Authors: Helen Hardt
This book is an original publication of Helen Hardt.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. The publisher does not assume any responsibility for third-party websites or their content.
Copyright © 2016 Waterhouse Press, LLC
Cover Design by Waterhouse Press, LLC
Cover Imagery: Shutterstock
All Rights Reserved
No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic format without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. Purchase only authorized editions.
contains adult language and scenes. This story is meant only for adults as defined by the laws of the country where you made your purchase. Store your e-books carefully where they cannot be accessed by younger readers.
! Helen brings it, AGAIN! Helen brings love, passion and the element of danger to each of her stories. There is a depth to each story that makes you want to keep turning the pages and dig deeper into these characters.
~Delightfully Dirty Reads
this installment of the Cowboy series. Helen is a wonderful writer, and I read all six parts with bated breath, waiting to see what was happening next each time. You should ride this roller coaster with tissues. Trust me.
~Brenda’s Book Beat
Flawlessly written and in my opinion a work of art…
~Girly Girl Book Reviews
Is it hot in here? I mean it’s July, the sun is blazing, but I’m sitting in an air conditioned house sweating bullets. Congratulations Ms. Hardt, you dropped me into the middle of a scorching hot story and let me burn.
Ms. Hardt has a way of writing that makes me forget I'm reading a book. It's more like slipping into a world she created and getting lost for a while.
~Whipped Cream Reviews
I loved this book. The characters were wonderful. They each showed their vulnerable sides as well as their strengths. They are real people and have real problems but also some very loving solutions…
~Night Owl Reviews
Ms. Hardt creates magic…
~The Romance Studio
Helen Hardt writes as smooth as a hot knife cutting through butter. Her words take you away and you feel like you are watching the story play out right in front of you.
~Delightfully Dirty Reads
n memory of my grandmother
, Theresa Zeuch Freitag
me to come to a baby shower? Are you kiddin’ me?” Harper Bay paced the length of his father’s—now
—office in his mother’s—now
His little sister’s sigh cut right through the phone. “Couples showers are the new thing now, Harp. Amber says—”
“Sheesh, Catie.” Harper Bay rolled his eyes, thankful his sister couldn’t see him through the phone. He was damn sick of hearing what Amber Cross had to say. That bleached blond manicurist who had become Catie’s new soul sister spouted off all kinds of newfangled ideas, and he didn’t like a one of them. “Dallas and Annie just had the twins a month ago, and none of us guys had to go to a shower. And you forget one important little detail.”
“Last time I checked, I’m not a ‘couple.’”
“Co-ed shower, then. We’re talking semantics here.” Catie’s tone softened. “Don’t you want to welcome little Violet?”
How in hell does she do that
? Her petal-soft voice never failed to make him wilt. He was a sucker for his baby sister, and he’d be just as much of a sucker for his new niece. Violet was a beauty even at a week old, with a mop of black hair and eyes the darkest sapphire blue. They’d probably turn big and brown like Catie’s. She’d be a heartbreaker for sure.
But a baby shower? He was a man, for God’s sake. A damned cowboy. Cowboys did not go to baby showers. That had to be in a rulebook somewhere.
He shook his head. “What’s Chad think of this nonsense?”
“Chad says ‘whatever makes me happy.’”
Harper had known Chad McCray most of his life. A bigger womanizer hadn’t existed on the planet…until Catie reeled him in. Now Chad was the epitome of whipped. His face was probably next to “whipped” in the damned dictionary. Harper couldn’t prevent a chuckle.
“What are you laughing at?” Catie demanded.
Why not be honest?
“Just your whipped hubby, that’s all.”
“For your information, Chad is
“Give me a break, Catie-bug. You have the cowboy wrapped around your little finger, and it won’t be long till that pretty little daughter of yours has him twisted around hers, too.”
Catie’s soft laugh gave her away. She knew her husband was whipped. Heck, she was whipped, too. Those two were crazy about each other. Crazy in a way his and Catie’s parents had never been. Crazy in a way Harper had never been and probably never would be. He had a ranch to run now. When his father passed away several months ago, Harper had become sole owner of Cha Cha Ranch outside of Bakersville, Colorado. His mother, who’d inherited the ranch when Harper was a boy and transferred it to her husband, still lived in the big ranch house and would for as long as she wished. His uncle, Jefferson Bay, also lived there. Jeff had been estranged from the family for the last three decades, and they were slowly—very slowly—rebuilding their relationship.
Nope, no “whipped” for Harper. He had too much to do. Too many responsibilities. He wasn’t sure when he’d last had a date.
How long had it been since he’d had sex?
Too damn long. Had they changed it?
Catie. Sometimes the magnitude of owning a whole beef ranch overwhelmed him. “Sorry, just thinking.” He sat down in his father’s—
—chair. “I really think I’ll pass on the shower thing, Sis.”
“Please? Rafe is coming with Angie. They’re coming in from the western slope just to attend.”
“They haven’t seen Violet yet. They’re coming to see her, not for the shower.”
“So they’ll kill two birds with one stone.”
“I suppose they will. I, however, have already seen my beautiful niece, and I plan to see her a lot. Just not during some girly shower.”
“It’s not going to be a girly shower.”
“Oh yeah? You getting a stripper?”
Another sigh from Catie. “Geez, Harp.”
