Heart of a Cowboy

Heart of a Cowboy

by Kristin Vayden

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Overview

Heart of a Cowboy by Kristin Vayden

A stubborn cowboy has sworn never to forgive or forget—but one special woman may find a way to change his mind . . .
 
Hospice nurse Laken Garlington helps people face the end with peace and dignity, surrounded by their loved ones. But the son of her new patient didn’t come home to reunite with his dad. So why is Cyler Myer back in horse country? It’s clear the sexy, six-three hunk with the steely eyes has a score to settle, and Laken doesn’t plan on being collateral damage . . . no matter how irresistible she finds the prodigal cowboy.
 
Dying is too good for the father Cyler will never forgive—not in this lifetime.
Showing up at his family’s Washington State ranch is the first step in his plan. But revenge takes a back seat to desire when Cyler meets a bossy beauty who arouses feelings he isn’t ready to face. As they work together to save an ailing mare, Cyler realizes he must decide where his true destiny lies. With
darkness . . . or with the woman who offers the promise of redemption with every kiss.
 
“Obsessed. That’s how I felt while reading this book, like every page was better than the previous. Just try to put this down, I dare you.”
--#1 New York Times bestselling author Rachel Van Dyken

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781516105625
Publisher: Kensington
Publication date: 12/19/2017
Series: Elk Heights Ranch , #1
Sold by: Penguin Random House Publisher Services
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 18,415
File size: 4 MB

About the Author

Kristin Vayden is the author of twenty books and anthologies. She is an acquisitions editor for a boutique publishing house, and helps mentor new authors. Her passion for writing started young, but only after her sister encouraged her to write did she fully realize the joy and exhilaration of writing a book. Her books have been featured in many places, including the Hallmark Channel’s Home and Family show. You can find Kristin at her website, kristinvayden.weebly.com, at www.facebook.com/kristinvaydenauthor or on Twitter: @KristinVayden.

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

Warm air breezed through the open window whipping Laken's hair across her face. In her rearview mirror, she could see a cloud of dust billowing behind her Honda, but thankfully the way ahead was clear, offering her an intimidating view of the huge log house growing bigger by the moment. Iron and cord fences lined the dusty gravel driveway, longhorn cattle dotted the landscape as they lazily grazed, but none of it calmed her nerves.

If anything, it made her more anxious.

"You're quiet. Are you still nervous?" Kessed asked across the Bluetooth connection, and Laken twisted her lips.

"Maybe?" She sighed.

"You're fine! Seriously. Chill. It's going to be great. Turn on that country girl charm, be yourself, and you're good to go." Kessed's tone was almost bored, since she'd basically given Laken the same speech the night before.

Normally, when her company sent her a new assignment, it was just that, an assignment. As a hospice nurse, she treated those who usually weren't in the position to be selecting their care. That choice was left up to the family. But when she received the call last week, it was to an interview. The patient wanted to hand-select the care nurse, and judging by the size of the property and house, the patient didn't have to worry about what insurance would, or wouldn't, cover.

"I'm here. I need to go. I'll call you later, 'kay? And if you have any leftover Pike Place after closing, it better have my name all over it. Just saying." Laken grinned as Kessed sighed over the phone.

"Is that the only reason we're friends?"

Laken nodded. "Yes."

"You suck."

"You love me! I entertain you."

"True. Now go and be awesome, and let me marinate in the amazing scent that is my workplace."

Laken sighed dramatically. "Starbucks is my lover."

"You're going to get cut off if you keep talking like that." Kessed giggled. "Gah, just get off the phone, stop stalling, and win over whomever needs the best nurse ever. Okay? Okay. Bye!"

The connection ended, and Laken grinned and shook her head as she navigated the car.

The road split into a circular drive, and she kept to the right, pulling up just before the hewn log entrance. Ugh, why did I say yes? Heart pounding, she tried to keep her nerves in check, but deep down she knew the reason. Because someone inside that huge house needed someone like her.

Someone who cared.

Someone who would be a guide in that terrifying transition, when everything seemed completely uncertain and hopeless. Someone who wouldn't care about the will or who got the house, someone who had no investment in their death. More often than not, families pulled together in the end, but it was usually after they had fought for most of the time before the final passing.

