Read this cowboy romance right now!

Contracted Cowboy is Book 1 in the Quinn Family Ranch series

Welcome to the first "Throwback Thursday" I'll be doing! I'm super excited about this new idea I've had.

See, I have a lot of cowboy romance books. Over 100 now. Some of you may have read every single one - thank you!

Some of you might not have. It's easy to miss a book here and there, especially when they're not really a series of their own.

Except they are.

I'm talking about the Quinn Family Ranch series. I released it with several other authors in 2017 and 2018. But my 5 books ARE a cohesive family saga cowboy romance series - and you may have missed them!

So I'm going to be sharing a chapter or two of CONTRACTED COWBOY right here in your inbox until I've shared the whole thing.

If you want to just go read the book without waiting for new chapters each week, that's fine. It's in the Boutique for $1.99.

If you want to wait and read the whole book for free, that's fine too!

The first part is below.

Enjoy!

CHAPTER ONE:

“Oh, we’ll need two jars of pickled beets from the cellar.” Granny Gertrude pointed one aged finger with a slight bend in it to Georgia’s list.

Georgia Quinn admired the wrinkled skin and paper-soft quality of her grandmother’s hands. She looked up into her bright blue eyes, still as mischievous as ever.

“Doesn’t Gramps hate beets?” Georgia asked, making the one next to the beets on her list into a two.

“Oh, he loves them.” Granny waved her hand like she was swatting at an annoying fly. “And when you go to the grocery store today, make sure you get several extra bags of chips. We always run out.”

Georgia changed the four to an eight on her shopping list, enjoying this quiet, peaceful time with her grandmother.

Yes, she hated the Quinn family parties and get-togethers. There seemed to be an endless string of them, as if something as trivial as Flag Day or the First Day of Fall required a huge shindig with the people she saw nearly everyday anyway.

But the annual Harvest Festival was something she thought should be celebrated, because it meant a tremendous amount of work had just been completed on the family ranch where she and her siblings lived and worked.

“Are eight bags enough?” she asked. “It’s just us, Granny.” The larger Quinn family got together from time to time, including at the Fourth of July, Thanksgiving, and just before Christmas. She wasn’t sure if they were all as crazy as her branch of the tree and had celebrations for things like a full moon, but it didn’t matter.

Georgia had been dreading the upcoming holiday get-togethers in all their varieties for a few months now. Maybe since last New Year’s Day when her long-time boyfriend, Simon Flower, had broken up with her instead of popping the question.

She frowned at the mere thought of Simon. She hadn’t been on a date since, and he’d been out with three different women in the last nine and half months. She shook her head, her long auburn hair brushing her arms as she did. But the thoughts wouldn’t go.

“Eight is fine,” Granny said, moving into the kitchen to put on the kettle. “Do you want tea?”

“Have I ever not wanted tea?” Georgia grinned at her grandmother. “How have you put up with all these family events for so many years?”

Granny Gertrude smiled back at her, the weathered, wonderful expression of someone much wiser than Georgia looking back at her. “Oh, honey.” She got down two teacups, and Georgia thought that might be it. Granny was getting up there in years, and she sometimes lost her train of thought in the middle of the railway.

She put the cups on the counter where they’d been going over the grocery list for the Harvest Festival. Georgia would go and get everything she could that night, and the day before the big event next Saturday, the four sisters in her family would spend all day making the food for the cowboys, ranch hands, seasonal workers, and anyone else who had come to help them put in their cattle and crops.

Georgia was tired just thinking about it.

Granny sat at the counter and twirled her teacup. “I don’t mind the family parties. When you’re my age, they’re something to look forward to.” She gave Georgia a look with loads of sparkle in her eyes. Georgia sometimes got in trouble after Granny looked at her like that.

“What?” she asked.

“You just need a boyfriend,” Granny said, and Georgia almost rolled her eyes. “Then the parties are more fun.”

“Okay, Granny,” Georgia said, chuckling as the tea kettle sang. “I’ll get right on that.”

* * *

That evening, she waited as long as she could to go into town. It was a twenty-minute drive from the ranch where she lived, and if it were later at night, there was less chance of her A) seeing someone she knew, and B) getting sucked into a conversation about her lackluster love life she didn’t want to have.

After all, the grocery store in Quinn Valley wasn’t one of those big chain, open-twenty-four-hours type of stores. She’d only gotten a cart and put in five jugs of apple juice from a display just inside the door when someone said, “Hello, Georgia.”

