Excerpt from The Reluctant Cattleman (Colter Sons Book 1)
When I reined in the mare near the house, Mrs. Colter was the first to greet me.
“Afternoon!” she said to me. Then she turned to the dark-haired young man next to her. “Sam, help her down.”
The redheaded young man frowned. Clearly, he hoped to be chosen for the task.
As Sam came over, I unhooked my leg from the leading pommel and slid toward the back of the saddle as he held the reins. He looped the reins over the porch rail. Then he lifted his hands. After adjusting my skirt so it would not catch on anything, I slid down. His hands grasped my small waist as I rested my hands on his shoulders.
My heart fluttered as I looked into his brilliant blue eyes, more radiant than a cloudless Arizona sky. His hands remained on my waist, and I quite enjoyed it. I took a quick breath and caught the scent of cedar. Perhaps he stored his clothes in a cedar-lined wardrobe, I wondered.
Still, he didn’t release my waist. I didn’t push him away.
“Hello, Sam,” I said. My voice sounded soft to me.
His gaze did not leave mine. He must be a man with a rich inner voice, one who observed intently and said nothing.
How long we stared at each other became awkward. I was in no hurry to move. Neither was he.
“Sam,” his mother said. “Why don’t you escort our guest inside?”
Finally, words escaped his lips.
“Ma’am.” The address sounded natural for him. Some aspect of it seemed out of place with his nice suit. It was something a cowboy might say, and he definitely did not look like a cowboy.
Then he let go of my waist, offered me his arm, and led me inside their home. The redheaded young man held the door open, and we walked past him without acknowledging him.
“Would you care for some lemonade?” Mrs. Colter asked.
“Yes, thank you,” I said as I dropped my hand from Sam’s arm. My breathing finally returned to normal. Right then, my stomach growled loud enough for half the county to hear. Heat warmed my cheeks, and I chastised myself again for not eating lunch.
“I can fix up some sandwiches, too. Boone just got home, and I’m sure he’s famished.”
I surmised Boone must have been the redhead. He drop-ped my things on the floor by the door.
“I’ll go take care of your horse after I see to mine,” Boone said.
Sam held a chair out for me, and I took a seat at the long oak table. Ten ladder-back chairs surrounded the table. I had not asked Paul how many children the Colters had. Judging by the number of chairs, they might have a large family.
“I really appreciate your hospitality, Mrs. Colter.”
“Please, call me Hannah.”
I thanked her as she set the lemonade in front of me.
“And just who are you?” Sam found his voice.
“Oh, I’m sorry. I am Ellie Mae Thatcher, the journalist. You know, E. M. Thatcher.”
All hint of softness left Sam’s face as a frown replaced it. I took a deep breath as the news of my identity hung in the air like a thick cloud of smoke.