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Rancher to the Rescue (Harlequin Romance Series #4386)
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Rancher to the Rescue (Harlequin Romance Series #4386)

4.4 5
by Jennifer Faye
 

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Damsel in a wedding dress!

Jilted at the altar, celebrity chef Meghan Finnegan flees the scene—and the baying press—only to run straight into the muscled torso of Cash Sullivan.

The former rodeo champion knows what it's like to have your life crumble in the spotlight, so he offers Meghan a place to lie low at his ranch.

Fresh air, no

Overview

Damsel in a wedding dress!

Jilted at the altar, celebrity chef Meghan Finnegan flees the scene—and the baying press—only to run straight into the muscled torso of Cash Sullivan.

The former rodeo champion knows what it's like to have your life crumble in the spotlight, so he offers Meghan a place to lie low at his ranch.

Fresh air, no paparazzi and the brooding rancher's lazy smile are making Meghan not want to leave her sanctuary. But she and her unborn baby can't stay here forever…can they?

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780373742516
Publisher:
Harlequin
Publication date:
07/01/2013
Series:
Harlequin Romance Series , #4386
Edition description:
Large Print
Pages:
252
Product dimensions:
6.40(w) x 4.00(h) x 0.80(d)

Read an Excerpt

Why do people insist on pledging themselves to each other? Love was fleeting at best—if it existed at all.

Cash Sullivan crossed his arms as he lounged back against the front fender of his silver pickup. He pulled his tan Stetson low, blocking out the brilliant New Mexico sun. From the no-parking zone he glanced at the adobe-style church, where all of the guests were gathered, but he refused to budge.

His grandmother had insisted he bring her, but there was no way he'd sit by and listen to a bunch of empty promises. Besides, he'd met the groom a few times over the years and found the guy to be nothing more than a bunch of hot air. Cash would rather spend his time wrestling the most contrary steer than have to make small talk with that blowhard.

He loosened his bolo tie and unbuttoned the collar of his white button-up shirt. Gram had insisted he dress up to escort her in and out of the church—even if he wasn't planning to stay.

What he wouldn't give to be back at the ranch in his old, comfy jeans, instead of these new black ones that were as stiff as a fence rail. Heck, even mucking out stalls sounded like a luxury compared to standing here with nothing to do.

A woman in a white flowing dress caught his attention. She was rushing along the side of the church. Abruptly she stopped and bent over some shrubs. What in the world was the bride doing? Looking for something?

This was certainly the most entertainment he'd had in the past half hour. He shook his head and smiled at the strange behavior. When she started running down the walk toward his vehicle, he tipped his hat upward to get a better view.

A mass of unruly red curls was piled atop her head while yards of white material fluttered behind her like the tail of a kite. Her face was heart-shaped, with lush lips. Not bad. Not bad at all.

Her breasts threatened to spill out of the dress, which hugged her waist and flared out over her full hips. She was no skinny-minny, but the curves looked good on her. Real good.

He let out a low whistle. She sure was a looker. How in the world had boring Harold bagged her?

He couldn't tear his gaze from her as she stopped right next to his pickup and tried to open the tan SUV in the neighboring parking spot. Unable to gain access, she smacked her hand on the window. Obviously this lady had a case of cold feet—as in ice cold—and hadn't planned an escape route. At least she'd come to her senses before making the worst decision of her life.

The bride spun around. Her fearful gaze met his. Her pale face made her intense green eyes stand out bright with fear. Alarm tightened his chest. Was there more going on here than a change of mind?

She glanced over the hood of his truck. He followed her line of vision, spotting a group of photographers rounding the corner of the church. In the next second she'd opened his passenger door and vaulted inside.

What in the world was she doing? Planning to steal his truck? He swung open the driver's side door and climbed in.

"What are you doing in here?"

The fluffy material of her veil hit him in the face as she turned in the seat and slammed the door shut. "Drive. Fast."

He smashed down the material from her veil, not caring if he wrinkled it. He'd never laid eyes on this woman before today, and he wasn't about to drive her anywhere until he got some answers. "Why?"

"I don't have time to explain. Unless you want to be front and center in tomorrow's paper, you'll drive."

His gaze swung around to the photographers. They hadn't noticed her yet, but that didn't ease his discomfort. "You didn't kill anyone, did you?"

"Of course not." She sighed. "Do you honestly think I'd be in this getup if I was going to murder someone?"

