Read Twins for the Bull Rider Online

Authors: April Arrington

Twins for the Bull Rider

BOOK: Twins for the Bull Rider
7.06Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

In July 2016, the HARLEQUIN® AMERICAN ROMANCE® series will become the HARLEQUIN® WESTERN ROMANCE series. Same great stories, new name!


Cissy Henley is stranded in rural Georgia with her two orphaned nephews, no money and no job. When they're rescued by a white knight in a Stetson, Cissy knows their stay at Dominic Slade's family ranch is temporary…even if her growing feelings for the wandering cowboy aren't.

Raintree Ranch was supposed to be a pit stop before Dominic hit the road again. Instead, Cissy and her pint-size twin boys are tempting the champion bull rider to reconnect with his roots and his family. But can he give up the life he knows to be the loving husband and father Cissy deserves?

Unable to resist, Dominic pressed a soft kiss to the top of Cissy's head as they danced.

“I spent the better part of the evening watching that cowboy follow you all over the damn field,” he said.

She lifted her head, her brows drawing down. “Who? This is a ranch, Dominic. There's nothing but cowboys out here.”

Laughter escaped him. “Nevertheless, I noticed one in particular that took a shine to you.”

“I hope so,” she returned softly.

His chest stilled on a deep breath. Those big, beautiful blues were on him again. Easing right through his skin, deep inside. They gazed up at him, soft and undemanding. Adoring, almost. So different from any other woman's.

A heavy weight unfolded in his gut and seeped into his veins. Who did she see? Dom, the champion bull rider full of good times? Or Dominic, the sometimes dependable guy who came through in a pinch?

And, more daunting still, could he live up to either?

Dear Reader,

I was born and raised in a small Southern town with three traffic lights, cows on every corner and sweet tea flowing out of every faucet. It's one of those rare places where you'll never meet a stranger and will always have a friend. A place I, and many others, proudly call home.

An analysis by the
New York Times
identified the county in which I reside as one of the top ten hardest places to live in America. The finding was surprising and, then again, not so surprising. We have more than our fair share of poverty and bad luck. But we also have wealth beyond measure. A wealth that resides in the beauty of the people. The same people who smiled, shook their heads and carried on with business as usual after hearing the news.

Twins for the Bull Rider
, Cissy Henley struggles to raise orphaned nephews. She has a meager amount of money and even less support. What she does have is grit, determination and a difficult decision to make. Cissy discovers what's most important in life is something money can never buy. And something that, most of the time, arrives when you least expect it.

Thank you for reading Cissy's story. I hope you feel at home on Raintree Ranch and visit again soon.

April Arrington


April Arrington

April Arrington
grew up in a small Southern town and developed a love for movies and books at an early age. Emotionally moving stories have always held a special place in her heart. During the day, she enjoys sharing classic literature and popular fiction with students. At night, she spends her time writing stories of her own. April enjoys collecting pottery and soaking up the Georgia sun on her front porch. You can follow her on Twitter,

Get rewarded every time you buy a Harlequin ebook!
Click here to Join Harlequin My Rewards

Dedicated to:

Aunt Joanie for getting me through rough times…
because that's just what great aunties do

Dad. There's not a greater man walking the earth.

Billie Ann for all of your patient support.

Laura Barth and Kathleen Scheibling for giving a small-town girl a shot at a big dream.


Mama. I still miss you. Every day.

Chapter One

Trailer trash.

Cissy Henley cringed. She'd learned early on that living in a trailer had little to do with the label. Only poverty and desperation were prerequisites. And the foul-smelling man hovering behind her in the Peachy Keen Diner thought that was exactly what she was.

“Anybody home, baby?” He laughed. “I said, you reserving the place for me?”

Cissy straightened her shoulders and maintained her stance facing the restroom door. The flimsy sticker proclaiming MEN had a gash through the middle and sagged at the corners. She kept a firm eye on the faded wood, reminding herself that no one had entered it during the past few minutes. And she would ensure it remained that way.

