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Rough Cowboy by Maggie Carpenter – Sample


Angrily kicking the dirt under his feet, Brad Hillman watched the pickup truck roll down his gravel driveway, stop, then turn onto the road and disappear. Andy Gilbert had been his assistant and barefoot trimmer until he’d met Betsy, a quintessential blonde, blue-eyed, busty beauty. Three quick months later he’d announced he’d be leaving. Betsy’s father had offered him a job working on his ranch in Montana.

“Dang fool,” Brad muttered, his eyes still on the cloud of dust Andy’s truck had left in its wake. “Givin’ up your life here, sayin’ goodbye to all your friends, leavin’ the business, a business you were gonna be takin’ over one day! And you’ve never met her dad. What the hell are you thinkin’?” he grunted, then shaking his head, he muttered, “I may be mad as hell, but I still wish you luck, buddy. You’re sure gonna need it.”

Turning on his heel, he marched toward his rambling ranch house. Catch, his blue heeler cattle dog, ran ahead of him, then sat waiting impatiently at the door.

“Every time! Why? You know you’ll just have to wait!”

The dog barked, then spun in excited circles.

“Seven years! How the hell do I replace a guy who’s been with me for seven years?” Brad declared as they walked inside. “I wish I could teach you how to trim a horse’s foot. You’re smart enough not to fall for some dang female battin’ her eyes at you. Speakin’ of females…” he mumbled, glancing at his watch as he walked through to the kitchen. “Typical. Already five minutes late. This is gonna be a complete waste of my time!”

He’d already interviewed several applicants hoping to replace Andy, but none had been up to scratch, then out of the blue he’d received a call from an important client who also happened to be a dear friend. Doug Haskell. Doug owned a high-profile racing stable, and he’d asked Brad to consider a young woman who specialized in barefoot trimming.

“I can’t speak for her work, but I’ve known her since she was a young girl. She’s always had a way with the horses, and she’s been working for a big-time farrier in Southern California,” Doug had said enthusiastically. “I think she’d be a real asset.”

A girl! Brad had rolled his eyes. “Who’s she workin’ for now?”

“No one. She got tired of the crazy traffic and smog, so she packed up and moved out here. She arrived a couple of weeks ago. I know you’ve been having trouble finding Andy’s replacement, and I really think she’s worth five minutes of your time. I’d consider it a personal favor if you’d at least meet her.”

Though he’d wanted to say no, Brad couldn’t, not to Doug.

Picking up the coffeepot, he poured himself a mug, splashed in some cream, then put it in the microwave. He hated warm coffee. It had to be steaming hot.

Catch barked.


Barking again, the dog raced from the kitchen.

“I guess she’s here,” Brad mumbled as the microwave dinged.

Retrieving the mug and placing it on the kitchen island, he followed his dog through the living room and into the foyer. Catch was whining and staring at the door.

“Don’t worry. I won’t let some annoyin’ female invade this place. She’ll be in and outta here before she’s had time to shake your paw.”

Gruff, rough, and tough, but in my thirty years of breeding, training, and racing horses, Brad Hillman is the best damn shoer I’ve ever met.

Doug’s words rang through Megan’s head as she pulled to a sharp stop outside Brad’s front porch. Late was her middle name, and she’d promised herself she’d be on time. She’d even left fifteen minutes early, but she’d forgotten her gas tank was almost empty, and being stranded on the side of the road was not an option. She’d stopped and pumped just enough to make sure she’d be safe, but then she’d missed the turnoff to Brad Hillman’s street. With trees and brush on either side of the narrow country road, it was hard to spot, and she’d been speeding.

Jumping from her Jeep, she was hurrying up the porch steps when the door opened. A dog trotted forward to meet her. Normally she would have crouched down to pet him, but standing in front of her was the quintessential hunky cowboy.

She couldn’t take her eyes off him.

Darkened by the shadow of his hat low on his forehead, disapproving eyes gazed down at her. He was square-jawed, full-lipped, looking like he should grace the banner of a Hot Cowboys page on Facebook, and she found herself completely tongue-tied.

“Uh… I’m really sorry,” she finally managed, trying not to stare at the muscles trying to burst through his plaid shirt. “I missed the turnoff. Hi, I’m Megan Newman, but of course you know that. Sorry,” she added hastily. “I’m really nervous.”

Her father had always told her if she ever was feeling awkward or anxious, it was better to say so than try to fake your way through it. “People can see through insincerity,” he’d said solemnly, “and that’s never attractive.”

