The Cowboy (Bitter Creek Series #1)

The Cowboy (Bitter Creek Series #1)

by Joan Johnston

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780440223801
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 02/08/2000
Series: Bitter Creek Series , #1
Pages: 400
Sales rank: 208,267
Product dimensions: 6.88(w) x 10.88(h) x 1.11(d)

About the Author

Joan Johnston is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of more than sixty historical and contemporary romance novels. She received a master of arts degree in theater from the University of Illinois and graduated with honors from the University of Texas School of Law at Austin. She is currently a full-time writer living in Colorado.

Read an Excerpt

"You Blackthornes are all greedy, thieving sons-of-bitches!"

Trace kept his features even, but his heart was thudding, and beneath the ancient oak desk, his hands were fisted on rock-hard thighs. He barely resisted blurting, Those are fighting words, Dusty.

They were, of course. But it sounded too much like dialogue from the barroom showdown in a western B movie. The scenario was classic Louis L'Amour, but Trace resisted the comparison, because he would have been forced to cast himself as villain, rather than hero.

"Just sign the papers, Dusty," he said in a level voice.

But the young man sitting across from him had apparently crossed some threshold between rational being and trapped animal. Dusty Simpson scrabbled for the pair of crutches lying beside his chair. One crutch fell beyond the carpet, clattering across the polished hardwood floor. He shoved himself upright on the crutch he had left and stood, wavering on a single leg, the other having been amputated just above the knee. "Come and get me, Trace. Come on, take a swing!" Dusty yelled.

Trace met Dusty's furious gaze--furious, he knew, because Dusty must have felt so impotent--and said, "I don't fight cripples."

He watched the blood drain from Dusty's face, taking the fight along with it.

"Sit down, Dusty."

The one-legged man, his whole body quivering with anger, stubbornly balanced himself between his booted foot and the crutch. "How do you live with yourself? Mine isn't the first small ranch that's been gobbled up by you Blackthornes. But you were best man at my wedding! You're godfather to my two girls! What kind of friend are you?"

"I'm only following orders," Trace said through tight jaws.

"Yeah. I know," Dusty replied, a sneer twisting his features. "If Blackjack told you to jump off a cliff, you'd find yourself dead in the rocks below by sundown."

Trace's eyes narrowed. He'd made the mistake, when he'd had one too many Lone Stars on Dusty's back porch, of confiding the truth to his friend. It might look to the world like Trace Blackthorne had managed the Bitter Creek Cattle Company since his father's heart attack three months ago, but Blackjack held a tight rein on everything Trace did and roweled with sharp, painful spurs when he wanted his dirty work done. Like now.

Trace watched as tears welled in his friend's eyes. He'd sat beside Dusty's wife Lou Ann at the hospital while Dusty had the surgery that took off his leg, leaving him unable to compete in the arena on a cutting horse and thus unable to pay the mortgage on his ranch. Trace hated what Blackjack was forcing him to do. But he had no choice.

"What happened to you, losing your leg in that car accident, was a tragedy," Trace said. "But if we hadn't bought the Rafter S, it would have gone into foreclosure."

"Blackjack owns the bank that holds my mortgage, Trace. Are you saying you couldn't have talked to your dad, maybe persuaded him to give me a little more time to get back on my feet? Aw, hell. On my one damned foot?"

Trace bit back an apology for his father's ruthlessness. He'd learned some hard lessons at Blackjack's side. Dusty was like a calf choking on a string of barbed wire tangled around its throat. When Trace was ten years old, he'd ignored his father's order to kill the animal and tried to untangle the wire. But the harder he'd worked to unwind the deadly garrote, the harder the calf

had struggled, and the more it had suffered. He'd learned it was more merciful to simply kill the calf and end its pain.

"Sign the papers, so we can get this over with," Trace said.

Dusty sank into the horn and cowhide chair, defeated. The crutch landed with a thump on the handwoven Turkish carpet that framed the two chairs in front of the desk.

