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Authors: Myla Jackson

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Boots and The Rogue: Ugly Stick Saloon, Book 10

BOOK: Boots and The Rogue: Ugly Stick Saloon, Book 10
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There’s more than one way to feed a hungry man.

Ugly Stick Saloon,
Book 10

Brody McFarlan left home eight years ago after he and his younger brother had a falling-out over a girl. When a frantic phone call sends him racing home, he’s astounded to learn the truth. Mom isn’t sick, she’s threatening to sell the ranch—unless he and his brothers get busy settling down.

With Mom on strike, Brody uneasily settles in to help—and find a replacement cook before he starves.

Fired from her last job, Jessie Taylor is forced to ride out on her horse, leaving her car behind. Hot, tired and homeless, she stumbles onto the Ugly Stick Saloon, grateful to pick up a spatula in trade for a burger to fill her belly and a much-needed rest for her road-weary mount.

One bite of Jessie’s tasty burger, and Brody offers the rough-and-tumble blonde a job and a stall. It doesn’t hurt that she’s sexy as hell, and he hungers for a taste of her sweet pink mouth. The only bur under his saddle is the grudge he still carries…and the fear that his brother will once again swoop in to steal the pretty filly right out from under him.

Warning: Burning hunger lights fires in the kitchen, the barn, the pasture, and more when another McFarlan brother bites the romantic dust in the sexiest possible way.

Boots and the Rogue

Myla Jackson

Dedication

Thanks to all my readers who keep coming back for more and making it possible for me to continue my writing career—I love you!

Chapter One

“Mom? Angus? I’m home!” Brody McFarlan pushed through the front door of the Rafter M Ranch main house. Stepping into the old colonial home was like stepping back into his childhood.

Nothing much had changed, other than a slightly different color of paint on the wall and maybe a new easy chair he hadn’t noticed the last time he was there over a year ago.

“Mom?” he called out again, his heart bunching in his chest. Angus’s and Colin’s trucks weren’t out front, and Brody hadn’t driven around behind the house to see if his brothers had parked out by the barn. Damn. Had he arrived too late?

Pushing past the exhaustion of driving over twenty-five hours straight, he ran through the house, checking in his mother’s bedroom and the kitchen. He was headed for the back door leading off the kitchen when it slammed open and a little boy of about five burst through, followed by a small golden retriever puppy with huge paws, yapping at his heels.

“You can’t catch me!” the little boy shouted over his shoulder and barreled through the kitchen, slamming into Brody’s legs.

The puppy sat back on his haunches in an attempt to stop, skidded across the wooden floor and bumped into the back of the little boy’s knees, knocking him over.

Brody staggered backward, wondering if he’d wandered into the wrong house.

A female voice called from outside, “Dalton! Don’t run in the house!” Seconds later, a gorgeous auburn-haired woman pushed through the door and stopped, her eyes rounded. “Oh, sorry. Can I help you?”

Brody stared at the boy and dog. “Do these belong to you?”

The woman laughed. “As a matter of fact, they do.” She tilted her head and stared hard at him. “You look familiar.”

“I’m sorry I can’t say the same.”

Her eyes rounded and she grinned. “You must be Brody.” She leaned out the door. “Angus, sweetheart, come see who’s here.”

Heavy footsteps clunked against the wood planks of the deck outside and Brody’s brother Angus filled the door behind the woman. He looped his arm around her waist and nuzzled her neck before he glanced up. “Who’s here?”

When his gaze met Brody’s he broke out in a huge smile. “Brody!”

The boy at Brody’s feet stood and gathered the wiggling puppy in his arms. “Are you my Uncle Brody?”

“Well, actually—” the woman started but was cut off by more footsteps clomping against the deck.

“Angus! Gwen! Did you see which way Dalton and Shotgun went?” Brody’s mother, Maggie McFarlan, burst through the door, her cheeks red, hair windblown and eyes sparkling. Far from the image Brody had in mind of a woman on the verge of death. “Oh, there he is. Thank goodness. I thought he might have gotten into the pen with the bull again.” She glanced up and smiled. “Hello, Brody, it’s good to see you.” Then she blinked and the color drained from her face. “Brody?”

Brody nodded. “Hey, Mom.”

Her eyes glistened with tears and she took a step toward him, then another and flung her arms around him, nearly tripping over the little boy at his feet. “Oh, Brody, I’ve missed you so much.”

Brody hugged his mother long and hard. He had to swallow several times to loosen his constricted vocal cords. “I missed you too.”

When he had a grip on his emotions, he held her at arm’s length, scanning her face. “How are you? What does the doctor say? Why are you outside running around? Shouldn’t you be in bed or in an easy chair resting?”

She frowned up at him and laughed. “What are you talking about? I’m fine.”

More footsteps pounded across the deck outside the kitchen. “Hey, who left the door open on the chicken coop? There are chickens everywhere. I could use a hand getting them all back in the—” Colin, Brody’s younger brother, banged through the door and came to a dead standstill.

