There's a New Watchman in Town

West Texas Watchmen
book 2

THE CATTLEMAN (4.5) by Angi Morgan: The West Texas Watchmen series continues with DEA agent Beth Conrad and cattleman Nick Burke. Beth is tasked with investigating an illegal gunrunning operation on the outskirts of Nick’s property. Nick reluctantly helps Beth out with her investigation, so they pose as a couple while Nick valiantly tries to deny his attraction to her. But when Beth and Nick find themselves in a life-or-death predicament, will they be able to fight their feelings for each other? Morgan pens a lovely comeback story of a hero fighting his inner demons and struggling with PTSD. With equal parts action, romance and compelling characters, she hits all the right notes.  ~Romantic Times Magazine

Chapter One
Nick Burke snapped awake and heard the echo of his labored panting in his ears. The faceless man shooting him in his nightmare faded, allowing him to suck some air into his lungs. A bright beam of sun snaked through his curtains and caught him in the eye.
“What the–” His alarm was gone. But he’d set it the night before. Mom. He shoved backed the hair stuck to his sweaty face and scratched his damp scalp. The sheets were drenched again. “Damn nightmares.”
He rubbed the numb skin covering the scars on his chest. No feeling in the daylight. Unlike at night when the dreams prodded and twisted a knife in the wound.
The more he tried to forget the shooting last year, the more he was surrounded by triggers. Literally. Stupid to believe he could face that demon and survive without some type of consequence. Cord had volunteered him to guide a drug task force through the mountains on his land and he’d met Beth. Then the shootout two weeks ago had almost gotten him shot a second time. He could still hear the bullet buzzing by his ear like a jet-propelled mosquito.
As a result, the nightmares had intensified.
He wouldn’t be that stupid again. Let the task force get some other dumb rancher to help. He needed to work his cattle and prepare for winter. He’d done his part and wasted enough time chasing an enemy that would never be gone. It was a fact of life he had to get past.
Living this close to the Mexican border, it didn’t matter if it was the nineteenth or twenty-first century. Cattle rustlers or gun runners. There would always be some sort of threat out of the control of the ranch owners.
Doing everything possible to make the Rocking B successful should be his number one priority. He didn’t have the time to be distracted by the task force or nightmares…or a beautiful pair of legs.
Almost a year since he’d been shot and there were only two instances when his dreams hadn’t attacked him. A night of sedated dreams in the hospital while recovering, and one night in the arms of a raven-haired seductress.
The first thought of Beth started his blood pumping faster. The second thought cooled his heels in a blink. Having law enforcement constantly searching his property was bad enough. Undercover DEA was worse. Getting involved with her was out of the question. Her skill set would never be adequate for the Davis Mountains.
Sure, she could handle a gun. She’d proved that by dropping the drug dealer jamming a .45 to his head. But she was afraid of horses, for crying out loud. He was a rancher. He rode horses. Needed horses. Couldn’t live without horses.
But he could definitely live without Beth setting foot on his ranch again.
A timid knock on the door had him jumping into the mud-caked jeans he’d dropped on the floor next to the bed.
“Nick? You awake?” His mother’s voice was so soft it wouldn’t have been heard if he hadn’t been awake.
He found his digital clock across the room. Nine in the morning? “Mom, did you move the alarm again?”
“Oh good, dear, you’re awake. Are you dressed?”
He hauled a T-shirt over his head just before she pushed the door open a crack. “Go ahead and come in and confirm my total lack of privacy as a thirty-year-old man. I’ve told you before that you’ve got to stop turning off the alarm.”
His mom stood with one fist on a hip and one finger pointed in the air to halt his speech. Easier just to let her have her say. “Dear, there’s someone here to see you, and I didn’t want you riding off to rope a cow or check a fence.”
Almost twenty-five years on the ranch and his mother still had no desire to learn what really went on here. He’d laugh, but he’d learned the hard truth of ranch work only after his foreman had shot him in the back.
“You know I’m not seeing people.”
“Yes, sweetheart. I’ve tried a couple of times to warn you about this appointment. I even left a message on your phone.”
“That’s right. I tried to ask you, but since you ignored me, I’ve taken matters into my own hands. You’ll either march into the living room or pack your bags.” She drew in a deep breath and closed her eyes.
“No way. You probably have a shrink in there.”
“So, you’re leaving, then. Such a shame. Your father and I will miss you every day, but we’ll deal with it.” Her hands fell to her sides and he swore she looked three inches shorter.
“What? Mom, this is my ranch. You can’t kick me off.”
“Yes, it is, son, but not officially. Not yet.” She stepped closer and hugged him around his waist, too short to put her arms any higher.
He patted her shoulder, thinking again. Had he really heard her correctly? He set her away from him. “You’re saying I have to see whoever’s in the living room or lose my inheritance?”
“We’re not going to disinherit you, Nick.” She turned and sat on the corner of the bed. “Would it work if I did? Would you talk with a counselor?” She wrung the corner of her apron around her hands, obviously distressed. “How long do you think you can keep this up?”
“What? Working my own ranch? Men have been doing it for centuries.”
“You know what I’m talking about. Sweetheart, you barely sleep. Don’t you think your dad and I hear every time you wake up? Or creep down the hallway to watch television? Or even play those games on your laptop at all hours?” With a long sigh she sat on the edge of the bed.
“That’s all normal, the doctors told you–”
She closed her eyes. She waited for him to finish. Her manners had never allowed her to talk over someone else.
“You’re out the door before dawn,” she continued. “And not back inside until nine or ten at night. Straight to your room and screaming from your nightmares when you do fall asleep.”
“I didn’t know you could hear me.” His parents had never said a word. What part of his nightmares had they heard? “Do you think talking about this with a stranger is going to help?”
His quiet mother brushed a tear from her cheek. He was lost, unable to respond. It hadn’t always been that way, only since…
“It’s worth a try.” Juliet Burke put her hands on her thighs and stood. “But that’s not who’s waiting for you.”
Man alive, he’d almost agreed to talk to a shrink. His mother didn’t know just how close he’d been to caving. He hated seeing her so concerned. Hugging her tight to his chest, he was unable–or unwilling–to look into her sad, worried eyes.
“Come on, Mom. It’s getting better,” he lied. He faked a smile as he released her, crossing his fingers that she’d relax and believe him for a day or two. “Does breakfast come with this meeting?”
“Of course. I was just waiting for you to get up before putting the biscuits in the oven. Beth’s drinking coffee and we’ll visit while you shower.”
“Beth Conrad? The DEA Amazon that hates my guts? The woman who swore she’d lock me up for obstruction if I interfered in her investigation again? That Beth?”
“She doesn’t hate you, sweetheart. She’s come to ask a favor.” His mother moved and gently shut the door as she left.
“The last favor she asked for involved me walking down a long pier and jumping head first into a dry lake.”

“I heard that.”

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  1. Angi I am going to read The Sheriff soon. And I will get this whole series too