Sensual Contemporary Western Romance crossed with Women’s Fiction
*BULL RIDER SERIES- Books with a more serious tone. Read Content Warnings.
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When Italian class meets bull rider rowdy, you’re bound to get sparks…or sizzle!
Bull rider Caulder McCutchen wants to start living again. Maybe find romance in the distant future. But this year he has a good chance of winning the coveted buckle, knowing he has to ride harder, go bigger, or go home. Winning consumes him, but it doesn’t take away the pain from a tremendous loss less than two years ago.
On a whim, he hires a sexy photographer to travel the bull riding circuit with him for a season. A little extra publicity can’t hurt, and she’s easy on the eyes.
Velia Armano, a former travel photographer, is starting a new life alone. She recently opened her own photography business in Tucson, Arizona. She’s known the good life growing up in a well-to-do Italian family surrounded with love. Now she’s on her own and away from her family–the price she has to pay to escape from her abusive ex-husband’s torment.
Six months into her well-ordered life alone, a hunky cowboy saunters in with his howdy, ma’am and flame blue eyes offering a job any photographer would find hard to refuse.
While traveling the bull riding circuit together, they find themselves passionately attracted to each other. They’ll have to decide if they can overcome their obstacles and give in to a “happily ever after”, or return to their self-appointed exiles.
When the season ends, who wins the real prize?
*Note: Book has Occasional harsh and unsavory language. Sensual love scenes. Dramatic scenes.
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PROLOGUE and beginning of CHAPTER ONE
Book One in the Bull Rider Series
Mary J. McCoy-Dressel
Copyright © 2012 Mary J. Dressel
All Rights Reserved
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, transmitted, downloaded, scanned, distributed, stored in, or introduced into any information storage and retrieval system in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical, either now known or in the future, is forbidden without the express written permission of the author, except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages for review purposes.
“You will not find a soulmate in the quiet of your room.
You must go to a noisy place and look in the quiet corners. By Robert Brault
Quote used with permission from Mr. Brault
Velia Armano checked her watch for the third time before settling in for the long flight home. It had only been thirty minutes in the air, but it seemed like time without end. She sipped a glass of Chianti and wished her mother could have returned home with her from Italy, but Lidia stayed behind to be with her nieces and nephew. Velia closed her eyes and forced herself to stop thinking of her aunt so she didn’t break out in tears on the plane—waiting at least until she arrived home and could cry alone.
It all started with the horrible ordeal—a family nightmare, when Aunt Dafne’s life had been cut short at the sadistic hands of her abusive husband. Taking a leave of absence from her job as travel photographer, Velia promised to help with her family’s ristorante for a couple weeks. She needed to clear her mind and stay busy.
Was it a message for Velia—a warning? Even with her eyes closed, she could see images of her own husband pounding on her. His family attributed his violent personality change to pain, and how living with pain made it hard for him to cope. They could give any explanation they wanted, but in the end they ignored her pleas for help. She soon learned talking to them was useless.
None of their reasons or excuses justified the bruises and knots on her head, the holes in the wall. Justin abused drugs and his doctor contributed by writing prescription after prescription. He lied about having pain from an earlier back injury. Ten years ago? It didn’t seem to bother him when he’d throw her across a room. No one understood the adverse effect the mixture of drugs had on him, how they made him spiteful, mean, and violent.
Trying to relax with her head against the cool window, she still visualized his hands around her neck. Images of her aunt lying in a casket intermingled with memories of her own bruised face. It started so gradually, one slap here, a shove there, name calling. Before she realized it, the abusive episodes came closer together and became more violent. All this helped Velia decide right there at 39,000 feet in the air she would leave her husband. She owed it to herself and to her aunt, to her family. Justin would have to find a new whipping board.
For another hour, she plotted out what she would do. Justin had a trip planned in two weeks. She could find a place to live and move out within two weeks. Couldn’t she?
Justin didn’t know she lied about leaving for a one-day assignment the week she returned from Italy. He didn’t know she resigned from her job. He didn’t know she started her own bank account, or that she had taken a flight to Tucson, Arizona, and leased an apartment from an elderly couple.
They had an awful argument the night before he left for his trip. Velia didn’t prepare the steak the exact way he wanted, which was funny in itself since she was a great cook. One swipe of his hand across the table and the complete dinner crashed to the floor. Glass bowls shattered against the wall and mashed potatoes and tossed salad clung to the window.
Justin shoved his chair back and stood. Clutching the edge of the table, he looked around at the wreckage then back at her before stomping out of the room.
She noticed the loathing in his eyes and prayed the rampage was over. Her heart pounded while she cleaned up the mess without saying a word.
Afterward, Velia headed upstairs for a shower, but Justin grabbed her arm before she reached the bottom step and dragged her into the kitchen to prepare him something he would eat. She jerked the freezer open then turned to him. “If you’re hungry, go get something for yourself.” She slammed it shut. “Everything is frozen and I’m not cooking anything else tonight.” She almost screamed with joy over her sudden feat of boldness.
But not without cost.
Justin grabbed her by the neck and threw her across the kitchen where she landed on the floor in a heap. Velia covered her face when he started kicking, but not before he landed a hard one on her cheekbone. The excruciating pain went straight through to her bones, but she wouldn’t dare let him know. Tomorrow morning he might not remember how she got the lump and bruise. But tomorrow he wouldn’t see it; she’d sleep in until he left.
She’d be gone when he came back home.
Velia waited patiently until Justin left. With her father’s aid, she arranged for a moving service and they helped pack and moved all the things she chose to take. Once again she lied to her family about the bruises. If only her father knew Justin’s abuse. Daddy Armano wouldn’t take kindly to the truth.
But she knew it wouldn’t be long before he figured out the facts.
The time had finally come to start over. She noticed the car across the street with two men inside in case Justin came back for some reason or another. She had been protected by these men all her life. If only they could have known her abuse. She had hid it well. But now the time came to move on. Another flash of her aunt’s face came to her. She reflected on the last month and what led up to this moment. A somber smile eased into the corners of her mouth as she closed the door. “I just saved myself Zia Dafne. If only you could have saved yourself.”
Velia waited in front of Edward and Alice Smith’s home while the movers unloaded her belongings. This place would be home for now. Home until she was ready to go back on the road with her camera. In a couple days she would sign the lease on the small building in town to start her new photography business.
Home until her life began again—half way across the country.
She tossed her near black, wavy hair over her shoulder and stepped out of her car. Removing her sunglasses, her brown eyes with the unique touch of green, narrowed against the bright Arizona sun. She swiped roseate-colored lipstick across her full lips and blotted them against each other. When the movers finished, she paid them with cash. Glancing around at the dry desert environment, she took a deep breath and wiped sweat from her brow.
Velia stomped sand from the bottom of her flats then took a step forward, stopping before reaching the broken-down steps. With a mournful sigh, she whispered, “Home.” She placed her purse strap over her shoulder and looked to the second level. Standing straight, she pulled her shoulders back, and headed inside, careful not to catch a toe in the cracks of the damaged steps.
Time to live again.
When she went inside, Alice Smith met her at the door.
“Please come and have some tea, dear, and maybe dinner, before you get started upstairs.” The elderly lady escorted Velia to the kitchen.
Song from the Howdy, Ma’am Playlist
One and Only
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BOOK TWO UPDATE & INFORMATION
He hired her for a season. Now the season is over.
What will become of Velia and Caulder?