Cocky Cowboy (Cocker Brothers of Atlanta Book 3)

By: Faleena Hopkins

Rachel





As we stroll past a tented farmers market stand overflowing with vibrant vegetables of every color, Ryan too loudly says, “Bullshit way to charge more money for fucking broccoli.”

I glance away from a shiny, violet-colored eggplant I was admiring to the hand-written sign Ryan’s pointing at: Organic Or Bust.

I roll my eyes.

At my boyfriend, not the veggies.

His expression glints with elitism as he mutters, “Organic’s a crock. Just a new way to get people’s money using scare tactics.

He moves on and I follow, itching to remind him of the scientific studies as well as the logic that back up the claim humans should not be ingesting poison that kills bugs. Or that kills anything else for that matter. Pretty sure killing-agents shouldn’t be lightly sprinkled over food I plan to put in my stomach.

I could then suggest he’d never see himself sucking on a roach motel, right? Just nibbling away while shouting at the latest episode of Shark Tank?

But I’m not in the mood for a debate.

Instead I just smile and mark the secret, invisible scorecard I’ve begun to keep during this weekend trip to Atlanta.

I will zip my trap and bite my tongue while finding solace here in this lovely, sweet-smelling, sun-splashed outdoor market. It’s peaceful. People are here to sell things they love to make and grow. It calms my soul to watch them.

Usually when I come to these, even in New York, I realize I’m breathing more deeply than I have in weeks.

Hell, maybe months.

That’s what I’m looking forward to. Breathing deeply. Relaxing. Not wanting to punch my boyfriend in the face.

It started when he called my parents’ new house they just bought in a lovely upscale neighborhood in Atlanta a ‘suburban jail cell.’ He did that as the Lyft driver dropped us off. I took the handle of my suitcase and started rolling away without a word, trying to ignore his comment.

I’m very protective of my mom and dad…and of this city, so the scorecard appeared albeit uninvited.

At first my mother beamed at my handsome, lawyer boyfriend like he was a god. “Mom, this is Ryan.”

“Well, hellloooooo!”

“Mrs. Sawyer, I can see where Rachel gets her beauty.”

Even though only Dad has the Georgian accent, Mom drawled, “Oh, aren’t you sweet.” She chose that moment to adopt one.

And there I was proudly basking in the successful introduction and tucking my scorecard away for good. Or so I thought.

When they asked why he’d never driven to upstate New York with me to meet them when they lived there, he said, “If it’s not in Manhattan I don’t go.” As they stared at him, in a home in another state altogether (which made no sense under his argument) he dryly added, “Besides, who has a car?”

“You could rent one,” my father offered.

“Meh.”

I was used to him acting that way, but seeing their faces, I was mortified. Meh???

The evening maintained its downward trajectory.

He didn’t open my car door when my dad held Mom’s.

Answered his phone right at the table while I pretended it didn’t bother me.

Checked his work emails about a hundred times, sometimes swearing under his breath and never once apologizing as conversation was suspended.

Cut me off when I was talking, but didn’t notice as my mom’s eyes went dead in response.

Didn’t offer to help pay at dinner, which was very weird and awkward on many levels. I started to pull out my card and at my Mom’s face, I slipped it back away.



All things he normally does that I never notice, mind you, save for paying for the bill. That he always does when we’re alone. I’m guessing his parents buy the meal when he goes out with them. But to my parents he just looked cheap.

To watch my Mom’s opinion of him disintegrate was painful, and there was nothing I could do about it. With each infraction she shot me aggravated looks that grew less subtle over time until she was flat out rolling her eyes and strumming on the table while my father just glared at the top of Ryan’s head since it was once again buried into his phone.

My spirits sunk.

Once your eyes open it’s very difficult to shut them. Believe me, I've been trying.

He’s at minus twenty-three points now, and it’s only Saturday morning. It’s not looking good.

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