This is the summer of Annie Sparks—at least according to her. No more supporting lazy jerks or coddling irresponsible family or taking care of anyone who doesn’t deserve her help. Instead she’s headed to an estate in a remote mountain town, to spend her summer with her boots covered in mud and her hands working the earth. Love is the last thing on her mind.
Nugget is a long way from Logan Jenkins’ old life as a Navy SEAL. But before he starts fresh in the private sector, he receives a bequest from a man he never knew: his biological father. To learn more about his background, Logan makes his way to his late father’s estate, where he is immediately knocked on his heels by an incredible woman with a heart of gold.
Annie’s not looking for a fling, and Logan knows Nugget can’t be forever, so falling in love should be impossible. But when they’re together, time stops, and suddenly the impossible seems like the only thinkable option . . .
PRAISE FOR STACY FINZ
“Stacy Finz is a unique new voice. Nugget, California, is a charming small town filled with inventive characters and sweet romance.” —Jill Shalvis, New York Times bestselling author
“Tender and touching, Stacy Finz writes romance with heart.” —Marina Adair
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By Stacy Finz
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2017 Stacy Finz
All rights reserved.
The big gate stopped Logan Jenkins in his tracks. He didn't know what he was thinking, coming here like this. But his curiosity had gotten the better of him. A man ought to know where he came from and who his people were, he supposed.
Until a week ago, he hadn't given a good goddamn. Then, boom, life had changed with just one phone call.
He pulled his pickup to the side of the road, slung his backpack over his shoulder, and got out to have a look around. Picturesque and peaceful, nothing like the hellholes he'd come from.
The gate was impressive with its curlicue ironwork, but not much for keeping anyone out. To prove it, Logan hopped the twelve-foot fence, avoiding the top's sharp, ornamental spears, in under a minute and hiked up the long gravel road. At the peak of the hill he paused and let out a low whistle. Even from a hundred yards away, he could see that the house put the gate to shame. It looked like one of those mega–ski chalets plucked from an Alpine mountainside. Lots of large windows, tiered decks, and big log siding. It was built to appear rustic, though it was anything but. The landscape wasn't bad either. A river snaked through miles of rolling pastures with the Sierra Nevada mountain range looming in the background.
This is where he would've grown up if things had been different. Instead, for the last twelve years he hadn't belonged anywhere — or everywhere, depending on how he looked at it. His last address — besides the apartment he shared with Gabe when he was stateside — had been Afghanistan. A far cry from Rosser Ranch.
No one tried to stop him, so he continued down the driveway, toward the house, taking in the sights. A four-car garage with a guest house. A front lawn as big as a soccer field. And lots of flagstone pathways. Someone went to a lot of trouble to make the gardens seem native to match the surrounding countryside.
By now he would've expected at least a dog to have barked at his presence. Crappy security. But he suspected there wasn't much crime in Nugget, California. Just a spot on the map, really. According to a quick search on the internet, its claim to fame was the Western Pacific Railroad Museum, which offered a train ride through gold country. The blurb he'd read said Nugget was still very much a railroad town, now a crew-change site for Union Pacific. Before the railroad, there'd been the Gold Rush. But ultimately, the pioneers had made their fortunes from timber and cattle. Major cattle ranches still covered the countryside.
Logan laughed to himself. Who would've thought his ancestors were cowboys? The closest he'd ever gotten to livestock was the Kochis' goat and sheep herds in the Hindu Kush. Here, he could see plenty of cows dotting the hills in the foreground like a poster advertising rural life on the farm. Pretty domesticated and attractive, he had to admit. Just not for him. He maneuvered better in chaos. Thrived in it, actually.
When he got close to the house, he circled around it to the backyard. A couple of hammocks swayed under a log cabana. The large, kidney-shaped pool was tempting in the heat. The whole upscale setup was very dude-ranch spa.
So far, he wasn't feeling his roots. No cosmic connection with the land. All he was feeling was a shitload of money. The old man was supposed to be buried in the family plot on the property. Maybe Logan would check that out and see if he could summon the ghost of the man who'd given him life. Thank him for being a douche bag.
Logan ambled down a well-worn path designated by a splitrail trail fence that jutted off from the pool area toward a stable. Like the house, the building was constructed of logs with two cupolas and a weather vane on top. It was probably where Rosser had kept the thoroughbreds or whatever kind of horses he'd raised.
