City girls cowboy, p.1
City Girl's Cowboy, p.1Kahlen Aymes
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City Girl’s Cowboy
by Kahlen Aymes
Also by Kahlen Aymes
THE REMEMBRANCE TRILOGY & PREQUEL
Prequel: Before Ryan Was Mine
1. The Future of Our Past
2. Don’t Forget to Remember Me
3. A Love Like This
THE AFTER DARK SERIES
1. Angel After Dark
2. Confessions After Dark
3. Promises After Dark
THE FAMOUS NOVEL SERIES
2. More Than FAMOUS
3. Beyond FAMOUS
ONE STEP CLOSER
A Standalone Stepbrother Second Chance Story
AVAILABLE NOW IN AUDIO
The After Dark Series
The Remembrance Trilogy & Prequel
Available in French ~ The Remembrance Trilogy & Prequel
The After Dark Series
Available in Spanish ~ The Remembrance Trilogy & Prequel
Available in Italian ~ The After Dark Series
#SexyMF (#SexyDuet 1)
#SexyAF (#SexyDuet 2)
LICK (An After Dark Novel)
Hold Me After Dark
Covered in Raine
Beck and Call Girl
You and You Alone
Boxers & Briefs
So Damn Beautiful
Written On My Soul
The Other Half of the Sky
City Girl's Cowboy
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The moniker hung above me on the arched metal gate that marked the entrance to my Uncle Leonard’s sprawling ranch. I hadn’t been back in two years. My heart seized in guilt. He had raised me since my parents were both killed in a car accident when I was eleven, and though he was sad to see me chase my dream, he’d been supportive and proud of the success I’d found in the world of modeling. I found myself wishing I’d been home more often because now he was gone. He was only in his early sixties and so robust; no one who knew him would have ever expected him to suddenly succumb to a massive heart attack; especially, me.
I couldn’t remember how many acres the ranch encompassed; I only knew that it was massive. As in, it sprawled across part of four counties between Mason, San Antonio and Austin, Texas, and we could go out for a drive and be gone for days. Even my New York friends, who lived in the biggest city in the world, couldn’t get their heads around just how big hundreds of thousands of acres of grassland were.
The air conditioning of my rental car gave way to the dry Texas heat that blasted me in the face when I opened the door and climbed outside. The fence surrounding the property was made up of miles of woven wire, barbed wire, and round, wooden posts. There were fences like this running throughout and along the road that led up to the house and barns to keep the animals contained.
The wind whipped at my dress and blew my hair across my face as I stood staring at the metal R-gate that was positioned across the entrance. I’d seen Uncle Leonard, River, or some of the other ranch hands open it a thousand times, so surely, I’d be able to get it to work. I glanced at the distance between the entrance and the front of my car, carefully judging to see if there would be enough clearance to swing it open without bashing the front of the black Maxima.
“Ugh!” I groaned when I realized I needed to back it up. The gate was fifteen or twenty feet and I was at least five feet too close. I yanked open the door and climbed back in, noting the uncomfortable layer of dirt that was now grinding annoyingly under my toes in the expensive designer shoes.
“What?” Marina asked. She was from Venezuela and had gone to New York to chase her dream, just like me. In looks, the only thing we had in common was being waif thin and our height. She was exotic with dark eyes, cocoa skin, and midnight black hair, while I was blonde with a peachy complexion and blue eyes. We met at a go see the first month after I signed with Ford Modeling Agency, and went for coffee afterward because neither of us landed the gig. We’d been good friends ever since. She knew my story. Well, most of it.
“I’m too close to the gate,” I said, frustrated. The wind was blowing several tumbleweeds around that got stuck on the fence, and there was a herd of Black Angus on top of one of the rolling hills on the horizon. I put the car in reverse and backed up at least ten feet. “I figured someone would be here to meet me at the friggin’ gate!” I huffed in disbelief.
“You said your uncle was your only family left, Thea, so who would be meeting us?” She had a thick Spanish accent, but her English was impeccable.
I pushed my hair out of my face and grabbed the door-handle. “No one, obviously.” I got out and walked back to the gate hunching enough to look at it so I could figure out how to open it. I remembered a metal latch that had to be lifted and pulled, and then the gate would swing open, and out. I studied it for a few seconds. There was no latch.
I huffed again. Maybe the damn latch was on the other side. Was I going to have to climb over the gate in a dress and sandals? I stood back and lifted a hand to shield the sun from my eyes. Sunglasses didn’t do shit to keep the mid-day Texas sun out of my eyes. I squinted again, and I couldn’t find anything. I lifted a foot and stepped up on one of the metal rungs of the gate, but I wasn’t high enough to see anything on the other side; my arms hung over the top rung like a rag doll. I looked from side to side, straining to find the leaver that would open the gate.
