Home > Grumpy Cowboy (Single Dad Collection #3)

Grumpy Cowboy (Single Dad Collection #3)
Author: Max Monroe

 


May 8th, Saturday

Circle Dub Ranch, Hollow Rock, Utah

 

Rhett

 

“Who’s watchin’ Joey tonight, Rhett?” Chase Walker asks from his spot ten feet away, atop the fence rail to one of the paddocks on his parents’ ranch, Circle Dub.

We’ve known each other since we were in diapers and went through school together at only a year apart, but our lives these days couldn’t be any more opposite. He’s on the Professional Rodeo Circuit, making a living as a bucking bronc rider, and I’m here in Hollow Rock, running my family’s ranch, Shaw Springs. I’m a single dad raising my five-year-old daughter, Josephine, and he’s a single guy with a laundry list of rodeo cowgirls he’d like to work through by the time his birthday hits.

Yeah. Completely different lives.

Still, he’s a good friend, and nights out like this for me are beyond a rarity. Sometimes, it’s nice to let go of all the pressure of being a single father and a boss and just have a good fucking time.

“My mom has Joey,” I answer. “She likes to do a girls’ night with her once a month. Somethin’ about reminding her that there’s more to life than dirt and horse shit.”

“There is?” Lynn, another bronc rider from the professional circuit and a guy I’ve only met a half a dozen times, asks, smiling flagrantly. “Maybe that’s my problem. My mama never taught me that.”

“You’ve got a helluva lot more problems than an affinity for horse shit,” Cutter James, a younger bull rider from the circuit I’m hanging out with for the first time, challenges with a chuckle. “According to Mandy Waters, one of them is in your fucking pants.”

“What?” Lynn retorts. “She said that shit?”

Chase and Cutter just laugh and take swigs of their beers.

“Who is Mandy Waters?” I ask, and Chase smirks over at me.

“She’s the exact kind of woman you’ve been known to despise.”

I quirk my brow. “What do you mean?”

“A rich, gorgeous, perfectly done-up city girl who found her way to a rodeo and had the unfortunate opportunity of getting up close and personal with Lynn.”

“You got a thing against city girls?” Cutter questions, and I roll my eyes.

“I don’t have a thing against anyone. I just have preferences. And I prefer them to be natural, raw, wild. Women who’ve never stepped foot on a ranch and spend more time in the bathroom piling on makeup and hair spray have proven to be nothin’ but fuckin’ trouble for me.”

“Yeah, but your baby mama Anna is as wild as they come, certainly knows her way around a ranch, isn’t from the city, and look where that got ya,” Chase teases, and I can’t not laugh.

Frankly, he’s not lying. Anna is as wild as they come, and our relationship ended with me being a single dad and her still running around trying to sow a whole county’s worth of oats.

“Maybe me and women just don’t mesh at all,” I respond, and Chase chuckles.

“Maybe you just need to spend a night with a crazy-ass, nothin’-but-trouble cougar of a woman by the name of Donna Dorset—that fucking woman loves her some rodeo cowboys—and you’d realize sometimes a little trouble is worth it.”

Instantly, Lynn and Cutter burst into laughter, but also, they nod at me with wide, knowing eyes.

“I don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about or who Donna is,” I say with a shake of my head. “But by the sounds of it, I’m thinking that’s a good thing.”

“You don’t know because you’re here in Hollow Rock, pissin’ into the wind on your daddy’s ranch instead of out there on the road with us,” Chase teases with a knowing smirk. “When are you gonna grow a set and tell your old man where to shove it? You shoulda never left the tour.”

I laugh. I’ve spent a lot of years wishing I’d had the courage to tell off my dad and keep riding broncs, but the more time that’s passed, the easier it’s become to accept. My daughter Josephine sure as hell has a better, more stable life here, and all it takes is seeing her hardly present mama blow through town every six months or so to hammer that in. Plus, it’s been a decade since I stepped out of the rodeo spotlight, and I’m pretty sure the statute of limitations on my stepping back in has long passed.

Not to mention, I wouldn’t dream of shaking up Joey’s life like that.

My daughter is my priority. Always.

Chase is still a kid at heart, however, and I’m about as well-off wasting my breath on detailed explanations with him as I’d be slicing my own throat. No, to get him off my ass, I simply have to dish the shit-talking back just as hard as he serves it.

“I don’t know,” I retort with a sly grin. “Maybe I’ll tell him when you tell yours you’re out here in the middle of the night ridin’ next year’s crop of broncs that aren’t supposed to have ever been rode before.”

“Shit.” Chase snorts, spewing some of his beer all over his shirt. “I guess I’ll just have to wait and see you in hell, then. My dad catches wind we’re out here, and all four of us will be in the back of a cop car. And I don’t know about Cutter and Lynn, but I know for a fact you and I aren’t that fond of the law,” he adds as he jumps down off the fence and crushes the mostly empty beer can, tossing it to the side.

“You mean the law isn’t that fond of us,” I correct.

You’d think with the way Chase talks, we’re still wild, twenty-year-old stallions with something to prove, but I’m thirty-six. I’m a responsible, grown-ass adult now, with a daughter to think about when I make decisions, but back when I was younger, I made a lot of questionable choices and partook in a number of dangerous exploits. The sheriff knows my first name intimately, and Chase Walker was right there with me more than a time or two.

Hell, that’s part of the reason why my dad didn’t want me to stay on the rodeo tour. There was always some sort of trouble, and like it or not, I had a real way of finding it.

It’s also part of the reason Joey’s mama Anna and I weren’t meant for the long haul. I grew up; she didn’t. In fact, she’s still following the rodeo circuit just like she was when we first met. Most likely, drinkin’ and partyin’ and knockin’ boots with a new guy every weekend.

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