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Caitlin's Cowboy
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Caitlin's Cowboy

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by Barbara McMahon

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Zack Carson figured the city girl who'd inherited the ranch he worked on was going to be trouble. That's why the loner was ready to leave the minute she turned up. But Caitlin Jackson wasn't what he'd expected.

Caitlin seemed to have it all together when she arrived. But why would an attractive divorcée give up her cushy condo and move to the middle of


Zack Carson figured the city girl who'd inherited the ranch he worked on was going to be trouble. That's why the loner was ready to leave the minute she turned up. But Caitlin Jackson wasn't what he'd expected.

Caitlin seemed to have it all together when she arrived. But why would an attractive divorcée give up her cushy condo and move to the middle of Nowhere, Wyoming? And then Zack learned that somewhere in her past she'd lived through an event as traumatic as the one he'd survived.

And as each day brought them closer, the cattleman started to doubt if he really was better off alone....

Product Details

Publication date:
Harlequin Super Romance Series , #1472
Product dimensions:
4.21(w) x 6.62(h) x 0.76(d)

Read an Excerpt

Caitlin Jackson turned onto the gravel drive, noting
the distance they'd traveled since leaving Wolf Crossing—almost eighty miles. If that was the closest place to shop, she was in a world of hurt. Maybe there were closer shopping centers that weren't on her map. She'd stocked up on essentials before leaving the town and hoped she didn't have to drive back in very often.
As she wound her way along the narrow drive, she felt relief at having finally reached the ranch. With their destination almost in sight, she began to relax and eagerly look around. Would she remember anything? The driveway curved along an embankment, then straightened out as the land sloped down slightly. Green grass grew as far as she could see, rippling in the breeze. In the distant horizon the purple silhouette of the Rockies rose against the blue sky, a couple of peaks tipped in snow.
The setting was beautiful. For a moment she wanted to stop the car and savor the view. It was entirely different from the San Francisco Bay Area, where space was at a premium and houses and buildings stood side by side crowded in on each other. Here there was nothing between her car and the Rockies but open range.
She glanced at her brother. Brandon leaned forward, his eyes scanning every inch of land. He'd never been here before.
Almost there, she signed.
He grinned and nodded. The lawyer in Wolf Crossing had been handling her great-uncle Clyde's estate until she and Brandon arrived. He'd given her detailed directions to the ranch. Caitlin had been nine the only time she'd visited, and much more interested in horses and cows than the route her mother had taken. She remembered thinking she was the luckiestgirl in the world that summer.
Looking back, she realized their visit had been right before her mother had become pregnant with Brandon, a little over sixteen years ago.
The graveled drive seemed to go on forever. Several minutes passed before she saw the roofs of ranch buildings. She'd pushed to complete the trip from San Francisco in the shortest time possible after she picked her brother up at the end of the school term and was tired, stiff and sick of driving. Only another few moments and they'd reach their final destination.
Her ranch. It still seemed surreal. Who would expect an army brat to inherit a ranch in Wyoming? Caitlin had never had an inkling she was her great-uncle's heir.
According to the attorney, Clyde had fifty-five hundred acres, more or less—now all belonging to her. Her family had been in Wyoming since the homestead days. Originally a large family who'd made a place for themselves on the open range, the Martins seemed to have fewer children with each generation, her mother, Tricia, being the only niece of Clyde Martin. She in turn had had two children—Caitlin and Brandon. They were the last of the family. She couldn't keep the place, of course.
Once Caitlin sold the property, she'd be able to better provide for herself and Brandon.
It seemed sad to relinquish property that had been in their family for more than one hundred years. Yet what choice did she have? She knew nothing about ranching and Brandon was only sixteen. They'd traveled the world with their father and now had settled in the San Francisco Bay Area. Wyoming was not home.
Tomorrow a real-estate agent was meeting them at the ranch at ten. Now she knew why their appointment wasn't earlier—it would take him that long to get here from Wolf Crossing.
Wire fences stretched along both sides of the drive. The one parallel on the right looked in need of repair. There were broken strands; some of the posts were leaning. She glanced around. To the left, in the distance, she spotted several head of cattle. Was that a man on a horse? She squinted to see better, but couldn't tell. According to the lawyer, there was one cowboy still on the ranch—Zack Carson. He had agreed to stay until the new owner arrived.
Caitlin hoped he'd stay a little longer—until they could sell the place.
In another minute they reached the old house and Caitlin pulled to a stop. The ranch house looked as if it had been built a century ago—two stories tall, weathered wood, sash windows. Beyond stood an old barn made of logs. It wasn't nearly as large as she'd remembered. Corrals surrounded the barn, six horizontal wooden rails affixed to upright poles. The fence looked sturdy at least. Two horses ambled over, watching them.
Brandon was out of the car, heading for the corral, before Caitlin could open her door.
"Be careful," she called, then shook her head. He couldn't hear her. And he wasn't looking in her direction so signing was out. She hoped the horses wouldn't bite.
Picking her way across the uneven ground, she wished she'd worn more suitable shoes. The high heels and tailored skirt and blouse had served her well for her meeting with the attorney, but were totally inappropriate for a ranch.
Brandon stroked first one horse, then another, his face beaming. Caitlin smiled at his delight. Since their father's death a year ago, financial concerns had been a constant in their lives. This gift from the blue was going to solve their problems, she hoped. In the meantime, it was good to see her brother behaving like a teenager again. She hated to have him worry about the future. He deserved a carefree childhood. Life was going to prove enough of a challenge to him when he went out on his own.
