Thursday, February 18, 2016

Stone Cold Cowboy by Jennifer Ryan

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Montana Men #4
Jennifer Ryan
Releasing February 23rd, 2016
Avon Books

The last thing rancher Rory Kendrick expects to find when he’s searching for his missing cattle is a genuine damsel in distress. After rushing to help, he can’t help wanting to do anything he can for this lovely but damaged woman. But even his kind deed won’t get Sadie to tell him who’s responsible for hurting her.

Sadie is trying to hold onto her family, and her life. With an ill father who’s refusing treatment and a younger brother who has fallen in with a dangerous crowd, she’s beginning to feel like she can’t save anyone, least of all herself. When her brother owes money to the wrong people, Sadie tries to pay off his debts, but she doesn’t have the cash. The one person who might be able to help her out is the last person she wants to involve in her family drama, but Rory won’t take no for an answer.

Rory is all about family, but sometimes you’ve got to let go. If you can’t save them, save yourself. Sadie’s been dealt a bad hand she refuses to fold. Because he loves her, he’ll do anything to keep her safe and give her the happy life she deserves, even betray her trust to take down her brother.

I don't typically go for cowboys. There's just something about the theme that turns me off...maybe it makes me think of the country and that makes me think of being dirty and honestly...I hate being dirty. So typically, I avoid cowboys (or anything in the farming/ranching family).

But something about this book screamed at me. It sounded really good, so I jumped at the opportunity to read it. I was hooked from page one. The story starts out with a bang and I was invited to the edge of my seat as I read. I was totally enthralled. I have to get this out of the way: this author writes a mean bad guy! In was in awe of his evilness. Quite a few books try to accomplish what Jennifer Ryan did but they fail spectacularly...this Ms. Ryan should give lessons on the perfect bad guy.

Initially, I really liked Rory and the way he quietly wanted from afar. I loved how he felt when he came upon Sadie in the woods. I loved his desperation and sorrow at the thought of losing her before having a chance with her. The emotions and scenes just came alive. I could picture Rory and Sadie running into each other in town, neither willing to make the first move. But sometime after Sadie starts working at Rory's ranch, the magic sort of disappeared. I wasn't feeling the connection between them as much. I'm not quite sure why, except things started happening very quickly between them and I never really felt the love grow. It just...appeared.

If I have any complaints about this book, it would be Sadie and how she kept giving her brother chance after chance after chance. It didn’t matter what he did, how her life was put in jeopardy, she forgave him and kept giving him another chance. I’m sorry, but if my sibling did even half of what he did to her, I’d be done. And if they left me in the situation that Sadie was in at the beginning of the book…I’d be beyond done. I’d be calling the police on them myself. That may sound harsh, but with all the chances she gave him, there was really no good ending for him. And let’s face it, I hold grudges when it comes to fictional characters so there was no redeeming Connor for me.

Overall, I really did enjoy Ms. Ryan’s writing and I can’t wait to read more from her!

“Stop touching her. Let’s just go and get the damn cattle to the trailers before we get caught.” Connor stared down at her, lying on the ground practically naked.

What the hell? Her gaze locked on the man crouched beside her, his hand gripped around her upper arm, keeping her from scrambling away. Fear tore through her body. The cold bit into her skin and froze her bones. She clamped her aching jaw down tight to keep her teeth from chattering. She pushed up to sitting, her knees drawn up, and covered herself with her hands. Her cheeks heated with embarrassment. She scanned the area for her missing coat, jeans, and shirt. At least the asshole hadn’t gotten her out of her panties and bra; still, it wasn’t enough coverage to make her feel safe, or keep her warm.

“Give me back my clothes.” Her sharp words didn’t hide the fear shaking her voice.

“Shut up, or I’ll clock you again.”

Scott and Tony, Connor’s so-called friends, stood over her smoking cigarettes. The three of them col- lectively added up to one brain. None of them came up with a good idea, but they sure could turn a bad one worse one-upping one another. Now that she was awake, their gazes shot from her breasts to her face, then off to the scattered clouds overhead.

