Waiting for Yes -- Excerpt

Waiting for Yes
The Wild Rose Press
(April 20, 2011)

Trade Paperback & Digital
ISBN-10: 1-60154-910-5
ISBN-13:  978-1601549105

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"Ms. Ashgrove knows how to write a story that immediately pulls you in
and takes you on a ride of your life."


“Waiting For Yes is a fantastic story with spine-tingling danger,
sparkling humor, breathtaking love scenes, and heart-warming,
unconditional friendship.”


“Gabrielle and Jake's story will warm its way into your mind and body, the
gripping pace and emotion will grab hold from the start and take the
reader on a journey, and the greatness doesn't stop until the very last page.”


Chapter One

“Night Star’s got peanut butter in the ears, Red Wolf. He’s gonna miss the Yankee stuck in the granny lane. Hey, Yank, you got your ears on?”

Gabrielle Warrenton chuckled. She had her ears on all right. But damned if she’d let the group of passing semis know she was fluent on a CB radio. It was far too amusing to listen to the conversations, pretend to be blissfully unaware, and flatter her ego. After all, late night CB conversations were strictly entertainment.

Besides, the trucker who had been on her tail since morning broke in Nashville didn’t need any more encouragement. He’d dogged her all day long, pulling over when she did, occasionally switching positions and leading. When he passed, he never failed to wave. Once, he’d honked his ridiculous horn and about startled her onto the shoulder. Since that sudden swerve, he hadn’t tried that again.

But more often than not, he stayed behind her pickup truck and horse trailer. Strangely, she had yet to hear a peep she could recognize as the driver shadowing her. Still, she didn’t want to take any risks.

“Yank’s got peanut butter in the ears too, looks like.” The voice she’d come to recognize as Red Wolf responded to the first.

“Shame. Oh well. I’m over and out. Gonna pull off and catch some sleep.” True to his word, the driver in the fifty-three-foot long trailer ahead of her hit his turn signal and eased onto the shoulder.

All that remained on the open stretch of westbound Interstate 70 was her heavy duty Chevypickup/horse-trailer combination, a purple cab pulling a curtain sider, and her shadow—a turquoise cab lit up like a Christmas tree that dragged a shiny silver tanker. The purple cab belonged to Red Wolf.

Farther back, three other semis trailed Gabrielle’s small group, but they too remained strangely silent. Likely on a different channel. Not too many drivers stayed quiet this late at night.

As the static drifted through her radio, she waited for Red Wolf to strike up a new conversation. But though he called out, no one answered. Gabrielle blinked to wet her sandpaper-filled eyes and squinted at the road. There had to be a stop around here somewhere. Why hadn’t she stopped in Abilene? She needed to stretch her legs. Use the ladies room. Gulp down a gallon of strong, black coffee. Anything to stay awake.

Her windshield wipers ticked off the minutes. Light snowflakes gathered on the glass where the washer’s didn’t swipe. Just what she needed. Two hours from home, and the predicted snow refused to wait. If today could get any worse, it just had. Unloading an unruly stallion in the middle of a snowstorm didn’t make her list of favorite things to do. In fact, it didn’t make her list of anything she’d like to do, period. Particularly the specific stallion behind her. Crazy described him kindly.

She bent over and flipped the dial on her radio in search of lively chatter. Laughter erupted around her, hearty masculine noise that at once sparked her curiosity.

“That’s a big ten-four, Ghost Ship. Where you at?”

“Passing mile marker 209.”

Mile marker 209? That’s where she was. But the voice didn’t belong to Red Wolf. Which could only mean...

She glanced in her side mirror. Yep, her shadow was still on her tail. The voice had to belong to him.

“Where ya headin’, Ghost Ship?”

“Colorado border. I figure if I can make it there before this snow hits hard, I can hole up and wait it out.”

His voice was deeper than she’d expected. Fringed with a rough quality that scraped against her ears pleasantly. Almost sexy.

“That is, if my rig makes it that far. I’ve been fighting my transmission since Kansas City.”

