Sadie and her Cowboy by Paige TylerSadie is helplessly drawn to the ruggedly handsome cowboy, even when he spanks her bottom repeatedly for her willful and sometimes reckless behavior.
It's all or nothing for Sadie, her ranch and the dangerous cowboy she's fallen for hard.
When a ruthless cattle baron is determined to do anything to get his hands on Sadie Buchanan's ranch, including running off her ranch hands and killing her cattle, she hires the infamous gunslinger Jake Wagner to protect her property.
Despite the fact that they butt heads right from the start, Sadie is helplessly drawn to the ruggedly handsome cowboy, even when he warms her bottom repeatedly for her willful and sometimes reckless behavior.
But all the cards are put on the table when Sadie bets the cattle baron that she, Jake and her small band of cowpokes can get more cattle to market than anyone in their right mind would attempt.
It's all or nothing for Sadie, her ranch and the dangerous cowboy she's fallen for hard.
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Sadie and her Cowboy (Sample Chapter)
It's all or nothing for Sadie, her ranch and the dangerous cowboy she's fallen for hard
© Paige Tylerr and Blushing Books, 2012-2013
Rocky River, Wyoming Territory, 1883
Sadie Buchanan knew it was unladylike to swear, but at the moment, she didn't feel very much like a lady. She felt like a cattle ranch owner who was being targeted by a wealthy, merciless land baron intent on getting his hands on her property no matter the cost. And she was spitting mad about it. If she were a man, she'd march right over there and box that bastard's ears. But she wasn't a man. And unfortunately, she didn't feel comfortable sending any of the men who worked for her, either. Not that there were many of them left, she thought bitterly. In between cutting the fences and poisoning the cattle, that varmint Harlan Boone had talked her best ranch hands into leaving her and going to work for him. Either that, or scared them away. The only ranch hands who stayed with her were the men who had been with her father so long they were practically family. She wasn't about to let any of them go over to Boone's place and get themselves shot. Or worse.
Tears stung her eyes at the thought of her father, and she wiped them away with the back of her hand. It had been a year since Angus Buchanan's death and she still couldn't think about him without crying. Maybe because she'd never been allowed to grieve for her father the way she should have. No, she'd been too busy fending off the vultures trying to steal his ranch out from under her. Now, after everything, it looked like she might lose it anyway.
"Ain't no question about it, Miss Sadie. Those fences were cut, just like the others."
Sadie looked up at Ned Jeffries, shielding her eyes with her hand against the midday sun. He was frowning at the piece of fence she'd been examining, the lines on his face etched even deeper. Ned had been with her father since he'd bought the ranch. In addition to being foreman, he'd been her father's most trusted friend and confidant. Now, he'd become hers.
"Are you sure no one saw anything?" she asked.
Ned scowled. "I'm sure. Not that it'd matter one red cent if they did. That good-for-nothing sheriff wouldn't do a darn thing about it if Harlan Boone confessed to cuttin' these fences himself."
Sadie's mouth tightened. "That isn't going to stop me for going into town right now and giving him a piece of my mind."
Getting to her feet, she wiped her gloved hands on of her denims and headed for her horse. Ned fell into step beside her.
"Hang on a minute there. If yer goin' to see the sheriff, I'm goin' with you."
Sadie would have preferred Ned to stay at the ranch in case there was more trouble, but she knew there was no talking him out of coming with her. After her father's death, he had appointed himself her protector.
"Though before we go, you might want to change out of those clothes you're wearin'," he advised.
She gave him a dark look as she put her foot in the stirrup and swung up into the saddle. "I'm not going there to impress Sheriff Ennis. I'm going there to tell him to do his job."
Ned climbed up on his horse and nudged the animal along beside hers. "I don't care about that weasel sheriff. I'm worried about the townsfolk. You know how uncomfortable it makes them to see you dressin' in men's clothin'."
Sadie looked down at her shirt and denims. They might look like men's clothes, but they weren't. Her housekeeper, Isabella, had handmade them to fit a woman's form so that the pants hugged her curves instead of hanging loose like they would if she put on an oversized pair of men's denims. That was what made the townsfolk uncomfortable. She considered pointing that out to Ned, but decided against it. She had more important things to think about than what kind of clothes she wore. Besides, Ned had never given her advice that wasn't sound. If he thought she should dress more feminine when she went into town, then that was what she would do.
"Get some men to hitch the wagon while I go into the house and change," she said when they rode into the barn a little while later. "I'll be right out."
