Montana Legacy

( 30 )

Overview

They're the McCords...three rugged, sexy cowboy cousins who'll inherit the family range--if they seek the treasure hidden on it. But even more precious are the women who can tame their wild hearts...

She was the one person who shook Jesse McCord's quiet determination. She was the only one he ever let in, body and soul. Then suddenly Amy Parrish was gone and the oldest McCord cousin devoted his life to the family ranch. Now Amy is back, offering help to Jesse find the McCord ...

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Montana Legacy

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Overview

They're the McCords...three rugged, sexy cowboy cousins who'll inherit the family range--if they seek the treasure hidden on it. But even more precious are the women who can tame their wild hearts...

She was the one person who shook Jesse McCord's quiet determination. She was the only one he ever let in, body and soul. Then suddenly Amy Parrish was gone and the oldest McCord cousin devoted his life to the family ranch. Now Amy is back, offering help to Jesse find the McCord gold. Yet Jesse's not about to give her a second chance, and he hopes his pride will protect him from her irresistible charms. But under the wide prairie skies a dangerous, unseen enemy is fast closing in, threatening Amy and Jesse's very lives and the promise of their ...

MONTANA LEGACY

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Editorial Reviews

Rendezvous on The Highlander
"...Powerful story...Exquisitely done."
Romantic Times on Highland Heaven
"...a tapestry of beauty filled with the colors of love. A must read..."
Romantic Times on Ruby
"...a delightful addition to a memorable series. Catch this before it flies off the shelves..."
Library Journal
The death of their grandfather brings the three estranged McCord cousins back together at the sprawling Lost Nugget ranch. If they each want to inherit a third of the vast land holdings, they must continue the search for the lost gold that had obsessed their eccentric grandfather for years. Surprisingly, they agree, setting the stage for some hilarious banter and lively male bonding. But Jesse, who runs the ranch, has more serious things on his mind. Amy Parrish, the daughter of his grandfather's bitterest enemy and the love of his teenage years, has returned, too, and as their old feelings flare, danger threatens Amy—or is it Jesse whom the bad guy is after? VERDICT Heart-melting sensuality and rowdy but loving family interactions warm the pages of this engaging story that skillfully refreshes a classic trilogy pattern and sets the stage for the stories to come. Also writing as Ruth Ryan Langan, the author lives in the Detroit area.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780446548618
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
  • Publication date: 3/1/2010
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Edition description: Original
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 445,681
  • Product dimensions: 4.28 (w) x 6.80 (h) x 0.82 (d)

Meet the Author

New York Times bestselling author R.C. Ryan has written more than ninety fiction novels, both contemporary and historical. Quite an accomplishment for someone who, after her fifth child started school, gave herself the gift of an hour a day to follow her dream to become a writer.

In a career spanning more than twenty years, Ms. Ryan has given dozens of radio, television, and print interviews across the country and Canada, and has been quoted in such diverse publications as the Wall Street Journal and Cosmopolitan. She has also appeared on CNN News, as well as Good Morning America.

R.C. Ryan is a pseudonym of New York Times bestselling author Ruth Ryan Langan.

You can learn more about R. C. Ryan and her alter ego Ruth Ryan Langan at:
RyanLangan.com
Twitter, @RuthRyanLangan
Facebook.com

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First Chapter

Montana Legacy


By Ryan, R.C.

Forever

Copyright © 2010 Ryan, R.C.
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780446548618

PROLOGUE

Montana—1988

Last one to circle Treasure Chest Butte is a dirty, rotten skunk.” Ten-year-old Jesse McCord urged his horse into a gallop, leaving his cousins, nine-year-old Wyatt and seven-year-old Zane, in his dust.

The three cousins lived with their parents and grandparents in a sprawling, three-story house on their grandfather’s ranch, Lost Nugget, which covered thousands of acres of rangeland in Montana. Because of the vast size of their families’ holdings and the distance to the nearest town of Gold Fever, the three were homeschooled and spent much of their spare time exploring the hills and rich grassland that formed the perfect backdrop for the thousands of head of cattle that were raised here.

The three were alike in coloring, with dark, curly hair, now slick with sweat, and their grandfather’s laughing blue eyes. In town they were often mistaken for brothers, which pleased them enormously. They were, in fact, closer than brothers. Not just blood-related, but best friends. Since birth, they’d done everything together.

“Hey, wait for me.” As always, Zane, the youngest, had to scramble to catch up.

By the time he and Wyatt slid from their mounts, Jesse was kneeling beside a fallen log, fishing something from the dirt.

“What’d you find, Jesse?” Wyatt looped the reins of his horse around a nearby sapling and crept closer to drop down beside his cousin. Zane mimicked his older cousin’s actions.

High above them, the peaks of Treasure Chest Mountain glistened gold in the late summer sunlight.

Jesse held up a dull bronze-veined stone the size of his fist. “Looks like a nugget.”

