Thursday, April 19, 2018

So Very Tangled

Several reviewers have commented on how Fearless in Texas is much more focused on the relationship between Wyatt and Melanie, and their interactions are more intense than in the previous books. Believe it or not, I did that on purpose.

With each book I try to do something a little different. For whatever reason, Tangled in Texas seems to get the least attention, but for me it has the most complex layering of relationships and emotions and in some ways was the hardest to pull off, because I not only took one of the antagonists from the first book--Delon--and made him into the hero, but turned the hero and heroine of Reckless into HIS antagonists. (You can't imagine how thrilled my editor was when she read the synopsis and realized what I was going to try to pull off.)

It all started with a comment from my sister, who taught elementary school for 30 years. We were talking about dealing with divorced parents, and she said, "It doesn't matter how friendly the divorce was or how much they vow to be civil, the minute one of them gets involved with someone new it gets ugly." So I sat down to write Delon and Violet as if they were that amicably divorced couple whose happy arrangement starts coming apart at the seams when Joe gets dropped into the mix. And then it gets worse when I bring Tori in, who has a justified and deeply rooted hostility toward Violet.

May I just say that there's a reason most romances with single moms or dads find a way to get rid of the other parent? Having to constantly shuffle Beni from place to place and account for why he was with Violet versus Delon at every moment was a real PITA.

On the flip side, one of the greatest joys of writing this book was the relationship between Shawnee and Tori. If they were guys you would call it a bromance. I not only wanted to explore the unique kind of friendships that evolve between uber-competitive, hard-headed cowgirls, but also to have two women whose conversations are almost never about men. I took that idea one step farther in Fearless, with the man ban scene early in the book. Yes, we do all like to talk about boys, but I wanted to write a best friend whose entire role wasn't to be a sounding board or to give advice about love.

I also loved writing Delon and Gil, watching them work through all the pain and anger they'd kept stuffed in their pockets for too long. And now I've circled back to them as I'm writing Gil's book, taking their relationship to a new level as Gil (tiny spoiler) suddenly gets custody of his son and has to look to his brother for support and advice on how to be more than a weekend father.

If you haven't read Tangled, I hope this all intrigues you enough to give it a go. And if you have, I hope I've given you reason to take another look and consider some of those nuances. As always, questions and comments are welcome, our version of online book club.

And if you want to check out Tangled in Texas, you can find an excerpt and order links on my website:


Monday, April 09, 2018

Grannyed Up


As a few people have probably mentioned, winter and spring north of the Mason-Dixon line have kinda sucked. But finally, the latest storm is gone. The sun is shining. It's forty degrees and the wind is virtually nonexistent. You would think we'd be done dragging newborns into the barn for a while, but alas...

There is a thing with cows that we call grannying. It's when a cow that's just given birth (Cow A) is too close to a cow that's in labor (Cow B). Cow B's maternal instincts are already red-lined, and she gets confused and latches onto Cow A's baby. Nine times out of ten, she'll go ahead and have her own calf and just walk away from it to go try to steal Calf A. This is one of many reasons that calving in close confines is much less desirable than out in the wide open field, weather permitting.

But since weather has not permitted, we've got to drag Calf A into the barn and lock him and his mother up, then chase Cow B over to the other barn where she can't see or smell them anymore so she'll claim her own kid when it's born.

Yeah. The good times just never end.


Wednesday, March 14, 2018


Twenty days and counting until the release of Fearless in Texas, and the early reviews have been awesome, including a coveted star from Publisher's Weekly, who said, "Chock full of drama, romantic angst and magnetic supporting characters, Dell’s latest is not to be missed."

RT Book Reviews raved, "There is such a raw vulnerability in these characters that readers will be hard pressed not to scream, cry and cheer right along with them ... Fearless in Texas will leave you feeling worthy of attaining your own happy ending."

My job this week is to pick out a handful of excerpts for our online promotional tour, and while I'm at it I thought I'd share one of my favorite scenes. As Melanie says about her tendency to hold a grudge, "Every girl needs a superpower."


