Veterinarian Sable Hunter is in Saddle Wells to take over for the retiring veterinarian. She has a reputation to build and can’t afford any distractions—which is definitely what giving into the heat sparking between her and local rancher Ryan Donovan would be. Nope, no time for sexy cowboys when she has to keep focused on work.
Ryan earned his stripes one bull at a time on the rodeo circuit. Now the prize money he saved is all on the line as he breeds bucking bulls. Raising livestock in Saddle Wells isn’t as exciting as the pro circuit, but the sweet new vet in town certainly livens things up. Sable claims she has no time for a relationship, so Ryan suggests they have some friends-with-benefits fun while he convinces her she doesn’t have to choose between career and love. But when a costly mistake puts her career in jeopardy, Sable could lose everything, including the man she’s starting to love.
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"Big change is a comin'."
Sable Hunter listened to the words of the song blasting from her rental car radio and thought to herself that was certainly the truth. She was making huge, huge, huge changes to her life. For the first time since she'd made the decision to move, a thread of uneasiness wiggled its way through her. Was she out of her mind to leave everything safe and familiar to her and relocate like this?
"I have to do it," she'd told her partner, Todd. "I'm really ready for a change."
And wasn't that just the understatement of the year.
Okay, maybe I'm crazy. Certifiable.
But she was tired of West Texas, beautiful as it was. Tired of not being able to do the work she wanted. Tired of Todd calling her the junior partner and telling her she just needed more experience handling large animals so the ranchers would be completely comfortable with her. That was never going to happen as long as he didn't think she was capable. He certainly hadn't expected a woman to answer his ad, and she'd spent the past seven years trying to validate his decision to hire her in the first place. She'd waited all that time, way too long, for him to shift half of the large-animal practice to her, and it hadn't happened. He guarded it as jealously as if it were his wife. Maybe even more so, she thought with a snort.
Sable didn't think of herself as a stupid person, but somehow it had taken her two years to realize he'd brought her in because he wanted someone besides himself to handle the small animals. The ranchers were his department, and he reminded her of that, gently, all the time. When she did get to assist him, he treated her as if she were still an intern learning her profession. Oh, he did it very smoothly, and probably without even realizing it. But still, it was there, rippling along beneath the surface. Sometimes she'd wondered if he'd let her buy in because she was the only qualified person who'd answered his ad. Not too many people wanted to live out at the back end of beyond, no matter how beautiful it was.
She'd made herself be all right with the situation because she'd needed time. Time for the practice to become lucrative enough that selling him back her share would give her enough to buy in someplace else. When the two of them had reviewed the books to come up with an amount, Todd had not been too happy with the amount her share was worth. Points to him, though, for agreeing to a fair price. So now she had a plump, if not fat, bank account and the prospect of a bright new future.
First, of course, she had to complete the deal waiting for her, praying it was as good as she hoped. Right now, all she had was an online ad and an exchange of emails. The wording of the ad flashed through her mind for the hundredth time. She'd clicked on it so often she had it memorized.
"Veterinary practice for sale. Large and small animals. Must be experienced with bulls. Friendly town, friendly atmosphere. Plenty of patients."
A photo of the clinic itself had been included, a stucco building with a neat gravel parking lot, two big shade trees in front and a large fenced yard. She'd hoped it would come with living quarters, but maybe luck would be with her and she could find something affordable in ... What was the name of that town again? Oh, yeah. Saddle Wells.
She had also done a search for any local newspapers and discovered the Hill Country Herald. The content was typical small-town Texas and gave her a good idea of what Saddle Wells was all about. She liked small towns. No, she loved small towns. While she enjoyed the small animals she worked with, her real passion was the cattle, especially the bulls. The article she'd read about the man who raised bulls for the rodeo seemed like a good omen to her.
