“Someone has been telling my boys Santa Claus is a cowboy who leaves cow patties for bad little kids.” I side-eye Ezra from my spot on the bleachers. In the field, the second-grade boys are huddled close listening to their hunky coach.
Drew stands heads taller than the kids as he delivers what’s no-doubt a rousing speech encouraging them to keep going. Our little football team has been on quite the losing streak, but their coach isn’t about to let it get his boys down.
Ezra chuckles. “Is that right?”
I scowl at him. “Aaron was asking me questions.”
Aaron is my oldest son. He’s nine and glued to Ezra’s hip. He listens to the old man like every word that comes out of his mouth is the gospel truth. Most of the time, Ezra is careful what he says. But every so often, he pulls my son’s leg.
“You can’t be telling him things like that,” I insist. “He’s like a sponge. He soaks up everything you say.”
Ezra scowls back at me. “Got him to go to bed when you and the husband were out on your date, didn’t it?”
He has me there. Ezra is an excellent babysitter. He never minds looking after his four grandsons when Drew wants to take me into town for a meal at Red’s Diner and then keeps me out all night under the stars in the back of his truck. I’m pretty sure that’s how the twins came to be.
Before I can answer, the opposing team scores a final touchdown just before the timer runs down to zero. Ezra and I wear matching scowls for just a second. The other team’s coach doesn’t just play to win. He has his boys play to completely crush their opponents.
Even though it’s hard on my boys to lose, some small part of me is glad they did. I’ve seen the coach and parents of the opposing team yell and berate their youngsters when they lose.
It’s not like that here. In Whiskey Run, we build up our kids and encourage them. They won’t win every game on the field or off of it. Losing gracefully is a valuable life lesson.
Besides, there will be ice cream tonight at the Colson Ranch. After every game—win or lose—the boys get ice cream from Drew. He insists he wants them to walk away with a love for the sport and an understanding of how to be teammates.
“We’re going to need the good stuff tonight,” Ezra says when he takes in the drooping shoulders.
On the way home in a van filled with sweaty, discouraged kids, Drew takes his time to highlight what each player did right. One by one, the boys slowly perk up as they listen to their coach’s praise. This is what makes him a great leader. He’s far more interested in boosting their spirits than he is the final score.
Underneath the pavilion wrapped in twinkling lights, the boys eat their homemade ice cream while parents mill about, catching up on the latest gossip. Maybe in most small towns people would blame the coach. But Drew is so well-liked and respected that no one fusses at him. I think that’s because every parent here can see the way that my husband invests in these kids. He has a knack for sensing what each one needs and helping him find his way.
When the last of the players are loaded up and the final truck is pulling away, he starts cleaning up napkins and plastic spoons off the concrete floor of the pavilion in our backyard. His sons help him without a word of complaint. From the time they wake up until they go to bed, our little brood follows him around and he loves every moment of it.
“Time for showers,” I announce and usher the boys into the house. As soon as the boys are gone, I wrap my arms around Drew. I put my head on his chest and listen to the steady thrum of his heartbeat. A heart that beats for me and his boys.
He chuckles, the sound rumbles against my ear. “What’s this for?”
“For being an amazing coach and father.” His t-shirt is soft against my cheek, smelling of the night air and the special musk that only belongs to my husband. “You love them so much.”
“They’re not the only ones I love.” He presses a kiss to the top of my head and pulls me even closer in his embrace.
There are days when I think about what would have happened to me if he hadn’t rescued me at the bar. It’s one of my favorite memories—the day my cowboy protected me. I tell it to the boys frequently, and they love hearing about their brave father.
I lean back and glance up into his eyes that are filled with so much love and affection for me. Even though we’ve been together for years, the way he looks at me still takes my breath away. He makes me feel like the most important person in the world. “I might need a reminder of that tonight.”
He growls low in his throat. “As soon as the boys are down, I’ll be in there, pretty mama.” He squeezes my butt and grinds against me. “Now, you go get comfortable.”
By the time our sons are settled in their beds and sleeping, I’ve already taken my shower and snuggled under the blankets. I’m reading a romance about a cowboy. I read a lot of them these days. Of course, these heroes always pale in comparison to my real-life hunk.
“Let me take a quick shower,” he murmurs.
I wait until I hear the water start before I slip into the bathroom and join him. He loves on my body, the shower muting the sounds of our passion as we enjoy each other the way husbands and wives do.
Later, he carries me to bed and tucks me in. He’s so fierce when we’re making love together and so gentle after. I love this cowboy that always knows exactly what I need and delights in providing for me.
He pulls me into his arms and nibbles on my earlobe. He never stops touching me and it warms me that after four big babies, he still loves my curvy body and shows his appreciation for it.
I giggle at the way it tickles to have his lips against my ear. “You’re so good to me and our boys. It only makes me love you more, Mr. Colson.”
“You’re my home,” he whispers, his voice thick with emotion. He threads our fingers together. “You and the boys will always be my home, and I’ll always be your home too.”
With my husband’s sweet words ringing in my ear, I close my eyes and drift to sleep. He’s been my safe place since the day we met in the bar and I know that’s what he’ll always be. He’s my rock and the one person I can lean on. We’ve built a beautiful life and every day together, it only gets sweeter.
If you want another alpha cowboy who protects his woman, then it’s time to meet Ranger in The Cowboy’s Bride (available now!).