Fate brings her to his ranch, injured and helpless. He has no choice but to take her in. But when he starts to fall for her, letting her go is no longer an option. Can his heart trust in love again?
“He was afraid that telling her he was falling in love might scare her away.”
In the wild west, Abbie’s fate is sealed when her father arranges a marriage with the son of the local landlord in the name of a gold deal. But when Abbie witnesses her groom-to-be’s ruthless behavior, she knows she can’t go through with the marriage. Fleeing from her troubled past, fate takes her to Richard’s doorstep. Will this twist of fate lead her to true happiness?
Richard is a successful horse rancher who takes care of his younger brothers and prefers his solitude. When he comes across a beautiful woman injured and alone in the pouring rain, he takes her in, little knowing that his life is about to change forever. With Abbie in his home, Richard struggles to fight his growing attraction, fearing that trusting someone will lead to another heartbreak. How can he stop his heart from falling when the power of love is invincible?
As Abbie and Richard begin to fall in love, Abbie’s previous suitor returns, threatening their chance at happiness. Will their love be enough to overcome the challenges, or will they be forced to choose between their hearts and their future?
Idyllwild, Southern California 1849
Abbie Montgomery sighed as she took a moment to look at the sight of the wind whipping the tops of the trees outside the barn. The sun wasn’t entirely blocked behind clouds, but it could be at any moment. In the meantime, the gusts of wind blew the smell of spring everywhere due to the many flowers that were blooming this time of year.
Though Abbie knew the flowers could use a little more water, she wished the weather could have had better timing. While she could probably still go for a ride before it started raining, she didn’t want to risk it unless she had to.
Of course, there was the chance she would be driven to do so, which was why she was in the barn in the first place. She was not the slightest bit ashamed to admit to herself that she was hiding in there to avoid her father’s guests.
Thomas Whitton and his son, Squire, were entirely unbearable, being snobbish, unkind, and subtly rude at times. Unfortunately, both men had been coming over increasingly often for business, which was something Abbie knew her mother would never have stood for had she been alive. She may have only been eight years old when she lost her mother, but she knew that much.
With another sigh, she decided to close up the windows of the barn before the weather got worse, which was what she had told her father she was going outside to do the moment she saw the Whittons arriving. The fact that she had no intention of going back to the house until they left was something she had kept to herself, though she knew she would get scolded for it later.
Once the windows were closed in preparation for the storm that would soon arrive, she decided to pass the time by brushing her horse, Lemon. Even though Lemon wasn’t dirty at all, the mare was still shedding her winter coat, which meant Abbie had to start with the curry comb.
The appaloosa probably didn’t need to be brushed again yet, but Abbie enjoyed spoiling her. Lemon showed every sign of enjoying the attention, frequently nuzzling Abbie at every opportunity, which thoroughly messed up Abbie’s straight black hair that was currently neatly secured in a bun.
So, Abbie took her time, with a smile on her face. Eventually, she got the mare’s coat feeling silky smooth beneath her fingers. She let herself just stand and enjoy the texture for a while.
After that, she started to braid Lemon’s black main and tail as she let her thoughts drift. She recalled how, when she was a little girl and had first laid eyes on the foal that had been her birthday present, she had instantly loved how the black hair contrasted so beautifully with the buckskin coloring.
The fuzzy hair around the mouth and lower down on Lemon’s legs was also darkly colored. In fact, the only white area on Lemon was on her back end, covering her loins down to her flanks. Even here, the white had golden spots in it that were rather like the shape of lemons.
However, that was not why she had named her horse Lemon. That had been because the wild lemon lilies were blooming when she got the foal, even though it had been earlier in July than when the flowers usually bloomed. The yellowish flowers were her favorite, both because of how they looked and their lovely fragrance.
Abbie was so caught up in her thoughts, an absentminded smile on her face, that she wasn’t aware of her surroundings. Therefore, she was caught completely off-guard when she heard someone clear their throat in the barn doorway.
Mentally scolding herself for not noticing, Abbie turned and instantly scowled when she saw it was Squire. She didn’t bother saying a word to him, her fingers not pausing as she worked on the braid she was putting in Lemon’s tail.
Just because he had hair that was so light brown it was nearly blonde, grey-blue eyes, and was, in short, most women’s definition of tall and handsome, did not mean Abbie was going to flutter her eyelashes at him as she had seen other women do.
