Brenda Novak Coulda Been A Cowboy

ISBN 13: 9780373781676

Coulda Been A Cowboy

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9780373781676: Coulda Been A Cowboy
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Coulda Been A Cowboy by Brenda Novak released on Jun 05, 2007 is available now for purchase.

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About the Author:

New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author Brenda Novak has penned over 45 novels. A two-time Rita nominee, she's won The National Reader's Choice, The Bookseller's Best, The Bookbuyer's Best and many other awards. She runs an annual online auction for diabetes research every May at www.brendanovak.com. To date, she’s raised over $2 million. Brenda considers herself lucky to be a mother of five and married to the love of her life.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Grandpa Garnier: If you find yourself in a hole, the first thing to do is stop digging.

SHE SEEMED IDEAL: slightly overweight, older than the typical groupie and definitely on the frumpy side. All of which would keep things as simple as Tyson Garnier needed them to be.

"What was your name again?" he asked. But he kept his voice down. God knew he didn't want to wake the nine–month–old monster in the other room. he'd just spent twenty–four hours alone with said monster and would rather suffer the roughest tackle imaginable than flounder helplessly through another fifteen minutes.

"Dakota Brown. I didn't send you a résumé, if that's what you're looking for. Gabe posted a flyer at the grocery store, saying you'd be staying at his cabin for a couple months and needed a good nanny while you're here, but I didn't consider applying until he called me." The woman met his eyes, but he had no idea what she was thinking. She certainly didn't seem impressed with him or his fame—didn't smile coyly, unbutton the top of her outdated blouse or bat her eyelashes. She treated him as he imagined she treated anyone else, which made Tyson even more hopeful that he'd found the right candidate. It was a major point in her favor that she hadn't turned into an idiot just because he played football on TV.

He set aside the stack of résumés he'd been studying. The name Brown was as ordinary as she seemed to be. But Dakota. That was unusual. Especially for a woman who looked to be of mixed race. Was she part Polynesian? Native American? Mexican? Tyson couldn't tell. But her creamy café au lait skin was clearly her best physical asset.

"And you have no children of your own?" he'd told Gabe Holbrook, who'd talked him into coming to Dundee in the first place, not to send him any potential nannies with children, but it didn't hurt to doublecheck. The last thing Tyson wanted was more motion and chatter. he'd come to Idaho to get his mind and body ready for training camp at the end of July, barely two months away. Considering the recent changes in his life, that was going to be hard enough without any added distractions.

"No children," she said.

She had no discernible accent, nothing that would give away her heritage. "Are you married?"

"No."

"Do you nanny for someone else right now or...?"

"I work at the pharmacy behind the counter in the gift shop and soda fountain."

That was pretty ordinary, too. "You realize you won't be able to keep that job and work for me at the same time. I need someone who's available—" he nearly said "twenty–four/seven" but quickly amended it to something slightly more reasonable "—almost every day."

"I understand."

"Good, because I have to be able to rely on you a hundred percent."

"Of course. This is your son we're talking about." He tried not to wince at the reminder. He wasn't ready for a child, for fatherhood. he'd never had much of an example. His own father had been killed trying to land his private plane in San Jose when Tyson was only two. His mother had married and divorced four times since, and he hadn't liked any of her husbands. But Rachelle had circumvented his usual defenses, had set him up so perfectly....

Reminding himself to unclench his jaw, Tyson cleared his throat. "That's right. He's my son." Maybe if he said it often enough, he'd believe it. My son. I have a son. A baby. He had a paternity test to prove it, along with a stack of canceled checks he'd given the child's mother as a result. he'd been hoping the money would be enough until an anonymous caller, a woman who was probably a neighbor or acquaintance of some kind, made him aware that Rachelle wasn't taking proper care of Braden. Then he'd been forced to hire a private investigator to take a closer look—and, ultimately, to make a life–changing decision. he'd seen his son for the first time only two days ago, when he took over as primary caregiver.

Stifling a groan at the tremendous responsibility behind "primary caregiver," he rubbed his face. It was all so damned ironic. There wasn't another member of the Stingrays more religious about avoiding the groupies that congregated wherever the team went.

But Rachelle hadn't been a groupie. She'd been a down–on–her–luck waitress without a place to stay. And he'd felt sorry for her.

The pencil in Tyson's hand snapped in two, which caused Ms. Brown's eyes to widen.

He tried to smile. It probably came across more like a pained grimace—he didn't feel particularly lighthearted these days. After the injury that had benched him last year, he was hanging on to his football career by his fingernails. Grandpa Garnier, his father's father and a central figure in his life, had just died. He had a baby he didn't want or know how to care for. And he had the media hounding him at every turn: Would he sign for another two years with the Los Angeles Stingrays? Or would he move to another team when he became a free agent at the end of the season? How was he handling his grandfather's death? Would his grief hurt his ability to play? Was his knee fully healed? Was he considering an early retirement? Who'd watch his baby once the season was underway? Would Braden travel with him?

Even the details of the arrangement he'd made with Rachelle had been splashed across newspapers all over the country: Stringray Wide Receiver Tyson Garnier Pays $1,000,000 for Custody.

Who the hell told the press? he wondered. It had to have been Rachelle. She loved the attention. Which was a whole other issue, one he'd have to deal with later. he'd headed for the hills the day he saw that headline, hoping to disappear and regroup—before the paparazzi could surround his Malibu home in an attempt to get a picture of him caring for his milliondollar baby.

"You realize I won't be here long, that the job is only temporary?" he asked, struggling to stay focused on the interview. he'd been up most the night, pacing with a crying Braden, and hadn't had the chance to shower or shave. A day's growth of beard covered his jaw, and his eyes burned from fatigue.

