AK-Cowboy [NOOK Book]

Overview


Tyler Ledger was as unsure of Julie Gillespie's motives for being at his family's Texas ranch as he was of the reception he'd receive when he came face-to-face with his estranged father. Still, he agreed to help the enticing reporter solve a murder if she agreed to stay out of trouble. Julie was on a mission, and she wasn't going to be sidetracked by romantic entanglements—even if Tyler was proving more irresistible by the minute. But with his leave of absence over soon, the soldier's time in Texas was coming to...
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AK-Cowboy

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Overview


Tyler Ledger was as unsure of Julie Gillespie's motives for being at his family's Texas ranch as he was of the reception he'd receive when he came face-to-face with his estranged father. Still, he agreed to help the enticing reporter solve a murder if she agreed to stay out of trouble. Julie was on a mission, and she wasn't going to be sidetracked by romantic entanglements—even if Tyler was proving more irresistible by the minute. But with his leave of absence over soon, the soldier's time in Texas was coming to an end…and Julie's would, too, if they didn't find the killer before she became the next target….
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781426888335
  • Publisher: Harlequin
  • Publication date: 3/1/2011
  • Series: Sons of Troy Ledger Series , #1264
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 241,577
  • File size: 502 KB

Meet the Author


Joanna began her professional writing career in 1994. Now, almost forty published books later, Joanna has made a name for herself as being on the cutting edge of romantic suspense. She currently resides in a small community forty miles north of Houston, Texas. Joanna loves hearing from readers.
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Read an Excerpt


Julie Gillespie checked her rearview mirror. There was no sign of the black car that she'd feared might be following her when she'd pulled onto this two-lane blacktop road a few miles back. The driver of the other car must have turned off on one of the dirt roads. Probably just a rancher rushing home to his cattle. Paranoia was a bitch.

But New Orleans was behind her now and she was off and running on a new case, icy cold, but one that she was dead set on solving.

This was Julie's first trip back to the Texas Hill Country in many years and she was already enchanted with the scenery. She knew about Lady Bird Johnson's wildflower legacy, but she'd never imagined the roadside blooms would be so abundant.

There was only a scattering of orange, red and yellow in the late March mix. The Indian blankets, goldenrods, buttercups and countless others would come later, but the bluebonnets were profuse.

She rounded a curve and a sea of brilliant blue stretched out as far as she could see. The wind tousled the blossoms so that they looked like gently swaying ocean waves. A few heads of cattle grazed in the distance, adding a Texas perfection to the vista.

Julie lowered her window and breathed in the smell of clean air, flowery perfume and the scent of recent rain. Apparently she'd just missed a downpour that had left the road wet and the ditches filled with water. A bank of low clouds still hovered at the horizon, but there were patches of blue directly overhead.

She turned her attention back to the road as she topped a hill. Good move since an oncoming pickup truck had drifted across the yellow line and was crowding her lane.

She swerved to miss it and skidded onto the shoulder. Adrenaline fired through her as she fought the wheel and tried to pull her white Ford Fusion back onto the blacktop.

To no avail. She careened through a shallow ditch and slammed into a barbwire fence post as the guy who'd unwittingly caused the accident sped out of sight. What a jerk.

The wooden post toppled and the strands of knotted wire drooped almost to the ground. She groaned. Now she'd have fence repairs to pay for out of her meager savings.

Jerking the gear into Reverse, she gunned the engine. The back tires spun like crazy, throwing globs of mud behind her. The car refused to move. Could this get any worse?

She opened the door and stamped her way to the rear of the car for a close-up assessment of her situation as mud smeared her sandals and splattered her bare legs. No visible damage so far to the car, but she was clearly stuck.

She could call a tow truck or wait and see if some passing rancher in a heavy pickup would stop and pull her out of the mire. The second option would be a lot cheaper.

Waiting wouldn't hurt—unless she was being followed. That seemed more unlikely by the minute. Any tail worth his salt would have caught up with her by now.

Still, once she'd checked the front of the car and discovered only a dented bumper, she climbed back inside and locked her doors. And just in case someone who looked suspicious stopped before the helpful rancher she needed, she got her cell phone ready to punch in 9-1-1.