"What am I going to do, Trace? How am I going to support Lou Ann and the girls? Without my leg, I'll never ride well enough to work as a trainer. It would have been better for everyone if I'd died in that crash!"

"Don't talk like a fool."

"I've never said anything in my life that made more sense," Dusty said. "The mortgage insurance would have paid off the ranch, and my life insurance would have given Lou Ann and the kids something to live on. Instead, my kids are being forced to leave the only home they've ever known, and Lou Ann is . . . is stuck with half a man."

Trace opened his mouth to frame a denial, but Dusty cut him off.

"Before I came over here this morning, I sat in the barn for a long time with the barrel of my grandfather's Navy Colt stuck in my mouth."

Trace felt his heart take an extra beat. "Dusty--"

"I figured killing myself was the best thing I could do for them." Dusty's hands gripped the arms of the chair so hard his knuckles turned bone

white. He glanced fleetingly at Trace, then away. "But I couldn't make myself pull the trigger. So here I am."

Trace's insides tightened, as though he were looking at a savage open wound. His friend was hurting, and he needed desperately to do something to take away his pain. But Dusty wasn't some poor, dumb animal that could be put out of its misery.

Trace said the first thing that came into his head, an idea he'd been mulling over but had delayed acting upon, because he knew it would mean another fight with his father.

"I wasn't going to mention this until later," he said, "but now is as good a time as any to ask. How would you like to work for me?"

Dusty grimaced. "You mean work for Blackjack? I'd rather starve in the street."

"No. I mean work for me. I'm starting up my own quarter horse operation."

"Since when?" Dusty asked suspiciously.

Trace managed a crooked smile. "Since you became available to run a breeding program for me. Who knows better what makes a good cutting horse than the man who's ridden a horse in the finals of the Futurity, the Stakes, and the Derby?" Dusty was one of only a few riders to make the finals in all three events in the triple crown of cutting horse competitions.

Dusty rubbed the sandy-colored stubble on his chin. "I could do it, Trace. There isn't a man in South Texas who knows more about quarter horse conformation than I do. And when it comes to cutting a cow from the herd, I can spot a horse with a knack for stopping and starting better than just about anybody."

"I know. That's why I want you. Will you do it?"

"How does Blackjack feel about hiring a cripple?"

Trace regretted using the word earlier. He waited until Dusty met his gaze before he said, "Blackjack isn't making the hiring decisions. I am."