“Gold?” The two boys watched with rapt attention as Jesse turned it this way and that, grinning each time it caught and reflected the sun.

“Could be. Or it could be fool’s gold.” He rubbed it on his sleeve, hoping to clean away some of the dirt. “Coot’s got a shelfful of fool’s gold.”

“Is it heavy enough to be real gold?” Wyatt held out his hand and Jesse dropped the stone into his palm. After testing it, he grinned. “I don’t know what real gold ought to feel like.”

Jesse shrugged. “Me neither.”

“Let me see.” Zane closed his hand around the nugget and felt the heat of the sun-warmed earth radiating from it. He looked up. “You think it’s part of the lost treasure Grandpa Coot’s been searching for his whole life?”

The three cousins exchanged eager glances.

Everyone in the McCord family knew the story of their ancestor Jasper McCord, and the sack of gold nuggets he and his son Nathaniel had found at Grasshopper Creek in 1862, which was later stolen by another prospector, Grizzly Markham. Though Markham was found dead scant weeks later, the sack of nuggets was never found, and rumor had it that he’d buried the treasure somewhere nearby after slitting Jasper’s throat. That was how Treasure Chest Mountain, the town of Gold Fever, and even the McCord ranch, Lost Nugget, came by their names. Now, following the lead of three generations before them, the McCord family continued the search, much to the scorn of folks around these parts, who believed that the gold carried a curse. Hadn’t it consumed the lives of every McCord male?

Jesse broke off a low-hanging tree limb and began pushing it into the dirt. When it was firmly planted he took out a handkerchief and tied it to the top.

Wyatt eyed it. “What’s that for?”

“We need to mark the spot so Grandpa Coot knows where to dig if this turns out to be real gold.” Jesse pocketed the nugget, then, enjoying the drama of the moment, looked around to make certain no one was nearby. He felt a tingling at the base of his skull. What if it turned out to be part of the lost treasure?

This was, he realized, why his grandfather continued the search, despite all odds.

His voice lowered to a whisper. “We have to keep this a secret. We can’t tell a soul except Grandpa Coot. We have to swear an oath.”

The two younger boys nodded solemnly, looking to Jesse to show them how.

Jesse spit in his hand, and the other two followed suit. then the three rubbed hands, mingling their saliva, while Jesse said, “I swear to God I’ll tell nobody except Coot about this gold.” He looked properly stern. “Now you have to swear it.”

“I swear,” Wyatt said.

Zane swallowed, feeling the weight of this momentous occasion weighing heavily on his young shoulders before saying, “I swear.”

Jesse pulled himself into the saddle and waited for the other two to mount.

As they started toward the distant ranch house he turned in the saddle. “Remember. Since we all swore, if anybody breaks the vow, something really bad will happen to them.”

“Like what?” Zane brought his horse even with Jesse’s in order to hear every word.

“I don’t know.” Jesse shrugged, thinking about all the adventure novels he’d read as part of his homework assignments. “Maybe anybody who breaks the vow will be banished from Lost Nugget ranch forever. Or they’ll die or something.”

The three boys slowed their mounts and looked properly worried. Not about death, which seemed too improbable for their young minds to conceive. But being banished from the ranch was the worst possible punishment they could ever imagine.

Each boy knew he would take his secret to the grave before he’d risk the loss of this place he loved more than anything in the whole world.

CHAPTER ONE

Montana—Present Day

Damned north pasture’s a sea of mud.” In the doorway of the barn, Jesse McCord shook rain from his dark hair like a great shaggy dog and shoved past wrangler Rafe Spindler, who happened to step out of a stall in front of him, nearly causing a collision.

With a rough shove he growled, “Get the hell out of my way.”

Rafe jumped back before huffing out a laugh at Jesse’s mud-spattered jeans and boots and faded denim jacket with a torn pocket. “Looks like you’ve been wallowing in it.”

“Up to my knees. And it’s still rising.” Jesse’s usually infectious smile was gone, replaced by a flinty look that most of the wranglers mistook for impatience. Those closest to him recognized that look as one of pain.

Tall, lean, and muscled from his years of ranch chores, Jesse was, like all the McCords, a handsome devil, with a hint of danger about him that men found daunting and women found irresistible. From the bloodshot eyes it was apparent that he’d been up most of the night.

Jesse turned toward the white-haired man bending over a calf in a stall. “Cal, I’m going to need a crew to get on it right away.”

“I’ll see to it.” Cal Randall, lanky foreman of the Lost Nugget ranch for more than forty years, didn’t bother to look up as he continued examining the calf. “I’ll see who’s left in the bunkhouse before I head on up to the main house.”

When Jesse strode away, Rafe ambled over to lean his arms on the wooden rail. “I know we’re burying the old man today, but that doesn’t give Jesse the right to tear my head off. Like it’s my fault it’s raining on the day we’re going to bury Coot. Damn Jesse. He’s just like the old man. Ornery as hell. Hated days like this. Only good for ducks and funerals, Coot used to say.”

