I'm thrilled to announce that the first book in my all-new series for Harlequin American Romance, Rodeo Rebels, hits bookstores this month. Rodeo Daddy is a book dear to my heart and has seen many, many re-writes through the years. The book was written well before I sold my first manuscript to Harlequin in 2003. Unable to find a home for the book, I tossed it into a desk drawer and forgot about it.
Not long ago I was asked to write book 2, Dexter: Honorable Cowboy (July 2010), for the first ever Harlequin American Romance continuity--The Codys: First Family of Rodeo. Writing a book about a Wyoming family of rodeo stars was great fun and I was hooked on the rodeo plotline. There's something so romantic and sigh-worthy about cowboys who live to tame wild broncs and crazed bulls and the women who live to tame those cowboys. I pulled out the old manuscript, blew off the dust and went to work re-writing the story once more. This time I got lucky and my editors bought the book.
The first two books in the series, Rodeo Daddy (April 2011) and The Bull Rider's Secret (July 2011) take place in Texas while the third "untitled" book (Dec 2011) is set in New Mexico and Las Vegas. Following these three books is another group of Rodeo Rebel stories set in Arizona with plots revolving around ladies bull riding.
He's Nothing But Eight Seconds Of Heartache...
The day Hallie Sutton dreaded has finally come. Drew Rawlins has found out the secret she’s been keeping--and he’s spitting mad! But the rodeo is Drew’s whole world and Hallie needs a full-time dad for their boy. Still, how can she deny the injured bronc rider the chance to get to know his son? All Drew wants is to carve out a place in his son’s life. Sorting out his feelings for Hallie isn’t as simple. The emotion simmering between them is just as strong—so’s the red-hot desire that got them into trouble five years ago. Winning the world championship is still number-one on Drew’s list. But he figures he can have it all. The title and the chance to prove he’s the man Hallie and Nick need.
"The Bastrop Homecoming Rodeo must be a hell of an event. You're the third cowboy today who's fallen off his horse."
Drew Rawlins glared at the ER doctor as he sucked in a lung full of sterilized air. Not smart. A burning band of pain squeezed his injured ribs, and the words escaped his mouth in a long wheeze. "I was bucked off."
"I'm Doctor Feller." The doctor flipped on the light box mounted against the wall and studied Drew's x-ray.
Drew prayed he wouldn't draw another crazed bronc like Demon the day after tomorrow when he competed in the final round of the saddle bronc competition. He'd been lucky today to escape with a kick to the chest.
"Your ribs are badly bruised. I recommend taking a few weeks off before you ride again." In order to make the National Finals Rodeo in December, Drew needed to be among the top fifteen saddle bronc riders in the country. Today was August sixth—he was running out of time. His body broke out in a sweat that had nothing to do with pain.
"You've got callus new bone formations on five of your ribs." The doctor pointed to several spots on the x-ray.
So he'd fractured a few ribs over the years—Drew had fared better than most cowboys who'd competed at the sport as long as he had."You're lucky you didn't break a rib."
"I don't need luck, doc." Drew chuckled, then winced as a flash of fiery pain snaked around his middle.
"Rib injuries are nothing to joke about." Feller leaned against the wall. "A fractured rib can puncture a lung, liver, spleen or worse."
Worse. The word sent a shiver down Drew's spine. He'd been ten years old when the famous bull rider Lane Frost had died at the Cheyenne Frontier Days Rodeo. After Frost had ridden Taking Care of Business and dismounted, the bull had turned and hit him in the side with his horn, breaking the cowboy's ribs. Frost had gotten up and headed toward the chutes, but had stumbled. When he'd hit the ground, a broken rib had severed his pulmonary artery, ending his life.
"Keep testing fate, cowboy, and you'll die with a mouthful of dirt or end up connected to a ventilator the rest of your life." The doctor waved his hand in the air. "Either way, the horse comes out the winner."
The solemn warning spawned a flashback… Drew struggled to block out today's eight-second ride, but the image of the crazed gelding's hoof coming at him while he lay unprotected in the dirt had been branded on his brain. "No worries. I don't plan to let another bronc stand on my chest." Drew was thirty-two. No longer in the prime of his life—physically. He'd been bustin' broncs for fourteen years and time was running out. If he ever had a chance at becoming a world champion, this was the year.