Wyatt mutilated another lump of the slime-coated goo the café called apple pie filling , then pushed the plate away in disgust and checked the time on his phone. Five thirty-seven. If Melanie was going to commit an act of retribution, surely she would have done it by now. And he still had no idea what he could do to stop her.

“You know she won’t listen to me,” he’d warned Violet. “Why don’t you go sit on her?”

Violet had grinned, cocking her eyebrows. “Friends don’t let friends’ wives get arrested. And if worst comes to worst, you won’t have to borrow money for her bail.”

Yet another perk of being a trust fund brat, along with perfect teeth and generations of ruthlessly wielded rich, white privilege. And since he was already here, he might as well give Melanie until sunup before calling this stakeout a bust.

A flash of yellow caught his eye as a taxi pulled to a stop across the street. In a blink, Melanie was across the sidewalk and into the back seat, a swift-moving shadow clad, like Wyatt, in skulking clothes—dark jeans, a black hoodie, and a baseball cap, with a backpack slung over her shoulder. Hell. That didn’t look good. Wyatt fumbled for his wallet, tossed a twenty onto the table, and charged out past the startled waitress, but by the time he got to his rental car, the cab had disappeared around the corner. He made an educated guess as to her destination and was rewarded when he saw the taxi several blocks ahead on the four-lane avenue.

He could follow. Or he could attempt to cut her off. He chose the latter, passing on the left in the generic sedan he’d rented for the occasion, and parked under the hotel’s portico just ahead of the taxi. Then he waited, braced to do whatever was necessary…and hoping she didn’t do any permanent bodily damage.

The yellow cab sailed past the entrance of the hotel and around to the side lot. Wyatt bailed out of his car and started for the front door, intending to meet her at the rear, but instead of heading for the hotel, she hopped out of the taxi at the far end of the lot and paused for an instant to reach under the rear bumper of a Ford pickup. Before he could change directions, she’d climbed in and fired up the engine. Wyatt ducked behind a bush as she roared past and onto the street.

Oh hell. Her version of Don’t get mad, get even was going to involve $60,000 worth of prime American steel. What was in that backpack? Too small for a Louisville Slugger, but there was plenty of room for a can of lighter fluid. Or dynamite.

His crappy rental didn’t even have enough oomph to lay rubber when he jumped in and hit the gas. He spotted her immediately, driving well within speed limit, but he had to hang back several blocks, thanks to the deserted streets. They headed for an industrial section on the edge of Amarillo and…Westwind Feeds? He swore as she jumped out, unlocked the single bar that barricaded the entrance to the parking lot, and swung it aside, her movements as swift and precise as a covert operative on a well-planned mission. Before Wyatt got within a block, she was inside—and he was locked out.

He swore again, then made a left to circle around the block opposite Westwind, killing his headlights as he pulled into an alley between two warehouses. He left the car halfway down and made like a ninja, creeping through the shadows until he had a clear view of where Melanie had pulled the Ford into a slot marked Executive Parking, next to one of the Westwind company pickups. Wyatt paused, then gagged when he made the mistake of inhaling. He pulled his T-shirt up over his nose to filter out some of the dirty-diaper and rotting-fish stench of the nearby Dumpster. If tonight was any indication, it was just as well he’d crossed undercover cop and spy off the list when he’d decided against Yale Divinity and gone in search of a less holier-than-thou career.

Across the road, Melanie was crouched beside the pickup, scrawling blocky neon-green letters all the way down the side of the Ford with a can of spray paint.

She finished, stepped back to admire her work for a second, then grabbed her open backpack and circled around to duck out of sight between the vehicles and go to work on the Westwind pickup. Well, hell. Once again he’d failed miserably, because once again he had badly underestimated her.

A hard lesson Michael Miller was about to learn. You didn’t mess with Melanie and stroll away whistling.

