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Patricia McLinn

Bundle - Wyoming Trilogies - ebook

Bundle - Wyoming Trilogies - ebook

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Read Chapter One of first book in the BARDVILLE, WYOMING series:

A STRANGER IN THE FAMILY

Prologue

“Bodie, there’s somebody wai—”

Bodie Smith didn’t break stride crossing to his office door, the voice of his assistant not quite fast enough to keep up. A thousand details aligned in his head — things he’d see to, people he’d call, decisions he’d make — to keep Bodie Smith Enterprises where he’d put it. On top.

Two steps into his office, all those thoughts vanished.

They were wiped away by the sight of two large, well-broken-in running shoes propped on his desk. Bodie Smith’s eyes traced the rangy figure in a tipped-back chair until they met the assessing gaze of the man who’d been his friend since they’d raced bicycles on pitted North Carolina mountain roads.

“You found something, Cully?”

“You didn’t give me much, Boone.”

Cully Grainger was one of the few people alive who called him Boone. And the only one who recalled the day his younger sister’s childish attempt at his first and middle names — Boone Dorsey — had come out “Bodie.” He was so used to the nickname that his real name sounded odd. And solemn.

“I didn’t give you anything,” Bodie amended.

Cully shrugged. “Wouldn’t go that far. You gave me what Hank let slip — that after his cousin Marlene left North Carolina, supposedly to help out a sick aunt in Nebraska, she had a baby. Your conversation with her confirmed that.”

Conversation was a damn polite word for the tense confrontation he’d had with the high school girlfriend he’d tracked down after not seeing her for nearly seventeen years.

“So I focused on the clue of Marlene’s aunt in Nebraska,” Cully continued. “After a couple of false starts with maiden names and all, I followed that up.”

“You found something.” Boone braced himself.

“Yes.”

“What?” The demand came out harsh. How would he live with himself if something awful had happened, something he could have prevented if he’d been around, if he’d known…

“I found your son.”


Chapter One

“We’ve got a guest coming this afternoon.”

Cambria Weston turned from the kitchen counter, where she’d poured herself coffee, to face Irene Weston, who ate breakfast with the rest of the family at the round wooden table. To trim the temptation of her stepmother’s cooking, Cambria ate her breakfast — toast — at her cabin before she took the three-minute walk to the main house to begin her workday as manager of the Weston Ranch Guest Quarters. It was tough to beat that commute, especially with early May hinting at spring’s warmth and birds and flowers.

Having made her announcement, Irene appeared content to return Cambria’s frown with a mild smile.

“A guest? We’re not open yet. Not until Memorial Day weekend.” Cambria had a detailed schedule of what she needed to accomplish each day until then. “That’s three and a half weeks before we open.”

“Officially,” Irene agreed placidly.

“Well, then why didn’t you tell them—”

“Him,” Irene corrected. “One guest. A man.”

“Why didn’t you tell him we aren’t open yet? The cabins reek of paint and the floors haven’t been done, not to mention the scrubbing. And the bunkhouse hasn’t even been opened. We can’t have anybody here yet.”

“He sounded tired,” Irene said, then took a pleased look around the table loaded with apple nut bread, homemade pancakes, scrambled eggs, bacon, and all the fixings of butter, jellies, and syrups. “And thin.”

Cambria sat down, meeting the amused smiles her father and brother flashed at her from across the round table. It took something to get the men in her family to take that much time out from enjoying Irene’s bountiful spread.

The men in her family. She felt a catch in her heart.

Ted Weston’s hair had gone totally silver in the past few years and had grown a little thin on top. Whenever he forgot to wear a hat while he worked in the sun and wind that had long ago corrugated his face and neck, the tender scalp pinkened like a baby’s.

In the same few years Pete had nearly reached manhood, gangly adolescence filling in with confidence and character practically before her eyes.

She couldn’t resist a smile back at them. They all knew Irene’s heart was even bigger than her larder.

But Cambria took a shot anyhow at adding the salt of practicality, trying to keep her voice stern.

“How can anyone sound thin over the phone, Mama?”

Mama — that was a tactical error. Cambria had been slipping back and forth between “Irene” and “Mama” since she’d been five years old, a quarter century ago, when Ted Weston had met then married the warm-hearted, ginger-haired young widow. Cambria never used “Mama” when she really meant business.

