Discover romance across America with Janet Dailey’s classic series featuring a love story set in each of the fifty states.
Patty King is the fastest-rising trick rider on the rodeo circuit. But she takes an emotional fall when the man she’s always loved marries someone else. It’s enough to throw her off her game—but rival performer Morgan Kincaid is her toughest obstacle of all. The gruff and arrogant rancher challenges her at every turn—and the simmering attraction flaring between them is a distraction Patty doesn’t need.
But wild horses couldn’t drag Morgan away. He’s willing to do whatever it takes to win Patty’s trust, mend her heart, and show her that he’s the ride-or-die love of her life.
Alive with Daily’s love of the American land and the unforgettable “passion, spirit and strength,” of her writing, this novel will entrance fans of Debbie Macomber’s Dakota Trilogy and Jennifer Ryan’s The Montana Men series (Publishers Weekly on Lone Calder Star).
About the Author
Janet Dailey, who passed away in 2013, was born Janet Haradon in 1944 in Storm Lake, Iowa. She attended secretarial school in Omaha, Nebraska, before meeting her husband, Bill. The two worked together in construction and land development until they “retired” to travel throughout the United States, inspiring Janet to write the Americana series of romances, setting a novel in every state of the Union. In 1974, Janet Dailey was the first American author to write for Harlequin. Her first novel was No Quarter Asked. She has gone on to write approximately ninety novels, twenty-one of which have appeared on the New York Times bestseller list. She won many awards and accolades for her work, appearing widely on radio and television. Today, there are over three hundred million Janet Dailey books in print in nineteen different languages, making her one of the most popular novelists in the world. For more information about Janet Dailey, visit www.janetdailey.com.
Read an Excerpt
Six White Horses
The Americana Series: Oklahoma
By Janet Dailey
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1977 Janet Dailey
All rights reserved.
THE HORSE moved restlessly, his coat shimmering with blue black hues. Its midnight color was contrasted by white saddle and bridle stitched with black leather and inset with black roses. White stockings were wrapped around the horse's legs and its impatient, dancing hooves were painted a silvery gray.
An aging man stood at the black's head, nearly dressed in a Western suit of light blue that accented the youthfulness of his build. His peppered gray head was turned to the boyishly slim girl hurrying toward him.
"What kept you, gal?" he asked with sighing patience. "They're ready to start the Grand Entry."
"The zipper got stuck on my slacks," she explained quickly, and effortlessly vaulted into the saddle, taking the reins he handed her.
The white pantsuit she wore matched the leather trappings of the horse, black roses embroidered on the pant legs and the shoulders and back. Dark brown hair was caught at the nape of her neck and plaited into a single braid.
"Knock 'em dead, honey!" he called out to her as she reined the horse away.
"I will, gramps!" Her hand raised in a cheery salute as the powerful hindquarters of the horse muscled to leap into a canter.
Not until they neared the stands of the rodeo arena did Patty King slow the black horse's pace. Weaving through the congestion of horses and riders, mostly rodeo contestants, she smiled at the teasing remarks at her tardiness from those she knew. Butterflies beat their wings against the walls of her stomach as she halted the black horse behind a pair of golden palominos whose riders were carrying the flags.
The gates into the arena were closed. Already there was activity in the bucking chutes while the steady hum of the crowd in the stands indicated their impatience for the rodeo to begin. Patty laid a soothing hand on the black's neck, quieting him with a few softly spoken words.
"Hey, Princess!" a voice called out to her as a leanly built cowboy jumped from the rail and walked toward her, flamboyantly dressed in a brightly figured Western shirt with leather chaps and jangling spurs.
"Princess?" Patty laughed her surprise, brown eyes dancing at the youthfully handsome face that stopped beside her.
"You're too little to be a king, so you have to be a princess," he winked. Grabbing the oversized saddle horn of her trick saddle and sticking the toe of his boot in the stirrup, he pulled himself up to her level, balancing himself with his other hand placed on the cantle. "I need a kiss for luck, Princess."
"Jack Evans, the last time I gave you a kiss for luck, you were bucked off the first jump out of the chutes." Twin dimples appeared in her cheeks.
An expression of mock seriousness spread across the face that was so near to hers. "You couldn't have put your heart into it. We'll simply have to keep trying until you get it right."
There was a rueful shake of her dark brown head at the sheer hopelessness of arguing with this cocky cowboy. Patty King had known him too long to be taken in by his considerable charm. Not another word of protest was offered as his mouth covered hers in a light but lingering kiss.
"Much better," he grinned, and swung away from her onto the ground.
"If all that mushy stuff is over," a growling voice said from the arena gate, "we'll get this rodeo started."
A faint pink of embarrassment flowed into her cheeks as Patty glanced at the older, battered-looking cowboy at the gates, his left arm in a plaster cast.
"I'm ready, Lefty," she said.
Grumbling silently, he nodded his acknowledgment. But her brown eyes had slid past him, caught by a pair of metallic blue. Self-consciously Patty stiffened with resentment at the mocking steel gaze. It belonged to the big, burly man just mounting the top rail of the arena fence.
Tall with powerful shoulders, there was not an ounce of spare flesh on his deceptively lean frame. Curling jet black hair was visible under his hat brim. Every feature cried out with the aggressive thrust of his masculinity. Beneath thick black brows, sooty lashes outlined the brilliant blue eyes. As Patty met their gaze, she glared her dislike of their owner, Morgan Kincaid.
The arena gate was swung open and the rodeo announcer was proclaiming the start of the rodeo. The Grand Entry parade was concluded with the presentation of colors and the playing of the National Anthem.
When the rest of the horses and riders in the Grand Entry left the arena, Patty followed, pulling her black horse to a stop just inside the gate. Irritation smoldered near the surface at the sight of Morgan Kincaid swinging down from the fence rail and walking toward the chutes.
He was the antithesis of what she liked in a man. He had none of the quiet courtesy that she admired. His very presence was abrasive, setting her teeth on edge as effectively as the whine of a dentist's drill. He was aggressively male with none of the rough edges smoothed to be handsome. Party's concentration was so intent on the wide powerful shoulders that she nearly missed her cue from the rodeo announcer.
"Our special attraction for this evening, ladies and gentlemen, is Miss Patricia King," he announced, "a native of New Mexico, a truly fine trick rider and Roman rider. Patty, give them an example of what they'll see later on this evening."
Reining the black horse in a full circle to the right, its signal for the flat-out run, Patty took him into the arena. She went once around in a hippodrome stand, falling away on the second circle to a side drag that left the crowd gasping before they broke into applause.
There was no opportunity to stay and watch the first rodeo event, which was saddle bronc riding. Patty had to return to the stable area to help her grandfather harness the six white horses she used for the Roman ride. By the time the black leather trappings were on each horse and Patty had changed into a black outfit with white roses, she was due in the arena for her performance. With her grandfather Everett King walking at the head of Liberty, the left horse in the front pair, Patty sat bareback astride Loyalty, the right horse of the last pair.
The arena lights caught the sparkles dusted over the hindquarters of the six white horses as they pranced into the arena to the tune of "She'll Be Comin' Round the Mountain." Patty's stomach was twisted in knots of nervous excitement. Rising to stand on the rosined back of Loyalty, she clucked comfortingly to the horses, taking an extra wrap on the six black reins, three in each hand. Oblivious to the announcer's words, she shifted her left foot to Landmark's back, easing the horses into a slow canter while she adjusted herself to the rhythm.
Two circles of the arena eased her attack of jitters. While Patty guided the three pairs of horses into a series of figure eights that required a flying change of lead, her grandfather supervised the setting of the hurdles. There was one jump on one side of the arena and a double jump on the opposite side.
Deftly checking Landmark's habit of rushing the jump, the horses cleared the barrier with faultless precision, one pair following the other and with Patty balancing a foot on each back of the last two horses. The double jump was trickier on the opposite side of the arena. As the last pair of horses was landing from the first obstacle, the first pair was taking the second.
When all the horses had cleared the last jump, it was once around the arena and a sliding stop in the center where they all took a bow with Patty standing triumphantly on their backs, a hand poised in the air in acknowledgment of the applause. A refusal at any of the jumps by any of the horses would have meant a nasty fall for Patty as well as for the horses.
Wheeling the horses toward the gate, she slipped astride Loyalty's back. A beaming smile split her face as she met the silently congratulatory expression of her grandfather. With the agility of a young man, Everett King caught Liberty's halter, slowing him to a walk through the gate and forcing the rest to do the same. A cowboy grabbed Lodestars head while another took her grandfather's place with Liberty.
"You did a grand job, Patty," he winked at her as he laid a hand on the shining neck of Loyalty.
"You did the training. You deserve the credit," she refused in a sincere and breathless voice. "Thanks, grandpa."
His gnarled and weathered hand closed over hers affectionately, before a somber look stole over his face. "He's here, Patty."
For an instant she froze, unable to speak or breathe. A horrible, twisting pain stabbed at her chest. There was no need to ask whom he meant. Patty knew. With every tormented nerve end, she knew he meant Lije Masters.
"Where?" Her eyes fluttered closed, to try to shut out the pain as she uttered the question in a choked voice.
"In the fourth row on your left." A touching sympathy laced his words. "His wife is with him."
A sob rose in her throat and Patty caught it back with a quick gulp. Smile, she commanded herself sternly, smile and wave at him even if it kills you. Some of her panic was communicated to the white horse and he shifted nervously beneath her.
Touching the silky neck with a soothing caress, Patty deliberately let her gaze stray to the fourth row of the stand. A smile of false surprise was forced onto her mouth as she met the pair of gray eyes looking at her from a lean, tanned face. The air of remoteness vanished as he returned the smile, its effect still devastating to her heartbeat.
Her gaze flickered to the perfection of the blond woman beside him, envy squeezing nearly every ounce of breath from her lungs. That was Lije's wife, the perfect example of femininity. Not a tomboy turned into a cowgirl like Patty, she thought in self-deprecation. But she waved anyway.
"Magnificent performance as usual, Patty," Lije called to her.
"Thanks." The shrill edge of her voice was from pain.
There was a resounding slap on the rump of her horse as Everett King waved to the cowboys holding the front pair to take them to the stables. She and her grandfather were too close for Patty not to realize that his urgings were to end the conversation with the man she still loved and who had married another.
At the stables, Patty slipped from Loyalty's back and helped her grandfather, who had followed, to remove the leather trappings from the six white horses. Their travel trailer was parked a short distance away. A quick trip and Patty had changed out of her costume into faded blue Levi's and a knit top of olive green. She kept her movements swift and hurried, not allowing herself time to think in case she lost the grip on her shaky composure.
The horses were cooled off when she returned to the stable area. The shouts and applause from the rodeo crowd could be heard in the distance along with the rodeo announcer's voice. The sounds had all become familiar to her. Rodeo was her life, thanks to Lije Masters.
"I'll finish up the horses, grandpa," Patty said softly.
His alert brown gaze was turned on her thoughtfully, seeing beyond the composed facade to the pain beneath. "You want to be alone, don't you, honey?"
"Is it so obvious?" she smiled ruefully.
"Only to me," he responded as he walked away.
Patty watched his lean figure disappear and sighed. It was strange that he was the only member of her family who had seen the way she felt. Both her parents had assumed her interest in rodeo came from her grandfather, who had actively competed in his younger years. But her motivation had always been Lije Masters. Since the day she could remember, he had been the reason for her existence, all through her teenage years into adulthood.
When he had started following the rodeo circuit to save his father's ranch and keep it after his father's death, Patty had been determined to follow. She didn't have the patience to wait in New Mexico for the day he would return. It was her grandfather, Everett King, who had suggested trick riding, since her parents couldn't afford to support her as a barrel racer.
Fate, unfortunately, had taken a hand. Her bookings hadn't included the San Antonio rodeo. Liberty had been off-color and Patty had been at her parents' ranch in New Mexico before going to the Houston rodeo. She thought she would never lose the bitter taste that had coated her mouth the day she had walked into the restaurant in New Mexico and had seen Lije Masters with his new wife. To this day, she knew she had carried the scene off beautifully, never letting him see how crushing his news had been.
A tear slipped from her lashes as she needlessly pushed the straw around in Liberty's stall, using the pitchfork more for support. There was little comfort for her broken heart in reminding herself that Lije had never once given her any indication that he looked on her as anything more than a friend and neighbor. Still she had lived in hope. She had adored him, worshiped him, loved him, living on the smallest crumb of his attention for days.
Her hope had been nurtured by the knowledge that Lije didn't believe in riding the rodeo circuit and leaving his wife at home, nor in bringing her with him to go through the agonies of watching him compete, always knowing he was running the risk of being hurt or crippled. Yet she had lived with that fear for three years. Patty had known, too, that Lije had intended to quit after another two successful years of rodeo.
Never in her wildest imagination had she believed that he would fall in love and marry someone else in the space of three short days. But he had. It had been a year and a half ago since that fatal day, but the pain was as intense as if it had only happened this morning.
It was her grandfather's shoulder that had been drenched with her tears. He was the one who had convinced her to continue the circuit when she wanted to curl up and die. She enjoyed the circuit, the constant training that was necessary to keep the horses in top form. It kept her from dwelling too much on the impossibilities of her dream, but it was still work. And it was not the way she had envisaged spending the rest of her life.
Patty had wanted a home and children. Lije's children to be sure, and a ranch that she could help him run. She was as capable as any ranch hand around. That had always seemed a plus factor in her favor, a reason why Lije would choose her above anyone else. How wrong she had been! His wife was a fashion model who had never been on a horse in her life, city-born and city-bred. She, Patty, could have given him so much more.
The salty taste of tears covered her lips and she realized with a start that she was crying. That was something she hadn't done in over a year. Hiccuping back the sobs, Patty wiped her cheeks with the back of her hand. Liberty turned luminous brown eyes on her and nickered softly. It took all her willpower to resist the urge to fling her arms around the horse's neck and cry. Misery and self-pity dominated her senses and Patty didn't notice the darkening of the stall.
"There you are, Skinny." A low-pitched, faintly derogatory voice spoke from the doorway. "I thought I might find you in some dark hole, licking your wounds like a hurt animal."
After an initial start of surprise, cold anger held her motionless. Only one person called her Skinny.
"I don't know what you're talking about, Morgan Kincaid," Patty glared. "And I don't particularly care, so why don't you just get out of here?"
"I could have been mistaken," he drawled lazily. His tall, husky, broad- shouldered figure blocked out the light. "But it seemed to me that you turned white as your horses when you saw Lije in the stands."
Patty held his blue gaze for an instant, but its latent sharpness was too perceptive. "You were mistaken," she snapped, turning away to begin moving the pitchfork in the straw.
"I'm glad to hear that." The strong mouth moved into a smile. "Thinking the way I was that you were all tore up at seeing Lije again, I would have sworn that there were tears on your cheeks."
"That's absurd!" She kept her face averted. "It's only perspiration. I don't know where you got the idea that it would bother me to see Lije. He and I are good friends."
"Listen, Skinny." His voice was patiently indulgent. "Nearly everyone on the circuit knows that you thought you were in love with the guy"
"I can't control what people think." Any more than she could control the faint tremor in her statement.
"No, that's true," Morgan Kincaid agreed, a thumb hooked negligently in his belt as he watched her moving the straw around the horse's hooves.
Excerpted from Six White Horses by Janet Dailey. Copyright © 1977 Janet Dailey. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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