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Cherished Moments (Cherish Cowboys Book 2), page 1

 part  #2 of  Cherish Cowboys Series

 

Cherished Moments (Cherish Cowboys Book 2)
 


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Cherished Moments (Cherish Cowboys Book 2)


  Cherished Moments

  Cherish Cowboys Book Two

  Copyright © 2019 by Charlene Bright

  All rights reserved.

  No part of this text may be reproduced, transmitted, downloaded, or stored in or introduced into any information storage and retrieval system, in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical, without the express written permission of the publisher. This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events or locales is entirely coincidental.

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  Cherished Moments

  The family ranch had been his only life until she walked in.

  Colton Tisdale worked hard, not having time for much of anything aside from tending to what must be done on the family ranch. It was a huge operation and he was a determined, hard-working man. Then one day he receives a surprise visit from a new woman in town, Olivia Jaspers, and it takes a single second to realize that she’s about to turn his world upside down. But she’s holding something back. She’s playing a game and he’s curious to find out what she’s hiding. He decides to play along.

  When their game and the adventure of what Olivia is pursuing turns into tender moments and excuses to be together, Colton realizes that she’s really a thief who just walked right up to him and stole his heart. Will he let her keep it or will he try to take it back?

  Prologue

  Colton couldn’t help but wonder what he’d ever done to his sister Mallory to deserve what he was going through at that moment. He was all for being a gentleman, but the woman who sat across from him was making it mighty challenging. Her voice was high and shrill, her desire to impress him was too overt and, therefore, unappealing.

  In fact, the blind date that he was thrown into quite unwillingly was guaranteeing that he might just choose to be single forever. He took a sip of his beer and sighed.

  “You okay? You look tired.” the woman said. “I completely get that. I work at least fifty hours a week and it’s non-stop. You’re lucky. You get fresh air.”

  Fifty hours a week? That sounds like a vacation, Colton thought.

  “So, how big did you say your ranch was again?” she asked.

  “1720 acres. That includes—”

  She cut him off. He guessed she didn’t really care what it included. “Ever consider selling it and developing it?”

  Those were fighting words to a rancher, in general, but even more than that, they made no sense from a financial perspective. “Cherish isn’t exactly located in a metropolitan area. I don’t think the best sales person for the Chamber of Commerce could talk people into movin’ this rural. It takes a special kind of personality to enjoy life in the country. You’re either born into it and know nothing else, or drawn to it for some reason.”

  “Maybe a someone,” she said. “I’ve never lived in such a rural area. I was born in Bozeman, but it seems like it would be real charming and quaint.”

  “Does it now?” Colton asked.

  She nodded her head and he breathed a sigh of relief. She’d just taken her last bite of steak, which meant he was almost to the point where he could call this disaster of a blind date quits.

  Where had Mallory met this woman? Ever since she and Wade had gotten married, she’d become relentless thinking that Colton should have a special someone in his life. Why she couldn’t just leave well enough alone was beyond him. If someone were meant to be in his life, it would just happen. Maybe out of nowhere. It certainly wouldn’t be planned, or calculated.

  Chapter One

  Colton was busy fixing one of the broken slats of a gate that an angry horse had stomped after a spook. Just another thing to add to a growing list of tasks. Some help would have been great, but it wasn’t available that day. And Mallory didn’t have as much time to devote to the ranch now that she was busy preparing to open her horse training academy with Wade. He was happy for her, but darn, he could have used her to offer a helping hand. The ranch is where he really needed her assistance, not in the love department.

  Just as he’d finished nailing in the last replaced board, the sound of an old engine came roaring up the long gravel driveway. There was a slight knock to the piston and Colton wondered who it could be. Didn’t sound familiar, and not too many strangers made their way onto the ranch.

  He walked out of the barn and looked at the approaching vehicle. An old Ford truck, bright red. He’d never seen it before. But whoever was driving it was on a mission, as indicated by their speed.

  Curious and a bit annoyed by the aggressive nature of the driver, Colton stood in the opening outside the barn and waited for the truck to stop. He reached into his back pocket and grabbed the handkerchief, wiped his hands, and then lifted his baseball hat just enough to wipe his forehead, too. It was a warm day, and in the barn the air was stifling.

  The driver of the truck applied the brakes and quickly put it into park. Colton peered to see if he recognized them. It looked like a woman, and that was about all he could determine. But when the driver got out, he saw that it wasn’t just any woman. This woman was beautiful and he could sense her feisty spirit from across the yard.

  He began walking up to her and the closer he got, the more beautiful she became. Her details came to life, including the beautiful auburn-colored hair and a spark in her greens eyes. She definitely wasn’t from around there, because if she were, he would have noticed her. Not to mention every other single male in town.

  “Hi, you Colton Tisdale?” she asked.

  “That’s me. What can I do for you?” he asked. He took three long strides, which he easily covered in his 6'2" frame, and was standing right in front of her.

  “This is the old Akers’ ranch, right?” she asked, staring at Colton with a look of mild amusement mixed with appreciation.

  “It is,” he said. “But they sold it about fifty years ago now, give or take.” Colton paused, waiting for her to introduce herself. But it never came. “And you are?”

