Too Hot To Trot (#3, Cowboy Way)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Too Hot To Trot

 

The Cowboy Way, Book 3

Zack’s Story

 

 

Becky McGraw

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Acknowledgements

 

Thank you to the amazingly knowledgeable and incredibly beautiful Officer Cheri Vincent Bower, with the Louisville Police Department, for not only lending me your ear, but letting me chew it off while we both waited for the new bundle of joy to be born into our families.  Welcome to the world Charlie, my beautiful new granddaughter.  I hope you are just as kind and patient as your aunt, as determined and persistent as your grandma, and as beautiful, smart and strong as your amazing mother.

 

Be sure to check out all of the books in the:

Texas Trouble Series by Becky McGraw:

 

Book #1 -
My Kind of Trouble (Cassie & Luke)

Book #2 -
The Trouble With Love (Sabrina & Cole)

Book #3 -
Double the Trouble (Karlie & Gabe)

Book #4 -
Looking for Trouble (Jess & Wade)

Book #5 -
Trouble in Dixie (Katie & Tommy)

Book #6 -
Asking for Trouble (Jazzie & Beau)

Book #7 -
Chasing Trouble (Jenny & Chase)

Book #8 -
Here Comes Trouble (Terri & Joel)

Book #9 -
Worth the Trouble (Roxanne & Ethan)

Book #10 -
Royal Trouble (Leigh Ann & Wes)

Book #11 -
Trouble With the Law (Veronica & Trace)

Book #12 –
Borrowing Trouble (Carrie & Dylan)

 

The Cowboy Way

Hope for Christmas (A Cowboy Way Novella)

Just Shoot Me (#1, Cowboy Way, Dean’s story)

Cowgirl Crazy (#2, Cowboy Way, Ryan’s story)

Cupid’s Cowboy (A Cowboy Way Novella)

Too Hot To Trot (#3, Cowboy Way)

              Where There’s Smoke (A Cowboy Way novella) coming in August 2015

 

New Series – Deep Six Security

A new erotic romantic suspense series featuring ex-military, ex-cop, security specialist and private investigator, Dave Logan, from the Texas Trouble series and his hot men. 

Till Death (#1, Deep Six Security)

Twisted Honor (#2, Deep Six Security) –coming in June 2015

Hell Bent (#3, Deep Six Security)--coming in 2015

 

This is a work of fiction.  Names, characters, places and incidents are products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real.  Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

TOO HOT TO TRO
T
, Copyright © April, 2015 by Becky McGraw. 

ISBN-10:  1943188009

ISBN-13: 978-1-943188-00-0

 

All rights reserved under International and Pan American Copyright Conventions.  By payment of the required fees, you have been granted the nonexclusive, nontransferable right to access and read the text of this e-book on screen.  No part of this text may be reproduced, transmitted, downloaded, decompiled, reverse-engineered, or stored in or introduced into any information storage and retrieval system, in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical, now known or hereinafter invented, without the express written permission of the author.

 

Chapter One

 


Twins
?!?” Zack’s hand tightened on the flak jacket he was about to fasten.  Anger raised his scalp off of his skull, and his voice lowered a notch.  “You tell that husband of yours I’m coming for him as soon as the finals are done here.”  He had a two week break before the next season started, and his best friend and now brother-in-law, Ryan Easter, had an ass-whooping coming to him.  Not only had he knocked up Zack’s sister, he’d evidently endangered her life too.  According to Twyla, she was probably going to be put on bedrest before this was all over near the end of November because she was considered a ‘high-risk’ pregnancy. 

If something happened to her…Ryan Easter was a dead man.

“Calm down, Zack!  I told mom and dad a week ago when I got my bloodwork back, but I had to wait another week for the ultrasound to confirm it.  I knew you’d act this way, that’s why I waited to tell you.  It’s not Ryan’s fault, and I’m
fine
!  The doctor said the bedrest is only a precaution to make sure the babies bake to full-term.”

Calm down
?  His parents had abandoned the ranch to move to Arizona, were about to sell it, and now this?  How much more was one man supposed to take?  “I accepted my so-called best friend going behind my back to have sex with you, to marry you, but I’m not about to sit still while he turns you into a goddamn broodmare, Twyla.”

“I’m happy about this, Zack,
we’re
happy!  Stop being an asshole and be happy for us too.  I just wanted to tell you that I wouldn’t be able to go to the Dixon ranch to check on things anymore.  The drive is just too much for me.  I also have Mary to look after and Ryan is too busy with our own herd.”

At that moment Zack almost wanted to follow his parents to Arizona to retire there himself.  To play golf and not worry about anything other than whether it would rain the next day.  But he had a long row to hoe before he got to that point.  His father’s decision to retire now meant he had decisions to make too.  A lot sooner than he wanted to make them.

I’ve raised my kids, worked my time, and now it’s time to have some fun
.  