Brody glared at him over his mother’s head. “I drove twenty-five hours straight to get here.”

“Oh, sweetheart.” His mother cupped his cheek. “You must be exhausted.”

“I am,” he said through clenched teeth.

“Why didn’t you take the usual three days?” she asked.

“Tell her.” Brody’s glare deepened.

Colin had the decency to blush. “Uh, could I get some help rounding up the chickens?”

Their mother frowned, her gaze shooting between Colin and Brody. “What’s going on?”

Brody’s anger simmered. “Colin called me exactly twenty-five hours ago to tell me you were sick, maybe dying. I dropped everything and came as fast as I could.”

The little boy tugged on Brody’s sleeve. “Are you my Uncle Brody?”

Brody looked down at the boy and back up to his mother and Angus. “Who are these people?”

Everyone talked at once until the cacophony of voices sounded like fans at a boxing match.

His head aching, his eyes burning from lack of sleep, Brody raised his hand and shouted, “Quiet!”

As if someone had turned the sound off on the radio, the kitchen got dead silent. Then the puppy in the boy’s arms barked.

Angus took the dog from the boy and leaned in to hug Brody. “Hey, bro, glad you finally made it home. I’d like you to meet my girl, Gwen, and her boy, Dalton. The dog’s name is Shotgun because he’s fast out the barrel and scatters everywhere at once.”

Gwen held out her hand. “Hello, Brody. Angus has told me so much about you. Well, about you as a boy growing up on the ranch. Nice to meet you.”

Brody took her hand and shook it, his gaze going to Angus. “Your girl? Why didn’t I know about this?”

“I’m sorry,” his mother said. “It all happened so fast and I haven’t talked to you in several weeks.”

“You’d have known, if you’d been here,” Colin said.

The silence stretched again.

“Well, now you are. Have a seat. Angus will make coffee, won’t you, dear?” his mother said.

“What the h—” Brody glanced at the boy, and changed his expletive, “—heck is going on here?”

“Is Uncle Brody always mad?” Dalton asked, backing into Angus’s legs, his eyes wide.

“No, Uncle Brody isn’t always mad. Only for the last eight years,” Colin said.

Angus shot him a killer look. “Mom, why don’t you take Gwen and Dalton out and show them how to lead the chickens into the pen with a bucket of feed?”

“Oh boy!” Dalton ran for the door.

Mrs. McFarlan hooked Gwen’s arm. “Come on, the boys need a little brotherly bonding time.”

Colin snorted.

Their mother pointed at Colin and Brody. “Play nice and remember what I said.” She shifted her gaze to include Angus and then stepped out the door.

Gwen shot a questioning glance at Angus and hustled Dalton out in front of her.

Once the women and the little boy were out of the house, Brody glared at his brothers. “What the hell is going on?”

“Sit.” Angus pointed to the table.

Neither Colin nor Brody made a move to comply with his order.

Angus sighed. “Fine. Stand. But this might take a while to tell.”

Colin broke in. “Mom’s going to sell the ranch.”

“What?” Brody looked from Colin back to Angus.

“Thanks, Colin.” Angus shook his head. “Mom isn’t selling the ranch; she’s threatening to sell the ranch.”

“Threatening?” Brody shook his head. “And you’re sure she’s not sick?”

“Cancer-free her last checkup. She’s healthier than a horse.”

Some of the tension Brody had carried with him from Seattle released. But this conversation was far from over. “Good. I’m glad she’s doing better. But what did she mean by ‘remember what I said’?”

Angus shoved a hand through his hair, standing it on end. “A couple weeks ago she told us that if the McFarlan men didn’t show an interest in their inheritance, she was going to sell the Rafter M Ranch and everything on it.”

“You and Colin have been here. I haven’t. What’s been going on to think you two aren’t interested in the ranch?” Brody nodded toward Angus. “Aren’t you raising horses and making a good go of it?”

Angus nodded. “Yeah, but that’s not what she was talking about. She thinks there won’t be any little McFarlans to pass the ranch down to.”

“She wants us all married and having kids within two months. We’re already down two weeks and have only six more to make it happen.”

“What in the hell is he talking about?” Brody asked the oldest McFarlan brother.

“Just what Colin said—Mom wants us settled down, married or engaged by the end of the two months or she’ll sell.”

“Mrs. Reinhardt has been bragging about her grandbabies, and Mom is afraid she’ll miss out unless she takes drastic measures,” Colin inserted.

Angus nodded.

Brody stared at Angus. “Is that what Gwen and her boy are all about? Mom forced you into a relationship to save the ranch?”

“Yes…no…ah hell.” Angus paced the length of the kitchen and back. “It started out that way.”

Again, Colin jumped in with “Mom put my and Angus’s name in the hat at the annual Ugly Stick Saloon bachelor auction. Gwen bought Angus for four dates and the rest is history.”

