COWBOY DREAMING by Shawna Delacorte
Silhouette Desire #1020
Original Print Release: August 1996
eBook Reissue: August 2011
eBook ISBN: #978-1-459-27895-0
Available at: (do search for author name)
Available at: for Nook Books
Available at: for Kindle

When Melanie Winslow returned to the Colorado ranch where she was raised, she never expected to find herself stranded in a mountain cabin with Cody Chandler. The rugged ranch manager was the answer to every daydream Melanie had ever had about strong, sexy cowboys.

But this one was real, with a kiss that made Melanie's heart beat faster, and a smile that hinted at the most intimate things. The trouble was, the last thing Melanie intended to do was fall in love with an untamed cowboy -- no matter how perfect he seemed. If only her heart felt the same way...


Read Inside front cover excerpt
Read Excerpt #1 (G-rated)
Read Excerpt #2 (G-rated)
Read Excerpt #3 (G-rated)


Inside front cover excerpt:

Melanie felt Cody's warm breath across her cheek, then his lips on the side of her neck. His words tickled her ears. "We should figure out the sleeping arrangements for tonight."

He rose suddenly and added a couple more logs to the blaze. "There should be some sleeping bags in the cupboard," he said. "And another cot..." It was almost a question.

All right, Ms. I-can-take-care-of-myself-and-don't-need-anybody, what do you plan to do now?

This was not the time to panic, Melanie told herself. She was a self-sufficient woman who would handle this logically and intelligently.

As she watched, Cody jabbed the burning logs, causing embers to fly -- like the hot sparks she felt every time he kissed her. The intensity in his face and the captivating pull of his masculinity drew her to him. Her insides melted into a simmering pool of desire.

Maybe common sense and levelheaded thinking weren't all they were cracked up to be...


G-excerpt #1 (first meeting/book opening)

Melanie Winslow placed her foot on the top step leading to the porch. It creaked as she put her weight on it. After all these years it still creaks. Maybe it was the eerie stillness of the night that made the noise seem so much louder than she remembered. Trepidation welled inside her, almost overwhelming the task she had set for herself. She fought the urge to turn and run.

It had been almost ten years since she last stepped foot on the porch of the house where she had lived for the first eighteen years of her life -- almost ten years since the day of her mother's funeral. She paused on the front porch and glanced back over her shoulder. The full moon shone brightly in the black sky, casting its silvery glow across the landscape. The crisp night air belied the fact that it was springtime. Melanie shivered inside her jacket, her Southern California clothes not suited to the colder clime.

She inserted the key into the lock and turned it. The dead bolt clicked as it slid back. She placed her hand on the doorknob, then paused and gave a quick look back over her shoulder. Was it too late to turn around, get in her car and start driving back to Los Angeles? She took a calming breath, opened the front door and stepped into the living room.

A dark, shadowy figure lunged at Melanie, knocked the wind from her and shoved her to the floor. She shook her head, momentarily stunned by the force of the blow, then attempted to scramble to her feet. The large body on top of her pinned her to the carpeting. She instinctively struck out at her assailant, digging her fingernails into his bare chest. His strong arms prevented her from putting up much of a fight in her defense. The menacing voice rasped in her ear.

"Stay put unless you want your head bashed in."

Melanie gasped for air, then gasped in terror as a rough hand grazed the side of her neck, brushed across her jacket, then settled over her breast. She knew her voice trembled with fear. It was all she could do to force out the words. "Please...don't..."

"What the hell -- " Shock did not even come close to describing Cody Chandler's reaction to his accidental discovery. He jerked back his hand and jumped to his feet. Moving through the darkness, he flipped on the light switch by the front door.

The intruder lay sprawled on the floor. An oversize jacket covered a body that definitely belonged to a woman -- there was no doubt about that fact. Her hazel eyes were wide with fear; her lips slightly parted; her short, dark hair in wild disarray; her legs encased in worn jeans. He felt some of the tension drain away as the adrenaline surge began to wear off.

