I'm doing a fun Sample Sunday Cookoff. Below you get to read a sample from my Contemporary Romance, Wilderness Heart, and also get my mother's great chili recipe at the end. My book is about a woman hunting guide in the Idaho wilderness and she is constantly having to prove to the men she guides that she is capable of doing the job she was hired to do. In this scene, they have just arrived at the camp they will be hunting from and its dinner time. Lyn is serving them her mother's chili.
Nic didn't help with the unloading except of his gear. He was here to hunt and it was the responsibility of the guides to get the camp situated. He walked over to the large white Army canvas tent to stow his clothes and hunting gear inside. Once inside, he saw that the tent was large enough for six canvas cots. He figured all the men slept in this one including Carl. But where was Lyn going to sleep, he wondered? After placing his gear on a cot close to the door, he walked the short distance to the cook tent.
The temperature was steadily dropping and snow threatened to fall. Nic brought the collar of his Carhart coat up around his neck as he walked the short distance to the cook tent. Quickly, he opened the tent flap and stepped inside. He adjusted his eyes to the light and noticed a small pot-bellied stove in the center of the area. Quickly, he walked over to it to warm his hands. A large metal pot sat on top emitting a wonderful smell. Lyn was doing the cooking and he wondered if her cooking was better than her attitude toward men?
“What's for dinner?” He rubbed his hands together closer to the stove. Was he that cold because of the weather or was it from the frigid air he felt emanating from Lyn because her response was just as frigid.
“It's chili. Sit down and I'll get you some. Where are the rest of the men?” She picked up a metal bowl, filled it and placed it on the table. “Sit!”
Was she still upset about what happened to the mules this afternoon or still upset with him and their first meeting this morning? Didn't really matter, she was still in a place she didn't belong, he figured, and she had yet to prove to him she could do the job they hired her to do.
“Ahhh, they are putting their gear away and probably arguing with Adam over who gets what cot to sleep on. Adam loves to argue just for the sake of it.” Nic sat down at the wooden table in front of the bowl of chili.
Lyn seemed to be agitated over the days events, but suddenly she let out a big sigh and Nic saw her look directly at him.
“Look, I'm sorry about yelling at you today. But we can't afford to lose one of our pack mules. And I thought everyone understood when I explained to them about the horses getting too close to the mules carrying hay what could happen.”
Lyn was trying to make amends and it was probably really hard for her, Nic thought. “You did and thank you. I guess I was daydreaming. I'm the one who should apologize.” He couldn't tell her it was because he was checking out the timber. He wasn't ready to get into a confrontation with her about why they were really there.
They held each other's gaze for a few moments. Lyn was the first to look away from him. He cleared his throat and looked at the bowl of chili real close before he took a bite and noticed there were no beans in it. Hesitantly, he took a bite and was surprised at how good it tasted, although it was a bit hot. Not fire hot, but pepper hot and he wondered what kind and how much she had put into the pot. “The chili's real good. I must say I'm surprised. Not only at the taste but the fact there isn't any beans in it.”
“Thanks, I think. That's the way we make it around here. True chili doesn't have beans in it.” Lyn went back to giving the chili a couple more stirs and then set about getting more bowls out and the cornbread out of the stove.
“I beg to differ with you. . . “ Nic stared to say, but Lyn interrupted him.
“I'd rather not get into another argument with you, Mr. Randall. Especially over whether true chili has beans in it or not, if you don't mind.”
“Sure, no problem.” Nic had ruffled her feathers yet again and for some strange reason he was sorry. Her voice was soothing to hear after a long day of riding horses over terrain he wasn't familiar with and she seemed genuinely sorry about yelling at him today. What was the matter with him? Yes, he had bad experiences when he took women out hunting and swore he would never do it again, but she wasn't hunting with him, per se. She was their guide and they had yet to get out to the areas she would take them to.
Perhaps he should give her a chance. Let her show him she knew what she was doing. See if she could keep her mouth shut and not scare the game away. It was definitely clear from their meeting this morning that she was not the kind of woman who worried about her make up because she wasn't wearing any. She was beautiful without it. Most women he knew caked the stuff on their faces and some turned out to look like a witch. He stole a glance at her as she began cutting the cornbread up into squares.
Looking away before she noticed he was staring at her, Nic continued to eat in silence and looked around the tent. The wood cook stove, he noticed, had a double insulated chimney reaching through a hole at the top. The hole, for the flue to go through, was large enough and far enough away from the chimney that he could see there wasn't much of chance of a chimney fire igniting it from the creosote in the wood she burned in the stove. He had experience with chimney fires and if not caught early or watched carefully once a fire started, it could burn the whole building down.
Two medium-sized picnic-like tables used for the meals sat on each side of the cook stove. They were made of pine and worn from a lot of use, Nic noticed. A new coat of stain and they'd look good as new, he thought. In a corner, close enough to the stove for warmth, but not too close to catch on fire, was a cot. He saw Lyn's saddle bags lying on the floor nearby and figured this is where she slept. Probably to keep the firing going in the stove so it would be warm in the morning during breakfast. He didn't like the thought of her sleeping alone in here by herself and the other men in the tent away from her. Too far away, in his mind, if an animal came into camp, like a bear. Would any of them be quick enough to help her if a bear wandered inside, looking for food?
Now, why was he so concerned for her? If she had been guiding for six years, she was used to sleeping in a tent by herself. He knew the only protection she needed was protection from him, as she had said earlier. Hmmm, the thought intrigued him. How would she handle herself if he came too close to her again?
Nic thought about making small talk with Lyn while the other men were still out of the tent, but it was too late. The others just came inside and from the looks on their faces, it must have gotten colder and started to snow. They all shook the snow off their coats and starting jostling for a seat closer to the heat of the stove.
Kirk, being bigger than the others, managed to take a seat across from Nic, close to the stove. The others seemed to just fall into a place at the table wherever they could find one. Nic noticed Adam was the last to sit, probably wondering where Lyn would sit down so he could sit next to or near her. But she was dishing up the chili and placing the bowls in front of the others, which left Adam to sit down quickly if he wanted to eat. Lyn then placed a platter of cornbread in the center of the table. She dished up Nic a second bowl, dished one up for Carl and then dished one up for herself. Carl and Lyn sat down at the other table on the other side of the stove, and Nic was sorry he wouldn't get to sit across from her to watch her beautiful face and her eyes dance as she ate.
“Hey, this chili doesn't have any beans in it!” Adam exclaimed.
“We've already discussed its lack of beans,” Nic interjected. “I have a feeling that if we piss off the cook, we won't get anything to eat for seven days. So I suggest you keep quiet, Adam.” He gave him a level stare and dared him to say anything else. Nic knew Adam understood his hidden meaning.
Lyn didn't finish her dinner. She got up from the table and started heating up some water. She got out a large metal bowl and sat it on the table. “Morning comes pretty early around here if you want to go hunting. I suggest you finish eating and get some sleep,” she said, knowing she spoke too harshly. She was getting very annoyed with the men. Why couldn't they just learn to keep their mouth shut?
She started preparing the breakfast for the next day. Morning came quickly in the wilderness. It was still dark outside when the morning meal was eaten and it always made her feel as if she were eating dinner twice a day.
“I think she's right, boys. We better get some sleep.” Nic finished his last bite and stood up. He walked over to Lyn where she began washing the metal bowls. “Sorry,” he said softly for her ears only. “Adam usually doesn't know when to keep his mouth shut. Good night.”
As he handed her his bowl, his hand touched hers for the first time and he felt the warmth radiating from within her. She didn't pull her hand from his right away and locked eyes with him yet again. Was she feeling it too, Nic wondered? The attraction he had for her? Did she feel attracted to him? He rather sensed she felt something or she wouldn't have looked at him the way she did this morning when they first met.
Again, she was the first to look away and pulled her hand from his. All too quickly, the electrified touch he felt from her was over. He cleared his throat. “Come on. Let's get some sleep so we can get that trophy bull elk we came for, guys.”
Nic turned and walked out of the tent. Lyn was rather sorry to see him go for some reason. Slowly, the others got up from the table, handed their empty bowls to her and followed Nic out of the tent. “Good night,” a few of them said over their shoulder.
“Good night,” she managed to reply, stunned, really to say anything at all. Where did that gentleman come from she asked herself? And why did he apologize for his friends? He had known them longer. It didn't make sense. He didn't like women in the woods, made it quite clear, so why was he being nice to her? Apologizing for his friends, bringing her his bowl to wash, saying good night. . . . things she didn't expect him to do. His manners from earlier in the day told her he couldn't or wouldn't know how to be a gentleman. And that touch. What was that all about? Why couldn't she pull away from him?
Well, it was getting late, it was getting colder outside and she was dog-ass tired. She quickly finished washing the bowls, stoked the fire in the stove so it would be nice and warm in the morning for breakfast, and made out the cot in the corner for her to sleep on. Lyn opened up her sleeping bag, sat down and began removing her boots. “Good night, Carl. See you bright and early in the morning.”
“Good night, Lyn. Sleep tight,” Carl said as he turned down the wick in the kerosine lantern and left the tent.
Copyright 2010 Jacqueline Hopkins
Wilderness Heart is available in paperback: http://www.createspace.com/3565575
in ebook format from amazon.com as well as http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/45556 for all other kinds of electronic readers.
Here is the recipe for my mother's Chili
3 lbs of hamburger
3 lbs of beef stew meat, pre cut
Brown meat lightly. Chop 2 to 3 medium size onions and saute in oil before browning meat. Chuck in 1 quart of water with the meat and onion in a large stew pot. Toss in 1 doz cloves of chopped garlic, 1 tablespoon of sugar, 4 teaspoons of salt, 1 teaspoon marjoram, 1 teaspoon cumin. Add paprika and chili powder until the seething mass looks like the color of an old inner tube (red).
Add 2 cans of tomato sauce and plenty of red pepper (cayenne), if desired for hot, spicy chili. Cook for 2 to 3 hours or until meat is really tender. Taste frequently to see if its hot enough. Thicken with cornmeal, if desired.
Enjoy on a very cold, snowy or rainy day.