Page 2 of Faithful Cowboy (Whiskey Valley Bryant Brothers)

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That was six months ago, and I’m over the shock and pain of it all, but I’ve had a writing block ever since it all happened.

I grab my carry-on bag from overhead and stand in the aisle, waiting on my turn to exit the plane. As I walk slowly down the corridor, I turn on my phone, and almost instantly it rings. The caller ID shows it’s my agent and best friend. I answer it as I follow the signs to baggage claim. “Hey, Kelly.”

She groans into the phone. “I can hear it in your voice. Quit thinking about it. He’s an ass. You know he’s been an ass for a long time, but now you know he’s a cheating ass. You’re definitely better off without him.”

I ignore her tirade. “I can’t believe you’re having me do this... it’s a little over the top.”

She makes a clucking noise. “Tsk. Tsk. Come on now, Hailey. You know as well as I do that in-your-face learning is better than anything you can research online or in a book. You’ll get to be hands-on... hopefully—"

I cut her off. “Don’t say it.”

She laughs, and I swear I can hear her smiling. “What? All I was going to say was that hopefully you can get hands-on with a cowboy.”

I roll my eyes. I swear Kelly is something else, and she definitely throws me some curve balls. She’s friends with a friend of someone and worked out this visit for me. I’m writing my first cowboy romance, and I know nothing about cowboys or ranches. This will definitely be great for the book. That is if I can get past the whole broken heart, not believing in love thing. “Har, har, Kelly. You know I didn’t come here to touch any cowboys. I came to learn about ranching and hopefully break through this writer’s block.”

She sighs, and I know exactly what she’s thinking. I’m already behind on this book. As my friend, she wants me to relax and take my time. As my agent, she needs to tell me how important it is that I don’t miss the deadline. I have readers that will be very disappointed if this book is not released when it’s supposed to be. “You don’t have to say it,” I tell her.

“Haileyyyyy,” Kelly wails into the phone. “It’s all going to work out.”

I slow down and find my way to the edge of people before leaning against the wall. I’m not good in big crowds, so I decide to wait and let it thin out a little bit before I make my way to the baggage claim. Plus, I need to give myself a pep talk anyway. I definitely don’t want my first impression to be with me looking all sad and depressed. “I know it’s going to work out. I’ve never missed a deadline before, and I’m not going to let myself this time. I’m here for four days, and then I’m going to lock myself in the writing cave for the next few weeks to finish this book.”

Kelly’s voice is soft like she’s talking to a small child instead of a grown woman. “I have no doubt you can do it, Hailey. Anything you put your mind to, you make it happen. This is no different. Look at everything you have accomplished already... look how far you’ve come in the last five years of publishing. You can do this!”

I’m nodding along with her, smiling into the phone. “I couldn’t have done it without you.”

“No!” she starts, but I don’t let her finish.

“I’m serious, Kel! I fell apart when everything happened with Frank. If it wasn’t for you, I have no idea what would have happened to me, but I know it wouldn’t have been pretty. I’m going to get my crap together.”

I try my best to sound confident, and knowing how close Kelly and I are, she can probably hear the insecurity in my voice, but thank goodness she doesn’t comment on it.

“You make being your agent too easy, Hailey. You are so hard on yourself, I don’t have to be. Let’s make a deal.”

I laugh. “A deal... with you? Right. I’ve been there, done that. Would this be like the one when we were in high school and whoever lost had to go kiss Johnny Rivers? Or the time you said let’s make a deal, and somehow, I ended up in Las Vegas and pulled on stage during a male stripper show. No thanks. I’ve learned my lesson on making a deal with you.”

She bursts out laughing and starts to snort, which has me laughing too. When we finally calm down, I look at my phone and realize that my ride will be here to pick me up soon. The crowd has thinned out, so I start walking toward baggage claim again.

“Okay, for real. We won’t call it a deal. How about a favor?”

My interest is piqued, and truth be told, I can’t tell Kelly no. Not after everything she’s done for me. “What is it?”

She clears her throat. “Okay, I need you to relax while you’re there. Soak it in, be open to the possibilities, live a little.”

I roll my eyes. I find the conveyor that lists my flight number and start to pace next to it as I wait for the luggage to come down. “It sounds like code for a hook-up with a cowboy.”

She gasps as if she would never think such a thing when in fact, I’m sure that’s exactly what she meant. “Hailey! I can’t believe...”

I shake my head. “Forget the innocent act. I know you, Kelly. But look, I promise I’m going to relax while I’m here. I’m going to learn all about ranching, and I’m going to come back home, clear-headed and primed and ready to finish my book.”

“Primed and ready... I like that.”

The conveyor starts to move, and I laugh into the phone. “Really, of all that, that’s what you heard? What am I going to do with you, Kelly?”

Kelly starts talking about the book, and I keep an eye on the conveyor belt as luggage starts to roll. Nothing was decided, but I’m assuming that my ride will pick me up out front. Surely, they won’t park and come inside.

Chapter 3

Griffin


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