On the legendary ranch she can now call home, one woman searches for her place in her birth family—and finds so much more . . .
Now that she’s completed her engineering degree, Rachel Ford Morgan is trying to find her footing around her birth father and her four brothers. She gets a chance to prove herself when she discovers worrisome fault lines around an abandoned silver mine. But they’re nothing compared to the cowboy who seems determined to shake up her world . . .
Cauy Lymond doesn’t take kindly to the woman nosing around his property—especially since she’s a Morgan. He came home just to keep his father’s failing ranch out of their super-wealthy hands. But he soon realizes that Rachel’s skill—and admirable courage—may be the only things that can shore up the old mine that threatens both their futures. Still, it will take pouring all of their blood, sweat, and secrets into saving the land—and ultimately, themselves—to bring their true feelings for each other to the surface . . .
An excerpt from The Rancher by Kate Pearce
Rachel Morgan dumped her bag in her bedroom, took off her shoes, and went right back down to the kitchen where her grandma was waiting for her. The smell of roasting pumpkin floated up the stairs, and Rachel sucked it in like oxygen. Ruth was the best cook in the world. When she wasn’t at Morgan Ranch, Rachel often dreamed about her food and woke up with drool on her pillow.
“Rachel, darlin’, come here and give your grandmother a hug.”
Rachel went willingly, bending down to kiss the wrinkled cheek of her grandma Ruth and holding her tight. She smelled just like the pies she loved to bake—full of goodness, with just a kick of spice.
Rachel sat at the table and Ruth pushed a plate toward her. “Have a chocolate cookie while I get on with dinner. They’ll all be milling around in here like sharks in an hour or so.”
“I could help you cook,” Rachel offered. “It doesn’t seem right that you still do everything.”
“I don’t do it all,” Ruth smiled. “I’ve given up cooking for the ranch guests. Avery found someone to take that on and Billy’s a qualified chef as well. Now I just cook for my family, and that’s just how I like it. If I need any help I’ll ask for it, so don’t you worry about me.”
Ruth was in her seventies, but had the wiry strength of a much younger woman and the determination to match. She’d single-handedly run the cattle ranch until her son and grandsons had come back to help her. Rachel was still in awe of her and hoped one day to be half as strong and capable.
After a few minutes of preparation, Ruth closed the oven door and took the seat opposite Rachel at the table.
“So how’s your stepfather these days?”
“Oh.” Rachel hastily swallowed a mouthful of cookie. “He got married again.”
“What?” Ruth put down her coffee mug. “When?”
“Just last month. He married one of the professors at his college. She’s very nice, and also a widow.” Rachel tried to shrug. “I had no idea until he asked me to go with him to the wedding to act as a witness.”
“Good Lord.” Ruth shook her head. “How do you feel about that?”
“I’m very happy for him, but it was a bit of a shock,” Rachel confided. “They’ve gone on an extended honeymoon to explore ancient Greece. That’s Jane’s specialty, and they won’t be back for several months.”
“Then I hope you’ll stay here with us for a while.” Ruth patted her hand. “You can’t want to be going back to an empty house.”
“He’s putting our house on the market. Apparently, Jane’s place is closer to the Humboldt campus. I haven’t lived there full-time for years, but it’s still home.” Rachel sighed. “I tried to say all the right things, but I feel like such a killjoy. I know he’s been lonely, and that he misses Mom, but—”
“It still feels like a betrayal.” Ruth nodded. “You just need some time away to come to terms with it, and what better place than here among your other family? We’ll all enjoy your company over the holidays—especially Billy.”
The last thing Rachel wanted to think about right now was her birth father, Billy. When Rachel was a baby, her mother had taken Rachel and walked out on her husband and four sons never to be seen again. The discovery that she even had a real father and four siblings was still new and, despite their warm acceptance of her, still filled her with uncertainty.
“I’ve finished at college now, so I suppose it doesn’t matter about the house that much.” Rachel picked up another cookie. “I don’t think I would’ve found an engineering job in Humboldt.”
“Probably not. What do you plan to do with that fancy degree of yours?”
“I’m not sure.” Rachel considered. “I could go abroad and work in the mining industry, or I could stay here. There’s always a demand for engineers. It just depends what comes up first.”
Some part of her longed to travel, but the new uncertainty of her adopted father’s unexpected marriage had shaken her complacency. After the first years of her life when it had just been her and her mom moving constantly around she’d always craved stability. When her mom had married Paul she’d been in heaven.
“Well, while you’re here you can start looking for new opportunities,” Ruth said. “Chase knows everyone, and I’m sure he’d be happy to help.” Ruth finished her coffee and got to her feet. “I’ve just got to make this pie. Would you slice the apples for me? I need them really thin, mind.”
Rachel gratefully took on the task while Ruth retrieved her pastry from the refrigerator and rolled it out on a floured board. Soon the kitchen would be filled with noisy Morgans
and other family members. Rachel still felt like something of an outsider, but as she planned to stay awhile she hoped to remedy that.
“January and Chase are in San Francisco, and Blue’s at the marine base in Bridgeport teaching horsemanship, so we won’t have everyone,” Ruth observed as she cut out a lattice top for the pie. “Chase says he’s buying me a bigger table, but I’m not sure where he thinks I’m going to put it.”
Rachel handed Ruth the bowl of sliced apples and watched her work her magic with sugar, spices, and all things nice.
“HW’s here?” Rachel asked.
“Yup. Driving everyone mad as usual—especially Ry.”
