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Buck Wild (Bennett Boys Ranch #1)
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From Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestselling author Lauren Landish comes a hard-riding romance of cowboys who run wild—and the women who tame them…
Bull rider James Bennett lives for those eight seconds of exhilaration. A rodeo cowboy in his prime, all he wants out of life is something to straddle. That’s why James is feeling a little restless, spending his summer off working his family’s ranch. That is, until a spirited and gorgeous veterinarian-in-training shows up and puts the cocky wild boy—and his ego—in place. Though she’s a feisty one, James is always up for a challenge.
Sophie Stone has to admit it: James Bennett is a checklist of cowboy hotness—ruggedly handsome with piercing blue eyes, a hard-muscled body, and just enough swagger to make her toes curl. She thought she was done with her bad-boy phase, but exceptions must be made.
How can Sophie possibly say no to man who makes her heart buck like a bronco? And when their summer fling comes to an end, how can she possibly say goodbye?
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With a squeeze of the snips and a twist of my pliers, I finish one more section of fence. Gazing left, then right, I can see just how much I’ve done and just how far I have left to go. The answer is the same as the last time I checked: not enough and too much.
We need this pasture secure before we move the herd over, and that’s happening one way or another by the end of the week. Unfortunately, this fence was totally wrecked last winter, and with everything that’s happened to the family, it’s been put off until the last minute. And it seems that last minute is my new middle name.
I know I need to hurry, but my back needs a break more. This isn’t a sprint, the eight seconds of exhilaration and adrenaline that I’m used to. There are still hours of work left, and if I’m not careful, I’ll end up useless with miles of fence to go. I stand tall to stretch, raising my arms high above me and lifting my face to the bright sun of the June day.
Taking a deep breath, I can feel the sweat rolling down my face, so I pull off my hat and mop a rag across my brow. It’s strange, but in the barely blowing breeze, I can feel my dad’s presence, proud that I’m back here, home on the ranch, doing what he always wanted me to do. In the rush of the creek just on the other side of this rise I’m working on fencing, it almost sounds like he’s chuckling in that way he used to when he knew something would happen even if my brothers and I swore it never would.
His passing is still so new that it sometimes doesn’t feel real. Turning to the refreshing wind at my back, I tuck my rag in my pocket and adjust the Stetson on my head. “So, you’re watching, are you? I know exactly what you’re gonna say, Pops. Fence ain’t gonna fix itself, boy. Back to work. Only way to get done what needs to be done. I know, and I’m gonna get it done.”
Taking one last deep breath, I let the air current guide me back to the next section, ready to roll for another few hours. It’s been hours already, or maybe minutes. Shit, it’s hard to tell when the work is this repetitive. All I know is that I’m in that eternity between my quickly eaten lunch and sunset when I hear hoofbeats coming.
I don’t even have to look to know it’s my older brother. Especially since both of my brothers are older than me and have never let me forget that I’m the baby. But right now, I know it’s my oldest brother, coming to check on me like he always does.
Turning to face Mark, I tug the brim of my hat down to shield my eyes from the sun, which is hanging pretty low in the sky. Ah, hours then, not the minutes I’d feared. I’ve kept up a good pace; the end must be in sight.
“Hey, Mark.” I greet him with a single lift of my chin.
He reins in his horse, Sugarpea, his favorite gelding that he’s had since he was a teenager. “Have you been napping out here or something, James? This as far as you’ve made it? Gonna be some early mornings and late nights to get this pasture prepped in time. Guess it’s a good thing you brought the ATV; it’ll let you work after dark with those flood lamps.”
He makes a tsking sound that both irritates me and makes me laugh. I take a closer look around. I’ve got less than a half mile to go before I reach the corner and today’s goal. “Fuck you, man. I’m working my ass off out here while you’ve been pushing papers around in the barn office. I bet I’ve earned more sweat in the past half hour than your big ass has sitting in that old swivel chair all day. But don’t you worry—I’ll be in for dinner.”
He leans on the horn of his saddle to look down at me with a knowing grin. “Of course you will. I might be a scary fella, but none of us want Mama chasing after us. She’s the scariest son of a gun I know.”
I twist my face into a fictitious mask of fear, staring behind him with wide eyes. “Oh, you done bought it now!”
Mark spins to look behind him, just as I’d planned, but there’s nothing there besides the wide-open acres of golden-green land. “Shit, you had me thinking Mama was right behind me. You been taking acting lessons or something on that rodeo tour?”
I laugh, and the gentle shake of my body and lightness in my head feel good. Laughter has been foreign lately and may be just what I need. Mark, never one to laugh, merely smiles, but for him, that’s basically the same as laughter, so I’m calling it a win. “You’ve always been easy to fool. Remember when we were kids, and I jumped from the hayloft and faked breaking my leg? You were so scared you damn near pissed your Levi’s. It don’t take being Daniel Day-Lewis to get you.”