Protector Cowboy Novella
Protector Cowboy Novella
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USA TODAY BESTSELLING AUTHOR Hope Ford brings you a steamy cowboy romance about a single mom that escapes an abusive ex-husband and finds an alpha cowboy who shows her that a real man protects the ones he loves at all costs.
- Curvy Woman
- Alpha Man
- Small Town Romance
- Age Gap
- Single Mom
- All the Feels
I’m a survivor. I finally got myself and my son away from my abusive ex, and I’m standing on my own two feet. The very last thing I want is another arrogant, controlling man. I don’t care how sexy the grumpy hot cowboy is. When I first meet King, I try to thank him for the ranching camp scholarship my son was awarded, but before I can get the words out, he offers me a roll in the hay. Even though I’m a little tempted, I walk away and pull my son from the camp. We do not have room in our lives for a man like that.
I am tired of women only seeing dollar signs when they look at me. So yeah, I come on too strong with the curvy single mom who shows up at my ranch. I don’t realize who she is or why she’s there until she’s stormed off. Once I know her story, I’ll do anything to be her man. But first I’ll need to prove to her that there’s a big difference between being protective and being controlling. I’ll make certain her worthless ex never comes near her or her son ever again. Because nobody messes with what’s mine, and Natalie and her son are going to be mine.
Protector Cowboyis the first book in the Whiskey Valley: Bryant Brothers series. If you love reading age gap, alpha cowboy, single mom, small town romances, then you’ll love King and Natalie’s story. Each book in the series is a standalone.
Intro to Chapter 1
Intro to Chapter 1
“You’re excited, huh?” I ask my son, Elijah.
It’s a pointless question, though, because I know exactly how excited he is right now. This field trip is all he’s talked about for weeks, and he’s practically bouncing in his seat. “Yeah, Mom. It will be fun.” His eyes get big and his smile wider. “Do you think they’ll let us ride a horse?”
He sounds excited, so I try to refrain from flinching. I keep my thoughts to myself on that one because I hope they don’t plan on letting the kids ride. Considering the town of Whiskey Valley is a big ranching community, I’m sure a lot of the other kids have been on horses before, and their parents wouldn’t think anything of it. But not Elijah. We’re new to Whiskey Valley, and I can definitely say that neither he nor I have ever been on a horse.
I’m not even sure where this fascination with ranching has come from, but from the second we stepped into Whiskey Valley and stopped at the Sunset Diner for dinner, Elijah has talked of nothing else. It’s probably because the booth next to us had three cowboys eating dinner. And I’m talking real live cowboys, with the hat, belt, and boots.
Since then, he’s picked up every book he can find on “cowboying,” as he calls it.
“I’m not sure if they will or not, E. But I’m sure you’re going to learn a lot today and...” I pause for effect. “You’re going to be on a real live ranch.”
He looks at me with so much seriousness, and I’m pretty sure he’s holding his breath until he can’t hold it anymore. “I can’t wait,” he exclaims as if he may just burst from the anticipation.
He turns to look out the window, and I continue driving from our apartment over to the school. I know it was hard for Levi, my boss at the Sunset Diner, to give me this morning off, but when he hired me, I told him that I wasn’t going to miss any field trips. One, I know that E is not going to be young forever, and the time he wants his mom along is dwindling, so I need to be there when I can. Second, I hate for him to be out without me. It’s one thing if he’s at school and I know there’s a school resource officer there, but out on his own, in unknown territory, well, I worry. I know I’m being way overprotective, but until I know that my husband hasn’t found us, I can’t relax. Not yet.
I pull into the school and see the school bus that is taking us on the field trip already parked to the side of the building. I park in the lot and walk inside with E. He runs ahead with a few of his friends, and after I check in at the office, I walk down to his homeroom.
As soon as I open the door, it’s full-on chaos. The kids are all sitting in their seats, and there are parents, almost all moms, lined up along the walls. “Uh....” I stop, surprised to see so many faces. I’ve been on every field trip, and there’s never been this many chaperones.
The teacher comes to stand by me and mutters under her breath, “Well, at least I know you’re here to help. Do you care to take roll? We’re supposed to be on the bus in five minutes.”
