Cassie's Cowboy
Silhouette Romance
April 2002
ISBN: 0-373-19584-2

Excerpt




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 HE WAS HER KNIGHT IN....
A DUSTY STETSON?

Cassie Nevins longed for someone to save the day, someone like Cowboy Charlie, the hero she'd created for her daughter's bedtime stories—and the hunk who'd starred in a few of her own not-so-innocent fantasies. Charlie followed the code of the Old West: Act honorably, work hard, tell the truth and take responsibility.

So who was the stranger on her doorstep, looking exactly like her cowboy...right down to the dimple in one corner of his very kissable mouth? All Cassie knew was this Charlie could make all her dreams come true—including her deeply hidden desire for a happily-ever-after!




  Reviews
Cassie's Cowboy is a fun and breezy read filled with Cowboy Charlie's "good ole boy" western charm and a magical pair of hideous looking glasses. Kudos to Ms. Pershing for delivering a wonderful heroine and a fabulous ending that I very much enjoyed!

- Thea Candee

Diane Pershing weaves this delightful fairy tale complete with a cast of characters readers will adore. Charlie is a cowboy who would curl any woman's toes. This is a true "feel good" story that will wrap readers in warm, fuzzy feelings for a long time. CASSIE'S COWBOY is sure to become a classic.

- Yvonne Hering, Writers Club Romance Group on AOL

Author Diane Pershing achieves an amazingly convincing fantasy come to life tale of romance and happily-ever-after endings with CASSIE'S COWBOY. Perishing gathers all the elements of the traditional fairy tale, including the widowed mother about to loose her home to foreclosure, a touch of magic, and a wish. This result is fantasy come true for Cassie, but true love and commitment arrive with an unexpected twist that left this reviewer first with tears of sadness then tears of joy. This whimsical and beautiful tale reveals Pershing's mastery of storytelling and touching characterization. CASSIE'S COWBOY earns the Winner of the WordWeaving Award of Excellence with flair.

- Cindy Penn, Wordweaving

Excerpt
Young widow Cassie Nevins has invented a fictional cowboy for her daughter, Trish. Each night she tells the child stories of Cowboy Charlie, who always rides to the rescue...

As she headed for the bath, Cassie rubbed her thumb along the glasses’ earpiece. She was not only tired, she was rapidly on the way to being downright grumpy. And, despite her usual sunny outlook, she was beginning to sense the edges of panic. She needed money, she needed hope, she needed help, none of which were in sight.

Actually, what she needed now was a rescuer, of the knight-in-shining-armor variety.

No, forget the knight. What she needed was a cowboy, one of the good guys, as opposed to the bad guys. How very nice it would be if Cowboy Charlie would come along and make all her troubles disappear.

Right, she thought with a rueful smile. And he could bring the tooth fairy with him.

She turned on the hot water tap, then began to unbutton her blouse. Her hands paused as she thought she heard a noise. What was it? Some kind of bell? Frowning, she turned the water off and listened. Yes, there it went again. The doorbell.

Putting on her glasses, she glanced at her watch. Who could it be at nine at night? Swallowing down the automatic fear reaction of a woman who lived alone with her child, she hurried downstairs before the bell rang again. She went to the door and peered through the peephole.

In the yellow glow cast by the porch light, she could make out the figure of a man. Not just any man, but-

Cassie gasped as her hand automatically flew to cover her pounding heart. Unless she was completely mistaken, standing there, big as life, was none other than . . . Cowboy Charlie!

Charlie wasn’t real clear on just what had happened. Last thing he remembered he was riding Felicity along the stretch they called Sagebrush Plain. He’d been admiring the way the setting sun was coating the far-off mountains with the darnedest colors-all purples and reds and golds-and thinking about the juicy steak he intended to have when he got back to camp, when all at once he swore he heard the sound of a woman sighing.

And not just an itty-bitty sigh, but a gigantic sigh, one that echoed and echoed and got louder and louder until he had to cover his ears. And then, Whoosh! there was a new sound, a roar twice as big as the sound of a hurricane. Suddenly, he felt his body being lifted and hurled through some kind of sideways tornado. Round and round he twisted till he could barely catch a breath. And then, just as suddenly, he was on land again, feet first and standing upright.

