Home > The Last Christmas Cowboy

The Last Christmas Cowboy
Author: Maisey Yates

CHAPTER ONE


   ROSE DANIELS WAS happy with her life. She had the best job in the entire world, working on Hope Springs Ranch, spending her days outdoors riding horses and wrangling cattle. She loved it. The idea of having an office job made her want to crawl out of her skin, and the thought of sitting still was even less appealing than that.

   Sure, her primary coworker was hardheaded and a bit of a pain, but Logan was also like a brother to her, a good friend and a decent enough horseman.

   Her brother, Ryder, was the boss, and he could be a whole challenge, but ultimately, he was the one who had raised her after the death of their parents, and she loved him with all of her heart. Working on the ranch allowed her to be close to her family, another bonus of the whole situation.

   And over the last couple of years, she had watched her sister Pansy find the love of her life, followed by her brother, Ryder, with his best friend Sammy.

   It had her thinking a lot, though, about her sister Iris.

   Rose was the youngest of the Daniels children, and after the death of their parents, it was Iris who had taken on the maternal role for Rose.

   She’d always been there for Rose, for the whole family. Cooking, cleaning, offering support. She’d combed Rose’s hair for school, helped choose her clothes. Had walked Rose through buying her first bra and all the other ills of puberty.

   And Iris was still living at the ranch, cooking for all of them, caring for them all.

   Rose had to wonder if it was why Iris didn’t seem to care at all for herself. If it was why Iris was alone.

   Rose didn’t like to see Iris alone. She had been so young and helpless when her parents had died. She hadn’t been able to take care of anyone. They’d all cared for her. She wasn’t a child anymore, though. That early feeling of helplessness had formed her. Shaped her. And now...now she wanted to fix things. It was who she was. It was the way she’d found a place on the family ranch. The way she’d made herself matter. Whether it was a calf with an ankle injury or a person with a wound in their heart, Rose wanted to see that it was put to rights.

   And now she was considering Iris. Who, were they in Regency times, would be considered a spinster. Not even just close to being on the shelf. Not even simply past her initial first blush.

   Granted, it was not the Regency period, and it wasn’t really fair to judge anything by those standards. But Iris was a traditional sort of woman, and Rose imagined that her sister must want to be in love and married.

   “Rose, get your head out of the clouds and your feet back in the mud. We’ve got work to do.”

   She glanced over at Logan, who was standing there looking taciturn, his tan cowboy hat pulled down low over his eyes. He was wearing a matching work jacket and gloves, and seeing him appropriately dressed made her skin prickle with goose bumps, more aware of the chill in the air than she’d been a moment before. She’d run out with nothing but a T-shirt and a denim button-up that she left open.

   She was adapting slowly to the change in weather, resenting it. She preferred to be outside in the sunshine. And she liked the crisp, clear fall weather, that often saw her removing outer layers as the day wore on. But they were beginning to turn the corner into outright winter weather here in mid-November, and she was not prepared.

   “I’m just thinking,” she said.

   “That’s what concerns me,” he said, a smile tipping his mouth upward. “When you think, things seem to happen. And somebody has to clean up the mess.”

   “Nobody asked you to do it,” she said. “Anyway, I seem to recall a time, though it was several years ago, when you got to thinking that jumping your bike off that rise down by the north pasture was a good idea, and you ran into the barbed wire fence, and I cleaned up that mess.”

   “I was a teenager.”

   “Yes, and I was seven. I still remember it.”

   Something flickered in his blue eyes, but he didn’t say anything more. Instead, he turned back to the fence that he was repairing, and she picked up a wire cutter and joined him on the line.

   “I want to help Iris find someone,” she mused.

   “Rose...”

   “Hear me out. She’s alone. It’s going to be Christmas. I hate the thought of that.”

   “She’s always alone. Seems to me at this point it’s a choice. And you should respect it.”

   Rose shook her head. “Nobody wants to be alone.”

   “You are also alone,” he pointed out.

   “I’m twenty-three,” she said. “I have no designs on being anything but alone for quite some time. This is not about me. I want nothing more than to see the people I love most settled and happy.”

   “Iris is happy,” he said.

   “What if she isn’t?”

   “Then she will do something to fix it. Or she won’t. But either way, it’s none of your business.”

   She made an exasperated sound. “It’s not about whether or not it’s my business. And anyway, that’s not true. We are family. In a way that few other people ever will be. We... We had to raise each other.”

   “Pretty sure Ryder did most of that.”

   “I know,” she said.

   She had been six years old when her parents had died. She barely remembered them now. She remembered not understanding. For a very long time. She had grieved when she’d been given the news, because she had known that dead was terrible. But forever was something that she hadn’t been able to wrap her mind around. And there was a point where it felt like they would surely come back. They had to.

   But of course she had started to realize that the way her brother’s mouth was set, always turning down, meant something bad. That he didn’t go away to college like he had planned to.

   When she was seven she had asked Logan, while she was bandaging his hands up. She’d been feeling proud because she knew where the first aid kit was. Knew how to help with his cuts. And she hadn’t been scared of the blood.

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