Weekend Excerpt–ANNA’S HEART

Coming this summer!

Anna Graves never expected world-famous Hollywood actor Angus McGregor to show up at her family’s Wyoming guest ranch. And she certainly never expected to fall for him. Sure, he seems attracted to her as well, but it’s ridiculous, really. He’s a movie star and she’s just a normal person. As soon as he’s gained the horsemanship skills he needs, he’ll be off to film his next movie, and she’ll be right where she’s always been, teaching riding to the tourists who visit the Sweetwater Ranch.

Here’s a NEW (and unedited) teaser from ANNA’S HEART.

As headlights approached in the distance, Anna leaned forward hopefully, but the ancient mini-van moved past her, its female driver never even glancing her way.  Exhaling sharply, Anna leaned back against the brick wall behind the bench on which she sat.  From about a block away, country music occasionally punctuated by laughter filtered her way from the open door of The Mine Shaft.  

Lips pressed tightly together, she shook her head in disgust.  His car was there in the parking lot.  Bruce’s car.  She could see it from where she was if she stood up.  Thankfully, the awning over the hardware store prevented the glow from the nearby streetlight from reaching her, so she was reasonably confident that she was virtually invisible as she waited for her ride. 

Calling Angus had been hard.  But she was sure she’d made the right decision.  Earlier as she’d gotten dressed, she’d opted to wear the new sandals with no thought of having to walk any distance.  Now her ruined feet were paying the price for her shortsightedness.  

It was a good thing she’d stopped where she had, too.  When she’d first sat down, she’d removed her shoes to discover blisters not only between her toes but on the balls of her feet as well.  By the time she’d stopped walking, the blisters had already burst and begun to bleed.  

Fingers crossed, Angus would be able to find some shoes to bring her.  It would be even better if he grabbed a pair of her boots; she always left a pair of socks in her boots, and that would be sufficient to stem the bleeding until she got home and could deal with her feet.

Another set of headlights came into view.  Anna closed her eyes.  

Please, please, please.

Hearing the vehicle slow down, she opened her eyes again to see a light-colored pick-up truck.  It eased to a stop in front of the hardware store and the passenger window buzzed down.

“Anna?”  His brogue was soft.

“It’s me.” She gave a weak wave.

Angus put the truck into park and got out, heading her way with a pair of boots in his hand.  As he approached her, she gripped the bench seat and swung her feet awkwardly back and forth.

“I brought yer boots.  I hope they’re okay.”

She nodded gratefully.  “They’re perfect, thanks!”  She took the boots from him and reached inside the right one, releasing a sigh of relief to find a pair of socks balled up in the bottom.

Grateful once again for the shadow in which she sat, Anna unrolled the socks and slipped them on, ignoring the burning pain of her raw feet as she stuffed them into her boots.

Angus stood uncertainly, his hands tucked into the pockets of his jeans.  “Anna, what happened?”

She aimed for nonchalance as she shrugged and jumped to her feet,  ignoring the searing pain.  “Oh, stupid me, I wore new shoes and got blisters.”

“No,” he said softly, “I mean, what happened to your friend?”

“I don’t want to talk about it.”  She crossed her arms and gave him a look that dared him to pursue the subject further.

He watched her for a long moment then shifted gears.  “Alright.  How about dinner?  That looks like the place.”  He hooked a thumb over his shoulder in the direction of The Mine Shaft.

“No!”  It came out louder than Anna had intended.

Angus arched an eyebrow but said nothing.

Exhaling sharply, she tried to regroup.  “You don’t want to eat there.  It’s a dive.  Eagleton is only twenty miles up the road.”  She pointed in the direction from which he’d come.  “We can find something in Eagleton.”

“Eagleton,” he repeated.

Anna nodded definitely.  “Believe me.  You’ll be glad we went the extra distance.”  Because I know I’ll be glad.

“Eagleton it is, then.” 

Together, they walked to the truck where Angus opened the passenger door for her.  Gritting her teeth, Anna managed to make it into her seat without groaning in pain.  As she watched him walk around to the driver’s side, she sighed with relief at being off her feet again.