"You're late," a woman called to him. She leaned against the side of the barn, shielding her eyes from the sun, a cowboy hat pulled over her forehead.
"Excuse me?" He walked toward her. Up close, he noticed her combat boots right off the bat. They looked funny with the bubblegum-pink tank top and short floral skirt that flared a few inches above her knees.
When he met her eyes — big ones that reminded him of golden brown sugar — she smiled and he went to DEFCON 3 in less than a heartbeat. It was like sunshine, that smile. So damn guileless that it instantly put him on alert. Where he'd come from everyone had an agenda.
"You were supposed to be here thirty minutes ago." She pushed herself off the wall of the barn and shrugged as if she was willing to overlook his tardiness. "Come on. I'll show you what needs to be done."
Out of curiosity he followed her as she took the same path he'd started on through a wooded area. Her gait was brisk. Her legs and arms were toned, like she got plenty of exercise, and her ass ... well, yeah, that looked toned too. They came up on a large cabin and she stopped.
"Your first task would be to clear this." She swept her arm across the weeds and brambles strangling the building, which on closer inspection seemed more like a barrack, and eyed him up and down. "You look like you're up to the challenge."
Even with his Gatorz on, he could see the trail of freckles running across her nose. "What's the cabin for?" "It's a bunkhouse and we're going to use it for the program."
He got the sense that he was expected to know what the program was, so he just nodded.
"There's another one over there." She pointed across a clearing at an identical building that had also seen better days. "Once the shrubs and weeds are cleared away, we'll get to work on the insides."
He probably should've told her he wasn't the job candidate. But once he did, she'd kick him off the property and he wasn't done looking around yet.
"After we finish up here, there are a few more cottages and a foreman's house we have to ready before the roofer and construction crew comes. If you still need work after that I could use you to help till the fields for the hay planting in the fall. You said you're experienced operating a tractor, right?" He'd never driven a tractor in his life, but there couldn't be much to it. Anyway, he wouldn't be here for that. His conscience told him to come clean because she'd find out sooner or later that he wasn't here to clear brush. If she booted him off the land, he'd find another way to explore the place ... his origins.
"Actually, no," he said.
She tilted her head in surprise. "Were you trying to win me over on the phone so you could get the job?" Her mouth turned down into a frown. "I'll be real honest with you: Riding a tractor isn't required. We just need someone who isn't afraid to put his back into the work."
"No, I mean it wasn't me on the phone."
"Oh? Did you read the help-wanted ad in the Nugget Tribune?"
He felt compelled to remove a leaf that had gotten stuck in the band of her cowboy hat but kept his hands at his side. "Nope. I was checking the place out."
"Rosser Ranch? Why?"
This is where it got tricky. He didn't want to lie — liars were louses — but he wasn't ready to advertise the truth. Hell, he'd just learned the truth seven days ago and was still trying to wrap his head around the news. The old man hadn't even owned the ranch when he'd died. So to come here like this ... well, it would seem strange.
"I was passing through, saw the gate, and got curious."
"Passing through?" She seemed dubious. "So you're not looking for work?"
Actually he was, just not this kind of work. He'd gotten out of the navy a couple of weeks ago and had found himself at loose ends, which was strange when for the last twelve years he'd been told where to shit and when to sit.
Gabe, also a former SEAL, wanted to start a private security business. Everything from risk management and cyber security to VIP protection and contract work for Uncle Sam. He wanted Logan to work for him and was trying to scrounge up investors and a few contract jobs to keep them busy. Any time now, Logan expected to get a call with an assignment.
"Nah," he told her, and took off his shades and stuffed them in his shirt pocket. "You having trouble finding someone?"
"The only guy who called from the ad is a no-show. That's why I thought you were him."
"Sorry. I should've told you from the get-go."
"That's okay." But her shoulders deflated in obvious frustration. "You sure you don't want the job? It comes with living quarters ... nothing fancy, but you get to live here." She spread her arms wide.
"Yeah, it's quite a place. You own it?" Somehow, he didn't think so.
"Gosh, no. The owner, Gia Treadwell is great, though. She bought the place less than a year ago, after her financial-advice show got canceled." She watched him closely, presumably to see if he recognized the name Gia Treadwell.