She was torn between rolling her eyes and glaring even more when the smirk on his face that she caught from her peripheral vision made it clear he wasn’t the slightest bit fazed by her reaction to his presence. Abbie’s muscles grew tense under his gaze, and she was sure she didn’t want to verify that he was still staring at her.
After what felt like a long time but was probably actually only a minute or two, Squire gave an amused huff and asked, “Aren’t you going to at least say hello?”
“Hello,” Abbie replied as flatly as she possibly could, still not looking at him.
She saw another shadow pass in front of the barn door, glancing up just in time to notice Thomas Whitton heading to the hitching post where his horse was. Hopefully, he was leaving and would take his son with him.
Unfortunately, instead of leaving like she hoped he would, Squire came closer. Even though he stopped a couple of feet away, her skin crawled with the impression he was invading her space. She could never bring herself to be at ease around him.
“I must say, you look quite lovely,” Squire simperingly told her as he casually leaned up against the post of one of the stalls.
“I believe you’ve mentioned that plenty of times before when you’ve come over,” Abbie replied, fighting the urge to grit her teeth. She didn’t have to catch his eye to know he was probably leering at her with his blue-gray eyes. He usually was when he told her that, and the way he said it always made her feel like her looks were the only thing he noticed about her.
Maybe part of that was the fact that she was pretty sure he had never paid her any other type of compliment that didn’t involve her looks. Yes, she knew she was beautiful with her ebony hair, brown eyes, and the delicate features and lightly tinted skin tone she had gotten from her Italian mother. However, she knew there was far more to her than just her appearance.
“Well, if I did, it was because it bears repeating.” His retort was so hollow that she found herself looking directly at him for the first time to glare at him incredulously.
“How about you try to come up with something new instead?” she challenged. She decided right then that she was going to go for a ride on Lemon. If he was determined to continue talking to her, she could end the conversation by leaving.
As she got the saddlecloth and set it on Lemon, Squire remarked, “Oh, don’t worry, I’m sure I’ll have plenty of time to learn everything about you. Maybe you’ll even learn how to accept a compliment.”
This made Abbie pause for more than one reason. Firstly, there was the way his words sounded almost outright menacing. Secondly, while her first reaction was to assume he was hinting at the fact that he would be around more often due to some business deal they had been talking about with her father, the way he worded it made it sound like there was more to it than that.
Still, she pursed her lips as she grabbed a saddle—unsurprised that Squire didn’t even look tempted to help her with the heavy thing—wondering if he only said that because he wanted her to strike up a conversation by asking him what he meant.
Though she tried to resist for a moment, her curiosity got the better of her. Instead of directly asking him what he was implying, she instead sent him a sharp smile and remarked, “I don’t know about that. After all, I happen to like long rides this time of year. The wildflowers are quite lovely, you know. I also have to visit the neighbors and, well, you probably won’t be seeing that much of me.”
A literal chill went down her spine as he, again, smirked at her as though she had said something humorous. It was a very bad sign as far as she was concerned. “Maybe you should talk to your father before saying you won’t be seeing me,” he told her; something in his eyes implied he knew something she didn’t.
Abbie’s brow furrowed, and she reminded herself of the last scolding she had gotten from her father for not being polite to his business partners. She used that memory to refrain from telling Squire she had no wish to see him at all and planned on avoiding him at every opportunity.
Her patience was already wearing thin with him, and whatever it was he was hinting at—probably that her father had invited Thomas and Squire to dinner or something else she would be expected to attend—when she finally sighed exasperatedly and asked, “What is that supposed to mean? I hope my father remembered that I do sometimes make plans to have dinner elsewhere and visit my friends.”
In truth, she didn’t feel she had many—or any—true friends, but that would be rude to say. It was one of the trials of being the only child of one of the wealthiest men in Idyllwild that she suspected all her supposed friends just wanted to be better connected rather than actually form a genuine friendship with her.
“And I’ll be sure to let you keep doing that after we’re married! In moderation, of course, since you’ll be expected to keep house for me,” he told her matter-of-factly.
“What?!” she all but screeched at him. Then she scowled. “If this is your idea of proposing, I’m not interested. Even if you gave me a proper proposal, I still wouldn’t accept.”
There was a momentary flash of anger in Squire’s eyes that made Abbie grateful she could walk away under the pretext of grabbing the bridle next. “I think you’re forgetting that your father has some say in this too, and he doesn’t seem to think it a bad idea at all. I mean, my family is almost as well off as yours, and I’m an only child as well, so this is the perfect opportunity to unite our fortunes.”
