Coming home isn't easy in Dirt Road Promises &
this feel-good #99cent romance might just make you swoon.
the sexy rugged cowboy who leaves her tongue-tied and sends her heart racing.
“Clay!” The sound of my name coming from my best friend as he heads up the sandy driveway pulls me from my dark thoughts. Turning, I find Rhett ambling toward me in his cowboy hat and blue jeans, the plaid shirt he’s wearing, a blue and black checkered pattern, sharpening the color of his eyes.
“What’s up, man?” We shake hands like old friends, pulling each other in for a slap on the back hug. I’ve known Rhett since I was ten. He first walked up the hill to our ranch when his family moved here from Texas. His thick Southern drawl and cocky smile had all the girls following him around like moths to a flame.
He’d stalked up to me and stuck out his hand, introducing himself as my new best friend. I laughed. So did he. Since then, we’ve been inseparable.
“There’s a dance in town tonight, and I was wondering if I can drag your sorry ass down there?” He chuckles, helping me lug a bale of hay over to the stables.
“You know I don’t dance. How long have you known me now?” My response is met with another chuckle. He’s always telling me to go out more. Meet a girl. Fall in love. But my focus is on the ranch. I can’t lose it. When my father’s medical bills piled up and we spent all his life insurance, we were left with a bare minimum to get by. This place is my life. The only thing my dad left me, and I won’t see it being taken away.
There’ve been offers to buy, but I’ve refused them all. My mother can’t lose any more than she already has. So, I push on. Every day, I come out here, get the horses ready, and we have kids coming in for lessons. I also rear horses for rich folk; they pay a good amount to have their horses trained properly. The high school down the road has given my mom some work teaching the young girls to jump. Show jumping is something I’ve never been good at, or interested in. So, I keep to the ranch.
My little brother has just turned sixteen. He’s been in his own world since dad died. Hiding in his room, angry at the world. At least he’s not been a handful to me or Mom. He allows us his time, but I notice when he goes into his depressive states. He’ll sit quietly, just staring out at the farm not getting involved in a conversation. When we mention Dad, he’ll get up and walk out.
I know he doesn’t blame our old man, but he hurts. We all do. It’s only been two years and we’re all still coming to terms with losing him.
“Come on, Clay. You have nothing to lose. We’ll have a couple of beers, chat to some pretty ladies and then we’ll head home. Unless you find a pretty little lady who wants to join you,” my best friend chuckles, a deep rumble. Shaking my head, I turn to regard him through narrowed eyes. He won’t give up until I’ve agreed. That’s how we are. How we’ve always been. Two people with the same personality, only, after my father died, I retreated within myself.
“You want me to be your wing man while you nab all the girls and break their hearts?” I question on a smirk; my best friend’s response is a throaty laugh that echoes in the empty barn.
“Pretty much, yeah. Now, I know you’ve lost your touch on the whole wing man shtick, but come on. Have some fun?” The hopefulness he pins me with makes me feel guilty for not being there as often as I should for him. Not to pick up girls, but I’ve not given him the support as a friend for his new business venture. He bought his dad’s ranch and is trying to make it work. We’ve both grown up with this life in our veins, and as much as he’s shown me the support I needed, I’ve not given him the same.
“Okay, fine,” I relent, allowing him to pull me into a fierce hug.
“You won’t regret it,” he promises. With that, he makes his way down to the red pickup his folks bought him when he turned eighteen. It’s been ten years and it’s still going strong. The loud engine revs as he pulls away, leaving dust in its pathway.
Shaking my head at him, I finish up setting the feed out for the horses. Tonight is going to be interesting. I’ve not been with a girl in three years. I haven’t had the time, or the energy, to put up with a relationship. My family has had my full attention.
I’ve given my all, I’ve allowed the darkness of my father’s illness to overshadow my life. Perhaps it’s time to push forward. To move on. Even though I’ve not shown it outwardly, I know my mom can see the pain in my heart.
She never says anything about it, but there are times she’ll be extra attentive. Death robs you not only of the person you’ve lost, but it also robs you of life. You stop. Life stops. Your heart could never be the same.
As I head back to the house, I inhale a deep breath. The sun is almost down and I will need to get ready for the dance. When I push the door open, I can hear the television in the living room, and I know my brother is probably glued to it.
The clatter of plates in the kitchen tell me dinner’s almost ready. One thing about my mother is that she’s an incredible cook. Her food is what they would call food for the soul. Home cooked meals are something I’ve grown up with. And even at twenty-eight years old, I’m still a mama’s boy.
“Clayton, get washed up, I’ve made your favorite.” I know what that means. A mound of food calling my name.
“I’ll be right there,” I call out, making my way to my bedroom. In the small bathroom dad built on for me, I freshen up, with a change of clothes and washing my face and hands with cool water. Summer’s here and the heat of Wyoming is stifling.
When I reach the kitchen, my brother is already sitting in his favorite spot with a steaming pile of roast beef and potatoes on his plate. No vegetables. Just meat and spuds. “Cody, how was school?” He glances up with his mouth stuffed and nods with a grin. “Can you be less of a caveman?”
Once he swallows, he narrows his eyes and shrugs. “Nope.” Mom places a plate in front of me piled high with sweet potato, roast beef and thick onion gravy, with a spoonful of peas and marrows. “Are you going to the dance in town tonight?” My brother watches me with interest.
“Yeah, Rhett talked me into going. Why?”
“That’s wonderful, honey.” My mom smiles, a genuine one, and I know she’s happy to hear I’m doing something other than sitting at home on a Friday night.
“Can I come?” Cody glances between my mother and I, hope on his face to finally be allowed to go to a dance. He’s not wanted to do anything for a long while, and when mom nods, I realize she’s giving us permission to have fun. To let go of the pain and just have a night off.
“I’m not babysitting,” I warn my little brother and my mom laughs. The soft sound stills my heart. It’s been too long. Her long brown hair is tied atop her head in a messy, wavy bun. Her eyes are deep blue, almost the color of the ocean at night. Sharp features with a hint of wrinkles under her eyes. She’s so beautiful. The perfect mom.
Hearing her laugh makes me smile. I’ve missed her happiness. I’ve missed my own. It’s time to find it again. And if that means going to a stupid dance, then so be it.
I tuck into my dinner, savoring the flavors of something so simple, but made with so much love. In no time, I’m stuffed and the knock at the door tells me Rhett has arrived to drag me to the dance. Pushing up, I lean in and plant a kiss on my mother’s cheek. “Dinner was amazing.”
She smiles up at me and nods.
Making my way to the door, I pull it open to find Rhett in his signature blue jeans and plaid shirt, but this time it’s red and white.
“Don’t you own anything that’s not little squares?” I chuckle, tugging the shirt and he slaps my hand away.
“Oh please, you wish you had my style. Let me in, I need to say hi to your mom.” He pushes past me and heads straight for her. “Mrs. Walker,” he greets, leaning in and giving my mom a kiss. Growing up around my folks, it’s as if we’re brothers rather than friends.
“Thanks for taking my Clay out tonight. You’re a good boy Rhett,” she whispers, but I can hear every word.
“Don’t say things like that to him, Mom, or he’ll start believing he’s good and I have to put up with that all night,” I joke and my best friend punches me in the arm.
“Are you ready? Those beers aren’t going to drink themselves.” He gestures to the door and I nod. He glances at my little brother, who’s already got his jacket in hand with a wide smile on his face. “Come on, Spud, let’s get you a pretty girl to dance with.” Rhett circles an arm around my brother’s neck and tugs him to the door. When I lean in to kiss my mom goodbye, she cups my face in her warm, soft hands and offers me a small smile.
I nod and as I make my way out the door, I feel like a small part of the darkness that seemed to keep a hold of me is finally shifting. Now let’s hope I haven’t forgotten how to talk to women.
Rhett’s quiet all the way to the barn with his music blaring through the speakers, so even if I wanted to say anything, he’d probably not hear me. It’s been years since I’ve been out, amongst people, mainly women. Yes, I run the ranch, and I teach classes, but in a social setting, I’m useless.
I never used to be, but since I’ve closed myself off from everyone I’ve found it difficult to even hold a conversation with anyone who isn’t family, or my best friend.
I’m like a goddamn teenager heading out for his first party. Glancing in the back, I take in my little brother and offer him a smile. He looks so excited with his eyes wide and his face alight with a smile I haven’t seen in years. We’ve all been through our own pain, handled it our own way, for him, it was hiding in his room and pushing everyone away. I can’t help but let his excitement seep into me. I just hope it will allow me to at least act like a normal person.
A few beers. Perhaps even a song or two and I’ll tell Rhett I’m leaving. Surely, an hour wouldn’t hurt. I don’t have to do anything I don’t want to. Maybe I’ll just sit out on the swing bench old Mr. Cotten has sitting on the property. It’s a clear night, perhaps I’ll be able to get some alone time with a beer and just watch the stars.
Rhett pulls up to the large structure where all our dances are held. A large barn just outside the main center of town, it sits empty most days, but tonight, it’s filled with people, lights adorn the entryway and music echoes from the speakers inside. Our town ain’t large, and this is the biggest space we have, where pretty much the whole town’s folk can fit inside.
Rhett parks off to the side of the barn and we exit the vehicle. There’s already a crowd gathered and I can’t stifle the groan. Walking into the main section which has been set up with a large open area where people are already starting to two-step, and kids racing around chasing each other. As my gaze darts around, I take in the amount of people and inwardly cringe. It’s practically the whole town. The music filters through the speakers and the dance floor is already filled with couples.
“Let’s get some beers,” Rhett says; he turns to the makeshift bar and we follow. My brother’s eyes are as wide as saucers as he glances around and I wonder if he’s looking for someone special. I’ve not really been that close with him and I don’t know if he’s got a girlfriend yet. When I was his age, I had a few too many girls hanging off my every word.
“Hey, Clayton,” a syrupy, sweet voice comes from behind me and I find my ex-girlfriend from high school, Kasey, staring back at me. We dated for two long years and to this day I don’t know why. She isn’t my type, never was, and if you asked me how we ended up dating, I wouldn’t be able to tell you.
Her white blonde hair is pinned in a tight bun at the back of her head. When I rake my gaze over her face, I notice she’s wearing too much make-up with a deep blue eye shadow and bright pink glossy lips. She looks like a cover girl for some pop magazine. I haven’t seen much of her in town or near the ranch in months, years even. I think she found out I was with someone while I was away at college and realized I wasn’t coming back.
Then I had to. I didn’t have a choice in where my life ended up.
“Hi, Kasey, how are you?” She’s changed, not for the better. Her dress is about two sizes too small and her breasts are barely covered. A shudder of revulsion rolls through me when I notice the length of the dress. She’s definitely not the same girl anymore. Most guys would gawk at the sight of her, but I don’t. If ever I were to be with any woman again, it would be a girl who’s shy, yet quirky, and challenging. Someone who can hold a conversation, and someone who doesn’t need a ton of make-up to feel pretty. I want someone naturally beautiful, inside more than out.
“I’m good. Did you want to dance?” She offers a smile, sultry, seductive, but I shake my head. Her face falls in disappointment at my refusal. I can’t bring myself to lead her on, even if I did dance with her, nothing would come of it. Nothing she wants anyway.
“No thanks, darlin,’ I’m just here to have a couple of drinks.” With a smile, I turn and find Rhett grabbing two bottles of local beer. “I need that,” I grunt, grabbing one and downing half the bottle in one long gulp.
He smirks, giving me a knowing look as he watches me drain the bottle. “She’s still on your ass?”
Nodding, I shake my head in frustration. “I wish she’d get the hint. I’m not interested, won’t be for a while. I have too much to focus on. The ranch needs me.”
He nods, slapping me on the back and gesturing to the dance floor. “Watch a few skirts, drinks some beers, and have a good night, Clay. I know you’re not looking for a relationship, but you need to relax.” Clinking his bottle on mine, he regards me with a smirk. With a quick glance around, I take in the crowd. Everyone in town is here. Taking a long drink of my beer, I lean my elbow against the counter of the bar and settle against it, raking my gaze over each person. Nobody catches my attention. This is pointless, but I’ll give Rhett the benefit of the doubt
CLICK HERE for Chapter Two
Promises are hard to keep. For 28-year-old Clayton Walker, they’re almost impossible. When he lost his father, he lost himself. All he has left is the Walker Family Ranch, and he’ll do anything to keep it running for his mother and brother. But there aren’t many options left in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and time is running out on his chances to keep the ranch going.
Pasts are hard to forget. For 26-year-old Essie Rose, they’re downright controlling. When she’s sent out to the middle of nowhere, Wyoming, on business, it’s her chance to shed her past and regain her independence.
She never meant to fall for Clay, the sexy rugged cowboy who leaves her tongue-tied and sends her heart racing.
He never meant to fall for Essie, the sweet-as-pie city girl who makes him yearn for everything he’s lost.
But love isn’t easy, especially when Clay learns that the city girl he’s fallen for is in town to steal his ranch … right after she steals his heart.
Will Clay break his promise, or will Essie have to make a few of her own to save herself, and the cowboy she’s fallen for?
Dirt Road Promise is a feel-good poignant western romance that will make you smile as hard as you swoon.
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From sweet and romantic, to dark and delicious, she's grown from strength to strength and hitting her stride. On a daily basis she has a few hundred characters, story lines, and ideas floating around in her head.
Generally working on two or more manuscripts at a time, she loves the variety of where her writing is taking her. She's normally found in the cave with a mug of coffee or a glass of wine whipping up new emotional rollercoasters.
You can also find her on social media – Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest. She has a healthy addiction to reading, TV series, music, tattoos, chocolate, and ice cream. Some of her go to authors are M Never, K Webster, Pepper Winters, KL Kreig, Meghan March, and that’s just to name a few!