Howdy BWWM Books Lovers, hop in the saddle and let's skedaddle over to Omaha, Nebraska, the Western setting for my upcoming March release, what I expect to be one of my top romance novels of the year: COCKY COWBOY.
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This should have been easy.
Hiding out from my ex in Omaha while helping an old woman on her ranch.
Her son Kurt O’Connor.
I should have known better than to get involved.
He’s tall, a pillar of muscle, icy blue eyes… and cocky as h*ll!
He doesn’t just want my body.
He wants all of me.
I must resist.
This is a romance novel between a 45 + year old black woman and a hot alpha male!
If you think you're in for a wild ride… You're 100% right!
“I’m not a good man. I’ve killed once before and I’ll do it again in a heartbeat.”
I sat, clutching my cup of coffee and staring wide-eyed at Sam O’Connor as she spoke. Her strawberry blonde hair sat in a loose French braid down her back. Her wrinkled face still carried a few scars and her earthy-brown eyes glowed with fierce intensity. She shook her head.
“He said that to me,” she continued, “And he whacked me so hard I had a black eye for weeks.”
She chuckled, then gazed off almost wistfully.
“The day he died was the best day of my life,” she mused.
I drank the rest of my tea and set the mug down on the hand-carved dining table.
“The boys,” she shrugged, “Well the boys missed their father of course. But I didn’t. Billy belonged six feet under. He’s just lucky I wasn’t the one to put him there.”
Helen smiled at me and nodded.
“Well, I’m so grateful you agreed to have me ma’am,” I said, pushing some of the hair from my blunt haircut behind my big ears that I inherited from my brown-skinned daddy.
Sam smiled weakly, “I’m just hoping you can help me. It’s like Billy’s ghost is haunting me, letting me know that I’ll never know peace, even now that he’s gone.”
Her eyes narrowed and she exhaled loudly.
“Enough about me. Helen tells me you’re a detective?”
“I was a detective. I quit and started working freelance five years ago.”
“That pays better?”
“Yes ma’am,” I replied, “Plus, my ex-husband was a cop. As we drifted apart, it made sense.”
“A cop huh? Did he hit you?”
Her forwardness surprised me, but it wasn’t a question I hadn’t heard before and it wasn’t a question I was afraid to answer.
She shook her head, “These men think as soon as they get a little bit of power they can treat women how they want. So long as you’re helping me out, you can stay here as long as you like.”
Helen nodded, “It will be a good long while before she’s ready to head back to the East Coast.”
I glanced at her and she nodded approvingly. This was the last thing I expected to be doing, hiding out in Omaha, Nebraska from the man I’d thought I would spend the rest of my life with. But in this room of just women, women who had all been through tough times at the hands of men, I didn’t feel alone.
Sam smiled, “I got sons about your age. Maybe a bit younger.”
“Two of ‘em,” Helen added, “How are the boys?”
Sam rolled her eyes, “Helpin’ me out and causin’ me mischief too.”
“Do any of them know what’s been going on?”
Sam shook her head, “No. If they know any more than I do, they haven’t let on.”
Helen grinned, pushing a few of her thin frayed dreadlocks out of her face.
“Nicki asks a lot of questions,” she said.
“It’s how I get closer to the truth.”
“We need some of the truth around here,” Sam replied, “Would you like something to eat dear? You’re awfully skinny. No good food out East?”
I grinned, “No thanks ma’am, I’m not hungry.”
Helen added, “Nicki used to be a vegan.”
“A vegan?” Sam raised her eyebrows as if she found the concept ridiculous.
“Not anymore,” I replied, “Anemia.”
“Well a good bit of meat never killed anybody. Out here, we slaughter all our own.”
“You got animals on the ranch?”
Sam nodded, “Yes ma’am. We got pigs, horses, cows, chickens… If you expect to stay ‘round here I’ll expect you to help. I’ll go easy on you. I don’t want to scare you off.”
“I’m a tough cookie. I can handle more than you think.”
