When fashion designer Lauren Redstone gets drunk in Las Vegas to celebrate a successful deal, she does something very impulsive: she bumps into a tall, drawling cowboy called Grayson, sleeps with him and then marries him the same day. Sober the next morning, she flees the hotel room and tries to renege on the arrangement. But Grayson refuses to play ball, insisting she gives their unlikely coupling a chance out on his ranch where she can get to know the stranger she married. And in return, he agrees to spend an equal amount of time in her high society Californian world. But as the couple fall for one another in these wildly different environments, it seems both Lauren’s controlling father, and Grayson’s jealous ex, will have much to say about the success or failure of the relationship.
Where have all the Cowboys gone?
Turner Brothers, Book 1
What an amazingly rich and engrossing story! I was hooked from the very beginning and absolutely did not stop reading until the very end. I loved how Lauren’s emotions and attitude were so easily understood by Grayson, and his feelings were so strong and reliable. This is one cowboy you don’t want to miss! I hope to read more by this very talented author in the future.
—5 Hearts, The Romance Studio
If I had to pick only one word to describe WHERE HAVE ALL THE COWBOYS GONE? it would be “fresh.” Simply fresh. From the very beginning of the book, Kate Pearce took me on a fast-moving journey of two strangers, neither of whom had been looking for love, who are swept up in a whirlwind marriage. I found Ms. Pearce’s book to be both sexy and utterly charming. Lauren and Grayson are both endearing characters and I was highly entertained watching the two try and out-maneuver one another. I felt connected to them both, and understood where both sides were coming from as they tried to figure out if their marriage could last. Even as the hero and heroine steam up the page, I never lost sight of the growing emotional bond between the two. I found myself rapidly turning the page in the wee hours of the morning, desperate to see if Lauren and Grayson would be able to make their marriage last.
Like a cool breeze in the heat of summer, Ms. Pearce has a fresh voice and a knack for creating intriguing, likeable characters. WHERE HAVE ALL THE COWBOYS GONE? is guaranteed to quicken the pulse, charm the reader, and bring a smile to your face; it sure did for me.
Read an Excerpt
Lauren Redstone punched the air and grinned stupidly at her refection in the luxurious restroom of the Mandalay Bay hotel. She’d done it. She’d actually done it. Her company, Retro Girl was going to provide the styling and props for a series of Professional Bull Rider commercials.
It was her first big break. Her first mini-roar of independence. Lauren unpinned her brown hair and let it fall around her shoulders. She’d come to Vegas to meet the PBR executives who were there for World Finals weekend. She’d traveled alone but she could still celebrate, right? She picked up her purse and headed for the noisy comfort of the bar on the far side of the casino.
It was a relief to kick off her high heeled shoes and relax. How long was it since she’d sat back and really had fun? All she’d done for the last two years was work her ass off to make her business viable. She toasted herself with her glass. Her hard work had finally paid off. She deserved a break.
Her third glass of champagne seemed to contain more bubbles than the others. She squinted at the glass. Exactly how many bubbles were there? She’d not touched a drink for months and the alcohol had gone straight to her head.
Lauren grabbed her champagne, slipped into her shoes and got unsteadily to her feet. She was starving. But this was Las Vegas. There had to be a buffet around somewhere. She was so engrossed in the loud swirling pattern of the carpet that she tripped over the outstretched toe of a black cowboy boot.
She collided with a large, warm object. Before she hit the floor, a strong arm wrapped around her waist and pulled her close. Lauren stared into the amused face of a man she’d never seen before. Thanks to her, he wore the rest of his beer on his shirt.
“Are you okay, ma’am?”
Lauren simply gaped at him. He wore a brown cowboy hat and a checked denim shirt. His slow drawling speech made her feel warm and soft like taffy. She focused on his eyes which were the same blue-grey color as his jeans.
“I’m not a ma’am.”
He grinned, “Well, lucky old me.”
A drop of beer rolled off his chin onto his chest. Lauren caught it on her fingertip just before it disappeared below the first button on his shirt. His skin was rough and warm to the touch.
“I’ve made you all wet.”
His smile widened. “There are a few things I’d like to say to that. But I reckon most of them would get my face slapped.” He settled her deeper into his lap as a waitress squeezed past the booth.
Lauren suppressed an uncharacteristic urge to giggle. Either he had a gun in his pocket or he was reacting as fiercely to her as she was to him. She felt breathless, as if all the chatter and clanging slot machines around them had ceased to exist.
“Can I buy you another beer?”
“Only if you tell me your name.”
She was almost disappointed when he moved her off his lap. “I’m Lauren Redstone.” She held out her hand and realized she still held the empty champagne glass. He carefully removed it.
