She’ll do anything to get him to see her as a woman...
Feisty, fearless Ellie McFarlane has tried forever to get cattle station manager, Rick Drummond, to notice she’s not another cowhand. So when her gal pals talk her into glamming up for an Outback Bachelor and Spinster ball she’s eager to prove she’s all woman, all the time, and leave her boneheaded cowboy eating dust.
Sexy wrangler Rick is crazy about Ellie just as she is but her father – his boss – told him long ago that his daughter was off limits. Even though she’s all grown up now, Rick still feels it’s his job is to protect her, not seduce her. Plus, he’s finally got an opportunity to buy back his family farm, which means moving far away.
Ellie’s transformation from Cinder-Ellie to belle of the ball has Rick’s jaw dropping – and all the other cowboys falling at her feet. Ellie tries to revel in her new-found sex-pot status but without Rick it’s a hollow victory. Has Rick left it too late to claim the only woman he’ll ever truly love….
Ellie gazed glumly into her bedroom closet looking for a suitable dress to wear to the Bachelor Ball. She was a cowgirl, not a girly girl, so there wasn’t a lot on offer. "My old pink chiffon will have to do.”
Jen and Beth lounged on the bed, margaritas in hand. Their reunion weekend was off to a flying start. Now Ellie had to live up to her friends’ dare to glam up for the ball.
"No way. I'm going to burn the chiffon." Jen jumped up, ripped the dress off the hanger and threw it in a corner. "Never fear, I have the perfect dress for you."
She dragged her suitcase onto Ellie’s bed and flipped it open. Delicately, she lifted out a floor-length dress in ivory silk with pencil-thin black horizontal lines. It was a halter top with black spaghetti straps and a deep V-necked bodice. There was absolutely no back to it.
"I can’t wear that!" Ellie gulped at her margarita. "I'd be practically naked."
"Try it on," Beth urged. "It’ll look brilliant on you."
Suddenly the reality of her wearing this glamorous dress hit Ellie with the force of three margaritas. "It's too sexy for me. Do you have something tamer?"
Boot heels sounded on the wooden planks of the veranda. Rick rested his elbows on the window ledge and peered in, the light curtains billowing around his broad shoulders. His dark blond hair framed a ruggedly handsome face. "From all the laughing I heard earlier, you girls sound as if you’re having fun. Hey, Beth, Jen. Haven’t seen you two in ages.”
“Rick.” Beth went over to give him a hug. “Don’t you ever stop working?”
“Not when there are chores to be done. Careful you don’t blow away in the next breeze, girl.”
“My feet are firmly planted on the ground,” Beth, claimed, swaying lightly.
He released Beth and turned to hug Jen, immaculate in designer wear. “You gals want to help me and Norm bring home the weaner calves?"
Jen punched his shoulder. "When have you ever needed help with that?"
Ellie smiled affectionately as her friends bantered with Rick. It meant a lot to her that Jen and Beth liked Rick even though they privately referred to him as her bone-headed cowboy for not seeing Ellie as anything more than a kid sister or a cowhand.
Rick pushed his hat back on his head. “Been a long time since the three Musketeers have been together. You two come to get the country girl in trouble again?”
“Absolutely,” Jen said.
“It’s our duty,” Beth added solemnly.
Rick nodded at the cow suit draped over a chair. "Are you wearing that to the ball again, Ellie?"
"No, Jen is."
"What are you going as?" he asked her.
"A woman," she said loftily. "So there."
"A woman,” he repeated with a faint note of incredulity. His blue eyes crinkled.
Ellie's cheeks burned. In her torn cut-offs and bare feet she'd never felt more like a farm girl. Which was fine because that's who she was. But was it too much to ask that just once, just one friggin' time, Rick would acknowledge she was also an adult female and sexually desirable?
"She's going to hook up with the hottest guy at the ball," Beth said.
"They’ll be lining up to dance with her." Jen stabbed a finger at him. "Just you wait and see how sexy she looks."
