Not Just a Cowboy (Texas Rescue)

BOOK: Not Just a Cowboy (Texas Rescue)
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A HURRICANE BROUGHT THEM TOGETHER

Heiress Patricia Cargill was out to prove she was more than
just a big bank account. Running Texas Rescue and Relief gives her the greatest
satisfaction she could imagine. Until she meets volunteer Luke Waterson. He’s a
little younger, a little brasher and a lot more dangerous than anyone she’s
dated. He could be everything she needs.

A STORM OF EMOTIONS COULD TEAR THEM APART

An unexpected change of fortune, however, reveals Luke is
more than just a nomadic cowboy. Falling for a millionaire rancher, especially
one who keeps secrets, was not in her plans. But committing to a man who sees
her as a desirable woman, not dollar signs, could be worth making an exception
to this rule.

This was what her life was like, he realized.

Everyone came to her when they needed something. She didn’t expect Luke to be there for any other reason. Did no one seek her out just to talk during a work shift? To play a game of cards in the shade when they were off duty? To share a meal?

He didn’t feel like smiling at the moment, but he did, anyway. She’d asked if he needed anything. “Nope. Nothing.”

She tilted her head and looked at him, those eyes that had opened so wide now narrowing skeptically. “Then what are you doing here?”

I can’t stop thinking about you. I want to feel you against me again.

* * *

Texas Rescue:
Rescuing hearts…one Texan at a time!

Dear Reader,

I’m so glad you chose
Not Just a Cowboy.
Luke Waterson, the hero of this book, appeared in my very first Harlequin Special Edition book,
Doctor, Soldier, Daddy.
He played high school football with the MacDowell doctors and grew up outside Austin on a ranch that bordered the MacDowell homestead.

Luke’s never been able to leave his family’s ranch, actually. While he seems easygoing on the surface, he’s truly shackled by his responsibilities to the place where he was born and raised. Wanting a little adventure beyond the too-familiar fence line, he’s volunteered as a fireman with the Texas Rescue and Relief organization. Working on the Gulf Coast after a hurricane, he meets heiress Patricia Cargill. Just as he may not be as carefree as he seems, she may not be as cool and controlled as she appears. They are both wearing masks to some degree, but their attraction is real, and their undeniable emotions force them to choose between the lives everyone expects them to live and the life they could have together.

I’d love to hear from you. You can send a private note through my website,
www.carocarson.com
, or find me easily on Facebook. Meanwhile, enjoy Luke and Patricia’s romance!

Cheers,

Caro Carson

NOT JUST A COWBOY

Caro Carson

Books by Caro Carson

Harlequin Special Edition

*
Doctor, Soldier, Daddy
#2286
*
The Doctor’s Former Fiancée
#2316
*
The Bachelor Doctor’s Bride
#2334

Not Just a Cowboy
#2356

*The Doctors MacDowell
∆Texas Rescue

CARO CARSON

Despite a no-nonsense background as a West Point graduate and U.S. Army officer, Caro Carson has always treasured the happily-ever-after of a good romance novel. After reading romances no matter where in the world the army sent her, Caro began a career in the pharmaceutical industry. Little did she know the years she spent discussing science with physicians would provide excellent story material for her new career as a romance author. Now, Caro is delighted to be living her own happily-ever-after with her husband and two children in the great state of Florida, a location which has saved the coaster-loving theme-park fanatic a fortune on plane tickets.

For Barbara Tohm, my very own fairy godmother

Chapter One

P
atricia Cargill was not going to marry Quinn MacDowell, after all.

What a dreadful inconvenience.

She’d invested nearly a year of her life to cultivating their friendship, a pleasant relationship between a man and a woman evenly matched in temperament, in attractiveness, in income. Just when Patricia had thought the time was right for a smooth transition to the logical next step, Quinn had fallen head over heels in love with a woman he’d only known for a few weeks.

A year’s planning, a year’s investment of Patricia’s time and effort, gone in a matter of days.

