A Cold Creek Reunion

A Cold Creek Reunion

by RaeAnne Thayne

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A Cold Creek Reunion by RaeAnne Thayne

He was the one you called when you needed rescuing…

But who was Taft Bowman going to call when he needed help? Because ten years ago Laura Pendleton, the love of his life, had left town without a word, then or since. Now she was back, with a new last name–and two adorable, high-needs little ones in tow. Well, Taft had been stupid enough to let her go once before…he wasn't about to make the same mistake again. He'd never stopped loving her–and one look at those adorable little faces and he knew that he was meant to be with Laura and her kids forever. All he had to do was convince her that this time he was a man she could count on!

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781488032271
Publisher: Harlequin
Publication date: 06/12/2017
Series: Cowboys of Cold Creek , #11
Format: NOOK Book
Sales rank: 33,216
File size: 426 KB

About the Author

New York Times bestselling author RaeAnne Thayne finds inspiration in the beautiful northern Utah mountains where she lives with her family. Her books have won numerous honors, including six RITA Award nominations from Romance Writers of America and Career Achievement and Romance Pioneer awards from RT Book Reviews. She loves to hear from readers and can be reached through her website at www.raeannethayne.com.

Read an Excerpt

He loved these guys like his own brothers, but sometimes Taft Bowman wanted to take a fire hose to his whole blasted volunteer fire department.

This was their second swift-water rescue training in a month—not to mention that he had been holding these regularly since he became battalion chief five years earlier—and they still struggled to toss a throw bag anywhere close to one of the three "victims" floating down Cold Creek in wet suits and helmets.

"You've got to keep in mind the flow of the water and toss it downstream enough that they ride the current to the rope," he instructed for about the six-hundredth time. One by one, the floaters—in reality, other volunteer firefighters on his thirty-person crew—stopped at the catch line strung across the creek and began working their way hand over hand to the bank.

Fortunately, even though the waters were plenty frigid this time of year, they were about a month away from the real intensity of spring runoff, which was why he was training his firefighters for water rescues now.

With its twists and turns and spectacular surroundings on the west slope of the Tetons, Cold Creek had started gaining popularity with kayakers. He enjoyed floating the river himself. But between the sometimes-inexperienced outdoor-fun seekers and the occasional Pine Gulch citizen who strayed too close to the edge of the fast-moving water, his department was called out on at least a handful of rescues each season and he wanted them to be ready.

"Okay, let's try it one more time. Terry, Charlie, Bates, you three take turns with the throw bag. Luke, Cody, Tom, stagger your jumps by about five minutes this time around to give us enough time on this end to rescue whoever is ahead of you."

He set the team in position and watched upstream as Luke Orosco, his second in command, took a running leap into the water, angling his body feetfirst into the current. "Okay, Terry. He's coming. Are you ready? Time it just right. One, two, three. Now!"

This time, the rope sailed into the water just downstream of the diver and Taft grinned. "That's it, that's it. Perfect. Now instruct him to attach the rope."

For once, the rescue went smoothly. He was watching for Cody Shepherd to jump in when the radio clipped to his belt suddenly crackled with static.

"Chief Bowman, copy."

The dispatcher sounded unusually flustered and Taft's instincts borne of fifteen years of firefighting and paramedic work instantly kicked in. "Yeah, I copy. What's up, Kelly?"

"I've got a report of a small structure fire at the inn, three hundred twenty Cold Creek Road."

He stared as the second rescue went off without a hitch. "Come again?" he couldn't help asking, adrenaline pulsing through him. Structure fires were a rarity in the quiet town of Pine Gulch. Really a rarity. The last time had been a creosote chimney fire four months ago that a single ladder-truck unit had put out in about five minutes.

"Yes, sir. The hotel is evacuating at this time."

He muttered an oath. Half his crew was currently in wet suits, but at least they were only a few hundred yards away from the station house, with the engines and the turnout gear.

"Shut it down," he roared through his megaphone. "We've got a structure fire at the Cold Creek Inn. Grab your gear. This is not a drill."

To their credit, his crew immediately caught the gravity of the situation. The last floater was quickly grabbed out of the water and everybody else rushed to the new fire station the town had finally voted to bond for two years earlier.

Less than four minutes later—still too long in his book but not bad for volunteers—he had a full crew headed toward the Cold Creek Inn on a ladder truck and more trained volunteers pouring in to hurriedly don their turnout gear.