"I'm not into any Bonnie and Clyde scenario."

"That's good to know. Now that we have that straightened out, can you put the pedal to the metal and get us out of here before they find me?"

He grabbed the bride's arm and yanked her down out of sight, just before the group of reporters turned their curious gazes to his pickup. Luckily his truck sat high up off the ground, so no one could see much unless they were standing right next to it.

"What are you doing?" she protested, struggling.

"Those reporters don't know you're in here, and I don't want to be named in your tabloid drama. Stay down and don't get up until I tell you to."

His jaw tensed as he stuffed the white fluff beneath the dash. He was caught up in this mess whether he wanted to be or not.

Her struggles ceased. He fired up the truck and threw it in Reverse. Mustering some restraint, he eased down on the accelerator. Damn. He didn't want to be the driver for this bride's getaway, but what choice did he have?

He knew all about reporters—they were like a pack of starving wolves, just waiting for a juicy story. For their purposes he'd be "the other man." Scandals always made good sales—it didn't matter if you were an innocent bystander or not. In the court of public opinion, when your face hit the front page you were crucified. He should know.

Cash pulled his cowboy hat low, hoping no one would recognize him. He didn't want to draw the attention of the reporters who were searching behind rocks, shrubs and cars. There would be no quick getaway. Slow and steady.

When the bride once again attempted to sit up, he placed his hand on the back of her head.

"Hey, you!" a young reporter, standing a few yards away, shouted through the open window.

Cash's chest tightened as he pulled to a stop.

"Yeah?"

"Did you see which way the bride ran?"

"She ran around back. Think there was a car waiting for her."

The reporter waved and took off. Cash eased off the brake and rolled toward the exit. He hadn't had a rush of adrenaline like this since his last showdown with a determined steer.

"What'd you say that for? You're making things worse," the bride protested, starting to sit up.

He pressed the side of her face back down. "Stay down or I'll dump you in this parking lot and let those hungry reporters have you."

"You wouldn't."

"Try me." He was in no mood to play around with some woman who didn't know what she wanted.

Now he needed to get rid of this bundle of frills so his life could return to its peaceful routine.

Before he could ask where she wanted to be dropped off she started to wiggle, bumping the steering wheel.

"Watch it." He steadied the wheel with both hands. "What are you doing down there?"

"Trying to get comfortable, but I think it's impossible. Are we away from the church yet?"

"Just approaching the parking lot exit, but don't get any ideas of sitting up until we're out of town. I'm not about to have people tracking me down and bothering me with a bunch of questions I can't answer."

"Thanks for being so sympathetic," she muttered.

He slowed down at the exit, checking for traffic before merging. "Hey, I didn't ask you to hijack my truck."

"I didn't have any other choice."

"Get cold feet?"

"No…yes. It's complicated." She squirmed some more. "I don't feel so good. Can I sit up yet?"

"No."

The rush of air through the open windows picked up the spicy, citrusy scent of the colorful bouquet she was still clutching. A part of him felt bad for her. He'd heard about how women got excited about their wedding day and, though he personally couldn't relate, he knew what it was to have a special moment ruined, like getting penalized after a winning rodeo ride.

He checked the rearview mirror. No one had followed him out of the parking lot. He let out a deep breath. So far, so good.

He tightened his fingers around the steering wheel, resisting the urge to run a soothing hand over her back. "Where am I taking you?"

"I…I don't know. I can't go back to my apartment. They'll be sure to find me."

"You're on the run?" He should have figured this was more than just a case of cold feet. "And what was up with the reporters?"

"My boss thought the wedding would be a good source of free publicity for my television show."

"You certainly will get publicity. Runaway Bride Disappears Without a Trace."

She groaned. Her hand pressed against his leg. The heat of her touch radiated through the denim. A lot of time had passed since a woman had touched him—back before his accident.

He cleared his throat. "I suppose at this point we should introduce ourselves. I'm Cash Sullivan."

He waited, wondering if there would be a moment of recognition. After all, he hadn't retired from the rodeo circuit all that long ago.

"Meghan Finnegan." When he didn't say anything, she continued, "I'm the Jiffy Cook on TV, and the reason those men are armed with cameras is to see this hometown girl marry a millionaire."

