A Cowboy for Alyssa: Burlap and Barbed Wire
Alyssa Jefferson turned her red Chevy Equinox into the driveway for the Rockin’ K ranch, under the sign declaring it as such, and over the cattle grate. She was excited to start her spring internship as a veterinary assistant. The Colorado State University had hooked her up with this internship near the town of Spirit Lake in the beautiful Colorado Rockies for the second half of the spring semester, which was the last class that would complete her degree.
Her dad had tried to entice her to do her internship on his ranch, promising to let her play vet with their tiny herd, but she knew they would all pat her on the head and treat her like she was still eight years old, and not a senior in college, nearly finished with her bachelor’s degree in biomedical science. Plus, it didn’t seem fair to go back home for this last class. So, she’d told him that she would come home for summer after graduation. She could stay on at the Rockin’ K through the summer if she wanted to, but summers were the slow season for veterinarians on a ranch. Most of the summer was spent fixing fences and growing hay for the winter. Until late July or early August when they would start breeding. Cattle ranches were always busy, but the work changed with the seasons.
She’d told the Kipling family she would be arriving today, but had not given them an exact time. She drove down the driveway and over a small bridge crossing over the top of a creek, definitely not the Colorado River, which had to run through their property somewhere. Once she’d crossed the creek and gotten past the trees she could see the house, it was a huge house, and not far from it was an even bigger barn, and a corral. Behind all of that was a gorgeous meadow with the Rockies in the background. The view was spectacular.
She turned into the parking area and got out of her car and stretched, deciding to leave her bags in the car until after she’d talked to someone from the family. She’d dressed up for her first meeting with them with her best jeans, a satin shirt, a leather fringed jacket, and her dress-up cowboy boots. The ones she wore for parties, instead of her working boots. Makeup and jewelry completed the look which was a rare occurrence for her. Alyssa had laughed at her reflection in the mirror this morning, thinking about the first time her third-grade teacher had come out to their home for a ride with the family. It had been her first date with Alyssa’s widowed father and Ellen had dressed like Alyssa was dressed today, minus the jacket. Not at all practical for a ride or working on a ranch, but Alyssa was there to meet new people, so she felt it was appropriate attire for today.
A man came out of the barn, so she walked around the front of the car to greet him. Whoa, they grow them sexy here in Colorado—the guy is a hottie. He had black curly hair and blue eyes, and wore traditional cowboy garb of jeans and a chambray shirt that fit him to perfection, and showed every bit of his finely-tuned self. This internship is going to be even better than I thought, with that eye candy running around.
* * *
Beau groaned when he saw the woman come around the front of her red SUV. A city slicker for sure. No one in their right mind would come for their first riding lesson in a satin shirt, brand-new jeans, a leather jacket, and fancy hand tooled boots. She was going to be a hot mess after the lesson—he usually started a greenhorn with some grooming instructions. That way the rider became more familiar with the horse, before getting up on the animal. Especially the timid ones—and he’d been told this one was supposed to be scared to death. The town sheriff, Drake Carlson, had asked if they would teach his new girlfriend to ride, and they had agreed.
Great. How he’d drawn the short straw to teach this one he had no clue. She looked to be in her early twenties, and why someone that age was hooking up with a man in his fifties was beyond him. Sure, Drake was a nice guy and had plenty of cash to show a lady a good time, but he wasn’t a millionaire or anything like that, so why was this sweet young thing with him? And why was Drake with her? He was usually much more sensible about his women.
None of his business—his job was to teach her that horses were not scary, and they were easy to ride. As long as you got a docile one, and he’d picked the perfect mare for her. He slapped his hat against his leg and walked over to the woman.
“Hello, welcome to the Rockin’ K. I’m Beau Kipling.”
