One second before I can tap the remote control for my new truck, I pause and inhale deeply. The spring air is filled with the sweet, floral smell of flowers in bloom. But underneath that, there’s another scent. One I’d recognize anywhere. Pinewood. Earth. Dirt.

I look down at my hand. My gold wedding ring beside my huge engagement diamond makes me smile. When we got engaged, I told Striker I didn’t need anything fancy, but he went and bought me a ten-carat princess cut diamond anyway.

I started to tell him it was obnoxious, but he looked so damn proud of the thing that I couldn’t bring myself to do it. If the man wants to show me off as his, I’m not going to complain.

After that, it was a new truck, one where the heat actually works. Two days later, he brought home the papers for me to apply to a nearby college. He said he wants to watch all my dreams come true. But the silly cowboy doesn’t realize all of them came true when I found him.

I only go into the barber shop twice a week now. I’m cutting back since I’ve started at college. I want to finish my degree and I know it’d make my folks happy.

I wish they could see me, see the way Striker makes me so happy. But in a lot of ways, I think maybe they are looking down on me and the boys every day. That’s why I have Striker. They sent us a guardian angel, a man who’s fiercely loyal to protect us in their absence.

Finally, he makes his move. One second, my diamond is glittering and the next, there’s only darkness from the blindfold he slides over my eyes. This isn’t the first time he’s kidnapped me since we’ve gotten married. But it is the first time he’s used a blindfold.

We’ve been married for six months. Today is our wedding anniversary. But I didn’t expect that we’d have the chance to celebrate together in-person.

Blood rushes to my head as he picks me up, tossing me over his shoulder. I love how he can do that so easily, his big frame carrying my curvy figure without so much as a winded breath.

I hear him open the truck door. Last time, I used my leg to kick it shut again. That’s part of our game and probably the purpose of the blindfold, to keep me from fighting him too much. But today, I don’t want to play like that.

My stomach lurches as he places me on the seat. I’m having nausea already. I knew to expect it but I didn’t think it would happen this early. Or that my grumpy husband would get home so soon from his trip. He’s still supposed to be gone for two more days. The news I have to tell him isn’t something I wanted to share over the phone, but it is the perfect anniversary gift. I wanted to see him in person, to watch the way his eyes light up.

He reaches around me for the seatbelt, and I can feel the heat coming from him. He buckles me in, letting his fingers ghost along my body.

“My husband won’t be happy with you,” I use my best defiant tone. At first, I felt silly playing with him. But I’ve learned that’s part of it. We’re not professional actors, just two people stepping into a little role play.

“Oh, I think your husband will be very happy tonight,” his voice has that deep, gravelly quality I’ve come to love so much. He ruffles my hair and I lean into his touch. “You alright, pearl?”

This is what I love about playing with him. He always pauses to check in with me and make sure I’m comfortable. When I’m with him, I’m safe to explore any fantasy because I know my big man is looking out for me.

I practically purr at his touch. It’s been over a week since we’ve been together because of his trip. He hated the thought of leaving me and the boys alone even though we’re perfectly fine at my family’s farm.

He even tried to get me and the triplets to come along. But they need their routines and their schooling right now. Maybe in the summer we’ll take a family vacation somewhere fun.

“Better now that you’re here,” I answer. He texted me throughout the day when he was gone, the same way he does when he’s home.

We had video chats every night which ended with us doing some very grown-up things together. But it’s still not the same as having him near, feeling his hands on me and hearing that deep growl that he often makes.

“Same, baby girl,” he rumbles, the sound deep in his chest.

I reach for the blindfold, but he bats my hand away, ever gentle even when telling me no. “Leave it on.”

His words make my belly flip. I love it when he gets that authoritative tone and tells me what to do.

The ignition starts and as the truck lurches into motion, his hand finds mine.

We don’t say anything to each other the whole time. This is what I love about being with Striker. I can talk about anything with him and he never judges me. Or I can spend a whole day in silence with him and still feel just as connected as if we’d had a two-hour conversation about my most intimate thoughts.

