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Firelight at Mustang Ridge
Jesse Hayworth

Praise for the Mustang Ridge series: “An instant classic.”—New York Times Bestselling Author Kristan H... Weiterlesen
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Beschreibung

Zusatztext
Praise for the Mustang Ridge series:
 
“An instant classic.”—New York Times Bestselling Author Kristan Higgins
 
“A superb read: a gorgeous setting and a beautiful love story.”—New York Times Bestselling Author Catherine Anderson
 
“Hayworth paints the setting so beautifully you won’t want to leave.”—Kirkus Reviews
 
“Plenty of laughter, charm, and emotion.”—New York Times Bestselling Author Jill Gregory

Informationen zum Autor
Jesse Hayworth is a farm girl from way back, complete with tractors and livestock. Now farmless and driving a Subaru named Roo, Jesse lives on the East Coast with a cranky tabby she rescued from an auto shop and a beloved husband, who rescued her from Match.com. She loves writing about wide-open spaces, animals, and true love, and she hopes you’ll come along for the ride! She is the author of Harvest at Mustang Ridge, Winter at Mustang Ridge, and Summer at Mustang Ridge.

Leseprobe

PRAISE FOR THE NOVELS OF JESSE HAYWORTH

Also by Jesse Hayworth

AUTHOR’S NOTE

Dear Reader-Friend,

We all know what they say—things change; people change; live in the moment because you never know what tomorrow might bring. But even if we keep up with our fortune-cookie fortunes and do our best with our deep breathing, we’re never quite ready for that moment where life goes BOOM and everything takes a left-hand turn, are we? I sure wasn’t five or so years ago when I woke up one morning (or so it seemed at the time) to find myself with no partner, a house I couldn’t afford, and no idea what came next.

Well, what came next was more life—those cookies tell us that life is what happens while we’re making plans, right? Tomorrow comes whether we’re ready for it or not. For me, a bunch of doors closed but a whole lot of windows opened, and suddenly that too-big house was humming with activity as my mom (who rocks) and a dear friend (shout out, Liana!) helped me paint and pack and get the heck out of Dodge.

Maybe I didn’t go as far as Danny Traveler does—all the way to Mustang Ridge, Wyoming—and maybe the healing I needed to do was very different from hers. But, like her, I made a new home someplace I never expected to be. And, like her, one day I met a big, broad-shouldered man from out West—one who knows how to ride and shoot and fend for himself, and who I absolutely wouldn’t have been ready for had I met him any sooner in my journey.

So welcome back to Mustang Ridge, dear Reader-Friend. Please join me in a story that is near and dear to my heart, about left-hand turns, moments that go BOOM, and how a former adrenaline junkie–turned–nervous Nellie puts the pieces back together with the help of a slow-talking cowboy who is far more than he seems. And if you’re in the process of putting a few pieces back together yourself, please know that you’re not alone.

Love,

Jesse

1

Danny Traveler didn’t put much stock in luck or fortune-cookie sayings, but as the shuttle bus rolled beneath an archway that spelled out WELCOME TO MUSTANG RIDGE in horseshoes, she was starting to think that the whole “if you’re going through hell, keep on going” thing might have some merit. The last year or so had sucked eggs, but now, finally, she thought she might be seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.

Or, rather, the rainbow at the end of the tunnel. Because as the luxury bus glided between two pale, grassy fields—horses on one side, cattle on the other—it was headed straight for a perfect rainbow that...

Praise for the Mustang Ridge series:
 
“An instant classic.”—New York Times Bestselling Author Kristan Higgins
 
“A superb read: a gorgeous setting and a beautiful love story.”—New York Times Bestselling Author Catherine Anderson
 
“Hayworth paints the setting so beautifully you won’t want to leave.”—Kirkus Reviews
 
“Plenty of laughter, charm, and emotion.”—New York Times Bestselling Author Jill Gregory

Autorentext
Jesse Hayworth is a farm girl from way back, complete with tractors and livestock. Now farmless and driving a Subaru named Roo, Jesse lives on the East Coast with a cranky tabby she rescued from an auto shop and a beloved husband, who rescued her from Match.com. She loves writing about wide-open spaces, animals, and true love, and she hopes you’ll come along for the ride! She is the author of Harvest at Mustang Ridge, Winter at Mustang Ridge, and Summer at Mustang Ridge.