“Sorry.” Though he wouldn’t mind seeing Amber Cross strut her stuff naked. Damn, she had the body of a stripper. Lithe long legs curled around a silver pole, platinum locks falling over rosy-skinned shoulders…pink nipples peeking through…
His groin tightened.
His body betrayed him. Amber was so not his type. Though she was a Texas native and the reigning Bakersville Rodeo Queen, she was about as far from the girls Harper had grown up with as Maine was from California. Cute Colorado farm girl?
Nearly white tresses, long red fingernails, leather miniskirts, and sequined tube tops…
Damn, the woman was hot.
Hot, and a major pain in the ass with her couples shower. She’d had Catie doing all kinds of weird crap in the last year. Thursday night happy hour at The Bullfrog had become a tradition for his baby sister. She never missed it, even when she’d been big as a house with Violet. Virgin drinks, yes, but still out on the dance floor shakin’ her booty with her new BFF.
He couldn’t believe Chad allowed it. Heck, of course he did. The man was so whipped.
“So are you coming or not?”
“You know I love you and I love Violet.” He sighed. “But no. I’m sorry.”
“Have it your way, then. Everybody else in town will be here.”
“Tell everybody else I said hi.”
“Fine.” Her voice cracked. “Goodbye.” Catie’s phone clicked.
He didn’t want to hurt her, but a baby shower? Sorry, this cowboy wasn’t turning in his man card.
, Tom, give me a Fat Tire.”
“Comin’ up.” Tom Grayhawk, the bartender, smiled. “What’s eatin’ at you tonight?”
“Nothin’.” Harper turned and looked toward the door. “Oh crap.”
“Here comes that damn Amber.”
Tom chuckled. “Damn Amber? She’s a luscious thing in my book.”
“Hot as hell,” Harper agreed, “but not my type.”
“Hot as hell isn’t your type?” Tom slid a bottle of beer across the wooden counter.
“This particular girl is definitely not my type. Do you know she wants me to—”
Amber’s voice was low and sultry, like the smoky aroma of aged bourbon. She slid onto the bar stool next to Harper and crossed her long tan legs. The woman was always a light bronze, even now, in springtime. Had to be fake. Her denim miniskirt hardly covered her thighs as she sat. Harper tried not to stare.
“What’ll it be, beautiful?” Tom asked.
“Like you have to ask?” Her long brown eyelashes batted at Tom.
Harper’s jeans seemed tight. He wiggled uneasily on his stool.
“One cosmo comin’ up,” Tom said.
“So,” Amber said.
Harper cleared his throat. “So what?”
“You’ve got your little sister in a dither over this shower thing. She can’t stand the thought of you not being there.”
He let out a huff. “She’ll get used to it. Men don’t belong at baby showers. Why didn’t she have the shower months ago, anyway? Before Violet was born?”
“’Cause she and Chad didn’t want to know the sex. They wanted to be surprised in the delivery room. So I advised—”
“You advised? Another one of your cockamamie ideas?”
She shook her head and rolled her eyes. Totally blowing him off. Why did that irk him so much?
“I advised her to wait till the baby was born so people could bring gender appropriate gifts. It made perfect sense to Catie. Who wants a bunch of yellow and green baby clothes?”
“Yellow and green?”
“Yes, yellow and green. No one buys blue or pink when they don’t know the sex. Everyone knows that.”
He smirked. “Pardon me. I missed the lecture on baby shower purchasing etiquette.”
Amber pursed her lips. “Was that supposed to be funny?”
“Hardly. None of this is funny from where I’m standin’. I am not going to a baby shower. Case closed.”
Tom set the cosmo in front of Amber. “Simmer down, Harp. I’m going. It’ll be a great party.”
“Am I truly the only guy left in this town who thinks this is an atrocity?”
“I didn’t say that, but the baby is your niece. She’s my brother’s niece. So I’m going to pay my respects. Besides, Chad McCray throws a great party.”
“See?” Amber said. “Tom knows what he’s talking about. You’ve really upset Catie. Besides, couples showers aren’t anything new. They’re all the rage in Texas.”
“Well, we certainly want to do everything the way they do in Texas.” Harper shook his head. “But last time I checked, I’m not a couple.”
“Neither am I,” Tom said, “but I’m going. I’m tagging along with my dad and Lilia.”
“I’m not a couple either,” Amber said. “So what?”
Tom curved his lips upward in a lopsided smile.
Shit. He’s up to no good
“Why don’t you two go together?”
Good God in heaven
Amber would say something, surely. She’d shoot that idea down. The two of them had less in common than Jesus and the devil. Harper waited, tense.
Come on, Amber. Speak. Tell him you’d rather be hung out by your toenails than be my date at some couples shower.
“I’m free if you are,” she said coyly.
“Well, then, you all have a date.” Tom smiled and raised one eyebrow.
Damn it, Grayhawk, I owe you one.
“I can’t be her date since I’m not going.”
There. Still a save.
“No, no, no,” Tom said. “This lovely lady needs an escort. And you don’t want to disappoint your pretty little sister.”
Hitting him right where it hurt. And now he had to take Amber to the party on top of everything else. Either that or reject her right here. Even though they had no interest in each other, he was too much of a gentleman to do that.
He gritted his teeth. “Fine.”
Amber winked at Tom and sipped her cosmo. “Perfect. I’ll look forward to seeing you. Pick me up at the beauty shop on Saturday at two.”
Tom winked back.
Harper downed the last of his beer and plunked the bottle on the bar.
Damn it all.
He’d just been played like a fiddle.