Charming the Cowboy (Grape Seed Falls Romance Book 3)(2)

By: Liz Isaacson

She dialed Elaine as she took out her earrings. “Let’s do something tonight,” she said when her friend answered. “I don’t want to stay home alone. Again.”

“I wish I could,” Elaine said. “I wish I was even still in town. But my mom fell this morning, and I’m in Austin.”

“Oh, no.” Heather picked up the cat food bowl and dumped the uneaten food back in the bag. “Is she all right?” She’d eaten dinner at Elaine’s house more times than she could count over their lifelong friendship, and Elaine’s mother had always been kind, with a quick wit Heather envied.

“It’s a fractured hip. The doctors want to do another x-ray in the morning to make sure it’s not broken.”

“Is your sister there?” Elaine had a “perfect” older sister who caused Elaine quite a bit of grief.

“Oh, no,” Elaine said, her tone full of sarcasm “Erin had choir practice tonight. She simply can’t miss choir practice. She’s coming in the morning.”

Heather could hear the way Elaine would be rolling her eyes, and she giggled. “What can I do for you? Bring you dinner when you get home?”

“Your sausage stuffed rigatoni,” Elaine said immediately. “I’m hoping to be back on Sunday night. Dad should be able to take care of Mom if it’s not too bad.”

“Who took your shift at the park?”

“I don’t know. I called in, and Damien said he’d take care of it.”

Heather wondered what that would be like. For her, taking a day off was harder than just going to school. And if she didn’t have a substitute and absolutely couldn’t go, she worried all day. Taking care of twenty-four eight-year-olds was exhausting, emotionally and physically. But she still loved her job, loved the kids, and couldn’t imagine herself doing anything but teaching.

“Hey, my dad is yelling about Ziplock bags. He’s lived in this house for thirty-four years. You’d think he’d know where they were. Gotta go.”

Heather hung up laughing, glad she’d called Elaine. They’d been friends since childhood, had roomed together in college, and returned to their hometown to make a life for themselves. Ellen worked at the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historic Park, about thirty-five minutes from Grape Seed Falls.

And she wasn’t in town tonight to give Heather an excuse to skip the open riding lesson. She really didn’t want to stay home alone, and she allowed herself to change into her blue jeans, a sensible T-shirt with the Texas star on it, and her comfiest pair of cowgirl boots.

She loved riding horses, but she didn’t need to go out to Levi’s to do it. Surely he knew that. Why didn’t he know that?

Levi wasn’t hosting a party, but she arrived fashionably late anyway. She knew the drill—pay the ten dollar fee, move into the stable, pick out the horse you want, see a cowhand if you needed help saddling or riding.

Heather didn’t need help. Even if she did, she didn’t want it from just any cowboy. In fact, she’d tried dating cowboys for a long time, and it just didn’t feel like the right fit for her. Why she thought Levi was a good match, she had no idea.

All she knew was that when she stood in front of Starscape’s box stall, her hand stroking the horse’s mane, Levi’s voice filtered down the aisle and caused her heart to bump faster. Excitement built in her stomach that she’d get to talk to him face-to-face. Look into those dark eyes and fantasize about the day when he might actually see her. Really see her.

Pathetic, she told herself before commanding her pulse to quiet. It didn’t, and she didn’t know how to make it settle down. The barn sat in silence, all the other riders already in the pastures, the arenas, or the riding circle.

“Should we go?” she asked the horse. “You remember me, right? I rode you a couple of months ago.” Starscape’s eyes closed halfway, almost a horse acknowledgement. Heather unlatched the Tennessee walking horse’s gate and led the animal toward the tack rooms at the end of the barn. Levi’s voice grew louder, and it became obvious to Heather that he was on the phone. Not wanting to eavesdrop on him intentionally, she made her steps extra-heavy.