Rocky Mountain Homecoming

Rocky Mountain Homecoming

by Pamela Nissen

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781459212824
Publisher: Harlequin
Publication date: 09/01/2011
Series: Love Inspired Historical Series
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 288
Sales rank: 317,646
File size: 370 KB

About the Author

Pamela Nissen lives in Tennessee. She loves spending quality time with her family and friends. When she isn't writing she can be found outside, running or just enjoying nature's beauty. She is passionate about writing ‘real’ people with ‘real’ issues and ‘real’ responses.

Read an Excerpt

"Make way! Big load comin' through," Pete O'Leary, the local grave digger, announced as he plastered his tall lanky form against a row of mercantile shelves. "Zach, you must be half ox, with the way you're lugging those heavy crates."

"Ahh…they're not all that heavy. I'll be fine." Adjusting his grip on the two jam–packed crates, the ranch foreman ducked under a display of bridles that had been hung like moss from a tree.

"I think Conroy here's scairt of ya, Zach." Pete dragged his pet ferret, its long–whiskered nose twitching, from his shoulder and held out the critter to Zach. "Feel how the little guy's jest shakin' up a storm."

Pausing, Zach eyed the lanky critter, a purchase Pete had made from a traveling salesman a year ago. The cute weasel–like animal was Pete's constant companion, except at church, which Pete had often mourned, saying that attending might do the ferret's thieving soul some good. Zach was pretty sure that if he didn't take the time to alleviate Conroy's apparent fear, he'd wound Pete's feelings.

Easing the crates to the floor, he took the ferret from Pete, chuckling at the way the animal draped over his arms like a wet cloth, peering up at him with those mischievous marble–like eyes of his. "Well, aren't you a cute little guy," Zach said, if for no other reason than to placate Pete. "See, I'm as harmless as a newborn pup. I wouldn't hurt a soul."

"I don' know 'bout that," Pete contradicted. Blowing out a big breath, he stirred up tiny particles of dust on a nearby shelf that sashayed on his hot air to some other shelf. "Conroy and me…we wouldn't want to cross you— that's for sure."

"I'm slow to rile," Zach reasoned, recognizing that with the long hours of hard physical labor he worked on the Harris ranch, he'd come by his size honestly. "But when it comes to defending what's right and looking out for loved ones, I don't back down." Zach wore the trait proudly.

"Yer jest like yer brothers," Pete stated with a tight wink. "Every last one of you Drake boys is cut'a the same sturdy, God–fearin' cloth."

"I count myself a blessed man to have them."

His brothers meant the world to him. He'd do anything to help them out, and they'd do the same—that is, if he let them.

Zach swallowed a generous gulp of pride as he recalled just how often his brothers had said that he needed to stop taking on the world by himself. And more than anything…that he needed to find his way to trusting God again instead of trying to be the Almighty for himself.

He was trying. He'd even felt God's gentle tugging, but time and again, it seemed Zach was better off carving out his own path. He had too much to prove after living in his brothers' long successful shadows. Now, he was determined to forge his own way in life. Or die trying.

The rhythmic jangling sound of a wagon rolling down the street filtered into his hearing like some patent reminder to get a move on. The way his boss, Mr. Harris, had seemed under the weather recently, Zach had stepped up his duties a notch.

"I've got to get going, Pete." He returned Conroy to Pete's arms and hefted the crates again. "See you around."

"See ya later, Zach," Pete said, observing Zach as though he was carrying a big old pine tree down the aisle.

Craning his neck around the bulky load, Zach headed toward the door, the bolts of colorful calico to his right. Turning, he nudged the unlatched door with his backside. When it stuck, he gave it a hard shove.

"Get off!" a female voice yelped from the mercantile platform outside.

He whipped his head around just in time to see a flourish of hands flailing, skirts ruffling and wings flapping.

"Go!" she hollered, waving her hands madly.

A barn swallow bolted from the woman's fancy feathered hat into the crisp September air. She spun around and backpeddled, stumbling toward the edge of the four–foot boardwalk.

