In Texas, Valentine's Day is for restless hearts, brave second chances, and passions rekindled. New York Times bestselling author Jodi Thomas, Linda Broday, Phyliss Miranda, and DeWanna Pace tempt you with four delicious treats. . .
Out on these rugged plains, love never comes easy. And four daring ladies will do whatever it takes to capture the hearts of four irresistibly sweet-talking Texans. . . When a quiet foreman comes to the aid of a mystery lady, they'll find that this perfect starlit night is made for courtin'.... A determined heiress gambles high to reclaim the rancher she's never stopped wanting. . .. When a spirited lady and a go-getter mayor compete for their town's future, it's two dreams for a lifetime. . .. And to attract a lonely doctor's attention, a shy young woman needs courage--and two unlikely matchmakers. . .
"A sweet, sunny anthology perfect for rainy-day reading." --Publishers Weekly on Give Me a Texas Outlaw
"Readers couldn't ask for a finer quartet of heroes. . ." --Romantic Times on Give Me a Texas Ranger
"Will warm your heart and bring a smile to your lips." --Love Western Romances on Give Me a Cowboy
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January 03, 2012
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Excerpt from Be My Texas Valentine by Jodi Thomas
Broderick Monroe shouldered his saddle and moved across the corral toward the barn. He wore a week's worth of trail dirt sweated into his clothes and hadn't slept in three days or eaten in two. All he wanted to do was make sure his horse had plenty of food and fall into his bunk. After about eight hours' sleep, he'd have enough energy to wash and eat whatever the cook had left over on the stove.
"That you, Brody?" someone yelled from just inside the darkened barn. "I thought you'd make it in before dawn and looks like I was right."
Brody, as everyone in this part of the world called him, didn't answer. In the year he'd been at the Double R, he'd learned to keep quiet. Though it had been almost two years since the War Between the States ended, Southerners in Texas still didn't like the sound of aYankee working among them. Brody had managed to find a pocket in East Texas where every man he worked with had either fought for the South or lost loved ones in the war. He'd thought of moving on, but it had taken him months to find this job and even the cook's leftovers were better than nothing to eat.
Caleb, the broken�down cowhand who took care of the barn and most of the gear, followed him through the darkness to the tack room. "You know, Brody, I'd clean your tack for you and take care of that devil of a horse you ride. It's part of my job."
"I do my own." He'd learned the hard way a month after he'd arrived and his saddle girth had been cut.
The old man leaned against a bench in the tack room. "Truth be told, I'm surprised you made it back this early. I figured you'd try to avoid this evening if you could, what with the dance and all."
"I finished the job. I plan to sleep through the dance. It's none of my concern." Brody knew that half the time the other cowhands made bets on whether he'd make it back alive. He always drew the worst assignments. If an animal was hurt or dying or crazy with loco weed, he rode out alone. Probably the only reason he hadn't been fired was because he kept more cattle from dying than anyone on the place.
"I knew if anyone could get those cattle out of the canyon, you could. Boss told me he'd already written them off for a loss so any you saved was money in the bank."
"I got eleven out and closed the gap that let them into that tiny canyon with enough rocks to stop any more from wandering in. Had to leave one. She was about to calf." Brody thought that if a storm didn't come in the next few weeks, he'd find time to go back and get her and the calf. He didn't like leaving the cow, but at least she could defend herself and there was enough buffalo grass to eat. The calf would be no match for a coyote, though.
Caleb rolled a cigarette with fingers so busted up they looked to have extra knuckles. "You may not care nothing about people, Brody, but you do seem to like animals, and I can't fault a man for that."
Brody didn't need the old man's praise. He didn't need anyone. He'd learned a long time ago that an animal, any animal, was more predictable than a human. He'd gone through the war sending his money home to buy a farm, only to find that his sweetheart was living on the place his money had bought with her new husband and had been for almost three years while she wrote him loving letters.
When he'd asked why she didn't wait, she'd said simply that she was just holding on to Brody in letters until some�one better came along. "You best get cleaned up." Caleb had been talking, but Brody hadn't been listening.
"You may think you can sleep, but every man's got to attend. Before the sun sets, this place will be all decorated for Mrs. Molly Clair's annual Valentine's Party. Folks will be riding in from any ranch within thirty miles. Red and white ribbons will be on every pole in the place. Every single gal from fourteen to eighty will be here."