Grumbling among the cowboys was as natural as breathing. Especially for Rafe Spindler, who grew up not far from here and signed on as a ranchhand after the deaths of his parents while still in his teens. Like so many of the unmarried ranch hands, Rafe was a hardworking, hard-drinking cowboy whose only pleasure was a game of cards and an occasional fling with the local women. Though something of a hothead, Rafe could be counted on to do his share of the toughest, dirtiest ranch chores.

Rafe lowered his voice. “Jesse’s been working up a head of steam ever since Miss Cora told him his cousins are coming in for Coot’s funeral.”

Cal straightened. The ranch might consist of hundreds of wranglers spread out over thousands of acres, but gossip had a way of spreading faster than fire through a bale of hay.

Cal nodded toward the calf. “Keep an eye on him, Rafe. Any change, you can reach me up at the house.”

Cal’s movements were slow and deliberate as he trudged through puddles. His only concession to the downpour was the wide-brimmed hat pulled low on his head. Autumn had brought more rain than usual to this part of Montana.

After a stop at the bunkhouse, Cal crossed the distance to the sprawling house on the hill. His thoughts were focused on Jesse McCord. He understood the young man’s anger and misery. As the only grandson to stay in Montana and share the old man’s dream, Jesse was feeling the death of his grandfather, eighty-year-old Coot McCord, more keenly than anyone.

Gabriel McCord had earned a reputation early on as a fool and a dreamer. When he’d begun buying up huge tracts of land around his ranch, folks in the area said he was, like his ancestors, just a crazy old coot, and the nickname stuck. Even his sister, Cora, ten years younger, who some said was just as crazy, had eventually taken to calling him Coot. The old man embraced the name and wore it like a badge of honor.

By the time he died, Coot had bought up over two hundred thousand acres of surrounding land, and he had planned on going over every inch of it with a fine-tooth comb searching for his ancestor’s lost fortune. Folks figured if that didn’t make a man crazy, nothing did.

Cal didn’t share the opinion of the others. There’d been nothing crazy about Coot. Driven, maybe. Determined, definitely. But he was the truest friend a man could want. The old man might not have found his treasure, but it wasn’t for lack of trying.

As for Cora, she may have been a bit eccentric, wearing her brother’s cast-off clothing while she wandered the countryside alone for weeks at a time, creating paintings of the lush landscapes, which sold for ridiculously huge sums of money in the international art world. But that only added to her charm. She was a true artist. She didn’t paint for the money. She painted because she was driven. It was as necessary to her as breathing.

That was another thing she’d shared with her brother. That determination ran like steel girders through all the McCords. That’s what made them all so ornery.

Cal stepped into the mudroom, cleaning his boots on a scraper before hanging his hat on a peg. He carefully washed his hands at the big basin before walking into the kitchen where Dandy Davis was flipping hotcakes. As always, Dandy wore a crisp white apron tied over clean denims and a spotless plaid shirt with the sleeves rolled to the elbows.

The wranglers had a bet going that Dandy probably owned more than two dozen shirts in the same plaid, and an equal number of pairs of denim pants and shiny black boots.

Dandy had come to the Lost Nugget looking for work as a wrangler. Instead he’d been pressed into service in the kitchen, and agreed to cook until a replacement could be found. Twenty years later he was still cooking.

He kept his kitchen spotless, spending hours each day polishing everything from pots and pans to countertops. Any cowboy who forgot to scrape his boots or wash his hands before entering Dandy’s kitchen did so at the risk of life and limb. His demands were tolerated because he was, quite simply, the best cook in all of Montana. His chili, spicy enough to bring tears to the eyes of old-time cowboys, was his most requested meal on the range. But running a close second was his slow-cooked pot roast, tender enough to fall off the bone, served with chunks of potatoes, carrots, and winter squash. When Dandy was baking bread, the crew found excuses to go up to the house, knowing he was always good for a handout of hot, crusty heels of bread slathered with the honey butter he made from his own secret recipe.

Dandy turned from the stove. “Morning, Cal. Just coffee, or do you have time for pancakes?”

“I’ll make time.” Cal smiled at the woman in the denim shirt and oversized bib-overalls. Gray hair curled softly around a face too pretty to be improved by makeup. Whenever her hair needed cutting, she simply snipped a curl here and there, and fluffed it with her fingers. She had been, for all her seventy years, completely without artifice. “Morning, Cora.”

“Cal.” She looked up from the newspaper. “They wrote a nice piece about Coot.”

He nodded. “I saw it.” He waited until Dandy set a steaming cup in front of him. “Rafe tells me the boys are coming in.”

“They are.” Cora nodded absently and finished the obituary before setting the paper aside. “Isn’t that nice?”

“Yeah.” He glanced at the empty chair across the table. “How’d Jess take the news?”