No almost about it. That voice was definitely sexy.

She looked in the mirror again, taking in the multitude of lights glinting off his cab. When he’d passed her earlier, she’d noted not a single one failed to burn soft orange. From the running boards to the headers, each tiny light illuminated the dark turquoise paint.

“You, Dodger?” he asked.

The other man’s voice crackled through her speaker. “Heading down to Dodge.”

“Going home, then?”

“Yeah. The missus complained I’ve been gone too long. I’ll stay a day or two. Get a little lovin’. Then it’s back on down to Texas for me.”

“Always nice to go home to a woman,” Ghost Ship agreed. “Speaking of—you get a look at the one in this truck on my front door?” He let out a low whistle.

Gabrielle’s cheeks heated. Tailing her and talking about her? This was really too much. Granted, the few glimpses she’d caught of him painted him as easy on the eyes, but handsome or not, a trucker wasn’t her ideal of Mr. Perfect. Still, his voice drew her in.

She turned the volume up a notch.

“Don’t think so,” Dodger answered.

“Sight for sore eyes, I tell you. I could get fond of going home to her. Little thing. Red hair.”

Dodger laughed low. “Those redheads are trouble.”

“I think I could handle her trouble.”

Biting down on her lower lip, Gabrielle stifled a burst of laughter.

“She’s gonna break my heart, Dodger. I’ll be dreaming of her while I’m camped on the side of the road. Her and her trouble.”

“You better hope she don’t have ears on, Ghost Ship.”

“Nah. Tried that somewhere in Missouri.”

In a moment of sheer impulse, Gabrielle snatched at her radio. What the hell. She was supposed to be staying awake, wasn’t she? Talking would help more than anything, and at almost one in the morning on a Thursday, her best friend wouldn’t be in any mood to answer a phone call.

Besides, Gabrielle couldn’t resist the opportunity to embarrass her shadow. He’d left himself wide open. She cleared her voice and pressed the button. “She has ears, boys.”

“Well, well,” Ghost Ship answered on a chortle. “Just how much of that conversation did you hear?”

Gabrielle grinned. “Enough.”

“What do we call you, little lady?” Dodger asked.

“Good question. I don’t have a handle. I listen mostly.”

“Eavesdropper,” Ghost Ship quipped.

From his tone, she visualized a goading smile. Her grin widened as she let out a light laugh. “I hear the best conversations that way.”

“I bet. Where ya headin’?”

“Home.” No sense in telling him where home was. With the way he seemed intent on keeping up with her, she wouldn’t put it past him to follow her to her large stables just outside the Ransom city limits. “Where’s the nearest stop? I need coffee.”

Ghost Ship answered, “You can get a good cup of black water about fifteen miles ahead. You should see the lights soon.”

The gravelly tone to his voice sent unexpected chills down her spine. Damn, she could listen to him talk all night long. I wonder what his whisper sounds like. The thought popped up, unbidden, and her cheeks heated again.

“I’m gone, Ghost. Gonna check in with Chuck over on Channel 11.”

“Night, Dodger.”

Gabrielle dropped her control into her lap and shifted in her seat. A yawn possessed her. Silence filled her truck, an uncomfortable quiet that only heightened her awareness of the man on the other end of the line. She squinted again, peering out for distant lights, as the flakes in front of her headlights fell harder. Joy. Unloading a crazy stallion in a snowstorm looked unavoidable.

“No handle, huh? You need one,” Ghost Ship broke through the stillness.

She smiled as she picked up the receiver once more. “Haven’t had much use for one.” She paused, considering her options. “How about Daisy Mae?”

Ghost Ship’s low laughter rumbled around her, as intense as if he were sitting in her passenger’s seat. Caught in the power of his voice, her stomach fluttered.

“You’re no daisy, and you’re not a Mae. I say Wildfire.”

“Wildfire?” She blinked. “Where’d you come up with that?”

“Your hair.”

Damn. Why the hell did that sound so…intimate? “I don’t know. I’ll have to think about it.”

