The Sheriff and the Cowgirl is the story of a romance that’s been a long time coming. What happens when a tenacious sheriff takes on a determined cowgirl and a champion bull?
It’s never easy to make it in a man’s world, and cowgirl Tori Tremayne has chased the same dream most of her life—producing a champion bucking bull on the pro rodeo circuit. With her prize bull Maximus, she’s so close to winning top prize in the finals this year she can taste it. She can’t afford any distractions, especially not the tall, dark and swoony sheriff she’s admired forever.
Sheriff Gray Dalton has been in love with Tori since they were kids. He doesn’t want to change Tori or derail her goals, but he does want to combine their dreams—build a life and family with her while she continues to pursue her career and passion. Gray knows he has to shake Tori up so he can step out of the friend zone she’s so determined to keep him in.
Can Gray prove to Tori that with him she can have it all—career, love and a family?
T – Tori Tremayne, a strong woman working in the man’s world of the rodeo, raising prize-winning bulls, and who’s been oblivious to Gray’s love for most of her life.
H – Happily ever after; will Tori and Gray have one?
E – Everything Tori has done to raise prize-winning bucking bulls; will it come to fruition?
S – Sheriff Gray Dalton, steadfast and true, always there for Tori whenever she needs him, and who’s been in love with Tori since he was 9 and she was 7
H – “Hope was everything, and it was certainly everything he had where she was concerned.”
E – “‘Because when a person is your everything, then nothing can ever change that… Promise me that you won’t settle for less… you will find that person who is your everything, because nothing else will matter as much in your life.’”
R – Rodeo, where Tori’s bulls buck off nearly every bull rider who tries his hand on them
I – “‘I remember the day you told everyone what you intended to do with your life, when they were so skeptical. You said you had to do it because your mom always told you to follow your heart and you wouldn’t regret it.’”
F – “‘Fearing something just made it worse than it started out to be.’” – words of wisdom from Tori’s late mother
F – Four-T Ranch, where Tori and her brothers (featured in books 1-3 of the Tremaynes of Texas series) raise cattle and horses
A – Aunt Sal, standing as a mother figure for Tori, after Tori’s mother, father, and brother died in a storm, giving sage advice like “We all need a reminder once in a while of just what we do have when we get mired down in thinking about things… people… that we’ve lost.”
N – “‘And now, I’m looking into the future that is staring all of us in the face more and more each day. I have decisions to make. And I want to make those decisions with the person I’m going to spend the rest of my life with because they would also impact her.’”
D – Darcy, the ever-present friend and diner owner, always helping Tori and Gray move their romance along
T – Texas, of course, with its blue skies and bluebonnets, where our story takes place
H – “He knew he had left it all on the table between them. It was up to Tori to look into her heart and see if he had a place there that she was willing to share with him.”
E – “‘Nothing worth winning or having is ever easy for anyone. And you just have to hope that once you reach that top of the mountain you chose to climb, you can look where you came from and know it was worth it all.’”
C – Can Gray prove to Tori that with him she can have it all—career, love and a family?
O – “‘I owe you a lot, Maximus. You have made our Tori happy and I plan to do the same. So we’ll share her if you don’t mind.’”
W – “‘What’s your opinion, Max? What do I do about Gray? I think you like him… as well as you like any cowboy who stays off your back.’”
G – “‘Gray Dalton, from the time I was seven, you became my everything in all parts of my life. And it will be that way even after we leave this earth. Everything is all I already have with you.’”
I – “‘I love you, Tori. You are my heart, my soul, my air, my life. There is nothing I want more than to spend the rest of my life with you, in good times and in bad, healthy or not, happy or sad, whatever we face, I want to face beside you.’”
R – “The road might have been long and full of twists and turns, but they had made it to the top of the mountain together.”
L – “Tori’s happy laughter echoed in the stillness of falling snowflakes. ‘It’s snowing in Texas on our wedding day! It’s a sign, Gray… just for us. Now everything is perfect!’”
Read on for an exclusive excerpt from THE SHERIFF AND THE COWGIRL
Gray had finished his food and was working on the slice of apple pie he had ordered when the door of the diner opened, and a familiar cowboy walked into the building. He spotted Gray at the end of the counter and headed his way.
“Saw your truck outside and was surprised to see it there. I just got back into town from an auction in Amarillo. Thought I’d grab a coffee. Mind if I sit and watch you finish off that pie?”