“Sure,” I tell her, not understanding her comment about helping. Aren’t all these moms here to help? I take the paper from her and start calling roll and marking off names as I go. I do the tally and then tell her how many kids.
She goes into her field trip spiel of safety and behavior, and I swear the kids and I have heard it so many times, some of them are repeating it right along with her. There are a few boys with E, and they’re dressed in their jeans and have cowboy hats on their heads. I can see my son looking at them, and I wish I’d thought to get him something like that, but almost immediately I shake my head. We don’t have the extra money right now to buy things we don’t really need. I take a deep breath. Someday... someday I’m going to get him a hat and some boots.
The teacher has the students go first and the parents follow behind. As soon as all the kids are on the bus, I climb in and take my seat in the front, and Miss Olivia sits down next to me with a huff. The bus is buzzing with excitement, but I can tell that Olivia is overwhelmed. “You okay?”
She nods. “Yeah, just a little annoyed. Don’t get me wrong; I love parents that are involved. You know that.”
She looks at me, nodding her head, and I do the same. I mean, she’s always encouraged me to participate, and all her emails and notes home have had the same feel to them. “Yes, absolutely.” I look around the bus, and there are a few faces that I’ve seen on other field trips. I raise up a little and notice all the cars trailing behind us. “What’s going on?”
She rolls her eyes. “Well, today we have the most volunteers of the whole year, and they’re all women.”
She throws her hands up in the air as if she just explained it all, but I’m not catching on. “And...?” I ask her.
“It’s because we’re going to the Double B Ranch.”
I wait for her to continue, but she doesn’t. I shake my head. “I still don’t get it.”
She sits up straighter. “The Bryant Ranch...”
When she sees my blank expression, she shakes her head. “The Bryant Brothers... King, Chance, Griffin, and Ryan Bryant... one of the biggest ranches in all of Tennessee.”
I lift my shoulders. “I’ve never heard of them.”
She starts to laugh then, which attracts the attention of the students around us. I look over my shoulder and see E and his friends staring up at us. I give him a smile and turn back to Olivia. “Are you making fun of me?”
She puts her hand on my arm and wipes the tears from her eyes with her other hand. “NO! No, Natalie, of course not. But man, I wish there were more parents like you.”
“What do you mean?” I ask her.
She leans in. “I mean, you’re here for your son. The rest of these women that showed up for the first time today are coming along to see one or all of the Bryant brothers.”
My eyes get wide. “They’re here to, uh, pick up men?” I ask, aghast. I remember seeing Betsy Underwood, and she’s married. “No way!”
“Yes way. Have you really never heard of the Bryant brothers?”
I shake my head.
Olivia leans back in her seat. “Well, you’re in for a treat. They are nice to look at. And mostly nice, too. Well, except for King, anyway.”
“Well, I promise I’m not here to flirt.”
She rummages through her tote bag and pulls out some papers. “I know you’re not. Which makes me feel even better for this.”
She hands the papers to me, and I start to scan the text. Double B Ranch Camp... it’s the week of spring break... application and acceptance letter.
I stare at it open-mouthed. “What is this?”
“Every year, the Double B Ranch has a camp where they teach boys about ranching. I knew Elijah would be perfect for it... I mean, every paper he’s had to write this year has been on ranching. Anyway, I applied, and he was accepted.”
I am already shaking my head. “Olivia, I can’t afford this...” Dang, I wish I could. I can just imagine how excited Eli would be to do it.
Olivia takes the papers, flips to the back, and holds it up. “I applied for the sponsorship. See here?” She points to the bottom of the paper. “This was signed by King Bryant. He approved the sponsorship. It won’t cost you a penny.”
I lean back in my seat, stunned. It’s either that or fall over into the aisle. “Are you kidding me right now?”
She is smiling so big and impulsively as she reaches over to hug me. “No, I’m not kidding you. If anyone deserves this, you and Eli do.”
When she pulls away, I’m wiping my emotional tears off my face. “I don’t know how to thank you... I can’t believe...”
She shakes her head. “You don’t have to thank me. Just knowing how excited Elijah is going to be is thanks enough for me. You may want to thank King or one of the other brothers while we’re there at the ranch, though.”