At Wolf Ranch & When It’s Right
Montana Men Series
Montana Men Series
Releasing Feb 24th and March 31st, 2015
By: Jennifer Ryan
Releases February 24th, 2015
After years on the rodeo circuit, Gabe Bowden wants nothing more than land of his own and a woman who will claim his heart for more than one night. When he has the chance to buy the enormous Wolf Ranch spread, he snaps up the incredible deal. Everything is set, until Gabe rescues a woman on the deserted, snowy road leading to the property, and the half-frozen beauty changes everything.
Ella Wolf rushes to her family’s abandoned Montana ranch after her twin sister is murdered. She knows she’s next…unless she can uncover a secret hidden somewhere at Wolf Ranch. The last thing Ella expects is to be rescued by a rugged rancher with his own agenda. A man who almost makes her forget how dangerous love can be…
As an unlikely partnership sparks into something so much more, and a killer closes in, can Ella and Gabe learn to trust one another before it’s too late?
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Three long days without a word. No call. Not even a text. Ella stared at her phone, willing it to ring. She tapped her finger on the screen and stifled the urge to call Lela for the hundredth time that morning.
The coffee shop buzzed with activity. People headed off to work with their lattes and scones. She sipped at her caramel macchiato, reading over the newest projections for the cosmetics line debuting in March on her laptop. The numbers looked promising.
Ella jumped when her phone vibrated on the table. She snatched it up and read the caller ID.
“Finally.” She swiped the screen to accept the call. “Lela—”
“Where have you been?” Uncle Phillip’s demand surprised her.
Why did Uncle Phillip have Lela's phone?
Ella opened her mouth to answer her uncle's question, but he spoke first.
“I oversee the estate. You answer to me.”
“Twisting the truth again, Uncle. Ella and I sign off on everything,” Lela said, her tone unusually sharp. “You’re just a watchdog, there to ensure we adhere to the terms of the will. You have no real power, but you’ll do anything to steal it away, won’t you?”
What? Ella had never heard her sister talk to their uncle in such a disrespectful and spiteful way, or anyone for that matter. Why did her sister call and not say anything to her? Maybe she'd pocket dialed?
“Lela, it's me. What is going on?” Ella got no response. Uncle Phillip continued to speak over her.
“You have no idea what you’re talking about, my dear.” Uncle Phillip’s soft voice belied the steel in his words. “Don’t make me ask again. Be a good girl and tell me where you’ve been?”
This time, her sister answered, but didn’t explain a damn thing. “Uncovering your dirty secret. I know what you did,” her sister accused.
Butterflies in Ella's stomach fluttered like a flock of birds taking flight. The uneasy feeling she’d carried with her these last days intensified.
Ella gathered up her laptop and notebook, stuffing them into her oversized tote. She dumped the dregs of her coffee in the trash on her way out the door. The apartment was only a block up from her favorite café she had breakfast at every Tuesday when the house staff had the day off. She kept the phone to her ear and headed home to find out what the hell was going on.
“You won’t get away with this,” Lela’s voice raised in pitch. It took a lot to rile her sister. Whatever Uncle Phillip had done touched a nerve.
“Whatever you think you know doesn’t amount to anything without proof.” Her uncle used that chilling, yet utterly calm voice.
Ella picked up her pace, sensing the escalation of the situation into something more than just an argument about company business. She pulled her bag close to her side under her arm and ran for her building, knocking elbows and shoulders with other pedestrians. No time to apologize, she ignored their outraged remarks.
“Oh, I have the proof.”
Proof of what?
“You’re lying.” Uncle Phillip let out a nervous laugh.
Ella past her building's doorman and ran for the elevator, pushing the button three times, frantic for the doors to open.
“Where is it? Show me.”
Come on. Come on. The elevator doors finally opened and she rushed inside and pressed the button for the penthouse. Ella prayed she didn't lose the cell signal and drop the call. She only ever got one bar in the elevators.
“You think I’d be fool enough to bring it here. To you? I’ll see you in jail before this day is over.”
“I’ll see you in a grave first.”
The ice in her uncle’s tone frosted Ella’s heart. The evil laced there erased all trace of the man she knew. He meant those ominous words.
Lela gasped and let out a startled shriek. Ella didn't want to believe her uncle actually struck Lela, but that’s what it sounded like.
“What. Did. You. Find?”
“Everything,” Lela sputtered.
What? What are you talking about?
“If you’re lying to me—”
“Let me go. It’s over. There’s nothing you can do. I can prove you did it.”
“Don’t look at him,” Uncle Phillip snapped.
Him? Who else is there?
“Please, do some—”
“He’s not here to help you, you stupid girl. He works for me. Everyone works for me. You should have left well enough alone.”
Lela shrieked again. Ella's heart dropped into her stomach.
“This is your final chance. Tell me where it is and I’ll make this quick. Refuse and I'll take my time. You'll know the meaning of the word pain when I'm done with you.”
