Myra Odell's parents have given away her Montana ranchto a tenderfoot. Lieutenant Zeke Maxwell may have saved her brother's life, but he doesn't know the first thing about cattle. For the sake of the ranch, Myra agrees to train Zeke, but she's determined not to get too close.
The military taught Zeke a lot of things, but ranching wasn't one of them. Zeke is impressed by Myra's experience and courage but seriously distracted by her beautiful eyes. Her claim on the Flying Owl is complicated, as is her claim on his heart. Can he prove to Myra that the ranch will never be his home without her?
Enjoy a special bonus short story from #1 New York Times bestselling author Debbie Macomber, MY FUNNY VALENTINE
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Myra Odell parked the tractor in the implement barn and went out to the fenced acres of grass. Recent rains had greened the pasture nicely. Good. Maybe tomorrow she'd bring the new crop of young animals down to ready them for market. Her neighbor Hank Watson had offered to truck them to the stockyard before winter storms hit northeastern Montana. With August close to the end, she'd still hoped for a few more weeks of decent weather. But all morning the sky had looked ominous. She'd gotten fairly good at predicting weather disruptions. She'd grown up in this country, and for most of her twenty-eight years she'd spent summers here on Flying Owl Ranch with her dad's parents. Three summers ago she'd come to help out Gramps, who's health had declined after her grandmother passed away the previous year.
Rather than return to teaching high school math in Great Falls that year, she'd stayed to run the ranch she loved. Her mom fussed about it, but truth be told Myra liked cattle ranching way more than teaching. Although after losing Gramps, the loneliness took some getting used to. Thankfully, she'd made friends with neighbors and some in the nearby town of Snowy Owl Crossing. And Gramps said she was a born rancher. Which was good because Myra saw herself spending the rest of her life right here.
Stepping down from the last rung of the split-rail fence, Myra checked her watch. She could feed the two saddle horses she kept for herding cattle before driving into town to grab staples in case the Farmer's Almanac was right about them getting an early snow. She might drop in to see a couple of her girlfriends, especially Jewell Hyatt, to ask if she had any news from the state. Their committee had put in a request to designate some local land as a snowy-owl habitat.
A waterfowl preserve was already adjacent to a nearby lake, but snowy owls nested in tall fir trees too often being logged off. The birds weren't yet endangered, but everyone in the area who loved watching them raise their young knew the owl population was shrinking. Quite a bit just since Myra had made her home here.
The horses whinnied a welcome. Both stuck their heads over their stall doors to see if she'd brought apples or a carrot in addition to their daily rations. Today she had neither, but they made do with muzzle rubs.
She left the barn and was heading toward Gramps's aging Ford pickup when her cell phone rang. Myra dug her phone out of her jacket pocket and was surprised to see her dad's number on the screen. She rarely heard directly from him as he tended to let her mom or her younger brother, Eric, touch base for the whole family. Her folks owned a much larger cattle ranch off the highway that ran between Miles City and Billings. Because it was rarer still that any of the busy Odells took time to phone during a weekday, worry knotted in Myra's stomach as she swiped the bar to answer.
"Hello, Dad? Is everything all right at Rolling Acres?" Myra heard the tremor in her voice and took a deep breath to dispel her concerns.
"Everything is fine. I have good news. Lieutenant Maxwell is here."
"You mean the guy who saved Eric's life in Afghanistan? I didn't know he was out of the hospital."
"Zeke, that's right. He's out of the VA hospital after an extensive stay after he saved Eric's life."
"Doesn't he live on the East Coast?"
"Yup, he was renting an apartment in Boston, where he grew up. Seems his folks have retired to some island."
"Eric told me they'd kept in contact. I recall him saying the lieutenant had to have his left shoulder and elbow rebuilt. It sounded serious. I think Eric felt some guilt because the guy got hurt saving him and the others."
"I don't know that he felt guilty. Certainly grateful. Your mother and I can't thank him enough, either."
"For sure. So what's he doing in Montana?"
"That's really what I called to tell you. Zeke's friends and family have all left Boston for other opportunities. Eric thought he needed cheering up."
"So you invited him to visit. That's thoughtful of you guys."