A Cowboy Returns
Wild Western Heat; Book 1
Published: July 21st 2015
Published by: Harlequin
You never forget your first cowboy.
Eli Covington erased all traces of his cowboy upbringing to become a high-powered attorney. Then his father dies, and his brothers need him to rescue the family ranch. So, after fourteen years, Eli returns to the life he left behind and the one woman he can't resist.
Veterinarian Reagan Matthews was furious with Eli for leaving her all those years ago, and yet she was never quite able to let him go. Their attraction is as incendiary as ever, and Eli is very good at stoking the flames. But Eli doesn't belong in her world, any more than Reagan belongs in his. So until Eli leaves for good, why not take her pleasure where she can? Pleasure only her cowboy can provide.
Three hours later, Reagan wiped the sweat from her brow with a grungy bandana. “Is it me or is it about a hundred and ten out here today?”
“Only supposed to be about ninety.” Tyson Covington, youngest of the three Covington brothers, tipped the brim of his hat up and leaned on the saddle horn to grin down at her. “I’m no expert in female anatomy, but I’d say you’re far too young for hot flashes, Doc.”
She barked out a laugh. “Not an expert in female anatomy, huh? The only person in Harding County who’s seen more action than you, Ty, is the gynecologist, and that’s only because he’s been in practice longer than you’ve been alive.”
Ty’s grin widened. “I suppose I’ll just have to work harder to catch up then, won’t I?”
Her snort was answer enough. Turning back to the chute, she called out, “Push `em through, gentlemen.”
“You heard Doc Matthews,” Ty shouted to the other cowboys. “Let’s get the first truck backed up and help the Jensens make a little money.” He let out a sharp whistle as he wheeled his horse around and pushed his way into the thick of things.
She grabbed her pad and jotted down a couple of notes as the semi parked, trailer gate open to the chute. The herd looked pretty good. A few were underweight, but calves sometimes lost a little mass to stress when they were gathered and penned. They’d also lose a bit of water weight when they shipped, but it would be easy to replace that. Picking up her vaccine gun, she climbed up the pipe panel and started inoculating the animals as they moved by.
Once the first group of animals were loaded, they began sorting the second pen. Bawling protests decorated the dusty air. Cowboys called to each other as they moved the calves and pushed the current bunch down the chute, peeling off those Reagan indicated she wanted to assess a little closer. One truck driver after another climbed around shipping trailers like monkeys, opening and closing interior gates to make sure the weight distribution of the oncoming cattle was beneficial for the haul to the sale ring.
A larger yearling turned back. Nose high, the whites of his eyes showed as he tried to work his way against the flow.
Reagan scanned the corral. “Brisket!”
A blue merle body darted between the men and their horses, arrowing toward her. The Border Collie stopped twenty feet away, crouched and ready, focused on her as he waited for instruction. With a short whistle and pointed finger toward the offender, she set him loose.
The dog wove through the masses. Reaching the bottleneck, he started nipping with a strike-retreat-strike approach, turning the steer around and driving the herd forward with unparalleled efficiency.
It took a couple more hours to sort the remaining calves, and Reagan was officially exhausted by the time they finished. Carol Jensen approached her with a tall glass of tea, a barbecue sandwich wrapped in waxed paper, and a genuine smile. Such a nice person, and her husband was much the same.
Accepting the drink first, Reagan sighed. “Thanks, Carol.”
“What was the total count?”
“We vaccinated and loaded 812 today. I held back a handful that weren’t ready or seemed a little sickly to ship to market. The other cows are ready to be driven to the bull pasture for breeding. Overall, with price-per-pound holding steady at $212 a hundredweight? Should be a very profitable day.”
“Glad to hear it.” Reaching into her pocket, Carol pulled out a second sandwich. “Brisket around?”
Reagan smiled and shook her head as the dog trotted up and sat at the other woman’s feet. “No wonder he likes to visit you.”
“He works hard enough he should probably be paid day wages.”
“We talked about it, but he decided long ago that self-employment taxes suck. Besides, I’m pretty sure he prefers to be paid with barbecue.”
In apparent agreement, Brisket took his sandwich and sprinted across the arena. He dropped down in the shade of the barn and began ripping off the waxed paper to get to the treat, his tail thumping a happy beat.
Ty sauntered over, his horse’s reins draped loosely over his shoulder. The giant Quarter horse followed along, appearing to be more docile pet than high-dollar cutting horse. Ty smiled and winked, the picture of innocence. “You have another sandwich for a starving man, Mrs. Jensen?”
“You’re a menace to the female population,” Carol said primly. Still, she started to head for the house. “I’ll bring you a couple sandwiches. You want tea or lemonade?”
“Whatever you have is fine. I’d get it myself, but I’m too dirty to do much more than strip down and wash in the stock tank.”
Reagan hid her grin when Carol blushed.
Flustered, the woman fled.
“You’re a nuisance, Ty.” Reagan finished her sandwich and leaned against the corral fence, one boot heel hung on a rail.
“I’m harmless,” he countered, pulling his hat off and shaking out light brown hair darkened with sweat.
“You’re as harmless as a bad case of ringworm. Treatable, but still a pain in the ass.”
Denim-blue eyes sparkled with mischief. “Treatable, am I? Come over tonight and I’ll play patient to your doctor.”
Reagan pulled her vaccine gun out, the massive needle glinting in the bright sunlight. “Why wait? Drop your drawers, and I’ll take care of you right this minute.”
Ty blanched. “Not exactly the kind of action I had in mind if my pants came off.”
One corner of her mouth curled up. “Chicken shit.”
“Hey, if you weren’t so hot, I wouldn’t feel compelled to flirt.”
This time she laughed. “Ty, you’d flirt with an octogenarian if she was the only woman around. You can’t help yourself.”
His horse nosed him, shoving him toward her a step. “You know it’s all in fun.”
She waggled the vaccine gun at him and fought the urge to smile. “Only because my gun’s bigger.”
“That’s an unfair comparison. You’ve never seen my gun.”
About the Author:
Kelli Ireland spent a decade as a name on a door in corporate America. Unexpectedly liberated by Fate’s sense of humor, she chose to carpe the diem and pursue her passion for writing.
A fan of happily-ever-afters, she found she loved being the Puppet Master for the most unlikely couples. Seeing them through the best and worst of each other while helping them survive the joys and disasters of falling in love? Best. Thing. Ever.