He's Just The Hired Help
What kind of cockeyed Pollyanna is Colin Cade working for? Her porch is rotting, her "guest cabin" is cheerless and her land and livestock have only a geriatric cowboy to care for them. Yet Hannah Shaw is positive she can turn her ranch into a successful B and Band that Colin's the man to make it happen.
But Colin can't stick around. He lives with the loss of his family by avoiding the memories, and the way he feels around Hannah and her young son is like a knife to the heart. Trouble is, he's better at ignoring his own pain than someone else's, and bright, cheerful Hannah has a heart as haunted as his own. She deserves to be happybut could she really be with him?
About the Author
Tanya Michaels is an award-winning author of over forty romances, a six-time RITA nominee and the mom of two highly imaginative kids. Alas, Tanya's hobbies of reading, oil-painting and cooking keep her much too busy to iron clothes. She and her husband are living out their slightly wrinkled happily-ever-after in Atlanta, but you can always find Tanya on Twitter, where she chats with followers about books, family and TV shows ranging from Outlander to iZombie.
Read an Excerpt
Her Cowboy Hero
By Tanya Michaels
Harlequin Enterprises LimitedCopyright © 2014 Harlequin Enterprises Limited
All rights reserved.
For Colin Cade, one of the chief selling points of his motorcycle had been solitude. He preferred being alone, making it a conscious choice rather than a tragic circumstance, but that meant a lot of time in his own head. Unfortunately, not even the Harley could outrun his thoughts. Or his anger.
How the hell had he—a man who'd lived like a monk for the better part of two years—been fired for "sexual misconduct"?
Raising younger siblings had taught him patience the hard way, but right now his temper was providing uncharacteristic daydreams of shaking Delia McCoy's shoulders until her professionally whitened teeth rattled. She'd had no business showing up naked in his bed. The more he thought about it, the more convinced he was that his former employer's wife didn't even want an affair. There had been plenty of other men working the ranch who would have taken advantage of her adulterous offer. So why target the guy who'd never once returned her flirtatious smiles? Was it possible she only wanted to shock Sean McCoy into paying more attention to her? Ranches took a lot of work, and Delia had complained to anyone who would listen that her husband neglected her.
Maybe she had cause to be bitter, but that sure didn't give her the right to screw up Colin's life.
He was supposed to have stayed on at the McCoy place for another month. The McCoys were crossbreeding Angus and Hereford cows, and Colin, the former owner of a large-animal vet practice, had been hired to help deliver calves and see them off to a healthy start. His job would have included routine disease prevention and facilitating adoption for the expected twin sets and any heifers that lost their babies. His next contract—helping move two herds to the high country for summer grazing—was all lined up, but the cattle drive was nearly six weeks away, after his brother's wedding.
What was he supposed to do in the meantime?
An old trail guide acquaintance had given him a possible lead, but he had sounded skeptical about it. "There's a lady in the northwest, not far from where I hired on, who's been looking for help. The Widow Shaw. None of the qualified ranch hands will waste time working for her, because her place is going belly-up any day now. Everyone knows it 'cept her. Frail little thing is clearly addled. Bakes the best rum cake I've ever had in my life, though."
Despite his friend's warning, Colin thought the job sounded promising enough to head for Bingham Pass and call on the Widow Shaw.
After his last two jobs—which had included the naked Mrs. McCoy and, prior to that, a moony-eyed teenage daughter of a foreman in Routt County—an elderly, absentminded woman who liked to bake sounded perfect. Colin wouldn't stay long, but while he was there, he'd do what he could to get her back on her feet. And if that proved impossible ... well, life sucked sometimes.
Who knew that better than him?
Inhaling deeply, Hannah Shaw took stock of her situation. The early evening sky was starting to darken sooner than it should, and she had a flat tire on a stretch of road where cell service was nonexistent. How was it possible that astronauts could tweet from space, but there were still places in modern Colorado where a woman couldn't get bars on her phone?
Bright side, Hannah. Find the bright side. After four years, her mantra was automatic. She tried every day to keep the vow she'd made in that hospital bed, to live with courageous optimism. Of course, that vow was currently being challenged by unyielding loan officers and the countless maintenance issues she'd inherited along with the Shaw family ranch. But she hadn't survived this long by whining or embracing negativity.