Melanie gazed up at the large man who loomed over her like some fearful image dredged up from the bottom of her deepest fears. He was dressed in a pair of old jeans and nothing else. With the exception of the hard glint in his blue eyes, he looked as though he had just been roused from sleep. Her pounding heart and racing pulse slowed a bit as her fear subsided.

He made no attempt to help her up from the floor. "Who the hell are you and what are you doing here?" He barked out his demands, making it clear exactly who was in charge.

The fear had passed and the anger set in. Mel scrambled to her feet, adjusting her disheveled clothing as she regained her balance. Now that she was upright, she realized just how tall he was, even compared with her five-feet-seven-inch height. He topped six feet by at least one inch, maybe even two.

She glared at him defiantly while running her fingers through her hair in an attempt to untangle it. "How dare you attack me like that! You're lucky I'm not calling the police right now."

"You calling the police!" He unconsciously rubbed his fingers across the scratches she had inflicted, then folded his arms across his chest. "I'm perfectly within my rights to protect my home against intruders...and other undesirables."

She inwardly bristled at his accusation. She was not sure which irritated her more, his referring to her as an undesirable intruder or his other claim. "Your home! No way is this your home. This house -- in fact, this entire ranch and everything on it -- belongs to Buck Winslow. I ought to know because I'm his daughter."

Cody blinked a couple of times and shook his head in an attempt to clear the sleep. Had he heard correctly? This woman standing in front of him was Buck Winslow's long-absent daughter? He never would have recognized her from the old high-school graduation picture Buck kept by his bed. Cody finally found his voice and blurted out the first thing that came to his mind. "You're Melanie Winslow? Where the hell have you been? And why have you bothered to show up after nearly ten years?"

Now it was Mel's turn to be surprised. Just who was this man who seemed to know more about her than a stranger should? "Well, that takes care of who I am. Now, just who are you?"

"I'm Cody Chandler, Buck's ranch foreman."

"Oh, yeah?" Oh, great -- brilliant retort, Mel. "No way, cowboy. The ranch foreman is Tom Collier, has been for years."

"Not anymore. Arthritis. The doc suggested he might be more comfortable in a warmer, drier climate, so he went to Tucson a little over eight years ago." He fixed her with a cold look. "But, then, you wouldn't know that, would you?"

There was something about the sarcasm in his voice and his aggressive manner that set Melanie's teeth on edge. He seemed just a little too possessive, just a little too much in charge. And where was her father? He had never been a particularly sound sleeper. Surely all the commotion must have been loud enough to wake him. She glanced down the darkened hallway that led to the bedrooms, then turned her attention back to Cody. "Since when does the hired help sleep in the main house and refer to the property as theirs? And just where the hell is my father?"

Cody stretched himself to his fullest height. His eyes narrowed and his jaw clenched in a hard line. "You've got quite a mouth on you, kid." He continued to stare at her, refusing to give her any quarter. She certainly did have quite a mouth on her -- it was full, lush and very sensual. Just the type of mouth that needed to be kissed -- long, hard...and often.

"I'm hardly a kid and I certainly don't appreciate your arrogant attitude. Besides, that doesn't answer my question." She adopted a condescending air as she continued to question him. "But if a two-part question is too difficult for you, we can skip the first part and go right to the second." Then, without warning, the hard edge again surrounded her words. "Where is my father? What have you done with him?"

"You weren't concerned a year ago, so why should you be concerned now?" Again he gave her no leeway. He refused to back off or give her any room to maneuver.

The conversation had taken a totally unexpected turn in direction. Something was wrong...terribly wrong. The anger drained from Melanie, to be replaced by an unsettling jitter that started in the pit of her stomach and quickly spread throughout her body. Was she too late? Had her decision to resolve the estrangement with her father and attempt to bridge the huge chasm between them come too late?


G-excerpt #2 (first kiss)

Any guilt or regret she might have felt over her rash statement immediately disappeared, igniting a volatile exchange of words. "How dare you -- "

"Don't try to hand me that indignant act. If Buck thinks of me as a son, then maybe it's because you were never -- "

"Maybe he wanted a son but what he got was a daughter!" She could not hold back the tears as a lifetime of hurt overflowed the place inside where she had tried to lock it away. "A daughter he ignored and never really wanted." A sob caught in her throat and the rest of her words came out in a hushed quaver. "A daughter who would have given anything if only her father had loved her."

