Home > Seducing the Cowboy (Circle B Ranch #9)

Seducing the Cowboy (Circle B Ranch #9)
Author: Kennedy Fox

 

PROLOGUE

 

 

PAYTON

 

 

SEVEN YEARS EARLIER

 

 

I stare at the empty glass of whiskey sitting in front of me. I’m the only person in the bar besides the owner. Some sad-ass country song plays on the jukebox, and when I glance down at my knuckles, I see the broken skin and red beads of blood pooling on the surface. I wipe it on my jeans, numb to everything that went on this evening.

“So are you gonna tell me what happened?” Of course Benny notices. He’s in his late sixties and has run this little hole-in-the-wall since before I was born. My dad used to come here when he was my age. If he were alive, I'm sure he’d say it was the only thing in this town that hasn’t changed.

“No.” I’m not usually a man of many words, and tonight is no different.

He grabs the bottle of Wild Turkey 101 and pours me another drink—neat, just the way I like it. “This one’s on me.”

“Thanks,” I tell him, biding my time because I know the sheriff is on his way to my mom’s house. He might’ve just arrived.

Tonight, all the pent-up anger I’ve held against my stepdad finally snapped, and I did what my mother has begged me not to do a million times—decked him right in the face. And I’d be lying if I said it didn’t feel good.

Actually, it was better than good. It felt fucking great.

For years, Stanley has physically, mentally, and emotionally abused my mother. I’ve offered to help her leave more times than I can count, and I brought it up again just an hour ago. Her answer never changes.

After Stan picked his tipsy ass up off the floor, he called the cops. Everyone in this town knows he’s a piece of shit, but the law is the law, and I hit him first. Instead of waiting at the house for the cuffs to be slapped on my wrists, I decided to go out and get a drink to help me calm down.

“How’re things since Edna?”

“The same,” I explain, not wanting to think about my cheating ex. I take a long sip, the alcohol burning on the way down.

“That’s a shame,” he states. “She seemed like a nice girl.”

I should’ve known better than to pursue a relationship with someone I worked with. For some reason, I thought what we had was different. It wasn’t. Last Friday, I found her fuckin’ James in the back of his truck. Now, whenever I have to look at her, I’m reminded of what she did and how badly she betrayed me. “Every day’s a reminder that I wasn’t good enough and never would be.”

“Son, that’s not true.”

“Oh, it is. Not everyone is destined to get married or start a family. Pretty sure there’s nothin’ left for me in this shithole of a town.”

He looks at me over his glasses. “Then why are you still here?”

His question crashes into me the way my fist slammed into Stan’s nose. I open my mouth before I can put my thoughts to words, then close it.

“This shithole of a town will always be here, Payton. Doesn’t mean you have to be. Your mama ain’t gonna leave Stanley. The woman you thought you’d marry slept with every ranch hand in a twenty-mile radius. And you’re still here, hangin’ on to hope like something’s gonna change. It won’t. Trust me. I’ve been here for sixty-eight years.”

I’ve worked on the family ranch for over a decade, probably longer if you consider all the summers I put in during high school, but that means nothing to Stanley or my mother.

Before I can respond, Sheriff Landau walks in. He sits on the empty stool next to me and sucks in a deep breath. Benny opens a glass bottle of soda and sets it in front of him.

“You know why I’m here,” he says, staring forward before turning to look at me.

“To arrest me?” I meet his eyes.

“No. Not this time. But Stanley doesn’t want you back on the property.”

My jaw clenches tight. “And my mother?”

He doesn’t say anything.

I pound my fist on the bar. “She took his side again, didn’t she?”

“I’m sorry, son. I wish I had better news.” He clears his throat. “Stanley said your things will be on the porch waitin’ for you. I’d suggest you let me go with you so there aren’t any more altercations. The old fool said some disturbin’ things, and I don’t trust him.”

I scoff. “I’ll fuck him up.”

“Payton, you know he has guns. They’re goin’ down to file a temporary restrainin’ order on you first thing in the mornin’. I know this ain’t fair for him to be runnin’ ya off, but since the house and property are in his name, there ain’t nothing I can do. Legally, he can say you’re trespassing if you refuse to leave.”

We sit in silence, other than shitty music playing. “You’ve got that look in your eye. Now don’t be stupid and go ruinin’ your future over that piece of shit. I wanted to warn ya because your father was my best friend growin’ up. I gotta look after ya the best as I can, and well, I feel like I owe your pa as much. God rest his soul.”

I suck in a deep breath, realizing that everything in my life has completely fallen apart.

“You got a place to stay tonight?” he asks.

“Yeah,” I lie. I’ll sleep in the back seat of my truck just as I did on many nights when Stanley got too drunk and confrontational.

Sheriff Landau slaps a five-dollar bill on the counter and tips his hat at Benny. Then he places a firm grip on my shoulder and pats it.

“Thank you,” I tell him before he turns and walks out the door.

“You gonna be okay, kid?” Benny asks after a few minutes of me swirling the last gulp of my Wild Turkey.

“I always am,” I say, pulling out my wallet to pay for my other drinks.

He holds out his hand and waves me off. “Your money’s no good tonight.”

“Happy New Year,” I say, realizing it’s officially January first.

“You too, Payton. Hopefully, it’ll be a fresh start and your best year yet.”

I give him an amused half grin because anything will be better than living here.

 

 

It’s been two weeks since I left home with nothing more than a duffel bag of clothes, two pairs of boots, and my favorite cowboy hat. At twenty-seven, I’m moving away from the only home I’ve ever known. My mom apologized profusely, but her apologies don’t mean shit anymore, not when she hands them out like Halloween candy. I told her I was taking a ranch hand job in Eldorado with over ten thousand acres.

I begged her to come with me, but she gave me the same answer I’ve always gotten—I can’t. While I should be angry that she continues to choose him over me, I’m more disappointed that she doesn’t trust me enough to keep her safe.

Before I left, I told Benny I was moving and thanked him for everything. He was one of the only adults in my life who listened. Without him, I’m not sure I’d have the courage to leave my idea of home behind.

Edna is already engaged to James, but considering she was pregnant with his baby before we broke up, I’m not even surprised. Even though she seemed more than happy to see me go, I had fallen in love with her. Or at least the version of her she wanted me to see. People warned me about dating someone I worked with, and I should’ve listened. Catching her ass up with someone I trusted was a hard way to learn a lesson, and it’s a mistake I won’t be making again.

Hot Books
» House of Earth and Blood (Crescent City #1)
» A Kingdom of Flesh and Fire
» From Blood and Ash (Blood And Ash #1)
» A Million Kisses in Your Lifetime
» Deviant King (Royal Elite #1)
» Den of Vipers
» House of Sky and Breath (Crescent City #2)
» Sweet Temptation
» The Sweetest Oblivion (Made #1)
» Chasing Cassandra (The Ravenels #6)
» Steel Princess (Royal Elite #2)
» Twisted Hate (Twisted #3)
» Angry God (All Saints High #3)
» The War of Two Queens (Blood and Ash #4)
» ENEMIES