I've got a first day of spring gift for all of you. My erotic romance, Cowboy Games, begins on the first day of spring when the heroine, Rebecca takes a trip out to Wyoming to spend a week at a Fantasy Ranch. Since today's the first day of spring and I just got home from Wyoming, I thought I'd share the first chapter with you. Hope you like it!
Cowboy Games by Wendi Darlin
CLICK HERE TO BUY!
A year later
The line for baggage check-in at Charleston International Airport
moved, and Rebecca wheeled her suitcase forward another foot. At six a.m.
the line should be shorter, but apparently everybody and her sister got up at
the crack of dawn on the first day of spring to jump on an airplane. She
adjusted the shoulder strap of her carry-on and took a breath to quiet the
butterflies in her stomach. It was a pretty safe bet not a person in line was
going to the same place she was.
“Todd would think this is funny. Don’t you think?” Rebecca asked.
“Who wouldn’t? This is hysterical,” Melinda said, her eyes glued to the
full-color glossy brochure for Fantasy Ranch. “Listen to this: Are you ready
for the ultimate ladies’ vacation? Come on darlin’, kick off your boots and
stay awhile at Fantasy Ranch where the cowboy of your dreams is yours.
That’s right, for one romance-filled week on an authentic ranch with one of
the most spectacular views in Wyoming, a real-life cowboy will be yours
and yours alone. Not only can these boys wrestle steer to the ground, they
will wine, dine and treat you like the lady you are.”
“Can you imagine who comes up with this stuff?” Rebecca asked.
“If I didn’t know you, I couldn’t imagine who would actually go to this
place.” Melinda pushed the brochure over to offer her sister another look at
the dozen cowboys seated on a fence. Hats, boots, rugged good looks and
lazy smiles on every one of them. Snowcapped mountains stood in the
distance behind them. “They’re hot as hell, but you’re still out of your
mind,” she said.
“Life’s a game, might as well play it.”
“Roulette’s a game too, but you won’t catch me playing that,” Melinda
said. “And this is the worst false advertising I’ve ever seen.”
“What makes you so sure?”
“First of all, these guys have to be models,” Melinda said. “There’s no
way they all work in one place, and second of all, Fantasy Ranch is probably
a front for some perverted serial killer’s garage.”
“What kind of serial killer targets women who have a thing for
“One who always had to be the Indian when he was a little boy.”
Melinda’s lips curved into a smile. “I have two psychology classes under my
belt. I know what I’m talking about, and there is no way this place really
exists. Not like this anyway.”
“Have a little faith,” Rebecca said. “You don’t trust anyone or
“With plenty of reason.”
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to bring that up.” Rebecca placed her hand on
her sister’s shoulder and gave it a squeeze. “But seriously. It’s not too late to
get a ticket, and there’s plenty to go around. Look at this one.” She pointed
to an olive-skinned hottie, with movie star eyes. “Says he likes riding
bareback, sleeping under the stars and taming mustangs, but when it comes
to the ladies he’s got velvet hands.”
They both laughed.
“It’s probably another identity theft scam,” Melinda said. “A creative
one. I’ll give them that.”
“You have to give them all kinds of personal information for the
required background check, don’t you?” Melinda asked.
“Yeah, but I did my homework.” Rebecca pulled her suitcase forward
another couple of feet and closed the gap in the line. “I called the Canyon
Creek, Wyoming Chamber of Commerce.”
“And,” Rebecca continued. “The lady that answered the phone laughed,
but she said Fantasy Ranch is owned by two local cowboys named Garrett
and Gavin Carter, and they’re very easy on the eyes.”
“She say anything else?” Melinda asked with renewed interest.
“She said the staff changes regularly, but she’s never received any
complaints about them. They’re running a legitimate operation with a steady
stream of customers flying in from all over the place.”
“Do they have their own little cowboy out there pointing out ‘da planes’
when they land?”
