The Texas Cowboy Return to Folly Book 1 by Linda Nightingale Genre: Contemporary Western Romance
When Ash Colter was twelve, his mother divorced his cattle baron father and whisked him away to raise in her native England. Sixteen years later, when his father dies, he inherits Marathon Ranch. Running a 1,000-acre spread famous for the best Black Angus cattle in the great state of Texas is the biggest challenge he’s ever faced…until he meets a pert, pretty, and sassy ranch hand who seems to have her own agenda for his ranch. Unfortunately, she makes his spurs go jingle-jangle-jingle like no one else ever has!
Trish Owens is a real cowgirl, a loner, and, though she’d never admit it, a little lonely. When the “English Cowboy” appears on the scene, her entire way of life is threatened, not only her job, but her beloved Quarter horses. She’s sure he plans to import his thoroughbred horses from England. Worst of all is the chemistry sizzling between them. He makes feelings she thought long dead awaken.
Can these two unwilling allies set aside their differences to put Marathon Ranch in the Winner’s Circle…and to fall in love?
Trish ignored his joke about taking care of her. “Well, thank you, Miss Whatever-your-name-is.” When she shot him a glance, he saw the sadness in her eyes before jealousy evaporated it like the morning dew. He couldn’t allow Trish to think he’d made love to her last night, knowing Dorothy would arrive today. Or thinking he’d sleep with the other woman tonight. Embarrassed as well as annoyed, he flushed to the roots of his hair. Dorothy leapt into his hesitation, offering Trish a handshake.
“I’m Dorothy Applewhite.” The Duchess stared down from her superior height of five-six. “I arrived with the horses, more or less.”
“I’m Trish. Nice to meet you.” Nothing could sound less like the truth.
He looked from one woman to the other. “Dorothy, how did you happen to arrive minutes after the horses were unloaded?”
His ex-girlfriend winked, squeezing his arm against her breast. “Trev mentioned the name of the transport company. I rang them and, using your stable name, was told the shipment would arrive this week. You’d given me the name of the town. I consulted my travel agent and here I am. I wanted to surprise you. I’ve missed you, Ash-Dahling.”
“Ash-Dahling has been busy managing this big old ranch…” Trish batted big innocent eyes and continued in a honeyed voice, “I imagine, that is.”
Dorothy simply stared at the other woman, probably trying to decide if the cowgirl in a red Marathon shirt and figure-hugging jeans was competition. Not Trish’s usual barn clothes. Had she dressed to impress him? Maybe before the horses were unloaded and the duchess arrived. Now, she only wanted to impress one thing upon him. Go to hell.
Trish cast a meaningful glance at Ash, then attacked her opponent with fine-edged sarcasm. “Your white studded jeans are just the thing for the wild west.”
“Thank you.” Dorothy smoothed a hand down her shapely hip. “I ordered them from an American western wear store just for this trip. The shirt, as well. Do people really wear these small string ties?” She flipped the ends of the Bolo, and Ash almost choked trying not to laugh.
Must be hysteria. This was no laughing matter.
“I don’t personally.” Trish leaned closer, pretending to admire the pearl snaps on Dorothy’s western shirt. “Yeah, really nice.”
“I haven’t seen a lot of people—in fact, not even one—wearing a Bolo.” Ash shoved his hands into his pockets. He felt naked, exposed, and a feeling he hated–vulnerable. “Maybe Sunday for church.”
“Church?” Trish barked a laugh.
Frowning, he suggested, “A country and western bar?”
“I prefer dives, sir. Country music, with or without a worn flag painted on the floor, lots of beer, and the Texas two-step.” Trish was no longer laughing, nor did she look very sassy. Was she angry enough to cry…or hurt enough to be angry?
“You two don’t get in an argument about my little tie. You may have it if you like.” His former girlfriend slid a possessive hand around his elbow. “I have Ash here. Dear, my bags are in the boot. Will you ask someone to take them to your room?”
Ash squared his shoulders. “I’ll ask Danita to prepare a guest room.”
“Are you still redecorating the Master Bedroom?” Trish was digging his grave deeper with a guileless smile.
