Nothing says damsel in distress like white smoke billowing from the hood of a full-sized pickup truck on the side of the road. And nothing wills a man to pull over like a nice curvy butt in jeans.

Cole Forester shot a quick glance in his rearview mirror before he decided to stop and help, taking in the length of the woman’s blonde hair falling down her back. Much to his surprise, her beautiful golden locks stopped short of her low-rise denim belt loops. He tamped down a smile, pulled over, and threw the shifter into Park.

Looks like my crappy day is finally perking up.

Sammy, his Australian Blue Heeler, barked twice and sat up on the front seat beside him. Cole noticed he no longer struggled with rising to his feet, despite the long, gruesome scar running across his hind leg from a protective mama grizzly a few months ago. Doc Peterson had said it might take as long as six months for Sammy to heal. Cole was thrilled it had taken less.

He scratched Sammy behind the ears and commanded him to stay. The dog whined once in protest but did as he was told.

Cole stepped out of the cab as he adjusted his cowboy hat. Steam still spewed from the radiator of her truck, which he noticed was a three-quarter-ton GMC with alloy wheels and a killer paint job, but the cute blonde was suddenly nowhere to be found.

He shut his truck door and pointed another warning to Sammy before walking toward her vehicle. He examined the scene. New truck. Texas plates. Matching horse trailer. And a disappearing lady in distress.

He’d heard the folks in Texas didn’t mess around. With his luck, she probably ran inside her living quarters for a gun. When he brought to mind her small stature, he couldn’t imagine one ounce of aggression in that sweet little body, much less a woman equipped to wield a firearm.

He walked around the passenger side of her truck and looked down the length of the rig behind it. By the time he peeked through the tinted cab windows, he heard the unmistakable sound of a pump-action shotgun behind him.

He froze and slowly raised his hands to shoulder level. “Easy, ma’am.”

“I’ll ease up after you get back in your truck and roll on, mister.”

Cole smiled, entertained by the woman’s bravery. At six foot five, two hundred forty pounds, he was nothing to sneeze at. And based on the good look he got of her as he drove by, he figured she couldn’t have been much taller than five foot seven.

“I don’t blame you for being cautious in this day and age, little lady, but I’m harmless.”

“Yeah, that’s what they all say.”


“Rapists and murderers.”

Cole scoffed. “Might I give you some advice? You shouldn’t hang around people like that.”

“You think you’re funny?”

He did, but was mighty glad she couldn’t see the grin on his face. She’d have pumped his butt full of lead.

“Call it a defense mechanism for having a gun pointed at my back. I’m only trying to be a gentleman.”

“Unfortunately, I don’t know you well enough to tell if you’re lying. And the longer you stand here, the more suspicious I become of your Good Samaritan act. Consider this a fair warning. I know how to use this thing, I’m far from gullible, and I have trust issues.”

You don’t say.

“Look, I couldn’t care less whether you believe me or not. But you’re not going anywhere with that radiator overheating. You need fluid in that engine, and the closest place is about ten miles up the road. It’s called the Wagon Wheel. Nice little place that serves cold drinks and hot bar food. I’m driving that way myself and wouldn’t mind giving you a lift.”

“It’s kind of you, but I’ll pass.”

“You’ll never make it without some sort of fluid to cool the engine, especially with that trailer. And it’s a long way on foot.”

“I’ve got a horse.”

“At least tell me you have a phone—”

“Got that too. Should I call the police right now?”

Cole slowly turned around and looked at his stubborn adversary. She stood with her feet spread and gripped a gorgeous Remington Model 870 Wingmaster pump-action shotgun at her shoulder like a pro, unlike a novice who’d be hip-shooting.


“Something else funny?”

He must have smiled, but he quickly erased it. “Not at all. I was just admiring your weapon of choice. Got one just like it.”

“Then you know it’s pretty lethal at close range. Not to mention it has a solid steel receiver and twin action bars for flawless cycling. It’s an American icon that will take you down in the blink of an eye.”

Cole didn’t hide his amusement this time. She’d grabbed his attention with her sweet little bod but stole his heart with her proficient knowledge of firearms.

He could almost marry her.

A picture of them standing together at an altar beneath a rustic arbor of elk antlers popped into his head. She wore a simple white sundress, cowboy boots, and a scowl, much like the look she was giving him now.

“I do,” he stated, “know all that and more about the Remington.”

“Good. Now, please don’t make me prove it.”