Releases March 31st, 2015
Gillian‘s turbulent life has never been easy, but nothing prepared her for the moment of violence that sends her and her little brother running from San Francisco to her grandfather’s ranch in Montana. A man she’s never met. She learned long ago not to trust anyone, but she’ll do anything to keep her brother safe and give him the happy childhood she never had. When she meets Blake Bowden, a strong, silent, gorgeous cowboy who teaches her about the ranch and rescued horses-animals who have been through hell and back, just as she has-Gillian begins to feel at ease for the first time in memory. In fact, she even starts to feel happy. But in her world happiness has always been fleeting, and she’s not sure she can believe in it or the man who has quickly found his way into her heart.
Blake has everything he’s ever wanted: a partnership on a ranch that allows him to spend his day in the saddle training racehorses. His life is good, steady, uncomplicated…until the most beautiful, haunted looking woman arrives at Three Peaks Ranch. If he wants to keep his ideal life, his partner’s granddaughter is entirely off limits, but Gillian awakens a protective instinct in Blake that he can’t ignore…and ignites a passion he shouldn’t feel. But as Gillian heals and finds her way back into the world, Blake knows that he’s found the one thing that he never knew he was missing. And when danger comes close, he will do anything he must to keep Gillian safe…even if it means risking his life’s dream.
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San Francisco, California
Home late from her shift washing dishes at the Jade Palace, Gillian pounded up the two flights of stairs as fast as her legs allowed. She hit the landing and turned right, racing down the hallway past her apartment’s open door to Mrs. Wicks's unit at the end of the hall. She’d heard the screams from outside. Not the first time she’d answered that call, but so help her God, if her father touched one hair on Justin’s head, she’d kill him.
“I’m calling the police,” the babysitter, Mrs. Wicks, threatened loud enough for her voice to carry down the hall.
“Damnit, woman, he’s my blood,” her father bellowed.
Gillian rushed into the apartment, spotted Justin holding his arm, tears shimmering in his eyes, but otherwise appearing unharmed. She looked her father up and down assessing the situation in a glance and the odds on talking him down from whatever ludicrous idea had taken root in his shadowed mind. Dressed in the same clothes he’d left in four days ago, his hair an oily mass hanging lank to his shoulders, he reeked of whiskey, cigarette and pot smoke, and acrid body odor. The wild look in his bloodshot eyes told her he hadn’t slept in a good long while. Riding a meth high, he’d probably binged for days. Soon, he’d lose all sense of reality and need more of the drug that wouldn’t give him the high he needed, since he’d overloaded his system. He’d crash, his body shutting down and putting him into a deep sleep for a day, or two, or three before he woke up miserable, needing more of what put him in this psychotic state in the first place.
Frustrated and angry, but resigned to this same worn-out routine, she shored up her resolve to get through this night, like she’d done too many times in the past, trapped raising a child with little money and even fewer choices. None of them good.
Her father paced, his movements jerky. He scratched at his arm, his legs, the back of his neck with his grime filled nails. He slapped at his thigh, then bit at the tips of his fingers. A hint to how far he’d fallen down the rabbit hole. Not good.
“Dad, come on. Let’s go home. I’ll make you something to eat,” she coaxed, keeping her voice calm.
A powder keg of roiling rage, you never knew what would set him off.
Justin cowered in the corner of the couch, his eyes wide and watchful. He didn’t move, afraid of drawing her father’s attention. Even at six, he knew the rules of this twisted game.
Mrs. Wicks moved into the kitchen, leaving Jessie to handle getting her father out of there and back to their place. She’d done it before. Usually, he’d come looking for her. She’d been held up at work, and he’d found little Justin alone. She never left Justin with him if she could help it, especially over the last year when her father spent more time strung-out and paranoid on meth than comfortably numb with booze and pot, like he’d been every day of her life.
The last two weeks had been hell. Her patience had worn thin days ago. If she could hold on, get him out of Mrs. Wicks’s apartment and into theirs, she could take Justin and crash somewhere else for a few days until her father came down and leveled off.
Then, joy, they could start this whole thing over again.
I wish Justin and I were anywhere else.
Inside, the pressure built. How good it would feel to open her mouth and unleash a string of curses, insults, and blame for what her father put her and Justin through day in and day out. She hated him for spending his life drowning in a bottle and doing drugs, his life going up in smoke. Her life went up with it. Justin’s too. She wanted it to end. One way or another, just end.
Her father swatted at some imaginary bird, or butterfly, or dragon for all she knew. Only he saw the tormenting hallucinations. If he was this far gone, he was even more volatile and dangerous than usual.
“Dad, come on. I’ll make you a burger and get you a beer.”
“We have to go.” His words came out rushed. He swatted at the air again, this time spinning around to the right before he stopped and turned the other way again, tracking his imaginary flying devils, waving his arms over his head to swat them away.
She shook her head, frustrated and tired of dealing with him. This. Everything. She wanted to run away, but where would she go? It was all she could do now to keep a roof over Justin’s head and food in his belly with the diminishing help her father supplied. Out on the streets, or in a shelter, they’d be vulnerable to even more horrors. What kind of life would that be for Justin? Better than this one? Maybe. Maybe not. Still, she needed to find a way to give Justin better than she’d had growing up with a volatile drunk, who could barely keep a bartending job and supplemented his income selling drugs to support his own habits.
