18+ "This is an action-packed roller coaster of drama, intrigue, suspense and steamy passion. The characters are well-developed and appealing. [...] The action is fast paced and extremely engaging. You will easily become absorbed in the story, finding it hard to set aside." Catlou, Goodreads
Release Date: January 14th, 2019
Morgan Windwalker Alexander considered herself to be a most fortunate woman. She loves the ranch where she and her husband, Cord, live and raised their family. She loves her work as a large animal vet and is proud of what Cord has accomplished in his career in Mechatronics.
She couldn't and wouldn't ask for more. As far as she is concerned, at 42, she has it all.
Then Cord gets a call in the middle of the night and from that moment, things start to change. Her once perfect husband, a man who is methodical in all he does, displays a recklessness she finds troubling. Cracks start to appear in her perfect life, revealing lies and betrayals she didn't want to believe were possible.
Can she keep the cracks from multiplying, keep all the pieces intact, or is she fighting a losing battle? Can she patch the wounds in her life or will this reckless path Cord is on shatter their one perfect life completely?
Cord pushed back from his desk, propped his elbows on the armrests of his chair and laced his fingers over his belly. His index fingers tapped in rhythm to the music from the overhead speakers. He'd done as much as he could remotely and had found nothing to indicate a breach in the system or even a break in the data reporting.
If there had been a break-in and waste was missing, then he had no clue how it was accomplished. In fact, at this point, he was starting to doubt there had been, but he wouldn't say that aloud until he'd been to the site and could verify it in person.
That presented a problem. Morgan had made it crystal clear she was against him getting involved in any kind of investigation. When he argued it was his responsibility, she reminded him that the government had built the facility, stored the waste and installed his technology without informing or consulting him, so it was clear they didn't want or need his involvement.
She might be right, but he wasn't ready to admit it. And as much as he wanted to honor the promise he'd made to her to stay out of it, the whole thing was driving him nuts. He'd never rest until he could figure it out and the only way to do that was to go see for himself, first hand.
The question was, how did he convince her it was the right thing? That thought prompted a realization. It was nearly seven, and she hadn't come home yet. He knew the ranch hands would have knocked off at six. Morgan was insistent on their employees having decent working schedules. When there was a need for people to work over, she made it well worth their while.
So, where was she?
That question had him rising and heading out of the house. Damn, it felt good to move around. He'd been sitting way too much lately. Rather than take one of the ATV's from the garage, he opted to walk. It wasn't long before twilight, and the sky was streaked with color. Cord took his time, appreciating the moment and allowing himself to remember how much he loved this place and its beauty.
His breath nearly caught in his throat as a paddock came into view and he beheld the sight of the small woman and the horse inside it. No one could break a horse like Morgan. She stood in the center, tirelessly swinging the rope, around and around. In time with her motions, was that of the massive eighteen hand stallion she'd bought off a man in New Mexico who'd labeled the horse as untrainable and sold him to Morgan for next to nothing.
Cord was quiet as he walked over and leaned his forearms on the top rail of the fence. If Morgan realized he was there, she didn't acknowledge it. Her attention was entirely on the horse. After a couple more minutes she stopped swinging the rope, gathered it and turned her back on the horse.
This was the moment that made Cord nervous. Many a trainer had found himself in a pickle when the horse decided to pound him into the ground. Cord watched as the horse pawed the ground with one hoof and then shook its head. Morgan ignored it or at least appeared to. She ambled to the side of the paddock, looped the rope over a post and then put her hands on the rail.
The horse watched, and when she stilled, it snorted, shook its head again and then went motionless. The seconds ticked away, and Cord started to wonder if she'd failed. Then the horse moved. Slowly and deliberately, it crossed the paddock to her. She never moved as it put its nose against her back, then on her shoulder.
When the horse leaned its big head against hers, she reached up and rubbed its face. For a long time, they stood that way. He could hear her murmur and saw the way the tension in the animal's body diminished. When she finally turned toward the horse, its body looked relaxed. She put a hand on either side of its face, kissed its nose and breathed into its face several times before turning in Cord's direction.
“You make that look so easy, and it's anything but,” he said as she stopped on the other side of the fence from him.
“It's as easy as the horse wants it to be. You just have to find a way to connect. And this is the best time for us to work together, when things are quiet, and the day is fading away. He likes it. So do I.”
“Yeah, I can see that. You going to brush him down and put him in for the night?”
“I am. I'll be done soon.”
“How about I give you a hand?”
“Really?” She seemed genuinely surprised.
“I do remember how to brush a horse.”
“I have no doubt. Just didn't think you were much interested anymore. It's rare you pay a visit.”
He realized how true her words were. Morgan was so capable of running the ranch and her vet business that he rarely offered a hand or did much of anything on the ranch. He paid attention to his business and...
And that was about it, he realized. The house, the ranch, her business–it was all on her, and she dealt with it with no complaints. Suddenly, Cord felt like far less of a good husband than he had an hour ago.
“For what?” She looked confused.
“For not doing more.”
“You have a business to run.”
“So do you.”
“Yes, but that's different.”
She reached up to pet the horse who'd followed and was nuzzling her arm. “What you do is important. To a lot of people. Not just your clients, but the people who work with you. They and their families depend on your company and its success for their livelihood. So, you have to pay attention to it. A lot rides on it.
“And besides,” she added with a smile. “I'm so proud of all you've accomplished, Cord. When we first met, I listened to your dreams, and I wished so hard for them to come true. I watched you working your ass off here and for others, writing code all day and cleaning stalls at night, all the while never missing a ball game or music recital or event at school for the kids. You've given so much to us, and you didn't ask for anything in return. You deserve to have someone put you first, too.”
