Rodeo Daddy [NOOK Book]

Overview


Isabella Trueblood made history reuniting people torn apart by war and an epidemic. Now, generations later, Lily and Dylan Garrett carry on her work with their agency, Finders Keepers. Circumstances may have changed, but the goal remains the same.

Lost
Her first and only love. Chelsea Jensen had no idea her father had been to blame for her heartbreak when Jack Shane ...

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Rodeo Daddy

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Overview


Isabella Trueblood made history reuniting people torn apart by war and an epidemic. Now, generations later, Lily and Dylan Garrett carry on her work with their agency, Finders Keepers. Circumstances may have changed, but the goal remains the same.

Lost
Her first and only love. Chelsea Jensen had no idea her father had been to blame for her heartbreak when Jack Shane disappeared from the Wishing Tree Ranch. Ten years later, the betrayal still burned.

Found
A check. A canceled check that explained everything. Or almost. Now she knew why he'd left her. But she didn't know if he'd loved her. Had she just been too young and too blind to see the truth? She was determined to track Jack down—wherever he was—and find out!

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781460300121
  • Publisher: Harlequin
  • Publication date: 12/1/2012
  • Series: Trueblood Dynasty
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Edition description: Original
  • Sales rank: 116,182
  • File size: 291 KB

Meet the Author


USA Today bestselling author B.J. Daniels wrote her first book after a career as an award-winning newspaper journalist. Since then she has more than 40 short stories and 70 books in print. Her best-selling Harlequin Intrigue series, Whitehorse, Montana, has appeared on the USA Today bestselling list numerous times. She has also won a variety of awards including a Career Achievement Award for romantic suspense. Daniels lives in Montana with her husband, Parker.

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Read an Excerpt




Chelsea stood at the door, her hand poised over the knob. It had been more than a month since her father's death and yet she still didn't want to go into his den. Unlike the rest of the ranch, with its eclectic mix of furnishings collected over many years, Ryder Jensen's den mirrored the strong, determined man who had made the Wishing Tree one of the largest working ranches this side of the Pecos.

But it wasn't just the thought of seeing her father's neat, very masculine office and the memories it would evoke that made her hesitate at the door. It was his words just before his death. He'd been trying to tell her something. She felt a chill, although it was april and, in this part of Texas, already warm.

What had he taken to his grave? Something to do with her, that much was clear, and the answer, she feared, was on the other side of this door. She steeled herself and opened the door. Instantly she was hit with the scent of leather and her father's tobacco. Tears welled in her eyes, and for a moment, she almost turned away. But if anything, she was her father's daughter. Whatever secret he might have been hiding, she would face it. Just as she'd had to face his death and the terrible sense of loss that came with it. She went to the desk and slowly began going through the stack of papers resting on the surface. The heart attack had taken her father quickly. He'd had no time to put his affairs in order. It had been in the ambulance on the way to the hospital that he'd tried to tell her something. No, she thought, it was almost as if he'd tried to warn her about something. But she'd been unable to understand him and she'd never gotten another chance.

The Wishing Tree felt empty without him, as if the heart of the ranch were gone. While she had friends who'd supported her and let her talk about her father and his death, her older brother Cody had shut her out, refusing to even mention Ryder's name. Cody's way of dealing with his grief was work. She hardly ever saw him these days, and that made her loss even greater. She couldn't remember her mother, who'd died when she was two. Her father and brother had always been the center of her life and now she felt abandoned, adrift.

To her surprise, the papers on the desk all had notes on them, reminders of things her father needed to get done, all personal. Had he known about his illness and just not told Cody and her?

Her fingers slowed as she worked her way through the pile of papers, a cold chill coming over her. He must have known! Why hadn't he told them, prepared them for this? as she neared the bottom of the pile, she was almost relieved when she still hadn't found anything pertaining to her. Then she saw it. Tell Chelsea before it's too late. It was written in her father's clipped, slanted script, and attached to the note was a check.

Tell Chelsea what? Fingers shaking, she pulled the check from behind the note. Her heart took off at a gallop when she saw who it was made out to. Jack shane.

Memories blindsided her, a deadly mix of pleasure and pain, love and betrayal. Why had her father kept one of Jack's old paychecks from the time he was a ranch hand on the Wishing Tree? It had been almost ten years. She started to wad the check up and throw it away, wondering what her father could have possibly wanted to tell her. Jack shane was old news.

Her eye caught the amount of the check. She froze. Ten thousand dollars! Her gaze flew to the date. It was the same day Jack had left the Wishing Tree. The same day he'd broken her heart, his note short and to the point: I can't do this, Chelsea. I'm sorry. It's for the best. Goodbye, Jack. she dropped into her father's chair, her hands shaking so badly that the check slipped from her fingers, fluttering to the floor.