“Hi, Beau. I’m Alyssa Jefferson.” She smiled at him and every brain cell deserted him. He didn’t hear another word she said. The woman was a knock out up close, and that smile was killer. She had green eyes that drew him in and a sweetheart mouth. Her brown hair was long, halfway to her waist and not curly, but not quite straight either. She finished talking and held out her hand to shake. He automatically took her hand in his and lightening shot through him at the touch. That just pissed him off, this gorgeous young thing was going out with a man over twice her age. He had never had this kind of reaction to a woman in his life, and she was taken by an old guy. Damn it all to hell. He wanted nothing to do with her and her riding lessons.
He sneered down at her clothes. “Those are pretty fancy clothes to be wearing out here on the ranch. I suppose you think you can dress like a princess and not get dirty. Horses are animals, and they get dirty. If you are going to be working with them and riding them, you can’t be wearing satin and lace, princess.”
Alyssa’s cheeks flooded with color and she opened her mouth. “I know, I just—”
“Save it. Follow me.” He glared at her and then started marching toward the barn. He pointed at the corral. “That is a corral, and this is a barn. The big scary horses are in the barn. It’s where we stable them when they are not out in the pasture. I’ve got a nice old mare for you to ride that shouldn’t scare your little self too much. But first, you are going to learn how to groom her.”
“But I know—”
“Save it.” He took a curry comb down off a peg and handed it to her. “This is a curry comb. It’s kind of like a hair brush for horses. It helps to remove mud and other muck off the horse.” Deciding to be a real jerk, he started handing her every grooming item he could find, piling them into her hands with a smart-ass comment on what they were for. He knew he was being an ass, but he just couldn’t stop himself—he was too pissed off at her being some old man’s arm candy.
When she couldn’t hold one more item he took the hoof pick down and hung it on her little finger. “That’s a hoof pick, you clean rocks and debris out of the horse’s hoof with it.”
“Beau, I think you’ve mistaken me—”
“Oh, no mistake about it, princess. I just don’t like women who—”
Beau’s younger brother, Chase, came into the barn, speaking before they could see him. “Beau, Drake just called and said he and Mary are running late and will be here in about a half hour.” He rounded the corner and stopped and looked at them. Then he grinned, “You must be Alyssa. I’m Chase. Welcome to the Rockin’ K, I’m glad you made it. Whatever are you doing holding every grooming tool we own?”
He started taking them from her hands and hanging them back up while Beau stood there trying to figure out what in the hell he’d missed. Mary and Drake? Who was this Alyssa, if not Drake’s girlfriend?
“He was showing them to me,” she said simply.
Chase laughed out loud. “Like you’ve never seen them before. I’m guessing you started using them before you were out of grade school.”
“Yeah, I think I was in third grade when my father finally started letting me groom my own horse without assistance. Of course, I was probably five when I started trying. If I was old enough to ride, I was old enough to groom, but he always rechecked everything to make sure I’d done a good job,” she said.
Beau frowned. Third grade? Her own horse? Five?
“Was he giving you a test or something? What a kidder you are, Beau.” Chase slapped his brother on the back.
Beau was still confused. Who in the hell is this girl?
Chase continued, “Why did you bring her into the barn when she’s got her interview and meeting new people clothes on? She’s going to get them dirty, dumbass. Where’s your luggage, Alyssa?”
“In the car.”
“Great, let’s go get it and I’ll show you to your room. It’s going to be great having you here for the next few months.” Chase and Alyssa walked out into the sunshine.
Beau’s brain finally caught up, after forcing its way through the haze of lust and anger. Alyssa Jefferson was the intern from CSU that was going to be working with them over the spring calving season. Her father was part of the Cattlemen’s Association and had known his father for years. She was a barrel racer and a trick rider and had won awards for her riding. He groaned.
Alyssa was gorgeous and single and she was going to be working with him for months and he had just acted like the biggest asshat on the planet.
He threw his hat into the dirt. Damn it all to hell. That’s what I deserve for jumping to conclusions and letting my temper get the best of me. How many times did he have to go around this same fricken mountain before he learned?