Nothing in her voice or mannerisms gave the slightest hint that she'd recognized his name. Cash assured himself it was for the best. His name wasn't always associated with the prestige of his rodeo wins—sometimes it was connected with things he'd rather forget. Still, he couldn't ignore the deflating prick of disappointment.

"I don't watch television," he said, gruffer than intended. "Okay, we're out of Lomas and this road doesn't have much traffic."

When she didn't say anything, he glanced over. Her complexion had gone ghostly pale, making her pink glossy lips stand out. "You feeling okay?"

"No." Her hand pressed to her stomach. "Pull over. Now."

He threw on his right-turn signal and pulled to a stop in a barren stretch of desert. Meg barreled out of the vehicle, leaving the door ajar. She rushed over to a large rock and hunched over. So this was what she'd been doing when she ran out of the church. Must be a huge case of nerves.

He grabbed some napkins from his glove compartment and a bottle of unopened water. It was tepid, but it'd be better than nothing. He exited the truck and followed her. He wasn't good with women—especially not ones who were upset and sick.

"Um…I can hold this for you." He reached for the lengthy veil.

He didn't know if he should try talking to her to calm her down or attempt to rub her back. He didn't want to make things worse. Unsure what to do, he stood there quietly until her stomach settled. Then he handed over the meager supplies.

"You okay now?" he asked, just before his cell phone buzzed.

His grandmother. How could he have forgotten about her? This bride had a way of messing with his mind to the point of forgetting his priorities.

He flipped open his phone, but before he could utter a word Gram said, "Where are you? Everyone's leaving."

"I went for a little ride. I'll be there in a few minutes."

"Hurry. You won't believe what happened. I'll tell you when you get here."

He hated the thought of going back and facing those reporters. Hopefully there'd be too much confusion with the missing bride and the exiting guests that they wouldn't remember he'd been the only one around when Meg had disappeared.

He cast a concerned look at his pale stowaway. "We have to go back."

Fear flashed in her eyes and she started shaking her head. "No. I can't. I won't."

"Why? Because you changed your mind about the wedding? I'm sure people will understand."

She shook her head. "No, they won't."

He didn't have time to make her see reason. "I have to go back to the church. My grandmother is waiting. I can't abandon her."

Meg's brow creased as she worried her bottom lip. "Then I'll wait here."

"What?" She couldn't be thinking clearly. "I can't leave you here. You're not well."

"I won't go back there. I can't face all of those people…especially my mother. And when the press spots us together they'll have a field day."

"You can hide on the floor again."

She shook her head. "We were lucky to get away with that once. With all of the guests leaving, the chances of me staying hidden are slim to none."

She had a good point, but it still didn't sit right with him. "Leaving you here in the middle of nowhere, in this heat, isn't a good idea."

"This isn't the middle of nowhere. I'm within walking distance of town. I'll be fine. Just go. Your grandmother is waiting. There's just one thing."

"What's that?"

"Leave me your cell phone."

He supposed it was the best solution, but he didn't like it. Not one bit. But the chance of discovery was too great. Not seeing any other alternative, he pulled the phone from his belt and handed it over.

"You're sure about this?" he asked, hoping she'd change her mind.

She nodded.

"Then scoot around to the other side of that rock. No one will see you there—unless that veil thing starts flapping in the wind like a big flag."

"It won't." She wound the lengthy material around her arm. A look of concern filled her eyes. "You will come back, won't you?"

He didn't want to. He didn't want anything to do with this mess. All he wanted was to go home and get on with his life. But he couldn't leave her sick and stranded.

"I'll be back as fast as I can."

Meghan Finnegan watched as the tailgate of the cowboy's pickup faded into the distance. The events of the day rushed up and stampeded her, knocking the air from her lungs. How could Harold have waited until she'd walked up the aisle to tell her he'd suddenly changed his mind? He didn't want her.

And he wanted her to get rid of their unborn baby—a baby they'd agreed to keep secret until after the ceremony. Meghan wrapped her arms around her midsection. She loved her baby and she'd do whatever was necessary to care for it.

She sagged against the rock before her knees gave out. Sure, she knew Harold hadn't wanted children—he'd made that clear from the start. And with her rising television career she'd accepted that children wouldn't fit into her hectic lifestyle. But this was different—it had been an accident. When she'd told Harold about the pregnancy a few weeks ago he'd been stunned at first but then he'd seemed to accept it. What in the world had changed his mind?

