StarMyst: Rodeo by Mary Winter
Book 3 in the StarMyst series
erotic paranormal cowboy romance
novel length (55,000 words)
Cover Art by Mina Carter
For all that he helped his foster brothers and sister, StarMyst Conclave had never been Cord Sartain's home. It'd simply been the means through which he'd tried to escape his past and his future. The death of his foster father had changed everything, so Cord continued to do the only thing he could—use rodeos to run away.
Running into the sole survivor of Yellowwild Conclave had changed his world once again. The golden girl of rodeo, barrel racer Lainey Murphy, had fallen from grace, her shine tarnished by allegations of drugging her horses to win. With another Conclave to save, and the prospect of his own Conclave coming clean from its role in the Sorcerer War, Cord realizes he can't run anymore.
Except, can a man who's done nothing except run, finally take a stand? Or will he just ride on to the next rodeo?
He smiled, forcing his attention back to happier things as Lainey appeared with two cold bottles of water. She must have hung up her hat and freshened, because her long, golden hair hung in a ponytail down her back, wisps framing her face in a look that most definitely didn't appear to be "hat hair". Golden hair, yellow rodeo costumes, a palomino horse…it was adding up to something that Edwin hadn't told him. Yellowwild Conclave was still alive.
Which asked the question why the hell would anyone want to drug her horses? Or why would she? If the rumors were true, Yellowwild had huge areas of land in Wyoming. Land that abutted Yellowstone and provided a varied source of income from controlled logging, some mining, and cattle grazing. Hell, he remembered someone saying once that Yellowwild owned Wyoming, which made him wonder why its last surviving member would be driving around in a trailer barrel racing for her money. Because any residuals she should have been receiving would have kept her nice and comfy for a long time.
"Thanks." He twisted the top off his water and took a long drink. The cool liquid rushed down his throat, washing away the film of rodeo dust that seemed to cover everything. Beyond the trailer walls, the sounds of trucks, of the teardown crew removing panels, and the baying of cattle filled the air. Surprisingly, he wasn't itching to get his check and leave. Not with Lainey sitting right beside him.
"Cord Sartain," he offered, waiting a heartbeat to see if she recognized his name.
"Cord," she continued. "I know you're only being nice. But really you should get in your truck and head on down to the next rodeo. I can take care of myself." Her icy exterior fought with the worry in her eyes.
Cord nodded. "You're probably right. But I'm not known for doing the wisest thing. I think if that were the case, I would have been a banker like my daddy." He didn't mention his biological father very much; he didn't consider the head of Sartain-ma Conclave much of anything. Especially given that his father had been a Wall Street Banker, and his mother a purchased Chinese bride. The "ma" in their Conclave name had come from her. White. Imperialistic White.
His true father had been Edwin, the head of the Conclave he now claimed for his own. And now Edwin had died, leaving his foster brother Te in charge. Cord still wasn't sure what he thought about that.
Lainey opened her mouth to say something then closed it again. He wondered how much she knew about him, about the Conclaves. Probably more than he'd give her credit for, since she probably had to be pretty savvy to stay out of trouble. Yellowwild had been known for harboring mongrels, or Sorcerers born outside a Conclave, in its day, and his lips twitched to think that the Conclave had nearly been killed for the exact same things Edwin had been trying to accomplish. The urge to reach out to her, to announce that he recognized the symbols, and as a Sorcerer had every right to be here with her, nearly made him open his mouth and say something stupid.
Instead, he set the bottle of water on the floor. Then he turned to her, reaching out his arm along the back of the couch and touched her shoulder. Frissons of awareness darted through him, drawing them closer. He titled his head and kissed her.