Authors: Verna Clay
Romance on the Ranch Series
This book is dedicated to those who have forgiven much.
Romance on the Ranch Series
Copyright © 2015 by Verna Clay
All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form whatsoever.
For information contact:
"Mirrors of Imagination"
Cover Designer: Elaina Lee (For the Muse)
Pictures: Cabin (Hunzy at Canstock);
Man and Woman (nameinframe at Canstock)
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Rock Star Kisses,
I knew I had to continue the saga immediately with Toby Tanner, the twin brother of Preston from that story. I also wanted to revisit Sean and Tessa Barfield. I just couldn't let the characters go.
My intent in writing
was to take a man who has everything—family, career, looks, money, friends—and bring a woman into his life who hasn't been so blessed, a woman who shakes up his perfect world. Thus, Dovie Juniper enters the cast of characters in the
Romance on the Ranch Series.
I hope you enjoy Toby and Dovie's romance.
Sequence of books in the
Romance on the Ranch Series:
Rock Star Kisses
Introduction to Toby Tanner's Story
Toby did some fancy footwork before twirling and dipping the cowgirl in his arms. The live band at Boot Bustin' Barn this week was really good. He'd always loved good music, good food, and good women, with women being first on his list.
The cowgirl named Patti who was visiting friends in town, snuggled up to him when the band ended the Garth Brooks hit,
Friends in Low Places,
and whispered in his ear, "I'm here for two more days. It's too bad we didn't meet sooner. Maybe we can spend some time getting better acquainted before I leave?"
If ever Toby had heard a pick-up line that was it. The woman was beautiful, curvy, sexy-as-hell, but he wasn't interested. For the past six months, his love life had gone steadily downhill. The fact that his twin brother Preston was now married and always had a grin on his face, when he'd had the reputation of being somewhat of a stick-in-the-mud, and his good friend Tessa had also married and wore the same shit-eating-grin, had Toby reevaluating his life. And damn but he was tired of superficial relationships with women.
He inwardly sighed and said, "Darlin', you're gorgeous, but I'm in no frame of mind to be any fun." He pointed across the room. "Now, that cowboy over there at the billiards table, the one wearing the red shirt, his name is Grady Granger, and he's one hell of a good time. He's probably more of what–"
The cowgirl jerked backward, squinted at him, looked over at Grady, looked back at him, and said, "You are one big A-hole, mister," before stomping on his instep and walking away in a huff.
Toby grimaced, shook his head, and thought,
Grady, I gave it my best shot.
Dovie watched the interaction between the tall, handsome cowboy and the equally tall and pretty cowgirl. She was surprised when the cowgirl leaned back with a look of surprise and then stomped down on the guy's foot. He must have said something pretty awful to garner that response since the girl had been all over him before.
Reaching for her journal, Dovie jotted some notes by the light of the candle burning on her table and sighed. She was a people watcher and writer of a popular blog. For the past two weeks she'd been traveling Colorado doing research on the cowboy lifestyle and blogging about it with humor and insight. She had interviewed a couple of cattle ranchers, a former rodeo queen, a western two-step dancers' club, and a female wanna-be country and western singer, but it had been while she was stopped at a rest stop with her window rolled down, that she'd heard a conversation that changed her itinerary and pointed her back in the direction she'd come. The conversation had been between two cowgirls.
"Julie Sue, I think we should visit Dora and her sister Jolene, in Paxtonville."
"Why? What's in Paxtonville?"
"Don't tell me you don't know."
"I don't feel like playing word games. You need to spell it out, girlfriend."
"Some pretty famous people live there."
"Yeah, how do you know?"
"I read the blogs and rag mags, and besides, Dora told me. Are you ready for the list?"
Julie Sue sighed and said with disinterest. "Yeah, shoot."
"Okay. There's that famous rodeo star, Dirk Branigan."
"Really? Who else?"
"That gorgeous model who's old now, but still hot; Sage something-or-other. His wife is also kinda well known as the writer, Mims Murphy."
Julie Sue was looking more interested.
Her friend continued, "There's also that other writer Maxwell Henry who writes all those suspense novels and some romances, too. I think his wife is a poet. And then there's that artist who paints all that mystical stuff. The one that's really reclusive. And, are you ready for this?"
Julie Sue cocked her head and waited.
"Sean Barfield lives there with his wife."
Julie Sue squealed. "Sean Barfield! I love his music! He wrote
Heaven for Me
which is a crossover into country and western." She grabbed her friend's arm. "Are you sure all those people live there?"
"I'm only telling you what Dora told me. We've got a week to kill, so why not stop in and visit Dora and Jolene?"
"Okay. I'm convinced. Let's go."
At the time, Dovie had thought,
I'm convinced, too.
Dovie was brought back to the present when the waitress who'd introduced herself earlier as Sally, stopped by her table again. "Can I get you a refill on that coke?"
"Ah, no ma'am, but thank you."