She shrugged. “He’s angry, Cal. He said his cousins should have been here all along, instead of waiting until it’s too late. I’ve told him it would please his grandfather to have all his grandsons together, but right now, the only thing Jess knows is that he’s lost his best friend, and he doesn’t want to share the good-byes with anyone else.” She stared down into her coffee. “I know how he feels. I hate the idea of saying good-bye. It makes it all so final. I can’t imagine this place without my brother.” She sighed. “But I’m glad Wyatt and Zane are coming in for the funeral. It’ll be the first time we’ve all been together since their fathers left years ago.”

Cal accepted a plate from Dandy and began pouring syrup over the mound of lighter-than-air flapjacks.

When the back door slammed he looked over to see Jesse McCord hanging his hat on a hook before crossing to the table.

“Morning, Jess.”

“Aunt Cora. Sorry I dashed out so early, but I got word that the rain washed out a culvert under the road leading to the north pasture.”

“I’ve got some men on it.” Cal sipped his coffee. “Cora tells me that Wyatt and Zane are coming.”

“Yeah.” Something flickered in the younger man’s eyes before he looked away. “Just coffee, Dandy. I’m not hungry this morning.”

The cook filled a mug and set it in front of him before returning to the stove.

Cal glanced at Cora. “What time’s the service?”

“Noon.” She sighed. “Coot told me years ago how he wanted to go out. He always said he’d feel like a hypocrite being buried from a church. It was nice of Reverend Carson to agree to drive out here and say some words. It’ll add a nice touch, don’t you think, Jess?”

He shrugged. “I doubt Coot cares one way or the other. Just so he’s laid to rest on the land he loved.”

Cora nodded. “He did love this land, didn’t he?” She closed a hand over her great-nephew’s. “It gave him such pleasure to know that you loved it, too, Jess.”

He felt his throat closing up and, afraid of embarrassing himself, shoved away from the table. “Think I’ll drive up to the pasture and give a hand with that culvert.”

“But Jess…” As he stalked out of the room Cora turned to the ranch foreman. “Maybe you should go after him, Cal, and tell him you don’t need his help.”

Cal gave a slight shake of his head. “He needs to be busy. Work’s good for the soul, especially when it’s troubled.”

“You’ll see that he’s back in time for…” She fisted her hands in her lap, unable to say the words.

Cal pushed aside his half-eaten breakfast. Funny how quickly an appetite could flee. As he started away from the table he paused to drop a hand on her shoulder and squeeze. “Don’t you worry. I’ll make sure of it, Cora.”

And he would. Even if he had to hog-tie the young hothead and haul his hide home like a sackful of spitting cats.

There was nothing Cal Randall wouldn’t do for Cora.

The Harley roared along the open road. Water sprayed up like geysers as the wheels glanced over ruts. As it came up over a hill it slowed, then came to a stop.

Wyatt McCord whipped off his helmet and stood a moment, listening to the incredible silence. Gradually the sounds of the countryside began to seep into his consciousness. The trill of a meadowlark. The distant lowing of cattle. The whisper of the wind through the ponderosa pines.

It was as though the years rolled away. It was all here, just as he’d pictured it in his mind for the past fifteen years. It was, he realized with startling clarity, the only place he’d ever called home. When his parents had taken their leave of the Lost Nugget, he’d grieved the only way a sixteen-year-old could. By breaking all the rules. Dropping out of school. Getting into as much trouble as he could.

It had taken him years to put his life in order. Long after his parents had given up on him, he’d returned to school to earn his degree. But he’d never been able to put down roots. Instead he searched the world over for a place that would call to him. He’d meditated in Tibet and climbed Mount Everest. He’d traveled to India, just to experience the culture. He’d worked on a luxury yacht in the South Pacific, and had even wrangled sheep in Australia. Through it all, he’d made enough money to live comfortably. Not that he needed much. He’d learned to travel light. Maybe his mother had been right, all those years ago, when she’d teasingly suggested that he’d been dropped on their doorstep by a Gypsy.

He had the look of a Gypsy about him. Thick shaggy hair the color of coal spilling down the collar of his faded leather jacket to brush his shoulders. A dark stubble covering his chin and cheeks, giving testimony to the fact that he’d been on the road for more than a dozen hours. There was a world-weariness about him, especially in the set of his jaw and the challenge in those piercing blue eyes.

He pulled on his helmet and climbed back onto his Harley before roaring off in a mist of rain.

He’d told himself he was coming home to bury his grandfather, but it occurred to Wyatt McCord that he’d actually come home to bury his childhood regrets.

Cal stepped out of the barn just as the motorcycle roared to a stop. He hurried over, his weathered face lit with a smile. “Welcome home, Wyatt. It’s been a while.”

“Yeah.” Wyatt set his helmet aside and offered a handshake. “How you been, Cal?”

“I’ve been better. Your grandfather’s death hit us all hard.”

“Was he sick?”

