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Mr. Whoa, oh my God, superhumanly handsome yet familiar.
I wanted to lie on the beach in the warm sand wearing the skimpiest bikini imaginable, with a margarita in one hand and a dirty book in the other. Instead, I’m on my way to The Cattle Industry Convention and Trade show.
Shooting the shit with a bunch of people about cattle feed options and interfacing with other producers is as interesting to me as a cup full of mud. But this year my daddy isn’t feeling well so he can’t go, and my sister Charlotte is still off at college, and my little brother Jack Jr. is… well, let’s just say, he couldn’t pour piss out of a boot with a hole in the toe and directions on the heel.
If I didn’t look so much like my daddy, I would swear on a stack of bibles that I was switched at birth. That’s how out of place I feel in my family, and not just in my family, in my life.
Don’t get me wrong ranch life has been good to me, and I’ve never wanted for any material thing. I’ve always had a big roof over my head and food on the table but I’m thirty years old, and the itch to do something different is becoming unbearable.
I always felt there was something missing in my life, something integral that makes me, me. The trouble is, I have no idea what that is. But I do know what it isn’t, ranching and accounting, both things I do for my family.
Yet, here I am in Billings Montana, in a fancy ass hotel lobby, waiting for the key to my fancy ass room that I couldn’t care less about staying in. I need a cigarette like yesterday, and this damn hotel is entirely non-smoking... figures. I could also go for a drink, or six, after that two-hour turbulent filled flight I just endured.
I sigh and fiddle with the handle on my suitcase, swaying back and forth, while the line moves at a snail’s pace. I decide to pass the time scoping out the men around me, even though ranch men have never done it for me, at all.
I was always attracted to the wrong kind of men, the dishonest, cheating, selfish, self-centered, inconsiderate, arrogant, close-minded, hypocritical, unreliable, short tempered, immoral kind of men. The bad boys, the womanizers, the charmers, those are my ex-boyfriends.
It’s like I’m a magnet, an asshole beacon in the night for jerks. They find me, lure me in, put on an incredible act, but they always end up showing their true self and amazingly, I’m always surprised.
So, in the spirit of self-preservation, I have sworn off handsome, charming men for eternity, and I now look for ordinary average men who might consider themselves lucky to have a woman such as myself.
My recent six-month dry spell is proof that this logic isn’t going well, but since I missed the day God handed out asshole radars, it’s all I’ve got.
On my right, there is a pudgy rancher named Billy, with his wife and three kids, who are getting more and more annoying by the second. I know this rancher's name is Billy because he has it stitched, along with the name of his ranch, on his bright red button up shirt. God Ranchers turn me off.
Billy’s wife catches my eye and gives me a weak smile and an apologetic shoulder shrug. She knows her kids are little shit heads even if Billy doesn’t.
My eyes move to the revolving door where a man is entering holding the hand of a young boy, maybe four or five, who is in full-on meltdown mode. He’s screaming and yanking the man’s arm, forward and back violently. He'll be lucky if the kid doesn't dislocate his shoulder.
Everyone turns to stare because that’s what people do when a kid is hysterically screaming in a public place. I feel sorry for the poor guy, but he doesn’t seem flustered. In fact, he’s standing like a stone statue letting the boy yank his arm as if this kind of thing happens all the time and maybe it does.
While Banshee boy continues his tantrum, I follow the man’s jerking arm up to his shoulder and then to his whoa, oh my God, superhumanly handsome, yet familiar face.
I don’t get time to think about where I know him from when he begins to move through the gawking crowd with his screeching charge. I am last in line to check in, which means whoa, oh my God, superhumanly handsome, yet familiar guy and banshee boy are forced to take their place right behind me.
My need for a cigarette and a drink multiply ten fold listening to this small human freak out so close to me. After what is probably fifteen seconds that feels like fifteen minutes I turn around and squat down facing the little demon looking him straight in the eye.
“You’re very noisy. You know that right?” I say, surprising him into a sudden silence. I feel dozens of sets of relieved eyes on my back. It’s funny to me that staring at a child when he's quiet is acceptable, but not when he’s losing his shit.
Everyone in the lobby politely averted their eyes, some of them rolling, when these two showed up, but now, it’s all eyes on us.
“Is there a reason you’re being so noisy?” I ask, and the man begins to say something. Without looking at him, I hold up my hand to keep him from interrupting me. I do this because he is devastatingly handsome, and if I look at him I’ll forget what I’m going to say.
