I love a good rodeo. It’s true.
In fact, I love rodeos so much, I have a whole series of books that’s about… you guessed it – Rodeo!
In my latest release, the hero in the story is a bareback rider.
If you aren’t familiar with the sport, bareback riding is much like it sounds. There’s no saddle. No pad.
The cowboy is basically trying to stay on the back of thousand-pound wildly bucking horse holding onto his leather rigging. The rigging greatly resembles a suitcase handle attached to a strap, which is placed on top of the horse’s withers and secured with a cinch.
Some say bareback riding is equivalent to attempting to ride a jackhammer with one hand. Bareback riders endure more physical abuse, suffer more injuries, and sustain more long-term damage than all other rodeo cowboys.
To compete, when the horse and rider bust out of the chute, the cowboy’s spurs must be touching the horse’s shoulders until the horse’s feet hit the ground after the initial move out of the chute. This is called “marking out.” If a cowboy fails to keep his spurs in position, he is disqualified. The bronc bucks and the rider pulls his knees up, rolling his spurs up the horse’s shoulders. As the horse comes back down, he straightens his legs, returning his spurs over the point of the horse’s shoulders, anticipating the next move.
A qualified ride requires more than just strength. The cowboy is judged on his spurring technique, the degree his toes remain turned out while he’s spurring, and his willingness to take whatever comes along during the ride.
In Keeping Christmas, Gage Taggart is a bareback rider on his way to making the national finals. He rides a motorcycle, has the world on a string, and is sure of his future… until a freak accident leaves him at the mercy of his best friend’s sister who just happens to be a nurse.
Here is an excerpt from their first encounter in the story:
There was no way on earth or beyond she was going behind the chutes. The last time she’d done that had cured her on rodeos and rodeo cowboys for life. She had no intention of repeating the experience. The very thought of going back there left her thoroughly disturbed.
She sent a text to Gage, telling him to meet her near the ticket booth. It was only after she hit send that she realized she should have mentioned she was the one there, not Trevor.
Gage would figure it out soon enough, she supposed.
She leaned against the corner of the ticket booth, out of the way, and watched the faces of those coming and going. Through the crowd, she caught a glimpse of a face that looked familiar as a cowboy jogged her way.
Tally sucked in a gulp of air, unprepared for how much Gage had changed since she’d last seen him in person. The boy she’d had a crush on had morphed into a very handsome man. His dark brown hair was shorter, his shoulders broader, his body a finely-tuned machine of muscle. She noticed a scar on his right cheek that hadn’t been there before, yet it only added to his rugged appeal.
But his eyes were the same magnificent shade of blue, and his lips still appeared incredibly kissable. When he looked at a little girl wearing a pink tutu over her denim overalls, his grin kicked up the left side of his mouth just as she remembered.
He didn’t appear to have gotten taller than his already six-foot height, but he looked stronger and more capable than he had all those years ago.
Tally noticed several women eyeing him as he made his way through the crowd. He didn’t even seem to notice them as he scanned the faces, no doubt searching for her brother. She stepped away from the ticket booth and headed toward him.
She tried to catch his eye, but he looked right past her, as though she didn’t exist. Not that it surprised her. Guys like Gage weren’t interested in girls like her — girls who would never be mistaken for a model, had brains in their heads, and held to an unyielding set of morals.
Nope. There was nothing about her that would be of the slightest interest to a cowboy like Gage.
Tally waited until she was standing directly behind him to tap him on the shoulder.
“Gage Taggart,” she said in a voice she used to subdue unruly patients. He jerked and turned around to stare at her.
She could see him struggling to pull her identity from his memories. Insulted he hadn’t yet figured out who she was, someone jostled into her and she bumped against Gage. Something electric and completely unexpected arced between the two of them. Tally wanted no part of whatever it was and moved back.
Eager to get the torturous errand over with, she held the gear bag out to him. “Trevor sent me with this.”
“Where’s Trev?” Gage asked, taking the bag and looking around like her brother might suddenly materialize. “Who was I texting a minute ago if it wasn’t him?”
“That would be me. I’m sure you don’t remember, but I’m Trevor’s sister.”
“Tally? You’re little Tally?” He held his hand down near his waist, indicating the height he thought she should be.
She nodded and Gage broke into a wide grin.
“You were always such a cute kid with those big gray eyes, sturdy little legs, and chubby cheeks.” He reached out and playfully pinched her cheek. “You haven’t changed a bit. Aren’t you like, fifteen, maybe sixteen?”
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