Dropping the crates with a clank and clatter, Zach bolted into the late afternoon sun. Snaked out a hand to grab her. Missed.

As she tumbled to the mud–slopped ground with a delicate splat, he shot off the platform, landing on his feet beside the woman. He hunkered down at her side. "Are you all right, ma'am?" He touched her shoulder.

"I'm fine. Just dandy," she sputtered, her mouth a resolute line and barely visible from beneath her wide–brimmed, dirt–splattered hat that had been knocked askew. She struggled to lever herself from the mud's sloppy grasp.

"Here, let me help you." He pulled the woman up to a sitting position then retrieved her small handbag, and after wiping the mud from it onto his breeches, held it out to her. "Here's your bag, ma'am."

She hunkered down and whispered, "Where's that horrible bird? Is he still here?" A heavy thread of desperation flashed through her words even as a wavy lock of rich auburn hair tumbled from beneath her hat.

"He's gone." Zach scanned the rooflines. "Flew the coop. At least for now, anyway."

"You mean he's likely to return?" she yelped. She ducked her head between her shoulders as though she was about to be swooped down on by an entire flock. "Because I'm scared to death of birds."

He didn't believe he knew this woman, hadn't even gotten a good look at her with that pretentious hat draping over her face, but the fact that she was so obviously unsettled by a harmless bird struck a chord of compassion in his heart.

He settled a protective arm around her shoulder and angled a glance at the mercantile overhang where the barest makings of a nest had been wedged onto a strut. "I hate to break the news to you, but with that nest he has started up there, he'll likely be back."

She gave a muffled screech, and with muddy hands, shielded her hat–draped head as if she was being pelted by egg–size hailstones.

"It's all right. Don't be afraid." He gently grasped her arm. "I'll protect you if he returns."

With the wagons clattering by and horses plodding through the streets, he almost missed the long breath she inhaled right then. But he couldn't miss the way she stiffened, her spine growing straight and unyielding, as though she'd been jarred to her senses.

She pulled away from him and with mud–caked fingers, primped the ruffled white shirtwaist beneath her fashionable silken wrap. "I can manage just fine by myself."

He shook his head at her show of stubbornness. Something about this woman was vaguely familiar. Her voice… with its rich lilting tone, and her slender fingers…the way they tapered to a delicate end, and then there was the almost prideful way she'd diverted his concern.

Angling his head down, he tried unsuccessfully to peek at her from beneath the mud–wilted brim. When he took in the bedraggled state of this spritely stranger, and her seemingly unconcerned attitude about her condition, he couldn't help but be slightly amused. The hat she wore, big and looking more like a small garden of frippery than a head covering, dwarfed her petite frame.

The sound of wildly flapping wings broke through his musings. She must have heard it too, because the woman balled herself up tight as the bird braved another approach.

"Go on, bird. Shoo!" He waved off the curious winged creature with one arm and folded the other around the trembling woman. His heart skipped several beats as she burrowed against his chest, her warm breath seeping clear through his shirt.

He could've stayed right here with this little lady in his arms for the next hour. Maybe more. Even in spite of the noticeable way a gaggle of older women had gathered outside the hotel, their lips tight disapproving lines as they stared in his direction.

He'd never quite felt like this before. He'd never gotten close enough to know what this felt like. In years past, his annoying stutter would crop up, unbidden, chasing him away from the very idea of love. And once he'd been made foreman, he'd been too focused on doing the best job he could to spend any kind of thought on a woman.

Scooping her into his arms, he lifted her from the mud and crossed over to the walkway, giving little notice to the dark slime that now caked his arms, hands and down the front of his shirt.

But the soft gasp that came from her lips just now… he definitely couldn't ignore that.

She scrambled to free herself from his arms, jerking him from his temporary lapse of wits. "What in the world?" she sputtered, irritation sharply framing her words.

"I said I'd protect you if he returned, and that's what I was doing," he defended, a little put out by her abruptness.

