A Courageous Ride is the third in the Bull Rider Series. The others are A Wild Ride and A Daring Ride. I really love these stores. First who doesn't love a cowboy and especially in this story, one who has been down on his luck and is trying desperately to somehow pick himself up. I also love putting two disparate characters together with very different backgrounds and interests and seeing what happens. This story has both. I hope you enjoy the excerpt.
Aspiring orchestra conductor Marshall is exhausted after months of auditions without a single job offer. Marshall’s friend, Terry, recommends a change of scenery and points Marshall in the direction of a dude ranch run by former bull rider Indigo Santana. Marshall is understandably skeptical, but his friend is convincing, and Marshall needs a break, so he agrees to go.
Indigo captures Marshall’s attention but leaves him confused. Indigo’s confidence is shot after an injury ended his rodeo career, and he walks with a slight limp. He hasn’t been anywhere near a bull since he was hurt, and he’s not the most accommodating host. After all, the only reason he keeps guests is because his family ranch is all but bankrupt.
Marshall’s attraction doesn’t go unanswered, which leaves him with a huge dilemma. He’s torn between the possibility of love, something he’s searched for all his life, and the career he’s worked toward for as long as he can remember, which is miles away. From his side of the fence, Indigo doesn’t see how the ranch could ever be enough.
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After paying his bill, Marshall left the restaurant and went for a short walk. His phone beeped, letting him know he had a message. He pulled it out and saw a message from Terry, asking him to call. Marshall messaged him back and was about to call when his phone rang.
“I have to get ready for surgery in ten minutes, but I might have a solution for you. How about a vacation?”
“I was just thinking about that,” Marshall said with a smile.
“Excellent. Phillip, one of my rodeo buddies, has a friend who’s just opened a ranch for tourists.”
“A dude ranch? You have to be kidding.”
“Why not? It’s about an hour outside Houston, and Phillip says there’s some rodeo folks in the area. The owner’s name is Indigo Santana. He was a bull rider a few years ago. I saw him ride once. According to Phillip, he inherited the family ranch and is opening it to guests. It should be a lot of fun, with no pressure. You don’t have to do anything you don’t want, but it’ll be quiet and it will give you a chance to think about what you want to do. You also won’t have to go home to face your folks, at least until you hear if you got the job or not.” That did sound appealing.
“My idea of a vacation is an all-inclusive resort with pool boys, fruity drinks with umbrellas, and all the sun I can soak in,” Marshall said. “A ranch is hardly my idea of fun.” He didn’t share Terry’s fascination for all things rodeo.
Terry sighed, and Marshall thought he heard a door close in the background. “I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but according to Phillip, there are few things better-looking than tight cowboy butts in tight jeans and chaps.” He could almost see Terry shuddering. “Now, you are forbidden from telling anyone I ever said that, and if you do, I’ll say you were drunk and don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Okay, I get the point.” The image that flashed through his mind was most definitely intriguing.
“Good. I’ll e-mail you the details, and you can call the ranch. They’re just starting out, so they have plenty of room and should be able to accommodate you for as long as you want to stay. Phillip said they usually book by the week, but they’ll be flexible.” Terry paused. “Go have some fun with the cowboys.”
“Straight cowboys,” Marshall grumbled.
“I wouldn’t be so sure of that. Phillip said Dante Rivers lives in the area. He was a champion bull rider and is gay. It doesn’t mean anyone there will be gay, but you’re there to de-stress and have a good time, not hook up with everything that moves.”
“Look who’s talking—the playboy heart surgeon,” Marshall countered. “Fine, I’ll call and see what they have to say, but I’m not making any promises.”
“I gotta go, but I’ll text the number in a second.” Terry hung up, and true to his word, a text came through with a phone number and a message less than a minute later: This will do you good. Think of the view. LOL. Marshall rolled his eyes and shoved his phone back into his pocket. He walked back to the hotel, trying to decide if he wanted to do this or not, and he was definitely leaning toward not. His phone rang again and he pulled it out and answered the call.
“Terry,” he said with a smile.
“Excuse me,” He sighed when he heard the voice on the other end.. He should have looked at the display.
“Hi, Mom,” Marshall said.
