9781460380208_ShouldaBeenACowboy

HQN
March 1, 2015


Shoulda Been a Cowboy

#.5

In this sexy, sweet prequel novella to her new series, USA Today bestselling author Maisey Yates welcomes readers to the charming small town of Copper Ridge, Oregon, where it's never too late for second chances

There's not much about his teenage years that Jake Caldwell can be proud of. Except maybe for keeping his hands off cute, kind-hearted Cassie Ventimiglia. She was the only one who saw him as more than a tattooed rebel who couldn't wait to leave the ranching life behind. Now he's back in Copper Ridge to sell his father's property-and staying right above Cassie's coffee shop. And out of nowhere, the girl he's never forgotten is offering a whole lot more than fresh-baked muffins...

Jake's dark, smoldering appeal hasn't changed one bit. But Cassie has. Following everyone else's rules didn't quite work out. Time to ask for what she's always wanted...and what Jake's more than happy to give. A wild, hot romance that could make a one-time bad boy realize he's back for good.

 

Don't miss Part Time Cowboy, the first in the Copper Ridge series, from HQN Books!

Look for the print edition of Shoulda Been a Cowboy, included FREE with Bad News Cowboy, coming July 28th 2015.

Also In this Series:

Excerpt

Jake Caldwell had most definitely improved with age. It really didn’t seem fair. Rather than gaining five pounds around his hips like she had, his chest and shoulders had grown broader, his waist trim, his stomach washboard flat. It almost, almost, made her rue her addiction to the Loganberry tarts she stocked in the pastry display at The Grind. Almost.

Cassie Ventimiglia slowly sank down behind the counter, putting Jake, who was outside dismounting his motorcycle, out of her sight. She didn’t need to spend any more time looking at him. She needed to take inventory of her soy milk. She opened the mini fridge that was built into the counter and began to dutifully do just that.

Her soy milk supply was sufficient. Which was good to know. Important. Much more important than taking in the view outside.

 

Cassie rose again slowly, eyeing the small dining room. Most of the women in it were casting subtle glances outside. And Cassie figured they weren’t checking out Copper Ridge’s main street.

Jake had that effect. But he always had. Even back when he’d been that dark scowling boy with perfect hair and wicked blue eyes wandering the halls of the high school, tattooed and bad news, and everything that kept mothers of good girls awake at night. And ensured that the fathers of good girls kept their shotguns close by.

Actually, that was probably why he had been so fascinating. As far as Copper Ridge, Oregon, went, he had been universally disapproved of. And what was more attractive than that, when you were seventeen and just starting to figure out that there was more to life than what your parents had told you? Nothing. At least not as far as she’d been concerned.

Of course, she had actually gotten to know him. Had seen beneath some of his tough exterior. Had bothered to see him as a human being. For all the good that had done her. She’d just ended up with a crush wider than the Columbia River Gorge. And before she’d been able to confess that, before she’d been able to tell him just what she wanted from him, he’d left.

She seemed to have that effect on men. But she wasn’t going to think about that right now. She was going to think about muffins. She could inventory those next. So hooray for that.

Anyway, she had no reason to be…staring at him, thinking about him, drooling after him. He’d given no indication at all that he was interested in her as anything other than a tenant he happened to live near. He was aloof to the point of being cool. That was something that had changed.

When he’d been a teenager he’d had an air of intensity, anger and restlessness about him. Now he just seemed…well, he seemed almost bored to be here. Like he was looking through things.

Like he was looking through her.

The little bell above the door chirped and she looked up just in time to see Jake walk in. He had been here for more than a week. Back in town, staying in the apartment next to hers. It was a complicated situation, really.

Jake’s father had owned the building that housed her coffee shop and the apartments above it, in addition to a couple of other properties in town and a ranch just outside of it. That meant Jake was the owner now. And effectively her landlord.

At least he hadn’t changed much since he’d arrived, with the exception of inhabiting the neighboring apartment. She only hoped he continued to not change things.

He came into the coffee shop every day and ordered an Americano and a muffin. Which meant that she should be used to him by now. It meant that her stomach should not go into a free fall, her heart should not skip several beats, and her palms should most certainly not get sweaty.