The sound of an approaching vehicle—perhaps departing wedding guests—sent her scurrying behind the outcrop of large rocks. She wasn't ready to face the inquiring questions, the pitying stares or the speculative guesses. At twenty-eight, she'd prided herself on having her life all planned out. Now she was pregnant and she didn't have a clue what her next move should be.

She sank down on a small rock and yanked out scads of hairpins in order to release the veil. At last free of the yards of tulle, she ran her fingers through her hair, letting it flow over her shoulders.

Meet the Author

Award-winning author, Jennifer Faye pens fun, heartwarming romances. Jennifer has won the RT Book Reviews Reviewers' Choice Award. Now living her dream, she resides with her patient husband, amazing daughter (the other remarkable daughter is off chasing her own dreams) and two spoiled cats. She'd love to hear from you via JenniferFaye.com

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Rancher to the Rescue 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
SunMtnReviews More than 1 year ago
Rancher to the Rescue is a sweet, feel-good romance that will appeal to romance readers. The story is about second chances and finding happiness where you least expect. Meghan Finnegan’s planned dreams of a happily-ever-after have fallen apart before they even have a chance to begin. Now, she faces an uncertain future as she struggles to find her own place in the world. When Meghan runs out of a guest-filled church, leaving behind a fiancé, a mother eager for the nuptials, and the ruthless paparazzi, she never expects her unwilling get- away driver will become the man of her dreams.  The recently retired rodeo circuit cowboy, Cash Sullivan, just happens to be in the wrong place at the right time when Meghan makes a beeline for his pickup truck. I found it ironic and amusing that the man with no belief in love and marriage turns out to be the one the woman in the poofy, lacy white dress turns to for help.   Cash is sitting in his truck, waiting, while his grandmother attends Meghan and Harold’s wedding ceremony, and he isn’t very sympathetic about Meghan’s predicament. When she demands his help to escape, he initially refuses to comply. Their first conversation isn’t what I expected: “You didn’t kill anyone, did you?” “Of course not,” she sighed. “Do you honestly think I’d be in this getup if I was going to murder someone?” “I’m not into any Bonnie and Clyde scenario.”  With photographers prowling around, looking for Meghan, Cash drives away more to protect his reputation from further scandal than to save the pretty bride crouched down in the floorboard of his truck.  Cash is a “no-strings-attached” cowboy who immediately senses that Meghan is trouble. He wants to get her out of his life ASAP. However, his grandmother throws a monkey wrench into his plans when she invites Meghan to stay at Cash’s ranch to recover from her ordeal.  Besides her delicious cooking, Grandma seems to have a talent for matchmaking as well.  Cash tries to resist his attraction to the pretty red-head and he wants to douse any interest she may have in him when he lets her know how cynical he is toward marriage:   just in case she has any interest in him, he tries to douse it by letting her know how cynical he is toward marriage: “Marriage is for dreamers and suckers. Eventually people figure out there’s no happily-ever-after, but by then it’s usually too late.”  His past has shattered any illusions he had about love. Meghan is devastated after Harold refuses to marry her even though she is pregnant with their child.  As a local celebrity chef with her own TV show, Meghan doesn’t have the emotional strength to deal with the fallout over the cancelled wedding. She doesn’t want to face her mother’s disappointment  or her show’s angry producers, especially now that she’s ruined the ideal life they’ve tried to create for her. Because her mother has always been cold and distant, Meghan has tried all of her life to please her, and marrying Harold seems to be one more way to gain her mother’s approval. Because of his prominent social status, Harold seems to be everything any woman would want. Even Meghan’s TV producers jump on the bandwagon and plan to tape the wedding to air on a future episode. They foresee a boost in the cooking show’s ratings and a possible nationally syndicated show when the hometown celebrity marries a man who’s made millions in the computer industry.  However, the image Howard projects to the rest of the world doesn’t match his true nature, and fortunately Meghan finally realizes this before she makes the biggest mistake of her life.   Her disastrous relationship with Harold now makes Meghan question her judgment about men. Still she needs the privacy Cash’s out-of-the-way ranch offers, and, because Cash understands how dogged the media can be, they form a tenuous relationship that gradually deepens over the course of the story.  Both Cash and Megan carry emotional wounds that must be healed before either of them can open their hearts to love again.  