Title: Cowboy for a Season
Genre:
Release Date: 6/25/2019Add on Goodreads

When the husband she no longer loves dies, Hannah is left with a large West Texas ranch to run. An air of sadness—brought on by her inability to bear a child—overlies her hardened determination to persevere. Hiring Brazilian Professional Bull Rider, Alex, who is slowly recovering from injuries which threaten to end his career, will help Hanna get her wheat in before the fall rains come. The handsome cowboy makes it clear that he'll return to bull riding with the start of the new PBR season in January. But without warning, his world is turned upside down. His ex-wife drops his toddler daughter, Chloe, at the ranch. Hannah hasn't counted on caring for the cowboy or his precious daughter. Despite his love for Chloe and the way he cares for Hannah, Alex’s goal remains the same—to return to bull riding, the only life he’s ever wanted. Three hearts hang in the balance. One decision could break them all.

Don’t miss Cowboy for a Season by Janalyn Knight. If you like hot cowboys, strong women, and ranching in the new West, then this book will have you burning through the pages. Check it out!

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CHAPTER ONE 

Hannah placed the long-stemmed white rose atop the lid of the casket. Her pale, freckled face, companion to her copper hair, turned fiery red when she cried, so if there was a blessing today, it was that she couldn't shed any tears.

A hot wind gusted, bringing a cloud of dust with it and flattening her black funeral dress to her petite frame. The pastor's final speech dimmed in her consciousness. A chapter of her life was over. Any sadness she felt paled against the sense of betrayal that her husband's infidelity and cruel words had caused her. His year-long public affair with a woman in town along with his blaming Hannah because they couldn't have children had killed her love for him long before Ty died three days ago.

She had asked Ty many times to repair the starter on their old John Deere tractor, but he had put it off. Standing beside it, he started the thing with a screw driver each time he drove it. The day it killed him, he forgot to shift the tractor into neutral before starting the engine, and the sharp discs on the plow had run over him. Hannah, used to his long absences, hadn't found him until the next day.

As the pastor's words died away, she stumbled through the awkward condolences from neighbors and friends in a daze. How would she cope in this new life of hers? The one thing Ty did this past year was tractor work while she struggled hard to manage all the other chores on the ranch. Now she'd have to prepare the wheat fields and plant them, too. A crushing weight settled on her shoulders.

The crowd at the gravesite thinned, and Hannah moved toward the cemetery drive, her parents at her side.

Her mom said, "Honey, let's get you home, and I'll fix you something to eat."

Not caring about food, Hannah responded distantly, "Okay, Momma."

Taking her hand, her father said, "We'll stay as long as you need, baby. Don't you worry."

"I'll be fine, Daddy." All her strong emotions had flown with the desert wind whipping around them, leaving her empty and vague. As she stood next to her father's truck, a hand touched her arm. It was Todd Matthews.

"Excuse me, Hannah. I don't mean to hold you up, but I wanted to say I'm so sorry about your loss. I know things will be hard for you without Ty." Handing her a paper, he said, "Here's my number. A friend of mine is staying with me. He rides the Professional Bull Rider's circuit, but he's recovering from some injuries right now. He knows his way around a ranch. He's not up to heavy stuff, but he's fine for most work. I think he'd be a lot of help to you. Anyway, call me if you're interested." With a pat on her back, he turned away.

"Thanks, Todd," she said faintly. Stuffing the paper in her purse, she opened the truck door and sat in the back seat, gazing out the window, without seeing, as her father drove. Life as she knew it was over. But, wasn't that a good thing? Her life had been hell this past year, knowing Ty made love to another woman and turned his back to Hannah in their own bed. Her heart had been shredded when he blamed her because no child blessed their marriage.

People in town must wonder why she hadn't divorced Ty. He hadn't hidden his affair. But, in some sick way, she almost didn't blame him. She hated herself, too, for her infertility. Her body had betrayed her, just as her husband had.

As her father pulled up in front of the faded-gold adobe ranch house, she got out, stiff and unfeeling, wanting nothing more than to go to bed.

Her mother said, "Honey, why don't you go change, and I'll fix us some lunch. I wish you had invited people over after the service. Still, quite a few friends are coming to drop off food this evening."

The last thing Hannah wanted was to see people. Why did her mother think she didn't have a reception? "Mom, I'm not hungry. Do you mind if I lay down for a while?"