“Everybody left that island with what they came after,” Rebecca
“It says you can ride horses and picnic alongside ‘a pristine mountain
stream.’” Melinda twisted her lips, looking anything but convinced, and
turned to the next page of the brochure. “At least you won’t need to pay
extra for the riding lessons.”
Rebecca had been riding horses since she was five. Somewhere in her
attic at least fifty ribbons from jumping competitions were collecting dust.
She still spent weekends at the stables exercising the horses whose owners
didn’t make enough time for them.
“I already did.” Rebecca’s smile was purely wicked. “It ought to be fun
having a cowboy show me how to do it his way.”
“I’d pick that one.” Melinda shoved the brochure toward her and
pointed to a man with smoldering green eyes, an easy grin and jeans that lay
nicely over the muscles beneath them. It was hard to tell with his hat on, but
Rebecca guessed he was blond. “Which one did you pick?”
“I’ll have to take whatever’s left. I booked on short notice.”
“It’s like getting to the meat counter during the last hour of the sale,”
A woman behind them in line chuckled.
“They all look beefy enough to give me what I’m after. Remember the
real stuff will be up to me anyway.” Rebecca laughed and lowered her
voice. “Fantasy Ranch, rule number one: NO SEX.”
After skimming past the legal gibberish, the contract was simple. A
background check was required of all guests, and there were two stipulating
clauses: 1) No sex; and 2) No contact or attempted contact after the week is
up. Clause number two was accompanied by a clear warning: Any attempt at
contact will be considered ‘criminal stalking’ and treated as such. A sure
sign the cowboys were very good at making women think they had fallen in
“Whew, the price is hefty.” Melinda scanned another page. “You didn’t
tell me it cost this much. You sure you don’t want to go out with Ray first?
Kind of ease back into the dating pool and keep some of your money in the
“He’s not my type. None of Scott’s friends are my type.”
“Ray’s not bad looking and at least he’s not made out of plastic with a
Rebecca groaned. “I’d probably have better sex with my vibrator.” The
man in front of her took a quick glance over his shoulder, and Rebecca
covered her mouth with her hand. “Sorry,” she whispered.
“You’re not going to find Todd in Wyoming or anywhere else.”
Melinda softened, and dropped the brochure to her side. “You need to at
least open your eyes to other possibilities.”
“I did.” Rebecca gave her a weak smile. She pulled the brochure from
Melinda’s hand and flipped it open to the image of the green-eyed sex pot
Melinda had already pointed out. “That one.”
Melinda took the brochure back and studied the picture. “If you’re going
to go crazy, he’s the one to go with,” she said. “And for the record, you’re
definitely going crazy.”
“You really should come. Go crazy with me for once.”
“Scott and I need some time together.” Melinda sighed and flipped over
to the next page. “I don’t think a cowboy would help matters.”
“Might not hurt to give him a taste of his own medicine.”
The man in front of Rebecca stepped up to the baggage clerk and
another slot opened up. Rebecca handed over her bag, her tickets and her
“One bag. Charleston to Dallas. Dallas to Yellowstone Regional
Airport, Wyoming.” The clerk attached the baggage labels and hefted
Rebecca’s suitcase onto the conveyor belt behind her.
Just before the security line, Rebecca pulled Melinda in for a hug.
“Thanks for bringing me to the airport. Call me if you need to talk.”
“I’ll be fine,” Melinda said. “But Becca, are you sure you’re ready for
The year since Todd passed away had eased the pain but the emptiness
inside her had only grown. She still missed him everyday, his laugh, the
light that flashed in his dark eyes, his undying love for her. She ached for his
touch, the feel of his body, and the way they made love.
“It’s time, Mel. I need to see what it’s like to have other men around,
and I know I’m not ready for a real one. I figure this will be easier, you
know? It’s just a game and I don’t have to play any harder than I want to.”
“I hope you have a good time.” Melinda exhaled sharply. “But you call
me if anything at all seems fishy and I will have you escorted away from
that place by a S.W.A.T. team if I have to.”
