Mustang Run, Texas--where the cowboy code lived...and danger lurked
Dakota Ledger was a bull rider at heart and a loner by choice...until fate put him in place to rescue Viviana Mancini. She'd never forgotten the delirious days of passion they'd once shared, but now she was in trouble...and so was the baby she'd never told him they'd had.
Dakota would do anything to guard Viviana and his new baby from the killer on their heels--even return to his estranged father's ranch. There he could protect them...but he couldn't protect himself. Because Dakota faced two deadly threats--the killer on their trail and the would-be family he'd fallen helplessly in love with....
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June 30, 2011
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Excerpt from Cowboy Fever by Joanna Wayne
Dakota Ledger was back in Texas and the heat was on. Sweat rolled down his back and pooled at his armpits, staining his lucky red Western shirt. The smell of livestock and manure permeated the still air. "All My Ex's Live in Texas" blared from an aging sound system. The edgy excitement of competition was electric in the stifling June air.
"Gotta love bull riding in San Antonio."
Dakota turned to the youthful cowboy who was grinning like a puppy with a new bone. "What's so special about San Antonio?" Dakota asked.
"I qualified for the competition."
"That'll do it."
Dakota didn't know the rider's real name, but even though he was relatively new to the Professional Bull Riders Association circuit, he'd already earned a nickname. "Cockroach" stemmed from the way he scurried out of the reach of a bull's kicking hooves. It was a great talent to have if you wanted to keep living with all parts working.
Cockroach rubbed his palms against his chaps. "This is my first year to compete in PBR-sanctioned events, so I'm a little nervous."
"The adrenaline will take care of that once you drop onto the bull's back."
"I'm counting on that." Cockroach adjusted his hat. "One day I hope to be the PBRA world champion, just like you were two years ago. A million-dollar purse. I could use that. Not to mention all those endorsements you have."
"Bull riding's not about the money."
"I know." Cockroach toed the dirt as if putting out a cigarette. "It's a long, hard ride from the bottom to the top, but I plan to be one of the few who make it."
"Persistence is a large part of the battle," Dakota agreed.
"And skill is the rest," Cockroach said.
"Skill, passion and luck," Dakota corrected. "You gotta love what you're doing. And you gotta stay alive to keep doing it."
Cockroach reached down and adjusted his right spur. "Have you ever been seriously hurt?"
"Never met a bull rider who hasn't. I've had cracked ribs, concussions, a broken right wrist and bruises probably on every inch of my body."
"Hey, Dakota. Looking good."
Dakota turned toward the railing that separated the paid attendees from the competitors. A group of young women were leaning over the railing, probably not a one of them over twenty years old. Not that he was all that much older at twenty-five, but he sure felt it.
Still, he tipped his hat and smiled.
"Your friend's cute, too," one of the females called.
Cockroach beamed, turned a tad red and tipped his hat to his vocal admirer.
"What's your favorite rodeo town?" Cockroach asked when he turned back to Dakota.
Dakota nudged his worn Stetson back from his forehead. It damn sure wasn't San Antonio or any other town within five hundred miles of here, but he wasn't getting into that.
"Doesn't really matter where you are. It always comes down to just you, the bull and the clock."
"Can't be the same in places like Montana. I mean look at those hot babes over there. Short shorts, halter tops, sun-streaked hair and all that luscious tanned flesh. Bet you don't get that in cold country."
"They've got hot buckle bunnies every place they've got rodeo competitions," Dakota assured him. "The names change. The flirting and seduction games remain the same."
At least that had been true for him until he'd run into a certain dark-haired beauty with class and brains after a bull got the best of him last year at Rodeo Houston. The attraction between them had struck like lightning, shooting sparks without warning. They'd had six days together before he'd had to move on to the next competition. Six torrid, exciting, fantastic days.
End of story. He hadn't been the one to write the finale. The rejection had stung a lot more than expected. His performance..