“Grayson Turner. And, just in case you’re interested, I’m not married either.” He kept hold of her hand and rubbed his calloused thumb along the edge of her palm.
Lauren managed to stop staring long enough to signal a waitress. When the drinks arrived, Grayson grimaced as he pressed a wad of napkins against the front of his beer soaked shirt.
“Let me help, it was my fault, after all.” Lauren patted a folded napkin against his stomach, noting the flex of hard muscle beneath the shirt and the subtle hitch in his breathing as he reacted to her touch.
A deep feeling of warmth settled low in Lauren’s stomach. She’d heard of love at first sight, was this lust at first sight? She wanted to rip off his shirt, pull down his jeans and discover whether he really was as well endowed as the bulge in his groin indicated. What was that song her best friend Ella loved so much? Something about forget the horse, ride the cowboy? Suddenly, it made perfect sense.
She gulped down some more champagne. Was the illicit excitement of Vegas getting to her? She’d never reacted so strongly to a man before and it wasn’t just alcohol singing through her veins. It was pure unadulterated lust. She wanted to lean forward and touch his full lower lip with the tip of her tongue just to see how he tasted.
“Lauren? Are you okay?”
“I’m fine. It’s just that…” she waved helplessly in his direction. “I’m not in the habit of pouring beer over guys and it seems I’ve forgotten how to flirt.”
Grayson took a swig of beer and then focused his attention on her. “You’re doing fine from where I’m sitting.”
“I’ve just been too occupied with my business to do much socializing.” She gave him a brief airy overview of her deal with the PBR and was impressed by his intelligent remarks and obvious approval. In a few minutes of conversation he understood more about her struggle to succeed than her father ever would.
When she’d finished, he clinked his beer bottle against her glass. “That takes guts, going into business alone. I’ve done it a couple of times and it isn’t easy.”
His gaze remained direct, his focus entirely on her. She got her second pleasant surprise when he didn’t immediately launch into a recital of his own achievements. While she smiled into his eyes her stomach rumbled. She pressed her hand to it.
“Hungry?” Grayson asked.
“I haven’t eaten since lunch. That’s where I was headed when I bumped into you.”
Grayson put down his beer. “Would you like to have dinner with me?”
The bar seemed to get quieter as if everyone held their breath. Grayson held her gaze, his eyes steady, his demeanor relaxed. Something about his quiet patience resonated deep in Lauren’s soul.
Grayson took out his wallet and left a tip for the waitress wedged under his empty beer bottle. He grinned at Lauren. “I’d give you a business card but I don’t carry them anymore since horses can’t read.”
Lauren choked back a smile. “You really are a cowboy?”
He tipped back his hat. “Hell, yes, Ma’am.” He glanced around the crowded bar. “Did you think I was one of those dime store cowboys who never get their boots dirty?”
To cover her confusion, Lauren took out her business card and slipped it into his wallet. “From what I’ve seen, most cowboys are great with animals and not so good at stringing a sentence together.”
Grayson got to his feet. “There are always exceptions to every rule.” He tucked his wallet in the back pocket of his Wranglers and held out his hand. “Are you willing to risk it?”
Lauren studied his face. Part of her wanted to check for hidden cameras. The rest of her wanted a shot at experiencing her number one fantasy-a night of passion with a real cowboy. Darn it, she was in Las Vegas. Nobody knew who she was. What better way to celebrate her independence than by living out a dream?
When they reached the bank of elevators, Grayson stopped. “I’m going to have to change this shirt. I smell like a cheap bar.” He indicated a group of chairs in the center of the lobby. “Do you want to wait for me here?”
“It’s okay. I’ll come up and wait in your room.” Lauren couldn’t believe she’d said that. She tensed and waited for his reaction. Her strange desire to stay close to him waged war with her deeply ingrained sense of caution.
He reclaimed her hand and punched a button on the elevator. By the time they reached the second level, the elevator was full. Lauren found herself backed up against the wall. Grayson shielded her with his body. Canned music burbled away and the press of bodies increased. He braced one hand above her head.
Lauren closed her eyes and inhaled his citrus aftershave. She shuddered as his lips brushed her hair. God, she wanted to lift her head and kiss him. His warm mouth grazed her temple releasing a rush of lust straight to her pussy. He moved again and the front of his damp shirt brushed her tight nipples.
She looked up, saw his intent expression and allowed his lips to meet hers. She forgot about the elevator and the crush of people as he slid his tongue inside her mouth and gently kissed her. With a sigh, she went on tiptoe to mould her body more intimately into his.
When Lauren opened her eyes, the elevator was empty. Grayson straightened and guided her into the corridor. At the door to his room, he hesitated.
“Just for the record. I don’t usually invite women I’ve just met into my bedroom.”