But the sexy shoer didn’t seem impressed. His frown deepened. “Uh-huh. Follow me,” he said briskly, striding off the porch. “Ever worked with young horses? Colts? Stallions? Ornery mares?”

“The farrier I was with—oh—I forgot. I have a reference if you want to see it, but it’s in my car.”

“Don’t need to. I’ll know soon enough if you’re up to the task. You were sayin’?”

“Dean, the farrier I was with, he works for many of the big jumper barns in Los Angeles. Not all of them of course, but a lot, and not just L.A., all over Southern California,” she panted, his long strides causing her to half-run, half-walk to keep up. “I’d get their feet ready and he’d make the shoe and do the nailing, but some of the barns had boarders who liked their horses barefoot, and I’d take care of them.”

“I’m gonna ask again. Have you ever worked with colts and studs, mares that are crazy when they’re in season? Difficult horses in general?”

“Not colts. There were a couple of stallions around, but difficult? Sure. Heaps. Misunderstood horses are everywhere.”

They’d reached an expansive round pen, and as they stopped at the gate, a dark bay mare with a splash of white on her forehead turned her head, pricked her ears, and studied them.

“Misunderstood?” he repeated, leaning against the fence and crossing his arms. “Whatta ya mean, misunderstood?”

For the first time she could see his eyes. Caramel, and warmer than she thought they’d be.

“Difficult horses are usually difficult because they haven’t been handled properly, and they’re not being difficult. They’re scared or defensive. My dad always said, a horse is only thorny until it meets someone it can trust.”

“Thorny? Interesting expression.”

“He has a lot of those. I guess the answer to your question is, yes, I’ve worked with difficult horses. I just don’t see them that way.”

“That mare,” he declared, shifting his gaze and pointing to the dark bay. “That’s Gypsy. I’m gonna leave you two alone and come back in five minutes. If she’s wearin’ that halter and she’s walkin’ next to you nice and quiet, we’ll take it from there.”

“Okay. Thanks,” Megan replied, unbuckling the halter and lead rope from the fence. “I guess I’ll—”

But he’d already turned and was striding back to the house, his dog trotting along beside him.

The dark-haired girl with the sparkling green eyes had taken him by surprise. Not only did her aqua shirt tied in a knot highlight her ample breasts and narrow waist, her pale blue jeans disappearing into cowboy boots had been applied with spray paint. Her voluptuous backside was delectably evident.

“You’ve got some ass on you, girl,” he grunted as he marched back to his house.

He found his attraction to her unnerving. Pretty horse owners in the area were plentiful, and though many made their interest known, he barely gave them a second look. He couldn’t. If his dark soul became known in the small community, the gossip would make life extremely unpleasant, but Megan’s comments had thrown him almost as much as her sexy appearance. It was rare to meet anyone who shared his views about horses, let alone a female.

Taking the porch steps two at a time, he moved swiftly to his office. Four tiny cameras covered every inch of the round pen. Brad was more than a sought-after shoer. He ran a sideline business rehabilitating troubled horses. Watching the owners interact with their animals believing they were unobserved offered a wealth of information.

Sitting behind his desk and turning on the monitors, he expected to see Megan walk slowly up to the mare with the halter in her hand, but she was standing in the center of the pen twirling the lead rope and coaxing Gypsy to move. Brad ran his hand across his face.

“I can’t believe what I’m seein’,” he muttered, watching the mare suddenly break into a perfectly calm canter.

As Megan abruptly stepped in Gypsy’s path, Brad held his breath, but the young woman confidently stood her ground and sent the mare in the opposite direction. After the mare had circled the pen, Megan dropped her arms, stood quietly and waited.

Gypsy slowed to a stop and stared at her.

Walking slowly forward, Megan ran her hand down the mare’s neck.

Brad watched, captivated.

It was the next move that mattered.

“Come on, Megan. Walk away. Walk away now!”

As if hearing him, she strode purposefully across the round pen toward the gate. Like a happy puppy, Gypsy followed.

Brad leaned back in his chair and looked over at his dog.

“Catch, if she can trim as good as she speaks horse, we’ve gotta problem.”

As Megan had approached the mare, she’d come to a sudden stop and let out a squeal of happiness. Gypsy was a mare she’d known in Southern California, but her name had been Bonny, and Megan absolutely adored her.

“I can’t believe it,” she murmured, moving slowly forward and running her hand down the mare’s neck. “I’m so happy to see you. I’ve thought about you so much.”