Rebecca adjusted the grip on her carry-on. “Todd would think this is
“You two would be playing cowboy ‘til you had saddle sores,” Melinda
Rebecca wiped the tears from her eyes and smiled.
“Well, if you’re really going to do this, you better get in line.”
“Don’t worry about me.” Rebecca hugged her again. “I’m going to go
out there, do a little horseback riding, let some sexy cowboy wine and dine
me, and when I come home, maybe I’ll be ready for a real date.”
* * * *
“What am I up against?” Gavin Carter kicked his Nike runners up on the
broad pine desk across from his brother. He tilted his head back and ran his
fingers through his dark blond hair, a little longer than was respectable on a
cowboy, but the ladies liked it.
“Rebecca Ryder,” Garrett read from the file in his hand. “Thirty-two,
biotech consultant from South Carolina. Widowed.”
“When did her husband die?”
“It’s been a year,” Garrett said, flipping over to the following page.
“Good.” Gavin reached into his desk for a tennis ball. “An easy week.”
The worst of the grief was behind her. What they did was a lot like
therapy for many of the women who booked a vacation at the ranch. Most of
them just needed a boost of confidence and a little attention from the
opposite sex. A few needed to know men could act like gentlemen, even
men who were strong enough to wrestle a steer to the ground.
For the most part the job was easy, the guest entertainment part of it,
anyway. He was more than happy to be what a lady needed, as long as she
only needed him for a week. In another year, he and Garrett would have too
much on their plates to spend time entertaining guests, but for now it made
Fantasy Ranch was a business, a growing business, and there was plenty
to be done to make sure it kept turning out a profit and continued to adjust to
the changes necessary for it to grow. To lower overhead and maintain an
authentic feel, the resort office was in the big house, and it was the only
room other than the dining hall and downstairs bathroom that was open to
guests and employees. Gavin and Garrett’s bedrooms were upstairs, the
same ones they’d grown up in. Aside from basic updates, the rest of the
house hadn’t changed since they were teenagers and they liked it that way.
“I’m glad it’s your week,” Garrett tossed across the desk at him. “Last
widow I had cried every time I touched her, then cried when I didn’t.”
“That’s because, big brother, you don’t touch a woman like I do.” A
slow smile crept across Gavin’s face. He bounced the ball off the pine
timber walls and caught it when it ricocheted back.
“I’d rather not touch them at all,” Garrett said with a grin.
“Lucky you.” Gavin threw the ball again, not looking forward to another
week without a soft, warm body beneath his. “I’m horny as a bull and I’ve
been so busy around here lately I haven’t had a chance to go out and even
look for any relief.”
“You can always join the boys in the bunkhouse.” Garrett’s grin erupted
in a laugh.
“No thanks. You fellas are pretty, but not my type.”
“Just don’t so much as breathe on your guest this week,” Garrett warned
him. “I’m just waiting for the Sheriff’s office to send out an undercover.”
“Heard anything from the lawyers yet?” Gavin grabbed the ball out of
the air as it shot toward him.
“Ms. Cardin recanted her story once she learned we have camera
surveillance in the cabins. Travis will be cleared to come back to work as
soon as the case is officially closed. If he still wants the job, and I don’t
blame him if he doesn’t.”
“Thank God she didn’t read the fine print of the contract. If she’d
known about the cameras, it would have been just as easy to say he attacked
her in the barn or on the trails.” Gavin ripped the ball against the wall again.
“It’s unbelievable what people will do to shove a buck in their pocket.”
“A lawsuit like that would have shut us down.” Garrett stacked
Rebecca’s file with the ones for the rest of the guests arriving the next day
and lined up everything on his desk at right angles.
Gavin had to give his brother credit. He never would have believed that
Fantasy Ranch would be as successful as it had turned out to be. Sure, he
knew what women needed to hear, but he never thought so many of them
would be willing to pay so much money to hear it. He was on his way to a
very early retirement.
“Are the guest rooms ready?” Garrett asked as he turned off his
computer and stood to leave.
