Breaking the Cowboy
Coldiron Cowboy: Book 3
March 29, 2021
(Louisa and Brody)
Be advised, this novel contains discussions and issues regarding infertility.
Rescuing love is never easy…
Veterinarian Dr. Louisa Coldiron comes from a long line of hardworking, rough riding, straight-shooting cowboys. Her father and brothers are cowboys and nearly every male in the small town of Santa Camino, Texas, is, was, or will be a cowboy. And experience has taught her that when a cowboy gets thrown into the mix, something gets broken.
Falling in love with the horses she helps to rescue is easy. Pretending she isn’t falling for the sexy cowboy who teaches them to trust again...?
Not so much.
After years of roaming, Brody Vance feels he’s finally found a home at the Promise Point Horse Rescue Ranch and a woman he could easily love. But he knows a wounded heart when he sees one. Louisa has more in common with her patients than she’s willing to admit.
Coaxing Louisa’s skittish heart into letting him take the reins of passion will take Brody’s tender expertise.
Brody debated on whether or not he should shut up and enjoy what was left of their dance or try to lay everything out to Louisa like had Jess suggested. He prided himself on having patience, but he was damn tired of holding on. “About this cowboy rule of yours…”
“Don’t, Brody,” she whispered, looking a half a shade paler than when they’d started around the dancefloor the first time. “I’m really not up for this.”
Neither was he but having waited almost two years for a dance made him wonder how much longer he’d have to wait for a kiss and that love he wanted to make, so he continued. “You say all cowboys are womanizers and can’t be trusted. But how can you think that when your dad and brothers are cowboys and are in faithful relationships with women they love? Your parents have been married for over thirty years. Do you think your dad has ever stepped out on your mom?”
She scowled at him. “Of course not. Dad would never cheat on Mom.”
Having made his point, Brody felt like he’d earned the right to look smug. But they were in the middle of a crowded dance floor, having a heated discussion about a topic that could easily ignite and blow up in his face. “There you go,” he said without haughtiness. “Proof that not all cowboys are philanderers.”
“Okay, so,” she answered with a slight roll of her jaw. “Maybe not all cowboys are womanizers. Some can be tamed and their tendency to roam cured. But…”
The song ended and soon there was noisy conversation chatter and laughter from the guests seated at the table filling the ballroom. The space around them quickly became a whirl of laughter and excitement as couples prepared for the next two-step.
“I agreed to one dance and you’ve had two,” she said.
Brody wanted to lead her away from the crowd so they could talk without an audience. But he knew the moment he let go of her, she’d bolt the other way. So it was all or nothing. “I know a bruised heart when I see one, Louisa. You’re afraid of what might happen if you give in to me, a cowboy you’ve labeled wild and undomesticated.”
“I’m not afraid of anything,” she said, through clenched teeth. “I’m just not interested in trying to tame another cowboy!”
And there it was. The first vague reference towards the cowboy who’d caused the damage. “Another one?”
She glared at him, that stubborn chin of hers welding her mouth shut.
“Who was he? What’s his name?” he asked, though he already knew. “Tell me about the cowboy whose sins I’m paying for.”
Her anger gave way to remorse and hurt. Wedging a hand between them, she shoved at his chest. “I’m not having this conversation with you. Not here. Not now. Not ever.”
Why couldn’t he find true north with this woman? She always kept his compass spinning and his course changing. One minute he was walking in a straight line with possibility and optimism lighting his path. Then in the blink of an eye, he was in complete darkness with the heaviness of rejection riding his back.
He’d hit a wall again and like every other time, her rejection made him want to drop to his knees and give up. Friendly conversation and dancing weren’t going to change two years of denial or calm her fearful heart. Passive patience wasn’t getting him anywhere. He needed to do something drastic.
Brody let his arms fall. “Then let’s have another conversation.”
“No.” Louisa kicked her heel down, preparing for a spin and stomp from the dancefloor.
But Brody halted her retreat by grabbing her arm. “Damn it, woman. Hear me out. I’ve been offered a job in Colorado.”
He felt the fight leave her body. “What?”
Brody didn’t have time to go into the details about Heather or Riley, so he said the first thing that popped into his mind. “Allison has offered me a full position at her ranch.”
She searched his eyes. “So, you’re leaving Texas?”
More guests had filtered into the ballroom. Tom McCallister, the local postmaster and his wife, Ruth, were standing close by. Several other couples also had their eyes and ears trained on him and Louisa. Did he want to do drastic now, in front of all these people?
Hell, yes. If this was their dreaded goodbye, Brody wasn’t going to leave anything unsaid. Gawking eyes and gossiping whispers be damned. He answered as truthfully as he knew how. “That depends on you, Lou.”
