Wrapped and Strapped

Book 7 of the Blacktop Cowboys® Series

In the new Blacktop Cowboys® Novel from the New York Times bestselling author of Hillbilly Rockstar, strange bedfellows find common ground after the lights go down…

Flower child, vegetarian and humanitarian Harlow Pratt and gruff and strapping cattle ranch foreman Hugh Pritchett have been taunting each other for years. Hugh thinks she’s nothing but a spoiled rich girl, and he’s had enough of that life with his ex-wife. Harlow thinks Hugh is an ill-mannered trouble-maker who wouldn’t know fun if it bit him on his tight denim-clad butt.

When they’re forced together at the Split Rock Ranch and Resort, everything changes. They might be polar opposites, but working out their differences skin to skin, in the dark, seems to help their incompatibility a lot. But when trouble from both their pasts comes calling, Harlow and Hugh have no one else to lean on. Can they trust one another enough to make it through the hard times together… or will their tentative truce fall apart?

Praise for Wrapped and Strapped »

  • James adds another winner to her Blacktop Cowboys series with this über-sexy entry. It’s steamy and titillating, yet contains the keen sense of family prevalent in all her books.

    RT Book Reviews Magazine

Excerpt »

Harlow Pratt panicked when she saw her sister Tierney’s name on her caller ID. She answered with, “Please tell me you didn’t go into labor a month early.”

“No, that’s not why I’m calling.” Tierney paused. “You know Dad is here visiting. He had a heart attack.”

“What? When?”

“This morning. We got him to the hospital in Rawlins right away and they opted to have him flown to the cardiac unit at Denver General.”

“Is he all right?”

“He’s having emergency heart bypass surgery now.”

In shock, Harlow lowered herself into the closest chair. “How do you know what’s going on?”

“There’s a nurse who’s keeping me updated because I can’t travel this late in my pregnancy—”

“Don’t feel guilty, T.” Harlow grabbed a pen and a notepad from the nightstand. “Give me the nurse’s name and extension number.”

Tierney rattled off more info than necessary, but that was her way.

“Got it. Now stop pacing and put your feet up. I imagine Renner is fit to be tied.” Tierney’s husband’s behavior defined tyrannical since Tierney had been prescribed bed rest for the last month of her pregnancy. Sometimes she needed a reminder that she had to limit her activity.

“You have no idea,” Tierney whispered. “He made Hugh drive Dad and meet the ambulance halfway to town because he refused to leave me alone with Isabelle. He worried the stress would put me into labor the second he wasn’t around.”

“It’s a valid concern.” Harlow ignored the way her stomach jumped at the mere mention of the man’s name.

“Where are you?”

“Still in LA.” By the heavy pause, she knew what her sister was about to ask.

“Someone needs to be with Dad, Harlow. I hate to ask you to drop everything and fly to Denver—”

“But it can’t be helped.” Her snarky side pointed out that her father wouldn’t think she was doing “real” work anyway. “I’ll book a flight as soon as possible.”

“Thank you. After the helicopter left Rawlins, Hugh took it upon himself to drive to Denver, which is above and beyond.”

No, that was total brownnose behavior— a typical Hugh response because he’d do anything for Renner, his boss.

“And he’s agreed to stay at the hospital until you get there.”

Oh, hell no. “As soon as I have my flight info, you can call Renner’s foreman and let him know I’m on my way, so there’s no need for him to stick around.” Did that sound harsh? Harlow didn’t care. She could not deal with her father and Hugh Pritchett both on the same damn day.

“I know we’ve both had issues with Dad, but he was really scared,” Tierney said. “I’ve never seen him like that. It actually scared me.”

Harlow closed her eyes. “He’s less of an ass to you since you’re the vessel bringing forth the long-awaited grandson.”

“That’s not it. But Dad and I have reached a place where he can live with my life choices.”

“I’m not holding my breath that’ll ever happen with me.”

“Your passion for what you do, Harlow— he doesn’t discount it, even when he doesn’t understand it,” Tierney assured her.

That much was true. When her passion for service trapped her in a nightmare situation last year, he’d done everything in his power to get her out of it. She did owe him for that.

“Leaving at a moment’s notice won’t be an issue?” Tierney prompted.

“Not since I’m here on sabbatical.”

“Do you think you’ll get to Denver tonight?”

When her admission didn’t register with her sister, Harlow decided to keep any explanations about recent career developments in her life to herself. “Flights leave LAX every couple of hours. You’ll need to let the hospital staff know I’m on my way.”

“No problem.”

“Look, I’ll probably be in the air when he gets out of surgery, so promise me that if the worst happens”— she knocked on the wooden window frame to ward off bad luck—“ you won’t tell me over text or through voice mail.”

“I’d never do that.”

Harlow breathed a sigh of relief. “Good.”

“Love you, sis.”

“Love you too.”

Two hours later, Harlow had scored the last standby seat on a flight to Denver.

After boarding the plane and taking her seat— next to the bathroom in the last row— she slipped on her noise-canceling headphones and closed her eyes, hoping Michael Bublé’s smooth vocals would soothe her ragged thoughts. Or better yet, lull her to sleep.

But her mind had other ideas. Like reminding her of the first time she’d seen one gruff cowboy named Hugh Pritchett.

Dammit. She did not want to think about him or that summer. But her brain had already rewound the clock and the memories rushed back . . .

For International Readers »

Signet
(November 3, 2015)
352 pages
ISBN: 978-0451473783

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