“Fresh flowers, chocolates on the pillow, and wine in the chiller.
Everything a lady might want when she doesn’t have a cowboy wrapped
around her pretty little finger,” Gavin said.
“Good. I’ve got a theatre meeting. I’m going to need you to meet the
last flight at the airport.”
“How many are on it?”
“Two. Yours and Clayton’s.”
“If you don’t have anything else for me this morning,” Gavin said,
dropping his feet to the floor and depositing the tennis ball back in his desk
drawer. “I’m going for a run.”
“Don’t stay out too long,” Garrett said. “The first group’s coming in on
an early flight. And they don’t ever picture the cowboys in running shoes.”
He picked up his empty mug and carried it around the desk.
They left through the living room and crossed in front of the walk-in
fireplace with the antique bison mounted above it. The glassy-eyed bull
looked like it had charged the wall and gotten stuck at the base of its neck,
with just the slightest bulge of shoulders breaking through. Gavin had plenty
in common with the old beast, his head in one place, his body in another and
his heart cut out completely. Work was the only thing that really mattered
anyway, and maybe this would be a good week on the job.
At thirty-two, Rebecca Ryder was a lot younger than most of the guests.
Maybe that meant she’d be up for some of the more physical stuff the ranch
had to offer, and he wouldn’t have to stand around taking square dance
lessons for the umpteenth time.
* * * *
A green paisley duffel with the pink yarn pompom made another round
on the baggage carousel at Yellowstone Regional Airport, but Rebecca’s
suitcase was nowhere in sight. Nearby, a young couple sat down on the floor
and canoodled, seemingly content to make the most of their wait. Within
seconds they were lost in a kiss. Rebecca shivered and goose bumps
scampered across her bare shoulders. Probably just her body sending
another sign that she had stone-cold lost her mind. The evidence was
The thin cotton dress with spaghetti straps had seemed like a fine choice
when she left South Carolina, but the Wyoming air was cooler than she had
expected it to be. She cursed again for losing her jacket while running for
her connection in the Dallas airport. This little getaway was off to a great
The same few pieces of luggage led by the pompom-adorned duffel
made their way along the belt again, and not many people were left milling
around the baggage claim area. A cowboy approached, probably back to
check for his bags. The place was crawling with men in boots and belt
buckles. Coming here was such a big mistake.
She rested her elbow on the carry-on slung over her shoulder and
glanced at her watch. She’d better go out front to let the limo driver know
she was waiting, or else she might miss her ride to the ranch.
Just what she needed. A week without all the clothes she’d packed, and
worse, no vibrator. Rebecca swore under her breath. How hard is it to put a
piece of luggage on the corresponding flight? Isn’t that what all those
obnoxious paper tags are for? She waited for the carousel to make one more
round and tried to convince herself she wasn’t stalling. She glanced again at
the full-color glossy brochure for Fantasy Ranch gripped in her hand. She
was out of her mind alright. And she was definitely stalling.
Maybe Melinda was right about the cowboys, and the ones on the
website were just models used for advertising the place. The real ones
probably had scraggly beards, three front teeth and hands so callused they’d
tear a girl’s skin to pieces.
“Where are you going?”
She didn’t have to look up. The pointed toes of his boots and faded
denim that traveled up from there gave the speaker away. A cowboy.
“Crazy apparently,” Rebecca said without making eye contact, focusing
again on the brochure. What in the hell had she been thinking spending a
small fortune for such a load of crap? She was on her way to the nuthouse
alright, and getting there fast.
“I’m headed there myself,” Cowboy said in an obvious attempt at a
joke. “I’ll give you a ride.”
He sounded friendly enough, but she didn’t feel like being hit on. She
glanced up to tell him so, but was too blindsided to remember what smartalecky
comeback she’d planned to use. Melinda had been right about one
thing. If she had to go crazy, he’d definitely be the one to go with.
“Are you Rebecca?” His dark blond hair hung to his chin in silky
strands that begged to have fingers dragged through them, and his eyes
could melt a girl.
