Deliverance at Cardwell Ranch (Harlequin Intrigue Series #1533)

Deliverance at Cardwell Ranch (Harlequin Intrigue Series #1533)

by B. J. Daniels

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Overview

New York Times bestselling author B.J. Daniels delivers another Cardwell Ranch keeper with a woman on the run…and the lawman sworn to keep her safe

When deputy sheriff Austin Cardwell rescues a woman in the worst blizzard in years, it's only the beginning. The dark-haired beauty has no memory of who she is and who—or what—she was fleeing. But she's terrified of the stranger who shows up at the hospital, claiming to be her husband.

Convinced that the mystery woman is in grave danger, Austin refuses to let her out of his sight. As desire builds between them, she seems ready to trust him. From Cardwell Ranch to the snowy wilds of Idaho, Austin vows to uncover her identity…before her past destroys any hope of a future.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780373698004
Publisher: Harlequin
Publication date: 11/18/2014
Series: Harlequin Intrigue Series , #1533
Edition description: Original
Pages: 224
Product dimensions: 6.50(w) x 4.10(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author B.J. Daniels lives in Montana with her husband, Parker, and three springer spaniels. When not writing, she quilts, boats and plays tennis. Contact her at www.bjdaniels.com or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/pages/BJ-Daniels/127936587217837 or on twitter at bjdanielsauthor.

Read an Excerpt

Snow fell in a wall of white, giving Austin Cardwell only glimpses of the winding highway in front of him. He'd already slowed to a crawl as visibility worsened. Now on the radio, he heard that Highway 191 through the Gallatin Canyon—the very one he was on—was closed to all but emergency traffic.

"One-ninety-one from West Yellowstone to Bozeman is closed due to several accidents including a semi rollover that has blocked the highway near Big Sky. Another accident near West Yellowstone has also caused problems there. Travelers are advised to wait out the storm."

Great, Austin thought with a curse. Wait out the storm where? He hadn't seen any place to even pull over for miles let alone a gas station or café. He had no choice but to keep going. This was just what this Texas boy needed, he told himself with a curse. He'd be lucky if he reached Cardwell Ranch tonight.

The storm appeared to be getting worse. He couldn't see more than a few yards in front of the rented SUV's hood. Earlier he'd gotten a glimpse of the Gallatin River to his left. On his right were steep rock walls as the two-lane highway cut through the canyon. There was nothing but dark, snow-capped pine trees, steep mountain cliffs and the frozen river and snow-slick highway.

"Welcome to the frozen north," he said under his breath as he fought to see the road ahead—and stay on it. He blamed his brothers—not for the storm, but for his even being here. They had insisted he come to Montana for the grand opening of the first Texas Boys Barbecue joint in Montana. They had postponed the grand opening until he was well enough to come.

Although the opening was to be January 1, his cousin Dana had pleaded with him to spend Christmas at the ranch.

You need to be here, Austin, she'd said. I promise you won't be sorry.

He growled under his breath now. He hadn't been back to Montana since his parents divorced and his mother took him and his brothers to Texas to live. He'd been too young to remember much. But he'd found he couldn't say no to Dana. He'd heard too many good things about her from his brothers.

Also, what choice did he have after missing his brother Tag's wedding last July?

As he slowed for another tight curve, a gust of wind shook the rented SUV. Snow whirled past his windshield. For an instant, he couldn't see anything. Worse, he felt as if he was going too fast for the curve. But he was afraid to touch his brakes—the one thing his brother Tag had warned him not to do.

Don't do anything quickly, Tag had told him. And whatever you do, don't hit your brakes. You'll end up in the ditch.

He caught something in his headlights. It took him a moment to realize what he was seeing before his heart took off at a gallop.

A car was upside down in the middle of the highway, its headlights shooting out through the falling snow toward the river, the taillights a dim red against the steep canyon wall. The overturned car had the highway completely blocked.

* * *

Austin hit his brakes even though he doubted he stood a chance in hell of stopping. The SUV began to slide sideways toward the overturned car. He spun the wheel, realizing he'd done it too wildly when he began to slide toward the river. As he turned the wheel yet again, the SUV slid toward the canyon wall—and the overturned car.

