The Right Cowboy

By: Rebecca Winters

CHAPTER ONE

Tamsin Rayburn pulled in her parking space in front of Ostler Certified Accounting Firm in Whitebark, Wyoming. She was running late to get back to the ranch. Dean would be picking her up for dinner and she needed to hurry.

With her light chestnut hair swishing against her shoulders, she got out of the car and rushed through the reception area to her office. Her boss would be pleased to know she’d finished auditing the books for Beckstrand Drilling earlier than planned and could start on the Whitebark Hospital audit.

In her haste, she almost ran into Heather Jennings, a coworker who’d become a close friend over the last two years. It looked like everyone else had gone home. Smiling at her she said, “I’ve never needed a weekend more. How about you?”

Heather studied her for a moment with an anxious expression. “You don’t know, do you?”

She was being very mysterious. “Know what?”

“I’ve been hoping you would walk in here before I left. Now I’m almost afraid to tell you.”

“Heather—what’s wrong?”

Her friend drew in a deep breath. “There’s only one way to say this. Today I had lunch with Amy Paskett.” Amy was a girl Tamsin had known from high school who worked at Paskett’s feed store. “It turns out her father waited on Cole Hawkins this morning. Apparently he’s back in Whitebark for good.”

Tamsin grabbed the edge of her desk while her world whirled for a moment. “Wh-what did you say?” she stammered.

“I knew this would be hard for you to hear.”

Cole was home for good? The cowboy who’d left the state nine years ago, riding off with her heart?

The last time she’d seen him was at a distance when he’d come home for his father’s funeral six months ago. He’d been driving down the street in a friend’s truck, but he hadn’t seen her. Once the funeral was over, he’d left again.

Shock didn’t begin to describe what she was feeling. “How long has he been here?”

“I don’t know. That was all Amy said in passing. I’ve been waiting to tell you in case you hadn’t heard. If you hadn’t come, I would have phoned you.”

Tamsin looked at Heather, still reeling from the incredible news. “Thank you for being such a good friend.” Heather knew some of her past history with Cole, but not all.

“I’m not sure thanks is the right word.”

“Yes, it is.” She gave her a hug. “I’m grateful to have heard it from you first. Now at least I’m prepared should someone else tell me.”

“Look—I’ve got to go, but call me this weekend and we’ll talk.”

She nodded. “I’ll walk out with you.”

Tamsin waited while Heather locked up, then she hurried to her car. She was so shaken by what her friend had told her, she trembled all the way to her family’s ranch located two miles south of town.

There’d been an article in the Sublette Gazette four months ago about the rodeo legend Cole Hawkins being involved with a country singer from Colorado. It didn’t surprise Tamsin since he was a talented musician and songwriter himself. Maybe he’d married the woman and had brought her home to settle down.

If he were recently married, how would Tamsin be able to handle it, knowing she’d be seeing them coming and going?

After he’d left Wyoming, she’d worked through her sorrow day and night for several years to earn enough money to put herself through college. Once she’d finished her schooling, she’d spent the last four years throwing herself into her career as a CPA.

At twenty-seven she had dreams of opening up her own agency one day, and she’d been dating Dean Witcom, an amazing man. Their relationship had grown serious. Lately she was excited about where it was headed. He’d be a wonderful, devoted husband just like his brother Lyle who adored her sister.

Yet the mere mention of Cole—let alone that he was home to stay—sent stabbing pain through her as if it were only yesterday he’d said goodbye to her. She couldn’t bear it, not when she’d fought with everything in her power to put his memory behind her. If her sister Sally knew about Cole, she’d kept quiet about it.

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