Zusammenfassung
In the latest Mustang Ridge novel, sometimes a little change is exactly what a person needs....
 
Ever since striking it big on a gemstone claim in the Wyoming mountains, Sam Babcock has known luck is on his side—except when it comes to the people he loves. When he forms a surprising connection with an alluring newcomer staying at his friend Wyatt’s ranch, Sam starts to question everything he thought he knew....
 
Needing time and space to heal, former daredevil Danny Traveler is camping out in a valley beyond Mustang Ridge Dude Ranch. She wants to take care of herself for once—and a sexy cowboy might be just the distraction she needs. But when Danny discovers there’s much more to Sam than meets the eye, she begins to long for more than a casual fling. Can she convince the confirmed bachelor that it’s worth changing his ways for a chance at long-term happiness?

Leseprobe

PRAISE FOR THE NOVELS OF JESSE HAYWORTH

Also by Jesse Hayworth

AUTHOR’S NOTE

Dear Reader-Friend,

We all know what they say—things change; people change; live in the moment because you never know what tomorrow might bring. But even if we keep up with our fortune-cookie fortunes and do our best with our deep breathing, we’re never quite ready for that moment where life goes BOOM and everything takes a left-hand turn, are we? I sure wasn’t five or so years ago when I woke up one morning (or so it seemed at the time) to find myself with no partner, a house I couldn’t afford, and no idea what came next.

Well, what came next was more life—those cookies tell us that life is what happens while we’re making plans, right? Tomorrow comes whether we’re ready for it or not. For me, a bunch of doors closed but a whole lot of windows opened, and suddenly that too-big house was humming with activity as my mom (who rocks) and a dear friend (shout out, Liana!) helped me paint and pack and get the heck out of Dodge.

Maybe I didn’t go as far as Danny Traveler does—all the way to Mustang Ridge, Wyoming—and maybe the healing I needed to do was very different from hers. But, like her, I made a new home someplace I never expected to be. And, like her, one day I met a big, broad-shouldered man from out West—one who knows how to ride and shoot and fend for himself, and who I absolutely wouldn’t have been ready for had I met him any sooner in my journey.

So welcome back to Mustang Ridge, dear Reader-Friend. Please join me in a story that is near and dear to my heart, about left-hand turns, moments that go BOOM, and how a former adrenaline junkie–turned–nervous Nellie puts the pieces back together with the help of a slow-talking cowboy who is far more than he seems. And if you’re in the process of putting a few pieces back together yourself, please know that you’re not alone.

Love,

Jesse

1

Danny Traveler didn’t put much stock in luck or fortune-cookie sayings, but as the shuttle bus rolled beneath an archway that spelled out WELCOME TO MUSTANG RIDGE in horseshoes, she was starting to think that the whole “if you’re going through hell, keep on going” thing might have some merit. The last year or so had sucked eggs, but now, finally, she thought she might be seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.

Or, rather, the rainbow at the end of the tunnel. Because as the luxury bus glided between two pale, grassy fields—horses on one side, cattle on the other—it was headed straight for a perfect rainbow that arched over the pretty valley at the end of the driveway.

“Would you look at that?” Danny’s seatmate had her face plastered to the window. “It’s a sign!”

Danny made a polite murmur of agreement. Kiki-from-Cambridge had been talking in exclamation points for the entire three-hour ride, to the point that the heavily made-up—and generously endowed—brunette had seemed to be in danger of popping the snaps of her fringed Western shirt as she babbled on about everything from the gum-smacking guy who had sat next to her on the plane to the fact that she hadn’t been on a horse since she got bucked off a lead-line pony at the age of six. That made Danny wonder why she had decided on a dude ranch for her summer vacation, but she kept the question to herself and gave Kiki props for facing her fears.

Too bad she was doing it in close proximity at top volume.

Most of the others on the bus—twenty-some dudes and dudettes of various ages—had tuned Kiki out by the thirty-minute mark, leaving Danny wishing she had taken the singleton seat in the far back.