“Brody – I…” The smooth lines of her neck contracted with a quick swallow. “I don’t know where you’re going with this. But now isn’t the time ─”
“Yes, it is.” Sliding his hand down to her wrist, he gently pulled her to him. “You have to know how I feel about you. I’m in ─”
“Don’t do this,” she interjected, softly. Holding back tears, her eyes pleaded with him to stop. “Please, Brody. Walk away and let me go.”
Her stark request shook him. Couldn’t she see that he couldn’t do that? He could walk away from his friends, his job at the Rescue, and his ranch for a life in Colorado with his son, but he’d never to be able to let her go. Not like this. Not without her knowing how he felt about her.
“That’s the bitch of it, sweetheart.” He stroked her jaw with his thumb and felt her shudder beneath his touch. “I’m in too deep to just walk away because of some half-ass cowboy rule. I need a good reason to leave.”
Licking her lips, she nodded. “Okay, then. I…”
He waited. “You what?”
“I, ah…” The frantic movements of her eyes mimicked a caged cat. “I’m… in love with another man.”
Louisa’s confession was Brody’s greatest fear. “With Chris.”
The mention of Chris’s name whipped her eyes to a sharp focus. “What? No!”
He hadn’t expected that harsh reaction, but her denial didn’t help quell his need to know. “If it’s not Chris, then who is it?”
As if cued by the question, Cord let out a laugh from across the room. Louisa glanced his way then quickly pulled her focus back to Brody.
Brody let out a scoffing laugh. “Don’t tell me you’re in love with Boot Boy.”
She neither acknowledged nor denied her interest in Cord. Instead, red blotches had colored her cheeks as tears pooled and threatened to spill over her bottom lids. “Who told you about Chris?”
Realizing he hadn’t accomplished a damn thing except make her cry, Brody knew he should have dropped the subject and walked away. But the cold determination in her eyes told him that Louisa wouldn’t let him off that easily. She’d be hot on his heels, demanding he name his source. “Ah, hell,” he sighed. “This town is too small for secrets, Lou.”
“That’s not an answer.”
He didn’t want to lie, but he also wasn’t going to give her a reason to tear into the groom, so he went out on a logical limb. “Shorty dropped his name before I threatened to kick his ass.”
Her willpower succumbed to tears and with a trembling bottom lip she let out a shallow curse.
Brody had never dug a grave, but right now, he felt like he was shoveling his way farther and farther into a hole he might never be able to climb out of. “Sweetheart,” he whispered. “I didn’t mean to hurt-”
“Don’t,” she bit out, glaring as more tears flowed, “mistake these tears for hurt. Just say what you have to say and let’s get this over with.”
Brody had never been good with words and bringing Chris’s name into the conversation had made matters worse. Pushing up the brim of his Stetson, he rubbed his forehead and tried a new approach. “I can throw a saddle on the meanest, most stubborn horses on the planet and ride them until they break. I just dig my spurs in and hang on. I’m that damn persistent when I want something.”
She promptly skimmed a forefinger under her eyes and swiped her face with the back of her hand. “And just what is it you want, Brody?”
That was a complicated question and to answer it properly, he’d need more than a few seconds on a crowded dancefloor. But the music had started, and more people were gathering around. Time wasn’t on his side, so he had to muster the testicular fortitude to answer her right here in front of the whole damn town.
Any fool could see that this conversation was going to end badly. But he’d started it. And it didn’t matter if it was now, when half the town was watching, tomorrow at church or Monday morning at work, the question of what it was he wanted had to be answered. “I want a beginning or an ending.”
“To us, Louisa. Let’s fuel the fire under those rumors about us being lovers and commit to pursuing that endeavor or…” He paused. “Or douse ’em out cold.”
She struggled to swallow. “And just how do we do that?”
His heart did a nosedive. He’d been digging a hole, alright, and he’d just hit the bottom. This was it. The beginning of the end. There was nothing but rocky ground beneath his feet and there was no going back. No climbing out, walking away, or waiting.
He took her small hand and fashioned her fingers and thumb into a fist. “Hit me.”
Aghast, her bottom jaw dropped.
“Rattle my teeth so hard there’s not a doubt in any man’s mind that we’re over and done with.”
“You want me to hit you?” she asked, incredulously.
“No,” he said, praying this didn’t go the way his gut was telling him it would go. “But if you do, men will start knocking on your door and you’ll be rid of me.”
Her eyes went wide. “You’ve gone loco.”
He thought maybe he had lost his mind. What sane man would ask a woman to hit him?
A desperate one.
“One punch right in the kisser and I’m out of the picture. Forever. I’ll take the job in Colorado and you never have to see me again or,” he said, knowing the words he was about to say could end it all, “give us that beginning. Give me a chance. Kiss me, here in front of the whole town, and let’s really give them something to talk about.”