Windbreaks and a Give Away

This was last September. After this we had a beautiful fall… except that all my tomatoes froze.

Windbreaks are very important in our part of the country. We live on a bench where the wind can be relentless. Small buildings need to be anchored to the ground, or they blow away. Sometimes our house sounds like a wooden ship in high seas. Personally, I love it. Must be the Viking in me. My husband hates it.

Ranch animals spend the winters out in the open, and when the wind blows they take refuge behind a windbreak, be it natural or manmade. We have windbreaks in all of our pastures.

The picture below is of my horses and ponies during a January storm, taking advantage of the shelter.

They also enjoy the windbreak during the summer. I think of it as their bedroom.

It really is the new calves’ bedroom. When the weather turns, all the moms and babies bed down in the straw behind the windbreak and everyone is toasty warm.

But sometimes, the wind is too much. During our last storm, part of the calve pen windbreak went down. The railroad ties had deteriorated to the point that they broke off, which led to a full and rich Monday for my husband and me.

The first order of business is to assess damage. Yep. There’s a problem here.

 

 

 

 

Next we have to fetch new ties from the laydown yard, then use the auger to drill new holes. My job is to make sure the auger is straight and that it doesn’t wander while it’s going down.

 

After that, we take turns cleaning the dirt out of the hole. The auger only lifts out so much. The rest has to be removed by hand. If it’s dry, we have to pour water down the hole so that we can get a “grip” on the soil with the posthole digger.

Then the new tie is set in place. We use a level on two sides as we fill the hole and tamp in dirt to make sure it’s true. On a good day, we don’t have to go back to the house to get the level that we forgot.

After that, it’s a matter of re-attaching the boards to the new post, and then the windbreak is ready for another season of keeping the livestock safe and warm.

 

Do you want to know how happy I am that the windbreak blew down in August instead of February?

I’m having a give away today for a $15 Amazon gift card. To enter tell me about a your most recent unexpected repair. The winner, chosen by random drawing, will be announced on Saturday. Good luck everyone!

Hand Work and a Give Away!

Hi everyone! I’m going to be on the road today, traveling in the first time in forever, on my way to meet my new granddaughter. I’m excited beyond words.

It’s very possible that due to travel, etc, I may not be able to answer comments in a timely fashion, so I am doing a give away, which I will explain at the end of the post.

I love handwork and I have to have something to do while I watch television or I go a little nuts. Guess what? Handwork and new grandbabies go hand in hand, so I thought I’d show you my work in progress and a few things I’ve made that I’ll be taking along with me for the visit.

First of all, I am not a quilter. I love sewing, but piecing is difficult for me. I’ve accepted that I’m not a quilter and moved on; however, I’ve made an exception for my little granddaughter, because she really needs this kitty quilt when she’s a little older. These blocks are fresh off the embroidery hoop after hand embroidering the faces. Embroidery is also not my thing, but this was kind of fun.

 

I plan on hand quilting it, learning as I go. I figure grandbabies are probably pretty forgiving of newbie errors, right?

I smocked several items when my daughter was a baby and toddler, using the gathered dot method. I pulled out one of the patterns I’d used for her and smocked this little dress and bonnet. I love to smock. I almost bought a smocking machine on eBay, then decided that I wouldn’t use it enough, so I’m sticking with the dots.

And I tried my hand at knitting. I enjoy knitting, but I’m by no means a master. I found my first stabs at intarsia knitting to be challenging, so hats off to those who can do it! Intarsia is done with the different colors wound onto bobbins and dropped and added as needed. Imagine, if you will, the half-finished penguin sweater with probably 10 bobbins hanging from the back, in the mouth of my Aussie puppy who is racing around the room with her new prize. It was an adventure getting it back onto the needles.

Having learned my lesson about intarsia, I knit this sweater first with no pattern on it, then used duplicate stitches to embroider the flamingo and foliage after I was done. Much easier!