Connor pushed away the guy beside her, someone she didn’t know. “You don’t need to strip her. You fucking lay another hand on her and I’ll kill you.”

She appreciated her brother’s bravado, but the big dude with long, greasy dark hair; devil tat on his neck; and the wicked knife in his hand he whipped out from behind him could probably kill her brother with a look from his cold eyes. Her throbbing jaw attested to the guy’s powerful right hook. If he’d hit a woman, no telling what he’d do to her brother.

The devil dude, as she immediately thought of him, stood and took a menacing step closer to her brother. “Your sister has one hot body. She’d look damn good in lace.” He raked his gaze over her figure, grimacing at her cotton bra and panties. “I say we teach her a lesson about butting into my business.” The devil dude smacked Scott on the shoulder, trying to get his agreement.

Scott and Tony continued to look uncomfortable, shaking their heads and toeing at the dirt, avoiding looking the devil dude right in the eye. They probably needed another hit of whatever they were on. Despite the cold, sweat broke out on their faces. Her brother didn’t look much better.

“She’s not going to say anything. The last thing she wants to do is get me in trouble.” The assurance her brother tried to put into his words fell short, making him sound more like a sniveling child.

“You do that all on your own,” she snapped, glaring at all of them. She stood up, realizing too late she didn’t quite have her head on straight yet. Dizzy, she stumbled a step, then caught herself. She spotted her clothes tossed a few feet away and rushed toward them, hoping to grab them, run to her horse, and get the hell out of there before things got worse. She definitely didn’t want to get hit again. The fear building in her gut that the devil dude might make good on his ominous threats, both spoken and unspoken, made bile rise to the back of her throat. She needed to get away now, before it was too late.

She wrapped her arms around herself, warding off another round of shivers, not all of which resulted from the cold, but the bone-deep fear they might not let her go.
“Where do you think you’re going?” The devil dude grabbed her arm and spun her around. She took him by surprise, stepping in close and kneeing him in the nuts. He fell to his knees, his hands on his balls, the knife sticking out toward her.
“Sadie, no,” her brother shouted.

“I’ll make you regret that, bitch.” The devil dude lunged for her.

She expected him to grab her, but she couldn’t get out of the way fast enough. His hands clamped on to her shoulders. The knife handle dug into her arm, but fear for her life made her act. She brought her arms up and broke his hold. Surprise showed in his eyes, but they narrowed with determination.  He  grabbed her wrist and yanked her forward. She plowed into his chest with a thump. His cold leather jacket chilled her skin even more. He wrapped his arms around her back, squeezing her close. She head-butted him, hitting him more on the chin than nose than she’d like. He shoved her back to the ground and swiped the back of his hand over his face. Slumped in the dirt and grass, she stared up at him, trying to clear the haze from her aching head and vision, wishing she’d broken his nose.

She tried to think fast, but the guy came after her again, falling to his knees, straddling her hips. His heavy weight pushed her butt into the soft earth, and a jagged rock dug into her spine. He pressed the knife to her neck. The menacing smile on his face reinforced the dangerous look in his eyes. He’d do it. He’d kill her and not think twice about it.

Cold fear washed through her, stealing her every thought and breath. Her heart slammed into her ribs and stopped for a brief second. Her whole world halted as she stared up into eyes that held nothing but death.

“Kill her and I won’t make any more meth,” her brother yelled.

Startled by her brother’s admission, Sadie glanced at Connor, caught the apologetic look, then stared back up into the devil dude’s flat eyes.

“You’ll cook, or you’re dead. You owe me more than the price of those cattle.”
“If I’m dead you get nothing. Don’t kill her.”

The devil dude smiled. It frightened her more than anything he’d done so far.

“Okay. I won’t kill her.”

The easy acquiescence didn’t ease her mind.