His father’s words were true.  Ronald Taylor had worked hard for them, too hard, from sunup to sundown, for the thirty years Zack had been privileged to have him as a father.  It was time for him to take his golf clubs, which he’d only used out in the pasture for practice on Sunday afternoons, to a real course for a change.  To relax and enjoy life.

But when would it be Zack’s turn

It was selfish, but Zack just wished his dad would have waited two more years.  Then he would have been ready too.  He could retire from bull riding and have enough saved to fund his second career, his own retirement plan—moving his rough stock herd to the family ranch and becoming a stock contractor.  Retiring right now, while he was at the top of his game, winning every round of every competition along with a shit ton of money, would be financial suicide.  Especially since not a year ago his account was almost depleted when he bought out Ryan Easter’s interest in the herd, so he and Twyla could build a house on their ranch.  He was gradually gaining ground from the contracts the Dixon’s managed for him, but it was slow going getting established.

“Zack?  You still there?”

Twyla’s voice woke him up, and he heaved a breath.  “I’ve got to go, Twy—my turn to draw is coming up.”

“Well get your eight and stay safe.  Don’t you dare get hooked, because there’s no way I can take care of your ugly ass right now.”

“Twyla Renee!  Don’t you
dare
go there…”  His sister had been a barrel racer, she knew the rodeo, and knew better than to talk to him that way.  Bullriders were some of the most superstitious men on earth, and warnings like that were definitely not welcome.  “I’m always careful—you know that.”

She laughed, and still added, “Just keep your feet under you and head for the fence when you take a dirt bath.  It’s not televised tonight, and you know I hate when I can’t see you ride.  You also know Lucky gets distracted when the Equine Angels are there.”

Zack wished he hadn’t told her earlier that Lucky was one of the bullfighters that night.  Or that the stunt riders were performing later.  The last thing he needed was her worrying about him.  Twyla had enough on her plate right now.  Twins. 
Shit
.  “Lucky gets distracted when
any
girls are around.  They need to put blinders on the man.” 

“Oh, I forgot to tell you…”  At the tone in her voice, her trailing words, Zack tensed up as he waited for the other shoe to drop.  “Heather is performing there tonight.  Please say hey to her if you get a minute.”  The knot in his stomach became a boulder.  “She’s probably nervous since this is her first big performance.”

“I don’t have a thing to say to that woman,” Zack replied quickly.  Twyla’s supposed
best friend
was the last person he wanted to see tonight.  Or ever.  Best friends did not encourage their friends to leave barrel racing to come to Houston to dance at a cowgirl strip club. 

From the minute he saw the beautiful brunette sashay into the arena in Tulsa in those cutoff jean shorts with old Tim Clemons, Zack knew she was trouble with a capital T, and definitely too hot to trot.  It was more than obvious to him and everyone else on the circuit that she wasn’t there to clean stalls like Tim said when he introduced her.  She was there to clean old Tim’s pipes in his rusty travel trailer at night.  Zack had no idea where Tim picked her up, but he knew it wasn’t at a cotillion ball.  She had hard and experienced written all over her.

Zack avoided her and warned his sister to stay away from her too, but Twyla wasn’t one to be told what to do. 
Because
he told her that, she latched onto Heather, called her friend, and let him know clearly there wasn’t a damned thing he could do about it.  Other than watch them like a hawk when they were together, which he did. 

It was a good thing he had too.

After Tim left the circuit, Heather joined the color guard and every single cowboy on the circuit was sniffing after her.  One of the riders got drunk after a rodeo and decided he was tired of her teasing.  He got rough, and because Twyla was with her, Zack felt the need to step in to save her.  Big mistake.  For his trouble, he got sprayed with mace intended for the cowboy. 

He learned a few lessons that night.  The first was the woman was a wildcat—
feral
—more than capable of defending herself.  The second was he probably shouldn’t have told her what he thought of her and his take on the reason it happened after she helped him clean out his eyes in the bathroom.  That earned him a second dose of pepper spray,
and
a knee to the nuts. 

Zack wasn’t sorry to see her sexy backside as she left the rodeo the next day, and laughed at the finger she threw him out her truck window on her way down the exit road.  Secretly though, he would always wonder what that wildcat would be like in bed.  Tim, and several of the other riders probably had the scars on their backs to tell the tale, but Zack would never know, which was his only regret to seeing the last of her.  He’d sworn off one-nighters a long time ago though, and Heather Morrison would certainly never qualify as anything more with him.  The ideal woman in his life plan was
nothing
like her, so he didn’t go there with her.  But damn, he sure thought about it a few times.

Twyla let out a long-winded sigh.  “Zack—just say hello to her and make sure she’s okay for me. 
Please
?”

It was his turn to sigh.  He thought his babysitting days ended the day Twyla said I do to Ryan Easter, but Zack knew he’d never get off the phone with her if he didn’t agree.  “I’ll say hello to her
if
I see her.”  He would just keep focused on his job, riding the damn bulls he drew, so he
didn’t
see her.  Problem solved.