The older woman’s smile softened as their eyes met.

“He sounded thin,” Irene repeated.

“Weak?” Cambria asked.

“Oh, no, not weak. Not at all. Maybe … stressed. Isn’t that what you and Jessa said when you moved back from Washington and she came along to open the shop?”

Yeah, that’s what she and her long-time friend, Jessa Tarrant, had decided to tell her family and everyone else by way of explanation. Their separate reasons were more complicated and less easily revealed.

Cambria sighed in capitulation, drawing another pair of grins from the Weston men.

“All right, I’ll give the west cabin a once-over this morning. It’s in better shape than the others. It should do for — How long did this guy say he wants to stay?”

“He didn’t say. A couple days, I’d suppose.”

Irene’s inattention to such practical details as finding out how long guests would stay or making sure they paid before they left was the reason Cambria handled the business side of the bed and breakfast operation that had become so necessary.

“Well, don’t be surprised if he walks away saying it’s not worth paying for.”

“We’ll get the cabin ready together,” Irene said. “Everything will be just fine, you’ll see.”

“Or worse,” Cambria said, pursuing her own line of thought. “He’ll stay a couple nights, then, when it’s time to pay, he’ll say the facilities weren’t up to par and he’ll try to get out of paying.”

“I wish you didn’t worry so much, Cambria.” Cambria felt a twinge of discomfort at the concern in her stepmother’s blue eyes. But that didn’t make her buy the words that followed. “Everything will be just fine.”

***

Shortly before four o’clock, Cambria heard car tires on the road that wound from the highway to the ranch buildings.

They had the cabin about as well pulled together as they could, considering the limited time.

Open windows helped dispel the fresh-paint smell, but at the cost of a definite chill. The wooden floor was scrubbed and waxed, though to her critical eye it could have used another coat. The wooden table and chair were also polished, the fireplace cleaned and a new fire laid. The tiny bathroom had been disinfected within an inch of its life, the stuffed chair aired and vacuumed, the shelves dusted. They’d washed the sheets, but without enough time to adequately air the other bed linens, she’d used two quilts from the main house.
Irene was at the house preparing the usual welcoming plate of oatmeal-raisin cookies, while Cambria made the bed. That’s when she heard the car reach the gravel on this end of the drive.

Which reminded her — she needed to get a load of gravel to smooth over the ravages of a Wyoming winter before the guests came. The regular season guests, anyway, since this one had already arrived.

She let the top sheet drift down as she looked out the window.

A glossy, midnight blue sedan with Wyoming plates pulled to a stop. A rental, definitely not economy class, she judged from two summers’ experience of running the guest quarters. Her left eyebrow rose as she got a better look — definitely not economy class.

Mostly their visitors were family groups, with a few young couples, some retired folks. This car didn’t fit any of those types.

She should have pressed Irene about their guest. Not that it would have done any good. Irene might ask his favorite meal so she could cook it for him, but the chances she’d ask business-oriented questions were a thousand to one.

The car door opened and one long, jeans-clad leg appeared.

Cambria supposed she should go greet the guest.
She’d never cared for being sociable on demand when she’d worked in Washington, and returning to the ranch hadn’t changed that.

Then she heard a voice — Irene — and gratefully continued with the bed. With Irene on hand, Cambria had no need to play hostess.

She was aware of footsteps on the cabin’s wooden porch, the opening of the main door and a murmur of voices, but she paid no attention, concentrating on her task. Spreading and tucking, spreading and tucking.
She slid the second pillow into a case, tossed it in place, considered the effect, then stretched to plump its brethren on the far side of the bed.

She began to straighten, the action accelerated by an arrogant, low drawl from behind her — where its owner would have an excellent view of her derriere as she’d bent over the bed.

“Do you come with the room?”

She spun around, momentum advancing her a step so she almost crashed into the solid, male figure.

He automatically reached to steady her and she just as automatically withdrew.

But her gaze did crash into his — leaving her feeling as if she’d been run over by a pair of gray eyes. Gray eyes that seemed both depthless and flat under a pair of startlingly black eyebrows. She stared into those eyes with the sort of haunting familiarity of déjà vu.

In that instant, chagrin spread across the man’s face.
Whether it was at his own rudeness or because he was smart enough to see he’d riled her, Cambria didn’t know.

