I’ve always had a thing for cowboys — dating back to when I was knee-high to a grasshopper watching the Cartwrights on Bonanza. I confess I had a thing for Little Joe, and Hoss made me laugh a lot. At the time I wasn’t keen on Adam, but I think if I saw him now I’m all grown up, my opinion might change. (Did no one back then ever make note of how Pa Cartwright had three sons by three different women? Did his love interests in the shows over the years ever worry that his track record might spell bad luck for whoever he fell in love with and send them scrambling?)
Anyway, maybe the Cartwrights are why I love writing westerns now. And maybe because of them, there are certain elements I think a western always needs, like…
♦ A cowboy calling me “darlin’” in a deep-voiced slow drawl. No one uses that term up here in Canada. No one drawls up here, either. I don’t know if any guy calls someone darlin’ complete with dropped G in real life in Texas or any of the other “cowboy” states, but I sure love that slow drawled term even if I’m only hearing it in my head.
♦ The slow pace of the country. I grew up in a rural area, surrounded by cattle who I’d moo at as I walked past them to catch the bus at the end of the road. And then there was the benefit of how you could turn up your radio and not disturb the neighbors because they were over the hill a mile away, and probably had their radio turned up loud too. I won’t mention that yes, my mooing at the cattle did once cause them to stampede at me and I went running down the road as fast as I could, not trusting the fence to stop them. Or how being so far away from everything meant your friends were too far away to just “hang out with.” (Until I got my driver’s license and then holy moly…yeah, that’s a story I’m not telling.)
♦ The romance of sitting in a saddle, the scent and creak of leather as the horse walks along a well-worn path, his ears and tail flicking away the flies. (We won’t mention that they might get spooked by a plastic bag caught in a bush and dump you out of the saddle, will we?)
♦ Sitting on a porch in the evening, sipping a sweet tea, watching the wind blow across the fields, listening to cattle in the distance, or a stallion calling to a mare. Or just listening to the crickets and birdsong. We won’t mention that we’d probably be dead tired and be getting ready to haul ourselves off to bed because we have to be up at the buttcrack of dawn or before. Or how too many glasses of sweet tea means the behind you’re sitting on starts spreading, and spreading… and spreading some more. Right?
♦ Cowboys with their ropey muscles who are strong enough that they can haul the groceries in without breaking a sweat. (And drawl a pleasant, “yes ma’am” when you make the request. Or even better, just do it without having to be asked.) Men who are fearless — not afraid to catch that spider or mouse, you know, the one that makes me squeal like a girl? They’ll just calmly take care of the matter and get on with business. After giving me a kiss and calling me darlin’ to distract me.
Oh, and then there are the cowboy butts, especially if highlighted by a pair of leather chaps (fringes optional). My cowboys will never wear 48XXXL overalls or have a beer gut either. They’re all going to have tight muscular butts that those chaps highlight to perfection.
At least that’s how I fantasize about them. Hey, it’s fiction, I can dream! And we don’t have to mention that they may have an eau-de-barn odor or how they’ve probably tracked mud across your clean floors, okay?
What do you like about cowboys and western stories?
Oh, and despite me loving the fantasy of a cowboy wearing his cowboy hat as he rides his trusty steed, my upcoming novel, No Accounting for Cowboys, features a modern day cowboy who wears a ball cap and rides an ATV. But I still ♥ him… I guess that makes me fickle. 😉
And for a sneak peek at Jake, here’s a snippet…
She continued walking along the edge, so he trailed her. A herd of white tails, including a ten point buck, ranged along the hillside below. The stag had raised his head and watched them carefully.
Jake hunkered down and picked up a handful of soil, sifted it through his fingers. “It takes work to keep it healthy, not just irrigation but fertilizing, rotating crops. Even rotating the cattle through the pastures so they don’t overgraze.”
“You really love this place, don’t you? Your whole face lights up when you talk about it.”
Not many people got him like Paige did. And she’d picked up on it so quickly. He nodded. “It’s like I’m connected to it. It’s in my veins.” The first glint on the far hill caught his eye. His timing had been perfect. “This is what I brought you down to see.”
He wrapped his arms around her waist, pulled her back against his chest and rested his chin on top of her head. Another degree of movement from the sun as it lowered and…there.
Beams of sunlight reflected off the mansion, scattering over the valley. As he always did when he stood here in the afternoon, he wondered if the architect had planned the angle of the windows to catch the sun’s rays the way they did or if it had been serendipity.
Paige gasped. “It’s breathtaking. The way the sun glints off the windows, it’s like the entire top of the hill is crystal.”
Exactly. And finally. Finally someone saw it the way he did. Ben had never managed to open his eyes long enough to see the beauty of the way the building had been set into the side of the hill, how it blended into the surroundings. Only seeing the bleak fortress-like presentation Gram’s architect had deliberately presented for outsiders to see.
“I used to sneak away after dinner and come down here. When the sun is low on the horizon, and the sky is all red and gold, reflected in those big windows, and in the lake, it’s like the whole valley is on fire.
It felt so right. With her, standing right here in this spot. Someone who got him. Someone he had no secrets from.
The tightness in his chest loosened, the world feeling righter than it had in a long time.
“One day I got pissed off. Ben was bugging me and Mom and Pop were busy doing somethin’ or other. So I came out here. Figured I’d camp out until someone missed me.
“Took them a couple hours and then Pop appeared. I figured he’d be mad, but he just sat down on the ground beside me.” His father had draped his arm around his shoulder. They’d stayed there, enthralled as the sunlight changed from its bright gold to fiery orange, reflecting over the entire area. “He said he loved coming down here too. That it was probably his favorite spot on the whole ranch.”
“I can see why.” She covered his arms with hers, the physical connection soothing and enticing all at once. He made a slight adjustment of his hips so she wouldn’t feel his semi-hard-on.
“He brought me back a few days later, just the two of us. We set up an old canvas tent, sleeping bags. Had a campfire.” He’d fallen asleep staring at up at the sky, the stars mirrored on both sides of them, in the lake and the massive glass sparkling like a cathedral, peepers serenading him like a choir. He’d slept better than if he’d been tucked into his own bed.
Grief he’d thought he’d set aside swamping him, he buried his head in her hair. “I miss him.”
Paige twisted in his arms until she faced him. “Of course you do. Every time you look out here, it’s a permanent reminder of what you’ve lost.”
Her lips were parted, the color still high in her cheeks. She smelled of oranges or tangerines and something spicy, with a hint of gasoline from the quad, the mix strangely intoxicating.
She reached up and brushed her lips over his. One hand slipped around his waist, the other cupped his head, drawing him down to her level. Not that he was about to resist her. She parted her lips and touched her tongue to the seam of his.
Her fingers tangled in his hair, holding him in place as she moved her lips over his cheek, down his throat. His arms tightened around her when she licked his Adam’s apple. Nibbled the side of his neck.
“Damn it, woman, if you keep that up…” He’d walk her until her back was flat against one of the trees, her jeans pulled down and him buried inside her.
“You’d what? Get me horizontal?”
“Not around here. The ground is too rocky. And then there are the darned prickly pears. They hurt like a son of a gun if you end up in them.” He groaned when she nibbled his earlobe. “Have any complaints about doin’ it standing up against a tree?”
“None at all.”
Read another excerpt at Leah’s website.
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