Weekend Excerpt–HUNTER’S PRIDE

He didn’t count on falling for the New York lawyer
sent to broker a land deal.
But has she betrayed him?

Hunter McFall had no intention of making a deal with New York land developers for a parcel of his Idaho cattle ranch. But when their lawyer Poppy Chastain showed up, he pondered whether he should reconsider.

He never thought to fall in love a second time, but then, he never counted on a smart, spunky, sexy-as-hell redhead to grace his ranch again.

But behind the scenes, someone is working against both of them.

Here’s a snippet from HUNTER’S PRIDE:

When Hunter caught up with Rolly and the others, they had just rescued a calf that had gotten stuck in the muck at the edge of the river.  A quick check confirmed that the wayward little bovine was none the worse for the wear and he was sent scurrying back to his mother who’d observed incident from a concerned distance. 

Rolly assured Hunter that they had everything under control, so Hunter decided to head toward the fenceline near the gate.  On the way back from Ketchum, he’d noticed three posts not far from the gate that were in need of attention.

With Cheyenne nibbling grass nearby, Hunter inspected a loose fence post, wiggling it to assess how bad it might be.  A light honk from the highway drew his attention, and he looked up to see Bill Albright, the local sheriff, in his official SUV.  Hunter raised a hand in a wave, and the other man waved back as he turned through the open gate and into the drive.

“Hey’ya, Bill,” Hunter called as he strode toward the truck.

Albright opened his door and got out, nodding as he did.  “Hunter.  How’s the ranch?”

“Not bad.  We’ve got a healthy bunch of new calves so far this season.  What can I do for you?”

The sheriff’s face was grim.  “I’m here on some unpleasant business, I’m afraid.”  He turned and reached into the truck where he retrieved a bundle of papers stapled to a legal-sized piece of blue cardstock. 

Hunter frowned as he took the document from Bill.  “What’s this?  I’m being sued?”

The lawman shrugged slightly.  “Not sued, exactly.  It’s eminent domain.  The state is taking part of your land.”

“Taking part of my land?”  Quickly, Hunter scanned the front page, trying to make sense of the legal-speak. 

“Well, they’ll pay you for it, but between you and me, it’s pennies on the dollar.  It’s legalized theft if you ask me.  But they don’t ask me, they just make me serve you the paperwork.”

Realization dawned on Hunter as he turned the page.  “Son of a bitch!  This is the land Slade & Howell has been trying to buy from me.  They offered me just short of a king’s ransom to sell, and I said no.  Can they claim eminent domain on my land?” 

“This comes all the way from Boise.  If I had to guess, I’d say those resort developers cozied up to the Governor, or somebody on his staff anyway, and got him to sign off on this.  Undoubtedly promised them something in return, but good luck proving it.”

Hunter suddenly thought of Poppy, and he cut his eyes in the direction of the house.  “They never intended to buy the land from me.  They were just biding their time until they could take it.”

The sheriff lowered his eyes and exhaled sharply.  “I’m sorry as I can be, Hunter.  Of course, you’re entitled to get your own lawyer and fight this.”

Hunter laughed humorlessly.  “But who has deeper pockets?  Me or some international real estate developer?” 

He scrubbed a frustrated hand across his mouth.  “Son of a bitch!”

Bill clapped him on the shoulder.  “Again, Hunter, I’m sorry.  Next time I see you at the North Star, I’ll buy you a drink.”  With that, he climbed back into his vehicle. 

After Bill drove away, Hunter stood anchored to the same spot, shaking as adrenaline thrummed through his veins. 

She knew.  All along, she knew they were just going to take my land.  That’s why she didn’t fight harder to get me to take the deal.  It never mattered.

Brusquely, he grabbed Cheyenne’s reins and swung himself up, his head spinning as he pushed the horse into a gallop.  Visions of Poppy streamed through his mind, Poppy smiling at him across the dinner table, naked by the fireplace in his bedroom, her excitement at the birth of the new calf, on her knees in the mountain cabin. 

She played me.  I was dumb enough to think I was falling in love, and the whole time, I was falling for a liar and a cheat.  How stupid can I be?
By the time he reached the barn, he was livid.  He stopped Cheyenne short and jumped down, leading the horse into the barn.  He didn’t expect to see Poppy by the calving pen watching the twin calves that had arrived overnight. 

When she saw him, she smiled happily.  “Are they just the cutest things ever?  I’ve already named them.  This one is–”

He dropped Cheyenne’s reins and reached her in three angry strides.  “What the fuck is this?” he spat, whipping the papers at her.

Awkwardly, she caught them, frowning as she did.  “What’s wrong?  What do you mean?”  She unfolded the document and tilted her head, squinting at the print. 

“Eminent domain?”  She looked up at Hunter.  “Where did this come from?”

He folded his arms.  “You tell me.  The sheriff just brought me this little Valentine.”  He stalked over to a stack of feed bags and kicked them angrily.

“I don’t understand,” Poppy murmured, “this is crazy.”  She flipped through the pages.

“Slade & Howell never meant to pay me anything for my land.  You came here as a distraction until they could get this little baby pushed through the state offices.”  He snatched the papers out of her hands.

Eyes wide, Poppy shook her head.  “No, they told me to offer you the terms in the agreement.  Mr. Slade himself authorized me to offer you ten percent more.”

“Because they never intended to have to follow through with it.  Hell, why pay for land when you can just steal it?”

Poppy shook her head.  “No, this isn’t right.  I’m going to call them and find out what’s going on.”

“Just stop the bullshit, Poppy!  Stop with this innocent act.  You knew exactly what you were doing.” 

“What?  You can’t possibly think I had anything to do with this.”

Hunter nodded angrily.  “I suppose this is how big business operates, right?  Just lie, cheat, and steal until you reach the top.”

“No, Hunter, I never–”

“Stop lying!” he shouted.  “You come in here like sex on legs, looking like my dead wife,” he spat, “and like an idiot, I fall for your act.  Hell, I was even stupid enough to imagine I was in love with you.”

Tears streamed down her face, and she took a step toward him.  “Please, Hunter, I had nothing to do with this, you have to believe me.  If they lied to you, they lied to me, too.”

Hunter looked away, shaking his head.  “Out.  I want you out.  Now.”  His voice was chillingly calm.

She took another step toward him.  “Hunter, please–”

“Now!  Or do I have to start throwing your shit onto the driveway?  I want you gone!  Go the hell back where you came from.  Congratulations.  You got what you wanted.”  He turned on his heel and stalked out of the barn.

HUNTER’S PRIDE by Pandora Spocks

HUNTER’S PRIDE is available
at your favorite online bookseller.
books2read.com/HuntersPride

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