"I'm not interested."
Caleb laughed. "Well, you better get interested. Mrs. Molly Clair says every one of the men on the place includ�ing me better be dancing ready because she's not having a girl going home without having worn a blister or two."
Brody walked out of the barn as the sun came up. He had no intention of attending a party. With all that was happening, no one would notice if he slept the night away. No one ever noticed him.
Men were leaving the bunkhouse, heading over to breakfast, as he walked in. A few cowhands had warmed up enough to give him a nod now and then, but most ig�nored him completely. He thought of grabbing a bite before he turned in, but reconsidered. It wasn't worth the hassle. When he tried to eat with the others, he was always reminded that he wasn't one of them. The bunkhouse cleared as he propped his boots on the porch and removed his spurs. He walked to the back of the large quarters and found his bunk in the privacy of a little built�on bay that had once stored wood. It was drafty, cold in winter and hot in summer, but it was away from the others.
Brody stripped down to his long johns and crammed his dirty clothes into an already full bag. All he had left was his go�to�town clothes, a white shirt and black wool trousers. He'd have to wear them to work in if he didn't go into town soon.
Unlike the others, he didn't pay the cook to wash his laundry. The first time he had, the shirts had been ripped and the jeans looked like they'd only been dunked in water once then left to dry in a ball. He'd used his entire first month's pay to buy enough clothes to last until he could have the laundry in town do them. Most hands rode into town on Saturday nights, but Brody picked Monday morn�ing. The boss would have probably said something, but his wife, Mrs. Molly Clair, always had a list of things she needed.
After putting his few belongings away, as he'd been taught in the army, Brody finally tumbled into bed, too exhausted to care about anything beyond the plank walls of his little room.
He didn't know if he'd slept an hour or a dozen, but he awoke with a start when someone kicked his bunk.
"Wake up, Yank." Caleb's voice finally reached Brody's brain. "Mrs. Molly Clair sent me to fetch you. The boss says he's serious about firing anyone who doesn't show up to the dance, and Mrs. Molly Clair thinks she's got a job you can handle."
"Why don't you just tell her you couldn't find me?" Brody grumbled. "I thought about it. Lord knows no one in this place would miss you."
Caleb straightened and scratched his head. "Ever since you doctored her horse that the boss was going to put down, she thinks you're needed about the place. Says you're as good a vet as she's ever seen and the only man around the place who can read her writing and bring back what she needs from town."
"I'm not needed at the dance." Brody sat up and ran his hand through hair so dirty it felt stiff.
Caleb grinned, showing both his teeth. "Oh, yes you are. I heard her say she was going to sit you next to Widow Allen. Nobody likes to talk to her, and she never has two words to say to them that tries. So your job tonight might as well be sitting next to a post." "What's wrong with the widow? Why doesn't she just sit with the other old women?"
"She ain't old and nothing's the matter with her that I can see from a distance. She's right pretty, and as long as she's in black, no man has to ask her to dance, but Mrs. Molly Clair don't like her sitting all alone."
"Why'd she come?" It crossed Brody's mind that the lady might have dropped by just to irritate him. Everyone else for a hundred miles had already had a turn.
Caleb shrugged. "I'm guessing that daddy of hers made her. She's his only chick so he's wanting the best for her even if she is nearly thirty. Her old man don't believe in the curse surrounding her."
Brody came full awake. "Curse. What curse?" For the first time the lady sounded like she might be interesting. He found it hard to believe that there might be another out�cast living in the area besides him.
Caleb followed him to the washroom and watched while Brody pumped water for a bath. "Oh, it's nothing to worry about. I don't believe it myself, though I try not to take chances. You got more lives than a cat, near as I can tell. You'll be fine."
"What curse?" Brody repeated as he stripped and stepped into a cold bath. "Well, they say a man cuts a month off his life if just her shadow falls across him." The old man's eyes opened wide as he settled, seeming in no hurry to go back to the barn dance. "And if a fellow should be dumb enough to touch her, say shake hands, he might as well saddle up for the doctor because he'll be sick, maybe dead by morning. I've heard several say they got to feeling poorly just passing too close to her place." "I don't believe in curses," Brody mumbled as he scrubbed his head. In truth, he didn't believe in luck either.
He'd never known anything like luck from the point his parents died when he was fifteen to now. He might as well get cleaned up and go over to the dance so he could court a curse.