"A swoon-worthy cowboy, fun flirtation, blazing passion and a sweet little boy will have readers wanting to wrangle their very own cowboy."—RT Book Reviews, 4 ½ Stars, TOP PICK!
Ranch Foreman Shane Lockhart's livelihood—and sanity—are threatened when the ranch is taken over by the late owner's granddaughter, the most beautiful, exasperating woman Shane has ever met.
Inner-city veterinarian Lindsey Ward always loved visiting her grandfather's Wyoming ranch, so it breaks her heart to have to sell it. She'll miss the scent of hay and sagebrush under the wide-open sky, but at least the sale will help fund the clinic she's always dreamed of.
Ruggedly handsome foreman Shane Lockhart and his adorable son aren't making it any easier for Lindsey to focus on what has to be done. It's exhilarating going toe to toe with a rough, tough cowboy whose stubborn idealism matches her own, but it's Shane's tenderness that might tip Lindsey's heart over the fence.
The Cowboys of Decker Ranch series:
How To Handle A Cowboy (Book 1)
How To Kiss A Cowboy (Book 2)
How to Wrangle a Cowboy (Book 3)
Praise for How to Kiss a Cowboy:
"Kennedy's characters are sexy, smart, troubled, flawed—real. If you are a fan of Western romances, Joanne Kennedy should be at the top of your list of favorites." —Fresh Fiction
"The rough-and-tumble world of the Wyoming rodeo circuit is brought vividly to life. Readers will love her intensely complex characters and depictions of deep emotion." —Publishers Weekly
Related collections and offers
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
How to Wrangle a Cowboy
By JOANNE KENNEDY
Sourcebooks, Inc.Copyright © 2016 Joanne Kennedy
All rights reserved.
"Let's get this sucker in the ground." Grace Ward turned away from the gleaming casket and tugged at her escort's arm. "He was a good-lookin' sumnabitch and it's a shame he's dead, but, Lord, that preacher about talked us all into our graves already, and here he's getting ready to start jawing again."
The mourners surrounding the hillside grave gasped in unison. Grace Ward looked as delicate as the bluebells nodding at the graveyard gate, but her voice was as vibrant in old age as it was in her long-gone Hollywood heyday.
"My husband won't take kindly to me ogling some stranger, dead or alive."
Shane Lockhart, wearing his best black Stetson and his only suit, bent over the old woman and reminded her, as gently as he could, that the good-looking sumnabitch in the velvet-lined casket was her husband. Bud Ward had died suddenly at the intersection of a cowardly cow horse and a petulant porcupine, leaving Grace alone in the world. Her only remaining family was a granddaughter who'd run off to marry a man Bud disapproved of. So far, not even her granddad's death was enough to bring Lindsey Ward back to the Lazy Q, so Grace was on her own at eighty-one.
As foreman of the ranch, Shane felt bound by love and duty to look after his late boss's wife. It had been a challenge at first; she'd been inconsolable over his death. The job became considerably easier when an invisible Bud joined her for eggs and ham the next morning, so Shane had learned to welcome the brief appearances of Bud's ghost. His phantom presence kept Grace calm, and she was less liable to wander off if she believed he was home.
It was just too bad he'd turned up during his own funeral.
"Come on, cowboy." Grace tugged Shane's arm again, so hard he almost stumbled. "Bud's waiting, and all this sad stuff's giving me a headache."
The preacher paused at the interruption, and at the very moment, a meadowlark burst into song, shattering the sorrowful hush of the graveyard with unseemly, unfettered joy. Grace smiled up at the sky, her fringed, scarlet shawl fluttering like a flag in the breeze. She'd refused to wear black to the service.
"Bud and I were black and white in the movies," she'd said. "He always liked me in color."
Back in the fifties, she'd been a sweet Hollywood ingenue playing pioneer lasses in black-and-white Westerns, while Bud was a rough-riding stuntman, falling off horses and pitching himself out of second-story windows. He'd fallen harder for Grace than he'd ever fallen from a horse, and no wonder. For all her fragile appearance, she'd been able to ride as well as he did, and swear just as lustily.