He was within only a few feet of the car on the road, when his front tires went off the road into the narrow snow-filled ditch between him and the granite canyon wall. The deep snow seemed to grab the SUV and pull it in deeper.

Austin braced himself as snow rushed up over the hood, burying the windshield as the front of the SUV sunk. The ditch and the snow in it were much deeper than he'd thought. He closed his eyes and braced himself for when the SUV hit the steep rock canyon wall.

To his surprise, the SUV came to a sudden stop before it hit the sheer rock face.

He sat for a moment, too shaken to move. Then he remembered the car he'd seen upside down in the middle of the road. What if someone was hurt? He tried his door, but the snow was packed around it. Reaching across the seat, he tried the passenger side. Same problem.

As he sat back, he glanced in the rearview mirror. The rear of the SUV sat higher, the back wheels still partially up on the edge of the highway. He could see out a little of the back window where the snow hadn't blown up on it and realized his only exit would be the hatchback.

He hit the hatchback release then climbed over the seat. In the back, he dug through the clothing he'd brought on the advice of his now "Montana" brother and pulled out the flashlight, along with the winter coat and boots he'd brought. Hurrying, he pulled them on and climbed out through the back into the blinding snowstorm, anxious to see if he could be of any help to the passengers in the wrecked vehicle.

He'd waded through deep snow for a few steps before his feet almost slipped out from under him on the icy highway. No wonder there had been accidents and the highway had closed to all but emergency traffic. The pavement under the falling snow was covered with glare ice. He was amazed he hadn't gone off the road sooner.

Moving cautiously toward the overturned car, he snapped on his flashlight and shone it inside the vehicle, afraid of what he would find.

The driver's seat was empty. So was the passenger seat. The driver's air bag had activated then deflated. In the backseat, though, he saw something that made his pulse jump. A car seat was still strapped in. No baby, though.

He shined the light on the headliner, stopping when he spotted what looked like a woman's purse. Next to it was an empty baby bottle and a smear of blood.

"Hello?" he called out, terrified for the occupants of the car. The night, blanketed by the falling snow, felt too quiet. He was used to Texas traffic and the noise of big-city Houston.

No answer. He had no idea how long ago the accident had happened. Wouldn't the driver have had the good sense to stay nearby? Then again, maybe another vehicle had come from the other side of the highway and rescued the driver and baby. Strange, though, to just leave the car like this without trying to flag the accident.

"Hello?" He listened. He'd never heard such cold silence. It had a spooky quality that made him jumpy. Add to that this car being upside down in the middle of the highway. What if another vehicle came along right now going too fast to stop?

Walking around the car, he found the driver's side door hanging open and bent down to look inside. More blood on the headliner. His heart began to pound even as he told himself someone must have rescued the driver and baby. At least he hoped that was what had happened. But his instincts told him different. While in the barbecue business with his brothers, he worked as a deputy sheriff in a small town outside Houston.

He reached for his cell phone. No service. As he started to straighten, a hard, cold object struck him in the back of the head. Austin Cardwell staggered from the blow and grabbed the car frame to keep from going down. The second blow caught him in the back.

He swung around to ward off another blow.

To his shock, he came face-to-face with a woman wielding a tire iron. But it was the crazed expression on her bloody face that turned his own blood to ice.

* * *

Austin's head swam for a moment as he watched the woman raise the tire iron again. He'd disarmed his fair share of drunks and drugged-up attackers. Now he only took special jobs on a part-time basis, usually the investigative jobs no one else wanted.

Even with his head and back aching from the earlier blows, he reacted instinctively from years of dealing with criminals. He stepped to the side as the woman brought the tire iron down a third time. It connected with the car frame, the sound ringing out an instant before he locked an arm around her neck. With his other hand, he broke her grip on the weapon. It dropped to the ground, disappearing in the falling snow as he dragged her back against him, lifting her off her feet.

Though she was small framed, she proved to be much stronger than he'd expected. She fought as if her life depended on it.

"Settle down," he ordered, his breath coming out as fog in the cold mountain air. "I'm trying to help you."

His words had little effect. He was forced to capture both her wrists in his hands to keep her from striking him as he brought her around to face him.

"Listen to me," he said, putting his face close to hers. "I'm a deputy sheriff from Texas. I'm trying to help you."