She did not mean the redecorating question to be helpful, but he could turn it around on her. Though after the funeral, he’d moved into the Master Suite, he’d been too busy to make many changes. Marathon was a jealous lover.
“I am.” He looked from one to the other. “Still redecorating.”
The two women frowned. Each one affixed her chilly gaze to him.
Ash wanted to squirm, but a good rabbit knows that any movement only incites the hawk. “Let’s get you settled. Trish, if you need anything, call me. As I said, you’re very welcome to stay here.” Please.
“Will do, Ash.” Trish placed warm emphasis on his name, but the look she leveled at him gave him frostbite.
Linda Nightingale is an award-winning author, writing across the genres in romance from vampires to androids to angels. Among others, she won the Georgia Romance Writers Magnolia Award for Excellence (the Maggie) and the SARA Merritt award. Her vampire books have been called the Anne Rice of paranormal romance. Once upon a time, she bred, trained, and showed the magnificent Andalusian horse and owned a national champion stallion, Bonito.
What images does that one word conjure? Cowboys. Cattle. Horses. Wide open spaces.
Let’s take the wide open spaces first. The sky in Texas is bigger than anywhere else. When I first moved to the state, the sky was a little daunting. It goes on forever. On a clear day, it is forever blue, stretching to the horizon, and that demarcation line seems very far away.
I lived in Texas for fourteen years, and I loved the Lone Star State. I lived in the Houston area. For four years, I lived in the Medical Center because I was a legal assistant at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center and was only 10 minutes from work and less than that without traffic. Texans are friendly, hospitable, and generally great folks. I made some of my best friends in Houston.
The state does offer cowboys, cattle, and horses. Every year for RodeoHouston, thousands of horses and riders arrive at Memorial Park in Houston. Eleven trail rides converge to form the Rodeo parade for the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. This parade starts in Downtown Houston and in a bustling city suddenly it is quiet enough to hear the clip-clop of hooves on asphalt.
In 1952, four men traveled on horseback from Brenham, Texas, to raise awareness of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo™. Today, more than 2,000 trail riders partake in the Rodeo's signature tradition each year. Riders hit the trail in an attempt to recreate the Old West, and in doing so, find a common ground that links us all to the Rodeo.
Approximately 1,300 miles are covered by all Trial Rides. Longest Distance = 239 miles: Mission Trail Ride begins in San Antonio, TX. Shortest Distance = 71.5 miles: Valley Lodge Trail Ride begins in Brookshire, Texas. All Trail Rides are led by Trail Bosses, who a responsible for ensuring safety. Many of the horses on the ride are rescued animals. The Texas Independence Trail Ride has such animals, as well as three century old wagons.
Texas was once a land of many trails. These trails were the arteries linking the outlying areas with settlements. The trails were formed by the repetitive use of the settlers. Stagecoach routes helped establish more trails, as today’s highways are versions of those same routes.
One year a friend and I went to Memorial when the trail riders were coming in off the trail. The atmosphere was electric. There was so much excitement about the event, and I’m sure relief to arrive at their destination after so many hours in the saddle. One man couldn’t wait. He dipped into the horses’ watering tank and splashed water over his head. My friend and I enjoyed a cold one with one group. I always wanted to ride with the trail riders, but never signed up. It would have been a wonderful way to make lasting memories and connections. I’m sure you make a lot of friends on that kind of adventure. As a horsewoman, I can say that horse people are some of the nicest I’ve met.
In The Texas Cowboy, they don’t exactly hit the trail, but they are in the fictional town of Folly, Texas, which I imagined at about 45 miles from Waco, Texas. Since Marathon Ranch is about one thousand acres, they can do a trail ride without leaving Colter land. In one scene, Trish, the heroine, has ridden out and is caught by surprise in a thunderstorm. A wind sounds like a freight train. Lightning is flashing, and thunder booming. And the worst part is that she’s on a green broke horse who’d be terrified by this war of the elements. Into the sheets of rain, Ash rides out to find her. He finds a muddy palomino (blonde) colt and a soaked and bedraggled Trish in the scant shelter of a copse of trees.
That’s something else about Texas. The rains, like everything else, is bigger in Texas.