If he'd been a man given to displays of emotions, he might have cried. “I couldn't have done any of it without you. It was you who picked up all the slack, doing twice the work so I could pursue my dreams. Don't think for a moment I don't know that.”
“Then we make a hell of a team, don't we, Cord Alexander?” She smiled at him.
“We sure as hell do, Morgan Windwalker. Now what do you say we get this big boy settled for the night, and then you and I have a nice night swim, and I'll cook you a fat steak on the grill.”
“Sounds like a deal too good to pass up.” She reached up to take hold of the horse's bridle. “I'm thinking of calling him Ebon.”
“Which means?” Cord opened the gate for her.
She smiled. “Black.”
“Works for me. Did you ask him?”
Morgan looked up at the horse. “Ebon? Does that work for you, big guy?”
When the horse snorted, Cord laughed. “Is that a yes or no?”
“Definitely a yes.”
They walked Ebon into the stable and to a clean stall. Morgan racked him up while Cord got the grooming tools. They worked together in silence and Cord found himself relaxing. By the time she asked him to hand her the hoof-pick, he was feeling the most at ease he had been in well over a week.
Cord gathered up the brushes and cloths and put them into the kit. While Morgan cleaned Ebon's hooves, he took the kit to the storage room, put the cloth into the basket marked "to be washed" and then made his way back to where Morgan was finishing up.
He watched in silence. She might be a small woman, but she was as capable as any man and far better with animals than anyone he'd ever known. Only their son, Trevor, came close to being almost as good and Cord wondered if one day Trevor might not join his mother working with animals and running the ranch.
She straightened and saw him watching. “What're you thinking?”
“About Trevor. He's a lot like you. Good with animals. Loves working the ranch. Are we wrong to demand he go to college?”
“No, I don't think so, but I think we should let him decide what he wants to pursue in terms of a field of study. If he chose to become a vet, I'd love to work with him, and if he chose animal husbandry, I think he'd turn out to be a first-class breeder, but whatever he chooses, I just want it to be something he's passionate about because that's where the real happiness comes from.”
“You're a smart cookie.”
She gave Ebon a final pat. “See you tomorrow, big guy.” Then she turned to Cord. “Would you top off his food and water while I clean the pick and my hands?”
Five minutes later they were headed for the house. Cord reached over to take Morgan's hand. “Thanks.”
“This. Sometimes I forget that I love it here, love the work.”
“You love it when you don't have to do it. If you had to do it every day, you'd hate it, just like you did your folks' ranch.”
He smiled at her. “You're probably right. I wasn't much of a cowboy, was I?”
“Oh, I don't know. You sit a horse well, know all you need to know about ranching and damn sure look good in jeans.”
“Hell yeah. Almost as good as you look without them.”
Cord swung her around to him, picked her up and as she wound her legs around his waist, he claimed a kiss. “Umm,” she murmured against his lips as the kiss ended. “Time to get you to the house and out of those jeans, cowboy.”
“You read my mind.”
By the time they reached the back deck, Cord was stripping out of his shirt and toeing off his boots. Morgan hopped on one foot, yanking off a boot and by the time she had both off, Cord was naked and helping her get that way.
He swept her up in his arms and into the pool they went. She kicked away, swam the length of the pool and surfaced beneath the diving board. Cord followed, and when he reached her, she wound herself around him, arms and legs.
A few kisses later and he was ready to move to the next step. “Shallow end.”
“Race ya,” she challenged and kicked off.
Cord knew he could beat her, but he loved watching her swim beneath the water. With her dark hair streaming out behind her, she looked like a mermaid come to life. He followed and found her waiting, sitting on the steps watching.
“God, I love watching you come up out of the water,” she said as he drew near. She reached for his hand, and he pulled her into his arms.
Some people would call it silly, but Cord thought of it as something akin to magic the way her kiss and the feel of her pressed against him could make him feel like a young man again. He scooped her up in his arms and carried her to the oversized round lounge on the covered patio.
When he put her down, she grabbed a towel and started drying him off. Her administrations were more foreplay than function, her mouth followed the path of the towel, and by the time she tossed the towel aside, he had no mind for anything but to be inside her.
“Slow down, cowboy,” she protested when he tried to initiate that desire. “We have all night.”
All night. He liked the sound of that.
About the author:
I'm a country girl at heart and I'm quite keen on home-grown heroes, military men and cowboys. Happily-ever-after is something I believe in with my whole heart. Love may be a bumpy road and there are bound to be perils along the way but in the end, love should win. I try to take that attitude into my writing and believe that love, hope and laughter are some of the best medicine there is. Along with books. Lots of books.
I have a passion for sagas. I love to fall into a world, get to know characters and have them reappear in stories down the road. Because of that, I wrote my Cotton Creek Saga. So far, there are two series within the saga, Honky Tonk Angels and Heartbreakers & Heroes, with another, Heritage, on the way in 2019.
I love to hear from readers and want every since person who has read one of my book to know how much I thank them. To every reader who has spent his or her hard-earned reading dollars on a Ciana Stone book, thank you from the bottom of my heart.
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I enjoyed reading the excerpt. Sounds like a fine read.
Congratulations on your new release Ciana, I enjoyed the excerpt the book sounds really good.
Sounds like a great read.
I liked the post and the book sounds great.
This sounds like a really great book, thanks for sharing!
This book sounds like a fantastic read.
Congratulations Ciana! I'm curious about your name, where does it come from?
I think today's posts are great.
I enjoyed the excerpt. Sounds like a great book.
the excerpt sounds great love books about ranchers and their lives
I enjoyed the excerpt and think this will be an interesting read.
Thanks for sharing and congrats on the new release!
I just loved todays post and I would love to read your book.
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