After reading the excerpt, please help me find a picture of Toledo! He's about 19 and you can read his description. I need a link for a picture, like you did before. And HELP! I can't find a picture of his gorgeous horse, either. So, I'd love links to both pictures. Thanks! Leave the links in the comments box.
Off to one side of the group, a tall, good-looking cowboy sat his horse as if he were leading a rodeo procession. Andi caught her breath. The horse was at least sixteen hands tall and held his head high. His black mane and tail stood out against his glistening white body.
He’s gorgeous! Andi thought. Not your ordinary cow pony. She couldn’t help wondering if the horse was any good at rounding up maverick steers. He seemed more suited for a parade than for a cattle drive.
The cowboy also held his head high. He acted more serious than the other drovers, though he was not much older. His clothes were clean and pressed instead of trail-worn. He caught Andi gaping at him and swept off his hat.
“Howdy-do, miss,” he called to her in a pleasant voice, nodding politely. A wide smile showed even, white teeth.
Andi blushed. Not just any cowboy, either. She returned his nod.
Mitch waved at Levi, who had come up beside Andi to watch. “Levi, show Toledo where he can stow his gear, will you?”
“Sure thing,” Levi said, goggling at the circus spectacle. “This way, mister.” He led the way past the round pen and behind the blacksmith shed.
Andi flicked a hurried glance at the other five cowhands, who were chattering and yanking their saddles from their dusty mounts. Then she took off after Levi to get a closer look at the white stallion. Maybe this Toledo fellow will let me ride his horse if I ask nicely, she thought.
Andi caught up to Levi and Toledo as they rounded the blacksmith shop. “That pretty little filly your sister?” she heard Toledo ask. She stopped in mid-step and hung back to keep out of sight. A tingle crept along her spine at the cowboy’s bold words.
Levi looked up at the rider towering over him. “No, she’s my—”
“Is the boss your pa?”
“Who, Mitch?” Levi laughed. “Somethin’ wrong with your eyes, mister? He’s not old enough to be my pa. He’s—”
“Where’s the bunkhouse?” Toledo cut in, ignoring Levi’s jab.
“Over there.” Levi pointed to the blue-gray building just beyond the blacksmith shed. “Likely there’s a good bunk or two left.” He turned on his heel to go.
“Hey, whoa, boy,” Toledo ordered.
Levi stiffened and slowly turned to face Toledo.
The new cowhand smiled pleasantly. “How ’bout lugging my stuff inside?”
Andi held her breath. It was worded nicely, but if Levi let Toledo boss him once, he’d keep doing it. Should I warn him? No, Levi had to stand up for himself. And he wouldn’t like it if she interfered.
Levi had no trouble speaking his mind. “Do it yourself.” His clenched fists told Andi that although her nephew had matured considerably the last couple of years, his rough edges still lingered near the surface. “My uncles give the orders around here.”
“That so?” Toledo answered, not missing a beat. “Well, when they’re not around, I’ll see to it.” With that, he popped Levi with the knotted end of a rope he was carrying. “See?” The crack caught Levi across the shoulders. He yelped and ducked, just missing the next snap.
Andi gasped at Toledo’s rattlesnake-quick reaction. Levi may have deserved a cuff for his sass, but not that way, and certainly not from a hired hand. She took a step forward.
Sid appeared in the bunkhouse doorway. “What’s the ruckus?” he demanded, stepping down from the porch.
Toledo cocked an eyebrow at Sid and rested his palms against the saddle horn. “Just teachin’ this smart-aleck kid some manners.”
“I see.” Sid’s eyes turned stormy. He chewed his lip, as if deciding how much truth there was to the new man’s words. Levi’s reputation for backtalk followed him everywhere. “Light down and haul your stuff inside,” he said. He nodded at Andi. “Afternoon, Miss Andi.”
Toledo twisted around in the saddle and his expression brightened. “Howdy-do again, miss.” He climbed down, doffed his hat, and bowed low. “We haven’t been properly introduced. Toledo McGuire at your service.” He looked up. “I—”
“This here’s Miss Andrea Carter,” Sid broke in, underscoring her relationship to Toledo’s new bosses. “And she ain’t got time for idle yappin’ with no slicked-up cowhand. She was just leaving.” He gave her a look that left no room for argument. “Levi too. They got work to do.”
Toledo straightened and settled his hat back on his head. “Well, that’s a real shame. It surely is.”
Andi felt her face flame. How dare Sid boss her like she was ten years old! And in front of the handsome new hired hand too. She held her ground, fully intending to show Sid he couldn’t tell her what to do.
Then she remembered Mitch’s advice to mind Sid and Cook and let them fuss. Help me brush Sid’s words off, she prayed quickly, before I say something I shouldn’t. She lingered a moment admiring the white stallion then turned to go.
“Sure sorry you can’t stick around, Miss Carter,” Toledo said. “Sultan would love to make your acquaintance.” He slapped his horse’s neck. “Wouldn’t you, Sultan?”
The horse nickered and tossed his head. His long, black mane rippled.
Andi stepped toward the horse, but Sid’s glare kept her from sidling up closer to greet Sultan properly. Beside her, Levi kept a wary eye on Toledo. He looked ready to duck if the new drover decided to pop the knotted rope-end at him again.
Sid motioned them away then rounded on Toledo. “Enough tomfoolery. Get your gear inside if you want a good bunk.” He pointed to where the rest of the new hands were headed their way, hauling their saddles across the yard. “It’s just for a night or two, but those youngsters will grab ’em quick enough if you don’t.”
Toledo didn’t appear in any hurry to claim the best bunk. He touched the brim of his hat to Andi. “Hope to see you again before the drive.”
“Oh, you’ll see plenty of us,” Andi said. She walked backward to keep Sultan in her sights for as long as she could. “Levi and I are Cook’s helpers this trip.” Saying it out loud made Andi’s heart swell with satisfaction. I’m really going!
“You don’t say!” Toledo’s smile grew wider. “A bright spot to look forward to after a long, dusty day in the saddle. Maybe I’ll play and sing for you in the evenings.” His hand reached out and rested on a guitar strapped to the bundle tied behind his saddle.
“I reckon you’ll be singin’ and playin’ for the cattle during night duty.” Sid’s mouth turned down.
Toledo laughed. “That too, old man.”
Levi tugged on Andi’s sleeve. “Let’s go.” As they headed back to finish loading the chuck wagon, Andi couldn’t miss Sid’s words.
“That fella’s trouble, and Chad’s gonna hear about it from me.”
Andi let out a breath. Grumpy old Sid was always quick to find fault with one new man or the other. Sure, Toledo acted a bit too sure of himself, but he was also charming and good-looking. Sid had no call to disapprove of him so openly.Besides, Andi mused, I kinda like him . . .