Charming the Cowboy (Grape Seed Falls Romance Book 3)

By: Liz Isaacson

Grape Seed Falls Romance Book 3



Chapter One





Glancing up at the clock, Heather Carver tried not to mentally calculate the minutes until she could go home. She did anyway—seventy-four. And her impatience with teaching third grade had come much too early in the school year. After all, it was only September.

At least it’s Friday, she thought, rationalizing that that was the reason she couldn’t wait until the final bell rang. But deep down, she knew that wasn’t why. Teaching had a way of taking everything from a person, especially someone who didn’t have anything else to give anything to.

She pushed away her thoughts and focused on the little boy in front of her. With a flop of dark hair and a smattering of freckles across his nose, Mathias was reading from the book he’d gotten from the library that morning. He read with great fluency, and she marked off his rate and told him to send Jorge back.

Seventy-three minutes later, she stood at the door and said, “Have a great weekend, boys and girls. See you Monday.” She gave side-hugs as the children filed past. Some wanted high fives. Some just went by with a hesitant look on their face, as school had only been in session for three weeks and they were still getting to know her.

Once they were all gone, she closed and locked the door and leaned her back against it. A sigh leaked from her lips, and a keen sense of exhaustion dripped through her. She’d just begun her tenth year of teaching third grade, and the thought of doing it for two more decades was suffocating.

Pushing off the door, she headed to her desk, determined to stay only until she was ready for Monday morning. She had a prep period that morning, and it was early-out day, so she could get by without having to spend time tonight getting ready.

The open riding period normally started at Levi’s stables at six o’clock, but he’d moved it up to five now that fall had arrived and the sun was setting earlier. Heather told herself she wasn’t going to go. Not again. She’d been showing up for his open riding period for almost two years, and she’d be willing to bet an entire year’s salary that he didn’t even know what color her hair was.

Her pulse quickened at the simple thought of him. Levi Rhodes stood over six feet fall, with dark hair and eyes, and a five o’clock shadow on his strong jaw by three PM. He was soft-spoken yet completely in charge of every horse at his boarding stable. He’d also inherited his family’s peach orchard, and one of the girls in Heather’s Wednesday night yoga class managed the sales and distribution of the fruit.

Sally had described Levi as “meticulous,” and Heather wanted to be the one to unravel him. But he seemed completely unreachable.

“Time to move on,” she muttered to herself as she reviewed the math lesson she’d be doing on Monday. Problem was, there wasn’t anyone to move on to. Brief thoughts of leaving Grape Seed Falls floated through her mind, but she knew she’d never do it. Her family lived here, and she loved visiting the ranch where she’d grown up. She had a close relationship with her oldest brother and her parents, and she loved her house on Redglobe Street.

She stayed at school later than she would’ve liked and finally returned home to her four cats. Or maybe she had five now. Heather wasn’t sure if the black cat with white paws would stick around. She’d been putting food and water outside ever since she’d noticed the too-skinny animal crouched beside her garage.

Heather certainly didn’t need to take in another stray. Jasper, a gray tabby cat, and Tigger, an orange tabby, were both rescues and they usually stuck together as she’d adopted them on the same day. Ashes she’d raised from a kitten, and she was Heather’s favorite. All the other cats knew it, and Ashes could usually be found perched on top of the couch when Heather got home from school.

Today was no different, and Heather stroked the smoky gray cat as she passed. Dropping her bag and kicking off her shoes, Heather tried to talk herself out of going over to the open riding session. No one would notice if she didn’t show up. No one would know if she simply slipped into her stretchy pants, grabbed the box of leftovers from last night’s take out, and parked herself on the couch to watch romantic comedies.

She dialed Elaine as she took out her earrings. “Let’s do something tonight,” she said when her friend answered. “I don’t want to stay home alone. Again.”

“I wish I could,” Elaine said. “I wish I was even still in town. But my mom fell this morning, and I’m in Austin.”

“Oh, no.” Heather picked up the cat food bowl and dumped the uneaten food back in the bag. “Is she all right?” She’d eaten dinner at Elaine’s house more times than she could count over their lifelong friendship, and Elaine’s mother had always been kind, with a quick wit Heather envied.