A flush crept over her. No false advertising there. He was even more
gorgeous in person. Her stomach did a somersault. What had she been
thinking? She couldn’t go through with this. He was hot enough to sway a
nun, and he was just the driver. How in the hell was she going to keep her
horny hands to herself for a week? Or more to the point, how would she
keep them off herself.
The cowboy held her stare and a slow easy smile spread across his face.
Her head defogged enough to remember he’d asked her if she was Rebecca,
and she hadn’t had the whereabouts to answer him. He spoke before she
could twist her tongue around an answer.
“I’ll take that as a yes. I’m Gavin. Let me get this,” he said, reaching for
her carry-on and easily hoisting the bag over his shoulder. “You don’t travel
this light do you?”
“Gavin?” she managed. “Gavin Carter?”
“You did your homework,” he said with a smile. “I did too. Rebecca
Ryder, thirty-two, biotech consultant from South Carolina.”
He summed her up like a bio off a dating site and his appearance was
enough to shake her to the core, broad athletic shoulders v-ing down to
narrow hips, long muscular legs and a rugged beauty that took her breath
away. She forced air into her lungs. No man was going to take her breath
away. That’s not what she had flown across the country for.
“You forgot to mention I like riding bareback at sunset and hot ass
cowboys,” she said.
“I didn’t know that about you. Like your temper, it wasn’t in your
His smirk nudged her irritation up another notch, but the light that
danced in his eyes sent her animosity slithering away.
“Having second thoughts, or just hungry enough to bite my head off?”
“Both.” She tilted her face to the ceiling and blew a heavy breath. The
man was just doing his job - the job she had paid for him to do - nothing she
needed to get so miffed about.
“Sorry,” she said, “I’m not usually nasty. Or crazy. I don’t know what
I’m doing here. And it looks like they lost my suitcase.”
“We’ll get you settled in the truck and I’ll go check on your luggage.
You’ll feel better when we get you to the ranch. I promise.” He reached for
her, his hand barely resting on her lower back.
A sizzling shiver shot down her spine and tripped over itself heading
back up again. Holy hell, the devil couldn’t have lit her hotter than Gavin
Carter and they’d barely gotten past a rocky introduction. She had to get it
together if she was going to survive an entire week out here.
He guided her toward the line of double doors that led out of the airport
in a gait as sure and unhurried as the rest of his demeanor.
Maybe the cowboy she was assigned to would look good enough to
keep things interesting, but not half as good as Gavin. That would make
things a whole lot easier.
Parked at the curb was a stretched out Dodge truck with dual tires, a
silver ram on the grill and windows tinted as dark as midnight. He held the
door while she climbed in and slid across the cool leather seat. Ahhh, relief.
The door shut between them, and her breathing resumed on its own. She
wasn’t chilled anymore, nope she was hotter than Hades, and considerably
worried she might break into a sweat.
And she wasn’t alone either.
“Hi, I’m Marge,” said a middle-aged woman seated with her back to the
front of the truck. Marge’s jeans were new, and she had paired them with
stylish but orthopedic shoes. Her body was soft and had settled into its
current stage of life. She had to be someone’s mother, maybe even
someone’s grandmother. Good for her. A woman’s never too old to want a
little love or to go after the attention she needs.
Rebecca smoothed the skirt of her cotton sundress and introduced
herself. “You think they’re all as hot as the driver?” she added.
“I don’t know if my ticker can take it if they are.” Marge choked on a
nervous laugh and patted her chest. “I guess I really didn’t know what I was
in for out here.”
“He does get your blood flowing, doesn’t he?” Rebecca let go of her
nerves. She wasn’t the only one Gavin affected that way.
Marge sized up Rebecca’s outfit. “Those are cute boots. I couldn’t find
any comfortable enough.” She pulled a bottle of champagne from the door.
