Yoga instructor Jessalyn Alcott radiates peace, calm, and serenity—on the outside. Inside, she still feels like the broken, desperate girl from the trailer park. She’s got dark secrets she can’t share, which is why she never lets her relationships go beyond the third date. But when she travels to the Whisper Creek dude ranch for a friend’s wedding, Jess is enchanted by a cowboy whose deep blue eyes, dimpled smile, and rock-hard body make it tough to remember why she keeps running scared.
Cole Driscoll has struggled to find his place on a family ranch where he’s always played second fiddle. His future might be uncertain, but he’s sure of one thing: He wants Jess by his side. Easier said than done. When it comes to getting close, she’s full of excuses, and he longs to fix the hurt he sees in her eyes. Now that she’s at Whisper Creek, there’s nothing he wants more than to break down the walls around her heart and heal her pain with the power of love.
Once Upon a Cowboy
Whisper Creek # 1
Whisper Creek # 1
By: Maggie McGinnis
Releasing June 30, 2015
“No. I will not pose for some crazy beefcake calendar. Not happening.” Cole put one hand up, palm toward his sister-in-law as he reached into the fridge for a bottled water. He’d just finished leading a trail ride out to the cliffs, and had stopped by the main lodge for a quick drink.
Kyla smiled sweetly. “It’s not a beefcake calendar. It’s a Men-of-Whisper-Creek memento.”
“Cole! You know it would be a great moneymaker. Every woman who stays here at the ranch would take one home with her.”
Cole shivered dramatically. “That doesn’t make me feel better.” He pointed out the window. “Go take pictures of the scenery! Look! Blue skies, rolling grasslands, big snow-capped mountains in the distance. Make that calendar.”
“Come on. We’ll just take a few pictures. You’d have final say over what shots I use.”
“No.” Cole sighed. He loved Kyla like a sister, and her ideas had been bringing in more money than they’d ever made before she came along, but a calendar? That was putting things over the top.
“Kyla, remember when you thought we should get goats?”
“Mm-hmm. I was right, right?”
“You were right. Kids love them.” He put up one finger, then raised a second one. “And remember when you thought we should add a spa package?”
She nodded. “Right about that, too.”
“Yes.” He put up the rest of the fingers on his right hand. “Also right about the wedding gazebo and the Shetlands and the fishing excursions.”
“Sounds like I’m five for five.” She raised an eyebrow in challenge.
“Exactly. So let’s not mess with your perfect record by pimping out the cowboys for a calendar, okay?”
“Not all of the cowboys. Just a select few. Like, twelve.”
He shook his head. “Not happening.”
“Cole, we have the hottest cowboys in Montana. It makes business sense to capitalize on that and you know it.”
Before he could formulate an answer, Ma blew into the huge country kitchen with a laundry basket full of towels.
“What’s all this jawing about in here?”
Cole raised his eyebrows at Kyla, silently daring her to tell Ma she wanted to put together a cowboy calendar. No way would Ma go for it, and they both knew it.
With a flick of her head, Kyla turned to Ma. “I was just telling Cole I think we should do a Whisper Creek calendar.”
Ma pursed her lips, nodding carefully. “Cowboys?”
Ma smiled benignly as she picked up a towel, folding carefully. “I think it’s a great idea. Is he campaigning to be Mr. February?”
Kyla shot a superior look his way, huge grin on her face, and Cole could do nothing but sigh, slap on his Stetson, and head for the door. Great. Outnumbered once again.
“I’ll let you know when we need you for the photo shoot,” Kyla called.
He opened the door. “And I’ll let you know when I’m headed to Alaska.”
As he walked toward the stable, he saw his brother working one of their new ponies on a long lead in the corral. He approached slowly so he wouldn’t startle them, settling his arms on the top rail as he watched.
Decker spotted him out of the corner of his eye. “How are things up in the henhouse?”
“Your wife is planning a beefcake calendar.”
“Oh, really?” Decker’s eyebrows went upward. “And who does she plan to use for the—beefcakes? Is that a word?”
“Who do you think?”
Decker shook his head. “No way. Not happening.”
“That’s what I told her. But don’t think Ma’s going to save us. She just stamped her approval. I think you need to get some control over your woman, Decker.”
Decker smiled. “Right. You go ahead and tell her that.”
“It’d help if she wasn’t so damn right all the time.” Cole sighed. “Now she’s got attitude.”
“She came with that.” He motioned Cole into the corral. “You want to take the pony for a bit? I need to get ready for that open house up at Boulder Creek.”
Decker might play a cowboy while he was working at the family ranch, but he was also an architect, and phase three of his new housing development on Whisper Creek’s western border was set to open this fall.
“Another fun afternoon sitting around a model home with your fancy suit and shoes on? God, I’m envious.”
Cole stepped into the corral and took the rope from Decker, ducking as Decker tried to cuff him in the head.
“Lot of ways to make a living, buddy. Lot of ways.”
Cole nodded. “Yup. I’m just glad my ways don’t involve suits.”
Decker shook his head. “I’d much rather be here this afternoon, believe me.”
“It’s okay, Decker. I’ve got cowboy-duty nailed down. Even have my best Stetson on in case anybody shows up early. We’re covered.”
“Are you being an ass?”
“Nope. But if you start scheduling these open houses for every Sunday afternoon, I might turn into one.”
“Well, once we sell all the lots, we won’t need to do any more open houses, right?”
“Not till you start on phase four, anyway.” Cole tried to keep the bitter edge out of his voice, but he figured Decker heard it anyway.
They’d both been raised right here at Whisper Creek, but after their little sister’s death, Decker’d been kicked off the ranch by their despondent father, who’d needed to blame someone. He’d spent ten long years out in California honing his architect chops while Cole and Ma had struggled to keep the ranch from going under completely, but two years ago when Dad died, Decker had finally come back.
And at first, it had been great. He and Cole had poured buckets of sweat into reviving Whisper Creek. They’d worked together, cussed together, drunk beers at the end of the day together, got to know each other again.
But now? It’d been two years since Decker had driven back up the long driveway and into their lives, but they still hadn’t quite worked out the who-does-what equation yet, and Cole was getting itchy.
While he mucked stalls and led trail rides and fed those damn goats Kyla had insisted on, Decker spent half his time up at the new development, or at town council meetings, or glad- handing the guys who would be voting at the next council meeting.
Leaving Whisper Creek certainly hadn’t been Decker’s choice, but Cole just wished now that he was back, he’d be—back. Back in the stables, back on the trails, back in the corrals for more than a passing lesson or two before heading out in his truck for yet another meeting or business lunch.
Decker was working his ass off, no doubt about it. And the Boulder Creek development had been responsible for Whisper Creek’s bank account finally moving into the black, but there didn’t seem to be any end in sight, and Cole was getting a little tired of feeling like he was carrying the ranch on his shoulders.
Especially since he wasn’t one hundred percent sure he even wanted to play cowboy anymore.
He sighed and headed for the stables with the pony. Yep. To the outside world, Decker was saving the ranch with his money, his valedictorian brain, and his housing project, and Cole was—well, Cole was being asked to pose for the ranch calendar.
And that kind of said it all.
Maggie McGinnis, USA Today Bestselling Author of Accidental Cowgirl and Driving Without a License, which was a finalist for Romance Writers of America’s Golden Heart Award is a former high school English teacher, an accomplished musician, and a certified black belt, who lives in New England with her family.