And now the give away. I’m offering a $15 Amazon gift certificate to one lucky responder. To be eligible, tell me what you like to do in your free time. It doesn’t have to be handwork. 🙂 The randomly chosen winner will be announced on Saturday.

Best wishes,

Jeannie

 

Welcome Laura Ashwood and a Give Away!

Hi Everyone! My name is Laura Ashwood and I’m writing to you from the chilly state of Minnesota. Having grown up in North Dakota/Minnesota I am no stranger to the occasional winter blizzard, but I’ve thankfully never been through anything like the Schoolhouse Blizzard of 1888.

In January, 1888, a massive cold air mass with a spread of over 780 miles, moved into the United States from Canada. The temperature on the front end of the cold front in some places dropped from above freezing to -20°F in just hours. The storm was extremely fast moving. It entered Montana in the early morning hours of January 12, swept through Dakota Territory and was in Nebraska by mid-afternoon of that same day. Because of the warm spell preceding the storm and the swiftness with which it moved, most people were ill prepared. In just minutes, the strong winds and powdery snow made for zero visibility. The combination of bitter cold temperatures and high winds resulted in a death toll of 235. 

Another massive blizzard struck Easter Sunday, April 13, 1873, which began as a pleasant day in southeast Nebraska. That afternoon, rain moved in and temperatures began to drop. During the night, the wind picked up and by morning eighteen inches of heavy, wet snow had fallen. The storm raged for two more days, finally abating on Wednesday, April 17. Drifts as high as 20 feet had accumulated in some areas. Many people perished, including a woman with an infant that died just feet from her home, along with thousands of head of livestock.

So, why am I telling you about blizzards that happened over one hundred years ago? It’s because I’m part of a multi-author series called The Blizzard Brides. This series is loosely based on both of those blizzards. What happens when nearly all the men in town get killed during a blizzard? What are the women to do? This group of talented authors takes that question to task, each story following the journey of one of the women as she begins to rebuild her life.

This is my second historical romance. One of the things I strive for when I write historical is to make sure that I get as much accurate detail for the time period as I can. In my story, A Groom for Ruby, Cullen Parker has a dark past before he ends up in Last Chance. I got to research such things as train robberies, stagecoach robberies, gold mines, and place like Dodge City and San Francisco. Much of that research doesn’t make it into the book, but I love being able to work in some of that information.

In this book, Cullen is making his way back to Dakota Territory, hoping to get a job at the Homestake Mine in Lead. The Homestake Mine was a real working gold mine during that time period. It was actually the largest, deepest mine of its type in the United States. It was operational until 2001, and two of my uncles worked there in 1950’s and 1960s. So, not only did I get to add a bit of reality to my fiction – I was able to make it personal.

Do you like it when authors do little things like that? Do you want to know about it?

I’d love to give away a copy of A Groom for Ruby, as well as a copy of my first historical, An Agent for Clarissa, which is part of the Pinkerton Matchmaker series.

Please stop by my website, and if you sign up for my newsletter, you’ll get a free copy of Snowflakes & Second Chances, a contemporary novelette. I’d love to connect with you on Facebook or Instagram, and you can find inspiration boards for all my books on my Pinterest.

 

Buy A Groom for Ruby on AMAZON

Timeless Elements of Western Romance by Guest Janine Rosche

Rugged, Dangerous, and Wild: The Timeless Elements of Western Romance

Something strange and majestic happens when you chase the sun across the Mississippi River. Your heart fills with promise and wonder. Your mind races with dreams of what could be. Your skin tingles with the fear and excitement of the unknown. Your very soul connects with those long since passed who risked all they had to experience a new world.

It’s easy to see why the most thrilling, adventurous, and romantic stories take root in the American West. Unlike other fiction genres, Western Romance doesn’t differentiate between historical and contemporary. All the stories share an understanding that no matter how hard we try, the land won’t be tamed, and neither will the human spirit.

Here are five timeless elements of Western Romance:

Danger

Who doesn’t love a story where the hero or heroine must face terrible odds to achieve their heart’s desire? The West has its fair share of natural danger to keep the characters on their toes: earthquakes, drought, dust storms, flash floods, wildfires, landslides, tornadoes, avalanches, etc. Seriously, in Yellowstone National Park, boiling water shoots out of the ground. At the summit of Pike’s Peak, there is a rocky area called The Devil’s Playground because lightning bounces from rock to rock. And if that doesn’t raise the stakes enough, there are human foes driven by desperation or greed to get what they want and need. See that man with the sharp-looking Stetson and shiny revolver? He’s probably an outlaw, train robber, greedy oil tycoon, or shady real estate developer.

Wilderness

Do you know why so many characters in western novels are hot-tempered? Because they realize that any time they walk outside, they could be bitten by a snake or killed by a grizzly. They could be wearing a prairie dress or yoga pants, and it doesn’t matter. The threat is still there. In addition to scary animals, there’s the chance one might get lost in a forest, break down in a desert, or fall off a mountain.

Ruggedness

Authors know that if you want to push a character out of their comfort zone, drop them into a western setting. Unless you are in one of the big cities, the West still has a rustic quality to it. Cell phone coverage is spotty. Wi-Fi is rare, and you can drive a hundred miles and never see a road sign except for Wall Drug. Even historical characters must learn to accept fewer “modern” conveniences than those on the East Coast. Sweet Bostonian schoolteacher, were you used to electric lighting and a warm bath? Here’s a lantern, pail, and a map to the creek.

New Beginnings

The first character of mine that I fell in love with was a desperate pastor who flees to Montana for a fresh start. Be it 1821 or 2021, there’s a certain romanticism in leaving one troubled world behind and beginning all over again with new dreams, new foes, and maybe a new love. Who doesn’t love a good fish-out-of-water story?

Independence

Show me a western novel, and I’ll show you a feisty, hard-headed, and determined hero or heroine willing to work to the bone to get what they’re after. Rules, traditions, and societal expectations didn’t often fit in the wagon on the Oregon Trail or the saddle pack en route to Texas. To survive the Old West, characters need grit, fortitude, and self-reliance. Generations later, their modern-day equivalents need confidence, drive, and even a touch of swagger to make their dream of a happy ending come true.

YOUR TURN: What do you love most about Western Romance? Would you say it’s timeless?

If you’d like to know more about my contemporary rustic romance novels, including my Madison River Romance series, please visit my website at http://www.JanineRosche.com or connect with me on Facebook. 

Giveaway:

A Society6 Mountain Landscape Tote Bag

The Madison River Romance series:

        This Wandering Heart

        Wildflower Road

        Glory Falls

 

 

 

Glory Falls: Released January 12th

Buy it on Amazon 

Prone to wander, Janine Rosche finds as much comfort on the open road as she does at home. This longing to chase adventure, behold splendor, and experience redemption is woven into her Madison River Romance series. When she isn’t writing or traveling, she teaches family life education courses to college students, takes too many pictures of her sleeping dogs, and embarrasses her four children and husband with boy band serenades.

Those Hunky Colorado Cowboys! (And a Giveaway!) with Jody Hedlund

Most readers know me for my historical romances about lighthouses, orphan trains, and bride ships. But a western? Whoa! What’s that all about?

No, I’m not switching genres. My friends here on Petticoat and Pistols have the western genre well covered! But I am delving into a five-book family saga set in the high country of Colorado in the ranching area of South Park.

The Colorado Cowboys Series has all my usual trademarks—deeply emotional characters, fun plot twists, and sizzling romance. But this time the package includes hunky cowboys!

Most of the time when we think about cowboys in Colorado, we think of the ranches on the eastern plains, not the mountainous high country. But believe it or not, ranches started popping up in the mountains very early in Colorado’s history.

One of the first ranches in South Park (near Fairplay), was Hartsel Springs Ranch, founded as a homestead in 1862 by Samuel Hartsel. He started his ranch by buying oxen brought into the mountains by men arriving to mine for gold. The oxen were often worn out and worth little after making the long trek to the West. But Samuel fattened them and then turned around and sold them as beef to the mining community.

By 1864 Hartsel decided to branch out and diversify his livestock. He went to Missouri and purchased a herd of shorthorns that he then drove to Colorado along the Santa Fe Trail. It was a tough trip, but he eventually completed the cattle drive and made it back to his ranch with 150 head of short-horned cattle. 

Figure 1 Picture in South Park that I took of a cattle ranch during my research trip

Hartsel went on to become a very successful rancher, capitalizing on the rich grassland in South Park that fed his cattle. He also took advantage of a natural hot spring near his land that he developed and used for tourists who wanted a chance to bathe in the “healing waters.”

A Cowboy for Keeps, the first book in the series, is inspired by this real life cowboy and ranch. The hero, Wyatt McQuaid, is attempting to make a go of homesteading and ranching. But with all the obstacles he faces, he’s having a hard time making a new home. When Fairplay’s mayor offers him a deal, one that involves taking a bride in exchange for cattle, Wyatt can’t resist.

If you like hunky cowboys, mail-order brides, and marriages of convenience, then I invite you to give A Cowboy for Keeps a chance!

Leave a comment on this post if you’d like the chance to win a signed copy of the book! (Sorry, U.S. mailing addresses only.) I will choose a random winner on January 16.

What’s your favorite thing about cowboy stories?

Jody Hedlund is the best-selling author of over thirty historicals for both adults and teens and is the winner of numerous awards including the Christy, Carol, and Christian Book Award. She lives in central Michigan with her husband, five busy teens, and five spoiled cats. Visit her at jodyhedlund.com

A Home for the Holidays and a Give Away!

Hi Everyone!

I’m excited to announce that I have a new sweet holiday release.

A Home for the Holidays is the story of a world-traveling engineer who has never had a place to call home, except for during the four years he spent in Holly, Idaho, living with his aunt while attending high school. Jason Regan has no time to celebrate holidays, and no reason to settle down…until a Holly, Idaho judge sentences him to 100 hours of community service at the local animal shelter for a decade-old unpaid parking ticket. Jason is, in effect, sentenced to Christmas. 

Tess Evans is a recovering lawyer who now runs Forever Home animal shelter. She is thrilled to have a new volunteer, even after discovering that it’s the guy she’d crushed on in high school; a guy who had no clue that she was alive until a blabby friend told the world. But Tess will do her best to put her embarrassment behind her to join forces with Jason to empty the shelter by Christmas.

 

 

AMAZON

This series introduces my new small town series Holly, Idaho, so I’m giving away a Holly Jolly Christmas mug to one lucky commentor. 

Here’s an excerpt from my story:

“Hold on!” Tess Evans hung up the phone as her dad attempted to open the door to Forever Home while balancing two cinnamon lattes and carrying his toolbox. Pete Evans had a proclivity for doing things on his own, be it raising three motherless daughters or opening a door with his hands full. He was usually successful, but in this case, he was about to lose a latte.

“Really, Dad?” Tess said as she rescued the top cup of steaming coffee just before it toppled.

“I almost made it.”

Tess took the other cup from him and set it on her desk. Pete set down the other, then jerked his head toward the door leading to the dog kennel area. “Will Lisa be done feeding before her coffee gets cold?”

“Judging from the decibel level, I think she’s almost done.” Morning feeding was always a loud and happy time as the food trolley rolled along the concrete aisle between rows of kennels. But once the dogs had their meals, barking stopped as eating commenced, and the sound level dropped accordingly.

“Why the big smile?” Pete asked as he set down his toolbox.

“I don’t need you today.” Tess was still feeling slightly dazed from the phone call she’d just received from justice court.

“You don’t need me?” Her dad sounded shocked, but Tess read the relief in his gaze. Despite having a very tight schedule on his latest project, he stopped by the shelter every Tuesday morning to spend an hour nailing things back together. The problem with retrofitting an old garage into a new animal shelter was that there were a lot of hidden issues that poked their heads up at the most inopportune times. She and Lisa had painted the place cheerful colors—yellow and aqua—and kept it sparkling clean, but they didn’t have the time or the skillset to deal with loose concrete bolts and flapping siding—the latest ills.

