Austin (New Horizon Ranch Book 8)

BOOK: Austin (New Horizon Ranch Book 8)
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Table of Contents

Title Page

AUSTIN

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Epilogue

More Books in the New Horizon Ranch Series

About the Author

Copyright

 

 

 

AUSTIN

New Horizon Ranch: Book 8

 

 

 

DEBRA CLOPTON

 

 

 

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Austin:

 

She tames wild horses…but can’t be tamed. Lawman Austin Drake thinks he’s the man for the job…

 

Cowgirls don’t cry—they just move on.

 

Cowgirl Jolene Bartee has just taken a job at the New Horizon Ranch, helping to break wild horses, and is looking for a fresh start. Almost immediately she’s pulled over by the law…a very hot and hunky sheriff who has her heart thumping and her hackles up. But if there is one thing she knows, it’s that Bartees and the law don’t mix.

 

Sheriff Deputy Austin Drake is working overtime helping support his recently widowed sister and niece. Tired and lonesome, he’s decided he’s losing his mind if a sassy-mouthed, rumpled cowgirl with a chip on her shoulder can get his blood rushing and his heart pumping.

 

But, chemistry can’t be denied and everyone around them is noticing, including the town matchmakers. Like fire and ice, these two ignite as their hearts melt and love blooms in the midst of obstacles.

 

Let down by too many men in her past, can Jolene trust her heart to Austin? Or is it time to move on…

 

Not if Austin can help it. He’s out to win Jolene’s heart and prove he’s not like the others—he’s the man to make her dreams come true.

 

 

Chapter One

 

 

“Excuse me, but I was not speeding.” The petite blonde with vibrant blue eyes looked pointedly at his name tag. “Deputy Austin Drake.”

Austin tried hard to not smile. The petite blonde was not happy about being pulled over. Not many people were, and so his job went. She was cute, too, and from the fact that she didn’t have a ring on her left finger, single. In Mule Hollow, he was learning that was like gold to a single guy in town.

His attention caught on the eyebrow she hitched upwards with attitude and he realized he might have been staring. He cleared his throat and put his mind back on his job, not his situation. “No, ma’am, you were definitely not speeding. You were weaving.”


Nooo,
” she drawled. Her head cocked to the side and she slid the beat-up cowboy hat she was wearing to ride high on her forehead as sharp eyes studied him. Wisps of damp hair clung to her forehead. “I’m pretty certain I was not making a basket either.”

His eyes narrowed at her smart retort. “No, ma’am, I didn’t think for a minute that you were. But then the million dollar question is why were you weaving? Texting and driving is dangerous and has very serious consequences.”

“I was
not
texting,” she said indignantly. Then she glanced away, making him think she might be lying.

Man, he didn’t want her to be lying. He wanted to let her go without incident. Then again, he might be wishing on a personal level that she was a new gal in town, not just some cute woman passing through. Ever since he’d moved to the Mule Hollow area, he’d realized that the town had a low ratio of available females to the male rate. And that had made it hard on him, considering he worked long hours for the department and then cowboy’d on the side. He worked every available shift because he needed the extra cash to send back home to his sister Sydney and Julie, her nine year old little girl.

Helping support them was also a red flag, it seemed, to many women he’d dated before starting over here in the small town. He’d started working part-time at the New Horizon Ranch when they needed extra help on roundups.

He’d found the fact that he helped support Sydneyand Julie a major deterrent to the few women he had dated. It wasn’t many women who stuck around when they realized that he’d made a financial commitment to help his sister get her teaching degree. He wanted to her her support herself and her child and he wouldn’t back out on that commitment until it was done. That, he thought with resolve, was another reason why it didn’t matter if he liked what he saw in this cute woman who was potentially lying to him. Dating was not top priority. Falling in love and getting married and starting his own family would have to wait until Sydney and Julie were doing okay. They’d already had enough hard knocks in life; they didn’t need him wigging out on them too.

“I was weaving because….because I’d dropped my phone and I was reaching for it.”

He crossed his arms and frowned. “You know the statistics on car crashes that involve cell phones?”

Her lips flattened into a determined line. “Yes. I do. Believe me, I’m more aware of it than most but I wasn’t texting.” She gritted out the last word. “Officer, I don’t lie. I was listening to my GPS for directions when it stopped talking. I pulled it out of the cup holder and dropped it. And on reflex, I reached for it. Why am I telling you this? You obviously have already tried me.”

“No, I’m just doing my job. You were driving unsafely and I stopped you. My intention was to give you a warning but at this rate I’m on the fast track to changing my mind. Can I see some identification and insurance? And where are you heading?” Yeah, he was irritated. He got darn tired of false accusations when all he was doing was his job. “Keeping people safe on the road is an important part of my job. And whether you like it or not, you were a danger to yourself and others just now.”

To his surprise, she looked contrite and had no comeback. Instead, she pulled her driver’s license from her billfold and handed it to him. His fingers brushed hers and an electrical wave equal to a shot from a Taser gun shot up his arm. She yanked her hand back and her eyes narrowed.

