Authors: Jodi Thomas,Linda Broday,Phyliss Miranda,Dewanna Pace
Tags: #Fiction, #Romance, #Historical, #General
“Are you all right?” She moved to his side and brushed her fingers over the knot on his forehead.
He caught her hand and held it for a moment before letting her go. “I was just thinking of all that needs to be done. I’ll ride in with you in the morning and pick up seed. It may be a week before I’ll have the field ready, but I’ll want the seeds when I do.”
“Stop thinking about work, husband, and come to bed.” He’d worked twice as hard as she had today, and she was exhausted. She moved to her side of the bed and climbed in. He did the same.
He lifted his arm and she lay an inch away from him. After a few minutes he shifted to face her and touched her cheek with his hand. “It was a good day, Valerie,” he said so low she wondered if he knew he’d said the words aloud. “The best I’ve had in longer than I remember.”
“I’m glad,” she added. “I feel like we’ve got a strong plan, and for the first time in years, I seemed to be working toward a goal of more than just existing.”
His hand traced her jaw and moved to the lace at her throat, then slowly trailed down the front of her gown, touching the tiny pearl buttons that ran from just below her chin to her waist. There had to be thirty buttons. It might as well have been thirty locks between the two of them.
“What are you doing?” she asked, afraid he’d tell her to lift her gown.
“I’m getting my mind off work by thinking you have way too many buttons to unbutton,” he said as his hand stopped moving just between her breasts. “I feel your heart pounding, Valerie. Tell me to stop if you don’t want this, but I find I do like touching you.”
Collections by Jodi Thomas, Linda Broday, Phyliss Miranda, and DeWanna Pace
GIVE ME A TEXAN
GIVE ME A COWBOY
GIVE ME A TEXAS RANGER
GIVE ME A TEXAS OUTLAW
A TEXAS CHRISTMAS
BE MY TEXAS VALENTINE
Published by Kensington Publishing Corp.
Be My Texas Valentine
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.
All copyrighted material within is Attributor Protected.
Table of Contents
The Valentine’s Curse
Broderick Monroe shouldered his saddle and moved across the corral toward the barn. He wore a week’s worth of trail dirt sweated into his clothes and hadn’t slept in three days or eaten in two. All he wanted to do was make sure his horse had plenty of food and fall into his bunk. After about eight hours’ sleep, he’d have enough energy to wash and eat whatever the cook had left over on the stove.
“That you, Brody?” someone yelled from just inside the darkened barn. “I thought you’d make it in before dawn and looks like I was right.”
Brody, as everyone in this part of the world called him, didn’t answer. In the year he’d been at the Double R, he’d learned to keep quiet. Though it had been almost two years since the War Between the States ended, Southerners in Texas still didn’t like the sound of a Yankee working among them. Brody had managed to find a pocket in East Texas where every man he worked with had either fought for the South or lost loved ones in the war. He’d thought of moving on, but it had taken him months to find this job and even the cook’s leftovers were better than nothing to eat.
Caleb, the broken-down cowhand who took care of the barn and most of the gear, followed him through the darkness to the tack room. “You know, Brody, I’d clean your tack for you and take care of that devil of a horse you ride. It’s part of my job.”
“I do my own.” He’d learned the hard way a month after he’d arrived and his saddle girth had been cut.
The old man leaned against a bench in the tack room. “Truth be told, I’m surprised you made it back this early. I figured you’d try to avoid this evening if you could, what with the dance and all.”
“I finished the job. I plan to sleep through the dance. It’s none of my concern.” Brody knew that half the time the other cowhands made bets on whether he’d make it back alive. He always drew the worst assignments. If an animal was hurt or dying or crazy with loco weed, he rode out alone. Probably the only reason he hadn’t been fired was because he kept more cattle from dying than anyone on the place.
“I knew if anyone could get those cattle out of the canyon, you could. Boss told me he’d already written them off for a loss so any you saved was money in the bank.”
“I got eleven out and closed the gap that let them into that tiny canyon with enough rocks to stop any more from wandering in. Had to leave one. She was about to calf.” Brody thought that if a storm didn’t come in the next few weeks, he’d find time to go back and get her and the calf. He didn’t like leaving the cow, but at least she could defend herself and there was enough buffalo grass to eat. The calf would be no match for a coyote, though.
Caleb rolled a cigarette with fingers so busted up they looked to have extra knuckles. “You may not care nothing about people, Brody, but you do seem to like animals, and I can’t fault a man for that.”
Brody didn’t need the old man’s praise. He didn’t need anyone. He’d learned a long time ago that an animal, any animal, was more predictable than a human. He’d gone through the war sending his money home to buy a farm, only to find that his sweetheart was living on the place his money had bought with her new husband and had been for almost three years while she wrote him loving letters.
When he’d asked why she didn’t wait, she’d said simply that she was just holding on to Brody in letters until someone better came along.
“You best get cleaned up.” Caleb had been talking, but Brody hadn’t been listening.
“You may think you can sleep, but every man’s got to attend. Before the sun sets, this place will be all decorated for Mrs. Molly Clair’s annual Valentine’s Party. Folks will be riding in from any ranch within thirty miles. Red and white ribbons will be on every pole in the place. Every single gal from fourteen to eighty will be here.”
“I’m not interested.”
Caleb laughed. “Well, you better get interested. Mrs. Molly Clair says every one of the men on the place including me better be dancing ready because she’s not having a girl going home without having worn a blister or two.”
Brody walked out of the barn as the sun came up. He had no intention of attending a party. With all that was happening, no one would notice if he slept the night away. No one ever noticed him.
Men were leaving the bunkhouse, heading over to breakfast, as he walked in. A few cowhands had warmed up enough to give him a nod now and then, but most ignored him completely. He thought of grabbing a bite before he turned in, but reconsidered. It wasn’t worth the hassle. When he tried to eat with the others, he was always reminded that he wasn’t one of them.
The bunkhouse cleared as he propped his boots on the porch and removed his spurs. He walked to the back of the large quarters and found his bunk in the privacy of a little built-on bay that had once stored wood. It was drafty, cold in winter and hot in summer, but it was away from the others.
Brody stripped down to his long johns and crammed his dirty clothes into an already full bag. All he had left was his go-to-town clothes, a white shirt and black wool trousers. He’d have to wear them to work in if he didn’t go into town soon.
Unlike the others, he didn’t pay the cook to wash his laundry. The first time he had, the shirts had been ripped and the jeans looked like they’d only been dunked in water once then left to dry in a ball. He’d used his entire first month’s pay to buy enough clothes to last until he could have the laundry in town do them. Most hands rode into town on Saturday nights, but Brody picked Monday morning. The boss would have probably said something, but his wife, Mrs. Molly Clair, always had a list of things she needed.
After putting his few belongings away, as he’d been taught in the army, Brody finally tumbled into bed, too exhausted to care about anything beyond the plank walls of his little room.
He didn’t know if he’d slept an hour or a dozen, but he awoke with a start when someone kicked his bunk.