A cloud drifted over the sun and she frowned, plucking at her shawl. "Where's Lindsey?" For the first time that day, her voice quavered. "I thought she'd be here by now. She promised."
Shane clenched his jaw, determined not to reveal his feelings for the prodigal granddaughter. If love for the two fine people she was fortunate enough to call family hadn't drawn Lindsey Ward to Wyoming, inheriting some portion of Bud's millions might do it. Shrewd investments and a fine head for cattle breeding had made Bud a very wealthy man, and Shane was willing to bet she'd show up for the reading of the will.
As the minister droned on, Grace's grip on his arm suddenly tightened. Shane followed her gaze down the narrow dirt path and spotted a dark figure in the distance. As it neared, it resolved into a slender brunette, dressed all in black right down to a pair of impossibly high heels.
Pausing, the new arrival stood on one leg, poised and dignified as a heron. Removing one shoe, she flexed her foot and replaced the footwear without wavering, then continued down the rocky path, navigating the ruts and stones with ease until she skidded on a patch of gravel at the graveyard gate.
Lindsey Ward. She'd finally arrived, slipping and sliding and flailing for balance despite her dignified funeral attire.
Grace lurched away from Shane to catch her granddaughter in a generous embrace before holding her at arm's length for an appreciative once-over.
"Lindsey, darling! Don't you look lovely!"
She did indeed. She'd evidently hurried to make the funeral, so her face was flushed to a very attractive shade of pink, and a faint sheen made her skin appear young and dewy as ever. Shane felt the same shock he'd experienced the last time he'd seen her, and it hit all the same bodily organs.
He'd never thought much of Lindsey back when she was a little tomboy hanging around the ranch every summer, but about the time he'd been promoted to foreman, she'd turned from caterpillar to butterfly. Her womanly curves had forced him to wrestle with a powerful surge of attraction, and he'd had to remind himself repeatedly that she was the boss's granddaughter, strictly off-limits to a man who'd sworn off serious relationships.
Around the time of Lindsey's transformation, her mother — Bud and Grace's daughter — had become progressively paler and thinner until she was just a wisp of a woman. On her final visit, she'd looked weak as a spavined mare, and her eyes had gazed past the horizon at a future as empty as the clear blue sky. She'd passed away soon after — cancer, they said — and Lindsey's visits had ceased until the fateful day she'd brought her fiancé to meet her grandparents.
Shane hated to even think of that day, when he'd played the role of the amorous cowhand to a very unappreciative audience. For his own selfish sake, he was relieved Lindsey had never come back, but he couldn't help wondering if it was his fault she hadn't been there for her grandparents as they grew old.
He shifted his gaze to watch her. Something about her had changed over the years — something hard to define. With a chill, he realized her eyes had become as pale and otherworldly as her mother's. She stared into the distance, looking past the crowd, past the graveyard, and past the hills beyond with a sadness far beyond any present grief. The sorrow in those eyes ran bone deep, and he wondered what had happened since he'd seen her last. He'd known her as such a carefree, happy child, and her grief made him want to touch her, take her in his arms, and ...
Wrong. The answer, which came automatically to mind, was as loud and intrusive as a game show buzzer. Lindsey Ward was nothing to him, and he was less than nothing to her. She'd made that very clear on her last visit.
"I'm so sorry, Grandma." The absurd high heels forced Lindsey to bend nearly double to whisper in Grace's ear. "I had an emergency with a —"
Shane couldn't quite hear the rest. Something like a cockamamy, or maybe a cockapee. It sounded like some exotic, expensive bird, which didn't surprise him a bit. Lindsey looked pretty exotic and expensive herself with those ridiculous shoes and elegant clothes. He was willing to bet those shoes alone would cost him a week's wages.
Hopefully, she wouldn't stay long. If he was lucky, she'd spend a few days at the ranch, admire how smoothly and profitably it ran under his guidance, and go home to her fine feathered friends.
He watched her turn away from Grace and stare off toward the mountains again. She brought a hand to her mouth, and Shane turned away in disgust. She'd yawned. Yawned.
