Authors: Ronna Gage
Three Hearts One Love
has fallen completely and madly in love with Dylan McCoy, a professional rodeo star and rancher whose caring nature is the perfect match for her veterinarian skills.
On the other hand, she has fallen in love with
Hollister, a young hotshot lawyer about to make partner in his firm. His living-on-the-edge lifestyle lifts her adventurous side to the surface. Together they can conquer the world.
Who does she give up? Who should she keep—the one she loves the most or the one she uses for her pleasure? The confusion is enough to make a girl throw caution to the wind and keep them both…if society allows it.
Contemporary, Ménage a
THREE HEARTS ONE LOVE
Siren Publishing, Inc.
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A SIREN PUBLISHING BOOK
IMPRINT: Ménage Amour
THREE HEARTS ONE LOVE
Copyright © 2011 by Ronna Gage
E-book ISBN: 1-61034-619-X
First E-book Publication: August 2011
Cover design by Jinger Heaston
All cover art and logo copyright © 2011 by Siren Publishing, Inc.
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Three Hearts One Love
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Copyright © 2011
“Ladies and Gentlemen, the next cowboy out of the chute is Dylan McCoy,” the rodeo announcer’s voice echoed off the walls of the arena and drifted to the veterinary stalls and clinic.
Karma stopped her eyeball examination of the injured mare from the previous bareback rider, craned her neck to hear the announcer’s confirmation, and then smiled. “Call me when you have her ready,” she ordered to the staff assisting her. Walking to the door of the vet building, she stopped and watched the group of cowboys through the small slits of the metal rails of the pens. Dylan sat tall on the horse’s back. His long hair lay under his black Stetson, which forced it down onto his neck. Small tendrils of curls wrapped around in tiny ringlets down to barely graze his shoulders. The intent look of determination sent a buzzing pride to hum in Karma’s ears, blocking out the roaring crowd. He took in a deep breath, his chest bowed out, and then a quick nod to the gatekeeper confirmed his ready.
The chute door flew open and the ride was on, as they say. Karma inhaled.
Eight concentrated seconds later, according to her mental count, the blaring horn sounded.
Cocky and victorious, Dylan jumped off the bucking horse and onto his feet. A smile as bright as his eyes covered his face. He sauntered back to the gate and took a few congratulatory slaps on the back before he disappeared in the darkened arena.
Karma’s heart raced with joy.
“One sexy cowboy!”
she said under her breath.
“And he’s all yours,” her assistant,
, teased her. “Ride him well.”
She didn’t hear Lanie’s approach, her focus too involved with Dylan’s ride. “I plan to do just that, but for more than seconds at a time.” The two women laughed and walked back to the vet care pens.
“Come on, we’ve got to check Ball Breaker’s leg.”
“I hate it when they call females something like that. It makes her sound grumpy, you know, bitchy,” Lanie grumbled. She rubbed the horse’s hip. “I’d be bitchy too if my leg suddenly cramped.” She rubbed the horse’s muzzle. “Huh, girl?” The horse nodded her large head excitedly. “See, she understands me, Karma.”
Karma chuckled. “I can see that.” The horse’s right leg bulged with a large, bulbous mass at the hoof. She smoothed her hand up the leg and found the source of her patient’s injury. “You ready, Lanie?”
Lanie picked up the pen and folder, wheeled the note cart to the stall, and posed for Karma’s dictation. “Yes, go ahead.”
“Okay, we have a tendon tear on the right rear foreleg.” She used a small pen light to examine the horse’s undercarriage. “I see no flank strap injuries but the typical abrasions from chafing.” She stood up from her examination and patted the patient’s side. “She looks good. The chaffing is typical, but the injury to her foot concerns me. I say this girl’s rodeo days are over.”
Lanie bowed her head. She made the final notation and then handed the folder to Karma. “Are you sure?”
Karma nodded and opened the file folder. “Yes. She has a two-centimeter ball at the top of her hoof. Her tendon snapped in half and wadded there to rest.”
“What treatment options are available to her?”
“I am going to give her an injection to help with pain for now. I need to see the owner before I do anything else.”
“Like what? Put her down?”
“I will suggest surgery, therapy, and retirement. But, realistically this is an animal, and her job is to perform.”
