One Brave Cowboy

One Brave Cowboy

4.2 10
by Kathleen Eagle

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"The name's Cougar. Just Cougar. One name is enough."

Behind the bravado was a complex man. War hero. "Indian cowboy." Walking wounded in search of answers. Cougar needed to build a new life, and he'd start with what he loved most. Horses. Which brought him to the Double D Wild Horse Sanctuary. And into the orbit of…  See more details below


"The name's Cougar. Just Cougar. One name is enough."

Behind the bravado was a complex man. War hero. "Indian cowboy." Walking wounded in search of answers. Cougar needed to build a new life, and he'd start with what he loved most. Horses. Which brought him to the Double D Wild Horse Sanctuary. And into the orbit of ranch volunteer Celia Banyon and her very special son.

The boy had suffered an unspeakable accident, and his mother felt unspeakable guilt. But something about Cougar brought her back from the brink. He represented her chance to be a woman again. Now, suddenly, one name wasn't enough for what they could have if they'd just let themselves. Healing. Love. Family. Forever. In fact, the possibilities were endless….

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The driver of the black pickup was himself driven, fixed on the hulking two-story white house at the end of the road. It was an old house in need of a coat of paint with a brand new, freshly painted sign affixed to the porch railing.


Double D Wild Horse Sanctuary

It was the kind of incongruence that automatically drew his eye and raised the hackles he'd been working hard to tame. He was back in the States, for God's sake. South Dakota. Land of the granite chiefs and home of the original braves. Just because something was a little off in a place that seemed too quiet didn't mean Cougar needed to crouch and prepare to pounce. He was there on a tip from a fellow soldier. About the only people he trusted these days were guys he'd served with, and Sergeant Mary Tutan was one of the most standup "guys" he knew.

She couldn't pull rank on him anymore, but she'd tracked him down, got him on the phone and talked like she could. Get your ass in gear, soldier! Go check out the wild horse training competition my friend Sally Drexler is running. It's just what the VA docs ordered. She'd corrected herself—Sally Night Horse—and explained that Sally had married an Indian guy. Did he know Hank Night Horse? How about Logan Wolf Track?

As if Indian country was that damn small.

Cougar wasn't interested in the sergeant's social life, but the mention of horses got his attention. Training competition and cash prize sounded pretty attractive, too. He'd been away from horses too long. The one he could see loping across the pasture a good half mile away made him smile. Nice bay with a big spotted colt in tow. He could almost smell their earthy sweat on the hot South Dakota wind blowing through the pickup cab.

His nose welcomed horse sweat, buffalo grass and the clay dust kicked up by the oversize tires on his "tricked out" ride, compliments of his brother, Eddie. He could have done without the tires. Could have done without any of the surprises he'd come home to, but he didn't want to do without his brother, and Eddie would have pouted indefinitely if Cougar had said anything about how many miles his brother had racked up on the vehicle in Cougar's absence.

The house looked pretty quiet for the "headquarters" of what was billed as the biggest privately maintained wild animal reserve in the Dakotas. Cougar didn't care how big it was as long as it was legitimate. He'd been down too many dead-end roads lately. The end of this one seemed pretty dead as far as human activity was concerned, but one by one the horses were silently materializing, rising from the ebb and flow of tall grass. They kept their distance, but they were watchful, aware of everything that moved.

As was Cougar. His instinct for self-preservation wasn't quite as sharp as the horses', but it surpassed that of any man, woman or…


Cougar hit the brake. He saw nothing, heard nothing, but eyes and ears were limited. Cougar knew things. Men and women were on their own, but kids were like foals. Always vulnerable. They gave off signals, and Cougar was a gut-level receptor. Which was a damn good thing. If it hadn't been for his gut, he would have done nothing.

And if it hadn't been for the red baseball cap, he would have thought he was going crazy again, and he might have slid his boot back over the accelerator. But the red cap saved both kid and driver.

And the goat.

Cougar's pulse pounded behind his staring eyeballs. The goat took off, and a small hand stretched out, barely visible beyond a desert camo armored fender.

Don't stop for anything, sergeant. That kid's coming for us. You slow down, he takes us out. Do. Not. Stop.