If Melanie's earlier allegations about his honesty shocked Cody, then her tears really threw him for a loop. There was no doubt in his mind that Buck Winslow adored his daughter and had been through his own private hell. Buck had suffered the untimely loss of his wife only to have the emotional upheaval compounded when his only child had taken off for parts unknown.

Cody felt at a total loss. He did not know whether to be angry at Melanie for her personal attack against him, take her to task for her erroneous comments about Buck or attempt to comfort the obviously distraught woman who was going through her own emotional stress. Her pain showed through the sheen of tears that filled her eyes. The tender feelings he had been trying to suppress from the moment he turned on the living-room light and saw her sprawled on the floor finally won out.

He was not sure what to say to her, but he did know what to do. He reached out and gently wiped away the wet trails that ran down her cheeks, then he pulled her into his arms and wrapped her in the warmth of his embrace. He threaded his fingers through her hair and nestled her head against his shoulder.

An almost inaudible sigh escaped his throat as he took a calming breath. His words came out in a whisper. "Tell me, Melanie Winslow, why are you here? Why did you pick this time to show up? You said you didn't know about Buck's health -- "

The warm feeling he had coaxed through the thin shield of Mel's hostility did not last long. She snapped her head back and started to shove away from him. "Do you think I -- "

He placed his fingertips against her lips to silence what had started as yet another angry outburst. "It seems our agreed upon truce didn't last very long the first time. What do you say to giving it another try? I believe what you said about not being aware of Buck's health. I'm just trying to get straight in my mind exactly why you're here." He lifted her chin with his fingertips until he could look fully into her face and eyes. "What is it you want?" He felt the length of her body press against his as she tentatively returned his embrace. His voice took on a husky quality. "Why did you come back?"

"I... I'm not sure." She could barely get out the words. The full force of his magnetism had totally and completely enveloped her. It was hard to tell which of them made the first move, whether he lowered his head or she raised hers, but a moment later his lips were on hers. The same quiver of excitement passed through her body as had earlier that day when she awoke in the hayloft to find he was real, not just part of her dream. His mouth insisted without being demanding. His kiss crystallized one thought beyond any doubt -- she wanted more of him, so very much more.

He had not been sure about kissing her, had not made it a conscious part of his conduct. It had almost been an involuntary action, much like breathing. But now that he had started he did not want to stop. Her mouth was soft and sensual, her taste every bit as delicious as he knew it would be. He flicked his tongue across her lower lip, fully intending to explore what lay beyond.

"Hey, Cody! Are you in there?"

The shout had come from the side door of the barn, completely shattering the tender moment they were sharing -- a moment that was on the verge of bursting into flame.


Excerpt #3 (Searching For Melanie)

Cody stood and stretched out the kinks from his body. He needed to check on things outside, but first he wanted to look in on Buck. The nurse assured him that Buck had spent a relatively comfortable day, much of it napping. Cody reached the front door just in time to see Ross bounding up the porch steps.

"Cody... Miss Winslow's horse just came back to the corral without her."

"What?" An adrenaline charge pumped hard through his chest and Cody came off the porch like a shot. "What happened?" He felt a cold tremor of foreboding settle in the pit of his stomach.

"I don't know. She came to me this morning sayin' she wanted to go riding. Told me she was a good rider and wanted a horse with some spirit, so I saddled up Proud Warrior for her. He's a good horse, handles well and could give her a fast ride if that's what she wanted."

Cody's fast-paced walk turned into a run as he headed toward the stables. "Did she say anything? Give you any clue where she intended to go?"

Ross was having a difficult time keeping up with Cody's long legs as he hurried along beside him. "She mentioned the box canyon and asked if the trapper's cabin was still there."

"Damn." Cody paused for a moment, his brow wrinkled in thought. "The four-wheel drive won't do me any good if I have to go up into the canyon. Saddle my horse while I grab some supplies."

