Big Sky River (Parable, Montana Series #3)

Big Sky River (Parable, Montana Series #3)

by Linda Lael Miller

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Sheriff Boone Taylor has his job, friends, a run-down but decent ranch, two faithful dogs and a good horse. He doesn't want romance—the widowed Montanan has loved and lost enough for a lifetime. But when a city woman buys the spread next door, Boone's peace and quiet are in serious jeopardy.

With a marriage and a career painfully behind her, Tara Kendall is determined to start over in Parable. Reinventing herself and living a girlhood dream is worth the hard work. Sure, she might need help from her handsome, wary neighbor. But life along Big Sky River is full of surprises…like falling for a cowboy-lawman who just might start to believe in second chances.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780373777204
Publisher: Harlequin
Publication date: 12/18/2012
Series: Parable, Montana Series , #3
Edition description: Original
Pages: 362
Sales rank: 621,244
Product dimensions: 4.28(w) x 6.48(h) x 0.98(d)

About the Author

Linda LaelMiller is a #1 New YorkTimes and USA TODAY bestselling author of morethan one hundred novels. Long passionate about the Civil War buff, she has studied theera avidly and has made many visits to Gettysburg, where she has witnessedreenactments of the legendary clash between North and South. Linda exploresthat turbulent time in The Yankee Widow.

Date of Birth:

June 10, 1949

Read an Excerpt

Sheriff Boone Taylor, enjoying a rare off-duty day, drew back his battered fishing rod and cast the fly-hook far out over the rushing, sun-spangled waters of Big Sky River. It ran the width of Parable County, Montana, that river, curving alongside the town of Parable itself like the crook of an elbow. Then it extended westward through the middle of the neighboring community of Three Trees and from there straight on to the Pacific.

He didn't just love this wild, sprawling country, he reflected with quiet contentment. He was Montana, from the wide sky arching overhead to the rocky ground under the well-worn soles of his boots. That scenery was, to his mind, his soul made visible.

A nibble at the hook, far out in the river, followed by a fierce breaking-away, told Boone he'd snagged—and already lost—a good-sized fish. He smiled—he'd have released the catch anyway, since there were plenty of trout in his cracker-box-sized freezer—and reeled in his line to make sure the hook was still there. He found that it wasn't, tied on a new one. For him, fishing was a form of meditation, a rare luxury in his busy life, a peaceful and quiet time that offered solace and soothed the many bruised and broken places inside him, while shoring up the strong ones.

He cast out his line again, and adjusted the brim of his baseball cap so it blocked some of the midmorning glare blazing in his eyes. He'd forgotten his sunglasses back at the house—if that junk heap of a double-wide trailer could be called a "house"—and he wasn't inclined to backtrack to fetch them.

So he squinted, and toughed it out. For Boone, toughing things out was a way of life.

When his cell phone jangled in the pocket of his lightweight cotton shirt, worn unbuttoned over an old T-shirt, he muttered under his breath, grappling for the device. He'd have preferred to ignore it and stay inaccessible for a little while longer. As sheriff, though, he didn't have that option. He was basically on call, 24/7, like it or not.

He checked the number, recognized it as Molly's, and frowned slightly as he pressed the answer bar. She and her husband, Bob, had been raising Boone's two young sons, Griffin and Fletcher, since the dark days following the death of their mother and Boone's wife. Corrie, a few years before. A call from his only sibling was usually benign—Molly kept him up-to-date on how the boys were doing—but there was always the possibility that the news was bad, that something had happened to one or both of them. Boone had reason to be paranoid, after all he'd been through, and when it came to his kids, he definitely was.

"Molly?" he barked into the receiver. "What's up?"

"Hello. Boone." Molly replied, and sure enough, there was a dampness to her response, as though she'd been crying, or was about to, anyhow. And she sounded bone weary, too. She sniffled and put him out of his misery, at least temporarily. "The boys are both fine," she said. "It's about Bob. He broke his right knee this morning—on the golf course, of all places—and the docs in Emergency say he'll need surgery right away. Maybe even a total replacement."

"Are you crying?" Boone asked, his tone verging on a challenge as he processed the flow of information she'd just let loose. He hated it when women cried, especially ones he happened to love, and couldn't help out in any real way.

"Yes," Molly answered, rallying a little. "I am. After the surgery comes rehab, and then more recovery—weeks and weeks of it."

Boone didn't even reel in his line; he just dropped the pole on the rocky bank of the river and watched with a certain detached interest as it began to bounce around, an indication that he'd gotten another bite. "Molly, I'm sorry," he murmured.

