Monday, August 29, 2011

The Rancher's Return; A Family of Their Own

The Rancher's Return

By Carolyn Aarsen

The Rancher's Return is the first book in a series of five entitled Home to Hartley Creek.

Five cousins come home to faith and love.

After a two year absence Carter Beck has come back to Hartley Creek to spend some time with his grandmother after her heart attack. Now he just has to find a way to tell her that he wants to sell the ranch that was in the Beck family for generations. The ranch holds only bitter memories for him. The ranch that was responsible for his five year old son's death. But will the woman his foreman has hired to help him, make him change his mind?

He wished he didn't have to come back.

Carter Beck swung his leg over his motorbike and yanked off his helmet. He dragged a hand over his face, callused hands rasping over the stubble of his cheeks as he looked over the yard.

His eyes followed the contours of the land, the hills flowing up to the rugged mountains of southern British Columbia a sense of homesickness flickering deep in his soul. This ranch had been his home since he was a child.

He hadn't been back to his ranch since the funeral and if hadn't been for his beloved grandmother's recent heart attack, he would still be away.

Then, unable to stop himself, his eyes drifted over to the corral. Then the memories he'd kept at bay since he left crashed into his mind. Right behind that came the wrenching pain and haunting guilt he'd spent the last twenty-three months outrunning.

The whinnying of a horse broke into his dark thoughts and snagged his attention.

A young boy astride a horse, broke through the copse of trees edging the ranch's outbuildings. He held the reins of his horse in both hands, elbows in, wrists cocked.

Just like Carter taught him.

A wave of dizziness washed over Carter as the horse came closer.


Even as he took a step toward the horse and rider, reality followed like ice water through his veins. The young boy wore a white cowboy hat instead of a trucker's cap.

And Carter's son was dead.

Then a woman astride a horse followed the boy out of the trees. The woman sat relaxed in the saddle, one hand resting on her thigh, her broad-brimmed hat hiding her face, reins held loosely in her other hand. She looked like she belonged atop a horse, as if she was one with the animal, so easy were her motions as her horse followed the other.

When the woman saw him she pulled up, then dismounted in one fluid motion.

"Can I help you sir?" she asked, pushing her hat back on her head, her brown eyes frowning at him as she motioned her son to stop.

Carter felt a tinge of annoyance at her question spoken with such a cool air. Sir? Like he wasn't the owner of the ranch she rode across instead of some stranger? And who was she?

"Is that your motorbike, sir?" The young boy pulled off his hat, his green eyes intent on Carter's bike. "It's really cool."

His eager voice, his bright eyes resurrected the memories that lay heavy on his soul. And when the woman lifted the little boy from the saddle, and gently stroked his hair back from his face with a loving motion, the weight grew.

"Yeah. It's mine."

"It's so awesome," the boy said, his breathless young voice battering away at his defenses.

Carter's heart stuttered. He even sounded like Harry. Coming back to the place his son died had been hard enough. Meeting a child the same age Harry was when he died made this even more difficult.

He forced his attention back to the woman. A light breeze picked up a strand of her long, brown hair and as she tucked it behind her ear he caught sight of her bare left hand. No rings.

She saw him looking at her hand, and she lifted her chin in the faintest movement of defiance. Then she put her hand on her son's shoulder, drawing him to her side, as if ready to defend him against anything Carter might have to say. She looked like a protective mare standing guard over her precious colt.

Carter held her gaze and for a moment, as their eyes locked, an indefinable emotion arced between them.

"My name is Carter Beck," he said quietly.

The woman's eyes widened and he saw recognition in her expression. Then he caught a trace of sorrow in the softening of her features, in the gentle parting of her lips.

"I imagine you've come to see Nana . . . Mrs. Beck."

He frowned at her lapse. This unknown woman called his grandmother, Nana?

"And you are?" he asked.

"Sorry again," she said, transferring the reins and holding out her hand. "I'm Emma Minton. This is my son Adam. I help Wade on the ranch here. I work with the horses as well as help him with the cows and anything else that needs doing. But I'm sure you know that too," she said with a light laugh that held a note of self-conscious humor.

"Nice to meet you, Emma," he said, as he reluctantly took her hand. "Wade did tell me awhile back he was hiring a new ranch hand. I didn't expect . . . "

"A woman?" Emma lifted her shoulders in a light shrug. "I worked on a ranch all my life. I know my way around horses and cows and fences and haying equipment."

"I'm sure you do otherwise Wade wouldn't have hired you."

Emma angled her head to one side, as if wondering if he was being sarcastic. Then she gave him a quick nod, accepting his answer.

Carter glanced around the yard. "Where is Wade?"

"He and Miranda went to town. She had a doctor's appointment."

"Right. Of course." The last time he talked to Wade, his ranch foreman told him his wife was expecting.

Emma's horse stamped impatiently and she reached up and stroked his neck. "I should put the horses away. Good to meet you and I'm sure we'll be seeing you around." Then without a second glance, she turned the horses around, her son trotting alongside her.

To find out more about Hartley Creek and the five cousins, visit Carolyne Aarsen's website:

To purchase the book visit: or and check on the store, then the Love Inspired tab.

A Family of Their Own

2nd book in the Dreams Come True Series

Gail Gaymer Martin

Love Inspired

September, 2011 release

4 Stars - Romantic Times

Dreams Come True: With faith, love and caring people, dreams can come true.

