Welcome back to Fairview Ranch in Gunnison, County, Colorado, where healing hearts and healing horses is all in a day’s work.
In this second installment in the series, a woman abandoned by her husband and left penniless (except for her three, precious horses) is going to get a taste of what it means to be shown love and support–ranch style!
Moving from the East Coast to Colorado with her husband was supposed to be the adventure of her life; however, for Rene Madden, her dream has taken a shocking turn. In just a few, short months, the lovely creep-of-a-man not only abandons her to a dump of a property but also takes all of her inheritance–minus her three, precious horses. Distraught and without any support, Rene decides to truck-it to Denver, where her childhood friend lives, to figure out how to salvage her life. Little does she know, fate has other plans for her..
A tragic accident completely derails the trip but also places her in the graces of a remarkable family and their staff. With unexpected and unprecedented ease, Rene is welcomed to the Murphy family’s ranch to heal from her wounds. With their help and support, Rene finds that, sometimes, hope and destiny can be found in the most heart-rending of circumstances.
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
I love cowboy romance books but missed reading stories that feel as if the author has experience around a ranch/horses. In the two books I've written in the series so far: My Texas Streak and Call Me Home, I hope that readers feel as if they're experiencing a feel-good romance story and real-life ranch culture all in one.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
The one main character is pulled over from the first book (My Texas Streak). It was Seth's turn to get his happy ending.
Rene Madden just came to me out of the blue to counter his story…
It was the perfect place for a wedding, which made it all the more of a rub that the young cowboy had missed his chance. Twenty-eight-year-old Seth Gooding was a guest at his boss’s daughter’s wedding—Yes, that Sarah Murphy and, yes, that wedding—and it was at the perfect Colorado locale: Mount Princeton Hot Springs Resort in Chaffee County, just east of Gunnison, over Monarch Pass, then northward up Highway 285.
It wasn’t that Seth didn’t like the Murphys—or the Bailers, who Sarah was marrying into. In fact, he was very grateful to the family who kept him employed and allowed him to live in their little apartment over the barn (sure beat rentals in town!) and Tyler Bailer was Seth’s cowboy idol; however, Seth had had a secret crush on the Murphy-girl since they had been introduced two summers back. There had been no place or time to tell Sarah about it, though. Once she had been fatefully thrust into meeting Tyler Bailer (all over his horse My Texas Streak) it had been all over. Sarah and Ty were head-over-heels in love.
And Seth was forced to keep his secret while trying to enjoy the wedding.
Mount Princeton was a beautiful venue, with natural aspen and pine trees, a modest river flowing past the original hot springs, two large bath houses, and a multitude of accommodations for guests. There was another wedding going on besides Sarah and Ty’s, and yet, there was more than enough space to not feel constricted. All morning, guests got to enjoy soaking in the hot springs or hiking and fishing up the Chalk Creek Canyon while the wedding party got details in order. The wedding finally commenced at sundown. The beautiful red, orange, and purple colors of the sunset washed the white Chalk Cliffs in canvas.
The guests gathered around the grassy nook near the river where the wedding arch and seats had been arranged. There were about one-hundred-and-fifty people present overall. They all took their seats and conversed as the rest of the wedding party started organizing farther away on a steel bridge to the far left of the lawn. The bridesmaids and groomsmen waited until it seemed everyone was seated before Justin Bailer, the groom’s older brother, and his wife Carolyn started the procession across the bridge and through the grass. Their presence at the back of the seats silenced the guests. Justin smiled and squeezed Carolyn’s hand she had around his arm before he nodded the music to start and walked down the “aisle”.
Next came Sarah’s former roommate Ericka Shoaler on the arm of Ty’s best friend, Caleb Dupree. Then it was Nate Murphy and his wife Maureen. Justin’s two daughters Amelia and Jodi were the flower girls and carried the couple’s wedding rings. Their bouncy enthusiasm really had the guests laughing, especially as Jodi hurried to her father’s side and forgot half of the walk’s flowers.