“No,” she said. “It's out of service for the moment.”

“Yeah?” His croon dropped a notch, his hot breath hitting the back of her neck. “Well, whatcha say I hang with you till it's back in service?”

Cissy sighed.
Chauvinistic redneck
. Harassing a woman was probably the highlight of his Saturday night. He deserved a swift kick in the shins. Unfortunately, she couldn't afford to lose her temper.

Ignore him. He'll go away.

A stained T-shirt and hairy arms obstructed her vision. The man wedged himself between her and the door, flashing a smile that was all dingy teeth. He rubbed a lanky hand over the grizzled stubble of his chin.

“Not right for a lady like yourself to be all alone this late at night.” The words slurred. He ran his bleary eyes over her face and down her chest, leaning back to survey her legs.

Trailer trash. Cheap. Easy.
Her lip curled. She knew the words were flashing in his head.

Cissy ran her eyes over him, taking stock of his scrawny build and unstable frame. His hands trembled. Probably from too much liquor and too hard living. Harmless fool. But a fool nonetheless.

“I'm not alone.” She elbowed her way to the other side of him and refocused on the bathroom door.

“No, not anymore.” He shoved his face in front of hers. Delight pooled in his eyes. He licked his lips and leaned forward.

“I wasn't alone before you joined me,” Cissy bit out. “Now, I suggest you take your ass on.”

His smile faded. It took a moment for his unfocused gaze to register the soft words as a rejection. He blinked hard. “What's that?”

The bathroom door banged open. Two blond boys tumbled out, shoving at one another before barreling into them.

“Aunt Cissy, they ain't got no paper towels in there,” Kayden, her six-year-old nephew, declared, dragging his palms over the other boy's shirt. Frowning, he looked the drunk at her side over from head to toe. “Who's he?”

Cissy quickly gathered the boys against her legs, unable to contain the grin that spread across her face. She lifted an eyebrow at the man's confusion.

His head swiveled, taking in the boys, then her and back again. It was clear rambunctious twin boys were not part of his agenda. He moved around them, limbs wobbling.

“You bothering my aunt Cissy?” Kayden clenched his fists and pulled against her hold, attempting to follow the man's stumbling steps into the bathroom.

“N-no, not at all,” he stammered, easing away with an uncomfortable laugh. “Just making polite conversation is all.” He nodded. “Was nice meetin' you.”

“You, too,” she called out with a saccharine smile.

“I'm starving.” Jayden, the eldest twin, disentangled from her clutch and clamored up into a nearby booth.

Kayden tore away and settled beside his brother. They bent over a menu, leaning into each other.

Cissy frowned and thumbed through the bills at the edge of her pocket to calculate for the third time.
Seventeen dollars and sixty-two cents
. Unfortunately, her count had been correct the first time and remained so ever since. She slipped the bills back into her shorts, making sure all the coins were settled underneath, then plopped into the booth across from the boys.

“Aunt Cissy, they have triple-decker cheeseburgers.” Kayden shoved a greasy menu in her face. His eyes sparkled as he pointed to the colorful close-up of a burger meal.

. Her mouth watered. She smashed it shut so she wouldn't drool on the table.

Seventeen dollars and sixty-two cents
. She had to stretch that as far as it would go.

“And onion rings.” Jayden bounced in his seat. He scooted to his brother's ear and shielded a conspiratorial whisper behind his hand.

Snatching up the mug in front of her, she forced a mouthful of coffee past the lump in her throat and winced as the bitter brew seized her taste buds. Her stomach churned and rumbled. She rubbed a hand over her belly. Even the leftover gummy bears from twelve hours ago would be a blessing right about now.

“They got hot-fudge sundaes,” the boys sang in unison. “With whipped cream,” they taunted.

A groan emerged as she imagined a cool dollop of sweet cream melting on her tongue.
Seventeen dollars and sixty-two cents!
a voice screamed inside her head.

