Christmas Kisses with My Cowboy - Diana Palmer

Chapter One

He had a first name, but they all called him by his last name: Parker. He was part Crow. In fact, he had an aunt and uncle who still lived on the reservation. His parents had divorced when he was young. His mother was long dead, even before he went overseas in the military. He didn’t know, or care, where his father was.

He worked on a huge ranch owned by J.L. Denton, near Benton, Colorado. He was the world’s best horse wrangler, to hear J.L. tell it. Of course, J.L. had been known to exaggerate.

It was autumn and the last lot of yearlings had gone to market. The bulls were in winter pasture. The cows were in pastures close to the ranch so that they could be taken care of when snow started falling. That would be pretty soon, in the Colorado mountains, because it was late October, almost Halloween.

All the hands had to do checks on the cattle at least two or three times a day; more on the pregnant cows, especially on the pregnant heifers, the first-time mothers. Calves dropped in April. The pregnant cows and heifers had been bred the last of July for an April birthing date, and there were a lot of pregnant female cattle on the ranch.

Calves were the soul of the operation. J.L. ran purebred Black Angus, and he made good money when he sold off the calf crop every year. Not that he needed money so much. He was a multimillionaire, mostly from gas and oil and mining. The ranch was just cream on top of his other investments. He loved cattle. So did his new wife, who wrote for a famous sword and sorcery television series called Warriors and Warlocks that even Parker watched on pay-per-view. It was fun trying to wheedle details out of the new Mrs. Denton. However, even though she was a kind, sweet woman, she never gave away a single bit of information about the series. Never.

Parker lived in a line cabin away from the ranch house, where he broke horses for J.L. for the remuda, the string of horses each cowboy had to keep for ranch work. Horses tired, so they had to be switched often on a working ranch, especially during high-stress periods. He was good with all sorts of livestock, but he loved horses. He was blessed in the sense that horses also loved him, even outlaw horses. He’d had the touch since he was in grammar school on the Crow reservation up at Crow Agency, near the Little Bighorn Battleground at Hardin, Montana. His mother had encouraged him, emphasizing that sensitivity wasn’t a bad thing in a man. His father said just the opposite.

Parker remembered his father with anger. He’d married Parker’s mother, Gray Dove, in a moment of weakness, or so he’d said. But he had no plans to live on a reservation with her. So she went with him to his job in California until their son, Parker, was born. She and the child seemed to be an ongoing embarrassment to Chadwick Parker. He never stopped chiding his wife about her stupid ceremonies and superstitions. Finally, when Parker was six, she gave up and went back to Montana. It would have been nice if Parker’s father had missed her and wanted her back. He didn’t. He filed for divorce. Parker had never heard from him again. He doubted if the man even knew who he was. But it didn’t matter. One of Gray Dove’s brothers had taken him in when she died prematurely of pneumonia. He was part of a family, then, but still an outsider, even so. He fell in with a local gang in his teens and barely escaped prison by going into the military. Once there, he enjoyed the routine and found himself blessed with the same intelligence his absent father had. He was a mathematical genius. He aced any math courses he took, even trig and calculus and Boolean algebra.

Those skills after he graduated, with a degree in physics, served him well with government work. He didn’t advertise the degree around Benton. It suited him to have people think he was simply a horse wrangler.

Parker had found work on J.L. Denton’s ranch fresh out of the army, through an army buddy who’d been with him overseas in the Middle East. He had a knack for breaking horses without using anything except soft words and gentle hands. Word got around about how good he was at it, that