Life on the Front Range of Colorado is never dull, especially with a spunky vet and a really hot cowboy in the mix.
Samantha Kendrick is a large animal vet in her small hometown of Fairview, and happy tending to her clients during the day and reading sizzling romance novels at night. Until Cheyenne Wells comes back into her life.
Samantha and Cheyenne have known each other since first grade, but it’s been a tenuous relationship that started when he yanked her ponytail and she punched him in the nose. Now Cheyenne is the head trainer and manager of the largest horse ranch in the west, and Samantha is called out to treat their prize stallion.
Their reunion ignites sparks of passion neither one is expecting. Though Sam resists at first, Cheyenne’s Native American magnetism draws her into his life, with some help from her mom and fate. Before she knows it Sam is drawn into a spidery web of evil. Together, Sam and Cheyenne must work to solve the mystery before it turns deadly.
It couldn’t get any worse for Sam, who up until then only pondered mysteries like, “Do cowboys really go commando?”
Humor, suspense, and a little romance make this book a must read for anyone who enjoys tales of intrigue and plot twists to the bitter end!
DR. SAMANTHA KENDRICK, DVM, couldn’t believe her bad luck. In one night she’d run into the two men she despised the most in the whole world just because she was so addicted to romance novels she had to stop by the Barnes & Noble bookstore to pick up some new romance novels. Perish the thought that she could get through one night without something juicy to read.
She frowned as she remembered seeing her old college sweetheart and ex-fiancé standing in the aisle smirking at her. Steve McBride was a rich, arrogant asshole and she’d have to had been brain dead to agree to marry him in the first place. Well, the old saying love was blind had some truth to it. In her case not only had she been blind, but absolutely, positively, beyond a shadow of a doubt, freaking deaf, dumb and nuts. Fortunately, she’d come to her senses in time and broke off the engagement four years ago.
She’d barely recovered from that encounter when minutes later she ran into Cheyenne Wells, an old classmate she’d appropriately termed “the creep” in first grade when she’d punched him in the nose for calling her “Miss Baggy Pants”. He may have only been six years old, but he had some nerve calling her names on the first day of school. That altercation set the tone for their whole relationship throughout their school years, and as far as Samantha was concerned, it didn’t end after graduation.
An involuntary shudder ran through Sam’s slender body as she thought about the whole disastrous evening. It had started out well enough, and she had to laugh when she thought about how her old friend, Ricky Montenegro, had scared the crap out of her when he rapped on her truck window seconds after she’d parked her big Chevy outside the bookstore.
It was a cold night and had been spitting snow all day. Samantha had pulled into the parking lot at the Flatirons Crossing Mall in Broomfield, Colorado, and turned off the ignition to her diesel truck. The silence was overwhelming. She remembered how she’d grinned and started her truck again. She loved listening to that big diesel engine because it brought back so many happy memories of growing up on her family’s ranch. She turned the truck off, took the key out of the ignition and resisted the urge to do it again.
“Oh, for God’s sake Sam”, she had chided herself. “Get a grip!” She’d been sappy all day, but she knew why. That morning she had been called out to check on a newborn colt. Samantha’s heart had almost stopped when she saw him. The colt had the same coloring and markings as her beloved Sinbad, her 9th birthday present from her mom and dad. The beautiful black and white paint horse had been her best friend until his untimely death when she was sixteen.
With her thoughts on Maggie Mae’s colt, Sam didn’t notice the man who approached her truck until the sharp raps on her window broke her concentration and sent her shrieking at the top of her lungs. She was still screaming when she turned and saw Ricky’s face smiling at her through the glass.
“Damn you, Ricky! You scared the holy shit out of me!” She yelled as she opened the door and jumped out.
Ricky was laughing as he backed away with his hands up.
“I was just wondering if you were going to get out or if you were going to sit in there and talk to yourself all night.”
“Yes, I’m getting out!” Sam slammed the door and stood in front of him. “And I was singing with the radio, not talking to myself.”
Sam pulled her fist back to give him a jab on the shoulder but he caught her arm before she could make contact. Suddenly they were eye to eye and thigh to thigh.
Ricky was Puerto Rican and Samantha’s first love in high school. He was the first boy she dated and he was the first to give her a hickey, a French kiss and a few other firsts she was keeping secret. He was hot then and he was hot now. He was pure Puerto Rican eye candy. And he was married to one of her best friends.