So with a deep breath, Laken strode to the front door and rang the bell. The slight breeze stirred, and a chime echoed in the stillness. When she turned, she saw an antique triangle, just like the ones she'd always imagined on the ranches in books. A smile broke through her lips, and her heartbeat slowed.

"Hello there, love."

Laken turned, blinking as she took in the low and gravely tone of the man before her. He couldn't be older than seventy-five, with deeply tanned skin and a full head of more salt than pepper hair complete with a handlebar mustache.

"Hello." She reached out a hand, and when he took it, she was sure to squeeze tight.

His brows rose, then he grinned, showing off straight white teeth. "Nice handshake, girl. I like you already. C'mon in." He gestured with his head to the long hall, and Laken entered, noticing the heady aroma of old wood, pipe tobacco, and some sort of cleaner.

"What's your name, love?"

She spun, immediately berating herself for forgetting something so basic. So much for first impressions. "I'm sorry. I'm Laken Garlington. I'm here for the hospice nurse interview."

"I figured as much. You're the nicest looking one of the lot. I think I'll hire you." He nodded once then turned and continued down the hall.

"Uh, thanks." She tilted her head, curious. "Just where is the patient, if you don't mind my asking?"

"You're looking at him, sweetheart." He turned. "Jackson Myer. Doc says I have less than three months. Cancer. I don't want any drugs till the pain gets too bad." He shrugged as if talking about the weather or something just as benign.

Not cancer.

Not three months left of life.

Her trained eye started to notice the few telltale signs that could be easily overlooked. His tanned skin had a yellowish hue, now recognizable as jaundice, meaning his liver function was compromised. His rolled-up sleeves showed bruises dotting his arm, along with several Band-Aids, meaning his blood wasn't clotting either.

Then he coughed.

And with a weathered hand, he pulled out a once-white handkerchief, stained a brownish red, and wiped the fresh trickle of blood from his lips.

"I see." She nodded once, taking a step toward him. "And you've refused treatment? Is that what you mean about not taking any meds?"

"Drugs, sweetheart. Yeah." He cleared his throat, and as he continued, his voice grew raspy. "It's a losing battle. I waited too long and, well, I'm not going to fight fate."

"Why?" It was a simple question, but in her experience, the answer was anything but.

"Don't beat around the bush, do you?" He gave her a sad smile. "If we're going to chat, I'm going to need to sit down. I'm a bit slower these days."

The foyer opened into a wide hall, a wall completely of windows in the A-frame-style room. Indian-red leather couches sprawled across the large expanse, and he took a seat in a large chair facing the view the windows offered. Light spilled in, accenting the wide space. He ambled to a large chair and slowly sat, easing himself into the cushions. As his weight settled, he sighed and closed his eyes briefly.

"Have a seat, honey." He opened his eyes and nodded toward the couch.

"Thanks." The leather squeaked beneath her as she sat and set her purse to the side. "So, Mr. Myer —" "Jack, sweetheart. Mr. Myer was my daddy." He gave a dry chuckle.

"Got it. Jack, then. Why are you refusing treatment?" She leaned back, crossing her legs, and watched him as he absently toyed with a worn spot on the leather armrest.

"I've seen what chemotherapy can do. Radiation, all of the damn stuff. I asked Doc straight up what my chances were if I tried any of it, and even if it worked, it would only buy me some time. I figure I'm as ready to go now as I'll be in six months, so why make those three extra months I might get, only full of suffering from the side effects of the chemo? You know?" He shrugged and leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees.

"I see." She chewed her bottom lip, pulling it between her teeth. It wasn't uncommon for people in advanced stages of cancer to feel that there wasn't any hope, but the problem came when they were facing the final few days of life, and they regretted giving up that hope earlier.

The dying had a sharper perception of the value of life because with each second, they felt it slipping through their fingers.

"You're quiet. I'm betting you disagree. Don't worry, you're not the first, nor will you be the last to think I'm just giving up." He sat back and shrugged.

"Jack, I can't tell you what's right or wrong. I'm not in your shoes, or boots, rather." She grinned slightly as she glanced to his feet. At his small laugh, she continued. "But life is precious. I've seen more people regret their refusal of treatment than you'd expect. I just don't want you to be one of them." She hitched a shoulder.

"That's kind of you, sweetheart. But I'm not going to be regretting anything. I've got plenty in my life I can regret. I'm not going to add another foolish thing to the list."