Bored, no doubt, by the minister's words of praise for her grandfather.
He felt a small hand clutching his pant leg and glanced down to smooth his son's dark hair. He expected Cody's eyes to be fixed on the casket as it was lowered into the grave, but instead the boy was gazing wide-eyed at the new arrival.
Of course he was. She was a woman. She had dark hair. And she was pretty, if you went for that type.
Which Shane didn't. No way.
But his son looked like he'd just seen a fairy godmother, Glinda the Good Witch, and his own runaway mother, all rolled into one.CHAPTER 2
Lindsey Ward closed her eyes and let her grandmother's rose-scented perfume carry her back in time for one brief, perfect moment. Some things never changed, and for that, she was so grateful she could cry.
Finally, after five long years, she was back at the Lazy Q — back where she belonged.
Sadly, the passing of the years, along with Bud's death, had sapped some of the life force from her grandmother. Grace's body felt as fragile as an armload of twigs, and her eyes, once sharp and clever, had softened to a watery blue. Still, the old woman's love wrapped around Lindsey like a well-worn blanket and warmed her to the bone, just as it always had.
Opening her eyes, Lindsey met the startlingly direct gaze of the black-hatted cowboy who was watching over Grace like some Wild West security guard. He wasn't making the slightest attempt to hide the undiluted disgust in his eyes.
Lindsey had hoped he'd be gone by now — or at least, that's what she'd told herself. But her heart had fluttered a little at the thought of seeing him again. Once, he'd wanted her in a way that thrilled and confused her, and she'd wondered what he'd think of her now.
She found her answer in the twist of his lips and the hard glint of his dark eyes. She couldn't really blame him. After all these years, she was late to her own grandfather's funeral.
But who made him the etiquette police? What made him grip her grandmother's arm as if she might run away? And why was the cutie-patootie kid beside him looking up at Lindsey as if she was Malibu Barbie come to sparkly, miraculous life?
The kid looked so much like Lockhart, he had to be the cowboy's son. He also looked like he needed a friend, so Lindsey smiled and fluttered her fingers in a conspiratorial wave.
Edging behind his dad's leg, the boy smiled back, embarrassed and adorable, while his dad shot her a killing glare. He apparently thought she should be strung up on a gallows at sundown for daring to gaze upon his child.
She lifted her chin and straightened her shoulders. The man had no right to judge her. He didn't know that Mrs. Donnelly's cockapoo was like a member of the family. Lindsey had been heading out the door to catch her flight when the phone rang. She'd almost ignored it, but she'd changed her mind when she heard Mrs. Donnelly on the answering machine, going on about how Buster had gotten into a fight with another dog, who'd bitten him in a very crucial body part. She begged Lindsey to come to the clinic.
"He'll lose his willy, Dr. Ward. Please save Buster's willy!"
Lindsey had run to the clinic and stitched up the hapless critter, saving little Buster from transitioning from a cockapoo to a mere poo.
She knew Bud would have understood. She could almost hear his gravelly voice in her ear, saying, "The dog's alive, honey, and I'm dead. Stay with the one you can help." And then he'd have said something like, "God knows, a man needs his willy."
Naturally, she'd missed her flight and had to scramble to find a new one. She'd rushed the last available rental car in Denver to the ranch with fingers crossed, zipping past every pickup, RV, and eighteen-wheeler on Interstate 25 in a minivan that could have comfortably carried an entire Little League baseball team.
Now she struggled to slow her tap-dancing heart and listen to Reverend Bannister — a challenge she remembered well from the Sunday mornings of her childhood, when his droning voice had leached all the emotion from even the most stirring Bible stories. She assumed he'd bore her tears away, but he'd been a firm friend to Bud and Grace, and called up so many memories she had to cover her mouth and turn away, staring at the faraway mountains until she could control herself.
When she turned back to the gravesite, Lockhart's eyes were fixed on her, his gaze still hard and unforgiving.
She knew she deserved it. She'd all but abandoned her grandparents for the past few years. But life was complicated and filled with emotional bear traps that could tear families apart. Even families who loved each other.