Angus climbed in, buckled his seatbelt, and started the truck.  Checking to make sure no one was coming, he made a u-turn and headed down the street.  

Country music played softly as Angus drove past the sign that pointed to Eagleton, a town roughly twice the size of Crystal Springs.  Anna glanced at his profile illuminated by the dashboard lights.

“Um, thanks, by the way,” she said.  “For coming to get me, I mean.  And for remembering the boots.”

“I’m happy to do it.”  He briefly looked at her before turning his eyes back to the road in front of them.  “I’m guessing there’s a reason ye called me rather than your brothers.  Or your parents.”

Anna crossed her arms again and said nothing.

He gave her a sideways glance and continued.  “Of course, it’s none of my business, yer reasons for doing what ye do.  But it looks like we’ll be having dinner together after all.”

Anna felt her face heat up.  “About that…I don’t mean to be…  I mean, it’s just…”  She sighed heavily.  “It’s just, you’re, you know, famous.  And I’m just…well, me, and so…”  She trailed off, not knowing where she’d been headed when she started speaking.

“It’s dinner.  Everyone eats dinner.  It’s no’ a big deal.”

She slouched down in the seat and stared out the window, immediately regretting shifting her booted feet.  

It was nine-thirty by the time they pulled into the parking lot beside Good Time Charley’s, a local bar and grill known for excellent pub food.  At that time on a Saturday night, the place looked to be nearly full, but Angus managed to find a parking spot at the far end of the lot.  

He hurried around to let Anna out, and again, she gritted her teeth as her boots hit the pavement.  

“Are ye sure yer alright?” he asked, frowning down at her feet.

“I’m fine,” she muttered.  “Nobody ever died from blisters.”

Even so, he altered his long stride to accommodate her as she struggled not to hobble to the front door.  Inside, classic rock music played loudly, and the rowdy Saturday night crowd didn’t notice as Anna and Angus were seated in a booth at the edge of the bar.  

“Is this okay?” he asked, leaning across the table toward her.

Anna glanced around and nodded.  “Yeah, it’s fine.”

Angus perused one of the menus they’d been given.  “What do you recommend?”

Anna’s stomach growled, for the first time taking her attention away from her feet.  “You can’t go wrong with a burger,” she replied, her mouth watering at the prospect of well-done ground beef with all the fixings.

“Aye, that sounds like just the thing,” he nodded, grinning.  “With a nice pile of chips?”

Anna laughed in spite of herself.  “You mean fries?  Of course.  What’s a burger without fries?”

Angus put down his menu and nodded.  “Chips, fries, it’s all the same.  Golden-fried goodness.”

“And a very large beer,” Anna added, waving to a server.  Notepad in hand, the tall young man approached the table.

“Hello!  Welcome to Charley’s.  I’m Dustin.  What can I get you to start off?”

Anna looked to Angus then back up at the server.  “I think we’re ready to order.  I’ll have the bacon cheeseburger, well done, with fries.  And a Yuengling, please.”

The server looked at Angus. 

“I’ll have the same.  Except I’d like a seltzer and lime to drink, thanks.”

Dustin nodded, adding notes to his pad.  “Got it.  Two burgers, one beer, one seltzer and lime.  I’ll be right back with your drinks.”

Anna watched him head in the direction of the bar.  Then she leaned toward Angus.  “You don’t want a beer or something?”

“No,” he smiled gently.  “I don’t drink.”

“Oh.”  Anna frowned slightly.  “I hope it’s okay that I ordered a beer.”

He bobbed his head and gave a rueful smile.  “I’m not an alcoholic.  That was me da.  Watching him waste his life away convinced me that drink was no’ for me.”

“Wow.  I’m sorry.  That’s…wow.”  Surprised at his casual revelation, Anna sat back and assessed him sympathetically.

He lifted one shoulder.  “Everythin’ in yer life goes into making ye who ye are, I suppose.”

ANNA’S HEART by Pandora Spocks

ANNA’S HEART is the third and final book in the Redheads & Ranchers Series. It will be out this summer. In the meantime, check out JENNY’S VOICE and HUNTER’S PRIDE, the first two books in the series.

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