Gentling the Cowboy(3)

By: Ruth Cardello

I should write: What woman my age doesn’t know that? But this is not about passing judgment. Positive energy brings positive results. Acceptance of yourself is the first step toward improvement.

God, I’ve been reading too many self-help books.

It’s time to stop thinking about why I’m not living the life I want and just live it.

Which was why she’d chosen to bring a notebook instead of her laptop. Real change sometimes requires a clean sweep. No more wasting time searching the Internet hoping a topic would end her writer’s block. No more reading countless articles on how to write. Just a pen, a notebook, and Texas. If I don’t write something this summer, I deserve to work for my parents for the rest of my life.

Time to color outside the lines.

No more settling for good enough.

Like Doug.

Her recent breakup with the man she’d dated chastely in high school, then slept with through college, had been as unexciting as any of the sex they’d ever had. Not that they’d had sex in months anyway. Which should have mattered, but it hadn’t. Because I didn’t love him. Just like every other choice I’ve made up until now, he was safe, the type of man everyone expected me to be with. Smart, successful, and someone who fit into her parents’ social circle. He’d never said a single thing anyone objected to. Tapioca in a suit. Bland in and out of bed.

Why was I with him for so long?

The wrong size shoe doesn’t fit just because you want it to.

She slammed her notebook shut and hugged it to her chest. She took another look around the room before whispering, “The only one who can give me the life I want is me. Right now. Right here.”

Returning to her more immediate concerns, Sarah looked down at the damp cotton material of her shirt. Who knew how long Lucy would be gone? What if she comes home and she’s not alone? I can’t meet people looking like this.

Coming to a quick decision, Sarah rushed back to her SUV for her luggage and a change of clothes. She left the heaviest pieces in the hallway and, taking just her small bag, searched for a place to freshen up.

The bleached-white downstairs bathroom was as spartan as the rest of the house, but it revealed a beautiful . . . no, a heaven-sent shower. She closed her eyes for a moment and imagined washing off the dirt and sweat under the cool spray.

Would it be so wrong?

Tony considered taking the shotgun from the back of his truck when he saw the vehicle parked in his driveway, but quickly decided to toss this intruder off his land with his bare hands. Hell, it might even make my day.

A Rhode Island license plate? Someone had traveled a long way for a good old-fashioned Texas beating.

’Course, there was a slim chance that David had invited a buyer to pick up his horse directly from the ranch. No, David’s not that stupid.

Tony opened the door of his truck with more force than was necessary and took stock of the scene in his driveway. No one he knew would have driven this flashy gray two-horse trailer or matching silver Lexus SUV—neither of which appeared to have ever seen a day of work.

Upon closer inspection, the trailer looked more like a delivery truck than a pickup. The rear-loading ramp was still down. Someone had clearly unloaded a horse and led it into the barn.

He checked the barn’s interior first. Nothing out of place. The stalls were secure. He scanned the paddocks. All his horses were accounted for.

What the hell? Whoever had driven that trailer had had the gall to put their small horse in one of his paddocks, smack-dab in the middle of his prized quarter horses.

A delicately boned bay horse, Paso Fino by breed. Tony’s eyes narrowed. Pampered, by the looks of it. Definitely not used to working. The sparkling painted black hooves and pink halter stopped him in his tracks.

The intruder is a woman. Cursing, Tony strode toward the house, the pace of his footsteps picking up speed as his anger grew.