It’s a dusty afternoon; Mel and I are exhausted from the flight.
“I never drink beer, but I tell ya, one would sure as hell go down a treat about now.” I whinge as we plod into the local waterhole in Marietta.
“I hope they have decent tea.” Mel tries for a smile.
We amble up to the counter and a tall woman greets us. She is brisk and confidence. This is clearly her place. Her eyes are the colour of toasted barley. Chestnut hair with streaks of grey running through it is tied up out of the way.
“G’day y’all. Can see you ain’t from around here. What can I get ya?” Her smiles highlights the twinkle in her sharp gaze as Mel leans on the counter.
“An Earl Grey and a beer, please.”
The woman rubs her chin, “Can do for both, though I’ve never had such a strange order before.” She chuckles as she types our request in to the electronic till and I pay.
“So, what are two gals like you looking for in Marietta?”
“Nate Hansen,” is all I say as I turn around and squint at my fellow patrons, all drinking, eating and socialising.
“Hey Nate! There’re two ladies here looking for ya! Thought you’d gone and changed your ways.” The bar tender shouts out across the establishment to a man sitting in the farthest corner sipping from a mug. Both Mel and I jump.
Nate looks up from his table, “Hey, darlin’, now don’t be like that.” He shakes his head. Clearly it is an old joke between them.
The lady chuckles then looks at us, “I’ll brings yer drink over to ya.” She nods in Nate’s direction.
Nate rises from his seat and holds out a hand in greeting. “Take no note of her. She loves to remind me of the past.”
Mel takes it in hers, “No worries. Please to meet you.”
And then I do the same, “All good. How are you?”
“Nice to meet you both. I was intrigued when Ann called to let me know she’d arranged the interview.”
Nate is a man who has the whole ‘tall dark and handsome’ thing doing him all kinds of favours. His grip is frim and the callouses on his hands speak of hard work. But the scars on his face tell of some risky business too.
“Nice town.” I say as I sit down. Mel pulls out her iPad and its small keypad.
“Yeah. Been here my whole life.”
“You were born here?” I ask as I shift in the hard chair.
“Nope. Ma brought me and my two brothers here to live with my grandfather when we were younger. Never left.” He reaches for his mug of half-drunk coffee just as the bar lady arrives with our drinks.
“Do your brothers still live in Marietta?” I ask, then sip the ice-cold beer. Its bitter bubbles rush down my throat and wash away the dust and exhaustion of travel.
“Jethro took over the ranch when the old man got too weak to run it. He’s a good man. Set his life straight to help our grandfather out, better than I ever was.” A look of regret and shame crosses Nate’s dark eyes.
“I hope you don’t mind me saying,” Mel looks up from her screen and reaches for her cup of tea, “But you seem to harbour a lot of guilt?”
Nate sighs as he leans forward on the table. He pins us both down with a gaze that could melt underwear in two seconds flat!
“I’ve got a lot to make right. Spent my whole life blaming everyone and everything for losing our mother. I need to grow up, stop hurtin others. Hardest part is changing my reputation.”
“The one she eluded to earlier,” I point a thumb back over my shoulder in the bar lady’s direction.
“Yeah. Had a bad habit of pickin fights, drinkin too damn much and waking up in a different bed each mornin. It ain’t a life I want to live. But now I have a reason to change.”
“And what’s that reason?” I ask, then take another large gulp of the bitter beer.
“Our Grandpa died before I could show him I was the man he wanted me to be.” I glance at Mel as we both note the deep regret and hurt which hugs the edges of Nate’s tone.
“I can see family means a lot to you, Nate.” Mel across her keyboard.
“Family. It’s everything!” His gaze shifts from that of a lost little boy to a man.
“So, do you work on the ranch with your brother?”
Nate leans back in his chair, pulling his hands through his dark hair as a grin spreads across his face. The smile speaks volumes and the twinkle which brightens his gaze tells of love, hope and good things.
“Nah, I work for Joy. She’s my… Read the book will ya.”
“I can’t help but notice the look of happiness in your eyes when you mention her.” Mel cocks her head.
Nate proffers a grin that has every buckle bunny in towns, knees turning to jelly.
“Well, Thanks for the chat Nate.” I reach out and shake his hand as Mel packs up her stuff.
“Pleasure.” Ever the gentleman, he stands to see us out.
About the Book
Nate Hansen desperately needs a reboot to his playboy image that doesn’t involve women, drinking and fighting. Rehabilitation and building a solid future proves elusive as he can’t land a permanent job until someone mentions local widow Joy Mitchell who’s advertising a full-time ranch job. Perfect.
Joy Mitchell is desperate for a ranch hand to help keep her dead husband’s legacy alive out of the greedy grasp of her manipulative father-in-law. Nate’s reputation precedes him, none of it good, but the ranch is running on empty, and Joy make the hard choice. Problem is the job she’s offering isn’t exactly what Nate had planned.
Nate knows what its like to lose everything, but seriously, become a mail-order groom? But Joy won’t or can’t compromise.
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