Have you ever had one thing in mind and suddenly it morphs into something completely other?
I’ve been hard at work on my new book, which I’d been tentatively calling Voices, knowing that ultimately that title would change. Well, that has turned into what is now Book 1 of a three-book series, Redheads & Ranchers.
With that first book, which I’m now calling Rescued by the Rancher, well underway at over 42k words so far, I’ve jumped headlong into the second book, Romancing the Rancher.
In Romancing the Rancher, corporate lawyer P.K. (Poppy) Chastain heads to Idaho to try to convince 5th generation rancher Hunter McFall to sell a small parcel of his land to the developers intent on building a mountain resort nearby.
This is from the (unedited) first chapter of Romancing the Rancher.
Hunter McFall squinted his hazel eyes at the dust trail on the horizon and shook his head in annoyance. He didn’t have time for this. He had 1,500 head of cattle that needed moving to new pasture.
Not that it made this day any different from any other day. Cattle need to be rotated to fresh grazing land. The herd had spent yesterday down on the flood plain beside the bend of Deer Creek. Today he wanted them moved into the foothills.
But he had Rolly Stevens to head up moving the beeves. Rolly had been with the McFalls since before Hunter ever sat on a horse. And the younger hands listened to the old man, respected him.
And if Hunter was honest with himself, he didn’t mind a day off the trail too badly. Except he wasn’t looking forward to this appointment.
The dust trail was closer now. Hunter sighed deeply and nudged the bay beneath him, gently pulling the reins to the right.
“Let’s go, Cheyenne,” he muttered. The horse tossed her head and turned to the right, heading back toward the house.
P.K. Chastain. Just the name irritated him. The notion of a grown man going by his initials struck him as pretentious as fuck. The fact that P.K. Chastain was a lawyer representing Slade & Howell didn’t engender him to Hunter anymore than his name did.
He’d received the letters and emails from this Chastain fellow, the ones making all kinds of shiny promises on behalf of Slade & Howell. But Hunter didn’t care. He wasn’t interested in selling any McFall land to some developer who wanted to build a mountain resort. Keep that shit over by Sun Valley if that’s what you had in mind.
Here in Deer Creek Valley and the Boxroot Mountains, McFalls had raised cattle for five generations, and by God, he intended to continue the family legacy until his last breath.
A vehicle came around the bend just as Hunter loosely wrapped Cheyenne’s reins around a rail in the shade of a large cottonwood. From beneath his wide-brimmed hat, he glowered at the silver Range Rover as it pulled to a stop along the side of the gravel drive. City people always fancied themselves rugged outdoorsmen when they came out to this neck of Idaho. Yet another reason he wasn’t interested in having a luxury resort anywhere near McFall.
He set his mouth in a firm line and walked toward the SUV. The driver’s door opened, and a shiny black high-heeled pump emerged, followed by a shapely calf. Surprised, Hunter stopped, watching as a petite redhead stepped out of the car. Her hair was done up in one of those fancy, efficient updos with a few loose wisps around her face, which was obscured by large designer sunglasses. Hunter’s eyes zeroed in on sensuously shaped ruby-red lips.
The woman leaned back into the SUV, affording Hunter a view of a nicely rounded ass, neatly packaged in a black pencil skirt. She emerged a moment later holding a tan leather satchel. Closing the car door, she marched toward him.
“Mr. McFall?” She stuck out a well-manicured hand, her nails painted the same red as her lips. “I’m P.K. Chastain. We’ve emailed back and forth?”
Slowly, Hunter reached out and took her tiny hand in his own, suddenly aware of how rough and calloused ranch work made them.
“You’re P.K. Chastain?”
The redhead tilted her head and removed the sunglasses, revealing deep chestnut eyes in a shade he wasn’t sure he’d ever seen before. “You were expecting a man, I suppose.” Her tone was defensive.
“I guess when I heard that a lawyer was coming out here, I just assumed.”
P.K. Chastain narrowed her eyes at him. “Maybe the news didn’t make it this far out in the boondocks,” she said, one hand holding the satchel, the other a fist on her hip. “But it’s the 21st century now. Women get to vote and everything.”
Hunter suppressed a grin, his mustache shifting with the effort. “Seems I heard tell about something like that,” he drawled for effect. “Maybe it was the fact that you go by your initials. What does P.K. stand for, anyway?”