“You didn’t. I invited myself.”
Grayson smiled down at her. “Well as long as we’re clear on that. Come on in.”
His suite smelled faintly of lemon and leather and was remarkably tidy. He took off his hat and ran his hand through his crow black hair.
“Make yourself comfortable, I’ll just be a minute.”
He disappeared into the bathroom. Lauren contemplated the flashy view of The Strip below. She was trembling. For the first time in her life she wanted to be reckless. Grayson seemed like a nice guy. He was obviously attracted to her. Why not take advantage of her anonymity and have the ride of her life?
Lauren took a deep breath and walked into the bathroom. The faucets were running and Grayson had finished unbuttoning his shirt. She paused to take in the glory of his muscled chest and flat stomach. He went still as she took the wet wash cloth from his unresisting hand and rubbed it over his chest.
She followed the droplets of water down his belly and traced the snap of his jeans with her fingertip. Grayson’s hands closed around her waist and he lifted her onto the edge of the vanity unit. His chest rose and fell with each labored breath.
“Are you sure this is what you want?”
“Yes, aren’t you?”
Grayson moved forward, spreading her knees with his hips, hitching her skirt up to her waist. “Honey, I’m more sure about this than of anything I’ve ever done before. God help me, it just feels right.”
Lauren wrapped her arms around his neck. The harsh fabric of his well-filled jeans against the silk of her panties only increased her desire for him. He bent his head, his blue eyes locked on hers. She tensed as his mouth descended and then relaxed into the kiss. He kissed with a restraint she knew he was far from feeling judging by the urgent pressure of his cock against her pussy. The sharp edge of his belt buckle jammed into her stomach. She struggled to insert her hand between their bodies to release it.
He groaned deep in his throat as her fingers worked on his belt and the button of his jeans. She stroked his shaft through the denim, amazed at her boldness, enthralled by his response to it. He tilted his hips, allowing her a glimpse of the crown of his huge cock as it fought its way out of his jeans.
She slid her hand inside and slowly lowered the zipper. His kisses became more urgent as she cradled his shaft. Turned on by the thickness and length, her body softened in anticipation.
“Wait.” He closed his hand over hers and drew back. “Let me see you.”
Grayson ripped off her panty hose and stared at the thin black scrap of satin between her legs. He licked his lips as he drew the panties down her legs. He licked her with a voracious need that soon had her pushing her pussy into his face and grabbing his hair to keep his inventive mouth locked onto her.
The slick wet sound of his lapping and the suck of his fingers as he slid them in and out echoed through the bathroom. Lauren didn’t care; her attention focused on her fast-approaching orgasm. Grayson continued to circle her sex with his tongue as he searched blindly through his wash bag.
Lauren took the condom out of his hand and covered his straining shaft. Without further urging, he wrapped one hand around the base of his cock and positioned it between her legs.
“Tell me you want me. Tell me it’s still okay.”
His terse words almost destroyed Lauren’s sexual high. He was being way too considerate for a man she never expected to see again. Dammit, but she wanted him. In answer, she pulled him close, driving his cock deep inside her wet, moist entrance. She came almost immediately, clenching around his thick shaft with all her strength. He kept thrusting, making her peak again. His hands were busy pushing her blouse out of his way. His hot mouth latched onto her taut nipple.
Lauren edged closer, until her butt almost slid off the counter top. She wrapped her legs around his pumping hips and surrendered to the surge of his cock inside her. As her climax built for the third time she wrenched her mouth away from his, afraid she’d bite right through his luscious lower lip. She screamed her pleasure as Grayson came, his last urgent thrust made her spasm around him again.
When she could finally breathe, Lauren just stared at Grayson. She’d never come three times before in one night in her life. He smiled and tucked a piece of her hair behind her ear. He slowly eased out of her but held her close. She realized she liked the way he smelled. She wanted to nuzzle his skin, lick off the combination of sex and sweat until he was ready for her again.
“Do you still want to get dinner?”
She pointed at the phone. “Does this hotel have room service?”
Laughing, he picked her up and headed for the bedroom.
An hour later, Lauren sat up and straddled his chest. “We’ll have to go down.”
He smiled up at her, his eyes lazy with lust, his whole body relaxed beneath hers.
“Because we have no more condoms.”
He groaned and rubbed at his eyes. “Damn it, you’re right. I wasn’t expecting to meet a beautiful demanding woman like you. I only came to Vegas to watch the bull riding and do a little gambling.”
Lauren stroked his nipple. “I could just go.” She shrieked as he sat up and dragged her hands behind her back.
He glanced down at his cock which now nestled between her breasts. “I don’t think so.” His erection grew as they stared at it. “We’re not finished yet.”
Lauren attempted to climb off him but he pushed her down into the tangled bed clothes.