That voice.

She turned as the creepy-crawlies started up her spine. Sure enough, Simon himself stood there, looking all debonair with his dark hair swept to the side. Honestly, Georgia thought he’d always tried too hard to look like Hollywood’s next big thing, when really he’d left Quinn Valley for less time than she had.

“Hello, Simon,” she said as nicely as she could.

“Shopping for the Harvest Festival?”

“Yes.” She glanced at a woman who came to Simon’s side. She was the model type, with a bigger gap between her thighs than humanly possible. Georgia instantly felt inferior, though she probably only carried an extra ten pounds, and Simon had always told her it was in the best places anyway.

“This is Carrie,” he said, as if Georgia hadn’t been in the same class as the other woman for many years. He really was so arrogant.

“Hey, Carrie,” Georgia said, consulting her list. “I have to—”

“Darling, we should get going. We’ll be late to the movie.” Carrie gave Georgia a slightly wicked look as she tried to tug on Simon’s arm.

“You look good,” he said to Georgia, to which Carrie practically hissed.

“You guys go on,” Georgia said in a voice that was much too loud. She worked to quiet it, when really she just wanted to rage at her stupid ex-boyfriend who hadn’t had a problem moving on from their four-year relationship.

Four years.

And some of the best years of her life too. She couldn’t believe she’d wasted them on him. Hadn’t seen his inability to commit much sooner. She smiled as she said a prayer to maintain her composure.

“I have to meet my boyfriend later too, and this list is long.” She waved the list at them as if they cared what was on it. Then she walked away, a new, strange idea morphing in her mind as she searched for the crushed tomatoes her mother would use to make the most amazing tortellini soup.

The next morning, Georgia read and re-read the words she’d typed into the box on the computer screen. Quinn Valley had a small newspaper with poor circulation, but their online classifieds were huge. It wasn’t really something run out of Quinn Valley, but Lewiston, which was about an hour away.

But if she wanted a car, a dog—or a job—everyone in the vicinity knew to check the online classifieds first.

And she was about to post a job for a handyman to help her finish the barn. She almost scoffed. She did not need help finishing that barn, except for maybe Father Time, who seemed to keep throwing tasks at her that prevented her from getting out to it to finish it.

She flexed her fingers and read the ad one more time. It sounded reasonable. She needed someone who was handy with a hammer to help on the Quinn Valley Ranch. She couldn’t put must be handsome, or men without girlfriends only in the text.

She wasn’t that desperate. At least she didn’t think she was. And she would not be hiring this person to be a handyman around the ranch, but to be her fake boyfriend for the next three months as she faced the busiest time of year for Quinn family events.

Granny Gertrude had said they’d be more fun that way.

Georgia’s guilt almost had her deleting the listing. She knew Granny hadn’t meant for her to hire a boyfriend, but since the other options for finding a man hadn’t panned out well for her, Georgia felt like her choices were a bit limited.

And the women at church had already twittered to her about her “new boyfriend,” because word in Quinn Valley got around quickly, and apparently Carrie hadn’t wasted any time in mentioning the fake beau to anyone who would listen.

Determined now to show her and Simon—and herself—that she’d moved on, Georgia hit CONFIRM on the listing and not one moment later, a message popped up that her listing would be live within the next fifteen minutes.

She sat back in her chair, her desk filled with folders and notes that sat at precise ninety-degree angles. No one came in her office without her permission, and nothing happened at Quinn Valley Ranch that Georgia didn’t know about. Didn’t schedule. Didn’t plan.

You can’t plan a boyfriend her mother had said. Georgia knew that. She did. But maybe, just maybe, she could hire one.

* * *

A week later, her situation was desperate. She wasn’t sure what she’d been expecting. Maybe that within fifteen minutes, her phone would blow up with potential handymen—er, boyfriends—and she’d have her pick?

But it hadn’t. In fact, only one man had applied. A Logan Locke, and she’d scheduled an interview with him that morning, which was seriously cutting it close as the Harvest Festival was the following evening.

But apparently, Logan had been on another job that didn’t end until yesterday and he couldn’t come until today.

“He’s all you’ve got,” Georgia told herself as she straightened her hair and then pulled the sides back. “So don’t blow it. Don’t apply your list of boyfriend rules to him. He doesn’t need to meet them. He just needs to A) not have a girlfriend.” She held up her fingers as she started checking off items. “B) not be a felon, and C) be able to pretend better than almost anyone.”