Wyatt flattened his reluctant smile and contemplated the situation. The damage was already well in progress. The best he could do now was to get her out of here as quickly and quietly as possible. He looked both ways and, seeing no sign of life in either direction, sprinted across the street. The hissing of the spray can stopped. He eased up and peeked over the tailgate of Michael’s pickup as she pulled a long security cable from the backpack. Heavy duty, impervious to bolt cutters. Damn. She had thought of everything. She threaded an end through the front wheel of each pickup and wrapped it twice around the Executive Parking sign, anchoring both vehicles in place.

As she snapped a padlock through the looped ends, Wyatt said, “Your P is running.”

She yelped, snatched the nearest paint can, and spun around. Only Wyatt’s superior reflexes kept him from getting a blast of orange square in the face.

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Saturday, November 18, 2017


Somebody had a little too much rodeo fun this summer to keep up with the blog, but now that winter has settled in, I'm gradually catching up. Book Four of the Texas Rodeo series, Fearless in Texas is in the final editing process, due for release on April 3, 2018. Here's a sneak peek.


He’d step in front of a bull to save a life
But even he’s no match for a girl this Texas tough

Rodeo bullfighter Wyatt Darrington’s got it all figured out. The perfect car, the perfect job, the perfect looks—the perfect lie. He may be on the fast track to the Hall of Fame, but he knows he’ll always be an outsider to people like Melanie Brookman. Texas-born and bred, with the arena in her blood, Melanie’s come to see Wyatt as her personal enemy, and that suits him just fine—this way, she’ll never realize the truth.

He’s been crazy in love with her for years.

Melanie’s always been a fighter. Fiercely independent and tough as nails, she’s stood up to everything that got in her way—including Wyatt. But now her infamous temper’s got her on the ropes, and there’s nowhere left to run but toward the man she swore she’d never trust…and this time, there’s no denying just how hot he makes her burn.


The instant Wyatt’s fingers came to rest on Melanie’s bare skin, they both cursed—a mutual, almost silent hiss, too quiet for any of the crowd encircling the nearly empty dance floor to hear over the music. Their steps didn’t falter. They didn’t blink. But he didn’t pretend he couldn’t feel the jolt at the inevitable, unavoidable contact…and neither did Melanie.

He smiled—a generic, just making conversation smile that would fool anyone besides the woman looking him directly in the eye. “Well. This is inconvenient.”

“Extremely,” Melanie agreed.

He didn’t bother to move his hand. The cut of her emerald-green halter-top bridesmaid dress left him with no alternatives other than her exposed back or her satin-covered butt. Her long, straight chestnut hair had been pinned into a tousled updo with tendrils that trailed down her neck, begging a man to twirl them around his fingers.

Damn Violet for being the one woman on earth determined to make her maid of honor look as hot as sin.

As they circled the floor, eyebrows were raised and glances exchanged. He was aware of the picture they made—him blond and elegant, at ease in the tuxedo that made the other cowboys tug at neckties and fidget with cummerbunds; her following his lead as effortlessly if they’d been dancing together for years. They were sleek and athletic, glowing with the pheromones that had been accumulating, molecule by molecule, over the enforced proximity created by two days of the standard pre-wedding hullabaloo.

Wyatt flicked a glance toward the bride and groom, so wrapped up in each other they wouldn’t have noticed if their attendants had broken into a tango. “Joe is the closest thing I have to a brother.”

Even though he did have a male sibling.

“Violet is my sister,” Melanie countered. “Her family is my family.”

Even though her own parents were sitting at a table only a few feet away, pointedly ignoring each other.

He studied the circle of faces that surrounded them, let his gaze settle for a beat on Joe and Violet, then focused on Melanie again, his voice hardening. “I’m not giving them up.”

“I was here first.”

Which was why his position was so much more precarious. He had only just found this weird and wonderful extended family that was more about loyalty than blood. Melanie’s ties to them were forever. His connection was new and perilously fragile.

“So this”—his fingers flexed, creating a slight, dangerous increase in pressure—“would be incredibly stupid. Especially for us.”