On a strange porch, facing a strange door.

And knocking on that door, because that seemed to be the obvious thing to do.

Now a woman was opening that door, but keeping the screen door between them closed.

“Ma’am?” he said, removing his hat and smoothing back his hair, then settling it back on his head. He was still breathing pretty heavily from his trip, but that didn’t affect his eyesight. No, sir.

She was just about the cutest thing he’d seen in a long while. Little, not a bit over five feet, he bet. Her head was all over short brown curls, and her eyes were brown too, chocolate-colored and large. Right now they peered suspiciously at him from the top of the strangest looking pair of spectacles he’d ever seen and which were perched on the tip of her small nose.

“Good evening,” he said politely, when she seemed disobliged to say anything welcoming.

The woman checked to make sure the lock was on the screen door, then crossed her arms over her chest. “And just who are you supposed to be?” She had a low, raspy-sounding voice, which didn’t really go with the small, compact body, but it sure did sound womanly, and it sure did set up a little male appreciation-type humming in his blood.

“I figured you would know, Ma’am.”

“Why don’t you tell me anyway?” One of her eyebrows was raised, mistrustful-like, as though he was trying to sell her a steer for stud work.

“Cowboy Charlie, of course,” he said with a smile that usually melted any chill a lady might be sending out. “You can call me just plain Charlie, if you’d like.”

“Um hum,” she said, that pretty little mouth of hers set in a real disbelieving line. “And just how did you get here, ‘just plain Cowboy Charlie’?” She spoke his name like it was something he’d made up.

Which was strange, because she’d been the one to come up with it.

“Well, I was doing what I always do, you know, riding the range on my horse, looking for adventures and folks who need rescuing, and the next thing I knew I was here. Felicity didn’t make it, though.”

“Felicity.”

“My horse. You know. You named him.”

“Him?”

“Yes, Ma’am. Felicity’s a he, a gelding actually. But I figured you didn’t know that when you thought up his moniker.”

“Oh.” Her eyes widened in surprise. “No I didn-” She cut herself off in mid-sentence then shook her head. She fixed her gaze on him for a long moment, like she was trying to figure out a puzzle. “I’ll say this much. You’re good.”

“Excuse me?”

“Whoever sent you, they chose well. You’re a dead-ringer for him.”

Charlie was feeling just a bit confused. “You sent me, Ma’am.”

“Did I?” That one suspicious eyebrow shot up again. “And just where did I get you from? I mean exactly where is that range you were riding on?”

He wondered why she was testing him this way, but figured he’d find out soon enough. “Well, it’s kind of hard to explain. May I come in?”

He reached for the door handle.

“You may not,” she fairly snapped at him. “I don’t let strangers into my house.”

“Oh.”

He thought a bit, pushed his hat back and scratched his head. Then, figuring he might be standing here for a while, he leaned an elbow against the door frame and crossed one booted foot over the other.

A cricket nearby set to chirping, which made Charlie feel a little less strange. There were crickets where he came from too. And porches, and screen doors-although they had wooden frames back home, not iron ones like this one.

“Okay, now, where is that range?” he repeated, then lifted one shoulder in a shrug. “Well, that’s a little complicated. See, there’s a kind of a . . . well, a place, a section . . .” He’d never had to put it into words before. “Not here, I mean not here, in your world . . .”

“So you’re from heaven?” Now she was being downright sarcastic. With someone else, he might have bristled at her attitude, but he figured this was one part of some kind of test he was being put through, so he’d just have to go along as best he could.

Besides, darned if she wasn’t the cutest, sassiest gal he’d seen in a while. Then there was the way her blouse was open a ways, and how that piece of white lace that peeked out from the opening more than hinted at a sweet pair of . . .

Charlie coughed, and brought himself back to her question. “Heaven? No, not really. But that’s as good a name as any. It’s this special world for what you call fictional characters. We got Oliver Twist back there and Batman, and Romeo and Juliet-poor things are always sighing at each other. And we all sort of . . . well, kinda live there. Until we’re sent for, I guess,” he finished with a grin. “Which, I figure, is what happened this time.”

