The year is 1889, and Rachel Hollister hasn't set foot outside her house in five years. Ever since a savage attack left her family dead, she's cordoned herself off from the outside world, afraid to let anyone into her home-or into her heart. But now trouble has appeared on her doorstep-and suddenly she has no choice but to let a handsome rancher enter her well-guarded existence.
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January 02, 2006
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Excerpt from Summer Breeze by Catherine Anderson
March 22, 1889
Exhausted from pulling a calf and disheartened because he'd lost the heifer, Joseph Paxton rubbed the heel of his Justin boot on a clump of grass to rid it of barnyard muck, then reached into his shirt pocket for a pack of Crosscuts. Damn, but he was tired. Under the best of circumstances, hanging and skinning a beef wasn't his favorite task, but it had been a downright dismal undertaking today, every flick of the knife blade reminding him that the Grim Reaper had won another battle. Over the next week, he would be hard-pressed to cut up and preserve the meat. There weren't enough hours in the day as it was.
That was the way of it when a man started his own cattle operation. Days were long, nights were short, and come hell, high water, or Election Day, good meat couldn't be left to spoil. Joseph hoped things would be easier next spring. This year's heifers would be seasoned mothers by then and less likely to have trouble dropping their calves. He would also have the proceeds from the fall cattle auction in his bank account, enabling him to hire more help. As it was he had only two wranglers on the payroll, and both of them had already drawn their week's pay, left for town, and wouldn't be back until Sunday night.
Leaning against a fence post just outside the barn, Joseph struck a Lucifer on the side seam of his Levi's, cupped his hands around the flame to block the wind, and sighed in contentment as he lighted a cigarette. Buddy, his two-year-old sheepdog, brought to Joseph by his mother via stagecoach from San Francisco, flopped down beside him. The breed, which was longhaired, compact, agile, and highly intelligent, had, according to Dory Paxton, first been introduced to California by Basque sheepherders and had quickly become popular as cattle dogs as well.
Mindful of the fact that the animal had put in a hard day, Joseph fished some jerky from his hip pocket. Intelligent amber eyes filled with expectation, Buddy caught the offering in midair, swallowed without chewing, and then pushed to a sitting position to beg for more. Not for the first time, Joseph marveled at how pretty the canine had become, the white markings on his nose, chest, belly, and feet striking a sharp contrast to his thick red-gold fur. Judging by pictures Joseph had seen, the dog most closely resembled an English collie, the exceptions being that his coloring was different, his nose shorter and less pointed, his body a bit smaller. No matter. All Joseph cared about were results, and the dog could flat herd anything, cows mainly but sometimes even chickens.