Authors: Anne Carrole
Tags: #Romance, #Contemporary, #Western, #Literature & Fiction, #Contemporary Fiction, #Westerns
Hearts of Wyoming series
Book 1: Loving a Cowboy
Book 2: The Maverick Meets His Match
Book3: The Rancher’s Heart (coming 2016)
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, organizations, places, events, and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
No part of this work may be reproduced, or stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without written permission of the publisher.
Published by Kindle Press, Seattle, 2015
Amazon, the Amazon logo, Kindle Scout, and Kindle Press are trademarks of
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Ty Martin had never regretted the choices he’d made, until now. Shading his eyes against the sunlight glinting off the dial of his Rolex, he checked the time. Twenty minutes until life changed. Maybe temporarily. Maybe for good.
Tamping down the unease that always came with loose ends, Ty moved past the corrals where the cowhands were topping off the water troughs. Heads popped up like jack-in-the-boxes, but no one acknowledged him. Not a word, not a wave, not a nod. Instead, they stared as if he were some curiosity on parade.
Ty tugged the brim of his Stetson lower. At least being an outsider would make decisions easier.
Without breaking stride, he swept by the barn where the stalls were being mucked out and moved on past the low building that served as an office for the livestock rodeo company he would now head. Dust kicked up as he went, coating his custom-made alligator boots and threatening to settle on his black dress pants.
A steer bellowed in the distance, part of the ranch herd that had been brought in for culling.
He scanned the side parking area for a gray pickup truck. Silver metal glistened just a few feet away from his black BMW. At least he wouldn’t be the last one to walk into the lawyer’s office.
For most of his life he had run from anything to do with ranching, working his way through law school, scoring a job at a land development firm, and fighting his way to a partnership—only to eventually walk away. And now, here he was, heading up a livestock operation. A rodeo livestock operation.
Just a year. That’s what he had promised. Just enough time to decide the fate of the company that bore another family’s name. And they would hate him for it, or at least one person would hate him for it, if she didn’t already.
He clicked the remote in his pocket, and his car hummed in response. A few more steps and he pulled open the door. Semi-cool air blasted his face from the side vent, carrying with it that new-car odor. He slipped onto the sun-warmed leather seats, extracted a pair of Oakley shades from the center compartment, and opened the sunroof as he closed the door.
It was too damn hot for May in Wyoming, he thought, removing his suit jacket and hat and laying them on the passenger seat. He buckled up, popped on the sunglasses, and shifted into reverse. Gravel crunched under the tires.
Mandy Prescott would fight him despite this just being business. He might understand why the old man had worked it this way. She never would.
It would be easier if she wasn’t so damned attractive, and stubborn. A challenging combination he’d found tempting in the past. But the fact she was J. M. Prescott’s granddaughter had kept Ty’s pants zipped. He’d realized early on dallying with Mandy was not an option unless he was prepared to marry her. And that would never be the case—with any woman, but certainly not with a hardheaded, determined woman like Mandy, no matter how much she tempted him.
Ty shifted the car into gear. Of course, now that J. M. Prescott was gone, maybe a little fling with Mandy, if she was as inclined as she’d once been, would be just what he needed to fight this strange feeling that had come over him since JM’s passing. Like something important had seeped out of him, slowly, almost imperceptibly, but steady enough to leave an uncomfortable void.
Yup, Mandy Prescott’s feminine charms could be just what the doctor ordered, despite her current disposition toward him, because if life had taught him two things, it was that anything was possible and nothing was certain.
Mandy Prescott misstepped on the tan carpet of the law office’s hallway almost causing her to stumble. Ty Martin stood in the conference room doorway, looking like he’d strode out of an Old West wanted poster, given his six-foot height, the stubble shadowing his firm jaw, and the black suit jacket outlining his broad shoulders. Dark eyes peered at her from under the brim of a Stetson pulled low enough for the back of his ebony-colored hair to feather the crisp white collar of his shirt. Neater than an outlaw, maybe, but no less threatening.
“I didn’t know Ty would be here, did you, Mandy?” her mother whispered, leaning closer as they walked and bringing a whiff of Chanel No. 5 with her movement.
Her heart pounded hard against her ribs, like it wanted out.
Brian Solomon, the family attorney, had said only the main beneficiaries of her grandfather’s will would be in attendance. To her that had meant family. But there was Ty, leaning against the doorjamb with arms crossed and an annoying smile gracing a face she’d once found attractive.
Devils were always tempting.
“Ty.” She nodded, barely able to get the single syllable past her dry lips as she stopped outside the doorway.
“Mandy.” He touched the brim of his hat. “Mrs. Prescott.”
“I’ve told you, it’s Shelia, Ty. Mrs. Prescott makes me sound old.” At forty-eight her mother was still an attractive and vibrant woman. Dressed in a tailored black sheath, her blond hair meticulously styled in a bang-less page-boy, Shelia Prescott exuded quiet elegance. It was a wonder she’d never remarried, given it had been over ten years since Mandy’s father had died.
