Faith in the Cowboy (Taming the Cowboy)

BOOK: Faith in the Cowboy (Taming the Cowboy)
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Faith in the Cowboy

 

By

Emma Jay

 

 

 

 

Copyright © 2013 by Emma Jay

All Rights Reserved.

 

 

 

Chapter One

 

 

Teresa Gallegos closed the door of her Chevy and winced when the window rattled violently. That would be just what she needed today, to break her damn window. She shoved her hair out of her face, frustration overcoming momentary remorse, and turned toward the ranch house.

It was an adorable little house, one she would be happy to live in, if not for all the, well, happiness. She lived there with her friend Grace, Grace’s fiance Liam and their little son Noah. She was grateful that Grace had invited her to live with them after she and Liam reunited, since there was no way Teresa could afford to live on her own.  Of course, she was a de facto babysitter when Grace worked.

But living with the joy of the new couple, when her shit was so far from being together, was kind of miserable.

Two RVs were parked on the side of the ranch house, next to Liam’s. Liam was a rodeo cowboy and used the RV when he went on the road. The older RV next to it, probably twenty years old, was Liam’s brother Luke’s. Luke and his pregnant wife Kennedy were visiting so Luke could help Liam with the barn at the back of the property.  The sound of hammers rang out, echoing around the valley.

Again, so much happiness made Teresa want to choke.

She didn’t know who the third RV belonged to, and honestly, she was not up for dealing with people, new or familiar.

She walked into the house, intending on heading straight to her room and sulk, but Grace had ears like a bat. She stepped into the doorway of the kitchen as Teresa tried to creep down the hall.

“Hey, you’re back. How did it go?” she asked brightly.

Teresa felt the tears at the back of her throat at her friend’s open smile, the hope in her voice, but swallowed them when Kennedy stepped up behind Grace.

“Fine. It went fine.” She did not want to discuss her visit with the lawyer in front of Kennedy, especially since the news was dismal. What made it worse was that Grace had recommended the lawyer, had paid to retain him on Teresa’s behalf. She’d asked that instead of a wedding present, that he hire the lawyer for Teresa to get custody of her daughter.

If only it had been worth the sacrifice.

“What’s going on? Need help with dinner?” She wouldn’t bring Grace’s good mood down.

“No, but you might want to come see what we’re seeing.” She stepped back into the kitchen and motioned playfully.

Teresa followed her into the kitchen, hoping for a distraction.

Grace shoved her in front of the sink, which had a huge window looking out over the five acres behind the house. Teresa supposed it was intended to make spending time in the kitchen—Teresa’s least favorite place—palatable. Grace took hold of Teresa’s chin and angled her head toward the new barn.

Three shirtless men were on the roof, their strong backs toward the house, muscles rippling as they hammered, their deep laughter, mingled with cursing, carrying across the yard.

Teresa stepped away from the sink. She shouldn’t be admiring these women’s husbands, as beautiful as they were.

“Isn’t the scenery here incredible?” Grace said with a little giggle.

“Nice,” Teresa agreed, easing toward the door. “Is Noah in his room?”

“He’s in the back yard playing with Boomer.”

The puppy Liam had insisted he have, the one who barked. All. The. Time.

She was just in a foul mood, and needed to be alone for a bit. “I’m going to my room. I don’t think I’ll join you for dinner tonight.”

Grace turned, brows drawn together, understanding finally penetrating. “All right. Are you sure?”

“I’m sure.”

“We’ll talk later,” Grace promised, which only hastened Teresa’s retreat.

 

*****

 

She was grateful for the television in her room. She didn’t use it often, but now it came in handy to drown out the laughter and conversation from the kitchen. The house was usually quieter, with just the four of them, but now with three more...she felt even more of an outsider.

A knock at the door sounded, right in the middle of a movie on the Lifetime channel. At least her life didn’t look so bad compared to some of these movies.