“Can you believe we’re finally here?” Kiki gave a happy sigh. “It feels like I’ve been waiting for this forever. What color horse do you hope you get? I want a yellow one! Pimento, they call it.”

Danny couldn’t help herself. “I think it’s palomino.”

“No, I’m pretty sure it’s pimento. And did you see the cowboys on the Web site?” Kiki made a yum-yum noise. “I’d like to take a ride on one of them!”

Trying not to picture a horse made of pimento loaf, a deli product called palomino loaf, or Kiki riding anything two-legged, Danny pointed out the window. “Oh, look! There’s the ranch! Isn’t it pretty?” Kiki made a happy noise and flattened her nose against the glass once more. The move made Danny wonder what she looked like from the other side, then give herself a mental kick for being bitchy. It wasn’t the other woman’s fault that she was winding down just when everyone else on the bus was gearing up. Hoping her internal eye rolls hadn’t been obvious, Danny asked, “Do you see any of those cowboys?”

“Not yet.” Kiki stared raptly as the valley unfolded in front of them. “But I see more horses, and you’re right. It’s sooo beautiful down there!”

And, yeah, if Danny hadn’t given up the window seat the second time Kiki leaned across her to ooh and aah before they even left the airport loop road, she would have been making a face print of her own on the glass. Because if the rapidly fading rainbow was a sign, Mustang Ridge itself was a vision.

The ranch was a mix of old and new, from the log-style main house and matching guest cabins scattered near an almost perfectly circular lake to the big steel-span barn that bumped up against an older wooden structure. Fence lines spidered out from the barns, enclosing horses, cattle, and riding areas, and bordering a dirt track that led through a perimeter fence and up a shallow slope to a ridge. Beyond that somewhere was Blessing Valley. Her valley.

Danny let out a soft sigh. It looked peaceful. Wonderful. And like it was exactly what the doctors had ordered.

Wow is right!” Kiki said, which might or might not mean that Danny had said the word aloud. “Aren’t those just the cutest cabins you’ve ever seen?”

The noise level increased as the other passengers roused from their travel fugue with exclamations of “There’s the pavilion where they have dancing!” and “Do you think we can fish in the lake?” along with lots of “Ohh, look at the horses!”

The rising chatter bounced around Danny as the young cowboy in the driver’s seat pulled the shuttle around in front of the barn and killed the engine. Getting on the intercom to project over the chatter of two dozen vacationers readying to make a break for it, he said, “Welcome to Mustang Ridge, folks! I’d like to invite you to hop on down, fill your lungs with some fresh Wyoming air, and connect with Krista, Rose, or Gran—they’re the ones wearing the green polo shirts and carrying clipboards. They’ll get you set up with your cabins and tell you all the cool stuff that comes next.” He gave a dramatic pause, then deepened his voice. “So . . . are you ready to take your first step onto the soil that’s been walked by cowboys of the Skye family for more than ten generations?”

As the group gave a ragged chorus of agreement, made up of lots of “Yeah” and “Woo” exclamations, Kiki scrambled over Danny and leaped into the aisle, where she did a shimmy-shake that set a whole lot of stuff shimmying and shaking, and hollered, “Let’s ride ’em, cowboys!”

The driver’s eyes went deer-in-headlights wide in the rearview mirror, and instead of doing the “I can’t hear you” thing that was probably next in the script, he popped the doors open and called, “Watch your step, folks! And welcome to Rustlers’ Week!”

Danny stayed put while the first wave of guests stampeded off. Then she and the stragglers filed out into a whole lot of sunshine. The minute her hiking boots touched down, she got a quiver of excitement in her belly. You’re here. You made it. Welcome to the next chapter of your life. Which was totally the power of suggestion, thanks to the bus driver’s rah-rah routine, but still . . . Moving away from the bus, she filled her lungs with dry, sweet-smelling air that carried the scents of horses, sunbaked grasslands, and a tangy kitchen-type aroma that made her stomach grumble and suggested that the claim on the ranch’s Web site about offering the best ranch food around wasn’t an empty boast.

“You must be Danielle,” a voice said from behind her.