“How about I make sure you want to come back up stairs with me?” He lowered his head and kissed his way down her stomach. Her hips jerked forward as he traced her swollen sex with his tongue. She closed her eyes as he lapped at her, his strokes sure and powerful, his finger sliding inside to complete her pleasure. She grabbed the bedcovers as her tension mounted and anticipated the flood of desire.
He raised his head and grinned at her. “I think that will do nicely.”
She gaped at him. “Aren’t you going to finish?”
“Nope. If you want more, you’ll have to stay the night with me.” He rolled off the bed and hunted for his jeans.
Lauren squeezed her thighs together in a desperate bid for release. How did he know that she craved him enough to put up with being left high and dry? She wandered into the bathroom and picked up her skirt and blouse.
Grayson glanced over at her as she located her bra. “I ripped your hose and your panties. I’ll buy you some new ones.”
It felt strange walking down the corridor with no panties on. Lauren wondered if anyone apart from Grayson could tell. He stood behind her in the elevator, one arm wrapped around her waist. For the first time in her life she allowed herself to lean back into a man’s strength. Their lovemaking had only confirmed the depth of the attraction between them. She sensed she could spend a lifetime exploring Grayson’s sensual possibilities.
Lauren waited while Grayson visited the small general store tucked away in the corner of the lobby. An elderly lady and her husband parked themselves on the seat next to Lauren’s. As soon as the lady smiled at her, Lauren knew she was going to be dragged into a conversation whether she liked it or not.
“Hi, I’m Peggy. Are you here with someone special dear?”
Lauren smiled back. “Yes, I am thank you.”
Peggy kissed her husband’s gnarled cheek. “This is Doug. We come here every year to celebrate our wedding anniversary. We ran away together fifty years ago.”
“That’s amazing. Congratulations!” Lauren studied their blissful faces and then turned toward the lobby. Grayson walked across to her with his easy long stride. Peggy followed her gaze.
“Is that your young man, dear? He looks like the steady reliable type. Are you married then?”
“Not yet,” Lauren laughed “He hasn’t asked me.”
Lauren became engrossed in studying Grayson as he approached her. What would it be like to take a chance and marry a stranger just because you thought you’d connected at a soul deep level? Was it possible that she and Grayson would be coming back to Vegas in fifty years to celebrate their own special anniversary?
“Lauren, are you okay?” Grayson tipped his hat at the elderly couple and then crouched in front of her. She met his searching blue gaze as best she could. Peggy poked Grayson in the ribs with her walking stick.
“She’d probably feel a lot better if you made an honest woman out of her, young man. I don’t hold with all this living together nonsense,” Peggy said.
Grayson took Lauren’s cold hands in his. “Are you planning a wedding, Lauren, honey?”
She waited for the masculine reaction of caged terror which usually accompanied the use of the word wedding. Grayson didn’t move and his expression remained as intense as ever.
“If I was going to get married, I’d need a bridegroom wouldn’t I?”
His smile died. “You wouldn’t have to look far. I’d marry you in a heartbeat.”
She stared at him intently. What if he was the one? What if he offered her a new start in life and the opportunity to leave her troubled past behind? She needed to move on. She needed to be brave. His gaze narrowed and he brought her hand to his lips.
“Marry me, Lauren and I swear I’ll be the best darned husband in the universe.”
She touched his cheek, felt the roughness of his stubble and the strength inherent in his jaw line. If she could trust him with her body shouldn’t she be able to trust him with her heart?
“All right then, I will.”
Lauren woke with a start as the never-ending rumble of traffic penetrated the silence in the room. With great care, she removed Grayson’s arm from around her waist and scurried into the bathroom. She checked her watch. It was five in the morning. Her gaze remained riveted on the cheap gold wedding band Grayson had placed on her finger not two hours earlier.
She buried her throbbing head in her hands and silently screamed. Two hours ago she’d thought she’d found the perfect man, a man who didn’t know who her father was or care less. A man who liked her for herself, not for her connections or for what she could do for him. They’d connected on a level so deep that it stunned her. Marrying Grayson had seemed the perfect opportunity to move beyond her father’s reach and declare her independence.
After a deep breath, Lauren raised her head and looked in the mirror. She had to leave. She had no right to involve a good and decent man in the complicated relationship between herself and her father. Las Vegas wasn’t big enough for her to hide in. And she was done with that anyway. She had a business to run, a new life to lead.
Slipping into her clothes, she took off the wedding ring and laid it carefully on the countertop. She left her business card in Grayson’s wallet. She swallowed a sob. When he woke up and discovered she’d gone. Would he be secretly relieved or mad as hell? If she was lucky, perhaps he would call her and they could begin the messy business of the divorce proceedings.