Bob was the love of Molly's life, the father of their three children, and a backup dad to Griff and Fletch, as well. Things were going to be rough for him and for the rest of the family, and there wasn't a damn thing Boone could do to make it better.

"Talk to me, Molly." he urged gruffly, when she didn't reply right away. He could envision her, struggling to put on a brave front, as clearly as if they'd been standing in the same room.

The pole was being pulled into the river by then; he stepped on it to keep it from going in and fumbled to cut the line with his pocketknife while Molly was still regathering her composure, keeping the phone pinned between his shoulder and his ear so his hands stayed free. Except for the boys and her and Bob's kids. Molly was all the blood kin Boone had left, and he owed her everything.

"It's—" Molly paused, drew a shaky breath "—it's just that the kids have summer jobs, and I'm going to have my hands full taking care of Bob…."

Belatedly, the implications sank in. Molly couldn't be expected to look after her husband and Griffin and Fletcher, too. She was telling her thickheaded brother, as gently as she could, that he had to step up now, and raise his own kids. The prospect filled him with a tangled combination of exuberance and pure terror.

Boone pulled himself together, silently acknowledged that the situation could have been a lot worse. Bob's injury was bad, no getting around it, but he could be fixed. He wasn't seriously ill, the way Corrie had been.

Visions of his late wife, wasted and fragile after a long and doomed battle with breast cancer, unfurled in his mind like scenes from a very sad movie.

"Okay." he managed to say. "I'll be there as soon as I can. Are you at home, or at the hospital?"

"Hospital," Molly answered, almost in a whisper. "I'll probably be back at the house before you get here, though."

Boone nodded in response, then spoke. "Hang on, sis," he said. "I'm as good as on my way."

"Griffin and Fletcher don't know yet," she told him quickly. "About what's happened to Bob, I mean, or that you'll be coming to take them back to Parable with you. They're with the neighbor, Mrs. Mills. I want to be there when they find out, Boone."

Translation: If you get to the boys before I do, don't say anything about what's going on. You'll probably bungle it.

"Good idea," Boone conceded, smiling a little. Molly was still the same bossy big sister she'd always been—thank God.

Molly sucked in another breath, sounded calmer when she went on, though she had to be truly shaken up. "I know this is all pretty sudden—"

"I'll deal with it," Boone said, picking up the fishing pole, reeling in the severed line and starting toward his truck, a rusted-out beater parked up the bank a ways, alongside a dirt road. He knew he ought to replace the rig, but most of the time he drove a squad car, and, besides, he hated the idea of going into debt.

"See you soon," Molly said, and Boone knew even without seeing her that she was tearing up again.

Boone was breathless from the steep climb by the time he reached the road and his truck, even though he was in good physical shape. His palm sweated where he gripped the cell phone, and he tossed the fishing pole into the back of the pickup with the other hand. It clattered against the corrugated metal. "Soon," he confirmed.

They said their goodbyes, and the call ended.

By then, reality was connecting the dots to form an image in his brain, one of spending a whole summer, if not longer, with two little boys who basically regarded him as an acquaintance rather than a father. And it was a natural reaction on their part; he'd essentially abdicated his parental role after Corrie had died, packing off the kids—small and baffled—to Missoula to stay with Molly and Bob and their older cousins. In the beginning, Boone had meant for the arrangement to be temporary—all of them had—but one thing led to another, and pretty soon, the distance between him and the children became emotional as well as physical. While his closest friends had been needling him to man up and bring Griffin and Fletcher home practically since the day after Corrie's funeral, and he missed those boys with an ache that resembled the insistent, pulsing throb of a bad tooth, he'd always told himself he needed just a little more time. Just until after the election, and then until he'd gotten into the swing of a new job, since being sheriff was a lot more demanding than being a deputy, like before, then until he could replace the double-wide with a decent house. Until, until, until.

Now, it was put up or shut up. Molly would need all her personal resources, physical, spiritual and emotional, to steer Bob and her own children through the weeks ahead.

He sat there in the truck for a few moments, with the engine running and the phone still in his hand, picturing the long and winding highway between Parable and Missoula, and finally speed-dialed his best friend, Hutch Carmody.

"Yo, Sheriff Taylor," Hutch greeted him cheerfully. "What can I do you out of?"

Married to his longtime love, the former Kendra Shepherd, with a five-year-old stepdaughter, Madison, and a new baby due to join the outfit in a month or so, Hutch seemed to be in a nonstop good mood these days.