When not one car had passed her in five minutes, Julie climbed out of the car, opened the trunk and retrieved her camera. If she was going to be stranded in what looked like paradise, she might as well capture the beauty.

Too bad she hadn't worn jeans for traveling instead of her best white shorts and a bright blue scoop-necked T-shirt. Careful not to get scratched, she maneuvered her body over the barbwire, landing in the bluebonnet-covered pasture.

Adjusting her lens and aiming her camera, she began snapping photo after photo as she wandered the quiet pasture. Things were going swimmingly—until the horns of a ferocious-looking bull appeared in her viewfinder.

Her pulse skyrocketed. Her hands shook. She left the camera to swing on the cord around her neck as she raced back to the downed fence. She didn't stop for breath until she was safely on the other side. Only there was nothing safe about it.

The bull was still heading in her direction, albeit slowly, and she doubted the downed fence would present any more challenge for him than it had for her. Kicking out of her sandals, she climbed onto the hood of the car and shouted warnings to the bull.

But the bull wasn't coming to the fight alone. He was followed by reinforcements, none of which seemed fazed by her threats of what she'd do if they didn't back off. Forced to pursue drastic measures, she yanked off her belt and started popping it like a whip at the approaching cattle.

She looked around for help. Not even a tractor in sight. She was on her own. And she'd thought looking for a killer might be dangerous.

Smooth, but damp surface. Enough curves to keep it interesting. And no land mines or snipers waiting to sabotage him around the next turn. Roads in the Texas Hill Country were definitely a welcome change from the mountainous, Taliban-infested area of Afghanistan that Tyler Ledger had left three days ago.

That didn't, however, eliminate the chance that he was about to encounter a fiery explosion just miles ahead.

Tyler was on the verge of crashing head-on with his volatile past.

He had been only eight years old when the bottom had fallen out of his innocent world. It had started as a normal school day. It had ended in a tragedy beyond comprehension.

His mother was dead, shot three times and left in a pool of blood on the floor next to the rough stone hearth where he'd placed his boots to dry the night before.

That was just over eighteen years ago. The images from that day were seared into his brain. Beyond that, his boyhood on the ranch was pretty much a blur. Even the memories of his mother were mostly from stories his grandmother had told him before she'd died and from things his brothers had said when they'd gotten together over the years.

He'd been raised by one of his mother's aunts, a stern woman with a brow puckered from a lifetime of scowls. Aunt Sibley had lost her husband and her only daughter in a boating accident years before she took him in and the grief had turned her insides to sour mush.

She did her best with Tyler, though she never let him forget the sacrifice she was making to feed and clothe him. Her main priority seemed to be her constant reminders that if he didn't expect too much from life, he wouldn't be disappointed. The logic of that philosophy had resonated with him even though his aunt's unyielding, humorless ways hadn't.

Which was one reason why he wasn't counting on much to come from this trip to Mustang Run and the Willow Creek Ranch. The other thing his aunt had preached to him was that his father was a heartless beast who'd killed his wife and the mother of his five sons. And this was the father Tyler was on his way to see for the first time since Troy Ledger had been sentenced to life in prison.

Now Troy was out on a technicality and still insisting he was innocent. Maybe he was. Maybe he wasn't. If he was guilty, he could rot in hell for all Tyler cared.

But two of Tyler's brothers were now totally convinced their father was not only innocent, but a man of honor.

Sure he was. So honorable he'd forgotten he had sons until he needed them again.

Tyler wasn't looking for a father eighteen years after the fact, he just wanted to get a handle on where he'd come from. Examine his roots. Walk the ranch where he'd spent the first eight years of his life.

Reconnecting with his brothers Sean and Dylan would be an added bonus, but he wasn't even sure that would turn out well. He had his life figured out. Work hard. Play hard. Fight hard. And don't trust anyone enough to let them get close to you.

Those simple rules had served him well.

Which is why he should have gone to Vegas or to spring break with a bunch of college coeds in wet T-shirts instead of to the Texas Hill Country. He really needed this vacation.

War was hell. He'd been fighting hard. Now he needed to play with that same fervor.

