Tuesday Newsday: A New Release for Lucinda Race #western #romanticsuspense

Hiding in Montana

by Lucinda Race

Cowboys of River Junction, Book 2
Romantic Suspense, Contemporary Western Cowboy

Can love flourish while danger lurks in the shadow?

For Polly Carson, working the land on a Montana ranch is a dream come true. No one knows she’s on the run, carrying a secret that could endanger the big eclectic family she’s found on the ranch. Not even the man who rescued her broken body from the bottom of a ravine recognizes her. He doesn’t know that it was him who brought her to River Junction in hope of finding a safe haven and a chance to start over.

Something about Polly draws Clint Goodman, foreman of Grace Star Ranch, like a bee to wildflowers. If only he could remember why she seems so familiar. She trips his trigger for sure, but he’s been burned before. He loves his job and his cowboy life, but women want picket fences and a man who doesn’t work weekends. But maybe a woman like Polly is worth taking a second chance.

Polly’s a strong woman with a deep inner strength. Clint, the strong silent type, loves and respects her fierce independence. But just as their slow burn romance is heating up, Polly’s past returns to threaten her future. As lies and secrets are revealed, no one on the ranch will be safe.


Read an excerpt:

Polly Carson stuck her leather work gloves in the back of her faded Levis. She sat back on her heels, surveying the row of tomato plants she had just mulched. Rubbing the ache in her lower back reminded her she wasn’t twenty anymore. Looking at her surroundings, she wouldn’t change life on Grace Star Ranch for anything in the world. Working the land in Montana had been a dream come true, and it put her in close proximity to Clint Goodman, the only man who made her heart skitter in her chest with just a smile. Not that he even recognized her. No one could. But she knew he had a good heart. What person would happen along, find a woman so badly broken that he’d stay with her, and even visit her in the hospital? She remembered little about those first days, but she remembered his voice, the deep dimples, and sable-brown eyes, and the way he talked about his home, Grace Star Ranch, had sounded like heaven on earth.

She touched her face, picturing her reflection in the mirror. The plastic surgeon had done an amazing job of putting her back together. The only scars that remained were on the inside. She shook off the darkness that threatened to obscure the July sunshine and stood up. This morning she woke in a cold sweat, her heart racing from the same nightmare she’d had for the last three years. She was running and her feet gave way, sliding down a rocky embankment. Helpless. Ending in a heap at the bottom of a ravine. But it hadn’t been a dream. It had been what brought her to this point, even though she remembered nothing after she had breakfast until they found her. Until Clint found her. Even now, her heart pounded in her chest as it tightened with the familiar panic. Taking several deep cleansing breaths, she reminded herself nothing would get done dwelling on the past. She knew better than anyone life could change in an instant.

The sound of someone calling her name interrupted her thoughts. Annie, the owner of the ranch and her boss, was headed in her direction.

“Morning,” she called out. “How’s things going out here?” She popped her hands on her hips and took in the massive garden. “It’s amazing what you’ve done in just a year.” She bent over and tore off a lettuce leaf, inspecting it, and then popping it in her mouth. “Nothing like from garden to mouth.”

Polly liked Annie. Her openness and willingness to listen and implement new ideas was just one reason working here was the best job she’d ever had. “The critters would devour the lettuce if we hadn’t installed that fencing.”

“I’m glad Clint and the boys could get it done before everything grew.”

Polly turned away so Annie couldn’t see her cheeks get pink at the mere mention of his name. “Chicken wire did the trick, that’s for sure.”

“Tell me, what’s the scoop with these tomato plants? They’re already a foot tall and deep green, nothing like what I saw down at The Trading Post a few days ago.”

“I grew these in the greenhouse. We’ve got a grape variety and ones that will ripen in our short growing season. Quinn’s already thinking about how many quarts he can process for the winter.”

Annie shuddered. “We just got over that season. I’m not ready to start thinkin’ about snow.” Her soft twang only came out occasionally, but Polly liked it.

