Something About a Cowboy

Not My First Rodeo cover Sarah M. AndersonHe’s a man of his word…and she’s gonna take him up on it.

A Story

After six years working his ranch and raising his boys, widower Mack Tucker is staring down the barrel of another long, lonely winter. Until his grown-up sons decide it’s time for him to move on. They not only sign him up for an online dating site, but also screen the first batch of interested parties.

Mack is furious—until he spots one of the profiles. He’s intrigued. Intrigued enough to drive three hours to Billings to meet Karen Thompson.

Burned by her ex, Karen isn’t interested in diving into another marriage, but she wouldn’t mind dipping her toes back in the dating waters. But this time, things will be different. What could be more trustworthy and honest than a strong, silent cowboy?

Their first date gets steamier than either of them intended, and Mack fears it may be too much, too soon for him. Torn between the past and the present, Mack has to cowboy up or lose the possibility of a future with the woman who makes his broken heart beat again.

Warning: Contains skinny dipping in public, sensual biting, gratuitous use of roses, and a red lace thong. Sometimes all at once.

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Note: This is a new cover and publisher for novellas that were previously in June 2015.

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Misadventures of the Super Librarian: A–Surprisingly tender and OMG HOTT! story.  If I wasn’t sitting in front of a fan, I was wiping away tears.  It’s a real winner.It’s the resolution to his baggage, the emotional heft of it, that made this short novella such a winner for me.  A picture perfect afternoon read.

SnS Reviews:This was a sweet second chance story with a heartbreaking scene towards the end but I liked the ending.

Dear Author: It’s emotional and moving and hawt which really amazed me given the shorter length. How did you pack that all in there? And I cried. I hardly ever cry while reading but this one just gut wrenched me at times and then made me smile. It’s rare that I feel that a novella is so complete but this one is even with a HFN ending which felt perfect for where the story ended. Okay, I guess I explained my A.

Guilty Pleasures: This short and sweet novella will leave you hot!

Scorching Reviews: Overall, this is an amazingly hot story between two people who really need another shot at the romance game. I fricking LOVED it!

Chapter One

It wasn’t supposed to be like this.

Mack Tucker stood just inside the hotel bar, scanning the sparse crowd in front of him. Even though this was one of the fancier hotels in the area, complete with an indoor water park, the place was not crowded. But then Tuesday nights in the middle of January in Billings, Montana, weren’t exactly peak tourist season.

He wasn’t supposed to be here, not alone. Not looking for a blind date with a woman he’d met on a website named, of all ridiculous things.

If he was in a hotel looking for a woman, it should’ve been his wife, Sue. God rest her soul. He was married. Or at least he had been, back before the cancer had taken her.

But Sue had been gone for six years, and Mack’s three boys kept insisting it was time for him to get out there again, as his youngest, Tommy, kept saying.

It’d been Tommy who, unbeknownst to Mack, had put up a profile on Tommy, who’d been screening likes and flirts and messages and God only knew what else people did on online dating sites.

And it’d been Tommy who’d given Mack’s email and home phone number to a woman.

The woman Mack was supposed to be meeting tonight.

He could still bail. It didn’t matter that he’d driven almost three hours in the dead of winter to get to this fancy hotel. It didn’t matter that the woman, by the name of Karen Thompson, had the kind of voice that had made him sit up and pay attention when she’d called. It had absolutely no bearing on the situation that, at least in her online pictures, she was beautiful—delicate and refined but with a mischievous glint in her eyes.

He was not now, nor had he ever been, the kind of man who met a woman he didn’t know and do anything with her, much less have sex with her. He was forty-six and far too old for this kind of shit.

Then he saw her. Well, he didn’t know if it was her her, but he saw a woman sitting at the bar in a dress that wasn’t all there. He only caught glimpses of red fabric low on her hips and high around her neck. The rest was bare skin, smooth and creamy and begging to be touched. Her mass of dark brown hair was twisted up and off her neck with a red rose pinned behind her ear, making her look elegant and sophisticated and absolutely not the kind of woman who would be interested in a working rancher who got cow shit on his boots every single day.