Her mother pulled her into a long hug as Hannah came around the truck. "You do that, dear. Take care of yourself any way you need to. I'm so sorry you're going through this."

Thank God Mom understood. Hannah had missed having her mother close these past four years. After the death of her brother, Ben, they gave her the ranch and moved to Wyoming. Nothing had turned out like Hannah's dreams. Her marriage had failed, she couldn't have children, and her only family lived far away.

Once in her bedroom, she stepped out of her funeral dress and left it on the floor. This room wasn't a refuge. It held memories of hateful words, nights spent alone while her husband buried himself in another woman, and reoccurring nightmares of a long, childless life.

As she slid between the cool sheets and lay her head on the pillow, her mind began the torture she endured every time she closed her eyes. Visions of tiny infants and beautiful toddlers filled her head. She touched soft skin, kissed small faces, and cuddled little bodies to her chest. All she'd ever wanted was to be a mother. Many of her school friends had dreams of careers, but not Hannah. Raising babies with a loving husband had been her only dream. A familiar pain dug deep in her heart. That dream was impossible now. What man would want her barren body? What use was her life? What reason did she have to go on living? Without the release of tears, her dulled senses reached for the black void of sleep.

#

Hannah opened her eyes in darkness and struggled to make sense of her reality. She glanced at the alarm. It was past eight in the evening. Still, she didn't want to get up. Couldn't face another human being. Yet, something of the old Hannah rose in her, and she threw the covers back and sat on the edge of the bed. She turned on the light and took stock of the room, noting her discarded dress and deciding to leave it where it lay. She drew in a long breath and expelled it. No way was she getting dressed. Or showering. Picking out a sleepshirt, she pulled it over her head and threw on a robe. Her parents were talking in the living room. Closing her eyes, she stood a moment, building her emotional reserves, then headed down the stairs to join them.

Rising from the couch, her mom gave her a hug. "I'll bet you're hungry. Let me fix you a plate. You won't believe all the food we have. So many people stopped by tonight, honey. And don't worry, I wrote down all their names so you can send thank you notes."

Oh my God, thank you notes. Feeling overwhelmed, she sank down in an overstuffed leather chair and plopped her feet on the ottoman. Of course, she would send thank you notes. Everyone had been so kind. She'd just have to find time to do them. "Mom, do you have these people's addresses?"

"Most likely. I'll check," her mother called from the kitchen.

Hannah's brain started to work again. She got up and found a piece of paper and a pen and wrote down Buy thank you notes.

Cutie Pie, her mother's little Yorkshire Terrier, came trotting up to Hannah's chair, looking for cuddles. Her mother had always wanted one of the tiny dogs. When her parents moved to Wyoming, she bought one, as if losing her son had freed her to take care of herself. Hannah picked up Cutie Pie and snuggled him under her chin. Will I do that, too, now? Take care of myself?

Her father said, "I fed down at the barn, honey. Everything’s fine. One of the heifers looks close to calving, so I'll keep an eye on her tomorrow. You just tell me what needs doing around here, and I'll handle it."

"I love you, Daddy. I'll be all right. But I can always use help." That's when she remembered the paper Todd had given her. Should she hire a hand? Her parents couldn't stay forever. The real question was, could she afford to hire someone? Reality on her ranch meant she couldn't run it herself. She already had all she could do. There was no help for it. Someone else would have to prepare her fields and plant her wheat.

Her mom and dad had their own life now. Losing their son on a battlefield in Afghanistan had shattered them, and they had finally found a way to be happy in the new life they'd built in Wyoming. She couldn't pull them away from that, especially back to this house where Ben grew up.

Before she could rethink it, she got up and pulled the note out of her purse then dialed Todd.

He answered, "Hello?

"Hey, this is Hannah. I'd like to meet your friend, if the offer's still open. My parents need to get back to Wyoming, and I have to put my wheat in. I assume he can run a tractor?"

"Yep, he does. Would you like us to stop by in the morning, say around eight thirty?"

She swallowed. This was happening. "That sounds good. And, hey, thanks for thinking of me."

"You bet. See you tomorrow."

After she hung up, fizzles of anxiety hit her stomach. They'd never had a hand on the place. She and Ty were a team—that is until he lost interest and spent the majority of his time in town. Now she had to figure out how to be the boss and, somehow, she didn't think being a boss to a professional bull rider was going to be that easy. Those PBR cowboys were a breed apart. They had to be to climb on two thousand pounds of exploding, living, breathing hell every week. Maybe being injured had toned down this guy's ego a bit.