With a soft laugh, she said, “It’s part of growing food. We need to think about the harvest and preserving it. Besides, we have a pleasant summer coming up since our spring has been warm. It’s a good indicator we’re in for a stretch of sunny days ahead.”

“Do you think you’ll have enough greenhouse space to grow even more for next year? With the resort having a soft opening in the fall, I’m hopeful we will book the cabins solid next summer.”

Annie had part of the ranch under construction with six family-style cabins and an expansion to the horse stable. Her plan was to add a dude ranch resort as an offshoot of the cattle business. Daphne, her friend from Boston, had moved out to run it.

“Not to worry, I’m using this year’s harvest as a gauge of what we’ll need to expand for next year. Feeding the ranch hands and preserving what we can is a part of the overall plan. You’ll need to decide how meals will run for the resort, are guests eating with the hands, or is there a separate dining hall? If Jed’s going to oversee everything, then he has ideas about the menu. I guess what I’m saying is, it’s an open-ended discussion until we know if Quinn is the head chef or if you are having two separate kitchens.”

Annie tapped her chin with her index finger and turned her head in the direction of the dining hall. “I’ve been putting off this conversation long enough. I’ll run down and talk to Quinn this morning. I was hoping he’d come to me and ask for the head chef job, but maybe he’s waiting for me to offer it.” With a shake of her head, she grinned. “He’s strong and silent like a few of our men around here.”

Polly instantly thought of Clint. He was the strong, silent type, steady as her heartbeat, well, until he occupied space with her, and then her heart thumped wildly. She really needed to stop crushing on that man.

“And you have a few raucous ones down there, too. Clint had Zak Dawson up helping with the fence and all he did was crack jokes.”

Her eyes grew wide. “Clint or Zak?”

Her cheeks grew warm. “Zak’s the funny man of that duo.” But Clint had the occasional one-liner that cracked her up, too. Not that she was about to tell Annie that.

“Zak’s a good man and even better with the horses. He probably tires of not having people to talk with, so he makes up for it.” Annie gave her a sharp look. “Clint’s got a good sense of humor. He just keeps it on the down low until he really gets to know someone.”

She dipped her head and looked at Annie. “Thanks, I’ll keep that in mind.”

“Hey, can you do me a favor before you head out?” Annie glanced back at the main house. “Mary’s a little tired today. Would you cut some lettuce and if there are radishes, harvest some for dinner tonight and drop them at the house? I have to run into town and I’d feel better knowing someone had laid eyes on her while I’m gone.”

“Is she alright?”

“If you ask her, yes, still running this place like my Pops were still alive. But she picked up a cold, and it’s settled in her chest, and we both know Mary, stubborn as a mule about resting. She’ll be down here when she gets ready to fix dinner, getting what she can and well…” Her voice trailed off.

Polly saw the tears well up and then get blinked away from Annie’s eyes. “Consider it done. Maybe we can have tea together and I can pick her brain about her success with the garden all these years.”

“I tried to tell her I’d”—she gave a sheepish grin and shrugged her shoulders—“well, Linc would cook tonight, but she insists on fixing supper.”

“My grandma was just like Mary, never wanting help. At least Mary’s relinquished most of the gardening to me. She even allowed me to work in her flower gardens.”

Annie placed a warm hand on Polly’s arm. “I really appreciate your patience with Mary. She’s the only family I have left.”

“We all love her, so stop worrying. I can pop in whenever for a quick glass of water.” She patted the small walkie-talkie on her hip. “And you can reach me anytime.”

Polly would do just about anything for Annie and her family. After all, if it wasn’t for the woman standing in front of her, Polly wouldn’t be living her dream or live in close proximity to the man who had saved her life. One of these days, she needed to fess up and tell him who she was and thank him.

“I got lucky when Jeremy introduced us at The Trading Post.”