Ross went one direction and Cody went another.

Cody picked up a small first-aid kit and a cellular phone from the communications office. Next he went into the supply room and packed a large high-intensity flashlight, extra batteries and a couple of rain ponchos into saddle bags. On his way out the door he pulled two heavy jackets from the rack and wrapped them in a plastic sheet, one for him and the other for Melanie.

Cody headed his horse west, straight out across the pasture toward the foothills. He kept a wary eye on the black storm clouds moving in over the hills. He judged that maybe an hour of decent daylight was left, depending on how quickly the storm closed in around him.

He kept telling himself that Melanie was all right. Something had spooked her horse, but she was resourceful and self-sufficient. Besides, she grew up on the ranch. Even though it had been a while, she would still know her way around. If she was anywhere near the old trapper's cabin, she would be safe.

That was what he kept telling himself. He would say the words over and over again, sometimes in his mind and sometimes out loud. It was more than just Buck's daughter who was out there somewhere; it was the woman...

Cody could not finish the thought, did not want to finish it. He was afraid to finish it. He had been able to shove it from his mind because there was always a convenient excuse close at hand for diverting his attention to other matters. Now there were no interruptions to turn his thoughts elsewhere. Melanie Winslow was the only thing on his mind.

Raindrops splattered on the brim of his hat, first gently, then with more force. Cody reached back and extracted one of the rain ponchos from the saddlebag. It was going to be a wet evening, but he was determined not to stop until he located Melanie.

He turned north along the stream, headed toward the box canyon. Two hours had passed since it started raining, even though it seemed much longer to him. In another fifteen minutes he would be at the trapper's cabin, and if he was lucky his search would be over. He bowed his head, allowing some of the collected water to run off his hat brim. He continued along the stream bank, trying not to dwell on the other possibilities.

Cody blinked a couple of times in an attempt to clear away the rain that partially obscured his vision. Through the gloom and wet he could make out a dim light around the edges and through the cracks of the shuttered window. The wet night air carried the smell of wood burning in the fireplace. Someone was in the cabin. The excitement built inside him as he urged his horse into a faster gait.

He jumped off his horse in front of the cabin, landing in a muddy puddle. He clasped the reins in one hand and grasped the door latch with the other. It was secured from the inside. He banged with his fist. "Melanie! Are you in there? Open up. It's Cody." A moment later the door opened.

"This is a surprise." It may have been an impish grin that turned the corners of her mouth, but it was not light-hearted amusement that she had initially felt when she heard someone at the door. At the sound of Cody's voice an immediate feeling of relief settled over her. "What are you doing here, cowboy? Did you just happen to be in the neighborhood and thought you'd stop by to say hello?"

What was at one time probably an expensive Stetson was now soaking wet, with the brim hanging low over his forehead. The bright-yellow rain poncho covered him from the shoulders almost to his knees. His jeans and boots were mud-spattered from the bottom of the poncho to the ground. To Melanie's eyes he looked gorgeous. Before she was able to move aside so that he could come in out of the rain, he impulsively grabbed her. He pulled her outside the cabin and enfolded her in his arms as if he had not heard a word she said.

The cold rain hit against her back. His wet poncho soaked through the front of her clothes. The brim of his hat hit against her forehead as he pulled her into his embrace.

"Are you all right, Mel? You're not hurt, are you?" He tightened his hold on her, crushing her body against his.

The way he had her head buried against his shoulder prevented her from answering him right away. Despite the cold rain that pounded down on them, a warm feeling flowed through her body.

He finally released her from his embrace but continued to grip her shoulders with his hands. He held her in front of him, his eyes telling her how much he cared, even if his words had not. At least, that was what she hoped they were saying.

A bit of a calm settled over Cody. The rain did not matter; the mud did not matter. The important thing was that she had apparently escaped unharmed. He repeated his question. "Are you okay?"

"Do you mean other than the fact that I was dry and now I'm very wet?" Melanie could not stop the teasing grin that spread across her face.