Logan wasn't surprised that a celebrity owned it now. It would take that kind of money to maintain a place like this. He remembered seeing Treadwell's program once or twice and hearing that she'd been embroiled in some sort of legal problems.
"She hired me to plant a Christmas-tree farm," she continued. "I get to live on the ranch as part of the deal, which includes prepping the place for a residential program to help women down on their luck get back on their feet." She hesitated and then said, "After ... uh ... Gia's troubles, she wanted to pay it forward."
Logan swiveled around to peer at the bunkhouses again. "They going to live in these?"
"Yep. And there are cottages for the women who have children."
"Nice." He wanted to ask her if he could continue to check out the place, maybe wander over to the family cemetery plot, but thought better of it. "I'm Logan Jenkins, by the way."
She stuck out her hand. "Annie Sparks."
Annie had a good grip, even though his hands dwarfed hers. And she was so freaking pretty, with those big, soulful eyes and peaches-and-cream skin, that he couldn't stop looking at her. Everything from her trusting demeanor to her flowered skirt and faded straw hat said sweet. Logan usually avoided the sweet girls; they always cried when he left and it broke his heart.
"Why don't you show me where I'd get to live if I took the job?" It was an excuse to see more and to throw her a bone after initially misleading her.
"Sure," Annie said, and perked up. She led him further down the path to a smaller log cabin. Unlike the others, this one had been cleared. The front porch even had a rocking chair and flower boxes underneath green trimmed windows.
She climbed the stairs and opened the front door. "Feel free to check it out."
He went inside. The place was tiny, just a living room, galley kitchen, eating nook, and sleeping loft. What it lacked in space it made up for in charm, though Logan's bar was pretty low. He'd been deployed so many times, living in enough CHUs — containerized housing units — that even the moldy, shoebox of an apartment he shared with Gabe in Coronado seemed like a palace.
"It's adorable, isn't it?"
"Not bad," he said. Through the trees he could see wide-open pastures. The view certainly didn't suck. "Where's your place?"
"Over the garage. In the fall I'll be commuting to finish my PhD program at UC Davis."
"PhD, huh? What in?"
"Whoa, you must be smart." Logan was lucky to have a high school diploma. Not that he was dumb, but he'd had trouble sitting through classes. The doctors had told his mom it was ADHD. They were wrong. He could concentrate just fine if it were something he was interested in. He loved to read, picked up languages fairly well — at least enough to be conversational — and was a quick study when it came to people. "So does that make you an economist or a farmer?"
"A farmer. Third generation. I don't see that changing. I suppose the degree gives me extra credibility and the option to teach. How about you? What brings you to Nugget?"
"Uh ... I recently got out of the navy, found myself between jobs, and have been doing a little traveling. The town looked interesting." Most of what he'd said was true.
"I thought you might be military. Were you in the Middle East?"
"Afghanistan and Iraq."
"So you saw combat, huh?"
Logan nodded. "So why's the place called Rosser Ranch?" He knew damned well why; he was fishing and it was a better topic than war.
"Ray Rosser used to own the ranch. It had been in his family since the Gold Rush. But he sold it to Gia last year to pay his attorneys' fees when he was charged with murder after killing a cattle rustler."
The lawyer had already told him the colorful story, which still seemed bizarre. It was the twenty-first century. Shooting cattle rustlers? Who did shit like that anymore?
"A week ago he had a stroke in prison and died," Annie said. "His wife and daughter live in Colorado."
Logan had met them at the attorney's office in Sacramento for the reading of the will. That had been a hell of a party. Apparently, they'd known as much about him as he'd known about them. That would be a big zilch.
The wife had been okay. He didn't get the sense that there'd been any love lost between her and Rosser, nor that she'd been surprised he'd been stepping out on her. But the daughter, Raylene, had been a monster bitch. He could understand how finding out that you suddenly had a half-brother would make her resentful. But he'd gotten the impression that she was mostly mad about the money — that she and her husband weren't getting all of it. Logan hadn't asked for anything. Hell, he hadn't even known about his secret family until the old man croaked and would've been fine moving through life without the knowledge that he and Ray Rosser shared the same DNA. He'd gotten along thirty-one years without it. But his mother had pleaded with him to take his due.
"It's part of your heritage," she'd argued.
And if anyone could cajole him into something he didn't want to do, it was Maisy Jenkins.
