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COWBOY: His Rules. His Ranch. His Secrets.

TAKING CHARGE: Blazing Romance Suspense : 1

By: Maggie Carpenter
Published By: Dark Secrets Press
Copyright: Published by Dark Secrets Press
21 Chapters / 56,599 words
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SPARKS AT FIRST SIGHT. SIZZLING SUSPENSE. HELP FROM BEYOND...?

Carly Kincaid, a smart and sassy dark-haired cowgirl, is in serious trouble with her sexy new boss. Though it's possible she'll be spanked, there are worse things than the handsome cowboy smacking her butt. Just the thought is making her toes curl.
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Keith Parker, a take-charge passionate man, is leading a secretive double life and Carly is asking too many questions, but when she's involved in a near-death accident his feelings for her surge to the surface, and a spate of bizarre events causes him to question his choices.

But danger is lurking in the shadows. A past antagonist bent on revenge has found his ranch.

Over four extraordinary days, Dream Horse Ranch sees mystery, drama, salacious sex and odd occurrences. If you believe in love at first sight, and the possibility of help from beyond the grave, mount up and hold on tight. COWBOY is for you.

Brought to you by Maggie Carpenter, Winner 2015 and 2016 Spanking Romance Reviews: Contemporary Western

Lose yourself in the passion and thrills at Dream Horse Ranch. Click the link today.

PLEASE NOTE: THIS BOOK IS STAND-ALONE AND HEA. It contains graphic sex and spanking. If such material offends you please don't buy this book.

PROLOGUE

 

Carly Kincaid turned her 1934 renovated Ford pickup off the country road and drove down the wide lane towards the imposing wrought iron gates. Two huge stone horse heads sitting on the tall pillars at either side, their mouths open and their eyes wide, stared down at her as she pulled to a stop and lowered her window. As she pushed the only button on the call box she felt a flurry of nerves. Working on a small ranch in the middle of nowhere may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it was her dream job.

“Yes?”

“Hi, it’s Carly Kincaid.”

“Drive up to the house, park next to the truck and come to the front door.”

“Thank you.”

The massive gates swung open, and as the road took her up a gentle slope the single story home came into view. It was a picture book log cabin, except it wasn’t a cabin. The sprawling home on the knoll was surrounded by manicured gardens, and she imagined the view overlooking the sprawling ranch below would be spectacular. As she drew closer she could see the portico, then she spotted the gleaming late model black truck to the side of the garage in what appeared to be a parking area. Rolling to a stop next to it, climbing from her eye-catching automobile, she was met by a surprisingly cold breeze, and grabbing her leather satchel she walked swiftly to the front door. Before she had time to ring the bell it opened, and an attractive middle-aged woman smiled a greeting.

“Good afternoon, please come in.”

Walking inside Carly glanced around the large foyer and into the room beyond. Cowhide rugs sat on a dark tile floor, paintings of western scenes hung on the walls, and a life-sized antique wooden indian with a full feathered headdress was standing against the step-down entrance into the lounge.

“Wait here, please.”

Standing in the quiet foyer Carly commanded her heart to stop hammering. Her resume had landed her the interview and she didn’t want to blow it by being a nervous wreck.

“Mr. Parker will see you now.”

Looking down the wide hallway she could see the woman waiting, and as she hurried forward the woman gestured for her to enter a wide arched doorway. The man behind the desk was reading something, but she could see his wide shoulders and powerful muscles beneath the rolled up shirt sleeves. She heard the door close behind her, and she paused, not sure if she should sit down or wait to be invited, but her thoughts were suddenly interrupted when he raised his head. He was the most gorgeous man she’d ever seen. His eyes were smokey brown, his lips amazingly full, and his handsome features would make any male model envious.

“Carly Campbell, I’m Keith Parker. Have a seat.”

His voice matched his drop-dead good looks. It was deep and husky, and she was grateful for the invitation. Her knees were feeling weak. 

“Tell me why I should hire you?”

The question took her by surprise, as did the answer that unexpectedly sprang from her lips.

“Because you won’t find anyone better.”

Breaking into a broad grin he leaned across the desk.

“How could you possibly know that?”

“That’s a better question. Sorry, that sounded rude. I didn’t mean for it to be.”

“No, don’t apologize, I like your moxie, and you’re right. My second question was better. Do you have an answer?”

“I do. I’m all about the horse. If I’m tired but the horse needs something, my break has to wait. If there’s an unexpected blast of icy rain or snow and I don’t think the blanket is warm enough I’ll trudge through the weather to change it. You may find a better rider, or a person with more experience, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find someone as completely dedicated to a horse’s welfare as I am.”

