Nothing Like A Cowboy
NOTHING LIKE A COWBOY
May 29, 2017
A NotMy1stRodeo.com Story
See all the info on this series, featuring more stories from Jenna Bayley-Burke and Sarah M. Anderson, at www.NotMy1stRodeo.com!
Brett Harrison stared at the computer screen in horror.
“Jesus, Manda. Are you crazy? You put me on a dating site?”
He stared at the picture of himself filling the top quarter of the monitor. It was a cropped shot from Manda’s wedding last year, when he’d been dressed in a suit with a string tie and all the groomsmen had worn matching black Stetsons. It wasn’t a bad picture, he supposed. But it did look like he was…well, posing for it, which made things worse. It made him look like he actually cared. Like he was serious about looking for love…when he hadn’t even known the site even existed. And if he had known about the profile, he would have taken it down. Immediately. Like he was going to do right now.
If she weren’t five months pregnant, he’d strangle his twin sister.
Manda perched on the side of the desk. “Hell yes, I put you on a dating site. It’s time you got back out there. You’re never going to get laid if you hole up in your office or in the barn or wherever.”
He frowned. “My love life is none of your business.”
“Right. And when you go around snapping at everyone? I want my kid to actually like his Uncle Brett. Trust me, big brother. What you need is a hot night of—”
“Of nothing,” he interrupted, trying really hard not to be slightly amused. Trying to be mad. Ever since she’d gotten married, Manda had suddenly become an authority on romantic bliss. But to his mind, only desperate people used dating sites. The facts were just full of lies or inflated truths at best.
He wasn’t that desperate. Was he? He wondered what Manda would say if he confessed that he hadn’t been with a woman since his divorce. Or maybe Manda already suspected, and that was why she was pushing. Meddling.
“I can find a date if I want one.” He scanned the rest of the profile and had to admit, Manda had been pretty honest. Of course, she’d only played up the good parts. He had faults. Lots of them. Sherry had been quick to point them out too. It wasn’t much wonder their marriage hadn’t lasted, considering how little she’d thought of him.
Apparently, he wasn’t romantic enough. Didn’t tend to a woman’s needs. Wasn’t—and this was what stung the most—smart enough. Too rough around the edges. If he’d known she felt that way all along, they never would have made it down the aisle in the first place. And that wasn’t an experience he was eager to repeat. It had very nearly cost him the ranch in the settlement. He wondered what his ex would say now that the situation had changed substantially. The ranch was in better shape than ever, and they were seriously looking at expansion.
Manda scoffed, giving him a slap upside the head to emphasize her point.
“Listen, you know as well as I do that offerings are pretty slim around here.” He looked up at her. “Let’s just take this thing down and forget all about it.”
But Manda was stubborn, and she raised an eyebrow at him. “So which is it? You don’t want a date or there’s no one you like? Maybe you need to head into Gibson for a bit, hit the bar, whatever. Stop being so damned choosy.”
“Manda.” He was done fooling around, and he let his tone communicate that. “I don’t want to be on a dating site. Take down the profile or I’ll do it myself.”
She grinned. “No. And you wouldn’t know how anyway, because you’re technologically challenged.” Her expression turned smug. “Besides, you already have a date.”
For five seconds, Brett was sure his head was going to blow off. “What do you mean, a date?”
Manda got off the corner of the desk and reached around him to slide the mouse over the mouse pad and click on an icon. “See? Melissa. Melly to her friends. You sent her a hat tip.”
“A hat tip?”
“Well, yeah. The guys have to make the first move here, you know? See? She’s checked off divorced, spring and mutton busting.” She straightened, crossing her arms with satisfaction.
“What the hell does that all mean? Manda, pregnant or not, you’re walking a fine line here.”
“It means—” she sighed with impatience, “—that she’s divorced, she’s under thirty and she wasn’t married very long.”
He raised a dubious eyebrow and looked closer at the screen. For the love of Mike, the criteria the site used was downright hokey. His profile, on the other hand, listed him as divorced, summer because he was over thirty, and his marital experience as bull riding.
“Sounds great.” Sarcasm dripped from his tongue.
“Yes, it does. Because you invited her for coffee.”
He tamped down his absolute frustration at his sister’s taking over the situation and replied through gritted teeth, “I didn’t invite her anywhere.”
