Lone Star Trouble by Autumn Piper
Genre: Romantic suspense, contemporary
Publisher: Hearts Desire Press
“Hey, Texas.” She leaned toward him, elbows on the table. “Let’s not go back to work today.” — Kiersten
One tough rancher-girl plus one hot cowboy adds up to trouble.
Kiersten Day hates all things Texan – including and especially one CJ Howell. The cattle rancher gone real estate mogul has set his sights on her tiny Colorado ranch, trying every dirty trick in the book to make her sell. When his manager stoops to threatening her, Kiersten prepares for the fight of her life. Enter Cleve: tall, handsome good-guy, who she falls flat on her Texas-hating face for. The problem? Cleve is Howell’s son, and doesn’t believe his father is behind all the sinister things happening to her. How could he be the offspring of the monster she’s been battling?
Cleve never imagined love could be so complicated. Of all the girls he could fall for, it had to be one bent on hating men. Kiersten is the only person who’s ever stood up to his father’s Texan guerrilla business tactics—and won! She’s possibly pregnant, oblivious to her best friend mooning over her, determined to keep the family ranch despite increasing threats, and the prettiest little thing he’s laid eyes on. It just couldn’t be easy, could it?
About the Author:
Born and raised in itty-bitty Rifle, Colorado, Autumn Piper studiously avoided trouble…but is now inclined toward it, particularly in her novels. She thinks the best things in life are funny, and the runners-up, romantic.
An admitted carb addict, Autumn writes, edits, manages two teenagers, one husband and many supersize houseplants, and does the cooking and cleaning when forced to.
Content warning: a hot cowboy, an overprotective grandpa, a meddling BFF with his own love-life troubles, a woman set to win the battle no matter the cost, and frequent use of cowboy four-letter “French” words.
This couldn’t be good. She never ran into other people up here. And after yesterday’s confrontation… Why hadn’t she strapped on her pistol before she left the cabin?
A sweaty buckskin gelding topped the hill, then halted.
Time for another confrontation.
The cowboy dismounted and made a thorough visual examination of her.
Freckles. The first thing he’d see would be her freckles, since she never bothered with makeup except for trips to town. Add to that her big messy ponytail, and she couldn’t believe the guy was taking a second look. And a third? Well, he wasn’t exactly looking at her face, now was he? Warm from her hike up the hill, she’d unzipped her jacket, exposing the only curves on her body—her breasts. The tall stranger all but ogled them.
Not in the least appreciative of his silent admiration, she tugged her jacket closed.
With a small cough, he cleared his throat. “Howdy, neighbor. I’m Cleve. You must be Miss Day.”
Another Texan, but clean shaven, with light skin, short dark hair and nearly black eyes. He wore a red flannel shirt with a blue t-shirt under, tucked cowboy-style into his Wranglers. Around his waist he sported a plain leather belt and everyday buckle, not a shiny gold-and-silver number like the guy she’d met yesterday. Brown boots, and the straw cowboy hat he’d removed when he introduced himself.
It was hard not to meet his wide, open smile with one of her own. Too hard, in fact. “Hi. Kiersten.” A tiny gold hoop hung from his left ear, odd on a cowboy, but nothing blame-worthy. And he was definitely fine to look at—if she’d been interested in looking at men anymore.
He took her hand in his and shook it with big, friendly strokes, settled his hat back atop his head and looked around. “Some view up here.”
She nodded. “See that peak over there, the darker one? It’s in Utah. My Grandpa said it’s about a hundred and fifty miles away.”
Cleve whistled behind her. “You walk up here?”
She grinned at how winded he was from riding horseback up the mountain. “I walked the fence line, checking for snow damage. I’ll be hanging it back up in the next few days.”
“What kinda fence is that?” The wire net lay flat and ran parallel to an army of steel posts marching straight as an arrow into the horizon.
Cattlemen marked the edge of their property with two or three simple strands of barbed wire, rather than the net fencing sheep ranchers used. “It’s a fence to keep my nuisance sheep in, and your fat cows out, since the law says I’m responsible for both.”
He rubbed his chin with the back of his fingers. “I meant, why’s it on the ground?”
“Seven feet of snow on a hillside tends to make a mess of a fence, come spring. Used to come up here and find this part of the fence crumpled up way down there.” She pointed at a stand of aspens about twenty feet down the hill. “Might find several steel posts bent over flat. One of the other old-timers came up with the idea of unhooking the wire from the posts in the fall. Keeps the snow from leaning on it for months on end, and the elk from getting tangled in it.”
“Pretty good idea, then.”
“You’ll find I’m not stupid, in spite of what your boss might think.”
“Ah…Boss?” He scratched the back of his hair, tipping the front of his hat a little.
“Yeah. Charles. The world’s last remaining male chauvinist pig. Boss Hogg, in a Cadillac truck instead of his trademark white convertible. Give him my regards.”
Her middle fingers raised in another rebellious salute.
His eyebrows lifted. “Doesn’t sound like he put his best foot forward.”
“Just let him know that next time, his foot better have a bullet-proof boot on, cause I’ll be comin out with my twelve-gauge. And let him know I thought over his offer.”
Cleve’s eyes lit. “And?”
“You’re probably shy about giving your boss the bird, even though it’s a message, so just tell him, ‘Not everybody can be bought, and there are a million five reasons why,’ okay?”
His eyes widened. “Ah. Wasn’t too persuasive, then?”
“Definitely not a people person, that Chaz. I thought his lawyers were bad. You must be his new, what, manager? Ranch foreman?”
Big fingers rubbed over his chin. “Somethin like that.”
Why was the guy so confused? Maybe the thin air starved his brain of oxygen. Seemed nice enough. Too bad he’d gotten hooked up with such a peckerwood. “Well, it’s been nice meeting you, Cleve. Good luck with Boss. Is there a Mrs. Hogg—I mean Howell?”
He grinned. “Not yet.”
“I’d say his chances keep getting thinner as his waist gets thicker, and women get more crazy ideas in their heads about equal opportunities, all that Women’s Lip nonsense.” The mere thought of Chaz’s asinine ideals had sent her hands to her hips again. Damn. “I need to get back and do something domestic around the house now.”
With a wave over her shoulder, she started back down the hill.
“Wait!” Cleve followed down the hill on his side of the fence. “You want some help when you put up this part-time fence?”
Work with the cattlemen? She’d be damned if she’d ever take help from Chaz, but Cleve seemed friendly. And cute. Shaking off cute, she shrugged. “Sure.”
“Wanta do it tomorrow? Same time?”
“I’ve, um, got a…date.” And why did she say that? Why should she want him to think she had a date? “How ’bout Sunday.”
“Sunday it is,” he answered with a smile.
Damn fine smile he had. George Strait fine.
As she walked away, she called back, “Don’t forget your gloves!”
Criminy. She stopped again.
“You startin at the top, or bottom?”
“Top. If we get to the bottom, I’ll feed you lunch.”