One Texas Cowboy Too Many (Burnt Boot, Texas)

BOOK: One Texas Cowboy Too Many (Burnt Boot, Texas)
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Copyright © 2016 by Carolyn Brown

Cover and internal design © 2016 by Sourcebooks, Inc.

Cover art by Blake Morrow

Sourcebooks and the colophon are registered trademarks of Sourcebooks, Inc.

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means including information storage and retrieval systems—except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews—without permission in writing from its publisher, Sourcebooks, Inc.

The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious or are used fictitiously. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental and not intended by the author.

Published by Sourcebooks Casablanca, an imprint of Sourcebooks, Inc.

P.O. Box 4410, Naperville, Illinois 60567-4410

(630) 961-3900

Fax: (630) 961-2168

Chapter 1

The rumbling noise of a motorcycle took Leah Brennan’s attention away from the produce in the Burnt Boot General Store. She pushed her cart up a few feet so she could see out the front window, expecting to see leather, chains, and shiny, black biker’s helmets on maybe half a dozen cycles after all that noise. It had sounded like part of the Hell’s Angels gang had come to town, so she was surprised when only one person removed his helmet and hung it on steer horns mounted on the front of the cycle. And she was even more surprised when a cowboy dismounted instead of a biker.

It was impolite to stare, but Leah couldn’t tear her eyes away from the newcomer, especially when Sawyer O’Donnell shot out from behind the checkout counter and rushed outside. Horses and four-wheelers on the streets of the little town weren’t unusual, but motorcycles were an altogether different matter, especially a big, tricked-out Harley with enough chrome on it to blind the angels. He met Sawyer in one of those fierce man hugs that involve a lot of slapping on the back and laughter.

She moved to a different vantage point so she could get a better look at the cowboy. His wavy, dark hair was wet with sweat and hung in ringlets to his shirt collar. He fetched a rubber band from the pocket of his tight jeans and whipped it back into a short, little ponytail. Green eyes sparkled beneath heavy brows, and a little soul patch of dark hair rested beneath lips that stretched out in a wide smile. A green-and-yellow plaid shirt hung open to reveal a damp, white T-shirt clinging to a perfect six-pack. He removed the overshirt and slung it over his shoulder, revealing a tat of longhorns on his right arm.

Her breath caught in her chest, and she forgot to exhale for several seconds. Her biggest fantasy, other than someday marrying Tanner Gallagher, was to ride on a cycle, holding on to a cowboy like the one talking to Sawyer O’Donnell. Neither one would ever happen, but it didn’t hurt to dream.

They wasted no time getting out of the hot July sun and into the cool store, and Sawyer motioned to her as soon as he shut the door. “Hey, Leah, come on up here and meet my cousin Rhett O’Donnell. He’s going to live on Fiddle Creek and help us out. We wanted him to join us last spring, but he had to fulfill another contract. But he’s here now and believe me, we can sure use him. Rhett, this is Leah Brennan.”

She pushed her cart to the checkout counter.

“Right pleased to meet you, ma’am.” Rhett smiled and held out a hand.

She put her hand in his and his deep-green eyes bored into hers. She felt as if he could see all the visions in her head and hear her unspoken thoughts. Two spots of high color filled her cheeks and hot little vibes danced around the room. She quickly pulled her hand away from his and latched tightly on to the cart handle.

She could almost hear the gossip flying about Rhett O’Donnell and his tricked-out motorcycle, but that cowboy was way, way too wild and exciting for Leah Brennan. She bit back a sigh as she said, “Welcome to Burnt Boot.”

“Leah is a teacher over at the school on River Bend Ranch,” Sawyer said.

“None of my teachers were ever so pretty,” Rhett drawled.

Sawyer chuckled. “No, they weren’t.”

“Thank you.” Leah smiled. “If you’ll charge these things to River Bend, Sawyer, I’d appreciate it.”

“Yes, ma’am,” Sawyer said.

It was easy to see that Sawyer and Rhett were cousins. They had the same angles in their faces, and they were the same height. Sawyer’s skin was the color of coffee with lots of pure cream and his eyes were brown, giving testimony that he had some Latino in his background. But while Rhett’s skin was as brown, it looked more like a deep tan from working out in the sun all summer.

Rhett’s green eyes were rimmed with dark eyelashes so thick that most women would commit homicide to have them. He’d better be able to run fast in those cowboy boots, because the women in Burnt Boot were probably already getting their jogging shoes out and cleaned up. A picture of her old, well-worn pink shoes with a white swoosh on the side came to mind. They were sitting beside the nightstand in her room. She’d worn them last Sunday when she went to the river to do some fishing.

Get ahold of yourself, Leah Brennan. Good God, girl!
She scolded herself.
You don’t get all woozy just lookin’ at a new cowboy in town.