Her dad asked, "You going to hire someone, honey?"

"I think so. I want you and Mom to go back to Wyoming in a couple of days. Your life is there now, and I need to be able to handle this place on my own. That means hiring help. I should have done it this past year. I never told you all what was going on."

Holding up his hand, her dad called out, "Janie, come on in here. Hannah has something to tell us."

When her mom had settled on the leather couch, Hannah said, "Ty really left me more than a year ago." When her parents looked confused, she told them the whole story of the past year's events. After she finished, she said, "You're wondering why I didn't divorce him, and I don't have a good answer. It's just I've been in a pretty dark place and couldn't see my way out."

Her mom got up and came over to Hannah, hugging her. "Sweetheart, I wish you had told us all this. We would have been here for you. You shouldn't have gone through this alone. Why, we sit around on our little ranch and don't do a thing all year. We could visit you here in Barbwire any time since we don't have livestock in Wyoming. Promise me you won't ever do that again."

Tears stung Hannah's eyes, and she nodded. She should have told her parents. Looking back, she didn't know why she hadn't, except that she was so hurt and, at the same time, so numb. She'd gone through the motions each day in survival mode.

Brushing Hannah's hair back from her face her mom said, "Sweetheart, it's been years since you've really smiled. I want you to be happy again, and I know you can do that. Your whole life is ahead of you. You remember to say your prayers. Anything is possible in this life of ours, honey." She kissed her daughter's forehead and stepped back. "Come on in the kitchen. Your plate's ready, and I want you to eat. No buts."

#

The next morning dawned hot and dusty, the usual on Hannah's desert ranch. She and her father had fed the stock and were loading a round bale on the hay truck when Todd drove down the drive in a cloud of dirt. Hannah stepped away and waved.

With an answering wave, he slowed and pulled up in front of the long metal barn.

She caught sight of a straw cowboy hat and muscled arm on the passenger side of the truck.

Todd got out, and the other man joined him.

Hannah's eyes widened. The good-looking guy was sure tall for a bull rider. He was at least five feet, eleven inches and solid muscle. His skin tone and black hair made her wonder if he might be one of the Brazilian riders so prevalent in the PBR. Would he speak English?

Hannah approached, and Todd motioned to his friend. "Hannah, meet Alex Silva. Alex, this is Hannah Quinn."

She reached her hand out to the cowboy. "Pleased to meet you, Alex." His dark eyes held a glint of interest, and her heart beat faster. He had such beautiful, smooth skin. Every feature of his face was perfect. Shit, I'm staring!

Alex shook her hand, and with clear English but with a strong accent, said, "Good to meet you, Hannah."

She said, "So, I hear you know how to drive a tractor. I have an old John Deere 4550. Will that be a problem?"

Alex grinned. "No problem. I drive tractors very good."

Her father walked up, and she introduced him. "Alex, this is my dad, Ross Harrison. He's visiting from Wyoming." She chewed her lip. May as well get the hard part over. "How much do I need to pay you?"

The corner of his mouth quirked up. "Pay me what you want. I'm here until the season starts, then I ride again."

She drew her brows together and chewed her lip some more. The guy was gimpy. She'd have to take it easy on him. And she couldn't afford much. "How does ten bucks an hour sound?"

He nodded. "Okay. I start tomorrow?"

Hannah looked at her dad. "Maybe you can show him the ropes around here. Would you mind?"

"Sure, honey. That's a good idea."

Placing her hands on her hips, she said, "Alex, I appreciate this. We work eight to five. See you tomorrow." She turned to her friend. "Todd? Thanks, again."

"Glad it worked out."

Alex tipped his hat, and both men headed to Todd's truck.

Alex's broad shoulders and muscular butt held her full attention as he walked away. A buzz of excitement tickled her, something that hadn't happened in a very long time. What would it be like working with this man? He was certainly polite and well-spoken. Damn, he was good to look at. The guy probably had women all over the country dogging him during the season. The man didn't wear a ring, so she assumed he wasn't married. Why was that? And why in the hell was she noticing? Her husband was barely in his grave. Heaving a deep sigh, she turned away. It didn't feel like she'd just lost her husband. He'd been gone from her heart for ages, leaving it scarred and broken.

Her life had changed, and tomorrow a new chapter started. She was a boss, and her only employee was a sexy cowboy. Lord help her.