Linda Lael Miller shares an excerpt from Always a Cowboy.
She’d gotten some pretty good snaps of Drake Carson, shirtless, as he fixed that gate. He had impressive muscles and a six-pack stomach. Cowboy poster-boy material. Maybe someone needed to do a calendar with ranchers, like they did with firemen and athletes. She’d be happy to put him in it and leave it turned to that month forever. She had his grudging permission to shoot a few pictures of him if she wanted, but he hadn’t been very enthusiastic.
That was nothing compared to what was about to happen, though. They were about to get in a really big argument. She could feel it coming. Whenever she had a strong opinion, she couldn’t help expressing it, as her entire family would point out.
She stood up. “Smoke isn’t going to understand. He’ll hate it. Suddenly going to sleep and waking up somewhere else? How would you like that? Come up with some other idea.”
All the horses lifted their heads at the raised voices.
Drake straightened, too. “You have a better one?”
“Not yet.” She shook her head. “I just don’t want that.”
“Hell, neither do I. You come up with something else and I’ll listen.”
“I’m thinking on it.” She wasn’t thinking about anything else. Well, except him.
Here, among the horses, the mountains, the blue sky, he looked like the real deal, a cowboy all the way. Of course, that was probably because he was the real deal—and his authenticity wasn’t compromised by the exasperated expression on his face. She liked how he habitually tipped back his hat, and then drew it forward.
“As I told you, I’ll ponder it,” she couldn’t resist saying.
“Ponder? Really? Is that how you think we talk out here?”
“It’s a perfectly good word.” She stood her ground. “People from California say it all the time.”
“Yeah, maybe a hundred years ago.” He gestured at the horses. “Smoke—if that’s what we’re going to call him—would be fine after the trank. But the point is, he has to go. He’s wreaking havoc with the ranch’s working horses. Get it? Put that in your thesis.”
“What if I could coax him into coming close enough so you could just catch him?”
“What?” He looked incredulous. “You can’t. He’s a wild stallion.”
“I think I could.”
He let out a long, slow breath. “You can’t even saddle a horse.”
“That’s a skill I intend to learn. Can I give it a try? By the way, I’m well aware that we aren’t talking about a domesticated animal. If we were, I wouldn’t be here.”
Drake threw up his hands. “This is the most ridiculous conversation I’ve ever had. He isn’t going to do it.”
“Let me try before you shoot him.”
That riled him. “I’m not going to shoot that horse or any other horse, for heaven’s sake! I’ll sedate him and have him moved to federal land set aside for wild horses. Not the same thing.”
It wasn’t as if she didn’t know that, but still…it was fun to tease him. She couldn’t believe she was about to ask this, but she’d been pretty brazen already. “Can you wait two more weeks? I need that much time for my study, and you’ve had this herd around for a while, anyway. Then I promise I’ll get out of your hair. I was planning on staying a month.”
A bribe of sorts, and a shameless one.
His cooperation in exchange for getting rid of her. She figured he might go for it.
“A month!” He seemed properly horrified.
“You’d have one less week without me—if you’ll just hold off a bit.”
He took the deal. He smiled grimly and jerked off his glove, then thrust out his hand. “Let’s shake on it.”
Solid grip. He didn’t try to break her fingers or anything, which she appreciated, since she could tell he’d reached the end of his patience.
He had the bluest eyes she’d ever seen.
Was there any chance he’d actually pose for a formal photograph? Maybe next to that giant horse of his… Uh-uh, she thought wisely. This would not be the right moment to ask more of Mr. Drake Carson.
Instead, she said simply, “Thanks.”
“Don’t mention it,” he muttered as he stalked away. “All I ask is that you be a man of your word.”
“I’m not a man,” she called out to his retreating back.
“I’ve noticed that,” he said.
He didn’t turn around.
He’s the middle of the three Carson brothers and is as stubborn as they come—and he won’t thank a beautiful stranger for getting in his way!
Drake Carson is the quintessential cowboy. In charge of the family ranch, he knows the realities of this life, its pleasures and heartbreaks. Lately, managing the wild stallions on his property is wearing him down. When an interfering so-called expert arrives and starts offering her opinion, Drake is wary, but he can’t deny the longing—and the challenge—she stirs in him.
Luce Hale is researching how wild horses interact with ranch animals—and with ranchers. The Carson matriarch invites her to stay with the family, which guarantees frequent encounters with Drake, her ruggedly handsome and decidedly unwelcoming son. Luce and Drake are at odds from the very beginning, especially when it comes to the rogue stallion who’s stealing the ranch mares. But when Drake believes Luce is in danger, that changes everything—for both of them.
Linda Lael Miller, the daughter of a town marshal, currently lives in the place of her birth, Spokane, Washington, with her dogs, Sadie and Bernice, and her four horses.