“Promise me, Zack,” Twyla persisted.

“I’ve got to go,” he ground out as he pushed the end call button. 

Zack didn’t have time to argue, and he didn’t need to be distracted by finding someone he didn’t want to see.  He also didn’t need mace in his eyes before he rode if he happened to say the wrong thing to Heather Morrison.  Tossing his phone onto the top shelf of his locker, he quickly snapped on his vest, grabbed his hat and rigging, and headed toward the bull pen. 

***

Heather Morrison forced the last note of her fifteenth, and thankfully last, song past her raw vocal chords.  Before the echo faded, feet banged on bleachers in a rising crescendo to mix with wolf whistles and applause, charging her already endorphin and sweat-soaked body with renewed energy.  This was a fluke, she reminded herself, but that didn’t stop a grin from spreading ear to ear as she took a deep bow.  She had never experienced this kind of rush in her life.  The buzz inside the rodeo arena was practically a living, breathing thing and it was addictive.

Don’t get used to it, you’re only here because the main act decided to get drunk and violent which got him arrested and you a longer set
.   Feeling slightly lightheaded as she swooped back up, Heather wobbled as she walked toward the side stage waving to the roaring crowd.  At the top of the back stairs, she handed off her guitar to a stagehand, but stopped when she saw handsome Jase Sutter at the foot of the stairs.  He had hit the lottery tonight too, because he was now the main act when he’d been only the second warmup.

“You killed it kiddo,” he complimented with a wide grin.  “I don’t know how I’m gonna follow that act.  They’ll probably give me the hook after my first song.”

“Bullshit,” she replied, knowing it when she heard it.  “You’re going to slay them, and when you’re done they’ll be going Heather who?”  The same thing people had been doing at her performances for five years now.  She definitely wasn’t letting her head get big over her success here tonight.  It was a fluke.

She needed to catch a real break soon, grab the attention of someone who could really help her, not someone like Glen Parsons, her shady agent.  Otherwise she would have to figure out what she was going to do for the rest of her life.  Dancing at a cowboy men’s club and singing in smoke-filled dive bars wasn’t cutting it anymore.  Even though the money was more than decent, it wasn’t how she wanted to, or could, spend the rest of her life earning money.  Her looks would fade and so would her tips. 

At twenty-seven, Heather wasn’t a spring chicken anymore, and her thirtieth birthday was looming closer every day.  Yeah, she had three more years, but that would turn into two in December.  One day soon, the men at the Crazy Cowgirl wouldn’t give her a second glance because there would be fresher and much younger dancers on that bar.  Her tips would dry up, and she would be a has-been at even that.

Where would she be then with no high school diploma, college education or prospects, not to mention no birth certificate or social security number
?

Living under the bridge again most likely, worrying about where she’d get her next meal, where she’d sleep the next night or wondering who was going to try to take what few nickels she’d scrounged for the day.  But the life she’d lived from fifteen to eighteen years old, as rough as it had been, had taught her one thing—how to survive.  Because of the survival skills she’d learned, she knew regardless of what happened tomorrow with her singing career, or the dancing, she would be okay.  She just had to suck it up and figure things out if it came to that, because nobody was going to do it for her.  Heather had decided long ago that she was better off alone.  As lonely as it was sometimes, she didn’t need friends.

Getting attached to people, letting them get close to her, only meant she made herself vulnerable to them.  It opened the window for her to accidentally slip and say something that would lead to them wanting to know her secrets.  Being alone, keeping her business to herself, meant she could stay safe.  Even old Tim had no clue where she’d come from or why.

Twyla Taylor was the exception.  When she moved in with Tim, like a persistent fly, the cowgirl buzzed around her head until Heather finally let her inside, accepted the friendship she was determined they were going to have.  She pushed and pushed, because according to Twyla, a woman with a very steady family who owned a ranch somewhere near Houston, she was alone too.  The only person she had on the circuit was her overbearing, judgmental older brother Zack, and Twyla did everything she could to get out from under his thumb. 

Heather helped her friend do that every chance she got, but she earned an enemy in the process.  The brooding bullrider watched them like a hawk when they were together, and she could feel his disdain for her, and his anger a mile away.  Heather took that as a challenge and loved seeing his frustration when they sidestepped him.  She considered it entertainment.

But things had changed now.  Twyla was married, and they had nothing in common anymore.  Her friend was living on a ranch, taking care of her new husband, watching the grass grow, and Heather couldn’t imagine a more boring existence.  She would probably never see her again, just like she’d hoped to never see Twyla’s brother.  Zack Taylor was here tonight though, probably to ride.  She’d felt his eyes on her, even before he showed himself trying to talk to her backstage, but she had nothing left to say to the asshole.  The day she left the rodeo behind, she said everything she needed to say to him with her middle finger.  If he tried to corner her again tonight, she’d give him the same as she had the night before she left—mace in his handsome face, and a knee to his ego-inflated balls.

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