“Sorry. I didn’t expect to find anybody in here,” he said, the drawl not as pronounced. “But that was out of—”

“We try to meet our guests’ expectations.” Recovering rapidly, she cut across his apology with an icy smile she feared might crack her lips. “So I’ll leave right now, Mr.—”

It would have been a good exit line if she hadn’t realized too late that she didn’t know the guest’s name.

“Name’s Boone Dorsey,” he said slowly.

“Mr. Dorsey,” she said, then walked out of the room, out of the cabin, away from him.

***

“You can call me Boone.”

Cambria jerked her head up at the casual words, spoken as if an hour hadn’t passed since their previous exchange.

As if he hadn’t tracked her down to the barn where she was grooming Jezebel and Snakebit.

As if he didn’t have to address her across Snakebit’s broad back.

And as if she didn’t hold a very sharp hoof pick.

Not that she’d use it on him. Certainly not before he paid for his stay, she mentally added wryly.

He’d entered through the open double doors on the east end of the barn. The evening sun, streaming low through the matching doors at the opposite end, so washed him in light that he barely seemed real.

“Or,” he went on in a drawl she realized owed more to the South than the West, “you can call me jackass.”

He took a step forward, out of the dazzle but not so far that the shadows swallowed him.

Now she could see one side of his mouth lifted in a half grin of self-derision, grooves echoing up his left cheek. She could see threads of gray that softened the hair that sprang back from his forehead and reached his collar to a lighter shade than the harsh black of his strong eyebrows.

She could also see the tiredness around and behind his black-lashed gray eyes. And, yes — Irene had been right, of course — she could see a thinness in his face that went beyond a natural angularity.

She let out a quick breath.

Why did she have the feeling that staying angry at this man would be safer, even as her anger slid away?
Buying time, she brushed Snakebit’s back with her fingertips, then stroked the coarse, smooth hide.

“Jackass has a nice ring to it.”

The other side of his mouth caught up, lifting into a full grin. Another skitter of … something — was it familiarity? instinct warning her to beware? — scratched at her nerves, then disappeared.

“Look, we got off on the wrong foot, and that was my fault. I really am sorry,” he said. “You caught me off guard. Irene didn’t tell me anybody was in the room. And I had a situation where there was a good-looking woman in my room I didn’t expect … Not that there’s any good cause for me to have talked to you that way. Can I make it up to you?”

It was no surprise that he already called her stepmother Irene.

But there were several items of interest in his speech.

Belatedly she recognized that his leer might have been, at least partly, defensiveness at being caught off guard. And what sort of situation had he been in that a woman had unexpectedly shown up in his room? But foremost, there was his offer.

It might be interesting to see where talk took them. She’d often marveled at the willingness of guests to volunteer information, from mundane chatter about family and jobs to the most intimate details of sex lives and phobias.

“You know horses?” Cambria asked.

A glint lit his eyes. “I know some people I’d describe as their rear ends. In addition to me, naturally. That what you mean?”

She felt an answering smile. “Not quite. I meant, caring for the four-legged kind.”

He sighed, drawing her attention to the broad shoulders in his dazzling white shirt, whose perfect fit announced that it, like the rental car, was not economy class. “I was afraid the apology wouldn’t be enough. You’re going to make me clean out stalls, too, huh?”

She laughed. “I won’t go that hard on you. How about combing Jezebel—” she nodded to the mare behind her “—while I finish with Snakebit’s hooves.”

“Sounds fair to me.”

He took the brush she held out over Snakebit’s back, placing his hand on the gelding’s hindquarters as he came around behind. At least he knew enough to give a horse that warning.

Still, she watched for a moment as he worked on Jezebel, satisfying herself that he knew what he was doing. He raised an eyebrow but didn’t object to her scrutiny.

Finally she turned back to Snakebit, lifting his front near hoof and bending to remove any packed-in dirt or grit.

“So, Irene tells me you don’t usually open for another month or so,” he offered after several minutes of silent work.

“That’s right. We have a lot of preparation to do before we’re ready for guests.” She wasn’t about to come out and make excuses, but…

“The cabin looks great to me.”

“It smells of paint.” Now why did she say that?

“Small price to pay for privacy.” Was privacy so precious to him? She didn’t have a chance to wonder long, as he went on. “Irene also tells me your name’s Cambria. Cambria — that’s a pretty name. Unusual.”

