Sensual Contemporary Dramatic Western Romance
*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 MORE…
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.
Six months later…
…Velia stuck to a schedule and made Tuesday her day for staying in the shop and doing paperwork. Today was Wednesday, the day for editing, and she couldn’t keep her mind focused on her work. Her mind kept wandering to her old life.
Her dad made it clear he would take no bullshit from Justin. If he came around the restaurant to make trouble, he’d be dealt with.
One thing Justin never knew though—threatening her dad wasn’t a wise thing to do. For the anniversary party, her father promised to leave Chicago securely, and if Justin tried to follow, his men would make sure he didn’t get in the way. Velia knew better than to talk about certain family discussions. Ever since she was a child she knew there were topics she wasn’t allowed to question. She grew up with specific family rules ingrained in her memory. “Don’t ask, and don’t tell.”
“Howdy, ma’am. You always talk to yourself?”
Velia glanced up into bright eyes, as blue as the flame on a cigarette lighter, belonging to a man standing in front of her desk wearing a cowboy hat tipped back on his head.
“Ah, no.” She closed one of her laptops and stood. “What can I do for you?”
“I’m looking to speak with the photographer who owns this place.”
Velia stuck out her hand. “Nice to meet you.”
“You’re the photographer?”
“I am, yes, it’s what I do.” The alluring glow of his eyes said something to her, and her gaze lingered.
“I need one.” He continued to stare, making her uncomfortable. The lopsided smile across his lips didn’t help.
“Well, you need one, you…you found one.” Oooh, Lord, I’m stumbling over my words. Velia never stumbled over her words. She always had control when it came to her work.
“What kind of pictures do you take?” He shifted his weight onto one long leg.
“What kind of pic…pictures do you…you need?” Damn, why am I acting like a school girl?
“A lot of them.” He removed his hat and shoved his fingers through his thick, sable-colored hair. Soft locks fell over his collar in the back. His spark-blue eyes brightened without the shade of the hat’s brim. The man’s long, dark eyelashes, fanning out over his eyes, oozed a sexy charm onto his entire face. What woman wouldn’t dream of natural lashes like his?
Velia’s gaze flooded over him. She couldn’t stop peering at his attractive looks—his deep, provocative eyes, chiseled cheekbones, full lips. Yes, his full, rosy, inviting lips. He must have been at least six feet two. It caused her to stand straighter so her five-feet-six-inch body didn’t look so short next to him. Guessing at his height rang in her ear and reminded her of a poem, six foot two, eyes of blue—
“How long have you been in the business?” He leaned his elbows on the counter, his handsome face even closer now.
She walked to the window and stared outside. “Awhile.” An ivory-colored Escalade sat in the front of her shop. “Your SUV?”
He sauntered over and stood close beside her. “If you’re talking about the Cadillac out there then, yep, it’s mine.”
Staring out the window, she detected his musky scent, intense and sultry in its own way. A smell that spoke man, him, and it filtered through her senses like fragrant heat. The jingle of his phone jarred her out of her thoughts.
“Excuse me while I take this.” He headed for the door but turned before exiting. “Be right back.” He winked before exiting.
She took a deep breath, realizing something about him almost knocked her off her feet. He stood, looking across the top of his SUV as he talked. She studied his length again, noticing how good his jeans fit. When he turned in her direction and leaned against the vehicle, her stare moved to the buttons on his plaid shirt, over to the cuffs turned up a couple rolls. His forearms were ripped with muscle. He wore a large silver belt buckle, the hot Tucson sun reflecting off it, as it pressed against his flat abdomen. She raised her eyes to find him peering at her through the window, a sexy smirk on his lips.
He came inside after his call and strolled over to the desk. Her heart thumped a little harder than usual while her gaze remained on his tight rump. Ooohh! Once she knew drool wouldn’t run down her chin, she joined him at the counter. “Seriously, what kind of photos are you looking for? For yourself? A wedding? Your children?”
“No wedding for me and…” He glanced toward the floor… “No children.” He lifted his eyes. “I’m looking for someone to travel with me and photograph my season in bull riding. You don’t write, do ya?”
“I’ve written before.”
“No, I mean this is serious. Apparently, you don’t know who I am. Have you ever watched bull riding?”
“No, I can’t say I have. It’s not a big thing in Chicago.” She surveyed him, trying to place his handsome face but to no avail…
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?
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Available #READERS Bull Rider Series Bk1 Howdy Ma’am @maryjdressel http://bit.ly/1h0FAAy #Romance #Western #BYNR PlsRT