Series: Lassoed Hearts Series #1
Genre: Contemporary Western Romance
Release Date: December 27, 2021
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When a New York supermodel and a Texas Cowboy meet expect fireworks.
Soul-sick and exhausted, supermodel Sadie Stewart comes to her best friend’s Texas cattle ranch to heal. She’s kept men at arm’s length for so long that her last date is a blurred and irrelevant memory—which is just fine with her. She doesn’t need or want a new man in her life right now. But Jessica’s brother Knox makes her heart pound with his broad shoulders and sexy hips.
Knox McKinnis is blindsided by his first sight of the woman from back East. Sadie’s the most gorgeous female he’s ever seen. When he learns that she’s visiting for the rest of the summer, he decides to make himself scarce. The last thing he needs is to deal with a city slicker along with everything he has going at the ranch.
When Jessica gets called away for three weeks on a work project, she asks her brother to step in and shoulder some responsibility for her guest. What begins as an onerous chore turns into a budding friendship. Turns out, Sadie isn’t just another city slicker. She’s an intelligent woman with a lively interest in ranch life. It was bad enough that Knox couldn’t keep his body from reacting to her. Now she’s well on her way to capturing his mind and heart as well.
When friendship grows into something much more intense, and with careers on separate sides of the country, fate has already determined Knox and Sadie’s future. Or has it?
The Cowboy’s Cover Girl depicts characters with internal strength, blinding loneliness, great integrity, and deep self-doubt. You’ll be captivated by sensual love scenes and shocked by a terror attack at sea. Don’t miss this amazing romance from award-winning author Janalyn Knight.
Knox McKinnis removed the halter from his big bay gelding and swatted him on the rump. The horse trotted off into the wheat pasture, seemingly unaffected by the long day sorting cattle on the 11,200-acre McKinnis ranch near the tiny town of Rule in north Texas. So close to west Texas that it shared the wild, desert landscape, the McKinnis property had its share of mesquite trees and prickly pear cactus. But the hardy natural grasses grew healthy white-tailed deer for the hunters that the ranch hosted each year and robust Black Angus cattle that were his father’s pride.
After returning the halter to the big metal barn, he paused before entering the ranch house. Jessica’s SUV was parked out front, which meant that his sister was back from the airport in Abilene. Should he head into Haskell for dinner? Meeting some stranger from New York wasn’t high on his list after a hard day in the saddle. But what he really wanted was a shower and to hit the sack early. Better go in and get it over with.
As soon as he entered the big kitchen where everyone was already seated at the table, he locked eyes with Jessica’s friend. He steeled himself to show no reaction at her revealing outfit, a lime-green satin jacket over a black crocheted top with holes easily two inches wide. Her tiny beige bra showed clearly underneath it. Was that what passed for acceptable fashion in New York? He slid his glance away and headed to the sink to wash his hands.
When he took his seat at the table, Jessica spoke up. “Hey, brother, I’d like you to meet my friend, Sadie Stewart. Sadie, this is my big brother, Knox.”
He nodded. “Pleased to meet you, ma’am.”
Sadie raised her eyebrows. “I’m only twenty-six. Am I a ma’am already?”
He helped himself to a steak, biting back a smile. “In Texas, all women are ma’am.”
“Well, isn’t that nice.”
He took a serving from the rest of the dishes without comment. He had nothing in common with the Northerner. Couldn’t even imagine what would make a woman dress as she was. He took a bite of his fried potatoes and noticed that she only had a plate of salad in front of her. Didn’t New Yorkers eat country food? He glanced up and noticed Jessica watching him.
“Sadie’s a vegetarian.”
He stifled a groan. Of course she was. He nodded and took a bite of green beans.
“Don’t they have good Black Angus steaks in New York, Sadie?” his dad asked.
Sadie smiled. “I’m sure they do, Jeb. I just don’t eat them.”
“No wonder you’re so skinny. A person could get sickly going without good beef,” his father replied with a smile.
She obviously didn’t take his comment personally because she returned his dad’s smile. “I get plenty of protein, Jeb, I just don’t eat animals in the process.”
