First Kiss with a Cowboy

Includes a bonus novella


By Sara Richardson

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  2. Mass Market $7.99 $11.99 CAD

This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around May 19, 2020. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.

In national bestselling author Sara Richardson’s first book in the Silverado Lake series, “the pace is fast, the setting’s charming, and the love scenes are delicious” when a risk-taking cowboy convinces a no-nonsense writer to give him a second chance (Publishers Weekly, Starred Review) — includes a bonus story by AJ Pine!

Shy and sensible romance writer Jane Harding’s carefully ordered life is crumbling around her. With her latest novel due and her teaching contract at an end, returning home to help plan her best friend’s wedding is a welcome distraction. Yet when Jane discovers that the too-hot-to-handle boy who once tempted her is now the best man — and the rodeo circuit’s sexiest bull rider — her distraction is in danger of becoming a disaster . . .

Toby Garrett is no stranger to risk. But this latest injury could end his rodeo career for good. Thankfully, his recovery at home isn’t as awful as he’d imagined, especially when he comes face-to-face with Jane. The kiss they once shared still fuels his fantasies, but when she walked away, he let her go. Now Toby is determined to fix his mistakes. Can this sweet-talking cowboy prove that the passion still burning between them is worth braving the odds?

Includes the bonus novella Cowboy to the Rescue by A.J. Pine!


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Chapter One

Jane Harding paused in front of the fine-dining restaurant with a name she couldn’t even pronounce.

The sleek, dark windows, old-world brick façade, and the line of Mercedes and Teslas lined up in front of the valet stand only proved this restaurant was far above her pay grade as an adjunct professor at Cal Poly. Her agent had summoned her here for dinner, which meant she was about to get either really great news—like her editor loved the new book she’d turned in, or extremely terrible news—like her editor had hated it and Jane’s agent wanted to soften the blow with good wine.

Jane’s heart made a sudden leap for her throat. Admittedly, she’d struggled to put two sentences together in her second attempt at a novel. The first novel? No problem. But there had also been no pressure—she hadn’t had an agent or editor yet. She’d simply written for herself, and then had sent the manuscript off never expecting it would get published, let alone become a bestseller. After the success, her publisher had been so excited and asked that another manuscript be delivered within six months so they could keep the momentum going.

The problem was, Jane seemed to have lost her momentum and, in its place, lived a lingering fear that she was simply a one-hit wonder.

Glancing down, she straightened her blue silk blouse and smoothed the black slacks she’d spent a small fortune on so she could dress the part of the successful writer. Whatever her agent said tonight, Jane had to make this writing career work. Her contract teaching literature at the university was up as of last week, and after her trip home to Colorado in a few weeks, she had no job to come back to.

“Confidence,” she murmured, as though saying it would somehow help her build it. All she had to do was march in there and act like a real writer, like she knew exactly what she was doing, like she belonged in this world of fancy restaurants and Teslas and Mercedes.

Whirling, Jane made a move for the doors, but one of the parking attendants bumped into her and knocked her purse off her shoulder. It fell to the ground with a thud, everything spilling out onto the sidewalk—her wallet, wadded tissues and receipts, tampons, and part of an old apple she’d eaten between classes yesterday and had forgotten to throw away.

“Oh no!”

The attendant hurried off without so much as a sorry while Jane squatted to collect her things. What was that? Oh geez. Her face flamed as she picked up the tattered condom wrapper that one of her students must’ve slipped in her purse as a joke because it definitely wasn’t hers. So much for looking sophisticated. All around her, people hustled into the restaurant averting their eyes as though they couldn’t see her predicament.

Ducking her head, she managed to shove everything back into her purse and scrambled to her feet again before practically diving into the restaurant to escape the stares and whispers from people waiting in the valet line.

The restaurant’s interior put out a dim, calming vibe, but her heart continued to race, and her cheeks pulsed with embarrassment. Hopefully no one in here had seen the spectacle through those dark windows. She rushed to the hostess station doing her best to look detached and annoyed rather than humiliated.