She stared at him through the falling snow as if uncomprehending, and he wondered if the injury on her forehead, along with the trauma of the car accident, could be the problem.

"You hit your head when you wrecked your car—"

"It's not my car." She said the words through chattering teeth and he realized that she appeared to be on the verge of hypothermia—something else that could explain her strange behavior.

"Okay, it's not your car. Where is the owner?"

She glanced past him, a terrified expression coming over her face.

"Did you have your baby with you?" he asked.

"I don't have a baby."

The car seat in the back of the vehicle and the baby bottle lying on the headliner next to her purse would indicate otherwise. He hoped, though, that she was telling the truth. He couldn't bear the thought that the baby had come out of the car seat and was somewhere out in the snow.

He listened for a moment. He hadn't heard a baby crying when he'd gotten out of the SUV's hatchback. Nor had he heard one since. The falling snow blanketed everything, though, with that eerie stillness. But he had to assume even if there had been a baby, it wasn't still alive.

He considered what to do. His SUV wasn't coming out of that ditch without a tow truck hooked to it and her car certainly wasn't going anywhere.

"What's your name?" he asked her. She was shaking harder now. He had to get her to someplace warm. Neither of their vehicles was an option. If another vehicle came down this highway from either direction, there was too much of a chance they would be hit. He recalled glimpsing an old boarded-up cabin back up the highway. It wasn't that far. "What's your name?" he asked again.

She looked confused and on the verge of passing out on him. He feared if she did, he wouldn't be able to carry her back to the cabin he'd seen. When he realized he wasn't going to be able to get any information out of her, he reached back into the overturned car and snagged the strap of her purse.

The moment he let go of one of her arms, she tried to run away again and began kicking and clawing at him when he reached for her. He restrained her again, more easily this time because she was losing her motor skills due to the cold.

"We have to get you to shelter. I'm not going to hurt you. Do you understand me?" Any other time, he would have put out some sort of warning sign in case another driver came along. But he couldn't let go of this woman for fear she would attack him again or worse, take off into the storm.

He had to get her to the cabin as quickly as possible. He wasn't sure how badly she was hurt—just that blood was still streaming down her face from the contusion on her forehead. Loss of blood or a concussion could be the cause for her odd behavior. He'd have to restrain her and come back to flag the wreck.

Fortunately, the road was now closed to all but emergency traffic. He figured the first vehicle to come upon the wreck would be highway patrol or possibly a snow-plow driver.

Feeling he had no choice but to get her out of this storm, Austin grabbed his duffel out of the back of the SUV and started to lock it, still holding on to the woman. For the first time, he took a good look at her.

She wore designer jeans, dress boots, a sweater and no coat. He realized he hadn't seen a winter coat in the car or any snow boots. In her state of mind, she could have removed her coat and left it out in the snow.

Taking off his down coat, he put it on her even though she fought him. He put on the lighter-weight jacket he'd been wearing earlier when he'd gone off the road.

In his duffel bag, he found a pair of mittens he'd invested in before the trip and put them on her gloveless hands, then dug out a baseball cap, the only hat he had. He put it on her head of dark curly hair. The brown eyes staring out at him were wide with fear and confusion.

"You're going to have to walk for a ways," he said to her. She gave him a blank look. But while she appeared more subdued, he wasn't going to trust it. "The cabin I saw from the road isn't far."

It wasn't a long walk. The woman came along without a struggle. But she still seemed terrified of something. She kept looking behind her as they walked as if she feared someone was out there in the storm and would be coming after her. He could feel her body trembling through the grip he had on her arm.

Walking through the falling snow, down the middle of the deserted highway, felt surreal. The quiet, the empty highway, the two of them, strangers, at least one of them in some sort of trouble. It felt as if the world had come to an end and they were the last two people alive.

As they neared where he'd seen the cabin, he hoped his eyes hadn't been deceiving him since he'd only gotten a glimpse through the falling snow. He quickly saw that it was probably only a summer cabin, if that. It didn't look as if it had been used in years. Tiny and rustic, it was set back in a narrow ravine off the highway. The windows had wooden shutters on them and the front door was secured with a padlock.

