The Cowboy WayBy: Anna Alexander
You may have read or heard acknowledgements that begin with “this book would not be possible without…” and that is no less true for this book. Seriously, without the encouragement of Danielle Monsch, it might have taken years for The Cowboy Way to make it to the bookshelves. Thank you is not enough to express my gratitude for her mentorship, support and butt kicking. I also want to thank Carmen Cook, April Rickard, and Eilis Flynn for their encouragement and positive vibes for bringing Trey and Greta’s story to life.
Thank you. Gracias. Grazie. Merci.
“I’ve gone over your CT scan several times, Trey. Besides the mild concussion and dislocated shoulder, there is nothing wrong with you.”
Trey struggled to keep the curse trapped behind his lips and shifted his body on the hospital bed’s scratchy white cotton sheets. “Then why can’t I remember?”
Dr. Grayson closed the folder in his hands. “It’s common not to remember the details involving a head injury.”
“What about the rest of it?” he bit out between teeth clenched against the rising panic.
“It’ll come back in time. You have a good-sized goose egg on the back of your head, but there isn’t any physical evidence of trauma to explain your loss of memory. The brain is a complex organ. Perhaps it decided it needed a break for a spell and is off on a little vacation and will return when it’s rested. You’ve been working hard these last few years.”
“Have I?” Because I don’t fucking remember!
Trey closed his eyes and expelled a long, hot breath out his nose and bunched the bed sheet in his fists like the reins of an out of control stallion. The gold band around the third finger of his left hand felt like it was encircling his chest, squeezing the calm right out of him.
For the last two days he’d been in and out of consciousness. Two days of his life. Gone. When he had finally came to enough to be able to formulate a coherent sentence, the rapid-fire questions from the hospital staff had begun.
“What’s your name?” a male voice had asked from his right.
“Trey, Trey Armstrong.”
“What do you do for a job?”
“I have a ranch.”
“What’s your wife’s name?”
“I don’t have a wife.”
The silence that followed had only lasted a few heartbeats, but the doc might as well have stuck a bullhorn right in his face and shouted, Wrong, buck-o! You’re married.
In his mind the ranch he had grown up on was as crystal clear as high-def television, and the memory of his parents, who passed away a year apart, was still a bitter ache in his chest. But when it came to a wife or recalling his daily routine, his past was as vast and desolate as acre upon acre of rolling green alfalfa.
Good God, what else could he be forgetting, children? Hell, he hoped not. A family of his own had always been on his horizon, but the thought of having one now made his heart sink into his stomach. Children deserved to be coddled and cherished. He wanted to be the kind of dad whose kids looked to him as a hero, and there was nothing heroic about him now.
What type of asshole forgets his wife?
“And you’re sure there isn’t a bruise, or bleeding, or anything going on up there?” he asked again. A physical condition meant he could heal. With the right treatment he would be as good as new in just a few short weeks. Please, Lord, let this setback be as simple as a little swelling that needed a few white pills to set him to rights.
“I’m positive, Trey. The best thing for you is a little TLC.”
Dr. Grayson checked the IV with a casual flip of his fingers, oblivious to the emotional tornado brewing in the hospital bed. Trey didn’t like vague. He liked answers and action. The lack of a quick solution chapped his hide and made him want to shout a string of curses until the walls turned blue. He wasn’t a patient man. At least, he didn’t think he was.
“If it makes you feel better, come see me if you don’t have some of your memory return in a week. Of course, if you start to have seizures or fainting spells, come in right away.”
“Thanks, Doc. That makes me feel loads better,” he muttered.
“We’re going to keep your shoulder immobile overnight,” the doc continued. “You’ll be sore for a while, and you shouldn’t do anything strenuous for the next few weeks. Keep off the horse and let your men do the ranching. Mark—do you remember Mark?”
Trey gave a tight nod. Yep, even the cynical grin of his best friend and foreman came readily to mind.