It was probably the regular sex, Boone figured, too distracted to be envious but still subliminally aware that he'd been living like a monk since Corrie had died. "I need to borrow a rig," he said straight out. "I've got to get to Missoula quick, and this old pile of scrap metal might not make it there and back."

Hutch got serious, right here, right now. "Sure," he said. "What's going on? Are the kids okay?"

Though they'd only visited Parable a few times since they'd gone to live with Molly and Bob, Griffin and Fletcher looked up to Hutch, probably wished he was their dad, instead of Boone. "The boys are fine," Boone answered. "But Molly just called, and she says Bob blew a knee on the golf course and he's about to have surgery. Obviously, she's got all she can do to look after her own crew right now, so I'm on my way up there to bring the kids home with me."

Hutch swore in a mild exclamation of sympathy for the world of hurt he figured Bob was in, and then said, "I'm sorry to hear that—about Bob, I mean. Want me to come along, ride shotgun and maybe provide a little moral support?"

"I appreciate the offer, Hutch," Boone replied, sincerely grateful for the man's no-nonsense, unshakable friendship. "But I think I need some alone-time with the kids, so I can try to explain what's happening on the drive back from Missoula."

Griffin was seven years old and Fletcher was only five. Boone could "explain" until he was blue in the face, but they weren't going to understand why they were suddenly being jerked out of the only home and the only family they really knew. Griffin, being a little older, remembered his mother vaguely, remembered when the four of them had been a unit. The younger boy, Fletcher, had no memories of Corrie, though, and certainly didn't regard Boone as his dad. It was Bob who'd raised him and his brother, taken them to T-ball games, to the dentist, to Sunday school.

"Not a problem," Hutch agreed readily. "The truck is gassed up and ready to roll. Do you want me to drop it off at your place? One of the hands could follow me over in another rig and—"

"I'll stop by the ranch and pick it up instead," Boone broke in, not wanting to put his friend to any more trouble than he already had. "See you in about fifteen minutes."

"Okay," Hutch responded, sighing the word, and the call was over.

Boone stayed a hair under the speed limit, though just barely, the whole way to the Carmody ranch, called Whisper Creek, where he found Hutch waiting beside the fancy extended-cab truck he'd purchased the year before, when he and Kendra were falling in love for the second time. Or maybe just realizing that they'd never actually fallen out of it in the first place.

Now, Hutch was hatless, with his head tilted a little to one side the way he did when he was pondering some enigma, and his hands were wedged backward into the hip pockets of his worn jeans. Kendra, a breath-takingly beautiful blonde, stood beside him, pregnant into the next county.

"Have you had anything to eat?" Kendra called to Boone, the instant he'd stopped his pickup. Dust roiled around her from under the truck's wheels, but she was a rancher's wife now, and unfazed by the small stuff.

Boone got out of the truck and walked toward them. He kissed Kendra's cheek and tried to smile, though he couldn't quite bring it off. "What is it with women and food?" he asked. "A man could be lying flat as a squashed penny on the railroad track, and some female would come along first thing, wanting to feed him something."

Hutch chuckled at that, but the quiet concern in his gaze made Boone's throat pull tight like the top of an old-time tobacco sack. "It's a long stretch to Missoula," Hutch observed, quietly affable. "You might get hungry along the way."

"I'll make sandwiches," Kendra said, and turned to duck-waddle toward the ranch house. Compared with Boone's double-wide, the place looked like a palace, with its clapboard siding and shining windows, and for the first time in his life, Boone wished he had a fine house like that to bring his children home to.

"Don't—" Boone protested, but it was too late. Kendra was already opening the screen door, stepping into the kitchen beyond.

"Let her build you a lunch, Boone," Hutch urged, his voice as quiet as his manner. Since the wedding, he'd been downright Zen-like. "She'll be quick about it, and she wants to help whatever way she can. We all do."

Boone nodded, cleared his throat, looked away. Hutch's dog, a black mutt named Leviticus, trotted over to nose Boone's hand, his way of saying howdy. Ken-dra's golden retriever, Daisy, was there, too, watchful and wagging her tail.

Boone ruffled both dogs' ears, straightened, looked Hutch in the eye again. Neither of them spoke, but it didn't matter, because they'd been friends for so long that words weren't always necessary.

Boone was worried about bringing the boys back to his place for anything longer than a holiday weekend, and Hutch knew that. He clearly cared and sympathized, but at the same time, he was pleased. There was no need to give voice to the obvious.

