Against Her Odds: when dedication meets desire

BOOK: Against Her Odds: when dedication meets desire
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Against Her Odds
when dedication meets
desire

NATALIE LOVE

Text Copyright © Natalie Love

All rights reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced, or sorted in a
retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic,
mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without written permission of
the author.

 

Legal
& Disclaimer

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses,
organizations, places, events and incidents are either the product of the
author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual
persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

Chapter One

 

“Another cutesy story?” Val groaned in
frustration as Becky, who was a receptionist and her best friend at news
channel seven, handed her an assignment. “I thought I was finally getting some
respect after I got to cover that traffic snarl up on 85.”

“Everyone respects you,” Becky said with a
grin. “But you’re cute and so are baby sheep so there you have it. Cason
McDaniel isn’t that bad either if you ask me.”

“Cason McDaniel?” Val muttered. “With a
name like that, how could he
not
own a ranch?”

“I don’t know why he wouldn’t,” Becky said
reasonably. “Eden’s Edge has been in the McDaniel family for something like ten
million generations.”

“Somehow I doubt that.” Val smiled at her
friend, glad for a distraction from the frustration of doing yet another
assignment that could in no way be considered ‘real’ news.

Becky could always be counted on for a
laugh and she was the only real friend Val had at the news station. In fact,
when Val was being honest with herself, she had to admit that Becky was her
only friend, period. She just didn’t have time to make a lot of social
connections when she was trying so hard to get her career going. She was twenty
six, and she was still doing stories about cute little newborn sheep. She
groaned internally as she realized that she was doing fluff in the most literal
sense of the word.

“Okay, but you get my point. Get out there
and get some cute into your system,” her friend ordered.

“Like I have a choice.” Val squared her
shoulders and walked to the news van. It had been over a year since she’d moved
in the hopes of securing a more important position. To make matters worse, this
was actually the third move she’d made for that reason, but she just couldn’t
seem to work her way up the ladder no matter what she did. It was insanely
frustrating to be passed over for promotions again and again, especially when
she knew that her work was good.

She hopped into the van and straightened
the jacket of her charcoal gray pantsuit, flicking away a nearly invisible
smudge of dust and then smoothing her fingers over the spot gently. It really
was a very nice suit. Val hoped that she didn’t get anything on it out at the
ranch. She swept her hair into a twist as she bounced along in the van. Ben
wasn’t the most observant driver and she swore that he liked hitting potholes.
He never missed one.

She’d barely finished arranging her hair
and touching up her makeup when they pulled into the long driveway of Eden’s
Edge. It was a nice looking place. There was no way to describe the farmland
without using the words rolling green hills. The hills in question were dotted
with little round balls of white that must be the sheep. That was
unquestionably adorable, but what really got Val’s attention was the farmhouse.

It was everything that she thought a
farmhouse should be. Painted a cheerful pale yellow, its two stories brightened
up the whole landscape even more. The white shutters added another touch of
charm to the wide front porch, perfect for sitting and watching the sun go
down. She wondered if Cason McDaniel ever did that. Probably not. Who had the
time?

Val didn’t remember the last time she’d
paid attention to the sunset, or the sunrise for that matter. Maybe the last
time she’d managed to sit down with her notebook and write something. So that
would have been around middle school. She felt a pang in her stomach that had
nothing to do with the slight nerves she always got before going on camera, but
she squashed it down as Ben shoved the van into park and stomped on the
emergency brake.

“Here we are,” he said unnecessarily. “Kind
of a nice place, huh?”

“Sure,” Val said, making her voice
dismissive. “Let’s get this show on the road.”

“Sure thing. I’ll get everything set up.
You ought to go see if you can find McDaniel.”

“Did he say where he’d be?”

“My guess would be the barn. Ain’t that
where farmers hang out?”

“How should I know where farmers hang out?”
she asked in frustration, but Ben didn’t hear her. He was rummaging for his
camera equipment. With a shrug, Val headed toward the barn. It was as good a
place to start as any.