She turned, doing a double take at the sight of a pretty, perky blonde who wore a green polo and a baby sling, and was entirely familiar yet not. “Krista. Hi! Yes, it’s me. But, please, call me Danny.” She peeked inside the sling and saw an infant’s head topped with blond baby-fine hair and a fat pink bow. “And this must be Abigail Rose.”

Krista’s lips curved. “Abby to her friends, which includes you. Any friend of Jenny’s is a friend of ours.”

“Jenny and I really only worked together for a month or so.” In a faraway rain forest, where Krista’s twin had been filming a reality dating show and Danny had been in charge of the zip-lining, bungee-jumping, and canyoneering dates.

It felt like another lifetime.

“If she says you’re cool, then you’re cool,” Krista said firmly. Then, to the baby, she cooed, “Isn’t that right, Abby-gabby? Your Aunt Jenny knows her stuff. And thanks to her, Danny here is going to hang out with the horses up in Blessing Valley for a while. Won’t that be fun?”

With her throat tightening, Danny managed, “I’m grateful. Really. I don’t know how to tell you what this means to me.”

Krista patted her shoulder. “Don’t stress about it—we’re happy to help. Jenny wanted to be here to greet you, but she took on a filming gig down in Belize for a friend of a friend. She and Nick will be back in a couple of weeks.”

“Seriously, you don’t know me from the next gal. You’re amazing to do this for me.”

“You’re welcome here at Mustang Ridge. And I mean it—we’re happy to help, honest.” Krista sent her a sidelong look. “I get that it feels weird, though. You’re way more used to doing favors than needing them.”

Danny eyed her. “Jenny told you that?”

“Nope, but like recognizes like.” Krista adjusted the sling as the baby shifted, curving into her mother’s body like a small, sleepy shrimp. “Up until a year ago, I had to be in charge of things no matter what. The ranch, the business, life in general . . . I might have asked for help now and then, but always on my terms.”

“And then she came along?” Danny nodded to the baby.

“Well, first her father came along.” Krista’s brilliant blue eyes gained a glint. “Wyatt. We were college sweethearts who crossed paths again at a time when I needed a cowboy, he needed some saddle time, and neither of us was thinking about romance. At least that was what we kept telling ourselves.”

“And you’re getting married soon.” Jenny had passed along that detail while Danny had still been trying to catch up to the idea that her freewheeling, country-hopping photographer friend was married to a veterinarian and living in Wyoming when she used to swear she would never return home for more than a quick visit.

A pleased flush touched Krista’s cheeks. “We’ve got a couple of months still until the wedding. Long enough to feel like I should change everything but not long enough that it’s an option, so we’re going with the plan we’ve got—family and friends under the pavilion as the sun sets behind the mountains.” Her expression brightened. “You’re invited, of course. Please say you’ll come!”

Danny had to stop herself from backpedaling, which was silly. Maybe at one point she had hoped the next wedding she went to would be her own, but it was past time for her to stop flinching over that. “I’d be honored,” she said. “Thanks for inviting me.”

“Brilliant! Don’t worry about dressing up, but if you want to shop, Jenny and I are always up for a girls’ night, or afternoon or whatever. And our friend Shelby—she always manages to make the stuff she finds in town look like it came out of a fashion magazine.”

“That sounds fun.” She couldn’t spend the whole summer alone, after all. Besides, she wanted to thank Jenny in person for e-mailing out of the blue to catch up, and then, when Danny gave her the short version of the past couple of years, responding with: Come to Mustang Ridge. It’s the perfect place to get your head screwed back on straight.

“Sweetie?” a voice called from the other side of the bus. Moments later, a petite white-haired woman came around the front of the shuttle, eyes lighting when she caught sight of Krista. “There you are! I’m going to fix a few folk up with snacks while your mom and Junior show the others to their cabins. Do you need anything?”

“Nope, I’m good for right now, and Miss Abby is conked out.” Krista patted the snoozing bundle within the sling. “Bless her for being a good sleeper, and pretty much the best baby ever—not that I’m biased or anything. But before you go, Gran, I want to introduce you to Danny Traveler.”

The older woman’s face brightened. “Hello, dear! It’s so lovely that you’re here. How was your trip?”