Running into the two-story farmhouse, Sadie dashed past Isabella and up the steps. The petite housekeeper immediately abandoned her dusting to hurry after her.
"Where are you off to in such a rush?" Isabella asked, breathless from trying to keep up.
As she went into her bedroom, Sadie glanced over her shoulder at the older woman. "I'm going into town to see the sheriff. Harlan Boone's men cut the fences in the southeast pasture. We nearly had a stampede on our hands."
Behind her, Isabella muttered something in Spanish. "Going into town is a waste of time, pequena." The housekeeper opened the wardrobe and took out one of Sadie's dresses. "You know the sheriff isn't going to do anything."
Sadie took off her boots, then stripped out of her clothes. "I know, but I have to do something. I won't let Boone take my ranch."
"What you need is a strong man to stand up to Harlan Boone and those two sons of his," Isabella said as she helped Sadie into the blue and white dress. "A man like your father."
Sadie bit her tongue to keep from saying something she shouldn't. She knew Isabella was trying to help, but the housekeeper's words infuriated her. Just because she was a woman, that didn't men she couldn't run of a ranch.
She waited impatiently for Isabella to do up the buttons on the back of her dress, then turned to look at her reflection in the mirror. There was a smudge of dirt on her cheek and some of her long, blonde hair had come loose from its bun. She swept back her hair and stuck in another pin to hold it in place, then wiped the dirt from her cheek. Deciding she looked presentable enough, she slipped her feet into the pair of low-heeled boots Isabella had taken out for her. The older woman held out a bonnet to go with her outfit as well, but Sadie shook her head and started for the door. She'd never been particularly fond of bonnets and wasn't going to start wearing one simply because it made the townsfolk happy. Isabella sighed, but made no comment as she followed Sadie downstairs.
"Ned is going into town with you, I hope," Isabella said.
"Good. Because I don't trust that Boone and his boys. I wouldn't put it past him to ambush you on the way into town."
Sadie frowned. She wanted to tell Isabella she was being melodramatic, but her sweet Mexican housekeeper was right. Boone had already demonstrated he would stop at nothing to get what he wanted. If he thought he could get her ranch by hurting her, he would.
"You and Ned be careful," the older woman said as Sadie opened the door.
"We will," Sadie promised.
Fortunately, she and Ned didn't encounter any trouble on the way into town. Sadie didn't relax until they were on the main thoroughfare and the sheriff's office was clearly in sight, though. Boone might have Ennis in his pocket, but even he wouldn't be bold enough to try something in view of the sheriff.
With a general store, saloon, telegraph office, bank, boarding house and school, Rocky River was bigger than most in the Wyoming Territory. It was still small enough for gossip to spread like wildfire, though, and Sadie could tell from the way people were looking at her as she and Ned rode past that everyone knew what had happened on her ranch that morning. She lifted her chin a little higher. Her father had always said that a man couldn't show weakness or folks would walk all over him. The same applied to a woman.
Sheriff Ennis was sitting back in his chair with his feet propped up on his desk when they walked into his office. He was a skinny man with graying hair, weathered skin and a hooked nose that made Sadie think of a buzzard's beak. His bushy brows drew together at the sight of her. On the other side of the room, his deputy, Barney Thompson, did the same.
Clancy Ennis lifted his feet off the desk, his boots making a loud thump as they hit the floor. "And what can I do for you today, Miss Buchanan?"
She met his gaze. "You can arrest Harlan Boone for cutting my fences and almost starting a stampede this morning."
"A stampede?" The sheriff's frown deepened. "Anyone killed?"
"No, but some of my men got hurt."
"Did you get all your cattle rounded up?" he asked.
She nodded. "It took the better part of the morning, but yes, we finally managed to get them back where they belonged."
"Glad to hear it." Sheriff Ennis sat back in his chair again. "Anyone see Harlan Boone or his men cut the fences?"
"No." Sadie's mouth tightened. "He's too sneaky for that."
Ennis sat back in his chair with a shrug. "Then we don't rightly know if he was the one who cut your fences. Or if they were cut at all."
Sadie narrowed her eyes at him. "I know when a fence has been cut, Sheriff, and those fences were cut."
Another shrug. "Maybe they were, maybe they weren't. Doesn't make a difference because no one saw Boone or any of his men do it. I can't go arresting him because you think he did it."
She marched across the room to stand in front of his desk. "I don't think he did it. I know he did it. He wants my ranch and he won't stop until he gets it. If you won't do something to stop him, I will."
Sheriff Ennis exchanged looks with his deputy, and both men laughed as if what she'd said was the funniest thing in the world.
