Authors: Calico Daniels
The Cowboy’s Property
The ranch is for sale, and Kayla has no idea how much longer she will have a job. Throwing caution to the wind, she has some fun with a sexy guest, knowing it’s against the rules. She just never expected it to stir feelings deep in her heart.
Jack has a motive. He wants to buy the ranch. The best way to find out what is going on behind the scenes is to stay there as a guest. He never expected to come face to face with a woman who could make him yearn for more than just a good time.
But when she learns that he’s not exactly who he led her to believe he was, will she kick him to the curb…or take a chance on love?
Siren Publishing, Inc.
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A SIREN PUBLISHING BOOK
IMPRINT: Erotic Romance
THE COWBOY’S PROPERTY
E-book ISBN: 1-60601-922-8
First E-book Publication: October 2010
Cover design by Jinger Heaston
All cover art and logo copyright © 2010 by Siren Publishing, Inc.
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Letter from Calico Daniels
Regarding E-book Piracy
Authors work hard to create stories for their readers. We love what we do and want to share it with the world, but would you work for free? If you were standing in line at the grocery store behind a mother and her children, would you steal her wallet? Neither would I. By stealing an e-book, the thief is taking hard-earned money away from a family.
Please help ensure that the authors and all those involved in the making of an e-book get paid for their time by not sharing your purchased copy. By paying for your copy, you could be changing someone’s life and making all their dreams come true.
With deep gratitude,
LD, you make me strive to be better. A better writer, mother, and friend. Without you in my life, I am not sure how I would have made it through the rough times. Thank God for the internet that brought us together. You are my best friend in the world. You are my sounding board. You are the sister I never had.
Buford, my one, my only, my love.
Copyright © 2010
Kayla McCoy gripped the leather cinch strap and tightened the girth on the big sorrel. He was the last, as all the other horses were tacked up and ready to go. Laughter, coming from the lodge, drifted on the breeze. The guests were obviously finished with breakfast and on their way to the barn for their morning ride.
The muscle behind Kayla’s right eye started to twitch.
Most of the time, she had no complaints about her job at the Rocking Star Guest Ranch. The country was breathtaking, and let’s face it, what better job was there than spending all day working with horses, but this group seriously made her reconsider her choice to stay on another year. From the second they arrived for their ten-day stay, they had treated the staff like crap, making outrageous demands from any employee within shouting distance. It was only the third day of their stay and already a waitress, a cook, two housekeepers, and the youth director had threatened to quit.
Kayla led the gelding to one of the hitching rings on the side of the barn and tied him. With an affectionate pat on his shoulder, she turned and started toward her own mount. The sky was crystal blue and not a cloud in sight. It was the perfect morning for a ride through the national forest.
“Kayla?” Jerry, the head wrangler, stood in the doorway of the barn office.
She walked over to the aging man and smiled. “Hey. The horses are all tacked up and ready to go. It looks like it’s going to be a great morning for a ride.”
Jerry offered her a sad smile and shook his head slowly. “I just got off the phone with Laura. She wants you to help with the housekeeping this morning while the guests are out on the ride.”
The excitement she’d felt while prepping the horses fizzled like the morning mist, and a heavy weight settled in her stomach. “I haven’t gone on a single ride this week, Jerry. She’s had me doing everything else.”
He pulled the tattered cowboy hat from his head, slapped it against his leg, and replaced it. “You know we’re shorthanded right now. I understand your frustration. You were hired as a wrangler, but I really need you to do this. You’re the only one in my group who can do these other jobs, and the guests really like you.” He pulled a cigarette from his shirt pocket and lit it. “Come on, kid, be a team player.” His brows came together in a silent plea.
“Low blow, Jerry. You of all people know I’m a team player, but this is getting ridiculous. I’ve been pulling housekeeping duty since this group arrived.”
The wrangler glanced around and motioned her into the office. After closing the door behind them, he turned and stared at her. “You know Laura has the ranch up for sale.”
