Cowboy Sawyer Garrett has no intention of settling down. But when he becomes a single dad to tiny baby June, stepping up to the responsibility is non-negotiable. And so is finding a wife to be a mother to his infant daughter. So he decides to do it how the pioneers did: He puts out an ad for a mail order bride.
Evelyn Moore can’t believe she’s agreed to uproot her city life to marry a stranger in Oregon. But having escaped one near-disastrous marriage, she’s desperate for change. Her love for baby June is instant. Her feelings for Sawyer are more complicated. Her gruff cowboy husband ignites thrilling desire in her, but Sawyer is determined to keep their marriage all about the baby. But what happens if Evelyn wants it all?
“There’s no way around it. I’m going to need a wife.”
Sawyer Garrett looked across the table at his brother, Wolf, and his sister, Elsie, and then down at the tiny pink bundle he was holding in his arms.
It wasn’t like this was an entirely new idea.
It was just that he had been thinking the entire time that Missy might change her mind, which would put him in a different position. She hadn’t, though. She had stuck to her guns. When she found out she was pregnant, she told him that she wanted nothing to do with having a baby. She wanted to go through with the pregnancy, but not with being a mother. Not even when he proposed marriage. Oh, they hadn’t been in a relationship or anything like that. She was just a woman that he saw from time to time.
In fact, Sawyer Garrett could honestly say that he had a very low opinion of relationships and family.
Present company excluded, of course.
But when Missy had said she was pregnant, he’d known there was only one thing to do. His dad had been a flawed man. Deeply so. He’d acted like the kids were an afterthought and all he’d really done was let them live under his roof.
Sawyer wanted more for his child. Better. He’d determined he would be there, not just providing housing and food, but actually being there.
If he could spare his child the feeling of being unwanted, he would.
And that was where this idea had been turning over in his head for a while.
The fact of the matter was, Garrett’s Watch had a lousy track record when it came to marriage.
The thirteen-thousand-acre spread had been settled back in the late 1800s, with equal adjoining spreads settled by the Kings, the McClouds and the Sullivans, all of whom had now worked what was known in combination as Four Corners Ranch in the generations since.
And where the Garrett clan was concerned… There was nothing but a long history of abandonment and divorces. The one exception being Sawyer’s grandparents. Oh, not his grandfather’s first marriage. His biological grandmother had run off just like every other woman in their family tree. As if the ground itself was cursed.
But then the old man had happened upon an idea. He thought to write a letter to one of the newspapers back east asking for a woman who wanted to come out to Oregon and be a mother to his children. They’d had the only successful marriage in his direct line. And it was because it was based on mutual respect and understanding and not the emotional bullshit that had been a hallmark of his own childhood. He barely remembered his own mother. He remembered Wolf’s and Elsie’s, though. Two different women. Only around for a small number of years.
Just long enough to leave some scars.
Hell, he didn’t know how he wound up in this position. He was a man who liked to play hard. He worked hard. It seemed fair enough. But he was careful. He always used a condom. And Missy had been no exception. He’d just been subject to that small percentage of failure. Failure.
He hated that. He hated that feeling. He hated that word. If there was one thing he could fault his father for it was the fact that the man hadn’t taken charge. The fact that he just sat there in the shit when everything went to hell. That wasn’t who Sawyer was. But Sawyer had to be responsible for his siblings far sooner than he should’ve had to be, thanks in part due to his father’s passivity. If there was one thing Sawyer had learned, it was that you had to be responsible when responsibility was needed.
He wasn’t a stranger to failing people in his life, but unlike his father, he’d learned. He’d never let anyone who needed him down, not again.
“Marriage,” Wolf said. “Really.”
“Unless you and Elsie want a full-time job as a nanny.”
Elsie snorted, leaned back in her chair and put her boots up on the table—which she didn’t normally do, but she was just trying to be as feral as possible in the moment. “Not likely,” she said.
“Right. Well. So, do you think there’s a better idea?”
“Reconsider being a single father?” Wolf said.
“I am,” Sawyer said. “I’m aiming to find a wife.”
Wolf shook his head. “I mean, reconsider having a baby at all.”
A fierce protectiveness gripped Sawyer’s chest. “It’s a little late, don’t you think?”
“Wasn’t too late for Missy to walk away yesterday,” Wolf said.
“Too late for me,” Sawyer said.
It had been. From the moment he’d first heard her cry. The weight of… Of everything that he felt on his shoulders when this tiny little thing was placed into his arms. It was difficult to describe. Impossible. He wasn’t good with feelings when they were simple. But this was complicated. A burden, but one he grabbed hold of willingly. One he felt simultaneously uniquely suited for and completely unequal to. He didn’t know the first thing about babies. Yeah, he had done quite a bit to take care of Elsie and Wolf, and… He could see where he’d fallen short. Elsie was just a hair shy of a bobcat in human form, and Wolf suited his name, and, well…big, a little bit dangerous, loyal to his pack, but that was about it.
