Christmas is coming and WYOMING ESCAPE, my tale of danger and romance set on a Wyoming dude ranch, is free on kindleunlimited.
Mikela Richard’s morning run turns horrific when she stumbles upon a dead body and then is chased through the woods. The next day is even worse when she discovers a second body in her office and realizes a dirty cop is responsible. With a past experience that makes her distrust the police, she goes on the run until she can unravel the mystery of the strange computer thumb drive she found in her car.
She ends up working as a cook at a Wyoming dude ranch where she meets Shawn Saunders, a Marine home on medical leave. Shawn recognizes the type of fear in Mikela’s eyes—it’s one of the things he’s come home to forget. Even though he knows it’s a bad idea, he can’t stop himself from trying to help her, while she’s even more afraid to let him.
Here’s a short excerpt from when Mikela visits a new foal one evening:
A few minutes later, the old wooden floorboards creaked beside her. “That’s the loosest I’ve seen you since you got here,” a soft, male voice spoke from the shadows.
To her surprise, Mikela wasn’t startled. Somehow she had known he was there. Not raising her head, she shifted, resting her cheek on her arms.
“Babies have a way of doing that,” she responded. “They sleep so sweetly, all your cares seem to melt away when you watch them.”
She straightened as Shawn came to stand beside her. “Watching over your family?”
“Something like that. Enjoying the quiet and getting back into the rhythm of things. It takes some time to adjust to normal life after I return. The horses help a lot.” He leaned down and rested his arms on the top of the stall door, a soft expression on his face as he watched the pair sleep.
“How long do you have?”
“Eleven more days.”
“Then back to Afghanistan?”
“Unfortunately, yes.” He shifted, still keeping his gaze on the sleeping foal. “Let’s talk about something else.”
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to … remind you of unpleasant things.” She automatically put her hand on his arm in a comforting gesture.
He placed a big paw on top of hers. “No problem.”
They stood joined for a long moment. Then Mikela gently pulled away. His touch set her pulse racing, made her want what she shouldn’t. She couldn’t afford to give in to the attraction tugging at her. He was so different from the men she usually encountered. Certainly poles apart from the one she’d married. She shook her head. Let’s not go down that path tonight.
Mikela knew she should leave, but her feet didn’t want to cooperate. She remained beside him, absorbing the peace and calm of the horses and his quiet solidity. When she put her hand back on the stall door, he reached over and covered it again. This time she let it stay, accepted the connection. Suddenly she felt herself aching to be held, to be enveloped in strong arms, to feel protected. The horror of the last two weeks suddenly pushed its way to the surface. Tears welled and began to stream down her face.
At the sound of her sob, Shawn spun around and reached for her. “What’s wrong, Mike?”
The soft concern in his voice released the damned up flood. She shook her head and started to turn away, but the next thing she knew she was pressed against his warm, hard chest as he rocked and murmured to her.
“It’s okay. Whatever the problem, it’ll be all right.”
When she tried to pull away, he kept her close and ran his hand up and down her back, soothing and gentling her. The comfort he offered was too enticing. She collapsed against him and let herself go. Several minutes passed before her sobs quieted. She took a shaky breath and became aware of his musky scent and the dampness beneath her face. His shirt was wet from her bawling. Embarrassed, she stiffened and tried to step away. But he didn’t release her.
“Sure you’re done? Sounds like you burst a water main. Might be more coming.” He pressed her head to his chest. “You’re fine where you are. Get it all out.”
Mikela relaxed against him. She’d already made a fool of herself—staying in his arms a little longer couldn’t make it any worse. When her breathing had returned to normal and her face was dry, she raised her head and drew back. This time he let her go.
“All better now?” he asked. “Want to talk about it?”
“Better, yes. Talk, no.” She wasn’t up to coherent speech yet. She knew she’d have to give some explanation, but certainly not the real one. “Sorry.”
“What’s to be sorry about? We all need to let go once in a while. It clears the air. I’ve seen things I’d like to cry about too.”
She tilted her head to see him more clearly. “I thought it was okay for guys to cry now.”
“Civilians, maybe. Marines, no way. Not in public anyway.”