She tapped her pen impatiently against the clipboard in her hand. She didn’t sigh, she didn’t stoop her shoulders in defeat, and she most certainly didn’t cry. Patricia was a Cargill, of the Austin Cargills, and she would weather her personal storm.

Later.

Right now, she was helping an entire town weather the aftermath of a different kind of storm, the kind that made national news as it made landfall on the coast of Texas. The kind of storm that could peel the roof off a hospital, leaving a town in need of the medical assistance that the Texas Rescue and Relief organization could provide. The kind of storm that let Patricia drop all the social niceties expected of an heiress while she assumed her role as the personnel director for a mobile hospital.

Her hospital was built of white tents, powered by generators, and staffed by all the physicians, nurses, and technicians Patricia had spent the past year recruiting. During Austin dinner parties and Lake Travis sailing weekends, over posh Longhorn football tailgates and stale hospital cafeteria buffets, Patricia had secured their promises to volunteer with Texas Rescue in time of disaster. That time was now.

“Patricia, there you are.”

She turned to see one of her recruits hurrying toward her, a private-practice physician who’d never been in the field with Texas Rescue before. A rookie.

The woman was in her early thirties, a primary care physician named Mary Hodge. Her green scrubs could have been worn by anyone at the hospital, but she also wore a white doctor’s coat, one she’d brought with her from Austin. She’d already wasted Patricia’s time yesterday, tracking her down like this in order to insist that her coat be dry cleaned if she was expected to stay the week. Patricia had coolly informed her no laundry service would be pressing that white coat. This Texan beach town had been hit by a hurricane less than two days ago. It was difficult enough to have essential laundry, like scrubs and bed linens, cleaned in these conditions. Locating an operational dry-cleaning establishment would not become an item on Patricia’s to-do list.

Dr. Hodge crossed the broiling black top of the parking lot where Texas Rescue had set up the mobile hospital. Whatever she wanted from Patricia, it was bound to be as inane as the dry cleaning. Patricia wasn’t going to hustle over to hear it, but neither would she pretend she hadn’t heard Hodge call her name. The rookie was her responsibility.

Patricia stayed standing, comfortable enough despite the late afternoon heat. Knowing she’d spend long days standing on hard blacktop, Patricia always wore her rubber-soled Docksides when Texas Rescue went on a mission. Between those and the navy polo shirt she wore that bore the Texas Rescue logo, she could have boarded a yacht as easily as run a field hospital, but no one ever mistook her for a lady of leisure. Not while she was with Texas Rescue.

As she waited in the June heat, Patricia checked her clipboard—her old-school, paper-powered clipboard. It was the only kind guaranteed to work when electric lines were down. If Texas Rescue was on the scene, it was a sure bet that electricity had been cut off by a hurricane or tornado, a fire or flood. Her clipboard had a waterproof, hard plastic cover that repelled the rain.

She flipped the cover open. First item:
X-ray needs admin clerk for night shift.

There were only two shifts in this mobile hospital, days and nights. Patricia tended to work most of both, but she made sure her staff got the rest their volunteer contracts specified. She jotted her solution next to the problem:
assign Kim Wells.
Patricia had kept her personal assistant longer during this deployment than usual, but as always, Patricia would now work alone so that some other department wouldn’t be shorthanded.

Second item:
Additional ECG machine in tent E4.

That was for Quinn, the cardiologist she wouldn’t be marrying. She’d make a call and have one brought down from Austin with the next incoming physician. She could have managed Quinn’s personal life just as efficiently, making her an excellent choice for his wife, but that concept wouldn’t appeal to the man now that he was in love.

If there was anything Patricia had learned as the daughter of the infamous Daddy Cargill, it was that men needed managing. Since Patricia genuinely liked Quinn, she hoped the woman he married would be a good manager, but she doubted it. Fortunately for Quinn, he didn’t need much direction. Cool-headed and logical—at least around Patricia—he would have been a piece of cake for her to manage after living with Daddy Cargill.

Third:
Set up additional shade for waiting area.