“Goddamn it!” I swore, resigning myself that I had no choice. If I wanted to see what was on the other side, I had to get over there. I held on to the top rung and started to carefully climb up the gate.
Marina scrambled out of the car, her dark hair starting to billow around her. She wore skinny orange crop pants, a skimpy black top, and matching stilettos. I wasn’t sure which of our choice of attire was more insane. The wind was up my dress exposing my thighs, underwear, and stomach. I tried to hold it down as I climbed the gate, but then realized what was the point? I grunted as I hauled a leg over the top of the fence and sat on it for a minute after hearing Marina ranting in a fast rattle of Spanish, by the car.
I frowned at her. I wished I was able to understand her words, though her frustration was clear.
She was tugging at her foot, but her expensive Louboutin pump was stuck deep in the dirt. She struggled to get it unstuck, but all she managed to do was pull her left foot free and land her bare foot square in a mixture of Texas prairie dirt, weeds, and dry grass. “Ow!” she moaned.
“Texas is dry. Uncle Leonard said it has cracks that go all the way to China!” I had many happy memories of his dry humor. Until I got up to the house and he wasn’t there, I doubted his death would really sink in.
Marina looked up at me and scowled, futilely tryi
I rolled my eyes behind the dark glasses and laughed. “Did you just say slit?” I asked wryly. Her use of the word reminded me of a photographer who I couldn’t stand who habitually referred to women as slits. I hated working with him, unfortunately the models were hired via the agency and most of the time we had no way of knowing who the photographer was before accepting every job. He was a pig, but he was a good photographer and he took some of the most amazing shots. Clients hired him over and over and it was a trade off to work with some of the most incredible and well-known designers. “Don’t remind me of that swine.” I swung my other leg over the top of the gate, carefully placing my foot on a painted rung. “That is a crevice, a fissure, a chasm,” I mocked.
“Or, it’s a crack, cleft or hole,” she chided back.
“Oh my God!” I shook my head as I started my climb down the other side of the gate using the rungs. The bottom of my strappy heel slipped precariously on the dark green surface and I lost my balance, falling backward before I could catch myself. Before I knew it, I’d landed with a thud and squarely on my ass; the pads of my hands were burning with bruises and cuts into the skin from the rocks on the ground. I might have even sprained my wrist because it throbbed in protest.
“Guh!” I’d only fallen about six feet down, but it was enough to knock the wind out of me. The cloud of dust I’d made when I hit the dirt wafted up and got into my lungs and open mouth. I started coughing my head off.
“Thea!” Marian called but remained where she was, hopping on one foot by the car. “Are you alright?”
“No! I’m not fucking alright!” I raised my foot and banged it into the ground five times while I screamed my head off. “Uhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!” When I was done with my mini-tantrum, I sat there flat on my ass, dirty and sweaty, with the wind whipping my hair and dust into my mouth. I spit and wiped the back of my uninjured wrist across my mouth.
“At least your Pradas are fine. Dirty, but just look at my pumps! They’re ruined!”
I blinked at her in disbelief. Leave it to Marina to reduce this entire situation down to shoes. I reached for the smooth dark green metal gate so I could use it as leverage for rising to my feet. I had no choice but to roll onto my knees and try to get my feet back underneath me. Rocks, gravel, and sticks cut into my skin and my wrist protested as I struggled to my feet.
I examined my dress and there was a large tear, leaving a good six inches of the hem hanging off of one side. “I knew I shouldn’t have come here,” I muttered, looking hard for the lever to finally open the gate. I looked on one side and when I didn’t find it, went to the other. I saw a latch on one side, but no lever. “What the hell?” I was perplexed. This wasn’t the way I remembered it.
“May I help you?” an amused male voice burst into the wide-open space. I was a bit startled and jumped a little in surprise. “You’re trespassing.”
“Screw you. I’m not trespassing and you know it.”
The smooth, sexy voice on the other end laughed heartily and was joined with five or six others. I knew that voice and I scowled, embarrassed that he’d see me in such an untenable position. There must be a camera somewhere and I looked around trying to locate it. The fence posts were a good six feet high, placed about every ten feet around the perimeter of the property. I looked for the source of the surveillance and finally noticed two, small, high definition cameras on both of the posts on either side of the fence. The fence was unchanged. The cameras were new.
“Say cheese,” River dolled sardonically. “Come on model girl. Give us a pose or two.”
Fury boiled inside me. Obviously, he still held a grudge. “Can you just open the stupid gate?”
I had twigs in my hair and dirt in my mouth, my dress was ripped and I was injured. I wasn’t in the mood to argue with River King.
“What’s the password?”
River’s question was followed closely with a chorus of laughter filtering through the intercom.
“Nope. I’m pretty sure that’s not it.” More laughter followed.
“If you’ve been getting your jollies watching me struggle, you know I fell pretty hard. I hurt my wrist and I’m not in the mood to jump through your bullshit hoops!” I yelled at the camera, before turning my back on it. Marina was looking on curiously.