"Gabe explained that to me, yes," she said.

"And the job still appeals to you?" He hated to ruin his chances by driving home the negatives, but he didn't want to lie to her. She was giving up her current job for an eight–week stint as a nanny. How wise could that be?

"Actually, it's an ideal situation for me," she explained. "I've been working at the pharmacy since high school, so I have a lot of vacation time saved up. Mr. Cottle—that's my boss—told me I had to take it or I'd lose it."

"And you're going to spend it working for me? You don't want to see the ocean? Go to Disneyland?"

Her eyes slid away from his, appeared to focus on the edge of the desk. "I can't. Not right now. Anyway, I don't want to miss this opportunity."

Who considered such a brief job as a nanny an opportunity? "It's only two months of work."

"But it pays well."

Tyson hadn't decided on a salary yet. he'd been waiting to ascertain the expectations of his applicants.

"It does?" he asked in surprise.

"Gabe said you'd pay me at least three times what I make at the pharmacy."

Tyson's eyebrows jerked up. Thank you, Gabe! That's some sympathy, buddy. "He did? Three times?" God, hadn't he been taken for enough already?

She twisted the handle of her worn leather purse. "He told me you were looking for the best and were willing to pay for it."

When she put it that way, what could he say? "How much is three times?" he asked, still a bit skeptical.

"Forty–five hundred a month."

She stated the amount quickly, as if she was afraid he'd object. But he was actually relieved. Was that all? he'd have to pay at least that much in the city—for probably half as many hours. "That's fine."

She smiled self–consciously. "We could use it." He caught her choice of pronouns right away. "I thought you weren't married."

"I'm not. I live with my father. He...he can't work right now."

"Is he injured?" If so, Tyson immediately identified. "No." She tugged at one sleeve, seeming a bit selfconscious. "He has...health issues."

"I'm sorry to hear that. I hope it's not serious."

"He'll be okay." She lifted her chin.

"Does he need constant care?"

"Not constant. A neighbor, Mrs. Duluth, looks in on him every now and then while I'm at work, and that seems to be enough until I get home."

"So he'll have what he needs while you're here?"

"Yes."

Tyson had hoped she'd explain what kind of health issues her father faced. When she didn't, however, he had no choice but to move the conversation along. There were only so many questions he could ask without invading her privacy beyond what was reasonable in a job interview. "Have you had any experience with children, Ms. Brown?"

"Nothing official, but I've been babysitting since I was twelve." At the mention of children, her face lit up with enthusiasm and, just like that, she seemed far less average than before.

It was her eyes, Tyson decided. Large and luminous and one shade darker than her skin, they seemed exotic. How old was she, anyway? Twenty–four? Twenty–five?

"I know most all the kids in Dundee," she added, smiling wistfully. "I love babies."

That made exactly one of them. At this point, Tyson was too angry to love anything. Even himself. "That's encouraging." "I can get references if you want."

"You already have the best reference you could get. Gabe thinks very highly of you."

A squawk from the other room caused Tyson's stomach muscles to cramp with tension. The monster was awake....

"When can you start?" he asked, anxious to make the final arrangements. Forget the rest of the résumés. He needed someone now. Maybe she was only the second person he'd interviewed, but he liked her better than the starstruck Ms. Davie he'd spoken to earlier. Dakota hadn't even mentioned football. With her, he was just a man hiring a nanny, and she was just a nanny looking for work.

Perfect.

Her lips parted as she stared up at him. "I've got the job?"

"You've got the job."

"That's wonderful." Smiling in apparent relief, she clasped her purse to her side and stood. "I can be here first thing tomorrow, if you like."

He stood, too, and instinctively moved to cut off her path to the door. She couldn't leave him alone with what was in the next room. He wouldn't survive another hour. "Any chance you'd consider starting today?"

Her step faltered. "It's almost two o'clock in the afternoon."

Braden was just working himself up into a full wail, but it was enough to shred Tyson's last nerve. "Is that a problem?"

She raked delicate–looking fingers through her dark hair. "How long do you need me?"

He wondered how many hours he could get away with. "Four hours? Five?" he asked hopefully.

"I hadn't expected to start quite so soon. I need to notify my current employer."

The crying was growing louder by the second. "There's a phone." He pointed at it.

"I was also going to check on my father."

"Can't you call the neighbor and have her do that?" Her teeth sank into her bottom lip. "I could try, I guess..."

Tyson needed a more decisive answer. "I'll give you a five–hundred–dollar bonus if you can make the arrangements," he promised. Surely a pharmacy clerk would be willing to briefly impose on a neighbor in order to earn five hundred dollars! She could even share the money with the neighbor to make it worth his or her time.

He could tell by Dakota's expression that she was tempted, but she still took a moment to respond. "You're serious?"

"Completely." He wished he could slap the cash down on the desk, but he didn't have that much in his wallet. Maybe that wasn't the best approach, anyway. She seemed almost as spooked by his eagerness as she was relieved to get the job. "What do you say?"

She glanced around the office, at the action photos of Gabe Holbrook from the days when he could still play football. "How long have you known Gabe?" "Years and years," he assured her. "We used to play together when I was a rookie and he was MVP. Before the accident that...you know." He couldn't say it, wouldn't jinx himself that way. What had happened to Gabe was every professional athlete's worst nightmare. "Gabe likes me," he went on. "Really, he does. You can call him if you want. On that phone there." God, stop the crying! "Then you can start."

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ISBN 10:  037371422X ISBN 13:  9780373714223
Publisher: Harlequin Superromance, 2007
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