Austin: Second Chance Cowboy (Harlequin American Romance Series #1421) [NOOK Book]

Overview




No man should look as good as Austin Wright. Especially when that man is a suspect in a string of burglaries. And, Sheriff Dinah Hart can't afford the distraction. Roundup's thieves are growing bolder and Thunder Ranch's prize stallion, Midnight, is still missing, putting the Harts' entire livelihood at risk. Dinah needs to focus, because she's worked too hard to earn the town's respect just to throw it away on a fling.

Austin knows he's ...
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Austin: Second Chance Cowboy (Harlequin American Romance Series #1421)

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Overview




No man should look as good as Austin Wright. Especially when that man is a suspect in a string of burglaries. And, Sheriff Dinah Hart can't afford the distraction. Roundup's thieves are growing bolder and Thunder Ranch's prize stallion, Midnight, is still missing, putting the Harts' entire livelihood at risk. Dinah needs to focus, because she's worked too hard to earn the town's respect just to throw it away on a fling.

Austin knows he's got a bad reputation. He's been following his father's self-destructive footsteps for far too long. Now he's finally ready to take the first step toward fixing his life, and convincing people, especially Dinah, that he's changed.

But when Austin discovers an unexpected connection to Midnight's disappearance, will Dinah see him for the man he was, or the one he's trying to become?

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  • Harts of the Rodeo
    Harts of the Rodeo  

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781459241954
  • Publisher: Harlequin
  • Publication date: 10/1/2012
  • Series: Harts of the Rodeo Series
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Edition description: Original
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 265,880
  • File size: 298 KB

Meet the Author


Since 2000, Shelley Galloway has penned over 40 novels. Currently, she writes for Harlequin American Romance and Harlequin's Heartwarming line. Her novel Simple Gifts won the Reviewers Choice Award in 2006. Shelley also writes inspirational novels as Shelley Shepard Gray for Harper Collins. Her inspirational novels have twice one the HOLT medallion award and have made both the New York Times and USA Today bestseller lists. She lives in Ohio and writes full time.

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Read an Excerpt




The light streaming through the cheap metal miniblinds was blinding. Austin Wright discovered if he squinted his eyes and turned his head a little to the left, he could almost stand it. Now, if he could only find a way to deal with the sickly, sweet sensation of needing to vomit.

Why the hell hadn't he stopped after those first three shots of Cuervo Gold?

Because you 're a drunk, a stinging, no-holds-barred voice whispered into his ear. Whispered being the key phrase. Anything louder was going to cause him to run—not walk—to the bathroom and divest himself of the remaining contents of his stomach.

He almost remembered the events of last night, but wasn't quite sure. Most of those memories were forever lost in a blackout. Austin gingerly propped himself up on his elbows and began looking for evidence. He'd done this before.

Too many mornings, the voice declared, making him wince. Only the threat of spending the rest of his morning washing soiled sheets kept him from lying back down and praying for oblivion. He'd done that before, too.

Warily, he glanced to his left. His Wranglers lay in a wad on the floor. Both his ropers were there, too.

He was just about to test turning his head to the right when a Gary Allan song started blaring from his cell phone.

Shit.

Scooting to the edge of the bed, he carefully bent down and reached a shaky hand toward his jeans. In one carnival-contortionist move, he was able to inch the denim closer, pull his cell out of the back pocket and finally punch the phone. Blessed silence.

"Yeah?" he rasped.

"Austin?" The girl's voice was as sweet as it was sinful. "Honey, you okay?"

"I'm okay," he muttered, doing his best to recall the lady's name on the other side of the phone. Sandra? Cindy?

Finally, the name clicked. Stacy.

"I'm okay, Stacy," he said, emphasizing her name. As though it was a real special thing for him to remember.

"Oh, good," she replied with a breathless sigh. "I was a little worried last night. After, you know…"

No, as a matter of fact, he had no idea what the "you know" referred to. Biting his lip, he turned to the other side of the bed, looking for any sign that a woman had slept there.

