Cowboy Wants Her Heart
Meet Rory and Alfie - the third of three hot couples from my Heartlands Series.
Shy Kiwi heiress Alfrieda Hamlin is reduced to shocked silence when her hateful grandfather announces she’s to marry within a month – to a man she’s never met. Then she yells blue murder because there’s no way she’ll give her body to a stranger, or have her expected freedom and inheritance stolen away.
Exiled from his family for half his life, hard-living cowboy Rory Morrissey has been offered a deal: quit Texas, return to his birthplace, and embark on the delicate mission of convincing Alfie to take him as her husband. This will earn him a fresh start, respectability, and the chance of one hell of a farm.
Rory has murder in his background and nothing to lose by accepting the challenge. The girl could be bearable. Perhaps they can outwit the old man and split things amicably? Or maybe hell will freeze over first…
Alfie might be shy but she’s no pushover. When she learns about the succession deal being hatched between her autocratic grandfather and the handsome Texan stud, she rebels. With only one month to outwit the scheming duo, she throws caution to the wind and snuggles up to the man she’s been ordered to marry. After all, she needs to know her enemy if she expects to beat him at his own game.
Warning: Contains one hunky cowboy determined to ride down his heiress, hog-tie her, and bundle her into his bed.
4.0 out of 5 stars New Zealand - Land of Questionable Critters June 12, 2014
By Sebella Blue
This book was a big, fat paradox, both incredibly sweet and unbelievably sexy at the same time. Alfie couldn't have been any greener if she had been raised by nuns. Despite the fact that she works with livestock and is well aware of what goes where.
Rory, the ex-pat Kiwi, who now hails from Texas, actually saved Alfie when a cave weta fell down her shirt. For this he deserves all the sex, and land that he could ever want. Not only did he remove the weta, he put it back in the cave so that it wouldn't die in the sunlight. I love this cowboy. With all his shucks, and darlings, he was just too, too yummy. He was also a very dirty cowboy, and I'm not talking trail dust, nosireebob! He gives Alfie some hands on training in animal husbandry. *snort*
This was a well written, quick but satisfying romance. I think the whole weta incident pretty much put the kibosh on any future trips to New Zealand, so I guess I'll have to rely on more books from Kris to satisfy my wanderlust. Nice, job, Ms. Pearson, I enjoyed the ride.
Chapter One — A Dinner Guest
Rory Morrissey soared above the property like a hawk, inspecting Glenleighton with eyes as keen as lasers. He leaned further forward in the cockpit and his heart rate kicked up another notch with pure exhilaration. The noise of the Cessna’s engine faded to nothing.
Old Alfred Hamlin’s photographs hadn’t done it justice. In the early evening light the estate seemed wrapped in magic—magic and money. Emerald lawns and undulating gardens surrounded the huge old timber house. Prime grazing land stretched as far as he could see on either side, the grass bleached gold in the height of summer. Plantations and native forest climbed the higher hills. And the Pacific Ocean tossed and twinkled, dead ahead.
He’d been away from New Zealand for sixteen long years. Finally he’d come home.
A fierce hunger to be master of Glenleighton settled deep in his gut, gnawing and churning, eating like acid.
He had to have it. It would go a long way toward recompensing him for his banishment and the subsequent loss of his rightful inheritance.
But one tiny prickle of unease danced down his spine. There’d been no photo of the granddaughter. How intolerable would she be?
Alfie Hamlin rubbed her temples as she heard the small plane approach, then veer away, then turn again. It wasn’t Tony Robinson’s helicopter. And wouldn’t be an aerial top-dressing contractor at this time of day.
Could it be their dinner guest checking the place over? Her unease grew stronger. Something was up. Something bad. She could feel it as clearly as she could see her own reflection in the mirror.
She’d known about Rory Morrissey for several years. Her grandfather had made sure of that with occasional gruff references to his abilities. Now Rory had returned from Texas, and been invited to dinner. Mrs Addison, the housekeeper, had spent the day on a short fuse. Why? It made sense if they were having a dinner party, but he was the only guest. The edgy feeling tickling along Alfie’s nerves grew ever stronger.
Earlier, when she’d collected her grandfather’s afternoon tea cup and saucer from his study, Alfie had been on the very point of daring to ask what was behind the invitation. But at that instant he’d stopped searching through the big bookcase full of farming magazines and skewered her with one of his disparaging glares.
“Get out of those bloody jeans for once and make yourself look like a woman tonight,” he’d demanded before he hustled her away and closed the door in her astounded face.
What had she done to deserve that? He’d never objected to her wearing jeans while she slogged around the farm for him.
Now she regarded herself doubtfully in the long mirror of her childhood bedroom and pulled a ferocious face.
Would Grandpa consider a blue denim skirt and a new black polo shirt womanly enough for the unknown Rory? Probably not.