Gray nodded. “Make yourself at home. There’s a slice left if you care to have something to go with that cup of coffee.”
“I’m trying to stay away from sweets because my wife said I need to,” he said, a grin flashing on his face. “That’s what happens when you’re married to a nurse.”
“Jamie is a very smart lady…other than her choice in husband.”
Thomas Tremayne shook his head. “I’ll give you the first part of that.” He took a sip of the coffee Darcy had set in front of him. He then gave Gray a long look. “Aren’t you supposed to be some place tonight? You’re running late. I heard that the trucks and Tori pulled into the ranch over an hour ago.”
Gray laid the fork down and took his time wiping his mouth with the napkin before it went onto the empty plate. He folded his arms and decided that he had known Thomas long enough and they had gone through some pretty tough times together, such as when Thomas’s wife had been kidnapped a few years back. They could shoot straight with each other.
“I’m glad you didn’t begin by reminding me what day of the month it is.”
“It’s the tenth.”
Gray shook his head. “You just had to do that.”
“I couldn’t help it. I take it that you’ve heard that a few times today?”
“You might say that.”
“Why do I have a feeling that something’s weighing heavy on you tonight? And that might have something to do with my sister? Since you’re here and not at the ranch to welcome her back after almost seven weeks on the road, that might be something to begin a conversation with.”
“And I think you just didn’t decide to stop in here for coffee when I’m fairly sure you’d rather be home with that pretty wife and your kids right now.”
Thomas met his straightforward gaze with one of his own. “Guess we have a standoff. But I think you best go first.”
Where did one start? Gray wasn’t sure. He didn’t even know if he had settled things in his mind. But something had to change, and the time had come. “I won’t be coming around the ranch as much as I used to do in the past.”
Thomas drew in a deep breath, then slowly released it. He seemed to be gathering his thoughts before he spoke. After a couple of minutes, he nodded. “Did you and my sister have words that I don’t know about? Possibly something to do with a speeding ticket she just got from one of your deputies with your compliments? I picked that up from Truitt when he was on the phone with me when Tori pulled into the ranch…spewing a few choice words with your name attached to them. Was this a mutual agreement?”
Gray shook his head. “I haven’t spoken with Tori in almost a month. There have been a few texts, nothing personal, and always instigated by me. But no phone calls. I guess I figured my absence really wouldn’t be noticed…at least not right away.
“After the first of the year, I was away for almost eight weeks for that training at the FBI Academy. Then she was off with the bulls for those extreme competitions. Then there were weeks of rodeos. And we might have seen each other for ten minutes in passing, coming and going. Or when I would end up writing her a ticket on her way back into town. Not exactly conducive to a relationship surviving.” Then he stopped. Another shake of his head., “What surviving? There has to be a relationship to begin with. And you really can’t have one of those with it being all one-sided. I think you know what I mean.”
“I appreciate how you’re trying to pick your words…given I’m Tori’s big brother. But keep in mind, I’m also your friend. And if anyone knows what my sister can be like, it’s me. I’ve watched you two dance around the subject since grade school. I really thought it would lead where you wanted it. But I guess I have to ask… Do you still want that till death do you part ending with my sister?”
“You’re right. It’s not that easy saying these things to anyone, let alone the brother of the woman that I…the brother of Tori. I think you know that I’ve hung on a long time. I thought I could wear her down or win her over, or she’d just realize that I was even in the room. I realized finally at Trey’s wedding, that she was proud to be the last Tremayne unmarried, and she didn’t have plans to give up that title.” Gray paused, marshaling his thoughts. “I stood by, watching her go after her dream. And I thought I was okay with it. I cheered her on. But I have to realize that I’m just becoming jealous of those bulls, and I’ve pushed aside my dreams…having a family of my own, settling down and building something for the future. If I don’t wake up, it might be too late for all of that. So I think putting some distance between our lives and being realistic about our two visions for the future, might be the best for everyone.”
Thomas didn’t look upset, or sad…or even surprised. He did look somewhat resigned.
“I can’t say that I’m totally shocked after all this time. You’ve exhibited the patience of Job more often than not. Tori’s not easy. I know that. She’s single-minded and driven. But I’m not telling you anything you don’t know. And I’m the last to get in the middle of anyone’s relationship. But I do know that if there is anyone my sister does care about and respect more than those bulls of hers, besides the members of her family, it’s you…for whatever that’s worth.”
“I appreciate that. But I’m looking for more than like and respect.”