Maybe he’d get lucky—lucky enough—and that wouldn’t be his date. That’d she’d be a happily married woman waiting on her happily married husband and Mack could go on with his life, none the worse for his small temptation into sin. Absentmindedly, he spun his wedding ring on his right hand.

His phone chimed—Tommy’s chime. “You can do it! Have fun, Dad!” the message read.

He sighed at the text. Out of all his three boys, Tommy was the one who was pushing him the hardest to move on. Whether he liked it or not, Mack was going to be dragged into this decade kicking and screaming by a young man who wasn’t technically old enough to even drink.

“Excuse me,” said a voice heavy with irritation. “You’re blocking the door.”

Mack startled back to himself. How long had he been standing here? He didn’t know. He stepped all the way into the bar and let the man—a business traveller by the look of his suit—pass.

Then he looked back up to where the woman in the red dress was sitting. She’d pivoted on her stool, no doubt to see what all the commotion was about.

Her gaze met his and she smiled.

Oh, hell. It was her. Karen.

There was no turning back. Aw, who was he kidding? There’d been no turning back the moment he’d agreed to meet her. He tried to return her grin, but it didn’t feel right, so he gave up the effort and settled for walking toward her. As he did, he kept looking at her.

She was, if possible, even better looking in the flesh than she’d been in her photos. There, she’d been grinning goofily at the camera, holding up a small dog—the yippy kind—and generally being unselfconscious about her appearance.

But now? As he closed the distance between them, she stood, and Mack got the full magnitude of that red dress. In addition to being backless, it had a deep V that cut close to firm, high breasts and a slit that went most of the way up her leg. The whole thing skimmed over her curves, leaving just enough to the imagination. She had a lush, full body—hourglass shaped and perfect in proportion.

For six long, dark years, he’d not allowed himself to think, much less look at another woman. Suddenly, one siren in a red dress had him thinking about what it’d be like to undo the tie on her neck and let those breasts, those hips free from that dress.

Desire hit him low in the gut. He was really doing this. This was really happening.

“Mack?” she said, her eyes lighting up.

He nodded. “Karen?” Then, because he wasn’t sure what he was supposed to do next in this situation, he stuck out his hand. It seemed the safest bet.

Except it wasn’t. She grabbed his hand and pulled him into her arms. She wore a scent that was light and sweet, almost like vanilla and roses. Unconsciously, he closed his eyes and inhaled deeply. As he did, her breasts pressed against his Sunday-best blue dress shirt and his only suit jacket, the heather-gray one that Sue had picked out for him to wear to her funeral.

It was damned hard to think of Sue and have Karen hold him like this, her arms tight around his chest, murmuring the words, “It’s so good to meet you in person.” So he tried to stop. Sue was gone and she’d wanted him to go on with his life. She’d made him promise he would, because that was the kind of woman she’d been.

So this was Mack trying to go on with his life. “It’s, uh, it’s good to meet you too.”

He didn’t know what he was supposed to do with his hands. If he hugged her back, he’d be touching her bare skin or—worse—if he wasn’t doing that, he’d have his hands on her ass. It really didn’t matter how nice her ass was—he glanced down. Whoa. It was a nice ass.

He began to get hard and then he immediately started to panic. This was too much, too soon. He was still married, for God’s sake. Sort of. In the eyes of the Lord. Probably.

Thankfully, she let go of him and stepped back, which helped a lot in the sense that she wasn’t pressing her body against his and wouldn’t be able to feel his erection. But it didn’t help that he now had an up-close-and-personal view of her in that dress. It left very little to the imagination. He was sure that if he looked at her just right, he’d be able to make out the details of her nipples through the thin red fabric.

He kept his gaze locked on her face.

“I’m glad you came out tonight,” she said, and the next thing he knew, she’d leaned up on her tiptoes and planted a kiss on his cheek. She still had a grip on his hand. He couldn’t go anywhere. “I was hoping you would.”

“We made a date,” he heard himself say. “I keep my word.”

Which was pretty much the only reason he was here, looking at temptation in the form of a divorced florist named Karen Thompson instead of sitting in his living room, a beer in one hand and the remote in the other, just like he’d done every other night for the last six years.