Chapter Two

 

Mitch pointed toward the lambing shed.
“Think somebody’s looking for you, Case.”

“Yeah?” Cason didn’t look up from the fence
post he was replacing. He was glad Mitch had noticed the sagging area. They
didn’t use this part of the pasture much, but he expected more lambs this year
since he’d increased his stock. All if would have taken was for one of them to
lean against the post and he’d have had stock roaming all over the place.
Wrangling lost sheep was about the farthest thing from fun that existed. They
were cute, but they could be dumb and he’d hate for any of them to get hurt.
He’d also hate to waste a day tracking them down.

“Yeah. Didn’t you say something about some
reporters?”

“Damn.” Cason pushed his glove down and
looked at his watch. “Why didn’t you tell me it was getting so late?”

“You can see the sun, same as I can,” Mitch
replied with a grin. “I might be your second in command, but nobody ever said I
had to babysit you.”

Cason laughed. “See you later on.”

“I don’t get to be on TV?”

Cason swung himself over the fence. “We
both know I’m the pretty one.”

“You ain’t the smart one, that’s for sure,”
Mitch returned. “We’re already replacing one post here, the last thing we need
is to do another one.”

With another laugh, Cason headed for the
shed. When he got there, he saw the woman in question trying to light a
cigarette and having no luck in the stiff wind.

He came to a stop on her left, blocking the
wind for her. “Can I help you with that?”

“Thanks,” she said, her cheeks coloring a
little in embarrassment. “I’m trying to quit you know. I swear it.”

“Yeah, me too,” he admitted as he pulled
his own pack from his jeans pocket. “Down to three a day, but I’ll make an
exception so you don’t have to smoke alone.”

She handed him her lighter with a grin and
he took it, glancing down at it appraisingly. It was a good lighter, heavy and
encased in silver that was engraved with her initials. It looked to him like
everything about her was elegant.

 

“V. M. T,” he said. “I’m gonna guess
Veronica Morgan Taylor.”

“Not even close. But good try. Valerie
Michelle Turner.” She held out her hand and he took it.

He discovered that he really liked her
smile. She had full lips and there was a very slight gap between her front
teeth, which were otherwise straight and perfect. He also liked her blonde hair
which, unless she dyed her eyebrows too, was natural. A person didn’t see too
many women with that pretty straw blonde unless it came from a bottle. Her dark
brown eyes made it even more interesting. She was a little overdressed for a
sheep farm in that tailored to fit suit, but it sure did show off her curves.
All in all, Valerie Michelle Turner was a very beautiful woman.

He would have been surprised to know that
she was appraising him in much the same way. Becky had said he was cute. She
hadn’t said was that he was close to six and a half feet of sexy cowboy. He wore
a dark brown Stetson to shade his eyes from the sun, but she could see that his
hair was light brown underneath it. He had startlingly bright green eyes and a
dimple flashed in his left cheek when he smiled. His red and black work shirt
hugged his broad shoulders and his low riding work worn jeans looked great on
him as well.

A tingle ran down her spine as his hand
gripped hers. She considered herself pretty experienced with men and she
certainly wasn’t the swooning type, but he made her wish she was. She indulged
in a brief fantasy about him crushing her to his chest, romance novel style,
and then snapped herself out of it.

“I’m going to assume that you’re Cason
McDaniel,” she said, taking a quick puff of her cigarette to get herself
together.

Cason nodded. “Guilty as charged. I was
kind of surprised about the news wanting to come out here. It’s just a regular
old spring. Lambs get born in every one of ‘em. At least I always hope that
they do,” he corrected himself with a small chuckle.

“Well...” Val wasn’t sure what to say. She
didn’t really see the point of the story either, to be honest, but it wasn’t as
if she could say that to him. “People love a feel good story.”

“Guess that’s true,” he admitted. “But I
would have thought you’d have something more important to cover.”