She tilted her head in question.

“You don’t like me. You certainly don’t trust me,” he said.

“Depending on the circumstances. You are a good friend to them. If you hadn’t forced Joe to come to Texas in the first place, he’d still be in Oregon instead of over there trying not to fall face-first into Violet’s cleavage—which is pretty damn impressive in that dress.” Melanie smiled fondly at the two of them, then brought her gaze back to meet Wyatt’s. “I’ve seen you risk life and limb for him in the arena.”

He shrugged. “I’m a bullfighter. You do what it takes to make sure the cowboy and your partner walk away.”

He didn’t have to explain. She’d been on the rodeo trail long before she took her first steps, and her brother was also a bullfighter. But she shook her head. “You’d do the same for a complete stranger in a back alley. If I ever got caught in the middle of a convenience store robbery, you’d be the person I wanted standing at the Slurpee machine.”

“But not sitting across the breakfast table.”

She pursed glossy red lips as she considered the question. “It would be too crowded with you, me, and whatever agenda you’re currently working. I’d have a hard time deciding where I fit into the scheme of the day.”

“Says the woman who makes a living parting the unsuspecting public from their hard-earned dollars.”

“Ouch.” But the edge in her voice was more amusement than offense. “I’ll have to tell Human Resources to add that to the job description.”

“And this conversation is a perfect example of why we would be a disaster. Despite this.” He traced a featherlight arc across her skin with his thumb.

She let her lashes flutter lower, to match her voice. “We could sneak off for a single night of depraved sex. Get it out of our systems.”

For a moment, the possibility hovered between them like a heat mirage. They both inhaled sharply, then exhaled slowly.

“Been there, tried that, have the divorce papers to prove it.” And he would not let his dick lead him into that steel-jawed trap again. Not when he had so much more than a simple broken heart on the line. He flashed a smile, bright and lethal. “I have it on good authority that you can—and will—hold a grudge.”

“Every girl needs a superpower,” she said with an equally toothy grin.

“Yours could make future Thanksgiving dinners a little awkward, don’t you think?”

Her eyes narrowed. “I think I am both reasonable and mature enough to handle myself.”

“History begs to differ.”

Color flared in her cheeks, a visible gauge of her rising temper. “Are you trying to irritate me?”


She blinked. Then laughed in disbelief. “You really think that’s going to help?”

“Can’t hurt. And it comes so naturally to both of us.” He twirled her, then pulled her close again, nearly eye to eye with her in heels. “We can’t be friends.”

The song was winding down. One more chorus, and he would have to step away to dutifully tap the father of the bride on the shoulder and cut in for the traditional dance with the bride’s mother.

“We also can’t avoid each other completely,” she said.

“Close enough. I live in Oregon; you live in Amarillo. I visit a few times a year, and even when I am here, you’re usually working. It’s been over a year since Joe and Violet got together, and we’ve barely crossed paths, except at holidays.”

“Then we should be safe. I’ve had plenty of practice behaving myself at Miz Iris’s house.”

He raised his eyebrows. “Also not what I’ve heard.”

“Hey, it was all at least half Violet’s fault.” Her soft laugh was laced with affection. Then her eyes narrowed again. “So we agree on one thing.” She dragged a fingernail lightly down his neck on the pretense of flicking off a speck of the infernal glitter Violet’s son had blasted them with upon arrival at the reception hall. “This—”

“—is not worth the risk.” Wyatt kept his voice cool, despite the hot pulse of his blood.

“And we swear never to speak of it to any of them.” Her gaze sharpened on his face. “Ever.”

He curled his lip. “Would you like to spit on our hands and shake to seal the deal?”

“Sunshine,” she drawled. “If I decide to swap spit with you, I guarantee it’ll get a lot messier than that.”

He gave a strangled laugh, dropped his hands, and took a step back as a passing waiter shoved plastic champagne flutes at them for the latest in an endless series of toasts.

Ignoring the drunken ramblings of some distant cousin, Melanie lifted her glass. “Here’s to no lovin’ between this man and this woman.”