“You don’t want me to arrest you for assaulting an officer, do you?” Ricky asked her with a big toothy smile.
Sam pulled away, grinning. “Okay, Ricky. I’ll go peacefully.”
He sighed dramatically as he put his arm around her shoulder and walked her toward the mall. “Sam, Sam, I keep telling you that it’s Rick now, not Ricky. How can I be a bad-ass cop if you keep calling me Ricky?”
“Sorry. I forgot.” But she made a mental note to keep calling him Ricky. Couldn’t let him off that easy.
“So, where ya going? Barnes & Noble again? What does this make, four trips to the bookstore this week?”
Sam turned and glared at him. “What are you doing? Stalking me?”
Ricky stopped and rolled his eyes toward the Police Sub-station next to the bookstore.
“It’s a little hard not to notice when I work the night shift right next door. What are you afraid of? That I’ll find out you like to read romance novels? Shit, Sallie reads them too. She sends me over to pick books up for her all the time. Hey, I tell you what. I’m on break so why don’t I help you find a good book and then we can go get a cup of coffee?”
Now it was Sam’s turn to roll her eyes. “So, going into Barnes & Noble and buying romance novels doesn’t interfere with your bad-ass cop image?”
“Nah. Besides, Sallie would kick my butt if I didn’t. I’ve been in that romance section so much no one even notices me any more.”
Sam grinned. “Well, okay, thanks. So, how are Sallie and the kids doing?”
“They’re great,” he shook his head. “I don’t know how Sallie handles everything and still stays sane and beautiful, but she does. She’s amazing.”
Sam looked at Ricky and smiled. She may have been Ricky’s first love, but Sallie Brown was his last. She and Sallie were on the pep squad together in high school and good friends so she wasn’t bitter. Okay, she was a little bitter, but she got over it. Eventually.
They walked into the Barnes & Noble and headed toward the romance section. Ricky pulled a book out of a rack and handed it to her.
“Sallie just read this one and it must have been a slam doozie. “Damn! She got all hot and steamy and had my clothes off before I could get through the door last night.”
Sam put a hand up to stop him before he went on. “Too much information. And I don’t know if I can handle that much sex and sizzle. What’s the title?”
Ricky turned the book over and read, “Sex and Sizzle on the High Seas.”
Sam took the book out of his hand and put it back.
“How about this one? I think Sallie liked it.”
“Hmmmm. ‘California Romance’. That doesn’t sound too bad. I think I can handle this.”
Sam and Ricky wandered up and down the aisles for a few minutes and then he headed toward another section of the store. Sam kept looking through the stacks of books but didn’t see anything that looked like a slam doozie to her. She was thinking about picking up ‘Sex and Sizzle’ when she saw Ricky walking back with a big grin on his face and a book in his hand.
“You ready for some coffee?” he asked.
“Sure. What’d ya get?”
“Something I thought Sallie would like.”
He handed her the book.
“Fifty Erotic Positions for Pleasure,” she read. “You dipshit, Ricky! This is a self-help book, not a romance novel!”
“Hey! I’m a firm believer in self-improvement. How do you think I got to be such a bad-ass cop?”
He reached over and pulled out the ‘Sex and Sizzle’ book and handed it to her.
“I saw you eyeing this again so you might as well get it. Otherwise you’ll be back tomorrow night.”
He was right so she grabbed it out of his hand and they headed toward the coffee shop. They got two double cappuccinos and sat down at a table.
Sam was barely settled in her chair when she looked up and that’s when she saw Steve standing over her. She jumped up and knocked the table over. Coffee flew everywhere and their books crashed to the floor. Sam hadn’t seen Steve since she broke off their engagement and the shock of seeing him at her side so unexpectedly had unnerved her.
Ricky, not knowing what was going on, tried to get his gun out of his holster as he dodged hot coffee and flying books. Steve watched with amused interest at the whole fiasco while Samantha pulled herself together and motioned Ricky to put his gun away.
“Hi Samantha,” Steve said in a smooth voice. He had a Wall Street Journal tucked under his arm and was dressed in an expensive suit. Of course he was. Steve was a partner in the law office of McBride & Sinclair, one of the most prestigious firms in Denver. His father’s.
“Hi, Steve. How are you doing?” she asked as she sopped coffee off her jeans with a napkin.