Her blood ran cold. Her father surely wouldn’t do this to her, would he? However, her mind brought her back to how increasingly distant he had become since her mother died ten years ago and how irritable and nearly obsessive he had appeared of late.
The fact that she was unable to convince herself that there was no chance of this being true seemed to prove Squire’s words were true. She wanted this to be a joke. “You must be joking,” she told him in shock. “My father hasn’t even talked to me about it.”
Keeping her eyes on his expression, she hopefully searched for any sign he wasn’t telling the truth. He shrugged his shoulders, grinning triumphantly as he announced, “Our fathers have just finalized all the arrangements today. Don’t worry, though. Your father took your preferences into consideration when planning everything. He knows spring is your favorite season, so we are to be married in just a few weeks while all the flowers you’ve said you so enjoy are still in bloom.”
As he spoke, Squire had the audacity to step forward and tuck a piece of her hair behind her ear, fingering it as he did so, his eyes seeming to greedily appreciate the silkiness of it. Abbie was too stunned by his words to move away at first, but then she jerked away from him and quickly ducked around to be on the other side of Lemon, who stomped a hoof in mild agitation.
“Get out!” she screeched as she pointed to the barn doors, her heart pounding in her chest with mingled fear and anger.
“Now, that’s no way to speak to your—”
“Out!” Abbie stomped her foot for emphasis as her eyes started to water.
He sighed exasperatedly and rolled his eyes as he turned to leave. “Very well, though I do hope you are in a better mood when I come back tomorrow to go over wedding details with you.”
Abbie didn’t even acknowledge him getting on his horse outside and leaving. She stood there, for how long she didn’t know, processing the information that had been dumped on top of her. At one point, Lemon nickered softly and nudged her, causing her to absentmindedly pet the mare’s head.
As the shock faded away, it was replaced by anger. She would not let her father use her to further his business! She didn’t care what his reasoning was! She had told him more than once that she didn’t know why he did business with the Whittons since she didn’t view the father as being any better than the son. She’d told him she couldn’t stand Squire!
Torn by fear, anger, hurt, and a kaleidoscope of other emotions, she stiffened her spine and marched out of the barn toward her home to find her father. Though she had no idea how this conversation would go, she knew that whatever happened today would decide the course of the rest of her life.
Idyllwild, Southern California, 1849
Abbie stormed into the tearoom first, only to find her father wasn’t there. As she set about finding him, the gusts of wind that she could hear around the house suddenly seemed to be the perfect weather to fit her mood. It certainly seemed to make the lush carpet and long hallways that were ornamented by hallway tables and mirrors feel a bit foreboding.
Stomping through the house, she eventually found him in his study, which had less in the way of decorations but was still quite ornate thanks to the overly large wooden desk and bookshelves on the sides that were all intricately carved. She was barely able to convince herself that starting off the conversation by yelling at him was probably going to accomplish absolutely nothing.
After all, it was entirely possible that Squire hadn’t been telling the truth or had exaggerated what had been said between their fathers. With that in mind, she took a deep breath in the doorway of the study and schooled her expression into something as neutral as she could manage. In order to avoid showing emotion, she clenched her fists tightly and put them behind her back so her father wouldn’t pick up on it.
When he noticed her entrance and glanced up at her from where he sat at his desk, she even managed a tight smile at him as she decided at that moment to wait for him to say something first. Apparently, she wasn’t doing as good a job as she hoped at hiding her anger, if the pursing of his lips when he looked at her was any indication.
Seeing what she was sure was a momentary flash of guilt in her father’s hazel eyes as he looked away from her and back to the papers on his desk did not put her at ease. Quite the opposite, in fact.
It was hard to stick to her determination to say nothing, but then she saw her father actually fidget a little, and she reveled in that. Awkwardly clearing his throat, he eventually started the conversation. “I’m glad you’re here. I needed to talk to you about the meeting I had with Thomas and Squire Whitton.”
Unable to hold her peace any longer in spite of her resolution, Abbie found herself letting out an unnatural-sounding laugh, which she tried to hide with a smile as she took one of the two seats in front of the desk.
“Squire mentioned your meeting as they left, actually, and he, well, he said something so utterly ridiculous that it isn’t worth repeating.” Even as she said the words sharply, Abbie’s heart was pounding in her chest, which was so tight she could barely breathe.
He pursed his lips again, and she knew it wasn’t a good sign when he didn’t meet her eyes. “Yes, well, if he mentioned it to you…” With a pause to sigh again, he mutteringly said half to himself, “I told him I wanted to talk to you first.”