Luckily, all he saw was a Hanes T-shirt long faded to a dingy gray and a wrinkled button-down. Not a pair of panties or a lacy bra in sight.

By turns disgusted with his behavior and bolstered by the evidence that he hadn't completely gone crazy, Austin cleared his throat and went about lying with the best of them. "Stacy, I'm fine. Real fine." Suddenly worried, he added, "And you?"

A light laugh fluttered through the phone. In another time, it would have stirred up his blood pressure. "Oh, I'm fine, Austin. I enjoyed every moment of your company," she purred.

He almost relaxed. Maybe he hadn't been that big of a jackass?

"That is, I was just super—until you cashed it in all over my Ariats."

Cashed it in? It took a half second, but he finally figured out what she was referring to. Ah. He'd vomited on her boots.

Way to connect the dots, Austin.

Damn. Sitting up straighter, he ignored his pounding head, his sour stomach, the dry feeling around his tongue. Ariats were nice boots. Easily over a hundred a pop. "Listen, Stacy, about your boots. I'll pay—"

"They were just my old ropers. You and I know I've had worse than that on 'em," she said with a laugh. "Nothing to worry about."

He exhaled in relief. Because, well, he didn't have a spare dime to pay for a new pair of boots.

Because you had to go buy the whole bar a round of tequila, the voice said nastily.

"Austin, I didn't call to give you grief about my boots. I just wanted to check on you."

"Check on me?"

"Well, yeah. I was worried. I just wanted to make sure that you were, you know…okay?"

Alive, she meant. His shame was reaching new levels. She'd called to make sure he'd made it through the rest of the night. "Don't worry about me, sugar. I'm always fine."

"You sure?" she said a little hesitantly. "Because by the time we got you cleaned up and the clock struck three…you were sounding a little blue…" Her phone clicked. "Oops. I gotta go. That's Daddy. Church today, you know."

She hung up before he could respond to his blue mood or Sunday services. After clicking off his cell, too, he gripped it hard in his hand. For a moment, he was tempted to toss it across the room, but all that would do was ruin a perfectly good phone.

And he'd already ruined plenty over the past year.

His cotton mouth got drier as memories flashed. The times he'd driven home drunk, the times he'd woken up beside women he didn't remember meeting.

The time he'd lived on ramen noodles for two weeks because he'd had to borrow money for gas in his truck. Because he'd spent every last dime at a rowdy bar in Sheridan.

With a groan, he pulled off his sheets and made himself put both feet on the floor. It was time to greet his new day.

Padding to the bathroom, he looked in the mirror. Caught himself in all his naked glory. He paid no notice to the lean muscles of his arms or the light line of hair that ran from the middle of his pecs to his belly.

He ignored the scars on his side and hands and forearms from too many falls and a whole lot of idiocy.

Instead he concentrated on the greenish-gray pallor of his face. His dry, chapped lips.

Then he looked beyond the bloodshot eyes to what he saw in them—the complete look of hopelessness.

He'd hit rock bottom, at least as far down as he was willing to go. He knew all about living with a drunk and a disappointment. He had become his own worst nightmare, and he didn't know how he was ever going to recover.

Wrapping a towel around his waist, he padded back into his bedroom, grabbed his jeans and pulled out his wallet from the back pocket.

And there, sure enough, was a business card of a tire distributor. But that wasn't what was important. Flipping it over, Austin stared at the name and phone number scrawled in a black felt-tip marker. The guy, who'd only said his name was Jack, had been in Austin's store shopping for gear, said he'd known Buddy, Austin's dad.

Further conversation revealed that Jack was a family man. He'd shown off a photo of him, his wife and two young boys posed in front of a Christmas tree. Austin had been wondering what the heck Jack had in common with him until Jack relayed that he'd almost lost it all—his business, his wife. Even his kids.

When he'd handed the number to Austin and told him about the weekly meetings held right in Roundup's Congregational Church, Austin had been stunned. Never would he have guessed that this guy had ever had a drinking problem. Actually, the guy had looked as though he had more together than most folks.