“You know this guy?” Ricky was pissed and Sam could tell he really wanted to shoot someone. Steve would have been a good start.
“Yeah, I know this guy. It’s okay. He surprised me.”
Ricky holstered his gun. “I’ll get us more coffee.” He gave Sam a curious look before he went back to the counter. Two shop employees rushed over and set the table upright and cleaned up the spilled coffee. Not a single drop landed on Steve.
Steve watched Ricky a moment and then turned his beautiful blues on Samantha. “You look well, Samantha. You haven’t changed a bit.”
Sam’s eyes narrowed as she looked him in the face. She knew his comment wasn’t meant to be a compliment, which was confirmed by the sneer on his lips as he looked her up and down. She suddenly felt very self-conscious in her beat up jeans and jacket with her blond hair hidden under an old baseball cap. Without thinking she pulled her cap off and let her thick hair loose and then ran her fingers through the long curly locks so they flowed freely down her back. An unconscious habit she did when she was frustrated or on the verge of losing her temper and she was close to both. She reined in her anger and looked up at Steve with what she hoped was cool indifference.
“You look well, too. How are your parents?” She asked stiffly.
“They’re fine. They’re in the south of France for the winter. They’ll be back in time for my wedding in June.”
“Yes, I read about your engagement in the society section of the paper. Congratulations.” She was proud of her self-control for not adding “asshole” at the end.
Ricky came back and handed Sam another cup of coffee but didn’t sit down. Instead he pulled his body up to his full 5’10” height and looked Steve up and down.
“Steve, this is a good friend of mine, Rick Montenegro.” She remembered in time to drop they “y” from his name.
Ricky nodded his head and folded his arms.
“Nice to meet you,” Steve said. Then he glanced down at his Rolex. “I need to be going but it was nice to see you again. Good-bye Sam.”
He slowly turned away and they watched as he left the building.
Sam blew out a gusty breath of relief.
“What was that all about?” Ricky asked. He picked their books up off the floor and sat down.
“Steve and I were once engaged. I dumped him four years ago.”
“No shit! You were engaged to that tight-ass snob?”
“Yeah, I know it’s hard to believe, but when we were in college he was actually a nice, down-to-earth guy. He changed when he got into law school.”
“Why’d ya break it off?”
Sam took a big yoga breath and tried to calm down. “We were living together. I came home one night after a hard day at work and he pissed me off.” Sam took another yoga breath and mentally counted to ten before she let it out slowly.
Ricky sipped his coffee and stared at her. “What the hell are you doing? Your eyes are glazing over.”
“I’m practicing my yoga breathing so I can bring my stress level down.”
“Well, you’re freakin’ me out. You look like you’re going into a trance or something. Stop doing that and tell me what he did to piss you off.”
Sam gulped down some coffee and looked at Ricky.
His mouth turned up in a smile. “This is going to be good, isn’t it?” he asked her.
Sam grinned and watched his eyes twinkle in anticipation. “Yeah, this is a good one. Steve told me I had to choose between him and my job. He said he didn’t want a wife who spent all her time in barns covered in cow manure and horse shit. He didn’t think it would be good for his image when he joined his father’s law firm. He gave me an ultimatum, him or my career, and then he left for a study group.”
“You’re a vet, for God’s sake! What did he expect?”
“I don’t know. He never objected to my career until after we were engaged and his parents got involved. I don’t think they wanted a daughter-in-law that was a large animal vet, to be truthful with you. I think they put pressure on him to get me to quit my practice.”
Sam was calm now and smiled at Ricky. “It took me about two seconds after he left to decide what I was going to do. I wasn’t about to give up my career. The more I thought about his ultimatum, the madder I got. Geez, I’m not always covered in cow manure and horse shit.” Sam thought a second. “Well, maybe I am, but most of it washes off. Anyway, Steve was so arrogant and sure I would give in to his demands. I decided to show the jerk what I thought about him and his stupid image, so I loaded up my stuff in my truck and left.”
Ricky studied her face. “I don’t think you’re telling me everything. I’ve known you since first grade. You wouldn’t have left without getting some kind of revenge. Spit it out.”
Sam batted her eyes at him innocently.
Ricky shook his head. “That old trick won’t work on me, sweetheart. Talk.”
“Okay, okay. I found some big horse turds on the running boards of my truck and stuck his engagement ring in the middle of one and left it on the kitchen table.”