“I have a new warm body.” Which was nothing short of a miracle this time of year when everyone was so busy. There was just one teensy part of that good news that kept Tess from doing a full-on happy dance.

“Cat? Dog? Iguana? No, wait. You said warm body, not cold. Scratch the iguana.”

Tess smiled. “No, Dad. A human. One with building skills. Judge Nelson sentenced a guy to community service and decided that I needed the most help right now. I get him for one hundred hours.”

“One hundred hours?” Pete tipped his chin toward the ceiling as he did a quick mental calculation. “Twelve days? That seems like a healthy sentence.” His eyes narrowed. “What, exactly, did this guy do to earn that much community service?”

“Parking ticket. And it’s twelve and a half days.” Judge Nelson’s assistant had emphasized that the entire sentence was to be served, down to the last hour. No early outs due to holiday bon homie.

Her dad’s eyebrows lifted. “Did he park in the mayor’s reserved space?”

“The ticket is years old. I think Judge Nelson gave him ten hours for each year it wasn’t paid.”

Pete gave a short laugh. “That sounds like something the judge would do. Who is it?”

“Jason Regan.” The instant the name left her mouth, Tess felt her cheeks go warm, and gave herself a mental kick.

You are not the same geeky girl who crushed on the man long ago.

Law school had changed her, given her confidence, leadership abilities…migraines. But if she hadn’t gone, hadn’t buried herself in research and paperwork for eighty hours a week, she wouldn’t have known how happy she was not doing that, or that her true calling was managing the animal shelter her late grandmother had started five years ago to take the pressure off the regional shelter that Holly shared with the nearby town of Everly.

Her dad’s forehead creased. “Must be an out-of-towner.”

“No,” she said in a casual voice. Too casual? “He was a senior during my sophomore year. He left right after high school. Mae Regan is his aunt.” It seemed best to leave out the part about him being her unrequited crush and utterly oblivious to her existence, except for one small incident in the school cafeteria. Oblivious, that is, until gossipy Melissa Braddock had read the signs, guessed the truth, and ratted Tess out to the general school population.

“Just doing you a favor,” Melissa had said when Tess had confronted her in horror after word had gotten back to her. “How else will you get his attention?” The amazing thing was that Melissa really believed she had done Tess a favor.

But Tess would give Jason this—he never treated her differently. Meaning, of course, that he hadn’t given her so much as a side-eye. Her hope was that the news had never reached him, or if it had, he’d brushed it off as so much gossip.

“Jason Regan…” Her dad’s eyebrows drew together. “Oh, yeah. He was the kid with the mean three-pointer.”

“That’s the one.” Tess shooed away her embarrassed teenage self as she confronted her new reality. “He’s mine for one hundred hours, and I intend to get every bit of work out of him that I possibly can.”

Mr. Regan was going to be a terribly busy man, and she was close to betting money that he wasn’t as amazing as she remembered him. Backyards got smaller and all that stuff. She’d probably take one look at him and wonder what the big deal had been.

To enter to win the holiday mug, tell me the place where you most enjoy spending the holidays. Please note that I’ll be on the road tomorrow, but will answer comments when I get back home. I’ll announce the winner on Friday, October 30.

Cheers!

Jeannie

The Thankful Blog Give Away

Hey everyone! My part of this blog is going to be short and sweet, because this is a blog I’m going to let you write. 

In these trying times–let’s see…pandemic, murder hornets, storms, fires, asteroids approaching Earth–it’s easy to get caught up in the negative. I say it’s time to count our blessings!

What are you thankful for? What is one blessing that makes your life richer?

My blessing is being able to keep contact with my children via electronic communications, instead of having to wait weeks, months, years for a precious letter as our ancestors had to do.

I will gift two thankful commenters $10 Amazon gift certificates. 

