Book 2: The Cowboy’s Secret Wish featuring Myles Wylder, the steady and secretive brother on the Sweet Meadow Ranch!
Myles is falling in love with the one woman who shouldn’t know his secret…
Librarian Karen Hartley is not looking for a cowboy. And she’s most definitely not looking for a jock. So when ranch-owning, football-coaching Myles Wylder enters the scene with his inquisitive blue eyes and impossibly broad shoulders, as well as an offer to help save the town library, of course she says no. Just like she does when her heart begins to whisper that maybe there’s more to this cowboy than meets the eye…
Too bad he doesn’t check off any of the boxes on her future Mr. Right list.
…but maybe it’s time for a new list…
Myles knows he’s not what Karen’s looking for in a partner. But with plans to save the Sweetheart Creek library he figures he can show her there’s more to life—and him—than what’s on her checklist. There’s only one problem, he has a secret that might become a deal breaker.
Will this cowboy find a way to win and keep the librarian? Or will his secret ruin everything as opposites attract in this small town sweet romance?
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SNEAK PEEK FROM THE COWBOY’S SECRET WISH
by Jean Oram
Myles Wylder sat on a square hay bale outside the old converted barn, country music filtering out into the cool Texas October night. Another family rolled up in their four-door pickup, ready to dance and raise some funds for Alexa McTavish’s local horse sanctuary set outside of Sweetheart Creek. Myles stood and shifted the donation jar on the nearby table so its label faced the approaching group.
Glancing over his shoulder, he watched family and friends through the barn’s open doors. His gaze connected with the bright eyes of Karen Hartley, the local librarian, and he quickly looked away. She hadn’t danced all night. And so far, neither had he.
Just like at last weekend’s community barn dance.
“Hey, Myles. Looking sharp tonight.” It was Mayor Travis Nestner, his wife, Donna, and their triplet daughters. “The boys are looking promising out on the field. This the year you win State?”
“We’ll see. The boys have a lot of potential.” Myles had been coaching the high school’s football team with his younger brother, Ryan, for several years, and they’d narrowly missed winning their division’s state championship as many times.
“I enjoyed watching you play all those years ago.” The mayor had been a few classes ahead, and played football himself. He’d even caught the attention of a few college scouts, but a shoulder injury late in his senior year had knocked him out of contention.
“Yeah, I still miss it,” Myles said. He’d been the team’s enforcer. The brute. The heavy. The protector. The brick wall. And somehow that had become his full-time identity even years after he’d left the field as a player.
Myles glanced into the dance hall again. Even in her Western wear, Karen looked like the intellectual she was. Maybe it was the glasses, or the simple white blouse absent of fringe, its subtle pattern designed to blend in. She was laughing at something Jackie Moorhouse had said, and her head was tipped back, her long white throat exposed. He wondered what had made her laugh so openly and with such abandon. Around him she acted reserved, guarded, and almost as though she expected him to pick her up and carry her off somewhere.
Maybe she had special talents as a mind reader.
Travis shoved some bills into the donation jar. “For the horses.”
“We get to dance again this weekend!” one of the girls said to Myles. She clicked her small cowboy boots together and lifted her pink cowboy hat as if about to break into a dance routine.
“I know, right?” he said. “How’d we get so lucky to have an extra barn dance this month?” The girls beamed and Myles asked Donna, who was carrying a white casserole dish for the potluck supper, “Are those your famous hot wings?”
“My secret recipe. Fresh from the frozen food aisle and hot from the oven.”
“Save me a few.”
“I’ll do you one better and bring you a plate.”
The Nestners went inside the barn, the girls racing onto the floor to join their friends in a line dance.
Myles turned to find Wade Ross standing in front of him, grinning like he’d fallen too far into the whiskey again.
“This is a dry event, Wade.”
“Hey, it’s me!” He laughed, pretending to throw punches at Myles’s gut. Myles watched, unamused. The man didn’t seem to comprehend that Myles could flatten him with one quick left hook should he try.
“Seriously. It’s a dry event.”
Wade lifted his hands, his tone exasperated. “I know, I know. You tell me that every time.”
“And they call me the slow learner. I hope someone gave you a ride.”
“I walked.” The man hiccuped.
Myles surveyed the grassy area where people parked behind the barn, which was located a few miles from Sweetheart Creek. He didn’t see Wade’s blue pickup. He took a few steps farther from his post to look around the corner of the barn. In the distance, near the road, a green tractor was parked at an angle in the ditch.
“Driving your tractor while under the influence is still drinking and driving.”
“I walked!” The man staggered two steps, then spun around and swung, his right fist missing Myles’s nose but knocking his black cowboy hat into the dirt. Myles dodged as he swung again, then widened his stance, ready to protect himself in case Wade was one drink beyond making wise decisions.
Behind Wade, Donna was exiting the barn, her attention on calling out a hello to someone still inside while she brought Myles his promised plate of wings.
Wade swung again, coming close enough to knocking into Donna that Myles grabbed his arm and twisted it behind his back. “That’s enough. Ladies are present.”
The mayor’s wife came to a halt, realizing she’d almost been hit.
“I was just playing around. Don’t be so dumb.” Wade yanked his arm free of Myles’s loose grip.
Myles clenched his hands. “Speak for yourself.”
“Wade Ross! You nearly made me drop my wings,” Donna drawled, with a look of disdain. She handed the plate to Myles and flashed him a smile. “Enjoy, honey.”
As she headed back inside, Wade muttered, “I hope your high school football career was worth the cash you paid me to tutor you in English, because I sure enjoyed buying that Chevy Charger with your hard-earned money.”