Until we're sent for.

The minute the stranger said those words, Cassie felt an icy shiver skitter up and down her spine, and its effect was terrifying. Mostly because she was starting to believe this guy. No! She shook her head. No. She must be in a dream. Or the butt of some bizarre joke.

But she’d meant what she’d said; the man was good. Really a pro. Exactly as she’d pictured Cowboy Charlie, exatly as she’d drawn him, down to the small dimple on one side of his mouth, and the way his sun-streaked hair flapped attractively over his forehead.

Truth be told, she’d always been a little in love with her creation, fictional though he was. She’d invented him not just for Trish but for herself. A fantasy man, one with all the historically classic, manly characteristics. Strength. Trustworthiness. Protectiveness. A hard worker, honest and dependable.

And sexy, too. That part had definitely been for her, not Trish.

A sexy man for her dream life, which was a far cry from the difficult, complex, real world she inhabited day to day.

A fantasy man was the only kind she’d allow entrance into her life. After her late husband Teddy-a sweet, well-intentioned-but-unreliable man-Cassie had been in no hurry for anyone new to love. Thus Cowboy Charlie: The perfect-not in real life, but perfect nevertheless-classic hero.

Gazing at him now, she had to fight the sudden urge to invite him in, whoever he was. He was as appealing as anything she’d seen in a long, long time.

But good sense took over. One did not open one’s door to a strange man. Especially not at night. And not with her precious daughter sleeping upstairs.

Still, he wasn’t in the least bit threatening, and Cassie had pretty good instincts that way. There was something comforting about his presence. He felt like . . . Cowboy Charlie, down to that scar at the edge of his right eyebrow, the one he’d gotten in the tussle with a knife-wielding bank robber down in Baja.

No! This time the icy shiver that zipped through her veins made her jump. Charlie hadn’t run into a knife-wielding bank robber in Baja, not in reality.

Cassie's Cowboy

Charlie was fictional! She had made up that story, made up all the Cowboy Charlie stories. Had, in fact, made up the man who was standing here now, big as life on her porch and chatting away in his lazy, masculine drawl, easy and likeable.

And achingly familiar.

Cassie found her body leaning forward, as though she were being drawn to him. With only the screen door separating them, she could swear she could smell him, and what she took in was a heady mixture of healthy sweat, old leather, and pipe tobacco. It was an intoxicating blend.

Wait a minute. Pipe tobacco? Oh that’s right, in a couple of early stories, she’d had Charlie lighting up a pipe as he sat around the campfire with some of his buddies, so that made sense. But she’d cut out the pipe in the later tales, not wanting to send any kind of tobacco-as-soothing message to her daughter. Apparently, this Cowboy Charlie hadn’t gotten the word.

Help, she thought weakly, although she wasn’t sure who the plea was aimed toward. She had to stop this nonsense, pull back from the spell cast by the stranger.

Propping her hands on her hips, she glared at this man, this fake Cowboy Charlie. “Enough,” she said firmly. “The truth now. Who sent you?”

He frowned, then removed his elbow from the door frame and stood up straight. “You did, Ma’am,” he said politely. “You’re Mz Nevins, right? Cassie Nevins?”

The woman’s eyes narrowed, but she nodded, so Charlie went on. “I’m not really sure, but those spectacles? The ones on the end of your nose? I think they mighta had something to do with it.” He shook his head. “See, this is as much a surprise to me as it is to you. Now I’ve heard tales, about others who’ve left, you know, and it was because they were needed, real bad. They were sent for because that person who needed them? Well, that person did something to bring it about, to . . . make it happen. I’m not real clear on this, as I said, but in the back of my head, there’s this idea that it’s connected to your spectacles.”

When Cassie continued to stare at him with an expression of pure confusion, he went on talking, hoping he’d light on the words that would help her understand, so she could be more peaceful than she seemed.

“Maybe it’s something like Aladdin did-we got him back home too. Like rubbing a magic bottle? Or when you wish on a star? You must have done something like that.” He shrugged. “I’m sorry. I wish I knew more. I’m kind of new at this myself.”

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