Today we have author Mary Manners and the first in her new series Lone Creek Ranch.
Carson Merrill loves only one thing more than Lone Creek Ranch—high school sweetheart Jessica Tate. He has plans to marry her, until one fateful night a devastating accident nearly kills her brother, James, and claims the use of his legs. Jessica flees to Nashville, blaming Carson for her brother’s paralysis, and avoids him—and James—for more than a year. Jessica returns to Lone Creek as one of the top producing land developers in the area, and she has one goal—to banish Carson forever from her memory while taking what he still loves—Lone Creek Ranch. But God has other plans—to draw the two together in a development project that will satisfy both their desires, and help them to reclaim the love they once shared.
The clean, familiar scent of Carson’s soap mingled with sweet feed and hay as Jessica wound through the paddock toward her SUV. The scents brought back memories that tangled her belly. Carson’s touch, his coaxing voice, washed over her, warm as the sunshine that kissed her face. She tried not to think about how good he looked in faded jeans and a snug black T-shirt, with a cowboy hat tilted across his forehead to frame dark waves of hair and eyes the color of new charcoal. She turned to glance back at the barn. It could use a good coat of paint, and plenty of TLC. But soon that wouldn’t matter…if she had her way.
She saw the loft through the open doors, and a sudden tightness filled her throat as memories rushed in. How much time had she and Carson spent there as teenagers, dreaming of what the future might hold? Her pulse quickened at the thought of stolen kisses as horses nickered softly from the stalls below…the nervous rush as Carson’s hands twined through her hair. Their friendship had grown into so much more over the years that followed, and then shattered one night, the result of a single devastating choice. Jessica pressed a finger to her lips, and then shook her head to chase the happy memories away. Those days were gone. Over, for good. Carson had made sure of that.
She lifted the sunglasses from her head and propped them on her nose, then tugged at the sleeves of her jacket, slipping from the stifling linen as she approached the SUV. One of her spike-heeled pumps caught in a divot and she heard a sharp snap as the heel cracked away from the sole. She stumbled into the driver’s door and the glasses slipped from her face.
Her eyes burned at the sudden shock of sunlight. A lightning bolt of pain coursed through her knee as it slammed against metal, but the physical pain was no match for the fissures that riddled her heart. She knew there was a reason she hadn’t returned to Lone Creek Ranch since the fateful evening following James’s accident, when they all knew he’d never walk again. The way she saw it, the accident was Carson’s fault, plain and simple, and she’d hardened her heart toward him. After all that had happened, how could things be any different? Yet, seeing Carson again was…unsettling to say the least.
Jessica massaged the flashpoint of pain from her leg as she glanced back to see if Carson was watching. She saw no sign of him. Probably still sulking in the barn. Good, better for both of them if they kept things purely business. The next time she saw him she wanted it to be over a contract for Lone Creek Ranch.
She groaned and yanked what was left of the broken shoe from her foot before pulling open the car door and slipping in to crank the engine. Music blared from the radio, startling her. She tossed the shoe into the backseat and fumbled with the radio dials. Her fingers slipped on the knob, and music roared from loud to deafening. Ignoring the growing throb at the base of her skull, Jessica stomped the accelerator with her bare foot. Tires ripped the gravel as the SUV lunged forward into brilliant morning sunlight that seared her eyes.
A quick glance in the rearview mirror told her the sunglasses she’d spent a good chunk of money on were scattered in pieces across the road. So much for indulgence. She sighed and lowered the visor. Jessica gripped the wheel as the SUV gained speed. Oh, why did she have to fall in love with Carson Merrill? And why did things have to end…the way they did?
And how was she going to face her brother again, now that she was back? She hadn’t talked to him in…well…way too long.
The thunder of hooves did battle with the stereo, and a flash of movement caught Jessica’s attention. She turned to see the huge stallion, the one Carson had called Troublemaker, racing alongside the car. One eye, the deepest onyx, like a smooth, round stone, fixed on her as his mane fanned like a feathered kite on the wind.
She gasped and clenched the steering wheel. Such beauty and grace…Jessica was lost for a moment in the sheer strength of the animal. She imagined Carson in the saddle, two powerful creatures moving in perfect synch.
The stallion veered right as they came to the main road, and Jessica slammed the brakes as he nearly sideswiped the SUV. The car skidded, fishtailed, and went airborne for the slightest moment before it slammed back to the road and jackknifed into a culvert, shattering the windshield. The airbags deployed, punching the breath from her, and a cloud of dirt engulfed the cabin.
The last thing Jessica heard was a bloodcurdling scream.
Then the world went black.
Lost in Lone Creek by Mary Manners
The first in a new series of novellas from Mary Manners launches onto our kindles and computers today with a tempest of dust and gleam of metal. Jessica Tate, a blast from the past, swings back into Carson Merrill’s life and turns it upside down with an offer than no sane man can refuse. The problem is he is determined to refuse, even if it means history repeats itself and she leaves again.
As always Ms. Manners doesn’t disappoint. Her vivid descriptions and winsome characters pull the reader into the heart of the story. What I loved was not being able to work out the end of the story half way through the book. Along with the wonderful cover, her writing brings the characters to life right before your eyes. A short read, at only 74 pages, this book is high on emotion and gripping story telling. I can't wait for the next three in the series.
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