“Have you said any of this to her? About your decision and all?”
“No. I didn’t figure it was something that could be said in a text message. After all these years, I think it deserves more than a postcard. I guess I’m looking for the right time when we are both in the same space for longer than five minutes. And dreading it at the same time.”
“Well, I wish things could be different. But I’m here anytime you want to get anything off your chest. And I don’t want this to keep you away from the family. You’ve been part of us for a long time. That’s not going to change. Understood?”
Gray nodded. “I understand and appreciate that.”
“Now, I better get home to my family. I’ll see you around.” They parted with a handshake. Thomas paid for both their bills with a grin and a wave as he stepped out the front door.
Darcy moved behind the counter. She stopped in front of Gray. “That looked like a serious conversation. And I haven’t seen that carefree smile of yours since you arrived tonight. I just hope you find it again…wherever it might be. A lot of people want that for you. And now I’ve got things to do in the kitchen before I get too sad myself. Take care, Sheriff.” She left him alone.
He did manage a half smile. Darcy McKenna was a good friend and fine lady, a beautiful one, inside and out. She’d make some man happy. Why couldn’t he have fallen for her? That would have been too easy. From the moment he had looked into Tori’s blue eyes, the color of a spring Texas sky, he had been blind to any other female. Tori Tremayne had said hello and he had handed her his heart.
What were the odds of finding your soul mate at such a young age? And he had never strayed from that belief. Whenever he had gotten too serious, Tori would skitter away, treat it lightly, and laugh it off. At age fifteen for Tori and seventeen for him, they had shared their first “real” kiss at the homecoming dance. They both had seemed shocked at the intensity of it. And Tori had transformed before his eyes. She wasn’t so standoffish. In fact, she hadn’t been opposed to them being more than friends after that. Yet, she let him know that nothing was more important than achieving her dreams of raising championship bucking bulls and winning on the national stage. And he had done his best to support her in that.
But he finally had to admit that things had just become too predictable…and too one-sided. Each time over the last year, whenever he had tried to get the time from her to sit down and have a talk about what future they might have together, she had something else to focus on. Something else with the rodeo business. Something to research on her bull genetics program. And points to chase with Maximus. Gray had simply realized that maybe their time had come and gone. So, he made the toughest decision of his life.
Gray stood and drew his hat down on his forehead. He nodded to Darcy through the window into the kitchen. Several patrons spoke on his way out. Standing outside on the sidewalk, he breathed in the night air. Summer was ending. Fall was in the air. Change was coming. And his heart needed to shield itself from the heartache that was inevitable.
(C) Debra Holt, Tule Publishing, 2021. Shared with permission from the author.
The Tremaynes of Texas #4
What happens when a tenacious sheriff takes on a determined cowgirl and her champion bull?
It’s never easy to make it in a man’s world, and cowgirl Tori Tremayne has chased the same dream most of her life—producing a champion bucking bull on the pro rodeo circuit. With her prize bull Maximus, she’s so close to winning top prize in the finals this year she can taste it. She can’t afford any distractions, especially not the tall, dark and swoony sheriff she’s admired all her life.
Sheriff Gray Dalton has been in love with Tori since they were kids. He doesn’t want to change Tori or derail her goals, but he does want to combine their dreams—build a life and family with her while she continues to pursue her career and passion. Gray knows he has to shake Tori up so that he can step out of the friend zone she’s so determined to keep him in.
Can Gray prove to Tori that with him she can have it all—career, love and a family?
About Debra Holt
Born and raised in the Lone Star state of Texas, Debra grew up among horses, cowboys, wide open spaces, and real Texas Rangers. Pride in her state and ancestry knows no bounds and it is these heroes and heroines she loves to write about the most. She also draws upon a variety of life experiences including working with abused children, caring for baby animals at a major zoo, and planning high-end weddings (ah, romance!).
Debra’s real pride and joys, however, are her son, an aspiring film actor, and a daughter with aspirations to join the Federal Bureau of Investigation. (more story ideas!) When she isn’t busy writing about tall Texans and feisty heroines, she can be found cheering on her Texas Tech Red Raiders, or heading off on another cruise adventure. She read her first romance…Janet Dailey’s Fiesta San Antonio, over thirty years ago and became hooked on the genre. Writing contemporary western romances, is both her passion and dream come true, and she hopes her books will bring smiles…and sighs… to all who believe in happily-ever-after’s.