Ricky roared with laughter. “I knew it! God, I wish I could have seen his face when he got back home.”
Sam grimaced a little and wiggled in her chair.
Ricky stopped laughing and looked at her. “There’s more, isn’t there?
Sam looked down at her hands and then a wicked grin spread across her face. “Yeah, there’s more. I might have overdone it a little because I left more horse turds scattered all over the condo. Actually I left a ton of turds in his place. It seems that I had an overabundance of turds in my truck. I put turds in his favorite coffee cup, in his underwear drawer, in his new tennis shoes, in the nightstand by his condoms, you get the idea. The place was covered in horse turds. I was the turd fairy that night. I think he got my message.”
Ricky was grinning from ear to ear. “Judging from the daggers in his eyes I’m positive he did.” He reached out and patted the top of Sam’s head. “You always were a little spit fire.”
“I know. That’s why I’m taking yoga. It helps calm me down and control my temper. I never saw Steve again until tonight. It was quite a shock to see him standing over me.”
Sam was finishing her coffee when she saw Ricky look over her head and break out into a huge smile.
“You are one lucky broad tonight, babe. Look who just walked in the door.”
Samantha turned and groaned. In the past ten years she’d only had several brief encounters with Cheyenne Wells, but even those were too much for her. And here he was right on the heels of Steve McBride.
“Shit, I live a charmed life don’t I?”
Ricky patted her shoulder as he stood to greet his old friend. “Hey, Cheyenne. Haven’t seen you in a long time. What brings you into town on a night like this?”
Cheyenne shook Ricky’s hand. “Needed some new jeans and thought I’d get a cup of coffee before I faced the bitter cold outside.” He turned and looked down at Sam who was sitting with her chin in her hand looking miserable. His lips curved into a slight smile. He leaned over and picked up a book sitting on the table and whistled softly.
“This is some serious reading, are sure you’re up to it Sam?” He was holding Ricky’s self-help book in his hand.
Sam gave him a deadly stare as she grabbed the book and thrust it into Ricky’s stomach. Ricky grunted and sat the book in front of Sam.
“I tried to talk her out of it, Cheyenne, but she was determined to get it. She told me it was on the best sellers list and she had to have it.”
Sam’s eyes darkened as she stood up and pushed the book into Ricky’s chest. “Ricky Montenegro, if you ever want to live to see another sunrise you better tell Cheyenne the truth or I’m going to beat the ever lovin’ snot out of you! This is your book and you know it!”
Ricky calmly took the book and softly patted Sam’s arm. “Okay, Sam. If you say so.” With tongue in cheek, he turned to Cheyenne. “As Sam told you, this is my book. I’m going to take it home and read it tonight, right Sam?” He blinked big innocent eyes at her.
Sam growled and both men grinned at her. Cheyenne hadn’t seen her up close and personal since their high school graduation and she’d matured quite nicely over the past ten years. Her tall, curvy body was stiff with anger and her intense blue eyes sent sparks flying through the air at both him and Ricky. He remembered her skinny frame in high school, but now she had gorgeous curves straining against her T-shirt and tight jeans. He rocked back on his heels and watched her with interest, enjoying every minute.
Cheyenne’s hungry looks were not lost on Samantha. She saw the lust in his eyes and that infuriated her. But she knew part of her anger was the lurch she felt in her own heart when she saw the look on his face. She didn’t like what she was feeling. No, not one bit. But she had to admit that his black, shoulder length hair, and striking Native American features made him look strong and sexy, and one thing she didn’t want to think about was Cheyenne being strong and sexy.
Samantha grabbed her books and jacket and with a quick glare over her shoulder she tossed her head and flounced toward the checkout stand. “Men!” she mumbled under her breath, not caring if her words carried back to them.
Cheyenne drew in a sharp breath as he watched her pay for her books and then stomp out of the store with her hair bouncing behind her, shimmering in the glow of the street lights.
“She’s some piece of work,” noted Ricky as he watched her leave.
“That she is,” agreed Cheyenne, smiling to himself. And he knew he was going to make it a point to see her again. Whether she liked it or not.
LATER THAT evening, Sam and her significant other were stretched out relaxing on an over-stuffed couch. She was reading ‘Sex & Sizzle’ and he was watching some mindless sitcom on television. She sighed and he turned and looked at her with bored eyes.