They slogged through the deep snow up the ravine to the cabin as flakes whirled around them. Austin couldn't remember ever being this cold. The woman had to be freezing since she'd been out in the cold longer than he had and her sweater had to be soaked beneath his coat.

Leading her around to the back, he found a shutterless window next to the door. Putting his elbow through the old, thin glass, he reached inside and unlocked the door. As he shoved it open, a gust of cold, musty air rushed out.

The woman balked for a moment before he pulled her inside. The room was small, and had apparently once been a porch but was now a storage area. He was relieved to see a stack of dry split wood piled by the door leading into the cabin proper.

Opening the next door, he stepped in, dragging the woman after him. It was pitch-black inside. He dropped his duffel bag and her purse, removed the flashlight from his coat pocket and shone it around the room. An old rock fireplace, the front sooty from years of fires, stood against one wall. A menagerie of ancient furniture formed a half circle around it.

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Deliverance at Cardwell Ranch 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 11 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good story
jef71 More than 1 year ago
Deliverance at Cardwell Ranch by B. J. Daniels: Very good book, could not put it down. Deputy sheriff was on his way to the Cardwell Ranch when he hit a blizzard and come up on a car upside down in the middle of the road. He rescued woman. She did not know who she was, she had hit her head when the car turned over. Got her to the hospital . she was terrified of the stranger who showed up at the hospital, claiming to be her husband...
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Suspenseful, very original story line. Loved our heroine and hero. A Great Cardwell series addition.
sarahj2u More than 1 year ago
Austin Cardwell has his hands full and he hasn't even been in Montana for 24 hours yet! BJ Daniels starts the latest Cardwell Cousins series book off with a bang, and keeps you on the edge of your seat as she builds the suspense steadily throughout the storyline. A handsome cowboy, a terrified "damsel in distress", a snowstorm like you only find in the high country of Montana all blend to keep you engrossed in this book. I loved it and will be sad when the last of the Cardwell brothers is married off - don't want to see this series end!
ttaborsky More than 1 year ago
Thank you, BJ Daniels, for writing another awesome tale of murder, suspense and romance! Deliverance at Cardwell Ranch is part of the Cardwell Cousins series and tells the story of Austin Cardwell's long-awaited visit to Montana. A typical Montana snow storm forces Austin to unintentionally cross paths with a mysterious, very confused, beautiful woman whom catches his attention in a most unusual way. This encounter with Gillian opens up a very dangerous mystery which must get solved to ensure the safety of her and her family. This book can be read alone but I highly recommend reading the rest of the series...the stories are really well-written and thought out. The characters also keep you coming back again and again! I love it and can't wait for more!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Couldn't put it 9
Karenls1956 More than 1 year ago
LindaTownsend More than 1 year ago
This is my review of DELIVERANCE AT CARDWELL RANCH. Don't do anything quickly, Tag had told him. And whatever you do, don't hit your brakes. You'll end up in the ditch. He caught something in his headlights. It took him a moment to realize what he was seeing before his heart took off at a gallop. A car was upside down in the middle of the highway, its headlights shooting out through the falling snow toward the river, the taillights a dim red against the steep canyon wall. The overturned car had the highway completely blocked. DELIVERANCE AT CARDWELL RANCH by B. J. Daniels is a masterpiece of western suspense. I've enjoyed each of her Cardwell books, but DELIVERANCE AT CARDWELL RANCH is, hands-down, the best yet! AND it occurs at Christmas-time, so it works as a holiday read too! As with the rest of her books, it's light on romance, but heavy with thrilling suspense. Don't start this book until you can read it through, as I was unable to sleep until I'd finished it. I'd turn out the lights and lay there thinking about the book... I finally gave up on sleeping. I was sincerely on pins and needles throughout the whole book as the angst was unrelenting. All of B.J. Books are fresh and fascinating western mysteries set in gorgeous scenery suffused with intrigue, spiced with sexy heroes, and imbued with a light sensual romance. These Cardwell brothers have been dropping like flies.  