“For as long as we both shall live,” he agreed mockingly.

They tapped their glasses together, and both tossed back the champagne.

She handed him her empty glass before sauntering over to join Joe and Violet. Wyatt rocked back on his heels, appreciating the view…as he was sure she had intended. He took two full steps in pursuit before he caught himself, turned, and walked in the opposite direction.

A decision he would live to regret for a very, very long time.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Revved Up

It's almost that time again!

My publisher is getting revved up for the August 1 release of the third book in the Texas Rodeo series, Tougher in Texas. Shawnee is back by popular demand and this time she's butting heads with Cole Jacobs, who may be the only human on earth more stubborn than her.

As part of their nefarious plot to lure you into my clutches, my publisher is running specials on the digital version of the first two books for a limited time. You can grab the second book, Tangled in Texas, for 99 cents, just follow the links on my website to your preferred online vendor:

Even better, Reckless in Texas is currently FREE as part of a duo with the estimable Carolyn Brown, so you get double for nothing. Visit my Facebook page for details: Kari Lynn Dell Western Author

Please do feel free to pass the information along to as many friends, acquaintances, and strangers on the street as possible. Every download makes my rankings jump on the websites and fools them into thinking I'm a big deal, which in turn makes them more likely to point readers my direction.

Speaking of revved up, I recently had a conversation with a friend on being on the receiving end of the ol' tractor rev. Yeah, fellow ranch wives, I see you nodding and grinding your teeth. For you and for those who've never had the dubious pleasure, here's a little essay I wrote on subject.


My lifestyle underwent a rather dramatic change after my dad's unexpected illness. Though now that I think about it, that's a ridiculous turn of phrase. I mean, really, who has expected illnesses? Psychics? Time travelers? That guy in your office who always calls in sick the Monday after the Super Bowl? Anyway, after Dad's heart attack I became the number one chore girl, which is a nice change from the desk job. However, since I hadn't been around on a day to day basis, I started out sort of clueless and required a lot of supervision. Which I appreciated. Really. But taking orders from my husband can be--how shall we say?--a bit of a test of our matrimonial bliss.

Communication is the answer, of course, but first you have to figure out the question, like the morning he made a vague gesture toward the west and said, "Load up some bales in the tractor bucket and take them over to the horses."
I was somewhat baffled because I was under the impression that the herd of horses out in the pasture got big round bales, but I dutifully stacked the tractor bucket full of small squares and headed out. 

My husband came roaring along in the pickup to flag me down. "Where the heck are you going?"

"To feed the horses," I answered, because, Duh, isn't that what he just told me to do?

"I meant the horses on the west side of the barn," he said. "Not the west side of the ranch."

"Oh. Well. You should be more specific."

Sometimes, it's a matter of semantics. As a person accustomed to communicating via the written word, I occasionally find the lack of visible punctuation in spoken language troublesome. Thus began the endless loop in which my husband attempted to instruct me to acquire medication for what he referred to as 'heifer calves'. I assumed these to be 'calves who are heifers', when in fact what he meant was 'calves born to heifers'. Which, technically, would be heifers' calves, but he proved to be emphatically disinterested in discussing the finer points of grammar while one of said calves was showing signs of expiring at any moment.

Then there's the non-verbal communication. We have the usual repertoire of arm waves and finger points for when the situation makes shouting impossible. Most often this is because he is driving the tractor and I'm running around on the ground doing the real intellectual stuff like cutting twine on round bales and making sure no baby calves stumble into his path and get squashed.

Lacking a functioning horn, his preferred method of getting my attention is to rev the tractor engine. Vroom! Point, gesture, No, go that way! I trot that way. Vroom! Point, gesture. No, I meant that gate! I trot over to the gate in question. Vroom! Point, gesture. Watch out for that cow. I watch out. Vroom! Point, gesture. Don't forget to feed the bulls. 

And so on. And so on. All. Day. Long.