The silver lining here was that Evan was spending the night at her friend Annette's house instead of watching with worried eyes from his booster seat. Also, Hannah had successfully changed a flat tire once before, so there was no reason to think she couldn't do it again. If the problem had been, say, her carburetor, she'd really be screwed.
"I got this," she muttered, flipping on her hazard lights. She wished she'd been able to move the truck farther off the road, but there wasn't exactly a reliable shoulder on these winding curves. She shrugged out of the lightweight blazer she'd borrowed from Annette. Beneath it, Hannah wore a white blouse that strained at the buttons down her chest, a premotherhood relic from the back of her closet. It was one of the few items in her wardrobe professional enough for a bank meeting, and the neatly buttoned jacket had camouflaged the imperfect fit.
As she twisted her long black hair up in an elastic band, she tried not to dwell on the banker's condescending expression. She'd once again been told that maybe after she made significant improvements on the ranch, demonstrating that it was a solid investment, she could reapply. How was she supposed to make "significant" improvements without funds? She'd planned to rename the spread the Silver Linings Ranch, but it might be more accurate to call it The Catch-22. She'd received money after Michael's death, of course, but a good chunk of that was in savings for Evan. Despite her careful planning—and the money she'd set aside to hire competent help—she had underestimated how much work the ranch would need before she could realize her plans.
One thing at a time. Fix the tire now, save the ranch tomorrow.
She climbed down from the cab and went to the back of the truck, where the tools and spare tire were kept under a cover that could be worth more than the vehicle. Note to self: maybe you should start keeping spare work clothes in the bed of the truck. While she wouldn't necessarily mourn the ruination of the tight blouse, getting on the ground to change the tire was going to be murder on her pretty navy skirt.
A rumble of thunder echoed off the surrounding mountains, confirming Hannah's suspicions about the prematurely dark sky. Rain hadn't been in the forecast until tomorrow, but spring storms could move fast. Which meant she had better move fast, too.
Hurrying, she found a couple of good-size rocks on the side of the road to place in front of the tires. She was reluctant to completely trust the pickup's emergency brake. The air seemed to crackle with expectancy, and wind whipped around her, chilling her skin. She'd only ever changed the tire on a car, and there had been a notch where the jack belonged. The truck did not have one. She was feeling around, trying to determine the correct place for the jack so she didn't crack anything on the undercarriage, when the sky opened. Fat drops pelted her with enough force to sting.
But on the bright side, after a couple of years of drought, ranchers like her really needed the rain.
The shower had moved in fast, catching Colin by surprise. He'd anticipated getting into town before the rain started. He was scanning the side of the road for possible shelter when he rounded the curve and saw a stopped truck.
A woman knelt by a tire in the path of traffic. Not that there were any cars in sight, but lives could be taken in an instant. Stifling unwelcome memories—the call from the hospital, the twisted wreckage—he steered his motorcycle off the road and lifted his helmet.
"Need a hand?" he called over the rain.
The woman stood and he realized that, while she didn't even reach his shoulder, she wasn't tiny everywhere. She looked like the generously endowed winner of a wet T-shirt contest. A blouse that had probably once been white but was now translucent was plastered to an equally see-through lace bra. He abruptly glanced away but not before catching a glimpse of dark, puckered nipples.
In one motion, he ripped off his leather jacket and shoved it toward her. "Here."
"Thanks." Cheeks flushed with color, she accepted the coat, her hazel eyes not quite meeting his.
Watching her put on his clothing felt uncomfortably intimate, and he found himself annoyed with her for being here, in his path. "Don't you have some kind of road service you could call?"
"Even if I did, there's no reception here. But I'm not incapable of—"
"Wait in the cab," he ordered. "No sense in both of us getting drenched."
Her posture went rigid, and she drew herself up to her full—what, five feet? But she didn't argue. "Far be it from me to look a gift Samaritan in the mouth." Once inside, she rolled down the window. Literally. The truck had one of the manual window cranks that had been replaced with electric buttons in most modern vehicles. She seemed to be supervising his work.
"This truck is ancient," he said. "God knows why you're driving it when the kinder thing would be to shoot it and put it out of its misery."
"It's not that bad," she retorted. Was that indignation or worry in her tone? "It just needs a little TLC."
He grunted, focusing on getting the tire changed. Stomping on the wrench to loosen the lug nut felt good. He was in the mood to kick something's ass. By the time he had the spare in place, the rain had shifted to a heavy drizzle. Ominous black clouds rolled closer. The storm might be taking a coffee break, but it hadn't quit.