Tilting her head, she offered him a warm smile. "Okay. I just want to always be honest."

"And that right there is why you're hired." He smacked his knee.

"Ah, and here I was under the impression you just thought I was cute," she shot back in a teasing tone, arching her brow.

He shrugged slightly. "That, too. But it sounds better if I say I'm hiring you for your candor."

"Keeping it classy. I like it." She reached for her purse and took out a card. "HCEW sent over my resume, right?" Hospice and Care of Eastern Washington was usually on top of things, but it was always smart to double-check.

"Yup. You're experienced for someone so young." He nodded, acting impressed.

"The great thing about having a direction when you're young is that you can work hard to get there faster. After my grandma died, I knew what I wanted to be. The hospice nurse who cared for her was incredible. She left an impression, and I've never looked back."

"Conviction is good, too."

"Everyone has to have a reason, Jack. If it's not conviction, it's something else driving you, but chances are it won't be as strong of a motivation."

He rubbed his whiskery chin. "How old are you?"

"Old enough. Now where are your doctor's notes?" With a quirk of her brow, she stood and walked over to his chair, offering a hand, dodging the question she knew she'd inevitably be asked. The question concerning her age always crept up one way or another. It wasn't common to be a twenty-six-year-old hospice nurse, but she wouldn't trade it for the world. People assumed her age meant a lack of experience, but that wasn't the case.

"I don't need your help," Jack grumbled.

"No, but sometimes it's nice to have help even when we don't need it."

He gave her a sarcastic glare, even as a grin broke through. "You're going to be bossy, aren't you?"

"Yup."

"Damn it."

"Lucky you."

"Ha, ha." He took her hand and stood. "Fine, but I'm not going to like it."

She bit back a giggle at his disgruntled look. "We're going to get along just fine. I can tell already."

As she followed him down the hall, she mentally made notes of what needed to be arranged. Empty walls held no pictures, and as she thought back to the living room. There weren't any there either. Odd. Was he alone? Did he no longer have living family? Or maybe they were estranged? Either way, she needed to find out.

"Here." He pointed to a large wooden desk, neatly organized with several white files with the St. Luke's logo on front. "You can sit if you want. I'm going to go and get some more coffee. You want some?"

"Nope, I'm good."

He started toward the door and paused. "You do drink coffee, don't you?"

She glanced up. "Every day."

"Good. I was worried for a minute. You can't trust a person who doesn't drink coffee. Unnatural." He walked away, the sound of his boots thumping the wooden floor.

Laken studied the charts and notes; it was textbook Adenocarcinoma in its advanced stages. The cancer had spread to his liver and lymph nodes, which confirmed her earlier suspicions. The specialist was Doctor Damien Wills, an expert in the field and one she'd worked with before. If Dr. Wills said three months, then three months was a good assessment.

Three months also wasn't much time.

And time would only go quicker as the end grew closer.

As a general rule, she'd live in with Jack, providing care as it was needed. At first it would be less hands on, yet as time progressed she'd give round the clock care. She made a mental note to line up an on-call backup nurse so that Jack wouldn't ever be without care, even on her rare days off.

"Jack?" Laken called, setting aside the charts and listening to a soft click from down the hall.

"What, darlin'?"

She left the office and walked down the hall to find him pouring steaming black coffee into a Starbucks mug. "Jack, do you have time for a few more questions?"

"I can spare a minute or two." He gave a wily grin and rested against the counter.

Laken pulled out her phone and opened up her chart app to make notes.

"Sweet. Okay. First things first. Family. Do you have living relatives, and are they aware of your condition?"

Jack took a long sip of coffee. "Yup and nope."

She glanced up. "Yes, relatives, and, no they don't know?"

"Yesss." He glanced away.

"Alright. Do you want any of them to be made aware?"

"I should probably tell Cyler, but I don't want to be around for the bonfire he'll throw to celebrate." He took another sip.

"Pardon?" She paused typing in the name.

"Cyler. My son. It's complicated."

"I see. So, he doesn't know." She studied his expression, trying to read between the lines.

"No, but I'll tell him myself." He lifted his mug and sighed, his shoulders rounding out as if insecure. "He deserves to hear it from me."

"Anyone else that needs to be informed?" She sidestepped the other questions about this Cyler guy. When it came to rifts in families, she stayed out. Period.