Polly swallowed the lump in her throat; she knew exactly what Annie meant. It was a fresh start for both of them—Annie taking over the family’s ranch and her working at the ranch. They were both building a new life from the ground up.

“Hey, how often is a gardener given the chance to start an entire operation literally from just a patch of land and an idea?”

Annie shrugged. “Like every spring?”

“Nope, this land needed to be cultivated and coaxed back into life. We’ve added compost and fertilizer, turned in nutrients, and let the magic of nature work over the winter.” Much like her transformation as she worked the land, it restored her faith that the future was bright. She had left the withered version of herself on that hiking trail.

“You did the work.” Annie gave her a bright smile.

In more ways than just the plot of land in front of them. “Thanks, Annie. All I needed was the opportunity.”

Her smile grew. “Oh, look, there’s Clint and Linc.”

The two cowboys headed in their direction. Clint was taller and thinner than his boss, who was also Annie’s husband, but they both had dark hair and the muscles of a hard-working cowboy. That’s where the similarities ended. Linc’s smile was quick and easy, whereas Clint’s was slow and guarded. He was slowly getting comfortable around her, but it had puzzled Polly why.

“Ladies,” Linc said and pecked his wife’s lips. “I thought I’d find you out here, Annie.”

“Actually, I was talking with Polly about plans for next year, and then I’m on my way down to see Quinn.”

Clint gave Polly a half grin. “Gotta feel sorry for the cook. Once Annie says she’s gonna talk to someone, that means they’d best be prepared to make some decisions.”

Although her tongue felt like she’d trip over it if she spoke, she laughed and then said, “I think I’d been in that same position last year.”

He pushed his Stetson back on his head and gave her a rare, wide smile. “And look how that turned out. We’re now eating better than ever, thanks to your skills.”

She could feel the flush rise in her cheeks and she eked out, “That’s nice of you to say.”

“Wouldn’t say it if I didn’t mean it.” Clint’s deep drawl made her toes curl in her work boots.

Polly could feel Annie’s eyes watching them as they bantered. She chanced a quick look, and Annie’s eyes widened with laughter. But it left her questions unasked. Polly was sure that would be a topic of conversation when they talked later.

“Linc, why don’t we head down to the dining hall? I think Polly was going to ask Clint for some help with something.” Annie gave Polly a sly wink and slipped her arm through her husband’s.

“Clint, after you’re done up here, can you stop down at the horse barn and check on things there? I have some things to go over with Annie in the office.”

Polly noticed the glint in Linc’s eyes and if she were to hazard a guess, this was part of Annie and Linc’s not-so-subtle way of playing matchmaker.

“You got it, and then I’m gonna check on the new calves. Doc Howard will be making a quick trip out later too.”

“Good.” Linc took Annie’s hand and with a smile in Polly’s direction and a curt nod to Clint, he said, “Take all the time Polly needs to get whatever done.”

When they were out of earshot, Clint stuck his hands in his front pockets and rocked back in his boots. He was studying Polly carefully. “So, how can I help you?”

Get yours today!  

Award-winning and best-selling author Lucinda Race is a lifelong fan of fiction. As a young girl, she spent hours reading mystery and romance novels and getting lost in the fun and hope they represent. While her friends dreamed of becoming doctors and engineers, her dreams were to become a writer—a novelist.

As life twisted and turned, she found herself writing nonfiction but longed to turn to her true passion. After developing the storyline for the McKenna Family Romance series, it was time to start living her dream. Her fingers practically fly over computer keys she weaves stories about with mystery and happily ever afters.

Lucinda lives with her two little dogs, a miniature long hair dachshund and a shitzu mix rescue, in the rolling hills of western Massachusetts. When she's not at her day job, she’s immersed in her fictional worlds. And if she’s not writing mystery, suspense and romance novels, she’s reading everything she can get her hands on.

Visit Lucinda's website at https://lucindarace.com

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