Table of Contents

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The Cowboy (Bitter Creek Series #1) 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 69 reviews.
sharp1022 More than 1 year ago
I thought this book just went around in circles. The main characters started out great they got you interested but the rest of the book was the same stuff, "I love you-- No I don't/can't love you. Don't touch me you are the devil, then ok lets jump in bed together." About the last 15 or so pages she is all the sudden ready to get married, be a family, and o yeah move to Australia. I expected more and did not get it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Welcome to a century-old feud between the Blackthornes and the Creeds. And a couple caught up in the feud and having to choose sides. Callie Creed and Trace Blackthorne are the couple caught up in the feud. They want to put their differences behind them and plan on marrying until Callie receives a phone call while attending the University of Texas in Austin that will shatter their dreams. Callie¿s brother Sam has been permanently disabled while practicing football and the one that caused the disabling injury is none other than Trace¿s brother Owen. Callie knew the family was going to have a hard time adjusting to her and Trace¿s relationship and then this happens which would make it impossible to marry. Callie refuses to marry Trace and he swears he¿ll never forgive her for turning her back on him. But little does Trace know that Callie is carrying their unborn child. Callie is desperate and marries another. -------------------------------- Fast-forward eleven years¿¿. Callie¿s husband has passed away and the Creed¿s are close to going broke and she is desperate to save them. Callie tries to save the ranch by breeding and training cutting horses for competition. Winning the large amount of prize money in the competition is her goal. Trace¿s father dies and Trace must come home to Bitter Creek, Texas and take control of the ranch. Trace is no longer the man he was and is bitter but he can¿t hold back the feelings he has for Callie and he offers to marry her and save her family from ruin. There is an intense mutual desire that continues to draw them both to each other but the secret that Callie keeps threatens to destroy their happiness. --------------------------------------------- Joan Johnston has once again masterfully created very real characters, a captivating story and interesting sub-plots. Ms. Johnston who is known for her historical romances has successfully reached a new level in THE COWBOY stretching her talents into the contemporary romance genre. THE COWBOY just screams sequel and I for one will be the first in line to read it! Reviewed by Paula Palmer 2/11/2000
silverangel_1999 on LibraryThing 10 months ago
I liked this book, as with some of her other books, it was a little slow at times. I also thought it was a little bit redundant. We realize he loves her, and she just can't leave her family. All in all a good read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
loverofromance More than 1 year ago
Plot and Story Line The Cowboy is the first book in the series. I have read this series, but quite a long time ago, about ten years. So one of my goals this year, is to do a couple re reads every month and do a review. It was so fun to get back into this series, and as I started reading this, I came to the conclusion that there is a reason i adore this set up of feuding familes. And in all the feuding family series…this is my favorite of all time. It was also one of the first contemporary series I ever read, so that is also another plus. Its thanks to this series that I started reading Contemporary romance in the first place. This book starts off pretty well, and gives a bit of background information. We see other plots develop for other characters that will become future installments. The Cowboy is Trace and Callie’s story. And boy did I love them as a couple. In the beginning of the story, they are both hurting, still in love with each other, but there are so many other factors that keep them apart. The main reason you see is pride. Pride keeps them from accepting how much they care for each other and just letting their heart lead instead of loyalty to their families. There are some traumatic events that take place, and really adds a deep emotional rhythm to the story that keeps you engaged on every page. I tell you, this is the type of book that will keep you up at night, because the vivid detail and the beautiful work that Joan Johnston Creates is touching in its detail. The flow is pretty smooth, and the writing is so compelling, you feel as if you along side them feeling every emotion, and seeing every color and detail. Cover Now there are two different covers to this book. The first cover, the older one, is of a Texan sunset with a horse galloping across a field. The second and most latest, is the one I decided to put up. I don’t know about you all, but a bare man’s back with those strong shoulders, and sculpted muscles…and those jeans….(football pants have no contest with those jeans), his booty…so sexy I could squeeze it. :) What do you think of it? Can you resist a sexy cowboy on a cover? Overall View A riveting romantic tale of passion, personal discovery, and the test of true love…sensitive and powerful!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Sparky_Patches More than 1 year ago
