Authors: Heather A. Buchman
Tags: #Romance, #Contemporary, #Western, #Westerns
Heather A. Buchman
Volume 5 in the
Crested Butte Cowboy Series
Copyright © 2015 by
Heather A. Buchman
This book is a work of
fiction and any resemblance to persons, living or dead, or places, events or
locales is purely coincidental. The characters are productions of the author’s
imagination and used fictitiously.
Cover by Sparrow
Marketing & Design
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without
written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical
articles and reviews.
I love her for the universe in her soul,
galaxies in her mind,
the constellation in her eyes that refuse to
stop it’s shine.
I love her for all that she is
because of her I became all that I am.
More from author Heather A. Buchman
Butte Cowboy Series
And Then You Fall
And Then You Dance
And Then You Kiss
And Then You Fly
And Then You Sing
Aurora Linger Series
Linger - Book One
Linger - Book Two: Leave
Linger – Book Three: Leave
Table of Contents
About the Author
As with most writers, ideas come flying at me from every
direction. One of my books was inspired by a very simple social media post.
Another was a conversation overheard at a coffee house.
The impetus for this story came from a beta reader, who told
me over dinner that she’d love to know Bill and Dottie Patterson’s story. A
visit to a friend’s ranch added more depth to their history, and then a
serendipitous conversation with a former bull-riding cowboy added yet another
And then there’s Bullet. This is a character who is flawed. He
makes terrible decisions, and is often the epitome of a “bad boy,” yet I hope
those who read this book grow to love him as much as I do. Bullet is a
composite of so many bad boys—real and imaginary.
Special thanks to Kymberlee Bruton, Angelina Darling,
Carolyn Depew of Write Right Edits, Erlinda Figueroa, Paige Gregory from
RodeoChat, Diana Heckethorn, Scott Pavick from Lost Cowboy, Carolyn Hodges,
Paula and Rollie Johnson, Vicki Mynhier, Greg Robinson, Claudia Swenson, and
The bull he’d gotten on the night before wasn’t just a rank
bucker, he was mean as all get out. There wasn’t anywhere on his body that Bullet
His ribs still ached from
getting under one a few months ago, and if the weather was cold, it hurt to
breathe. His twenty-four-year-old body felt more as though it was forty, or
It didn’t help that he was back in Oklahoma, or that he’d
gotten drunk the night before, simply because he didn’t want to face the
shitstorm his life was becoming. Maybe that’s why his body hurt so badly,
because it was being pulled in so many directions.
He wasn’t supposed to be
here. He was supposed to be in Colorado, living his dream. He came to expect
the calls from his mother-in-law, telling him to get “home,” because his baby
needed him. Each time it made him feel worse than the time before, because it
wasn’t supposed to be this way.
They were supposed to be a
family. Every few weeks, they’d try again. Each time it ended worse than the
time before. The last time was so bad he knew there wouldn’t be a next time. As
he held his baby boy in his arms, the child’s mother attacked him. And she did
it in front of her entire family.
She was sick. If she’d just take her medicine, none of this
would happen. But she refused. The slightest thing could set her off, and he
never knew what, or when, it would be.
He’d been in Oklahoma a couple days when he heard the local
stock contractor was bucking bulls. He had to get on one. Had to. Riding bulls
was in his blood. He thought about it all the time, even dreamt about it.
His sister called it adrenaline-addiction, but it wasn’t
criticism. She was the only one in his family who understood. Even though Lyric
hadn’t ever tried to ride a bull, or a bronc, or even barrel-raced, no one
understood rodeo better.
She was the founder of RodeoChat, a social-media-based outlet
for rodeo news. Lyric managed to keep her finger on the pulse of rodeo around
the world. She knew the schedules, statistics, and habits of the cowboys and
cowgirls who competed across the field in every event. Since it’s founding,
Lyric had interviewed hundreds of them for her weekly Twitterviews and YouTube videos.
That’s why she understood. When he tried to explain how he
felt to their parents, Lyric backed him up. In fact, she compared it to their
“You know how it feels,” she told him. “To be on stage, in front
of thousands of people. It’s the same thing for Bullet, just a different thing
As the lead singer of Satin, one of the most successful
international rock bands, Caleb Simmons was no stranger to
“Thousands of people aren’t threatening to kill me when I’m on
stage, that’s the difference.”
Every time Bullet got on the back of a bull, he knew he could
die. It was that simple. Eight seconds. That’s what it took. If he could stay
on the back of the bull for eight seconds, he’d conquer both the beast and
His mother shook her head and looked between him and his
father. “Neither of you will ever grow up.”