“I’m not going to the ball this year. I’ve got business to attend to.” Then he laughed and shook his head. "A woman. Ellie, you are so nuts if you think –“
"Don't you have a barn to muck out?" Ellie snapped and started to close the window. Quickly he retracted his head before the sash came down on his neck. She whisked the curtains closed, plunging the room into an orange-tinted haze that matched the outrage burning inside her.
"That does it." She absolutely refused to pine after him another second. Peeling her tank top over her head she tossed it aside and dropped her shorts in a puddle on the floor. "Let's do this. Make me a sex bomb."
"Atta girl. Take your bra off, too," Jen instructed, bringing the dress to her.
"How will the dress stay on my boobs?" Ellie eyed the skinny halter top warily as she removed her sensible cotton bra. "I'll wobble all over the place."
"With those firm puppies? No way," Beth said. She and Jen lowered the dress over Ellie’s head.
"I've got special tape," Jen added. "Don't worry, there'll be no wardrobe malfunctions."
Ellie let the silky fabric slide over her near-naked body and shimmied to settle it over her hips. The dress felt super soft against her skin and swung with her slightest movement. Wow. She felt like Cinderella. Only instead of ugly step-sisters she was in the company of the kindest, most beautiful, generous friends ever.
"You guys are the best," she said, overcome by sentiment and tequila. "I mean it. You're both awesome to do this for me."
Beth gave her a hug and spun her around. "Look in the mirror. Then you'll see what awesome is."
Ellie blinked at the image of herself reflected in the full length mirror on the back of her closet door. She hardly recognized the sexy woman staring back at her. Above her waist, more flesh seemed to be exposed than was covered. "I can't wear this. I'll get arrested."
"You'll get laid, is what you'll get." Jen high-fived Beth. "You’re going to be a sex goddess."
"We'll do your hair, give you a manicure and pedicure,“ Beth went on happily.
Ellie listened in a daze. In this dress, it was easy to imagine she could be the kind of woman Rick was attracted to. Feminine. Sexy. Sultry.
Then the sound of his mocking chuckle came back to her, making her ears heat. Nope, she wasn’t trying to attract him. She was getting over him.
"Bring it on,” she said. “I am so going to do this."
The next morning Rick set off on the road south to his family’s old sheep station he was looking at to buy while Ellie and her friends slept off the margaritas. Ellie’s words still rang in his ears. I’m going as a woman.
Of course she was a woman. Why did she even need to say it? Beneath her jeans and T-shirt she had amazing breasts and real hips, as he well knew from swimming in the dam with her on hot summer days. And the way she’d said it, as if she had something to prove... A joke, because any fool could see she was all woman, all the time.
The idea that guys didn’t know she was hot had made him laugh out loud. But now that he thought about it, maybe that hadn’t been the best reaction. She’d seemed pretty pissed when she almost slammed his head in the window.
Ellie's going to hook up with the hottest guy at the ball.
Rick thumped the steering wheel with his fist. Jen and Beth were good friends to Ellie and always supportive but they were more worldly than her, more used to fending off unwanted advances. Of course, in the years she’d spent in America, Ellie had undoubtedly gained experience with men.
I've had me a cowboy or three...
Jealous, him? No, of course not. She was going to hook up with some guy permanently one day. She was too great a girl not to. But whoever she chose had to be good enough for her. If such a man existed.
To distract himself he switched radio stations, happening to land on a local station advertising the Dubbo Bachelor and Spinster Ball. Live music, dancing, open bar from 7:00 pm., barbecue dinner and breakfast...
She's going to be the hottest girl there.
Ellie was pretty, no question. She had a smile that could light up the outback sky and eyes that sparkled like the mossy creek on a sunny day. But hot? She was more the girl-next-door type. That didn't mean she wasn't sexy. She was, but in a good way rather than a manufactured kind of way. He hoped Jen and Beth didn't tart her up too much and spoil her sweet looks. Guys might get the wrong idea about her.
