Maggie Abernathy, best friend Judy, and Judy’s two young sons travel cross country to visit John McIntyre and daughter Chloe at their Montana ranch. Maggie’s convinced herself that she’s only making the trip to fulfill her promise to visit Chloe, but once there she can’t help but fall in love with the horses, the land, the ranch, and the Montana ways of life. With Chloe’s loving antics, Winston’s gift, and a handful of wranglers showing her the ropes, will Maggie have the heart to say goodbye?
Excerpt from Chapter 20
I squeezed my eyes tight as chills ran down my spine. A gentle hand rested on the nape of my neck. The touch grounded me and for a split second, I thought maybe it was my father. Tears welled and I pressed the palms of my hands into my eyes, trying to stop the longing I felt for my dad who’d left me years ago. I saw Chloe perched on John’s hip with her arms around his neck in my mind. It seemed like eons since I was that little girl in my own father’s arms.
Through the tears, I stared at my dusty boots. John ran his fingers up my neck and into my hair. I squeezed my eyes tighter, hoping this wasn’t a dream.
John knelt beside me, his hand on my knee, and his finger under my chin. “Saw you leave. Wondered if you were all right?”
I shrugged. Cocoa ran past, and then nestled in the straw at my feet and stretched out, letting her kittens suckle. “No, guess not,” I said.
“Anything I can do to help?”
I scooted over on the bench and John sat beside me. “I don’t think so.” I tucked my hair behind my ears.
“Well I think there is, but I’m going to let you solve your own dilemma.”
I wiped the corners of my eyes and watched the kittens nuzzle up to their momma’s belly, safe from the world around them until she went out to hunt. “Probably best.” Locking my elbows, I rested my hands on my knees. I liked the feel of worn blue jeans, inside, and out.
“Dinner is almost ready,” John said.
Our gazes met. My stomach wasn’t the only thing growling. “I don’t know if I want dinner. I kind of like it out here.” The barn truly was a sanctuary.
“Well, you’ve got to eat, darlin’.” John wrapped his arm around my shoulder and drew me close, his green eyes trying to hide his own disappointments.
I couldn’t help but think I was one of them.
“A girl your age can’t live on s’mores and beer, ’cause that’s what we’re having later.”
“I beg to differ.”
John’s breath brushed up against my neck. His lips followed. Tension oozed from my shoulders like dripping wax, my guard giving way to the heat. He whispered in my ear, “Let me love you.”
I swallowed the temptation, but it stuck in my throat and lingered at the back of my tongue like bitter sweetness. “I don’t know how.”
Afraid, I prayed again. From under my lashes, I saw a man earnest and true, his eyes fixed on me yet not demanding, something I wasn’t used to. Flecks of passion danced in his irises.
“How the hell do you know what you want?” I asked.
“Because I know,” he said. His strong hands held my face. His thumbs stroked my cheeks like he was settling a skittish filly. “Let me ask you this, neighbor lady . . .”
“Why do you keep calling that?”
“Does there have to be a reason?” he asked.
“Isn’t there a reason for everything?”
“No. Sometimes things just feel right.” John kissed me as I took in his words, his breath in sync with mine. My stomach rolled over and I let myself kiss him back as if it were the very first time.
Linda’s inspiration comes from her favorite authors and life itself. Her women’s fiction highlights characters that peel away outer layers of life to discover the heart of their dreams with some unexpected twists and turns along the way. Her writing integrates humor found in everyday situations, as well as touching moments, thus creating avenues for readers to connect with her characters.
Linda has an Associates Degree in Interior Design and a Master’s Degree in Reading and Language Arts with undergraduate work in Elementary Education and Fine Arts. She wrote and illustrated a children’s book titled, The Hunter for her Master’s Degree. Linda is a member of RWA, as well as the Greater Detroit Chapter of RWA.
Linda has two grown sons, lives with her husband, and rescue dog in Royal Oak, Michigan.
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