“I’m here to meet Caroline Benning,” she said as briskly as her very successful agent would have.

“Of course.” The young woman picked up two menus. “Ms. Benning called and said she was running a few minutes late, but she would like you to be seated.” She led Jane past a gigantic fish tank with all varieties of tropical fish swimming around and into the intimate dining room.

At seven o’clock it seemed nearly every table was full—a few couples who looked like they were celebrating something, a few tables of what looked to be businesspeople continuing their workday over appetizers and wine. She could really use a glass of wine right now…

“This will be your table.” The hostess gestured to a table for two in the corner. “Ms. Benning has already ordered a bottle for wine you,” she said, pulling out Jane’s chair. “It will be here momentarily.”

“Oh. Great.” Jane sat. A whole bottle of wine for just her? Yeah, this definitely wasn’t going to be good news.

“Your waiter will be right with you.” The hostess handed her a leather-bound menu and then regally walked in the opposite direction. Jane took a second to look it over, but still found it difficult to focus. Between the nerves and the lingering embarrassment from the scene on the sidewalk, she couldn’t quite decide what she wanted to eat. She set down the menu in front of her and let her eyes wander.

An older couple sat nearby, and they appeared to be fighting. The man had a scowl on his face while the woman leaned halfway over the table and said something, her jaw rigid and her eyes narrowed.

Hmmm. Maybe he’d had an affair. Or it was possible his wife had made the reservations here and he’d forgotten it was their anniversary.

The woman caught her eavesdropping, so she moved her gaze to the table of nicely dressed businessmen she’d walked past earlier, and one of them was staring directly at her.

She quickly looked down. She must be mistaken. She couldn’t remember the last time a man had stared at her like that. Well, there was Alex from the math department, but he didn’t count. Jane peeked up again, and yes, the man was definitely still staring. He smiled a little when their eyes met, and Jane’s cheeks filled with an entirely different type of heat.

Smile back. She thought she did, but was it too big? Not big enough? She didn’t know, but the man said something to his friends and stood up. Oh wow. He was walking over to her. This is exactly the kind of meet-cute she’d write about in her romance novels! A man spots a woman from across the room—okay, from a few tables over—and then, overtaken by this instant chemistry between them, he makes his way over. Except that had never happened to her.

“Hi there.”

He was so handsome. Tall with chestnut-colored hair and a squarish jaw. Jane peered up into eyes the same color as the ocean outside. Speak! she reminded herself. “Hi.” Geez. Why’d she have to be so shy? Why couldn’t she come up with something witty to say? If she were sitting behind her computer she could, that was for sure.

“I’m not sure how to say this…” The man leaned in closer. He even smelled good.

It’s okay, Jane silently coaxed. Just say it. Maybe he wanted to tell her he felt this strange connection to her when he’d looked at her. Maybe he was going to ask her out. Lord knew it had been a while since she’d been on a date…

“You have a huge rip in the back of your pants.”

Jane blinked up at him. “Excuse me?”

“Your pants,” he murmured discreetly. “There’s a huge rip in the seam. I figured you didn’t know. I probably wouldn’t have noticed but your underwear is…pretty colorful.”

Oh, sweet Jesus. She’d worn her bright red underwear with the silver polka dots! Her lucky underwear—the pair she’d been wearing the day she’d signed the contract with her publisher. Obviously, her luck was running out. Her scalp suddenly burned. It must’ve happened when she’d crouched down outside. How the heck did a two-hundred-dollar pair of pants rip right up the seam?

“I figured you should know,” the man said awkwardly. “I mean, I would want to.”

“Right. Yes.” Jane swallowed a fireball of humiliation. “Thank you for the information.”

“You’re welcome.” He smiled at her. “I hope you have a good night.”

