Title: Tangled in Texas
Series: Texas Rodeo, #2
Author: Kari Lynn Dell
Pub Date: February 7, 2017
It took 32 seconds to end his career.
But it only took 1 to change his life.
Thirty-two seconds. That’s how long it took for Delon Sanchez’s life to end. One minute he was the best bronc rider in the Panhandle and the next he was nothing. Knee shattered, future in question, all he can do is pull together the pieces…and wonder what cruel trick of fate has thrown him into the path of his ex, the oh-so-perfect Tori Patterson.
Tori’s come home after her husband’s death, intent on escaping the public eye. It’s just her luck that Delon limps into her physical therapy office, desperate for help. All hard-packed muscle and dark-eyed temptation, he’s never been anything but a bad idea. And yet, seeing him again, Tori can’t remember what made her choose foolish pride over love…or why, with this second, final chance to right old wrongs, the smartest choice would be to run from this gorgeous rodeo boy as fast as her boots can take her.
Kari Lynn Dell is a ranch-raised Montana cowgirl who attended her first rodeo at two weeks old and has existed in a state of horse-induced poverty ever since. She lives on the Blackfeet Reservation in her parents' bunkhouse along with her husband, her son, and Max the Cowdog, with a tipi on her lawn, Glacier National Park on her doorstep and Canada within spitting distance. Her debut novel, The Long Ride Home, was published in 2015. She also writes a ranch and rodeo humor column for several regional newspapers and a national agricultural publication.
Delon Sanchez woke up pissed off at the world. No different from every other morning in the past four months. But for Delon—proud owner of the fan-voted —it was like being trapped inside someone else’s skin. And that guy was turning out to be an asshole.
He made a fist and beat on his pillow, as if he could pound the dreams out of it. Those stupid, pointless dreams where he hadn’t been hurt right at the end of the best rodeo season of his life, and didn’t feel his shot at a world title disintegrate along with the ligaments in his knee. The dreams where he went on to the National Finals Rodeo and walked away with the gold buckle, heavy and warm and so damn real he could still feel the shape of it when he woke up.
He jammed his fist into the pillow again. His subconscious was a cruel bastard, and a whiner on top of it. An injury yanked the trapdoor out from under some cowboy’s gold buckle dream every year. That was rodeo. Hell, that was life. Delon was no special flower that fate had singled out to trample.
He flopped onto his back. A spider sneered at him from the corner of the ceiling, lounging on its web. He was tempted to reach down, grab a boot, and fling it. The way his luck was running he’d just miss, and it’d bounce off and black his eye. He stuffed his hands behind his head with a gloomy sigh. They should have drawn a chalk outline in the arena where he’d fallen, because the man who’d climbed down into the bucking chute that night was nowhere to be found.
He’d disappeared in the twenty-two seconds from the nod of his head to the moment of impact.
He’d timed it on the video out of morbid curiosity. Less than a minute before the paramedics jammed a tube down his throat and reinflated the lung that’d been punctured when the horse trampled him, wiping out his knee and busting two ribs.
In that short time, his entire world had disintegrated.
Either that or it had been an illusion all along. But that was his fault. He’d let himself want too much, dream too big. Other people could reach up, grab the world by the throat, and make demands. Every time Delon tried, he got kicked in the teeth.
He flipped the spider the bird, kicked off the blankets, and got up. Time to dress for another of the increasingly frustrating therapy sessions that only emphasized his lack of progress. He had plateaued, his therapist kept saying, trying to make it sound like a temporary setback. And now she’d gotten married and run off—to Missouri, of all the damn places, as if there were no good men left in Texas—forcing him to absorb yet another in a barrage of unwelcome changes.
But hey, maybe this new therapist had the magic touch that would give him back his life. Or at least his career.
He slipped down the back stairs, escaping his apartment above the shop at Sanchez Trucking without seeing a soul, but had to stop at the Kwicky Mart for gas. With only two thousand people in Earnest, Texas, the face at the next pump was bound to be familiar.
And it would have to be Hank. At nineteen, the kid was a worse gossip than the old men down at the Corral Café. He hopped out of the family ranch pickup, so nimble Delon wanted to kick him. “Hey, Delon. How’s the knee feelin’?”
“Fine.” Delon turned his back, hunching his shoulders against the bitter January breeze as he jammed the gas nozzle into the tank of what his big brother jeeringly called his mom car. Well, screw Gil. If the elder Sanchez had paid more attention to safety ratings, he wouldn’t have thrown away the brilliant, God-given talent most cowboys—including Delon—could only dream of.
Hank lounged against the side of his dad’s one-ton dually while it guzzled four-dollar diesel like sweet tea. “Looks like it’s gettin’ pretty serious between Violet and Joe. Think they’ll get married?”
Delon made a noncommittal noise and mashed harder on the gas nozzle. Short answer? Nope. Joe Cassidy would be gone when the shine wore off, back to Oregon. Bad enough he’d leave Violet in pieces, but there’d be one brokenhearted little boy, too. boy. Until now, Delon had just shrugged and laughed at Violet’s dating disasters. She couldn’t seem to help herself, so he might as well just let her get it out of her system—but she’d never brought her disasters home to their son before.
Beni worshiped Joe. So did every bull rider in the pro ranks—for good reason. As a bullfighter, Joe’s job was to save them from getting stomped, and he was damn good at it. Playing the hero made him hugely popular with the buckle bunnies, and it was no secret that Joe had accepted plenty of what the rodeo groupies offered. So, no. Delon didn’t think Joe was the marrying kind.
A red Grand Am whipped around the corner and the little blonde Didsworth girl—Mary Kate?—distracted Hank with a smile and a finger wave. He returned it with a cocky grin. “I hear she’s got a thing for bullfighters.”
“Don’t they all?” Delon muttered.
Even Violet. And she should know better, being a stock contractor’s daughter. What was it with women, lusting after men dumb enough to throw their bodies in front of large, pissed-off farm animals? Sure, it was exciting, but the long-term career prospects were not great.