"Nope, he's all I've got. Wait. Damn it. I bet you Breelee will get wind of this." The kitchen echoed with the sound of his coffee mug hitting the stone countertop abruptly. "Damn woman. She'll be like a vulture, circling me till I drop dead. I gotta call my lawyer." He closed his eyes and pinched his nose. "Damn females. Okay, sweetheart, what other questions are you going to pelt me with? Let's rip it all off like a Band-Aid." He grabbed his mug, sloshing coffee onto the countertop, and stomped back into the living room. "What are you waiting for, girl? And grab my phone. I gotta make a few calls apparently. Damn, this day is just getting better and better," he muttered.

"And so it begins," Laken whispered under her breath, grabbing a sleek iPhone from the counter beside the coffeepot and walking to the living room. The questions were the easy part.

Especially if Jack's only living relatives were anything like he'd described.

Death really sucked.

CHAPTER 2

Cyler Myer tapped his pen on his pickup dashboard, watching as they lifted one of the frames into position. The house was coming along nicely, and even nicer would be the payout when this subdivision was fully established. It would sell quickly, just like his other three. It had taken years, sleepless nights, and scraping every last penny together, but he'd made it. His construction company. His design. His success.

And he hadn't needed one cent from Jack.

And he sure as hell didn't need his approval either.

Speak of the devil, as Cyler's phone buzzed, Jack's name lit up the screen.

It was a satisfying feeling, rejecting the call and tossing the phone aside to the passenger side. Let him leave a message.

One he wouldn't listen to.

He was just about to drive on to the next project when his phone buzzed again.

Jack.

Ignoring it, he threw the truck into drive and started down the gravel road, kicking up dust behind him. As the next project came into view, his phone buzzed again. He glanced over, expecting to see Jack's name. Odd that he'd call three times in a row when they hadn't spoken in years, but it wasn't his name that lit up the screen. It was a random number, and Cyler swiped to answer. "CC Homes."

He put the truck in park just before another house.

"Hello ... son."

The voice haunted him, filling him with both anger and bitterness. "What the hell do you want?" He bit out each word.

"There's something I have to tell you." Jack sounded old, nothing like the pain in the ass that he'd always been. And as much as he wanted to throw the phone out the window, he paused, listening.

"Well?"

"Well ... it's like this. I've got three months, and I'd like to say I'm sorry before I don't have that chance anymore."

His words echoed in Cyler's head, and he replayed them before answering.

"Three months, huh?" He glanced down at the brown leather seat.

"Yup, cancer. And I'd like for you to come home. If you can."

Cyler pinched the edge of his nose. "No, I don't think I'll be doing that, Dad." He spat the name. "And quite honestly, three months is still too long for me. You said you're sorry. I listened. Let's just be done." At least this time it's final.

"I see."

"Unlikely, but okay. You have a good three months." He ended the call and closed his eyes. He was justified in hating the old coot. But part of him whispered that even though Jack deserved it, he shouldn't have treated the old man that way.

Regardless, it was a moot point anyway. Three months wasn't long, and soon enough, it wouldn't matter.

As he got out of the car and walked toward the construction zone, he mentally started a countdown.

Ninety days left.

And soon Jackson Myer would answer for everything.

(Continues…)