The doctor continued. “Good. As I was saying, Mark can take over the majority of the work for a while. Since you’ve been on IVs for a few days, I’m going to start you slow on food. I’ll have some broth sent in. How does that sound?”
“Fine,” he rasped. His throat felt like he swallowed a handful of rocks.
“Your wife’s here. She’s been sitting out in the waiting room. Would you like to see her?”
Dread and excitement filled his belly as his battered brain and heart engaged in a knockdown, drag out tug-of-war. Yes, he wanted to see her. For one thing, he hoped that seeing her would trigger his memory. Second, plain curiosity itched around his neck like an over-starched collar. Who had agreed to spend the rest of her life with him as a rancher’s wife? It took a special type of woman to weather the storm of long nights during calving season and the stress of bringing a herd to market. She’d have to be strong of spirit and demand the same of him as well. Would she now hate him for not remembering her and his promise to love, honor, and cherish?
“Does she know about…?” He pointed to his head.
“Yes, she knows everything. I’ve told her to answer any questions you may have, but also to let you remember as much as you’re able to on your own. It’s going to be an adjustment for you both. She understands that.”
She. He still didn’t even know her name. Dr. Grayson looked at him through the thick lenses of his glasses, his eyes squinted in concern. “Would you like to see her?”
His ability to speak flew the coop. He nodded, muscles tensing as Dr. Grayson left the room. When the door reopened, his breath left his body in a harsh rush and he wondered if he was still knocked out cold and in la-la land.
Hell’s bells and damnation.
Stunning. That was the only word that came to mind. Absolutely stunning. Long dark hair was pulled back into a low ponytail, revealing a soft chin and high cheekbones. Big brown eyes edged in mink-thick lashes looked at him nervously as her tongue swept over her full lips. His mouth went dry as he continued the perusal of the rest of her small and curvy shape. Soft and round, she was the perfect blend of girl next door and citified bad-girl that made a man want to strip away the innocent smile to expose the vixen beneath the cashmere sweater.
This was his wife? Again, what type of an ass would not remember being married to this beautiful woman? God, was he a lucky son of a bitch.
Apparently, his circulatory system was functioning just fine as desire stirred his blood, setting off another rush of guilt. How could he be getting a hard-on at a time like this? She was a stranger, a damn fine-looking stranger, but still, he knew nothing about her. What kind of a message would an erection send? Hi, I don’t remember you, but it would be great if you crawled into this bed naked. Yeah, that would be a great first impression.
Her smile trembled at the corners. “Hello.” Her voice was soft and sweet like warm butterscotch.
“Hi.” A quick glance down assured him that his lengthening cock was covered properly. Thank God they unhooked him from the monitors, because otherwise they might have thought he was having an attack by the way his heart pounded behind his ribs.
Those dark eyes of hers raked over him as if she could assess his injuries by sight alone. From the top of his bruised head to the bottoms of his restless feet, her gaze sent the nerve endings tingling. He noticed the dark circles that marred her perfect skin, and he wished he hadn’t been their cause.
“You don’t remember me?” She drew the question out.
Trey took a good long look that went deeper than her outer beauty. He forced everything in his being to remember something, anything, about their life together. He pulled in a deep breath and detected her subtle vanilla scent, separate from the antiseptic smell of the hospital room. The perfume wasn’t familiar, but it was comforting, soothing. When his head felt as if it was going to explode from the effort, he let out another harsh exhale.
He shook his head, defeated. “I’m sorry.”
Her small shoulders slumped as she nodded, and her gaze fell to the floor. His arms ached to hold her, to give her comfort, which struck him as funny since he was the one lying there injured.
After a second, she lifted her gaze with a glimmer of resolution in her eyes. “My name is Greta. Margaret, actually, but everyone calls me Greta.”
“Greta,” he repeated and relaxed against the pillows. This was a start. She wasn’t falling apart or running away. Yet. “How long have we been married?” The question sounded lame in his ears, but he figured he had to start somewhere.
“Six years.” She took a step closer. Her head tilted in curiosity. “What do you remember? The ranch, the house?”