Myles let out a slow breath to calm himself. He would never have allowed his coach to set him up with Wade as his tutor if he’d known how often the man would find a way to throw it in his face.
“And I can see your high grades set you up for the good life,” Myles said, keeping his cool when Wade made a fake lunge at him, then turned to enter the dance with a scowl.
Myles bent to retrieve his hat, wondering how good hitting Wade would feel, and if it would be worth it. Ryan, inside the dance hall, wandered past the entrance and Myles tipped his head toward Wade, receiving a nod from his brother. Ryan would keep an eye on him, and if this Saturday night was like most others, Myles would end up driving a barely conscious Wade home around ten.
Maybe a smarter man would call the sheriff to take care of the drunk man, not look out for him each time the community held a barn dance. But at the same time, Myles understood that having your wife leave you the same month you lost your family’s eighty-year-old business due to changes in the global economy had a way of turning someone upside down.
Myles sat on his bale again as more vehicles turned off the dirt road and into the grassy parking area. Unable to help himself, he turned to glance inside the barn once more, catching Karen watching him with a look that made him cringe. She’d made it clear she wasn’t into men displaying how much testosterone they had, and jousting with Wade had likely earned him that frown.
Myles sighed and focused on savoring his wings while welcoming the newcomers, thanking them as they made donations or added a scoop of whatever they were taking to the potluck onto his plate. He really didn’t know why so few people volunteered to work the door. You got to see everyone and you got first dibs on most of the food, too.
“Hi, Myles.” A sticky-sweet female voice made him cringe.
Uh-oh. Here was one more reason for Karen to frown at him: Daisy-Mae Ray. The woman had made a career of fawning over him, and until recently he’d never minded one bit. He turned to the bleached blonde sashaying toward him in sparkly cowboy boots. Her hair was as large as her ego and her denim shirt so short she probably couldn’t lift her arms without revealing something round.
She was his type. Or at least had been for a very long time.
But as Myles approached his thirtieth year he found himself looking for more in terms of conversation, and he knew from experience it wouldn’t come from Daisy-Mae. She wasn’t slow-witted, but she wasn’t interested in changing her world, other than possibly adding a husband to the mix.
She sat beside him on the hay bale, her hand landing on his thigh with a firm squeeze that made him tense. Angling close, she ran a finger down the front of the light sweater he was wearing under a blazer.
“Did you just come from a funeral?” Daisy-Mae leaned her chest against him as though ready to provide comfort should he say the word.
He had chosen something a bit dressier tonight because apparently he was into being obvious. Normally he wore a Sweetheart Creek Torpedoes football jersey, or a T-shirt that showed off his muscles. Or if he was feeling particularly dressy, a Western shirt.
But never a blazer.
Daisy-Mae was petting him now and he gently extracted her hands, clasping them between his own. “I’m okay. Really.”
“I’ve been lonely lately,” she said, those glossy pink lips of hers pouting in an open invitation to kiss them, to get lost in her for a while.
“You know, Brant is single.” He might as well throw his middle brother under the bus.
He liked to play rescue hero for the women around town, stepping in as a fake boyfriend whenever they needed one to ward off suitors. Daisy-Mae didn’t need to ward anyone off at the moment, but Myles did.
“We used to have fun times, you and me.” Her fingers were tangling in the neckline of his sweater, stretching it. He felt she might be one second from ripping it over his head.
“What went wrong?”
He scooted away, then stood. “We did have fun. You know, Brant thinks you’re hot.”
Which was true. Pretty much every man in town found Daisy-Mae attractive on some level.
“I took my princess, Ella, to him the other day because she was acting funny, and he said she was just fine.”
“Maybe she was?”
Brant was down-to-earth and empathetic, and his career as the town veterinarian worked like an ever-present wingman in the dating arena. Women took their pets to him for the strangest reasons in hopes of landing a date or an engagement ring. So far everyone seemed to be striking out.
“Will you dance with me tonight?” Daisy-Mae batted her lashes, giving him a helpless, innocent look that used to work on him like a charm.
“Sorry, I’m stuck on the door shift.” He gestured to the donation jar. “For the horses.”
She turned toward the open barn. Inside, the dance floor was filling up, lit by bare bulbs hanging on strings above, while the tables along the edges were crowded by people enjoying the community potluck. Ryan was walking by again, and Daisy-Mae hustled forward, snagging his sleeve and pulling him out the door.
“Ryan, honey, we have a problem.”
“What’s that?” he asked, looking distracted. He took a sip from his bottle of root beer.
“I need to dance with Myles, but he has to watch the door.”
Behind her, Myles shook his head and dragged a finger across his throat.
“I would be happy to solve that problem for you, Daisy-Mae,” Ryan said all too graciously. “Let me take over so Myles can spin you around the dance floor for as long as y’all would like.”
Daisy-Mae wiggled with happiness and, beaming, took Myles by the hand and hauled him into the barn.
“I owe you one,” Myles said over his shoulder, his tone flat and emotionless.
“Enjoy yourself,” his brother called back, settling onto the hay bale with a self-satisfied grin before finishing off Myles’s last hot wing.
On the dance floor Myles held out his arms and sucked in a deep breath as Daisy-Mae skittered closer. Her skimpy outfit meant he was either going to have to put his palm on some of her exposed skin or a little too low on her denim skirt to be polite.
Why did country dancing involve having the man’s hand on a woman’s waist, anyway?
Because when it came right down to it, there was only one woman he wanted to have his hands on, and he was pretty sure, judging from the way the librarian had just turned her back, that she wanted nothing to do with him.
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Copyright Jean Oram 2020