Rowdy: Rodeo Roughies Book 1 Cover

From Chapter 1

The fountains in front of the Bellagio Hotel flashed brightly in the sunshine, creating prisms on the water pools and rainbows in the sparkling mist. The four of them stood among the other tourists in rapt attention as they watched the water show. Gretchen held her little daughter, Amy’s hand, knowing they were safe among the many people, guarded diligently by Bob and Melody. Since winning the Mega Millions Lottery, Gretchen and Amy had become targets for potential kidnappers and extortionists. Nine hundred million dollars did that for you. But Bob and Melody were vigilant, preventing people from getting near.

Although she was focused on the fountain show, Gretchen felt their bodyguards shuffle closer and caught them stiffening up in the periphery of her vision. When she turned, she saw a man in a cowboy hat and boots approaching. His smile was white in the sunlight, his eyes friendly, bright blue, with small crinkles at the corners as though he was often in the sun.

“Little girl!” he called out, clearly meaning Amy. He had her rag doll in one large hand. “You lost your doll.” He came close enough for Bob and Melody to form a wall between mother, daughter and the man.

“Miss Daisy!” Amy shouted, pushing against Melody’s legs to get by. Melody didn’t budge. Bob stiffened and bristled. The situation could get out-of-hand quickly.

“Let him come through,” Gretchen said calmly. Bob and Melody were steadfast. “He’s got Amy’s doll, guys. Let him give it to her. Let’s be polite.”

Bob hmphed and did not budge.

Gretchen put a hand on his shoulder and squeezed. His muscles didn’t give way even an iota, but the big Black man didn’t shrug her off. “Bob, back off.”

“It’s not safe,” the big man said succinctly, never moving his gaze from the cowboy who approached.

Gretchen was reminded of the cowboys who worked her family’s ranch as she was growing up. They’d always treated her with respect and kindness, even when she was being a pesky kid always underfoot.

Amy was trying to squeeze around Melody’s legs, putting all her five-year-old effort into it, but Melody just moved from side to side, preventing the little girl from getting by.

The cowboy stopped before the group, looking rather puzzled by the two stiff people standing between him and the little girl whose doll he held. “Um… She lost her doll?”

Melody reached for the toy, but the cowboy didn’t release it. Instead, he hunkered down and peered around Melody to see Amy. Amy snaked her hand around Melody’s legs. “Miss Daisy must’ve snuck away,” Amy told the cowboy.

“She must have,” he told the little girl, his drawl clear now Gretchen could hear him well. Once again, he reminded her of the Western men she knew from childhood. Even her father and mother spoke with a country twang. Gretchen had been told she had a light accent as well, but she didn’t hear it in herself. He handed Amy her doll, but before he stood again, he made a little conversation with the child. “I have a mare named Daisy. She’s what’s called a blue roan, which means her hair is kind of like dark blue. She’s almost as pretty as your Miss Daisy.” 

“What’s a mare?”

“A girl horse, little lady.”

“Oh, my gramma had a horse. I don’t think she does anymore.” Then Amy asked the question she asked every male she met. “Are you my daddy?”

Gretchen immediately felt her face flame. It was so awkward. She usually laughed it off nervously, but for some reason, with this man she was embarrassed. “Amy, I asked you not to do that,” she said to her child.

“But I wanna know!”

The cowboy shifted a little and pushed his hat back away from his forehead a bit. “No, peanut, I’m not your daddy.” He eyed Bob and Amy saw where his gaze went.

“That’s just Bob. He’s not anybody’s daddy,” Amy explained.

“Ah. Well, I’m not him, I’m sorry.” He stood and Amy walked back a few steps to take Gretchen’s hand with the hand not clutching the doll.

Gretchen peered past Bob and the cowboy smiled at her. “Really, Bob, let me at least look at the man while I talk to him.”

Bob humphed again but moved a few inches to the right. Gretchen could now clearly see the face of the cowboy. And a handsome face it was! He had well-defined features, with dark brows and dark hair. His sideburns were long though his hair was short. Standing near six feet tall, his shoulders were broad, but he wasn’t bulky. He continued to smile at them, despite Bob and Melody’s aggressive postures.

“Thank you,” Gretchen told him. “She loves her doll.”

“I figured. My little sister was mighty close to her dolls, too.”

Taking a chance Bob would surely reprimand her for in a few minutes, she reached between Bob and Melody and shook the man’s hand when he offered it. “I’m Rowdy Jackson,” he told her, his grip firm but not painful, his palm warm against hers, fingers slightly callused.

“I’m Gr-“

“Unavailable,” Bob said, gruffly interrupting.

Gretchen sighed. Rowdy looked from Bob to Gretchen. “Of course. I didn’t intend to offend you or your wife, mister.” He tipped his black hat, beginning to turn away.

For some reason, Gretchen didn’t want the encounter to end badly, so before he walked away, she said, “Bob’s not my husband, Rowdy.”

“I see,” he said, though his expression said otherwise. “Well, have a pleasant afternoon.”

Having finished his business, he once again tipped his hat and walked around the small group and into the crowd.

Gretchen smacked Bob on the back of his shoulder. “You big oaf. I’m not a glass Christmas ornament. You have to let me talk to people sometimes!”

Melody bent to take Amy’s doll and look it over carefully for threats. Gretchen was so tired of this, but she also knew it was a necessary measure. Everyone wanted a piece of her money, and some people were willing to do almost anything to get a share.

Bob didn’t reply to her temper but silently went back on guard with a more casual pose.

Gretchen sighed, turning back to the fountains, her daughter clinging to her hand. “Just another day in lockdown,” she mumbled.

“He coulda been my daddy,” Amy said wistfully nearby. “He coulda.”

Ignoring the sensitive issue, Gretchen gave Amy’s hand a squeeze and focused on the freedom of the sparkling fountains dancing in front of her.



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