Four Makes A Family

With her daughter's health back on track, Kelsey Rhodes counts her blessings. But life is still not easy for the sweet single mom. She craves companionship, yet finds it difficult to trust anyone. Ross Salburg seems like the perfect match for her. The handsome single dad also struggles to keep his daughter healthy. Can Kelsey convince Ross to take a leap of faith and meld their two families into one?

Chapter 1 Excerpt

Kelsey Rhodes scanned her friend's living room, her focus drawn to the lovely Christmas tree, its clear miniature lights radiated the same glow in Lexie's eyes. On the mantel a row of white candles flickered in the dusky light. Romantic, for sure. Kelsey's chest expanded anticipating her friend's wedding ceremony in the cozy setting.

The parents of the bride and groom buzzed with their own excitement, and her chest constricted seeing Lexie's son Cooper dressed in a dark suit, sitting near the window. He'd been released from the hospital in time for Christmas and the January wedding, she'd been relieved for Lexie. Her friend's plight aroused thoughts of her own daughter's illness now in remission. She prayed Cooper's struggle with leukemia would take the same turn as Lucy's.

The succulent aroma of roast pork drifted into the room. Though a delicious scent, her stomach knotted. The idea of meeting Ross Salburg, Ethan's best man, had set her on edge, and it hadn't left her mind. If he recognized her name or who she was, she would be uncomfortable. Maybe she hadn't tried hard enough to get Ross into the Mother's of Special Kids organization. She'd tried to explain the group was for mothers, but he didn't care. Ethan mentioned Ross had been disappointed. Facing him for the first time today put a damper on the celebration for her.

The doorbell rang, and Kelsey's pulse escalated. She worked a pleasant expression onto her face, knowing the bell offered three options—the groom, the pastor, or Ross.

Swallowing her anxiety, she pinned her gaze to the door as Lexie opened it. Nippy air swished into the room along with a man she'd never seen before. His good looks stole her breath. She had no doubt about the stranger's identity, and her stomach churned, facing their introduction.

Lexie steered him around the room introducing him to the two sets of parents first. Ross leaned over to give Cooper a warm greeting, then faced her. She managed a smile.

"Kelsey, this is our best man, Ross." Lexie grinned. "And this is my matron of honor, Kelsey Rhodes."

Lexie's knowing look set Kelsey on edge. He'd already been told who she was.

Ross extended his hand, an unreadable expression on his face, but Kelsey sat unmoving, captured by his brown eyes, like bittersweet chocolate, that seemed to penetrate her soul. Heat rolled up her chest until she lowered her gaze to his hand. "Nice to meet you, Ross."

"Same here." He gestured toward the empty seat beside her on the sofa. "Do you mind?"

She forced her mind around her response. "Not at all." Her voice sounded pleasant. So far so good. But when he sank onto the cushion, the scent of a mountain woods wrapped around her, losing her in the image.

He gazed around the room. "Ethan's late, I assume." He chuckled.

Ross's voice jerked her from the mountain stream to the glow of the Christmas lights. Her out of control feelings confused her as did Ross's avoidance of the topic she dreaded.

Are you all hungry? Mom prepared a great dinner." Lexie's voice penetrated Kelsey's preoccupation. "We'll get started once our two key people arrive."

Ross leaned forward. "Are you sure Ethan hasn't left you standing at the altar?"

Lexie grinned. "He'll be here. He loves pork roast."

Everyone chuckled while Kelsey sank deeper into the cushion. At the moment, she felt uneasy, captured beside the best man. Relief would be welcomed once the ceremony began.

Ross's arm brushed against hers, and her senses sharpened. She gazed around the room, hoping to cast off her giddy feeling. Concentrating, she tuned into the mothers' conversation about life in Florida until she sensed Ross's gaze on her. Her stomach plummeted. She turned to him, like a hound picking up the fox's scent. Here it comes, she deducted from the look on his face.

"Are you aware I'm the Ross you all voted not to include in your support group?"

Kelsey wanted to lie, but she couldn't. "I realized who you were when I heard your name." She sounded pathetic, and his pure innocent look made her feel even worse. "I'm sorry it turned out that way."

He didn't speak though his eyes searched hers.

Feeling defensive, she wanted to explain. "I know I'm the moderator of the support group, but it went to a vote. It's always been a women's organization—you know, Mothers Of Special Kids—and I'd hoped you could find another resource out of the ones that I suggested."

Ross touched her arm. "Please. I wasn't trying to embarrass you. I knew it was a long shot." He lowered his eyes. "Ethan gave me the other support groups' phone numbers , but--"

"We'd never thought of men joining our group." Heat soared to her cheeks. "When we discussed it. . ." She captured his gaze. "And we did, all of the women thought that men didn't really like talking about their feelings."

He flinched.

"We thought men preferred to get things done not talk about them."

"But when a man has a seriously ill child there's little he can do."

The comment twisted in her chest as Lucy's brain tumor operations filled her mind. "I understand. I always felt so lonely before MOSK."

He lowered his head. "It's hard to open up, but I think hearing about others struggling with similar problems would be helpful. I'm sure I would benefit from everyone's experiences."

"Ross, I'm really sorry." She dragged in a breath. "Now that I've heard what you have to say, I could try again in a while."

His gaze drifted to hers. "Thanks." He wove his fingers together and dropped his clenched hands into his lap. "I did call the other agencies, but either the meeting times didn't work for me or some of them had dropped their groups." He lifted his chin. "I'm Peyton's only parent, and. . ."

"I understand." Apologizing again offered little compensation for the rejection the group had dropped on him.

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© 2011 Gail Gaymer Martin

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