  “Sorry about that. I’m Olivia Jaspers. It’s nice to meet you, Colton.” She smiled at him and showed bright white teeth and a charming, almost wicked grin.

  “Nice to meet you, Olivia. I’m wondering what I can do for you?” he asked again

  “To be blunt, you can help me find something,” she said.

  “You need directions?” he asked. Of course, the question made no sense, since she clearly knew who he was and even the previous owners of the ranch.

  “Yes, to a spot on your property where something is hidden,” she said. She was talking like every word she was saying made sense. Colton could sense the energy and passion inside of her. Unfortunately when it came to understanding what she was talking about, he was clueless.

  “Mind elaborating?” he finally said. Was he going to have to coax all the information out of her like he’d coax a stubborn horse out of its stall? He didn’t have time for that.

  “Sure, is there some place that we can go talk?” she asked. She looked over to the house.

  He ignored her hint, because he had a lot to do. Spending some time talking with a stranger—albeit a beautiful one—in the house was not on the schedule for that day. “Here’s a good place to start,” he suggested.

  “Okay then,” Olivia said. She shrugged her shoulders and began talking. “Chester Akers was my great-grandfather and I believe that he left something on this property that is of value to me and my family.”

  “Like what?” Colton asked. He’d explored this ranch up and down his entire
life, both in play and in work, and had never seen anything unusual. At least not something that would be of value to a great-granddaughter of Chet Akers.

  “I’d rather not say,” she replied. “You don’t mind, do you?”

  Colton stared at her. She was a tenacious young woman, clearly. Someone who had likely always gotten her way. She didn’t seem spoiled as much as expectant. “You want to look around my property for something—something of value—but not tell me what it is? I don’t think so.”

  Her eyes grew wide and she leaned in. She was now just about a half foot away from his face. “But you have to.”

  Colton laughed, pulled off his hat, and readjusted it on his head. “Out of curiosity, why would I have to?” This ought to be good, he thought.

  “Because it’s important to me, and it’s not like it’s something you even know is here. Therefore, it’s nothing that you would miss,” Olivia said. She crossed her arms and tilted her head, sending a few strands of her hair cascading down her left shoulder. Then she just looked at him quietly, waiting for him to go next. If Colton Tisdale wanted a debate, she was glad to deliver it.

  “Well, that makes sense, but this is a working ranch. All of the land is used to keep it going. Where are you looking for whatever it is you want to find?” He put his hands on his hips and looked at her. If she wanted to have a battle of intellect, she could bring it on. It was his land and whatever it was that she wanted, she’d have to get his permission to get.

  “I’m not sure where to find it yet, but I have some clues,” she said earnestly. She bit her lip, glanced at the ground, kicked the dirt with her brand-new, way-too-clean cowboy boots, and then looked back up with an expectant expression.

  “Look, I’m sure that you’d like to find whatever it is you’re looking for, Ms. Jaspers, but I’m not going to let you roam around my ranch and try to figure it out. There are horses and cows in the pasture, not to mention the bull. It’s not safe. So, if you’ll excuse me, I have to get back to work. I wish you well.” Colton looked at her and nodded his head gently, and then turned around and began walking back to the barn.

  “Wait,” she called out, but he didn’t stop.

  Finally, he heard the truck door open and the old rig start up. Then she left, going just as quickly as she’d come. But the strange visit didn’t leave Colton’s mind despite all the work he was doing. Olivia was a persistent woman and very beautiful—definitely hard to forget. But the fact that she had just assumed he’d let her roam the ranch and look for something that she wasn’t willing to tell him about disturbed him. It was too much, and an unnecessary distraction. He’d take a pass.

  ***

  Back at the Wrangler Inn, Olivia was pacing back and forth in the small room, trying to think of a plan. She knew that she’d blown in, and in her desire to just get what she wanted, she’d maybe moved a bit too fast. Colton Tisdale, as handsome as he was, was clearly a practical man, and a busy one. Of course he wouldn’t just drop everything to entertain the whim of some woman who had come up to him with an obscure mission. And truthfully, she’d underestimated him. It wasn’t that she always got her way, but more often than not, she did.

  Now it was time for her to rethink her strategy. She was still at ground zero when it came to gaining access to the ranch. Failing was not an option, so she’d have to start over.

  Then her stomach growled and she decided to get a bite to eat. Maybe she could start some casual conversations that led to information about Colton Tisdale. The more she could learn about him the better, especially if it would help her with her goal. She just had to locate what she was looking for. Too much was riding on it.

  A short time later, Olivia walked into Kitty’s Café, the one and only restaurant that she had seen in the small town. She took a seat by the counter and smiled at the waitress, who came right over to her. She noticed that her name tag read, Jane.

  “Hi,” Jane said with a soft smile that stood out because of the bright, almost-coral-colored lipstick she wore. It made Olivia smile, as she always associated that shade of lipstick with her grandma. “Can I get you something to drink?”

  “Do you have tea?” Olivia asked.

  “Iced tea,” Jane replied.

  “Sounds good.”