“Uh-huh. You too.” A good night? Seriously? She was not going to have a good night. In fact, things could only get worse from here. This is why she rarely went out. These kinds of things always seemed to happen to her. It was almost as bad as that night—the one time she’d let her guard down and it was still the most embarrassing moment of her life. Jane started to gather her purse. She should leave before her agent got there. She could bolt out of the restaurant and never show her face here ag—

“Sorry I’m so late.” Caroline appeared seemingly out of thin air. The blunt cut of her red hair seemed to fit her curt personality. The woman was always so efficient and direct. Even her wardrobe exuded a certain sharpness. Jane imagined she had a whole closet of black dresses at home and a second closet just for her scarves.

“The wine isn’t even here yet?” Caroline barked. “Are you kidding me?” She slid into her chair across the table in a huff. “I suppose we won’t get our dinner for another two hours either.”

Two hours? Jane glanced over at the man who’d informed her about the underwear situation. He seemed to have completely forgotten all about her and was chatting with a woman who’d come over to their table. Ugh. Of course. That woman probably didn’t understand needing lucky underwear at all. Jane refocused on Caroline. She needed this night to be over. “Actually. I’m not going to be able to stay for dinner. I’m…um…not feeling well.” It wasn’t a lie. Her stomach churned and a headache had started to pound in her temples. That’s what being the center of attention always did to her. It made her want to hide. She needed a nice hot bath and some ice cream for dinner.

Caroline’s frown indicated she had no sympathy for Jane’s health concerns. “But we have important things to discuss, my dear. Timely, important things that simply can’t wait.” Her glossy red lips pursed together.

And there it was. The bad news her intuition had told her to expect. She might as well get this over with, split pants or not. “They don’t like it, do they? They don’t like the book?” Of course her editor hadn’t liked it. Jane didn’t even like it.

“They hate it,” Caroline clarified. “I hated it. What the hell happened, Jane?” Her agent’s resonant voice carried. “This book is light-years behind your last one.”

“I don’t know,” Jane half whispered, doing her best to keep the conversation between the two of them. “I guess I have writer’s block or something.”

“Well you need to get over it.” Caroline paused when a server approached.

“One bottle of Chateau Margaux Pavillon Rouge.” The man made a grand presentation out of opening the bottle and pouring a taste into the wineglass before handing it to Caroline.

Her agent sniffed at the rim of the glass, her nose wrinkled, and then she swirled the glass before taking a microscopic sip. “I hate it.” Caroline handed the glass back to the server. “Bring me the Caymus Special Selection Cabernet Sauvignon instead. And bring us a free cheese plate for waiting so long,” she called to his retreating back.

Normally the rude tone would’ve made Jane cringe but given what she’d been through in the last hour she was all out of cringes.

“The only thing they liked in the whole book was your hero,” Caroline said getting back to business. “Keep him and scrap everything else.”

“The hero? Are you sure?” The hero was actually the one thing she wouldn’t mind completely scrapping.

“What’s not to love?” Caroline demanded. “The hero is every woman’s dream—rugged, sexy, confident.”

Or a total show-off. Jane would never admit it in a million years, but she’d based the hero on Toby Garrett. And it was true, he was every woman’s fantasy. She’d gone to high school with the cowboy, and he wasn’t only charming and good-looking. He was also crazy smart, a straight-A student, and a star athlete. Oh, and he happened to be the one who’d tempted her to let her guard down that night.

She hadn’t intended to write a hero based on Toby, but between the looming deadline and the writer’s block, she’d suddenly found herself looking up old yearbook photos of him and Googling his stats out on the rodeo circuit. She’d rather not explore why.

Not that she had to worry about anyone finding out. Her writing career was a secret—protected by a pseudonym. Not even her mom or her best friend, Beth, knew about it.

When she’d first started writing, it had simply been a way for her to escape, to take the edge off the hours she spent by herself after she’d finished college and grad school and no longer had a rigorous schedule to keep her so busy. She’d filled her world with friends…only they weren’t real.