The ranch foreman Gene Tucker came last with Sarah’s mother, Sue, on his arm. The old cowboy had spruced up as much as he ever had, with a clean western hat, leather vest over a black button-down shirt, black jeans, and polished leather boots. Sue looked radiant in a rich, blue dress and her blonde hair pulled up into a French bun. Gene and Sue found their seats at the front, signaling for the lady of the day to make her entrance.
The guests all stood as Sarah Murphy and her father, Daryl, arrived at the back. A harpist played the wedding march softly as the father and daughter made their way through the seats to the front where Tyler stood with the minister. Daryl handed his only daughter off to the groom after sharing a tearful kiss on his baby girl’s cheek, then he turned away to sit with his wife as Sarah joined Ty for their vows.
The couple had wanted a short service. It was simple, filled with sweet words of love, loyalty, honesty, and devotion. The last of the words were taken from two letters Ty and Sarah had written to each other—the ones that had healed their relationship and had given the cowboy the courage to ask the Murphy-woman for her hand. Over tear-stains at the memory of that proposal, the two slipped on their rings. The guests cheered as Ty tipped Sarah over to kiss her theatrically. Then, the guests clapped the newlyweds back down the aisle and waited for the rest of the party to walk through before slowly following them all to the large pavilion up the hill.
“That is such a beautiful dress, Sarah.” Seth heard a guest compliment the bride as he neared. Sarah smiled and thanked the lady—though the ranch hand could bet Sarah was tired of replying to the same compliment over and over again. Still, the ensemble was pretty; a deep, V-necked, floor-length dress with a ruffle and Chiffon lace as accents. A dusting of blue forget-me-nots and baby’s breath flowers were tucked into the crown created by Sarah’s honey-blonde hair. Modest make-up served to enhance her sweet, girl-next-door features. Sarah looking glowing.
“Seth.” Sarah greeted as the ranch hand made his way to the front of the line.
“Congratulations, Sarah.” Seth offered her his hand then had to accept the hug she pulled him into instead.
“Thank you. And thank you for coming.”
“Of course.” Seth grinned. “My boss would skin me alive if I didn’t show up for this.”
Sarah laughed. “Probably. Still, thanks for taking time from the ranch for this. I made sure to reserve you a table with the rest of the ranch’s staff.”
“Thanks. I’ll look for my name.”
Seth continued on to greet Tyler Bailer. Though he was jealous of the cowboy for stealing Sarah’s hand, he was still fond of his idol. Tyler Bailer was the twelfth best cowboy nationally on the Pro-rodeo circuit and fourth overall in Colorado. He had worshiped the man long before Tyler and Sarah were ever an item. They spoke for some time before the younger cowboy politely excused himself to find his seat, leaving Tyler to continue greeting the stream of guests into the large pavilion.
Squeezing inside, Seth found where the rest of the Fairview Ranch crew had huddled together. He shook hands with his co-workers before slinging his dress-jacket over the back of his chair. “Man, that food smells delicious! I’m starved.”
“Yep.” Terrie, the second foreman, agreed. “It looks like it will be awhile, though.”
“There’s beer.” Tate, another hand rose his drink. “Over in the corner.”
“Great.” Seth rubbed his hands together. “Anyone else need another?”
“Nope, I think we’re all set.”
“Okay. Be back.”
Heading for the bar, Seth tried to find anyone from the guests he knew. There were numerous relatives about the room and some of the Bailers’ and Murphys’ friends. Everyone typically found at a wedding. Cute, single women? It didn’t look likely; most of the women had a man on their arm or little kids running about their legs. The cowboy would have to be contented with the free food and not needing to be at work.
“One beer, please.” He told the bartender as he reached the “spirits” station. The woman nodded and began to pull out a cold bottle from her ice bucket. As she worked, Seth turned away to study the crowd. One of the bridesmaids sidled up near him, and he recognized her as Sarah’s friend from medical school.
“You’re Ericka, right?” He asked.
The brunette gave a shy smile and nodded. “Yes. Ericka Shoaler.”
“Seth. Seth Gooding. I work for Sarah’s father.”
“I see.” Ericka shook his offered hand.
“Ah, yes, I was thinking of something.”
Seth waved to the bartender. “I’ll catch your tab.”