Bowing her head, she willed her tears away. Why hadn't she come back sooner? Sure, she'd made a fool of herself, but she'd been young. Though her granddad had given her an ultimatum, she'd known he'd forgive her someday.
Now, someday would never come.
She put her fist to her mouth, stifling a sob that rose straight from her heart. If she let herself cry, she'd never be able to stop.
The rest of the service rushed past her in a blur, right up to the point where the casket was lowered into the ground and blessed by a single flower tossed by Grace. It wasn't a hothouse rose or a florist's white lily, but a simple sunflower, no different from the millions that sprouted in tangled jubilation along the roads and fences of the Lazy Q. It was a fitting tribute to her grandfather, who had never put on airs or cared for luxuries. He'd once told Lindsey that all he needed to be happy was a good horse, a long stretch of land, and Grace.
Once the service ended, Grace dragged Lindsey through the crowd, introducing her to one person after another with obvious pride, turning the sad occasion into a strange, somber garden party. Lindsey remembered many of the guests, but she was terrible with names, so she concentrated on being gracious, accepting condolences, and answering nosy questions about her absence from the ranch with a vague, "Oh, things happened."
Which was one heck of an understatement, but nobody needed to know that.
She glanced over at Lockhart and was relieved to see he'd turned his frown on the crowd in general. Maybe his orneriness was caused by the fit of his suit. His stance was as stiff as the starched collar on his white shirt, and he constantly tugged at his tie.
As she watched, he turned away from her to talk to Grace, thrusting his hands deep in his pockets. The vent in his jacket opened, revealing a world-class cowboy backside.
She pictured that backside in faded Wranglers. Nice.
And how about chaps? She loved chaps. There was nothing like leather pants without a seat to show off a man's best assets.
Lockhart stopped mid-sentence and turned to face her, frowning, just as she happened to lick her lips.
Oops. Had he felt her staring? What had he and Grace been talking about? Surely they weren't keeping secrets — were they?
Her grandmother, oblivious to the foreman's scowl, led him over to Lindsey.
"You remember Shane, don't you, honey? He's the boss of me now that Bud's gone."
The dark eyes softened as Lockhart smiled down on Grace. "Bud never bossed you a day in his life. He couldn't, and neither can I." The smile grew into a grin. "You're a wild one."
Grace tittered as Lindsey offered her hand.
"You probably don't remember me."
He did, of course he did, but she was hoping they could put the past behind them. If they pretended to be strangers, they could start over — couldn't they?
The scowl returned as he shook her hand. Now, as before, she was stunned by the raw sexual magnetism that emanated from him as naturally as her ex-husband had radiated Southern sophistication.
Shoot. She didn't want him to remember. Their last encounter had been mortifying.
"I guess we couldn't very well forget." She let out a trilling, artificial laugh, hating herself all the while. "We've known each other — how long?"
"Years." His tone was dry, as if he hadn't enjoyed one second of their acquaintance. "I think you were ten years old when we met."
"Eleven. And you were what, fifteen?"
She remembered that day with surprising clarity, probably because she'd been so thrilled to meet Shane and his brothers. She'd overheard her grandparents talking about them the night before. They'd thought she was in bed, but she'd crept to the top of the stairs, as she often did, to eavesdrop.
She heard Grace tell Bud she'd invited Bill and Irene Decker to drop by the next day and bring their new family. In hushed whispers, she told him the Deckers had taken in three boys from the orphanage in Wynott.
Bud said he'd heard the whole story. Heard those boys were so bad the whole state of Wyoming couldn't find a place for them. He thought Bill was crazy for taking them on, but Grace, in low, soothing tones, argued that the boys just needed someone to love them.
"Let the Deckers love 'em, then," Bud said. "We've got a little girl to think of, and I don't want Lindsey mixing with boys like that. It's not safe."
Excerpted from How to Wrangle a Cowboy by JOANNE KENNEDY. Copyright © 2016 Joanne Kennedy. Excerpted by permission of Sourcebooks, Inc..
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.