The Rancher's Redemption, Book 3 in the Return of the Blackwell Brothers series
The last time Ben saw Rachel Thompson was when her best friend left him at the altar. Now Rachel’s suing the Blackwells over river water rights. Rachel’s a triple threat—rancher, fellow attorney and single mom—and Ben’s plan to win in court hits a snag when mutual attraction blooms. If he divulges a long-held secret, will his family forgive him? Will Rachel?
Rachel’s roan gelding, Utah, was ungainly but trustworthy. Nothing spooked him. Not her mother’s yappy poodle. Not Poppy pulling on his mane.
Not even the sight of Ben Blackwell being chased by a charging bull.
Rachel was spooked, though. Her hands trembled and air stuck in her throat. Life on the range wasn’t like living in the suburbs. She’d witnessed ranch hands gored by bulls during branding, struck by hooves while training horses, lose fingers to hay balers. Lacerations. Broken bones. Internal injuries. People got hurt on a ranch. People died.
She may not like Ben, but that didn’t mean she wanted him to be trampled.
On the road separating the two properties, Rachel urged Utah into a fast trot toward the gate that opened onto Blackwell land. She freed a length of rope from her saddle as smoothly as if she was reaching for her cell phone. She loosened the noose.
She wasn’t that good with a lasso. A shiver of fear ran through Rachel, originating in concern for Ben. And then another shiver startled her, one brought on by the image of her roping the bull and watching helplessly as he bolted for the river. She’d be pulled off Utah’s back, dragged into the pasture and serve as the bull’s doormat, one that read Little Ladies Not Welcome Here.
Little ladies weren’t cowboys. Little ladies didn’t run ranches or track down escaped heifers or save grown men. Rachel breathed raggedly as Utah carried her closer.
The Double T had survived generations because of strong Thompson leadership. It was why she’d come after the garden trampling, suit ruining heifer, because she was running things now and she couldn’t rely on anyone else. Although, to be honest, this little lady had eaten dinner before embarking on her heifer search. Consequently, the cow had a big head start and was nowhere to be found.
Rachel squared her shoulders. Not that the heifer mattered right now. This rancher had other priorities.
Ben reached the trees before the bull and swung up into the branches like a monkey. He looked more like a rodeo clown in red running tights beneath black shorts and a neon yellow nylon jacket. No wonder the bull was chasing him.
The bull charged the tree, bumping the trunk without reaching Ben or knocking him down. He continued to patrol, clearly hoping to catch any straggling rodeo clowns.
Spotting Utah and Rachel, the bull took a run at the gate.
Rachel pulled up ten feet away and stood in her stirrups, twirling the rope above her head. This was her chance. Rope the bull and hold him long enough for Ben to escape.
The bull rammed the metal gate with his beefy shoulder, testing the barrier to see if it would give. It didn’t. Thank heavens Big E kept the ranch in tip-top shape.
Utah pawed the ground, refusing to back down.
Heartened, Rachel spun the rope higher. Now was the time to prove she was a rancher, not the rancher’s princess daughter.
“Do taunt that bull, Rachel.”
“The superhero in red tights is giving me advice?” Rachel threw the rope.
It landed cockeyed on the bull’s forehead and over one ear, which seemed to annoy the beast. He shook his head and pranced on the other side of the gate, snorting. The rope fell to the ground.
Rachel sat back in the saddle and coiled the rope for another try. “My mother would say you’re in a pickle, Blackwell.” Her mother would tell Rachel to get her sweet patooty out of there and get help.
Rachel might have done that a year ago, before Dad died, but now things had changed. She’d changed.
“It’s June,” Ben griped from his position in the tree. “This pasture should be empty. The cattle should be over on higher ground across the river.”
Hearing Ben’s voice, the bull turned and charged the trees. He wasn’t the brightest steak-on-a-hoof. He slammed into the wrong tree.
“Quit taunting the bull.” Rachel’s heart was having palpitations to rival the ones that killed her father. “A true cowboy would’ve asked where the livestock was before he took off in his pretty running clothes.”
“I’m not a cowboy anymore. I’m a lawyer.” Ben clung to the tree trunk and shouted at the bull,
“Calm down, Blackwell. You’ll be reduced to bits of superhero tights if that bull has its way with you.” If she rescued him, maybe he’d be so shaken up he wouldn’t show up in court tomorrow.