I do much better now, except when I'm up to my eyebrows in my writing and suffering book brain, in which case expecting me to remember exactly where I was supposed to deliver the fuel pickup and at what time is completely unrealistic, let alone recalling that I was supposed to toss in a water bottle. I swear I do try to listen. I've even taken to making notes on my wrist with a Sharpie and setting alarms on my cell phone to shore up my notoriously faulty memory. Even then, a certain amount of miscommunication is inevitable, so we both try to keep an even keel.

But honest to Pete, if he revs that engine at me one more time…

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Nod Your Head, Cowboy

The cool thing about being A. a contestant and B. at a small, local rodeo, you can get right down in the middle of the action. While watching, try to tune out the rodeo announcer and concentrate on the pickup men and gate man.

Notice the guy on the white horse. He's sitting as close as possible to the chute because the proximity of his horse helps keep the one in the chute calm. As soon as the cowboy is ready to nod for the gate he backs off to give the bucking horse room to fire.

This would be Cole Jacobs from my Texas Rodeo books. "I'll help you any way I can but don't be messing around on my horses. Get in, get down and nod your face."

And in Tougher in Texas you'll meet the fictional version of that white horse, who I named Salty. He's one of the best characters in the book.

**Addendum: you can also see that the ground was a little iffy due to a rainstorm a couple of days earlier. The committee did a great job getting the arena in shape overall but there were still a few slick spots and this horse seemed to have a gift for finding them.

For more info and where to buy Tougher in Texas visit my website at

Monday, June 05, 2017

Win an Advance Copy of Tougher in Texas!

It's Almost Rodeo Time!

55 days until the release of the next book in my Texas Rodeo series, Tougher in Texas! It sounds like a long time but if your summer plans are anything like mine, it'll be the first of August before we know it.

Like the first two books Tougher centers around a fictional family of rodeo stock contractors, Jacobs Livestock. Well, sort of fictional. I grew up going to Montana rodeos produced by the very real Jacobs Rodeo company, and the name in the book is an intentional salute to a lot of great memories. Last weekend we went to what has been one of the first rodeos of the summer season for at least half of the years of my life, and I was able to catch a behind the scenes video that is an almost perfect replay of the opening of Tougher.

Almost perfect because the real crew does it flawlessly--but flawless doesn't make for a good story, so...

Here's the video, and the opening scene. Meet Cole Jacobs. And if you click on the link in the right tool bar and subscribe to my newsletter by Sunday, June 11th at midnight PDT, I'll toss your name in the hat for one of two signed Advanced Reader Copies of Tougher in Texas.


All of Cole’s problems would be solved if he just found a wife.

The thought popped into his head at the exact instant that a ton of bovine suddenly bellowed and kicked, slamming into the steel gate Cole was holding and knocking him flat on his ass. If Cole hadn’t stood six foot six, he probably would’ve lost some teeth. The gate caught him in the chest instead, and sent him sprawling in the dirt. His red heeler, Katie, barked once and launched herself at the bull to protect him, but Carrot Top just trotted off down the alley, more interested in checking the empty pens for leftover hay.

Cole scrambled to his feet and snarled as his gaze zeroed in on the bright-yellow cattle prod in the hand of one of the men who rushed to his aid. “What the fuck are you doing with that thing?”

The cowboy took a hasty step back, then another when Cole stalked toward him. “Just hurryin’ things along.”

“My stock moves just fine without a hotshot.” Cole made sure of it, training them from birth to handle easily.

The rodeo season was a cross-country marathon of long miles and strange places. Less stress equaled better performance, and even though the low-current buzz of the cattle prod was more startling than painful, Cole wanted his stock as relaxed as possible until the moment they exploded from the bucking chute. Carrot Top was an old pro. He’d earned the right to inspect the loading chute before setting hoof on the steep ramp.

And to come unglued when some asshole zapped him.

The cowboy ran out of room and backed up against the fence. Cole snatched the hotshot, busted it over his knee, and then tossed it back, the ends dangling by the wires that ran down the long shaft. "Pack that and the rest of your shit and get out of here.”

