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Authors: Maddie James

Tags: #Romance

Rawhide and Roses

Rawhide and Roses

by

Maddie James

Turquoise Morning, LLC

P.O. Box
43958

Louisville
,
KY
40253-0958

Rawhide and Roses

Copyright © 2010, Maddie James

Digital ISBN: 9781935817352

Digital release: December, 2010

Warning: All rights reserved. The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this copyrighted work, in whole or part, in any form by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, is illegal and forbidden, without the written permission of the publisher, Turquoise Morning Press.

This is a work of fiction. Characters, settings, names, and occurrences are a product of the author’s imagination and bear no resemblance to any actual person, living or dead, places or settings, and/or occurrences. Any incidences of resemblance are purely coincidental.

This edition is published by agreement with Turquoise Morning Press, a division of Turquoise Morning, LLC.

She’s all roses...

Playing good sport to appease her best friend was one thing, but sophisticated Kim Martin was hardly equipped for a
Colorado
camping trip. Especially when their mountain guide was a rough-edged cowboy who was as untamed as the wilderness. His outdoors style might jump-start some women but a strictly indoors woman like Kim found him—almost resistible.

He’s rough-and-ready rawhide...

Thad Winchester’s patience for city women was wearing as thin as the seat of his jeans. But there was something about Kim that was putting his hard-and-fast don’t-touch rule to the test. The plucky blonde was just the woman to share his Flying W. Ranch. All Thad had to do was bring out the wildflower in the refined beauty, and convince her that he was her man. Bar nothing.

Chapter One

This all boils down to one thing—cowboy lust, pure and simple.

Kim Martin squinted, staring ahead at the string of horses leading up the mountain. She didn’t see the pines, or the azure sky, the big white puffy clouds, or the snow-topped
Rockies
in the background. No, all she saw in front of her was a bunch of horse’s asses—and cowboys. Which may, or may not, be one in the same.

“Of all the things I thought I’d be doing this summer,” she muttered, “spending two hours staring at a horse’s butt certainly wasn’t on the list.”

She leaned down to pat her mount on the neck, hoping that if she was nice to the old nag, she would be nice to her. She grimaced and cooed encouraging words to the huge roan mare—

Or were they to herself?

“Just keep your sweet nose in that horse’s tail, honey, and everything will be just fine.”

“What?”

Kim glanced one horse up to her best friend Jillie, and tossed her a fake smile. “Just talking to good ol’ Rosie here. We’re becoming fast friends.”

“Good.”

Jillie smiled and turned to face the string of horses. “See, I told you it would be easy,” she threw over her shoulder. “They’re like robots. Nose-to-tail, down the trail.”

Kim made a face. Jillie was an accomplished horsewoman; she’d learned from her father who exercised thoroughbreds back in
Kentucky
. Kim didn’t know diddly-squat about horses. She was more accustomed to betting on thoroughbreds at Keeneland, or handing out trophies at the Junior League horse show, than sitting on the back of one of the beasts and actually riding. How did she get talked into this?

How in the world had they gone from high school teachers to cowgirl wannabes all in the same afternoon?

The teacher’s conference. The reason they’d come to
Colorado
. Where they should be right now. But Jillie had this thing for horses, not to mention cowboys....

Kim couldn’t care less about any old cowboy. She was a born-and-bred city girl. One used to the finer points in life. And she liked her men the same way. Civilized.

She sucked in a cleansing breath. She’d made it this far, certainly the rest couldn’t be that bad. Glancing at her watch, she realized the corral was only fifteen minutes behind them. But the ride was two hours long! Two long, insufferable hours on the back of this piece of smelly horseflesh. She sneered at Jillie, who was totally at home on her horse’s back.

Kim felt ridiculously out of place.

Her chin length blonde bob fluttered about her face. Risking letting go of the tight grip she had on the reins, she tucked each side behind an ear.

How did I get into this? Bribery, pure and simple. And cowboy lust.

Kim loved Jillie dearly. In short, she’d do just about anything for her. Jillie had whined the entire evening before about a trail ride and Kim? Well, she’d caved.

Big time.

Rosie lifted her head and impatiently shook it back and forth. A burst of adrenaline shot through her. Muffin, Jillie’s horse, had picked up a little speed and put several feet between them. Rosie’s sonar kicked in and she loped toward Muffin’s tail. Kim bounced nervously in the saddle and tightened her grip on the reins as Rosie sped forward.

She wished she hadn’t lied about having ridden a horse before.

“Speak of the devil,” she mumbled as the cowboy she’d lied to rode closer. Kim hoped he wasn’t the one who’d put a hand to her rear, helping her into the saddle as she struggled to get a foothold in the stirrup. She’d nearly sailed over to the other side. Jillie had laughed hysterically. Kim’s cheeks grew hot at the memory.

She really hadn’t thought it funny.

The cowboy tipped his hat to Jillie, then glanced back at Kim. “Everything all right back here, ladies?”

She eyed him curiously as Jillie struck up conversation. Casual, friendly, familiar conversation… Jillie laughed out loud, shaking Kim out of a momentary trance. She looked into her friend’s face.

Something’s fishy, here.

“What?” Jillie must have asked her a question, for it seemed she was expecting an answer.

The cowboy chuckled.

“Oh, nothing,” her friend returned. “I was just sharing with Mack here your equine-phobia.”

Mack?

Kim tightened her grip on Rosie’s reins and straightened her back. “Oh, and I suppose you think that’s funny?” She risked letting go of the reins a second while reaching to rub Rosie’s neck. See, she wasn’t afraid.