Kayla nodded. Laura had not really made it much of a secret. She had been overheard on several occasions saying she would be glad to be rid of the whole mess. It was nothing new to the employees. They all knew Laura was only in the business for the money. She never cared for the day-to-day business. All she wanted was to flaunt the fact that she owned the ranch.
“Laura doesn’t see any reason to hire new staff while she’s trying to dump this place. That’s assuming she can even secure a buyer. We really need things to go well if we want to keep our jobs after the sale.”
Her heart fell to her feet. “Are you worried, Jerry?”
“Kiddo, I’m too old to lose sleep over things like this. Whatever happens will happen, but I would like to stay here.” He drew hard on his cigarette. “I just wish I knew for certain what was going to happen so I could make you feel more at ease.”
Kayla pulled him into a brief hug. “Everything will be all right, I’m sure of it.” She chuckled. “It can’t get much worse. I don’t think any other person on the face of the earth could be a worse owner than Laura.”
Jerry dropped the cigarette to the concrete office floor and crushed it beneath his boot heel. “Yeah, well, we shouldn’t have to put up with the crap either, but we do.” His wise gaze leveled on her. “I know why I put up with it, but I don’t understand why a young woman like you just doesn’t find herself a nice man and settle down. Hopping from ranch to ranch every few years is no way for a girl to spend her youth.”
“Come on, Jerry. You of all people know how opinionated and stubborn I am.” She poked his arm. “If I could ever find a man like you, I would give up the horse shit and eighty-hour work weeks, but until then, I plan on staying as far away from anything that resembles a serious relationship as I can.”
“Not every marriage is like your parents were, you know.”
Kayla rolled her eyes. “Uncle Jerry, you and Aunt Martha were exceptions to the rule. Maybe someday I’ll find a guy when I have the time to look. Until then, I want to have a good time and enjoy my life.” She placed a light kiss on his grizzled cheek and started for the door. “I’ll do whatever Laura wants me to do, and I won’t complain.”
* * * *
Won’t complain, my ass!
Who was she trying to fool? The minute she walked through the door of the lodge, Laura hit her with a laundry list of things to do. All eighteen rooms needed to be cleaned and fresh sheets put on the beds. She wanted the halls vacuumed, the common room dusted, and all the linens and towels washed. And, oh, by the way, there were no other housekeepers today. Not that the evil bitch cared, no way was she going to take the time to hire anyone else since she was trying to off-load her headache.
“How do you expect me to do all this myself before the guests get back, Laura?” Kayla planted her fists on her hips and glared at the owner.
Laura waved her hand dismissively in the air. “The guests won’t be back from their ride until noon, so you have all morning. It shouldn’t be a problem for you as long as you don’t fool around.” She glanced at her gold watch. “I have other things to do, but don’t forget we had a late arrival last night, so I want you to pay close attention to the room, and make sure to leave some fresh flowers in the vases.” She fluffed her teased, mouse-brown hair and walked toward the main door. “Can’t have our guests feeling neglected, now can we?”
Kayla rolled her eyes as she went to the maid’s closet to get the cart. She loaded it with all the supplies she would need and went to work on the rooms. If it weren’t for the fact that she was given a place to live on the ranch and Jerry depended on her, Kayla might have told the woman to stuff it, but Jerry wasn’t getting any younger, and he didn’t need any more stress. And the thought of having to pack up and move to another ranch wasn’t exactly on her list of things she wanted to do right now.
With her iPod ready and the maid’s cart in tow, Kayla made her way down the hall to start on the rooms. The work really wasn’t hard. Change sheets, make the beds, clean the bathrooms, and vacuum the floors. She could do it in her sleep, but it got old after a while having to fill in wherever there was an empty spot. Housekeeping, in the kitchen, waitressing. She really just wanted to be in the barn with the horses. Hell, mucking out the stalls held more appeal than asking if someone needed a refill on their drink.
Almost four hours later, she was down to the last room. The late arrival’s room. She had already grabbed the fresh flowers for the vases in the room and a small fruit basket from the kitchen. Carrie Underwood sang through her earbuds as Kayla entered the room. It was obvious the occupant of this room was male by the blue boxer briefs and a pair of rumpled Wranglers in the middle of the floor.