Bonny licked her lips, then dropped her head against Megan’s chest.

“You remember me!” Megan exclaimed, a hot lump burning the back of her throat. “I tried so hard to find you, but no one knew where you’d gone.”

Softly wrapping her arms around the horse’s neck, she hugged her tightly. “I’m so relieved you’re okay, but how did you end up here? I hope someone’s been taking care of you. How are your feet? I’m going to check.”

Running her hand across the horse’s shoulder, she continued down her leg, but before she’d even reached the hoof, Bonny lifted it for her.

“Still the same lovely mare. Looks like you could use a trim. Not much though. Thank goodness no one put shoes on you.”

Dropping it back down, she was about to check Bonny’s teeth when she heard a bark. Turning around, she saw Brad’s dog running toward the pen.

“Shoot. Looks like my five minutes are up.”

The dark bay mare stayed at Megan’s side as she walked across to the gate, but Megan’s eyes were on Brad. Walking toward them, his arms swung from ridiculously wide shoulders.

“No luck?” he asked as he approached.

“You mean the halter? I don’t need it,” she said with a happy smile. “Watch.”

Bonny had remained at her side, and when Megan turned, Bonny turned with her, but Megan felt a growing unease. Looking back at him, Brad didn’t seem pleased or impressed. If anything, he appeared to be annoyed.

“What did I tell you to do?” he demanded, his hands on his hips.

“Put the halter on and walk her, but I didn’t need it, and there’s something you should—”

“I said I’d give you five minutes, and when I came back, if the halter was on her and you were walking calmly around the ring, we’d take it from there.”

“I don’t understand. Why are you upset? She is calm, but she doesn’t need a halter. If you’d let me explain—”

“Whether she does or she doesn’t isn’t the point,” he said, cutting her off. “I told you what I wanted to see.”

Megan’s pulse ticked up, but she knew her anxiety would transfer to Bonny. Moving her eyes away from the gorgeous, glowering cowboy to the sweet mare at her side, she took a deep breath and gazed into Bonny’s soft eyes.

“You’re such a beauty,” she murmured, then gently slipped the halter in place. “Do you want me to walk with her,” she asked, turning back to Brad, “or are we good?”

“We’re good. Take it off and come with me.”



“I’d really like to work for you, but, uh—”


“I don’t know if I just caught you on a bad day, or I’ve done something to offend you, but if you’re always this tense I don’t think we’d be a match,” then taking a breath, she added, “I do need to talk to you about this horse though.”

“What makes you think I’m tense?”

“You’re not exactly cracking jokes. Sorry, I didn’t mean to be sarcastic, but I’m getting the impression you’re not really interested in me, and I don’t want to waste your time.”

“Megan,” he said, softening his voice. “I’m not tense, but I’m serious about what I do. First, you rolled up late. That doesn’t work for me, my schedule’s tight. Second, I thought you’d decided you’d done enough with Gypsy to impress me and you didn’t need to put the halter on. I guess I was wrong about that.”

“Oh, no problem,” she said, not sure if he was apologizing.

“Like I said, take that halter off and come with me to the barn.”

“It was lovely to see you, sweet girl,” she murmured, removing the halter, “and don’t worry, I’ll see you again soon, I promise.”

But as she opened the gate and buckled the leather strap around the fence, she watched Brad walking toward the barn. He looked like the stuff of a girl’s cowboy dreams, but gruff, rough, and tough was an understatement. He was more like a cowboy nightmare.

“He didn’t even say hello,” she mumbled under her breath. “Life’s too short. I can’t spend every day with a guy like that, I don’t care how good he is, but I have to find out if Bonny’s for sale. One thing’s for sure, I’m not going to lose track of her again.”

He’d almost reached the barn, and just as she was about to jog up to talk to him, he abruptly turned around and strode back to her.

“You’re hired!”

“Excuse me?” she muttered, not sure if she’d heard him correctly. “Did you say I’m hired?”

“That’s right.”

She paused, her mind racing. She didn’t want to work for such a gruff man, but she needed to learn who now owned Bonny, and find a way to buy her.

“Megan, did you hear me?”

“Yes, yes, I heard you,” she said hastily. “Thank you. I do have one question though. Don’t you want to see me work?”

“If you can trim, great, but I need help with my other business. You’re just what I’ve been lookin’ for. When can you start?”

“What other business?”

“Fixin’ troubled horses.”

“Uh—I’m not a trainer.”

“You are now!”

Chapter One

Three days later

Nervously driving her Jeep through the gates of Brad’s ranch and down the gravel driveway, Megan spotted him hosing his rig near the barn. When he’d made the offer to hire her, she’d been almost too stunned to speak. After she’d managed to mumble her acceptance, he’d abruptly told her he had to get back to work and she should return on Sunday morning.

In the days that followed her initial doubts loomed large. The entire encounter had been odd, but she wasn’t about to pass up the opportunity to be with Bonny again. They shared a rare and wonderful bond, and she was hopeful she’d find a way to make the mare her own.

As she drove toward the house, she spied Brad waving her forward, then turning off the water. Pulling to a stop near his truck, she climbed from her car, and crouched down as his adorable dog raced up to meet her.

“Hello again,” she said happily. Crouching down to pet him, she read the tag on his collar. “Catch! What a cute name. Do you have a ball for me to throw?”

Immediately sprinting off to the porch, the excited pooch picked up a rubber bone and raced it back to her.

“Ah, the word throw,” she said with a grin. “Okay, got it.”

She stood up and tossed the toy; he dashed after it, and with a mighty leap, he snatched it from the air.

“Impressive,” she exclaimed, walking up to Brad with Catch dancing next to her, the bone between his teeth, begging to continue the game.

“I swear he could grab a bird in flight,” Brad remarked as Catch dropped the bone at Brad’s feet.

“I’m not sure I want to imagine that.”

Brad paused, frowned, then nodded. “You’re right about that.”

“So…” she began hesitantly, trying to push through her nerves as Brad threw the bone and Catch chased after it. “I assume you wanted me to come back today because you’re not working.”

“Yep. I was real busy when you came by. You still want the job?”

“Sure, but I hope you’ll let me show you what I can do trimming wise,” she replied, instantly wishing she’d said something more professional.

“What did you think about Gypsy’s feet?”

“They could use some cleaning up, and the edges should be beveled.”

“You hit the nail on the head,” he declared. “I have a few barefoot clients Andy would work on. It would be good if you could take them over. Did I say something funny?”

Megan had grinned, then started to laugh out loud.

“Barefoot clients!” she exclaimed, still giggling. “I just pictured giving owners a pedicure with their feet up on the stand.”

She could see the solemn cowboy fighting a smile.

“That’s quite a picture,” he said, the smile winning and exposing even white teeth and sexy dimples.

“Uh-huh, and I have a feeling it’s going to stick. I’ll probably be laughing every time I meet a new client now.”

“I’ll take you through the barn. You can have a look around while I bring Gypsy in from her paddock.”

“Sounds good.”

Unable to keep from wondering why it was so hard for Brad to lighten up, Megan followed him the short distance into the barn. There were twelve stalls, six on either side, with an inviting wide aisle.

“I’ll be right back,” he said, quickening his stride and moving ahead of her. “The tack and feed rooms are down this end.”


Strolling past the stalls, she discovered they had large corrals attached, and the wall between each had been removed. The twelve had become six double-sized. Four were obviously in use, but two were void of shavings. Hearing Brad return with Bonny, she turned around and watched him lead the mare into the cross ties. Walking quickly up to join him, she reached him just as he hooked the snaps on the mare’s halter.

“Uh, Brad, do you want me to trim her there?”

“Is that a problem?”

“Actually, it is. I don’t like to work on horses in cross ties.”

“You worry that the walls are too close if the horse is antsy?”

“No, it’s not that. Do you mind if I just show you rather than try to explain?”

“Sure, but before you do anything you need to sign a release. Here,” he said pulling a folded-up piece of paper and pen from his pocket. “If someone comes on the property they need to sign one of these. There’s a small desk in the tack room. They’re in the top drawer. I don’t care who they are or why they’re here, if they don’t sign, they leave. Clear?”

“Yes, sure, I completely understand,” she replied, taking the document and scribbling her signature. “There you go.”

“Thanks. Where do you want this mare?”

“In the round pen, but I didn’t bring any tools.”

“I’ll grab mine from the truck on the way.”

“Great. Come on, sweet girl,” Megan said softly, lifting the lead rope from its hook. “Let’s take a walk.”

The dark bay mare could be jittery, especially with strangers. That’s why Brad had chosen her for Megan’s test three days before. He’d expected Gypsy to be difficult, and for Megan to throw up her hands and leave. He’d only squeezed her into his busy schedule to please Doug Haskell, but the young woman had demonstrated exceptional skill.

Though he couldn’t imagine having a female assistant, asking her to work in his small training business had come to him like a bolt from the blue, but he’d still surprised himself when he’d abruptly turned and shouted, you’re hired.

That night, with a glass of scotch in his hand, he’d wondered what the hell he’d done, but as the days had trickled past he’d decided she’d be an asset, maybe even bring new clients into Hammer and Nails Ranch. He looked forward to seeing her again, and when she’d turned into his driveway it felt right having her there.

Then she’d bent down to throw Catch’s plastic bone.

The top of her shirt had gaped open.

Her beautiful breasts cupped in a white lace bra stared back at him.

A rush of erotic energy had surged through his cock.

The moment had been utterly unexpected.

Ambling down the barn aisle behind her, watching her wonderfully fleshy backside in her tight jeans, the impact was the same. As she led the mare toward the round pen, he stopped at his truck, opened up the back and took a deep breath. Trying to ignore the demands of his member and lifting out the foot stand, nippers, and a rasp, he carried them across the drive and through the gate. Megan was moving the mare, stepping forward and backward, and walking her in circles. He set the tools in a shady spot against the rail.

“There’s something I need to take care of,” he muttered. “I’ll be right back.”

Megan waved her response, but didn’t take her eyes off the horse.

“Hey, Catch,” he shouted to his dog, watching Megan intently, “you stay here.”

Catch barely glanced his way.

“I guess you like her too,” Brad muttered as he hurried into his house.

His mind reeling, he strode down the hall and into his bathroom, unzipped his jeans, withdrew his rampant cock, and began to stroke.

Dark fantasies took hold.

Megan naked, tied over a saddle, her backside burning red from his hard spanking hand.

Blindfolded on her knees, her mouth sucking, his fingers tightly gripping her hair as he guided her movements.

Standing spread-eagled, tied to a four-poster bed, his black flogger swishing through the air.

On her hands and knees as he spread her cheeks…

His cock exploded, spilling his essence over his hand. Squeezing his eyes shut as his groans echoed around him, he let out a shuddering breath and slumped against the wall. Waiting until his heart had stopped hammering, he cleaned himself up and headed back through the house, trying to come to terms with Megan’s profound effect.

She had a hot body, she was funny and bright, but so what?

Trotting down the porch and heading to the round pen, he noticed Catch sitting on the top of the mounting block. Megan had closed the gate, and the block allowed him to see over the top. The cute sight evoked a grin, but as Brad approached his pulse ticked up. Wearing no halter, Gypsy stood perfectly still with her head lowered, and Megan was nowhere in sight. Immediately believing she must be lying hurt on the ground, he broke into a run, but reaching the gate he stopped short. Megan was bent over rasping Gypsy’s foot.

“There you go, girl,” Megan murmured, placing the mare’s foot back on the ground. “That looks better.”

Straightening up, she was about to move to the opposite leg when she spied Brad marching toward her.

“Hi, Brad. I’m so glad you’re back,” she said with a happy smile. “Bonny’s a dream. I’ve finished the right front and—what’s wrong? You look upset.”

“Her name’s Gypsy, and what do you think you’re doin’?”

“Trimming her feet. She was ready, and about her name—”

“Dammit, girl, she’s loose!” Brad barked. “Whatta you playin’ at?”

“She doesn’t need to be tied up,” Megan calmly replied, though her eyes blazed back at him, “but if you keep carrying on like this she’ll pick up your energy and that will change.”

Though his frown deepened, he didn’t respond.

“She’s absolutely fine,” Megan continued. “I’m not an idiot. I wouldn’t be working on her if I didn’t believe she’d be okay. You wanted to see what I do, and now you’re seeing it, but would you mind watching from the bleachers while I finish? Or do you want me to stop?”

She thought he was about to say something, but apparently changing his mind he abruptly turned, walked swiftly across to the viewing area and sat down. Taking a breath, Megan looked back at Bonny. The mare’s head was up, and a wrinkle sat above her eye.

“Hey, sweet girl,” Megan said softly, pushing Brad’s disapproval to the back of her mind and stroking Bonny’s neck. “Men are just ridiculous sometimes.”

Bonny licked her lips and lowered her head, signaling she was ready for Megan to continue. Lifting the horse’s left foot, Megan placed it between her knees and began to rasp. Quickly finishing the work, she stood up and looked across at Brad. He was sitting down, leaning forward, his elbows on his knees and his fingers locked together in front of him. He didn’t say anything, and interpreting his silence as a green light to keep working, she ambled toward the back of the mare.

Sliding her hand across the horse’s rump, Megan picked up Bonny’s foot, waited a moment, put it down, then stepped to the other leg and repeated the process. Feeling resistance, she continued the pattern until Bonny dropped her head and let out a gentle snort. Megan grinned, but not just because Bonny was trusting her.

Had Brad been irritated because he’d never seen anyone work on an untethered horse? Had she shocked him?

Doing her best to ignore the questions, she finished both back feet, then walked slowly around Bonny, lightly touching her and speaking softly.

“Here you go, precious girl,” she purred, pulling a chunk of carrot from her pocket.

As the horse greedily gobbled up the treat, Megan picked up the tools and carried them to the bleachers.

“I don’t know what that mare was like when she came here, but Brad, whatever you’ve done, it worked,” she declared, hoping the compliment would soften the frown on his face. “She’s a sweetheart.”

“I haven’t done a damn thing,” he replied solemnly. “She’s only been here a week. I’ve just been lettin’ her settle in.”

“Then her owners don’t have a clue. She’s a dream, but Brad, there’s something you should know.”

“I’m listenin’.”

“I knew Gypsy in Los Angeles, but her name was Bonny. I absolutely adored her. She was too much horse for Cindy, her owner, and she let me work with Bonny whenever I could manage the time.”

“Damn. Talk about a small world.”

“I couldn’t believe it when I saw her. I absolutely adored her. I still do. When my mare passed away, I tried to call Cindy to make an offer. I thought for sure she’d sell her.”

“But she refused?”

“She’d moved and left no forwarding information. I was devastated. She knew Bonny and I had connected, and that woman didn’t even let me say goodbye,” Megan exclaimed, feeling the painful memory. “I’d just lost Miss Piggy—that was my mare—and losing Bonny too…”

“Hey, I’m real sorry. That must’ve been tough.”

“It was a very bleak time, but now I’ve found her again, and I want her just as much now as I did then. Maybe even more. Do you think there’s any chance her new owner will let her go?”

“I dunno. She’s not the easiest woman in the world, but you’re welcome to try.”

“Thank you, and I absolutely will. You said Bonny was difficult when she came here. She’s an extremely sensitive mare,” Megan said earnestly. “Whoever the owner is, she’s not right for her.”

“Megan, I feel bad about you losin’ your mare, then Gypsy, or rather, Bonny, and I’m impressed with what you’ve just shown me, but you can’t do that with my clients.”

“Do what?”

“You can’t show up, wave whatever magic it is that you have, and start workin’ on their horse without puttin’ it in cross ties or tyin’ it up. The owners won’t understand, or worse, you could get hurt. Megan, for all I know, what I just saw was an exception and not the rule.”

“Is that what you think? Brad, Bonny and I might already know each other, but read my reference! You’ll see I trim horses all the time like that. Most horses don’t need—”

“Hey! You’ll do what I tell you!” he said sharply. “A horse comes in here with a problem, yeah, do your thing, but when you go to a client’s barn the horse is tied up.”

“Really? Thank you!”

“Huh? For what?”

“Saying I can do the barefoot clients Andy left behind?”

“I said if you go—”

“You said when!” Megan retorted hastily. “When I go to a client’s barn the horse is tied up.”

“Let’s start over. Ifif—I agree to let you take over Andy’s clients, you’ll do things my way. You’ll arrive on time, tie the horse up or put it in the cross ties, then do the work. Clear?”

“So I can?”

“Dammit! Are. We. Clear?”

“Sorry, yes, yes, whatever you want.”

Narrowing his eyes, he leaned forward.

Megan felt a strange ripple down her spine.

“Listen to me, little lady, and listen real good,” he said, lowering his voice. “I don’t know what kinda boss you’ve had, or what kinda guys you’ve dated, but you can take this to the bank. I’m not like any man you’ve ever met. I’m givin’ you fair warnin’. Mess with me, don’t do what I say, and I’ll sting that tail of yours real good. Now I’m goin’ up to the house, and you’re takin’ Bonny back to her paddock—the first one on the right as you walk out the barn. I’ll meet you in the tack room in ten minutes, and you can tell me if you still want the job.”

Spellbound, her face flaming, Megan watched him stand up and walk away. As he disappeared out the gate, she sank down on the bench seat, his words echoing through her head.

I’m not like any man you’ve ever met. I’m givin’ you fair warnin’. Mess with me, don’t do what I say, and I’ll sting that tail of yours real good.

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