She stole glances at that soul patch and the lip above it. What would it be like to kiss those lips? Or to wrap her arms around that broad chest with her breasts pressed against his back as she rode on the back of that cycle?

“That’s an interesting motorcycle. Did you ride from very far away?” Her voice sounded a bit hollow in her own ears, but his eyes were locked on hers again and it flat-out made her antsy.

“I personalized it.” He smiled. “I had a good long ride up across the state from down near Comfort, Texas. My sister and her husband are almost here too. They’re bringing my truck and all my belongings with them, including Dammit. That would be my dog, not a cussword. Do you ride?”

Leah shook her head. “No, never have ridden on one. Is that really your dog’s name?”

Rhett’s head bobbed up and down. “It really is his name. Did you ever wonder what it would be like to have the wind blowing past you at seventy or more miles per hour?”

Could he read her mind? Surely he couldn’t read minds. Holy Mother of God, what if he did and he knew what she was thinking when she looked at his lips?

“What makes you think that I ever even thought about riding?” she asked.

“The way you look at the cycle.”

“Well, it’s pretty unusual with those horns attached to the front.”

“Just lettin’ folks know that a cowboy rides that bike.” He chuckled.

Sawyer finished sacking her groceries and shoved a ticket across the counter for her to sign. “There’s a story about those horns, but he has to know you real well to tell you.”

She initialed the receipt and asked, “Would it be the same story as the one about the tat on his arm?”

One of Rhett’s eyelids slid shut in a slow, sexy wink. “It sure is, but it’s not a first-date story. It could be a third-date story.”

She was intrigued by the story, but she’d never see a third date with Rhett O’Donnell, because in order to get to that point, she’d have to have a first and second date. That would never happen no matter how many times he winked at her or how badly she wanted to ride the cycle or hear the story. Her grandmother hated motorcycles, and no one bucked up against Mavis Brennan.

Leah quickly changed the subject. “Dammit? Why would you give a dog such a name? Or is that a third-date story too?”

“No, it’s only a dog story.” Rhett smiled and the temperature in the store shot up several degrees. “I named him Lambert after Miranda Lambert, but I guess he didn’t like bein’ named after a girl, so he sat there like a knot on a log every time I called him. So I’d say, ‘Dammit, come here.’ And here he’d come runnin’ hell-bent for leather. So I gave up and called him Dammit.”

Leah reached to pick up two of the paper bags of groceries. “Smart dog. With a name like that, he sounds so mean that I bet all the other dogs leave him alone.”

“You are so right. Here, let me carry those out to your truck for you.” Rhett grabbed the two bags she had, and his fingertips brushed against her bare forearm. “They’re way too heavy for a cute little woman like you.”

Sawyer picked up the third bag. “What makes you think she drives a truck? Maybe she’s in a van or a car.”

“Leah is a truck kind of lady, and besides, there’s only one other vehicle in the lot besides your truck, Sawyer.” Rhett managed to open the door and stand to one side. “In the backseat or in the truck bed, ma’am?”

She had always imagined that Tanner’s touch would set her hormones to spinning like Rhett’s had just done. But she’d sure never thought a comment about what she drove would create a picture in her mind of making out in the backseat—or the bed—of her truck. Holy hell! Rhett had opened Pandora’s box and Leah had no idea how to handle it.

“Backseat is fine, and thank you,” she mumbled.

“Anytime. I understand there will be days I’ll be helping out in the store and at the bar, so maybe I’ll see you in one or either place this summer,” he said.

She nodded. “Burnt Boot is a small town. I’m sure our paths will cross.”

Rhett held the truck door open for her until she was settled into the driver’s seat, and then he slammed it shut. She started the engine but sat there for a few minutes watching them go back inside the store. She took one more long, envious look at that motorcycle before she pulled out onto the road and headed toward River Bend Ranch. The air conditioner shot semi-cold air right into her face. It would cool down more as she drove down the paved road to the dirt one that turned in to the River Bend Ranch properties, but it wouldn’t do a thing for the heat inside her body.

She slapped the steering wheel and inhaled deeply once she was out on the road. If she’d been a swearing woman, she would have turned loose every bad word in the dictionary. But Leah Brennan knew how to control her tongue and her thoughts. At least, she had until right at that moment.

“Dammit!” she said so loud that it bounced around in the truck and shot right back into her ears. “Damn cowboy has got me cussin’ and I don’t use that kind of language.”

* * *

“She’s one of the Brennans. I told you about the feud,” Sawyer said.

“Yep.” Rhett nodded. “But I expected old people with shotguns and chaws of tobacco in their mouths, not knock-your-socks-off drop-dead-gorgeous women.”