She sighed and dropped her hands to the bathroom sink in front of her. “This is impossible.” But she still turned, pulled on her cowgirl boots, and headed out of her bedroom.

All of the Quinns in her family lived on the ranch property somewhere. She and her three sisters shared the main homestead, which had seven bedrooms spanning two floors. There was a kitchen upstairs and down, the office where Georgia maintained the operations on the ranch, a piano room where Jessie gave lessons when she wasn’t dealing with the animal births, and four bathrooms.

Her parents had built a cottage in the corner of the yard and moved into it a few years ago. Her older brother, and the only boy in the family, Rhodes, lived in a cabin closer to the main road. He’d take over the ranch one day, and the homestead would become his. He’d said he wouldn’t push any of his sisters out, but Georgia was hoping to be long gone before then.

He lived next door to her grandparents, and he took care of them a lot of the time. Georgia went down to their cabin several times a week as well, and she treasured her time with them. They didn’t seem to care how close she was to getting married and having children, and she felt more peace there than almost anywhere else on the ranch.

There were cowboy cabins that sat in an octagon beyond the main ranch buildings, which included a dozen stables, several huge pastures for the horses, two bull pens, and three barns full of pigs, chickens, and even a wild turkey or two.

Behind the barns, a huge field with llamas and potbellied pigs and a couple of goats often found Georgia standing there, talking to the animals as if they could understand her. Today, those pigs and llamas were her goal. She’d named them all after explorers, some so obscure she had to give history lessons to some of the new cowboys who came to work the ranch.

A knocking in the unfinished barn caught her attention as she passed it. Her heart flopped in her chest like it had been hooked up to an electrical pulse. “Hello?” she called as she entered through the doorless entrance.

A man turned toward her, his dark gray cowboy hat going well with those bright, bright green eyes. Her heart wailed at her now, and her legs stopped working completely. He wore his beard neat and trim, just how Georgia liked.

He was mesmerizing, and Georgia forgot her own name for a moment. Then, it registered that he stood in her barn, with a hammer in his hand. Her hammer.

She stepped forward to take it from him. “Who are you?” she demanded. “And what are you doing in my barn?”

He let the hammer go without resistance, those eyes pulling at her and drinking her up and smiling like they’d just shared a funny moment. “I’m Logan Locke,” he said swiping the sexy cowboy hat from his head to reveal gorgeous sandy blond hair. “I’m here to interview to help finish this barn.”

Georgia let the hammer fall to her side. She couldn’t have picked a more handsome fake boyfriend if she’d held a lineup of cowboys. And she knew her granny was about to be proven right. This holiday season was going to be the best one she’d had in all of her thirty-one-years on Earth.

“Oh,” she managed to say. “I’m Georgia Quinn. Some of my interview questions will seem a bit unconventional….” She wanted to reach up and tuck her hair behind her ear, maybe give him a flirty smile. But she kept her professionalism front and center. After all, she had to prove to him that she could pretend as well as he could.

“I’m ready,” he said, tucking his hands in his pockets and giving her a smile that should be illegal. “Fire away.”

CHAPTER TWO:

Logan gazed evenly at the beautiful redhead, hoping she didn’t noticed the way his jeans frayed along the cuffs and that his jacket was in need of several deep clean washes. He’d been flitting from ranch to ranch around the area this summer, and he was tired.

But he needed the money, and if this woman needed her barn fixed, he knew how to swing a hammer. It would pay rent and put food on the table, and Logan had enough experience on ranches to almost always get the job.

So let her ask her questions.

“First, do you have a girlfriend?” She pulled out her phone and focused on it, as if she really had typed that question into her interview list.

Surprise tugged at Logan’s eyebrows, and they went up. He hurried to put his cowboy hat on, his main line of defense against pretty women. “Not at the moment. I mean, what does that have to do with building a barn?”

“I don’t need any distractions,” she practically barked at him.

Logan almost started laughing. Georgia possessed some serious fire, and Logan didn’t mind getting burned. He had a feeling she could really char him, though, so he kept his distance and waited for the next bizarre question.

“Are you available through the end of the year?”

He glanced up into the rafters of the barn. “There’s no way this will take three months to finish. Maybe a couple of weeks.” He met her eye again, and he had the inexplicable urge to step forward. But her glare and straight lips held him fast in place.