On a whim, she’d submitted the manuscript to a contest and she’d ended up with a publishing contract. She signed it on one condition—she would never have to reveal her true identity. Knowing no one else would ever learn she was the one behind those words had given her a courage she’d never had. It ensured no one would ever see more of her than she wanted them to.

“The hero stays.” Caroline’s glare dared Jane to argue. “You have six weeks to turn in a new book or I’m afraid they won’t offer you another contract.”

Jane choked on a sip of water. “Six weeks?” There was no way. She hadn’t been able to write a solid story in six months, let alone six weeks. “I’m leaving to spend three weeks at my mom’s ranch in Colorado. My best friend is getting married. We’re going to be so busy with all the events—”

Caroline’s smile looked more terrifying than friendly. “Well it sounds like that might be the perfect opportunity for you to find some inspiration.”

Chapter Two

Toby Garrett sat at his mother’s breakfast table finishing off a plate of fried eggs and potatoes and enough bacon to hike up his cholesterol.

“It’s so wonderful to have you home.” His mother piled another helping of potatoes onto his plate, but he had no intention of eating them. He had a diet to stick to. Okay, so it wasn’t an official diet, but he couldn’t start eating himself into a coma at every meal or he’d never be able to get back out on the circuit in time to qualify for nationals.

In the silence, his mother raised her eyebrows slightly as though waiting for the obligatory response.

“It’s nice to be home,” Toby said pouring himself another cup of coffee. It wasn’t. He wasn’t supposed to be home. He was supposed to be climbing on the back of a bull this weekend in Oklahoma, but at only three months post-op from rotator cuff surgery, he wouldn’t be doing that again for a long time. If ever.

The doctor’s warning was on constant replay in his head these days. Some people never regain full strength…

He wasn’t some people. He was a bull rider, damn it. A good one too. And this injury-enforced time-out was making him crazy.

“What have you got planned today?” his mother asked, sitting across from him.

“Oh, well let’s see…” He pretended to mentally sort through the many options he had. “Actually, nothing. Because you refuse to let me lift a finger around here.” He’d offered to repaint fences and muck out the stables and tear down that old shed his dad had been promising to demolish for years, but his mother wouldn’t hear of it. She’d prefer he sit around all day while she cooked and cleaned for him.

“You know what the doctor said.” His mother had perfected the don’t-you-dare-argue-with-me stare. “You can’t risk reinjuring that shoulder.”

Yeah and in the meantime, he was losing his mind. He’d never been one to sit still. His mom had told him once he’d started crawling, he’d left her in his dust, and she’d been chasing him ever since.

“Dad is driving down to Denver today.” His mother buttered a piece of toast. “You should go with him.”

“Actually, I promised Ethan I’d head over to the café. He and Beth have some wedding stuff they want to talk about.” As if they needed his help with any of those details. But it was better than making small talk with his father on a two-hour drive down the mountain. The ability to keep conversation light, and entertaining, was a skill he’d inherited from both his parents. But being home again was reminding him of all the things they didn’t talk about, of how they tiptoed around the lingering pain left behind by his brother’s death, and the silence between them had become deafening.

“I can’t believe the wedding is coming up so fast,” his mother chatted. “Those two make such a cute couple.” She went on about Ethan and Beth, and how amazing it was that they’d been together so long, but Toby wasn’t listening.

What would happen if he asked his mother to put out the pictures of Tanner they’d packed away when they’d moved here the year after his brother died? Or he could ask his father if he remembered that summer they’d taken the Disney cruise…their last vacation as a family. But they didn’t do that. They didn’t confront things that made them uncomfortable. They simply skirted around the past like it was just another piece of furniture in the house.

And everyone wondered how he’d become such a good performer inside the arena.

“Before you go, why don’t you bring down your laundry?” his mom asked sweetly.

Toby caught her in a deadpan stare. “I’m capable of doing my own laundry.” Hell, he’d been doing his own laundry since he’d moved out and he’d only ever ruined one pair of socks.

“You need to take it easy,” his mother reminded him for the thousandth time since she’d coddled him in his hospital bed after the surgery. “Besides that, you don’t know how to work our washing machine. It’s finicky.”

“Right.” Toby shot her a grin meant to call her out. “The washing machine is finicky. Okay. Sure.”

“Hey.” His mom tossed a napkin in his direction, but she smiled too. “I have certain ways of doing things, that’s all. Forgive me if I have nightmares about the red socks mixing with the delicate whites.”

“It’s no big deal.” Toby waved her off. “I do it all the time.” What he didn’t do all the time? Discuss laundry over breakfast. It was a crying shame that this is what his life had been reduced to.

Grabbing one more piece of bacon, he pushed away from the table. “Gotta head out. Promised Ethan I’d be there by eight.” To be honest, Ethan hadn’t even requested his presence at the café today, but Toby couldn’t sit here with a whole day of nothing looming in front of him. Being back home made him too antsy. It gave him too much time to think. He had to get out. He had to do something.

“Don’t forget to bring your laundry down,” his mother called, but he was already halfway to the front door.

“I’ll do my own laundry later,” he yelled back, jogging the rest of the way before she could counter.

Not convinced she wouldn’t chase him right out to his truck, Toby loped across the yard and jumped into the driver’s seat, giving the engine a good rev before he peeled out. It felt good to drive away—from the house, from the sadness his mother was always trying to compensate for. Even though it was still cold, Toby rolled down the windows and let the brisk wind hit his face. The only thing he remotely liked about being home was seeing those mountains again.

The peaks rolled past the windows, still looking soft and blue in the early morning light. Somehow, over the years, those mountains had grounded him, they’d shaped him. Maybe it was the mountains that had made him reckless and wild. For so long they’d fed his hunger for adventure. Funny, the very place that had bred that in him now made him feel trapped.

Toby rolled through town. Not much had changed in Silverado Lake since he’d moved here as a brokenhearted kid. The square brick buildings still lined Main Street with shout-outs to the town’s mining heritage—wooden boardwalks instead of sidewalks, saloon doors on the antique shop. Then there was the library. Toby slowed the truck to admire what his anonymous donation had bought the town. It still had an old west feel to it with the stone façade and columns, but it was also the grandest building in the entire town—as a library should be.

He might not have been free to acknowledge his lost twin brother at home, but the last time he’d come to visit he’d realized he could honor his brother’s memory another way. The library was raising funds for a renovation and he’d donated money anonymously, so his family would never know, but the plaque on the outside of the refurbished library read IN MEMORY OF TANNER.

Tanner had loved to read. And when he’d gotten too sick to focus on the words, Toby had read to him. The only thing his brother wanted in life was to be a cowboy, and they knew he never would be—not with his condition. So, Toby had made weekly trips to the library in their old town to check out every book he could on cowboys. Toby had known he couldn’t save Tanner, so as he would read, he would change the characters’ names and make his brother the hero of every story. When he couldn’t get to the library, he’d make up his own stories to tell him—stories about two brothers who took on the wild west.

Driving past the library, he shook off the memories. Maybe his parents had it right. Maybe it was better not to think about it or talk about it. We have to move on—that’s what they’d always said. So, he’d force himself to move on yet again.

Ethan and Beth’s café sat on the outskirts of the main drag, one of the more modern-looking establishments in town. They’d whitewashed the exterior bricks and added black shutters like you might see at a café in Paris. Not that Toby had ever been to Paris.

Diesel trucks and four-wheel-drive SUVs packed the parking lot at the Surefire Café. Toby squeezed his truck into a spot near the doors. It wasn’t T-Mobile Arena, but at least there was a crowd here, and the people in town loved a good bull-riding story. Toby was always happy to oblige. Once a storyteller, always a storyteller.

He sauntered through the doors already knowing that Chester, Jimmy, Bruce, and Matthew would be seated right inside the doors lamenting over the shoddy newspaper coverage of the town’s most recent scandal—the anonymous “vandals” who had put a bright pink tutu on the town’s bronze statue of miner George Jackson. The retirees had spent every Saturday morning in that same booth since Beth’s uncle had bought the diner twenty years ago.

“Tobster, what’s up?” Bruce dropped the newspaper and raised his hand for a high five as soon as Toby stepped inside.

“How’s it goin’, man?” Chester quickly started to clear the end of the table. “Pull up a chair, have a seat.”

“Don’t mind if I do.” Toby found an empty chair at a nearby table and dragged it over, straddling it.

“How’s the shoulder?” Matthew eyed Toby’s left shoulder as though trying to assess the injury. “Sure looked like a nasty one.”

“It’s good.” Toby shrugged to prove he could still move it. Never mind the achy stiffness. That would go away in time. “It’s practically all healed up.” Maybe if he said it enough, that would eventually be true.

“Woweee, I watched that clip.” Jimmy shook his head. “The way that bull tossed you? I thought you were a goner.”

“It darn near stepped right on you,” Chester added.

“I held on over eight seconds though,” Toby reminded them, lest they forget it had also been one of the best rides of the event. Before his shoulder had snapped. “I thought I had him.” Toby felt it again—that rush of adrenaline deep in the center of his chest. “I was almost ready to jump off, but then the bull spun into that one-eighty.”

“Damn, but what a fight you put up, boy.” Jimmy raised his coffee mug. “I’ve watched every ride. You wanna know something? You’re one of the toughest SOBs I’ve ever seen out there.”

He wouldn’t lie and say it didn’t hurt like hell sometimes. But riding made him feel closer to his brother. It was one way he could keep Tanner’s memory alive, if only for himself. “Well, it means a lot to have my hometown behind me.”

Matthew slid over an empty mug and the coffee carafe. “So, what’re you doin’ these days? How’re you keepin’ yourself busy?”


  • "The pace is fast, the setting's charming, and the love scenes are delicious. Fans of cowboy romance are sure to be captivated."—Publishers Weekly
  • "Tight plotting and a sweet surprise ending make for a delightful Christmas treat. Readers will be sad to see the series end."—Publishers Weekly on A Cowboy for Christmas
  • "Readers who love tear-jerking small-town romances ... will quickly devour this charming installment."—Publishers Weekly on Colorado Cowboy
  • "5 Stars! Top Pick! Reading [the Rocky Mountain Riders series] is like coming home ... an amazing addition to an amazing series."—Harlequin Junkie on Colorado Cowboy
  • "Richardson takes readers on an emotionally satisfying, sometimes wrenching journey."—Publishers Weekly on True-Blue Cowboy
  • "Top Pick! An amazing story about finding a second chance to be with the one that you love."—Harlequin Junkie on Renegade Cowboy
  • "A beautifully honest and heartwarming tale about forgiveness and growing up that will win the hearts of fans and newcomers alike."—RT Book Reviews on Renegade Cowboy

On Sale
May 19, 2020
Page Count
432 pages

Sara Richardson

About the Author

National bestselling author Sara Richardson composes uplifting stories that illustrate the rocky roads of love, friendship, and family relationships. Her characters are strong women journeying to define their lives and pursue their dreams. Her books have received numerous award nominations and critical acclaim, with Publishers Weekly recognizing her stories as “emotionally rich, charmingly funny, and sensitive.”

After graduating with a master’s degree in journalism, Sarah realized she was too empathetic to be a reporter and started writing her first novel. When not writing, Sara can be found promoting women’s health and empowerment by teaching Pilates or hiking the trails near her house. A lifelong Colorado girl, Sara lives and plays near the mountains with her husband, two sons, two fur babies, and a tortoise named Leo.

Learn more about this author