Ericka looked shocked. “Wow, thank you.” To the lady serving the drinks, she said, “Mojito, please.” Ericka waited then as her drink was prepared. She seemed a little out of place without being able to speak with Sarah.
“You’re from California, right?”
Hazel eyes turned to Seth. “Yes. I just finished my medical degree and found a hospital I’m going to work with.”
“Great. Congratulations. I hear it’s quite an accomplishment to get through that program.”
“Yeah.” She nodded. “It was really hard. Worth it but hard.”
“Where are you planning on practicing?”
“I’ve got an uncle up in Santa Barbara I’m going to work under for now. Just to get more experience. He has a private practice.”
Seth knew absolutely nothing about California but he assumed that a doctor with a private practice there had to be making some good money. “Sounds like you’re off to a great start.”
“Yes, thank you.” Ericka reached for her mojito. “And thanks for the drink.”
“Of course.” Seth could feel Ericka’s withdrawal, even though she was politely staying engaged. “Well, I’m over with the others from the Fairview Ranch if you need any company.” He pointed out the table.
“Great. I will. Thanks again.” Ericka gave a polite head-bob and turned away. Escaping was more what it looked like. Seth wondered if he had really seemed that pushy but couldn’t find where in the conversation he had been. Shrugging, he headed back to the ranch’s table.
“Flirting already I see,” Terry teased as he arrived.
“I was doing no such thing.”
No one looked like they believed him. Seth did have a reputation for chasing women, after all. The colt starter rolled his eyes and plopped himself down in his seat. If everyone was going to be like that it was going to be one long night. At least it seemed the band was going to start up. A few dances to some country music would really help move the pace along.
And right on cue, Ty and Sarah Bailer made their entrance at the front of the room thanking everyone for coming and inviting guests to the dance floor and buffet. The reception was finally underway.
Tears kept coming to her eyes, blurring her vision. Furiously, Rene tried to brush them away so she could see the road in front of her. She would be damned if her emotions made her pull over on the highway! Doing so would mean she would break down completely, and, right then, stopping meant giving up. Still, those blasted tears were a problem; driving a dually truck and three-horse trailer while her vision was impaired was asking for trouble…
The twenty-four-year-old was on Highway 285 North, somewhere between the city of Saguache and… did that say Villa Grove? It might as well have been the middle of no-man’s land, for the blacktop continued forward in a two-lane heading across a wide valley that finally hit the Sangre de Cristo mountains to the north and west. Villa Grove, it seemed, was a blip in the road. Dry, check. Dust and sagebrush, check. Gas station… ah, yeah. Hopefully, she could make the next town, Salida, before her tank completely emptied.
A girl from the East Coast, Rene had lived in Colorado for six months; however, even that amount of time hadn’t gotten her used to the long hours in between towns, especially in the south-western corner of the state. Who really wants to live in such a barren place? Rene suppressed another sob and gripped her steering wheel until her knuckles were white. Had I stayed in New Jersey I would never be in this stupid mess! That two-timing, good-for-nothing, swindler-and-a-jerk!
The jerk’s name was Kyle Curtis. An all-around “good ol’ boy”, Rene had fallen hard for him in college—exactly four months after Rene’s mother had passed away from breast cancer. Not in a good state-of-mind to begin with, she had latched onto Kyle like he was a life preserver. Note to self: never—and I mean never!—fall for a guy right after something so tragic!
Of course, it had taken another three years and a failed marriage for the New Jersey girl to see past the rose-colored glasses and realize what kind of man Kyle Curtis really was. The biggest eye-opener had come when they had moved back to his home town of Cortez, at the deep south-west corner of Colorado. Their move had been a pipe dream to begin with; Kyle had suggested living there after the job market had dried up for him; it seemed construction was better in Colorado than New Jersey—or so he said. Now armed with new facts, Rene was beginning to suspect differently. Kyle hadn’t been hard-pressed to find a job because he’d run himself out of every one…but that was a story for another time; like in the never-to-be-crossed-again pile.