“Nope.” The older man’s eyes watered for a moment before he blinked. “He was climbing around some rock cliffs like always, and took a nasty fall. As soon as he called in his location from his cell phone, I phoned Marilee Trainor and then raced out there with some of the wranglers. Before the medevac could fly in, he was gone.”

Wyatt stuck his hands in his back pockets and looked out at the towering buttes in the distance. “Sounds like old Coot, doesn’t it? I think that’s the way he’d have liked to go.”

“Yeah.” Cal nodded. “Your great-aunt’s inside. You go ahead and I’ll get your bag.”

“No need.” Wyatt reached into his saddlebag. “All I’ve got is this duffel.”

He climbed the steps and let himself into the house, pausing at the mudroom to drop his bag before continuing into the kitchen.

“Aunt Cora.”

She was instantly out of her chair and into his arms. “Oh, Wyatt.” After a fierce hug she held him a little away.

He took that moment to shake Dandy’s hand. “Good to see you again, Dandy.”

“And you, Wyatt.”

Cora was studying him with a look of disbelief. “Oh, look at you. You’re the picture of your daddy.”

“Except he wore denim instead of leather.” He grinned. “You haven’t changed a bit, Aunt Cora. In fact, I think those are the same overalls you were wearing the day I left.”

She gave a girlish laugh. Wyatt had always been able to charm her. “They’re Coot’s. I always liked his clothes better than my own. I think I’ll like them even better now.”

Wyatt sobered. “I know what you mean.” He dug into his pocket and held up a battered watch on a chain. “I’ve been carrying this ever since the crash. The authorities found it in the wreckage and sent it to me. I like having something of Dad’s.”

Cora cupped it in her hand and studied it before looking at him. “Coot gave that to your daddy when he graduated high school.”

Wyatt nodded. “I know. That makes it twice as special to me.”

The old woman wrapped an arm around his waist, loving the big, sturdy feel of him, all muscle and sinew. Like his daddy. “Come on. I’ll take you up to your rooms.”

He leaned down to kiss her cheek. “Don’t bother, Aunt Cora. I remember the way.”

As he retrieved his duffel and walked away, she stayed where she was, listening to his footsteps as he climbed the stairs.

Dandy set a fresh cup of coffee on the table. “Here, Miss Cora. You look like you could use this.”

“Thanks, Dandy.” She sank down onto a chair, wondering why she felt this sudden urge to weep. Instead, she leafed through the paper until she found the obituary, thinking Coot’s grandsons might want to have a look at it later.

Wyatt paused in the doorway of the suite of rooms he’d once shared with his parents, memories of his childhood sweeping over him. He’d always loved living in this big, sprawling ranch house, knowing an entire family lived just rooms away. His cousins, Jesse and Zane, had been his best friends and constant companions. If his father was busy, there was always an uncle or his grandfather to talk to. When he needed help with schoolwork, his mother, one of his aunts, or his great-aunt Cora was always available to lend a hand. There had been a strong feeling of camaraderie in this house when he was young.

Gradually, as he grew into his teens, he’d begun to sense the unease. His father and mother yearned to break free of the constraints of ranch life to travel around the world. They resented the treasure hunt that had become Coot’s obsession. Angry words triggered endless arguments. As a teen living in his own selfish world, Wyatt seemed barely aware of the tension until his father and mother had ordered him to pack his things. When he realized that there were no plans to return to the only life he’d ever known, he became angry, distant, difficult. While his parents attempted to share their love of world travel with their only son, he repaid them by dropping out of school and out of life. It was only years later that he’d managed to pull himself together and make something of his life. But by then, with his parents gone in an instant, killed in a plane crash, his anger had turned inward, directed at himself.

He’d overcome the anger and guilt. And now, just when he’d accepted a life alone, here he was, back where it had all begun.

He carried his duffel across the polished wood floor of the foyer and paused in the big open parlor, with its massive stone fireplace and familiar overstuffed chairs. Over the mantel was a portrait of his mother and father and the boy he’d been at eight. Dark hair cut razor-short, laughing blue eyes, wide grin with its missing front tooth.

He was smiling as he made his way down the hallway to his old bedroom. Just beyond was the master bedroom and bath, but except for a quick glance, he returned to his old room and tossed the duffel on the twin bed, still covered in the red-plaid comforter he’d chosen for his fourteenth birthday.

He’d slept in youth hostels in Europe, tents in the Andes, and fleabag hotels in plenty of towns he’d rather forget. But in his mind’s eye, he’d never forgotten this room.

This was the only place he’d ever thought of as home.

The sleek little sports car, in candy apple red, took every dip and curve with the grace of a dancer. At the top of the rise Zane McCord pulled over just to drink in the view.

Green pastures dotted with cattle. Weathered barns and outbuildings. And that grand sweep of the brick-and-stone house atop the hill where it could be seen for miles in all directions. When he was a kid with a wild imagination, he’d thought it looked like a castle. His own private keep, and he the white knight, saving the kingdom from peril.

