In the New York Times bestselling tradition of Jennifer Ryan, Maisey Yates, and B. J. Daniels comes the first book in Sara Richardson’s western contemporary romance series about bull-riding brothers.
NEVER FALL IN LOVE WITH A COWBOY
Jessa Mae Love is done with relationships. No matter how tempting he might be, she cannot—will not—fall for a man like Lance Cortez. The outrageously handsome cowboy is practically a living legend in Colorado, as famous for riding bulls as he is for breaking hearts. What would a big-time rodeo star like him see in a small-town veterinarian who wears glasses, rescues animals, and cries when watching rom-coms? Turns out, plenty.
Raising bulls, riding the circuit, and looking after his ailing father—Lance never stands still for long. Yet Jessa catches his attention, and the more she tries to resist him, the more he wants her. When she agrees to move to the ranch to keep an eye on Lance’s dad, Jessa tells him they have to keep it professional: no flirting, no sweet talk, and definitely no kissing. But with Jessa now living under his roof, that’s easier said than done . . .
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Holding her breath, she stood perfectly still and quiet—minus the loud drumbeat of her heart.
The knocking didn’t stop.
“Hello?” A man’s deep rumbling voice sent her heart off to the races again. There was something vaguely familiar about it . . .
“It’s Lance Cortez. I need to talk to you.”
Lance! Oh. Holy. No. This was not happening. She gazed longingly at the other side of the living room to the safe darkness of the tiny hallway that led to her bedroom. There was no way she’d get through there without him seeing something. Like her ass, maybe.
Get the front door with the windows, the ignorant Home Depot salesman had advised. It’ll let in the most light. Yes, and now it would also give Lance a clear view of a very full moon.
She flattened her body against the cabinets, craning her neck, and sure enough, he stood right there on her front porch, now peering through that lovely window on the door. Oh, god. Her lungs heaved so hard it felt like the Bold Lift Bra was about to bust at the seams. Calm down, she in-
structed herself. He’ll go away. He had to go away.
“Jessa! I know you’re in there. Your car’s here,” he called again, rapping the door with that big manly fist of his. “I need to talk to you. It’s an emergency.”
Tell me about it! Maybe she could call 9-1-1 and have him escorted off her porch . . .
Footsteps thudded on the front porch, moving closer.
Sweet lord! Lance Cortez was peeking through the bay window!
“Hang on a sec!” she yelled, then hit the deck, pressing her body against the wood floor. Lifting her head, she as- sessed the distance to the hallway. It might as well have been twenty miles.
Okay. Think. What would Naomi do? That was an easy one. She never would’ve gotten herself into this situation in the first place because Naomi had the ability to get dressed without the assistance of coffee.
“Jessa, I really need a word,” Lance called again.
“Be there in a minute!” Despite the fact that she was basi- cally naked, sweat itched on her back. Her room. She had to get to her room. And there was only one way. She’d have to army crawl. As long as she stayed on this side of the couch, Lance probably wouldn’t be able to see her from the win- dow. It was risky, but what other option did she have? He obviously wasn’t going away.
Here goes. Trying to remain one with the floor, she squirmed forward, shimmying past the bookshelf. Squirm, pull, squirm, pull. She edged against the couch, bare skin grazing the cold wood planks.
Yes. Yes! It was working. Almost halfway now . . .
A scratch stung her hip as something sharp caught the delicate strap of her thong.
Uh oh. Contorting her body, she tried to get a better look. A loose staple from the re-upholstery job she’d done on the couch had hooked her adorable brand-new panties. Cam it! She should’ve known a staple gun wasn’t enough hold a couch cover together. Thanks a lot, Pinterest.
“Jessa!” More pounding.
“Hold on! Give me a minute!” she called, trying to wring the panic from her tone. What the hell was his problem, any- way? Couldn’t he take a hint? She pushed onto her side to free herself from the staple, but her legs smacked into the end table. The whole thing toppled over with a deafening crash. Ow! Shit! She rolled over, gripping the backs of her calves. At the same time, the thong stretched, ripped, and snapped, falling to the floor underneath her.