“It was fine.” She had splurged on a direct flight and strapped herself in, chased an Ambien with a screw-top micro-bottle of white wine, and practiced her deep-breathing exercises. It hadn’t been fun, but she had made it through.

Gran’s eyes went sympathetic, as if she had said the rest of it out loud. “I stocked your camp with supplies, but come see me before you and Krista head out there. I have a little basket put together for you.”

“And by little, she means approximately the size and mass of the average blanket chest,” Krista put in.

Danny cleared her throat, suddenly overwhelmed—by the warm welcome, the chaos, all the people around her. To Krista, she said, “Do you need to help show people to their cabins? I don’t want to keep you from your guests.”

“You’re a guest, too.”

“I’m not paying nearly what they are.” Which was yet another reason to be grateful.

“No, but you’re staying far longer, and you’re not going to require as much hands-on time. Though, for the record, you’re welcome to participate in any activities you’d like. We’ve always got a spare horse or three, and there’s something magical about a long ride in the great big wide-open.”

“We’ll see. I’m planning on spending most of my time in the valley. You know, reading, walking, chilling out.” Working her way through the daunting collection of aptitude exams that had been a parting gift from Farah, her physical-therapist-turned-friend.

“Of course. But please consider it an open invitation.” Krista touched her arm—like she wanted to do more but could tell Danny wasn’t a hugger. “Come on. Let me hand Abby off to her nana, and then I’ll show you to your valley.” She laughed. “Now that’s not something I get to say every day! See? I knew I was going to like having you around.” She danced away, humming a happy tune and exchanging a few words with each of the guests she passed, introducing herself and the baby, and welcoming the newcomers to her family’s world.

Danny watched her, thinking, That. That was what she wanted—not all the people and the hustle-bustle of running a dude ranch, but that sense of loving life and doing exactly what she wanted to do. Too bad she didn’t know what that was.

Yet.

*   *   *

An hour later, Danny was gunning along behind Krista on a borrowed ATV, anticipation growing as they steered their four-wheelers toward a narrow cut-through between two rock walls. They rode through a gap nestled beside a sluggish river lying low on its banks—Jenny had mentioned that the region was in the grip of a drought, with water at a premium and the fire danger high. Then, when the rocks opened up, Krista slowed and stopped, waving for Danny to come up beside her.

As she did, her mouth fell open and she had to remember to hit the brakes, because otherwise she might’ve rolled right into the lush valley ahead of them. “Holy . . . Wow,” she said reverently. “This is gorgeous!”

She had thought she was getting used to the dramatic beauty of the Wyoming backcountry they’d been bouncing through—all rolling hills and tree-shrouded rivers, with the mountains rising fat and purple in the distance. But this was something else entirely. Although the hills were dry and brown, the river valley was lush and green. Sloping banks ran up to the trees, and matching arms of stone wrapped around the green space, enclosing it in a geological hug that undoubtedly spanned hundreds of acres, yet felt safe and intimate. Especially when she saw a group of horses drift down to the water, almost lost in the distance as they stretched their necks to drink from the river.

“Welcome to Blessing Valley,” Krista said, grinning as several of the horses lifted their heads and pricked their ears toward the ATVs. “And there are your roommates—those are the mustangs of Blessing’s Herd, all forty of them, with Jupiter leading the way.” She pointed to a dark gray horse that stepped in front of the others as if to say, If you want to bother them, you’ll have to go through me to do it.

Danny didn’t want to bother anybody, but her lips curved at the thought that she would be sharing her home with the beautiful creatures. She’d never been particularly horse crazy, but the gray mare had a wise, knowing air about her. “She’s beautiful.”

“It’s thanks to her that we have the herd—Wyatt won a ‘train your mustang from scratch in six weeks’ competition with her last year, and the prize money went to buying an entire herd and setting up a sanctuary in this valley and the adjoining acreage.”

“Why not call it Jupiter’s Herd, then?”

“We thought about it, but we want the sanctuary to outlive a single horse or herd . . . so we named it after a foundling who was adopted by one of the earliest settlers in this area. Blessing. She married an early homesteader here at Mustang Ridge, making her my however-many-great-grandmother.” Krista grinned. “She’s a favorite of mine in the family tree, and the name seemed to fit.”

