Home > Cowboy Wild (Four Corners Ranch #3)

Cowboy Wild (Four Corners Ranch #3)
Author: Maisey Yates

 

CHAPTER ONE


   ELSIE GARRETT HAD quite literally been born in a barn. And she felt like it was a metaphor for her entire life. She was comfortable with the outdoors. Comfortable with dirt, hard work and horses. She was less comfortable with the Friday night bar scene in Smokey’s Tavern. Oh, she was comfortable enough with beer. With fried food and hanging out with her best friend. But she was a lot less comfortable with the male-female dynamic. More specifically the fact that everyone around her was clearly here to hook up. Well, everyone except her friend Alaina, who was also just here for the onion rings.

   “He’s the most beautiful man I’ve ever seen in my life.”

   Or maybe not.

   Elsie looked at her best friend, whose tone had become that of a dreamy, lovelorn schoolgirl, and followed her gaze across the crowded bar. She grimaced when she saw exactly whom Alaina was staring at.

   Six foot four of dark-haired, overly muscled, square-jawed cowboy.

   Broad shouldered, in a tight black T-shirt—that was just tight for show because there was no earthly reason for him to buy them that small—blue jeans and a black hat.

   “Honestly,” Elsie said, wrinkling her nose. “I don’t understand what head injury has induced this fascination with Hunter all of a sudden.”

   Hunter McCloud was infuriating.

   And Elsie knew that better than most. He was her older brother Sawyer’s best friend, and she had practically grown up with him in their house. She was beginning to work with him on an equestrian program at McCloud’s Landing—the plot of land adjacent to Garrett’s Watch, her family’s parcel of land that made up a quarter of Four Corners Ranch. And she did not understand why Alaina—who knew him about half as well as Elsie, but still well enough—should suddenly find him so compelling.

   Elsie thought he was too much. Too big, too broad. His jaw too rough-looking from stubble, his hands too rough from work. His energy too...intrusive. He rubbed her the wrong way and that was fine. She didn’t hate him or anything. But she didn’t see why her friend was obsessed.

   “Maturity,” Alaina said.

   “Really? Is that what you call it?” She let her eyes linger on him and for some reason found it difficult to look away. “I mean, I’m not going to pretend that he isn’t handsome.” Because it would be churlish and an outright lie to deny it, but just saying it made a strange sort of prickling sensation line her throat. “But he’s...”

   He was currently across the room, chatting up a blonde girl in a pair of tight jeans. She was not from around here, and neither were her friends.

   Elsie knew everyone who was from around here.

   There weren’t that many of them.

   Blondie’s friends were the kind of women her brothers would’ve been chatting up only a few months before. But not now. Because they were all settled. Which was the strangest thing. She had never thought that Sawyer or Wolf would ever end up domesticated.

   She didn’t think she ever would be. She just didn’t see the point of it.

   Good for Sawyer and Wolf, though. They were happier than she’d ever seen them. And she preferred them being at home with their wives to having to watch them pick up women in the bar she was in.

   “What?” Alaina asked, taking a drink of her beer and keeping her eyes pinned to Hunter.

   “Just like those men are,” Elsie said, leaning back in her seat and crossing her arms. “Look at him. He’s going to pick her up and take her back to his place. And he won’t even remember her name tomorrow.”

   “No,” Alaina agreed, looking down into her beer. “He won’t. But I bet she’ll have a good time.”

   Elsie shot her friend a look out of the corner of her eye. “What do you know about that kind of good time?”

   “Nothing,” Alaina said, sighing. “Absolutely nothing. But Hunter McCloud is the kind of guy that would be fun to learn from.”

   The idea of her best friend in the world learning about sex from Hunter—her best friend in the world’s only intimate sex knowledge coming from Hunter—made her want to be dead.

   Because Alaina would want to tell her about it and against her will Elsie would want to know.

   Not because it was Hunter.

   Because she knew nothing.

   She’d never seen a naked man.

   Well, she’d seen the blurred impression of naked men running down to the watering hole to jump in and skinny-dip on a hot summer day, but that wasn’t the same thing.

   Elsie would be curious and compelled to ask, and then she’d be forced to picture...

   Ugh. And no.

   “Not a good idea,” Elsie said. “You have to see him all the time.”

   “So what?” Alaina asked. “It doesn’t have to be a big deal.”

   “Oh, I agree,” Elsie said. “I’m just not about to...throw my unfettered support behind you trying out sex on Hunter McCloud.”

   “Because you don’t like him,” Alaina pointed out.

   Elsie frowned. “That’s not true. I like him.” She wouldn’t be able to deal with him if she didn’t like him. She liked him in that way that... He was more like family. She was stuck with him more than anything else.

   “And your feelings on the new ranch hand at Garrett’s Watch?” Alaina smiled sweetly.

   Elsie waved her hand. “Different story altogether. First of all, he’s probably a temporary addition to the ranch.”

   “You think?”

   “Anyone that good-looking is not going to stay for very long. He’s single. He’s going to find the pool of women to be regrettably shallow.”

   “And?”

   Elsie sharpened her gaze. “I’m going to make a move.”

   “Really?” Alaina looked skeptical.

   “Yes. That’s why coming to the bar is useful,” she said, looking around the place. Pretty much everyone here was looking for a good time. And she figured there was definitely information to be gleaned from watching the proceedings.

   Elsie herself was overly familiar with cowboys. She knew all about them. She’d grown up in a house filled with them. She worked with them, all day every day. She knew how to relate to them in the same way that she related to Alaina. She knew how to talk to them. What she didn’t know was how to flirt with them.

   She didn’t know how to flirt at all.

   Normally, that didn’t bother her. But the notable changes in her family had made her pretty conscious of her...well, the lack of movement in her own life. She didn’t care much about men, not in that way.

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