"Please…put me down!" she demanded, breathless.

He grinned at her endearing grasp for control, and held on. "You might want to take that thing off your head if you're planning on protecting yourself." He settled her feet on the boardwalk. "With all those feathers and leaves and whatnot, I'd say it's a little too tempting for that nesting bird. He probably thinks he's discovered a perfect fall and winter home."

Stomping mud from her fancy buttoned boots, she tugged the brim of her hat down all the more, hiding her face nearly completely. "I'll leave it on, thank you."

"Suit yourself." With unabashed curiosity, he looked on while she brushed at her skirt. With the delicate way she was going about it, she may as well have been trying to remove a smudge of innocent dust, not a thick layer of reddish–colored mud. He could hardly blame the spirited woman for being so on edge. After all, her entire backside was coated in a slimy layer of mud. She was probably mortified. Humiliated. Downright mad.

With that silent acknowledgment, he drew his neatly folded handkerchief from his back pocket and held it out like an olive branch. "Here. Take this."

Clutching the front edge of her hat, she lifted it into place with more dignity than he'd expect, given her filthy condition.

"This might help a litt—" His words died on his tongue as she tipped up her face and met his gaze.

His breath whooshed from his lungs. He stared, wide–eyed, his vision pulsing black. White. Then splotching in an array of colors as he took in the woman standing before him.

Ivy. Grace. Harris.

He blinked hard in the hopes of producing some other image than her.

The one and only love of his childhood heart. His boss's daughter.

And the sole reason he'd suffered years of humiliation.

She stared at him for a long and lingering moment. Her lips parted and then fell open as wide as her sparkling eyes.

Zach's blood thickened in his veins as he met that beautiful, memorable spring–green gaze of hers. He'd never forget it—with just one glance his knees used to grow as flimsy as a blade of grass bent by the wind—just like they did now. Nor had he forgotten the adorable way her pert little nose turned up ever–so–slightly. Or the way her full lips formed the most perfect Cupid's bow, begging to be kissed.

He worked a swallow past the lump that had knotted his throat. Battled back that familiar, thick, tongue–tied feeling that strangled him even now. Struggled to keep all six feet of his work–hardened body from trembling.

For over a year now he'd been foreman on John Harris's ranch, and for the first time since childhood he'd felt secure. Confident. But now.

Now with this girl—this woman's—appearance, he was catapulted back to nearly twelve years ago all over again.

He blinked back the apprehension she was sure to find in his gaze. Swerved his focus a block down the street where he spotted Beatrice Duncan beelining toward them, her short legs eating up the walkway with surprising swiftness as she aimed an overly eager, almost giddy look in his direction. He clenched his jaw at the woman's clear intent. But it was the woman in front of him that gave him pause.

"Zachariah Drake? " Ivy worked her gaze from his head all the way down to his toes and then back again in a slow, silent and wholly discomforting perusal. "Is it you?"

He stared at her, struggling to find his voice.

"Is it really you?" The buoyant sound of her voice disconcerted him all the more.

"Yes," he managed to force out. "It's me."

"What a surprise," she breathed, swiping a muddy hand across the front of her lavender–colored skirt. Her long eyelashes whispered down over those eyes of hers like tender branches bending to kiss the fresh green of a beautiful spring landscape. "I barely recognized you. It's been—"

"S–s–six years." Clearing his throat, his stomach convulsed at the way he could've rattled off the months, the days.maybe the hours since he'd last seen her.

But he was more disgusted with the way the one syllable had suddenly become three.

The sound of his broken speech raked over his hearing like a hundred pricking barbs. Surely it was a mishap. A blunder. There was no way, after all the labor, sweat and fortitude he'd poured into overcoming his stutter that it'd descend on him again like some dark and stormy day.

No way.

"It has been, hasn't it?" She lifted her chin in that stately way of hers. Fingered the wilting blue fringe dangling from the navy wrap that was now plastered by mud to her back.

