Historical Western Romance 364 pages
Cover art by Trisha FitzGerald
Nineteen-year-old Opal Barnett never dreamed that leaving her home in Memphis, Tennessee to settle on a ranch that her father had inherited near the little town of Wildweed, Arizona would bring such an unsettling change in life. Not only did she find a half-breed cousin, but she found she had to give up dreams of wearing beautiful gowns and dress in britches, ride a horse, round up cattle, and do many jobs required of a rancher. She never dreamed that the hired hand who was such a help to would become the object of her secret dreams. She knew she had to fight the impulse she had to touch him every time they were together because she didn't have time in her life for anything except helping her family.
Jace Renwick had one goal, to find the man who had murdered his father in a Colorado gold field ten years earlier. The fact that he was pushing thirty, time most men who wanted a family had settled down, didn't tempt him to give up the pursuit. Informed the culprit was in Arizona, he set out to track him down and landed up at the Barnette ranch. Knowing this would be a good place to keep a low profile in his search, he volunteers to help George Barnett get the place up and running. But the auburn haired Opal was harder to ignore than he ever dreamed a woman would be.
"Who is that man, Opal?" Her mother asked as soon as she was in the door.
"He said his name was Jace Renwick, not that that means anything to us. He wanted to water his horse and get a drink for himself."
Her mother frowned. "Is he going to leave as soon as he waters his horse?"
"He said he wanted to talk to Papa."
"Papa's in town," Pearl butted in.
"I know. Mr. Renwick said he'd wait for him at the barn. I didn't tell him that it would be a while before Papa came home."
Gloria glanced out the door. "It kind of makes me nervous with a strange man being here and your father gone."
"Maybe he'll get tired of waiting and leave, Mama." Opal hoped those words would waylay her mother's fears, but she didn't believe them as she said them. From her first impression of the man, she got the feeling that once Mr. Renwick set his mind to something, he'd see it through. She wasn't sure how she got this feeling. It was just there.
~ * ~
Though neither he nor his horse needed water, Jace had a drink, then led China to the trough for a few sips. Afterward he moved him to the corral and looped the reins over one of the standing posts. He removed the saddle and hung it over the fence where the rails weren't broken. He couldn't help noticing how rundown the place looked. He'd learned in town this morning that the owner had recently died and his greenhorn brother and his family had not only inherited the place, but had moved in the day before. He wasn't sure the family's trip from the east was worth the trouble to claim the inheritance. It would take a lot of backbreaking work to make this ranch turn a profit. Work he was sure a tenderfoot wasn't able to put in, even if he were willing.
But the people on this ranch weren't his problem. He had his own objective and these naïve people were unwittingly going to help him achieve it, though they didn't or wouldn't realize they were doing it.
Stepping inside the barn, not only to escape the extra warm spring day, but to look around, he was pleased to find the structure solid, with no signs of leakage from the roof or the walls. There were four stalls and the back doors would give access from both directions. He climbed the attached ladder to the loft and walked around. The boards were fine with the exception of one or two that needed nailing down.
Returning to the main floor, he went to the room which interested him the most. It was built on the right side of the barn before the stalls began. He pushed the door open and entered. He was surprised to find the room larger than he'd thought it would be.
As he did in other areas of the barn, he tested the walls for stability. They were as strong as the rest of the building. He walked to the window and looked out. There was an unobstructed view of the house and the approaching road.
Finding this to his liking, he muttered, "With a little cleaning and a bed built in the back wall, this will be ideal. Yep, for the next few months this will be my bedroom."