“Blessing Valley.” Danny drew in a breath of air that felt even cleaner and fresher than it had down by the ranch, though an hour ago she would have said that was impossible. She wasn’t sharing this air, though—it was all hers. A blessing indeed.

“Come on.” Krista restarted her ATV. “The campsite is about a mile in.”

A short drive brought them to where a bend in the river formed a spit of smooth ground. There, a firepit was lined with flat river rocks and surrounded by a cut-log seating area. As they rolled closer, Danny scanned the campsite, looking for the equipment she had sent on ahead.

Instead, her eyes landed on a hotel on wheels.

A big silver and purple RV was parked under the trees, with its awning extended to shade a small table, a couple of chairs, and an outdoor rug. The name RAMBLING ROSE was painted on the side of the RV in glittering script, and the tinted windows gave glimpses of pretty rose-patterned curtains and leather chairs.

And Danny was gaping again.

“I hope it’s okay,” Krista said, but she was grinning, like she could already see that it was far more than her guest had hoped for.

“Okay? Are you serious? I was expecting a pop-up camper and a six-pack tethered in the river. This is . . .” Too much, overwhelming. “Is the RV yours?”

“My parents’. He’s Ed and she’s Rose, and when the snow starts flying up here, they head south and go looking for stuff they haven’t already seen. Thus, the Rambling Rose.”

“They don’t mind my using it?” Please say they don’t mind. Danny had told herself that camping out in the middle of nowhere would be a good way to figure out what came next in life. But the posh bus tucked into the private valley suddenly seemed like her own personal slice of solo heaven.

“That depends. Are you planning on throwing any wild parties?”

“I’m not, but I can’t speak for Jupiter and her buddies.”

Krista gave her a shoulder bump. “I can pretty much guarantee she’ll stay out of your way. She enjoys people well enough—I think we amuse her—but she takes her duties very seriously when it comes to keeping the herd out of trouble.”

“Then we should be okay on the no-parties thing.”

“Excellent. Let me show you around the RV. It’s not big, but there’s a whole lot of features packed into the square footage.”

The whole it’s not big comment didn’t fully sink in until Danny put her foot on the steps going up and found herself facing a dark, narrow opening. And stalled as the oxygen suddenly vacated her lungs.

Oh, crap. Not now. Please not now.

Stomach knotting, she muttered under her breath, “Don’t be a wuss. It’s bigger than the airport shuttle.” Except the shuttle had been all windows and open space, with a wide aisle and lots of room for people and luggage. What little she could see of the RV was packed to the gills, with drawers and cabinets tucked into every available square inch. And it was dark.

“So you probably saw outside that you’ve got solar and wind power.” Krista flipped on the lights, brightening the gloom to unnatural fluorescence. “The keys are in the visor in case you need to move it.” She wiggled into the narrow aisle that ran between the popped-out kitchen and the matching breakfast nook on the other side. “You can fold the table away to make this a sitting area.”

As Krista demonstrated, Danny hovered just inside, keeping one foot hanging out the door.

“Then down this hall—it gets a little narrow here—you’ve got your three-quarter bath. There are a couple of tricks I need to show you, so you’re going to want to crowd on in here with me.” Krista said it like it was no big deal.

Then again, to normal people it wasn’t.

Taking a deep breath, Danny forged down the tunnel, not letting herself see how it stretched out longer and longer, like a horror-movie hallway. Hoping Krista couldn’t smell the fear oozing from her pores, she dug her fingertips into the doorway molding and managed to give a nod that she hoped related Go ahead instead of I’m gonna puke.

She could deal with this. She would deal with it, damn it. The last thing she wanted to do was seem ungrateful when Jenny’s family was offering her the perfect getaway.

Krista gestured, lips moving as she went over a process that only half stuck—something about a cross of toilet paper in the bowl and keeping the gray water to a minimum. All Danny really heard, though, was a Charlie Brown–like wah-wah-wah-whahhh and a whole lot of blood rushing in her ears. Breathe in, breathe out. That was basic. It was mandatory. In. Out. In. Out.

