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If gossip is the lifeblood of a small town, then Lizzy Logan has been its beating heart. After being dumped by her fiance for another woman, she could have decided to crawl under a rock. But no, she’d rather really set tongues wagging by “moving on” with one of the hottest cowboys in Texas, who happens to live next door at the Lucky Penny Ranch. Those busybodies don’t have to know it’s actually all pretend. And just because Lizzy has no aim to tame her wild, blue-eyed neighbor doesn’t mean she can’t enjoy the ride of her life.
Toby Dawson never was and never will be the settling-down type. But what harm could there be in agreeing to be Lizzy’s pretend boyfriend? They’ll put on a show for a few weeks and be done. Yet the more he gets to know Lizzy-really know her-the harder it is for him to keep his hands off of her in private. Soon this rough-and-ready cowboy is hoping to heal Lizzy’s bruised heart and turn their fake affair into a true romance . . .
I have to admit that I hated to write the last paragraph of Hot Cowboy Nights. Lizzy and I had gotten very well acquainted in Wild Cowboy Ways when I kept telling her that Mitch was not the man for her. She argued until I saw her turn blue in the face several times, but in the end of Wild Cowboy Ways, she understood that I wasn’t just whistlin’ “Dixie” in the wind. Mitch really wasn’t the man for her. When that happened, she informed me that I had to tell her story next.
It all started when Toby took Lizzy in his arms for a dance at her sister’s wedding. The rest, as they say, is history. I hope that you enjoy the new Lizzy with her sassy attitude and cowboy Toby Dawson with his pure hotness!
There are always so many folks who deserve more than a simple thank-you when a story goes from an idea to a finished book that you see on the shelves. I want to thank Grand Central and the Forever imprint again for buying this series. And my totally fantastic editor, Leah Hultenschmidt, for the friendship, the support, and for helping me create stronger stories…every single time! And many thanks to Erin Niumata, my agent who is always there for me. One more time, much love and thanks to my husband, Mr. B. It takes a special person to live with and understand an author, and he does a fine job of it.
Grab a glass of sweet tea, maybe in a mason jar, and settle down in a comfortable rocking chair and have a nice long visit with Toby and Lizzy as they tell you all about those hot cowboy nights.
Until next time, happy reading to all y’all!
Lizzy’s plan was to sneak inside the house, up the stairs, and into her room. She could already feel the cool water from the shower, washing away the hot sex still lingering on her body.
Her plan did not work.
She hadn’t even kicked her boots off in front of the hall tree when her sister Allie shot out of the kitchen, grabbed her by the hand, and tugged her in toward the table, where the man Lizzy’d been in bed with not thirty minutes ago stood and gave her a sly wink. Oh, my God, how could her mother—standing right there—not notice the sparks bouncing around the room? She was sure Allie’s husband, Blake, also at the table, was picking up on something.
“Where have you been?” Allie accused. Lizzy braced herself. Allie never paused for breath when she got worked up. And sure enough she started talking faster than some auctioneers that Lizzy had heard.
“I’ve called a dozen times and we were ready to start up a search and rescue party to find you. Mama says you’ve been puttin’ in too many hours at the store. You’ve got to get out of this depression, Lizzy. Mitch isn’t worth it. He’s a sorry son of a bitch, but don’t let him ruin your life. It’s been nearly six months since that bastard left for Mexico. In fact, tomorrow is June first, and I declare it the day that you are moving forward with your life.” Allie paused to suck in some air and looked around at the other three people in the kitchen. “Okay, now that she’s here, get out the ice cream, Mama, so we can tell y’all our news.”
Lizzy pulled out a kitchen chair and melted into it. Droplets of water still hung from Toby’s hair. So he’d had time for a shower before he’d been dragged across the fence to Lizzy and her mother’s house. If she hadn’t had to run by her feed store for a late delivery, she might have already had time to clean up, too. But Fate had not liked her in a very long time. She tried not to notice the way those droplets ran down his neck—exactly where her mouth had been less than an hour earlier. Or that sexy white scar on his face where a bull had gored him—her fingers itched to touch it again like she’d done so many times.
He gave her a wink, and she could scarcely believe the heat between them hadn’t set the wallpaper on fire. A downright miracle.
Her mother, Katy, dipped ice cream into five bowls. These days she was less stressed, now that Granny was in a care facility in Wichita Falls that specialized in the treatment and care of folks with dementia and Alzheimer’s.
Allie looked like she was about to explode with some kind of fabulous news. Her husband, Blake Dawson, had one of those smiles on his face that a dose of alum couldn’t erase. And then there was Blake’s brother, Toby, leaning against the wall, his rock-hard body sending waves of desire shooting through her body like blasts of lightning. It wasn’t fair that he could stand there all calm and collected while butterflies fluttered around in her stomach. Sweet Jesus! Why did he have to be right there in the room with her so soon after they’d gotten all slick with sweat on that twin-size bed in the back room of her mama’s convenience store?
Allie and Katy carried the ice cream to the table and as luck would have it, Toby sat beside Lizzy around the table made for four people. His thigh pressed against hers and she had trouble concentrating on the ice cream, the excitement in her sister’s dark brown eyes, her brother-in-law’s grin, or anything else.
“We had the ultrasound done yesterday, and it’s a girl...” Allie reached for Blake’s hand.
Katy’s spoon hit the table with a thud.
Toby jumped up and hugged his brother across the table.
Lizzy felt as if someone sucked all the oxygen from her lungs and left her to smother to death in a grove of mesquite trees. It was exactly the vision she’d had for herself before her fiancé had run off with another woman.
“Oh, Allie, th-that’s wonderful,” Lizzy stammered.
Tears filled Lizzy’s eyes. As happy as she was for her sister, she couldn’t help feeling a stab of jealousy that Allie now had everything Lizzy ever wanted. Then guilt set in and the tears flowed down her cheeks even worse. How could she ever be jealous of her sister who only wanted the same things that Lizzy did? Poor Allie’s ex-husband had lied to her and left her feeling like less of a woman because she couldn’t have children. It had taken years for her to get over it, and now she’d finally found happiness with Blake in her life.
Lizzy pushed back her chair and rounded the table to hug her sister. “Have you thought of names?”
“We had three boy names picked out, but now we have to do some rethinking.” Allie smiled.
Blake kissed her on the cheek and beamed.
A loud sob turned all their attention in that direction.
“Mama? Are you all right?” Allie asked.
Katy wiped at the tears with a paper towel. “I’m going to be a grandmother, and it’s a girl. I wish your dad could have seen this day. He wanted grandchildren so badly.”
“Don’t cry, Mama. He knows and so does Granny even though her mind is gone. They both still know on some level.” Allie reached over and squeezed her mother’s hand. “I feel like I’ve been given miracles and magic. Blake and I are having a family and the doctor says there’s no reason we can’t have more children when we want them.”
Miracles and magic. Those two words played in a continuous loop through Lizzy’s mind as she dipped into her ice cream. That’s exactly what Lizzy wanted, and she’d get neither if she kept fooling around with Toby Dawson.
Lightning zipped through the sky. Thunder sounded like it was rolling right over the top of Toby’s travel trailer, and the heavy rain pounded on the metal roof, drowning out Blue’s whimpering as the old Catahoula dog cowered beside his bed.
Toby laced his hands behind his head and tried to make sense of what he’d gotten himself into. He’d met Lizzy Logan back in the winter when he came to the Lucky Penny Ranch to visit Blake one weekend and wasn’t real impressed with her. But then her fiancé broke up with her on the day of Blake and Allie’s wedding and he’d felt sorry for the woman. So he asked her to dance. One thing had led to another, and by the time spring rolled around and he’d moved out to the Lucky Penny permanently, the two of them had just been waiting to combust. Now he and Lizzy were hot and heavy and out of hand, and he wasn’t sure what to do about it. The sex was nothing but booty calls for him and rebound sex for her and it was getting damned awkward, so it was time to end the after-hour visits to the convenience store.
Ending the fling couldn’t make things any weirder than they were already. Sitting beside her at the table that night, pretending to be nothing more than acquaintances and knowing that they’d been between the sheets earlier was downright crazy. But he’d seen that yearning look in her eyes when Allie made the announcement about the baby. Lizzy was ready for a real relationship that led to the altar and then babies. Toby still had a lot of wild oats to sow, and just thinking of settling down with one woman made him shudder.
The travel trailer where he was living had a small sitting room and kitchen combination right inside the front door. The sofa made out into a bed that slept two people. A booth-type table could be lowered and cushions readjusted to sleep two more. The kitchen consisted of a single sink, microwave, two-burner cooktop, and a dorm-size refrigerator that was situated underneath part of the cabinets. Beyond that was a bedroom with a double bed that took up nearly all the room and a tiny bathroom with a shower, potty, and wall-hung sink.
In the beginning when he and his brother, Blake, and cousin, Jud, had pooled their money and bought the Lucky Penny, the plan had been that they would all live in the ranch house until such time as Jud and Toby could build a place of their own. But then Blake got married and that changed everything. There was still a room in the house that Toby could use, but newlyweds needed their privacy, and truth be told, so did he. Living with Blake would be one thing; living with a new sister-in-law was a whole different ball game.