“Grab that wire and rope from my saddle,” he ordered Scott.

“We should get out of here. Those Kendricks come for their herd and we’re dead.” Scott tried to talk reason with the irrational devil dude.

“Get it now.” The devil dude bit out the words. Scott jumped to do his bidding, beaten without ever really getting in the fight to save her.

The devil dude clamped his hand on her aching jaw and shook her face. “No one fucks with me. If they do, they get what’s coming. You’re going to get your due.” Sadie wanted to run, but he had her on the ground, that damn knife at her neck, pressed so hard to her skin she felt a trickle of blood run down her throat where he cut her. His gaze fell on the blood. The slow smile that spread across his face disturbed her, but not as much as the lust that filled his dark eyes.

Scott dropped the coiled barbed wire and rope next to her. Connor stood off to the side, pacing, biting at his thumb, his eyes filled with worry, but he didn’t come to her rescue, just kept gnawing on his already raw skin.

“This is going to hurt, bitch.” The menacing words held a note of anticipation and enthusiasm that soured her stomach.

He used his grip on her face to hold her down. He slid the knife into the sheath at his back, pulled a pair of wire cutters from his back pocket, and snipped a long length of wire from the coil. He held it up in front of her, set the tool down, took both her hands, and pulled them up in front of him. She bucked her hips and tried to pull free, but nothing worked to dislodge the big man from her body.

“Let me go, asshole.” She tried to put as much bravado in her voice as she could conjure to hide her fear, but the tremble in her voice gave her away.

“You asked for it.”

He wrapped the wire around her wrists and in be- tween. The harder she tried to pull free, the tighter he wound.

Panic rose in her chest, making it difficult to take a deep breath. Her chest heaved in and out. In another minute, she’d be hyperventilating. “Stop. Please. You’re hurting me.”

“Ah, music to my ears.” The amusement in his eyes told her how much he enjoyed her fear and pain.

“You sadistic son of a bitch.”

“Yes, I am.” His eyes went bright with delight.

The barbs bit into her skin. Blood trickled down her arms from multiple punctures.
“Go get the horses while I finish here,” he ordered her brother.

Tony and Scott scurried away without a word. The dread in their eyes when they snuck quick glances back told her how much they feared this man.

“Leave her. You taught her a lesson. Let’s go,” Connor pleaded, pacing back and forth not even five feet away.

“I thought letting her walk home in her underwear in the cold would have taught her a lesson about sticking her nose into things that don’t concern her. But your sister had to go and fuck with me.” The devil dude leaned down close and stared her in the eyes. “You kick me in the balls, bitch, I’ll make you bleed.” The whispered threat didn’t lessen the ominous reality that he meant it. He turned back to her brother and yelled, “Go get the horses. Hers too. We’re leaving.”

Connor backed up several steps, then turned and walked away without sparing her a single look, let alone an apology for his cowardice. She expected it, but it still hurt, leaving a pit in her stomach and an ache that squeezed her chest tight. Tears threatened to spill from her eyes, but she blinked them away. Her brother had proven more times than she could count that he’d cover his own ass over anyone else’s, including his own sister’s.

Her heart ached worse than her face, jaw, and bloody wrists combined. How could he just leave her here? How could he turn his back on her like this and live with himself?

Jennifer Ryan is the New York Times & USA Today bestselling author of The Hunted Series and The McBrides Series. She writes romantic suspense and contemporary small-town romances featuring strong men and equally resilient women. Her stories are filled with love, family, friendship, and the happily-ever-after we all hope to find.

Jennifer lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and three children. When she isn’t writing a book, she’s reading one. Her obsession with both is often revealed in the state of her home and in how late dinner is to the table. When she finally leaves those fictional worlds, you’ll find her in the garden, playing in the dirt and daydreaming about people who live only in her head, until she puts them on paper.

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1 comment:

  1. Lovely review. Thank you for hosting STONE COLD COWBOY today!

    Crystal, Tasty Book Tours