Blessings,

Jeannie

Winner will be announced Thursday afternoon. 🙂

In From the Storm with Janice Cole Hopkins

The Scots who came to settle the mountain regions of the United States were a hardy lot, especially those who hailed from the Scottish Highlands. They felt at home settling in these areas few other immigrants wanted – areas like the Appalachians or the Rocky Mountains. A large amount of my heritage can be found among this group. Eighty-three percent of my ancestry come from the British Isles with a mixture of Scot, English, and Irish.

This is what happens in Mountain Storms, the first book in my In from the Storms Trilogy. Ian MacGregor was wounded in the Civil War and left Maryland to hide away in a mountain cabin in Wyoming Territory. He had been rejected because of his war wounds and wanted to move from society. Aileas Campbell stumbles on the cabin in a snowstorm after she runs away from unwanted attention. Neither suspect the adventure they’re about to begin or the changes God has in store for them.

The family saga continues in Past Storms. Jeannie MacGregor, at seventeen, feels imprisoned in the secluded mountain cabin with her taciturn brother, so she runs away and goes back to her aunt in Maryland, hoping to have a social life and find a suitor. But nothing turns out as she expected, and within a few years, she finds herself on a train back to Wyoming with her young daughter in tow. The unexpected interest of three men there surprises her, but only one man makes her heart beat faster. However, he’s the new pastor, and what would a man of God want with someone like her. He could hardly find a more unsuitable wife.

In Dust Storms, Brady Sharpe, Aileas’s stepbrother, wanders his way to Texas after Aileas refuses to leave with him. He tries ranching and becomes a foreman but never feels he truly belongs. After catching some cattle rustlers, he decides to leave but discovers a young woman in desperate need of help. He does his best but ends up deciding to take her back to Wyoming and get Aileas to help her. In their journey, they battle many storms, including a major dust storm and storms of the heart.

I loved writing this trilogy. Originally, I hadn’t planned to write Dust Storms, but when I finished Past Storms, Brady said I needed to tell his story, so I did. This has happened before in my character-driven novels. Readers seem to like this series, too, because these books have been my best-sellers for months.

I would like to offer one of you the chance to win a free copy of Mountain Storms. In addition, as long as they last, I would also like to give free codes for audible editions of one of the 3 books to any who have an Audible account (which is free but required to redeem the code). You can email me at janicecolehopkins@gmail.com, and I will send you the code for the book you request. Have a blessed day, ask me any questions you’d like, and I hope to hear from you soon.

 

Jeannie Watt New Release and Give Away!

I am so pleased to announce the release of the first book of my Sweet Home, Montana series, A Ranch Between Them.

This is the story of Katie Callahan and Brady O’Neil. Brady and Katie’s brother were best friends in high school and Katie had a mad crush on Brady. Brady’s home life wasn’t the best and he didn’t feel like he was worthy of Katie, so he kept his distance. Time passed, as it does, and they went their separate ways–Katie to a corporate career in the city, and Brady to the rodeo circuit.

When the story opens, Brady’s suffered a career-ending injury and and has signed on to manage the Callahan Ranch while he heals, unaware that Katie, tired of city life, is coming home to stay. (I just love doing things like this to my characters.)

This scene is from the first chapter of the book, after Katie has rescued Brady from an ATV accident–something he would have been able to do himself had he not been inured. 

After parking the truck next to the main house, Katie half expected Brady to bolt—or to come as close to bolting as he could with his injuries, both old and new—but instead he turned toward her and regarded her for a long moment from under the brim of his ball cap, giving her a moment to study him back.

He’d been good-looking in high school, but now he bordered on spectacular with his dark hair and green eyes. The planes of his face had become more pronounced with age, as had the laugh lines around his eyes. She doubted that Brady had laughed a lot lately, but the lines made her realize how much time had passed since they’d seen one another. They’d both aged, changed. They weren’t the people they’d once been.

“I’m hurting, Katie.”