She thought about yelling for whoever was at the door to go away, but she rolled off the bed and opened the door.

Noah stood there with the biggest brownie she’d ever seen, and a Diet Coke. His sweet blue eyes were solemn when he held both out to her.

“Mom said you could use these.”

“Mom’s right,” Teresa said with a smile she could only muster for him, taking both from him and setting them on the dresser beside the TV. She then bent and pulled his small little body into her arms for a fierce hug.

The damn puppy, never more than three feet away from the boy, yipped and jumped up to brace against her leg, swiping his tongue up his cheek.

“Bleh!” she said with exaggerated disgust, pushing the puppy down as Noah giggled.

“I don’t think you should eat your brownie, though,” Noah said seriously. “You didn’t eat your dinner, and you shouldn’t have dessert without your dinner.”

“It’s okay just this once,” she said.

“Is it a sad day?” Noah asked.

Clearly, he took after his mother in his powers of perception. But he’d spent the most time with her this past year, so he knew about her sad days, which outnumbered her good ones three-to-one.

Again the tears threatened. She’d allow them later, in the shower, in her bed, but now, no. She swallowed and nodded and he hugged her again, Boomer wiggling between them, tail wagging.

Movement in the hallway caught her attention and she looked up, expecting to see Liam or Luke, not the Viking who hesitated, looking down at her and Noah. She straightened quickly, rising with Noah in her arms, to the protest of both boy and dog.

“Sorry. I’m just looking for the bathroom.” He gestured down the hallway. “Here, somewhere?”

“Second door on the right.” Aware she was using Noah as a human shield, she let him slide down to the floor. Once he had his feet under him, he bolted, Boomer after him. She resisted the urge to smooth her hand over her hair, which was probably a rat’s nest, since she’d been laying on the bed without putting it in her usual ponytail.

“You must be Teresa.” The Viking stepped forward with his hand outstretched.

She looked at the hand, strong and square, the arm with corded muscles, and knew he was the third man on the roof of the barn. He was bigger than Liam, but not Luke, with shoulders so wide they filled the hallway. His dark blond hair hung to his shoulders—two things that didn’t ordinarily attract her, blond or long, but for some reason, wow. His eyes were blue, his face lean, and golden scruff softened his jaw. She could almost feel it against her skin.

She hesitated, a blush heating her cheeks. Grace and Liam, or maybe even Noah, must have talked about her at some point. Maybe she should have joined them for dinner, just to make sure everyone didn’t know her business.

She pushed the thought and her annoyance aside and took his hand.

“I am.”

He edged a little closer, not releasing her hand. “You didn’t miss much. Grace isn’t exactly a great cook.”

She felt her lips twitch at the truth of that, and she pulled her hand free. “You’re helping Liam with the barn?”

“Yeah, I’m West McConall. Friend of Liam’s from the rodeo.”

She lifted her eyebrows. “West. And you’re a cowboy.”

His turn to blush, and it was sort of adorable when he snorted a chuckle through his nose.

“It’s Westley, actually. Mom had a thing for The Princess Bride. Dad saved me by calling me West.”

Totally adorable, but she pushed the thought aside and stepped back into her room, her hand on the door. “You were heading for the bathroom and I stopped you. It was nice to meet you, Westley.” Before he could say anything, she closed the door and leaned against it. She caught sight of herself in the mirror and winced.

Her hair was indeed a tangled mess, the little make-up she wore had been cried off, and when she’d come home from the lawyer’s, she’d changed from her neat blouse and skirt into a t-shirt with the neck stretched out and a suspicious stain—probably Boomer-related—over her belly. She squeezed her eyes closed. What an impression she must have made.

But then she opened them again. She didn’t know why she cared. She couldn’t remember the last time a man had raised her interest. She thought Miguel had beaten all that out of her, any desire to even be close to a man again. And if Miguel, who weighed maybe a hundred and fifty pounds standing in a rainstorm, had done damage, what might a man the size of Westley do to her?

