Hi everyone! I’m Amber Lin, author of sexy, edgy romance. RT Book Reviews called my debut novel “truly extraordinary.” Since then I’ve been published by Loose Id, Carina Press, and Entangled, and my new adult romance HOW TO SAY GOODBYE comes out on April 7th. (Add it on Goodreads here.)
I’ve always been fascinated by power differentials–during sex, yes, but also in the main relationship. Boss/employee. Rough/soft. Mean/kind. It manifests in different ways, but the question remains: how are these two going to meet in the middle?
That was the premise (well, for a lot of my books), but also for “At the Mercy of the Cowboy,” which released yesterday from Cleis Press in the Cowboy Heat anthology. The heroine is jobless, semi-homeless, and so desperate to work at this farmhand job that she conveniently omitted that she’s female in the email.
The cowboy… he’s not thrilled to have her. It’s hard work, and he doesn’t think a city girl is cut out for it. Besides, she makes him feel things. Things that say he maybe doesn’t have to be alone all the time.
Take a look in this opening excerpt:
Only when the squinty-eyed, scruff-jawed cowboy scowls do I feel guilty for my deception. I had signed my email Alex, which isn’t strictly a lie since that’s my name. But of course he assumed it was a man applying for his live-in farmhand job, which is why he sent back a terse email with his address and the line: Come ready to work.
“You can’t have the job.” There’s no softness at all in his gruff voice, in the sloping lines of his body. His silhouette slices through the swath of sunset backdrop. An orange glow spills around his edges, leaving his face in shadows. Even dark and half-hidden, the answer is written plainly: No.
“Why not?” I challenge. “I can work hard. You’ll see.”
“I won’t, because you’re not staying. It’s physical labor. Backbreaking labor for a man in his prime, and you look like a stiff wind would knock you over.” As if to prove his point, his perfunctory glance slides over my threadbare clothes and now-thin body. Just as easily, he looks away in dismissal, painting his side profile with light, a straight nose and stubble-roughened jaw.
“Let me try. What can it hurt? If I can’t cut it, I’ll leave all on my own.”
“The room’s right next to mine. It’s more of a closet, really. Not fit for a…”
“I’m not picky.”
I would have just left then. Under ordinary circumstances, I wouldn’t even be anywhere near a ranch in the little town of Paloma, Kansas. But there are no jobs in Topeka. I’ve looked and looked, and now I’m desperate.
“Please,” I say.
As if just noticing it, he glances over to my twelve-year-old, forest-green station wagon. I flush hotly, but he doesn’t see, because he’s looking instead at the boxes in the backseat, piled high with clothes and old family photo albums I couldn’t bear to throw away.
I’m a grown woman, but I had never realized how close I was to homelessness. Just a layoff, a fruitless job search and an eviction notice away from ruin. My parents had long since passed away, and I had no friends close enough to put me up indefinitely. In truth, I’d been too ashamed to ask. I want to work. I need this job.
And now he knows it.
Thick eyebrows lower beneath the brim of his mottled-beige cowboy hat. His eyes are nothing more than slits in the simmering sun. Beneath thick work jeans and a plaid button-down, he seems tense. Or maybe that’s just me. I brace myself for the feel of his cowboy boot as he kicks my ass out.
“You can stay,” he says. “Start with shoveling out the stalls.”
He expects me to balk, I can tell. He doesn’t elaborate on the task or show me where to get started. Just stands there, waiting for me to tell him that shit-shoveling is beneath me. But what’s really beneath me is charity. If this is what I’ve come to, then at least my meals will be honestly earned.
I summon a smile. “Great.”
With a snort, he strides to the stable, a large building set twenty feet from the house. After a few minutes of rustling and the click of a latch, he emerges leading a tall brown horse with white on its snout. Very tall. It matches the man, and they both tower above me as they pass—intimidating. Just another way to make a point against me, to show I don’t belong, another way to say no. But I won’t be discouraged. Desperation imbues me with strength, and I channel all my frustration and hope into the physical, backbreaking work.
GIVEAWAY! I’m giving away a $15 gift card to Amazon to celebrate the release of Cowboy Heat. To enter, use the Rafflecopter here.