The inn, a rambling wood structure with two single-story wings leading off a main two-story building, was on the edge of Pine Gulch's small downtown, about a mile away from the station. He quickly assessed the situation as they approached. He couldn't see flames yet, but he did see a thin plume of black smoke coming from a window on the far end of the building's east wing.

He noted a few guests milling around on the lawn and had just an instant to feel a pang of sympathy for the owner. Poor Mrs. Pendleton had enough trouble finding guests for her gracefully historic but undeniably run-down inn.

A fire and forced evacuation probably wouldn't do much to increase the appeal of the place.

"Luke, you take Pete and make sure everybody's out. Shep, come with me for the assessment. You all know the drill."

He and Cody Shepherd, a young guy in the last stages of his fire and paramedic training, headed into the door closest to where he had seen the smoke.

Somebody had already been in here with a fire extinguisher, he saw. The fire was mostly out but the charred curtains were still smoking, sending out that inky-black plume.

The room looked to be under renovation. It didn't have a bed and the carpet had been pulled up. Everything was wet and he realized the ancient sprinkler system must have come on and finished the job the fire extinguisher had started.

"Is that it?" Shep asked with a disgruntled look.

"Sorry, should have let you have the honors." He held the fire extinguisher out to the trainee. "Want a turn?"

Shep snorted but grabbed the fire extinguisher and sprayed another layer of completely unnecessary foam on the curtains.

"Not much excitement—but at least nobody was hurt. It's a wonder this place didn't go up years ago. We'll have to get the curtains out of here and have Engine Twenty come inside and check for hot spots."

He called in over his radio that the fire had been contained to one room and ordered in the team whose specialty was making sure the flames hadn't traveled inside the walls to silently spread to other rooms.

When he walked back outside, Luke headed over to him. "Not much going on, huh? Guess some of us should have stayed in the water."

"We'll do more swift-water work next week during training," he said. "Everybody else but Engine Twenty can go back to the station."

As he spoke to Luke, he spotted Jan Pendleton standing some distance away from the building. Even from here, he could see the distress on her plump, wrinkled features. She was holding a little dark-haired girl in her arms, probably a traumatized guest. Poor thing.

A younger woman stood beside her and from this distance he had only a strange impression, as if she was somehow standing on an island of calm amid the chaos of the scene, the flashing lights of the emergency vehicles, shouts between his crew members, the excited buzz of the crowd.

And then the woman turned and he just about tripped over a snaking fire hose somebody shouldn't have left there. Laura.

He froze and for the first time in fifteen years as a firefighter, he forgot about the incident, his mission, just what the hell he was doing here.


Ten years. He hadn't seen her in all that time, since the week before their wedding when she had given him back his ring and left town. Not just town. She had left the whole damn country, as if she couldn't run far enough to get away from him.

Some part of him desperately wanted to think he had made some kind of mistake. It couldn't be her. That was just some other slender woman with a long sweep of honey-blond hair and big blue, unforgettable eyes. But no, it was definitely Laura, standing next to her mother. Sweet and lovely.

Not his.

"Chief, we're not finding any hot spots." Luke approached him. Just like somebody turned back up the volume on his flat-screen, he jerked away from memories of pain and loss and aching regret.

"You're certain?"

"So far. The sprinkler system took a while to kick in and somebody with a fire extinguisher took care of the rest. Tom and Nate are still checking the integrity of the internal walls."

"Good. That's good. Excellent work."

His assistant chief gave him a wary look. "You okay, Chief? You look upset."

He huffed out a breath. "It's a fire, Luke. It could have been potentially disastrous. With the ancient wiring in this old building, it's a wonder the whole thing didn't go up."

"I was thinking the same thing," Luke said.

He was going to have to go over there and talk to Mrs. Pendleton—and by default, Laura. He didn't want to. He wanted to stand here and pretend he hadn't seen her. But he was the fire chief. He couldn't hide out just because he had a painful history with the daughter of the property owner.

Sometimes he hated his job.

He made his way toward the women, grimly aware of his heart pounding in his chest as if he had been the one diving into Cold Creek for training.

Laura stiffened as he approached but she didn't meet his gaze. Her mother looked at him out of wide, frightened eyes and her arms tightened around the girl in her arms.

Despite everything, his most important job was calming her fears. "Mrs. Pendleton, you'll be happy to know the fire is under control."

"Of course it's under control." Laura finally faced him, her lovely features cool and impassive. "It was under control before your trucks ever showed up—ten minutes after we called the fire in, by the way."