She lifted one of her eyebrows as she beamed at him. “I am very glad to hear it. Do you want to eat dinner or…” Her voice trailed off and Mack had to lean forward to try and catch the last part of the sentence. Or what? “Well, dinner,” she finished. “We can talk.”

Talking. Not one of his stronger suits, not anymore. “Sure,” he forced himself to say. “That sounds great.”

“This way.” She turned and, without releasing his hand, led him across the lobby to the restaurant. Mack followed. What choice did he have?

The restaurant, much like the rest of the hotel, was nearly deserted. Not much tourism in Montana in January, apparently. The waitress lead them back to a small table for two tucked behind a screen of heavy damask draperies that muffled the noise from the restaurant. Mack held Karen’s chair for her and then put his hat on the table behind them.

He didn’t know what to say, so he waited for her to take the lead. Instead of making small talk, she took her time looking him over.

It made him nervous, which was not an emotion he enjoyed. Some of the women at church looked at him like that every single Sunday. Mack had trained himself to ignore them because, as nice as some of those ladies were, he was not interested in getting married again. He’d been married once and once was it.

And yet here he was, sitting in a restaurant far away from the prying eyes of home with a woman wearing very little clothing. This was not a meeting that would lead to marriage and more kids, that he knew.

But it might lead to sex.

He still wasn’t so sure about that. Then he noticed the two tight points poking through her dress. Okay, part of him was positive that all roads tonight led to sex. Wasn’t that why he’d come? Wasn’t that why he’d swallowed his pride and stopped at a drugstore here in Billings—where no one would recognize him—and bought some condoms? Because he was still a man and a man had needs and those needs were best met by someone he did not have to sit across the aisle from in church as they listened to the preacher go on about resisting temptation and avoiding sin.

Could he do that? Sleep with a woman he barely knew? Even a woman as beautiful and sensual as Karen Thompson?

She just kept on looking. Finally, he couldn’t take it anymore. “Yes?”

“I was just wondering,” she began, trying to turn her attention to the menu, “what time you got up this morning?”

He began to spin his wedding band. “Five. Well,” he said and honest-to-God blushed. “Five fifteen. I did hit snooze once.” It was a bad habit he got into during the winter months. But it was damned hard to get up when it was below zero outside.

“You say that like it’s a crime or something, to lay in bed for an extra fifteen minutes at what a reasonable person would still consider to be the middle of the night.”

His face got even hotter. When was the last time he blushed? “I’m not much of a night owl. I get up at four during the summer. Better to get all the work done before the afternoon when it’s just too danged hot.”

She smiled at him as she leaned forward. “Danged, huh?”

If his face got much hotter, he was going to burst into flames. “I’m in the presence of a lady.”

Something in her eyes…deepened, like that was the answer she’d been waiting all day to hear. “I won’t keep you up too late then.”

He nodded his head in appreciation of this simple observation, but the truth was he had made plans. Emergency plans, just in case. In case he didn’t make it home tonight. After all, he was a long way from home in the middle of winter. The roads could ice. A freak blizzard could hit.

Or he could spend the night with Karen Thompson.

Thankfully, the waiter came. Without even looking at the menu, Mack ordered a beer, the T-bone—bloody rare—and the baked potato. Karen got the chicken with a side salad and a glass of chardonnay.

Then they were alone. He was spinning his ring again, but he was powerless to stop. How long would it take to get his beer? Because he could use a drink. Maybe he should have ordered whiskey.

“How far did you drive?”

“It’s about three hours from my side of Butte to Billings.” He desperately wanted to say something else—something witty or funny or charming even. Something that one of his sons might say. But he had nothing. He had no idea how to talk to a woman.

“Are you headed back tonight?”

Mack swallowed down his nerves. He needed to suck it up here and fast. So what if Karen was looking at him like he was a puzzle she was trying to work? He’d made his bed. He had to lie in it. “I made contingency plans, in case the weather turns or something.”

Something that involved nudity.