“Sheila it is.” The lines around Ty’s eyes crinkled as his smile broadened and he trained those dark orbs on Mandy. “I was worried about you, Mandy. Thought you might not be feeling well since you’ve yet to meet with me about the Greenville rodeo.”
“I’ve been busy.” She hoped he didn’t miss the edge in her voice. After all, her grandfather’s funeral had only been a few days ago. The grief was still raw.
Of course, with Ty everything was business. That’s what her grandfather, J. M. Prescott, had liked about him. Because that’s the way her grandfather had been.
Nothing personal, just business.
She’d had to swallow a gallon of pride when JM, his health deteriorating from cancer, had installed Ty Martin as head of the family’s rodeo stock company just a few weeks before his passing. Temporarily, her grandfather had said. Nothing personal. But it had felt personal. Very personal.
For ten years, since her father’s untimely death, she’d made it her mission to be ready to lead the company when her grandfather retired. All through high school and college she’d worked after classes and every weekend, missing football games, dances, proms, just about any social occasion. Extracurricular activities had been raking out stalls, training horses, loading trailers, and organizing rodeo events. Every college course she took, even attending business school, had been with one goal in mind—to be ready to lead Prescott Rodeo Company. The few guys she had dated had either been rodeo hands or rodeo cowboys, but none had understood her drive or tolerated it for long.
She’d been the only Prescott interested in running the company, much to her grandfather’s disappointment, apparently, given the “temporary” hiring of Ty Martin—an arrogant man, full of himself, and as strikingly handsome as Michelangelo’s stone statue of Apollo, and just as cold. A man who was a lawyer by degree and a land developer by trade. A rancher’s son who, at the first opportunity, had gotten as far away from herds as a prairie dog facing a stampede. Just like he’d gotten far away from her ten years ago.
“I think I’ll freshen up a bit,” Sheila said, taking a step back. “Before the reading of the will starts.”
“I’ll come with you,” Mandy offered. Anything not to be left alone with Ty. Not now. Not here.
“Stay, dear, in case Brian comes in. He’ll want to get started right away, and I’ll only be a minute.” Sheila smiled at Ty before she turned and continued down the hall toward the restrooms at the far end. Mandy didn’t follow. After what her mother had said, she’d be admitting she didn’t want to be alone with Ty, and she wasn’t about to give him that satisfaction.
Still leaning against the doorjamb, he shifted slightly so she could pass, pushing back his hat and flashing that disarming grin of his. A grin that had surely lured more than one woman to a broken heart—including Mandy. But that was long ago.
“So maybe we should talk about it now. While we’re waiting,” he said as she slid by so close she could feel the heat of his body, smell the fresh scent of his soap. It distracted her. She didn’t want to be distracted. Not today.
“About Greenville?” Mandy shrugged in an attempt to look unruffled despite the churning inside her, like beaters in a mixing bowl of nerves. It was a good thing she hadn’t had time to eat. She hadn’t had time to change, either, having worked with the parade horses that morning. She still wore her dirt-speckled shirt, faded jeans, and had pulled her long brown hair back in a pony tail to keep it off her face. She must have looked a dusty mess and clearly not her mother’s daughter.
She hadn’t even changed her scoffed barn boots and boots were her one and only fashion obsession. She had ones made of leather, python, lizard, and caiman. She had red ones, white, gray, brown, black, tan, honey, and even a purple pair that she bought on an impulse after a really bad day. Snip-toed, rounded, pointed, and squared. Embroidered, embossed, distressed, and inlaid. Every famous maker, several no one ever heard of, and, of course, a number that were custom made. Most fell into the cowgirl category, but there were a few that were spiked heeled and knee high, and one dominatrix-style thigh-high black pair she’d bought to impress a certain cowboy she’d been dating—but never had the courage to wear. That was the extent of her fashion sense, or lack thereof, depending on how one felt about her taste.
Not that it mattered what she wore and she certainly didn’t care about impressing Ty.
She circled the oval wood table, putting it between them, and looked at Ty through the narrow space framed by two chrome pendant lights dangling from the high ceiling. She’d been in the long, narrow conference room once before, ten years ago, but she remembered nothing about that day. She’d been crying too hard. “What do you want to know?”
Mandy pulled out one of the table’s black leather chairs and sank into it, taking refuge in its overstuffed comfort as she set the large purse she carried on the floor.
“Everything,” he said, still standing in the doorway like some gatekeeper controlling who entered and exited. “What stock you’re pulling, how many of the crew you’re using, your expense estimates, how much you expect to make on the event.”
This from a man who knew nothing about supplying stock. Those beaters inside her whirred faster.
“Everything,” he repeated.
“You can get that from Karen, our admin.”
Ty’s mouth drew in, and his eyes narrowed as he stepped into the room, covering the distance to the table in two long strides. He placed his hands on the table’s polished surface and leaned forward until he was mere inches from her face so that he blocked out everything around her. Even with that strong jaw of his clenched, he was still too attractive for her own good. She tightened her grip on the chair arms as her pulse quickened, determined to meet his steely gaze with a glare of her own.