Despite all the things he might have wanted to say to her, he had to first bristle at any implication that their response time might be less than adequate. "Seven, by my calculations. Would have been half that except we were in the middle of water rescue training when the call from dispatch came in."

"I guess you would have been ready, then, if any of our guests had decided to jump into Cold Creek to avoid the flames."

Funny, he didn't remember her being this tart when they had been engaged. He remembered sweetness and joy and light. Until he had destroyed all that.

"Chief Bowman, when will we be able to allow our guests to return to their rooms?" Jan Pendleton spoke up, her voice wobbling a little. The little girl in her arms—who shared Laura's eye color, he realized now, along with the distinctive features of someone born with Down syndrome—patted her cheek.

"Gram, don't cry."

Jan visibly collected herself and gave the girl a tired smile.

"They can return to get their belongings as long as they're not staying in the rooms adjacent to where the fire started. I'll have my guys stick around about an hour or so to keep an eye on some hot spots." He paused, wishing he didn't have to be the bearer of this particular bad news. "I'm going to leave the final decision up to you about your guests staying here overnight, but to be honest, I'm not sure it's completely safe for guests to stay here tonight. No matter how careful we are, sometimes embers can flare up again hours later."

"We have a dozen guests right now." Laura looked at him directly and he was almost sure he saw a hint of hostility there. Annoyance crawled under his skin. She dumped him, a week before their wedding. If anybody here had the right to be hostile, he ought to be the first one in line. "What are we supposed to do with them?"

Their past didn't matter right now, not when people in his town needed his help. "We can talk to the Red Cross about setting up a shelter, or we can check with some of the other lodgings in town, maybe the Cavazos' guest cabins, and see if they might have room to take a few."

Mrs. Pendleton closed her eyes. "This is a disaster."

"But a fixable one, Mom. We'll figure something out." She squeezed her mother's arm.

"Any idea what might have started the fire?" He had to ask.

Laura frowned and something that looked oddly like guilt shifted across her lovely features. "Not the what exactly, but most likely the who.''''


"Alexandro Santiago. Come here, young man."

He followed her gaze and for the first time, he noticed a young dark-haired boy of about six or seven sitting on the curb, watching the activity at the scene with a sort of avid fascination in his huge dark brown eyes. The boy didn't have her blond, blue-eyed coloring, but he shared her wide, mobile mouth, slender nose and high cheekbones, and was undoubtedly her child.

The kid didn't budge from the curb for a long, drawn-out moment, but he finally rose slowly to his feet and headed toward them as if he were on his way to bury his dog in the backyard.

"Alex, tell the fireman what started the fire."

The boy shifted his stance, avoiding the gazes of both his mother and Taft. "Do I have to?"

"Yes," Laura said sternly.

The kid fidgeted a little more and finally sighed.

"Okay. I found a lighter in one of the empty rooms. The ones being fixed up." He spoke with a very slight, barely discernible accent. "I never saw one before and I only wanted to see how it worked. I didn't mean to start a fire, es la verdad. But the curtains caught fire and I yelled and then mi madre came in with the fire extinguisher."

Under other circumstances he might have been amused at the no-nonsense way the kid told the story and how he manipulated events to make it seem as if everything had just sort of happened without any direct involvement on his part.

But this could have been a potentially serious situation, a crumbling old fire hazard like the inn.

He hated to come off hard-nosed and mean, but he had to make the kid understand the gravity. Education was a huge part of his job and a responsibility he took very seriously. "That was a very dangerous thing to do. People could have been seriously hurt. If your mother hadn't been able to get to the room fast enough with the fire extinguisher, the flames could have spread from room to room and burned down the whole hotel and everything in it."

To his credit, the boy met his gaze. Embarrassment and shame warred on his features. "I know. It was stupid. I'm really, really sorry."

"The worst part of it is, I have told you again and again not to play with matches or lighters or anything else that can cause a fire. We've talked about the dangers." Laura glowered at her son, who squirmed.

"I just wanted to see how it worked," he said, his voice small.