Cougar closed his eyes, took a breath, shifted into reverse as he took a look back, gunned the engine, and nearly jackknifed his trailer. When he turned, there was no goat. He saw a light-haired kid in blue jeans, stretched out on his belly. He saw the front end of his black pickup. He saw a red and white barn, sparsely graveled road and South Dakota sod. He secured the pickup and threw the door open simultaneously. His boots hit the ground just as the kid pushed himself up on hands and knees. He looked up at Cougar, eyes filled with terror, but no tears.

And he was up. Thank you, Jesus.

Cougar's shadow fell across the boy like a blanket dropped from a top bunk. His own knees wouldn't bend. "You okay?"

The boy stared at him.

"I didn't see you," Cougar said, willing the boy to stand on his own, to be able to get up all the way. "Are you hurt?"

The boy stretched out his arm, pointed across the road and smiled. Cougar swung his head around and saw a gray cat.

"Was that it?" He looked down at the boy. "A damn cat? For a second I thought I'd…" His legs went jittery on him, and his knee cracked as he squatted, butt to boot heels. "Jesus," he whispered as he braced his elbow on his knees and dropped his head into his hand. His heart was battering his ribs. He couldn't bring himself to look the kid in the eye quite yet. Might scare him worse. Might scare them both worse.

A small hand lit like a little bird on his shoulder. He twitched beneath it, but he held himself together. He saw the red cap out of the corner of his eye, felt the wind lift his hair, smelled the grass, heard the pickup purring at his back. His own vehicle, not the Army's. He held on to the here and now, lifted his head and gave the boy a quick once-over, every part of him but his eyes. He couldn't trust himself to look the boy in the eye. He wasn't strong enough yet.

"That was close, wasn't it? Scared the…livin'…"

Not a word from the boy.

Cougar took the risk of patting the hand on his shoulder. It was okay. His hand was steady. "But you're all right, huh? No harm done?"

No response. Kid was either scared speechless, or he was deaf.

Or blind. One eye, anyway. The other eye didn't move. Cougar looked him up and down again, but the only sign of blood was a skinned knee peeking through a stained hole in his jeans.

Wordlessly the boy turned tail and sped away like a fish running up against a glass wall. Cougar stood slowly, pushing off on his thighs with less than steady hands, lifting his gaze from the soles of the boy's pumping tennis shoes, down the road to the finish line.

The barn's side door flew open, and there was Mama. She was all sound and flurry. "Mark!"

Get set, go! Cougar heard within his head, where his pounding pulse kept pace with retreating feet. He got back into his pickup and let the tires crawl the rest of the way, passing up the house for the barn, where the woman—small, slight, certainly pretty and pretty certainly upset—would be somebody to talk to. The options—all but one—weren't exactly jumping out at him.

He parked, drew a long, deep breath on the reminder that he hadn't killed anybody today and then blew it out slowly, again thanking any higher power that might be listening. The doc's slow, deep breathing trick seemed to be working.

"Is the boy all right?" Cougar called out as he flung the pickup door shut.

The woman held the boy's face in her hands, checking for damage. Cougar watched her long, lush ponytail bob and weave as she fussed over her charge. It swung shoulder to shoulder as she turned big, bright, beautiful brown eyes on Cougar. "What happened?"

For the sake of those wondrous eyes he wished he had an answer. "Whatever he told you." He took a step, testing his welcome. "I'm still not sure."

"He hasn't told me anything. He doesn't speak."

Cougar looked down at the boy, who appeared to be taking his measure. "So you weren't holding out on me. But you took off before I got around to saying I'm…" He offered his hand. "I'm sorry. I didn't see you."

"What happened?" the woman insisted.

"I'd say he came out of nowhere, but that would sound like an excuse. All I know is that I slammed on the brakes, and…" He shook his head. "Then I saw his cap, then a hand and I thought I'd, uh. hit—" he glanced at the boy, and his stomach knotted "—somebody."

"You stopped before you saw anything?"

"Yeah. Well, I." He owed it to her straight, just the way he remembered it. "I had a feeling. It's hard to explain. I guess I was admiring the scenery." He adjusted his new brown Stetson, stirred some gravel beneath his shifting boots. "I didn't see him. Didn't hit the horn, nothing."