“Well good ‘cause as I’m getting older the arthritis in my fingers acts up something crazy.”
She spread her fingers wide and then clenched them together in a delicate fist that hid all the bruises and calluses on her palms from decades of hand washing, roping cattle and tending the earth.
Helen touched Sam on the knee.
“I only got five minutes dear.”
Sam smiled, “When you gonna stop being such a rolling stone?”
Helen cracked her caramel colored skin into a smile, shaking her dreadlocks out of her face where they’d once again fallen. The silver and turquoise beads on her dreads clinked together, creating music with every movement of her head.
“When life gives me a reason to settle down, I guess.”
At fifty, that had yet to happen. Helen lived out of her VW bus, traveling the country selling turquoise jewelry and tarot readings. Given her dreadlocks, her nose ring and her tattoos, she made a convincing fortune teller. I’d never asked her outright if it was all a con, but let’s just say I didn’t believe in her New Age woo-woo.
“You takin’ that rickety ole thing back over to Los Angeles?”
“Yes I am,” Helen smiled proudly. We all glanced at the VW bus that had taken me to Omaha parked out in the driveway. At some points on the highway, I wasn’t sure Helen was going to get me there in one piece. But now, she was heading out again, leaving me in a strange land with my suitcase of possessions, my modest savings and a house full of strangers.
Anything was better than staying in Boston.
“Just make sure you drive safe,” Sam warned.
“I always do.”
“And you stay away from that reefer,” Sam chastised.
Helen smiled and then winked at her old friend, promising nothing.
“Take care of this one,” Helen told her, indifferent to my presence, “Make sure she don’t go back out there for a good long while.”
Sam nodded, “Yes ma’am.”
“I’ll be fine Helen. I’m grown.”
Helen snorted, “You grown… I’ve known you since you were a child. You’ll always be Jamie’s little friend.”
Helen’s younger brother, now deceased, was the thread that had held us together. An old friendship from my childhood had been what ultimately rescued me from my husband’s mercy. Her rescuing had taken me further west than I’d ever been and further into the country than I was comfortable.
“I’d best be off,” Helen said when she was about to leave.
Helen had mastered goodbyes in a way I hadn’t. I teared up while hugging her but was sure not to let any tears fall. I was too old for crying. Too old to put up with a man beating me. Too old… That’s what everyone told me.
Sam was worse than I was, weeping about how she wasn’t sure she’d ever see Helen again. My guess was she didn’t get many visitors. We walked Helen out to her bus and she put on her Jimi Hendrix, blaring it from her tinny stereo as she pulled off. A dust cloud billowed into the unpaved road and like that her bus chugged off on the road to nowhere…
Sam wiped her hands on her apron.
“That woman is something…”
“Yeah,” I muttered, “She’s something.”
“Braver than I ever was,” Sam continued, “That’s for damn sure.”
I didn’t respond to that one.
“I s’pose it’s time I give you a tour of the ranch. But I’ll let you get cleaned up and settle in first.”
“I got you a nice little suite upstairs. I designed it myself for guests. It’s got its own bathroom, own little balcony and everything.”
“I’m sure it will be lovely.”
“C’mon in then.”
Sam held the screen door open as I marched in beside her. Alone on the ranch with her and the sound of tractors outside, my isolation dawned on me. I hadn’t seen anything suspicious or felt any strange nagging at my gut, but even if I had, I’d now committed to spending at least six months out here. We creaked across the floorboards and up the stairs. Sam pointed to the two rooms at the end of the hall.
“That’s Kurt’s room and that’s Dierks’. Mine is downstairs. And yours is right through here…”
She pushed open the first door on the left which opened into a room far larger than I’d expected. Sam maintained the farmhouse decor, but a few modern touches like an air conditioning unit for the summer months, a memory foam mattress and a large shower made the space familiar.
“It’s lovely,” I acknowledged, eyeing the well-curated decor of hens, roosters and other farm animals.
The white sheets on the bed had tiny little cow patterns on them and the cozy comforter was ivory and real down. Sam opened up the old dresser, showing me where I could put my clothes.
