Authors: Randi Alexander
Tags: #rodeo, #holiday romance, #cowboy romance, #4th of july romance, #independence day romance, #red hot and boom, #black hills roundup
“ALL HAT NO CATTLE: RED HOT AND BOOM!”
Copyright © 2014 Randi Alexander
Edited by E Felder
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters,
places and incidents are either the product of the author’s
imagination or used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual
persons, living or dead, business establishments, events or locales
is entirely coincidental.
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Harper Johansen backed into the last diagonal parking spot on Main
Street in Belle Fourche, South Dakota. She jumped out of her
company car just as the cattle drive started, and leaned against
the front bumper, watching the longhorns plod toward her. Cowboys
and cowgirls rode horses along each side of the sauntering cattle,
close enough for Harper to touch.
And she had a need to touch. She wanted a
genuine cowboy so bad, she almost ached. This was Wednesday, the
first day of the four-day rodeo, so she had through Saturday to
look for one. There had to be at least one man in town who’d fit
Straightening to her full five-foot, two
inches, she fluffed her shoulder-length red hair and tugged her
T-shirt down. Cocking her jeans-shorts-clad hip toward one of the
younger, sexier horsemen, she gave him
. He grinned
at her but lifted the reins in his left hand, showing her his
Taken. All the cowboys who matched her idea
of perfection were either taken or far too young. Not that she was
old at thirty, but she did have an age limit. Rodeo cowboys were
usually way beneath her minimum requirement, but she still got
enough propositions from them to fill an arena.
After the short parade passed, she headed to
the sidewalk, flip-flops flapping, and opened her trunk. She lifted
out the box of free samples she had been giving away at every one
of the twenty rodeo towns on her summer tour this year. This
afternoon’s samples were alcohol-free, but tonight at the rodeo,
she’d be gifting her company’s best fermented beverages. Harper set
the box on the bumper, balancing it with one hand while she reached
up to grab the trunk hood.
Two strong arms reached over and grabbed the
teetering box, lifting it out of her way. Attached to the arms was
a hunk of a man in a cowboy hat. His plaid shirtsleeves were rolled
up over tan, muscled forearms and the top buttons on the shirt were
open, revealing a few brown curls. His big brown eyes shone against
his tan, strong-jawed face. “Ma’am. Can I help?”
Despite having promised herself there’d be no
more men unless she verified they were the real thing—cowboys seven
days a week—she smiled. “Thank you.” She shut the trunk and patted
the top of it. “Here is fine.”
He leaned over and set the box carefully on
the trunk and backed away a step.
His clean soap and pine scent turned
everything deep inside her all warm and gooey.
“You’re selling those?” He tucked his fingers
into his front pockets.
She pulled out a red can of cola and offered
it to him. “Free samples. I work for the company.”
He nodded and accepted it from her. “Thanks.
One of my favorites.” His voice was deep and slow, just like she
imagined her perfect cowboy’s would be.
“Are you...in the rodeo?” He looked a little
older than most. Maybe twenty-five.
“No. Just came into town to watch it.” He
looked at her box of cans then back into her eyes. “Will you be at
the rodeo tonight?”
She nodded. “Section C, Row 5.”
People wandered by, slowing to look at her
box of cans. Pasting on her professional smile, she handed out
samples. She struggled for the right words to ask the helpful stud
if he was a ranch worker or a stockman or what his cowboy status
was. Her inability to formulate a question probably meant it was
far too soon to start vetting him.
“I’ll look for you, ma’am.” With a sexy grin,
he touched his hat brim and walked away.
Harper stared at the gorgeous sight. Wide
shoulders, narrow hips, sweet ass, and long legs in faded denim.
Her mouth watered for a bite of those round cheeks. “Yummy.”
“What?” An older woman frowned at her as she
took her free sample.
“Yummy...cola. It’s wonderfully refreshing,
too.” She focused on handing out the cans and when she looked
again, he was gone from sight. When her box was empty, she drove
the few blocks back to her hotel room. It was the best inn in town,
but after being on the road for so many weeks, all the features and
amenities seemed to blur. She lay on top of the covers, closing her
eyes for just a moment.
A crash of thunder woke her. The digital
clock read 6:05. “Crap!” She jumped up and raced around her room,
pulling on jeans and boots, struggling into a long-sleeved T-shirt,
throwing on a yellow raincoat with her company’s logo, and grabbing
an umbrella. Part of her job description was to watch the rodeo
from the stands, no matter what the weather, and she’d come
prepared for anything.
As she raced out the door, she dug her
schedule out of her purse. “Crap, crap, crap.” She should be
meeting with the rodeo’s sponsorship approval committee right now.
This wasn’t good.
By the time she made her way through traffic
and found a parking spot, it was after 6:30. She grabbed her
rolling suitcase of thank-you gifts and ran.
An hour later, she’d fulfilled her
responsibilities and her tardiness had been forgiven after plying
them with winks and smiles and premium bottles. She secured her
suitcase in her trunk then made her way to her seat. In a downpour.
