She wanted his baby...and he wanted her! Meg McKettrick longs for a baby--husband optional. Perfect father material is gorgeous Brad O'Ballivan, old flame and new owner of his family's ranch in Stone Creek. But Meg--as strong, proud and stubborn as her ancestors on Indian Rock's Triple M ranch--wants to do things her way...the McKettrick way. And Brad feels just as strongly about the O'Ballivan way...
Love, marriage, babies and a lifetime to share--that's what Brad wants. Not a single night of passion, an unexpected pregnancy and a woman who won't budge. For a rugged rodeo cowboy who never gives up, it's a battle of wills he intends to win...and nothing matters more than claiming Meg's wild McKettrick heart.
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November 30, 2007
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Excerpt from The McKettrick Way by Linda Lael Miller
Brad O'Ballivan opened the driver's-side door of the waiting pickup truck, tossed his guitar case inside and turned to wave a farewell to the pilot and crew of the private jet he hoped never to ride in again.
A chilly fall wind slashed across the broad, lonesome clearing, rippling the fading grass, and he raised the collar of his denim jacket against it. Pulled his hat down a little lower over his eyes.
He was home.
Something inside him resonated to the Arizona high country, and more particularly to Stone Creek Ranch, like one prong of a perfectly balanced tuning fork. The sensation was peculiar to the place--he'd never felt it in his sprawling lakeside mansion outside Nashville, on the periphery of a town called Hendersonville, or at the villa in Mexico, or any of the other fancy digs where he'd hung his hat over the years since he'd turned his back on the spread--and so much more--to sing for his supper.
His grin was slightly ironic as he stood by the truck and watched the jet soar back into the sky. His retirement from the country music scene, at the age of thirty-five and the height of his success, had caused quite a media stir. He'd sold the jet and the big houses and most of what was in them, and given away the rest, except for the guitar and the clothes he was wearing. And he knew he'd never regret it.
He was through with that life. And once an O'Ballivan was through with something, that was the end of it.
The jet left a trail across the sky, faded to a silver spark, and disappeared.
Brad was about to climb into the truck and head for the ranch house, start coming to terms with things there, when he spotted a familiar battered gray Suburban jostling and gear-grinding its way over the rough road that had never really evolved beyond its beginnings as an old-time cattle trail.
He took off his hat, even though the wind nipped at the edges of his ears, and waited, partly eager, partly resigned.
The old Chevy came to a chortling stop a few inches from the toes of his boots, throwing up a cloud of red-brown dust, and his sister Olivia shut the big engine down and jumped out to round the hood and stride right up to him.
"You're back," Olivia said, sounding nonplussed. The eldest of Brad's three younger sisters, at twenty-nine, she'd never quite forgiven him for leaving home--much less getting famous. Practical to the bone, she was small, with short, glossy dark hair and eyes the color of a brand-new pair of jeans, and just as starchy. Olivia was low-woman-on-the-totem-pole at a thriving veterinary practice in the nearby town of Stone Creek, specializing in large animals, and Brad knew she spent most of her workdays in a barn someplace, or out on the range, with one arm shoved up where the sun didn't shine, turning a crossways calf or colt.
"I'm delighted to see you, too, Doc," Brad answered dryly. With an exasperated little cry, Olivia sprang off the soles of her worn-out boots to throw her arms around his neck, knocking his hat clear off his head in the process. She hugged him tight, and when she drew back, there were tears on her dirt-smudged cheeks, and she sniffled self-consciously.
"If this is some kind of publicity stunt," Livie said, once she'd rallied a little, "I'm never going to forgive you." She bent to retrieve his hat, handed it over.
God, she was proud. She'd let him pay for her education, but returned every other check he or his accountant sent with the words NO THANKS scrawled across the front in thick black capitals.
Brad chuckled, threw the hat into the pickup, to rest on top of the guitar case. "It's no stunt," he replied. "I'm back for good. Ready to 'take hold and count for something,' as Big John used to say."
The mention of their late grandfather caused a poignant and not entirely comfortable silence to fall between them. Brad had been on a concert tour when the old man died of a massive coronary six months before, and he'd barely made it back to Stone Creek in time for the funeral. Worse, he'd had to leave again right after the services, in order to make a sold-out show in Chicago. The large infusions of cash he'd pumped into the home place over the years did little to assuage his guilt.
How much money is enough? How famous do you have to be? Big John had asked, in his kindly but irascible way, not once but a hundred times. Come home, damn it. I need you. Your little sisters need you. And God knows, Stone Creek Ranch needs you.
Shoving a hand through his light brown hair, in need of trimming as always, Brad thrust out a sigh and scanned the surrounding countryside. "That old stallion still running loose out here, or did the wolves and the barbed wire finally get him?" he asked, raw where the memories of his grandfather chafed against his mind, and in sore need of a distraction.
Livie probably wasn't fooled by the dodge, but she was gracious enough to grant Brad a little space to recover in, and he appreciated that. "We get a glimpse of Ransom every once in a while," she replied, and a little pucker of worry formed between her eyebrows. "Always off on the horizon somewhere, keeping his distance."