Home > Round Up (Lost Creek Rodeo #1)

Round Up (Lost Creek Rodeo #1)
Author: Rebecca Connolly

 

Round Up

Chute Boss

Rough Stock

Full Rigged

Half Hitch

Ace High

 

 

There was nothing worse than a cold rain down your neck.

Ryan Prosper growled in irritation as he tugged on the post he was out in this mess to fix, water dripping from the brim of his hat as he hefted it back into place. He shook his head as he held it there, looking down at the ground.

The post wouldn’t stay for long, not with the ground being as soggy as it was, and not with the hole being widened with its collapse. Whoever had redone the fencing last summer had royally screwed up, there was no mistaking that.

“Didn’t drive it deep enough, idiots,” he grumbled, leaving the post for a minute to head around the back of his truck. “Now I’m gonna have to shim the whole thing into place until we can get more rails and redo it. Just perfect.”

It was ridiculous, and this was not one of the things he had missed about ranch life when he’d been away. The productivity of the place, absolutely. The sense of accomplishment and purpose, without a doubt. The day-to-day care of animals, land, products—all of that he had certainly missed.

Fencing repairs, not so much.

But as the new ranch manager of Broken Hearts Ranch, such things now fell to him or one of his ranch hands.

They only had half a dozen ranch hands right now, given it was barely March. More would come in with the planting, and next week, their usual gang would return to work the horses, but there weren’t many people he could call upon to do this sort of thing for him. Any of the ranch hands who lived on site would have, but he was already out. Might as well just get it done.

Returning to the post, he jammed several thick slivers of wood alongside it, pounding them in farther still with a heavy mallet from his tool belt. He’d have given anything for a post driver to make everything more secure, but he hadn’t been that smart when he’d driven out here to check things out.

He was just supposed to take a look at things and see what the damage was after the storm last night, but he couldn’t leave a fence post down like that. The cattle could get out or cut their hooves on the barbed wires, critters could get into the pasture that he didn’t want in there, and it would make the place look more run down than he already felt it was.

Broken Hearts Ranch. More like Broken Everything Ranch.

He stepped back and looked at his handiwork, not pleased. His father would have whooped his hide for doing a job halfway, but it was good enough for beans, as the man would also have said. Besides, he’d have a guy come out later in the day or tomorrow to fix it properly, and likely examine the fence as a whole.

“Good enough,” Ryan told himself again, turning for his truck, feeling damp and chilled. He tossed his tools into the passenger seat in the cab, then slid in, slamming the door hard. Leaning his forearms on the steering wheel, he took a moment to exhale heavily.

What was he doing here?

It was a stupid question, honestly, but he kept coming back to it. Months of rehabilitation to get back his strength and prove his agility, and he was back to working the ranch he grew up on. It wasn’t a bad gig, but it wasn’t what he’d wanted.

None of it was.

But he couldn’t compete at pro-level anymore, unless he wished to be a chute boss or a clown. So he’d withdrawn from the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association.

A man could get his bell rung until he sang like a canary and come back to bronc riding with a doctor’s note. But you lose a kidney in a hooking incident with a particularly aggressive bull, and you were toast. Thank you for your time, cowboy, now hit the road.

His doctors had been a little kinder than that, but the sentiment had been the same.

Years of training and experience, waiting and hoping, busting his tail and taking names, all gone just like that.

No one would see Ryan Prosper’s name on the rodeo docket again.

Ever.

He should be grateful he’d only lost a kidney, he’d been told. He’d been close to losing all sorts of things, if not his life, the doctors said. But he had his strength now, the remaining functional organs, and his life, and he’d gotten used to having them all back. It wasn’t that he was ungrateful to have those things.

He had just lost the passion of his life, and no amount of rehabilitation, physical therapy, or bribery could get it back for him.

If it hadn’t been for Kellie, he’d have been worse off.

His sister had been as torn up about his rodeo news as he had been, given she was his biggest fan and number one supporter. His first circuit in college, she’d had Team Ryan shirts made up for the family, every one of whom had turned out for the show. Rodeo was in his blood, and having that taken away was a brutal loss.

The very next day, she’d come to him with a job offer, paperwork and all.

Broken Hearts Ranch was hers, but it was getting too big to run alone, she’d insisted.

All because of her little side project.

The side project that had become bigger than the ranch itself, come to think of it. He was probably getting his wages out of the admission fees.

He’d balked when he’d first heard what she wanted to do with the ranch once she’d taken it over. A women’s retreat on a ranch? He’d even teased her about ladies sipping wine on the sofas while the cows roamed free, which had earned him a solid bruise on his arm.

He knew better now. He could see the good she was doing, and he was proud of it.

Women who’d had their lives completely upended, mostly by no fault of their own, came to their ranch to find themselves and start again. They worked on the land, they made the jams, they fed the animals, and did any other tasks they were willing to take on. Kellie had created a very particular list of options, and no one had to do more than they felt capable. Some of the ladies he’d seen come through here, just in the short time he'd been back, had a work ethic that could school him, which had shut up any and all snarky comments he could make.

Kellie was rebuilding lives on her side of things. The least he could do was rebuild the ranch itself.

Nodding to himself, as this pep talk always seemed to make him do, he shifted the truck into gear and turned around, heading back for the homestead. The gravel took care of the water on the main roads, but the side roads would be miserable. He’d need to have boards laid out in bad places, or there would be hell to pay.

Rain in Texas wasn’t unusual, but it sure was a pain in the behind.

He pulled into the circle drive of the homestead, heading over to the grass to keep out of the way, as usual. He couldn’t keep track of arrivals and departures, and his regularly filthy truck would not be a welcoming sight for anyone.

Why they had to pretend to be fancier than they were on this ranch, he’d never know. Dirt was dirt, and mud was mud, and high-maintenance guests would have a wakeup call being here. Maybe they should have tried a retreat down in the Bahamas or some such if they couldn’t handle the look of his truck.

Scowling at the insult nobody had given him, Ryan shut the truck off and got out, moving around the side of the house to the kitchen door rather than the main entrance.

Muddy boots weren’t allowed in the front.

Whatever.

He stepped inside and removed his hat, tossing it into the antique chair in the corner, as he always did. “Kells?” he called out, rubbing his hands together. “Kellie?” When there was no answer, he whistled.

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