“How did the performance go last night?”
“Very well. The two halves of the program were really different, but I managed to tie them together and make them work. I just don’t know if that’s what the board wanted. They’ll let me know in a few weeks if I’ve got the job.”
“Well, if you don’t, you can always come work with your father. You know he’ll always bring you into the firm.” That was their answer for everything.
“That isn’t what I want, Mom,” Marshall said. “I hate the thought of that kind of work. It’s dull and uninteresting. I know Dad loves it, but I can’t stand the thought of it. If I come back to New York, it will be to take up a position there with one of the musical groups, not Wall Street.”
“But you are coming back, aren’t you? And when you’re here, just go in to work with your father one day and give it a try. You’ll eventually inherit the firm, you know.” The thought was enough to give Marshall a migraine. “Someone will have to lead it.”
Suddenly the thought of spending a few weeks on a dude ranch sounded like an appealing proposition. “I’ve decided to take a few weeks’ vacation. I’ve been very tired and I need some time to myself.”
“You can rest while you’re here.” Yeah, rest combined with pressure to do what they want, and guilt piled on every time I say no.
“No, Mom. I don’t think so. Going to New York is not what I think I need right now.”
He knew she was disappointed. His parents were good people, and they wanted the best for him. Unfortunately, what they thought was best was different from his own vision, and Marshall wanted to make his own way, at least partially. Marshall had enough money of his own that he didn’t have to work. His grandfather had founded the brokerage firm his father now ran and owned. He’d also set up Marshall, as well as his cousins, with generous trust funds, so Marshall didn’t need to work for a living. He wanted this job because it was what he truly wanted to do, what got deep down into his soul and moved him. The money was secondary, although it would be nice to earn money for himself rather than requesting funds from his trustee whenever he wanted cash, especially since his trustee was his father. But not for long. Next year he came of age at twenty-seven, as far as the trust was concerned.
“Mom, I’m not staying away forever. It’s just a few weeks of rest and relaxation. I’ll call you when I can, and you have nothing to worry about. I promise.” They talked for a few minutes more and then hung up. Marshall walked the rest of the way back to the hotel. It was a beautiful day, warm and sunny, and he found he was now in a great mood. When he got back to his room, he pulled out his phone and made a call to the ranch.
“Yeah,” the man said who answered the phone.
“Uh, yes. I was given this number as that of a dude ranch. I’m interested in spending some time and was curious about your availability. I got the number through a friend of a friend. Phillip.” He hoped he had the right number.
“This is the Circle R, and, yeah, you got the right place. Hang on a minute.” The phone was set down and Marshall waited. He wasn’t sure what kind of place this was, given the initial reception. But he waited for a few minutes.
“Hello. You wish to stay with us?” said a man with a deep, rich voice.
“Yes. I was wondering if you have any vacancies. I’d like to spend, say, a week at your ranch.” Who knew? Marshall figured he could always stay longer if he liked it, and if he didn’t, he could leave and go back to New York.
A deep laugh followed. “Of course. I’m Indigo. We’ve just begun accepting guests. But we should be able to accommodate you. When did you want to arrive?” A smooth Texas accent, combined with a smooth, almost musically rich voice, had Marshall’s heart pumping for a second. Then he shook his head to return his attention where it belonged.
“Tomorrow, if that’s okay.” Marshall’s answer was met with a pause.
“That will be fine. I’ll put you in the book. I’m assuming you need directions?”
“Just the address. I can use GPS to get there.” Indigo laughed. “I take it there’s a problem.” Now Marshall was worried.
“GPS doesn’t seem to work very well where we are. We’re off the beaten path, and the GPS programs haven’t done a good job figuring out where we are. Have you got a piece of paper? I’ll give you directions you can use that won’t get you lost.” Marshall reached for his folder and found a sheet of paper. He wrote down the directions as well as the other information he needed to know. He gave Indigo his information as well. Then Indigo said, “We’ll see you late tomorrow morning. If you get here in time, you’re welcome to join us for lunch.”
“Thank you, I’ll see you then.” They ended the call, and Marshall smiled. He found he was looking forward to getting away. Maybe this wasn’t such a bad idea after all.