The candid admission startled her. Brady O’Neil admitting weakness. Brady, who’d refused to go to the clinic. Brady, who’d never let on that his parents were not the loving parents they appeared to be. Nick had clued her in on that small fact.

“Hurting inside or out?” She half expected him to pull into himself after she asked the question, refuse to answer or deflect the question. He didn’t.

“Out.” His jaw shifted sideways, and he sucked in a breath before saying, “Both. Which is why I need my space. Maybe, before I go, I can explain everything. But for now…” He made a frustrated gesture. “Like I said, I need my space.”

“Do you think I’m going to try to mother you, or smother you or something to that effect? Because that isn’t the case. I’m here to sort my life out, too.”

There was color in his cheeks. This wasn’t easy for him, but now that he knew she was going to be sharing his domain, he was establishing boundaries. Like she would encroach where she wasn’t wanted. Although perhaps he had cause to think that. She hadn’t exactly taken the hint when he’d tried to shut her out when they were teens.

“What makes you think I’m going to insinuate myself into your life?” she added.

“You’re a helper, Katie, and I don’t want help. I want to find out what I’m capable of alone.”

“Well, we now know your capabilities in the wrecked four-wheeler department.” Katie instantly held up her hand. “Low blow. Sorry. But what makes you think I’m going to pay any attention to you at all?”

“Katie,” he said softly, “you rescue things. Puppies, kittens, leppie calves.”

Okay. So, she’d rescued a few orphan calves. Some abandoned puppies. A few kittens. Big deal. She propped a hand on her hip. “And that’s your big fear? That I’m going to try to rescue you?” She lifted her eyebrows in a speaking expression. “Like I did today?”

Brady didn’t bite.

Katie let out a frustrated huff of breath. “Fine. We’ll make a no-rescue pact. I won’t rescue you, again, and you won’t rescue me.” She lifted her chin. “Not that I would need rescued.”

He cocked an eyebrow and the color rose in her cheeks as she got his point. “I can now change a tire by myself, and if I get stranded after midnight, I have a cell phone.” And a lot more street smarts than she’d had back in the day.

“How about instead of a pact, you treat me like Ed Cordell? An employee of the ranch.”

Ed, the former ranch manager, had kept to himself, did his job and did it well. He’d been all business, and Katie had never been able to warm up to the man. But he’d kept the ranch running smoothly, she’d give him that.

“If you’re asking me to treat you like Ed, you’re serious about this leave-you-alone thing.”

“It’s not personal, Katie,” he repeated. “It’s what I need right now.”

Katie lifted her chin. “If you need to be left alone, I’ll respect your wishes. Believe it or not, I no longer need to tag along where I’m not wanted. I’ve changed over the past decade.”

“I noticed.”

She frowned at the unexpected remark, but before she could come up with a comeback or a question, Brady held out a hand. Katie stared at it for a second, feeling as if she was teetering on the brink of something dangerous, which was crazy because how dangerous could it be shaking hands with a guy who didn’t want her—or anyone for that matter—around? She resolutely put her hand in his, her nerves jumping as his warm, work-roughened palm made contact with hers and his fingers closed.

“Deal?”

Katie nodded briskly before pulling her fingers free. “Deal.” She felt as if she’d just gotten a slow-motion electrical shock. That was the only way she could describe the tingle that gripped her body when they made contact, ultimately making her stomach tumble.

The vestiges of a crush from the distant past. That was all it was.

She reached for her door handle, her heart beating harder than before, and still feeling the warmth of his fingers on hers. She pushed her hands into her back pockets and met Brady’s gaze. “This is where we go our separate ways, living our parallel lives on the Callahan Ranch?”

He gave his head a slow shake, those mossy green eyes full of an emotion she couldn’t quite read as he said, “I doubt we’ll be able to do that, but when we do meet—”

“You’re Ed to me.”

THE GIVE AWAY!  If you’d like to win a copy of A Ranch Between Them, all you have to do is to tell me in the comments if you had a mad crush in high school.  🙂 

The winner will be announced on Thursday afternoon, so stay tuned!