“It’s all just pretend anyway, probably won’t even need them. You want a
“Sure,” Rebecca said, “I’m parched.” But she wasn’t paying attention to
Gavin had stowed her carry-on in the truck and was headed back into
the airport. He looked as good going as he did coming. A surge of pleasure
overtook her, a sensation she hadn’t felt since Todd was alive. At least when
the man was that far away she could still breathe.
She was sipping champagne when he opened the door again. A steady
fire fanned out from the pit of her stomach, and it had nothing to do with the
alcohol. Damned traitorous body.
“Some bags were diverted to another flight, but they’ll be coming in
later tonight. Yours will be delivered to the ranch when it arrives,” he said.
“In the meantime, I’ll be happy to provide anything you might need.”
She was pretty sure he could provide exactly what she needed, if there
wasn’t that No Sex clause in her contract.
“Thanks.” She was careful to keep her voice as natural as possible. “I
have a change of clothes in my carry-on. I’ll be fine until tomorrow.”
“Alright then. I’ll take you ladies home.” Gavin’s eyes lingered on her
long enough to singe the hair on the back of her neck, then he shut the door
and walked around the front of the truck.
“I hope there’s plenty of water in here.” She relaxed into the seat and
took a deep breath. “You might have to hose me down before we get there.”
Marge laughed. “If a man looked at me the way he just looked at you, I
would have torn his clothes off and thrown him down on the curb.” She
looked down at the hand curling nervously in her lap. “I would’ve wanted to
“I think I’m going to like you,” Rebecca said.
“No offense, but I hope I’m too busy with some little cowboy half my
age to get to know you.” Marge took a long pull and winked at Rebecca
over the rim of her glass.
The women laughed again and Rebecca settled back to watch the
landscape roll by. She dug her phone from her purse and dialed her sister’s
“Hey, ridden one already?” Melinda answered.
“No.” Rebecca rested her head back on the thick leather seat, sinking
into it like a pillow. “But from what I’ve seen so far there wasn’t any false
“Seriously?” Melinda’s voice was missing its usual spunk. She was
having a rough time dealing with Scott’s latest affair, although by now she
should be used to the heartache.
“Seriously,” Rebecca said. Her sister needed distraction more than a
lecture. “And the airlines didn’t put my bag on the right flight. So I’m out
here without my little friend.”
Marge chuckled across from her and lifted her glass in the air. Usually
Melinda would have laughed too, but instead she sighed, and the sound of a
door slamming echoed from her end of the line.
“I’m sure you’ll manage,” Melinda said, her voice suddenly deflated.
“Mel, you okay?”
“I’ve got to go. Scott’s home.” Melinda dropped her voice to a whisper.
“Call me when you get a chance.”
Rebecca dropped her phone back into her purse and sipped her
champagne while she watched the back of Gavin’s head through the clear
glass that separated him from them. He had taken his hat off and for the
second time she imagined running her hands through his silky hair. He
caught her eye in the rearview mirror and smiled. She should have had the
decency to turn away, but she couldn’t bring herself to stop staring at him.
His thumb tapped out a rhythm on the steering wheel, and the tendons in
his forearm danced along. She hadn’t even seen as far as his elbow, but the
slight strain of the fabric against his bicep promised it only got better up
there. He was golden, like he spent time in the sun, but not enough to turn
himself to leather, and there was just the right amount of pale blond hair
coating his masculine arms. The lady at the Chamber of Commerce had
nailed it. Gavin Carter was easy on the eyes. Very easy on the eyes.
The truck eased to a stop, and beyond the windshield two massive gates
swung forward in the standard Wyoming pace. Slow and steady. Scrollwork
across the top of the gates spelled out the moniker: Fantasy Ranch. Beyond
stood a massive ranch house and several outbuildings flanked by endless
acres of natural countryside and the bluest sky in the world. Heaven couldn’t
be more beautiful. A woman could definitely lose herself here.
Rebecca raised her glass to Marge. “Let the cowboy games begin.”
CLICK HERE TO BUY!
writes hard men with soft Southern tongues and the women who bring them to their knees. Get ready for some