When he finally turns off the truck, I pause to listen. I can hear the soft chirp of crickets and the whispering wind through the tall grass. I inhale deeply, already knowing deep in my heart that I’m home.

He helps me out of the truck and into the house. As we walk through it, the washing machine hums and the place smells like my favorite lemon cleaner. I should have known. He came home and tidied everything, probably even made my favorite meal. Because Striker’s heart beats for me.

Whether in big or small ways, he’s always taking care of me and tonight is no different. He satisfies my body twice before finally finding his own release.

After, we snuggle together and the blindfold is finally gone. I’m looking into the hazel gaze of the best man I know.

“Are the triplets still with Journey?” I ask.

“She’ll drop them off in a couple of hours,” he reassures me. He’s running his fingers through my hair, playing with it. He’s always touching me in big ways and small ways, constantly reassuring me of his love. “Can’t wait to see them.”

I’m not the only one he’s stayed in touch with this week. The boys know they can call him any time. Dex even called him in the middle of the night twice when he was having nightmares and Striker stayed on the phone with him for over an hour both times.

Dex idolizes Striker. All the boys do. Although he calls himself their big brother, the truth is they look at him as the father figure they’ve been missing for the past few months.

He’s patient with my boys, always letting them accompany him on chores around the farms. He could get the work done in half the time, but he slows down to show them what he’s doing.

Last week, Dex learned how to drive a nail into a post and the pride on his face was indescribable when Striker praised his job. He’s so encouraging of them, so gentle with each of their hearts.

He’s even learning to read with them. When I figured out he couldn’t read, I thought it was a learning disability. Then one day I was working with Dustin on his reading when Dex and Davis kept interrupting him. It made me realize that Striker was always called out of the classroom to help with his brother. I imagine it made him fall behind on his lessons.

After that, I started asking Striker to help them with their reading homework. I can tell that he’s picking up on their words though he won’t help them if I’m around. I think it embarrasses him that he stumbles through the lessons with them. But I’m proud of my cowboy.

It does excite me to see little signs of his progress. Two weeks ago when we were at the grocery store, I saw him reading some of the signs on the shelf. For a minute, he looked like he’d discovered a whole new world. I didn’t draw attention to it. Just hugged him from behind and told him I love him.

“You’re so good with them,” I tell him.

He smiles down at me, the lines by his eyes becoming more pronounced. My man is already getting more silver in his hair. Secretly, I can’t wait until it’s all gray. He’ll be a silver fox. My silver fox. “Tomorrow, I’ll go down to the building site. Check how the house is coming along.”

We’re building a house for us to live in on his land. I love my parents’ house but it’s too tiny to support our growing brood. “Yeah, the six of us are going to need more space soon.”

He stops stroking my hair and I swear he stops breathing. His chest no longer does that rise and fall thing. He repeats the word softly, a question in his voice. “Six?”

I take his hand and put it on my belly. “There are six of us now.”

My grumpy cowboy, who takes everything in stride, blinks. His eyes grow misty. “Are you sayin’ we made a little one?”

“You’re gonna be a daddy,” I tell him in a choked whisper.

He presses a soft kiss to my forehead. “Thank you, pearl. You give me so much. Three youngins to raise. A loving marriage. And now this, a baby of our own.”

“You kind of helped with that part,” I remind him, a teasing smile on my lips as he cuddles me close. I never knew I could be this happy. All because a handsome cowboy kidnapped me one autumn night.


Cassie is the shy toymaker with a curvy body that I’d love to do dirty things to. This isn’t how I planned for things to go but this holiday season, Santa is playing for keeps.

West is finally claiming his best friend’s little sister in A Christmas Bride for the Cowboy. Read A Christmas Bride for the Cowboy now for a sexy holiday story about a grumpy cowboy who falls hard for his forbidden fantasy!

A Christmas Bride for the Cowboy by Mia Brody