Mistaking the Cowboy - Signed Paperback
Mistaking the Cowboy - Signed Paperback
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She kissed the wrong cowboy, but what if he was the right one?
Blackwater Ranch series book 3.
- Mistaken Identity
- Starting Over
- Found Family
She kissed the wrong cowboy, but what if he was the right one?
Haley Meadows was so excited to meet the man she’d been chatting with online that she greeted him with a kiss only to find out she’d planted a big, messy, passionate, wet one on his brother instead! She has to spend the rest of her vacation at Blackwater Ranch pretending that she didn’t kiss the wrong cowboy and like it.
Asher Harding is knocked off his feet by an auburn-haired beauty, but his infatuation is quickly squashed when he finds out she mistook him for his brother. She becomes a staple at the ranch during her visit, and getting to know her only deepens his desire for the one woman he can’t have.
As Haley gets to know the Hardings, she finds herself torn between protecting her heart and giving it away to the man she’s falling for. In the moment of truth, she’ll run for the one who stole her heart.
Mistaking the Cowboy is the third book in the Christian Blackwater Ranch series, but the books can be listened to in any order.
Read Chapter One
Read Chapter One
Haley Meadows had never been one to sit on the sidelines. An exciting life didn’t exist without a few risks. That was how she’d ended up driving seven hours from Fort Collins, Colorado to northern Wyoming to meet a man she’d met online a month ago. She grinned as she imagined Micah’s reaction when she showed up on a whim.
The drive hadn’t been terrible. She’d sung every song on the radio at the top of her lungs until her voice hurt. Then, she’d silenced the music and created her own, tapping her fingers on the steering wheel to a beat only she could hear. She’d been an hour out of Casper when she’d stopped for gas and quickly jotted down the basics of the song.
Wyoming was an artist’s dream. Even in winter, the silvery-white landscape begged to be memorialized on the pages of her sketchbook. No, her canvas pad. The scene might be vastly white, but there were too many variations for the lead of her pencil to capture. There were opportunities for color everywhere.
The pine-covered slopes of the Big Horn Mountains were barely visible in the distance, and the cottonwood trees were brown skeletons against the bright-blue sky. Maybe the Wyoming winter was more worthy of a song. She could inhale the cold wind and exhale a poem with minimal effort.
The upbeat tune of “Let it Snow” radiated from her phone in the cup holder, and she answered the call on speaker. “Hey.”
“Are you there yet?” Her sister’s voice was brimming with excitement with a hint of apprehension buried beneath the eager words.
“Almost. I can’t wait to see him.” Haley gripped the steering wheel and bounced in her seat.
Gabby sighed. “I hope you know what you’re doing. Have I already told you it’s a crazy idea to run off and meet someone you met online? I’m pretty sure Mom warned us about this growing up.”
Haley was older than her sister by two years, but their age roles were often reversed. Gabby wasn’t overly cautious. She was more moderate than anything. But compared to Haley’s impulsive personality, Gabby was a straight edge.
“Speaking of Mom, you sound just like her,” Haley said.
“Well, you sound like Dad, and that isn’t always a good thing.”
Pride bloomed in Haley’s chest at the comparison to their dad. “Yes, it is.”
Her mom was a gentle nurturer, but she’d found lasting love with Bill’s adventurous heart. Despite their differences, they’d built a family together. A large one at that. Haley had three sisters and two brothers.
“You know I love you, but would it kill you to stop and think before you act for once?” Gabby pleaded.
“I did think. I thought about it a lot while I was packing.”
“You’re impossible,” Gabby groaned. “I just hope this works out for you. Call me if you get any stranger danger vibes from this guy.”
“So you can be here in seven hours to rescue me? Thanks for the offer, sis, but Micah is one of the good ones.”
“You don’t know him well enough to say that. Talking to a random man in sporadic messages for a month doesn’t mean you know him. You’ve seen one grainy photo of a supposed cowboy, and you’re already riding off into the sunset. Slow down.”
“I’m driving the speed limit.”
“No, I mean slow down your emotions. They’re always running at full capacity, and you can’t protect yourself like that.” Gabby cared about everyone, even if her advice came across as demeaning.
“I’m not worried about getting my heart broken. I can take it. It’s not like we’re even really together yet. That’s the point of this trip.” Haley wanted a larger than life love story, and mediocrity wouldn’t do. God only gave her one life, and she intended to love with her whole heart.
“You always bounce back. Just be careful.”
Haley wasn’t sure if her sister’s words were meant to comfort or reprimand, but Gabby had stern feelings about Haley’s flippant search for love. “Yes, ma’am.”
She disconnected the call with Gabby as she turned by the rusty Blackwater Ranch sign. A solid layer of snow covered the ground, and she followed the tire tracks up a long drive.
Haley might be reaching a bit by driving out here to meet Micah without any notice, but she had to give it a chance. Gabby’s words played in Haley’s mind. She’d been trying to force relationships for years now, and while an epic love story would be fabulous, she was starting to think she’d have to settle for someone who would return her texts.
When Micah mentioned that he worked at a ranch, Haley had jumped online. The photos showcased beautiful rooms and stunning Wyoming landscapes, but the website layout was atrocious. She hadn’t even been able to book a room from the sparse site.
After grabbing the phone number off the home page, she’d left a message. Five hours later, she’d spoken to a friendly woman named Anita who reserved her a room at the newly opened bed and breakfast. Anita cut a deal in exchange for redesigning the ranch website.
With an open reservation, she hadn’t made any commitments on a checkout date. Truly, she’d been aching for a break from her messy roommate, Dana. Haley didn’t want to kick her out, but she couldn’t spend any more time cleaning up someone else’s junk. She had work to do, and her customers depended on her.
A large wooden house came into view, and she leaned into the steering wheel. It was gorgeous, with snow on the roof and a wraparound porch dotted with rocking chairs. The structure seemed to settle into the land, becoming as much a part of it as the fluffy white snow.
Now, this was worthy of a painting. Places were easy to capture in visual formats like paintings and sketches.
She glanced at the photograph propped up beside her speedometer. Micah and his brother, Asher, stood smiling with one arm around each other. She studied the image of Micah once more, but she didn’t need to. She knew the angles of his face by heart. As much as she loved still life and landscape art, people made the best subjects. Their emotions were fleeting, and if they weren’t captured in the moment, they could be gone forever. Micah’s big smile in the photo drew her attention most of all. It looked effortless, and she knew they would get along just fine.
A man stepped out onto the porch just as she was parking. She would know that face anywhere. She’d committed the dark hair and lean frame to memory weeks ago. Her heart raced just thinking about surprising him with a kiss. The brilliant idea had come to her on the drive this morning, and she’d been leaning harder on the accelerator ever since.
She threw the car into park and killed the engine. With a quick glance at herself in the rearview mirror, she hopped out of the car with an easy smile on her face. He was just as handsome in person as he was in the photo.
No, he was heartbreakingly gorgeous, and nerves squirmed in her middle like snakes.
No turning back now. Just do it.
Her stomach flipped in anticipation as she closed the car door and took the first step toward him. “There you are!”
Snow crunched beneath her boots as she ran to him. Well, it was more of a jog, but she was fumbling the grace of each step and looked like a baby giraffe as she high-kneed to the porch.
The three steps leading to the rise of the porch were easier. She bounded up them and barreled into his strong chest. Thank goodness he was sturdy because she’d lost her own footing as he wrapped his strong arms around her.
She smiled up at him, lost for a moment in his amused grin, before remembering her intentions—the kiss.
Pushing up on her tiptoes, she smashed her lips to his and breathed in. Despite the freezing Wyoming air, heat filled her body from the inside out. She melted into his chest as he tightened his hold around her and returned her kiss. Boy, could this man kiss. It was everything her romantic heart had dreamed it would be. He kissed her as if he’d been missing her his whole life.
His fingertips pressed into her back, pulling her closer and deepening the connection. When he finally pulled away, he shook his head as if to clear a fog.
“Wow. That's one way to say hello.”
“Yeah.” Her foggy brain couldn’t manage a better response, but surely he got the idea.
“Who are you?”
Huh? Not the greeting she’d been expecting.
“What?” she asked.
His hands were still splayed over her back, holding her close. “I don’t think I caught your name. Am I on one of those hidden camera shows?”
The smile fell from her face, and she cocked her head in confusion. “Micah, it’s me, Haley. I sent you photos.”
His eyes opened wider, and she felt the swelling of his chest as he sucked air in through his nose. “I’m not Micah.”
He released his hold on her, and she stepped back—more like fell back. The elation that had carried her here disappeared, replaced by confusion. “What? Are you his twin?”
“Nope.” He stared at her as if she was a puzzle he couldn’t figure out. His expression was void of the joyful surprise he’d worn seconds ago.
Haley jerked the photo from her back pocket. “This is you.”
He took it from her and studied it before pointing. “This is me. That’s Micah.”
He pointed to the other man in the photo, and her nostrils flared as she tried to conceal her panic.
“What made you think I was Micah? How do you know him?”
Haley’s tone was flat as she said, “He said he was the one in the red shirt.” She couldn’t tear her gaze from the photo. How had she gotten things so mixed up?
The man beside her huffed a laugh. “Micah is color blind. It gets him in a lot of trouble.”
This time, she was the one in trouble. Shock took over, and she swallowed hard. It felt like razors sliding down her throat. “I’ve been talking to Micah online.”
When silence threatened to choke her, she glanced up at the man she’d shared a passionate kiss with merely seconds ago. “You must be his brother, Asher.”
Asher’s eyes were wide as he nodded.
The implications of her actions settled around her, threatening to throw her reason for coming here into chaos. How had she kissed Micah’s brother?
The door to the house opened, and they both jerked their attention toward the sound as if they’d been caught in the act.
A gray-haired woman wearing an apron stepped onto the porch. “There you are!”
Haley stood paralyzed next to Asher, unamused by the same greeting she’d used on the wrong cowboy moments ago.
The woman’s sweet voice penetrated the silence that filled the space between Asher and herself. “You must be Haley. I’m Anita. We spoke on the phone.”
At least one introduction was going well today, even if heat lingered in Haley’s cheeks from her embarrassing mistake. “It’s nice to meet you.”
“I see you’ve met my son, Asher.”
Oh, Haley had met him all right. She’d done quite a bit more than that. Pieces of the puzzle were clicking into place. If Anita was Asher’s mother, that meant she was Micah’s mother too. Maybe this introduction wasn’t going so well after all.
Anita opened her arms for a hug, and Haley stepped into the embrace. “Welcome to Blackwater Ranch.”