The head of Austin’s Texas Rescue operations, Karen Weaver, was supposed to be responsible for the physical layout of the hospital as well as equipment like the ECG machine, but Karen wasn’t the most efficient or knowledgeable director to have ever served at the helm of Texas Rescue. Waiting for Karen to figure out how to get things done was hard on the medical staff and the patients. Patricia would find someone to get another tent off the truck and pitch it outside the treatment tents.

“Patricia.” Mary Hodge, sweating and frowning, stopped a few feet away and put her hands on her hips.

“Dr. Hodge.” Patricia kept her eyes on her to-do list as she returned the curt greeting. The woman had earned her title; Patricia would use it no matter how little she thought of the doctor’s lousy work ethic.

“Listen, I can’t stay until Friday, after all. Something’s come up.”

“Is that right?” Patricia very deliberately tucked the clipboard under her arm, then lifted her chin and gave Dr. Hodge her full attention. “Explain.”

Dr. Hodge frowned immediately. Doctors, as a species, gave orders. They didn’t take commands well. Patricia knew when to be gracious, and she knew how to persuade someone powerful that her idea was their idea. But Patricia was also a Cargill, a descendant of pioneers who’d made millions on deals sealed with handshakes, and that meant she didn’t give a damn about tact when a person was about to welch on a deal. Dr. Hodge was trying to do just that.

The doctor raised her chin, as well, clearly unused to having her authority challenged. “I have a prior commitment.” Unspoken, her tone said,
And that’s all you need to know.

Patricia kept her voice cool and her countenance cooler. “Your contract specifies ninety-six hours of service. I haven’t got any extra physicians to take your place if you leave.”

“I’m needed back at West Central.”

Patricia had recruited as many physicians as she could from West Central Texas Hospital. The hospital had been founded by Quinn MacDowell’s father, and his brother Braden served as CEO. She knew the hospital well. It had just been one more item on the list of reasons why Quinn had been her best candidate for marriage.

Her familiarity with West Central gave her an advantage right now. “West Central is perfectly aware that you are here until Friday. If you went back this evening, people might wonder why you returned ahead of schedule.”

The woman started to object. Patricia held up a hand in a calming gesture. It was time to pretend to be tactful, at least. “You have a prior commitment, of course, but some people could jump to the conclusion that you just didn’t like the inconvenience of working at a natural disaster site. Wouldn’t that be a terrible reputation to have in a hospital where so many doctors somehow find the time to volunteer with Texas Rescue? I do hope you’ll be able to reschedule your commitment, just to avoid any damage to your professional reputation.”

The threat was delivered in Patricia’s most gracious tone of voice. Dr. Hodge bit out something about rescheduling her other commitment at great inconvenience to herself. “But I’m out of here Friday morning.”

“After ten, yes.” Patricia set Dr. Hodge’s departure time as she unflinchingly met the woman’s glare.

Dr. Hodge stalked away, back toward the high-tech, inflatable white surgical tent where she was supposed to be stitching the deep cuts and patching up the kinds of wounds that were common when locals started digging through rubble for their belongings. Patricia didn’t care if Hodge was angry; that was Hodge’s personal problem, not Patricia’s.

No, her personal problem had nothing to do with this field hospital, and everything to do with her plans for the future. Every moment that Texas Rescue didn’t demand her attention, she found her mind circling futilely around the central problem of her life:
How am I going to save the Cargill fortune from my own father?

The radio in her hand squawked for her attention. Thankfully. Patricia raised it to her mouth and pressed the side button. “Go ahead.”

“This is Mike in pharmacy. We’re going through the sublingual nitro fast.”

Of course they were. After any natural disaster, the number of chest pain cases reported in the population increased. It was one of the reasons she’d recruited Quinn to Texas Rescue; she’d needed a cardiologist to sort the everyday angina from the heart attacks. The initial treatment for both conditions was a nitroglycerin tablet. The pharmacists she’d recruited always kept their nitro well stocked, but a new pharmacy tech had freely dispensed a month’s worth to each patient instead of a week’s worth, and the hospital had nearly run out before anyone had noticed.