“That's they
hot-fudge sundaes,” she corrected. She held out a hand, unable to still the tremor running through it. “Boys, hand me the menu, please.”

They grumbled but passed it over. She located the items they requested and forced her fingers to trail across the sticky laminate to the price. A quick estimate of the total informed her the purchase would leave two dollars and eleven cents in her pocket.

“So can we? Can we?” Jayden pleaded, tapping the table with the heel of his hand. “We've been good all day, Aunt Cissy.”

was an understatement. They hadn't uttered a peep when she'd been evicted that afternoon.
. Cissy scoffed, turning to peer into the darkness outside the window.

So what? That seedy apartment wasn't fit to live in anyway. And she'd told the landlord so. The sleazy pig. She'd stabbed her finger two inches from his filthy mouth and advised him not to proposition the next female tenant. She might have the money to sue him.

Throwing her hands over her eyes, she groaned and slumped into her elbows on the table. Why did she have to do that? Her temper tended to cost her a lot of things, but a bed for the boys was too high a price.

After she'd unloaded on the landlord, there had been no choice but to stuff the boys, herself and the entirety of their possessions into her beat-up Toyota and leave. A quick pit stop for gas and they'd undertaken the journey from the busy interstates of Atlanta to the isolated stretches of Deep South Georgia roads.

Cissy rolled her eyes and dropped back against the thin padding of the booth. Things would've been okay if her cousin wasn't so dang irresponsible. Kip had promised them a place to stay. But when she'd banged on his door with a hungry twin on each arm and in desperate need of a restroom, there'd been no answer.

It wasn't until ten minutes later that he'd cracked the door open, drunk and disheveled. He was so sorry. He'd forgotten they were coming. He just needed a minute to get the room ready.

She'd been okay with that. Really. She had to be. Kip was the last bit of family she had left. And the boys needed a bed for the night. She had almost talked herself into it. Or she had, until a busty brunette had slumped in the doorway to coo at the boys, her curves barely concealed by the grimy sheet gripped against her.

One look at the woman's makeup-smeared face and slack expression had her clamping a hand over the boys' eyes and hauling them away again. No way was she exposing them to that! She'd find something else. She'd cut corners somewhere and they'd splurge on a motel room for a few nights.

But after driving six counties down, she had yet to find a motel. The drive had sucked away most of her money. And dinner would take almost every penny she had left. Her last emergency stash remained in the glove compartment. And it was tiny. Forget being able to pay for a motel room for more than one night.

“Please, Aunt Cissy.” Kayden scowled.

“Mama woulda got us the triple burger if she was here,” Jayden added, laying his cheek on the table. His eyelids sagged beneath the weight of the day.

A shaft of pain knifed her gut. She would have. Crystal would have moved heaven and earth for them. She always had. That was until cancer had taken over and she'd been unable to do anything for them. Or for herself.

Cissy's vision blurred. She'd lost half her soul the day they'd lowered her twin sister's coffin into the ground.

Oh, Crystal, how could you ever think I was up to this?

“Y'all ready to order?” A perky waitress smiled and propped a hand on her curvy hip.

Blinking hard, Cissy snapped the menu shut and nodded. “A triple-decker cheeseburger, onion rings and a hot fudge sundae.” The boys squealed. “And could you cut the burger in half and bring an extra plate, too, please?”

Ms. Perky's smile widened. She winked as the boys bounced with excitement. “Of course. And for you?”

Cissy glanced down at the dregs lining her white mug. “Coffee refills are free, right?”

The smile wavered. “Well, yes, honey.”

Forcing a bright smile of her own, Cissy passed her the metal condiment holder. “Then I'll take a refill and as many sugars as that'll hold. Thanks.”

The smile slipped. “Sure thing, honey,” the waitress murmured, lowering her eyes and carting the small container away.

Cissy lifted her chin. Lord, she really hated that look. That sad, woeful tilt of the lips. That sappy expression of pity. She should be used to it by now. But each time she found it stung even more than the time before.

