COWBOY (Unfit Hero #5) - Hayley Faiman
SEVENTEEN YEARS AGO
One week until my wedding day, the wedding. I still can’t believe that I’m going to get married. My father lets out a loud snore from his recliner, my body jumps from the sound at the same time there’s a knock on the front door.
I know by the softness, by the two raps, then a pause before there are two more raps, that it’s Ford on the other side. My stomach twists and I feel a sharp stabbing pain as I make my way toward my front door.
I’ve been feeling this way for weeks, every time the wedding is mentioned, every time I think about it, every time I do something for it.
Something isn’t right, and my trip to the doctor today led me no closer to an answer. He said I was perfectly fine, that it was probably just wedding day jitters. But it’s not, it’s bigger than that.
Tugging the door open slowly. I slip outside and tilt my head toward the porch swing. Without looking into Ford’s eyes, I make my way to the swing and slowly sit down before I bring my knees up to my chest.
Ford sits next to me, lifting one of his arms and slinging it across the back of the swing. Turning my head to the side, I rest my cheek on my knee and finally look over at him. He takes up most of the swing while I’m curled in the corner.
I close my eyes for a moment when his fingers touch my hair, playing and feeling the strands between his fingertips.
“It’s late,” I whisper, opening my eyes to look over at him.
He nods, his gaze focused straight ahead as his fingers continue to play with my hair. “It is,” he finally says.
Then I watch as he turns his gaze toward me. Those blue eyes find mine and my breath hitches at the sight. They’re so intense, they’re full of every emotion that’s rolling through him. They look nothing like I’m sure mine do. He looks at peace, happy. I feel nothing but turmoil.
He inhales through his nose, and I watch as his nostrils flare.
Ford Matthews is probably the sexiest man that I have ever seen. Not that I’ve seen many men in my short eighteen years, but there is just something about him. His tanned skin, his blue eyes, his light brown hair, the way he watches me with an intensity that makes my skin heat.
Something isn’t right for me though. I see the way other girls look at him, how they’ve always looked at him. Do I look at him the same way? I don’t know anymore. Is this really what I want for the rest of my life?
Do I really want to stay here in Gallup with the only man that I have ever kissed? I have always dreamed of being bigger than Stephanie LaRue, than Stephanie Matthews.
“What would you think about moving away?” I ask for the millionth time.
Ford lets out a long sigh. “If I leave, who will help my daddy run the ranch?”
I shrug a shoulder. “What about one of your cousins?”
He lets out a snort. “Stevie, you know those halfwits would cause him more of a headache than they would actually help. This cattle ranch has been in my family since my granddaddy started it. His daddy bought the land and lived off of it. It’s my legacy. I love it there. Never even thought about leaving, not once.”
Pressing my lips together, I pinch my eyes closed as my stomach wrenches. Is this really what I want? I love Ford more than I could have ever imagined, could I love another person?
There’s nobody else for me and I know that he’d make me happy, but I wonder what I’ll regret if I stay? Will I eventually become bitter because I didn’t try to fulfill my dreams?
What am I missing out in the world?
ONE WEEK LATER
Wyatt chuckles as he watches me pace nervously. Lifting my hand, I ball my fingers into a fist and punch him in the arm. The action only makes him laugh harder. Wyatt is my best friend, him and Beaumont. The only two guys that I have by my side today, the only two that I want here.
“Your mama happy?” Beau asks.
I shrug a shoulder. “Hell no,” I snort.
My mama dislikes Stevie, she always has. She thinks that Stevie has her nose up in the air, that she thinks she’s better than everyone else. She also thinks we’re too young to