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Authors: Debra Kayn

Chantilly’s Cowboy

BOOK: Chantilly’s Cowboy
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Chantilly’s Cowboy

By Debra Kayn

All Chantilly McDougal wants is to run her daddy’s ranch. The only one of five sisters content to stay on the McDougal spread, Chantilly loves the land and knows the workings of the ranch better than anyone. So when Stuart McDougal hires Jack Grady as his new foreman without even consulting her, Chantilly is furious. She doesn’t need the help of any cowboy, no matter what feelings the man arouses in her!

Jack Grady can understand Tilly’s frustrations over working with him, but he needs the job to put his nephew through law school. Besides, he’s made a promise to Stuart, and everyone knows a cowboy never goes back on his word. But when he finds himself falling for the boss’s daughter, Jack is torn between being honest with Tilly, and keeping her father’s secret.

35, 000 words

Dear Reader,

I feel as though it was just last week I was attending 2010 conferences and telling authors and readers who were wondering what was next for Carina Press, “we’ve only been publishing books for four months, give us time” and now, here it is, a year later. Carina Press has been bringing you quality romance, mystery, science fiction, fantasy and more for over twelve months. This just boggles my mind.

But though we’re celebrating our one-year anniversary (with champagne and chocolate, of course) we’re not slowing down. Every week brings something new for us, and we continue to look for ways to grow, expand and improve. This summer, we’ll continue to bring you new genres, new authors and new niches—and we plan to publish the unexpected for years to come.

So whether you’re reading this in the middle of a summer heat wave, looking to escape from the hot summer nights and sultry afternoons, or whether you’re reading this in the dead of winter, searching for a respite from the cold, months after I’ve written it, you can be assured that our promise to take you on new adventures, bring you great stories and discover new talent remains the same.

We love to hear from readers, and you can email us your thoughts, comments and questions to [email protected]. You can also interact with Carina Press staff and authors on our blog, Twitter stream and Facebook fan page.

Happy reading!

~Angela James

Executive Editor, Carina Press

www.carinapress.com

www.twitter.com/carinapress

www.facebook.com/carinapress

Dedication

To all the country girls out there who still wear cutoffs with their boots and can throw a punch while cussin’ a blue streak: Don’t ever change.

To Melissa (my editor): Thanks for all that you do. This story would not be what it is without your advice, guidance and many, many hours of work. From now on when you hear Yorkie, think pig!

To Julie: So many of my childhood memories revolve around you. The hand in the creek, cantering across the field holding on for dear life while you try to make me fall off the horse, the beach trips, the fair trips and standing at deadman’s corner pretending to talk a different language. Even today, I lick my finger, stick it in the sesame-seed bowl and think of you.

To Shirin: Thank you for all the brainstorming sessions, title help and being my friend. Someday I’m going to sit beside you in church egging you to stand up and shout that one little word, and then laugh hysterically with you.

To my family: It’s simple…I love you.

Chapter One

It got her goat every time her daddy insisted she help Jack Grady around the ranch. Didn’t her dad hire him to replace her? Her! The only daughter out of the five McDougal women who even wanted to stay home and help run the ranch, no less, and Daddy replaced her with
him.

Ducking into the last stall, Chantilly squeezed between Rickrack and the rough-sawed boards on the outside wall of the barn. She stroked the dark smoky mane of her favorite quarter horse and sighed. She’d hide out in here until that jerk with the sexier-than-hell ass gave up and left the McDougal ranch.

“We don’t need him, do we, Rick?” She laid her head on the soft side of the horse’s cheek.

It made no sense that her daddy didn’t bring up his plan to hire a foreman at last month’s family meeting, but instead chose to spring the man on her two weeks ago when she had no say in the matter. She brushed away the tear that escaped down her cheek. It had always been her dream to work beside her dad since she was tall enough to see over the hay growing.

She’d trained for this position her whole life, and for what? Not one single iota of a chance at stepping up and running the show.
I can do it myself without anyone’s help, thank you very much.

“Chantilly Lace!”

Her breath whooshed out and her shoulders deflated.
Just great, Daddy. Give the man more ammunition to shoot my way.

She patted the horse one more time, moved toward the stall door and stepped out into the wide aisle of the barn. “Right here, Dad.”

“There you are, Chantilly. I need you to take Jack to Quarter C and show him where we keep the breeders today. I’ll let you explain our rotation schedule to him and see that he knows where everything goes.” Stuart McDougal lowered his brows and gave her
that
look. “I’ve gotta coupla phone calls I need to make and will be up at the house for the next hour or so if you need me.”

Her father had used the same expression many times on her over the years. It stood to reason that with five daughters with minds of their own, with their daddy’s need for control and their momma’s looks; he had the God-given right to try whatever worked to keep them toeing the line.
Even if I’m twenty-four years old and old enough to run the damn ranch as Daddy’s partner.