“Yes, ma’am,” he said. “I’m available until the end of the year.”

She consulted her phone. “Have you ever been in a play?”

“A play?”

“Like, the theater.” She looked at him expectantly.

He had no idea what kind of questions these were. “No,” he said slowly. “Look, I grew up on a potato farm that goes over the border between Quinn Valley and Franklin County. My youngest brother is going to inherit that, but all three of us boys grew up there, farming and raising animals.” He indicated the barn. “I can finish this, easy.”

Georgia looked at him, her eyes shooting hazel-colored lasers at him. She had a smattering of freckles across her nose and cheeks that he wanted to touch and then kiss. He was startled at the thought, and actually fell back a step.

What kind of thinking was that? He’d never met this woman before, and she hadn’t been very friendly.

All at once, the fire left her body, causing her shoulders to slump. “Look,” she said, glancing at the hammer still clutched in her hand. She set it down on the workbench where he’d picked it up. “I’ll be honest with you.”

“You haven’t been?”

“Sort of.”

Logan’s stomach clenched, and his gaze flickered to the doorway he’d walked through. There was no door there. No way for her to lock him in. She wore jeans, a burnt orange T-shirt with a maple leaf on the front of it, and cowgirl boots. He was pretty sure he could outrun her if he had to.

But something kept him in place. Maybe idiocy. Maybe curiosity.

She looked like she was working up the courage to tell him what was really going on. Her mouth opened, and then she snapped it shut again. He edged toward the door, keeping the temporary workbench between them.

“Maybe I should just go,” he said. Though he needed the money, he did not need crazy, and there were other ranches to find work. None as beautiful, as big, and as perfect as Quinn Valley Ranch. If he could get on here permanently, his whole outlook on life would change. His opportunities would be endless.

But there really were other ranches.

“How good are you with meeting new people?” she asked, a bit of desperation in her eyes now. Logan knew the look; he saw it every morning in his own expression.

“I’m…okay,” he said. “Why? Georgia—ma’am—what is going on here?”

“I don’t need your help with the barn,” she blurted. “I can do that myself.” She took a long, deep breath while Logan’s hopes of getting on at this ranch in any capacity faded to a distant dot on the horizon.

“Oh.”

“I need someone to be my boyfriend for the next three months.” Her eyes slid down to his cowboy boots—probably noting how he’d glued patches back together—and back to his eyes. “What do you think?”

Logan had no idea what to think. He took another step toward the door. “I—I have no idea what’s going on here.”

She moved sideways too, positioning herself between him and the wide open exit. “Look, the Quinn family is like, the biggest clan in the valley, right?” Her face screwed up in disgust, and she sounded like she’d rather have a different surname.

“Yeah,” he said slowly.

“Well, we have a lot of events between now and New Year’s. I don’t want to go alone. I’d be hiring you to go with me.”

“Georgia!”

She spun toward the door at the sound of the male voice calling her name. Relief painted Logan’s insides when her older brother appeared in the doorway. Rhodes, who was the same age as Logan’s thirty-six, stood there. He looked back and forth between Georgia and Logan.

“Oh,” he said, clearly taken aback by finding Logan there. “What’s going on?”

“I’m hiring him to fix this barn,” Georgia said without looking away from Logan. Oh, so she was fairly decent at telling little white lies. And he wasn’t so stupid that he couldn’t see the edge of desperation in her gaze. That edge that said, Please, please, Logan. Go along with it.

“Hiring him?” Rhodes asked, his gaze stuck on the side of his sister’s face. “Georgia, we’re done with the seasonal workers.”

She finally tore her eyes from Logan’s and looked at Rhodes. “I’ll pay him from the admin budget. I can’t get to this barn, and it’s driving me nuts that it’s not done.”

That at least sounded true.

“We don’t have budget for the barn,” Rhodes said, obviously still confused.

Logan felt like a fool, standing there while they talked about the job right in front of him.

“Then I’ll pay him from my check,” Georgia said. “I’ll handle it, Rhodes.” She turned fully toward him. “What do you need?”

“Betsy wants to see you.” He hooked his thumb over his shoulder. “I was on my way out to the bull pens and said I’d see if you were talking to the pigs.” He flicked his eyes to Logan, and his whole face turned bright red. “I mean—”

Georgia drew in another breath, and Logan didn’t want to be around when that particular tactic stopped working. Oh, no, he did not. “I’ll be in soon,” she said. “Tell her I’ll be there at nine-thirty, like we agreed.”