Sighing, she stepped out of the skirt, yanked the shirt off over her head, tossed them both on the bed, and stood there defeated.
The plane’s engine noise increased as it made another pass, much nearer this time. Alfie flinched, and gathered her cascade of newly washed hair into a high ponytail, snapping a rubber band on with the ease of long practice. Then she unhooked her bra and slid into the thin-strapped turquoise bridesmaid’s dress from cousin Kate’s wedding in Queenstown. She returned to the mirror and stood twisting from side to side. The skirt swirled around her thighs, and she enjoyed the sensation of the soft fabric whispering over her skin. But the bodice was wrong. The summer V of tanned skin at her neckline looked odd against the paler skin of her breasts and shoulders.
No doubt Grandpa would be displeased. He mostly was. After dabbing on her usual sun-block lip gloss and pulling on flat white sandals, she muttered a soft curse and ran full tilt along the oak panelled top gallery and down the very grand main staircase of Glenleighton homestead.
The plane had touched down on the airstrip. Alfie slunk through the open kitchen doorway and out into the garden to watch in edgy astonishment as their dinner guest prowled away from it. And prowled was the only word that seemed right.
Long legs strode across the pasture. His head turned this way and that, inspecting everything around him as though he was a big dark cat on a hunt. She imagined he was lifting his nose, sniffing the air.
He was in no hurry.
Wraparound sunglasses shielded his eyes against the brilliance of the lowering sun, and his partly shadowed face added to his mystery. But Alfie could clearly see his inky hair—brutally short at the sides, but longer on top where it gleamed like jet.
He was wearing exactly what she’d been forbidden to; jeans and a black shirt. How unfair was that?
They were very close fitting black jeans, riding low on his narrow hips. The western-style shirt stretched snugly around his chest and shoulders, and the angle of the light made him look as though his upper body had been carved from black granite. Hard. Unyielding.
As he passed the rhododendron thicket where she’d scrambled to conceal herself, all the tiny hairs on her bare arms rose up, then those on her nape and scalp. The tight rubber band on her ponytail screamed to be looser.
Suddenly the plane’s engine revved again and it wheeled about to face into the breeze, gathered speed along the airstrip, and soared away. So he hadn’t flown himself to Glenleighton? How would he get home?
She stayed hidden, her hand clamped over her mouth until he’d gone by. When she dared to draw breath again, she found she could smell him. A new expensive earthy scent hung in the evening air. She sampled him slowly. Dark spices and exotic green freshness, like she imagined the jungle would smell. Deep and dangerous and full of secrets.
She turned to track his silent purposeful progress along the sloping walkway that led to the homestead lawns, and once he was well clear she followed him, watching and wondering.
His lazy paces ate up the distance. She sensed the play of strong streamlined muscles and taut sinews beneath the dark denim of his jeans. Well used to evaluating animal flesh, Alfie instinctively judged him a thoroughbred of prime quality. Ideal breeding stock.
And as that unnerving thought hit her, she saw her big silver-bearded grandfather stumping down the front steps and across the lawn, one arm outstretched as if offering to take their visitor’s overnight bag. She bobbed down out of sight behind the rose border.
“Rory, my boy—welcome, welcome,” she heard him boom.
So this is the girl?
Rory fought to keep his curiosity from showing as she slid, eyes downcast, into the gracious old sitting room. The dry-pine smell of the recent Christmas tree was overpowering, and he was trying not to sneeze.
The grandfather immediately abandoned his small talk, heaved himself to his feet, and began introductions. “Rory, may I present my granddaughter Alfreida. And this is Rory Morrissey, who you’ve heard me talk about from time to time, Alfie.”
She looked up then, and nodded politely enough to him. Offered a slim hand to be shaken. Somehow made it perfectly plain that a cousinly kiss on the cheek would not be acceptable. And bent to pet the big grey cat which had stalked into the room with her.
Rory burned at her cool rebuff. She hadn’t even spoken to him.
“You have a lot to do with the animals here, I guess?” he drawled, just to get a reaction.
“She’s called Dorothy,” the girl replied without looking at him again.
So—a soft husky voice that strummed over his nerve endings like a flick from a chiffon scarf. But her aloof attitude just begged to be tamed. “I meant the bigger animals.”
That brought her eyes up to his. Clear blue-green eyes, fringed with dark lashes, each tipped with gold. She straightened with noticeable reluctance.
“We run mixed beef-and-sheep mostly. Angus cattle—the black ones. We’re not a dairy farm.”
“No, I know that.”
She gave a ‘why-did-you-ask’ kind of shrug and looked down at the cat again.
Rory decided she was a bad mannered little bitch, undoubtedly spoiled from the day she’d been born.
He studied her, knowing old Alfred Hamlin was studying him in turn.