Finished with the bathroom, Krista squeezed back through the narrow opening and forged even deeper. “This is the bedroom. We put the stuff you shipped in here, figuring you’d want to organize it yourself.”

To a normal person, it probably looked like a king mattress flanked by a wardrobe and a drop-down desk, with two big duffels on the floor. To Danny, it was a cluttered dead end with a tiny window that let in the light but wouldn’t let her out no matter how hard she screamed.

For the love of God, don’t scream. Jamming her fingernails into her palms hard enough to draw blood, she sucked a thin trickle of oxygen through her nostrils.

“It’s all pretty self-explanatory.” Krista reversed course and headed back up the tunnel, talking all the way as she pointed out a fire extinguisher and a stack of manuals sealed in a Tupperware box under the sink.

Danny’s feet stayed glued at the bedroom threshold. Breathe in. Breathe out. You’re not stuck. You can leave anytime you want. See? You’re moving now. One foot, then the other. Turn. Walk, don’t run. You don’t want her to know you’re a head case. A weenie. Broken.

One torturous step at a time, she trudged back up the tunnel, sweating like it was a hundred and ten degrees rather than a shady eighty or so. Until, finally, she made it down the steps, through a walled-in opening so narrow that her shoulders brushed against either side, and out into the bright yellow sunshine of the green, green valley, with its bubbling water and open sky.

Where she could breathe again. Sort of.

“Anyway, I think that takes care of the basics,” Krista said, seeming unaware that Danny’s brain had gone all Blue Screen of Death there for a few minutes, leaving her stomach knotted and her lungs struggling for air. “There’s a satellite phone in the glove compartment for emergencies, and you’ve got the ATV for when you’re ready to come back to the ranch for Gran’s cooking, a real shower, and some company. You can explore with it, too, but watch your terrain and your fuel, and leave enough breadcrumbs so you can always find your way home.”

She paused, as if it was Danny’s turn to say something. Which it totally was, but she didn’t know what to say or whether she could get it out even if she knew.

Say something! Don’t be a wuss. Fixing her eyes on the river—watching the water keep moving, never stuck in one place—she swallowed hard and managed, “I don’t know how to thank you. I . . .” Horrifyingly, her eyes threatened to fill and she choked. “I’m sorry.”

Expression shifting to one of utter sympathy—but not pity—Krista touched her hand. “No, I’m sorry. You came here to get away from people, and here I am nattering away at you.”

“It’s not that. You’re lovely. It’s me. I’m just—”

“Seriously. Don’t stress.” She squeezed Danny’s arm. “I glommed onto you the second you stepped off the bus. I’d blame it on hormones or being a new mom stuck in babyland twenty-four-seven, but I’m surrounded by adults on a daily basis.” One corner of her mouth kicked upward. “Confession time: I’m a little jealous of your getaway, and kind of wishing Wyatt, Abby, and I could set up camp farther upstream and hide out until the wedding.” She sighed. “Which we totally can’t do. But it sure sounds nice.”

Okay. Danny could breathe again. She could think. Sort of. As her pulse started to slow, she made herself focus on the conversation, grateful to Krista for smoothing things over and giving her time to pull herself back together. “I guess you could camp out for your honeymoon,” she suggested, her voice only a little wobbly. “Or, I don’t know, a bachelorette party?”

“Ooh!” Krista straightened, eyes lighting. “I like that!” Then she laughed at herself. “And here I am, nattering again while my mom is undoubtedly spoiling the bejeebers out of Abby.” She didn’t sound at all put out by the prospect. “I’m going to go, and leave you to your valley. But if I could make one suggestion?”

Torn between wanting the other woman to stay and wishing she were already gone, Danny said, “What’s that?”

“Don’t wait too long to dig into that basket of Gran’s. You look like you could use a cookie or three.”

2

The black and green helicop...

Produktinformationen

Titel: Firelight at Mustang Ridge
Autor: Jesse Hayworth
EAN: 9780451470812
ISBN: 978-0-451-47081-2
Format: Kartonierter Einband (Kt)
Herausgeber: Random House N.Y.
Genre: Romane & Erzählungen
Anzahl Seiten: 352
Gewicht: 136g
Größe: H175mm x B109mm x T23mm
Jahr: 2015

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