Fay Sheridan is facing the bleakest moment of her life. As a fierce storm surges around her, one man plucks her from despair and into safety: Chase Rafferty.
Rugged rancher Chase knows there is a fun-loving young woman hiding inside Fay, and he'll do anything to see her start living again--even propose!
Fay thinks Chase is joking--a convenient business marriage would never work. But as the idea sinks in, the sparks slowly begin to ignite inside her. Maybe now is the time to embrace life and say yes!
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August 31, 2007
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Excerpt from The Bridal Contract by Susan Fox
The late afternoon Texas heat was even more intense than it had been earlier, making the minor fence repair a feat of endurance rather than the mindless drudgery it usually was. Fay Sheridan felt another rivulet of perspiration streak down her cheek to bead on her jaw as she set the prongs of the last staple against a fence post. The bead of sweat fell as she hammered the staple into the wood, securing the loose strand of barbed wire. A few of the older wood posts along this stretch of fence needed to be replaced with T-posts when she got time.
Time. She felt the stifling weight of it as she pulled off her Stetson to blot her forehead and jaw on the sleeve of her plaid work shirt. She was overloaded with time these days. Months, weeks, days, hours, minutes...
There weren't many true seconds anymore. It was as if they'd all stretched to the length of minutes, and she was living some kind of slowmotion life, where the more she found to do, the more leftover time she was stuck with. She'd somehow lost her grip on the kind of days when hard, continuous work made time fly.
Fay put her Stetson back on and walked to her horse. The sorrel gelding had been dozing in the heat but he perked up when she put the hammer and bag of staples in the saddlebag, as if he hoped the workday was done. Thunder rumbled, and Fay glanced toward the western sky.
The thunderhead that had been building in the distance looked to be at least seventy thousand feet high, with others piling high on either side behind it. The massive, anvil topped cloud formations had blocked the sun, though the air was still hot and muggy and the sky overhead and behind her to the east was blue. The storm would be a big one, bringing an evening of hail and much needed rain, with maybe a tornado or two.
Fay mounted her horse and continued along the fence, scanning the four-strand barbed wire that separated her ranch from the much larger R/K Ranch. If the storm held off, she might be able to finish checking this stretch. She'd become almost fanatical about maintaining the miles of fence on her ranch, but then, she'd become fanatical about a lot of things this past year.
Constant vigilance and almost continuous hard work had helped her stay sane, providing her with purpose and restoring at least some sense of order. Life had become predictable again; at least she'd been able to create the illusion that it was. And yet the energy that illusion of predictability required had also leached what little vitality and pleasure life might still hold for her.
Which was probably why the oncoming storms brought an inkling of relief despite the frustration of having to leave a chore unfinished. The sameness of the past year had worn her down, but storms the size of this one banished a bit of that sameness. A long, much louder rumble of thunder sounded, and she drew her horse to a halt at the crest of a rise.
The massive clouds had churned closer in the few minutes she'd been riding, and parts of them were dragging rain shafts. She could tell when the wind picked up at ground level in the distance, and watched as it brushed down the dry grass like a giant, invisible arm sweeping across the land.
The sorrel warily turned toward the fence and pricked his ears forward expectantly, his nostrils flaring to catch the scent of rain as the first cooling wind gust reached them. The air temperature dropped several degrees, and Fay felt a light chill over her sweat-damp clothes. The first gust was quickly followed by harder, much cooler gusts, and the air filled with the scent of rain.
It didn't bother her that she was astride a horse on top of a ripple of land, not only high profile in open country next to a wire fence, but also carrying enough metal in her saddlebag to attract a bolt of lightning. Lightning could strike from miles away, but she felt no fear at the notion, and wondered fleetingly if she'd ever feel fear again. She'd already faced one of the most excruciating pains life could hold. After that, every other calamity paled in comparison, even the idea of being struck by lightning.
The sorrel began to fidget, but Fay tightened the reins to check his movement, more than a little mesmerized by the storm. Something about it mirrored the deepest places in her heart, places where despair warred against the will to survive, and her soul grappled with incomprehensible tragedy.
The black clouds of the storm roiled faster now, blotting out the western sky from north to south and rapidly filling the air above her. The rumble of thunder varied from muted rambling to crackling cascades of sound that tumbled from screeching highs to throbbing lows that trailed on and on.