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Sean O’Connell’s life is perfect, or it was until his partying lifestyle affected his bull riding. Now he’s ended the season too broke to leave the Northwest for the warm southern rodeos. When a wild night with his buddies gets out of hand, he wakes up naked, staring into the angry eyes of a strange woman. His infallible O’Connell charm gets him nowhere with the dark-haired beauty. It’s obvious she’s not his usual good-time girl, so why can’t he forget her?
Bar-manager Catherine Silvera finds a waterlogged, unconscious cowboy freezing to death in front of the Sugarwater Bar. She saves his life--then runs faster than a jackrabbit with a coyote on its tail. Any man who makes his living rodeoing is bad news, especially if Sean thinks partying is part of the competition. He’s everything she doesn’t want in a man, so why can’t Catherine shake her attraction to the rugged cowboy?
Just driving to the town made the trip worthwhile. The scenery was incredible, and the residents of Sisters had remade their community into a replica of a western town right out of the 1800s. The storefronts were made of wood with hitching rails running the length of the main street. Located in the shadow of the Three Sisters volcano mountain range, Sisters was a tourist town through and through. When the logging business went bust in the area, they’d encouraged tourism and saved their town when many others hit hard times. Sean had been to Sisters many times for the rodeo, and he’d always been impressed. Not only did the town ooze western hospitality, each trip he’d felt like he’d stepped into the past when cowboys ruled the area. Best of all, they put on one of the best paying and well-run rodeosin the northwest.
Today the town had been transformed. Quilts of every color and size were displayed in the windows and hung from the store railings, many with blue and red ribbons. The judging was done, and they were out for everyone to enjoy.
"Park the truck, and we’ll start at one end of town and go until you get bored,” Catherine said. She jumped out before he had the engine off and started toward the first store. “Isn’t this beautiful?”
The wonder in her voice had him hurrying to catch up and see what she’d found.
An eighteen-inch square quilt was made of half-inch pieces of cloth. Someone hand stitched all those tiny squares together to make a picture of flowers. The workmanship amazed him.
They wandered along the boardwalk, taking in the quilts and other handmade items. At the ice cream parlor they took a break.
Over ice cream cones, they discussed which quilts Cat liked best. Sean still couldn’t get over the amount of work people put into one of the handmade works of art.
“What do you think?” Catherine asked as she licked her cone. “Are you bored yet?”
“What?” Sean’s attention was riveted to the sight of Cat’s tongue licking the ice cream and he hadn’t heard her question.
“Do you like the quilts?” she asked, as the tip of her tongue slipped around the melting cone.
He forced his gaze up to her eyes. “For blankets, they sure are pretty. I’d be afraid to use them.”
Her smile told him she knew where his thoughts were. “I use one my grandmother made on my bed, but I keep the others stored in my closet because I can’t replace them. Except for sentimental value, most quilts are made to be used."
"You mentioned your grandmother and mom. Where are they now?” Sean gathered the napkins and cups then dropped them in the trash can.
When they were alone on the street, Catherine said, “My grandmother was a member of the Northern Paiute tribe. My grandfather was white. When they wanted to marry, her parents weren’t happy. My grandfather agreed to live on the reservation near Burns and learn the old ways. He became a part of the tribe. They passed away years ago. I didn’t know them well. Mom was born and raised there. When she married my father, he was white like my granddad. Everyone assumed they would stay, too.”
“I’m guessing they didn’t,” Sean said. “Where did you go?”
“It didn’t take long for my daddy to get bored on the reservation. He had other ideas. Big ideas. We wandered across much of Oregon and Idaho, chasing a dream he couldn’t quite catch. After each failure, he drank a little more. Let’s just say things went downhill from there.”
"I’m sorry,” Sean said.
“Maybe you’ll tell me more about them sometime." But not now, Catherine thought. “What about your family?” she asked. “I know Frannie, and I knew of your mother. You come from nice people."
“Nice people, that’s my family,” he muttered, “all but me."
She glanced over to him. “You’re nice people. You just hide it well.” The giggle burst out of her. Sean had never heard her giggle. She didn’t seem like the giggling type of woman.
Then he realized what she’d said. “I hide it well? And I suppose you can see right through me to the warm chocolaty core?”
She giggled again then laughed outright. And laughter looked very good on Catherine Silvera. “Chocolaty core. Good description. I just need to lick through the hard sugar shell.”
Oh hell, the mental image just about blew him out of his boots.
He grabbed her and pulled her between the buildings to a private spot. “So you’re going to lick through the sugar shell?” It was his turn to laugh as he watched the blush spread up her neck and across her cheeks.
“I didn’t mean... You dirty-minded old man.” Even though she was blushing, she smiled.
“You’d better get started if you want to get to the chocolate tonight.”
His mouth closed on hers. She pressed against him and slipped her tongue into his mouth. She’s taking me seriously was his last thought before his brain scrambled.
They were both breathing hard, and if they’d been any closer together, they’d have been on the other side of each other. Sean cradled her head in his hands and bent to give her another soft kiss. He loved the way this woman smelled, like fresh air and oranges. Sliding his fingers through her hair, he heard her sigh. “I wish we were home,” Catherine said.
“You’re kidding me. This was your idea, and we’re going to finish the tour. This will give you time to think about your treat.” Sean turned her around, put his hands on her waist, and steered her back to the street.
About the author:
Stephanie Berget was born loving horses and found her way to rodeo when she married the Bronc Rider. She and her husband traveled throughout the Northwest while she ran barrels and her cowboy rode bucking horses. She started writing to put a realistic view of rodeo and ranching into western romance. Stephanie and her husband live on a farm located along the Oregon/Idaho border, where they raise hay, horses and cattle, with the help of Dizzy Dottie, the Border Collie, and two Munchkin cats, Magic and Martin.