Nov 20 2012 12:30pm
She's Got Her Eyes on the Prize...
Gemma O'Donnell wasn't the first woman to win the ProRodeo buckle for bronc riding, but she was darn well going to be the second. What she didn't count on was her main competition sweeping her off her feet.
He'll Do Whatever It Takes To Win...
Trace Coleman isn't really after a title—he needs the cash prize to buy his dream ranch. But one sexy, determined cowgirl keeps getting in his way. In his effort to take her out of the running, he risks losing both the title—and his heart.
They're Both in For a Little Surprise...
Everybody's world is turned upside down when a pint-sized bundle of joy gets dropped right into Trace's lap...and suddenly all the stakes are higher.
Get a sneak peek at Carolyn Brown's Just a Cowboy and His Baby (available December 4, 2012), with an EXCLUSIVE excerpt.
Trace had known he’d met his match the first time he saw Gemma O’Donnnell. Her name had come up in rodeo conversations for a couple of years, but he’d never ridden against her or even in the same rodeos as she had. Not until she showed up in Rapid City, South Dakota, four months before. She’d flown in and rode one mean bronc that night, had a big wreck about three seconds into the ride, and was gone the next day. He didn’t do much better at that rodeo. He lost control five seconds after he came out of the chute and Dugger McDonald from Cheyenne, Wyoming, took the purse home.
But that Irish beauty had haunted his dreams for the past four months. He’d watched her determination and her form, but he’d also seen her walk away when she’d been defeated, head held high and back ramrod straight, no tears for the loss but a purpose in her stance that said she’d be a force to be reckoned with before the dust all settled in December.
He’d meant to make her nervous when he circled her small waist to help her up the side of chute number six. The way she’d put shame into old Smokin’ Joe’s eyes said it hadn’t worked a damn bit. But it had sent a sizzling jolt through his body. One more touch like that and he’d have to shuck his chaps because what was framed in front would be pretty damned obscene.
Since the rodeo in South Dakota when he had seen her spinning out of the chute in a blurring burst of hot pink he’d had trouble sleeping. And that was before he’d even touched her. She was smoking hot and now his hands felt like they had red coals of fire in them. He did not have time, money, or the energy for any woman and certainly not one like Gemma O’Donnell. Hell, he didn’t even have the energy for the groupies that hung around the trailers after a rodeo. He had to concentrate hard on winning right up until Vegas the first week of December.
He had hoped he wouldn’t see her again after the South Dakota ride, but there she was in San Antonio the next night. He’d come out the winner that time and was more than a little disappointed that she didn’t stick around for the dance following the rodeo. Then in the middle of March she’d showed up in Austin, Texas, to ride like the devil and snatch the purse in a gold match, making them even.
Poor old Dugger broke his arm in a practice session and that put him out of the running. In May she came to Redding, California, and whipped him by six points, but that was a silver competition, and in Prescott, Arizona, they both wrecked and a newcomer by the name of Coby Taylor grabbed a silver purse right out from under them. Again he’d thought she’d give up, but she showed up in Wyoming pulling a travel trailer behind her truck.
That meant she was in it for the long haul.
Trace would have his hands full for sure.
He was ten thousand dollars ahead of her and he needed this ride for a nice comfortable lead. He measured the rein one more time and shoved his boots down into the stirrups. He hadn’t even met her formally, so why the hell did she make his brain go to mush over one little touch? He’d had less reaction to Ava, the only groupie who had ever wound up in his bed.
He shook his head and tried to free himself of the image of Gemma with her red hair, green eyes, and lips that would run Angelina Jolie some stiff competition. He was riding Hell Cat, a big black horse with a solid reputation in the rodeo rounds. That was fine by Trace. He needed a real bucking horse that night to beat Gemma’s points.
He didn’t like losing at all, but to a woman? That was a tough pill to swallow. Hell, he’d never even competed against a woman until this circuit. And now he’d been whipped twice by that red-haired piece of Texas baggage that was trying to get into his head by blowing him a kiss. Well, she could damn well take her sassy little butt back to her part of Texas because he was about to show her exactly how to make more than eighty points.
He tightened his hold on the rein and nodded. The gate flew open and Hell Cat went into action, twisting, turning, bucking as if he were trying to throw Trace all the way to the St. Paul rodeo—airborne, with no stops. Trace kept one hand up, held on to the rein, and did what came natural in his movements. Legs forward, legs back, spur, go with the movement of the horse.
The buzzer sounded and a pickup rider was beside him with an arm outstretched. Trace grabbed it, slid off the horse, and hit the ground running. When he was away from the bucking horse, he stopped and waved to the crowd. Everyone was on their feet screaming and yelling. Folks did tend to like a winner.
While the buzz left his ears he headed for gate eight and listened to the announcer say, “And that, cowgirls and cowboys, was Trace Coleman from Goodnight, Texas, who just did his bit in taming Hell Cat. He’s our final bronc rider of the night, and to beat Gemma O’Donnell he has to have at least eighty points. And the judges are totaling their points now. Remember, that’s fifty for the horse and fifty for Trace’s ability. And the winning number is, oh my goodness, Trace, sorry, old man, she’s whooped you right here in Cody, Wyoming, but just barely. You’ve got seventy-eight points, so Gemma O’Donnell takes the saddle bronc riding purse home tonight and you come in second. Next up is the bull riding.”
Trace nodded toward the judges’ stand and then tipped his hat to the roaring crowd still on their feet and making enough noise to raise the dead before he slipped back behind the bucking chutes.
Eight seconds could damn sure change the whole world and knock a rider off his pretty pedestal. He’d have to work harder, keep his mind on the ride better, because if he didn’t final and didn’t win the big event in Las Vegas, he could kiss his Uncle Teamer’s ranch outside of Goodnight good-bye.
