Charming the Cowboy (Grape Seed Falls Romance Book 3)(4)

By: Liz Isaacson

So Levi plucked a dark brown cowboy hat from a peg beside the door and positioned it on his head. He could chat for a few minutes. He exited the stables and squinted into the evening sun, hoping Heather was riding nearby. She was easy to talk to, as Levi had known her his whole life. Her older brother was his best friend, and they’d all grown up together on orchards and ranches, with horses and dogs.

Maybe she’d know what to do about his nanny goat. Why Levi thought that, he had no idea. Heather taught school now, though she’d never been afraid to roll up her sleeves and get dirty on the ranch. Levi had seen her muck out the dirtiest stalls and he didn’t think there was a horse in Texas that wouldn’t listen to her.

He didn’t see her anywhere. Plenty of other women, but not her. Levi lowered his head as he felt the weight of dozens of female eyes. He strode toward the fence separating the dirt road from the pasture, as the women who rode out here usually treated him like more than a piece of meat.

Levi wasn’t blind to the affect he had on women. And if any of them knew how many zeroes he had in his bank account…. The very thought made his lungs seize. And that only reinforced why he didn’t date. If he did, he’d have to reveal some things about himself he didn’t want anyone to know.

He’d tried with a woman named Capri last summer, but she asked a lot of questions. Levi hadn’t been all that interested in answering them, so he’d broken things off.

He put one booted foot up on the bottom rung of the fence and watched Sammy Kelton ride a black horse named Inkwell. A few years younger than Levi, Sammy was also a native of Grape Seed Falls. Most people were, though there had been some new housing built in the past five years or so. Their population had swelled to fifteen thousand, and Levi had been sure to recruit the new kids for private horseback riding lessons.

He solidly believed everyone should know how to ride a horse, the same way all humans should know how to swim.

“Evenin’, Sammy,” he said when she circled past him.

Her entire being lit up, and Levi worked to keep himself from rolling his eyes. Everything was work lately, and he wondered if he should maybe take a vacation. Get out of town. He had two orchard bosses. They’d be fine without him. In fact, all he did now was sign checks for payments and say yes or no to decisions they wanted him to make.

And his stables here would be fine too. Sawyer, Cooper, and Flynn did all the work anyway. Levi spent time with the horses, and he liked going off on his own to fix fences, pick up supplies, and get the office work done. Most cowboys didn’t want to sit behind a desk, but Levi didn’t mind so much. No one bothered him in the office. He didn’t have to answer questions or engage in small talk, both extremely difficult things for him.

“Are you goin’ to the Fall Festival?” Sammy asked, bringing Inkwell to a halt.

“Don’t even know when it is.”

She cocked her head and looked at him like she was trying to decide if he was being serious or not. “Levi,” she said. “It’s always the week before Halloween.” She put a smile on her face that didn’t quite reach her eyes.

“Oh, right.” Levi hadn’t gone to the Fall Festival since his return to Grape Seed Falls seven years ago. Other than a brief two-year stint in Kentucky, Levi had always called Texas home. But he’d removed himself from the town happenings, and surely Sammy knew that.

“So are you gonna go?”

“Probably not.”

“Why not?”

Levi looked into her blue eyes and tried to find her attractive. Most men probably thought she was, what with her sandy blonde-streaked hair, a few freckles, and a strong personality. She worked as a waitress and surely made great tips from tourists and locals alike.

But Levi didn’t feel anything for her. He wondered if the ability to love someone had died when his infant son had.

Shaking away the old memories from his young, foolish days, he shrugged. “I don’t like pumpkin pie, for one. And they’re always trying to shove it down your throat at the Fall Festival.”

Sammy threw her head back and laughed, causing several women to look in their direction. Levi lifted his hand in a wave to a couple of them, wondering if that was enough interaction to satisfy Sawyer.