Knox took a quick bite of potatoes to keep from rolling his eyes. Did the city slicker have any idea how strange she sounded?
Maddie, Knox’s mom, and always the peacemaker in the house, spoke up. “To each his own, I say. Sadie, I have to get groceries in Abilene this week. Why don’t you come with me and we’ll make sure you have plenty of meal choices from now on, okay?”
“That sounds wonderful, Maddie. Thank you.”
She looked genuinely appreciative, and this appeased Knox some. But still. A vegetarian? Come on.
“So, how was your flight, Sadie?” his mother asked.
“It was fine. I guess I do so much of it that I don’t pay much attention to flying anymore. The only thing that got my pulse racing was a tight time frame for my plane switch in Dallas. The little commuter I took to Abilene wasn’t crowded, though, so that was nice.”
“Well, we’re sure glad you got here safely,” his mom replied.
“It’s great to be here, Maddie. Thanks so much for having me. This is a beautiful place. I’ve heard so much about Texas, and I can’t wait to see a real working cattle ranch.”
He pressed his lips together. Damn. That didn’t sound good. Did Jessica have plans for the two of them to follow him around?
“Sadie and I’ll do the cleanup after dinner, Mom,” Jessica offered.
Sadie’s head bobbed up, and her eyes widened in surprise.
His lips tightened. What? Didn’t she ever do dishes where she came from?
“Um, do you have gloves?” Sadie asked.
“I don’t think so, but we can get some. You can dry tonight,” his sister answered.
Sadie smiled. “That sounds perfect.”
Well, she’d taken that in stride. Maybe there was more to the woman than met the eyes. He finished the last of his food and went to the sink to rinse off his plate.
“It was nice meeting you, Knox.”
He put his plate in the dishwasher before replying. “Welcome to the McKinnis Ranch, Miss Stewart.”
“Oh, call me Sadie, please.”
He nodded. “Good evening, Sadie.” He strode from the room, wondering just how long the strange woman from New York City would be staying.
* * *
Sadie finished drying the plate and stacked it in the overhead cabinet with the others. There was surprising comfort in this everyday task. At her condo in the city, she had a housekeeper who took care of chores like this. She also dropped off and picked up her dry-cleaning, and handled a variety of other chores that made Sadie’s life easier. With her annual modeling salary in the millions, there wasn’t much in life that Sadie couldn’t pay for, and skimping on staff and necessities was something she never did.
As one of the world’s top supermodels, her life was incredibly fast-paced. It took everything from her. She’d become jaded with the world, burnt out with the fashion industry, with the backstabbing and hateful gossip, and with the constant travel and being on display every moment. That was the reason she’d sought refuge here with Jessica on her isolated Texas ranch.
In the past months, life had lost its meaning, food its appeal. When she’d fainted in the middle of a shoot, she’d realized that she’d reached her breaking point. She’d called Jessica and asked if she could come to Texas.
And what an unlikely pair they were. They’d met while Jessica was studying art at NYU and working in a coffee shop. Sadie had come in, stressed and out of sorts. Jessica’s sunny disposition and natural kindness had breached Sadie’s black mood and, over the next few weeks, they’d become friends.
She and Jessica had stayed in touch after she’d moved back to Texas and become a teacher, FaceTiming and texting several times a week. Sadie had come to lean on her pragmatic, down-to-earth friend for advice and a sane voice in the chaos of her world-traveling life.
Jessica handed Sadie the last bowl. “How about we go outside? I’ll show you around the place.”
“I’d like that.”
As they walked through the living room, Maddie looked up from the quilt square that she was working on. “Thanks for cleaning up, girls.”
Jessica and Sadie replied in unison, “You’re welcome.”
A few moments later, they stood at the pasture fence, where a small herd of horses grazed. Jessica pointed to a sorrel mare. “That one there, the one that’s kind of orangey red? She’s mine.”
“She’s beautiful. What breed is she?”
“We have Quarter Horses here on the ranch. They’re the most suited to working with cattle. Would you like me to catch her up? We could brush her. She loves that.”
