Excerpt: The Cowboy Steals A Lady

Excerpt: The Cowboy Steals A Lady

Code of the West

Chapter One

Shane Nichols was at a loose end.

His older brother, Mace, could have told you that was a dangerous situation. But then, Mace had known his little brother for all of Shane’s thirty-two years. Mace remembered the tipped-over outhouses, the burrs under the saddles, the super glue in Ms. Steadman’s pencil box, the itching powder in old man Houlihan’s underdrawers. And, of course, he remembered the chicken. . . 

So when the doctor told Shane to cool it, Mace would have advised following up his advice by doing something about it — like tying Shane to a bed.

Of course Doc Reeves didn’t know Shane like Mace did. So all he said was that it wasn’t every day a guy had his thumb sewn back on. These things took a while to heal. In the meantime, Shane should kick back and relax, take a little time off, enjoy life instead of busting his butt going down the road from rodeo to rodeo to rodeo.

Good advice as far as most guys were concerned.

Not the best for Shane.

He needed to be involved, on top of things. That was how he’d lost his thumb in the first place, of course — in a nasty encounter with a loose trailer, a spooked horse, and some rigging. He’d been helping out — and he’d paid the price.

Fair enough. He’d do anything for a friend. But he was tired of paying. He’d been kicking back and relaxing for three weeks now, wearing out his welcome at his brother’s small ranch just outside Elmer, Montana. Going stir crazy.

He had helped Mace go over the herd books, discussing ad nauseam the finer points of every one of Mace’s steers and mamma cows. They could have spent another lifetime on it as far as Mace was concerned.

It drove Shane up the wall.

He enjoyed plate after plate of his sister-in-law, Jenny’s home cooking. She made him every one of his favorite foods. He could have grown fat and lazy just enjoying the comforts of home. After all, the ranch, though not large, was a damn sight bigger and more comfortable than the truck camper he was used to.

But bigger only meant he could spend his time pacing the rooms. 

He had adoring nephews Mark and Tony to play with, to tell “goin’ down the road” rodeo stories to. And he basked in their hero worship at the same time that he itched to get back on that very road. He had his niece, Pilar, willing to entertain him with recitals of “Row, Row, Row Your Boat,” on the piano whenever he said the word — which was fine for the first hundred and fifty times — but not forever.

This was beginning to feel like forever.

And Shane Nichols was not a forever kind of guy.

He was a mover, a shaker, a “do it now, regret it later” man.

He needed drama. High stakes.

He didn’t want to row his boat anymore that week. He wanted a hundred and fifty horsepower Evinrude. He didn’t want to tell bull riding stories. He wanted to ride one! He didn’t want cozy fires and early bedtimes.

He wanted lights. Noise. Action.

That was why he ended up at The Barrel in Livingston that cold November night. It was the first time he’d been in a bar since the accident. There hadn’t been a lot of point. He couldn’t drink.

“Bad for the circulation,” Doc Reeves told him when he’d finally let Shane out of that Portland hospital three weeks before. “Gotta get as much blood to that thumb as we can. So . . . no alcohol. No coffee.”

Next thing you knew he’d be saying, “No women,” Shane had thought glumly.

It didn’t take a medical degree to realize that blood pooling in another specific part of his body would detract from the red stuff that was supposed to be healing his thumb. Fortunately he got out of there before old Reeves had time to think of that!

Not that Shane was overloaded with women.

Not at the moment anyhow.

He’d had his share of buckle bunnies, the rodeo groupies who made a point of chatting him up in a hundred bars across America. He’d had them bat their eyelashes at him and write their phone numbers on grocery receipts and cocktail napkins and — once — on the leather label on the hip of his jeans.

“But darlin’, I won’t be able to read it there,” he’d protested.

The girl had giggled and showed him deep dimples, then brushed a kiss across his lips. “I know, sweetheart. But every time you take your pants off, you’ll think of me.”

He thought of her now. The blood in his thumb was considering making a move. For all the good it would do. Shane hadn’t had a woman in so long it hurt.

And if watching his brother smooch with Jenny every day was difficult, knowing what they were doing when he wasn’t watching was ten times worse!

He could tolerate all their lovey-dovey stuff for short amounts of time — Christmas, say, or a brief weekend stopover.

But three weeks!

No sir.

A guy could only allow all his blood to go to his thumb for just so long! Shane was already past it.

Way past.