Want to see the house? she signed.
He shrugged. Sure. Then can we ride?
There was so much to do, riding came low on her list. But Brandon had been talking about the horses ever since they'd left California.
As she turned toward the house again, Caitlin's heart sank. The place needed major renovations. The clapboard siding had lost whatever paint had once adorned it; the weathered boards were warped in some spots. Was the inside as bad? What would it take to paint the entire place? It was huge, with a wraparound porch and gables jutting from the roof. Built when families needed lots of bedrooms. It looked as if her uncle Clyde had not been able to keep it up over the years.
Brandon caught up with her, studying the house.
It's bigger than I expected, he signed.
Older, too, she returned. It needs a lot of work to make it a showplace. I hope someone will want to buy the ranch without the house being perfect.
When she opened the door, Caitlin was assailed by a musty smell. The place must have been closed up since her great-uncle had died in March. Stepping inside, she looked around. She recognized the sofa. It was a little shabbier than before, but still looked comfortable and masculine with its dark brown nubby material. The living room was spacious, with windows on two walls. The front ones overlooked the porch and then the rolling hills to the west, with the rugged line of mountains in the far distance. The side window gave a view of the corral.
Dust coated everything. But the place was going to be home until they sold it, or until September when Brandon would return to the California School for the Deaf. She hoped the ranch sold before then.
Brandon had gone upstairs. Caitlin heard his footsteps on the wooden floors. For a moment she tried to feel some connection to the place. The Triple M ranch had been in her mother's family for generations. Should-n't she have some sense of belonging? But there was nothing.
She turned to check out the rest of the house. There was no point in trying to rake up sentiment for the homestead. She wasn't a rancher.
Despite her practical outlook, she tried to imagine what it would be like to live in a place steeped in family history. To trace the steps of grandparents and great grandparents. Not that she'd known any of them except her great-uncle Clyde. And that had only been for one summer. Her mother had died a few years later and her father hadn't kept in touch.
The dining room held a large rectangular table with ten chairs. For a moment Caitlin remembered some of the stories Uncle Clyde had told her and could picture a bunch of noisy children—and the chaos at mealtime. Where had they gone to school? Had any stayed to work the property? How sad that a large family had dwindled to only two members.
Caitlin continued to the kitchen. It was large and well equipped with no dust evident. While the appliances were old, they looked serviceable. She gazed out the window. No neighbors near enough to see. She felt alone at the end of the world.
Shrugging away the thought, she completed her tour and found a pantry—stocked with canned goods and packaged goods and containing a large freezer against the far wall. Peeking inside, she saw it was equally full. Living so far from town, her uncle had probably shopped for months at a time to keep trips to a minimum.
She heard Brandon clattering down the stairs and went back through the dining room.
Five bedrooms, one bath on the second floor. Two more bedrooms and a big junk room in the attic, he signed. I want the bedroom at the front.
All furnished? she asked.
He nodded. What's here?
Check it out, I'm going upstairs. Then we need to bring in the groceries and our things.
There was food for dinner, a place to sleep. Tomorrow the Realtor was coming. What more could she want? Caitlin headed up the stairs, anxious to see the rest of the house. Surely someone would want the ranch even if the house was old. Couldn't a developer tear down this place and build dozens of new homes?
But why would people want to move out here? she asked herself as she peered into the different bedrooms. There was no industry, no recreational spots, no town nearby. Who would want an eighty-mile commute? And she didn't think Wolf Crossing had so much going for it either.
This part of the country was so different from the San Francisco Bay Area where she'd lived for the past six years. And unlike any of the army bases she'd grown up on.
But at least here, no one knew about her past. She wouldn't be subject to whispers and covert glances. Wouldn't be hurt over and over by people she had once thought of as friends.
For as long as it took to sell the ranch, she was content to have a place to stay.
ZACK RODE ALONG the perimeter fence. He'd seen the car turn in to the driveway and knew it had to be the new owner. Harry Benson had said she'd be arriving today. He'd known his time on the ranch was growing short.
Damn Clyde for dying. They'd had the perfect setup. It had been two years and counting since he'd arrived at the Triple M. The longest he'd stayed in one spot since he'd gotten out of the service. But nothing lasted forever. Time for him to be moving on. It wouldn't take long to pack. He'd update the owner and be ready to head out in the morning.
Keeping one eye on the fence, he took stock of the cattle. Looking good. The grass was thick. There had been a large number of calves this year. Summer feeding would make them prime for sale in the fall.
Zack turned at the double fence, the one that separated the hay field from the grazing land. The crop was ready to harvest. More men were needed, but that wasn't his worry anymore. The level ground would make the cutting easy despite Clyde's antiquated mower. The man should have bought a new one years ago, but his old one worked—most of the time. No sense wasting money, Clyde had often said.
Zack missed the old man. Each summer Clyde had hired four ranch hands. He'd always respected the men who worked with him. He had shared meals with his crew, spent time after dinner working on tack with them or whittling away on the steps of the bunkhouse. Winters he reduced the staff to two cowboys. Zack considered himself lucky to have been one of them the last couple of years.
Now he was the only one left. And soon even he'd be gone.
He'd learned so much from Clyde. Enough to get a good job at another ranch. He'd come a long way for a boy who grew up in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn. Who would expect a kid raised dodging bullets from rival gangs to end up punching cows?
Jeez, he missed that old man.

