Staci Stallings – Romantic Excerpt – Part 1 of 3

Shannon here: Contemporary romance author, Staci Stallings shares how her fictional characters meet in Cowboy. Comment on any post dated May 9 – 13 for a chance to win your choice of three of her books, including Cowboy. Deadline May 13, 11:59 PM central time. Here’s Staci:

Excerpt from Cowboy by Staci Stallings

“When my husband died, all I wanted was to run.”

When Ashton looked up, he found himself staring at the part in her hair. For a moment the waitress let that statement settle, then she looked across the diner, and then back at him. The sadness in her gaze washed over him.

She smiled obviously forcing the words out. “And I did for awhile—run, I mean. I ran—just packed up and took off. I wasn’t thinking, you know? All I knew was I had to get away from the pain.” Her gaze drifted over to the counter as her face scrunched on the memories. “But the road is a weird place when you’re running. The farther I ran, the closer the pain came. It followed me all the way to Miami.” She raked in air, then forced it down her throat and held his gaze. “That’s where I found myself sitting in a hotel room thinking I’d just be better off if I ended it all right there.”

At that moment he knew she was an angel, and he couldn’t have torn his gaze from her face if the sky had fallen at his feet.

However, the admission sent her gaze skittering. “I kept telling myself it was the only way, that I just couldn’t run anymore. I was tired of running, and I was tired of hurting. In fact, you know… I was just plain tired.”

He nodded as he gazed across the table. Tired. It was a feeling he had come to know very well in the past few months.

She reached up and scratched the back of her neck just under the fall of loose curls that started at her head and cascaded down the sides of her face. “I was sitting there getting ready to end it all, and….” Her monologue drifted into silence, and the fight it was taking to get the words out was clear.

He shook his head searching her countenance trying desperately to figure out where this was going.

Then, with the smallest of laughs her gaze found his again. “A maid came in.”

“A maid?” His eyebrows knitted in confusion.

“Yeah.” She laughed. “She was there to change the sheets or something, but I’ll tell you what, she took one look at me and forgot all about those sheets. She didn’t know me. We’d never even met before, but I know for a fact she saved my life that day. She showed me that running doesn’t help, and neither will killing yourself.”

“Yeah?” he asked sarcastically as he repositioned himself in the booth. “Then what does?”

Her eyes turned to soft orbs of gentleness. “Letting other people help you through it.”

The burden of fatigue and heartbreak he’d been carrying for months pulled his gaze to the table just as the bells at the door jingled. Although he never looked up, he heard her slide from the booth.

“Finish your breakfast.” She pointed to his plate she had given him. “If you need someone to listen, all you have to do is ask.”

With that she left his booth to go help the others.

Let others help. Sarcasm seared through him. Yeah, right.

He couldn’t trust anyone with this pain.  He couldn’t let them in. Besides, they didn’t want to listen—not really. They wanted him to say everything was fine and keep going as though nothing in the world had happened. They wanted him to be Ashton Raines, superstar, and as far as what happened to the real Ashton Raines, they couldn’t care less.

Loneliness descended on him again, and his whole body slumped toward the table with the weight of it. It was becoming more and more difficult to keep himself upright. All he wanted to do was lie down and sleep forever.

If he could just think of one friend. One person he could call, one real person he could talk to.

“If you need someone to listen, I’m here.” He heard her words again deep in his soul, and he looked up to see if she was actually standing there. But she was across the restaurant helping someone else.

“I can’t tell her.” He shook his head and clutched the top of his cap, rolling it down around his face at the absurdity of the very thought. “I don’t even know her.”

Then his gaze lit on the all-but empty plate in front of him. She had given him a meal and asked for nothing in return. She had shared a piece of her heart with him and expected nothing. It was by far the greatest act of kindness he’d experienced in a long time. He looked down at the empty coffee cup, closed his eyes, and raised it off the table. “Miss, could I get a refill?”

About the book: Life has done its best to knock Beth McCasland to the ground, and the truth is: it’s done a pretty good job of keeping her there. Stuck in a minimum-wage job with a young daughter counting on her, Beth does her best to stay standing under the weight of it all because she knows God is on her side. Then one night she gets the chance to be an angel to another of life’s weary travelers. For once hope has never looked so real. Cowboy is a grace-filled story about the power of giving everything to God and how a simple act of compassion can change lives forever. Emotional, soothing, and heart-wrenching, Cowboy is infused with the message that no matter who we are and no matter what life has thrown at us, we never have to walk alone. Staci Stallings has intertwined the loss and grief of two characters into a sweet love story. Full of truths and illustrations of God’s grace, Cowboy will capture a reader’s heart. Stallings has peppered in song lyrics that strike a beautiful chord.

About Staci: A stay-at-home mom with a husband, three kids and a writing addiction on the side, Staci Stallings has numerous titles for readers to choose from.  Not content to stay in one genre and write it to death, Staci’s stories run the gamut from young adult to adult, from motivational and inspirational to full-out Christian and back again.  Every title is a new adventure!  That’s what keeps Staci writing and you reading.  Although she lives in Amarillo, Texas and her main career right now is her family, Staci touches the lives of people across the globe every week with her various Internet endeavors including: Books In Print, Kindle, & free on Spirit Light Works: http://stacistallings.wordpress.com/, Spirit Light Books–The Blog:   http://spiritlightbooks.wordpress.com/, and  http://www.stacistallings.com.

Come back May 11th for another excerpt from Staci’s book: Dreams by Starlight.

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