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- One prequel novella
- Two full-length novels
- Three books plus a bonus full-length novel!
- Matchmaking Therapy
- Regency Therapy
- Rock Climbing Therapy
- Happily Ever After Ending
- No Cheating, No Swears, No Sex
- Sweet romances
It’s all out warfare in this
enemies-to-lovers romantic comedy. My publisher invited me to attend an all-expenses paid writing retreat at some posh Regency-era resort. Carole isn't nice like that—there must be a catch. There is.
His name is Ryder Hawk, the outlaw leader of the all-male Western writers who work for the same publishing company. The problem is, Ryder and I have a history. And it’s more like war than peace.
Intro to Chapter One
Intro to Chapter One
I bump into him in the airport bookstore on purpose just as he picks up a copy of my latest bestseller. Maybe he’ll recognize me.
He doesn’t. “Beg your pardon,” he drawls.
“So sorry. I didn’t see you.” I
totally did. I’d been surreptitiously checking out the fit of his dark-washed jeans—perfection—and his chocolate brown cowboy hat with matching boots. Ugh. Cowboys. Why do I find them attractive? The black t-shirt stretching across his chest only darkens his flashing mahogany eyes. “Are you looking for something to read?”
He sets down my book, casually slides a different novel from the rack on the wall and offers it to me. “Are you?”
“A Western?” This is the perfect way to meet the handsome stranger. I’d been eyeing the book to check out my competition anyway. Ryder Hawk’s latest novel is in first place on the bestseller list, and my novel is barely clinging to that spot right below him. Always behind. I’ve got to figure out why he beat me—again—before I default on my parents’ mortgage.
But here’s a real-life cowboy, not some fake like Ryder. The fade on this guy’s jeans comes from working. His boots look worn and comfortable, and there are some actual grass stains on one thigh.
The stranger leans down, and he smells fresh like sunshine, bald eagles, freedom, and the American Way. Or maybe it’s just his detergent. I might have gone to bed too late last night, procrastipacking. His deep voice tickles my ear. “This one’s quality. You can’t go wrong.”
I cave and accept the book, even if my nemesis wrote it. “Thanks. I’ll give it a try. What about you? Need any recommendations?” I ask innocently, to keep the conversation going. I want to hear why he is looking at my book. Maybe my publisher should be targeting men in their ads.
He smirks as he holds up my new historical romance. “Nah, I’m good. I found a bodice ripper to entertain me.”
I laugh, then I realize he’s
serious. “I hate that term. The couple on the cover are fully clothed. They aren’t even holding hands, and the guy’s got a shirt on. It must be a sweet romance.”
His eyes narrow, and I catch myself. I’m talking like an author, so I try for an off-hand tone instead. “I mean, it doesn’t look like smut to me. It looks pretty tame—no buttons flying or dresses falling off the shoulder.”
“I’ll take my chances on it anyway.” The line moves forward, and the cowboy hands his book to the cashier. He reaches for a bag of beef jerky and a water bottle, then completes his transaction. I can’t
help noticing his muscled arm as he picks up his purchases. This guy knows his way around a ranch.
He smiles lazily as he turns to leave the narrow giftshop. “Enjoy your book. I’ve heard it’s a good one.” His lopsided grin is half smirk and half smolder, and I tamp down my attraction. I hate the cocky cowboy type on principle, especially when they block the candy bar display. I need some peanut M&M’s to get me to Denver, and he is in the way.
“Enjoy yours.” I can’t help
defending the cover. “Seamstresses actually used very few buttons on that sort of clothing, and the ones used were sewn on so well that no one could have ripped the bodices. Really. Historically.”
He arches an eyebrow, tips his hat, and saunters lazily from the store.
Argh. Why can’t I keep my
mouth shut? I just have to get one more word in. The last word.
I pay for Ryder’s book—I can’t
believe I’m helping him keep that number one spot on the charts above me—and my consolation M&M’s, then grab a tin of breath mints, for good measure. If there are men like Real-Life Cowboy on the loose, I’ve got to be prepared for another chance encounter. I’ll pass on the onion bagel at the shop next door and see if any other perfectly sculpted men appear.