“Wanna talk about it over coffee?”

Uh-oh. Not what she’d intended at all. “I—ah—well—”

“I promise not to bite unless you ask me to.”

Double damn. That visual was absolutely not something she needed. Other than the fact he had dark hair, she didn’t even know what the man looked like.

“Say yes, Wildfire. I’ll help wake you up.”

“I bet.” No sooner than the reply tumbled off her lips, Gabrielle’s face burned hot. She hadn’t just said that, had she? She hadn’t uttered it with a touch of flirtatiousness either. She didn’t want this man following her. Didn’t intend on encouraging him at all. All she’d hoped for was a little entertainment to make the remaining two hours something less than hell.

“I’m waiting for yes.”

With a sigh, she blinked long and slow. What harm could come from it? Likely the rest stop would be heavily populated. Surely she could sit down and have a cup of coffee with a stranger and not have to consider whether he might clonk her over the head with something heavy. It was just coffee. Not a…date…or anything. Even if it did carry that awkward implication.

“Ten-four. Over and out.”

She hung her receiver on the overhead console and gripped the wheel with both hands. Better to keep conversation at a minimum. The anxious churning in her stomach would only intensify if she talked with the man more. She’d chicken out, no doubt about it. Meeting truckers at rest stops just wasn’t something she did. Her father would kill her for it, if he ever found out.

Not that Daddy ever agreed with anything she did. She’d spent the better part of her twenty-six years learning that disappointing lesson.

The wind picked up, buffeting her truck. She tapped her brakes, wary of the light covering of snow on the highway. The trailer shifted, pulling toward the shoulder.

Her heart lodged in her throat.

Her fingers tightened reflexively on the wheel. Easing off the pedals, she rolled through the skid. Please, God. Please, God. Please, God.

The tires grabbed the pavement, righting the trailer as the double-axeled wheels crossed the yellow line. Gabrielle let out a long breath. Close. Too damn close. She had no business stopping at a rest stop. The roads would only get worse, and the horse in tow wouldn’t overnight in a truck stop. Nor would she. That only invited trouble.

She reached for her radio, intending to cancel coffee.

Ghost Ship’s voice broke through her nervous tension. “Nice recovery there, Wildfire. You been doing this awhile?”

His calm tone eased the trembling in her limbs. She swallowed. Conversation was good. Whether she stopped or not, he took her mind off the rapidly deteriorating conditions. “I’ve hauled horses since I was sixteen.”

“I guessed as much. You’re mighty easy to follow.”

In his rough baritone timber, she caught a hint of a rolling drawl. Texas maybe? Someplace south, definitely. “Where are you from, Ghost?”

“Grew up outside of Houston. The road’s my home now.”

Texas indeed. Her spirits dimmed a little. Everyone she’d ever met from Texas came with an ego the size of the state. Texas this, Texas that. Bigger, freer, better. If the natives could get past the fact the state had actually joined the Union a couple hundred years ago, that would mark progress.

“I hate Texas.” The remark slipped free. She snapped her mouth shut with wide eyes. Good grief, hadn’t she learned a long time ago that was the first way to make a Texan go on and on and on?

His chuckle stunned her. “Don’t worry, sugar, so do I.”

“Oh.” It was all she could think to say. After a moment of silence, she managed, “Why?”

“Long story.” His voice was quieter. A touch thoughtful.

Ahead, the glow of fluorescent lighting illuminated the black sky. Blurred by falling snow, a tall sign flashed big, red numbers, displaying the current gas prices. She really should cancel this coffee break. Two hours remained. She could make it that far.

The yawn that gripped her argued violently. Tears sprung to her eyes. If she didn’t stop, she’d be the next headline news story and the reason I-70 shut down before a massive snowstorm.

She eased onto the brakes and flipped her turn signal as the exit approached. Tick-a-tick, tick-a-tick.

