Page 5 of Faithful Cowboy (Whiskey Valley Bryant Brothers)

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I look at her in surprise. Fuck, I want to know everything about her. I don’t even care what she’s talking about; I just want to hear her voice. “Yes, I really want to know.”

“Okay, well, the story is about a cowboy and a city girl that falls in love. She doesn’t really fit into his world, and he doesn’t fit into hers, but that doesn’t matter. They want to be with each other.”

I nod. Thirty minutes ago, I would have thought that would be ridiculous and never work, but now I can see the possibilities. “Okay, so how can we help? I mean the ranch?”

I try to keep my eyes on the road, but it’s almost impossible with her sitting so close. I can imagine her blushing at her tentative words. “Well, uh, I know nothing about cowboys. I mean nothing. I don’t know what I thought when I decided to start writing them, but I’ve always had a theory about them and wanted to write them.”

The more she talks, the more open and unguarded she gets. “What’s your theory?”

“Uh...” she starts and stops.

I look over at her, and I was right. She’s blushing. “What’s your theory on cowboys?”

She puts her hand over her heart. “Oh my, this is so embarrassing.”

I laugh. “Don’t be embarrassed. I really want to know. And I mean, what better way to know if your theory could be right or not? I’ve been a cowboy all my life. Well, I was in the Army for ten years, but you know, once a cowboy, always a cowboy, right?”

She leans forward. “You were a soldier?”

Why did I tell her that? That’s the last thing I want to talk about. “Uh yeah, I was. But don’t try and get me sidetracked. Back to this theory.”

She leans back into her seat with a loud sigh. “Okay, this is so embarrassing, but here it goes. First of all, I was married to a man that was a certain way, and I think that’s why I wanted to write cowboys. In my mind, cowboys are the exact opposite of my ex-husband.” She stops and looks at me. “Geez, that’s crazy, isn’t it? I never imagined how crazy that sounded until I said it out loud.”

I clench my hands around the steering wheel. I hate hearing her talk about her ex-husband. “It’s not crazy... well, to me it’s not.”

I can feel her staring at me and try to keep my face unguarded. I don’t want her to think I’m judging her or anything. Finally, she starts again. “Well, I always thought cowboys were protective, gritty, maybe a little rough around the edges, but when they love something, it’s theirs. Nothing comes between them and what they love.” She shakes her head. “I always imagined it that the family depends on each other. Times could be rough, but they had each other. They make it work. They don’t go and find another woman. They are willing to work for it. They’re faithful.”

She sits back in her seat and rests her head back. I look over at her, and her eyes are closed. Her chest rises and falls with each breath she takes. It’s amazing to think everything I just learned about Hailey with what she just said. “You’re right, you know.”

Her head rolls to the side and looks at me. “Right?”

“Yeah, right. Cowboys are all about family and our land. We all depend on each other. We’re possessive and territorial. My brother King is married, and I can guarantee that he would never let anything come between him and his wife. And I mean, I can’t talk for all cowboys because I know there are some that shouldn’t be wearing the hat or the belt buckle, but for the most part, we’re from the old world where chivalry, faithfulness, and forever still means something.”

I stop at a light at the entrance to Whiskey Valley and look over at her. She’s lifted her head off the seat and is staring at me, open-mouthed. I can’t stop the chuckle. “Does that sound lame?”

She shakes her head back and forth. “No, not at all.”

We stare at each other, and when she licks her lips, I’m about to lean across the console when she mutters, “The light is green.”

I blink and look at the road, pushing on the gas. Get it together, Griffin. You have nothing to offer this woman. I clear my throat, trying to get back on topic. “Anything specific you need to know about the ranch?”

“Uh, yeah, everything, I guess. How to saddle a horse—I would love to ride so I can better describe how it feels—how to brand a cow, just day-to-day operations. I need to learn the lingo.”

The more she says, the more I start to think. I’m not sure what King was thinking. Does he realize everything she needs to learn while she’s here? I’ve barely been on a horse since I’ve been back. The muscles in my thigh were ripped to shreds, and slowly I’m building back, but it takes everything I have to stay on a horse. She needs to know everything, and a lot of it, I’m incapable of doing.

“Well, no worries. I’m sure King has a plan.”

I can feel her curious gaze on me, but I don’t look back at her. The rest of the ride is done in silence as I try to build the walls around my heart even higher. I have to do something because I have a feeling that Hailey could easily find her way inside.

Chapter 6

Hailey

Griffin hasn’t said anything for awhile, so I jerk when he announces. “This is it.”

I sit up straighter in my seat and look in awe out the front window of the truck. “Wow!”

He nods with a smile on his face. “Yep, I feel the same way... even though I see it every day.”


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