She'd raised him single-handedly, which was no easy feat. He'd been a wild boy, prone to getting into fights and hanging with the wrong crowd. Yet, Maisy had always loved and believed in him. Growing up in Vegas, it had never dawned on him that they lived a little too well for Maisy's paycheck. She worked at a gift shop at the Bellagio and was usually home when he got off of school. Still, they'd owned a modest house in a subdivision, his mother drove a nice car, and they always had plenty of food on the table with money left over for him to buy Little League gear and new clothes. Not rich by a long shot, but comfortable. And that was because Ray Rosser had been footing the bill. In return, his mother had sworn to keep her love child's paternity secret.
Logan wasn't angry about it. She did what she had to do. Ray wasn't about to leave his wife, who'd been pregnant with Raylene when Logan was one. Rosser certainly wasn't going to publically acknowledge him. So what was the point of pressing the issue? Maisy took the money and moved to Nevada with a signed declaration that Rosser would at least make room for his illegitimate son in his will.
He'd kept to the bargain.
And Logan was thinking he could use the money to partner with Gabe in the security company. With the cash, they could really build something, even hire a few more operators. But first they needed a couple of assignments under their belt to build a reputation.
In the meantime, Logan planned to learn more about the Rosser side of his family. The only real father figure he'd ever had was Nick, whom his mother married when Logan was a senior in high school. Nick, a former Navy SEAL in charge of security at the Bellagio, was as good as they came. He'd been the one to make sure Logan walked the straight and narrow and had encouraged him when he enlisted to join Seaman-to-SEAL, a program that guaranteed he'd at least become a candidate because he'd already met many of the physical challenges. No one was prouder of Logan than Nick when he'd made it through six months of BUD/S — basic underwater demolition. But Nick wasn't his biological father, even though Logan wished otherwise.
"You want to sit for a second?" Annie asked, and Logan got the distinct impression she was getting ready to do a sales job on him.
"You're pretty hard up, huh?" He took a seat at the edge of the porch and swung his legs over the side, waiting for her to join him.
"It's difficult to find reliable people out here." Annie took the top step, smoothing the back of her skirt as she sat down. "Most of the good ones have already signed up with a ranch or the railroad for permanent work. We don't have enough to keep someone on past fall, but I'm on a deadline. The women are due here in September."
Excerpted from Falling Hard by Stacy Finz. Copyright © 2017 Stacy Finz. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This was an awesome book. 250 pages of love, family and lots of intrigue.
Loved the realistic characters
Falling Hard was a story easy to fall for. I have read some installments of the series before, and the small town Nugget has charmed me with its meddling townsfolk and fast friends who have made caring for each other and spreading information fast into an artform. Annie Sparks is a lovely heroine. I have met her in a previous story and liked her immediately. There is just such a genuinely kind spirit in her, she likes to help others, she is unique, sweet, and fun to be around. Her family farm is struggling because of the drama around her brother, her ex took an advantage of her kind heart, yet through the story, she learns to stand up for herself, she makes compromises, and she falls hard, head over heels, for Logan Jenkins. Logan is perfect hero material. The former SEAL came to his biological father's small hometown to seek his roots, met Annie, and decided to stay for awhile. Logan is a solid character, he is generous, kind, considerate, fearless, badass who likes an adrenaline rush. With a little action and danger, he gets to show what he is made of, with Annie all his better qualities are present. It was delightful to see him falling for her, the feelings were palpable in the air, the passion and adoration were zestful and gentle. Falling Hard is a story that gives you all those warm and fuzzy feelings. It makes you smile and sigh while you live in the moment with characters, hoping for the best and cheering them on. There aren't many surprises or unexpected twists in the story, but it still kept the hold of my interest, were vastly entertaining, Nugget being one of those small towns where you want to keep returning to for a visit. A lovely and lively story for romance lovers ~ Four Spoons * Thankful for the NetGally eARK for feeding my reading addiction*
This the second book I have read by Stacy Finz and I literally could not put it down after I started it so I finished reading it in one evening. A warm hearted romance about an ex SEAL discovering his heritage, a beautiful, intelligent woman that loves the land, and a small town that embraces him. This story has romance, adventure, laughs, and tears so what more could you possibly ask for. If you haven't ever read a Stacy Finz book you are missing out! I am turning this weekend into a Stacy Finz book marathon!
