Authors: Cherie Ullman
The Reluctant Cowboy
By C.L. Ullman
This book is dedicated to my friends and family who continue to be supportive and encouraging. To my lifelong friend who is dear to me for so many reasons. She is my friend, a sister and now my Editor. Thank you Jodie! You are amazing!
Text Copyright © 2016 C.L. Ullman
All Rights Reserved
Cole Alexandar needed a break from this wedding reception. With hundreds of happy, drinking guests, he slipped outside for a breath of fresh air. It was a warm spring evening in central Ohio. He closed his eyes and enjoyed the quiet while he reflected on the day. His childhood sweetheart just got married. He had always thought that one day he would be marrying her. Surprisingly, he wasn’t upset. Just the opposite. Vanessa and Mark Stone made a wonderful couple. He was actually very happy for them and witnessing their love made him wonder, if just for a moment, if true love actually existed. He was very cynical when it came to affairs of the heart, thinking of his own parents. He just liked the affair part. He was standing on a terrace with his drink in hand when more people made their way outside to enjoy the lovely evening. The terrace was becoming crowded when he recognized a few booming voices.
“There you are, New York!” Cole instantly knew that voice belonged to one of Vanessa’s brothers who often called him that for living in the Big Apple. The three brothers made their way over to him carrying what looked like a bottle of scotch and some short glasses. “Let’s do a toast to our sister not marrying you.” The brothers laughed while one of them poured the drinks. Cole was now surrounded by three loud, ornery Italians who still loved to torment him.
Even as kids, the brothers were overly protective of their baby sister and often referred to him as their adopted brother. Cole spent more time with their family than his own. He was an only child born into wealth and parental ambition. His parents were jet setters and traveled around the world. His entire childhood, he was sent to spend summers with his Grandmother in Italy. Vanessa and her brothers lived right next door to Cole’s grandmother.
“Having fun yet, New York?” Rocco asked the question as they raised their glass to toast.
“The night is still young,” Cole replied.
“Uh-oh, that means that New York is still looking for someone to share his bed.” Marco commented.
“Well at least it’s not our sister,” Tonio, the eldest sibling barked. The three laughed as Cole finished his scotch. “Let’s head back inside and raise some hell before Vanessa or Mom finds us out here.” They nudged Cole back inside with them and headed to the bar for another round.
Amidst all of the celebration and music, a woman’s laughter caught his attention. It was musical and deep. He listened intently until he heard it again. When he did hear it, he yearned to know where it came from and scanned the crowd until he found the source. He saw the profile of a tall, chestnut haired woman laughing with a group of women he recognized as the bridesmaids. She was one of the bridesmaids with her hair in an up-do with some long tendrils falling past her shoulders.
The women must have been sharing some amusing stories. As he watched, mesmerized, the woman threw her head back slightly and laughed out loud again. As she brought her head back down she turned slightly and caught Cole staring openly at her. Their eyes locked for a brief moment and she gave a slight smile before giving the group her full attention again.
Cole couldn’t take his eyes off of her. When she had turned, he saw the most exquisite eyes looking back at him. They were a very pale blue, a color he had never seen before.
“That’s Sierra Morgan.” Cole heard Rocco and was momentarily embarrassed to be caught staring. “She’s one of Vanessa’s best friends.” When Cole just nodded a response he continued. “She’s a real beauty and off limits to you.” Rocco was smiling when he said it but Cole was curious.
“And why is that?” Cole inquired.
“You are too old and jaded for her.” Rocco snapped back.
Cole laughed at that remark. “Is that so? You interested in her?”
“No, I’m very happy being single and she’s like another little sister.” They had to talk loud over the music and conversations surrounding them.
“Rocco, your family just keeps getting bigger. Any other “siblings” I need to know about?”
Rocco chuckled and took the drink from his hand. “I’m just messing with you, New York. Go and ask her to dance.”
Right on cue, a slow song came on from the DJ station. John Legend’s “All of Me” began to play and Cole made his way over to the one woman that had caught his eye. “May I have this dance?” He was standing behind her when she turned.
Sierra felt like she was in a fairy tale. She was all made up for the wedding and now this handsome stranger was asking her to dance. She had placed her hand in his as he led her to the dance floor just a few feet away. The lights had dimmed and the dance floor was getting crowded. He gently placed one hand on the small of her back and the other hand was covering hers with elbows resting at their waists. She glanced up at him. He was taller than she was accustomed to.
“Hello, I’m Cole.” He was smiling at her while moving her to the music.
“It’s nice to meet you, Sierra. You make a beautiful bridesmaid.”
Sierra felt herself blush, but appreciated the compliment. “Thank you. This makes my third gig as a bridesmaid in two years.”
His smile got bigger and she saw the straight, white teeth hidden behind his full lips. “Ah, I see, the age-old
always a bridesmaid and never a bride
“I guess it would be worse if it was three times a bride in two years right?” She noticed his chuckle at her statement. Sierra glanced around the dance floor as she felt his hand moving positions at the small of her back while they danced. This was such an intimate song and she felt her pulse quicken with just the motion of the dance. She decided to break the trance with more conversation. “Are you a friend of the bride or groom?”
“I’m a lifelong friend of the bride. I was engaged to her a long time ago,” Cole quipped.
Sierra missed a step as she felt his grip tighten. When she looked up at him he was grinning. “In a matter of speaking. Our grandmothers tried to arrange our marriage at birth.” That was something unheard of and Sierra didn’t know how to reply. “I’m teasing you. Our families were very close and I grew up with Vanessa and her brothers. They are more like family to me.”
“Oh, I see.” But she didn’t. Vanessa had never mentioned him before, had she? Surely she would have told her friends about the gorgeous man she grew up with.