DELIVERANCE AT CARDWELL RANCH is the third book in the author's Cardwell Cousins series, but it tells the story of the fourth brother. It can easily be read as a standalone, even though there are interconnected characters, as the author seamlessly fills in pertinent information that the reader would need to know to fully enjoy the book. That said, I highly recommend reading all the books related to the cousins as they've all been fantastic reads. Her Cardwell Cousins series is a spinoff from B.J.'s Cardwell Ranch series. The previous books directly related to the Cardwell brothers are: • #4, Cardwell Ranch series, CHRISTMAS AT CARDWELL RANCH (Tanner "Tag" Cardwell and Lily's story) • #1, Cardwell Cousins series, RESCUE AT CARDWELL RANCH (Hayes Cardwell's and McKenzie's story) • #2, Cardwell Cousins Series, WEDDING AT CARDWELL RANCH (Jackson Cardwell's and Allie's story) • #3, Cardwell Cousins Series, DELIVERANCE AT CARDWELL RANCH (Austin Cardwell's and Gillian's story) As the story opens, we meet Austin Cardwell, our hero. His arrival denotes another Cardwell cousin from Texas who is now on Montana soil. Austin's not thrilled to be in Montana in the winter, but he promised his brothers that he would be with them for Christmas and for the opening of their family's first BBQ restaurant in Montana. Austin's a sheriff's deputy in Texas, a partner in his family's BBQ restaurants, a dedicated work-a-holic, a sucker for women in distress and a loner. He doesn't let people get close to him. He's the black sheep of the family and didn't even attend the wedding of his brother, Tag, to Lilly as he was recovering from helping another lady who needed saving. My full review is posted at Reading Between The Wines Book Club.   5 Wine Glasses!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Amigagal More than 1 year ago
This book starts off with a bang and doesn't let up until the last page! My only complaint was that I had to stop at some point and make dinner! B.J. just keeps you on the edge of your seat at all times, wondering what is going to happen next. In this book, we meet another Cardwell cousin from Texas - Austin. He's none to happy to be in Montana in the winter. He's sort of a loner in the family but he promised the rest of his brothers that he'd join them for Christmas as they open up the first of their BBQ restaurants in Montana so on his drive there, he suddenly finds a car upside down in the middle of the road, in a snowstorm. As he investigates, he's not ready to be hit in the head with a tire iron wielded by a pretty lady who doesn't know who she is! So starts the adventure that holds Austin's attention for the next few days!!! He eventually gets the lady to the hospital and the law investigates but nothing gets cleared up. A fake husband shows up and takes her home. Austin can't leave it be so he leaves his brothers and goes to investigate on his own. The woman turns out to be Gillian and the fake husband is her brother-in-law who is an evil man hiding her sister! The plot thickens - you'll just have to read the book! That's why the pages were turning so fast for me! I admire B.J. so much for crafting a fantastic tale of betrayal, lies, murder and clues! I couldn't get enough of it! A couple times I had to remind myself to breathe! I got so caught up in the race to discover where key items are hidden, where the bad guys are and if everyone good will LIVE. I highly recommend this book. I was given this book in exchange for an honest review, which I have done.
JL_Coy0 More than 1 year ago
Deliverance at Cardwell Ranch is another page turner from BJ Daniels. It starts out with a bang, has all the great elements to keep me reading: amnesia, a woman in trouble, a handsome cowboy who doesn’t want any commitments but who just can’t help himself when there is a woman that needs his protection. There were so many nice twists and turns to this story of the third Texas Cardwell cousins. I love series books. You know part of the back story, but not all of it. This book follows Austin Cardwell as he travels to Montana for the opening the Texas Boys Barbecue restaurant and for a Christmas visit with his cousin Dana and his brothers. You know just from that information that Austin is going to have a winter adventure and does he ever – arriving in a blizzard, finding an overturned car in the middle of the road. There’s the damsel in distress with a partial memory, there’s the husband that doesn’t seem quite right and where is that baby that belongs in the car seat! I would have liked to have had more interaction with the Cardwell family – the brothers as well as Dana and her family. And I thought Austin sometimes did things that I would not expect a deputy to do. But all in all, there was mystery upon mystery throughout the book and my only real complaint with B.J. Daniels’ books is that I can’t read them all in one sitting. And on the other hand, I try to stretch them out for as long as I can to savor the story. Eternal conflict for great reads! I would recommend this book to anyone who likes romance, intrigue and the great setting of Montana all wrapped up into one terrific story.