“Jessa?” Lance yelled through the door. “What was that?” The doorknob clanged like he was trying to get in. “Is every- thing okay?”
Hot tears filled her eyes. “Fine!” Minus the throbbing in her legs and the fact that she’d just shredded a fifty-dollar thong.
“Are you sure?” he persisted, the sonofabitch. “That sounded bad. Is the key still out here?”
The key? Oh, dear god, the key! Her dad had always left a house key underneath the flowerpot . . .
A new wave of terror surged, blinding her with white-hot fear.
The sound of metal clanged in the lock.
“No!” She squealed, scrambling to hide herself behind a small square throw pillow from the couch. “Please! Don’t come—”
The door sprang open.
Right as Lance stepped around the couch, she shifted the pillow to cover her lower hemisphere.
“What’re you—?” He halted like he’d been shot, his gaze bouncing from her eyes to her bra and then, sure enough, down to the pillow.
“Turn around! Cover your eyes,” she wailed. For the love of god! Humiliation curdled into anger. “Why’d you have to come in? Who just barges into someone’s house, huh?” Why couldn’t he have waited on the porch like she’d asked?
“Uh . . . ” He seemed to be frozen in place. “Sorry. I heard the crash. Thought you were hurt . . .”
Was he gawking? His lips had parted with surprise. And then there were his eyes. Wide and unblinking. Men didn’t usually look at her like that . . .
“What the hell happened?” he asked, finally finding the decency to turn around and stare out the bay window.
Securing the pillow against her lower abdomen with one hand, she covered her Boldly Lifted chest with her arm in case he decided to peek again. “I had a bit of an accident.” She should make something up. Something really exciting. Something like she and a mystery man were playing this kinky game . . .
“Are you hurt?” Lance asked, his head swiveling toward her again.
She kept herself covered. Oh, yes. She was hurt. On more than one level. “I’m fi e,” she choked out. “Can you get my robe? It’s hanging up in the bathroom at the end of the hall.”
“Right. Your robe.” He sort of side-shuffled his way down the hall and back, before tossing the robe at her without turn- ing around.
Clutching her salvation, she scurried up to a standing po- sition, the backs of her calves still aching, and wrapped the fabric around her, tying the belt securely at her waist.
Lance peeked over his shoulder as if to check on her, then turned all the way around.
She wasn’t sure if she was out of breath due to the terrible thong ordeal or to the fact that the elusive Lance Cortez looked so different up close. She’s seen him around town since she’d been back, but she’d never looked at him that closely. He’d never looked at her the way he was now, either. Eyes open slightly wider than a normal person’s, lips parted like he couldn’t remember what it was he’d wanted to say.
Yes, well, neither could she. Not with the sight of his dark hair, which curled slightly at the edges. It was mussed like he’d been nervously running his hand through it all morning. And those eyes. An arctic blue-gray. Cutting. He wore a dark red flannel shirt with the sleeves pushed up over his bulky forearms. His jeans were faded and worn like he worked hard, which she’d heard he did.
“So . . .” His voice had this deep soothing reverberation that made her want to curl up against him. “Did you fall or something?”
Or something. “I was in the kitchen making coffee,” she informed him, trying to smooth her hair into soft waves like it had been before she’d gone to battle with the couch. “Wasn’t expecting anyone to show up at my door . . . ” Espe- cially the enigma that was Lance Cortez. “So I panicked and was trying to get back to my room without giving you a show.” Which was clearly too much to ask from the uni- verse.
“Oh.” His gaze seemed to fixate on the leopard-print thong that lay a mere two feet from his boots.
As swiftly as possible, she swiped it off the floor and shoved it into the pocket of her robe. “Um. Did you need something, Lance?” Because her humiliation meter was about tapped out for the day and it wasn’t even seven o’clock.
THE ROCKY MOUNTAIN RIDERS SERIES
HOMETOWN COWBOY, #1
COMEBACK COWBOY, #2
RENEGADE COWBOY, #3