“Not me,” she said, concealing her sudden
turn toward bitterness with a quick, fake laugh. “I guess we’d better get
started though. My camera crew is probably all set up.”

“Sure thing.” Cason flicked away his
cigarette, pleased that he’d smoked less than half, and popped a few breath
mints. She held out her hand with a raised eyebrow and he handed her a few as
well. She chewed them quickly as they walked back up to where the crew had set
up the cameras. He figured he’d better do the same. People on TV probably
didn’t want to see him sucking on breath mints. And if they did, someone would
probably call him on the fact that he still hadn’t exactly quit smoking.

He felt more nervous to be on camera than
he’d thought he would, but it was a short segment and he just followed
Valerie’s lead for most of it. It wasn’t hard to do. She was perfectly at ease,
both in front of the camera and around the newborn sheep. He hadn’t expected
that from a woman wearing an obviously tailored to fit pantsuit with a crisp
pink shirt. He could tell that she loved her job. She was clearly enjoying
herself and she had a warmth that really shone through as she spoke.

When the story wrapped, he put the lamb
down and turned to her, but someone on the crew was asking her a question. He
waited patiently, watching the way she moved her hands when she spoke. She
didn’t do that on camera. Cason wondered idly if he had and then decided that
it didn’t really matter. He wouldn’t care one way or the other if he’d come off
looking like a total idiot if it would get him a date with Valerie Turner.

As if she’d heard him thinking, she turned
back and glanced at him. He gave her a smile and waved her over. She walked
toward him, but then her cell phone rang. She held up one finger apologetically
and answered the phone.

“This is Val.” She paused and then he saw
her eyebrows shoot up. “Really? Are you sure? I’ll be right there! Oh, hang on,
Becky.” She lowered the phone slightly and called. “It was a pleasure meeting
you, Mr. McDaniel. Thanks for the interview! Watch the six o’clock news and
you’ll catch me on the desk!”

“Okay,” he answered, disappointed that she
was heading out so quickly. “But I--”

She didn’t hear him. She’d raised her phone
to her ear again and was talking away rapidly to whoever the heck Becky was.
With a sigh, Cason turned to get back to fence mending.

She sure had seemed happy to be on the desk
for the six o’clock news. He wondered why that was such a big deal. He hadn’t
had the heart to tell her that he never watched the news, local or otherwise.
He read the paper in the morning and that was enough news for him. He preferred
to spend his evening relaxing in front of an old movie.

“How’d it go?” Mitchell asked.

“I guess it went okay. I won’t know whether
I looked like an idiot or not till the news tonight.”

“You gonna watch it?” his ranch hand asked
him in surprise.

“Yeah,” Cason answered with a glance down
to where the news van was pulling out of his long, winding driveway. “I think I
might as well.”

 

“You gonna run off for a career in showbiz
if you decide you look pretty on the camera?” Mitch asked, hefting a new fence
post with a grin.

Cason plunked his Stetson down so that it
angled slightly over the left side of his face. “It just wouldn’t be fair to
keep all these good looks to myself.”

Later that night, Cason wolfed down his
supper of canned soup and the cornbread Mitchell’s wife sent over twice a week.
He didn’t want to take a chance on missing the news.

He discovered didn’t look too bad on
camera. A little more awkward than he would have thought, but not awful. That
was reassuring. If the sheep ranching went under maybe he could just move on
out to Hollywood and start over, he thought with a quick grin.

Even though he watched the news from start
to finish, he was surprised to see the regular anchors on the desk. The only
glimpse he caught of Valerie was during her interview with him. She looked a
lot better on camera than he did.

Cason really wished that he’d gotten her
phone number. He didn’t exactly consider himself a smooth operator when it came
to women, but first contact usually went much better for him. He leaned back on
the couch and switched the station from the news to try and find a decent
movie.

He could consider it a sign that he wasn’t
meant to ask her out since she’d left so fast. Or he could consider it a
challenge. He knew which one it was more likely to be.

BOOK: Against Her Odds: when dedication meets desire
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