Home > The True Cowboy of Sunset Ridge (Gold Valley #14)

The True Cowboy of Sunset Ridge (Gold Valley #14)
Author: Maisey Yates

 


CHAPTER ONE


   IT WAS HIM. The man. The fantasy man. The one who had haunted her dreams for the past six months.

   And he was just like Mallory Chance remembered him.

   Tall, broad shoulders, broad chest. Tight black T-shirt and black cowboy hat. His midsection looked hard and solid, and so did his thighs.

   He was the sort of man who would have terrified her when she was a teenager. Far too much masculinity to cope with—and why bother?—when there were soft, gentle boy band members to fantasize about from the safe distance of a bedroom wall poster.

   The sort of man she’d never had the chance to lust after because she’d made her choices about men at fifteen—again, when she’d been more into boy bands than bad boys and had proclaimed chest hair “gross”—and had therefore been stuck with her teenage sensibilities even as she’d transitioned into adulthood.

   He looked like danger. The kind you ran from when you were a girl and wanted to run to when you were a woman.

   The hardest-looking man in the room.

   The one who would win the bar fight.

   The one whose muscles looked like they could carry the weight of the whole world. Or possibly just handily beat up her trifling ex.

   But it wasn’t enough that the man had the most incredible body she’d ever seen.

   He had dark blond hair, dark stubble covering a square jaw. His mouth was perfectly formed, and while she’d never given much thought to what constituted a perfectly formed mouth, it turned out she knew it when she saw it.

   But his eyes...

   That night in the Gold Valley Saloon, six months ago, while she’d been seated next to her boyfriend, they’d locked eyes.

   And she’d felt it all the way down to her core.

   Like a bolt of lightning.

   An electric current that had run beneath her skin and down to her bones and had left her feeling changed.

   It had been a moment. A brief moment. But she hadn’t been sure how she would breathe through it, let alone carry on like it hadn’t happened.

   She’d never experienced anything like it before.

   Like she was staring down fate in cowboy boots.

   But that had to be ridiculous because she didn’t believe in things like that, and if she did, she’d have to claim Jared as her fate, not some random guy in a bar.

   Jared, the man she’d been with since she was fifteen years old.

   What was that if not fate?

   At least, that was what she told herself. For a long time. Too long.

   Fate.

   The word whispered over her skin, the concept like firecrackers going off in her stomach.

   It was why she had come here tonight, and she would be lying if she said that wasn’t true.

   All the whole way from San Francisco she had played the music as loud as she could, had rolled the windows down and shouted Taylor Swift lyrics into the wind. Because her world had been broken open, and because Jared had hated that music.

   And it didn’t matter what he liked or didn’t like.

   Not anymore.

   So she’d done it, because she could. And she had ignored the ten times her cell phone had rung with his number flashing across the screen.

   She wasn’t taking him back. Not this time. Not ever again.

   In the past he’d left her, and she was the one who felt lost. And every time, she’d just get used to him being gone, he’d call and she’d pick up. She’d tell him to come home. Because she needed him.

   She hadn’t known how not to need him. And she’d done her best to make sure he needed her. Because it was in that space where she felt right. Like she was doing the right thing, and like she mattered.

   That sweet spot of contentedness and a little bit of penance.

   Not this time. This time she’d done the leaving.

   With very little forethought, and nothing more than a couple of haphazard emails, she had decided to uproot her entire life and go to the town of Gold Valley.

   Mallory had been enchanted by Gold Valley from the first time she had come to visit her brother, Griffin.

   She and her parents had come six months ago, along with Jared. It had been wonderful. And he had been horrible. And all of the doubts that bubbled up on occasion had come roaring to the surface during that week.

   He’d been bored at dinner; he’d been completely uninterested in all of the quaint brick buildings in town. He’d overslept and missed family breakfasts.

   In general, every single one of his bad qualities, every single thing that Griffin hated about him had been on full display.

   Your brother already hates me. I’m not going to perform.

   He’d said that while lounging in the passenger seat of her car, his sunglasses on, holding his phone up, paying it more attention than he did her, as usual. In the years since they’d started dating, his blond hair had transitioned from floppy boy band to man bun, which was the only way he’d transitioned from boy to man, really. He was still handsome in that smooth way, slim and... Well she’d always found him... Cute.

   But he was much less cute when bored and slumped in her car, texting on a phone she’d paid for while he acted aggrieved by the vacation she’d also paid for.

   He’d said that her brother hated him. And it was true. Griffin did hate him. But it was based on things like that, not on nothing.

   Griffin had never been shy about his feelings for Jared, and it had always hurt Mallory.

   She’d idolized Griffin all her life. Her older brother was her hero and always had been. A shining beacon of everything good and successful. Her parents had always been so proud of him. And so had she.

   Eight years older than her, she’d been ten when Griffin had moved out, and it had devastated her. Even though it was the natural order of things. It had changed her world, and she felt unspeakably lonely with him gone.

   He’d gone off and gotten his own life. Fallen in love, gotten married.

   And then he lost his wife and little girl, and Mallory had lost her beloved sister-in-law and cherished niece.

   Even though Griffin had survived, in many ways she’d felt like she’d lost him too.

   It was only since he’d met Iris that Mallory felt like she really had them back.

   Which, other than the natural pull she felt to the town, had been the reason that she’d come to Gold Valley.

   She wanted to be near her brother.

   And she needed, desperately, to be very far away from Jared.

   Her rental wouldn’t be ready for a couple of days, but she just... She hadn’t been able to stay. Not anymore.

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