"I was just getting some." She gestured toward the door she'd left open. "Oh, God, I wasn't paying attention. I let him slip…" She gave her head a quick shake. "I slipped. For a minute. More than a minute." She pulled the boy's head to her body. The top of it fit nicely between her breasts. He gave her a quick hug and then ducked under her arms and backed away, leaving her empty arms still reaching for him. "Oh, Markie-B, I thought you were playing with the kittens."

"I guess the mama got away. He was chasing her." Cougar's gaze connected with the boy's. "Right, Mark? You were just trying to bring Mama Cat back to her babies."

"Was it close?" the woman asked, almost inaudibly.

"He must've tripped. He was face-in-the-dirt. Blew the knee out of his jeans." He turned to the woman. "He can't hear, either?"

She shook her head. "As far as we know."

"Don't they have tests for that?" You just crossed the line, Cougar.

"Yes, of course. Tests. All kinds of tests." She offered him her hand. "I'm Celia Banyon. My son, Mark, is a mystery. We really don't know what's going on."

"Yeah, it was close." Either the truth or her touch made him weaken inside. He glanced away. "Really close."

"I'm…He looks…" She cleared her throat, stepped back, and her hand slid away. "Are you here to see Sally?"

That's right. He was on a mission that hadnothing to do with a stray kid.

"I'm here about the training contest. The name's Cougar."

"First? Last?"

"Always." She gave him a puzzled look, and he took a shot at smiling. "Just Cougar. One name is enough." He glanced at the house. "Is she here?"

"Nope, it's just me and Mark holding down the fort today. Everyone else is either out in the field or taking care of business. You're a trainer?"

"I've trained my own horses, yeah. I heard about this wild horse contest from a friend, so I thought I'd have a look for myself, see if I can qualify."

"Mustang Sally's Wild Horse Makeover Competition. I'm not actually involved. We're volunteers with the sanctuary. Aren't we, Mark?" She touched the boy's shoulder, and he looked up at her. "We help Sally with the horses, don't we?" Then turning her attention back to Cougar, she shaded her eyes with her hand. "Sally and her husband had an appointment. Everyone else is working. I could get you an information packet from the office." She glanced at the boy. "We need to go in and take care of your knee anyway, don't we?"

Mark was staring at Cougar, who felt obliged to honor the eye contact since the boy seemed to be a few senses short of a full house.

"Where was he?" Celia asked. "He couldn't've been far away. Right? He was right here with me, and then."

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Meet the Author

New York Time and USA Today bestselling author Kathleen Eagle published her first Silhouette Special Edition, an RWA Golden Heart winner, in 1984.  Since then she has published more than 40 books, including historical and contemporary, series and single title novels, earning her nearly every award in the industry including Romance Writers of America's RITA.  Kathleen lives in Minnesota with her husband, who is Lakota Sioux and forever a cowboy. 