In addition to the fact that his presence was old news by now, she was thirty-two. She was, in the immortal words of Lethal Weapon’s Roger Murtaugh, too old for this shit.

And yet the second he’d walked in each morning, her heart rate had indeed increased, her stomach had plummeted, and her palms were definitely starting to get a little bit damp.

She forced her breathing to slow as he approached. He was holding his bike helmet beneath his arm, propping it against his hip. There was something epically badass about him when he stood that way. It was as appealing now as it had been fifteen years ago. And she had no idea why that was. He’d never been a good idea for her, never been a logical match. Her hormones had never registered that fact.

He laid his helmet on the counter and pushed his hand through his dark hair, drawing her eyes to the tattoo of dark evergreen trees that wrapped around his arm. They started at his wrist and extended up to his elbow. His tattoos fascinated her, now and always, because she’d never been able to imagine voluntarily undergoing something so presumptively painful.

That he’d been willing to do it only added to his mystique.

Oh, shoot. She had a feeling her internal monologue had been running for quite some time, and it was very possible Jake had been standing there for a little longer than she realized.

“The usual?” The question came out a croak, and she was none too impressed with herself.

Jake lifted one broad shoulder, not sparing her a smile. Smiling did not seem to be a part of his emotional vocabulary. That much she had learned over the past week. “Sounds good.”

“The only kind of muffin I have left is blueberry.”

“That’s fine.” He shifted his weight from one foot to another and for some reason she found it fascinating. “Every muffin you’ve ever served me has been delicious.”

Cassie nearly choked. “I’m glad you like my…muffins.” For some reason it all sounded dirty. Maybe her mind was in the gutter by default because he was here.

Maybe it didn’t even have anything to do with him. Maybe it was her. After all, it had been three years since her divorce and even longer since she’d made skin to skin contact with a man.

That was a long time. She hadn’t been conscious of just how long until Jacob had blown back into town.

“There’s nothing to dislike about your muffins.”

She sucked in a sharp breath and choked on it, coughing violently. She turned her head to the crook of her elbow, trying to suppress it. “Sorry.” She patted her chest as she grabbed the portafilter from the espresso machine. “Swallowed wrong.”

She went over to the grinder, ignoring the heat in her cheeks as she turned it on, putting the portafilter beneath it and releasing enough grounds to produce a double shot. She tamped them down and went back to the machine, fitting the portafilter back in and pressing the button, counting the seconds on the shot as it filled the little tin cup she had placed beneath it.

It was a nice distraction, and once again she felt justified in her selection of a manual machine versus an automatic one. She emptied the completed shot into a paper cup and then poured hot water over it, putting the lid on and setting it on the counter. Then she reached into the basket and pulled out the last remaining muffin.

She extended her arm and to hand it to him, only realizing her mistake when the tips of his fingers brushed hers and the shock of pure electricity ran through her body, immobilizing her for a moment.

She looked up and compounded her mistake as their eyes clashed and she was hit by a second bolt of lightning. And for just one nano second, she saw something flash through his eyes too. Something not entirely cool and neutral.

She took her hand off the muffin and it went flying over the edge of the counter and onto the floor somewhere around his feet. She wasn’t sure exactly where, because she was too horrified to look. “I thought you had it. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. No charge. Nobody wants a floor muffin.”

He arched a dark brow, bending down and retrieving the muffin before standing back up and holding it out. “It’s still wrapped. I’m sure it’s fine.”

“No, really. I insist. Everything is on me.” Because, if she charged him, she would have to take his cash and if that happened they might touch again.

“All right, I’m not going to argue with that.” He took his helmet, the muffin and the coffee and turned away, giving her a half wave with the hand that was clutching the coffee cup.

He walked outside again and rounded the back of the shop toward the exterior stairs that led up to his apartment. Cassie let out a breath she hadn’t been aware she was holding.

She really needed to get it together. Yes, Jake Caldwell was back. But now, just like back in high school, there was no point in lusting after him. Nothing had happened then, and nothing was going to happen now. End of story.

And she had more inventory to take.

 

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