Saddled and spurred, p.1
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       Saddled and Spurred, p.1
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         Part #2 of Blacktop Cowboys series by Lorelei James


  Praise for the Blacktop Cowboys Novels

  “No one writes contemporary erotic romance better than Lorelei James. Her sexy cowboys are to die for!”

  —USA Today bestselling author Maya Banks

  “Lorelei James’s sassy erotic romance gives new meaning to the term ‘Wild West.’ ”

  —Lacey Alexander, author of What She Needs

  Praise for Lorelei James’s Other Novels

  “Hang on to your cowboy hats because this book is scorching hot!”

  —Romance Junkies

  “Lorelei James knows how to write fun, sexy, and hot stories.”

  —Joyfully Reviewed

  “Lorelei James excels at creating new and evocative fantasies.”

  —TwoLips Reviews

  “Incredibly hot.”

  —The Romance Studio

  “Beware: Before you read this hot erotic from Lorelei James, get a glass of ice, for you are going to need it.”

  —Fallen Angel Reviews

  “[A] wild, sexy ride.”

  —Romantic Times

  “Plenty of steamy love scenes that will have you reaching for your own hottie!”

  —Just Erotic Romance Reviews




  Published by New American Library, a division of

  Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street,

  New York, New York 10014, USA

  Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto,

  Ontario M4P 2Y3, Canada (a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.)

  Penguin Books Ltd., 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England

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  New Zealand (a division of Pearson New Zealand Ltd.)

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  Rosebank, Johannesburg 2196, South Africa

  Penguin Books Ltd., Registered Offices:

  80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England

  First published by Signet Eclipse, an imprint of New American Library, a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

  First Printing, March 2011

  Copyright © Lorelei James, 2011 All rights reserved

  SIGNET ECLIPSE and logo are trademarks of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

  Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

  James, Lorelei.

  Saddled and spurred: a blacktop cowboys novel/Lorelei James.

  p. cm

  eISBN : 978-1-101-47878-3

  1. Cattle breeders—Fiction. 2. Cowgirls—Fiction. 3. Ranch life—Wyoming—Fiction. I. Title.

  PS3610.A4475S33 2011

  813’.6—dc22 2010040087

  Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise), without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.


  This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

  The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party Web sites or their content.

  The scanning, uploading, and distribution of this book via the Internet or via any other means without the permission of the publisher is illegal and punishable by law. Please purchase only authorized electronic editions, and do not participate in or encourage electronic piracy of copyrighted materials. Your support of the author’s rights is appreciated.


  Chapter One

  “You’re firing me?” Harper Masterson stared at her boss.

  Alice Samuels, owner of the Tan Your Hide beauty emporium, jammed a darkly tanned hand through her salt-and-pepper curls. “Harper, honey, it ain’t nothin’ personal. People ain’t spending money on luxuries, like maintaining a year-round tan and buying customized facial products, when the economy is in the toilet. I gotta close up shop. Truth is, I should’ve done this a few months ago, but I knew . . .”

  That you needed the job.

  Harper bit the inside of her cheek, hard, to keep from crying—a trick she’d learned from her older sister, Liberty. “I appreciate all you’ve done for me, Alice.”

  “I know you do. You’ve still got your job at Get Nailed, right?”

  She nodded absentmindedly. She’d taken the job at Tan Your Hide last year because working part-time as a nail technician wasn’t paying the bills after the Tumbleweed Motel had closed for the season and she’d lost her job cleaning rooms. For the hundredth time Harper cursed her mother for taking off. She cursed this town for its limited opportunities. She cursed herself for the lack of schooling that would’ve given her a wider range of choices.

  “Harper? You okay? You’re awful quiet.”

  Harper glanced at Alice, but she couldn’t muster even a small smile. “I’ll be fine. What are you going to do now?”

  “Roger is coming tomorrow to load the tanning beds. I got a line on a place in Casper that wants them. I’ll keep my inventory of beauty products and sell ’em outta my house.”

  “Does the landlord have another renter lined up?” But it was probably too much for Harper to hope that another business would move into Muddy Gap, which boasted less than a dozen businesses—total.

  Alice shook her head. “I’m afraid we’ll have another empty storefront. Sad, how this town is dyin’.”

  Dying? This town had been dead since the day Harper’s mother had dragged them here. Problem was, Harper was stuck, at least for another few months, until her younger sister, Bailey, graduated from high school. Then Bailey could realize her dream of attending college. Since Bailey had been through so much in the last year and a half, Harper didn’t want to add more stress by admitting that she’d lost yet another low-paying job.

  Three months. Harper needed to find work for just a little over three months. Then they both could shake the Wyoming sage off their shoes and move on with their lives.

  She gave the space one last, wistful look. “I’ll miss this place.” She glanced at her boss, even more misty-eyed. “Mostly I’ll miss you, Alice.” Harper removed the front door key from her key ring, set it on the glass-topped counter, and snagged her winter coat from the closet.

  As Harper untangled the fringe at the end of her fuchsia scarf, Alice said, “Wait. I have something for you,” and handed her a slip of paper.

  Harper squinted at the paycheck, written out in Alice’s flowery scrawl. The amount was a hundred dollars off. She passed it back. “You made a mistake. This is too much.”

  Alice squeezed Harper’s hand. “Consider it severance pay.”

  She waffled, hating to take charity in any form, but the reality was ... she needed the cash.

  “Please,” Alice said.

  Pride wouldn’t pay the bills. “Okay. Thanks.”

  “You’re welcome.” Alice leaned in to hug Harper, enveloping her in the sce
nt of Emeraude perfume. “Take care of yourself, Miss Harper. We’ll see each other again. Muddy Gap ain’t that big.”

  And that was the biggest problem.

  The bitter January wind stung Harper’s cheeks as she trudged to the small rented cottage she called home. Numb, not only from the weather but with dismay, she went on autopilot and fixed herself a cup of tea. Donning her robe and slippers, she curled into the couch and gazed out the window as she mentally listed the businesses in Muddy Gap.

  Buckeye Joe’s, the only bar in town.

  The Horseshoe Diner, the lone restaurant in town.

  Dunlap’s, the only feed store and gas station in town.

  C-Mart, the sole convenience/grocery store in town.

  Danke Law Office.

  The Tumbleweed Motel, the only motel in town.

  Bernice’s Beauty Barn, the lone hair salon, which also housed Get Nailed, the only nail salon in town.

  McMasters Farmers Union Insurance, the only insurance agency in town.

  Wyoming First Credit Union, the only bank in town.

  The Methodist Church.

  The Lutheran Church.

  The Baptist Church.

  The Catholic Church.

  Yeah, Harper’s options were limited. Severely limited.

  Susan Williams, owner of Buckeye Joe’s, would never hire her, since Harper’s mother, Dawn, the former cocktail waitress at Buckeye Joe’s, had run off to Mexico with Susan’s husband, Mac, eighteen months ago.

  Genie Lewdonsky, owner of the Horseshoe Diner, would never hire her, since Harper beat out Genie’s only daughter, Mariah, for the title of Miss Carbon County. And homecoming queen. And prom queen. Harper’s last-minute entry in the Miss Sweet Grass contest irked Mariah—and her mother—especially after Harper won the crown.

  Bruce Dunlap, owner of Dunlap’s Feed, would never hire her, since Harper’s mother snuck off with Mac when she was supposedly “in love” and involved with Bruce.

  Ralph Doughtery, manager of the C-Mart, would hire her only if she dated him—aka bedded him. Since the man covered his bald head with a cheap toupee and his teeth resembled those fake “Billy Bob” kind found around Halloween, that wasn’t happening. Oh, and he’d run around with her skanky ho of a mother too.

  Danke Law Office was open only one day a week.

  McMasters Farmers Union Insurance was a family-run operation. Unless she married Jimbo McMasters, the fortysomething only son everyone in town suspected was gay, she couldn’t even fetch coffee for them.

  According to local gossip, Wyoming First Credit Union hadn’t hired a single new employee in the last twenty years.

  The Tumbleweed wouldn’t reopen until June.

  And she already worked for Bernice.

  Harper doubted any of the churches in town would let her heathen hands even scrub their toilets.

  Her head fell back onto the couch cushions. She stared at the dingy, rust-stained ceiling tiles. No doubt she’d have to drive to Rawlins to find work. Which could be problematic, with Bailey’s school schedule and the fact that they had only one car. Luckily Bailey was staying overnight with her friend Amy—Harper was glad Bailey wasn’t around to see her panic and distress.

  Sad that her life had always run parallel to one of those downon-her-luck country songs.

  Her cell phone jangled, startling her out of her morose musings, and she dug in her purse until she found it. “Hello?”

  “Do you have any idea how fucking boring it is driving across Texas? My God. And people think there’s nothin’ to see in Wyoming? Dude. This stretch of road is like the highway to hell. Seriously.”

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