Not that he didn’t like Allie. No sir! She was an angel complete with a halo and wings, or maybe since she was a crackerjack carpenter, complete with a hammer and a buzz saw. She’d tamed his brother, who had the reputation for being the wildest cowboy in Texas, and that took someone with special powers for sure.
When the storm moved on, cow dog Blue scratched his ear and then headed toward the trap door in the floor beside the sofa and disappeared down under the trailer. The old boy didn’t like being cooped up except when it thundered. He wasn’t a bit afraid of a full-grown Angus bull, and between him and Shooter, Blake’s dog, they could herd cattle with the best of the dogs in the state. But when it came to thunder, poor old Blue wanted to lie on the foot of Toby’s bed until it ceased.
Toby heard a noise and thought that Blue had changed his mind and was on his way back inside, when suddenly a body appeared inside his bedroom door. Adrenaline pumped through his veins as he shot into a sitting position and wished to hell that he wasn’t strip stark naked under the covers.
“Toby, are you asleep?” Lizzy whispered.
“Lizzy? Dammit! You scared me,” he said. “I thought we agreed this was too close to the house for us to meet here.”
She sat down on the edge of the bed. “We need to talk.”
“Oh?” He switched on the reading lamp attached to the headboard. If there were four words a man ever dreaded more, he wasn’t sure what they were. “About what?”
Her eyes locked with his, but she immediately blinked and looked away. “Toby, I’m not this person. Before you moved to Dry Creek, I was going to marry a preacher, for God’s sake. I’ve never been a wild woman who fell into bed with a guy she’d just met.”
“I know that you don’t trust men after what Mitch did…”
She held up a palm. “It has nothing to do with trust. Mitch was a rotten apple down at the bottom of a barrel. That doesn’t mean all the other apples have to be rotten. Some of them might taste real good, so it wouldn’t be fair to judge them by the rotten one. Trust isn’t an issue.”
“Then what is it?”
“It’s just…When Allie…What we’re doing...” She took a deep breath. “Toby, we have to stop this. I want kids and maybe someday a place big enough they can have freedom to run and play. You are a player, a damn hot cowboy, but I know you aren’t interested in settling down. So let’s not waste each other’s time.”
“Blunt, aren’t you?” He gently turned her chin so she was looking into his eyes. “Lizzy, I was well aware this was rebound sex from the first time.” His mouth curved up in an enticing grin. “And I’m still happy to help you practice in the hot sex department until you find your Mr. Wonderful.”
“You aren’t even my type, but I’d be lying if I said it hasn’t been fun.”
“And you damn sure aren’t mine,” he said.
“What is your type?” she asked.
“No strings. Likes to party, drink beer, dance in old honky-tonks, and after my famous breakfast-after-sex the next morning, she goes on her way.”
“Well, then I guess this is good-bye, Toby,” she whispered.
“Can’t be. We’ll see each other every day probably.”
“Then it’s good-bye to the sex,” she said.
He waggled his dark eyebrows. “Unless you want one more time to seal the deal.”
She stood and moved to the door. “It sounds inviting, but if I fall into that bed with you tonight, my gut tells me we’ll never end this.”
“Hey, I told you what my type is, so before you go, tell me what you want in a man,” he said.
She tucked a damp strand of hair back into her ponytail and pulled the hood of her sweatshirt up. “Someone who loves me for who I am, not what he wants to change me into, and someone who wants the same things I do. Who’d just as soon sit on the porch and hold hands as go dancing in a honky-tonk. And who wants a yard full of kids and who isn’t afraid of hard work.”
“I hope you find him,” Toby said.
“Thanks for the good times, Toby.” She paused. “You helped more than you know.”
“Does that make me a therapist?” He didn’t want her to go, but the thought of settling down put him in flight mode.
“Maybe it does.” She smiled again. “See you Sunday after church. I guess dinner is at our place.”
“Lizzy…” He swallowed hard. “Thanks for being honest with me.”
She slipped out the door and Blue found his way back up through the trap door to stretch out on the rug in front of the bed. Toby shut his eyes, glad that she’d made the first step. God, he hated it when women cried, which was probably the reason he didn’t let himself get roped into relationships. Toby Dawson was a player, plain and simple, and he had just dodged a bullet.
Lizzy let herself into the house quietly and went straight to her room. She heard the rattle of glass as her mother unloaded the dishwasher, but Lizzy didn’t want to talk to or see anyone that night. Especially her mother. Mama would’ve immediately sniffed out the lie, and the house would have exploded if Lizzy had admitted that she’d been screwing around with Toby Dawson almost every day for three weeks.
It was nothing short of a miracle that they hadn’t gotten caught.
Already the rumors were hovering like buzzards waiting for roadkill. From day one the Lucky Penny couldn’t buy an ounce of good luck, and everything that happened on the ranch was fodder for the gossip mill. Half the folks in Dry Creek, Texas, were hoping that Blake and his family joined the long list of owners who failed at trying to make the Lucky Penny a profitable ranch. The other half was rooting for the three Dawsons—Blake, Toby, and their cousin, Jud, who would be joining them in the fall.
Lizzy pulled off her boots, kicked them somewhere close to the closet door, and changed into a faded nightshirt that she pulled from last week’s laundry still tossed in the rocking chair in the corner. Cleanliness was a virtue, according to the Good Book, but neatness was not mentioned. Unlike her sisters, Allie and Fiona, Lizzy must have been out chasing butterflies or playing with baby lambs when they passed out neatness because she didn’t get a bit of it.
She fell back on the bed, legs dangling off the side and her head nowhere near a pillow. Staring at the ceiling with nothing but the small bedside lamp to light the room, she let the past run through her mind again for the hundredth time since Mitch had called to tell her he loved another woman. He and the preacher’s daughter had decided to become missionaries, and he would preach at the little church they’d gone to Mexico to build.
Her world had shattered. And then Toby had taken her in his arms at Blake and Allie’s wedding and she realized maybe all wasn’t over for her after all. He’d charmed her and made her feel alive again—like a woman to be desired. It hadn’t ended with the dance but they’d talked on the phone, exchanged text messages, and when he moved to town they were both primed and ready for a hot little affair. But that night when Allie told them she was having a girl, Lizzy knew it was time to end the secretive, wild nights.
Lizzy crawled under the covers and turned out the light.
So which was she? A sweet little preacher’s-wife type who would let her husband lead her around by his every whim, like she’d been with Mitch? Or a brazen hussy, like the loose women who’d founded Audrey’s Place, who took what she wanted from life and didn’t have any regrets?
She’d far rather be the latter if she had to choose. She’d come out of the Mitch experience a stronger woman than ever, and she’d been honest when she told Toby that it hadn’t made her shy away from guys in general. And it damn sure hadn’t made her feel sorry for herself. It had taught her to be brutally honest and not let anyone try to change her into something she wasn’t.
She picked up her phone to check for a sexy text message from Toby, but there was nothing. Nada. Nil. Zilch. Not a single missed message. Finally she wrote one to him: Changed my mind. See you tomorrow at six at Mama’s store.
With one thumb on the DELETE button and the other on the SEND button, she sat there in the darkness, her body telling her to send the message and her heart telling her that she was in for misery if she didn’t press DELETE.
June was coming in hot with the temperatures already in the eighties that morning. The cowbell hanging on the door of the Dry Creek Feed and Seed store had sounded loud and clear early the next morning, and a blast of hot air swept across the whole store.
Hot! That word reminded Lizzy of what she’d given up with Toby, and she blushed. She stretched the kinks from her neck and rounded the end of the display case where she’d been moving flower seeds to another part of the store. Thank God she’d not given in to the moment of weakness the night before. It had taken ten minutes before she finally pressed the DELETE button and tossed her phone to the recliner across the room.
If it was all the way on the other side of the room, she wouldn’t be nearly so tempted to send Toby a message, or God forbid, call him. But that didn’t mean she wasn’t going to miss the calls, texts, and the sex. Maybe this whole thing with him was like craving alcohol. Too bad there weren’t meetings in town that she could go to, but no one had thought to start up a therapy group for TDA—Toby Dawson Anonymous. Give it six months, though, and there might be enough women in the area to begin one.
The cowbell above the door into the feed store announced a customer, and Lizzy peeked around the corner of the aisle between two rows of shelves to see Lucy Hudson. At least it wasn’t Toby. This was only day one of her resolution, and she wasn’t ready to be alone with him just yet.
“Good morning, Lucy. What are you doing in town this morning?”
Lucy’s jeans hung on her slim frame like a tow sack on a broom handle. Her long gray hair had been twisted up in a bun on top of her hair, but several wispy strands had escaped and stuck to her sweaty neck.
“I’m here to see if you still got that size small orange hooded jacket. Nadine said you put it on half price last week, and the zipper in mine done broke last week. I can put it up for another year.” Lucy found the jacket and latched on to it. “You take this and put it on the counter so nobody else will come in here while I’m lookin’ around and steal it out from under my nose.”
“Yes, ma’am. I’ll start a ticket and put it in a sack,” Lizzy said.
Lucy kept going through the sales rack, one item at a time. “I’m supposed to get Herman a chain saw blade. He said you kept a note of what kind and size up under the counter.”
Lizzy bagged the jacket and went to the aisle where she kept supplies for chain saws, chose the right blade, and was on her way to the checkout counter when the cowbell rang again. Truman O’Dell brought in a gust of hot air with him along with a sneeze that sounded like it came from a three-hundred-pound trucker rather than a skinny little fellow who wasn’t much taller than Lizzy’s five feet, five inches. He quickly jerked a red bandanna from the hip pocket of his bibbed overalls and held it against his face for the second sneeze. The paisley pattern didn’t do much to muffle the sound, but it did seem to stop the attack.
“Damned old allergies. Hits me every year at this time,” Truman said. “Mornin’, Lucy. How’s things at your place? Y’all’s garden producin’?”
“Comin’ right on. We got tomatoes and squash comin’ out our ears. Can’t seem to work fast enough to get everything frozen or canned. Y’all still runnin’ produce down to Throckmorton to the farmers’ market on Saturdays?” Lucy kept going through clothing racks without looking up.
“Yes, we are.”
“If you got room, I could send some produce down there with you. You still chargin’ ten percent for the extra stuff you take?”
Truman propped an elbow on the edge of the clothing rack. “Herman still cuttin’ wood out there at the Lucky Penny?”
“Yes, he is. Long as Blake is willing to bulldoze it down, he’ll be taking it to the wood yard. Could be we’ll have another hard winter next year and we’re gettin’ a supply for then,” Lucy answered.
“I don’t agree with him helpin’ them boys,” Truman said.
“Don’t reckon anybody that size can be called boys,” Lucy answered. “And Herman likes Blake and Toby. Says they are hardworkin’ cowboys who love the land and will take care of it.”
“Summer is just about to get geared up, and I reckon they’ll get tired of hard work when they have to sweat and fight every kind of varmint there is. Ain’t no use in us folks that’s been here all these years helpin’ them clear the land,” Truman said.
Lucy glared across the clothing at him. “So, are you sayin’ that if my husband cuts wood on the Lucky Penny, wood that Blake and Toby are giving away for free when they clear the land, that you won’t take my extra produce to the market?”
“That’s what I’m sayin’.” Truman nodded.
“Why are you being a horse’s rear end about that ranch?” she asked. “It ain’t nothing to you whether they make it work or not.”
“I just think the folks around here need to be careful who they go openin’ up their arms to is all. Why make a big show of welcomin’ them boys to the community when they ain’t goin’ to stay?” Truman sniffed.
Lizzy grabbed a dusting rag and worked over every inch of the checkout counter and the cash register while she kept an ear tuned to the argument.
“That’s a crock of horse crap. Maybe the folks who didn’t stick with it would have if they’d have had some support. And you’re still mad because you wanted to buy that place but you wanted it for nothing,” Lucy said.
“Well,” Truman huffed. “If they’d have kept their money in their pockets, I could have got that ranch for what I was willin’ to give. I’m not about to support them and I’m not helping anyone who does.”
- "Humorous storytelling, snappy dialogue and colorful characters are the highlights of this story."—RT Book Reviews
- "The Lucky Penny Ranch sure is fun to visit and the characters are quite entertaining ...I can't wait to read the next one."—Night Owl Reviews, Top Pick
- "A sassy, sensual contemporary romance that will steal your heart. The chemistry between Lizzy and Toby is tangible. ...A charming tale, packed with plenty of heat, heart and hilarity, HOT COWBOY NIGHTS is a must read for fans of contemporary western romance."—Romance Junkies
- "Well written with amazingly quirky characters...amusing and smart."—Romancing the Book
- "I recommend this book to every woman that needs a cowboy in her life."—Once Upon an Alpha
- "Another hit for Carolyn Brown! Carolyn Brown weaves a story that will have you wishing for your own hot cowboy for the night."—Book Junkiez
- "Toby and Lizzy had sparks and a chemistry so hot that it practically burned up the pages of this amazing story. ...Toby was everything that a HOT, SEXY cowboy should be. ...I highly recommend Carolyn Brown as a GO-TO author for all things SEXY COWBOY. 5 Stars."—Harlequin Junkie, Top Pick
- "Carolyn Brown manages to create a romance that's steamy, light and fun, while also a relationship with substance and heart.... a character-driven delight for romance fans." —Fresh Fiction on Hot Cowboy Nights
- On Sale
- May 31, 2016
- Page Count
- 400 pages