  Then Jane handed her a menu and went off to get her iced tea. Olivia saw a large glass container in the corner with a spout on the bottom. Made from scratch—impressive, she thought.

  Looking over the menu, she was busy debating between the beef tip salad and the grilled chicken sandwich. She hadn’t even paid attention when two people came in and sat down at the table next to her. Only after she ordered the salad did she glance over and make eye contact with the woman. She smiled and went back to her iced tea and her thoughts. It had been stupid of her to be so brazen in her approach earlier. Her excitement had gotten the best of her, but hindsight was 20/20. Maybe some food would give her a fresh perspective on everything.

  “The builder is coming back out tomorrow to reinforce the gates for the stable doors,” the woman said behind Olivia.

  Everybody in this town must live and breathe anything related to farming or ranching, she thought. Surely not everyone could do those things for a living, but it didn’t seem that way.

  “That’s good,” the guy said. “Because Colton’s ready to deliver the horses over. He’s going to—”

  The rest of what the guy said was lost on Olivia. Surely there was only one Colton in Cherish, Montana. She looked to the ceiling and mouthed a “thank you.” She turned around and smiled. “Are you talking about Colton Tisdale?” she asked. Maybe she should have learned her lesson about being so blunt, but at that moment, she was going to take advantage of the bait that had been dangled in front of her. And it wasn’t like they were talking quietly so that she might be considered an eavesdropper.

  The two people looked over at her and the woman smiled at Olivia. “Yes, you know Colton?”

  “Well, kind of. I met him just today,” Olivia said.

  “Really?” the woman returned. She looked at the man and smiled. “Interesting,” she added.

  Olivia had no idea how that was interesting, but that was okay.

  The woman offered her hand. “Hi, I’m Mallory Williamson, Mal for short. I’m Colton’s sister. This is my husband Wade.”

  Olivia shook both their hands and tried to keep her instant rush of excitement under control. She wanted to break out in to a happy jig, but thought better of it. She could save that for the hotel room.

  “It’s a pleasure to meet you both,” Olivia said.

  “So, where did you meet Colton today?” Mal asked.

  “At the ranch,” she said.

  “Are you Chester Akers’ great-granddaughter?” she asked.

  “That’s me, Olivia Jaspers,” she confessed. Apparently she’d been a topic of conversation.

  Then Mallory looked at Wade and said, “This is the woman that Colton mentioned earlier.”

  “Oh,” Wade said. He looked at Olivia with a cheeky grin on his face. “You’ve given Mal here quite a bit of fodder to tease Colton with.”

  “What do you mean?” Olivia asked. She wasn’t certain if she should be offended.

  “Let’s just say, your visit was memorable,” Mal said. “Don’t worry, it’s not a bad thing.”

  “Well, he wasn’t very receptive to giving me a little free range on the ranch, that’s for certain,” Olivia confessed.

  “You just … caught him off guard,” Mal said. “He’s a great guy and sometimes he moves a little slow. Takes him a bit to process things.”

  “Well, I feel the need to defend him,” Wade said. “He’s a busy man, you know. A bit more structured, especially with a wild, mysterious request coming out of nowhere.”

  “You don’t need to justify him, or defend him, Wade,” Mal said.

  Olivia listened to the two for a second and she immediately liked Mal. She had a casual way about her, but she could tell Mal was one smart lady too. Ther
e was something about the way she spoke and her high level of confidence.

  “Well, all I hope is that he’ll at least let me give it another try. I really do need his help and didn’t mean to come in and make my request the way I did. I just got excited. To him, it probably seemed like I was an entire swarm of angry bees.” Olivia laughed at her comparison, as it was one that her father had used on her quite often when she was growing up.

  “My brother moves slow and likes information, but if you give it a try again, I’m sure you’ll find him to be more … receptive,” Mal said. She smiled at Olivia and winked.

  Olivia knew that Mal wasn’t thinking about her problem. She was thinking about her brother. A matchmaker, Olivia thought. However, in this situation that was good. Any Tisdale that she could get on her side was a good thing. And if she could add Colton’s best friend to that list, it was even better. She didn’t want to manipulate, but if she had to—just a bit—she was willing to. It was that important!

  “So he wouldn’t call the sheriff if I showed up there again tomorrow?” Olivia asked.

  Mal started laughing. “No, I think you’re safe.”

  Wade looked back and forth at the two women. He was sandwiched between them and all he could do was nod his head. It seemed like he should give Colton a warning about what these two had brewing suddenly, but if he were to be completely honest, he was a bit entertained by the thought of what might happen. Colton was a hard-working guy who never took time for anything other than the ranch. Maybe Olivia could give him a little inspiration to do so. It was a lesson that Wade had learned the hard way—a broken arm that took him away from the rodeo. Perhaps Colton could learn it a little less, well, painfully.

  Chapter Two

  Colton had never met a person that he’d describe as a tornado before—before yesterday, that is. That Olivia Jaspers had certainly made an impression and no matter how hard he tried, he could not get her out of his mind. At first he’d tried to sell himself a bill of goods that it was because the entire encounter was most unusual. But frankly, it was such an unusual encounter coming from such a beautiful woman that had really captured—and held—his attention.

 
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