Hi guys! We have Julia Talbot popping in today with her upcoming release Riding the Circuit, we have a brilliant guest post and a great excerpt, so check out the post and enjoy! <3 ~Pixie~
Riding the Circuit
Rodeo cowboy Frost Barton spends most of his time on tour, and that’s the way he likes it. But when his dad dies suddenly, Frost returns to southern New Mexico to attend the funeral and help his mom decide what to do with their small family ranch. Frost is already considering retiring from bull riding and planting his itchy feet in the ground. Meeting horse trainer Matt Morales just adds another pull in that direction, though Frost still isn’t sure he’s ready to give up the circuit—even if Matt makes settling down look mighty tempting.
Matt is old enough to know better, but he falls for Frost anyway. They only have so much time to spend together before Frost goes back on tour, but Matt believes they might have something special. He keeps the home fires burning while Frost earns his living, but Matt hopes he can convince Frost to come home—to stay.
So excited to be here talking about Riding the Circuit, the newest novella in the Riding Cowboy Flats series. The first two stories, Jackass Flats and Just a Cowboy, I wrote several years ago. Riding the Circuit is all new, and I’m kind of in love with Frost and Matt.
Riding is set, like the other two books, where I grew up in Southern New Mexico. Las Cruces hasn’t changed too much since I was a kid, and there’s still a cowboy culture there that runs deep.
One of the most interesting things about cowboy culture that I incorporated into Riding the Circuit is the difference between rodeo cowboys and working ranch cowboys. At the opening of Riding the Circuit, Frost has come home from the rodeo for his dad’s funeral, and he’s getting no end of shit about it.
See, working cowboys and ranchers often have a healthy dose of contempt for rodeo riders. They consider them trashy, maybe lazy. I spent a rodeo in Hunt county Texas once, listening to my father in law explain how he’d seen a bullrider who couldn’t even take his victory lap on horseback at the rodeo in Fort Worth because he didn’t know how to ride an actual horse.
Frost is also held in a little bit of contempt because he’s a roughstock rider. That means he rides broncs or bulls. Ranchers and ranch cowboys have much more respect for a roper, someone who uses real cowboy skills in his work.
The thing is Frost A) grew up on a ranch, and B) knows roughstock is where the big payouts are unless you’re Trevor Brazile or something. (Trevor Brazile is a 13 time all around National Finals Rodeo champion and is a roper.) So he resents the attitude that he’s worth less than other folks just because he rides the circuit.
When Frost meets Matt, who’s old enough to know better, he meets a fan. Matt used to travel to see the big roughstock competitions, and he knows just how talented Frost is. Now he wants to get to know the real Frost, too, not just the public persona.
Incidentally, Frost is named after Lane Frost, who was a phenomenal bull rider who lost his life in the arena in 1989. I was lucky enough to see him ride once, and he’s the reason roughstock riders now wear Kevlar vests to protect their torsos.
I hope y’all take a chance on Riding the Circuit, just like Frost takes a chance on Matt!
“FUCKING RODEO cowboys. I hate those assholes. I don’t care how much goddamned money they make.” The old man spat on the ground, then turned a rheumy blue eye on Frost, who hunched his shoulders up around his ears.
He knew old Gus Lucero was talking about him. He was the only one at this funeral who rode the circuit full-time, and he was sure enough the only one who made any frickin’ money in this crowd.
“You figure he’ll go again after the funeral?” Gus’s companion asked. Junior Carran was a long, tall drink of water who still stood pretty upright for someone who had to be in his eighties.
“Yeah.” Gus warmed to his subject. “He’s rodeo trash. He don’t know no better. It’s an addiction.”
He wanted to snap “He’s right here,” but he didn’t bother. No one was changing Gus at this point in his life, and Frost knew better than to argue with that.
Frost Barton looked at the coffin on the stand next to the fresh grave. His father had been the same way. No telling that old man nothin’. Now no one was telling Frost’s pop anything anymore, and their last words had been angry.