Her father had bought off Jack! she couldn't believe it. She felt sick. That was what he had been trying to tell her. How could he have interfered in her life like that? she and Jack had loved each other. They'd planned to marry. Ryder Jensen thought she was too young to know her own mind, not yet eighteen, and tried to convince her she was wrong about Jack. But to pay Jack to leave?

Her anger at her father was eclipsed by the realization that Jack had betrayed her. He'd taken the money. Ten thousand dollars to turn his back on their love.

Fury brought her to her feet. He'd settled for peanuts. He could have gotten so much more. He could have had her—and half of the Wishing Tree—if he'd stayed and stood up to her father. The coward.

With tears in her eyes, she knelt down to retrieve the check, incapable even now of forgetting her feelings for Jack. Her father had been wrong. She'd damned well known her own mind. She'd been in love with Jack. It had been the real thing. At least for her. As she picked up the check and straightened, she saw something that was destined to change her life forever—just as her father had thought he could change her destiny.

The check had never been cashed! There was no cancellation on the back. No signature. She stared at it, trying to make sense of what she was seeing. Jack hadn't taken the money. She stood looking at the check for a long time, remembering, then she folded it carefully, put it in the pocket of her jeans and went out to saddle her horse.

The morning air smelled of pine and sunshine as she set off on scout. She loved this land, this life, as much as her father had. All she'd ever cared about was ranching and the Wishing Tree. Ryder had insisted she get a formal education, an education befitting a woman. But she'd always known where she belonged and had returned to the ranch to take over the financial end of it, while Cody saw to the day-to-day running of the place.

That arrangement allowed her to ride every day and continue to be the tomboy she'd always been, helping with calving and branding and even mending fences when she felt like it. But at the same time, she was the lady of the house and found that role also fit. Her father loved to entertain in the grand living room with the massive stone fireplace and the windows that looked out over a small lake and ranchland.

Her father had left her and Cody the Wishing Tree with the restriction that it could never be sold outside the family. Not that either of them would dream of such a thing. She planned to see her children raised here and her children's children. She worked her way toward the south forty, riding scout through the scrub pines and rock outcroppings until she spotted her brother with a handful of men repairing one of the corrals.

Cody looked up when he heard her approach. He frowned, but said nothing as she dismounted and, groundtying scout, walked toward him.

"I need to talk to you," she said, a few yards from the men.

Cody didn't seem surprised, just obviously not happy about the prospect.

"Now?" he asked pointedly.

"Now," she said, digging in her heels.

He looked worried, as if she'd ridden all this way to talk about their father's death. She knew people dealt with their grief in different ways, but Cody seemed to be running from it. She'd heard him up at all hours of the night, roaming the old ranch house, as lost as she was. If only he'd talk to her about it. She desperately needed her big brother back, she thought as she watched him slowly move toward her. He was tall and broad-shouldered like their father, with slim hips and long legs. His handsome face was tanned, the lines strong, confident. She'd missed him. Worse, she could feel a distance between them that scared her and she feared what she had to say would only make matters worse.

But she was her father's daughter and didn't know any other way but to take the bull by the horns. "I'm sure you can spare a minute."

"I'm really busy right now," Cody said impatiently. "I'm sure whatever this is about can wait until—"

"It can't wait." She wished she'd tried harder to talk to him before this. She'd let him stew in his own juices for far too long.

With reluctance, he followed her over to a lone oak. Once in the shade, she turned to face him. "I found something in dad's den I need to talk to you about."

His expression instantly closed.

She pulled the check from her pocket and handed it to him.

He looked puzzled, but took it from her, unfolded the check, glanced at it, then handed it back.

"You knew about this!" She couldn't believe it. She thought this was just her father's doing. "You knew," she accused, angry and crushed that her brother had been part of it. "Damn it, Cody."

"No reason to start swearing like a cowhand, Chelsea." He shifted the weight from one dusty boot to the other, his gaze moving off to the west as if he wished he could go with it.

"You knew how much I loved Jack. You knew." She felt hot tears. "Why?"

"Isn't it obvious?" Cody asked.

"No." She brushed the wetness from her cheeks. She'd never been a crier and didn't intend to become one now. "all that's obvious is that the two of you tried to buy him off."

"You don't know the whole story," Cody said with a stubborn set of his jaw.

"Then you'd better tell me—" she planted her hands on her hips "—because we're not leaving this spot until you do, and don't think you can avoid me like you have for weeks and not discuss this."

"Let it go, sis," Cody warned. "It's all water under the bridge."

"Not for me." She'd never gotten over Jack Shane. Nor had she ever found another man who could fill his boots. It hadn't been just a schoolgirl crush, damn it.

Her brother looked down at the ground.