She smiled. “Of course, Daddy.” It was a good thing that each of the McDougal sisters had him wrapped around their little fingers tighter than a castrating band. He never stayed angry for long. She hooked her thumbs in the front belt loops of her jeans and refused to look at Jack.

“Chantilly.” Stuart tilted his head slightly to the side and arched one of his gray eyebrows just enough for only her to realize she’d pushed the limits of his patience.

“Fine.” She sighed and turned to Jack Grady. “Do you have a mount picked out or do you want me to do you the favor?” She imitated her dad’s raised-brow look. “I do believe Cotton would serve you well.”
And knock you right out of the saddle onto that perfect backside of yours too.

“Chantilly Lace.” Her father’s low growl warned her he was about to let loose with a lecture she wouldn’t want to hear in front of Jack.

She leaned over, gave her dad a kiss on his whiskered cheek and whispered, “Sorry, Daddy.”

“Saddle up, Jack.” She turned and headed back over to Rickrack’s stall. At the half door, she gazed back down the aisle. Jack stood in the same spot, but her father was gone. She frowned.

One of the reasons Jack irked her so much was the fact that he owned sexy. No man should turn her insides to mush the way he did. Something about him appealed to her beyond the normal good looks and swagger. If she could pin down why her stomach flipped when he was around, she’d put an end to the dang fantasies invading her thoughts.

His dark hair hung longer than that of most cowboys around this area, and with the early gray mixed in at the temples, he came across rugged, tough and in control…almost sophisticated. Except he wore shit kickers, and his well-worn flannel shirt showed signs of already putting in a day’s work and it wasn’t even lunchtime yet. She narrowed her eyes. The way he filled out a pair of jeans should be outlawed on the McDougal ranch.

Confident, secure and unbreakable, he reminded her of a wild horse begging someone to tame it and make it into a pleasure ride. Adrenaline spiked in her veins. If a woman could break through a man like that, Chantilly’d bet a year’s salary she’d never be bored a day in her life.

He stepped across the aisle and leaned against the boards lining one of the horses’ stalls. She narrowed her eyes. Didn’t the man hear her say to saddle up?
Hell if I’ll saddle his horse for him.
She broke out in a grin.
Let him sit back and expect everyone to do the work for him. Daddy will fire his lazy ass faster than a bull mounts a heifer in heat.

Opening the door, she stepped inside, out of Jack’s view. Grumbling about conceited men, she lugged the saddle off the hanger and set about fitting Rickrack for a ride.

Despite promptly readying her own horse and riding him out of the barn, she had to cuss again under her breath at the sight of Jack sitting high in the saddle beside the trough, waiting for her. She took in the high arch of the horse’s neck, its firm back and long muscular legs. Despite her dislike of the man, she wasn’t stupid. He owned a damn fine horse, and one she’d love to take out and put through its paces.

“Ready?” He pulled his Stetson down farther on his forehead and picked up the reins.

She sucked in a breath and her mouth tightened. It burned her chaps that he beat her out of the barn. He didn’t have to hurry her along too.

“Of course. Follow me.” She sank the heels of her cherry-red boots into the flanks of her horse and muttered, “If you can.”

 

Someone needed to take that woman over his knee and give her the spanking she deserved. He groaned at the way he had to sit in the saddle when he wanted to stand up and stretch to relieve the pressure building up in the front of his jeans. He wasn’t fooling himself.
He
wanted to be the person who showed her exactly what that quick temper of hers did to him.

All her prancing around the place, flaunting her hot little body and, in the same breath, looking down her nose at him, about drove him crazy. He let up on the reins and stayed far enough back to give her the lead. He wasn’t immune to the game she played. He liked a woman with spirit.

From his viewpoint behind her horse, he admired the woman who was making each day more difficult with her tricks. One minute flirting with him and the next second she might as well have doused him with the garden hose. With a lazy grin, he imagined what those long blond strands of hair would feel like spread across his bare chest.
Damn, I’ve gone too long without a woman.

Springy curls bounced in the breeze, landing at the back of her waist. Her ass moved in the saddle, and he admired her hip-to-waist ratio. Damn, he’d give anything to ride on the back of her mount with her going up and down in front of him. He’d wrap his arms around the front of her and take the weight of her breasts in his palms.

His fingers curled tighter around the reins. This woman had him thinking thoughts a foreman shouldn’t have about the boss’s daughter.

Chantilly slowed down, moved her horse beside the gate, kicked the latch and hurried to walk her horse backward. With a tilt of her head, she ordered him to go through the gate. He clicked his tongue and Chuck, his horse, walked past the blue-eyed beauty. He wondered if she ever let go of that control she held on to with an iron fist.

She rode her horse up and joined him. “We’re in section B. The next gate is C.”

Green as the eye could see, the McDougal’s spread encompassed some of the prettiest land he’d ever come across in Montana and Stuart had found paradise in the small town of Pike. He admired the rich pasture grasses, the river running on the south border and the size. There had to be enough acreage here to support ten families. Jack cast a quick glance at Chantilly. The land impressed him as much as the woman.