Several yards behind her the turquoise rig light up with the same right-handed blinking. Lord, this was nonsense. Meeting a strange truck driver, who’d already exhibited some warning signs of stalker material, just didn’t register in the smart department. If her best friend had any idea what she was about to do, Margie would tell Gabrielle she’d lost her mind.

But Margie wasn’t here. Margie wasn’t the one fighting sleep. Margie hadn’t been on the road almost thirteen straight hours with a psychotic stallion she couldn’t unload for an overnight rest.

Gabrielle navigated her way through the parking lot around to the rear where the tractor trailers and hauling pickups had to park. She killed the engine and opened her door. The sound of idling diesels filled her ears. Rows of sleeping rigs framed her on both sides, their cabs dark despite their bright exterior illumination.

She walked around the side of her truck, stood on the wheel well, and peeked through the window of her three-horse slant-load trailer. Inside, beneath the greenish interior light, the liver chestnut stallion pawed and snorted. He let out a long whinny, tossing his flaxen mane about like a range-caught beast. In the next instant, the horse threw his weight forward and bucked for all his worth, nailing the aluminum walls. Two deep hoofprints joined three other sets.

Damn him. The man who’d sold him under false pretenses deserved to be shot.

With a heavy sigh, Gabrielle jumped down from the trailer and turned toward the all-night stop’s front doors. Halfway across the lot, three burly, tattoo-covered men blocked her way. She took a deep breath, lifted her chin, and marched forward. Maybe if she pretended not to notice them, they wouldn’t notice her.

A whistle broke through the rumble of engines. Fat chance. At this hour, road-weary men would notice anything with long hair and breasts.

“Hey, sweetheart,” one of them called out. “I’ve got a room for two waiting on you.”

Right. Like she’d answer that kind of come-on even if the man were dressed in a three-piece suit. Sporting a sweatshirt that had seen better days, the caller rubbed a thick hand over an even thicker mid-section. His buddy said something she couldn’t hear, and the pair erupted in hearty laughter.

“C’mon, little mama, you know the road’s cold tonight. Let’s warm it up a bit,” the third man barked. “Ain’t no reason to spend a night like this alone.”

She hesitated. Safety lay in her truck, doors locked, windows rolled up tight. Though she’d been on the road long enough to know truckers had lusty appetites, she didn’t particularly fear physical harm. A slap to her butt wouldn’t be out of the question, but after a grueling thirteen hours on the road, she didn’t possess patience enough to deal with it all. Not tonight, when all she wanted to do was go home.

Coffee. Must have coffee. She took a determined step forward. The three men clumped together and steered directly toward her. Something about their demeanor, the crookedness of their smiles, the glint in their eyes, sent an apprehensive shiver tumbling down her spine.

These men weren’t standard-issue truckers, harmless beneath a roughshod exterior.

They took a collective step closer, their grins morphing into sneers. Gabrielle back-stepped, edging closer to her truck. If they came any nearer, she’d turn and run.

“There’s my Wildfire. I was wondering how long it would take you to get here. I’ve missed you, sugar.”

Gabrielle froze as the familiar, gravelly baritone rumbled at her side. Strong fingers clutched her elbow and spun her about. Her heel caught on a patch of ice, and she scrambled to keep her feet beneath her.

Ghost Ship steadied her, his other hand gripping her waist as he brought her upright.

When her legs no longer wobbled, he crushed her against a chest that felt like stone and caught her in a giant bear hug. “Work with me here,” he whispered near her ear.

A man from the trio snorted. “Ghost, you ain’t foolin’ me. You pulled in right behind the little lady.”

Holding her so close she couldn’t so much as turn her head, his hands spanned her back. Large hands that held protection she couldn’t explain. God, he smelled good. Like spice and orange. She tipped her chin up to catch a closer look at his face. From this distance, however, all she could make out was a thick neck and a chiseled jaw.

He ignored the men and pushed her out of his embrace far enough she could suck in a deep breath. She caught a brief glimpse of a neat row of white teeth as he smiled.

“Thanks for meeting me, sugar.”

In the next instant, his mouth settled over hers.

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