He blinked, blocking out whatever the old men had to say. Nothing they could do could hurt him worse than knowing he would never have the chance to make up with his pop.
The preacher stopped droning on and on, finally inviting them all to come up and pay their final respects. His momma stepped up first, placing a small bottle of tequila on the casket. That made Frost smile because his pop had sure embraced his new native land when him and Momma had moved to New Mexico the year before Frost was born.
He stepped up next because he deserved the honor, even if no one but Momma believed it. Frost carried a tiny chile ristra, because Pop loved his ranchero sauce.
The nieces and nephews came next, all in from San Angelo. Pop’s sister Estelle had come to the funeral at the church but had skipped the graveside to go cook. She wanted to make a sheet cake, she said, and chicken spaghetti. Frost reckoned the locals would be horrified. They wouldn’t get it at all. Maybe she would make chili or King Ranch casserole too.
Maybe Frost would stop at Rudy’s and pick up some brisket. He heard they’d opened one now.
He stepped aside, craving a cigarette, knowing he couldn’t let himself have one. Thirty was old in the bull riding game, and he had a collapsed lung two years ago. Smoking was no longer an option.
Someone stepped up beside him, the smell of Old Spice making him glance up, thinking his pop was back from the dead.
“You look like you need a beer, buddy.”
The cowboy standing beside him was Tate, who was kinda halfway between him and his pop, age-wise. Maybe forty, he had a towhead and blue eyes and had been around as long as Frost could remember. He had a bitty ranch out in Jackass Flats, where Frost’s family’s place was out in Doña Ana.
“I could use one, for sure. You coming to the feed?”
“I am. I got—well, my friend Dave. Can he come?”
Something about Tate’s tone made him raise a brow. It reminded him of when Tucker Jones and Barnaby Rollins said they was just riding partners and good friends, not nothin’ gay.
“You got yourself a feller, Tate?” He’d been away more than he’d been home, but he thought he remembered his momma saying something about Tate getting a roommate years ago now. How had Frost never met the man?
“Yep.” Tate’s cheeks went pink, but he grinned. “I cain’t believe you’d never met him. We been shacked up since the year you went out on the circuit. You just ain’t been home.”
“You gonna start on that rodeo trash shit too?” He raised his other eyebrow so both was up near his hairline.
“Nope.” Tate glanced back at Gus and Junior, a scowl crossing his face. “Busy old beavers.”
“Do we have beavers in New Mexico?”
“Hell if I know.”
“You two stop jawing loud enough to wake the dead.” His momma poked Tate on the arm. “Someone take me back to the house. If I have to wait for that limo driver, I’ll be here ’til dawn, and I can’t let Estelle ruin the enchiladas with that damned canned chili.”
“I can take you,” Frost said. He looked back at Tate one last time. “I’m counting on that beer and meeting that Dave.”
“You got it.” Tate waved.
He took his momma’s arm and led her off to his pickup, helping her up into the cab since she was wearing slick shoes with heels. They sat there and he turned on the engine, letting the air blow on them. Frost gripped the steering wheel, his knuckles going white.
“Don’t.” She cut him off firmly. “Not right now. Whatever it is. I don’t need apologies, and platitudes is just gonna make me hit you.”
His shoulders eased right down from around his ears. “Yes, ma’am. I was thinking of getting Rudy’s.”
“You can do that tomorrow. We’ll need it then, after the locusts pick us clean.”
“Okay. I just don’t want you to have to cook too much.”
“You sound like your pop. It will keep me busy. I like to feed a working, and you know it.”
“I do.” He sighed. “I love you, Momma.”
“I know, son.” She smiled, tired lines springing up around her mouth and eyes. “If wishes were horses, then beggars would ride.”
He knew she meant he shouldn’t be wishing he’d made up with his pop, but he couldn’t help it. Hell, he’d sent cash home every time he’d been in the money, but no one seemed to think that was a good thing but him. He finally got the truck in gear, heading back to the house he’d grown up in but had spent little time in the last ten years.