But he was here. He might as well try to enjoy the scenery and the…

Entertainment!

Tyler burst into laughter in spite of his mood and slowed to enjoy the view as he pulled onto the shoulder. He came to a stop a few feet from a ditched car with the hottest, whip-cracking hood ornament he'd ever seen.

Now he was talking vacation.

Julie watched the black car pull to a stop on the shoulder a few yards behind her. Paranoia surged again. The car could be the same one that she'd thought was following her earlier. Even the front grill looked familiar.

She looked back at the bulls. One was nudging the fence. Two others had stuck their heads over the top of the downed wire to taste some tall weedy stems. Probably building energy for their attack.

The car door opened and a man stepped out and onto a high, dry spot with no mud to smudge his spotless boots. He looked muscled, rock hard—and gorgeous. He also looked too much the cowboy to be one of the New Orleans thugs that she'd feared might still be looking for her.

Julie stared warily as he approached.

The cowboy tipped his hat and grinned, a kind of half smile that would have made her fall into immediate lust under ordinary conditions.

"Most people use the gate," he teased.

"Now why didn't I think of that?" After a quick look back at the dangerous livestock, she stared him down. "Are you following me?"

"No, but I would have if I'd known it was showtime."

He was clearly fighting to keep from laughing.

"There's nothing funny about my situation. If you were any kind of gentleman at all, you'd be running off the bulls instead of standing there making wisecracks."

"Bulls?"

"Yes, bulls." She pointed at the animals to make her point. "Can't you see those horns?"

His smile took over his face. "They're Texas long-horns. Two of them are steers. One's a heifer. No bulls in sight."

"Bulls, steers, what's the difference?"

"Don't let the steers hear you say that." He walked over and herded the animals away from the fence. Then, picking up the downed post, he righted it and twisted it back into the hole it had been knocked out of. The muscles in his arms flexed impressively as he worked.

"That should keep the wild beasts at bay. Name's Tyler," the cowboy said, extending a hand to help her off the hood of the car.

"I'm Julie," she said, glancing over her shoulder to check out the horned cattle. "How do you know the fence will hold?"

"I figure if it doesn't, I can always get you to crack your whip a few times and protect us."

The blush climbed to her cheek. She ignored his hand and slid off the front fender of the car on her own.

He walked around to study the back wheels and the hole she'd dug herself into while revving the engine.

She joined him, all too aware of the mud that was drying in mottled streaks from her knees to her toes. "I'll need to call a tow truck."

"Why bother? I suspect every rancher around here has a truck heavy enough to pull you from the ditch."

"Does that include you?"

"No. All I have is the rented car you see. I'm on vacation."

"Oh, so you're only a fake cowboy."

"You could say that. Where are you heading?"

"To Willow Creek Ranch."

"Really?"

"Yes. I'm going to see Troy Ledger," she admitted. "Have you ever heard of him?"

"Isn't he the man who went to prison for murdering his wife?"

"That's the one."

"In that case, why don't I give you a lift there and you can get him to pull your car from the ditch?"

"I'm not sure he'll be willing to help me, but I would appreciate the lift."

"Why wouldn't he help you?"

"We've never met, and he didn't invite me."

"Then by all means, I should give you a lift. I wouldn't want to miss the surprise party."

"Okay, but first I need to get my things from the car. I have material in there that I wouldn't want to fall into the wrong hands."

"Sounds intriguing."

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 8 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 14, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    AK-Cowboy

    Tyler Ledger is home on leave from Afghanistan, but he's not about to find peace and quiet in the Texas Hill Country. Not only does he have to confront the estranged father who was imprisoned for the murder of his mother, he also has to deal with Julie Gillespie, a reporter out for more than a story.
    In this, the third book in the Sons of Troy Ledger series, Joanna Wayne mixes love, hidden identity, and murder in a first-rate romantic suspense novel. The reader will enjoy the way the Ledger family is coming back together, not to mention the way each son finds and courts his one true love.
    Joanna Wayne has woven together an enticing group of stories in this delightful series and the latest installment, AK-Cowboy, may be the best of the bunch. I can't wait to find out who really killed Helene Ledger.

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