The sheriff propped his feet up on the desk again. "Now, what exactly is a pretty little woman like you going to do to stop a man like Harlan Boone?"
She raised her chin. "Whatever I have to do, Sheriff."
Sadie didn't wait for a reply. Instead, she turned on her heel and headed for the door. Ned moved quicker than he should for a man his age, getting there before she did so he could open it.
Outside, the older man turned to her. "Were you serious when you told the sheriff you'd do whatever you had to do to stop Boone?"
"Yes," she said. "I'm not going to let that bully walk all over me because I'm a woman."
Ned regarded her thoughtfully. "But are you really goin' to be able to do what it takes to stop him?"
"What do you mean?"
"I mean that when the time comes, are you goin' to be able to shoot a man if you have to, Miss Sadie? Because that's probably what it's goin' to take."
Sadie didn't answer. She'd never considered she might have to shoot Harlan Boone to stop him from taking her ranch. She wasn't sure she could do that.
"That's what I thought." Ned sighed. "If you want to hang onto yer ranch, then yer goin' to have to get someone to help you do it."
"I have someone," she pointed out. "You."
He gave her a wry smile. "I'm an old man, Miss Sadie, and just fillin' the shoes of yer foreman because Boone scared him off. Maybe in my younger days, I could have done what needs doin', but not anymore. You need a strong man who can stand up to Boone and his boys."
Sadie clenched her jaw. It was the same thing Isabella had said to her earlier. She was in no more mood to hear it now than she'd been then. She opened her mouth to tell Ned as much, but he held up his hand.
"I know you don't like the idea of bringin' in an outsider, but you need someone Boone can't bribe or scare off, and you ain't goin' to find anyone like that left in Rocky River."
That was true enough. Boone practically owned the town. Sadie chewed on her lower lip. Ned was right. She didn't like the idea of bringing in an outsider, but she wasn't sure she had a choice anymore. Boone wasn't going to give up until he had her ranch, and as much as she hated to admit it, she needed help to fight him.
She folded her arms. "Even if I agree—and I'm not saying I am—where would I find someone like that?"
"I know a man. By reputation, mostly." Ned said. "Name's Jake Wagner. He's made a name for himself by goin' wherever there's a problem that needs takin' care of. You got a ranch or a town bein' terrorized, he's the man you hire."
Sadie frowned. "You can't seriously want me to hire a gunslinger?"
"He's more than a gunslinger," Ned insisted. "He's been a foreman on quite a few ranches, too. Even done some territorial lawman work in between. He's tough, smart and honest. Granted, he charges a pretty penny for his services, but he gets the job done."
She shook her head. "I don't know."
Ned didn't say anything for a moment. Probably because he was trying to come up with something to say to convince her to agree.
"We're getting close to the annual cattle drive to Cheyenne," he finally said. "Do you really want to try movin' two-thousand head of steer with the men you have left on your ranch, especially since Boone is almost sure to cause trouble along the way?"
She'd been so busy trying to protect her ranch from Boone she'd completely forgotten about the cattle drive. Now that Ned had reminded her, she wasn't comfortable with the thought of entrusting the men who worked for her with the task of getting the animals to Cheyenne. If the longhorns didn't make to the stockyards, she wouldn't have to worry about Boone taking her ranch from her by force. She wouldn't have the money to keep it anyway.
But hiring a gunslinger?
The idea was almost too crazy to contemplate. She'd told Sheriff Ennis she would do whatever she had to do to keep her ranch, though. If that meant bringing in a hired gun, then so be it.
"Get Jake Wagner here," she told Ned before she could change her mind. "Tell him I have a problem I need him to take care of."
* * * * *
Jake Wagner had been in Buzzard Butte, Texas for too long. Dealing with the cattle rustlers he'd come here to stop had taken more time than he thought it would. But when he took a job, he didn't leave until it was done, which meant staying until he put every last member of the Cayhill gang in the ground, and the tiny town was once again safe.
He stuck his foot in the stirrup and was about to mount his horse when the distinct and unmistakable click of a revolver being cocked froze him in place.
"Turn around," a voice said from behind him. Too low to belong to a woman, but too high to belong to a man. "Real slow. And keep yer hands where I can see ‘em."
Jake took his foot out of the stirrup and slowly turned around to find a teenage boy standing there. Rail thin with carrot-red hair and freckles, he couldn't have been more than sixteen, if that. The gun he had pointed at Jake trembled, and he reached out to wrap his other hand around the revolver to help steady it.
"If a man picks up a gun and points it at someone, he'd better be prepared to use it," Jake said quietly.
The boy swallowed hard. "I'm gonna use it, don't you worry ‘bout that."
Jake's eyes narrowed. "I don't know who you are, kid, or what your grievance is, but whatever it is, it isn't worth dying for."
"I ain't the one who's gonna die, you murdering bastard. You are." The gun trembled again and the boy tightened his hold on it. "You killed my brother and now I'm gonna kill you."
From the corner of his eye, Jake saw a woman quickly hustle her two small children into the general store across the street, while a small group of men stood outside the saloon a few doors down, watching the drama unfold.
"I'm sorry about your brother, whoever he was," Jake told the kid. "But if I killed him, then he must have done something to warrant killing."
The boy flushed, the color making his freckles stand out even more. "My brother was Clarence Cayhill, and he didn't do nothin' to deserve killing."
Shit. Jake clenched his jaw. He didn't know why he hadn't made the connection before considering Clarence Cayhill had had the same red hair and freckles.
"Your brother did something to deserve it, all right. He was a cattle rustler, and folks don't take too kindly to that," Jake said. "If it makes you feel better, my intent was never to kill Clarence. I went to their hideout to bring him and the rest of his gang in to the sheriff, but they weren't going to come quietly, so I did what I had to do."
"I don't care," the kid said, his voice trembling now as much as the revolver in his hand. "It don't change what you did. And it don't change what I gotta do."
On the other side of the street, two more men had joined the others already standing outside the saloon.
Jake leveled his gaze at the teenager. "If you're going to kill me, you'd better do it now, son, because I won't give you another chance."
The boy licked his lips nervously, the gun in his hands shaking even more. If Jake thought the boy had it in him to pull the trigger, he wouldn't hesitate to draw his own pistol and get off the first shot, regardless of how much he'd hate doing it. But young Cayhill wasn't a cold-blooded killer like Clarence. He was a boy who'd lost his brother and wanted revenge on the man who had killed him. In his shoes, Jake might have done the same thing. And if he didn't scare the kid straight now, Jake would be coming back here to kick his ass, too.
Swearing under his breath, he reached out and grabbed the revolver from the boy. The kid seemed amazed Jake had disarmed him at first, but he recovered quickly enough, taking a swing at Jake despite the fact that he was a foot shorter and at least seventy pounds lighter.
Jake easily blocked the blow, shoving the kid up against the side of a building and holding him there with one hand. The boy stared back at him, wide-eyed and frightened now, not even daring to breathe. That was good. Jake wanted to put the fear of God in him.
"I'm going to tell you again because you didn't seem to hear me the first time," Jake ground out. "Your brother was a cattle rustler. That's what got him killed. Now, you can follow in his footsteps and become an outlaw like he was, or you can choose to be a law abiding citizen. If you decide to go the way Clarence did, then I'm going to have to come back here and do to you what I did to him. Do you understand me?"
The boy nodded ever so slightly.
"I didn't hear you," Jake said.
The younger Cayhill swallowed convulsively. "Y-yes, sir."
Jake released him. "Good. Then you won't be needing these."
Opening the cylinder on the revolver, Jake dumped the bullets in his hand and pocketed them, then tossed the gun on the ground near the kid's feet.
He gave the boy a hard look. "Don't make me regret not killing you."
Turning on his heel, Jake strode over to his horse and swung himself up into the saddle. Ignoring the freckled face teen, he took the reins in his hand and started down the street.
He was just passing the general store when the sound of a man calling his name stopped him in his tracks. Jake tightened his grip on the reins. If this was another one of Clarence Cayhill's relatives out for revenge, they were going to be in for an even ruder awakening than the outlaw's redheaded brother. He didn't give a free pass twice in the same day.
But when Jake turned around in the saddle, he saw only the portly, gray-haired telegraph operator running down the street toward him.
"I'm glad I caught you," he panted, the words barely audible between big gulps of air. "If this had come any later, it would have missed you for sure."
Hurrying the last few steps, the man held out a sheet of paper.
"Much obliged," Jake said.
When he got a telegram, it was usually because someone had a job for him to do, so he wasn't surprised to discover that was what a Miss Sadie Buchanan of Rocky River wanted as well. What did surprise him was how the people looking to hire him always managed to find him so easily.
"Shall I send a reply?" the telegraph operator asked, still breathless.
Jake hesitated only a moment before nodding. "Tell Miss Sadie Buchanan I'll be at her ranch by the end of the week."