“Aunt Cissy, look over there.” Kayden pointed at a row of candy machines by the entrance. “They got—I mean,
they have

“No, Kayden,” she returned, rubbing a hand over her brow. “You're about to eat supper.”

“But they're only twenty-five cents and you get two.” His voice continued to rise. “Me and Jayden could save 'em for tomorrow.”

Cissy's head throbbed, her patience thin.
Oh, for goodness' sakes
. What did a quarter matter now? Digging deep into her pocket, she dragged out a quarter between pinched fingers. Kayden plucked it from her almost before air hit it.

Moments later, the slap and bang of hands and feet on glass sounded.

“Boys.” Cissy crouched around the side of the booth, shooting glances at the stares leveled on them. “Stop it.”

“But it's stuck, Aunt Cissy,” Jayden said, clenching his hands into small fists. “And it's got our quarter.”

Cissy sucked her teeth and slid out of the booth. She grabbed the silver knob on the candy machine and gave it a few good turns.

“See. Told you,” Jayden stated.

“Yeah, it's ripping you off, Aunt Cissy.” Kayden stamped his foot.

“It's not ripping me off. And I'm not the one that had to have a jawbreaker anyway.”

Truly reaching her breaking point, Cissy tightened her grip and twisted in rough jerks. The machine creaked and tilted forward on its loose pole with each of her efforts.

“Aw, she ain't gonna be able to do it. She's a girl.” Kayden pouted.

Jayden nodded, looking disappointed.

“That's, she
will not
be able to do it,” she corrected, “and I most certainly

That upped the stakes. She'd made it this far without help. Girl or not.

She braced her foot on the skinny pole connected to the base and gave the knob a vicious tug. Nothing.

Cissy's throat constricted. Maybe this was the last of many signs that she should have gone back. Returned the boys.

What had she expected? That her luck would suddenly change and things would go her way for once? She knew better than that. One thing she'd learned in her twenty-five years was to always keep expectations low. Yet, here she was thinking she could provide for the boys. That she could give them a better life than—

. She wouldn't go down that road. It was out of the question. She'd made a promise to Crystal. And the only thing she had left of value was her word.

Gritting her teeth, Cissy bent over and yanked the handle toward her as she turned. She whooped as it gave a fraction of an inch.
Finally, a break

Petty or not, she paused to gloat. “See. I'm getting it.”

She resumed the successful position and growled, her arms trembling under the strain. Heavy footfalls and a soft rush of wind at her upturned backside alerted her that someone approached. She pressed her foot harder into the pole and hopped forward a couple inches.

Good manners forced her to mutter a tight, “Excuse me.”

A deep chuckle rumbled at her back. “Need a little help, ma'am?”

Cissy cut her eyes heavenward.
. Just what she needed. Another testosterone-filled jerk.

“No, thank you,” she grunted, her whole body tightening with effort.

“Oh, let him, Aunt Cissy. He's big. He can do it.” Jayden's fingers tugged at her shirt, his eyes widening at the man behind her.

Tilting her chin up to the side, she found her eyes level with a large gold buckle, flat abs and thick thighs. She ripped her gaze away only for it to cling to the broad chest stretching a black T-shirt. Her mouth had gone dry by the time she made it past the man's chiseled jaw and sexy dimples, her attention landing on the sensual curve of his mouth. His grin widened, lifting his tanned cheeks. The dark pools of his chocolate-brown eyes sparkled.

“No,” she choked, spinning back to her task. Tingles of awareness spread through her body, raising the tiny hairs on her arms.

She clamped down harder on the machine. No way was she going to play into this guy's hands. Well built, smug smile, knowing eyes... She knew the type.

BOOK: Twins for the Bull Rider
7.06Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Other books

Love Her Right by Christina Ow
Kalpa Imperial by LAngelica Gorodischer, Ursula K. Le Guin
La Silla del Águila by Carlos Fuentes
Byrd's Desire by Lee Ann Sontheimer Murphy
The Case of the Troubled Trustee by Erle Stanley Gardner