When the cute cowboy, Dalton shows up on Herschel's steps for a job, he hired him the old fashioned way with just a handshake. Herschel knows Dalton has a secret but doesn't want to push him away. He figures in time Dalton will tell him.
Dalton thinks his secret is unforgivable and doesn't want to run from Herschel. But just when he decides to tell Herschel, Dalton gets a call that could change everything.
Just a Cowboy is a good western romance. It is fast-paced, has well-written characters and an interesting plot.
I liked the slow building romance between Dalton and Herschel, but then again the May-December trope and cowboys are two of my favorites wrapped up in one. Add in Julia Talbot's writing style, and it's a win all the way around. Dalton reminded me of the colts he was breaking, skittish but sweet.
I can't wait for more in this series.
If you like cowboys, older men/younger men, slow building romance, friends to lovers, boss/worker, and some hot man-sex, this is for you.
HERSCHEL DAMNED near forgot about Dalton over the next two weeks. It was chile season in southern New Mexico, and even if you didn’t grow the damned things, they affected you if you was in agriculture. Which Herschel emphatically was.
Who’d have thought a rodeo man like him would settle in and take over for his sister when she broke her leg? She’d wanted to give up the land and move to town, and Hersch just couldn’t let it go that easy.
You had to watch your land good and hard, not just for the trucks, but for migrant workers who didn’t want to go home, for rustlers who thought chile-chopping time was the best time to steal cattle, and for any number of other bullshit troubles.
It was also time for another alfalfa cutting.
Lord, but he was busy as a one-legged butt kicker, and so were all his boys.
They’d been working their heinies off for two weeks when the worst of the harvest was finally over, and everywhere you went in Doña Ana County, you’d cry due to the scent of roasting peppers. Herschel let the men draw straws or volunteer who would stay at the ranch and do chores, and then gave the rest a long weekend.
They deserved to go into Cruces or El Paso and blow off some steam.
That was when he met up with Dalton Crealy again, at the barn when he went down to do the feeding.
He saw the kid over by Licorice’s stall, murmuring low while he poured water into the big plastic bucket by the hinge.
“Lord, son,” Herschel said, making Dalton jump. “I thought you’d be headed to town. Didn’t old Doug offer to stay?”
Come to that, he could call in a favor from old friends like Tate and get someone else to come help with the chores.
“He did stay.” Grinning, the kid patted Lick’s nose. “He twisted his ankle pretty bad this morning, though. Tripped over Patches.”
Patches was the ranch hands’ adopted mutt, and a clumsier mess of beagle and cocker spaniel never existed.
“Well, you don’t have to stay.” Hell, he would be itchin’ to get to town about now if he was Dalton’s age and looked that good to the girls.
Not that Herschel had ever given two figs about the girls.
“Hey, I’m the new guy. I ain’t no rodeo hotshot. I know how a ranch works. Fair is fair.”
Herschel stared a moment at the lifted chin and the straight shoulders. Then he nodded. “All right, then. I tell you what. I got a couple good steaks up at the house. I’ll help you feed, and you can keep me company while I eat.”
“That sounds nice.” One red eyebrow went up, almost touching the brim of the old gimme cap the kid wore. “Unless you’d rather have Doug or Lindo up.”
“Shit, no. Doug eats anything like a potato or beans and he’s a fart machine, and God knows Lindo and I have traded all the stories we’re going to. I don’t know all your stories yet.”
The kid’s shoulders rounded up a bit. “I’m not sure my story is any good, but I’ll be happy to eat with you.”
“Well, good.” There was something about the set of Dalton’s mouth that told Herschel there was a serious story in there somewhere, at least as far as the kid was concerned. Everything seemed so much more dramatic when you were under thirty. Once you crossed the big three-oh, you started to worry less what people thought and started doing what you wanted to do.
Least that was what Herschel told himself. Some days he didn’t believe it for a minute. Some days it worked in his head just like a charm.
And some days he actually managed to make his head and everything else match up.
“Come on, son.”
They did the feeding, and Dalton pitched in good and hard, working his ass off. The more he saw of the kid, the more he liked. They headed up to the house, and his border collie, Daisy, nosed up alongside them, having finished her rounds.
“Hey, baby. Who’s a good girl, huh?”
“She sure works the cows, man,” Dalton said, reaching down to rub Daisy’s ears.
“She’ll start herding me, I don’t give her work to do,” Herschel agreed, grinning. He’d had Daisy since she was a pup, and her herding instinct was amazing. Course he also had the laziest bloodhound imaginable up at the house, whose hunting instinct had been stunted at birth or some such.
Bandit moved from one end of the couch to another and called it exercise. Silly mutt. Lord.
“How’s the alfalfa coming, man?” Dalton asked, hands hanging in his back pockets.
“Okay. Joe’s good at that kind of work.” Herschel had a manager for the crop part of the operation, as he really preferred to do the cattle.
“Yeah. He’s a decent guy. You’ve got yourself a good spread here, man.” The kid sounded wistful, and Herschel just figured he was the kind of guy who wanted his own place someday.
“You set to inherit any land?”
“Who, me?” Dalton laughed, the sound like a carrot over a grater. “Hell, no. Maybe I’ll save up enough to get me a few acres someday.”
“I bet you will. It’s not hard to save when you got nothing depending on you and you’re not losing it at the rodeo all the damned time.”
“Don’t hold with the rodeo?” Dalton asked, one eyebrow winging up when Herschel glanced over.
“I got nothing against it. Hell, I was on tour until just a few years ago. Still love to go watch, but it ate a lot of my money when I was younger.”
“Yeah. My dad was a bareback rider.” Dalton shrugged. “It cost us a lot too.”
Oh yeah. There was definitely a story there. Maybe he’d get it over steaks. Herschel grinned. Silly old fart that he was, he was damned intrigued. He clapped Dalton on the back when they got up to the house. “Well, I hope you know how to chop salad fixings, son.”
“Yessir.” Dalton brightened up, a smile spreading those freckles out. “That I can do.”
“Well, then. We’ll get along just fine.”
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