The first two years on the circuit, he’d come home every holiday but Cowboy Christmas, as the Fourth of July was called in his circles. After that he’d made either Thanksgiving or Christmas, and he’d almost wanted to stop doing those just so he wouldn’t have to see his momma cry every time he loaded his go bag and his gear in his truck.
“You’re getting too old to ride the circuit,” Pop had said last time Frost had been home. “You need to come on home. I ain’t getting any younger.”
He’d just looked at Pop askance. “You’re fifty-seven.”
“So?” Pop’s mouth had taken on that stubborn twist. “Come on home.”
He’d just laughed it off. “Ain’t room for both of us at the ranch, Pop.”
“Might not be two of us for long,” Pop had snapped and turned on his bootheel to go inside.
“He knew he was sick last Christmas, didn’t he?” Frost asked quietly.
“Yes.” Momma rolled her head on her neck, then undid the clip that held her hair up in the messy bun. “He didn’t want you to worry.”
He shot her a dark look. “Well, you should have told me.”
Her mouth tightened into a hard line. “God knows I love you, son, but you have to understand. I wasn’t going to take away his dignity.”
“I would have come home.”
“He asked you to.” She slapped her hand on the dash. “That should have been enough. He swallowed his goddamn pride and asked, and you turned him down flat. Never even tried to figure out why.”
Frost blinked, his eyes burning. “You know it wasn’t that easy, Momma. He was…. Well, it sure wasn’t that easy.”
His pop had said some things. Hurtful damned things. Talk about someone who believed rodeo riders were trashy and that his son was the worst of them….
“I know that, but I raised you to be the better man.”
He blew out a breath. “You did just fine. I’ve wanted to come home more than once, but the shelf life of a rodeo rider is short. I only got a year or two left, and I thought that would be soon enough. If I’da known he was sick, I would have retired, damn it.”
“Don’t you cuss at me.” She hadn’t shed a tear at the funeral, but now her mascara was running. “Don’t you do that. I’m the one who ran that ranch and wiped his butt when he was on hospice at the end. You don’t tell me.”
“I’m sorry.” What else could he say? He turned off on the county road that led out to the ranch, still as familiar as breathing even after all these years. He didn’t want to fight with his mom, but by now he was wishing he’d gone to Omaha instead of attending the funeral.
“Your mind is on the road again already.” Momma turned to stare out the window. “You get your itchy feet from your pop, even if he would never admit it.”
“I’m not gonna run off and leave you with no help, Momma.” He wasn’t. He would do what he had to do.
“I know that, son, but it don’t mean you don’t want to.” She wouldn’t look at him again until he parked outside of the ridiculously sprawling adobe house that had grown from a two-room antique twenty years ago to a five-bedroom amazement now. That was when she turned to him, hand covering his. “I ain’t asking you to be what you can’t.”
She slid out of the truck, making her way inside. Her slumped shoulders made her look far older than she was. God, he wasn’t ready for her to lay down and die too. She was too damned young and full of life.
He followed, clipping his keys to his belt. Frost checked his cell on the way into the house, hoping for a text from Royce, his traveling partner. Nothing. Damn it. He knew they weren’t serious, that Royce figured any hand or mouth felt good in the dark, but Frost could use an ally at this point.
Stories that leave a mark. Julia Talbot loves romance across all the genders and genres, and loves to write about people working to see past the skin they’re in to love what lies beneath. Julia Talbot lives in the great mountain and high desert Southwest, where there is hot and cold running rodeo, cowboys, and everything from meat and potatoes to the best Tex-Mex. A full time author, Julia has been published by Dreamspinner and Changeling Press among many others. She believes that everyone deserves a happy ending, so she writes about love without limits, where boys love boys, girls love girls, and boys and girls get together to get wild, especially when her crazy paranormal characters are involved. She also writes BDSM and erotic romance as Minerva Howe. Find Julia at @juliatalbot on Twitter, or at www.juliatalbot.com “The mountains are calling, and I must go”