The naked cowboy in the gold-plated horse trough presented a conundrum.
In the purple-orange light of breaking dawn Mariah Callahan snared her bottom lip between her teeth, curled her fingernails into her palms and tried not to panic. It had been a long drive down from Chicago and jacked up on espresso, she hadn’t slept in thirty-six hours. There was a very good chance she was hallucinating.
She reached to ratchet her glasses up higher on her nose for a better look, but then remembered she was wearing contact lenses. She wasn’t seeing things. He was for real. No figment of her fertile imagination.
Who was he?
Better question, what was she going to do about him?
His bare forearms, tanned and lean, angled from the edges of the trough, an empty bottle of Jose Cuervo Gold dangling from the fingertips of his right hand. Even in a relaxed pose, his muscular biceps were tightly coiled, making Mariah think of hard, driving piston engines.
Like his arms, his legs lay slung over each side of the trough. He wore expensive eel-skin cowboy boots. She canted her head, studying his feet.
Size thirteen at least.
Hmm, was it true what they said about the size of a man’s feet?
She raised her palms to her heated cheeks, surprised to find she made herself blush.
Question number three. How had he come to be naked and still have his boots on?
Curiosity bested embarrassment as she tracked her gaze up the length of his honed, sinewy legs that were humorously pale in contrast to his tanned arms. No doubt, like most cowboys, he dressed in blue jeans ninety percent of the time.
She perched on tiptoes to peek over the edge of the horse trough. The murky green water hit him mid-thigh and camoflagued his other naked bits. Robbed of the view, she didn’t know if she was grateful or disappointed.
But nothing could hide that chest.
Washboard abs indeed. Rippled and flat. Not an ounce of fat. Pecs of Atlas.
A rough jagged scar, gone silvery with age, ambled a staggered path from his left nipple down to his armpit marring nature’s work of art. The scar lent him a wicked air.
Mariah gulped as captivated as a cat in front of an aquarium.
A black Stetson lay cocked down over his face, hiding all his features save for his strong, masculine jaw studded with at least a day’s worth of ebony beard. His eyes had to be as black as the Stetson and that stubble.
Mesmerized, she felt her body heat up in places she had no business heating up. She didn’t know who this man was, or how he’d gotten here, although she supposed that drunken ranch hands came with the territory. If she was going to be a rancher, she’d have to learn to deal with it.
A rancher? Her? Ha! Big cosmic joke and she was the punchline.