"That spare's not going to get you far," he warned. "It's in lousy shape. Kind of like the rest of this heap."
His disdain encompassed the replacement door that was a different color from the body of the truck and a side mirror that looked loose.
She met his contempt with a half smile. "On the bright side, getting the flat gave me a chance to rest the engine and let the radiator cool down. Don't worry, my ranch is only a few miles away. In fact, you should come with me. Wait out the storm. Judging from those clouds, we're in for a lot worse."
Although he recognized the logic in her words, the invitation irked him. "Lady, I could be a serial killer. You don't invite strangers home with you."
"Not normally, no." Her hazel eyes darkened, her expression somber. "If it helps, I was taught self-defense by a marine and I'm a lot tougher than I look."
A sizzle of lightning struck close enough to make both of them start.
"You shouldn't be riding that motorcycle in this," she scolded. For a split second, she reminded him of his sister, Arden. Not all women were so at ease bossing around grown men who towered over them. He wondered if Hazel Eyes had brothers. If they worked on that ranch she'd mentioned, it could explain why she wasn't worried about bringing a total stranger home with her.
"Come on," she prompted, impatience creeping into her tone as more lightning flashed. "I have enough problems without picking up my morning paper and seeing that you got fried to the asphalt."
He didn't realize he was going to agree until the words left his mouth. "Lead the way." He hadn't been there the day a car accident had shattered his world, hadn't been able to do a damn thing to help. He found he couldn't abandon this woman until she and her rattling joke of a truck were out of the rain.
Mounting his bike, he shook his head at the unexpected turn of events. Hazel was not the first woman who'd invited him back to her place. But it was the first time in two years that he'd accepted.
Colin was too occupied with the diminishing visibility and handling his bike on the dirt road to study his surroundings. He had a general impression of going through a gated entrance; farther ahead were much larger structures, likely the main house and a barn or stable. But the truck stopped at a narrow, one-story building.
The woman parked in the mud, gesturing out her window that he should go around and park beneath the covered carport, where the motorcycle would be out of the worst of the elements. She joined him under the carport a moment later, her hand tucked inside the purse she wore over her shoulder. He wondered if she had pepper spray or a Taser in there. She'd sounded serious when she mentioned the self-defense lessons.
"This is the old bunkhouse," she said. "I'm about to start refurbing it as a guest cabin, but at the moment it's mostly empty."
He supposed that any brothers or a husband lived in the main house with her. Although what caring husband would let his wife drive a disaster on wheels like that truck?
She tossed him a key ring and nodded toward the door. "You can get a hot shower, dry off. There's a microwave and a few cans of soup in the cabinet. Before you tell me I'm naive and that you might be a master burglar, let me assure you there's nothing to steal. I doubt you could get thirty bucks on Craigslist for the twin bed and microwave combined."
He unlocked the door, noting how she kept a casual but unmistakable distance. Once he'd flipped the light switch, he saw that she was right about the lack of luxuries. The "carpet" was the kind of multipurpose indoor/ outdoor covering used more in screened patios than homes. There was enough space for three or four beds, but only one was pushed against the wall. At one end of the long, rectangular interior was a minifridge and microwave, at the other a bathroom. Aside from a couple of truly ugly paintings of cows, the place was barren.
He stopped in the center of the room, raising an eyebrow. "The minifridge brings up my Craigslist asking price to thirty-five."
She gave a sharp laugh, abruptly stifled. "Sorry the accommodations aren't classier. The ranch is ... in a rebuilding phase."
The note of genuine embarrassment in her voice made him uneasy. "It's plenty classy. I've slept on the ground during cattle drives and in horse stalls on more than one occasion." By slept, he meant tossing and turning, trying to avoid nightmares of everything he'd lost.
Those hazel eyes locked on him, her expression inexplicably intense. "You work with livestock!"
Isn't that what he'd just said? "As often as I can." He preferred animals to people. "Sometimes I do other odd jobs, too. I was headed into Bingham Pass to get more information about a local employment opportunity."
"Then you haven't already committed to it?" A smile spread across her face, revealing two dimples. "Because, as it happens, I'm hiring." She stepped forward, extending her hand. The oversize jacket parted, revealing a still damp but not entirely transparent blouse. Thank God.
Hannah, Hazel. He'd been close.
"Hannah Shaw," she elaborated when he said nothing. "Owner of the Silver Linings Ranch."