Frustrated tears filled my eyes behind my sunglasses and I was thankful for the protection they afforded. My uncle was dead and I didn’t make it back in time to say goodbye, and this place stirred up a whole load of emotions I didn’t want to deal with. The handsome cowboy on the other end of the line was a big part of the problem. “River, please open the gate,” I said, completely defeated.
“Okay, guys, back to work,” he ordered the men evidently huddled around the security monitor with him in some unknown location. A buzz followed and the gate mechanism unlocked loudly. I took a step forward intending to push it open but was halted by River’s command. “Stand back, Thea.”
The gate was motorized and opened smoothly away from me, with a soft whirring sound. I didn’t wait for it to swing all the way open but started through it immediately. I didn’t listen for River to say anything else, but pointed at the car, silently telling Marina to get back inside.
“I can’t, Thea! My shoe is still stuck!”
“Marina, you just said they were ruined. Leave it there. There isn’t another house around for miles . . . literally. I promise you, it will still be there in the morning. Can you just get in?” I knew my voice was shaky and I just didn’t want River to hear it. “Please?
I buckled my seatbelt as Marina hopped to the car and got into the passenger side.
“Who was that?”
I slammed the car into gear and tore through the gate, a billowing cloud of dust and spray of gravel behind us. “Ugh! I don’t know why he has to be such a prick.”
“Who was he?” she asked again.
I flushed. River King represented a lot of things to me, and I wasn’t exactly sure what part of it I wanted to share. He’d been conspicuously absent from our conversations since I’d known her.
“His family owns the ranch on the northern border of Andreas Acres. There’s a creek that runs along the property line.”
She studied me, with a frown. I glanced at her and then concentrated on the dirt road in front of me. “Hmmm. Then what is he doing on your uncle’s intercom?”
“He helps—” I had to stop myself in light of the reason I was here. “Helped Uncle Leonard run the ranch. Uncle Leonard and Aunt Frita didn’t have any children of their own, and River spent a lot of time with us. He was at the ranch more than he was at his own place.” I shrugged, not ready to reveal why River started coming around. “We raise quarter horses and River used to help Uncle Leonard train them. Eventually, he took over running that part of the operation.”
“That’s strange. Didn’t his father and mother get upset?” Marina asked.
“Not at all. Well, he has three brothers, and their property isn’t as massive. My uncle needed him more, and the people around here help each other out.”
“Hmmph,” she snorted, looking at her bright red nails.
It wasn’t like a big city where no one knew anyone else, and people only had their own lives to be concerned with. I wouldn’t be surprised if the entire city of Mason attended my uncle’s funeral. The community was tight.
“Maybe he can keep running it,” she mentioned. “I mean, since your aunt and uncle are both gone, the ranch is yours now, right? You can hire him.”
I hadn’t really considered it because I didn’t expect Uncle Leonard to die this soon. “I don’t know.” I shrugged. “For all I know, he’ll leave everything to River. He was the closest thing to a son
“But you’re blood,” she stated, looking out the window.
“Right, but I’m in New York. I mean, I can’t be here to run the business. There are a lot of people who depend on this place to support their families. It’s a massive operation.”
I sighed. “Well, we’ve still got twenty or so miles until we get to the house.”
“Are you fucking kidding?” She was incredulous.
I shook my head. “No, but when I said massive, I meant that it’s a huge responsibility. I wouldn’t know where to start, even if I were prepared to give up modeling.”
“Maybe you don’t have to be here. Just let him; River was it? Let him handle it.”
“Maybe it’s all been left to charity, Marina. I have no clue and really, I’d rather he give some of it to River.” Thinking back on how River helped my uncle, I couldn’t deny how much he’d contributed to this place, even though when he started working it, he was basically, a kid himself.
“That’s generous, Thea.”
I didn’t see it that way and I shook my head. “Not really. My Aunt Frita and I both loved horses. I mean, really loved them. After my parents died and I came to live with them, I didn’t like the isolation here. I was mad at the world, and this country living was completely opposite to what I was used to in Houston; I didn’t have any friends at first and I was sad most of the time.
“Poor kid. I wouldn’t be able to handle all of this dirt!”
“Yes, well, to help me feel better, Aunt Frita used to take me over to the Johnson horse farm to see the new babies. Once they had a filly who had died during birthing and her baby was orphaned.”
“It was. Poor little thing. Aunt Frita bought her for me and I bottle raised her from a foal. She followed me around the place like a dog. She was so precious.” The memories were bittersweet and brought a tear to my eye. My voice got tight and my throat started to ache as I reached beneath the sunglasses to brush it away. “My aunt used to say we saved each other.” What I didn’t say, was that River’s friendship had been just as important as the horses.
City Girl's Cowboy by Kahlen Aymes / History & Fiction have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes