Coming Oct. 2
The Trouble with Cowboys
Horse temperaments differ by breed and
personality. A stallion requires a firmer hand. Don’t be afraid to let him know
was sitting in the Chuckwagon, minding her own business, when he mosied in. He
was with a crowd, of course. He always traveled in a pack—him and his handful
of ardent admirers.
Annie opened the
menu, propped it on the table, and slouched behind it. The Silver Spurs belted
out some country-and-western tune her sister probably knew by heart. The clamor
in the crowded restaurant seemed to have increased twice over since Dylan and
company walked in. But maybe that was her imagination.
The chair across
from her screeched against the plank floor. Finally. John was already ten
minutes late. She lowered her menu, smiling anyway.
An instant later
the smile tumbled from her lips.
Dylan Taylor plopped
his hat down and sprawled in the chair like he owned the table, the restaurant,
and half of Park County besides. His impertinent grin slanted sideways, calling
his dimple into action—a fact of which he was no doubt aware.
“Annie Wilkerson. Why’s
the prettiest filly in Moose Creek sitting all by her lonesome on a Saturday
night?” Dylan’s Texan drawl had followed him north, sticking with him like a
Ignoring the heavy
thumps of her heart, Annie tilted her head and deadpanned, “Well, Dylan, I was
just sitting here waiting with bated breath for you to come rescue me.”
He put his hand to
his heart, his blue eyes twinkling. “Aw, Annie, don’t tease me like that. It
She scowled at him
and settled back in her chair, propping the menu between them. “What do you
“Maybe just the
pleasure of your company.”
“Maybe you should
find another table.”
He tsk-tsked. “So
cruel. You wound me with your hurtful words.”
If Dylan had a heart,
she was sure it was un-woundable. Made of something springy and elastic that
sent oncoming darts bouncing off. Typical cowboy.
She skimmed the
menu, unseeing. “That seat’s taken.”
Like she couldn’t
possibly have a date? “What’s that supposed to mean?”
His hands went up
in surrender. “I was hoping to join you.”
“I have a date.”
His head tipped
back slowly, his eyes never leaving hers. “Ah . . . who’s the lucky guy?”
“What do you want,
He tilted the
chair onto its back legs, and she found herself wishing it would fall. But that
kind of thing never happened to men like Dylan.
“I have a
proposition,” he said, his eyes roaming her face.
Her cheeks grew
warm, and she hated that. Cursed Irish blood and fair skin. She swore he said
things like that on purpose. She focused on the menu. On the photo of barbecue
ribs that were actually better than they looked.
“Now, come on,
give me a chance to explain. It’s business—not that I’d have any problem
picking up socially where we left off last time . . .”
She narrowed her
eyes at him. “There was no last time.”
“Whatever you say,
She gritted her
teeth and slumped until she could no longer see him over the menu.
seriousness,” he said, his voice dropping the teasing tone, “I got a horse that
needs help. Wondered if you’d drop by next week and take a look at him.”
Oh, no. She wasn’t
stepping foot on Dylan’s property again. Not after last time. “I’m busy next
“It’s my best
horse—Braveheart. He’s got moon blindness.”
“I’m not a
vet—have Merle look him over.”
something in his voice she couldn’t define and didn’t care to try.
“He thinks I ought
to put him down.”
Annie lowered her
menu. Dylan’s dimple was long gone. “Is he blind?”
“Not completely. But
he will be. Started bumping into things in the spring, and by the time it was
diagnosed, it was too late. He’s not himself now. Spooks easy, won’t let anyone
near, not even me.”
His eyes pulled
her in. She’d never seen him without that cocksure grin, much less with that sober
look in his eyes.
She looked away, toward
the dance floor where her best friend, Shay, was dancing with her husband. They
moved like two pieces of the same puzzle. She wondered how long it would take
that cowboy to erase the pretty smile from her friend’s face. In her experience,
it wouldn’t be long.
“Annie . . . ?”
She pulled her
eyes from the couple. “There’s a trainer over in Sweet Grass County, Roy Flint.
He’s supposed to be really good. I’ll get his number for you.”
“I don’t want him.
I want the best. I read your column; you know what you’re doing.”
appeared tableside, flashing a bright smile. “You two ready to order?”
simultaneously, and Annie glared at Dylan as Brenda walked away with her menu—never
mind that she hadn’t ordered yet.
Dylan propped his
elbows on the table. “I can’t put Braveheart down, but he needs a lot of work,
and I don’t have the time or expertise.”
Annie leaned back,
putting space between her and those puppy dog eyes. She was a sucker for a
horse in distress, but if she was at Dylan’s place for days on end, she’d be
the one in distress. Besides, getting him to pay up last time had been like collecting
pollen from the wind.
Annie said. “It is going to take a lot of time—time I don’t have right now.”
He leaned in,
trained those laser-precision eyes right at her. Heaven have mercy, it was easy
to see why he made women lose their wits. What was God thinking, combining all
those rugged good looks with cowboy charm and tossing in a dimples for good
“I want you,” he said.
meaning—intended or not—was a needed reminder. She pulled the napkin from the
table and spread it across her lap. “Roy can help him, I’m sure of it. I’ll get
his number for you Monday.”
Someone nearby cleared
his throat. John Oakley had somehow arrived unnoticed, thanks to Dylan’s annoying
habit of usurping her every thought.
“Hello, Annie.” John
bent and placed a kiss on her cheek.
“Hi, John.” Annie
couldn’t tear her eyes from Dylan, whose left brow had shot up.
nodded, coming slowly to his feet. He towered over John, who looked out of
place at the Chuckwagon in his banker clothes.
“Dylan. Thanks for
keeping my date company.” His flat smile and flaring nostrils said otherwise.
anytime.” Dylan’s gaze held hers for a beat too long, the corners of his lips
twitching in a way she was sure annoyed John. “Annie, talk to you Monday.” He
pointed at her, winking. “And don’t think I’ve given up.”
Warmth flooded her
face as John sank into the chair and jabbed his glasses into place with his
index finger. She watched Dylan amble away and told herself the feeling
spreading through her limbs was relief.