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By Kathie Denosky
Harlequin EnterprisesCopyright © 2002 Harlequin Enterprises
All right reserved.
Chapter OneCooper Adams had stared death square in the face and lived to tell about it. But his recovery from a run-in with the meanest, nastiest rodeo bull the good Lord ever blessed with the breath of life, couldn't compare with the uphill battle he faced now.
He turned to glare at the old man standing next to him. "Whiskers, what on God's green earth ever possessed you to buy this dump? And with my money."
"Now, Coop, don't go gettin' your nose outta joint." Obviously unperturbed by Cooper's disgusted tone, Whiskers Penn flashed a toothless grin. "Like I told you on the phone, the Triple Bar might not look like much right now, but it's got a lotta maybe in it."
Cooper snorted. "Yeah, maybe the house and barns won't fall down with the first stiff wind that comes along."
He stared at the house that had been purchased with his hard-earned money. To say the place had seen better days was an understatement.
Huge strips of peeling paint flapped in the breeze. The windows - what few that weren't broken - were so coated with dry Texas dust they were opaque. And the back porch roof sagged ominously on one end from a broken support post. But that wasn't the worst of it. There were so many shingles missing, Cooper had no doubt the place leaked like a sieve when it rained.
He pushedhis tan Resistol back off his forehead and planted his hands on his hips as he mentally calculated how much money it would take to make it livable. By the time he hit the five figure mark, he cringed. There went the second truck he'd planned to buy before winter.
Damn! He'd counted on being moved in by the time his brother-in-law, Flint McCray, got back from taking Cooper's sister Jenna and their boys to Disneyworld. That was only a week away and Cooper still had the pastures to fence before Flint brought the cattle over from the Rocking M.
"Well, I'm gonna mosey on up to Amarillo," Whiskers said, checking his watch. "I oughtta have just enough time to pick up them fencin' supplies you wanted."
Cooper nodded. "While you're at it, pick up a couple of rolls of heavy plastic."
The old man chuckled. "You thinkin' on coverin' some of them places where the shingles are missin', are ya?"
"And the windows," Cooper said, nodding. "The weather report said it's supposed to start raining and continue through the week. I don't want the interior damaged any more than it already is before I can get around to making repairs."
"I coulda told you it was gonna rain without havin' to listen to a danged old weather report," Whiskers said, limping toward Cooper's pickup. "My joints are painin' me somethin' fierce and it's put a real bad hitch in my get-along."
Cooper watched the bowlegged old cowboy slowly climb into the truck and start the engine. Pulling the truck to a stop beside Cooper, Whiskers grinned. "Looks like you're about to get some company."
Turning, Cooper watched a red truck bounce down the narrow road leading to his new home - such as it was. The truck bottomed out in a pothole deep enough to bury a full-grown mule before coming to a stop beside some fence posts holding up some broken boards - the corral. Something else he'd have to fix.
"Probably the authorities coming to condemn this place," he said, glancing at the old man.
Whiskers gave Cooper an ear-to-ear toothless grin that made the hair on the back of Cooper's neck tingle. "Don't shame me, boy. Just be sure you mind your manners, ya hear?"
"Howdy!" A burly looking man of about fifty got out of the red truck and started removing luggage from the back. "Name's Bubba West. I'm your neighbor to the east."
"What the hell's going on here?" Cooper demanded.
"Looks to me like somebody's fixin' to stay a spell," Whiskers said, sounding a little too innocent. He cackled as if he found something highly amusing, gunned the engine, then pulled around the red truck before Cooper could stop him.
When the dust settled, Cooper frowned. Had Whiskers finally gone around the bend?
He dismissed that idea immediately. He'd known the old geezer for over five years and, if anything, Whiskers's mind got sharper with age. No, he definitely had something up his sleeve and wanted to make a fast getaway. Cooper just didn't know what that something was, or what it had to do with him. He did, however, know that as sure as the sun rose in the east, he wasn't going to like it when he found out.
Cooper opened his mouth to stop Bubba, but the sight of a young woman exiting the passenger side struck him speechless. He'd been so preoccupied with what Whiskers was up to, Cooper hadn't noticed there was a second person in the truck. But he sure as hell noticed now. When she turned to say something to Bubba, her long, wavy auburn hair brushed the middle of her back and drew Cooper's attention to the best-looking backside he'd seen in years. Maybe ever.
Tall and slender, she wasn't skinny like those pencil-thin models he'd seen in magazines and on television. No, this was a woman with enough curves to drive a man to the brink of insanity. Her hips flared just enough to draw attention to the narrowness of her waist, tight little rear and long blue-jeans clad legs. Shapely as hell legs. The wrap-around-a-man-and-take-him-to-heaven kind of legs.
Cooper gulped hard and shook his head to clear it. He couldn't hear what she'd said to Bubba, but it was clear the suitcases were hers. Cooper started to protest, but she moved to face him and he couldn't have formed words if his life depended on it. She wasn't just attractive. The woman was downright gorgeous.
Her full mouth and sensuous lips curving in a slight smile, made his mouth go dry. But it was her eyes that damn near knocked his size thirteen boots right off his feet. Big, brown eyes stared at him expectantly and made him want to do something stupid like slay a dragon or move a mountain for her.
"See ya 'round, neighbor," Bubba said with a wave. When had the man stopped pulling bags from the truck and climbed back into the cab?
Brought back to his senses by the growl of the powerful engine turning over, Cooper tried to stop him. "Hey -"
But it was too late. Bubba was already turning the truck around and heading back down the lane, leaving a cloud of Panhandle dust swirling in his wake.
Cooper and the woman stared at each other for several long seconds before he finally managed to make his feet move toward her. "I'm Cooper -"
"I'm Faith -" They both stopped to stare at each other. Laughing, Cooper extended his hand. "Let's try this again. I'm Cooper Adams."
She smiled and placed her hand in his. "And I'm Faith Broderick."
Excerpted from Cowboy Boss by Kathie Denosky Copyright © 2002 by Harlequin Enterprises
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.