Now he saw it as it looked through the lens of his camera. It was all here. The wide-open ranges, with no houses or factories or offices to spoil the view. No people. Just acre after acre of cattle, and the men who tended the herds. There was something mysterious and romantic about this land. This ranch.

He’d been so afraid it wouldn’t look the way he’d remembered it. After all, he’d been just a kid when he left. But he’d never forgotten this place. The simple beauty of it. The soaring majesty of the mountain ranges. The icy purity of the streams and rivers.

After years in Southern California he’d really feared that his childhood memories had become fragmented and magnified, taking bits and pieces of the things he’d liked best and making them seem even better than they’d been.

Ignoring the rain, he stepped out of the car and leaned on the hood, breathing deeply. Even the air was different here. It hadn’t been just a kid’s imagination. It was cleaner. Sweeter. Purer.

He relaxed for the first time in hours, softening the sharp angles and planes of his face. A hawkish face that would never be mistaken for movie-star material. His jaw was too square. His steely-eyed look intimidating to most men and intriguing to women. He idly touched a hand to the scar along his jaw. As a kid he’d taken a nasty fall from a horse. Because the Lost Nugget was more than a hundred miles from the town’s clinic, most injuries were handled by one of the cowboys. Zane’s cut had been treated no differently. Half an hour after being stitched up in a bunkhouse, he’d been back on the same horse, racing to catch up with his cousins. A few years ago a well-known plastic surgeon he’d met at a cocktail party in Malibu had wanted to correct the damage. Zane had refused, considering it his own special medal of honor. Every time he caught sight of it in the mirror it brought back memories of earlier, happier times.

He was smiling as he climbed back into the car. On the oldies station Bob Seger was running against the wind. Zane found himself keeping time to the music as he shifted gears and raced off in a spray of rain and gravel.

Cora looked up at the sound of a vehicle approaching. Setting aside her cup, she hurried through the mudroom to watch as a sleek little sports car came to a smooth stop directly behind the motorcycle. Seconds later a man stepped out and paused to look around.

Cora sucked in a breath, then raced out to greet him. “Zane. Oh, Zane.”

“Aunt Cora.” He gathered her close and breathed her in, feeling a rush of emotion at the half-forgotten scents of lavender and paint that had always been so much a part of this special woman.

She clung to him for a moment before stepping back and tipping up her head to study him. “Look how tall you’ve grown. Why, you must be well over six feet.”

“And a couple of inches.” He chuckled. “Who’d’ve believed it of that skinny little kid?”

“Skinny and absolutely fearless. As I recall, you did some pretty foolhardy things when you were a boy.”

“I’d appreciate it if you wouldn’t mention them. Besides, I had to keep up with my cousins.” He glanced around. “Where are Jesse and Wyatt?”

“Jesse’s gone to look at a washout up the road, and Wyatt is unpacking in his old room.” She nodded toward the car. “Why don’t you do the same?”

He retrieved an overnight case and followed her inside where he greeted Dandy with handshake. “I hope those perfect pancakes I remember from my childhood aren’t just a fantasy, Dandy.”

The cook grinned. “If you haven’t had breakfast yet, I’ll let you find out for yourself.”

Zane shook his head. “I had something at a place called the Grizzly Inn they called a biscuit-sausage-egg combo. I think they make them out of cardboard and use them over and over on every tourist who happens by.”

The two men shared a laugh.

Cora looped her arm through his. “Think you can find your way to your old rooms, Zane?”

He nodded. “Yeah, Aunt Cora. It may have been years, but I haven’t forgotten the way.”

As he started toward the stairway she called, “The service for your grandfather will be at noon.”

Zane glanced at his watch, relieved that he had an hour to prepare. “In town? Or here at the ranch?”

“Here. Coot always said he wanted to spend eternity right here on his own land.”

Zane nodded. “I’m not surprised.”

Zane McCord strode into the section of the house where he’d lived as a boy with his father and mother. Like the Lost Nugget, everything here was bigger than life. The formal parlor, with its Italian marble floor and priceless Persian rug that his mother had insisted upon, still looked out of place in this homey setting, as did the custom silk draperies and furnishings. But Melissa McCord had been as out of place in Montana as her choice of furnishings. From the time he was a kid she’d made no secret of her distaste for ranch life. There had been endless arguments between Melissa and Wade, and when Zane’s father had finally agreed to leave the ranch, it had been a last-ditch effort to save his marriage.

As he walked through the rooms until he came to his parents’ bedroom, Zane frowned. The sacrifice his father made had been in vain. The marriage had already been irretrievably broken, and his father had died out in California without even the comfort of his family.

Zane backed away from the ornate master suite and followed the hallway to his old room. He’d rather spend his one night at the Lost Nugget in here. It was as he remembered it, right down to the horse posters on the walls. As a kid he’d been in love with the idea of traveling across the wilderness with a herd of wild mustangs. That was why, when producer Steven Michaelson had offered him the job of assistant on his documentary about the government roundup of wild horses, he’d jumped at the chance.