No, she had enough trouble in her life without adding a man to the mix. She picked up the brownie and Diet Coke and crossed to her bed, setting the plate in front of the framed picture of her daughter Emily. Her priority was to regain custody of her only child. Then her life could begin again.

 

*****

 

West stepped into his RV and shivered. He shouldn’t have left the windows open so late—the desert air cooled quickly, and though he’d been shirtless this afternoon, spring hadn’t arrived yet. He cranked the windows closed and stood in front of the one in his bedroom, the one overlooking Liam’s land. It was a beautiful spot, just north of Las Vegas, which he wouldn’t have thought would be so pretty.

Liam was the last cowboy he would have expected to become a family man, but here he was, with a wife and a kid and a home, happier than West had ever seen him. Hell, it was almost enough to make West believe in happily-ever-after, his own experience notwithstanding.

That experience was his main reason for getting out of town earlier than usual before rodeo season began. He’d used the excuse that Liam needed his help getting his barn ready before he left on the rodeo circuit, took leave from the fire house and headed to Las Vegas. Maybe by the time West got back to town, Gina would have moved on. He hoped she moved on to another fire house, because damn, women could make the brotherhood a little messy.

Women were a little messy. Like the little brunette who lived with Liam and Grace, the one who hadn’t wanted to come in to dinner because she’d had a bad day, or whatever. Okay, he knew enough of her story that her need to be a hermit for a while made sense, but like he said, messy. Never mind that his blood fled south when she lifted those big brown eyes to him, when she pushed back that mass of dark hair. Hell, even the way she held Noah made him think messy thoughts.

Nope nope nope. He dropped the blinds and stripped for bed, irritated with himself for being a little aroused just thinking about her. Grateful he’d showered before dinner, he dropped face-first onto the bed and refused to wish someone was there with him.

 

*****

 

Grace was waiting for Teresa at the breakfast table the following morning. Teresa almost decided to forego her morning coffee to avoid conversation, but, well, Grace had paid for the lawyer. She deserved an update.

The rest of the house was quiet, so either Liam was out working or still asleep, and it didn’t sound like Kennedy had come in yet. Teresa didn’t want to air her laundry in front of a woman she barely knew.

“So what happened?” Grace asked, her tone full of sympathy that had Teresa’s eyes filling again.

“The papers will be filed today, but just that is going to take three months. In the meantime, I’m taking the parenting class, just to have that behind me, but this could go on for over a year.”

“Surely he can renegotiate visitation, or something, in that time,” Grace said.

“He did say he’d do that, but the longer Emily is with those people, the more they can turn her against me. According to her grandmother, I’m the reason her father is in jail. Not the fact that he beat me. Not the fact that he broke his parole by having a gun in the house, a gun that I was certain he was going to use on me, and maybe Emily. I was a good mother, but I have to go to parenting classes with people who don’t know you have to brush your child’s teeth, or put them to bed at a decent hour. The only mistake I made was letting Miguel charm me into bed. Am I going to pay for it the rest of my life?”

Grace made a sympathetic sound and wrapped her arms around her friend. Teresa held herself stiffly for a moment before she gave into the tears that hadn’t come in the shower, or in bed, but came now, raw and ugly, as she sobbed into her friend’s shirt.

At last she pulled away, grabbing a napkin from the counter and wiping her face. Great. Now she was going to be late for work.

“Is there anything I can do?” Grace asked when Teresa turned away, not looking at her.

Teresa shook her head, swiping at her nose with the napkin. “You’ve already done too much.”

“I know what this means to you. I know what it would mean to me. If there’s anything, you tell me.”

Teresa forced a smile at her friend, but she wouldn’t have Grace, a former stripper, take more money from her husband on her account. She wouldn’t have any woman beholden to a man. Liam was a nice guy, but their relationship was new. No telling if it would shift.

BOOK: Faith in the Cowboy (Taming the Cowboy)
10.98Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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