A Cowboy for June – Jamie K. Schmidt

JUNE GRAYSON WAS so happy to be on her horse, Athena, that she had to concentrate on the beautiful Texas scenery to keep from crying. She was half afraid that if she started bawling her eyes out, she’d never stop. “You okay?” Emily Sullivan asked. Emily was her ride-or-die BFF. June knew she had to be careful with her answer because if Emily caught even a whiff of bullshit, she wouldn’t let up until June’s carefully duct-taped emotions burst free. “I will be,” June settled on, guiding Athena down the new trails that the Three Sisters Ranch had built for Emily’s fiancé’s hunting lodge. “It’s good to be riding again after being cooped up inside for so long.” Rehab had been a rude awakening and June had vowed to do everything in her power to make sure she never went back there. If that meant giving up on whiskey shots and tequila sunrises, it was worth it to not have to spend three more months of her life in a place that was part-hospital and partprison. At her last rodeo event, the shit had hit the fan. June didn’t remember a lot of what she’d done just before she’d blacked out, but she’d woken up in a jail cell. After a depressing talk with the judge and a few attorneys, it had been decided that if June did a mandatory stint in a rehab center, all charges against her would be dropped. She’d walked in there a Women’s Professional Rodeo Circuit AllAround Champion, and last week, she’d walked out unemployed, with the polite suggestion that she retire from the circuit. Retire? She was twenty-six years old. June had been barrel racing all over the United States and abroad since she was ten.


What the hell else was she going to do with her life? Not so deep down, June was hoping the WPRC would change their minds about her, once her sister, Merry, buried Shayna and won the championships out from under her. She wasn’t ready to give up that delusion just yet. “Donovan better get back here,” June said to divert Emily’s attention. “I see feral hog tracks.” Donovan Link was Emily’s fiancé. He and Emily had met when he’d rented some property on the Three Sisters Ranch, so he could host hunting parties. Then he fell in love with Emily, a die-hard vegetarian and animal rights activist. They compromised. The hunting parties were now only for population control. The rest of the time, he did nature safaris. Still, the feral hog problem gave him a steady amount of work. They were invasive, dangerous, and downright mean. Emily made a face. “They deserve to live just as much as other wildlife.” June hid a smile.

Emily was also taking over managing her family’s cattle ranch from her father, who really needed to retire. The irony of it, though, was delicious. They raised cattle for slaughter, and Emily wouldn’t eat a steak if you held a gun to her head. “Sure.” June nodded. “But letting them overbreed and starve is just cruel.” “Go to hell,” Emily said, without any heat in her voice. June snickered. Too bad Emily hadn’t risen to the bait. June had been looking for a good-natured argument, or at least a passionate debate about barbecue pork ribs. Maybe it would’ve gotten rid of the restlessness that was making her itch like a bad poison ivy spread. June and Emily had been so happy to be on her horse, Athena, that she had to concentrate on the beautiful Texas scenery to keep from crying. She was half afraid that if she started bawling her eyes out, she’d Emily was her ride-or-die BFF. June knew she had to be careful with her answer because if Emily caught even a whiff of bullshit, she wouldn’t let up until June’s carefully duct-taped emotions “I will be,” June settled on, guiding Athena down the new trails that the Three Sisters Ranch had built for Emily’s fiancé’s hunting lodge. “It’s good to be riding again after being cooped up inside for Rehab had been a rude awakening and June had vowed to do everything in her power to make sure she never went back there.

If that meant giving up on whiskey shots and tequila sunrises, it was worth it to not have to spend three more months of her life in a place that was part-hospital and partAt her last rodeo event, the shit had hit the fan. June didn’t remember a lot of what she’d done just before she’d blacked out, but she’d woken up in a jail cell. After a depressing talk with the judge and a few attorneys, it had been decided that if June did a mandatory stint in a rehab center, all charges against her would be dropped. She’d walked in there a Women’s Professional Rodeo Circuit AllAround Champion, and last week, she’d walked out unemployed, with the polite suggestion that she She was twenty-six years old. June had been barrel racing all over the United States and abroad since she was ten. What the hell else was she going to do with her life? Not so deep down, June was hoping the WPRC would change their minds about her, once her sister, Merry, buried Shayna and Donovan Link was Emily’s fiancé. He and Emily had met when he’d rented some property on the Three Sisters Ranch, so he could host hunting parties. Then he fell in love with Emily, a die-hard vegetarian and animal rights activist. They compromised. The hunting parties were now only for population control. The rest of the time, he did nature safaris. Still, the feral hog problem gave him a June hid a smile. Emily was also taking over managing her family’s cattle ranch from her father, who really needed to retire. The irony of it, though, was delicious. They raised cattle for slaughter, June snickered.