Meet the Author

Barbara McMahon grew up in northern Virginia, moving to California to attend the University of California at Berkeley. Upon graduation, she remained in California, making the San Francisco Bay Area her home base while she worked as a flight attendant for an international airline. What fun that job proved—flying to different cities all over the world. On most trips, McMahon had layovers lasting a day or two—enough time to see some of the local sights—and shops—and then it was on to the next country! She kept a journal while flying and today delights in being able to use some of the descriptions she jotted down to add authenticity to settings for some of her books.

When McMahon's flying days ended, she began to work in the computer industry, rising to a vice presidency in a software development firm. In her "spare time," she decided to give in to a long cherished desire to try her hand at writing. One of the first things she discovered was that writing was one thing, but getting a book written is difficult to do when things like real-life interfere. But finally she finished a book, submitted it to a publisher, and Harlequin Mills & Boon bought it!

Come into the Sun (1983) was the first of over three dozen books sold to Harlequin Mills & Boon and Silhouette.

After that first sale, a new dream arose—to write for a living and leave the hectic pace of the San Francisco Bay Area behind. Once her younger daughter graduated from high school, she did just that—quitting her "day job" to move to the Sierra Nevada mountains of California. "It's been wonderful!" reports McMahon. "I love every minute oflivinghere!"

To date, over five-and-a-half-million copies of her books have sold in thirty-five different countries in nineteen different languages. McMahon's books routinely appear on the Waldenbooks bestseller list, the Ingram's Top 50 Requested Romances bestselling lists. Bride of a Thousand Days made the USA Today bestseller list.

With her recent nomination for a Romance Writers of America RITA Award, her books have either won or been a finalist in every major award in the romance industry.

What's special about McMahon's books, besides her ability to put the reader in another world full of the adventure she's sampled, can be summed up in one word: characters. They arrive on the page with fully developed pasts. Often her heroes have experienced betrayal that has hardened them. Lesser women would give up and move on, but, like the author herself, McMahon's heroines are empathetic and optimistic. They see the good in these honorable men and patiently nurture them to become equal partners in a relationship. Sometimes it's the heroine who has a past to overcome. But always, she's self-directed—a dynamic woman who knows what she wants and sets out to get it.

For books with international settings, McMahon refers to her flight attendant's journal, but the American West is her favorite locale. She's as much at home on the back of a horse as she is behind an autograph table. She has participated in week-long horse drives, similar to the cattle drives in City Slickers, attends local rodeos, the Grand National Rodeo in San Francisco, and county fairs.

Dedicated to a strict work regimen to meet deadlines, she still finds time to pursue her hobby of working on her family history, to serve on the board of directors of the local woman's networking group, and read voraciously. In memory of her mother who died from the disease, she actively supports breast cancer research.

McMahon is a member of Romance Writers of America, Novelists, Inc. and the NSDAR, which has nothing to do with writing, but does tie in with her love for genealogy!

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Caitlin's Cowboy 1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
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