Foreboding cramped low in his belly. Paralyzed, he neglected to shake her hand. "Not the Widow Shaw?" The one who baked cakes and harbored delusions of being a rancher?
She frowned. "People still call me that?"
Crap. It was her. He'd imagined Mrs. Shaw would be a temporary solution to his problems, but now, meeting her earnest gaze, his instincts murmured that she posed far more threat to his safety than any rifle-wielding jealous husband.
Excerpted from Her Cowboy Hero by Tanya Michaels. Copyright © 2014 Harlequin Enterprises Limited. Excerpted by permission of Harlequin Enterprises Limited.
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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Good book about two people dealing with their losses in completely different ways. Colin lost his wife and son in an accident, and spends his time running from the pain and memories. He goes from job to job, never staying long in the same place. His latest job ended earlier than expected, when the boss's wife makes unwanted advances, leaving him with a month before his next job. He hears about a "widow woman" who needs help with her ranch and decides to check it out. Hannah is living on the ranch with her four year old son. She has no family other than little Evan, having grown up in the foster system. Her husband was killed overseas before their son was born, and his parents are gone also. The ranch had been in her husband's family for a long time, and she is determined to make it a success. She plans to turn it into a B & B, but it needs work and she has a limited budget. However, she refuses to let the problems get her down, and makes the conscious decision every day to look on the bright side of things. At the start, Colin and Hannah are like oil and water. She is nothing like he expected, and her little boy is the same age his son would have been. This aggravates the pain he is running from, and he's determined to stay only a few days and then move on. Hannah is grateful for whatever Colin can do to help, but frustrated by his standoffishness. Within a couple days, Evan and Hannah start to have an effect on Colin. He keeps finding more things that need to be done before he's willing to leave. A sense of protectiveness toward both of them leads him to stay longer than he had planned. I liked seeing how they developed a friendship before anything else happened. Because she had also suffered a devastating loss, Hannah is very empathetic to Colin's feelings. I loved the scene where he'd had the nightmare and she was just there for him. They didn't need to talk, just the presence of another person helped Colin through it. That was the crack that started the breakdown of his walls. But it wasn't an easy thing, because he was still afraid to risk his heart again. I ached for her when it looked like she was about to have another loss. I loved how it was Colin's turn to be on the receiving end of blunt advice when it came to love, just as he had done to his brother and sister.. His big moment at the end was really good.
4 stars This is Colin's story. But if you have not read the first two books in the series don't worry it can stand alone. I missed reading the first one of the series too. This one tugged at my heart strings. Both Colin and Hannah have suffered a lot of loss in their lives. Colin lost his wife and son in a accident two years ago. Hannah lost her husband and mother-in-law at the same time four years ago. Colin could not stay at his home and job after he lost his family. So he left and is taking ranch jobs because hard work helps him to cope. Being around children is tough for him. Hannah Shaw was raised in foster care. When she married she finally had a family. Then she lost her in-laws and husband. After she found out she was pregnant. Hannah decides to be positive for her son. The ranch she received is run down. Colin agrees to work for Hannah for one month till his brother's wedding then he has another job. Colin likes hard work. He helps fix up the ranch. Their is lots of drama, emotions, a couple of love scenes and some humor it makes a nice romantic story. I was given this ebook Her Cowboy Hero to read so I could give a honest review from Net Galley.
This story is heartfelt and inviting. It’s also a very emotional novel. Michaels definitely put me through the ringer. I really enjoyed the pace of this novel. It was neither rushed nor lagging. It was simply a nice, quiet ride through the convergence of these characters’ lives. It was so easy to lose myself in. Michaels melds narrative with description, allowing you to see the world surrounding this story as the characters themselves see it. I thoroughly enjoyed the characters in this novel. The main characters were exceptionally well yet realistically developed. It was nice to see characters that weren’t polar opposites interact in such a romantic (and antagonistic) manner. You can see both the similarities and differences in their backgrounds and how it causes them to act and react the way that they do throughout the novel. Also, neither of the characters remain static throughout the novel. They grow based on their experiences, without ever changing who they are intrinsically. The supporting cast of characters is also quite remarkable. I appreciate that they never overshadow the main characters without simply becoming placeholders in the novel. Overall, this was a very emotionally charged novel that has captured my heart. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to romance enthusiasts and it has definitely sparked me to look further into Michaels’ work. Please note that I received a complimentary copy of this work in exchange for an honest review.