“Dad will rotate the breeders closer to the barn into section A the closer it gets to calf season. Predators usually aren’t a problem with the dogs running with the cattle, but it makes it a lot easier to keep an eye on the babies.” She seemed to want to talk, and he was content to listen. He enjoyed hearing her explain how she and Stuart ran the ranch.

“The cow and calf pairs will remain in section A ’til spring.” She patted her horse’s neck.

He nodded. Stuart ran his outfit the way most ranchers did.

“Daddy’ll want the heads that are going to market brought out here in the meantime. The grass is rich and with the water flowing nearby…”

Jack turned to gaze over his shoulder. She’d stopped and stared at him with her mouth open. He scratched his head, knocking his hat askew.
What did I do now?

“Is it so hard to have a conversation, or do you just nod and grunt when someone is trying to fill you in on
your
job?” She waited for him to answer, but he remained silent. “Oh! You are impossible. Give me one good reason why I shouldn’t head back to the ranch and have my father fire your smug face.”

He pulled his hat back down, rubbed a hand over his lower jaw to hide the grin he fought to control and shrugged. Her face fairly lit up with frustration. He couldn’t help but enjoy the way her cheeks blushed, her breasts rose and fell, and those full lips tempted him to pull her off the horse and show her how much fun it could be to lighten up a little.

If this job didn’t mean so much to him, nothing would stop him from doing that exact thing. He tamped down his amusement from riling her and turned back around in the saddle.

“Show me section C.” He urged Chuck forward.

Ten minutes later, Chantilly approached the gate for the final inspection. He pulled his horse up beside her, dismounted outside the entrance and dropped the reins. Trained to hold his spot, Chuck lowered his head and munched on the grass.

Instead of opening the padlock, Jack stepped up on the first rung and vaulted over. He strolled a hundred yards out, stopped and tilted his hat back a fraction. He whistled under his breath. No less than two thousand head of cattle grazed this area alone. Come calf season the numbers would be staggering.
Jesus.

He’d had an idea what size of spread McDougal ran, but he was amazed to see it in person and realize that Stuart formed the whole thing himself from a couple of heifers he won in a poker game. He strolled closer to where a few of the cattle lined up to drink from the river. Property, water and a family legacy was a hell of a thing to leave behind for your loved ones.

Black Angus faces turned, regarded him and then lowered their heads back to the water. Jack squatted and dipped his hands in the water. Cold, refreshing and sparkling clean water ranged right up there with finding oil on your property.

The middle of summer and water levels ran high from the long winter snow packs. He removed his hat, cupped more water in his hands and dumped it over his head. Running his fingers through his hair, he swept the strands back off his forehead and plopped his hat back on. It’d be nice this summer, when the sun threatened to bake the skin off his back, to cool off after a long, hot, sticky day.

Heading back to Chuck and Chantilly, Jack studied the woman in the distance mounted atop her horse. She sure made a pretty picture. He took his sweet time going back to his horse to enjoy the view without her glaring daggers at him. It surprised him that a man hadn’t snatched her up yet, although she couldn’t be a day over twenty-five.

Decked out in beat-up cowboy boots and an old pair of dusty jeans that hugged every curve on her sweet little body, Chantilly further tempted him with a rather frilly blouse that she tied into a knot near her belly button. She appeared too pretty and dainty for ranch work. He rubbed his lips together. She might as well wave a red flag in front of him wearing such feminine-looking clothes in a man’s world. It sure made keeping his mind on his job that much harder.

The little witch was luring him with peep shows of a flat, smooth stomach whenever she raised her arms or tilted her stubborn chin. His balls grew tight. He’d love to run his hand along the skin between her shirt and jeans. Just a small move and he’d dip below the low-slung waistband and…

He jumped over the fence and headed straight to Chuck, pushing those kinds of thoughts out of his head. Swinging up into the saddle, he caught a glimpse of Chantilly rubbing her forearm across her eyes. An electric fence wouldn’t have knocked him on his ass, but a red nose along with the tears in Chantilly’s eyes about bucked him flat to the ground. He clicked his tongue and moved Chuck next to the quarter horse she rode.

“Chantilly?”

Her chin trembled and tears had left tracks through the thin layer of dust on her face. His shoulders slumped, and he reached out to run the back of his finger along her proud cheekbone. “Aw, darlin’. Why does my working here bother you so much?” He let his hand fall in his lap. “My hiring on is supposed to lighten your load. I ain’t taking your job. Your daddy told me straight out, you were my boss. He speaks highly of you and the way you’ve kept up on all the work over the years.”

She shook her head. More tears rushed to escape those pretty lashes. Jack reached out again, but she jerked away.

Her horse startled, and she pulled back on the reins. Her heels sank into the sides of her mount and she shot forward, leaning over her ride’s neck, going hell-bent for leather away from him.

BOOK: Chantilly’s Cowboy
9.65Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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