Sally smiled and moved on to the next table and Dovie slipped her journal into her purse using her good hand and looped the strap around her prosthetic arm. Next, she pushed her chair back and reached for her cane to balance herself as she stood. As she turned around, a man stumbled backward a little and then righted himself.
"I'm so sorry!" she gasped, and looked up into the eyes of the gorgeous cowboy who'd pissed off the sexy cowgirl.
His slow smile did things to Dovie's stomach and she quickly glanced away. A long time ago she'd learned to quell any attraction to men. They simply weren't interested in a woman who was missing her left arm below the elbow and right leg above the knee, thanks to genetic Meromelia. She felt so flustered she didn't know whether to turn back around to her table or try to go around him.
He laughed and said, "My brother says I'm the biggest klutz ever born and I'm beginning to think he's right. I'm sure sorry about almost squashing you."
Dovie exclaimed, "Oh, no. It was my fault. I wasn't paying attention. I'm the one who should be apologizing."
The cowboy's grin turned lopsided. "It's sweet of you to take the blame, but I'm not buying it. How about you let me buy you a refill of whatever you're drinking to make up for my klutziness?"
Dovie's throat closed up and she couldn't breathe. Men
asked to buy her a drink, especially hot looking ones like him. "Umm, I was just on my way out. Thank you, though."
"Then let me see you safely to your car."
Her eyes widened and he lifted his hands. "I swear I'm a pillar of the community. I'll even get Sally the waitress and Justin the owner of the bar to vouch for me. Hell, everyone in town knows me. They'll all tell you I'm the local vet."
Dovie sucked a breath. "You know
"Do you think you could get me an interview with a man named Sage Tanner and his wife Sarah. I think he's a famous model and his wife is a writer. You see, I have a blog site and I'm researching cowboy country and its unique lifestyle. I heard some ladies talking about him and I did a little internet research and found out that the Tanners own a ranch outside of Paxtonville. I'm only asking for a half hour of their time. I was going to call their ranch tomorrow, but if you could pave the way for me, it would be much appreciated." She was blabbering like an idiot and shut her mouth.
The cowboy ran a hand through his mahogany hair. He seemed to think about her request for a second and then gave her another lopsided grin. "I might be able to help you out."
The girl with the cane gave Toby such a brilliant smile he almost took a step backward. Her eyes had slanted upward and were the color of espresso. In contrast to her blonde hair, the effect was stunning. A pretty rosy hue colored her cheeks and her hopeful expression was more than he could stand. Hell, she could ask him to get her an interview with the governor and he'd do his damndest to do it; an interview with his parents—no sweat.
He tried to affect a serious expression. "Give me your phone number and I'll call and let you know whether they agree."
She chewed the corner of her lip and Toby enjoyed watching the sight. He saw Sally walking past and said, "Hey, Sally, am I the local vet?"
Sally glanced from him to the woman, and back to him. She said dryly, "You were still the doc last time I took Rambler in. Has anything changed?"
Toby laughed. "Nope. I hope you've cut back on the table scraps."
Sally quickly averted her eyes and walked away.
Toby said, "And by the way, my name is Toby."
The woman kept gnawing on her full bottom lip and Toby kept enjoying the sight. She reached into her pocket and retrieved a business card. "My name is Dovie Juniper. Like I said, I write a blog." She handed him the card. "My phone number is on there. I'll be in town for three or four days. I'm available anytime for an interview. If you can get one, I'll be sure to put in a plug for your vet business. Now I've really got to head out. Thank you, Toby."
Toby inclined his head. "Ma'am, like I said, I'll see you safely to your car." He waited for her to move past him.
In the parking lot he followed her to a nondescript van. She turned and said, "Thank you, again."
"Ma'am, I'll stay until you're safely driving down the road."
She pushed the fob on her key ring to unlock her door and he opened it. She said, "I need to lay my cane in the passenger seat."
"Yes, ma'am. I'll do it for you." He placed one hand on her back to steady her and held his other hand out for her cane. She seemed to hesitate before handing it over. When she lifted her other hand against the door frame, her sleeve slipped backward, and although her hand and arm appeared almost normal, he realized the limb was prosthetic.
She saw the direction of his gaze and must have noted his surprise, because she stiffened and said, "My right leg is also prosthetic. But I assure you, I'm perfectly capable of getting into my own car."
"I didn't think otherwise," he replied. He waited for her to climb into her seat, but she suddenly appeared flustered and when she lifted her good leg into the van, the prosthetic one seemed to give, and she started to topple.
In an instant, Toby grabbed her up and held her in his arms. "Whoa," he said.
His face was so close to hers his eyes were drawn to the tiny mole at the corner of her right lip. His gaze moved upward to eyes that looked like they were about to overflow with tears.
"Please put me down," she whispered.
For a second, he couldn't move. He just wanted to kiss that mole and then move his mouth to those full lips. He mentally shook himself and gently set her in the driver's seat. She reached to close her door, but he said, "I've got it, Dovie."
She started her van and backed out of the parking space as soon as he shut her door. He watched until the vehicle was out of sight and then headed for his truck. Although it was Saturday night, he'd lost all interest in having a good time.