Excerpted from "The Heart of a Cowboy"
by .
Copyright © 2017 Kristin Vayden.
Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Heart of a Cowboy 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
BooksAndSpoons More than 1 year ago
A touching story of forgiveness and love, life at its lowest lows and its highest highs, a heartwarming story about family, redemption, and soul mates finding their way to each other. The realistic picture of dying and death and the mental work, pain, and sorrow everyone involved has to go through, it not only demonstrates the development of the characters in the story, but it spoke to me personally of the beauty of letting go peacefully, moving on gracefully, and death as a natural part of the circle of life. The blurb focuses on the romantic relationship developing between Cyler Myer and Laken Garlington yet there is so much more to the story with Cyler's father preparing himself for losing the battle against cancer, and the past mistakes that he wants to correct before it is too late. The relationship that develops between Laken, her patients Jack, and Cyler is beautiful in its raw roughness at the last moments of Jack's life. Everything that happens in the story develops from those poignant last attempts to make things right, giving all the emotions a deeper, profound foundation. Past sins, misunderstandings, and faults in life had alienated Jack and Cyler long time ago. What seems like unforgivable actions on Jack's part had driven them apart. Now facing each other again Jack and Cyler have to decide how they want to cross that one point in life where there is no return from, with angry revenge in mind, or with forgiveness and fond memories. Laken is one of those people who can connect with nearly anyone, yet the connection she feels for Cyler is different. The sparks are flying, the passion is tangible, the possibilities reflect in their eyes, but Cyler being Laken's patient's son could cause some problems down the road if they act upon their budding feelings and took the step to a more personal relationship either of them were prepared to take. The story does have a rather heartrending undertone that is lightened up with a delightful banter and jokes, romantic interludes between Cyler and Laken, and Jack's always ready to argue attitude. And while Laken and Cyler's love story is a beautiful and passion-filled tale of finding your soulmate at an unexpected time in your life, the way Jack prepares himself to leave the life, to die, had something very delegate and graceful in its breathtaking beauty and respect towards life. This new author to me left me in awe of the depth of the emotions she draws out through the story, going from morose to wonder and delight, with her words, painting the beauty of life at each of its states. A compassionate and tender story that truly touched my heart with its uplifting message of hope and love ~ Five Spoons
Nicolerko More than 1 year ago
This book has an underlying sadness to it because of Cyler's dad, but there is also possibility of hope. At first Cyler comes off a little jerky with good reason, but soon we glimpse at the true man deep inside. Laken is a strong character. Her life's work can be challenging but it's also rewarding to her. Her newest assignment is going to change her life forever. One of my favorite things about this book is the flirting and bantering between Cyler and Laken. Though this book will have the tears flowing it will also fill up your heart. This great book has me anticipating the next book in the series.
Bette313 More than 1 year ago
This was a truly fantastic story of hope, forgiveness, and new love. It's beautifully written with some amazing characters. Larkin is a hospice nurse assigned to help Jack through his final weeks. Her kindness and compassion are instrumental in helping Jack make amends with his son Cyler. They are both proud men with a lot of ugly between them but Larkin helps smooth the way with her big heart and having Cyler around does wonderful things for her heart too. Definitely a book I recommend to everyone.
CathyGeha More than 1 year ago
Heart of a Cowboy by Kristin Vayden Elk Heights Ranch #1 This book hit close to home. With two parents having died of cancer and both having home health workers having the heroine such a lovely caring wonderful nurse made me happy to think there such wonderful people who help those moving from life to death do so with grace and dignity. So, if you had not picked up on this already…this is the story of Jackson Myer “Jake” and his hope to redeem himself with his son, Cyler. Jake was a sh*t to his son over a decade ago but is hopeful the estrangement can be breached and common ground found before he dies. Jake’s nurse is young, attractive and dedicated to the profession she has chosen. Laken Garlington is usually able to keep her thoughts to herself and not be judgmental. She overhears Jake calling Cyler, meets Cyler and there is definitely attraction BUT she must keep things professional, right? This book is about family. It is about anger, hurt and forgiveness. It is about the impact humans and animals have on our lives. It is also a romance. This is the first book I have read by this author and I enjoyed it. I will look for her work in the future. Thank you to NetGalley and Kensington Books-Lyrical Press for the ARC – This is my honest review. 4-5 Stars
CathyGeha More than 1 year ago
Heart of a Cowboy by Kristin Vayden Elk Heights Ranch #1 This book hit close to home. With two parents having died of cancer and both having home health workers having the heroine such a lovely caring wonderful nurse made me happy to think there such wonderful people who help those moving from life to death do so with grace and dignity. So, if you had not picked up on this already…this is the story of Jackson Myer “Jake” and his hope to redeem himself with his son, Cyler. Jake was a sh*t to his son over a decade ago but is hopeful the estrangement can be breached and common ground found before he dies. Jake’s nurse is young, attractive and dedicated to the profession she has chosen. Laken Garlington is usually able to keep her thoughts to herself and not be judgmental. She overhears Jake calling Cyler, meets Cyler and there is definitely attraction BUT she must keep things professional, right? This book is about family. It is about anger, hurt and forgiveness. It is about the impact humans and animals have on our lives. It is also a romance. This is the first book I have read by this author and I enjoyed it. I will look for her work in the future. Thank you to NetGalley and Kensington Books-Lyrical Press for the ARC – This is my honest review. 4-5 Stars