He nodded, shoving his hands into his pockets as he hauled in a deep, deep breath, something he'd learned to do when he'd faced his stutter head–on. Dragging his hands out of his pockets, he unfurled his tight fists one finger at a time. "What are you d–d–doing here?"

What in the name of all that was true!

There it was again.

He'd defeated this thing. Hadn't tripped up more than once over the past couple years. He could speak clearly. Wasn't given to stumbling. Or even pausing overly long.

He was fine. Just fine.

She tipped her head slightly. Furrowed her graceful brow.

Zach held his ground, even when part of him wanted to flee from her presence and from the haunting impediment. But he'd come too far over the past six years to let her shake his confidence, even if it was quite a shock to see her again.

His boss hadn't said a word about Ivy coming for a visit. In fact, Zach had only heard the man speak of his daughter once since he'd been working at the Harris ranch.

She lifted her hat from her head, exposing those silken auburn curls he'd stared at for hours on end when he was in school. "As you can see, I was stopping by the mercantile. That is until that bird—"

"What I mean is… why are you in B–B–B–Boulder?" His face muscles tensed.

She set a quivering hand to her neck. "I was stopping by to see if I could find someone who might be able to drive me to the ranch," she measured out as though he had a miniscule understanding of the English language.

Her placating tone grated his nerves. In school, he'd been ridiculed. Teased without mercy. Treated as though he couldn't read, write or add two plus two.

He hadn't been able to speak one sentence without stumbling over the words. And all because of this beautiful woman standing in front of him now.

She glanced around as though there might be a fancy carriage waiting to do her bidding. "My visit…it's unexpected."

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Rocky Mountain Homecoming 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Jutzie More than 1 year ago
Ivy Harris left Boulder, Colorado six years ago and never returned. After her mother's death her father seemed to blame her and sent her to New York. Their housekeeper, Violet, has written that her father is ill and she should come home, although it did not feel like home anymore. Ivy's dad does not welcome her. Things are not going well at the ranch. She has an assistant Editor's job waiting for her in New York. And she may be falling for Zach Drake. Zach Drake had overcome much. He loves his three older brothers who have done well for themselves and he feels he needs to prove himself. He has been the foreman at the Harris ranch the past year and that was not bad for his twenty-three years. It has also been two years since he had overcome the stuttering that started twelve years ago. Coming out of the Mercantile in town he sees a woman fall in the mud after fighting off a bird. He tries to help her and settle her down, seems she is terrified of birds but her hat is designed to attract the critters. When the young woman finally looks at him, his heart stops. Ivy Grace Harris. His stuttering starts again. Pamela has endearing characters and you enjoy each one as she brings them back for a visit in the other books. The Drake brothers, Joseph, Ben and Aaron have found happiness and love. A happy finale to the series. She has added two unique characters in this final book, Shakespeare & Buddy. A unique cat and a barn owl.
Sis_Steel More than 1 year ago
Details, details, details. When romance blooms, friends want the details. In Rocky Mountain Homecoming, Pamela Nissen gives the reader the story of a romance between two childhood friends that is full of wonderful details. The author's gift for creating and placing these little gems in the story, whether an incident between the hero and heroine or a simple description of what they are wearing, makes a reader of romance sit back, curl up and sigh through the pages. The conclusion to the Drake brothers' series adds a touch of suspense to the family drama present in the previous books. How these friends battle obstacles, feelings, and unforeseen enemies makes for an enjoyable stand-alone read as well as series ender. Ivy Harris is a prodigal daughter who vowed never to return home. Finally called back when her father takes ill, she is shocked to discover her childhood friend, Zach Drake, has grown into a stunningly handsome foreman on her father's ranch. Zach too is taken aback when the girl he knew comes back as a beautiful woman. He has always loved her but that love was never returned. Once again he fights to hide and protect his feelings, believing a romance between the two of them will never come to fruition. How will these two see past their previous history and look at each other in a new light? Sad to say goodbye to the Drakes, I look forward to Nissen's next series. Until then, I may just pull out all those Drake brothers and curl up on the couch again.