Katie was always sure she'd marry Cole Logan someday--until he kicked away her pretty dreams like so much horse pucky. So she wised up and moved to the big city. And she was happy there. That is, until her daddy got sick, and she found herself back on the wrong side of Cole's corral.
Cole knows Katie doesn't want anything to do with him. But after so many years, he can't pretend she's no more than a neighbor. Not when thinking about her cherry lip gloss and hell-for-leather passion is keeping him up all night. Holding his ground was hard enough when she was seventeen. Now that she's her own woman, Cole's heart doesn't stand a chance. . .
"Passionate, gritty and fast paced. . .with a hot blooded, honorable hero to make every woman's knees go weak." –Diane Whiteside
"A tortured hero, a love that defies distance and time. . .this is a book you won't soon forget." --Cat Johnson
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Thirteen years later, present day
Katie mentally prepared herself for the smells of antiseptic and bleach as she pushed through the double glass doors, but the hospital lobby surprised her. A floral arrangement on the reception desk brightened the space, giving off the scent of jasmine, and the darkened lights of the gift shop toned down the fluorescent glare from above.
The cheery, if somewhat outdated, mauve chairs sat empty and no one tended the front desk. Not much of a surprise since visiting hours had long passed and only loved ones desperate for miracles or updates would roam the halls at this hour.
Katie wheeled her suitcase behind her, glad she had only one bag. She'd packed light, knowing she'd come here straight from the airport. She patted down her coat and found her phone in the side pocket. Even in the deep of winter, south Texas didn't call for wool, but New York had been spitting gray and sleet when she'd left. Besides, her bones were still chilled from the early morning phone call.
She'd been dead to the world when her phone screeched its annoying ringtone. Half asleep, she'd answered. If she lived to be ninety she'd never forget the way Cole had said her name — as if on a tail end of a sigh. Her mind woke before her body, and she'd literally fallen out of bed. Now, as she touched the screen on her phone, she braced herself for the husky hello on the other end.
It was acceptable to be shocked by a middle-of-the-night phone call, that was something she could live with, but now, having had time to prepare, there was no excuse. Her stomach flopped around like a girl's first trip to the backseat of her boyfriend's car at the sound of Cole's hello.
"I'm here. What room are you in?" She was glad her voice sounded calm, almost bored. That was exactly the impression she was going for — at least with him.
He quickly told her the room number and which floor to get off on.
"See you in a minute then," she said, glad to get off the phone. She had no illusions her calm demeanor could withstand long conversations with Cole, especially when all she should be thinking about was Pa. She grabbed her suitcase and headed toward the main elevators. Stepping inside, she pushed the button for five and took a deep breath as she watched the digital numbers begin their upward count.
She pressed the palm of her hand flat under her breastbone to ease the tightness.
Had it always been this bad?
If she were a good daughter, she'd be worried about Pa. Worried about his surgery tomorrow, worried if he'd even make it out of the hospital. But instead her mind flashed on a time long past with a different man and one very scared horse.
She fished in her front jeans pocket, found her ChapStick and then whipped on some cherry lip balm. She was such a fool. It had been close to three years and still her breath hitched at the thought of being in the same room as Cole.
Three years couldn't negate a lifetime of bad habits.
Katie closed her eyes and massaged back the headache that threatened. Apparently, three years wasn't long enough.
No, this wasn't about Cole and her. This was about Pa. And it was high time she remembered that Cole had been nothing but a passing fancy in a young girl's heart.
"Pa, I'm here," Katie whispered into the darkened room. Even though the lights were dim, Katie could still make out the form buried under layers of generic white blankets. She stepped closer, almost afraid to make noise in the hushed stillness, but then Pa's eyes opened and he smiled.
"You made it," he said in a raspy imitation of his voice.
"Of course," she said, surprised at how broken he sounded. Coming to the side of the bed, she grasped his hand in one of hers and squeezed. Pa grimaced. She looked down and realized she'd bumped one of the multiple tubes attached to him. The thought of causing him more pain filled her with guilt.
The man she called Pa was robust, had red in his cheeks, and a paunch that filled out his whole frame. The man being swallowed up by white sheets and bulky pillows wasn't her father, but a pale and sunken husk of the James Harris she knew. She closed her eyes and bit back a sob. She wouldn't cry. No, now was the time to be the strong daughter her father could lean on.