He watched her cheeks color slightly as the woman squared her shoulders. “That’s neither here nor there. Is there someplace we can sit and discuss the generous offer being made to you by Slade & Howell?”
He pursed his lips and watched her for moment. Then he nodded. “We can meet in my office.” He gestured toward the huge log home that had been in his family for generations. When he’d been a boy, his grandfather had added an extension to the north end of the house, creating an office from which to run ranch business.
“If we’re going to have a business, my boy, we’d better treat it like one,” the elder Hunter McFall had told his young namesake.
That Hunter McFall had been the first of his family to attend college, and his son and grandson had followed in his footsteps. They’d taken what had been a rough and tumble ranch and turned it into a successful cattle business, acquiring extra acreage along the way as some of their neighbors failed to keep up with the times.
P.K. Chastain, leather satchel in hand, clipped purposefully across the gravel drive and up the steps to the covered porch that ran the length of the front of the house and around its southern side. Hunter followed along behind, amused by the turn of events.
At the door, she stopped, allowing him to open it and usher her inside. Just inside the door, he paused to hang his black felt hat on a rack beside the door. His mother had always been firm: “No hats in the house.” He supposed that extended to the office as well.
Hunter imagined he could see the office from his guest’s point of view as he inhaled the familiar scent of leather and wood. Behind the huge reclaimed wood desk, antique branding irons hung in a row from an old board on the wall above a barnwood credenza. Opposite the desk were a pair of leather wingback chairs. The chairs matched twin oxblood leather chesterfield couches that flanked an antique trunk turned coffee table in the center of the room.
On the opposite end from his desk sat a long wood conference table surrounded by leather club chairs. Western art from his grandfather’s collection accented the walls and the entire space was crowned by an enormous iron chandelier hung from the peaked roof.
The lawyer glanced around appreciatively. “It’s lovely,” she murmured.
Hunter nodded. “Thank you. The original cabin is over a hundred years old, but it’s been added to over the years. My grandfather added this office extension when he took over the business over forty years ago.”
“Lovely,” she repeated. She gestured with her satchel. “Where would you like me to set up?”
He shrugged slightly. “Anywhere you’re most comfortable is fine.”
He watched as the woman’s gaze flitted all around the room before it settled on the conference table.
“That looks good,” she said, and moved in that direction, her high heels clipping against the wide plank floor.
She placed the satchel on the table and opened it, rooting around until she found what she was looking for. She handed Hunter a glossy-covered booklet, a gorgeous shot of the Boxroot Mountains gracing the front with Boxroot Mountain Resort declared in bold, rustic letters.
“Please, have a seat,” she gestured to the chair at the head of the table.
Hunter suppressed a smirk at the city woman telling him where to sit in his own office. Curious to see where this was all leading, he sank into the chair and watched as she dug into the bag once again.
“If you’d like to flip through the prospectus while I get my presentation ready,” she said. “I won’t be long.” She looked up at him. “You do have wi-fi?”
He nodded. “Yes, ma’am,” he drawled. “All the way out here in the boondocks, we have wi-fi and the interwebs. Why, hell, we even have the dot com.”
She paused her movements to purse her lips at him. Then she went back to her digging, tucking a few stray red hairs behind her left ear. From her bag, she extracted a small black cube about the size of a baseball. This she set up on a small tripod on the table, then she went back to rooting around in the satchel.
Hunter tried unsuccessfully to look away from the way her wispy white blouse gapped in the front every time she leaned over the bag. Ms. Chastain had stellar cleavage. That paired with the nicely rounded ass he’d appreciated outside made her an intriguing distraction from the ordinary.
He didn’t look over the prospectus. He didn’t need to. He wasn’t interested in selling. But he’d hear her out. It beat the hell out of rounding up reluctant Herefords.
I’m hoping to release Rescued by the Rancher, Redheads & Ranchers Book 1, before Christmas. Romancing the Rancher should be ready in early 2019. And the third book will be well on its way by then.
In the meantime, 2018 Golden Flogger Award Winner FOR SPARROW is currently on sale for 99¢ through October 8, exclusively at Amazon. Use this LINK to one-click your copy now.