Abbie felt hope bloom in her chest. “Good, and my answer is no. So, now that that’s settled—”
Though she had already started rising to her feet as she spoke, she sat back down when her father interrupted her by loudly talking over her last few words, “I told him that I would need to discuss with you the exact date and other details of your wedding.”
She was back to not being able to breathe again due to shock. “What?”
He still wasn’t looking at her as he went on as though he hadn’t heard her, “I was thinking that it would take some time to plan the wedding, but you might wish to have that done and to move into your new home before your nineteenth birthday in a few months and get settled in. That doesn’t leave much time to—”
Now she was suddenly fully out of her seat. “What?! I am not marrying him!”
Her father’s exasperated expression nearly had her gritting her teeth. “Now, Abbie—”
“I’ve told you and told you how much I despise him—”
“And you also haven’t been able to tell me why other than that you don’t like the way he looks at you, which is just because he sees you as the beauty you are—”
“We also have nothing in common!”
By now, they were both on their feet and yelling at one another as her father retorted, “And neither did your mother and I, yet you seem to forget that we were happily in love with each other.”
“And you started off being in love; that’s a big difference! I don’t like Squire at all, and—”
“You haven’t given him much of a chance!”
They both paused to catch their breath as though by mutual agreement. Abbie was the one to break the silence by asking in a shaky voice, “Why do you want so badly for me to marry him?”
“The Whittons are wealthy and, even if their fortunes turn, you will be able to buy anything you could ever need or want,” he explained, as though that was the pinnacle of success that everyone should strive for.
It wouldn’t surprise her if he really thought that way. “Anything except for love,” she bitterly pointed out.
At that, he started to look angry again, his eyes flashing and shoulders stiffening as he told her, “That can come with time! Honestly, it is not as though such arrangements are unheard of. Many women would be delighted to be in your position.”
Though she was tempted to keep arguing with him, she knew she wasn’t going to get anywhere with him—not right now, at least. So, to make sure he knew that she wasn’t giving in just because he considered the conversation to be over, Abbie lifted her chin and told him. “My answer is, and always will be, no.”
“Think about this for just a minute—”
“Just so you know, I may have forgotten some things about her, but I remember Mother enough to know she would have wanted me to marry for love,” she told him as she walked out of the room without looking back or bothering to listen to his spluttering reply.
She hoped the comment about her mother stung. Bringing up her mother and what she would have wanted was how Abbie had tried these last few years to prevent her father from getting too absorbed in making business deals. Sometimes this tactic worked, sometimes it didn’t.
At the moment, she wanted nothing more than to go for a long ride, which was why she was ever so glad that Lemon was already saddled and waiting for her. As soon as she had mounted and she and Lemon were out of the barn, she kicked with her heels in just the right way to set her mare off at a gallop.
Abbie didn’t care where they were going, as she let the events that had just happened wash over her. The gusts of wind messed up her hair even more as her heart started aching at what lay ahead for her.
She knew she would never agree to marry Squire, and her father had to know he couldn’t force her hand. Any pastor her father found to do the wedding would have to ask her as part of the ceremony if she accepted her groom, and it was unlikely they would acknowledge them as husband and wife if she refused.
While that was a comforting thought, it also struck Abbie’s heart with fear. If her father knew that, then how was he planning to force her? Would he find someone to officiate the wedding who wouldn’t care about her protests? She wasn’t naive enough to think such a person wouldn’t exist.
As her mind whirled with possible scenarios and what she could do about any of them, she completely lost track of time. The only thing that brought her back to her surroundings was when Lemon skittered to the side a little at a crash of thunder which was closer than the horse was comfortable with.
Wiping away her tears with her free hand—Abbie couldn’t say when she had started crying at the sense of betrayal that was squeezing her heart—she noticed the dark clouds overhead and rolling in. It was quite obvious that it was going to start pouring down at any second.
With a deep sigh, she looked around to try to get her bearings. The trees were tall and prevented her from seeing any houses, but the path went into a meadow up ahead. In the meadow, she could see the tops of flowers swaying back and forth, seemingly on the verge of having their petals ripped off by the wind.
She was pretty sure she should have turned back before now, as she was certain she was far from home. Fortunately, though she didn’t ride in this direction often, she knew where she was and immediately turned Lemon toward home.
Part of her hoped she would get caught in the storm and have to stop and ask for shelter so she wouldn’t have to see her father again so soon. To that end, Abbie took a trail she knew would lead past the house of one of her acquaintances.