Austin had copped an attitude when Jack had started talking about how the hour-long meetings had changed him. About how he'd meant every single word of that Serenity Prayer.

But long after Jack left, when no one was looking, Austin had put the card in his wallet. Just in case he was ever so weak to dial the number.

You mean brave, idiot, his conscience whispered.

"Yeah, I mean brave," he said. He sat on the edge of his mattress, picked up the phone and made himself dial before he lost his nerve. Before he turned cowardly all over again.

Finally, it was time. Finally, he was ready to do what he'd been pussyfooting around for the past three years. He was going to get some help.

"Hello!"

"Hey, Jack—"

"I'm not available right now, but leave a message. I'll call you back—I always do."

Austin didn't want to leave a message. But he wanted help more. Thinking of his father, and the way no one gave him a moment's time, he forced himself to talk.

"Jack, it's, uh… It's Austin Wright. You gave me your number a couple of months ago when you stopped by my store. In case, you know, I ever wanted to talk to you. I guess I do. Call me back." He left his cell-phone number and clicked off.

Then practically ran into the shower, needing to clean off last night's trouble. And the doubts that were surfacing all over again.

Bracing himself for the pain, he stepped under the showerhead and turned on the water, taking the cold blast of H2O against his skin as rightful penance.

It was no less than he deserved.

"Hey, Dinah," Duke called out. "What's shaking?"

She laughed. It had taken a while, but she and her deputy, Duke Adams, finally had the sheriff's office running smoothly. Actually, Duke was more than her deputy; he was also her cousin.

And her friend.

Truth was, Sheriff Dinah Hart needed Duke's good humor to help her get through the days in Roundup. In their small town, they got all sorts of calls. Anything could happen—from letting people into their locked cars, to directing traffic on Sundays at noon when the folks got out of church, to their current project: figuring out who in the world was involved with the recent outbreak of thefts in the area.

"Not too much is shaking right now," she said wearily. "I'm exhausted."

"What kept you up this time?"

"Too much fun at the Open Range on the weekend." She shared a look with Duke. And though there had been more than one man letting off too much steam at Roundup's biggest bar, she let herself fixate on the one man she could never ignore. "I tell you what, sometimes I'm this close to wringing Austin Wright's neck."

Leaning against an old metal file cabinet, he crossed his arms over his chest. "What's he done this time?"

"Nothing illegal, just made a mess of the place. Again." Remembering her first call of the day, she shook her head. "Ted was fit to be tied when he called me bright and early this morning. Seems Austin puked his life out in the middle of the place on Saturday night."

Duke cocked an eyebrow. As usual, his low-key way complemented her inclination toward drama. "Don't see why he called you. Puking's unpleasant, but last I heard, it wasn't a crime."

"It wasn't just that. Two good old boys got in a fight about where a dart landed or some such nonsense. They broke a pair of chairs and seemed intent on getting their hands on those darts for darker reasons."

Duke winced.

"Yeah. It got ugly." She sighed. "But I think Ted would've dealt with it all on his own if I hadn't just paid him a visit. Somehow I must have conveyed that truly no problem was too small for our department."

"That sounds like something you'd do."

"Actually, I think Ted just wanted someone to listen to him."

Duke curved his lips up slightly. "And you did."

Boy, had she. Shaking her head, she said, "Sorry, Duke. What you got?"

He slid a paper over her way. "Another missing bridle and saddle, this one a Silver Royal from the Neiman ranch." Whistling low, he added, "Craig Neiman says it's worth a grand. At least."

Dinah knew the prices of some saddles. And though Silver Royal was a good brand, all saddles weren't created the same.

A theft was always treated seriously, but she knew Craig Neiman had a propensity to exaggerate when he could.

She had an idea. "Look, how about I go visit with Austin and see if that estimate is correct? It's a perfect excuse to pay him a call and give him a gentle reminder about behaving himself out in public."

"While you do that, I'll go visit with the Neimans. See how the rest of their tack looks."

"Great. Call me if you need me to stop by, too."

Duke nodded. "Sounds good." Pausing on his way out, he looked back at her, his brown eyes full of brotherly concern. "You okay with seeing Austin? You've got some history there."