Jillie shook her head. “No, not that. He was telling me about a man they had here last week. Tumbled right off his horse and rolled down the mountain a few feet. I told him I hoped that didn’t happen to you.”

Kim gave her a saccharin-sweet smile.” Thank you very much, but I fail to see the humor.”

Mack pulled his mount closer. “Don’t worry, I’m watching the back of the trail. Lean forward when we go uphill, lean back in the saddle when we go down. Let Rosie guide you. She knows what to do.” He started to turn away. “Oh, and keep her right behind Muffin and don’t let her stop to eat. We lost the last rider who did that.”

A wry grin broke his face, then he glanced back at Jillie who flashed him a healthy smile. He tipped his hat to Kim before he turned his horse around and started toward the middle of the string. Kim turned her gaze on her so-called friend.

What’s going on here?

She kept the thought to herself. “Cute, Jillie. Now everyone will know I’m a novice.”

“Honey, everyone knew you were a novice the moment you put your little
Skecher
-clad foot in the stirrup.”

“Ha, ha.” Kim let her gaze fall from Jillie’s face to the pack of horses in front of her. She couldn’t help it if she didn’t own a pair of riding boots, could she? Her Skechers were as close to sporty as she owned.

“Isn’t he cute?” Jillie tossed over her shoulder, her gaze riveted to the cowboy.

“What? Who?”

“Mack.”

Mack? And when did you make this intimate acquaintance, my friend?

“Oh. Yeah. I guess.” For a cowboy. She huffed out an exasperated breath. Cowboys, in her limited experience, were not cute. They were scruffy and dirty and rude and ill-mannered.

“The other one’s cute too, don’t you think?”

Other one?
“Who?” She was beginning to sound like an owl.

“You know. Thad Winchester. The cowboy way up there in the front, leading us up into the mountain.”

She glanced to the lead horse. Ah, yes. Thad Winchester. The owner of the ranch and their leader extraordinaire. He’d certainly left a lasting impression before they’d started out. To say the least, she wasn’t impressed. He was about as cute as a porcupine and as gruff as an old grizzly. Too business-like. The way he’d shouted instructions before they’d started the trail ride, you’d have thought they were getting ready to head into battle, or something.

“So what do you think of him?” Jillie asked.

“I don’t think about him.”

“C’mon, Kim, you know what I mean.”

Rolling her eyes, she returned, “I imagine he’s about as tough as an old armadillo,” she muttered. “Cute just doesn’t jump into my mind when I look at him.”

Jillie ignored her. “Mack says their good friends. Maybe after the trail ride, the four of us could—”

Kim risked lifting her right hand into the air. “Whoa. You’re not doing this to me, Jillie. When we get out of here I’ve got a date with a hot bubble bath and a pint of Double Fudge Ripple. You’re not setting me up with half of the cowboy-stud-twosome from
Durango
.”

Jillie turned in her saddle.” But they’re cowboys, Kim. Honest to God cowboys.”

“Forget it.”

Kim didn’t give two hoots about any old cowboy. She’d take a suit and tie and wing tips any day. She liked a man to smell of after-shave, new leather, and squeaky clean soap. She liked a man to drive a sleek sports car, shiny and smooth, not straddle the back of an animal.

Kim required polish. Sophistication. A glimmering diamond. Preferably one who came bearing roses.

Thad Winchester just didn’t fit the bill.

****

“Beautiful, isn’t it?” Jillie whispered moments later.

“Yeah.”

Momentarily, Kim lost her sense of fear. It was quite a beautiful picture laid out before them. Below was the valley they’d left an hour earlier. Varying hues of green and shades of brown mingled with a kaleidoscope of wildflowers. The baby-blue afternoon sky perfectly framed the picture from above; the mountains climbed majestically on either side. She couldn’t deny it was a breathtaking sight. It was definitely different from the Kentucky Bluegrass she’d grown up with, which had a beauty all its own. She was almost glad they’d come.

“But I still can’t believe you talked me into this. If I get out of here alive, you owe me big time.”

“Yeah, well, I’ll buy you dinner.” Jillie looked at Kim and smiled. Jillie’s gaze drifted off as Mack rode up to them.

“Movin’ on, ladies,” he directed, smiling broadly at Jillie.

“All right,” Jillie answered.

He winked and deftly turned his horse.” Good. Just keep in line as Thad leads us down the mountain.” He glanced at Kim. “Remember, lean back in your saddle, ma’am, and let Rosie do the work.” He turned his horse and headed toward the middle of the string.

Kim threw him a sarcastic smile, then turned a glare on Jillie. “Did you freakin’ hear that? He just ma’amed me! I’ve never been called ma’am in my life, except by my students. And I bet I’m not even as old as he is.”

Jillie giggled.” Relax, Kim. Out here I think every woman over twelve is a ma’am. Has nothing to do with age.” She glanced ahead. “There they go. I’ll get in front, you follow me.”

Kim’s gaze drifted to Cowboy Thad preparing to lead them down the mountain. There was one thing she could say about him, he was definitely all cowboy with that long-legged, thin-hipped, lean, mean cowboy look. She wondered why Jillie hadn’t gone after him. He seemed authentic enough. A chill settled over her though as she remembered him glaring when she’d nearly fallen off her horse back at the corral. He was the only one who hadn’t laughed, and had looked more disgusted, than anything.

The man needs to get a grip
.

The second Rosie’s head lowered to the grass, Kim jerked her attention back to the trail ride. Jillie and her horse were headed over the knob—the others already gone before her. Rosie started to chomp. A tremor of fear rippled through Kim’s abdomen. Thad Winchester was forgotten.

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