“I don’t wanna be here,” he says.
“No? Me either. Did your dad make you come?”
“Me too. I wanted a vacation on a beach, but my daddy said I had to come to this dumb thing instead. My name’s Stella, what’s yours?”
Cannon, that’s a cool ass name for a kid. I nod my head up and down. “I like that. It's cool. So, how about you stop screaming and we become friends instead? We can commiserate, you know what that means?”
He shakes his head.
“It means we can think this thing sucks together.”
A smile spreads across his face, and I realize for the first time what a beautiful child he is when he’s quiet, and his face isn’t all twisted up. He looks a lot like the man holding his hand, the one that I feel like I've met before.
I hold out my hand to shake Cannon’s, but he launches himself into my arms almost knocking me off my feet. Thank god Mr. whoa, oh my god, superhumanly, handsome yet familiar grabbed my shoulders to steady me.
With my guard down from the jolt, I look up at him, and my mouth falls open. We are so close I can smell him, and he smells like soap and musk and… crayons. He smells like a daddy, Cannon’s daddy?
Suddenly the sound of clapping and hooting and whistling roars in my head, like a tilde wave, and I look around.
Are these people really applauding my successful attempt to quiet Cannon? If they are that’s just plain rude as hell.
I rip my eyes from Cannon’s daddy and turn to the crowd that is closing in on us fast.
“Mr. Pride, could you sign my copy of People magazine?” “Mr. Pride how does it feel to be the sexiest man alive?”
That’s why he looks familiar. Mr. Ashton Pride, the richest rancher in the U.S. and recently named People Magazine’s Sexiest Man Alive. He is also known to be a major trouble-making playboy who refuses to settle down, so how is it that he’s here with a kid?
Cannon whimpers and burrows his face deep into my neck, squeezing me tight when the crowd converges upon us. “It’s okay, I’ve got you,” I say into his hair, and Mr. Pride’s big warm hands slide off of my shoulders down to my arms to guide me up.
Cannon is clinging to my body like a baby monkey when I feel one hand disappear from my arm and reappear around my waist guiding me out of the lobby.
“Wait, I don’t know…”
“Quiet,” he says, and my body stiffens.
“Daddy’s mad,” Cannon murmurs into my hair. So this is Cannon’s daddy.
Leaning in way too close for my comfort, he tells Cannon, “I’m getting us out of here before we get trampled,”
“Cuz a dat magazine?”
“Yeah Buddy, because of that magazine.” He kisses the side of Cannon’s head, and my knees wobble under me.
Mr. whoa, oh my god, superhumanly handsome, yet familiar is also, Mr. sweet, loving, protective daddy.
Well, there goes any hope of him being attracted to me, not that I have had time to hope, but yeah I sort of did. He can’t be all of those good things and a total douche bag, which is the only kind of man I attract.
But, I hadn’t attracted him, had I? No, it was his son who I felt compelled to talk to, not his hot daddy. And in all honesty, I gotta say, his son was acting outwardly like most men who are attracted to me when they show their true colors. Not that I’m calling Cannon a douche bag. He’s just a little kid with plenty of time to learn how to be like his daddy, but who am I to say no to meeting a great guy via a glitch in the universe’s code?
“This way,” he says guiding me toward a door next to the front desk that says ‘Employees Only.
“Um, I don’t think we’re supposed to…”
“Shush, keep moving,” he says, herding me like he probably herds his fucking cattle. I stop moving, but I don’t actually stop moving, he is stronger than I am, pushy and he’s turning out to be a bit of a bully.
Now I see why he’s attracted to me. He’s an asshole, and I’m an asshole magnet. Now it's all making sense.
Being branded the sexiest man alive is a curse. The day People Magazine gave me that title and plastered me on every newsstand in the country was the day my life got complicated.
Finding a nanny is hard enough when your four-year-old son is a prankster, who lives to torture his nanny. But now every applicant wants to sleep with me, and I don’t do the nanny.
It’s my only rule, and I never break it.
The Cattle Industry Convention and Trade show was supposed to be boring. That was before sexy billionaire rancher Ash Pride tried to rope me into being his son’s nanny.
I’m no Mary Poppins; I don’t know the first thing about kids, and I already have a job on my family’s ranch.
But Ash Pride doesn’t take no for an answer, and when he looks at me with his sensual, dark eyes, I’m not sure how long I can keep turning him down.
**This is a full length, stand-alone romance with a happily ever after and no cliffhanger**
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