His phone chimed. “Sorry about that,” he said as he glanced at the text—another one from Tommy. “Ask her about her store!” it said.

“Shutting down, kid,” he texted back and turned his phone off.

Karen had a bemused look on her face. “That was my boy, my youngest. He likes to text,” Mack tried to explain.

“Tommy, right?”

Mack nodded again. “Listen, I don’t know exactly what happened, him setting me up on that website like he did. If he crossed a line or misled you in any way about…” he swallowed “…about me, I apologize. I don’t like the thought of you being here under false pretenses.”

One of her eyebrows notched up and she leaned forward. “False pretenses? And what might those be?”

“I’m not looking to get married.”

For some reason, that made her laugh. She leaned back and a carefree laugh broke free from that righteous chest of hers. “Oh, Mack. I’m not looking to get married either. I tried that once and it didn’t work out so well.”

Mack’s face got hotter. Much more of this and he was going to start sweating. “Is that why you were on NotMy1stRodeo? If you don’t mind me asking. I’m going to be honest, I’m not real sure what I’m supposed to be doing here.”

She laughed. “Trust me, that’s not an offensive question.”

He managed to crack something that was almost a smile. “Glad to hear it.”

“I was…curious,” she explained. “I was married right out of college to a man who was supposed to be this amazing catch. Roger.” She made a face, as if the name left a bad taste in her mouth. “It was supposed to be perfect. He had a great job with his dad’s law firm, good looks. We were going to start a family and live happily ever after, the true American dream.”

The drinks came, thank God. Mack took a long pull of his beer. “Happily ever after is a long time,” he said without looking at her.

“It is. Looking back now, I’m not sure he was ever faithful to me, but I didn’t catch on for a couple of years. We went through a few years of counseling but…”

She paused. Staring at her wine, she gently spun the glass in her hands.

Mack felt a surge of anger. “He didn’t deserve you,” he announced. “He was an idiot. When a man promises to love and honor a woman, he should stand by that promise.”

Karen held his gaze. He might have been imagining things, but he thought he saw her sigh in satisfaction “Yes, that’s exactly why I was on a website called”

“What is?”

“That sense of honor.” She leaned forward. “I understand that this is not exactly comfortable for you, but you made me a promise and you kept it. I grew up in the Chicago suburbs, which was a great place, but there wasn’t that sense of obligation. People gamed the system, the buck stopped somewhere else and people judged you on every single thing you did.”

“I’ve heard the big cities can be rough,” he agreed. “I’ve never been anyplace bigger than Billings, except for Cheyenne, Wyoming.” That was where he’d spent his honeymoon, because that was as far as they’d gotten before they run out of gas.

He felt a little stupid, because that statement made him sound like some yokel from the sticks. He knew that Cheyenne and Billings combined wouldn’t even come close to Chicago. Dammit, he was not making the best of impressions here.

But Karen just smiled encouragingly at him. “My dad always liked watching old Gunsmoke and Maverick reruns, where a man’s word was his bond.” She looked up at him through thick lashes. “I guess I was curious…to see if cowboys really were like that—truth, justice, the American Way—all of it.”

She reached over and rested her hand on top of his right one—the one that was still spinning his wedding ring. Mack forced himself to be still. Her palm was warm and light against his skin. “I’m not looking to get married either. I just want to know if…if there are men still worth believing in.”

In that moment, Mack forgot about his nerves. He forgot about being too old or being out of practice. Even Sue’s death—well, it’s not like he could forget that. But the sting of it seemed to fade to the background.

Maybe he was old-fashioned, and maybe he was stretching here, but there was something in her tone that made him want to shelter her from the rest of the world full of weaselly ex-husbands and people who game the system. He wanted to prove to her that he, at least, was someone she could believe in.

He flipped his hand underneath her palm and curled his calloused fingers around hers. It was a small touch, but he felt a connection between them—a heat that went beyond a handshake.

“Karen,” he said, rubbing his thumb over the back of her hand, “you have my word, when I make you a promise, I will keep it.”

Amazon | B & N | iBooks | KoboPlayScribdOverdrive

Note: This is a new cover and publisher for novellas that were previously in June 2015.