“Did Irene also tell you the name comes from a deserted coal-mining community?”

“Yeah, Irene told me that. Doesn’t change that it’s pretty.”

Ignoring the second part, she asked dryly, “Anything else Irene told you?”

“Yes. She said you’re the brains of the outfit. I’m wondering if you’re the brawn, too. All this preparation for the guests, you do it alone?”

“No, of course not. The whole family works.”

“Family,” he repeated in a murmur.

She glanced over her shoulder, but he was bent, stroking down Jezebel’s hindquarter. That posture probably explained the odd note in his voice.

“Irene, me, Pete — that’s my brother — and Dad, when he can spare time from the cattle operation. It’s a smaller operation than it used to be, but it’s a lot for one man.”

“Does, uh, your brother help with that, too? I mean, if he’s old enough.”

She chuckled. “He’d probably tell you he’s old enough to do anything and everything. He does help a lot, and he’d do more if Dad and Irene let him, but they’re determined that he have a chance to do things at school, too. He was in a play over the winter and now he’s playing baseball.”

“Baseball?”

“Yeah. Why does that surprise you?”

“I don’t know.” Then he shrugged and she had a feeling the rest of his answer wasn’t going to be as honest.

“Maybe I figured a kid around here would be involved in rodeo.”

“Oh, he does that, too. But he really loves baseball.”

“He’s on a team?”

From her discussion of Pete’s American Legion baseball team, his questions led to other aspects of life on the Weston ranch. At one point they swapped places so she could work on Jezebel’s hooves and he could brush Snakebit.

And all the while she answered about the family, local schools, network of neighbors and friends, ranch routine, social activities available in the nearby town of Bardville, and the kinds of people who came through as summer guests, she wondered what on earth a stranger would find interesting in this.

At the same time she felt an undercurrent of uneasiness coming from the man that switched on her caution.

A restlessness in his movements, a slight jerkiness in some of his questions. It reminded her of the way a young horse might react to a jump — eager to get to the other side, but dreading the actual jump.
She’d thought letting him lead the conversation might answer her questions about him. Instead, it raised more.

He hadn’t volunteered one piece of information about himself, she realized, and that was most unusual.
He was not their ordinary guest.

Finished, she led the horses one at a time into their stalls while he gathered the various combs, brushes and picks. After she’d forcefully closed the stubbornly sticking stall door, he followed her into the tack room, handing equipment to her one by one so she could put them in their assigned spots.

“Thanks for helping.”

She wished it had come out more naturally.
He was attractive, but she hadn’t gone tongue-tied around good-looking men since high school. Besides, this man was more interesting-looking, with his dark brows, graying hair and angled face, than classically good-looking.

Definitely interesting.

“You’re welcome.” He sounded distracted. “Do your guests usually get involved with the routine around here?”

“Sometimes. It’s a matter of what the guests want from staying here — some want to be left alone and some want to join right in. Plus it depends on how much inexperienced help we can handle at any one time.”

“That sounds fair.”

She caught a glimpse of that lopsided grin again as she took the curry comb from him.

That grin left her a little off-balance, and that made her next words more challenging than she’d intended. “You ask a lot of questions.”

“Sorry.”

“I have some of my own.”

“Oh?” It was not an encouraging syllable.

She didn’t let that, or his slight stiffening, stop her.

“Where are you from?”

“North Carolina, born and raised.”

“That explains the drawl.”

“What drawl?” he said in exaggerated perplexity, which she ignored.

“Another question.” She also ignored his renewed tension, though it intrigued her. “Would you have cleaned out the stalls if I’d asked you?”

“Sure,” he said a little smugly, holding out the final brush. “I didn’t bring it up until I saw they already had fresh straw.”

Again he drew a laugh from her when she hadn’t expected it.

Taking the brush, his hand connected briefly with hers, almost hot against the chilling air of evening.

She stepped away, backing into the tack room wall.
He reached out to her, but she’d easily steadied herself so his hands settled lightly on her shoulders, his thumbs not quite meeting where they brushed at the pulse in her throat, a pulse that abruptly pounded like a racehorse coming out of the gate.

A brassy clang, strident for all its distance, made them both jerk.

The movement brought her closer to him for an instant and tightened his hands fractionally before they simultaneously stepped apart, severing the connection.