He needed the damned title to prove his dead father wrong—that Drew Rawlins hadn't wasted half his life chasing a crazy dream. His father had been a rising star in bareback riding when he'd gotten Drew's mother pregnant. In order to support Drew and his mother, his father had given up rodeo and helped manage his father-in-law's small-town grocery store. To this day Drew believed his father had resented him because having a family had kept the old man from achieving his dream of making it to the National Finals Rodeo. When Drew had graduated from high school and announced he intended to ride the circuit his father had scoffed, insisting Drew didn't have what it took to be a champion. Drew ignored the old man, his focus solely on winning the grand daddy of 'em all. But the big one had eluded him. Drew had made it to the NFR the year his father had died—a decade ago—but he'd placed last. Last wasn't good enough. Most cowboys with half a brain would have retired by now, but Drew had never forgotten his father's dying words before the cancer had taken him. "You ain't never gonna be as good as I was."
Angry at himself for allowing the memory to resurface, Drew inched closer to the edge of the examining table. He had plenty of experience with injured ribs. As long as he moved carefully and took shallow breaths, he could tolerate the pain.
"No rodeos for three weeks." Dr. Feller scribbled on a pad of paper.
Drew kept his mouth shut. Bruised ribs would not prevent him from competing in the final go-round on Sunday. He needed the thousand dollar jackpot to boost his earnings. The doctor handed him a prescription. "For pain."
Pain was good. If he focused on the pain, there would be no room in his head for his father's taunts. "My boots are missing," he said, after spotting his shirt thrown across the chair in the corner.
Ignoring Drew, the doctor rambled on. "You have a chance of developing pneumonia after a rib trauma. Take deep breaths and cough every hour to keep your lungs clear. An ice pack will help you feel more comfortable." He handed Drew his shirt.
"Does a nurse by the name of Hallie Sutton work here?" Drew clenched his teeth against the heat searing his side when he slipped his arm into the shirtsleeve.
"How do you know Ms. Sutton?"
Ms. Hallie hadn't married? "She put a dozen stitches in my head five years ago."
Every year Drew competed in the Bastrop Homecoming Rodeo. And each time he searched for Hallie in the stands. Once, he'd driven to the hospital to look her up but had chickened out at the last minute and left town.
Just because you never forget your one night with her doesn't mean she hasn't. He remembered walking into Cozie's bar and spotting Hallie sitting at a table with her co-workers. When their gazes met, he'd been struck by the sadness in her brown eyes and had wondered what had happened to the cheerful, talkative nurse who'd stitched his head earlier in the afternoon. The abject misery reflected in Hallie's expression had drawn him to her. Before he'd realized his actions, he'd asked her to dance. At first, she'd refused, then at the prodding of her freinds she'd allowed him to lead her onto the dance floor. Drew closed his eyes as the memory swept him away…
"Want to talk about it?" he'd whispered in Hallie's ear.
"No." She'd burrowed into him as if seeking protection from whatever had tormented her.
He'd held her close and they'd danced forever—at least eight songs. Then the band had taken a break and so had Hallie's friends—they'd left the bar. Hallie's forlorn expression had yanked Drew's heartstrings. "Need a lift home?"
"I don't want to go home." Her brown eyes had shimmered with tears.
"We could keep dancing," he'd offered.
"C'mon." He'd grabbed her hand and led her outside. The August night had been warm and muggy. "There's a coffee shop down the road." When she hadn't taken him up on the suggestion he'd thrown caution to the wind. "My camper's parked a few blocks away. We could talk there."
Hallie had stared at him for the longest time before she'd slipped her arm through his. "Okay."
The one word had sent Drew's blood thundering through his veins. They'd walked in silence—Drew preparing for anything once they reached the camper—anything except Hallie jumping his bones as soon as they'd stepped inside.
Twice, he'd attempted to take the high road and put a stop to her advances. Hallie might not have been drunk, but she hadn't been herself, either. He'd been no match for her persistence. Her touches and kisses had been edged with desperation, and her urgency fueled his desire for her. Their union had been as combustible as a four-alarm fire.
"These will hold you over until you fill the prescription." The doctor held out two pain pills and a Dixie cup of water.
"Thanks." Drew tossed back the medicine.
"If you suffer nausea, dizziness or have trouble breathing—"
"I know the routine."
The noise out of Feller's mouth sounded like the snort a bull gives when a cowboy settles onto its back. Shaking his head, the doctor left the cubicle, white coat tails flapping in his wake.
Drew closed his eyes and focused on the pain. Pain, he could handle.
Giving up rodeo, he could not.
To help kick off my Rodeo rebels series, I've written a *FREE* online read at www.eharlequin.com called The Bull Rider's Surrender. Join the discussion at the end of each chapter and your name will automatically be entered into a drawing for an autographed copy of Rodeo Daddy.