“It’s why you love me so much, isn’t it Guinevere?”
Bullet envied his parents’ relationship. It was as if they were
still dating, even though they’d been married over thirty years, a rarity in
the music industry. He wished he could find a woman to build a life like that
It hurt to roll over, but he needed to charge his phone, and
see how many messages his soon-to-be-ex-wife left him. It was early, maybe
there wouldn’t be any yet this morning.
, worse than
he thought. There were ten calls from his mother-in-law. What the hell? The
woman was becoming a pain in his ass. He’d listen to her messages later.
He checked his texts. More texts from her than voice messages.
He rubbed his eyes, and tried to focus enough to read. His head was pounding.
How much had he had to drink last night anyway?
He didn’t read through all of them, it wasn’t necessary. The
last one she’d sent was the only one that mattered.
Callie in ICU at Mount Mercy GET HERE.
“Hey Daddy. I’m calling to let you know I landed safely, and
I’m checked into the hotel. You can call back if you want, or we can talk
Her father insisted Tristan call when she traveled, especially
when it was on behalf of their family business. It didn’t matter that she was
turning twenty-seven in less than a month. She was still his little girl, he’d
tell her, and it was his duty to make sure she was safe.
Duty was an oft-used word in her father’s vocabulary. As were
honesty, integrity, faith, and family. They built their business on those
Tristan’s daddy and
granddad started Lost Cowboy Company two years ago, wanting to offer
American-made apparel that was inspired by the “Cowboy Way.” Their goal was to
remind people that the ideals our nation was built on were not
ads, social media posts, the clothing they offered, even how it was made,
represented a strong adherence to the principles her family lived by.
She had a meeting the next
morning with the guys from
Flying R Rough Stock. They’d spoken a few
times since their first meeting at the National Finals Rodeo. They were close
to finalizing a deal in which Lost Cowboy would partner with them to sponsor
competitors on the rodeo circuit.
Billy Patterson, a former Saddle Bronc National Champion, was
one of the primary partners in the rough stock contracting business. His
involvement gave Flying R a foot in the door to every rodeo circuit in existence.
It would take her months to lay the groundwork she would be handed by teaming
up with them.
Jace Rice had also been at most of their initial meetings. She
liked Jace as much as she liked Billy. They were the kind of men that embodied
the principles of the Lost Cowboy brand. She’d heard Jace was married to a
woman who’d lost her first husband in the war in Afghanistan.
Their other partners, Ben
Rice and his brothers, Matt and Will, were Jace’s cousins. Ben attended a
couple of their meetings, but she didn’t know him as well as she knew Billy and
Jace. Ben was the lead singer of the band CB Rice. He was married to a former
barrel racer, who’d placed fourth at NFR a few years previously.
The meeting tomorrow was at their headquarters, the Flying R
Ranch in Crested Butte, Colorado. Tonight she was staying in Gunnison, near the
airport. When she said she’d rent a car, Ben’s wife, Liv, insisted either she
or one of the guys would come get her and bring her to the ranch.
Liv invited her to stay with them. “We have more room than we
know what to do with, it would be silly for you to stay anywhere else.”
Tristan spent enough time traveling and staying in hotels,
that she accepted the invitation without hesitation. If they were able to nail
down the details of the partnership on this trip, she’d be spending a lot more
time with the Flying R team. She might as well get to know the people she’d be
Bullet listened to the messages from his mother-in-law, but it
was hard to get anything more out of them other than Callie was in the
hospital, and he needed to get there right away.
It took him less than five minutes to throw his gear in a bag
and get on the road. It would take him over an hour to get to the hospital,
which wasn’t far from where Callie’s parents lived.
Where was his son? She didn’t mention Grey in her messages. He
called his grandmother, the woman who raised him and his sister while their
parents were on the road with the band. She didn’t live far from Callie’s
parents. Maybe she’d know.
“Oh Bullet, I’m so glad you called. Callie’s parents have been
tryin’ to get in touch with you. Something awful’s happened—”
“I know, I’m on my way to the hospital right now.”
“Oh thank goodness, Callie—”
“I’m sorry to keep interruptin’ you, but do you know if they
have Grey with them?”
“They didn’t tell you? Grey is here with me.”
“Is he okay?”
“He’s fine. It’s Callie that’s in rough shape. You better get
to the hospital quick Bullet.”
“I’ll be over once I’ve been there. Tell Grey his daddy loves
“I will Bullet, and I’m so sorry.”