Zane tossed his overnight bag on a chair and headed toward the bathroom. He was glad he had time for a shower and a change of clothes before his grandfather’s funeral.

While Dandy prepared a meal for the mourners, Cora walked to the great room, where a fire blazed on the hearth. If she closed her eyes, she could almost believe Coot was here with her. Though the paintings on the walls, of wide, sweeping vistas and snow-covered mountains had all been done by her, the furniture was big and solid, to accommodate her brother and his sons, who had all been big men. It made her smile to remember.

She clutched her arms about herself. “Oh, Coot. It’s hard to believe all our boys are so grown up. We’ve lost too many years.”

How ironic, that it took Coot’s death to reunite the family. The same family that had been shattered by Coot’s obsession with finding his great-grandfather’s fortune. He’d been heartbroken when two of his sons, whose wives had grown weary of the search, had left the ranch, and Montana, for good. He’d despaired of ever seeing his family together again. But here was Wyatt, son of Coot’s middle son, Ben, back from whatever godforsaken place he called home these days; and Zane, son of Coot’s youngest son, Wade, in from California.

Cora turned to look out the window at the mountain peaks, barely visible in the rain. “I know it isn’t much. A day or two. But at least for whatever time they can manage, we’re all together. And that’s a tribute to you, Coot.”



Continues...

Excerpted from Montana Legacy by Ryan, R.C. Copyright © 2010 by Ryan, R.C.. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Customer Reviews

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 30 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 31, 2011

    Excellent First Book of the McCord Trilogy

    The story of Jesse McCord who is the only one of three cousins to remain on the huge Montana Ranch of his grandfather. When the grandfather dies the other two cousins come back to the ranch for the funeral and end up staying to help search for the long lost family fortune. At the same time Amy, Jesse's girlfriend of old, comes home to the adjoining ranch to care for her father. They of course get back together but the family dynamics make this a very interesting read. I would recommend this trilogy to all but it will be best to read the books in order. Montana Legacy, Montana Destiny and Montana Glory. The three cousins are mighty hot and their three ladies are extraordinary as are stories leading to the lost treasure..

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 27, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    An enjoyable contemporary ranch romance

    Coot McCord spent his life seeking gold lost on the family ranch. His endeavor destroyed the family, but in death his three grandsons, first cousins, return to the spread to pay their respects to the old Coot. His will simply states that the trio will earn a share if they remain on the ranch to search for the missing gold.

    Jesse McCord remained on the ranch though his beloved Amy Parrish broke his heart when she left without a word. Besides his two cousins (Wyatt and Zane) who left years ago, Amy is also back in town caring for her sick father. To his chagrin he still loves her, but needs to know why she left and how she truly feels. He may not have time to learn what he wants to know as someone has plans for the ranch and eliminating a cousin or a girlfriend is no problem.

    The opening act of the McCord cousins' trilogy is an enjoyable contemporary ranch romance with suspense coming in the second half of the story line; once the reader meets the key cast. This second chance at love is character driven with solid secondary protagonists and a wonderful lead pair although fans will think Jesse is using his wrong head with how fast he forgives his beloved Amy. Still that aside, the audience will appreciate this Big Sky Country opening act with Wyatt's Destiny and Zane's Glory to soon further enjoy R.C. Ryan's Montana tour.

    Harriet Klausner

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 9, 2013

    Flameclaw

    What wrong young one?

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 25, 2013

    Ravenwing

    She sits alone on a rock that jutted out to overlook the river. Her tears fell into the rushing waters below. "Wolfgaze...I thought you would come back. You said you did. You didn't. Please, I miss you. I need you! I am nothing without you." Her gray wings drooped. She closed her eyes an imagianed she was still sitting in camp with Wolfgaze's wings wrapped around her. "I love you, Wolfgaze."

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 29, 2012

    worth the money to check out

    the story was great and kept my interest, as is the whole montan series. I highly recoment

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  • Posted March 28, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Not worth it.

    Dull, boring, dull, boring. No chemistry between the two main characters. The best chemistry was between the cousins. There was no real draw to the mystery and the overkill of narration had me skipping paragraphs at a time.

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  • Posted April 23, 2011

    Second Chance at Love at it's best!

    The one thing Jesse McCord never thought he'd see other than his longtime cousins was the very first love of his life Amy Parrish, and the same goes for Amy. Amy Parrish never thought she'd return to her home of Gold Fever and meet Jesse McCord again, after years of being apart the two reunite under unfortunate circumstances. Sparks fly again between the two and it's no lie that the passion is even stronger, but danger lurks as Jesse and his family begins a search for a family treasure. Can Jesse and Amy keep their long ago relationship still on the surface while danger may threaten them and a family feud pulls them apart. This book is amazing the romance, danger, fighting, and reconnecting of two longtime lovers shows audiences that you can have a second chance at love but be aware of the dangers that might threaten to tear it apart. I loved the plot and twists and turns its worth reading over and over

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  • Posted July 22, 2010

    Not bad but, not good either.