Overall Rating: 4.75 Action: 3.0 / Emotion: 4.5 / Romance: 5.0 / Sensuous: 2.0 / Suspense: 3.5 // Laughter: 0 // Tears: 4 / Teary: 1 The Cowboy: 4.75: Joan Johnston has a wonderful gift when it comes to telling a story.  Thus, it comes as no surprise that *The Cowboy*, the first book in *The Bitter Creek Series* draws the reader into the lives of the characters that walk through the pages of this book and keeps readers engaged until that very last sentence. Hero: 4.75: Trace Blackthorne: A steadfast hero who know who he was.  Trace was the kind of hero romance readers dream of.  Who could not help but admire a man who professed his love for the heroine as he undauntingly pursued her -- and made every effort to take care of her. Heroine: 2.50: Callie Creed: A frustrating heroine.  Callie turned her back on Trace, married Nolan, and when Trace returns after eleven years, she blames him for their breakup.  Her staunch stance against Trace added an irritating, "you're not being honest with yourself" quality to her personality.  Rather than come across as the strong-willed, determined, successful heroine to be admired, it was easy to want to bop Callie over the head and say, quit being an idiot and say yes to your soulmate. Story Line: 3.00: Johnston did a great job with the Romeo and Juliet story line set in the world of Texas ranches and cutting horse competitions.  Liked the details that proved that Johnston did a great deal of research to get Trace and Callie's world right. Action: 3.00: There was not a great deal of action filling the pages of this book, but there were enough slightly adventurous events occurring within the story to keep the pace moving forward at a strong, steady pace. Emotion: 4.50: Johnston did a great job of engaging the emotions of her readers.  While frustration at the heroine is not a positive quality, it is definitely an emotional one.  Surprisingly enough, Johnston managed to bring forth tears during the telling of Trace and Callie's story.  And Trace certainly won hearts in his constant pursual of Callie . . . and the way he treated Eli and Hannah.  Romance: 5.00: The degree of romance throughout the telling of this story was always constant.  Trace and Callie were always aware of the other, and while Callie may have denied it, she was just as much in love with Trace as he professed to be with her. Suspense: 3.50: The detrimental and suspect incidents that continued to occur at Three Oaks added a degree suspense to the story. Sensuous: 2.00: There was just something about the emotional connection between Trace and Callie that added a definite degree of sensuality to their lovemaking . . . even though it was not graphically detailed. Secondary Characters: 5.00: One of Johnston's great skills as an author is her ability to develop the personalities of her secondary characters to such a degree that they inspire great interest and cause the reader to want to continue reading future books in the hope that Johnston will tell their story.  The secondary characters that drew great interest in this book included: {1} Jackson "Blackjack" Blacktorne; {2} Eve DeWitt Blackthorne; {3} Owen Blackthorne, {4} Summer Blackthorne; {5} Jesse Creed, {6} Lauren "Ren" Coburn Creed; {7} Sam Creed; {8} Luke Creed; {9} Bayleigh "Bay" Creed; {10} Eli Munroe; {11} Hannah Munroe; and {12} "Bad" Billy Coburn. A more in-depth, detailed, spoiler-ridden review of *The Cowboy* appears at Wolf Bear Does Books.
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I am very impressed with Ms.Johnston's writing. This story had me from the beginning right through to the end. I was so impressed with THE COWBOY! that I bought the next three in the series without hesitation. She managed to bring out each character. Thank you for such a marvelous literary piece of work. I intend to put all her other novels on my Nook. I look forward to enjoying them as much as I did the first one. Thank you Ms Johnston for putting your thoughts and words down and sharing them with the rest of us.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
First book in the Bittercreek series. I loved this novel. Johnston creates interesting, realistic characters. Some of her characters make J.R. Ewing look like Mary Poppins. Worth every penny.
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I enjoyed this book. Will buy more of the series.
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tmc41655 More than 1 year ago
my husband read this book he really enjoyed it.
jbarr5 More than 1 year ago
The cowboy by joan johnstone 2 families have a feud, The main from one hooks up with a girl from the other. 11 yrs later they are brought back together again. Lot of things that happened in the past are brought to the forefront and the ones involved now find out the truth of what really transpired and why things happened the way they did. A lot of misunderstandings along with her and he finding out about their parents misgivings takes its toll. She packs a picnic lunch and sends her parents out to the meadow so they can light a spark in their marriage. Problem is it's after dinner and they've not returned. Between murder and horse thieves and just plain backstabbing, bar brawls and going behind others back, this book has that and more. Like the details of becoming a cutter-never knew that occupation existed and like finding out about horses as I am terrified to become closer to them. Even though there are a bunch of characters they are easy to keep straight and what's going on with each of their lives. Like how things are brought up and the problem things are dealt with and how. Being disabed it's good to know others will light a spark under your butt to get you moving and functioning to be self sustaining and not have to rely on others for everything. Secrets are enough to break up a marriage but it never happened and she married another. The things that come out 11 years later-I don't know if I'd be able to forgive one for withholding the information that finally comes to the surface. Love the structure of the family and those in charge. Love and remoance was just enough to make this an enjoyable novel.
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