Katie searched his features, desperate for a glimpse of the familiar. She found them in the coffee-colored eyes and the deep lines that bracketed the same wide mouth she saw in the mirror every day.
Pa propped himself against the raised hospital bed. Blue-tinged lips were cracked with flakes of dried skin. His hands, splotched with purple-inked bruises, lay listless in his lap.
Her father had the strength of ten men, or so it seemed to her when he had hauled her up on her first horse, taught her how to drive a stick, change a flat. Now, she wondered if he'd ever walk under his own strength again.
"Honey ... so glad you're here," Pa said, pinching his throat with his fingers as if it hurt to talk.
"What's wrong? Are you in pain?" She reached out to comfort, but realized she could do nothing, and let her hand fall to her side. She was no good at this. Some people were at their best during a crisis; she was just awkward. The guilt that had plagued her the whole day rose as a hard knot in her chest.
Pa, I'm sorry. So sorry. I should've never left.
Pa reached for her fingers and squeezed, then shook his head, but instead of answering, he shifted his gaze to the man who sat in the corner.
Katie knew Cole was there. She'd always been aware of him, had been from the moment she'd opened the door, but concern for her father had given her a small reprieve. Not anymore.
Cole stood, unfolding long denim-encased legs and booted feet with the grace of a man comfortable with his size. Dirt smeared his dingy tee as he held an equally dusty Stetson in front of him. His dark hair fell forward and brushed his shadowed face. "It hurts him to talk. They had to intubate him in the ER. The doctor said his throat would be sore for a few days."
And there it was. Even after all this time, her breath still hitched.
Such a fool, Katie.
Katie cut her gaze back to Pa's pale complexion under his sun-browned skin and nodded. She stroked the remaining white tufts of his hair, then kissed his smoothed forehead. "It's okay. You don't need to talk. Cole's filled me in on all the details."
She brought Pa's fingers to her lips and said a thankful prayer that he was alive. She'd almost lost him. "You gotta get well. You can't leave me alone," she said, using a smile to soften her words though she knew her eyes were filled with tears.
Her father swallowed hard and pressed his fingers to his throat. "You'd have Cole."
Silence settled, thick and sticky like tar.
And wasn't that just like Pa to call out the giant pink elephant in the room. Well, the elephant could dance on the damn bedside tray for all she cared. She wasn't about to go there.
"You're lucky," Katie said. "The cardiologist on call tomorrow is the best. Everything I've read about him says he's conservative, but thorough." She continued to stroke Pa's forehead, cool to the touch. "But right now you look like, well, like you've had a heart attack. You need to get some rest. I'll be back tomorrow before the surgery. Do you need anything?" Pa shook his head, but glanced toward the daunting presence in the corner. This time she allowed her gaze to linger. Cole had stepped out of the shadows and for one second her heart lurched as if trying to synchronize rhythms, but she violently shut it down with the clamp of her jaw. He wasn't her home anymore; she'd made a new place with someone else.
But Katie knew Cole's face. It had changed a little over the years, less roundness, more fine lines, but was oh so achingly familiar. He was two days past clean-shaven, and it annoyed her that she'd know the degrees of his five o'clock shadow. But his eyes were the same. As true a blue as the water of the ocean.
His presence ignited an unwarranted response, and Katie had to slide her trembling hands inside her coat pockets to hide their sudden dampness.
"He wouldn't rest until you got here," Cole said, his voice even deeper than over the phone. "His surgery is scheduled for the morning. I'll drive you home and bring you back."
And quick as spit, images flashed — a dark cab, a hushed night, the imposed intimacy of sharing the same air. "No, I'm fine. You've done enough. I'll call a taxi and —"
"Don't be ridiculous, Katie," Cole said as he walked closer. "I live right next door. Besides, I have to get your dad's truck back."
The fact that Cole now stood between her and the exit wasn't lost on her.
Pa pressed his hand to his throat. "No, let Cole take you. I can't relax thinking you'd be all alone."
Katie repressed a sigh. And here she'd been living on her own in New York all this time.
"He was upset that you wouldn't let me pick you up at the airport," Cole said from behind her since she'd turned her back to him. She'd refused to let him coax her attention from where it should be, her father. "He hasn't closed his eyes for more than a few minutes since your plane landed."
Her father's eyes were smudged with deep purple as he fought to keep them open.
She was just being stupid. She was an adult now, no need to play childish games. "Yes, of course."
A weakened smile played across Pa's lips; then he nodded. Katie kissed him one last time and turned to roll her suitcase back the way she'd come. But a stronger hand already gripped the handle.
"I got it," Cole said, his eyes now hidden beneath the low brim of his Stetson.
"No, thank you, I'm fine." She tugged again. Overly aware of how close she was to touching him.
He didn't let go. "I said I got this."
Katie looked at him from under her lowered lashes and let her most insincere smile spread across her face. "And I said no thanks."
In the dark, a white smile flashed. "You're not going to win this one."
Her jaw clenched. A voice inside her head told her to let it go — she was tired. It wasn't that big a deal. "That implies I've won at least some."
She needed to work on being reasonable.
"Katie, you've always won," he said as if everything was one big joke.
Damn him. And damn the way he addressed her, as if he only fully exhaled when he spoke her name. Anger, hot and bright, seared her blood, and she balled her hand against her stomach to keep from slapping his smirking face.
Liar! She'd lost the biggest gamble of her life with him.
With the suitcase now unencumbered, he wheeled the luggage out the door and down the hall. She stole a glance at Pa to make sure he hadn't witnessed the episode. His eyes were closed and his mouth slack. She turned back around. Her icy glare was lost on the dirty tee stretched across Cole's broad back and the faded jeans that molded what some would consider his best asset. With no real choice, she followed.
What did she expect? That things would be different? They'd been fighting since she was seventeen. Before that he'd been her best friend, but the summer of her senior year things changed. Heat rose to her face, and she was glad Cole walked in front of her.
She'd been so naïve, and at the same time so sure of herself. What she wouldn't give to take the summer of her senior year back, to wipe her shame off the world's slate. And yet she would've never left for New York, and she would've never found love ... true love. A love that didn't hurt like the swallowing of a heated blade.
Three years earlier, Katie's senior year
A finger of sunlight slipped between the edge of the yellowing plastic shade and the delicate pale curtain. Katie squinted, her eyes narrowing against the dawn. She blinked twice, and went from begrudging awareness to full alert in the span of a breath. She rolled from her tangled sheets and shimmied herself into yesterday's jeans, which she'd rescued from the dirty hamper. After wiggling her bottom into the glove-snug denim, she reached for the standard work shirt from off her dresser, then hesitated.
Cole was a stickler for rules, but time was running out. Just last night Pa had pressured her to make the final decision about which college she was going to attend. She couldn't stall forever, and she sure couldn't tell Pa the real reason she didn't want to live out of state.
Should she toe the line and play it safe, or risk Cole's wrath and break the rules? She stilled and worried her bottom lip as she eyed her work shirt, and then the blouse hanging in her closet. Katie's heart quickened in answer, though it wasn't fear that pumped through her veins; it was excitement. Cole just needed a little push, a tiny shove to open his eyes and see her for the woman she'd become, instead of the little girl he insisted she was.
Hadn't Pa always told her the bold blazed the trails, and the cowards slinked in the shadows? She made her decision. Katie disregarded the plaid button up and, instead, pulled out the white peasant blouse and her best lacy bra.
Katie finished dressing, skidded to the bathroom, and brushed her teeth. She sighed at the brown tangled mass on top of her head. With a few rough brushstrokes and a swipe of product, her hair went from savage to merely disheveled.
Outside on the back steps Katie sank her teeth into the apple she'd filched from the kitchen table, and shoved her feet into her scuffed work boots. She took off at a run, not remembering the last time she'd simply walked over the small hill and down the slope to Cole's barn. Not when the barn housed two of the three loves of her life — Star, her three-year-old palomino, and of course, Cole.
The sun wrestled with the darkened sky and began the inevitable, the conquering of even the hardiest of stars. The early call of birds and the rustle of leaves was a whispered background to the crunch of Katie's apple and the flattening of grass beneath her boots.
It was crucial for Katie to get to the barn before the day actually started. For her, this was a coveted time, and nothing but natural disaster could keep her from it. The ranch hands didn't show up until around seven, so no one else was in the stable except Cole, her, and the horses. There wasn't much time for talking. Cole had horses to feed, supplies to check and order, and a truck of hay to unload before he left for the day job that "paid the bills."
Katie helped out where she could, but had the responsibility of her own horse. That was the condition Pa had put in place when he'd bought Star for her a year ago. Katie was to do all the work, and not expect Cole or the ranch hands to bail her out. Not that she minded. She loved doing everything that involved Star.
Katie held the apple core with her teeth so she could push the weather-beaten green doors wide. The barn was dim and a bit chilly. A few of the horses rustled their beds of hay and one near the back pushed on his gate, rattling the latch. But in general the barn was still, and Katie paused herself. She closed her eyes and inhaled the sweetest fragrance in all the world — the earthiness of moist hay, the biting scent of leather, and the richness of Texas soil mingling with the pungency of horse.
Katie flipped on the entry lights, letting the stables stay in the shadows. She walked to the first stall, which held a brown quarter horse with the markings of a spilled foam latte across her hindquarters.
"Hey, Cappuccino," she said as she walked past. "And Gus? How's my favorite big man?" The huge black trotted over and thrust his nose into her hand demanding attention.
"Impudent man, always think that I'm gonna bring you something. Spoiled," she said, letting him slobber over her open palm as he devoured the apple core. She let him finish his treat before she took off toward the opposite end of the stable. The east entrance had two wide double doors, big enough to back a truck or tractor through, and both were open, meaning Cole had beaten her here.
Katie shoved her hands in her pockets, perfecting her nonchalant posture as she shuffled down the aisle. She waited for the telltale flinch of her heart at her first sight of Cole. It was always the same, a skip then a hard thump, a freezing of her breath, then a whoosh as it came back again. Her response never faded, never went away. It was reality, and she accepted it. No need to fight; it was Cole.
Excerpted from "Texas Wide Open"
Copyright © 2012 KC Klein.
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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I just read TEXAS WIDE OPEN by KC Klein. I am still wiping tears off my cheeks. This is the BEST BOOK I have read this year. NO question. I'm a romantic suspense author and my tastes run toward, well, romantic suspense obviously, and paranormals. But KC is a friend so I figured I would read this contemporary romance to be nice. I'm so glad I did. Honestly, I had reservations - because it's not a genre I typically enjoy. And, it skips back and forth in time, showing what happened in the past then what's happening in the present. I thought it would be a chore reading back and forth in time. Instead, I found myself marveling at KC's brilliance. The way she wove in what happened and juxtaposed it against current day was exactly the way this story should have been told. It was an incredibly clever way to keep building tension by revealing bits and pieces of backstory. I loved the hero and heroine and the secondary love story was wonderful as well. This story is gut-wrenchingly emotional. If you don't cry at least once, something is wrong with you. Seriously. I absolutely loved it. And I do have to add a plug for how she handled the setting. I know nothing about Texas and very little about horses. KC wove such unique, interesting elements of both into the story that I really felt like I was there, in Texas, on a horse ranch. I highly recommend this book. It's just an absolutely wonderful love story. My only complaint is that I didn't want it to end!
After reading other reviews I had high hopes for this story but I'm beyond disappointed. I honestly didn't like any of the characters. They were immature and unrealistic.
There were too many flashbacks as the love story betwixt Kate and Cole!!! In 231 pages there were sp.many isits to the past I ALMOST GAVE UP!!! I hate cliffhangers but the storyline the author took was confusing. frustrating, and idiotic! The writer had two couples (add Cole's best friend's love for his sister, Nikki) desparately in love but due to all these events, let life tear them apart. Cole fights alcoholism that sprang within him when he allowed her father to interfere and stop their marriage. She ran away to NYC to be a vet. He found his way into a bottle for one year, aand then in two sober years his horse ranch become profitable... If you are.bored and need to find something to do because you're tired of watching paint dry,then select this 233 pages to read for free. If you read Webster's dictionary, the words make sense, and you won't be confused.
233pages.......first time to read this author and I enjoyed this story.
This was a well written book, but it was filled with characters that were difficult to relate to and difficult to like. The temper tantrums were bizarre, the quick rushes to judgment unrealistic, and the lack of true depth eye roll worthy. If you find yourself in a relationship with someone who acts like any of these characters, run. Yikes.
The cover and title of this book gives the wrong impression. Its not a dirty book. there are some sex, but not in detail like in some books. Most historical romance have more detailed sex then this. Good stroy.
This review was first seen at Reading Between the Wines! Girl grows up with the older boy next door. Girl falls madly in love with the older boy next door, and even at the age of eight knows that one day, she's going to marry that boy. (Cue famous Trisha Yearwood song) Girl grows up, and boy next door breaks her heart at the age of eighteen, so girl leaves her small hometown in Texas to go to college in New York. In New York she meets a new boy who is sweet, and after a couple of years tells her he loves her, and wants to marry her. So girl gives up on hometown heartbreak from the boy next door and moves on. Right? Wrong. Nope. No ma'am, not right. Our heroine Katie gets a phone call from the heartbreak kid, otherwise known as Cole, when he tells her that her Dad had a heart attack and she needs to come home to Texas. Cole sees Katie's father as surrogate father since the day Cole's Dad died when he was sixteen and had to become the man of his house. So needless to say, he's there Mr. Harris as he's recovering from the heart attack. It's hard on his own heart though, to have the only girl he ever wanted as his own back home and still mad enough at him to spit nails. Or take a baseball bat to his truck. If she only knew the truth why he had to do what he did a few years ago, maybe she could forgive him and then they could get on with their lives together. Or at least that's what he thought till he saw the engagement ring on Katie's finger. I liked this story. It was angsty and emotional and had a total Carrie Underwood moment that I've wanted to try myself a few times in life. It's also laid an excellent plot line for a sequel involving Cole's sister and his best friend Jet that I can't wait to read! Brave Ms. Klein for a great book and it's a solid four wine glass toast to Texas Wide Open! (On a side note - am I the only one who thinks those red boots on the front cover kick ass?)
Terrific She has loved Cole since she was 8. At eighteen she told him, he wanted marry her, but her dad said no. Now her dad had a heart attack and she was back and they were still fighting it. But this time she is engaged. Will she break the engagement to love him.
Great book. Loved the story.
Two thumbs up
Loved this story
This book had good bones but I had a hard time reading this book, the flow of the story was difficult to keep up with. Switching POV mid chapter with nothing more than a break in paragraph, or switching from present to past. I felt like I was reading 3 stories between the past, present and then you add in the Nikki and Jett storyline it was just too much for me and I skimmed through those parts completely. I really enjoyed the story of Cole and Katie just not the added story line of Jett and Nikki it had no place in the book. Overall good book just too much going on for me.
When katy returns home to care for her father, the sparks Between she and cole ignite. And his sister is discovering hidden sparks herself.
Gotta love a cowboy
I honestly couldn’t put this book down from the first page. The author told the story of Katie and Cole going back and forth from the present day and the past and from different characters perspective. It kept you wanting to read more. The author fully developed each character and you felt like you were in the story. Descriptions of each event was also great. The story was about Katie Harris a very strong willed girl who had a crush on her good-looking next door neighbor Color Logan since she was eight. At that young age, she was convinced she was going to marry him. After years of working by his side while he ran his families ranch and she grew into a very good looking young lady, he still didn’t see her as anything but a friend in her mine. He had women come in and out of his life, had a bad boy reputation and didn’t appear to want Katie as a wife. So Katie left her love of Cole , horses and Texas for college. A few years later, her father has a health crisis and Katie had to come back to Texas to face her father’s health crisis and Cole. The story didn’t only focus on Katie and Cole but also several other character’s along the way such as Cole’s best friend, Jett, his sister, Nikki, and the bar owner, Mike. Each one had interesting things going on which is a story in itself. This was my first read by author KC Klein but certainly not my last. I am ready to read everything she has ever written if they are like this. It’s a good thing I have some time off because I’ve got it all schedule now for reading more of her work!!!!
My first read of KC Klein's. Thoroughly enjoyed this book and am anxious to read the next in this series. Katie and Cole grew up next door to each other. He's 8 years older and Katie's savior and true love. Cole and his sister Nikki grew up on the wrong side of the tracks and learned the hard way how important money is. Cole works hard to bring the ranch up to par from the age of 16. His best friend Jett is the senator's son and is always trying to help Cole out in the strangest ways at times. Katie is the vet's daughter and knew she was going to marry Cole since she was 8 yrs old. Cole waited for her to grow up and grew frustrated as Katie blossomed into a woman. He had to send her away as a promise to her dad but when she returns home, the sparks fly. It was an interesting road these two traveled to be able to meet in the middle. Hot, cold, hot again. Loved this story!
Great story line
A must read! I absolutely LOVED it!