I never thought I’d be a writer. I didn’t spend my childhood making up stories about my Barbies or my teenage years penning books about my perfect love. I was a reader, and books were one of my favorite gifts. I was also crazy about horses. Since I was born and raised in the middle of town to parents who had no use for them, getting a horse of my own was a fantasy.
A little thing like that didn’t stop me. I hounded them year after year, for birthdays and Christmas. Every time they’d ask what I wanted, I’d answer, “A horse.” They were all-mighty sick of hearing about my dream, but being my parents, they loved me anyway. They bought Breyer toy horses, cowgirl outfits and all the western books they could find in an effort to appease me.
When I was fifteen, I wore them down. My dad came home with an appaloosa--quarter horse cross, a two year old unbroken colt. To say that we learned together is an understatement. The fact that I didn’t have a clue how to train him didn’t make any difference. I had a horse, and my life was great.
Over the next thirty years, I learned from two of the best barrel horse trainers in the country, Larry and Kay Davis. I was fortunate enough to have some great horses that made me look good. I married a cowboy and had pretty much everything I’d ever dreamed about.
As I said, I’m a reader. I’m a romance reader, and I devour books like chocolate chip cookies. Well, I did until I started writing them. One day about six years ago, I read a romance about a barrel racer. As the heroine was preparing to go to the National Finals Rodeo, she fell in love with the hero, a man who knew nothing about rodeo.
The author also knew nothing about rodeo and hadn’t bothered to do her research. The romance part of her book was well written, and I’m sure to someone who hadn’t rodeoed it was fine, but to me, it wasn’t authentic. What I couldn’t get past was the way she portrayed the horse training, barrel racing and rodeo scenes. They couldn’t have been more unrealistic if she’d tried, and really, all she needed to do was ask. Most barrel racers love to talk about their sport and their horses.
So in my infinite wisdom, I thought, “How hard can it be to write a book?” I decided I’d just write one the way it should be done. And so I did. That first book was read by my mother, and only my mother--she loved it by the way. The thing was, with that book, I discovered how hard it is to write well.
I spent the next five years writing, taking classes, writing some more and learning from other writers until I finished Sugarwater Ranch. Sugarwater is about a bull rider and a waitress and all the problems they have trying to find true love. I said I was a reader. I’m a romance reader and that’s what I write, contemporary romance set in the world of rodeo. I love my Happily Ever Afters.
There’s an old cowboy saying, “Training a horse is like looking at a solid wooden fence. Good trainers see a knothole, look through and discover all they’ve got left to learn. Most people don’t even find the knothole.”
The saying applies to writing, too. Six years later, after countless classes, with five books written and one published, I think maybe I’ve found the knothole. Now to learn what’s on the other side.
Sean O’Connell’s life is perfect, or it was until his partying lifestyle affected his bull riding. Now he’s ended the season too broke to leave the Northwest for the warm southern rodeos. When a wild night with his buddies gets out of hand, he wakes up naked, staring into the angry eyes of a strange woman. His infallible O’Connell charm gets him nowhere with the dark-haired beauty. It’s obvious she’s not his usual good-time girl, so why can’t he forget her?
Bar-manager Catherine Silvera finds a waterlogged, unconscious cowboy freezing to death in front of the Sugarwater Bar. She saves his life--then runs faster than a jackrabbit with a coyote on its tail. Any man who makes his living rodeoing is bad news, especially if Sean thinks partying is part of the competition. He’s everything she doesn’t want in a man, so why can’t Catherine shake her attraction to the rugged cowboy?
Catherine changed into her pajamas, her arms and legs so heavy she wasn’t sure she could make it to the bed. Gator was curled into a ball on the bedside rug. She rubbed the dog’s ears then climbed into bed and snuggled under the covers. At last, she could sleep.
But as she lay in the dark, her mind wouldn’t quit whirling. Having a stranger in her house unsettled her. Even though she knew his name, she really didn’t know him. She hadn’t seen Sean since she was twelve.
Her feet hit the cold floorboards, and she padded across the room to her antique dresser. Pushing and shoving, again and again, she moved the heavy piece of furniture until it stood guard in front of her bedroom door. It wasn’t as good as a deadbolt lock, but better than nothing. This way he couldn’t sneak up on her while she slept. She doubted he was going to wake in the next twelve hours, but a girl couldn’t be too careful.
She’d lived by herself since she’d returned to Dalhart, so it never occurred to her to get a lock for her bedroom door. Tomorrow she’d call Uncle Ray and have him pick up a deadbolt at the hardware store. She’d be prepared for the next time, if there was a next time.
As the first pink rays of dawn lit the sky, Gator woke her from a deep sleep, whining and pawing at her bedding. On a normal night, he stayed outside and had the run of the yard. He was ready for his normal night.
With Sean in the house, Catherine had kept the dog in her room as added protection, but now he wanted out. She felt her way across the room, flipped the latch then slid the window open. Gator hopped through into the large backyard and began to explore his territory. After closing the window, she dropped back into bed. By the time her eyelids had closed, she was asleep again.
Uncle Ray owned the old farmhouse where she’d lived since she’d come back to Dalhart. It was less than three miles from the bar and one of the perks of the job. Living alone, Catherine was used to her house being silent unless she made noise. She heard someone moving outside her bedroom door, and panic filled her sleep-fogged brain.
Memories of the night before flooded back. The man she’d brought home must be awake. She heard mumbling and a small crash, followed by loud swearing. She pulled the covers up to her chin and debated what to do. Did she want to leave the safety of her room? If she waited long enough, maybe he’d go away. Then she remembered his truck was still at the bar. He wasn’t going anywhere.
She pulled on jeans, running shoes, and a thermal shirt. After pushing the dresser just far enough to slip through, she turned the doorknob slowly so as not to make a sound and inched open the door. The hall was empty, but the sound of water running let her know someone was in the bathroom.
With her back pressed against the wall, she was careful to be quiet as she crept along the hallway. Leaning forward, she stuck her head around the corner of the door.
Quiet be damned. There, in the buff, was one of the nicest butts she'd ever had the privilege of ogling. Not that she'd seen many naked men’s butts, but she was sure this was prime real estate. Holy cow, where was her cell phone when she needed a camera?
The man stood at the sink with his head under the faucet, her quilt pooled at his feet. She should leave, she really should, but her feet were pasted to the floor, her heart beating so hard she was afraid he'd hear. Her fingers tingled with the desire to touch. Without thinking, she put her hand against the door, moving it just enough for the hinge to screech.
He straightened, and looking in the mirror, stared directly into her eyes.
She'd been caught, and she wanted to run, but the sight of his green eyes locked on her kept her motionless.
Without a word, he bent to retrieve the quilt. Wrapping it around his waist, he turned to face her, and her eyes focused on his six-pack abs. The slight movement of his mouth as he smiled drew her attention to his face. The scar running through his left eyebrow kept him from being a pretty boy. He was the whole package, candy to her sweet tooth. Then she remembered how she’d found him last night. Stepping back into the hallway, she put her hands on her hips and raised her chin. No matter how good-looking, he wasn’t the man for her. To Catherine, life was more than partying till she dropped.
Evernight Publishing: http://www.evernightpublishing.com/sugarwater-ranch-by-stephanie-berget/
All Romance E-books: https://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-sugarwaterranch-1173523-149.html
Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/sugarwater-ranch-stephanie-berget/1115340466?ean=2940044525351