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A Cold Creek Reunion 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 11 reviews.
beckymmoe More than 1 year ago
This book had a lot of potential and while it was pretty good and did keep me reading it, it just didn't seem to quite deliver all I was hoping for. Laura and Taft had been engaged once--ten years earlier, when both were probably too young to truly make such a decision. Taft, two years older, had been Laura's crush since seventh grade. They were good friends until they were both out of school, when they became more. Six months before their planned wedding, Taft's family suffered a major trauma. Everyone deals with devastating grief in their own way, and Taft's way was to pretend everything was fine on the surface (of course the wedding should go on as planned! No need to postpone!) while pushing everyone close to him away--including Laura, of course--and drowning his sorrows at the local bar. Just before the wedding, Laura left him, running off to Madrid. By the time Taft finally had his act together, Laura had already married someone else. Fast forward ten years--Laura's lying, cheating, scum of a husband is dead and she's brought her two children back home to help her mother run the family inn. Taft, now the fire chief, is temporarily staying at the inn in exchange for free carpentry work (his rental agreement is up on his apartment, but the house he's building isn't quite ready yet.) The two are constantly thrown together, and of course Laura's children are just as charmed by Taft as he is with them. All is good, right? They just have to let go of the past and agree to go forward, then? And after some initial "we're going to avoid each other like the plague" moments, it seems like they're going to. Taft and Laura talk. They admit they were too young and hadn't dealt with the situation as well as they should have. Except wait--no, Laura's still going to blame Taft for being a player, even though he hasn't done a single thing since she's been back to hold up that theory. Ah, and then she's going to hold up the "I can't let my kids get too involved, they've already been disappointed by their father" card. Argh. What could have been a nice, sweet story of love redeemed becomes a bit confused as Laura seemingly takes ten giant steps back in their relationship for no apparent reason other than her sudden fear that Taft will turn out to be just like her dead husband. What followed was pretty frustrating to read for a while, since her digging in of her heels just didn't make much sense to me. She finally comes around--VERY quickly--and we have the expected HEA. It just seemed like it could have happened about fifty pages earlier, to be honest--less painful for everyone involved.
Anonymous 12 days ago
Laura and Taft were engaged to get married 10 years ago. Laura broke it off and moved to Spain. Now her and her 2 children have returned. Can Laura and Taft find each other again. A well written story. Strong and believable characters. Love RaeAnn's writing can't wait to read more of her books. joy943
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I knew the author, RaeAnne, would not let anything fatal happen to those two precious children. A beautiful story of love and a second chance at romance. I loved it as usual.. Great characterization and plot. LA-TXN
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A very sweet addition to the series. Taft is a wonderful Hero on so many levels and his love for Laura and her children just warms the heart.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
cr1 More than 1 year ago
interresting story and people
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
We are moving to oceanclan result 1.
jbarr5 More than 1 year ago
Taft Bowman is the local fire department chief and when he and his crew showed up to put out the fire at the local hotel he was surprised to see Laura Santiago there. She had left the town and her wedding a week before it was to happen, to Taft ten years ago, she married Javiera andshe was back in town cuz he had died and she had no money left and she could help her mom at the hotel at the same time as she was getting on in years. They are now friends and Laura is invited to the ranch to visit with Caidy, Taft's sister and the kids love the animals there to play with and to pet. Taft shows up for a horseback ride so they get to spend more time together. He is living at the inn while he does some carpentry work, after the fire for them for room and board for a while. Typical small town life: fires, drownings, BBQ's, horseback riding into the mountains, peaceful scenery, running an inn, Short story: Anniversary is also included and it's written by many authors. Abby and Melissa are throwing their parents an anniversary party but they think it's just a get together. Mother Diana is so worried one of her daughters is breaking up and that the other is pregnant and she loves the drama but she's got it all wrong, as usual. The theme is Italian as that is where her parents had first honeymooned at as they talk about things that happened on the trip the first time they were in Italy. There are other gifts in store for them all.
rhonda1111RL More than 1 year ago
A Cold Creek Reunion by Raeanne Thayne 4 STARS Cold Creek is a nice sweet story. I enjoyed reading. Taft Bowman is the fire chief for Cold Creek. His twin brother is the chief of police. Taft is building his own house on five acres. Taft is single and playine the field. But 10 years ago he was engaged to marry Laura Pendleton until she dumped him a week before the wedding and left the country. Laura was engaged to Taft but since he would not postpone the wedding and change she called it off. She went to work at a hotel in Spain. Two years later she got pregnant with Alex and married Javier the father. Then she had Maya who has Down Syndrome. Seven months after her husband death she came home to Cold Creek. Thier is a fire at the motel that Alex started accidently. After it was out Taft went to talk to Mrs Pendleton the owner. Taft got a big surprise when he saw Laura their. I really like Maya and Alex, what charming kids. I would like to read more about the Bowman family. I was given this ebook to read in exchange of a honest review from Netgalley. 03/20/2012 PUB Harlequin Special Edition
Anonymous More than 1 year ago