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One Brave Cowboy (Harlequin Special Edition #2143) 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 10 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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DebR97 More than 1 year ago
This eBook courtesy of NetGalley and Harlequin. Favorite quote: ¿THE NAME¿S COUGAR. JUST COUGAR. ONE NAME IS ENOUGH.¿ Behind the bravado was a complex man. War hero. ¿Indian cowboy.¿ Walking wounded in search of answers. Cougar needed to build a new life, and he¿d start with what he loved most. Horses. Which brought him to the Double D Wild Horse Sanctuary. And into the orbit of ranch volunteer Celia Banyon and her very special son. The boy had suffered an unspeakable accident, and his mother felt unspeakable guilt. But something about Cougar brought her back from the brink. He represented her chance to be a woman again. Now, suddenly, one name wasn¿t enough for what they could have if they¿d just let themselves. Healing. Love. Family. Forever. In fact, the possibilities were endless¿ I love Kathleen Eagle's books and she's done it again with this one! Cougar is one of the best heroes I've read in a while, he has lots of problems but he isn't afraid to admit them and he's definitely working on them. He has a big heart because as many problems as he has to work on he doesn't back down from helping others too. I love watching the connection develop between him and Mark and Flyboy. Cougar is afraid to take a chance with Celia; he's unsure of what he'll do, but the appeal of a lovely woman, a kindred soul in the body of a horse, and a wonderful little boy just might be what's needed to heal them all. Celia suffers terrible guilt over Mark's accident. She also suffers the pain of custody visits by her ex, who she knows is fighting for a big settlement to be gotten by his ambulance chasing attorney. The less she sees of her ex, the better off both she and Mark will be. So if you want to read a feel good romance with a wonderful cowboy hero this is for you!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
bookworm77711 More than 1 year ago
One Brave Cowboy by Kathleen Eagle Harlequin Special Edition, Oct. 2011 Once again, Kathleen Eagle doesn't disappoint. This story will grip your heart and hold tight to the end. Wounded warrior, Indian cowboy, Cougar comes home to South Dakota from the war in search of answers. But home is no longer what it was. Horse therapy, his love of wild horses and his need of a new start bring him to the Double D Wild Horse Sanctuary. There he buys a wild mustang and meets teacher Cecelia, a divorcee survivor of domestic abuse, and her son, Mark a deaf-mute child who lost an eye in a horrible accident. Mark instantly bonds with Cougar and the mustang he names, Flyboy. Cougar's deal to exchange building repairs for space for his trailer and horse seems ideal for them all. But Cecelia's jealous ex-husband causes trouble. How they deal with him and how Mark and Cougar bond with each other and the horse and thus begin to heal make a heartwarming story. Then Kathleen throws in love between Cougar and Cecelia to make a special story great.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
LASR_Reviews More than 1 year ago
Cougar was looking for a place to heal. He was wounded badly in war and came home to find out his younger brother had sold his horses. That was another wound to his heart. Ms. Eagle does an excellent job of combining several issues into her story: war trauma, spousal abuse, an abused and traumatized child, and horse therapy. She wends Indian history in the story through the Native American characters she has in the story. Her plot is real, the story flows well, and you immediately empathize with Celia who is trying to avoid her ex-husband and protect her son. She makes her male character strong in character and body both, and soon he's trying to run interference. The Double D Wild Horse Sanctuary is a sanctuary for the people there as well the horses. Cougar knows horses (as does the author based on her writing) and he has hopes the works will sooth his war wounds and help him recover. The young boy who acts as if he's deaf and mute also loves the horses, even if he feels Celia is a bit overprotective. Most moms are. Personally, I would have been a little rougher on the ex-husband. However, how the author handles it is the best solution. This is an easy read that is very entertaining. I enjoyed the Indian cowboy touch, and how the author ended the story. It's fun to read such a satisfying story. Why not snag a copy of this book and hang out with the wounded warriors and the pretty horses? You won't regret it. Originally posted at the Long and Short of It Romance Reviews
rhonda1111RL More than 1 year ago
In One Brave Cowboy you meet Cougar first when he almost runs over a little boy but he sense him and is able to stop. Cougar is going to adopt a wild mustang and train him and enter this contest. Cougar got out of the service with a purple heart and has flashbacks he is trying to get back to a normal life and get off the pain pills. He knows horses and was in a therapy with them in VA Hospital. The Double D ranch has a lot of volunteers to take care of the wild mustangs. They get trainers to train the horses for a cash prize and sell the horses after trained. One volunteer at the ranch is Celia banyon who is a school teacher and her son Mark. Mark lost one eye in a accident and since then he does not hear or speak. But the animals and time is starting to help. Cougar after saving Mark takes a liking to the boy. Cougar is wounded to. Cougar lives in truck and horse trailer. So he ends up fixing Celia house and corral and parking using her water and electricty. Mark names the Mustang Flyboy same name thats on his little airplane. Its a sign that he is hearing some and understanding now.flyboy and Mark are connecting nonverbally. Flyboy eats out of his hand after he went over the fence before any one could stop him. It was a good book. Made me want a horse though I can't ride. I believe animals can make a difference in our lives if we let them. As my dog sitting on my foot right now. I will read more books by Kathleen Eagle. I was given this ebook in exchange for honest review.