“Oh, that would be wonderful!” Sadie looked down at her heels. “I’m not really dressed for this, am I?”
Jessica grinned. “Not at all. Do you want to change first?”
That would take time. Did it really matter? She didn’t have much in the way of ranch clothes in her wardrobe, and she’d been so exhausted before she came that she hadn’t been able to face going shopping. “No, I’m fine like this.”
“Just don’t get stepped on with those pretty pink-painted toenails sticking out of your shoes.”
Soon, the mare was tied in the barn, and Jessica handed Sadie a brush. “Look at the way the hair grows and brush in that direction. She’ll love it.”
Sadie examined the mare’s back and made her first stroke as Jessica moved to the horse’s other side to work. Soon, she had a rhythm going with her strokes and the mare’s head lowered. She was obviously loving the attention. Sadie stopped and moved to her beautiful head, petting the round, muscular cheek and looking into the mare’s large brown eyes. Her calm gaze soothed Sadie’s soul. She kissed the horse’s muzzle, smelling the fresh grass on her breath. Sadie closed her eyes and inhaled again. This is what life should be about.
Footsteps sounded at the barn entrance and she opened her eyes. Knox strode into the barn, a rifle on his arm, his gaze taking in the sight of her holding the horse’s head. He glanced away and moved to the shelves on the wall.
“What’s up, brother?” Jessica asked.
“Got to dart a bull in the morning.”
“Really? What’s going on?
Sadie listened attentively, her eyes never leaving his hands as he pulled medicine from the fridge and loaded a dart.
“Vet’s coming in the morning. Bull’s got an abscess. He’s hell to load without tranking him.” He capped the dart and stuck it in his shirt pocket.
She couldn’t take her eyes from him. His economical movements spoke of long practice. He was so self-assured.
Jessica headed for the tack room. A few seconds later, she called out, “I can’t find a hoof pick.”
Knox let out a long sigh and headed that way.
Sadie grinned. That was so like a big brother.
Jessica came out brandishing the pick. “Can’t bring a horse in without cleaning its hooves.”
Knox returned to the workbench and the rifle.
Sadie stared at him. What made this man tick? Why was he so reticent? Men usually stared at her. Wanted to talk to her. He wouldn’t even look at her. It felt odd. He didn’t seem like the shy type. He just appeared uninterested, and for some reason that bothered her.
Jessica looked up, “Have you ridden before, Sadie?”
She smiled lopsidedly. “I don’t know if you’d call it riding. I had a perfume photoshoot where I had to climb on a huge Saddlebred horse. He was beautiful, but he was really nervous with everything going on around us. All I knew about riding was what the owner told me right before he boosted me up into the little saddle. The guy showed me how to hold the reins, and then I was on my own. The poor horse kept shying off every time the camera clicked. I was supposed to look accomplished and carefree in my spiffy riding outfit.”
“Oh Lord. How did you keep from falling off?” Jessica asked.
Sadie glanced at Knox. She could tell that he was following the conversation. “I wasn’t about to fall off. It was an important shoot. I just pretended to be someone else, someone who knew how to ride, and I got through the afternoon just fine.”
Jessica raised her brows. “That’s a neat trick.”
Sadie smiled. “I have to use it from time to time when photographers spring crazy things on me.”
As Jessica cleaned the mare’s hooves, she asked, “Can we go with you tomorrow, Knox? I’m sure Sadie would love to watch you work cattle.”
His glance slid to Sadie, then away. Putting the vial of tranquilizer back into the fridge, he kept silent. Finally, on his way out of the barn, he said, “Suit yourselves.”
Jessica rolled her eyes and grinned at Sadie. “A man of few words, my brother.”
Sadie sighed. “I don’t think he likes me.”
“Don’t worry about it. He’s a pretty serious guy. I’m sure most people find him pretty hard to get to know.” She untied the mare. “Let’s turn her out and get back to the house.”
Sadie’s gaze slid outside to where Knox stood at his truck. The handsome cowboy was an enigma. She inspected his fine-looking butt. And a man she might want to get to know.
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