Cowboys Never Fold

By: Lexi Post

Acknowledgments


To Bob Fabich, my very own cowboy. Thank you for your support and knowledge.

Many people were invaluable resources for this book. Paige Wood who isn’t shy about telling me what needs to be fixed and provided a great cover design. I’m so glad you’re my sister. Brian Wood who helped me find the right word more times than I can count, including the title. Claire Ashgrove who set me straight on horses and riding naked; lesson well learned. Joanne Mayer for teaching me about poker; the casino lessons were particularly fascinating. Any incorrect information in this story is completely the fault of the author.

I couldn’t have produced this book without my critique partner, Marie Patrick and her keen eye and patience. I also want to thank Merritt Crowder for her willingness to read my work and help me make it better.

What wonderful family and friends I have!





Author’s Note


Cowboys Never Fold was inspired by Bret Harte’s short story, The Outcasts of Poker Flat, first published in 1869. In Harte’s story, four members of Poker Flat society—a gambler, a prostitute, a madam, and a drunk—are banned from the western settlement when a sudden urge to be virtuous overtakes the citizens. On their way to the next settlement, the outcasts stop to rest at the base of the high mountains they will need to cross, but as it is November, it is quite cold. An innocent couple, a young man and his fiancée (a tavern waitress), descends from the mountain tops and rests with them. The young man idolizes the poker player and tells him they are going to Poker Flat to marry. The outcasts recognize the goodness of the two young people and adjust their behavior so as not to taint them. As the odd group converse, a blizzard buries them in snow. In the end, none, outcast nor innocent, survive.

But what if the poker player was a woman and the young man a full grown cowboy? Could an outcast and an innocent find a love that could survive both outside forces and their own differences?





Chapter One


Wade Johnson slowed his Chevy Silverado and stared at the wooden sign with burnt-in letters hanging above the dirt road: POKER FLAT NUDIST RESORT.

It swung between two weathered posts, the sign’s newness jolting the senses against the Old West background.

Stopping his pickup, he hesitated to make the left turn. His best friend had called in a big favor. Nine years ago, Wade had been blinded by love and almost made the worst mistake of his life. If it hadn’t been for Dale’s instincts and a paternity test, Wade would have been shackled to a selfish sorority girl and left with another man’s kid. Shit, he could have been a country song.

He owed Dale and he’d never back out on a friend, even if it meant working at a nudist resort for three months. “I am doing this.” The sound of his voice gave him the boost he needed. With his commitment firmly in place despite a dozen misgivings, he turned the truck down the dirt road.

At least the pay was outstanding, and he could choose his own horseflesh and set up the stables as he felt they should be run. Just the thought of starting a new operation had him stepping on the gas a bit harder, his truck throwing up a cloud of dust that could probably be seen in Wickenburg.

After a good mile of nothing but desert, a wooden barrier declared the end of the road. To the right was an overly large garage with only three sides. He brought the truck to a stop underneath the shelter. It could clearly house a couple dozen cars and the massive metal structure was tall enough for RVs too. The roof had to be at least twenty feet high.

Exiting his vehicle, his boots hit concrete. Nice. If this is how the owner built the garage, he couldn’t wait to see the new stables. Dale’s voice in his head dampened his enthusiasm. I’ve sent three men out there to set up this woman’s stables and all three quit. This could kill my temp agency’s reputation. I need someone I can trust to find out what’s going on. If she is a cranky old bitch who expects miracles, I don’t need her as a client. But if it’s something else, I want to know. If her resort takes off, I plan to be the one filling her staffing needs.

Wade straightened his black Stetson and walked toward the old man sleeping on a chair in the relative coolness of the structure. It was August and days in the desert usually hit three digit degrees. The sound of his boots hitting the floor didn’t wake the man, so he shook him.

“What? What? I don’t knows nothin’.” The man’s eyes were a bit glazed and his chin showed a few days of beard growth.

Wade tipped his hat. “Afternoon. I’m Wade Johnson. Dale Osborn sent me to set up the stables here.”

The man stood and teetered before steadying himself with the folding chair. “I’m Billy.” The smell of alcohol was faint but definitely there. Billy thrust out his hand as if suddenly remembering his manners.