“That’s the call to supper.” Buoyed by her success in keeping her voice steady, she told herself that in another second she would meet his eyes.

“Good, because I’m definitely hungry.”

The rough, low tone of his slow voice changed her mind.

She didn’t look at him until they were in the house surrounded by her family.

. . . Read on as Bodie meets the rest of Cambria's family -- including young Pete Weston -- in A STRANGER TO LOVE, Book 1 of the Bardville, Wyoming series and of this six-book special offer bundle!

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Summary

Romances big enough for Wyoming, with humor, horses and dogs, characters you believe in and root for from multiple USA Today bestselling and award-winning author Patricia McLinn.


"Loving this author. Where have you been all my life! I love discovering new authors . . .and I found a great one! Finishing the entire book in one sitting!!!” ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

~***~ EXCLUSIVE SPECIAL OFFER!! ~***~

You get all six e-books, the complete trilogies of both the Bardville, Wyoming and the A Place Called Home series -- a $35.94 value for $22.99 -- there's 35% off.

          ❧ Bardvillle, Wyoming series

        Three strangers arrive in rugged Bardville, Wyoming.
        They're never the same ...
        And neither are the people of Bardville.

        Tropes to enjoy in these books: Hidden identities, single father, opposites attract, secret baby (but nearly grown up ;-) ), the perfect stranger, forced to work together to save a boy, cowboys . . . and more in these heartfelt small-town and ranch romances. 

        ☑️  A Stranger in the Family

        ☑️ A Stranger to Love

        ☑️ The Rancher Meets His Match

        "In Book 1 Bodie stole my heart, in Book 2 Cully took my breath away, and in Book 3 I fell in love with Dax." ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

        “A wonderful story full of real-life drama, heartache, and redemption. I couldn't help getting attached to such likeable characters with honest faults and foibles.” ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

        "Wyoming heat! . . . . I am enjoying all of McLinn's books. Catch up! You're missing out on some great reading full of adventures and passion." ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

        “Very much like a going home feeling.” ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

        "I was so involved with the citizens of Bardville I hated to turn the last page of book 3 . .  . because I felt part of their lives." ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

         "More please." ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

             ❧ A Place Called Home series

          Far Hills Ranch calls home members of a far-flung family to Wyoming and the legend that says their generation is the last that can break a curse on their beloved ranch and family.

          Tropes to enjoy in these books:  Hidden identities, secret baby, best friends to lovers, opposites attract, desire during danger, single mothers, military romance, cowboys . . . and more in emotional and smart contemporary romances connected by family and lifelong friendships. 

          ☑️ Lost and Found Groom

          ☑️ At the Heart's Command

          ☑️ Hidden in a Heartbeat

           "A story that you cannot put down . . . The ending was so emotional and heart grabbing . . . Now to wipe my tears of joy."⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

          “Keep your heart open and tissues ready. I absolutely loved this romantic tale that spans five generations.”⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

          “Heart-warming tale of love , loss, and longing. Great characters who you can't help but invest in.”⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

          "If you love emotional stories with complex characters, especially strong heroines and heart-stopping heroes, don't miss this!"⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

           

          ~~ Characters from these two series unite with characters from the Wyoming Wildflowers series in the new Wyoming Marriage Association series.~~


          Customer Reviews

          Based on 48 reviews
          77%
          (37)
          13%
          (6)
          10%
          (5)
          0%
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          A
          Amanda Plum

          ❤🌠❤🌠❤🌠❤🌠❤🌠❤🌠❤🌠❤🌠❤🌠❤🌠❤🌠❤❤🌠🌠🌠❤❤❤

          B
          Barbara Rowland

          What a great read. I adored Daniel and the fact that he never gave up on Kendra and Matthew. Kendra was a bit stubborn but I liked her anyway. Patricia has a way.with words and her descriptions and explanations were heartfelt.

          S
          Skipplayer1
          Great story

          A businessman finds out he has a son and travels to meet him. He falls in love with his son's adoptive sister and becomes part of the family. This was a fantastic story about family and love. Great read.

          L
          Lucky Without a K
          Such a good read!

          Kendra is soooooo frustrating but honestly that's what makes this book such a good one! Loved the characters and story!!

          B
          Barbara Els
          Lost and Found Groom

          an awesome awesome book, so much sadness, but so much heart