“So how’s your patient?”
The two women turned to find Dylan walking in through the doors. The smile on his face lightened Karma’s professional diagnosis and duties for a brief moment.
I can use a distraction.
“The horse will be all right.”
Dylan looked at the mare. “Good, I just bought her about an hour ago.”
Lanie rushed to them. “Then you and I can discuss…”
“Lanie! I will need to brief Dylan on my diagnosis and prognosis. “Why don’t you go ahead and give Ball Breaker the pain medication while I inform Mr. McCoy of his animal’s options?”
“Uh-oh, that doesn’t sound too good.” Dylan gave a small smile.
Karma gazed into his eyes. Her heart seeped with sadness at the news she would have to give Dylan on his new horse. “It isn’t really.”
Dylan sighed on an exhale. “Tell me what’s going on with her.”
Karma took Dylan’s hand and escorted him inside the pen. “She has suffered a torn tendon. It is balled up at her hoof. See?”
Dylan smoothed a hand down the horse’s hip to its leg. “I see it. What do you recommend?”
Karma schooled her face to have no emotions. “I’m afraid she’s through with the rodeo circuit. She needs surgery and then therapy. I can’t guarantee that she will be able to do more than walk again.”
“Is that all?” Dylan asked with a poor smile.
“I can euthanize her if you feel it is necessary or you don’t want to deal with her.”
Dylan shook his head. “No, I have gentle plans for her anyway. Will she be able to breed?”
“I think so, but I can’t give you a definite answer until after surgery and therapy.”
“How long will it take?”
“At best a year, maybe more.”
“Plenty of time. She will be three then and better able to withstand childbirth on her leg.”
Lanie stepped up to the two of them. “So you won’t put her down?”
“No, I want to breed her.”
“If it helps, Dylan, I’ll come over every day and help with her therapy,” Lanie offered.
“That’s mighty kind of you, Lanie, but won’t Caine be upset?”
“No, he understands my
where horses are concerned.”
“Well, that will be all right then.” He looked down at Karma. “Is that all right with you?”
Dumbfounded, Karma took a step back.
If you knew my little secret, you wouldn’t ask me that question.
“I think it is a great idea. She can go out in the afternoons to help with the care and therapy.”
“Okay, Lanie, when Dr. Rodden releases my horse from her care, you will take over at the house. I should be there most days seeing as how the rodeo season is now over for me anyways.”
“It’s a deal. But can we consider changing her name?”
Dylan chuckled. “Don’t push it. I like her name. Ball Breaker stands for something. She takes no mess from anyone.”
Karma chuckled. She looked at the horse that displayed so much attitude, it reminded her of a diva. “Let’s hope she sees it that way.”
Dylan pulled on her elbow. “Let’s go for a walk.”
Karma looked around.
There’s so much that needs to be done for Ball Breaker right now
. A walk with Dylan sounded wonderful, but duty called.
He led her out of the pen. “Lanie, I’m sure you can hold down the fort until she gets back, can’t you?”
“I can. I will not leave this horse until we get her to the hospital. I’ll call for a transport now.”
Dylan held up his hand in protest. “No need. I will take her in myself.”
“Then I will get her ready.”
Karma looked at the two of them. “While you two decide what to do about the animal, you may need to consider asking her vet what to do.”
Dylan looked down at her. Admiration and love showed with intensity. “Of course, I’m sorry. What do you have to add to this situation?”
“Can you drop her off in, say, thirty minutes?”
“Yes, I can. You wanna ride with me?”
“I can, but I can’t leave for an hour. Why don’t you and Lanie go ahead. I will meet you at the clinic in an hour and a half.”
“I’m looking forward to it. Will you walk with me to the truck? I would like to talk to you.”
Karma looked at Lanie. “Lanie, we’ll be back with the trailer. Hang tight.”
Lanie’s smile brightened the pens to another degree. She slowly walked to the sedated animal in the stall. “No problem. We’ll be here waiting for you.”
In the shadows of the arena lights, Dylan and Karma walked in silence past the dwindling number of cowboys in the livestock area. He took her hand, and the currents of desire swamped through her body and warmed her core. She gripped his hand tight to hold back the sudden urge to take him in her arms and kiss him in front of everyone. He gripped her hand back.
