Overdue for Love
SWEET Long Valley Romance Novella - Book 6
After a bitter betrayal, Dawson Blackhorse won't allow anyone to run roughshod over his heart again … especially not the woman he was once foolish enough to trust.
The rodeo circuit gave Dawson an escape after his racist boss ran him off. Hank Bartell made it clear no man who was part-Navajo, would buy his ranch or court his daughter. In a single moment, the man destroyed every one of Dawson's dreams.
But when the rodeo brings him to the tiny mountain town of Sawyer, Idaho, he comes face to face with everything he lost.
For nine years, Chloe Bartell hasn’t been able to forget the man who abandoned her. Especially not when she looks into the eyes of their son.
The quiet life Chloe leads in the small town of Sawyer is shattered the day Dawson comes to compete in the rodeo. He's everything she remembers and more. Gorgeous. Muscular. Six foot and change of sexy cowboy. She watches helplessly as he comes face to face with the son he never knew he had. Dawson demands answers but Chloe is determined to keep her distance. When sparks fly, the fire they ignite threatens to burn down the walls she’s built around her broken heart.
Will the pain and loss of their past drive them apart for good? Or can they forgive each other and build a new life, a life they always dreamed of…
Overdue for Love is the sixth novella in the Long Valley world, although all books in the Long Valley world can be read as standalones. This is the “sweet” version of the book, which means on a heat scale of 1 - 5, it is probably around a 1.5 or so. If you are interested in the “swexy” version (sweet + sexy), please check out the other listing for this book. Either way, enjoy!
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Dawson Blackhorse watched through narrowed eyes as Chloe Bartell sashayed toward the doors of the stable. He pretended not to notice the way she paused in the open doorway, giving him a deliberate look, and wiggled, a display that was emphasized by the short, tight denim shorts that barely encased her rear end. Dawson was schooled at keeping his expression blank, which came in handy around Chloe. He allowed himself a faint twitch of his lips at her annoyed expression as she flounced off.
As she stormed away, he allowed himself to drink his fill of her lush frame. The sun sparkled off the long fall of blonde hair nearly touching her waist, along with the light copper hue of her skin, burnished to a warm sheen by the Arizona sun in which Chloe had languished all summer. Being the only child of a very rich father meant a whole lot of spare time to spend out in the sun in tiny bikinis and oversized sunglasses. Dawson had been able to spend a…considerable amount of time admiring that particular clothing combination.
With a curse, he turned back to the stall and began mucking it out again. If he dared to touch her, that’d be the end of his job and his chance to own the Bartell Ranch. Dawson paused for a moment and used a handkerchief to wipe the sweat from his brow, not sure if it was mucking the stalls or staring at Chloe that had caused him to sweat more.
He had to do something about Chloe before he gave into temptation. That would cost him everything. She was only twenty – a baby, really – and had always been sheltered by her doting and stupidly rich father. She was naïve and just had no idea what the world was really like.
Could she understand how much it meant to him to own the ranch? Could she understand that he might want her but that sure didn’t mean he could act on it? Hank had hired Dawson to work the ranch, and had even allowed him to work toward buying it someday, but he was under no illusion the other man would welcome a part-Navajo ranch hand into the Bartell family tree, anymore than he’d welcome in a one-eyed, snaggletoothed possum.
Nope, Dawson had to keep his hands to himself, no matter how much she flirted with him.
With a curse that’d burn the hair off a hog, he turned back to the stall and began heaving the straw and manure into the wheelbarrow with a little more force than was necessary. If he couldn’t touch the boss’ daughter, well, he could work himself into a stupor. For now, that’d have to do.
* * *
The day passed in a blur of heat and manual labor, and it was a relief to finish around dinnertime. The heat of the Sonoran sun beat down on his shoulders as he made his way to the bunkhouse to grab a shower. It felt good to wash the sweat off and put on clean clothes before making his way to the main house, where Martha would have enough food to feed an army, or at least six hungry ranch hands.
With Hank’s wife long gone, Martha had taken over the duties of feeding the ranch hands and the Bartell family, along with keeping up on the housework in the home. She refused to clean the bunkhouse, though, which Dawson couldn’t blame her for. Going in there on a warm summer’s day when no one had bothered to do laundry for a week…
The smell could get a little on the overwhelming side.
He found three of the other men seated when he entered, and the remaining ranch hands trickled in soon after. Hank and Chloe were last.
That was no surprise. Thank heavens Hank didn’t make them wait for Chloe to show up before he allowed the ranch hands to eat. Either she wanted to make an entrance every night, or she had no idea how to read a watch.
Her hair – curled and hair sprayed within an inch of its life – and makeup so thick astronauts were checking it out, made it real obvious she was no stranger to primping. Dawson was sure she’d look a sight better without all that junk smeared on her face and products plastered in her hair, but he wasn’t about to tell her that. She was too gorgeous by half, and he didn’t want to give her the idea that he was paying attention to her appearance. He wasn’t sure how many more seduction attempts he could survive.
Not that she needed encouragement to keep them going. When she took the seat across from him, she made sure she bent forward enough to guarantee he knew she wasn’t wearing a bra under that skimpy tank top. His eyes cut sharply to the right and he made a point of looking at Martha as she bustled in from the kitchen with a big basket of biscuits. He could not stare at her.
Or her magnificent chest.
As Dawson ate, he pretended to be totally ignorant about Chloe’s stares, or the fact that she was constantly shifting positions to better display her cleavage.
He was mostly successful, even when she slid her bare foot across his leg. His boots barred her from slipping her foot inside his jeans, but she was undeterred. His hand jerked and he focused on not spilling his coffee as her foot crept higher.
He cleared his throat, loudly, and shot her a warning look. Apparently, it was her turn to ignore him, because she looked away, but her foot kept moving upward.
He put a hand under the table to intercept her foot, reaching for it a scant second after her foot reached its goal. He jumped, sloshing coffee everywhere. With a muttered curse, Dawson slid back his chair, using a napkin to mop up the spill.
“Sorry, Martha,” he said as the housekeeper came to his rescue, dishtowel in hand.
She shrugged. “Just step back, son. Let me do my job.” She was gruff but had a soft spot for all her “boys,” as she called the workers. Though Martha looked nothing like his Navajo grandmother, who’d died three years ago, she reminded him of her in personality.
Dawson backed away, his gaze settling on Chloe. She appeared the very picture of innocence. He barely restrained himself from rolling his eyes.
Somehow, he finished dinner, aware of Chloe and Hank both watching him. The homemade strawberry cake stuck in his throat, and he gave up after three bites. “Thanks, Martha. Great dinner.”
She waved off the compliments as the other men echoed Dawson. A scrape of the chairs and then he was falling into step with the others as they headed for the bunkhouse.
His stomach curled with dread when Hank spoke his name. He had no reason to be concerned, but he had a feeling Hank wanted to discuss more than tomorrow’s chores. Pausing, he turned on his heel. “Yeah, Hank?”
“Come into my den, will you?” The invitation was an order, and they both knew it.