“Now I’ll leave you to it for a minute. I’ll be up in twenty.”
“Thanks Mrs. O’Connor.”
She grimaced, “Please, Sam.”
Her grimace turned into a smile and she walked out of the room, leaving me to my own thoughts for the first time since I’d entered her home. I peered out the window over the flat rolling fields. I’d expected Nebraska to be flat but the cornfields stretched out for miles and miles creating an almost impressive vista.
The fact that I didn’t know a single soul in Nebraska except for Sam O’Connor was a relief to me. I was tired of answering questions about Dominic. I was tired of the judgmental stares or the whispers about the bruises on my arm. The rumors and the lies had chased me out west and now that I was here, I’d have a chance to start over.
I turned over the events of the past month as well as my week long road trip with Helen. I unpacked my clothes in the drawer and hid my jewelry box under the mattress. I hung onto that box with all those memories of Dominic tucked inside, not because I wanted to remember him but because I’d let go of every other part of my identity. I needed something to remind me of who I was, at least who I’d been when I married him.
I unpacked and flopped back on the bed, running my hands through my new haircut, wondering where the heck I was going to find someone to do my hair in Omaha.
A shout interrupted my ruminations.
“BULLSHIT KURT AND YOU KNOW IT.”
A bass drawl boomed across the open fields.
Kurt. If I remembered correctly, that was one of Sam’s sons. I glided towards the window and pulled the lace curtain aside just an inch so I could peer through the window without detection. No one had mentioned to me that Sam’s sons weren’t too fond of each other.
A deeper, quieter voice responded, “Stop making a damn racket. Ma will be out here with her shotgun again.”
The voices came into view. Sam’s “boys” were men, younger than me, but still men. From my estimation, they were both in their mid-thirties. They were young, but not young enough to be considered kids.
“I DON’T GIVE A DAMN. Y’HEAR THAT?”
“Listen, you need to calm down or I’ll sock you in the mouth.”
“I’D LIKE TO SEE YOU TRY YOU LYIN’ BASTARD.’”
The brown-haired one spat at his blonde brother. The blonde one rushed him and a knock at my door forced me to turn away from the fight which had now gone silent — at least from the second floor.
“Are you ready?”
Sam came in with a smile on her face and flour on her starched white apron.
“Baking downstairs. C’mon it’s time for me to show you the ranch.”
I glanced towards the window but I couldn’t make out where her sons had gone. As we walked through the fields, the pens and the barn, I caught no sight of Sam’s sons. But you bet your bottom dollar I still had questions about them.
“How old are your sons?”
“Kurt’s 35 and Dierks is 32.”
Mid-thirties just as I’d guessed.
“They work for you?”
“Yes ma’am. Kurt works with the horses and he traps furs. Dierks manages the farm hands.”
“Do you have many employees?”
Sam shook her head, “Not since the first frost. They’ll start up closer to the start of summer. Right now it’s just Jack.”
“How long has he been working for you?”
“Jack Wilson’s an old friend of Dierks. He’s a mean drunk but he shows up to work on time and he don’t ask for much money.”
Sam’s country accent made her more personable to me and she got real comfortable as we moved around the ranch and she explained what my morning duties would be. I listened to her while absorbing every detail of my environment. This was my new home. Most importantly, this was the site of my newest case. Sam had yet to explain what was happening precisely, but I’d gathered from Helen it was something bad and that I’d need to be alert.
“I’ll take you through the fields to meet the Brody family.”
“Uh huh. Bitches too.”
I gasped and stifled a chuckle as I heard Sam cuss. She’d given off the impression that she was a good frontierswoman who minded her manners and kept her language polite.
“What makes you say that?” I asked, both bemused and curious.
Maybe one of those despised Brodys was what had been causing the trouble.
“When you meet ‘em, you’ll know.”