Too bad Emily hadn’t risen to the bait. June had been looking for a good-natured argument, or at least a passionate debate about barbecue pork ribs. Maybe it would’ve gotten rid of the restlessness that was making her itch like a bad poison ivy spread. June and Emily had been friends since they were children. They had excelled in pushing the boundaries and their parents’ patience with their weekly capers. “How’s April?” Emily asked. “Kelly’s been moping around ever since April finished up Trent’s taxes and went on to the next client.” April was one of June’s older sisters, who was the same age as Emily’s sister, Kelly. April was a CPA and had been making the rounds of all the Last Stand businesses, doing their taxes and other financial stuff that June couldn’t care less about. “She’s doing good. I’m going to see her on Sunday when she comes over for dinner at Mama’s.” “Is Cole going to be there too?” “Probably.” June rolled her eyes. “They’re attached at the hip.” April had found true love a little over three months ago.

They were already engaged, and June was trying to keep her pessimism to herself. Three months? It would take three years before June would think a man was worth keeping, and then only if he didn’t blow it in the meantime. She didn’t have anything against Cole. He seemed like a good guy and was crazy about April. It was just that June and her sisters had seen what quick relationships did to their mother, Penny. All three of them had different fathers and none of the men in their mother’s life ever stuck around for very long. Their fathers had cycled in and out of their lives—mostly just long enough to break their mama’s heart again before leaving. Cole, at least, had good references. He worked here, at the Three Sisters Ranch, helping Trent Campbell—a former rodeo star—teach kids how to ride bulls. Like Donovan, Trent had also rented property and wound up marrying a Sullivan sister—Emily’s older sister, Kelly. Maybe June could ask him if he needed help training the kids on how to barrel race at his bull-riding school. Of course, Trent might not want to hire her, considering her reputation. “How’s it feel to be back in Last Stand?” Emily asked. “Like I never left, especially since I’m staying in my old room in Mama’s trailer.” “I bet she’s happy to see you.

” “She is. And it’s good to see her, too. I just wish it was temporary while I waited for the next rodeo.” “I bet they’ll change their minds and let you compete again. Just give it a few months.” June shook her head. “I doubt it. They don’t want my element messing up their family values.” “Everyone makes mistakes,” Emily said stubbornly. “Yeah, but everyone doesn’t get into a fight with Shayna James.” Rodeo princess and two-faced bitch, Shayna was all down-home sweetness for the cameras, but used a hot stick to prod her horse to go faster. Six thousand volts of electricity was a hell of a motivator. “I can’t believe she tried to claim that the cattle prod was yours.” That had been Shayna’s first mistake. It had put Shayna on June’s other sister, Merry’s, radar.

Merry didn’t care who it was, she’d go after anyone who messed with her family. And she’d go full out. No hair pulling or scratching. Merry would use that cattle prod on Shayna if she got a chance. June might be powerless, but her sister wasn’t. It was something. “Well, you’re the only one,” June said. She would never put a spur on Athena, let alone zap her into going faster. And anyone who had ever seen her with her horse should have known better. But June and Merry weren’t well liked on the rodeo circuit. They didn’t kiss ass. They didn’t do friends since they were children. They had excelled in pushing the boundaries and their parents’ “How’s April?” Emily asked. “Kelly’s been moping around ever since April finished up Trent’s April was one of June’s older sisters, who was the same age as Emily’s sister, Kelly. April was a CPA and had been making the rounds of all the Last Stand businesses, doing their taxes and other “Probably.

” June rolled her eyes. “They’re attached at the hip.” April had found true love a little over three months ago. They were already engaged, and June was trying to keep her pessimism to It would take three years before June would think a man was worth keeping, and then only if he didn’t blow it in the meantime. She didn’t have anything against Cole. He seemed like a good guy and was crazy about April. It was just that June and her sisters had seen what quick relationships did to their mother, Penny. All three of them had different fathers and none of the men in their mother’s life ever stuck around for very long. Their fathers had cycled in and out of their lives—mostly just long Cole, at least, had good references. He worked here, at the Three Sisters Ranch, helping Trent Campbell—a former rodeo star—teach kids how to ride bulls. Like Donovan, Trent had also rented property and wound up marrying a Sullivan sister—Emily’s older sister, Kelly. Maybe June could ask him if he needed help training the kids on how to barrel race at his bull-riding school. Of course, “She is. And it’s good to see her, too. I just wish it was temporary while I waited for the next “Yeah, but everyone doesn’t get into a fight with Shayna James.

” Rodeo princess and two-faced bitch, Shayna was all down-home sweetness for the cameras, but used a hot stick to prod her horse to That had been Shayna’s first mistake. It had put Shayna on June’s other sister, Merry’s, radar. Merry didn’t care who it was, she’d go after anyone who messed with her family. And she’d go full out. No hair pulling or scratching. Merry would use that cattle prod on Shayna if she got a chance. “Well, you’re the only one,” June said. She would never put a spur on Athena, let alone zap her But June and Merry weren’t well liked on the rodeo circuit. They didn’t kiss ass. They didn’t do the mean girl shit, and they certainly didn’t cheat. But they weren’t perfect little rodeo queens, either. She and Merry liked to party, and other people liked to gossip about that. Maybe they would have been better liked if they didn’t win as much as they did. June loved the attention though, good or bad. The fans, at least, appreciated the Grayson sisters.