“That’s about the finest response to an interview question I think I’ve ever heard, at least in the horse business, and I can tell you meant every word.”

“Thank you, and I did.”

“You do realize there’s nothin’ much to do around here after the barn door is closed. The town’s small, no night life to speak of, though I hear folks gather in the diner or the tavern down near the river. You sure you’re not gonna get bored?”

“If I wanted a night life I wouldn’t be looking to get away from the city. All I want is to be around horses in an environment that suits them, and by that I mean wide open spaces, owners who care about them, who call a vet out when—”

“You can stop right there,” he declared, holding up his hand. “That’s exactly the kinda attitude I’ve been lookin’ for.”

“I’m so pleased to hear that. When I read through the information packet you sent me, how you feed and the training schedule and how things work here I thought it sounded great.”

“You gotta horse of your own?”

“Winston. He’s a big grey warmblood. He’s a retired show horse and he’s a dream. I ride him in a halter.”

“I’ll just bet you do,” he murmured, tilting his head to the side. “Sandy, that’s the girl who’s leavin’, she’s a lot like you. She’s been here two years and I’ll be real sorry to see her go.”

“May I ask why she’s leaving?”

“She’s gone and got herself pregnant, and she’ll be hitched in a month or so.”

“To someone local?”

“Yep. Carly, I think you’re just the person to take over for her, but I’d like you to stay here for a couple of days and make sure it’s what you think it is, and I’d also like to see if you and I and Andy, he’s my manager and trainer, are a fit. If things work out you’d be livin’ in a cabin near the barn. Sandy’s already moved in with her fiancé so you can try it on for size.”

“That’s exactly what I should do, and thanks for the opportunity.”

“How far did you have to drive to get here?”

“About three hours.”

“Three hours. That’s not next door. Here’s what I’m gonna do. I’ll have Elsie bring you some coffee and somethin’ to eat, and I want you to sit in the livin’ room by the fire and read through a detailed description of the job, and even more important, my list of rules. There’s no sense you drivin’ all the way home and all the way back here without knowin’ what’s expected.”

“That sounds good. Thank you, I’d like that very much.”

“Take your time. Elsie will check on you from time to time, and when you’re ready she’ll bring you back here. Any questions?”

“How many horses do you have here, and what’s the turnaround like?”

“I never have more than ten. When one sells I’m never in a hurry for the next one, but it usually happens pretty quick.”

“When I read the size of the stalls you have I can understand why you’d have to limit the number to ten.”

“Horses need to move but I don’t like them out in bad conditions. If they have to be stuck inside because of a blizzard they need space. I don’t get why people don’t understand that.”

“I know, right? That’s another reason I had to get out of the city. Everyone has their horse locked in a stall and they think it’s okay. That’s just a fancy name for a cage. It’s mean, at least in my book.”

“You and I are on the same page about that,” he said firmly, opening a desk drawer and withdrawing a folder. “Here you go. If you have any concerns make sure you voice them. We’ll either work them out or we won’t.”

“Thank you,” she said, rising to her feet and accepting the folder.

“What do you have in that satchel?”

“Photographs, some references, and more DVD’s of me riding. I know I sent you some but I thought I’d bring more in case.”

“Leave them here. I’ll take a look.”

Opening the worn leather bag she pulled out a bulky envelope and placed it on this desk.

“Go to that front room off the foyer. Elsie will see you there.”

“Thank you, Mr. Parker.”

“May as well start callin’ me Keith.”

“Thank you, Keith,” she said with a smile, and as she turned and left his office an unexpected thought flashed through her head. Keith and Carly. It had a nice ring to it.

Delighted by the turn of events she walked down the hallway and into the inviting living room. A grouping of easy chairs in front of a natural rock fireplace beckoned, and she settled into the one nearest the wooden slab coffee table. Opening the folder she found more pages than she’d expected, and deciding to start with the job description she began to read. It was only a few minutes later that the woman who had greeted her at the door walked in carrying a tray offering a thermos with a label stating it was coffee, a small jug of cream, sugar, a sandwich and a few cakes.

“I wasn’t sure what you’d like but I made some fresh tuna fish salad this morning. It’s quite popular with the boys and I promise it’s light on the mayo.”

“Thank you. I love tuna sandwiches.”

“Keith said you’d driven three hours to get here, so I figured you might have a bit of an appetite.”

“I’ve been on a few job interviews but never one like this.”

“We’re pretty close-knit in this place. It’s important we take care of each other. I’ll be back to check on you in a bit.”