Todd had tried his best to talk her out of leaving. Obviously, he didn't relish the prospect of tending to dogs and cats now any more than he had when she'd first arrived. Not to mention birds and snakes, of which there were a fair amount of in West Texas. He'd started actively looking for a new partner the day she'd told him she was leaving. She knew it would be so easy for him if she just stayed on, but she needed out and that was that.
"You sure you want to do this?" Todd had kept asking her. "You ready to handle a practice on your own?"
He'd never have said that to a man. In veterinary school, she'd run into some chauvinism, but it had been rare. Mostly, she'd been respected for her brains and her ability. Then she'd had such a great internship, not to mention three years in a practice with three terrific guys. She'd never have left there, except with four of them at the practice, there hadn't been much opportunity to work with large animals. She certainly hadn't expected this kind of prejudice when she'd showed up in West Texas. Would she find the same thing in Saddle Wells? God, she hoped not, but she'd need to be very careful about that. Not give anyone any reason to question her ability.
"Yes. Positive," she'd told Todd. "Most definitely."
And she was, as long as the reality turned out to be as good as the ad. A flight to San Antonio, an overnight stay since she'd landed too late to head out of town, a rental car and here she was, on her way to meet her future.
And no looking for a relationship, she reminded herself. This was her first solo practice. She needed to focus on one thing — being the best vet she possibly could. She knew how skeptical ranchers could be with a female vet. Hadn't she suffered through that in West Texas? She could only give her energy to one thing right now, and that wasn't a relationship.
As she got closer to the town, she turned on the GPS on her phone and punched up the address she'd programmed in. The directions took her right through Saddle Wells, giving her a chance for a quick glimpse of a very attractive Main Street. Then she hit the outskirts on the other side. Two quick turns and she was pulling up in front of Saddle Wells Animal Practice. The sandblasted sign at the front of the lot included a graphic of a dog and a bull. Yup, this was the right place. She knew it.
Sable parked her rental car to one side, turned off the ignition, took in a deep breath and let it out slowly. She couldn't believe how badly she wanted this to be exactly what it looked like — the practice of her dreams in the kind of small Texas town where she could live forever. And maybe eventually get her personal life on the right track. Not, of course, until she had her practice to where she was comfortable with it. But she could do it.
Well, get your ass out of the car and go inside, Sable. You won't get anything accomplished sitting here.
Swallowing back a sudden case of nerves, she stood in the parking lot for a moment, inhaling the sweet scent of an early Texas fall, feeling the soft breeze on her skin cutting the heavy air. Then, with determination, she climbed the two steps to the wide porch and opened the door of the clinic. A bell tinkled, announcing her arrival. The woman sitting at a computer behind a curving counter looked up and smiled.
"You must be Dr. Hunter," she guessed, leaping up from her chair. "At least, I hope you are."
"That's me." She nodded and reached across the counter to shake hands with the bubbly blonde. "And please, call me Sable."
"Well, welcome, Sable. I'm Deedee. Dr. Lynch will be so excited you're here." She grinned. "As we all are, of course. Let me just let him know you're here."
Sable took the moment to look around the waiting room. The first thing that struck her was the cleanliness, a must at vet clinics, but not always the case. Some clinics she'd visited had made her shudder. Chairs filled the waiting area, with a bench against one wall. Some people had cats in carriers, others had dogs on leashes. One even had a tiny dog in a small pet carrier.
A tall man with a blue heeler on a leash rose from the bench where he was sitting and ambled over to her. She guessed him to be in his fifties, with graying hair and tanned skin. He held out a hand to her.
"Drake Hammer," he told her. "You must be the new vet."
Sable laughed as she shook his hand. "I just got here for my look-see and haven't even met Dr. Lynch yet except on Skype."
"Don't chase her away before I even get to talk to her, Drake." She heard a voice behind her and recognized it as belonging to the man she'd Skyped with. She turned and saw Pete Lynch walking toward her from the rear of the clinic. He also had a hand extended. "Welcome, Dr. Hunter. You have no idea how glad I am to see you."
"Sable," she said again. "Please. And it's nice to be here."
She knew the man had been in practice here for thirty-five years, and that he had just hit sixty-five. He'd been blunt about telling her he was ready to retire.
"Pete's already half-packed to get away on that boat of his," Drake Hammer said with a chuckle. "Right, Doc?"
The vet grinned. "Close enough." He looked at the blue heeler, who was nosing Sable's hand and leaning against her leg. "I think Wolf is hoping she'll stay too."
"Well, he's a damn good judge of character, so I'd say that's a good reference." Drake tugged gently on the leash. "We'll go sit down and wait our turn. You show Dr., uh, Sable around and ask her when she can get started."
Pete Lynch chuckled. "Are you getting the idea there's a general opinion this is a done deal?"
"From you too, it seems." She looked around the waiting room. "I can wait until you see your patients. They come first."
"No problem. Most of them are here for shots, and the vet tech takes care of that."
Sable remembered in their Skype meeting Lynch had mentioned the tech. "Will he be staying on?" She couldn't run the practice without one, or maybe two, if she was lucky.
"I know he'd like to, but that will be up to the two of you. He's anxious to chat with you. So is Deedee. Come on." He led the way out of the waiting room. "Let me show you the lay of the land."
She was more than impressed with the setup — the examining rooms, the pharmacy, the equipment, the entire operation, as a matter of fact. But he was busy with the patients, so she really couldn't get a reading on him personally. There were also two teenagers, co-op students from the local high school, who greeted her nervously. She wanted to assure them she didn't bite.
In the small office in the back, Lynch shared with her the list of regular clients. She pulled out her phone and scrolled through the list of questions she'd prepared, and the man she hoped would sell her his practice answered each of them in great detail. He also pointed out pictures of some of the ranches he worked on his office wall. There were more than enough ranches to keep her happy with their cattle and horses. She was especially excited about the place that raised bulls for the rodeo. She had done her internship at a clinic that specialized in large animals and was anxious to get back to it. She'd chafed at Todd Ainsworth's restrictions for too long.
Finally, Dr. Lynch pulled up his financial records on the computer and turned the screen so he could go over them with her. He had a financially healthy practice, more than worth the price he was asking. Sable had to tamp down her excitement and force herself to be objective about everything. But damn, that was hard. Unless there was a hidden trap, this was exactly what she wanted. Exactly.
"So." Pete Lynch leaned back in his chair. "I've given you a lot to absorb. It's nearly lunchtime. How about I take you into town for something to eat. The place we'll go is a popular one with the locals, and you might get to meet the owners of some of your future patients." He tilted his head. "If we close the deal."
Sable laughed. "I'm sure you can tell by my badly contained enthusiasm that I'm excited about this. I suppose I should put on my game face and negotiate better, but that's not my style. So, yes, I'd love to check out the town and have some lunch."
Dr. Lynch drove her through pleasant residential streets lined with large homes and mature trees, into a neighborhood of smaller homes, and finally into the downtown area. The sidewalks were filled with busy people moving from shop to shop and the curb was lined with vehicles. Busy little town, she thought.
The restaurant Pete ushered her into was named, quaintly enough, the Bit and Bite, and it was crowded.
A waitress clearing tables paused to speak to them. "I'll have a booth for you in just two seconds, Doc," she told him and hurried away.
She was as good as her word. In less than five minutes, Sable found herself settled in a booth against one wall, ice water on the table and a menu in front of her.
"You always get the royal treatment?" Sable asked.
Lynch chuckled. "Red Aguilar who owns the place also raises blue heelers. I've been treating his litters for ten years, ever since he decided to become a breeder."
"Should I be taking notes?" Sable asked, only half-joking.
"Nah, you'll get the hang of things soon enough." He studied her across the table. "I hope this doesn't sound sexist, and if it does, forgive me. I've worked with a lot of female vets before, most of them tip-top. But I don't picture someone of your, uh, stature wrestling the large animals you'd be treating. Are you sure you can handle it?"
Sable laughed. This wasn't the first time she'd been asked that question. She was sure her size had also been a big factor in why Todd hadn't trusted her with the large animals they'd treated, no matter how many times she'd proved herself. She'd finally grown a skin thick enough to where it didn't bother her. Much. Most of the time.
"I did my internship at a clinic that specialized in them," she told him. When she named the vet she'd worked with, she could see Pete Lynch knew who he was and was impressed by her experience.
"You've got some old-timers here who might be pretty skeptical," he warned her. "And even some of the younger guys."
"I feel confident I can win their trust," she assured him. "If there's one thing I'm sure of, it's my skills."
And she was, for sure. She'd fought this battle from the day she'd enrolled in veterinary college, and she'd won every time. She didn't plan to lose now. This was her dream. She was determined to live it now that she finally had the chance. She took a moment to look around the restaurant and saw that it was still jammed, and people were table-hopping to chat with each other. The décor was flat-out Texas, with paneled walls, wagon-wheel chandeliers and a Texas Lone Star flag framed and hung on one wall.
"Does everyone in town come here for lunch?" she asked.
"If they're in town. That's why I wanted to bring you here."
He might have said more, but the waitress appeared at their table at that moment, so they quickly scanned their menus again. They had just placed their orders and Sable had relaxed in her seat, prepared to answer any other questions Lynch asked, when the air around her suddenly seemed to shift. What felt like an electrical charge whispered over her skin, making the fine hairs stand up and her pulse stutter. What on earth?
Dr. Lynch looked up and grinned. "Hey, Ryan. I was hoping to see you."
"This the vet you were telling me about?"
The voice was deep and warm, rolling over her like hot molasses on a summer day and reaching deep into every crevice of her body. When she looked up, she nearly swallowed her tongue. She felt as if all the air had been sucked out of her lungs. She had seen many gorgeous men in her life, sexy men, handsome men, some all three. But whoever this was beat all of them hands down.
He was without a doubt the largest man she'd ever seen, big without being enormous. He was way over six feet, with broad shoulders, lean hips and long, long legs. The work shirt and faded jeans he wore could have been custom made for him. His face was square-jawed with high cheekbones. Lashes as black as the hair on his head and as thick as any woman's framed eyes a startling electric blue.
Sable stared at him, her breath trapped in her throat, her nipples hardening painfully into sharp points and the pulse in her sex pounding like a bass drum. In her entire life, she had never had such an instantaneous reaction to a man. Any man.
"Sable?" Pete Lynch's voice broke into her fog. "Let me introduce you to Ryan Donovan."
Ryan Donovan. Of course, she thought. The man she'd read the article about. He was quintessential Black Irish. Thought to be descended from the Spanish, with skin that tanned rather than freckled, the black hair that was the iconic symbol along with the large muscular body. Sex on the hoof. She managed to shake herself into some semblance of awareness and nod to him.
"Hi. Sable Hunter. Nice to meet you."
"And, yes," Pete continued, "the new vet. I hope, anyway." He looked at Sable. "Ryan owns the Gold Buckle Ranch."
Sable knew what that meant. She lowered her gaze to his waist and yup, there it was, locked to a leather belt and nestled against his flat abdomen. "I read about you in the Hill Country Herald. You competed on the circuit."
Excerpted from "Naked Hunger"
Copyright © 2015 Desiree Holt.
Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
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
This author knows how to write a sexy cowboy! This is book 8 in the Naked Cowboys series and it features Sable Hunter, new veterinarian in town, and rancher, Ryan Donovan. Oh man, the sparks were flyin' when these two set eyes on each other. She's a large animal vet trying to make it in a ranching community. When Ryan got upset and made assumptions about her, it made me so mad. He was rather childish in his fit of anger and didn't hold anything back. I would've made him work EXTRA EXTRA hard for my forgiveness. Great story line! Fantastic characters! I can't wait to read more from this very talented author.