June had never wanted to be a role model for younger girls, but she and Merry were always flooded after the events for autographs and pictures. It had been nice to have that type of validation. June even wore a black hat with the words Bad Reputation in sparkles around the brim. Unfortunately, you start to speak your fate into existence by doing things like that. “Did you really cut her ponytail off with a switchblade?” Emily asked. “That’s what they say,” June said. That was one of a few instances that June couldn’t recall. What she did remember was catching Shayna with her hand down Dustin’s pants. And she remembered screaming at Dustin for cheating on her, and for his lousy taste in choosing Shayna to screw around with. Then June remembered polishing off half a bottle of Jack Daniel’s, as she got angrier and angrier. And the last thing she remembered was doing an obscene mechanical bull ride for a bunch of cheering rednecks at a bar. Things got fuzzier after that. At one point, June must have caught up with the happy couple again. Her knuckles had been busted open and Dustin had a broken nose. June had a vague memory of being sprawled out in the hay and mud, and Shayna kicking her in the stomach and ribs.

Then there was nothing. “You’re lucky no one caught the action on their phone.” June nodded. She had half expected it to be all over the internet with memes and videos. But that hadn’t happened. “I guess Shayna has friends in high places. That video would have ruined her image.” June had gone searching for it once the rehab center let her have her phone back. The only thing she had found was Dustin and Shayna’s engagement photos on Instagram. Barf. Shayna looked like a Karen with short hair. Dustin looked sexy as hell. Damn him. He must have got his nose set right away because there wasn’t even a bump to show for the fistfight. It had been his dumb idea to become exclusive.

June had resisted doing that for so long, because she knew how men were. She’d had a ringside seat while growing up for the fiasco that was her mother’s love life. Penny had become a chameleon, changing to fit whatever man she was with. She went through a homemaker phase, and one as a sex kitten. One month Mama was a rock groupie, and the next she had traded in all her concert T-shirts for conservative blouses and had become a church lady. It was enough to give a girl whiplash. There was no way in hell June was going to put herself through that. She had been happily ignored to do whatever she wanted during her childhood and she was determined to keep it that way. But Dustin had been persistent. And hot. Against her better judgment—and a lot of begging—he had worn her down. Finally, she’d agreed that they would be exclusive with each other. To be honest, it had almost been a relief not to wonder who she was going home with. Two weeks later, though, he was getting a handy from Shayna James in her horse’s stall. “At least Merry kicked her ass in the championships.

” “Shayna’s lucky that’s all Merry did.” June had been unable to take or make phone calls or have any contact with the outside world for a month after she had been forced by Sinclair Thompson, the head of public relations at the WPRC, to check into rehab. She had been terrified Merry was going to take revenge and wind up in a jail cell. the mean girl shit, and they certainly didn’t cheat. But they weren’t perfect little rodeo queens, either. She and Merry liked to party, and other people liked to gossip about that. Maybe they would have June loved the attention though, good or bad. The fans, at least, appreciated the Grayson sisters. June had never wanted to be a role model for younger girls, but she and Merry were always flooded after the events for autographs and pictures. It had been nice to have that type of validation. June even in sparkles around the brim. Unfortunately, you start remember was catching Shayna with her hand down Dustin’s pants. And she remembered screaming at Dustin for cheating on her, and for his lousy taste in choosing Shayna to screw around with. Then June remembered polishing off half a bottle of Jack Daniel’s, as she got angrier and angrier. And the last thing she remembered was doing an obscene mechanical bull ride At one point, June must have caught up with the happy couple again.

Her knuckles had been busted open and Dustin had a broken nose. June had a vague memory of being sprawled out in the hay and June nodded. She had half expected it to be all over the internet with memes and videos. But that hadn’t happened. “I guess Shayna has friends in high places. That video would have ruined her image.” June had gone searching for it once the rehab center let her have her phone back. The only Shayna looked like a Karen with short hair. Dustin looked sexy as hell. Damn him. He must have It had been his dumb idea to become exclusive. June had resisted doing that for so long, because she knew how men were. She’d had a ringside seat while growing up for the fiasco that was her mother’s love life. Penny had become a chameleon, changing to fit whatever man she was with. She went through a homemaker phase, and one as a sex kitten.

One month Mama was a rock groupie, and the next she had traded in all her concert T-shirts for conservative blouses and had become a church There was no way in hell June was going to put herself through that. She had been happily ignored But Dustin had been persistent. And hot. Against her better judgment—and a lot of begging—he had worn her down. Finally, she’d agreed that they would be exclusive with each other. To be honest, it had almost been a relief not to wonder who she was going home with. Two weeks later, though, he “Shayna’s lucky that’s all Merry did.” June had been unable to take or make phone calls or have any contact with the outside world for a month after she had been forced by Sinclair Thompson, the head of public relations at the WPRC, to check into rehab. She had been terrified Merry was going to “So what are you going to do with yourself?” Emily asked the question that had been haunting June ever since she’d come back to Last Stand. “I guess I’ve got to get a real job.”

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Updated: 24 November 2021 — 02:24

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