    I liked the plot of the book it had lots of story and possiblities. I will not read it again though, I felt like I was reading a really long discription of a book. I felt no emotions coming from the characters.

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  • Posted April 13, 2010

    WOW!

    Amazigly steamy and so good you can't beleive it.

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  • Posted April 8, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Nice read

    I would recommend this book it was a nice read

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  • Posted March 23, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Well Written

    MONTANA LEGACY BY R.C. RYAN is a Western Romance st in Big sky country Montana. It a wonderful romantic suspense which reunites cousins and a lost love. It is quick paced, full of action, suspense, mystery and romance. It is a well written with detail and depth. The characters a full of life and love. The secondary characters help carry the story along. This is the first in the Fool's Gold Trilogy. It is a keeper. If you enjoy Westerns you will enjoy this one.

    Rating: 4.5

    *This book was recieved for review*
    complete review can be found at www.mybookaddictionandmore.wordpress.com

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  • Posted February 21, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Love, danger and gold rush fever make for a winning combination!

    Jesse McCord knew from birth he was a cowboy who loved the open spaces and hard work on his family ranch. Growing up with his cousins and the grandfather he adored made the life worthwhile everyday he came home tired and weary. But his cousins had left young and some hard feelings were developed but now they are back after their grandfather's untimely death and the reunion is bittersweet. The other person back in his life is Amy Parrish, his first and only love. She came to care for her father but they are both crossing paths with one another and fighting off the passion that drew them together as young adults and it is as uncontrollable now as it was before.

    Jesse works through the troubles of having his cousins back to share the responsibility of ranch life added to the hatred Amy's father feels towards him but resolves to work out past hurt and despair to move forward with Amy in his life. Adding to all this emotion the secret search for the gold their grandfather spent his life seeking is back on everyone's mind. Old notes his grandfather had written show up and town gossip is stirring up the fact that there is gold in the hills and the cousins plus Amy may just be able to find it with fresh eyes, new thoughts and modern technology.

    But along the rocky path to finding their relationship Jesse and Amy discover someone does not want that to happen and one near death experience after another haunts Amy distracting everyone from the search for gold. Could it be that someone is trying to harm Amy to get back at Jesse, but why he has enemies but nothing worth killing over or is there something no one is aware of stirring up the troubles they are fighting off.

    If this book is any indication what the next two will be I can't wait to read them. The action never stops and when you are drawn into the story you find yourself unable to stop reading. This was a start to finish in one day book because only stops for snacks are worth putting this book down.

    Mary Gramlich ~ ("The Reading Reviewer") ~ www.marygramlich.com

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  • Posted January 18, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Sweet

    New York Times best-selling author Ruth Ryan Langan, under the pen R.C. Ryan, has written more than ninety fiction novels, both contemporary and historical in a career spanning more than twenty years. Other titles include: Montana Destiny, Montana Glory, Heart's Delight, Paradise Falls, Ashes of Dreams, Cover Up, Wanted, Passions Law, Angel, Deception, and Nevada Nights. She has also co-authored books with Nora Roberts. She resides in Farmington Hills, Michigan.

    Amy Parrish was the one person that Jesse McCord ever let in. But when she left with no explanation, Jesse closed himself off, focusing only on his family's ranch. Except now Amy is back, tending to a sick father and offering to help Jesse find the illusive McCord gold, a legendary tale of hidden treasure passed down in the McCord family for generations. With Jesse's grandfather passing away before telling of where he's searched for the gold, his two prodigal cousins returning to the ranch, Amy back in his life tearing at his heart, and an unseen enemy closing in and threatening their lives. Jesse is about to lose his sanity.

    There are three criticisms that stood out to me while reading the book. One, it is never mentioned what Amy's father is sick with, though cancer is implied. Two, the mystery element wasn't really introduced until halfway through. And three, Jesse seemed to forgive Amy rather swiftly. None of these things deterred me from reading, but were more observations.

    This is the first of Ruth's books I've read, though I did, of course, recognize the name. It's no surprise how she's captivated audiences for as long as she has. Ruth writes with an elegance rarely seen anymore, with imagery in her setting as her strongest suit. You really get a feel for where you are and who you're reading about. Without dumping it on the reader, you'll learn a lot about ranching and Montana while reading this book. The secondary characters really stand out, from an eccentric Aunt Cora, a sly Cal, or the two displaced cousins, Wyatt and Zane, they add to the story nicely. I like that the hunt for treasure will continue in the next two books, Montana Destiny (Wyatt's story) and Montana Glory (Zane's story). A great book about life, love, dreams, and coming home again. Recommended!

    Kelly Moran,
    Author and Reviewer

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 17, 2010

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 7, 2011

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    Posted March 11, 2012

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    Posted April 2, 2010

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 13, 2011

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    Posted May 13, 2010

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    Posted May 13, 2010

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