“Speakin’ of which.” Sawyer pointed.


“More Brennans.” Sawyer nodded toward another truck pulling up in front of the store. “I can give you directions to the bunkhouse if you want to get on down there. Jill is waiting on y’all. She’s making one of her famous desserts.”

“Hell no!” Rhett grinned. “I’m not going anywhere. Store closes in fifteen minutes and you can lead the way to the bunkhouse.”

“And, besides, you do like to meet the pretty women, right?”

A burst of hot air followed two women into the general store. A tall, willowy blond with brown eyes stopped in her tracks not four feet from Rhett and slowly looked him up and down.

“You don’t look like a biker,” she said.

“Rhett, meet Kinsey and Honey Brennan,” Sawyer said, introducing them.

“Pleased to meet you both,” Rhett said. “Sisters?”

Honey, the dark-haired one with crystal-clear blue eyes shook her head. “Cousins.”

“Kin to Leah, then?” Rhett asked.

Kinsey took a step forward, and he got a whiff of expensive perfume. With those velvety eyes, high cheekbones, and full lips that didn’t ask but demanded a man to kiss her, she might have been considered downright sexy in some men’s eyes. Not Rhett’s. He’d seen her kind at rodeos—their eyes always scanning for a cowboy looking for a good time.

“So you’ve met Leah?” Kinsey asked in a low, husky voice.

“There’s lots of us Brennans over on River Bend.” Honey smiled. “Would you like to come to Sunday dinner and meet all of us?”

Her dark hair floated down to her shoulders in big waves that begged a man to run his fingers through it. Eyes the color of a Texas summer sun floated behind black lashes and perfectly arched eyebrows. She wore a cute little sundress that hugged her curves, but both women made Rhett feel like they were studying a prize bull at an auction. In another place, like a rodeo, where they’d fit right in with the buckle bunnies, he might have been interested, but not in Burnt Boot.

“Well?” Honey asked.

“Not this week,” Rhett said. “But thanks for the invitation.”

Sawyer pointed at the clock above the register. “Ten minutes and we’ll have to close, ladies. Y’all might want to get what you need so we can ring it up.”

Kinsey ignored him and looked at Rhett. “Are you here for a visit? We heard that you were coming to help Gladys and Sawyer, but no one could tell us how long you’re staying.”

Rhett propped a hip on the checkout counter. “I’m here for good or until Sawyer kicks me off Fiddle Creek.”

Sawyer fixed his stare on the clock.

Honey’s eyes kept running up and down Rhett’s body from boots to ponytail. “It’s hot enough to make a woman want to go skinny-dippin’ in the Red River. You want to join me to cool off?”

Kinsey laid two candy bars and a couple cans of soda pop on the counter. “Don’t give us the old stink eye, Sawyer. I know it’s closing time and we won’t be but a minute. We came in for an afternoon treat. Charge these to River Bend.” Kinsey winked at Rhett. “FYI, darlin’, River Bend is the Brennan ranch. I’ll see you tonight, cowboy. You could be nice and save me a dance.”

“I’ll be the one behind the bar drawin’ beer and makin’ margaritas. Don’t reckon I’ll have time for dancin’,” he said.

“I’ll be the one wantin’ a pitcher of those margaritas,” Honey said. “If you asked real nice, I might let you take me home on that cycle out there, Rhett O’Donnell.”

“How do you know that’s my cycle?” he asked.

A throaty chuckle caused Rhett to shift his attention from Honey to Kinsey. Kinsey had a hand on a hip, a pose that should have made him drool and follow her around like a little hound dog puppy. “Everybody in town knew you were arriving today. But we didn’t know you’d be so delicious. I’ve never ridden on a cycle with horns on the handlebar. It’s a nice cowboy touch.”

“I’ll be driving my truck tonight, and I’ll be going home all by myself when the bar closes,” Rhett drawled.

“Oh, Kinsey, he’s going to play hard to get. I do like a good chase,” Honey said.

Kinsey slung a hip against her cousin. “I’ll bet you a hundred dollars I can outrun you and get a ride on that cycle first.”

“I’m standing right here, and I’ll bet you both a hundred dollars that neither of you are going to ride on my cycle,” Rhett said.

Honey reached up and touched the soul patch. “I do like a little facial hair, and that is so sexy. The Sadie Hawkins Festival is only two weeks away. If you’re going to outrun me, darlin’, you’d best start walkin’ outside in your bare feet.”

“Why would I do that?” Rhett asked.

“Because you’ll want to toughen up those feet so that you can run faster through the grass and stickers when we are chasin’ you…unless of course, you want to just sit down and let me catch you in the first two minutes of the race.”

BOOK: One Texas Cowboy Too Many (Burnt Boot, Texas)
3.01Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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