We eased through the cornfields and came to a small house. A man lay on the porch with a hat over his head. It was only when we approached the porch that I noticed this “man” was a woman wearing red lipstick. She was tan with freckles over her nose. Her hair was dyed black and she had a scowl on her pretty face.
“Good afternoon Mrs. O’Connor.”
“Hi Emma, is your mama home?”
If these people didn’t like each other, you couldn’t tell. Not yet at least. They hid their disdain beneath Midwestern politeness and broad smiles.
“I’ll go get ‘er.”
Emma hopped to her feed, brushing her hands on her overalls and looking me up and down with a cheeky grin on her face.
“What’s her story?”
Sam glowered, “She’s a friend. She’ll be staying with me for a while.”
“Her? Out in Omaha? You warned her yet?”
I could tell Sam was getting all hot and bothered, but I could handle myself.
“I love Nebraska so far.”
“Yeah well, it’s a piece of shit.”
Emma opened the door to her house and stepped inside, yelling up to her mother.
“MA! OLD SAM IS HERE! SHE’S GOT A BLACK CHICK WITH HER.”
I started to understand where Sam was coming from and why she might not have been fond of the Brody family. Stomping down the wooden steps alerted us that Emma’s ma was coming. The woman pushed past her daughter to stand with us on the porch. Emma stood next to her mother, slouching and slinging her hands into her pockets. She had stretched ears, thick Kohl black liner and a few nose and liprings. Not exactly the “cowgirl” you’d expect.
“Hi,” Emma’s mother introduced herself, “I’m Nancy.”
“Nicki. Pleased to meet you.”
Her palm lay limp in mind as I gave her a strong, confident handshake. I pulled my hand away and she wiped hers on her denim.
Nancy and her daughter had the same sharp blue eyes, but Nancy’s hair was a wheat blonde color, likely what Emma’s had been too. She dressed in simple jeans and a t-shirt with her blonde hair falling down to the middle of her back in gentle waves. A kerchief wrapped around her head kept her hair from falling into her face.
“Sam,” Nancy said, folding her arms, “Are you here to make accusations again?”
“No,” Sam replied, “Wanted to show Nicki a friendly face.”
Her sneering look told me that Nancy was who Sam really had problems with. The feeling appeared mutual.
Nancy snorted, “What the heck are you doing out here in Omaha? You look like a real urban kind of girl.”
The way she said urban made my skin crawl, but I ignored it. I was too grown and experienced in life to let passive prejudice get under my skin.
“I’m helping Sam.”
“The problems at the ranch,” Sam continued, “She’ll be investigating. She’s a private eye.”
Nancy raised her brows and smirked in disbelief.
“Yes ma’am,” I interjected.
Nancy chuckled, “So you think she’ll help you find out who’s haunting the ranch? Well we all know it’s Billy darling.”
I narrowed my eyes. Sam had led me to believe this was a real mystery, not something paranormal. I’m a detective — a shrewd one at that — I believe in what I see right in front of me. I didn’t believe in hauntings of any kind.
“Yes,” Nancy continued, “Didn’t Sam tell you.”
I looked at Sam with confusion, wondering what was going on and wondering if I’d come out here for no reason.
“You and I both know it’s not a haunting,” Sam hissed, “There’s no such thing as ghosts.”
“It sure looks like a ghost,” Nancy retorted with a shrug.
“And acts like a ghost,” Emma added.
Sam’s face reddened and I could tell she needed a way out.
“I’m sure you’ll explain the whole thing later,” I offered.
Emma chuckled, “Well good luck.”
Sam’s face now shifted from red to purple and I thought she was going to smack Emma Brody right in her smug face.
Before Sam could say anything else, we heard gunshots. Loud ones.
I recognized the voices from Sam’s fighting sons. The gunshots continued and Emma chuckled.
“He’s shootin’ at his damned brother again?”
Sam’s face went from pale to ghost-white.
“Want me to grab my gun and silence ‘em?” Emma asked, gesturing towards the O’Connor house with an imaginary shotgun.
“No,” Sam replied, “We’ll be leaving. I’ll deal with the boys myself.”
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