“Just listen to this, will ya? I can’t believe I’m wasting my time with another one of these predictable books. Tell me if you’ve heard this before.”
“Sienna opened the French doors to her balcony and stepped out to watch the fading sunset. The gentle ocean breeze cascaded across the bow of the boat, caressed her face, and brushed her flowing blond hair gently against her bronze skin. Seth was standing in the shadows, waiting. His strong jaw set in determination as he watched the woman he loved cross to him. She had known he was there, waiting for her to come to him. As she moved into his arms, his dark, brown eyes melted to a deep sensuous chocolate. He kissed her lightly on the lips, nipped at her soft inviting neck, and then teased her with his mouth as he sought her lips again. The kiss deepened and she sighed as her mouth opened to receive his passion and love - the unending love she had been waiting for all her life.”
Sam looked down at her current object of affection. “Do you want to know what this book’s all about?”
Whether he did or not she knew he would patiently listen so she continued. “It’s about a rich and talented artist who goes on a singles cruise to Fiji, runs into her next door neighbor who happens to be on the same cruise, and they fall in love. And of course, he’s loaded. He’s a famous architect who’s a dreamboat and travels all over the world in his private jet.”
Sam tossed the book on the coffee table and pulled her legs up underneath her. “Did I mention he has dark, curly hair, a slight Scottish brogue and is totally irresistible? Now where can I find a guy like that? Or better yet, why can’t my life be more like one of these romance novels?”
Sam’s roommate, Dundee, leaned over and licked her hand. She smiled down at him. He always did that when he was trying to comfort her.
Dundee was a Blue Merle Australian Shepherd. Sam found him in the pet store at the mall four years ago. When she saw him in a cramped cage hidden by a big “HALF OFF” sign, she couldn’t resist. She plopped down her credit card and took him with her. She had just walked out on Steve that night and needed something warm and soft in her life.
Sam was happy living with her new partner. Except for occasionally driving her crazy by honking the horn when she left him alone in her truck, he was the perfect companion. He never talked back; he got excited every time he saw her, and he didn’t have cold feet when he nuzzled up next to her in bed at night. She kinda liked that, even if he did snore and fart sometimes.
Sam picked up the book and walked into her bedroom with Dundee at her heels. As she passed the mirror on her dresser, she stopped and backed up to look at her reflection.
“Now look at me – I’m a REAL woman! Not like one of those made up hotties in my books!”
Dundee yawned and jumped up on the bed.
Sam studied herself intently as she rotated her body in the mirror. All 5’6” of it. She cringed. “Why do I have to be so real?!! I don’t have full, sensuous lips, sexy eyes or hair like a goddess.” She tossed the book on the floor. “Okay, so what if I’m 28 and single. I’m well educated and I have a wonderful career. To hell with Seth and Sienna. I’m going to bed!”
Sam put on her PJ’s, jumped into bed and pulled the covers up to her chin. Dundee settled into the curve of her back.
A few minutes later she could hear his soft snore as she drifted off to sleep.
Quotes from Cowgirl Up!
Sam turned and could see her mom eyeing the doctor like a lioness looking at fresh meat. She knew she’d better get her mom out of there quick, or she would be asking the doctor to go out with her. There was nothing worse than a pity date, so Sam grabbed her mom’s hand and pushed her out the door.
“Your partner is a dog?” Cheyenne asked with a slight smirk.
“I wouldn’t smirk,” Sam told him calmly. “He’s smart, he’s loyal, and next to Doc, he’s the best partner a girl could have.”
Sam turned the truck around. “And he attacks on command.”
“We can’t seem to locate your grandfather,” she told her.
Sam looked at her in shock. She took a deep yoga breath, but it didn’t help.
“You lost my grandpa? How can you lose an old man in a wheelchair, for God’s sake?”
“Well! You don’t have to get so huffy. Ninety-five percent of the time, this never happens.”
“What are you talking about? You killed Marietta?” Sam’s heart was beating hard and she tried to calm herself down with some yoga breathing. Then she thought, how many yogis could remember their breathing if a gun was pointed at them? Probably none. She forgot about the yoga and concentrated on Lance.
Sam was standing in front of a totally deranged man who had a loaded gun pointed at her head. She was worn out and her piss-poor mood returned with a vengeance. She’d had a shitty day and if she was going to die, it wasn’t going to be in a pair of dirty jeans drenched in mud with horseshit in her hair. She had some dignity.