“All right.” Rhodes backed out of the barn, turned, and practically ran away.

Georgia faced him, her own face a shade of red that Logan actually found quite attractive on her. “I do not talk to the pigs.”

“Of course not,” he said. “Now dogs. You can talk to dogs. It’s like they know what you’re saying.” He clamped his mouth shut. What was he doing? He had no idea, only that he didn’t want her to feel self-conscious.

She lifted her chin. “You have my number. I think I’ve made the job quite clear. Any questions, text me.” Georgia started for the doorway, and she’d just stepped through when a question popped into Logan’s head.

“When does the job start?” he called after her.

She twisted and looked at him over her shoulder, those half-green, half-brown eyes calling to him even across a couple dozen feet. “Tomorrow night. Our annual Harvest Festival includes my whole family, and every employee who helped with the harvest. Probably fifty people.”

He nodded and said, “I’ll let you know by morning.”

She walked away, leaving him to stand in the nicest barn in the county, wondering what in the world he’d gotten himself into. Well, not yet, but he had the very dangerous thought that he would be telling the beautiful Georgia Quinn that he could probably pretend well enough to be her boyfriend for a few months.

Probably.

* * *

“How’d the interview go?” Knox kicked off his boots at the back door, an old habit from their childhood, because their mother didn’t like dirty boots mucking up her clean house.

“It was…interesting,” Logan said. “And before I left, I talked to a guy in their horse stables.”

“Oh?”

“They’re looking for a farrier. I told them about you. He took your number.”

“What was his name?” Knox pulled out his phone and continued into the house where Logan lived with his twin. It was smack dab in the middle of Quinn Valley, everything he needed within a twenty minute drive—including that white whale of a ranch to the north.

“Rhodes,” he said, looking at Knox like he’d lost his mind too. Honestly, had Logan entered the Twilight Zone and not known it? “You know Rhodes.”

“Oh, well, yeah. You said ‘a guy.’ I thought it might be someone else.”

Logan was tired, and he hadn’t even worked that day. But if there was one thing more demoralizing than any other, it was looking for work. “Sorry,” he said.

“So the interview didn’t go well.”

Georgia hadn’t mentioned that he couldn’t tell anyone about their arrangement. But it felt like that was an unspoken rule. Quinn Valley might have fifteen thousand people, but in a lot of ways, it felt like everyone knew everyone else’s business.

“It went okay,” he said. “I think I’ll get the job.” All he had to do was text her and say he’d take it.

“When will you know?”

“Tomorrow morning,” he said.

Knox’s phone chimed, and he looked down at it. “It’s Rhodes.” He grinned as he looked at his brother. “Maybe we’ll both get a job out at that ranch. Wouldn’t that be something?”

“It sure would.” Logan busied himself with heating up a couple of bowls of soup they’d brought home from the farm over the weekend while Knox started having quite the text conversation with Rhodes Quinn.

With dinner hot, and Knox grinning like he’d won the Idaho lottery, Logan pulled out his own phone and typed out a text to Georgia.

I’m in. Should we meet before the party to get some details straight?

He stared at the words, thinking he was absolutely insane to even be considering the woman’s offer. She’d lured him out to that ranch under false pretenses. Asked him all kinds of crazy questions. Proposed something absolutely unthinkable.

Then he thought about her pretty face and that expansive and expensive barn. That ranch. If he could get the experience at a ranch that big—and keep a job for a few months—he might have a shot at buying his own cattle operation in the near future.

He hit send and flipped his phone over before picking up his spoon.

He hadn’t even taken a bite when his device vibrated. Logan couldn’t help it; he looked at the message.

It was from Georgia and very short. 9 AM. The barn. See you tomorrow.

He grinned at his brother. “I just got the job.”

“Great.” He showed Logan his phone. “I got an interview too.”

“Amazing.” He picked up his spoon again, a simple prayer of thanks running through his mind. Maybe God had led him out to Quinn Valley Ranch for a different reason than finishing a barn. Maybe he’d been able to open the door for Knox to get a job. Maybe he could help Georgia weather the holiday season—which was obviously rough for her.

Whatever it is, he prayed. Let me be successful in doing it.

After all, he wanted to keep the job at Quinn Valley Ranch too.

 

PURCHASE CONTRACTED COWBOY HERE.

Read the latest releases from Feel-Good Fiction!

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