Zack Carson figured the city girl who'd inherited the ranch he worked on was going to be trouble. That's why the loner was ready to leave the minute she turned up. But Caitlin Jackson wasn't what he'd expected.
Caitlin seemed to have it all together when she arrived. But why would an attractive divorcee give up her cushy condo and move to the middle of Nowhere, Wyoming? And then Zack learned that somewhere in her past she'd lived through an event as traumatic as the one he'd survived.
And as each day brought them closer, the cattleman started to doubt if he really was better off alone....
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February 11, 2008
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Excerpt from Caitlin's Cowboy by Barbara McMahon
Caitlin Jackson turned onto the gravel drive, noting
the distance they'd traveled since leaving Wolf Crossing--almost eighty miles. If that was the closest place to shop, she was in a world of hurt. Maybe there were closer shopping centers that weren't on her map. She'd stocked up on essentials before leaving the town and hoped she didn't have to drive back in very often.
As she wound her way along the narrow drive, she felt relief at having finally reached the ranch. With their destination almost in sight, she began to relax and eagerly look around. Would she remember anything? The driveway curved along an embankment, then straightened out as the land sloped down slightly. Green grass grew as far as she could see, rippling in the breeze. In the distant horizon the purple silhouette of the Rockies rose against the blue sky, a couple of peaks tipped in snow.
The setting was beautiful. For a moment she wanted to stop the car and savor the view. It was entirely different from the San Francisco Bay Area, where space was at a premium and houses and buildings stood side by side crowded in on each other. Here there was nothing between her car and the Rockies but open range.
She glanced at her brother. Brandon leaned forward, his eyes scanning every inch of land. He'd never been here before.
Almost there, she signed.
He grinned and nodded. The lawyer in Wolf Crossing had been handling her great-uncle Clyde's estate until she and Brandon arrived. He'd given her detailed directions to the ranch. Caitlin had been nine the only time she'd visited, and much more interested in horses and cows than the route her mother had taken. She remembered thinking she was the luckiest girl in the world that summer.
Looking back, she realized their visit had been right before her mother had become pregnant with Brandon, a little over sixteen years ago.
The graveled drive seemed to go on forever. Several minutes passed before she saw the roofs of ranch buildings. She'd pushed to complete the trip from San Francisco in the shortest time possible after she picked her brother up at the end of the school term and was tired, stiff and sick of driving. Only another few moments and they'd reach their final destination.
Her ranch. It still seemed surreal. Who would expect an army brat to inherit a ranch in Wyoming? Caitlin had never had an inkling she was her great-uncle's heir.
According to the attorney, Clyde had fifty-five hundred acres, more or less--now all belonging to her. Her family had been in Wyoming since the homestead days. Originally a large family who'd made a place for themselves on the open range, the Martins seemed to have fewer children with each generation, her mother, Tricia, being the only niece of Clyde Martin. She in turn had had two children--Caitlin and Brandon. They were the last of the family. She couldn't keep the place, of course.
Once Caitlin sold the property, she'd be able to better provide for herself and Brandon.
It seemed sad to relinquish property that had been in their family for more than one hundred years. Yet what choice did she have? She knew nothing about ranching and Brandon was only sixteen. They'd traveled the world with their father and now had settled in the San Francisco Bay Area. Wyoming was not home.
Tomorrow a real-estate agent was meeting them at the ranch at ten. Now she knew why their appointment wasn't earlier--it would take him that long to get here from Wolf Crossing.
Wire fences stretched along both sides of the drive. The one parallel on the right looked in need of repair. There were broken strands; some of the posts were leaning. She glanced around. To the left, in the distance, she spotted several head of cattle. Was that a man on a horse? She squinted to see better, but couldn't tell. According to the lawyer, there was one cowboy still on the ranch--Zack Carson. He had agreed to stay until the new owner arrived.
Caitlin hoped he'd stay a little longer--until they could sell the place.
In another minute they reached the old house and Caitlin pulled to a stop. The ranch house looked as if it had been built a century ago--two stories tall, weathered wood, sash windows. Beyond stood an old barn made of logs. It wasn't nearly as large as she'd remembered. Corrals surrounded the barn, six horizontal wooden rails affixed to upright poles. The fence looked sturdy at least. Two horses ambled over, watching them.
Brandon was out of the car, heading for the corral, before Caitlin could open her door.
"Be careful," she called, then shook her head. He couldn't hear her. And he wasn't looking in her direction so signing was out. She hoped the horses wouldn't bite.
Picking her way across the uneven ground, she wished she'd worn more suitable shoes.