Ride Me Cowboy #4 (The Cowboy Romance Series - Book #4)

RIDE
ME COWBOY #4

BOOK
4

 

By
Alycia Taylor

Copyright
2015. All rights reserved.

 
 

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CHAPTER
ONE

LEXI

When I got back to the ranch the morning after my
girls’ night out with Samantha, I followed my nose and found Mom in the kitchen
making muffins. The house smelled wonderful. She was in her “happy” apron as
she called it. She must be in a really good mood.

“Oh good, you’re home! How was your night out?”

I went over and kissed her on the cheek and said,
“It was fun. It was nice to get out. You know Sam. She’s always fun to hang out
with.”

“Good to be back in the city?”

I nodded. “It was.”

“What did you girls do?”

“We went to a new club that Sam’s boyfriend is
promoting entertainment for. We danced and had a few drinks…”

“You didn’t drive, did you?”

I laughed. “No, Mother. We took a taxi.”

“Good. You’re a good girl. I don’t know why I worry
about you.” I could make her a list of my past transgressions, but I’m sure she
knows them all by heart. Then there was the one where I slept with my stepbrother…

“Thanks, Mom.”

“I’m glad you got out. I could tell you were going a
little stir-crazy around here.”

“Yeah, I was. But I kind of have a strange
confession to make.”

“What’s that?” Mom looked worried and for a second I
wondered what she thought I was going to tell her. Did she know or suspect
about me and Mark? Am I being paranoid? Probably. I told myself though that I’m
sure anytime your daughter said those words, a mother might worry.

“I just felt happy and peaceful on my way back out
here this morning,” I said. “As soon as I hit that spot where the highway is
surrounded by rolling green hills…it just kind of descended on me. I guess I
like it here more than I’ve been willing to admit.”

Mom smiled. “I know the feeling. Remember when you
asked me how I adjusted so quickly from so many years of living in the city, to
this?”

“Yeah.”

“Well, that’s how. It’s hard to put in words and it
just kind of sneaks up on you…and then

boom
!
You’re a ranch wife. I love it here, I really do. It’s hard to imagine ever
living in the city again.”

I laughed. “Boom! You’re a ranch wife, not me. I’ll
never get that comfortable…but when I yearn for some quiet beauty from now on,
I can come see you. It’ll be a nice change.” As long as I figure out what to do
about my feelings for Mark.

“Always,” she said. I just made fresh coffee as she
took a batch of muffins out of the oven. They filled the sunny kitchen with an even
more amazing aroma. My mouth was watering and when she turned her back, I stole
one of the golden brown delights and got up to pour a cup of coffee to go with
it. I sat back down and took a quick bite – in case she wanted to take it back.
When she turned around and saw me, she laughed. “I was going to offer you one,
you didn’t have to steal it.”

With a full mouth I said, “I only borrowed it. I wanted
to be sure you weren’t going to say they were off limits.”

Still laughing, she said, “So what are you going to
do today?”

Avoid Mark again. “I don’t know. Do you have any
plans?”

“I do, honey, I’m sorry. I have to take these
muffins into town for the bake sale at the carnival tomorrow. I also told the
ladies I’d help set up. You can come with me, if you’d like. I was just afraid
it might be boring for you. We’re going to set up the kiosks and check
admissions and make phone calls…”

“Um…well no offense, but…”

She laughed. “It’s okay. I was young once and I do
remember what it was like. I don’t think I would have chosen to spend the day
with a bunch of old ladies when I was your age, either.”

I stuffed the last of the muffin in my mouth and
went over and kissed her on the cheek. “You’re not old.”

Looking offended, she said, “I know that! I was
talking about the rest of them.” I laughed and hoped to have that kind of
confidence still when I’m her age.

I finally asked the question on my mind since I
drove up the driveway. “Why is it so quiet around here? Where is everyone?”

“Rob went with the hands to round up the calves.
They won’t be back until late tonight or tomorrow morning. Mark took off last
night for his rodeo. He left a day early…”

I didn’t plan on going and I was still angry with
him, so I’m not sure why that bothered me so badly…but it did. “Why? I thought
he wasn’t leaving until today.” I tried to sound casual about it.

Mom sighed. “He and his father got into a fight. I’m
sure that’s why he left, the poor thing. I wish I knew what all of the tension
was about. I feel really bad for Mark. I think Rob is much too hard on him.
He’s a good boy – he’s polite and respectful and he’s a hard worker.”

I didn’t say anything either way about him being a
“good boy.” Instead I asked, “Have you asked Rob what’s going on between them?”
I wasn’t going to tell her what I knew, mad at Mark or not. He’d told me in
confidence and I just couldn’t do that.

“Of course. I’ve asked him more than once. It’s
frustrating because he’s just always vague about it. He blames his constant
anger with Mark on the rodeo and his lifestyle…I just get the feeling there’s a
lot more to it than that. I get that he doesn’t approve of how Mark lives his
life, but he’s always so angry with him. There just has to be more to it than
that. Don’t you think? If you made a choice I wasn’t happy with, I still can’t
imagine practically writing you off.”

I hoped that if she ever found out what Mark and I
had done, she’d remember that. I gave her the most honest reply that I could
think of. “I don’t know what to think, Mom, but I agree with you that there is
probably more to it.”

I visited with her a little bit longer. She asked me
about Samantha’s new man since she knew her history, as well.

“Honestly, he was nice to me when I met him, but he
seems just like all the others. I expect the call in a few weeks, telling me
what an ass he is. It’s sad. She’s got so much going for her.”

“She does. Some girls can’t see their own worth,
unfortunately. I hope that when she gets older, she’ll figure it out. I hope
you never forget yours, either.”

“I won’t, Mom. If there’s one thing I’ve always been
it’s the one in the relationship with the tendency to be too bossy. I’m not one
to be pushed around by anyone.”

“Good.”

“Mom?”

“Yeah, honey?”

“Is Rob good to you? I mean really
good
to you when no one is around and when it counts?”

She put her whisk down and looked at me. “He has his
faults. Not being very communicative is one of them. But yes, he is good to me.
He likes to see me happy and that’s a great thing, right?”

“Yeah it is, I’m glad to hear it.”

When she finished making her muffins and gathered
them up to take to town with her, I went upstairs and put my things away from
my overnight trip. I looked at Mark’s closed bedroom door and I thought about
how mean I was to him, telling him that I’d rather jump off a building than go
to his rodeo. That was so far from the truth and I only said it to hurt him. I
wanted him to feel as bad as I did, but I don’t think my words even came close
to having the effect on him that the kiss I walked in between him and Taylor
did on me. I was even a little bit angry at myself for letting it affect me the
way it did. The more I dwelled on it, all of it, the blacker my mood became. I
found myself wishing he was here so that I could yell at him some more. Then I
found myself being glad he wasn’t because I knew that wouldn’t make me feel any
better afterwards. I’d feel like I do now…still hurt and angry and confused.

I looked out the window. It was a gorgeous morning
and when I got out of the car, the first thing I’d noticed was how good the air
smelled. Everything was so fresh and it smelled so much better than the city.
Maybe what I needed was some nature therapy. I decided that it definitely
couldn’t hurt. I put on my walking shoes, and on my way down, I ran into Mom
coming up.

“Are you going out?” she asked.

“I was going to take a walk. It’s such a pretty day,
and I think I need some fresh air.”

She furrowed her brow as she looked at my face.
“Okay, but what’s wrong?” Damn her maternal intuition! Since I was four years
old, I haven’t been able to get away with a thing.

“Nothing’s wrong. I just feel like I need some
exercise. Besides, I’ve been here a month already and I have yet to actually
see the ranch. All I’ve really seen is here around the house.”

“A walk sounds great. I wish I could go with you. It
always helps me clear my head. But, if whatever is in there is still bothering
you when you get back, let’s talk, okay?”

I laughed. “You never give up, do you?”

“Nope. I’m a Mom. It’s what we do.”

“I’m fine, really.” I hugged her and went on my way.
I was actually telling her the truth when I said I was looking forward to
seeing the rest of the ranch. It really is a beautiful place, and I can see why
Rob and Mark are so fond of it.

The mountains lay in a line around the property,
almost like the spine of a giant dragon that had lay down one day and just
never got back up. Everything else grew around him. As I walked the path along
the outside of the pasture, I could see a high range to the west and low to the
east and it curled together at the end like the tail of the beast. Everywhere I
looked I could find beauty. It wasn’t like being in the inner city where
sidewalks are cracked and discolored and buildings are worn. There was no
smog…nothing heavy hanging in the air, just fresh, clean air to breathe. Here
and there were yellow and purple flowers just growing wild and as I walked past
them their soft aroma would waft up and fill my senses.

I reached the horse pasture where Mark kept the wild
horses that he bred and was so proud of. I almost felt ashamed for not coming
out here sooner when I saw them. There was a group of them grazing in the lush
pasture grass. They were beautiful, sleek creatures with muscles that rolled
underneath their shiny coats with flowing manes and big, intelligent looking
eyes that seemed to be looking into your soul when they looked right at you.
Mark had good reason to be proud of them. It made me feel good just looking at
them.

I kept walking, wondering what I should do about
this thing with Mark. Was it simply infatuation? Was part of my attraction to
him the taboo of it all? I’d never been the girl who was attracted to a guy
just because he was off limits or dangerous in some way, so I doubted it. I
think I was just grasping for an explanation that would make giving him up
easier. He hurt me too badly for this to just be a sexual attraction. If that
were the case, the kiss I witnessed might have annoyed or angered me a
little…but this hurt and deeply. I felt an emotional connection to him and
that’s why I felt so betrayed.

I kept walking past the pastures and stopped at the
man-made lake that I liked to look at out my bedroom window at night. I found a
big rock at the edge and sat down. The lake was surrounded with green pine
trees that seemed to be having a race to see who could reach the sky first. That
was another thing you didn’t see much of in the city – trees. Unless of course
you went to the park, and then you had to be concerned about hoodlums and thugs
and gang bangers when you were a woman alone. This was amazing and peaceful. The
brilliant summer sun shone across the water, making it a perfect mirror for the
hills surrounding it. I could actually sit here and hear my own thoughts. I
just wish they were saying something that I wanted to listen to.

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