“How about you? How long have you known Vanessa and Mark?” He had to know more about her.
“I’ve known them for a couple of years now. I met Vanessa’s best friend, Riley, and she introduced us. I’ve known Mark for longer, because we lived in the same area.”
“So, you are a native Ohioan then?”
“Yes! I am a proud Buckeye with scarlet and grey running in my veins.” She heard him laugh again and liked the sound.
“I’m curious, what is a
exactly?” He inquired.
Now it was her turn to laugh. “It’s just a big nut that they make a lot of jewelry with during college football season. You know, National Champions and all.”
“I enjoy college football season. I prefer the collegiate games over the NFL.”
Sierra was enjoying the conversation. “Where are you from?”
He replied, “I live in New York City.”
“Oh, I’m sorry.”
She watched his head shake with mirth. “Not the response I was expecting, but refreshing. I take it you are not a fan of the city?”
“I’ve never been, but don’t have any desire to go. Too crowded for my taste.”
“Don’t be too hasty with judgment. New York has a lot to offer and it’s not all city and crowds. Upstate is beautiful and not much different than here. There is always something to do and see with Broadway and the restaurants, not to mention Central Park this time of year.”
Sierra hoped she hadn’t offended him. He was still smiling, so she didn’t over think it. The song was almost over and she didn’t want to stop the interaction with him. When the song ended she felt his hand still on her lower back as he led them off the dance floor. “Would you like a drink?” He had bent his head close to her ear to ask. She felt herself shiver and the hair at her nape stand up.
“Yes please, a Captain and coke with cherries.” He removed his hand from her back as he approached the bar and she instantly missed the contact.
The reception was starting to wind down and the bride and groom had already made their exit. She was sure it wouldn’t be long before all of the guests left. She saw her friends waving goodbye to her as they were heading out. “Here you are,” he handed the glass to her. “Am I keeping you from serving any bridesmaids duties?”
“No, everything is taken care of and her brothers are in charge of gifts and clean up. It looks like I’m free for now.”
“It was a beautiful wedding and this Inn is very charming for the reception.” He remarked.
“Are you staying here or in town?” As soon as she asked the question she regretted it. She didn’t want to appear nosy.
“I was able to get a room here at the Inn. It appears to be quite popular and apparently is sold out for this event.”
“This is one of the historic inns and was just remodeled recently. It had been under construction for months and Vanessa was worried that it wouldn’t be ready in time. I think it was a perfect venue and the staff was very easy to work with. I haven’t seen the individual rooms but I’ve heard they tried to keep as much of the original character and details as possible, but adding in modern conveniences. I love the architecture and history here.”
He echoed, “I agree. I had a chance to read about all of the renovations when I arrived. The room I have is quite comfortable and very nice,”
They were standing face to face as she was resting her lower back on one of the stools. Her feet were beginning to ache. Wearing two-inch heels all day was starting to wear on her. She was more comfortable with cowboy boots or flats. “Would you mind if I ask you a direct question?” She saw him studying her face.
“Um, that would depend on the question I guess?” She inquired. Sierra wasn’t sure what else to say.
“Would you consider spending the night with me?” Cole watched her expression change immediately.
He blew it. He knew it. He couldn’t help it. His entire body hummed because of her. As soon as he took her hand to dance, he knew he wanted her. He needed her. She was so genuine. Her smile, her speech, her laugh, everything about her was driving him crazy. He needed a drink after that dance just to cool him off a little. Nothing about her was contrived or calculating. She was a breath of fresh air to him. The words came out of him before he could stop them. He didn’t go around asking women to spend the night with him. Not like this anyway. More often than not, he was approached. He continued to gauge her reaction and caught himself holding his breath as she seemed to study him and the meaning of the question. Finally she met his gaze and said: “Okay.”
Cole slowly straightened and took her hand in his. He gave her a smile and started to make his way through the thinning crowd. He glanced around the room, but didn’t see anyone watching them as he made his way through the Inn to the elevator. She remained quiet and he was concerned she was having second thoughts. She hesitated in the lobby. “I need to run out to my car and get my bag. I brought some things with me in case we changed or needed to touch up.”
“Would you like me to walk out with you?”
“No, it’s fine. I’ll only be a minute.”
Cole watched her weave her way outside, stopping occasionally to talk with someone. He considered for a moment that this might be the last time he saw her. Maybe she would get in her car and leave. He contemplated going after her, but he didn’t. He wanted her to come back in on her own. She had handed him her drink to hold, so maybe he was just overreacting. He was glad he hadn’t run into Vanessa’s brothers again and knew he would see them in the morning. His mind was now occupied with the beautiful woman he hoped would return. He saw her tall form a moment later as she carried her backpack in her hand. She was looking down as she came towards him. She gave him a shy smile as she stood by the elevator with him. Noticing he was still holding their drinks, she asked, “Which floor?”
“Third floor, penthouse suite.” He watched as she pressed the button and the doors opened.
“You know there is no Penthouse suite in this Inn right?”
He gave her a big smile. “Well, they sure charged me like it was.” She gave him another laugh that was pure music to his ears.
When they exited the elevator they walked down the hall to his room. She offered to take her drink while he removed his card to unlock and enter the room. It was dimly lit and he motioned for her to enter. He watched as she put her back pack down and took a sip of her drink. He made sure the door was shut and locked and walked to stand behind her.
“It’s a very nice room. It’s larger than I thought and the fireplace is amazing!” As she spoke, he slipped past her to ignite the gas fireplace. The small flames came to life and began to heat the room.
He placed his drink on the mantel and removed his suit coat. “Please make yourself comfortable. I’m sure those shoes are ready to come off.”