“It’s not too late,” Elsie said. “In the strictest sense. You haven’t even given her name.”
No. It was true. He hadn’t settled on anything yet. And he knew there was paperwork that he had to do.
“You want me to give her back?” He shook his head. “It’s not like I have a receipt, Els.”
“That’s not what I meant,” Elsie said. “It’s just… It’s a hard life here.”
“And I aim to make it a little less hard.”
“So, you’re going to… What? Put an ad in the paper?”
“Granddad did,” he said.
And it had changed their lives for the better. The history of Garrett’s Watch might be rich with failed love stories, but it was a marriage of convenience that had brought real love to the ranch.
Their grandmother—their real grandmother (blood didn’t matter here, staying mattered)—had loved them all with a ferocity their own mothers hadn’t managed, let alone their father.
She had taught Sawyer to tie his shoes and ride a bike. She’d hugged him when he’d fallen and scraped his knees.
She taught him tenderness. And he was damned grateful for it now, because he had this tiny life in his care, and if it weren’t for her, he would have never, ever known where to begin.
And thanks to his grandfather, he knew what else he might need.
However crazy his siblings thought it was.
“It’s not 1950,” Wolf pointed out.
Though, sometimes, on Four Corners you could be forgiven for not realizing that. For not realizing it wasn’t 1880, even.
Time passed slowly, and by and large the landscape didn’t change. Sure, the farm implements got a little bit shinier.
On a particularly good year, the savings account got a little bit fatter.
But the land itself remained. The large imposing mountains that surrounded the property that backed Garrett’s Watch. The river that ran through the property, cutting across the field and the base of the mountain. The pine trees, green all through the year, growing taller with the passage of time.
They were lucky to have done well enough in the last few years that the large main house was completely updated, though it was ridiculously huge for Sawyer by himself. Wolf and Elsie had gone to their own cabins on the property, which were also sturdy and well kept.
In truth, this whole thing with the baby had been a wake-up call. Because whether or not he could look out the window and see it, time was passing. And when Missy had asked him what he wanted to do about the baby, the answer had seemed simple. It had seemed simple because… He had no excuse. He had plenty of money, and had the sort of life that meant he could include a kid in most anything. His dad had done him a favor by showing him what not to do. They were largely left to their own devices, but it was a great place to be left to your devices. And he’d had to ask himself… What was he hanging on to? A life of going out drinking whenever he wanted, sleeping with whoever he wanted.
He was at the age where it wasn’t all that attractive, not anymore.
Thirty-four and with no sign of change on the horizon. In the end, he decided to aim for more. To take the change that was coming whether he was ready or not.
Turns out not very ready. But again, that was where his plan came in.
“I’m aware that is not 1950,” he shot back at his brother. “I can…sign up for a… A website.”
As if he knew how the hell to do that. They had a computer. Hell, he had a smartphone. They had a business to manage and it made sense. But the fact remained, he didn’t have a lot of use for either.
Elsie cackled, slinging her boots off the table and flipping her dark braid over her shoulder. “A website? I don’t think people swipe on their phones looking for marriage. I think they look for… Well, stuff you seem to be able to find without the help of the internet.”
His sister wasn’t wrong. He found sex just fine without the help of his phone. That was what Smokey’s Tavern was for.
“The way I see it,” Sawyer said, speaking as if Elsie hadn’t spoken, which as far as he was concerned was the way it should be with younger siblings, “marriage can work, relationships can work, as long as you have the same set of goals as the other person. It’s all these modern ideals… That’s what doesn’t work.”
“Which modern ideals?” Elsie asked. “The kind that saw every woman in our bloodline leaving every man in our bloodline all the way back to when people were riding around in horse-drawn carriages?”
“Yes,” he said. “That is what I mean. People thinking that they needed to marry for something other than…common need.”
He was pretty sure his grandparents had loved each other in the end. But it reminded him of something other than romance. It reminded him of his connection to the land. You cared for that which cared for you. It sustained you. You worked it, and the dirt got under your nails. The air was in your lungs. It became part of you. Of all that you were.
That was something better than romance.
Excerpted from Unbridled Cowboy by Maisey Yates. Copyright © 2022 by Maisey Yates. Published by arrangement with Harlequin Books S.A.
is a New York Times bestselling author of over one hundred romance novels. Whether she's writing strong, hard working cowboys, dissolute princes or multigenerational family stories, she loves getting lost in fictional worlds. An avid knitter with a dangerous yarn addiction and an aversion to housework, Maisey lives with her husband and three kids in rural Oregon. Check out her website, maiseyyates.com or find her on Facebook.