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Back in the saddle again…
Tyler Ellis catches Kit Hayes completely off guard when he swaggers back home and into the bar she manages. Since high school, he’s been a champion rodeo star…a notorious playboy…and now, apparently, a bar owner. She accepts his offer of a hefty bonus and helps him transform the place because she’s desperate to escape their tiny town in the Sierras. She doesn’t expect him to work this hard beside her. Where’s the cocky cowboy he’s supposed to be? Instead she discovers he’s still the sweet, genuine young man she once knew. And so much more…including a threat to the adventurous life she craves.
Kit glanced at his towel in horror. “Use the lint-free kind.” She handed him a towel from the stack on the shelf over the sink. “Jeez, you are green, aren’t you?”
“Green at this,” Tyler admitted. “But rumor has it I’m a pretty quick study.”
“Well, I guess we’ll find out if the rumors are true,” she teased. “It’s your first Friday night, isn’t it?”
“It sure is.” He tried to smile, but it felt a little weak. “I’m looking forward to it. But I’ve got a few nerves.”
“You should. You have no idea what you’re doing.” Her intoxicating combination of sass and mischief had the glass slipping out of his hand, so he had to hustle to catch it.
“Nice reflexes,” she murmured. “Maybe there’s hope for you yet.”
“If you help me out tonight, there is. I can pour a pint—”
“—and measure out a shot. But if I get anything more complicated than that, I’m toast.”
“You don’t know your cocktails?”
“Don’t drink ’em myself. I’ve been reading recipes, but I’m more of a hands-on learner.” A nice way of saying that half the words he read made no sense. He glanced hopefully in her direction. “I just need a good teacher.”
“You want me to train you? You won’t be embarrassed?”
“When you rodeo, you learn by falling on your ass in front of hundreds of people. This can’t be more humiliating than that.”
She studied him from underneath her thick black lashes. “What’s in it for me?”
“A boss who’s not totally incompetent?”
Her slow smile could melt metal. “But that could be kind of fun to watch.”
“No shit-show is fun to watch for long. Plus I saw you with those customers. You pretend to be all tough, but you have a soft spot for the lost and lonely. I’m part of that club right now.”
“You?” She laughed, soft and bitter. He’d give a lot to know what put that resentment in her soul. “Not the words I’d ever use to describe someone like you.”
“Someone like me will pay you a training stipend. A hundred extra bucks each night.”
“Now you’re trying to buy my help?” She scrubbed the pint glass in her hand with extra vigor. “Not everything can be bought, you know. Loyalty, for example.”
“I’m not asking for your loyalty, though that would be nice,” Tyler said. “I’m trying to treat you like a professional. You have years of experience. I have none and I need to learn. So I pay you extra to share your expertise with me. It’s only right.”
“Fine,” she said quietly. “I’ll do it. But you have to be willing to move fast and do what I say.”
“I’m yours to command,” he said, liking the flush creeping up her cheeks at the tiny innuendo. “And I appreciate the help.”
She grabbed a stack of dry glasses. “Well, let’s get going then. It’s getting loud out there, which means it’s getting busy.”
They rounded the corner and Tyler was amazed to see a crowd that stretched almost to the door. A quick scan revealed a collection of some of the most rugged-looking folks he’d ever seen in one place. Bikers in leather, ranch hands in hats, jeans and bowlegs. Women in tight T-shirts and big hair. Kit glanced over her shoulder. “Welcome to the Dusty Saddle. Hope you’re ready to earn your spurs.”
Claire McEwen lives by the ocean in Northern California with her family and a scruffy, mischievous terrier. She loves writing stories where strong heroes and heroines take big, emotional journeys to find their happily-ever-afters. When not dreaming up new books, she can be found digging in her garden with a lot of enthusiasm but, unfortunately, no green thumb. She loves discovering flea-market treasures, walking on the beach, dancing, traveling and reading, of course!
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