Her raincoat hood covered her head, but drops lashed at her
She popped open her umbrella as she
double-checked her ticket. Although it was close to the action, it
wasn’t covered by the roof. “Not my lucky day today.” She sighed
and excused herself past the rain-coated, umbrella-shielded
die-hards who were waiting for the rodeo to begin. Tucking her long
raincoat under her bottom, she gingerly sat on her wet seat.
Harper glanced around at the couples
snuggling together and sharing hotdogs under umbrellas. They looked
so happy. Every time she met a cowboy, she looked into his eyes,
wondering if he was the one. The perfect cowboy. A man who had the
exact same dreams as she did. They’d find a quiet patch of land
where they could make a life for themselves. Start a family, raise
some cattle. Or horses. Or llamas. Or...whatever they decided
As music piped through the speakers, a chill
rattled through her despite the humidity. It was almost the Fourth
of July. Shouldn’t it be summer here?
The summers she’d spent on her grandparents’
ranch in Wyoming were her favorite memories of her childhood.
Feeding the skittish foals, chasing piglets and baby chicks, riding
her own little pony, Sassy. She’d even done some digging with her
grandfather on his tractor.
Her grandpa had died when Harper was only
eleven, and Grandma decided to move to an apartment and sell the
ranch. Begging her parents to buy it hadn’t worked, and Harper had
spent the rest of her childhood summers in small-town South
The urge to farm and raise livestock never
left her, and every extra penny she earned went into her savings
account. She wanted those experiences for her children. And she’d
make it happen. “Some day.”
She looked up at the sky. This was not the
best day to meet people. “A little cooperation would help, please.”
As a peal of thunder shook the arena, she hunkered down, shivering
and wishing for a cowboy to warm her.
Shaw Donahue sat in his dry seat under the
roof watching Section C, waiting for
to show up. She was
a beauty. That shiny red hair, her big brown eyes, and petite,
curvy body. She was just his type. And a professional woman. Not a
clingy girl who was underemployed while looking for a rich husband
to support her. He saw way too much of that up where he worked.
Red, he’d decided to call her—since he’d been
too edgy in town to ask her name—was exactly what he’d been looking
His three buddies who’d come to the rodeo
with him had given Shaw plenty of grief after the cattle drive that
morning. They’d watched him helping her with her box of soda cans,
and had called her his ‘coke pusher.’ He didn’t care. When he felt
that certain thing in his gut, he went with it.
When a person in a yellow raincoat sporting
her company’s logo on the back made their way into the seats, he
figured it had to be her. A flash of her red hair as she opened a
purple umbrella confirmed it. He turned to his left where his buddy
and co-worker, Dax Marshall, sat with a lapful of food. “I’ll give
you fifty bucks if you give up your seat.”
“What?” he said through a mouthful of nachos.
“No way.” His dark blue eyes narrowed.
“Listen. That girl just walked in, and she’s
sittin’ in the rain.”
Dax took a belt of brew. “So? Give her your
seat.” He grinned. “I’ll keep her company.”
Dark jealousy raced through him before he
shook it off. Feeling that strongly about a woman he’d talked to
for less than two minutes was a strong sign that he’d found a
keeper. “A hundo. And I’ll take your shift on the drive back
Dax paused his tortilla chomping. “Add a case
of beer, and you’ve got a deal.”
“Deal.” Shaw dug a mint out of his jeans
pocket and popped it in his mouth. “Go. Now.”
“All right, all right.” Dax stood, balancing
his supper, and handed Shaw his ticket stub. “Give me two cases of
beer and I’ll keep the gonad brothers away, too.”
Pete and Huck Gonally strolled toward them,
each carrying two beers and a cardboard tray of food. The brothers
could be twins, with their curly blond hair and brown eyes.
“You’re a pal, Dax. I owe you one.” Shaw
stood as Dax intercepted their co-workers and herded the
complaining brothers up into the covered general bleacher
The rest of the crowd stood as the horse and
rider with the American flag rode into the arena. Shaw took off his
hat and ran through the rain to Section C, Row 5. Clambering past
the standing audience, he reached Red.
She was singing the national anthem at the
top of her lungs. Beautiful. Her voice, and her lungs—or at least,
the nice, rounded mounds over them. He ducked under her umbrella,
not an easy chore since he was six-foot, three inches and she was
about a foot shorter.
She stopped singing, her big, brown eyes
wide, then she smiled. “Hi.” She thoughtfully lifted her umbrella
so he didn’t have to crouch.
“Hi.” They smiled at each other through the
rest of the national anthem.
When it ended, he took her elbow. “Come and
sit with me. Back under the overhang.”
She looked behind her, paused a moment, then
nodded. “Sure. I’d like that.”
They stepped over feet as they made their way
out of the row and back to his seats. Dax had kept his word. He and
the gonad boys were gone. Shaw took her umbrella and shook it out,
then closed it and put it on the far right seat. He helped her off
with her drenched raincoat, and laid it on the far left seat.
Gesturing to one of the two middle seats, he grinned. “Ma’am.”
She sat and tucked her big purse on the floor
under her. “We don’t even know each other’s names, and we’re
He plopped next to her, as close as he could
get without seeming too greedy for her. “I’m Shaw Donahue.”
She held out her hand. “Shaw. I’m Harper.”