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Protected by the Cowboy - Signed Paperback

Protected by the Cowboy - Signed Paperback

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She’s running from trouble, and now he’s protecting more than just his ranch.

Blackwater Ranch series book 4.

Main Tropes

  • Fierce Protector
  • Starting Over
  • Found Family


She’s running from trouble, and now he’s protecting more than just his ranch. 

Laney Parker is in dire need of a fresh start. With broken bones and a broken heart, she shows up at Blackwater Ranch hoping to land the housekeeper position for the new bed and breakfast. When the caring family begins to ask questions, she struggles to trust them with her secret. 

Micah Harding is the manager of Blackwater Ranch. His plate is full as it is, but he can’t turn his back on the secretive stranger. Laney may be leading trouble to their door, but he can’t help but think she’s worth the risk. 

She’s beaten up and tight-lipped about where she came from. Slowly, Micah shows her that she can trust him with her heart. When Laney’s past catches up to her, Micah won’t stop until he brings her home. 

Protected by the Cowboy is the fourth book in the Christian Blackwater Ranch series, but the books can be listened to in any order.

Read Chapter One

“Please, please, please, please, please.” The seat belt tightened against Laney’s chest as she leaned into the steering wheel. The low fuel alarm beeped again.

“I said please!” she screamed above the road noise.

The ranch she was looking for had to be nearby. She’d checked the map and address before leaving the last rest stop, and she hadn’t passed much of anything in the last five minutes.

Laney scanned the open road ahead. No landmarks. No signs.

“Come on, Ruby. You can do it.” She brushed her hand over the dusty dashboard. Laney’s old car, Ruby, had seen better days ten years ago. She’d named the old clunker before the rich red had faded to more of a rust color.

She’d spotted a truck parked on the side of the road in the distance when the alarm sounded again, and Ruby began to decelerate. Laney pressed on the pedal, but the needle on her speedometer was falling to the left. The needle on the fuel gauge danced as if looking for gas. “No!”

A sneaky tear slid down her cheek, and out of frustration, she quickly swiped it away. “Ow!” How could she forget about the bruise? It had pulsed painfully all night. Devin had gotten one shot at her, and he’d made it count.

Laney steered the car to the right until the passenger side came to rest in the tall grass lining the road. She banged her palm against the steering wheel and yelled, “Devin!”

Unfortunately, her fury couldn’t touch him from here. She’d left Cheyenne and Devin early this morning, and she hoped to never lay eyes on either of them again.

She unlatched her seatbelt and leaned her forehead against the top of the steering wheel. If she blocked out everything and thought hard enough, she could forget about being stranded on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere.

The right side of her face burned where Devin’s fist had landed last night. There was probably a broken bone hiding behind the dark-blue swelling, but there wasn’t anything she could do about it. She didn’t even have the money to buy cheap makeup to cover it up.

She was glad he’d only hit her once, but she really wished she’d seen it coming. She should’ve ducked faster.

A tapping on her window startled her, and she jerked up from the steering wheel. A man wearing a nice suit and a cowboy hat stood beside her car. The wide brim shadowed his eyes. He raised his hands and took a step back.

She pressed the button to roll the window down just enough to find out what he wanted.

“You need some help?” His voice was gruff, but he didn’t look like the kind of guy to rough up women. She wasn’t even sure how to tell which men were capable of violence and which ones weren’t. It would be great if they came with a mark or a sign or something. Then she could have avoided Devin before he’d trapped her in a life she didn’t want.

Laney wasn’t sure if she wanted to laugh or cry, but either response would be an affirmative answer to his question. She studied him, wondering if she could trust this random man on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere. She had a painful reminder on her face of what trusting a man would get her, and she didn’t want to make the same mistake twice.

The man tilted his head slightly. By the time she realized he was inspecting her bruise, it was too late. He’d already gotten a good look at her face. She turned her head to look out the windshield at the road ahead. That truck parked beside the road in the distance must be his.

“Hey, are you okay?” he asked, his voice gentler this time.

The honest answer was no, but she wasn’t about to admit it. She nodded her head slowly, wondering how she’d gotten so lost. Not on the road, but in life. Most adults in their mid-twenties were at least on the path to a career or a family. Laney was stranded on a rural road looking for a ranch where she may or may not get a housekeeping job.

“I’m looking for Blackwater Ranch.” If he was a local, surely he could point her in the right direction.

The man turned to study the road ahead—the path her car refused to take her—then he turned his attention back to her. “Looks like you made it.”

Laney squinted against the blinding sun as she looked for the ranch. “Where?”

He pointed to the truck up ahead. “I was putting up the sign. That’s the entrance.”

She nodded, trying to figure out how Ruby had timed her rest so perfectly.

The man cleared his throat. “What are you looking for at Blackwater?”

Great. He thought she was a trespasser. “I saw a job listing for a housekeeper position. I’d like to apply.”

The man rubbed a hand over the back of his neck, then ran his fingers inside the collar of his shirt. “I doubt you’ll get an interview today. Everyone is tied up with the wedding.”

Her shoulders sank. A wedding. That explained why he was wearing a crisp suit. It didn’t have the tailored look that Devin had used to fool her into thinking he was a respectable man, but this guy’s suit didn’t need alterations. It fit him well. She turned away before she let another man with a pretty face trick her into signing her life away.

What was she going to do until tomorrow? She hadn’t seen a hotel in the last thirty miles. Not only that, she had no gas to get her there. She wasn’t a fan of sleeping in the car.

The man tucked his hands into his pockets. “You want me to take a look at your car?”

He was studying her closer now, and she knew what he was seeing—her unwashed hair, swollen face, and bloodshot eyes. She’d avoided the mirror all morning and hoped she could land a job based on her work ethic, despite her haggard appearance.

He, on the other hand, looked strikingly handsome all clean shaven in a suit. He definitely had his act together. What would that be like?

She sucked in a deep breath through her nose. Here goes nothing.

“I don’t think you need to. It’s out of gas.” If her cheeks weren’t already blue, they’d be turning pink. He probably thought she was irresponsible for letting the tank run dry. Actually, she hadn’t had a choice, so the joke was on him. She had a few dollars to her name, and she needed it to last much longer than it was capable.

The man removed his hands from his pockets and shifted his weight. “I’m Micah Harding, the ranch manager.” He tilted his head toward the truck in the distance. “I’ll bring the fuel truck.”

“Oh, thank you. I’ll pay you back… soon.” She wasn’t sure when that would be, but soon was a relative term.

He raised a hand. “No need. I’ll be right back.”

Micah didn’t waste any time turning back to the truck, and Laney wished he’d asked her to tag along. Sticking with the kind stranger seemed much safer than sitting in a stalled car on the side of the road.

She twisted in her seat to scan the road behind her. It was silly. No one was after her. Devin had probably already found someone to replace her. She locked the door and was about to roll up the window when she heard the man speak.
“You want to come with me?”

Laney jerked the keys from the ignition and jumped from the car. She took a few seconds to lock the door with her key before jogging to catch up with Micah.

He waited for her before resuming his steady walk. He kept his attention on the road ahead. “I didn’t catch your name.”

She looked over her shoulder, but the only thing in sight was Ruby, the open road, and clear blue sky. “Oh, it’s Laney.” Shoot. She’d planned to use a fake name. Oh, well. It was too late now. “Laney Parker.”

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