The sun rose higher as the road descended out of the high country into the flat, dry plains of central New South Wales. The farms were larger down here; they had to be to provide enough pasture for grazing. Sheep were more plentiful than cattle because they were more adaptable to the dry conditions.
Nothing wrong with sheep, he told himself, except that he preferred working with cattle. But his dad had lost his shirt doing that. He was nervous, he realized, going back to the old place. He hadn’t been there since he and his mom and his sister had loaded all their belongings into a U-Haul and left, beaten and broken. He wanted to honor his father’s death, and reclaim his birthright. But there were bad memories there. Sad memories. Was he making a mistake, trying to buy it back?
Driving through the outskirts of Dubbo he passed the showgrounds where temporary fencing had been erected to enclose it. Crews were working on a pavilion with plywood flooring laid directly on the grass to become the dance floor. In the surrounding area tents were being set up for food and beverages. Semi-trailers lined a side road for the catering and the band. He'd been to enough similar events in his time to recognize this as the site of the Bachelor and Spinster Ball.
Ellie would be fine, wouldn’t she? Her friends might be hyping her up for a raunchy weekend, but when it came to brass tacks they would look out for her. Something was up with all three of them, though. Jen and Beth had both seemed brittle last night at dinner, Jen’s laughter too forced, Beth too quiet. Ellie had acted wild, as if ready to lash out and do something crazy. He wasn’t sure he liked the idea of these three women throwing caution to the wind. They egged each other on when they got together.
He had no doubt Ellie’s friends intended to pour her into a sexy dress. He shifted in his seat as his pants got a little tighter thinking about her half-naked. He groaned. What was wrong with him? This was Ellie, his boss’s daughter. They didn’t have that kind of relationship.
Kip put a paw on his leg, his head cocked questioningly. Rick ruffled his ears. "I'm okay, boy. I'll buy my property, get my ass away from Coolibah and forget about Ellie. It’s the right thing to do."
So why did it feel so wrong?
CAN TRUE LOVE OVERCOME A BAD HIDE DAY AND A SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS?
Disillusioned in love, Jen Tremaine is done with men. So when her best friends dare her to wear a cow costume to their reunion at an Outback Bachelor and Spinster Ball, she's all over it. Who would have thought dressing as a heifer would make her irresistible to a bunch of lasso-twirling, drunken cowboys?
Maybe you should have thought this through, says the sexy security guard who keeps finding her at the center of trouble. Even though Jen's always dismissed soul mates as a load of bull, the sizzle between them is making her wonder: What if you met The One while wandering lonely as a cow? Would you find the courage to become a believer?
When ex-Special Forces soldier Logan Turner is roped into helping out with security at the B&S ball, he isn't expecting to find love - but after months in all-male company he sure is hoping for lust. He certainly isn't expecting to fall for a feisty, funny, trouble-making Cowderella. Only problem is, she's leaving Australia tomorrow. Convincing Jen they can still have a future together may wind up being the toughest mission of his life.
SOMETIMES IT PAYS TO WAIT FOR THE THINGS YOU WANT, EVEN IF IT’S THE HARDEST THING YOU EVER DO.
Beth Walker hasn’t just been burned by her philandering country music star ex, she’s been barbecued to a crisp. Coming home to Australia and into the arms of her best friends is exactly the balm she needs. Cocktails and laughter at an Outback Bachelor and Spinster Ball seem like the perfect distraction. Until she bumps into the last person she wants seeing her heartsick and pathetic — Jonah Masters, rising country music star and witness to the failure of her marriage. If only she’d met Jonah first. Now she’s broken and won’t ask him to wait until she heals.
Jonah can’t believe he and Beth are finally standing under the same stars. The connection they shared on the road years ago has haunted him but he wouldn’t pursue a married woman. Now she’s free, and Jonah can’t refuse the one night Beth impulsively offers. Can he convince the woman he’s always loved that he’ll wait — however long it takes — for her trust?