The Gallaghers of Montana
LOVE ME, COWGIRL
Disillusioned with love, Dr. Sean Gallagher returns to Marietta to join its expanding medical facility. Marietta’s newest, most eligible bachelor isn’t looking for long-term involvement – especially not with his brother’s much-younger former girlfriend, Honey Jordan. But short term? That’s another matter.
Escaping a toxic relationship with her father, barrel racer Honey spends as little time as possible in Marietta. Home for the 78th Annual Copper Mountain Rodeo, a brief fling with the town’s hottest new doc might be just the thing to distract her until she can leave again.
But when a riding accident strands Honey in Marietta, an affair meant to last a few nights turns into something much deeper, leaving both Sean and Honey torn between the safety of saying goodbye and the heartache of losing what they dare not admit they’ve found — one true and lasting love.
The ladder started it all.
The 78th annual Copper Mountain Rodeo had come to town. Main Street was barricaded at either end, closed to all but foot traffic. Earlier that day the parade had kicked off the festivities. The shops, both old and new, had been open all day, and the owners were now getting ready for the customers they hoped would stop by during the street party on Main Street later that evening.
Sean Gallagher headed to Grey’s Saloon to meet up with his old friends, Wyatt and Cal Marshall, before the evening festivities really began. Main Street was bustling, due partly to its new growth. Sean wasn’t sure he liked it. Marietta was the quintessential small-town Montana, and he hoped it stayed that way.
He heard a “watch out!” and jumped back as a falling ladder missed whacking him in the head by inches.
“What the hell?” He looked up to see a woman dangling from a low rooftop, obviously about to lose her grip any minute.
“Let go,” he said, standing beneath her. “I’ll catch you.”
“I’ve got it. Get out of the way.” She tried, unsuccessfully, to haul herself up.
“It’s quite a drop.”
She looked down at him. “Okay, but don’t blame me if you get hurt.”
“I wouldn’t dream of it.”
She let go and dropped into his arms. He staggered, but held up. She was a lot sturdier than she looked.
She was also gorgeous.
“Thanks. I owe you.” She flashed him a smile and he sucked in his breath.
Damn, she was a looker. Way too young for him, unfortunately. Early twenties max, he decided.
“Sean?” The grin turned to surprise. “Sean Gallagher? Is that you?”
Still holding her, he said, “Guilty. Do we know each other?”
She laughed. “It’s been a long time, but yes.”
“I’m sure I’d remember you if we’d met before.” No way would he forget such a beautiful woman. She was a cozy, totally female armful, which reminded him how long it had been since he’d held a woman in his arms. Wearing jeans, cowboy boots and a worn T-shirt, she looked like a cowgirl. But she smelled like flowers. Not a sweet, cloying scent, but fresh and crisp.
He stared at her and she stared right back. Her midnight-black hair was pulled back in a single braid. Gorgeous blue eyes, dark lashed and full of humor, held him fascinated. Delicate features, with high cheekbones and a lush, kissable mouth. A firm, determined chin. The killer smile that curved her lips was a temptation all its own, but added to the rest of the package, it blew him away.
What the hell was he doing hanging on to her? Hastily, he set her on her feet.
“Thanks,” she repeated, wiping her hands on her jeans. “I suspect that would have hurt.”
“Ya think? What were you doing up there?”
“Stringing lights. The shop owners wanted their building to stand out, so they wanted it outlined with lights. I was drafted to get them up before tonight.”
Sean looked up at the building where part of a strand dangled. “You shouldn’t be up on a ladder that tall without someone to steady it.”
“Yes, well, I didn’t have anyone. Anyway, it was the bird’s fault.” She waved a hand at the building.
“The bird. The one that didn’t want me near its nest.” She sighed. “It was dive-bombing me and I lost my balance.” She picked up the ladder, and with some difficulty, propped it against the building.
“What are you doing?”
“I told you. Putting up lights. They aren’t going to string themselves.”
“Do you have a death wish? You could have been badly hurt and you’re trying again?”
She shot him an amused glance. “Read the shirt. I run barrels. I’ve had a lot of practice falling.”
“You’re not going to do it on my watch.”
“Someone has to. Are you volunteering?”
“Damn straight, I am. Steady the ladder.”
“Yes, sir,” she said, giving him a saucy salute.
Sean gave her a dirty look and climbed the ladder. It didn’t take long to finish the lights, although they had to move the ladder several times.
“My hero,” she said when he’d finished, fluttering her eyelashes. “How can I thank you?”
Oh, he could think of several ways. None of them appropriate.
She must have read his mind, or at least his expression. With a gurgle of laughter, she stepped close and laid a hand on his arm. Standing on her tiptoes, she tugged his head down and kissed his cheek. “Thanks.”
“That wasn’t exactly what I had in mind.” He wanted to know what that luscious mouth would feel like beneath his lips.
Yeah, totally inappropriate.
Her cheeks dimpled when she smiled. “Still no idea who I am?”
He shook his head. “Not a clue.”
She collapsed the ladder and tucked it beneath her arm. “The street party starts in a few hours. Will you be here tonight?”
“Wouldn’t miss it.” Especially not if she would be there.
“Good. I’ll see you then.”
Damn, she was a knockout. But she was young enough to be his… younger sister. Come to think of it, she was probably younger than his little sister, Glenna. “You’re not going to enlighten me, are you?”
“What fun would there be in that?” She started to walk off with the ladder beneath her arm, but stopped and looked over her shoulder. “Just a hint. Ask your brother.”
“Which one? I have three of them.”
“You’ll figure it out.” She smiled and walked away.