Before she said anything else, Bullet said goodbye and hung
up. Whatever was going on with Callie wasn’t something he wanted to hear over
Bullet pulled the truck over and looked up at the sky. “Lord,
thank you for keepin’ my boy safe, and please lay your healing hands on his
He rested his head against the steering wheel. It had been one
clusterfuck after another since the day he met Callie.
The night he met her, she was drunk. And underage. And about
to get in a shit-ton of trouble. Against his better judgment, he agreed to get
her out of there and take her home. That actually wasn’t what she’d asked him
to do. But until she was sober enough for him to determine whether she was at
least over eighteen, there was no way he’d take her up on what she offered.
He had to stop twice on the
drive to her house that night, so she could throw up alongside the road. At
least she gave him enough notice that he had time to pull over. If she’d gotten
sick in his truck, he might’ve been tempted to let her walk home.
Two years later, it hadn’t ever gotten better. Drama was her
middle name, and if it didn’t happen on its own, Callie created it. He wasn’t
sure now if he would’ve married her if she hadn’t gotten pregnant. Sometimes he
thought he probably would have. Other times he hoped he was smarter than that.
When he found out they were having a boy, he told Callie he
wanted to name him Henry Greyson, after his granddad on his mother’s side. She
liked the name, so she didn’t give him a hard time about it.
It hadn’t been that simple three years ago, when his first
child was born. The baby’s mama fought him on the little girl’s name every step
of the way. It wasn’t the only thing she fought him on. In fact, there was
little she didn’t fight with him about. He knew what was behind it. He refused
to marry her. And he’d wanted a DNA test to prove he was the father.
When the tests came back positive, they settled on Hannah
Pearl. He’d wanted his little girl named Pearl. He didn’t know why really, he
just loved the sound of it. He called her his perfect Pearl, never Hannah. It
drove the girl’s mama crazy, but he didn’t care.
His daughter lived in Texas with her mama full-time. She moved
there to be closer to her family, which meant a twelve-hour drive each way in
order to see Hannah Pearl. He didn’t get to see his daughter very often, and
they were long overdue for a visit.
When he got into town a couple days ago, Callie was on a bender.
He’d finally found her in a town or two over, drunk as shit, but with her
cousin, thankfully. He picked her up, carried her ass to his truck, and drove
her home. She railed at him the whole way, but he’d learned to tune her out.
She seemed better yesterday, although she wasn’t very
talkative. She usually had a laundry list of everything he’d done to piss her
off. Not this time.
When he left last night, she was sound asleep. Grey was too,
in the crib in her room. Her parents weren’t home, but he figured they would be
Bullet drove past the hospital and pulled into the bar he saw
across the road. He needed a drink before he faced whatever trouble Callie got
herself into this time.
He downed three shots, one right after another, not missing
the looks the pretty bartender was giving him. Any other day, he’d stick around
and see what else she’d give him, but today he couldn’t.
He threw a twenty on the bar, and stood to put on his jacket.
“Where you goin’ cowboy?” she pouted.
“My wife’s in the hospital—” He was thinking about
offering to come back, but as soon as he said the word
the bartender glared at him and walked away.
“Can I help you?” asked the woman behind the desk in the
“Uh, yeah. Let’s see, my wife is in the ICU. I think that’s
what the message said. Lemme look.” He pulled out his phone. “Yep, the ICU.”
The woman waved her hand in front of her face and glared at
him. “Her name is Bullet?”
“No ma’am. That’s my name. My wife’s name is Callie.”
“Take the elevator to the fourth floor, and turn right. You’ll
need to show your identification when you get up there.”
He turned the corner and waited for the elevator.
“Drunkard comin’ to see his poor wife who’s in intensive care.
Wonder what put her there?” He overheard the woman say to the person in line
behind him. He was damn sick and tired of people thinking Callie’s problems
were because of him. Damn sick and tired of it.
Right after they married, his in-laws sat him down and told
him Callie was bipolar. Might have been nice if they’d told him a little
earlier. Maybe they thought he wouldn’t have married her if they had.
While she was pregnant she was good about taking her meds.
After the baby was born, not so much. She was afraid they’d affect her breast
milk, and she was determined to breastfeed. Grey wasn’t ten days old when she
had her first fit. That’s what Bullet started calling them—fits. He had
no idea what started it, but suddenly she was screaming at him. Then she
pummeled him with her fists. It took him a minute to react, and when he did, he
was able to hold her at arms’ length. When she couldn’t reach him to hit him,
she turned her head and bit his arm.