She was tall. Slender. Badly dressed in a shiny frock that seemed strangely formal, and sandals with leaf mould clinging to them. He amused himself by imagining her long blonde ponytail freed and falling down her back in a soft wavy mass. Definitely an improvement. The dress had narrow straps; her arms were bare and lithely muscled. He wanted to take her by the elbows and shake her so he had her full attention. This was too important to mess up.
Still ignoring him, she bent again to stroke the cat as it wound around her legs, and he was granted an unexpected view of gorgeous breasts—a total surprise after her standoffish greeting.
His groin prickled and he ruthlessly squashed the sensation. But it was good to know she turned him on. It could only help later.
Frosty. Gauche. Spoiled. Not ideal qualities for a wife, but by God he’d take her to get Glenleighton Estate.
“Champagne!” old Alfred barked, heading for the gleaming mahogany sideboard where there was an opened bottle gussied up with a white napkin around its neck. He took it from its resting place in a silver bucket of rattling ice cubes and began to pour with a less than steady hand into three waiting flutes.
Rory drew a deep breath, grateful to have a distraction from those enticing breasts, and nearly sneezed as the Christmas tree scent hit him again. “Thought you’d be a whisky man, Alfred?”
“Any other day, yes. But we always celebrate with champagne at Glenleighton.”
“Celebrate?” the girl asked, still stroking the cat.
“It’s not every day we have a visitor from the other side of the world. Drink up, drink up. You too Alfie—leave that disgusting beast alone. Make an effort to be sociable, for heaven’s sake.”
She ignored the insult with a slow closing of her deep-lagoon eyes. “Dorothy’s almost due to have kittens.”
This time she looked up at Rory. The smoky voice, unfettered breasts and candid eyes made him wonder if she was in on the plan. Did she know she was part of a hellish bargain? Was this her way of showing him she might be worth having?
He watched as she straightened and walked across to take her champagne. It was an easy graceful walk, but she kept her eyes cast down as though trying not to annoy her grandfather further.
He sensed very little affection evident between them. Although she seemed a spoiled princess, plainly Alfred hadn’t done the spoiling. So who?
“Have you always lived here?” he asked.
Another reserved nod.
“Speak up, girl.”
“Sorry Grandpa.” She flicked a glance toward the old man and then turned back to Rory. “Yes, always.”
“But you went away to school?”
“No, I was home-schooled.”
Old Alfred cleared his throat.
“To university then?”
She looked horrified at that. “No, I’ve always worked on the estate. With the animals.”
“Alfreida may have lived a sheltered life here but her education was not neglected,” the grandfather insisted, wagging his huge grizzled head. “Her world is as big as anyone else’s.”
Rory nodded at that somewhat defensive comment. The old boy was quite a salesman, and seemed keen that his plotting bore fruit.
“You’re very lucky to live in such a wonderful place,” Rory said, moving a little closer to her and raising his drink a fraction in a semi salute.
"Yes, I know." She backed away a half step.
Rory still a teenager in Texas. Younger Alfie and Westwind.
The story behind the book
It had a long birth, this one! I originally wrote the first few pages for a competition. It did well. So I took them to one of the Romance Writers of New Zealand conferences.There are always special early-morning reading sessions there - presided over by visiting international editors or agents. From a two page read I received a request to submit three chapters to Mills & Boon.
Okay....wrote my chapters, sent them off, didn't hear back for EIGHTEEN MONTHS. By then I'd become pretty fed up with the trad publishing system and was doing my own thing. I was busy with Christmas Holiday Hearts, so I needed to finish Ellie's story and introduce Alfie in that before I could write the rest of Cowboy Wants Her Heart.
Getting there yet? No. At about the mid-point I decided to drastically change the plot and add a piece of New Zealand history that both my parents lived through - the catastrophic 1931 Hawkes Bay earthquake. It was my mother's first day of work - the shifting paving stones nipped the heel off her only pair of high-heeled shoes. My grandfather was partly buried under his old brick engineering garage; Dad dug him out. All my family survived, but more than two hundred people didn't. The lasting legacy of this was the huge rebuild of the central area of the city of Napier. The art deco buildings are now world-famous, so this made a nice setting for the story. Here's the wonderful Masonic Hotel that Rory booked into when he began his quest for Alfie. (And where my parents spent their wedding night!)
And here are the sorts of buildings they passed on their shopping expedition.
Every February (mid-summer) Napier holds an Art Deco Festival. You can see what goes on HERE. Wonderful old cars, twenties and thirties costumes and music, an expedition on a restored steam train...
I always make a collage when I start writing a book. Here's the one I made for Cowboy Wants Her Heart. You can see a grand old country homestead as I imagined Glenleighton might look, nasty grandpa, Alfie's creative but unbalanced mother and her painting studio, and Rory aged sixteen when he was banished to Texas.