Cowgirl Up and Ride

By: Lorelei James
Rough Riders, Book 3





Dedication




To the rough, gruff men—and the women who love them.





Chapter One







Amy Jo Foster had loved Cord McKay her entire life.

It didn’t matter he was thirteen years her senior. Or he’d once dated her older sister. Or his little sister was her best friend. She fell for him hard the day she’d fallen off her horse.

That hot, dusty afternoon teased the edges of her memory. She’d been clip-clopping along on the gravel road connecting the Foster and McKay ranches when a rattler spooked her pony and bucked her off. She’d twisted her ankle on the unexpected dismount, unable to scramble away from either the angry snake or the truck barreling toward her.

Her life flashed before her eyes.

But the tires on a big Ford dually locked up and the truck skidded to a stop. A young man jumped out, swooped in and picked her up. His work-roughed hands tenderly brushed rocks from her knees and wiped the tears from her dirty face. He carried her to the passenger side of his truck, burned rubber over the snake and drove her home, keeping hold of her hand as she sobbed.

Amy Jo had a devil of a time climbing out of his rig, not because of the injury to her ankle, but mostly because she hadn’t wanted to get out. She remembered sitting in that truck cab, surrounded by the scent of horses, of chewing tobacco, of hay, dust and the underlying tangy aroma of his cologne, and she’d wanted to stay right there with him forever.

With his dark good looks, bold smile and gentle ways, Cord had become her ideal, her dream, her savior, her prince charming in battered cowboy boots and a sweat-stained white Stetson.

No man had ever held a candle to him.

She’d been a whopping five years old at the time.

So, Amy Jo secretly worshipped Cord McKay throughout the years. Even after he moved to Seattle. Even after he returned to Wyoming married to a floozy from the West Coast. Even after the woman birthed a son. Even after the idiot abandoned Cord and their baby Ky.

She’d especially loved Cord then because she’d ached to pick up the pieces of his broken life. To make him whole. To crack the bitter shell he’d erected around his heart. To show him real, everlasting love was worth waiting for. In her core, her heart, her very soul, Amy Jo knew she was meant to be that one special woman.

Problem was she hadn’t been a woman at the time either; she’d been a shy eighteen-year-old girl.

Too young.

The other problem was Cord hadn’t seen her beyond the clumsy blonde pig-tailed friend of his little sister. Or as a family acquaintance with a neighboring ranch. Or recently as his son’s babysitter.

That’d been the worst kind of torture. Being in Cord’s house. Hearing Ky rambling from sunup to sundown about his father. Seeing Cord’s unmade bed—one side rumpled, one side pristine. His lone coffee cup in the sink. Catching a whiff of his shaving cream as she lingered in front of the same bathroom mirror he used every day.

Seemed Amy Jo spent her life waiting for her chronological age to catch up with the age of her soul. Waiting for other people to believe she was old enough to know her own mind, even when she’d made it up at the tender age of five.

Now that she was twenty-two, she could stake her claim.

Standing in front of her bedroom mirror, she adjusted her cleavage in the skin-tight shirt the color of ripe apricots. She applied a coat of shiny pink lip-gloss. Finger combed her hair and inhaled a deep breath.

In all the hours she’d fantasized about Cord McKay, he’d never really noticed her.

Come hell or high water, Amy Jo would change that tonight.





Chapter Two







Cord McKay scowled at his beer. He scowled at everyone in the whole damn bar. Why had he come here?

Right. No reason to be home, sitting alone, wondering what the hell to do with himself. Couldn’t do chores at night or else he’d be doing that. He’d rattled around the empty house for the last two days at loose ends.

Earlier, when he’d slipped on a Matchbox car and nearly fell on his ass, he’d automatically yelled, “Ky, come down here right now and pick this up…” The silence hit him like a load of hay bales. His son wasn’t there. Ky wouldn’t be around for another forty-two days.