He’d planned on sticking around Cody for a few hours after the rodeo to toss back a few beers and bask in the glory of the win before he began the thousand-mile journey to St. Paul, Oregon. But suddenly a party didn’t look so inviting and he was eager to get on the road. He made up his mind that as soon as the rodeo personnel removed his saddle from Hell Cat, he intended to load up and point his truck and trailer toward the west. By the time the sun came up tomorrow morning he’d be more than a third of the way there.
“Hey,” Gemma said so close to him that he jumped.
“Good ride,” he said stiffly.
“Not my best. I could have done better, but thanks,” she said.
“Guess that puts you where I was yesterday.” Trace’s drawl was deep and very Texan. He slumped down on a rough wooden bench beside the chute he’d ridden out of just minutes before, stuck his long legs out, and crossed them at the ankles.
“Guess it does, but the night is still young. Anything could happen before the finals.” Gemma sat down on the other end of the bench, pulled a knee up, and wrapped her arm around it.
“What are you ridin’ for?” he asked.
Vibes bounced around in the space between them like a bucking bronc without a time limit. He wanted to move closer to see if the flames were hotter the closer he got, but he sat still.
“Glory of being the second woman to win the title. And you?” she answered. Her voice had just enough grit to be sexy, and it went with that dark hair, those red lips, and green eyes.
“One of us could be very happy when December rolls around.”
“And the other one is going to have a few dollars in their bank account,” he finally said.
“You going to St. Paul or Colorado Springs?” she asked.
“Which one?” he asked grumpily.
“Both! It’s a lot of driving, but it’s doable and I need the money to put me in the finals.”
Gemma didn’t look forward to a thousand miles in two days to St. Paul and then thirteen hundred back to Colorado Springs. But at least there were five days between St. Paul and Colorado Springs so she wouldn’t have to drive for hours and hours on that stretch. She hadn’t been a greenhorn when she started the circuit. She’d known there would be fast drives as well as those that could be taken leisurely. It was the way of the rodeo circuit. Drive hard. Hurry up to get to the next rodeo and wait for the eight seconds to ride hard. Then get in the pickup truck and do it all over again.
Tonight she got to put another shamrock on her construction-paper lucky horseshoe. There were still miles and miles between that four-leaf clover and the one that she was saving for when she won the Vegas competition. There would be a lot of riding, a lot of driving, a helluva lot of waiting, and a lot of missing her family and friends, but the night she got to glue the biggest, shiniest shamrock on top of her horseshoe would make it all worthwhile.
Gemma stood up and settled her hat on her head. “Well, I’ll see you there.”
“And I’m going to win,” Trace said.
“Don’t bet on it, cowboy. Tonight is just the beginning of a long line of victories. You might as well go on home to Good-bye, Texas, and forget about it.”
“Right back atcha.” She grinned.
“No, not Good-bye, Goodnight.”
“I’m from Goodnight, Texas, not Good-bye.”
“Tomato, tomahto!” she quipped in a slow Southern drawl.
She’d done her homework and she knew exactly where Trace Coleman hailed from. She knew his statistics, how tall he was, and when his birthday was. And she had not made a mistake when she said “Good-bye.” She’d made a joke. Evidently he didn’t think it was funny.
He quickly stood up and fell into step beside her. “So you’re in it for the long haul for sure, no matter what?”
“Yes, I am, so let’s clear the air and get something straight right now. If you ever try to ruin my ride with a comment again, I’m going to leave your body so far out that the coyotes will starve huntin’ for it.”
Instinctively she reached out to push him, but he caught her arms and used the momentum to pull her tightly to his chest. She had intended to send him ass-over-spurs into the dust like she did her brothers when they were all kids and she pushed one of them in anger, but suddenly she was listening to his heartbeat. She leaned back to look up at him and his eyes were fluttering shut. She barely had time to moisten her lips before his mouth covered hers in a sizzling kiss that left her wanting another and yet wanting to slap the shit out of him at the same time.
“If you ever try that again, I’ll…” she stammered in a hoarse whisper.
“Darlin’, either fight your way to the top with the big boys or go home and lick your wounds. I’m not one bit afraid of you,” Trace said.
“That’s a big mistake, Mr. Coleman.” She turned and walked away from him briskly, fringe on her chaps flopping with each step, leaving no doubt that she was stomping instead of walking.
Coby Taylor moved out of the shadows and said, “Sassy bit of baggage. Sexy as hell but needs a bit of taming.”
“You’d have better luck trying to tame Smokin’ Joe or Hell Cat than that woman,” Trace said without an ounce of humor.
Gemma retrieved her saddle and carried it to her trailer, stashed it in the special place in the closet, and took the shoebox from the shelf. Damn that Trace Coleman anyway for making her so angry.
She touched her lips to see if they were as hot as they still felt and was surprised to find that they were cool. She’d show him that she didn’t have to fight her way to the top, that had to fight every day to keep his place because by the middle of the circuit she intended to be so far ahead of him that he couldn’t even get a whiff of the dust she was leaving behind.
She opened the shoebox and a smile replaced the frown drawing her dark brows together. She rifled through the small paper shamrocks until she found the one with Cody written in glitter and gently turned it over to smear glue on the back. Then she stuck it on her horseshoe and stood back to admire it.
“There, one more step toward the big one,” she said.
Lick her wounds, indeed!
Copyright © 2012 by Carolyn Brown
To learn more or to purchase a copy of Carolyn Brown's Just a Cowboy and His Baby:
Carolyn Brown is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author with more than forty books published, and credits her eclectic family for her humor and writing ideas. She writes bestselling single title cowboy and country music mass market romances. Born in Texas and raised in southern Oklahoma, Carolyn and her husband now make their home in the town of Davis, Oklahoma.