Kyle had gushed over the beauty of the state and nice weather so much that Rene had been gung-ho to move… Except Kyle had thoroughly left out the part where the place they were going to buy was completely run-down, didn’t have proper water rights, and no clear title. Worse, the money they had put down to buy the crap-pit had come from Rene’s trust fund from her parents—now both deceased. It had taken the first big fine, followed by more, and finally a civil suit, for Rene to start figuring out Kyle had used her to get to the money. Where all the down payment had gone, she still wasn’t sure; except he had siphoned off a big enough chunk of the trust fund for her to look nearly destitute. Score one big one against naïve girl, check, check.
The final blow had come just a month before. Rene had woken up on a Monday morning (before the mess had come to a head) to find Kyle had driven away in the night. Just like that, he had left her in the tatters of their “dream property”. The only real vestiges left of Rene’s wealth were in the few material things the jerk hadn’t thought important enough to try to get at: the three horses that Rene trained and went to horse shows with, plus the truck and horse trailer, and some designer clothing and jewelry she had stashed away. Beyond that, Rene had lost nearly everything of cash value to that swindling creep.
Life was looking beyond dreary and downright agonizing. Her only saving grace had been an old college friend who lived in Denver. She had answered Rene’s desperate phone call and said to get to her place pronto. Thank God for friends! If Carly hadn’t answered, Rene would have been lost on what to do.
And all of that crappy mess was the reason for Rene Madden to be driving through rural Colorado on that nice, not-a-cloud-in-the-sky, sunny day.
The road wound up into what the map called Poncha Pass. It was a curvy, fairly steep-graded highway trek across the upper Sangre de Cristo mountains. It dumped out at a small town called Poncha Springs, just west of Salida, Colorado. Thankfully, there was a gas station right there at the entrance to the little town. Rene pulled in and filled her gas tank up all the way, trying hard to loosen the knot in her stomach at seeing the dollar signs rise as the truck guzzled up the money she needed for its use. Another $5.87 went to a cheap sandwich and coffee, then Rene was back into the driver’s seat and ready to tackle the next section to Denver. Five more hours and the worst of her life should be over…
Rene pulled out onto the main road again amid a stream of summer traffic and merged with the cars heading for the Front Range. It was really congested on the two-lane stopped at the single traffic light, plus at the intersection of the next turn to Highway 285 again. Yet, somehow, Rene made the right turn without too much mishap. The highway widened to three lanes after the intersection and the traffic seemed to speed up to a more normal 60 mph; a better speed for getting through agonizing miles and heartbreak.
Highway 285 continued along to another hill leading down into a pretty valley. It was a moderate turn to the left then harder one to the right. Rene felt herself grip the wheel and hold her breath as the turn ended up being a little too strong for her liking.
That’s when it happened…
There was an RV pulling out from an illegal stop along the side of the road, coming out at the bottom of the hill. The driver didn’t seem to notice the truck and trailer coming down the hill behind it. Pulling out right in front of Rene’s rig, the oblivious soul was taking their sweet time coming onto the highway. Rene braked hard, causing her trailer to jig side-to-side. Worse, another car was coming around to pass her on the left. (Someone rudely and recklessly passing her trailer thinking her braking was for some silly slow-down-to-turn reason or other!) Her trailer clipped the car as it came alongside. Through it all, Rene’s mind was flashing to the two cars coming at them from the two oncoming lanes. Gut instinct told her they were to become a part of the soon-to-be-a-mishap, too. Then, the RV that caused it all was right at Rene’s front fender and coming toward her windshield. There wasn’t even time to scream.
Lindsey Cowherd is a Colorado native, acupuncturist, lover of fantasy and cowboy romance books, and an avid natural horsemanship devotee.
Despite being licensed as an acupuncturist since 2010, Lindsey still finds time for the small stuff: writing, watching almost anything Asian on streaming, singing and playing guitar, and especially enjoying time with her horses and dog.
She started writing as a young teen; the Assassins' Guild books being among the first full-length novels she ever thought up beyond her normal obsession with horses. Next, was her enthralling and detailed series the Crystals of Syre. Turning to a world immersed in martial arts, magic, and “places not of this world” has given her an outlet from everyday living and circumstances out of her control.
In 2019, Lindsey has also delved into the genre of cowboy romances.
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Link To Buy Call Me Home: A Colorado Cowboy Romance Story On Amazon
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