It had been an interesting comment, but not giving it a great deal of thought and surrendering to her hunger pangs, Carly devoured the sandwich and downed two cups of coffee before returning to the paperwork.

The job description was precisely what she’d thought it would be, and she moved on to the rules. No smoking on the ranch anywhere at any time was good news. No alcohol consumption during working hours. There were various instructions about blanket care, grooming supplies and general barn guidelines, and a line about discipline for infractions being determined by Keith Parker, but the last rule was completely unexpected.

No details of the ranch or its employees to be discussed outside the property. Any deviation from this rule will result in immediate termination.

There was one more page. A confidentiality agreement. She’d had to sign one and send it in before she’d been granted the interview. This was a second one, and in complicated legal language it reiterated that no employee could relay any information about the barn, its owner or workers, to a third party at any time for any reason either during employment or after it. Breach of the contract would result in a legal action.

Carly had no problem respecting the man’s privacy, but it did seem extreme.

“How are you doing?” Elsie asked, walking into the room and interrupting her thoughts.

“Good, yes, fine, I just finished. I’m ready to see him again if he’s ready for me.”

“I’ll ask. Would you like any more coffee or can I take this away?”

“That was delicious, thank you.”

“Good, I’m glad. I’ll only be a moment.”

Rising to her feet, Carly ambled across the room to gaze out the window. As she watched the horses in their paddocks, some playing, some quietly grazing, she didn’t care why the man was so secretive about himself and his ranch. This was where she wanted to work. She was sure it was a fit.

“You can go in.”

Turning around she saw Elsie smiling at her. The woman seemed happy, and Carly flashed back to her earlier comment. Were pretty close-knit in this place. Its important we take care of each other. Now Carly understood. This wasn’t a city stable with people coming and going and workers changing every five minutes. It was a small, elite operation, and everyone lived on the property.

Picking up the folder and her satchel Carly left the comfortable living room and headed down the hall to the wide arched door which was now closed. She stood for a moment to gather her wits, took a breath, then knocked.

“Come in.”

Pushing it open she closed it behind her, and moving quickly across to the desk, she sat down and looked at her potential new boss expectantly.

“Your videos were great, just like the ones you sent.”

“Thank you.”

“So, your thoughts?”

“I have no problem with anything I read, though I admit I’m curious about why you like to keep the ranch so…what’s the word…”

“The word is confidential, and whether you take the job or not, before you leave here you’re gonna have to sign that confidentiality agreement. I can’t stress this enough. If you end up workin’ here you’ll be goin’ into town. People will ask you questions about me, about the horses, whatever, and you don’t tell them a thing. Not one word. It might spike their curiosity a bit, but what goes on here is none of their business, nor anyone else’s. We don’t advertise our horses. There’s a handful of trainers and owners we supply, and that’s it. I only speak to people on the phone when I’m negotiatin’ price. I’m not interested in all the bullshit talk. I leave that up to Andy, he’s my manager and handles all the PR and sales. Can I be any clearer?”

“I get it. Everything is confidential. I won’t breathe a word."

“Good. Now there’s one other matter. It’s in the list of rules as a vague line. Like everything else, what I’m about to tell you doesn’t leave this office. Understood?”

“Of course.”

“If you step outside the rules I will exact a punishment.”

“Okay.”

“I haven’t told you what it is yet.”

“Surely it would depend on the rule I broke, though I can’t imagine I’ll be making it a habit.”

“Corporal discipline.”

“What?” she gasped, looking at him wide-eyed. “You can’t be serious.”

“It’s old-fashioned, but I’m an old-fashioned guy, and don’t start squawkin’ about abuse. It’s nothin’ like that. A few good swats on the ass never did anyone any harm, and it works.”

Carly could feel her face flush a deep red, and an odd feeling began to roll through her stomach.

“If you’ve got a problem with that I understand, You and I can part company with no hard feelin’s.”

“I, uh, I don’t know what to say.”

“If you don’t break the rules you don’t have to worry about it.”

“I guess that’s true,” she murmured. “How hard could it be?”

“Not hard at all. You keep to your own business, follow the posted signs, and don’t go askin’ a lotta questions. If you can do that you won’t have a problem. See how it works? Just chewin’ on the idea is an incentive to follow the rules.”

“I suppose you’re right, but this is completely unexpected. I’m not sure how I feel about it.”

“Why don’t you go home and give it some thought?”

Carly paused. She wanted the job, and she could think of worse things than having the sexy cowboy smack her ass. In fact the thought was sending an unexpected wash of moisture through her sex.

“I don’t need to. If you want me I’d love to work here.”

 

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