falling hard is the ninth book in the nugget romance series, and even though it stands alone, a lot of the secondary characters have previously been featured in the series, so the connections between them might be a little easier to keep straight if you've read them all. in falling hard, we meet logan jenkins, who inherited some money from his biological father and who is native to nugget. he happens upon his father's old estate, and annie sparks, the acting caretaker mistakes him for the hired help. because logan is at loose ends and he is interested in gaining some perspective on his heritage, he goes along with this. though, because nugget is a small town his ruse doesn't last long. people remember his mom, and they definitely remember his dad. even though they can't tell him one nice thing about him. logan's intentions were never to stay in nugget, he's just left the navy seals and intends to work in the private sector. but meeting annie and falling for her isn't what he planned to do with his post-military life. he's always been an adrenaline junkie, and life in nugget doesn't seem to be all that thrilling. but there is something about nugget that gets its hooks into you. because the more people from the town logan encounters, the harder he has to fight the desire to stay. logan never thought he was missing all that much by not knowing his biological father. but coming to nugget and being with annie allows him to see the value of putting down roots. but for someone who was used to a rootless existence, he's not sure how to handle this change of outlook. but life can be about compromise. and both logan and annie are adults who communicate, so they will figure this out. and maybe build something beautiful together while they're at it. **falling hard will publish on april 11, 2017. i received an advance reader copy courtesy of netgalley/kensington books (lyrical press) in exchange for my honest review.
Stacy Finz has done it again! I wasn't sure about Annie's story. I thought it might be going too far away from the core characters, boy was I worried for nothing. An absolutely great read. Thank you
Another great addition to the Nugget series! This was #9 in the series written by Stacey Finz. This is Annie and Logan's story. Annie is a 3rd generation farmer working on her PhD in agricultural economics. She's trying to help her family run the family farm while her brother seems to be doing everything he can to destroy it. She's so frustrated that her parents keep giving her brother money for all his hair-brained get rich quick schemes. Meanwhile, she's got a boyfriend who's been mooching off her for far too long. After ditching her dead beat boyfriend, Annie stays at her friend Gia's place in one of the cottages in exchange for helping Gia get her ranch ready for a woman's program she's planning to run. Gia's ranch was previously owned by Ray Rosser, who recently died in prison. Logan is an ex-SEAL who just found out that the father he never knew, Ray Rosser, is dead and used to own his own ranch. Logan decides to take a road trip to Nugget and check out Rosser's Ranch to see what he can learn about his heritage. After sneaking onto the property, Annie mistakes Logan as the guy who answered an ad she placed for help clearing up the area around the other cottages on the ranch. Logan does come clean about who he really is and agrees to do the work anyway. Logan and Annie work hard to fight the attraction that they immediately felt for each other. They both know that Logan is only in Nugget for a short time, and Annie doesn't want to get her heart broken when he moves on. Luckily, Annie decides to go for it and deal with the consequences later. And boy, do they go for it! I really enjoyed reading Falling Hard. All the characters of Nugget crack me up! It was great seeing the town through Logan's eyes, with all it's weird people. I love how Stacey introduces us to old characters in each new book, but yet each book can be read as a standalone. Annie and Logan have a great story with a very happy ending. I would highly recommend this book to everyone! I voluntarily read an advanced copy for an honest review.
Following his biological father's death, Logan travels to Nugget, CA to learn more about the father that he never knew. While on his journey, he meets Annie who is working on the farm that used to belong to his father. Logan is a former Navy SEAL and is the complete opposite of the type of guy that Annie usually dates. Despite that, she is attracted to him and the feeling in mutual. The problem is that Logan is only in town temporarily and Annie isn't into flings. I loved everything about Logan. He is the perfect hero! This is the first book that I have read by Stacy Finz and I will definitely be reading more. I love the small town of Nugget and look forward to catching up on the series. I voluntarily reviewed an Advance Reader Copy.
So good!! I'm a huge fan of this series and this book is another great addition. The characters in this small town are all wonderful and hilarious. Annie and Logan fit right in. This is a great story of two people going in opposite directions but the pull between them stopping both of them in their tracks and reassessing exactly what they want in life. Logan is a former SEAL stopping in Nugget only long enough to learn what he can about a man he never knew. Annie's had her share of loser's in her life and is looking forward to working the earth at her new job and steering clear of men. Then Logan shows up and all her plans go up in smoke. This is a fantastic read and definitely one I recommend to everyone.