Jake (Downton Cowboys #2) - Miley Maine

Chapter One


“C’mon, boy,” I urge on Flint, my black stallion, before I swiftly get on top of him and off we go.

“Good mornin’, Mr. Downton!” The ranchmen greet me with smiles and enthusiastic hand waves as I pass them by.

I return their greeting, nodding and gesturing in acknowledgment.

Enjoying the ride across my land over to round up the cattle, I think back to last week and the painful incident that turned out to be a wonderful blessing.

I was on my daily run out on the ranch as part of the day’s work, with Flint strutting on without a care in the world, when a snake crawled up from under a rock, scaring the shit out of the poor horse.

Before I could react, my terrified stallion let out a loud whinny as he rose up on his hind legs, kicking forward and throwing me off in the process.

Now, I know what falling from a horse is, and always will be, one of the risks I have to take if I want to continue doing what I do, especially in these parts where nature is left pretty much as it was intended to be.

What happened next, however, was the novel part.

I look down at the rock amongst the weeds as I recall taking the hit.

Man, did it hurt!

When my head landed on the ground, it wasn’t greeted by the usual soft soil covered in grass. Instead, the rough surface of this very rock was what rendered me unconscious for a moment—or longer.

I simply passed out.

When I finally opened my eyes, the shadowy silhouette of a woman was bent over me. At first, I couldn’t tell who she was or what she was trying to do.

My face was also…wet? Was I sweating?

I couldn’t tell.

The sun was right behind her, aimed at my unfocused eyes.

Furrowing my eyebrows, I squinted, willing my vision to readjust as quickly as possible.

“Are you alright?” Her sweet voice sounded as though it came from somewhere far away. She quickly approached where I was sprawled with a great deal of concern.

“Uh—” I reached with my fingers to feel the back of my head. Checking for bleeding was usually the first thing to do. There was no blood.

I then placed both palms back on the ground, looking around to check my surroundings. Flint was nearby, clearly shaken.

“What happened? Do you remember?” she continued, shifting in her stance, and this time, blocking the sun.

I blinked a few times while my eyes grew accustomed to the light, shaking off the influence of the hit.

I could finally see her.

And, what a sight she was.

The most beautiful creature I had ever laid eyes on was standing right in front of me in a pair of worn-out jeans and an old shirt. The fabric of her outfit was smooth enough to cascade freely down every line and curve, revealing just how sexy her figure was.

The first two buttons of her checkered shirt were undone, and as she was bending down to tend to me, her breasts were spilling out a little, showing just an inch of cleavage that hugged a small, dangling diamond in a thin gold frame.

But the way I saw it, she outshined the diamond.

“I—I fell.” I struggled to come up with the words as I willed my eyes away from her chest.

Her dark blue eyes scanned me from under long, black lashes, and she smiled, raising an eyebrow. “Think you can move?”

“Yeah. Yeah.” Fumbling over the warm grass, I pressed my palms against the ground and pushed myself to sit upright.

“Careful, now,” she whispered, her hands hesitantly approaching me.

I wasn’t sure if the smell of fresh Arabian jasmine came from my surroundings or her scent. Silly me, those flowers didn’t grow anywhere near here. It was definitely her earthy perfume, making me more lightheaded than I already was.

Smiling at the memory, I ride Flint ahead, passing the rock that was now linked to the sweet encounter of me meeting Belle for the first time.

As I move on to check on the herd next, I gaze at the horizon and the extent of my estate. This ranch is everything to me. I love the land, the space, the house, and every little partition that I have built and maintained with the help of my loyal men.

I work hard, too, since it’s always best to keep in the midst of things.

When I arrive at the enclosure, Buck’s grinning face greets me from behind the fence. “Jakey! Mornin’.”

Buck Eli is my foreman and number one employee.

When my