“Hold on, babe. I feel it, too.”
She moaned, too overwhelmed by the surrounding emotions building between them.
“What did you think of my ride?”
“I thought you were the sexiest cowboy there.”
He gave a soft chuckle and then turned his head from her. “Did I make you blush?” she teased.
“I didn’t say a word,” he defended, the blush still visible in the light.
She reached up to his cheek with her hand. “Aw, my tough bareback rider.”
Dylan pulled her close. “What can I do for you?”
Her mind wondered about the comment
said earlier. She swept a light kiss on his lips, “I want you to let me ride you like a cowgirl.”
Dylan laughed out loud. He picked her up and swung her around. “It would be my pleasure.” He set her down on the ground but still kept her close. “But don’t you think we need to take care of Baller first?”
“Yes, of course.” She stopped, the name catching her off-guard. “Baller?”
“Yeah, I like it. It’s mixing ball and breaker together. You get Baller,” he explained.
“Oh, creative. By the way, I didn’t say when I’d like to ride.” She stepped forward to gain the lead, even for a step.
He pulled her back and turned her to face him again. “How about tomorrow night?”
“Mr. McCoy, you have a date.”
* * * *
After a long exhaustive night of surgery on Baller’s leg and a hectic day at the clinic, Karma staggered into her condo on sore legs, locked the door, and walked to the sofa. She fell into the lush cushions and let a deep, winding breath out of her lungs, relaxing her composure. “Oh, God, I could fall asleep right here,” she murmured. Her eyes closed on their own accord. Her mouth fell slightly open automatically, and each inhale of air filled her lungs fully. On five exhales, the stress of the long day ebbed out of her system and floated into the air. The ringtone of her cell phone alerted her to a call. Absent of any physical actions, she reached down and grasped the handles on her tote bag and pulled it up onto her lap. Inside the little pocket within the bag, she found the offensive instrument. One look at the LCD screen and her spirits lifted. Engaging the green phone button on the front panel, she stopped the incessant ringing. “Hello, there,” she said. “How was your day?”
“Hello yourself,” Dylan returned. “My day started out a little slower than I had hoped, but it’s getting better.”
Karma smiled. “How’s that?”
“Bertha seems agitated these days.”
“Well, she is about to calf in a few weeks. Help make her comfortable, and she’ll deliver soon.”
“Yeah, I know.” His voice of assurance touched her. “Are you about ready?”
Her mind crashed to an abrupt halt. She had totally forgotten about the plans she and Dylan made last night at the rodeo. Her body trembled slightly with the thought of going out. “Oh, Dylan, I am sorry, but I have to reschedule our date.”
“Is everything okay?”
“Yes, but I had such a long day. It began last night with Baller’s surgery. This is the first time I’ve seen my house all day.”
After ten long, intense seconds, Dylan gave a soft chuckle. “I bet the last thing you want to do is to get dressed up to go out for the night.” His voice sounded empathetic to her quandary.
“Yes, I’m sorry.”
“Karma, don’t worry about it. We don’t have to go out. If you want, we can order pizza and stay in.”
Karma’s mood lifted with the new plan. Her heartbeat accelerated at the idea of a quiet night at home with Dylan. “I think that sounds wonderful…almost heavenly. Do you mind if we meet over here?”
“Not at all. I’ll pick up some pasta and wings. Meet you at your house in, say, an hour?”
“I’ll be here.”
Dylan laughed. “I will see you soon. I’m leaving here in about twenty minutes. Well, make it thirty.”
In her exhausted state, her emotions surfaced. Tears blurred her vision. “Dylan, thank you.”
“For what?” he asked, curiosity in his voice.
“For understanding…” She sniffled in her fight to keep the tears from giving her emotions voice. “For being you.”
“Oh, honey,” his voice softened. “Go take a bath, dress in something more comfortable, and I’ll be there soon.”
“Okay.” She hiccupped. The emotions won out and broke the normal timbre of her voice to a sad tone.
“On second thought, stay there on the couch and take a quick nap. You can shower when I get there.”
She nodded but said nothing as tears of release streamed down her face. She hated feeling like a blubbering fool. It wasn’t in her nature, but the long day and the loss of one patient due to a car accident set her on edge.