The Shaws were not as well off as her family was, but they owned a fairly respectable ranch, and she was familiar with the trail by their home thanks to the abundance of wildflowers it had on it, which was probably the only reason she had been able to recognize where she was.
She nudged Lemon to go a little faster, and the mare seemed more than happy to oblige, likely sensing they were heading toward home. Soon enough, they were in sight of the Shaw’s ranch house, and Abbie was surprised it hadn’t started raining yet, considering how dark the clouds were above her head.
Just as she was debating trying to go further or asking to stay here with people that weren’t complete strangers, the barn on the other side of the house from where she was came into sight.
What she saw there had her instantly pulling Lemon to a stop and hoping they wouldn’t be seen. There, in front of the barn, were Thomas Whitton and Mr. Shaw. While there was nothing concerning about that fact by itself, what was concerning was the way Mr. Whitton was angrily yelling something at Mr. Shaw. She was too far away to make out the words, and she didn’t know if that was a good thing or not.
There was only a foot or two of space between the men as the former appeared to be all but on the verge of pinning the smaller man to the side of the barn. Mr. Whitton’s face looked red with anger, his hands clenched and occasionally shaking in the air in such a way that Abbie’s breath caught in her throat with the fear that he would strike Mr. Shaw.
Though Thomas Whitton was old enough to have his hair mostly grey, he was still tall and broad, leaning slightly toward being stout. His grey eyes, which always seemed so cold to her, were now flashing in anger as he sneered at the poor man in front of him, who was a good six inches shorter.
Biting her lip, she considered nudging Lemon forward and pretending she had just arrived. However, at that moment, Mr. Whitton reached to his belt and pulled out a knife, pointing the tip of it at Mr. Shaw as the latter appeared to try to melt into the barn behind his back.
On her part, Abbie was frozen, unable to do anything at all aside from watching with wide eyes and terror in her chest as Mr. Shaw started nodding emphatically about something.
Mr. Whitton then pulled his knife away, putting it back in its place in the sheath on his belt. There were a few more words spoken, and then Mr. Whitton turned to leave. Abbie barely had the presence of mind to back Lemon up, hoping to avoid being seen and that Mr. Whitton would leave the way he had come so they wouldn’t cross paths.
Her hands were shaking as she turned Lemon around and headed down the path to head home another way. She wasn’t completely surprised by what she had just seen, since she had heard rumors about people being threatened by the Whittons to sell their land.
She had brought up those rumors to her father back when he first started having dealings with Mr. Whitton. However, her father had told her that they were just rumors, doubtless started by people who had borrowed money and that the supposed threats were nothing more than reminding them they had to pay or forfeit their land.
The fact that Mr. Whitton had more investments in mining and would doubtless benefit more if he had the land than if the ranchers paid him their loans back seemed to completely escape her father for some reason.
As thunder crashed in the distance, she nudged Lemon’s flanks with her heels to urge the mare to go faster. Maybe, now that she could say she had seen something untoward with her own eyes, her father would actually listen to her.
At the very least, she could hope he would. Unfortunately, she only had a moment of hope warming her chest before the rain started. Just as she reached up to wipe some of the water out of her eyes, there was a deafening crack almost right above her, combined with a blinding white light.
Lemon instantly rose onto her back legs in terror, but Abbie couldn’t tell for a moment other than to feel the world was tilting. She was a moment too slow to recover, unable to stop herself from falling from the saddle, and then everything went from white to black as her head hit something hard.
You just read the first chapters of "Capturing the Rancher's Wild Heart"!
Are you ready, for an emotional roller-coaster, filled with drama and excitement?
If yes, just click this button to find how the story ends!
Please log in again. The login page will open in a new tab. After logging in you can close it and return to this page.
Great start to the story.
So glad you liked it Karen! I hope you’ll love the rest of the book!🙏❤️
Looking forward to chapter two.
Thanks, Jeanna! Can’t wait to read your thoughts about the whole book!!!🤠❤️
OK yes I enjoyed the first chapter. I would love to continue reading it so let me know when it comes out. I looked it up and I can’t find it even to pre-order it. Thank you. Have a great day
Thank you so much for your kind words Jacquelin! I’m delighted to hear that you enjoyed the first chapter! Your enthusiasm means a lot to me as an author. The book is out and available. I can’t wait to read your thoughts about it! Wishing you a wonderful day!❤️🤠
It’s very compelling. Can’t wait to read what’s next.
Thank you so much, Terry! Can’t wait to read your overall opinion too!🤠❤️