Patricia had recruited that pharmacy tech, too. She accepted that the shortage was therefore partly her fault. Even if it hadn’t been, Patricia would’ve been the one to fix it.

She pressed the talk button on her radio again. “You’ll need to make what you’ve got last for several more hours. I’m going to have to reach quite a bit farther out of town to source more.”

She’d find more, though.
Failure is not an option
was the kind of cheesy line Patricia would never be caught saying, but it fit the mission of Texas Rescue.

Patricia started through the white tents toward the one that housed her administrative office. The Texas Rescue field hospital had been set up in the parking lot of the multi-story community hospital. The missing roof of the town’s hospital had rendered it useless, and the building now stood empty. Its shadow was welcome, though, to offset the Gulf Coast’s June heat. She noticed the Texas Rescue firefighters had moved their red truck into the shade, too, as they used their axes to clear debris from the town’s toppled ambulances. The fire truck’s powerful motor turned a winch, metal cables strained, and an ambulance was hauled back into its upright position.

There was a beauty to the simple solution. The ambulance had been on its side; the ambulance was now upright. If only her world could work that way...but Daddy Cargill had tangled the family fortune badly, and Patricia needed more than a simple winch to set her life back on track.

The shade of the damaged building couldn’t be doing much to help the firefighters as they worked in their protective gear. Patricia barely tolerated the steamy heat by wearing knee-length linen shorts and by keeping her hair smoothed into a neat bun, off her neck and out of her face. There hadn’t been a cloud in the sky all day, however, and the heat was winning. Thank goodness the administration’s tent had a generator-run air cooler.

Unlike the surgical tents, her “office” was the more traditional type of structure, a large square tent of white fabric pitched so the parking lot served as the hard but mud-free floor. Before pushing through the weighted fabric flap that served as her tent’s door, Patricia caught sight of Quinn at the far side of the parking lot. Tall, dark and familiar, her friend stood by a green Volkswagon Bug, very close to the redheaded woman who’d stolen his heart—an apparently romantic heart Patricia hadn’t suspected Quinn possessed.

Her name was Diana. Patricia knew Diana’s forty-eight hour volunteer commitment was over, and her career in Austin required her return. Quinn was committed to staying the week without her.

Patricia watched them say goodbye. Quinn cupped Diana’s face in his hands, murmured words only she would ever hear and then he kissed her.

Like the worst voyeur, Patricia couldn’t turn away. It wasn’t the sensuality of the kiss that held her gaze, although Quinn was a handsome man, and the way he pulled Diana into him as he kissed her was undeniably physical. No, there was more than just sex in that kiss. There was an intensity in the kiss, a link between the man and woman, a connection Patricia could practically see even as Diana got behind the wheel of her tiny car and drove away.

The intensity in Quinn’s gaze as he watched Diana leave made Patricia want to shiver in the June heat.

It was too much. She didn’t want that. Ever.

Nitroglycerin.

With renewed focus, she pushed aside the fabric flap and entered her temporary office, grateful for the cooler air inside. The generator that powered their computers also ran the air cooler and a spare fan. The tent was spacious, housing neat rows of simple folding chairs and collapsible tables. It was the nerve center for the paperwork that made a hospital run, from patients’ documents to volunteer’s contracts.

Her administrative team, all wearing Texas Rescue shirts, kept working as Patricia headed for the card table that served as her desk. Only a few nodded at her. The rest seemed almost unnaturally busy.

She didn’t take their lack of acknowledgment personally. She was the boss. They were trying to look too busy for her to question their workload.

She was grateful, actually, to slip into the metal folding chair without making any small talk. She placed her clipboard and radio to the right of her waiting laptop, opened its lid, and waited for the computer to boot up—none of which took her mind off that kiss between Quinn and Diana.

BOOK: Not Just a Cowboy (Texas Rescue)
3.38Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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