of course, my wife is, too. I wouldn’t have anyone but Jessica.
Joel: This isn’t about you, Tom. There’s no reason for you to be in the story, except to bother me.
Tom: Oh, and like you didn’t bother me in A Bride for Tom or The Wrong Husband. At least, I’m doing you a favor.
Joel: Some favor. You’re running off to find the man who’ll chain me to April for the rest of my life.
Ruth: Chained? You have a picture of her in that cell phone.
Joel: I took it by accident. I meant to take a picture of the repairs I did by the parlor window.
Ruth: You have two pictures, Joel.
Joel: So the phone shoots pictures at the wrong time. It’s a faulty phone, and that means you aren’t paying me enough to partake in this tragedy.
Tom: Tragedy or triumph? This is a major triumph. I, for one, can’t stop reading it. This is literature at its finest. I can’t wait for that dramatic moment when you’ll cry as you mutter out the infamous words “I do.” I’m going to print that page off and post it on my wall.
Joel: I’m not going to cry. Men don’t cry. I might have something in my eye, but I won’t cry. Seriously, Ruth, why couldn’t you have Dave come looking for me instead of my clumsy brother? And speaking of which, did he bump into anything or get April’s hair caught in one of his coat buttons?
Tom: Ha, ha. You are soooo original.
Ruth: Tom was very graceful in the scene. You don’t give Tom enough credit, Joel.
Tom: Exactly. I was nervous around Jessica.
Joel: Oh yeah, your anniversary is coming up in April. I’ll have to send her the funeral bouquet like I do every year to express my condolences.
Tom: Ruth, can I please hold the gun to Joel so he has to say his vows when the blessed event occurs?
Joel: When is Dave going to show up? I bet he wouldn’t have headed off to find someone to *gags* marry me.
Tom: Yeah, Dave? Where are you anyway? Your name is in the subject line of this post.
Joel: You wouldn’t run off to find someone to force me to marry April, would you?
Dave: I would have gone upstairs to get your side of the story. I don’t jump to conclusions like Tom does.
Tom: Conclusions? April is terrified. That Lou character is bad news, and Sep is too young to take him on.
Dave: While that might be the case, I’m sure there’s another solution. I don’t see why Joel has to be forced into doing something he doesn’t want.
Joel: That’s what I’ve been thinking the whole time, Dave! Who is going to believe April’s only recourse is to marry me? That’s why this story is doomed for complete and utter failure. I’m telling you, those 1-star reviews and angry emails are going to pile up. I’m starting a campaign on this. Want to join in?
Dave: Let’s not go overboard there, Joel.
Joel: Overboard? Ruth’s also working on Isaac’s story. She’s going to have him elope with Emily Craftsman.
Dave: She’s doing what?!
Joel: Oh, you don’t like that one, do you? It’s always different when you’re the one in the hot seat. Yeah, your oldest son is going to make you part of Neil Craftsman’s family! You just wait. I believe it’s going to be around…what…chapter eight or nine when Isaac marries Emily without telling you in Isaac’s Decision.
Tom: What’s wrong with that?
Dave: You’ve got to be kidding me, Tom! You know what Neil did to Mary.
Tom: Neil’s not the same person he was back in Eye of the Beholder. He’s changed for the better. I don’t understand why you won’t sit down and talk to him.
Dave: You make it a habit to visit him?
Tom: No, but that’s because I’m busy with Jessica, the girls, and the farm. I do good to make it to our family get-togethers. Ever since you banned Neil from helping with the harvest, I rarely see him.
Dave: I didn’t ban him.
Joel: Oh right. You gave him that death threat at the train station at the end of Eye of the Beholder. If I was Neil, I wouldn’t go near you either.
Dave: It wasn’t a death threat…exactly.
Tom: All I know is level-headed, “let’s get two sides of the story” Dave can be one of the most stubborn people I’ve ever met when it comes to Neil Craftsman. So don’t judge me for making Joel marry April. April will be good to him, and seriously, who can ignore the biggest benefit of marriage? There’s nothing like the honeymoon stage.
Joel: Whoopie. *rolls eyes* My honeymoon involves the crazy guy in the book coming after me to kill me. I signed up for the medical profession, not law enforcement. Can’t Owen fill in for me on those parts? You know, like a stunt double or something?
Ruth: Sorry. You do all your own stunts.
Joel: Figures. I get no breaks in this book.
Ruth: Well, that’s it for this interview. I’m sure we’ll be seeing more of these brothers in the future, esp. when Dave discovers his son ran off with Emily.
Dave: About that…
Ruth: Got to go! Books don’t write themselves.