“Look, I’m sorry.” She rubbed her hand on her jean-clad thigh as if to get the residue of touching him off her fingertips. “You’re right. I was being a jerk and you were just doing your job.” She rubbed the vertical lines that had formed between her eyebrows. She looked tired. “I’m heading to the New Horizon Ranch.”

He glanced at her ID. Jolene Bartee. Twenty-four, five foot five, hundred and twenty pounds, blue eyes, and an attitude from Yukon, Oklahoma.

“I’ll be right back.”

He strode to his car, made out his report and then when everything checked out, he strode back to her car. “If you’ll sign this warning, you can be back on the road.”

She took it from him and scribbled her signature. “Thank you for only giving me a warning,” she gritted through tight lips.

“Like I said, I was just doing my job. You could have been falling asleep at the wheel and me pulling you over would have stopped you from ending up in a ditch.” Why he was defending his actions was beyond explanation and irritating to him.

“Right.” She nodded and grabbed the steering wheel.

He stepped back and tipped his hat. “Have a nice day, and drive safe.” He watched her jaw tighten and the long line of her neck; the vein there pulsed. His mind went completely off track as he swallowed hard.
What was wrong with him?
Yanking his gaze from her soft-looking skin, he turned to stalk back to his patrol vehicle.

“Um, can you tell me where the New Horizon Ranch is? Like I said, my GPS isn’t working.”

He stopped and turned to find her leaning out of the truck window. Her Western-cut shirt was gaped open to reveal a low-cut red tank top and the gentle swell of breast.

Austin’s mind went completely blank.

“When you’re through eyeballing my boobs, I’d like those directions, please. I’m pretty sure you’re probably aware of all the ranches in the area.”

What was the matter with him?
He cleared his throat. He knew the ranch well since he worked there part-time when he wasn’t on duty at the sheriff’s office.

He’d started working there after he’d helped with a holdup situation where she’d been one of the hostages. He’d been new in town but it had given him a real eye-opening view of how this little town stuck together.

“You’re almost there. The land on the other side of that fence is actually part of the ranch. Take the first left you come to and follow it till you come to the entrance on the left.”

She flopped back into her seat. “Thanks.”

“What will you be doing there? Are you the new cook?”

Her head jerked around so fast he saw double. “I don’t cook. Only if they want to eat fish sticks and corn dogs. I’m their new wrangler. I’ll be helping out with whatever work they need, especially helping Ty Calder break and train horses.”

“You’ll be breaking horses?”

Her eyes flashed blue fire. “Yeah, you got a problem with that?”

“Lady, you’ve got a chip on your shoulders the size of Texas.”

“Are we done here?”

“We’ve been done.”

“Good.” She didn’t look back as she drove back onto the road and drove away.

“Corn dogs and fish sticks,” he muttered, stalking back to his SUV. “She’d probably burn them.” He yanked open his door and slouched behind the wheel. Sue him—he’d made a mistake assuming she was a cook. Breaking horses and wrangling was hard, tough work. She was a tiny thing; five foot four was the size of his sister and she was petite. Yeah, Maddie, one of the partners at New Horizon Ranch, was a wrangler and worked like the cowboys on the ranch but well, it was still hard to take when he thought about breaking horses.

Yeah, so call him a sexist.

He reached for the gear, put the truck into drive and headed back toward town. But try as he might, he could not stop thinking about the Taser zap she’d given him and the fire in those blue eyes.

Yup, it had been too long since he’d shared company with a woman. If a sour-tongued, rude gal like Jolene Bartee got his blood to humming, he was definitely in trouble.

He needed to find a date and he needed to find one soon.

 

 

Jolene glared into the rearview and watched the hot-looking officer stalk back to his vehicle. It was a very nice rear. The fact that she’d been foggy minded for a few moments when he’d first walked up and she’d laid eyes on him was just maddening. You’d think that a gal like her who worked with hunky men every day wouldn’t go all gaga-eyed over a hunky cowboy, but she had.

And then he’d first accused her of texting and driving, and then he’d thought she might be the cook.
Talk about chauvinist.
He didn’t even act as if he realized how insulting that was. Holy smoking firecrackers, that was like a bucket of ice water being dumped on her.

She was still fuming about the whole encounter when she reached the massive ranch entrance. Yes, she’d been out of line but the man had just been doing his job. But, well shoot, he’d irritated her. And then he’d assumed she was the cook!

He was darn good-looking with that light-brown hair and those green eyes that seemed to look through her and see every nook and cranny of her carefully constructed life. And that had been the root of her irritation and she knew it. She and the law did not mix well.

She turned in to the drive and took her boot off the gas pedal as she stared in awe at the practically manicured pastures fenced with painted pipe that cost far more than plain Jane barbed wire. And then there was the house at the end of the lane. It was
gorgeous,
with a capital G. When she’d reached out to her rodeo contact list, she’d been startled when Ty Calder had told her he could use her; she’d almost cried right there in her dingy living quarters. It had been a long shot calling him. She’d heard he and four other ranch workers had inherited the fine ranch from their deceased boss but she hadn’t talked to Ty in several years. For him to hire her on the phone had been like a smile from heaven.

BOOK: Austin (New Horizon Ranch Book 8)
11.28Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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