"That history is as old as the dartboard at the Open Range. And as full of holes, too."

Duke grinned at her reference, then sobered. "Just be careful you don't get stuck with anything, D. Those darts can hurt like a son of a gun."

So did a lot of things, she thought to herself as she grabbed her purse, her gun and a candy bar for good measure.

Experience had taught her that a bite from a Snickers bar could do a girl a world of good.

Even when seeing Austin Wright.

No man should look as good as Austin Wright, Dinah decided.

Blessed with a dreamy pair of blue eyes, dark wavy hair and a striking resemblance to Blake Shelton, he'd stopped more than one girl in her tracks. A long time ago, she'd kissed him in the moonlight on the outskirts of town.

That kiss had been hot enough to make her step back in a hurry. And hot enough to make Austin smile just a little too darkly.

Though she'd surely kissed other men since—and Austin had done a whole lot more with a whole lot more girls—that kiss never failed to pop up in her memory whenever they crossed paths.

It was a real shame, too.

"Hey, Dinah," he said as she stepped into his shop, Wright's Western Wear and Tack. "You're a sight for sore eyes. You need something?"

Oh, that drawl! She blinked, and before she knew it, she was smoothing her left hand down the front of her tan sheriff's shirt.

"No. I'm not here to shop."

"Oh?" Gone went that teasing glint in his eyes. "What do you need?"

His voice was low. Gravelly and cool. And it affected her like it always had—with a zing right to her middle.

With effort, she opened up her spiral notebook and pretended to study her notes so he wouldn't see her expression.

And so she wouldn't start thinking about his blue eyes. And the way he did love to wear those Wranglers of his just a little low and a little tight. "I did come in here for something."

"What?"

Lifting her chin, she strived for confidence and equilibrium. "I came to see what you knew about Silver Royal saddles."

"For riding or show?"

"Show."

"Other than they cost the earth?"

"Are they that much? I mean, how much earth are we talking about?"

"Easily a grand." He looked at her curiously. "Why? You gonna start showing horses or something?"

Sidestepping the questions, she edged farther into the store, her boots clicking softly on the wooden floor. Took a peek toward the back of the shop where the tack was organized. "Any chance you got one of them around? My family never believed in spending that much on a saddle." Their money had always been marked for stock.

Austin shook his head. "I can't help you there, Dinah. You're looking at a one-man show here. I ain't got a lot of cause to be showcasing expensive saddles. Most folks who come in are looking for something a little more practical—more like something from King."

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 18 )
Rating Distribution

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(17)

4 Star

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Sort by: Showing 1 – 15 of 18 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 14, 2014

    Hunter

    Walk in and kisses her cowboy.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 15, 2014

    Austin

    *he smiles and kisses her back*

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted May 29, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    Hott Review: What I liked: Overall I really enjoyed this book. I

    Hott Review:
    What I liked: Overall I really enjoyed this book. It was just a good book. As long as you can take a book at face value and just read to enjoy this is absolutely a fantastic book!
    What I didn’t like: I really didn’t think it was very realistic – things were entirely too easy!

    More…
    Author: Shelley Galloway
    Source: Harlequin via Netgalley
    Grade: A
    Steam: Adult
    Series: Harts of the Rodeo

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 3, 2013

    Rm

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 25, 2013

    Lacy

    Hello.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 24, 2013

    Selena

    So anyway..how u been

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 24, 2013

    ATL

    Good on that other book were texting on act like i put the same words

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 5, 2013

    Read me

    Hey

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 2, 2013

    Dj

    Hey wanna chat?

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 26, 2013

    Yeah lace

    Stick it to the man!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 26, 2013

    Hey austin

    Saw your practic the other day and it was great we should hang out sometime - bugging for a boyfriend6292

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 26, 2013

    Alla

    Austin what is this

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 4, 2013

    Lace

    Hi

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 28, 2013

    Boring

    Dont even think about it

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 17, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing 1 – 15 of 18 Customer Reviews

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