“We have to go. We have to go. We have to go,” her father chanted, getting agitated, hitting the side of his head with one hand and scratching at the imaginary bugs crawling under his skin on his leg with the other.
Fed up, she stepped toward him to grab his arm and lead him back to their place. He jumped out of her reach and laughed. The sound held no humor, but a touch of hysteria in the odd shriek. Her father pointed at her, shaking his head side to side. “No. No. No. No. No.” Again, his ominous giggle sent a chill up her spine.
Her father grabbed Justin’s arm and yanked him off the couch. She stood her ground in front of him. No way he left here with Justin.
“Let him go. He needs to finish his homework.” She made up the excuse, hoping he’d release Justin, and she could get him out of there.
“He’s mine. He’ll keep them away. He’s got the light that turns them away.”
Paranoid, delusional asshole.
She sighed, knowing just where this was going and not liking it one bit. Soon, her father would spiral into a psychotic delusion no one could talk him out of.
Please, just pass out already.
Not that lucky, she tensed and waited to see what came next. Her father pulled Justin in front of him, held him by both arms and turned him this way and that, a shield against an enemy only he could see.
“Ow!” Justin cried out when her father’s fingers dug into his thin arms.
“Keep them back.” Her father tugged on Justin again. Hurt and scared, Justin planted his feet and pulled away, trying to get free. Her father held tighter, spun him around to face him, and when her father hurt Justin and he fell to the floor, tears spilling from his eyes, Jessie's couldn't take the ache in her heart and her anger exploded.
“Keep them back.” Her father shook Justin again.
Jessie lost it. “I warned you, if you ever touched him...” She lunged for her father, striking him in the arm, breaking his hold on Justin. She shoved her father two steps back and Justin ran for Mrs. Wicks in the kitchen, who rattled off the building address to the police on the phone. Not the first time someone called the cops on her father, and it probably wouldn’t be the last. No way they got here in time to stop him. Whatever happened next, she’d sure as hell make sure he never got anywhere near Justin again.
Jennifer Ryan is the New York Times & USA Today bestselling author of The Hunted Series and The McBrides Series. She writes romantic suspense and contemporary small-town romances featuring strong men and equally resilient women. Her stories are filled with love, family, friendship, and the happily-ever-after we all hope to find.
Jennifer lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and three children. When she isn’t writing a book, she’s reading one. Her obsession with both is often revealed in the state of her home and in how late dinner is to the table. When she finally leaves those fictional worlds, you’ll find her in the garden, playing in the dirt and daydreaming about people who live only in her head, until she puts them on paper.
Author Links: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads
Looking for an intense romantic read with a strong, sexy cowboy and city girl with a love of horses? Find it all in Jennifer Ryan's At Wolf's Ranch, the first book in her new series, Montana Men. We meet Ella in the gripping and heartbreaking first chapter which sets up the story arc for our feisty heroine. Justice and revenge for her twin sister's brutal murder sends her to the rugged land of her parent's getaway estate in Montana, Wolf Ranch. Gabe, caretaker, loves the ranch and all its property. He's retiring from the rodeo scene and wants to settle down and become a true ranch man. When these two meet during a snow storm, he saves her life and sets them both on a new and exciting path.
I've always liked the city girl and country guy love story. When done right, their romance can be wonderful. Gabe is an all-around great guy, his qualities are everything a woman could ask for and his work ethic is stellar. This man is rugged cowboy and compassionate soul all wrapped inside a gorgeous body. Ella may be a rich girl but the tabloids have her pegged wrong. She's far from the selfish party girl intent on seeking out her next good time. She has made plans with her twin sister, Lela, to take over their deceased parents' business and add their own unique touches to it as well. Until her sister discovers something incriminating about their domineering uncle. Then Ella is on the run, trying to find proof about her sister's killer and clear her own name. She just might find what she needs in Montana and more.
I really enjoyed At Wolf's Ranch, from the lovely setting to the horses, the mystery about her uncle and the love story between Ella and Gabe. That first chapter gripped me and I wanted more. The author can spin quite an intoxicating tale and the visuals were strong. Gabe and Ella's scenes had just the right amount of tenderness and later on tuned sexy and smoking. As much as I enjoyed their story I did expect more of a dramatic interchange between Ella and her uncle, at least one climatic scene (besides the chilling opening). I thought the scene at Wolf Ranch in the garage might be it, but it wasn't as satisfying as I'd hoped. At times everything came together too well and neatly and the pace did slow down in spots.
At the heart of this contemporary romance is a love story and here is where the author shined. From falling for Gabe myself to really liking the leading lady, At Wolf's Ranch is a lovely and interesting romance. I'm hooked on these Montana men and can't wait to meet Gabe's other brothers in this series.
Cover comment: Well, hello Gabe!
Book source: Edelweiss
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