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Cathy Gillen Thacker
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A Cowboy's Woman

Chapter One

It was just after ten Monday evening when Shane McCabe let himself into the ranch house on his brother Wade's Golden Slipper Ranch. Grinning at all he'd accomplished-and a day earlier than expected, too!-he kicked off his boots, leaving them where they lay. It didn't matter how messy the house was, since Wade and Josie were still on their honeymoon and   not expected back for a couple of days, so he headed up the stairs, ripping off hot, sweaty clothes as he went. His socks landed on the bottom tread, his Western shirt ended up on the banister, his jeans and briefs decorated the upstairs hall.

Bypassing the guest room where he'd been bunking since returning to his hometown of Laramie, Texas, Shane headed for the bathroom and the glass-walled shower. He turned the brass knob as far left as it would go, adjusted the showerhead to maximum massage and stepped beneath the spray.After a day spent inspecting every inch of the horse ranch he had his eye on,the hot steamy water was just what he needed. Luxuriating in the feel of the water pulsating against his skin, he washed himself from head to toe, rinsed off just as thoroughly and then stepped out of the shower.

Not bothering to dry off, he wrapped a towel around his waist. Exhaustion seeping into his every pore, he ran a comb through his just-shampooed hair, brushed his teeth, switched off the light and then headed down the darkened hall to his bed.

Before he'd left, a couple of days ago, he closed all the drapes in the house against the hot Texas sun. Doing so had left the guest room pitch-black, but Shane didn't need to turn on a light to find his way to the rumpled covers on the bed. He dropped his towel on the floor, flung the covers back and hopped in. He had just grabbed his pillow and flipped on to his side when he caught a whiff of a delicate floral scent and encountered a very warm, very silky, very feminine-feeling body.

Abruptly realizing he was not alone, Shane swore roundly. And heard a soft,startled gasp.

"What the-" The woman beside Shane scrambled to the other side of the double bed, knocking a book to the floor.

"Heck?" Shane filled in the blank as the feminine interloper switched on the bedside lamp, temporarily blinding them both.

"-are you doing here?" the woman beside him demanded.

Shane folded his arm behind his head and lay back against the pillows, all too aware he was buck naked beneath the sheet. Not that she was that much better off-given the brevity of her clinging lilac undershirt and matching bikini panties.

"I could ask the same of you," he drawled,and lifted a brow as the beauty beside him snatched the sheet up over her waist,hiding the rest of her curvaceous body from view.

"I asked you first, Shane McCabe!"

Shane peered at her. He'd encountered many a groupie in his years on the pro rodeo circuit, but he sure didn't remember her. And he was certain if he'd met this woman he would have remembered her. He tilted his head slightly to the side. "Have we met?"

The woman looked down her cute little nose at him. "Very funny."

"I'm serious," Shane persisted. "You do look... familiar."

Especially around her eyes, which were a very pretty light blue and framed by thick golden lashes a shade darker than her wildly curling pale-blond hair.

"I'm Greta Wilson!"

"Nah-" Shane focused on her pretty face and luscious lips, delicate cheekbones carved above a stubborn chin. "I remember little Greta." She hadn't begun to have such luminous skin. Never mind self-assurance and grace. Shane swallowed. "She was-"

"A nerdy little kid, always running around in some sort of dancer's outfit?"

That was exactly what she'd been. Not this sexy beauty with full, ripe breasts,jutting nipples, slender waist and equally sensuous hips. Shane shifted slightly,trying to ease the growing pressure in his groin. "How come you're sleeping here, instead of at your folks' place?"

"Because I'm exhausted from trying to get my dance hall ready to open next weekend. And my mother's having the whole bridge club over tonight."

Shane winced and sent Greta Wilson a sympathetic glance, knowing full well what that was like. Twenty-four chattering, chuckling women in one house was too many, in his opinion. Worse, their marathon sessions often went on to well after midnight, or whenever the food and beverages ran out.

Greta released a beleaguered sigh and continued."My mom found out from your mom that Wade and Josie were on their honeymoon,so she got permission for me to sack out here for the night, as well as the keys to the ranch house, from your mom, and voila-here I am!"

"Just how long have you been asleep?"Shane asked curiously."

"About two hours," Greta grumbled, shoving a hand through the length of her hair.

Shane did his level best to keep his eyes away from her breasts and the way her nipples were jutting against the thin lilac fabric of her undershirt in the air conditioned air. To little avail. His lower half was now rigid with desire. Which made getting out of the bed an impossible task. At least until that part of him settled down. Which left him with only one choice. Make conversation and wait for blood flow to return to normal.

