As promised, here’s a second excerpt from Cowboy Fever, which is coming out in less than a month (the release date is April 1st, but books usually make it to the stores at least a week early). This time you get to meet Teague Treadwell.

Teague is a former bad boy who’s doing his best to make good and win the heart of Jodi Brand, the town’s rodeo queen and golden girl. Teague has overcome a difficult, disfunctional childhood to transform his father’s played-out ranch into a class A roughstock operation. Jodi’s been gone for a while, and the first time she sees him she hardly recognizes her old — and always forbidden — flame.

This excerpt picks up where the last one left off, so if you haven’t met Jodi yet, check out the post before this where the novel begins. And thanks for reading!

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       Jodi turned with a bright smile, then took a quick step back. The man behind her was Teague Treadwell — but he looked about as real as a New York model in a Boot Barn catalog. He stood like a cowboy, relaxed and lounging, resting one elbow on the high counter like he might rest it on the worn leather saddle of his trusty quarter horse, but his clothes were straight out of Lou Taubert’s dress-up section. Clean, creased Wranglers broke tidily over what appeared to be Tony Lama boots, and his white shirt was pinned at the collar with a string tie that sported an expensive chunk of polished turquoise mounted in silver. He held his hat in his hand, a gray felt Stetson with a brand-new sheen unmarred by sun or rain, and his clean-shaven jaw was more GQ than Western Horseman.

And then there was the jacket. On any other man, she’d have appreciated the way it classed up the outfit and spanned his broad shoulders, but the cut of it hid at least half of a butt she’d been looking forward to seeing in full.

“You took that scholarship and that modeling contract and hightailed it for the city so fast it made our heads spin. I can’t believe you came back,” he said.

“I promised.”

“I know.” He stepped closer –a little too close. “But you don’t always keep your promises.”

She lifted her chin. In her outgoing rodeo queen speech, she’d sworn to use her scholarship to get herself an education and come back to Purvis in all her big-haired, blue-eyed glory to make the town a better place.

And she’d kept that promise –well, except for the big hair and the glory. A few modeling sessions had exhausted her desire for glamour, and college had been a revelation as she shed her queen trappings and luxuriated in the freedom of comfort-cut jeans and baggy T-shirts. At school, it was her brains that mattered, not her beauty. And nobody expected her to be a role model.

What a relief that was. Being a role model meant swallowing your swear words, acting like a lady, and staying away from men like Teague Treadwell.

She looked Teague up and down, keeping her expression neutral, squelching any outward sign of her appreciation of those snug-fitting jeans or the well-muscled body that wore them. Dragging her gaze upward to his face, she bit her lower lip.

“Teague,” she said. “You’ve changed.”

He grinned. “I sure have. You too, Queenie.”

The nickname and the teasing note in his voice raised her hackles. “I’m the same as I ever was. But you look like one of those dandies you used to beat up behind the chutes.”

“I could still beat ’em up,” he said, his smile dimming slightly.

“I’m not so sure.”

“Why not? Do I look too civilized?”

She started to nod, then noticed his eyes had narrowed. “Civilized” was probably an insult in Teague’s mind. He hadn’t taken well to her transformation from rough and ready tomboy to quintessential cowgirl when she’d entered her first rodeo queen contest. He’d said she looked fake when she dolled herself up.

Well, of course she did. Rodeo crowns, with their accompanying scholarships and prizes, weren’t handed out for looking like a ranch hand. But he’d also accused her of looking down on what he called “us ordinary mortals.”

She hadn’t, though. She’d never been like that. She’d turned down his offers for dates because… well, because she was scared of him. Teague Treadwell was trouble, and rodeo queens didn’t mess with trouble. A hell-raising bronc rider like Teague could be a friend, maybe even a fling if you kept it quiet — but a date? A boyfriend?

Never.            

She cocked her head and scanned him from the top of his gelled hair to the toes of his polished boots. The clothes weren’t the only change that had come over him while she was gone. The hard glint in his eyes had softened too, and the firm, stubborn set to his mouth had given way to a smile that was pleasant instead of predatory. She was surprised to find she wasn’t the least bit afraid of him.

It was a little disappointing.

“You’re just… older,” she said. She could have said a lot more. She could have said he did look civilized, more civilized than she’d ever expected he could be. He also looked handsome, sophisticated, and, well… successful.

“You look older too,” he said.

“Teague Treadwell, that’s a terrible thing to say to a lady,” Darla scolded. “You tell Miss Brand she looks just lovely.”

“Darla, you just got done telling her she looks like she’s got cancer,” Teague said. “At least I didn’t say that.”

“Well, I am not a gentleman,” Darla said.

“Neither am I.”

Darla sniffed and turned away. Normally she was eager to talk to anyone and everyone on the chance they might drop a choice crumb of gossip, but evidently Teague was not a favorite. Jodi suspected he had plenty of stories to tell — but evidently he kept them to himself.

She tilted her head and smiled up at him. She’d always felt like a mismatched doll beside Teague — a Barbie next to a G.I. Joe. She still felt mismatched, but the tables had turned. She almost wished she’d decked herself out in her queen clothes. Standing beside his duded-up, suede-jacketed self, she felt like a drab little partridge pecking around a prize rooster.

Well, at least a partridge could make her own way, scratching for sustenance. All roosters ever did was preen and crow.

“So if you’re not a gentleman, what are you?” she asked.

“Busy.” His smile faded. “Sorry. I’ve — I’ve got to go.”

He strode out of the store, leaving Jodi staring after him while Darla clucked her tongue at his rudeness. Maybe he hadn’t changed that much after all. Maybe, underneath the fancy clothes, he was still just as rough around the edges as ever.

She wished he’d take off that dang jacket so she could see for sure.

***

If you’re a Cheyenne friend, or anywhere close, don’t forget to come to our launch celebration at Barnes & Noble on Saturday, April 2nd. It’s an all-day bookfair to benefit Cheyenne Therapeutic Equestrian Center, then a signing at 6:00 p.m. At 8:00, we’ll move over to Uncle Charlie’s on Yellowstone for snacks, a cash bar, and music by Todd Dereemer. Guaranteed good times for all!