Kendra returned almost right away, moving pretty quickly for somebody who could be accused of smuggling pumpkins. She carried a bulging brown paper bag in one hand, holding it out to Boone when she got close enough. "Turkey on rye," she said. "With pickles. I threw in a couple of hard-boiled eggs and an apple, too."

He took the bag, muttered his thanks, climbed into Hutch's truck and reached through the open window to hand over the keys to the rust-bucket he'd driven up in. Some swap that was, he thought ruefully. His old buddy was definitely getting the shitty end of this stick.

"Give Molly and Bob our best!" Kendra called after him, as Boone started up the engine and shifted into Reverse. "If there's anything we can do—"

Boone cut her off with a nod, raised a hand in farewell and drove away.

After a brief stop in Parable, to get some cash from an ATM, he'd keep the pedal to the metal all the way to Missoula. Once there, he and Molly would explain things, together.

God only knew how his sons would take the news—they were always tentative and quiet on visits to Parable, like exiles to a strange new planet, and visibly relieved when it was time to go back to the city.

One thing at a time, Boone reminded himself.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

Miller's name is synonymous with the finest in western romance." -RT Book Reviews

"Miller's down-home, easy-to-read style keeps the plot moving, and she includes . . . likable characters, picturesque descriptions, and some very sweet pets."-Publishers Weekly on Big Sky Country

"This is a delightful addition to Miller's Big Sky series. This author has a way with a phrase that is nigh-on poetic, and all of the snappy little interactions between the main and secondary characters make this story especially entertaining."—RT BookReviews on Big Sky Mountain

"A passionate love too long denied drives the action in this multifaceted, emotionally rich reunion story that overflows with breathtaking sexual chemistry."-Library Journal on McKettricks of Texas: Tate