Angus frowned at Colin. “Gwen and I knew each other seven years ago. I loved her then, but things didn’t work out. The auction brought us back together.” He smiled as he spoke. “I love Gwen and Dalton.”

Brody was happy his brother had found a woman to share his life.

When Angus glanced up, his smile faded. “But we stand to lose the ranch if Mom’s demands aren’t met.”

Brody crossed his arms. “And what does that have to do with me?”

“She wants all three of us married or on our way to being married within her two-month time frame. And she wants you home.”

“Well, you got me home. But I’m not here to stay or to get married. I came because I thought Mom was sick.” Again he threw another glare at Colin.

Colin pushed back his shoulders. “Would you have come if I’d asked?”

“Hell no.”

“Would you have come if Angus had told you what was going on?” Colin continued.

Angus and Colin both stared at him, waiting for his answer.

“No,” Brody said.

Colin’s lips thinned and Angus’s twisted in disappointment.

“This might not be home to you,” Angus said, “but it’s my home and I want to keep it.”

“Mom is bluffing.” Brody waved his hand at the kitchen with the copper-bottom pans his father had bought for their mother. She kept the copper polished and shiny. “She’d never sell the Rafter M. It has too many good memories of her life with Dad and us as kids growing up here. Hell, the place has been in our family for over a hundred years.”

“One hundred fifty,” Colin offered.

“I don’t want to see it split up and sold, any more than Colin does,” Angus said. “I’m not sure what your job situation is—”

Brody held up his hand. “Don’t even go there. I’m not staying.”

Angus went on, “And I’m not asking you to stay forever, just stay long enough to get Mom to retract her ultimatum.”

“I have a life in Seattle,” he lied. He lived in Seattle, but he didn’t know many more people in the big city than when he’d landed there eight years ago and found a temporary job as a bartender that he still worked part time while he pursued his second job, his real passion. “I can’t hang around here until Mom changes her mind.”

“At least stay until the end of the two months. Give Mom that. She loves you and wants to see you more often.”

“She can come to Seattle. The road goes both ways.”

“She wants you to come home,” Angus insisted.

“What he means is Mom wants the two of us to kiss and make up,” Colin finished.

Brody narrowed his eyes and stared at his younger brother. Because of Colin, he’d left home in the first place. Because his own brother betrayed him with the woman he was about to marry. He shook his head. “Not happening.”

“Eight years is a long time to hold a grudge,” Colin said. “I told you then I was sorry. What happened between me and Fancy shouldn’t have, and I’ve regretted it ever since.”

“You’re damn right it shouldn’t have happened.” Brody crossed to stand in front of Colin. “Who can you trust if you can’t trust your own brother?”

Angus stared at Colin, a frown drawing his brows together. “You slept with Brody’s fiancé?”

Colin’s gaze never waivered from Brody’s. “We didn’t mean for it to happen. She was upset…one thing led to another...” He shook his head. “We shouldn’t have done it, and we haven’t seen each other since.”

A long silence stretched between the brothers.

“Eight years, Brody,” Angus finally said. “That’s a long time. We’re family.”

Brody snorted. “That’s what I thought, until my brother betrayed me.”

Colin shook his head. “I told you it wouldn’t do any good.”

“Colin…” Angus pinned the youngest McFarlan with the same stern stare their father used on them when they were in trouble as children, “…would you go help the women.”

Colin stood still for a moment longer, and then he turned and left the kitchen without another word.

“Whatever you have to say, I’m not listening. As soon as I’ve had a decent dinner and ten hours’ sleep, I’m on the road back to Seattle.”

Angus crossed the room and stood in front of Brody. “Fair enough.” Then he hugged Brody hard. “I’ve missed you, brother.”

When he stood back, the moisture in Angus’s eyes could not be mistaken. That alone tugged hard at Brody’s heart. “Two weeks. I’ll stay for two weeks.”

Angus nodded. “Thanks. Hopefully, within two weeks we can talk Mom out of selling the ranch, and we can all get back to living our lives, drama-free.”

That settled, Brody’s stomach grumbled. “What I’ve missed is Mom’s fried chicken. Do you think she’ll cook that for dinner?”

Angus grimaced. “Oh, one other thing. As part of Mom’s move-on-or-move-out ultimatum, she’s on strike. She’s not cooking, cleaning or buying groceries. We’re on our own for food and laundry.”

“You’re kidding, right?”

“I wish I were.” His face brightened. “I don’t suppose you’ve picked up some cooking skills in your eight years on the West Coast?”

“I eat out all the time. I even burn toast.” His stomach growled. “What do you do for dinner around here?”

“We eat at the diner in Temptation for the most part, but the Ugly Stick Saloon is having a barbeque tonight on account of the rodeo being in town. Gwen and Dalton are headed back to Dallas this afternoon. Mom’s having dinner at Mrs. Reinhardt’s. Colin and I were headed to the Ugly Stick. You’re welcome to join us.”

BOOK: Boots and The Rogue: Ugly Stick Saloon, Book 10
11.96Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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