The cowboy clutched the broken prod to his chest, jaw dropping. “But I’m your pickup man.”

“Not anymore.”

Cole turned his back and strode down the alley to retrieve Carrot Top. As far as he was concerned, the conversation was over.

Half an hour later, his cell phone buzzed. He was tempted to ignore it, but she would only keep calling until he answered. There was a strong undercurrent of stubborn in the Jacobs gene pool. He heaved a deep sigh and put some distance between himself and the rest of the crew before he accepted the call, holding the phone three inches from his ear in anticipation of his cousin’s displeasure.

“What the hell is wrong with you?” Violet yelled.

“He used a hotshot on Carrot Top.”

“So ban him from the stock pens. Hell, ban him from the whole rodeo grounds except when he’s working the performances, but did you have to fire him?”

“He used a hotshot on Carrot Top,” Cole repeated, slower this time.

“I understand. It was stupid. But what do you suggest we do next weekend when you’re the only pickup man in the arena?”

Cole hadn’t thought about that at the time. He’d been thinking about it since, but hiring contract personnel was Violet’s job. If she was here like normal, he wouldn’t have had to put up with a stranger. He wouldn’t have to put up with any of this crap. He could go back to just taking care of his stock and leaving all the people bullshit to Violet. He couldn’t say that, though, and as usual, his brain collapsed under pressure and offered up only the one sentence in his defense. “He used a hotshot on Carrot Top.”

Violet huffed out a breath so exasperated he swore he felt the breeze on his end of the line. “You do realize the doctor sentenced me to bed rest because my blood pressure is through the roof, right?”

Cole ducked his head, crushing a dirt clod with the toe of his boot. He wasn’t trying to aggravate anyone, especially Violet. She was command central for Jacobs Livestock. The hell she’d been going through had thrown all of them for a loop, Violet most of all. She hadn’t been sick a day in her first pregnancy, though Beni had decided to make an appearance six weeks early. She’d been prepared to be cautious and watchful. She had not expected to be sick as a dog practically from the moment she and Joe had seen the telltale line on the home pregnancy test.

Besides, Cole was almost as excited about the baby as its parents. He loved being Uncle Cole, and now a little girl? He grinned at the thought of a future full of ponies and pink cowboy boots—assuming his family didn’t string him up for driving Violet into another premature labor.

Cole huffed out a breath, leaning a shoulder against the back of the infield bleachers. Around him, the empty rodeo grounds looked like a hangover—garbage cans overflowed with empty bottles, corners of banners drooped along the fences, spilled popcorn and a smashed glob of cotton candy littered the ground. Katie nosed around under the bleachers and came out packing a half-eaten hot dog. It all looked ill-used and abandoned—sort of like Cole felt.

Yes, he had put them in a tight spot, but there were some things he wouldn’t tolerate when it came to his stock. Okay, many things. Obsessive-compulsive prick was another way of putting it, though only Joe dared say that to his face. He was family. Plus, he was a lot faster than Cole.

“Don’t try to say I didn’t warn you,” Violet said, her voice laced with grim amusement.

Cole froze. She couldn’t mean… “I thought you were kidding.”

“No, I was not, any more than I was kidding when I told you to make this one work, or else.”

Panic churned Cole’s gut. “Violet, you can’t. There must be somebody else—”

“I refuse to even ask. This makes three perfectly good pickup men you’ve chased off. If you can’t force yourself to get along, I’ll send someone you can’t fire.”

“Don’t. Please.” He didn’t hesitate to beg. If she followed through on her threat, he’d either be insane or under arrest by season’s end in September. “Just one more. I promise—”

“Nope. I’m done. If you can find a replacement before tomorrow morning, I’ll hire him. Otherwise…” He could hear her smirking, dammit. “Your new partner will meet you at Cuero.”


For more about Tougher in Texas AND handy dandy links to pre-order a copy of your very own, visit my website at: