Gentling the Cowboy (Page 1)

Gentling the Cowboy (Texan Nights Series #1)
Author: Ruth Cardello

Chapter One

No real adventure ever started by waiting patiently on a doorstep.

Still, Sarah Dery hesitated before reaching for the handle on the screen door of her friend’s immense white farmhouse. The shelter of the wraparound porch did little to alleviate the heat of the midday Texas sun, but was that a good enough excuse to enter? What if no one is home? Since there was no cell phone service, there wasn’t much else she could do unless she was willing to wait in her SUV.

Wiping one suddenly cold hand across a jean-clad leg, Sarah straightened her shoulders and opened the door decisively. She hadn’t survived the three-day drive from Rhode Island only to pass out from heat exhaustion on the porch because Lucy was late.

“Hello?” she called out. “Anyone home?” No answer.

The interior of the house was similar to the mammoth horse barn she’d searched a few minutes ago: well maintained, but lacking any personal touches. She was surprised that her friend lived like this, but perhaps when you worked all day on a ranch, decorating wasn’t a priority.

Sarah assessed the living room. It looked and smelled clean—the best compliment she could give it. The few pieces of wooden furniture, decorated with outdated, plain blue cushions, had probably never given a person a moment of comfort. She returned to the main foyer and appreciated the beauty of the room’s woodwork, even as she noted the lack of photos and artwork on the walls.

The house reminded her of the mansions in her hometown, built by wealthy factory owners who had long since left the area, along with their businesses. Although this house showed no obvious signs of disrepair, it felt cold. Empty. Can a house be sad?

She wandered through the downstairs rooms and marveled at the lack of electronics—no television, not even a radio. Lucy had hinted that her life in Texas wasn’t happy, but this was the first glimpse Sarah had had at how truly barren her life down here was.

No wonder she invited me.

Although she hadn’t seen her old roommate since college, they’d kept in touch via email and the occasional uneventful video chat. Until Lucy had asked, “How’s your writing going?”

What writing?

“I’ve been busy,” Sarah had said lamely.

“Didn’t you say that you’d taken the job at your parents’ company so you’d have time to write?”

Yes.

Apparently, time was not the issue.

Can you be a writer if you don’t write? Like a musician who never picks up an instrument? Who are you when the person you are in your heart doesn’t match the life you’re living?

I always wanted to be a writer—tell stories that would sweep readers away on a journey of laughter, tears, and growth. I dreamed of discovering myself through the characters I crafted.

So why can’t I write?

What’s stopping me?

God, I need this trip.

Lucy said she was desperate for companionship, and the offer of spending a summer on a working Texas cattle ranch had been too tempting to pass up. Taking a deep breath, Sarah announced to the empty house, “I’ll admit so far this isn’t living up to how exciting I thought Texas would be, but it’ll work out.” Maybe I watched too much “Dallas,” but I’m not ready to give up on my fantasy just yet.

She could almost hear her brother’s telltale sigh, which was often followed by a lengthy lecture. Charles Dery was a successful Wall Street investor and a self-appointed dictator when it came to his little sister. Moving to New York rather than staying and working for their family’s construction company hadn’t stopped him from getting involved as soon as she’d announced she was taking a leave of absence from her office job at Dery and Son—a company that should have been named Dery and Reluctantly Employed Daughter.

“Mom and Dad called me. They’re upset. There is no way you’re quitting your job to travel cross-country alone.”

“Yes, I am, Charlie.”

“Why the hell are you doing this?” he’d stormed.

“I need this,” Sarah had fired back, knowing that a deeper conversation wasn’t possible between them. I need this.

Before it’s too late.

Maybe it already is.

Twenty-five.

What is it about a milestone age that makes a person reassess her life? She’d graduated from the University of Rhode Island with a bachelor degree in English, but she could easily have gotten a degree in basket-weaving for all she’d done with it since.

Lucy’s question had haunted her, especially during her last birthday party when the forest of candles on her cake had hit Sarah like a bucket of ice-cold reality. How did I lose myself?

She wished there had been one grand event she could blame, but the truth was it had happened much less dramatically than that—more like a flower wilting in the sun until the life she thought she was meant for was nothing more than a pile of dried-out, brittle regret.

Charlie said I should think of how this is affecting others and not be so selfish. Easy for him to say from New York.

I tried to be the one who stayed behind to make everything okay, but the price was too high. Be good. Follow the rules. Avoid all unpleasant topics. I can’t do it anymore. I can’t be the perfect daughter in the perfect family. I’m an adventurer. A pioneer. Texans hadn’t stayed where the boat dropped their parents. They’d boldly left for parts unknown.

Like I did.

Life in Rhode Island wasn’t awful. Her office position at her parents’ company paid enough for her to live in her own apartment and afford a horse she rode four nights a week at an exclusive equestrian facility.

I didn’t have anything to complain about.

Or anything to look forward to.

Until Lucy called.

“Hello . . . anybody here?” The silence was eerie, but this wasn’t the movies––nothing extraordinary was going to happen.

Sarah grimaced. Nothing ever did.

Lucy had probably run to the store for some last-minute supplies. Isn’t that how it always works? You step away for just a minute and your company arrives.

A bead of sweat trickled down Sarah’s neck. The light cotton shirt she had chosen so carefully that morning was now plastered against her back. Sarah plucked at it while renewing her resolve. She’d adjust to the heat. Comfort didn’t matter. This was about finding herself, finding her voice.

She returned to the living room, plopped on the unforgiving couch, and flung out her arms in victory. I did it! The drive may have taken her three days, giving her horse time to rest along the way, but even that part of the journey had been amazing. Each bed and breakfast she’d stayed at on her way down had intensified her anticipation. Each time she’d told the other guests where she was going, she’d felt even more alive.