“Well, I did for you. See? A coffee date. Very public place, limited time if need be, daytime. Women try to be really safe on first dates. She’ll probably have a wingman ready to text her with an emergency if she needs an escape route.”
It was sounding more like a military maneuver than a date. “What if I’m the one who needs an escape route?”
Manda grinned. “So you’re going?”
“I didn’t say that.” He pinned her with his sternest glare. “Manda, you had no right to do this. To pretend to be me. To set this up. It’s my life. I wish you’d respect that.”
She stared right back. “I did it because I love you and I’m worried about you and I knew you wouldn’t go do this for yourself.”
“You’re damn right—”
“And you’ve been licking your wounds ever since Sherry left. You need to get back out there, Brett. This girl doesn’t have to be the one. But she might at least be a start to you realizing that not every woman out there views being a rancher as a handicap that needs to be overcome. This site, it’s specifically for people like you.”
“People like me? What on earth does that mean?” There was actually a site for hermits? Desperate recluses? Eunuchs?
“Not my first rodeo. It’s for cowboys and ranchers, sweetie. And ones who’ve been around the matrimonial block and lived to tell the tale.”
“And want to again, which I clearly don’t. You forgot that part.”
“You just think that.” Manda frowned and put her hand on his shoulder. “Will you at least look at her profile? Buy her a cup of coffee? If you back out now, she’s going to feel like crap.”
“Then you can be the one to explain. I’m sure you’ll let her down easy.”
Manda’s lips formed an ominous line. “Fine. Don’t go. Whatever. Just stop moping around here and growling at everyone. We’re sick of it.”
She left the office, slammed the door, and silence fell in her wake.
Brett sighed, stared at the now-closed door and counted to ten. Why was it Manda always knew exactly what to say to get under his skin? Little sisters were the bane of his existence—and he had three of them. Manda, he took great pride in reminding her, was a whole seven minutes younger than him.
Hell, they were probably all in on this. Manda was the oldest and most often the spokesperson. Particularly now that she was pregnant with his first niece or nephew. Everyone knew he was a soft touch.
He turned in the chair and let his gaze fall on the monitor again. The screen showed the messaged conversation between himself and this woman. Melissa. Melly, he mentally corrected. Who the hell went by the name of Melly?
He clicked on her name, her profile popped up, and his mind went utterly blank for a few minutes.
He wasn’t sure what he’d expected, but the woman on the screen was attractive. Really attractive. The picture was casual, looked like the background of house siding behind her, and she wore a simple blue plaid shirt, like she wasn’t too worried about what she wore for the photo. Neither did she wear a lot of makeup, but she didn’t need to. Her eyes were an intriguing almond shape and a soft, chocolaty brown, just a little darker than the smooth waterfall of hair that fell over her shoulder. A half smile touched her full lips. What on earth was a woman like that doing on a matchmaking site? Surely she didn’t have any problem finding a date.
He went back to the message window and read what she’d written to Manda. Polite, modest, and claimed that she had never signed up for a dating site before. He wondered if that were true. Wondered if everything on her profile was true. It said she was twenty-nine, five-foot-nine and taught high school English. She was divorced and still hopeful there was a Mr. Right out there.
Well, wasn’t that just sweet?
Brett pushed back his chair a bit and sighed again. Okay, so the photo had caught his attention. And the details weren’t bad either. But did he trust them?
Still, his details were accurate. Maybe hers were too.
Hold on. Was he really considering going through with this farce of a date? He thought about what Manda had said. It wasn’t this Melly’s fault that Manda had impersonated him and set up a date. She’d be at the Daily Grind coffee shop tomorrow evening, waiting for him unless he told her otherwise. Standing her up was not an option. His mama had raised him better than that. And the idea of messaging her and calling it off…Manda was right. Canceling would probably make her feel like crap. It had to take a lot of guts to put up a profile and actually send someone a message.
He shook his head. What the hell was wrong with him? Why did he suddenly feel flattered that she’d said yes to a question he hadn’t even asked?
He looked at the messages once more. “A cup of coffee sounds perfect,” she’d answered. “I’m really looking forward to meeting you, Brett.”
He was going to have to go through with it. But just one date. One coffee date. They could meet and be friendly and go their separate ways, and that would be that. And his profile was coming off the site as soon as it was over.