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Big Sky River 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 95 reviews.
rhonda1111RL More than 1 year ago
4 stars Big Sky River bring us back to Parable, Montana. This is Boone Taylor and Tara Kendall story. Sheriff Taylor sons have been living with his big sister after his wife died. When his sister calls and tells him her husband was injured and would have months of therapy to go through. Boone agrees and leaves to pick up his sons. Griffen 7 and Fletcher 5 have been living thier Aunt Molly and Uncle Bob for years. Griffen is excited to go back with his father but Fletcher is unhappy and scared too. Boone had never meant them to stay that long with his sister. He was scared amd anxious to bring them back home. Tara bought the property next door to Boone and has been raising chickens. She is from New York City. Tara hates the eyesore that Boones trailer is but at least he cleaned up his yard this past year. Tara ex-husband calls and asks her if his twin daughters can come stay with her while he takes his girl on long vacation. He has not wanted her to see them even though she raised them while they were very young. Elle and Erin were 12 and love Tara. She was very willing to let them come, but she had to down play how much that meant for her because he could change his mind out of spite. Tara went and traded her car a 2 seater in for a SUV to drive down and pick them up at the airport. The four kids in a strange area for them bond together pretty fast when they get thrown together right after they get there. I liked the romance, the kids characters,the community who come together and thier are a few characters that I do not like. There were a couple of love scenes. But plenty of plot. I can't wait for the next story of linda's Parable Montana. I want to see the police chief of Parable fail. Which I should not be. I was given this ebook to read in exchange of honest review from Netgalley. Harlequin HQN (December 18, 2012) 368 pages ISBN-10: 0373777205
DaniC More than 1 year ago
Linda Lael Miller is my go to author for stories that sound like they could happen in my town. There is just something about the way she writes her books that just captivates me and holds me until the very last page. Now the only flaw in this book is that Boone is a widower. I do find that to be an issue and lately I seem to see this theme in the books I have been reading. I am not saying that I don’t feel for the person that loses a spouse because I do. What I don’t like is when the widow/widower is not over the loss of their deceased spouse and yet they go ahead and start a relationship with someone else. I just do not find that romantic at all. It wasn’t a huge issue in this story thank goodness. Otherwise I totally and completely enjoyed this book. As always I look forward to whatever book this talented author has coming out next!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed reading this story and while the ending was happy for all it was a bit far fetched to think a father would sign over custody of twin daughters to a former wife who was not their mother... That said it was a cute story but again too much print devoted to the dogs.. As a long time reader of Ms. Millers books I simply can't believe she has given dogs so much emphasis in her recent books.. I know she is an advocate and I admire that but her earlier books were so much better reads... And, in this one I thought there was too many mentions of the chickens too... LOL... Still, I enjoyed all three books in this trilogy.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Like her other books a good story and easy read
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Looking forward to reading the next book in this series, Big Sky Summer.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The Big Sky series as a great read! As all of Linda Lael Miller's series and books have been excellent to read.
dsaraceni More than 1 year ago
This was another great story by Linda Lael Miller. I have read most everything she has written and enjoyed them all. If you enjoy romance with a twist of cowboy then you will enjoy this too!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I started reading this book before I realized that it was third in a series. I loved it. I wanted to know more about the main characters by the end. I was disappointed when I learned that each book in the series is based on a different couple. I wish that the author had more on these two and their families in Big Sky River. Regardless, I loved it and bought the first two books and am waiting for the one after this in the spring.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
read it
Anonymous 16 days ago
Well done and definitely romantic and very sweet
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Book started out well. Good plot tempo. Slowed down around chapter 8. Too much soul searching. Scenes with Tara's ex were too many and too long.
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Jasmyn9 More than 1 year ago
This was the most touching and heart-wrenching of the series so far. Sheriff Boone Taylor is such a sympathetic character that you want everything good to come his way and just make everything better. Miller works hard to make this happen for him in this book. Boone has a lot he's been dealing with - and not in the best way. When his wife died, he sent his young children to stay with family until he got his stuff together - but a few years later and they haven't come home yet. He misses them, but doesn't think he's good enough to take care of them. Fate takes that decision out of his hands, and places them firmly back in his life to stay and watching them get to know each other again was amazing. Boone is a great dad, he just needed to be reminded of that by his sons.  Tara is Boone's neighbor and chicken farmer - sort of. She's wanting to live life less hectic after coming out of a messy marriage and living large in the big city. Tara has some of her own baggage to deal with as well, but since she hasn't told anyone yet before this book - I don't want to give it away. It's a little surprising. Tara and Boone take an instant dislike to each other and this becomes a classic case of opposites attract.  Tara is convinced Boone is a lazy good-for-nothing man, but she doesn't realize he just needs a little help to deal with what life has thrown his way. Boone thinks it's hilarious that this "city girl" thinks she can hack it out in a farm on Montana and just tries to avoid her. But avoiding people isn't really possible in a small town - and when the locals gang up on them to try and get them together, they never stand a chance.  There is a small bit of action in this one, a little tragedy, and a lot of hope. Miller did a much better job with the intro of this one, and I didn't start with a feeling of being lost. There are tons of ups and downs and the set up for book four is great. This is a really fun series, but remember this is Parable, and their lives are lived just a little slower and more laid back than in the city. Lots of things happen, you just don't always realize it until the book is done. 
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pkgeihs54 More than 1 year ago
Ms. Miller has long been a favorite of mine and the Big Sky series has not been any different. My only complaint is that there won't be any more of them.
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RtBBlog More than 1 year ago
Reviewed by Jen Book provided by NetGalley for review Review originally posted at Romancing the Book I’ve been a longtime fan of Linda Lael Miller and this story didn’t disappoint. It’s the third in her series based in Parable, Montana, but it stands well on it’s own. Like most series, it would be helpful to have read the prior books for a little back ground of the supporting characters. But there is no overarcing theme to where the reader would be lost if they were making their first visit to Parable with this book. Big Sky River was a pretty fast read. The story is all about the romance between Tara and Boone. There’s no mystery, suspense or even a third party trying to tear them apart. It’s a straight forward tale of two people having to overcome their own hangups to find love. But that said, I was drawn into the story pretty quickly and read it in one sitting because I just had to get to the happily ever after. Boone’s a widower and still hasn’t gotten over his wife’s death. In his grief, he sent his two young sons to live with their aunt and uncle. But now a family emergency has those boys coming home. He’s not sure how to deal with the kids, especially since he’s the town sheriff. And then there is Tara, his new neighbor. She’s a big city girl who has moved to Parable after leaving her marriage and career. She’s settling into town, making friends and trying not to notice her neighbor, but things get all turned upside down when her step daughters come to visit. I wasn’t sure how Ms Miller was going to bring together Boone and Tara. Both characters had issues to overcome as the dealt with their attraction. And neither really wanted to fall in love after past heartbreak. They were both very relateable, which made their story so sweet and in the end satisfying. I am always happy to recommend a Linda Lael Miller book. Although at times her stories can be cookie-cutter (how many times can you base a series on a couple brothers and their friend who all live in a small town?), I still find them to be good, solid reads and each unique in their own way. Ms Miller always seems to touch my heart-strings, which is why I look forward to whatever is coming next.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago