Blurb: The Copper Mountain Rodeo has returned to Marietta and cowboy reputations aren’t the only thing at stake…
Rodeo cowboy Cole McArthur has spent the last ten years running from Marietta, Montana, from his father’s expectations, and from the only woman he’s ever loved. But now his past is at his front door, begging for his help.
Jess Clark doesn’t want to face the only man who’s ever claimed enough of her heart to break it, but her foster family needs their prodigal son home, and she owes them too much to not make that happen. Seeing Cole for the first time in a decade unlocks the kind of desire she’s only ever felt for him, and never acted on with anyone.
Back in Marietta facing family betrayal and family secrets, heat explodes between them, and feelings buried long ago rise to the surface. But can Jess convince this wandering cowboy that his home is with her?
Jess Clark knew a lot of things. She knew how to duck a blow, she knew how to make herself near invisible, she knew how to help people, and with her nursing background, she could handle most medical emergencies.
But she did not know how on earth she was going to accomplish the task that was laid before her. She only knew that, for her surrogate family, she had to face the man who’d broken her heart ten years ago.
And she had to convince him to come home.
Which, if she were being completely selfish, was the last place she wanted Cole McArthur to be, but Dr. McArthur needed his son, and no one with a McArthur last name was willing to swallow their pride.
So, she would. She’d swallow her pride and her hurt, and do what she could to heal the rifts in a family she loved. Deep in her heart, she knew she had to find a way to help Cole and Dr. McArthur get over what had driven them apart. Ten years was long enough for a family feud, and she cared too much about all the McArthurs to pass up this chance to give them what they all needed.
If only she hadn’t attended Cole’s rodeo event first. She should have found him before watching him compete. She should have called or emailed instead of flying to Cheyenne.
But calling or writing would have resulted in nothing. Family summonses would only drive him farther away, even if she weren’t family. With this message, he’d see it as such.
So, she’d flown to Cheyenne. Alone. She’d bought a ticket for the rodeo. She’d watched Cole compete. She’d gotten his address from his sister and…
Now, here she was. Standing in front of the door of his sleek cabin outside of Cheyenne. Surrounded by stars and dark and mountains. Oh, he’d left Montana, but he hadn’t left the mountains, had he? He’d left Marietta, but he’d never totally left her heart.
So much easier not to beat herself up over that when he wasn’t around. When she didn’t have to face him and be afraid it would show. Because no doubt Cole McArthur had moved on. To bigger things. Rodeo success and the life he’d always wanted.
She had the life she’d always wanted too, she tried to remind herself. But standing on Cole’s porch she knew that as much as she’d built her dreams, they’d always missed him.
And if that was pathetic, at least she didn’t tell anyone. She could keep her pathetic all to herself.
Except she’d spent the last few hours watching cowboys compete, fascinated, exhilarated, until she’d watched Cole. Then it was more. Always so much more with him. Like her heart was walking a painful tightrope until he was through the event, safe and sound.
Now she felt even more anxious than she had leaving Marietta. She was hot and sticky, achy and overly nostalgic.
She still remembered the first time she’d watched him wrestle a steer. Her heart on that tightrope the entire time, and for the first time in her life she’d understood why some of the other girls at school would allow themselves to be stranded in a car with some guy in the middle of nowhere.
He’d kissed her for the first time that night. The first time she’d been kissed. And even though that had been all it was—a kiss—it opened a whole new life for her. One beyond worrying over her brother getting kicked out of yet another foster home, or worrying that her father might find them again.
Sixteen and desperate for a family. Sixteen and desperate for Cole to be a future she never thought she’d have.
But somehow, six months after that first kiss, a thousand kisses but nothing more later, she’d gotten the McArthurs and lost Cole. She hadn’t managed to rebuild those dreams on anyone else’s shoulders.
Jess took a deep, cleansing breath, closed her eyes, and tried to focus on center. The center that had gotten her through every challenge, every blow, every hard knock life wanted to throw at her.
Maybe she’d forever be the virginal idiot pining after a man who’d voluntarily gone his own way, but at least it was her idiot heart. No one had any control of that. So, she didn’t particularly care what kind of idiot that made her. It was her own kind. She’d grown up without her own anything, she darn well had a say over her own heart.
But she really had to knock on the door before someone in the little cul-de-sac of modern and expensive-looking cabins noticed she’d been standing here rehashing her past for at least ten crazy-looking minutes.
Her heart might be silly, it might even be weak, but the rest of her wasn’t. Jess Clark had come through a lot worse than facing her first love. So, face him she would. And she’d get exactly what she’d come for.