I found it easy to care about Meghan and Cash since I get both of their POVs, which reveal their fears and insecurities.  Chapters alternate between the dual perspectives and the transition from one point-of-view to the next is smooth and clear.  The book’s plot is primarily character driven as we witness the inner turmoil both Meghan and Cash experience as they struggle to push beyond their comfort zones to find the happiness they deserve.  This is a clean romance filled with each character’s inner monologue revealing their thoughts and feelings about each other.  While it was nice to have the  inner monologue, there were places where it the thoughts were repetitious and a bit of an overkill.  Although Meghan’s secrets and conflict are transparent to readers, Cash’s scandalous past is revealed in bits and pieces, which kept my interest, as I discovered why he thinks of himself as damaged goods.  The story’s theme is a reinforcement of that old adage, when one door closes, another surely will open.  I received a copy of the book from the author in exchange for an honest review.   Note: Since I reviewed an ARC, the quotes from the book may have been changed or omitted by the book’s publication. 
mrsgodiva More than 1 year ago
Loved this sweet tale of a handsome cowboy in the right place at the right time to ride up and rescue the runaway bride. Looking forward to more from Ms. Faye.
Sheri-A-Wilkinson More than 1 year ago
Romance is not my usual genre, I usually find them predictable and I soon lose interest. But Rancher to the Rescue was a surprise enjoyable read. Meghan Finnegan, a local chef on T.V dashed out of the church on her wedding day. Being a celebrity she tries to hide in some bushes where she runs into Cash Sullivan. Cash, a former rodeo star now a ranch owner decides to help hide her out until things calm down. Cash has some secrets from his past, and Meghan is uncertain what to do with her life. Fast paced read with just enough romance, making this not boring, but a good plot that left me turning pages to find out what will happen next. I feel romance lovers will enjoy this, a great "beach read".
Nas-Dean More than 1 year ago
RANCHER TO THE RESCUE by debut author Jennifer Faye is a July 2013 release by Harlequin Romance. Meghan Finnegan gets dumped right when she is standing next to her groom at the altar. And the groom knew she was carrying his baby. So he in effect rejected her as well as their child. Running out from the church, she meets Cash Sullivan, who is later accused of stealing the bride. He provides sanctuary to a pregnant Meg. And Meg realizes that she is attracted to him. But would Cash accept her with her baby? What would happen when he finds out that she is pregnant? RANCHER TO THE RESCUE is an astounding romance from a debut author. It is a well-written tale that sparkles with emotion. Jennifer Faye introduced us to this alluring but tortured hot cowboy, whom we fell in love with and a strong heroine, who wouldn't take less than her due. A must for all lovers of romance. Highly recommended and well worth reading.
HarlequinJunkie_ More than 1 year ago
3.5 Star Review: A Solid debut Cash Sullivan waits outside the church for his Grandmother, Martha. She *has* to see the JiffyChef, hometown girl made good, get married. But when the bride runs out and jumps into his truck, he doesn't have much of a choice. He slowly drives away while she ducks out of sight.  Meghan Finnegan, despite what the news and her ex-fiancee say, got jilted. When she ran, Harold took the opportunity to alter the story so that he's the victim. What the public doesn't know is that Meg is pregnant, and Harold doesn't want the baby. In fact, he told her just as they were about to say "I do" that he didn't even want her. Cash has had horrible experiences with the press, so he shelters Meg at the ranch where he and his grandmother live. She doesn't want to depend on anyone, so she offers to clean and cook, and watch over Martha. He doesn't want to bring the press back into his life, but he can't turn her out without a place to go.  To Cash's surprise, she's not the privileged prissy 'star' he thought - she carries her own weight and Martha loves her. He's torn between the growing friendship between them and the hints he gets that she's pining over the groom that he still believes dumped her. They spend more time together, and the sparks inevitably fly. They share a scorching hot kiss, and after that, nothing is the same. It goes from simple to mega-complicated. She refuses his help at every turn, knowing that he still expects her to leave at the end of her two week stay. But Cash can't leave well enough alone. He cooks up a surprise for her that isn't exactly welcome - and manages to get her sister in on the secret. Will she forgive him and accept the helping hand he offers or will she reject the kindness in the end? I'll leave it up to you to find out. The answer may surprise you! A sweet story that didn't skimp on character or setting details - but sometimes skimmed over vignettes between the Hero and Heroine. The story was very chaste, but sweet - and overall, I enjoyed the tone of the book and the writing style of the author.