"Dad tried to tell me something in the ambulance," she said. "I found a note attached to the check, 'Tell Chelsea before it's too late.' It's obvious that Dad regretted what he did and wanted to make it right before he died."

Cody's head jerked up, his brown eyes darkening. "The only reason he'd have told you was to warn you," her brother snapped.

"Warn me?"

"Jack Shane wasn't the man you thought he was," Cody said, avoiding her gaze. "I'm sorry, sis, but he was only after the ranch."

"Like hell." She felt the tears again but fought them back. She'd loved Jack, and he'd loved her. A woman knew. Even a young woman who'd fallen in love for the first time. She couldn't have been wrong about Jack. Oh yeah? Then why didn't he come to you with this? Why did he just leave a hurried note? And the big one, why hadn't he come back?

She felt the check in her hand. "He didn't take the money. That proves what kind of man he was."

Cody chewed at his cheek for a moment, then slowly raised his gaze to meet hers again. "I never wanted to have to tell you this, but I know Dad was worried that Jack might show up again after… Dad planned to tell you himself…."

She stared at her brother. He'd known that their father was dying. She felt sick. Sick that her father hadn't told her. Sick that Cody had had to carry the burden of that knowledge alone.

It took a moment for his words to sink in. "Dad thought Jack would come back? Why would he think that?"

Cody looked away. "With Dad out of the way—"

"That's ridiculous," she snapped. "If Jack had wanted the ranch, he'd have stayed and fought for me." If he'd loved her enough…

"Not under the circumstances," Cody mumbled. "I hate to be the one, but someone has to tell you."

Her heart thumped wildly in her chest and she held her breath, suddenly afraid. "Tell me what?"

"We started losing cattle just after Jack hired on. Dad and I didn't want to believe it was him, because from the start we could see how you felt about him."

"Jack was rustling cattle?" she asked, her voice barely a whisper. "I don't believe it."

"Well, it's true. Remember the night Ray Dale Farns-worth was killed?"

Ray Dale was the son of a neighboring farmer. Her father had hired him as a favor to angus Farnsworth, Ray Dale's father. Ray Dale was a wild one, always in trouble, but Ryder thought he could help the young man.

Then Ray Dale was found dead in Box Canyon at the north end of the ranch. It appeared he'd fallen from his horse and hit his head. Everyone had always wondered what he'd been doing in the canyon that night.

The sheriff had wondered as well. She remembered overhearing something about semi-truck tire prints along a nearby road and a rumor of rustling. But rustling was always something to worry about on a ranch the size of the Wishing Tree, and when the sheriff ruled the death accidental, that had been the end of the rustling talk.

"Ray Dale and Jack were rustling our cows," Cody said quietly. "Dad and I had suspected it for some time." He held up a hand. "It's the honest to God truth. I saw Jack ride out after Ray Dale that night."

She couldn't believe her ears. "That proves nothing."

"The two had rounded up about fifty head in Box Canyon," Cody continued, as if she hadn't spoken. "I don't know what happened. There was a storm that night so maybe the lightning and thunder spooked the cows and they stampeded and Ray Dale got thrown from his horse." He shrugged. "But Jack was there. I followed him to the canyon, then I rode back to tell Dad."

She shook her head. "There has to be another explanation."

"Jack had a record, Chels. We found out that this wasn't his first brush with the law. He'd done some time in Juvenile Hall for stealing on other ranches where he'd worked."

She closed her eyes, remembering Jack telling her he'd gotten into some trouble when he was younger, made some mistakes. He'd grown up hard and hadn't had the advantages she and Cody had, but he'd been so determined to change his life.

"He wouldn't steal from us," she said adamantly, opening her eyes. "and if they really were rustling, then why didn't Dad have him arrested? Why didn't any of this come out at the time?"

"Isn't it obvious? Dad knew how you felt about Jack. He didn't want you to be hurt. Ray Dale was dead. The Farnsworths were going through enough, losing their only son, without adding the pain and embarrassment of knowing Ray Dale was rustling. Dad felt that the loss of a few cows and letting Jack Shane get away with it was better than hurting people he cared about."

She stared at her brother, missing her father all the more because what Cody said was true. That's exactly how Ryder Jensen would have handled the situation. But it wasn't like her father to try to buy off a thief and they both knew it. "Dad wouldn't offer ten thousand dollars to Jack if he really believed he was stealing from the ranch."

"Wouldn't he?" Cody said.

She didn't want to hear this. Didn't want to believe it.

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  • Posted July 12, 2012

    This is an amazing book if you like to read about passion, love,

    This is an amazing book if you like to read about passion, love, and drama. An awesome read this one!!!!!!!!! I wish it was an ebook though...still highly recommended. I believe it is part of a series although this is the only one I have read...read it you will love it.

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