"That's awful early to go to bed," he said, wishing he at least had some briefs within reach.

Greta rolled her eyes. "Like I said, I was exhausted."

Shane lifted a brow. She didn't look exhausted now. She looked all "het up," as the old-timers would have said, to have found herself unexpectedly in bed with him. But then, Shane was all het up, too.

"What are you doing here?" Greta demanded.

"With the exception of the past few days,when I was out looking at property all over central Texas," Shane replied,"I've been sleeping here, ever since I hit Laramie again. And furthermore,my mother knows that, too, because I called this morning and left a message on my parents' answering machine to let them know I'd be back at the Golden Slipper Ranch a day earlier than expected."

Shane glanced at Greta, realization of what this was all about dawning. He blew out an exasperated breath.

"Are you married?"

Not surprisingly, she looked as annoyed by the question as he was at the set-up. "No. Not that it's any of your business,"Greta snapped. "Why? Are you?"


"So what does that have to do with anything?"Greta demanded, her blue eyes blazing.

"Everything." Shane sighed. "You and I have been the victims of a. matchmaking scam."

Greta eyed him wanly. She leaned against the headboard and brought her long, dancer's legs up to her chest. She wrapped her arms about her knees. "What are you talking about?"

Shane rolled onto his side. "My parents are celebrating their fortieth wedding anniversary by renewing their marriage vows next week."

"I know. My parents and I were invited to attend the ceremony and the reception afterward, at their ranch."

As she frowned, a sexy little pleat appeared between her delicate golden eyebrows. It was all Shane could do not to smooth it away with his thumb. "But I don't see what that has to do with us."

Shane's eyes tracked the soft silky curls falling over

her shoulders before returning to her face. "My mother has gotten it into her head that my brothers and I should all be married, too, as soon as humanly possible."

Greta rolled her eyes and shook her head grimly."Sounds like my folks."

"They want you married off, too?" he asked, wondering why she wasn't. Women as sexy and sweet and appealing as Greta were usually taken off the market way before now. She had to be-what? He was thirty. She'd been two years behind him in school. That made her twenty-eight now, he guessed.

"They want it so badly I can't begin to tell you." Oblivious to his reverie, Greta continued talking about marriage.

She froze at the sound of several cars moving  up the lane to the ranch house. Without getting out of bed, Greta leaned overto lift the edge of the drape and peer out the window. "I don't believe it," she murmured unhappily.

Shane was annoyed, too. He was enjoying this little tête-à-tête of theirs. He didn't want it interrupted. He didn't want anything happening that would force them to get out of this bed."Who is it?"

Greta's slender fingers tightened on the edge of the drapes. "Both our mothers!"

It figured, Shane thought resentfully. Wasn't it enough that he'd been the only McCabe son to disappoint his parents almost from day one? Did they have to make things worse by interfering in his life with their matchmaking?

"Here to gloat, no doubt, at the 'success' of their romantically motivated manipulations," Shane muttered as the arc of car lights swept their window.

 "And-oh, my heavens-it looks like the entire bridge club," Greta continued with a moan of dismay.

"No doubt about it," Shane said, his jaw set. "It's time I set my mother straight, once and for all."

Greta dropped the edge of the drape. "Lotsa luck."

"You should read your mother the riot act,too," Shane advised.

Greta shook her head. "My mother hasn't listened to anything I've said for the past twenty-eight years! There's nothing to indicate she's going to start now."

Shane thought about the clothes he'd left tossed here and there. He knew what it would look like. Knew the conclusions his mother and her friends would likely make. "Maybe she just needs a wake-up call."

The front door opened. Feet tromped across the wooden floor. "Yoo-hoo! Shane! Greta!"

Greta slid her legs over the edge of the bed.Shane looked at Greta, a plan already forming. He grabbed her wrist, preventing her from leaping from the bed. There was no time to spare if they wanted this to work. "You with me or not?" he demanded.

Greta hesitated, delicate color blooming in her cheeks as her bare feet touched the floor. "I-"

"Play along with me on this, Greta,"Shane tucked a hand around her thighs and gently guided her legs all the way back onto the bed, "and I promise you-something like this will never happen to either of us again."

The McCabes American Romance Book Series by Cathy Gillen Thacker

Cathy Gillen Thacker is the bestselling author of witty romantic comedies and warm, family stories whose books are published in 17 languages and 35 countries.