I walk laps around the terminal as I wait for my flight to board, but Mysterious Cowboy Hottie is the only Adonis. He takes up two chairs, and I feel a twinge of righteous indignation. Of course a cowboy is the kind of guy to manspread in a crowded airport. I step pointedly around his outstretched legs, but he ignores me. I forgive him because he’s engrossed in my book, but still, I wouldn’t have minded spending my last forty minutes flirting a little more.
I’m a romance author. It would be research, and this is a business trip, after all.
I sink into the row of black
leather seats a couple spots away from him and flip through Ryder Hawk’s book instead. It’s about the same length as my novel, but I’m already bored by the long descriptions of waving prairie grass and the hero’s saddle bag. What do
people see in this guy’s writing?
I skim the first chapter. Cowboy Guy glances over a couple times, and my heart rate ticks up in a delicious way, but what’s the point? Besides, I just read an article on playing hard to get. I want to see if it works—purely for research—so I keep my eyes on the novel. My mind wanders, as I wait to see if he’ll talk to me.
He doesn’t. Stupid article.
I flip to the middle of the book. The rancher is in trouble, and the hired cowboy is going to protect him and his frail, helpless daughter.
Please. That worn-out old
Does the woman have to be helpless?
I grunt, and the Real Deal Cowboy tips his chin. “How’s the book?”
“Fine.” I smile and start reading in earnest—no more skimming. Ryder Hawk always outsells my books, the hack, and I want to know why. Carole’s new assistant, Lauren, pits us against each other, releasing our books at the same time, and he always steals the number one spot.
But it’s hard to hate cowboys when they stretch lazily in their black leather seat, fold their arms behind their head, and tip their hat over their eyes, so I can stare at their biceps without them knowing.
I bite back a sigh. If he heard my grunt, he’ll hear me wiping the drool, too.
Lauren—the overly eager new
assistant—believes in energy fields and colored crystals and horoscopes, so she doesn’t see our same-day releases as the competition that they are, especially not when Ryder makes sure to send group emails with patronizing notes like, “Well done on that number two spot,” or “Congrats on making the second half of the bestseller list.” She thinks we have synergy. Hah. I never return
his emails or his backhanded compliments.
I definitely don’t say
anything snarky to Lauren. She reports directly to the owner of the printing press, Carole, so I tolerate her New Age talk and try not to point out how incredibly aggressive and not peaceful or synergetic her own actions are.
I turn the page. Now the rancher’s daughter teaches at the local school. Of course she does, and there just happens to be a windstorm, and the hired drifter who comes into town is fixing the roof of the schoolhouse for her.
Give me a break. If Ryder would describe the way the drifter looks when he’s fixing the roof, he might be on to something, but it’s all blah blah blah. Manly strength, blah blah. Oh, thank you, you big lug. Smooch.
I smile to myself and reread the last part.
He writes terrible kisses. This guy needs one of the workshop classes I’m set to teach this week. Too bad for him! Our retreat is only for the historical romance authors.
Cowboy Dude clears his throat. “Something funny? Find a good part in your book?”
I slam my book shut, but only
because he startles me. Not because I’m rereading the kiss over and over. It is awful. The worst. But I might have been imagining the hottie sitting next to me in the role and rewriting the kiss.
I laugh. “It’s fine.”
“Fine?” He quirks an eyebrow. “You looked mighty interested in something that is only fine.”
I don’t want to offend him, since he’s so hot, but he seems genuinely curious. “Fine. It is the kiss
The cowboy grins knowingly.
“It’s so bad, it’s funny.” I wrap
my arms around myself. “Stomach-aching-bad.”
The cowboy slowly closes his book and shifts on his seat. “Really. Tell me about it.” Something dangerous glints in his eyes, like I’ve personally insulted him and cowboys everywhere, because I dare to insult his Western. I’ve been hoping to talk to this guy for the last half hour. He finally strikes up a conversation again, and it’s going all wrong.
“I don’t read many Westerns, but this kissing definitely needs work,” I say.
“You think Ryder Hawk needs to work on his kissing.” Cowboy Hottie smirks. “You’re a kissing expert, I suppose?”
“I am, actually.” It slips out
before I realize that I’ve almost given myself away.
His smirk widens to a grin. Mr.
Lonesome Broody Cowboy leans in, and his voice deepens to a husky whisper. “And do you give lessons, ma’am? In case I need to work on my kissing?”