Rachel had liked Ry on sight, but getting to know his twin, HW, had taken longer. He was as wary of her as she was of him—for very good reasons. She sometimes suspected that he felt like an outsider in his own family as well.
“I feel like everything in my life is up in the air right now,” Rachel blurted out.
“That’s because it is.” Ruth covered the pie with pastry and added egg wash. “Change can be painful you know.”
“Yeah . . .” Rachel tried to smile. “I’m really lucky to have somewhere to go while I sort myself out.”
“Take as long as you need,” Ruth said as she added the pie to the bottom shelf of the oven. “Fresh air and hard work can help you think things through. Or, to put it another way, you’ll be so tired that you won’t have time to worry about anything before you fall asleep.”
“I’ll need to work on my riding before I can be much help around here.” Rachel sighed. “Ry said I’m getting better but I’ll never—”
Ruth smacked her gently on the arm with her wooden spoon. “How about you start by thinking more positively about yourself, young lady?”
“You’re right,” Rachel said, grinning. “I’ve got to stop putting myself down.” She flung out her arms. “I’m young, I’ve got great prospects for a fulfilling and interesting career, and I have a family who loves me.”
“You filming a commercial for the guest ranch, Rachel?”
She turned her head to find Ry Morgan smiling down at her. She never had any problem telling him apart from his identical twin.
“Nope.” She stood up and accepted the hug he offered her. “Just giving myself a pep talk.”
Ry kissed her cheek. “I was worried that you were going to burst into song or something.”
Ry had the same blond coloring as she did, but his eyes were hazel while hers were exactly the same blue as Ruth’s and Billy’s.
“Mirrors crack when I sing, Ry. How are you, and how’s Avery?”
“I’m good.” He kissed his grandma, and then took the seat next to Rachel. “Avery’s doing great. We got engaged.”
“That’s awesome!” Rachel squealed. She really liked Avery, who was low-key like Ry and had a dry sense of humor that appealed to Rachel. “Is she living here now?”
“Nope.” Ry grimaced. “She’s still at the Hayes Hotel where she says she’s staying until we get married. She says I need to find her a house to live in, and I’m working on it.”
Ruth got up to check the pie, and Ry lowered his voice. “I’m getting pretty sick of creeping around here and the Hayes place at night, so I’d appreciate any help you can give me on the house building front.”
“It’s not really my thing, but have you thought about buying some kind of modular house to speed things along?” Rachel asked. “You can always replace it later or use it as an office or a guesthouse when you build your real home.”
“That’s a great idea.” Ry sat back. “All I’d have to do is get the services in, lay a flat foundation, and stick the house on it. Avery doesn’t want stairs, and she’d love something new, seeing as she’s had to put up with that historic hotel her whole life.”
“I suspect it’s a little bit more complicated than that,” Rachel said. “But Chase has offered you land on the ranch to build on so you’ve got that covered.”
“I’ll talk to Avery and see how she feels about that idea.” Ry grinned at her. “Thanks, Sis. I don’t have a lot of rodeo money stashed away like HW does. I was thinking I’d be offering Avery a tent to live in for the next ten years.”
“I can see why she might prefer the hotel.” Rachel shuddered. “It gets so cold out there in the winter.”
“Yeah. Mom hated it.” Ry’s smile faded, and he gave Rachel an awkward glance. “You probably knew that already, right?”
“She was never happy when she was cold,” Rachel answered as diplomatically as she could. The subject of their mother was never going to be an easy one when Annie had walked out on her family after trying to drown her own baby and then five-year-old Ry in the bathtub. “I think that’s why she preferred the coast of California.”
Ruth opened the oven, and a cloud of steam rose up. “The pie’s not done yet. Everything else looks good to go.”
Rachel jumped to her feet, eager to get away from poor Ry, who looked as if he wished he hadn’t started down that particular path of conversation. If she was to make any real progress getting to know the Morgan side of her family, Rachel was going to have to keep probing those difficult subjects. Part of her wished she could just walk away from it all, but what would that accomplish? The Morgans were good people, and part of her desperately wanted that honest connection with them.
As Ruth said, sometimes life wasn’t easy, and compared to most people in the world Rachel had nothing to complain about. A burst of laugher in the hallway alerted her to the fact that more Morgans were approaching, and she braced herself for impact. After her small family of three, the size of the Morgan family was sometimes overwhelming.
“Rachel!” HW came over and clapped her on the shoulder. “Good to see you again. Are you staying for Christmas?”
“I already told you that three times, HW.” Sam, HW’s better half, rolled her eyes as she came up beside them. “You never listen to me, you big dope.”
HW side-hugged his girlfriend and winked at Rachel. “The thing is—ninety-nine percent of what Sam blathers on about I can take it or leave it. There’s just that tricky one percent when I should be paying attention.”
Rachel found herself grinning back at them both as Sam thumped HW, and allowed herself to relax a little more. She could do this. They all wanted her here. Now she just had to convince herself to believe it.
Want to read more of The Rancher? Click on the links below!
About Kate Pearce
New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Kate Pearce was born in England in the middle of a large family of girls and quickly found that her imagination was far more interesting than real life. After acquiring a degree in history and barely escaping from the British Civil Service alive, she moved to California and then to Hawaii with her kids and her husband and set about reinventing herself as a romance writer.
She writes for Kensington, Penguin Random House UK Rouge Romance, Carina and Cleis Press and is known for both her unconventional heroes and her joy at subverting romance cliches. In her spare time she self publishes science fiction erotic romance, historical romance and whatever else she can imagine.
You can find Kate at her website at http://www.katepearce.com, on Facebook as Kate Pearce, and on Twitter @Kate4queen.