Truth is a Whisper - Signed Paperback
Truth is a Whisper - Signed Paperback
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They both want the truth, but are they willing to pay the price?
Wolf Creek Ranch series book 1.
- Cowboy Romance
- Second Chance Romance
- Family Secrets
They both want the truth, but are they willing to pay the price?
Ava Collins is more than ready to say good-bye to the breakneck pace of the city, and an invitation to her grandfather’s ranch is exactly what she needs. Finding out her former flame is running the ranch, on the other hand, was entirely unexpected. How can she put aside her memories of that whirlwind summer when she has to work beside the handsome cowboy every day?
Jameson Ford was grateful to be offered the new foreman job at Wolf Creek Ranch. He's eager to prove himself, but quickly distracted by the reappearance of his first love, who also happens to be his boss' granddaughter. It’s been years since they promised each other forever, and neither of them know how to pick up where they left off or if they should forget it ever happened.
Allied by their love of the ranch, Jameson and Ava have to work together, despite the lingering feelings between them. When Ava uncovers secrets about her family, she doesn’t know if she can trust anyone. Most of all, can she learn to trust her heart on her way to discovering the truth?
Truth is a Whisper is the first book in the Christian romance Wolf Creek Ranch series.
Read Chapter One
Read Chapter One
Six Years Ago
Jameson pulled up at the hay barn and jumped off the UTV. If he could get the attachment hinges greased and the hayride trailer put together in the next thirty minutes, he might make it back to the dining hall before everyone else gathered for dinner.
That way, he could spend a minute with Ava without everyone and their mother watching them.
Actually, it was just her mother that Jameson didn’t want watching. Linda Collins didn’t care one bit for him, and she wouldn’t be afraid to make her opinions known—again—if she caught him with Ava.
He hung his hat on the hook by the door and grabbed the grease pump. He’d made it through four hinges when quick, pounding footsteps echoed in the barn behind him.
Ava was running toward him with her dark hair flowing behind her, and boy was she a sight for sore eyes. The image of her hadn’t left his mind all day, but he still got that shot of adrenaline every time he saw her.
Jameson laid the pump on the tractor tire and wiped his hands on a grease rag before jogging to meet her. She was beautiful even on a bad day, but she was gorgeous in the summer sunlight. And that smile—the one that somehow made his own lips turn up at the edges—was the image he couldn’t get out of his head.
When Ava was close enough to make out her facial features, Jameson jerked his jog to a halt. She wasn’t smiling.
“I’m so sorry.” She stumbled to a stop, nearly barreling into his chest.
He wrapped his hands around her arms to steady her. Those eyes. Fear and confusion greeted him instead of the happiness he’d come to expect. “What? What happened?”
“You almost didn’t make it back in time, and I—” Her sentence fell, and her hand rose to cover her quivering chin.
“Ava, what’s wrong? Tell me.” He rubbed his hands up and down her arms, begging the worry in her eyes to subside. Seeing her upset always ripped a hole in him. All the grieving for her grandmother had been hard on her lately, but she’d been smiling more these last few days.
“We’re leaving. Now. Mom got a call about breaking news, and they want her back tonight.”
A weight settled on his chest, and his hands stopped moving. “I thought we had more time.”
“Me too,” she whispered. Moisture glistened in her eyes, and she bit her lips between her teeth. Her phone was ringing, and the robotic noise pierced the quiet around them.
It was her mother. It had to be. Linda Collins wasn’t the kind to be left waiting, but Jameson prayed Ava wouldn’t take the call. In the two weeks he’d been getting to know Ava and growing closer to her, her mother had been a constant blade slicing between them, and he’d kept his distance—for the most part. At least around her mother. Ava had been the kind of beauty meant to be admired from a distance—captivating but untouchable.
Now that their time was up, he wanted to consume every detail about this moment that might be their last.
Jameson wrapped his arms around her the way he had all those times she’d mourned. She cried as her cheek rested against his chest. A damp sweat clung to his shirt, but she didn’t pull away.
Her words were broken and shaky through her sobs. “I know she’s hard on me, but I don’t have anything without her.”
Jameson’s hold tightened, and he swallowed the retort in his throat. Ava didn’t have anything without her mother because Linda was a controlling monster.
But Ava had him. She had all of him, but that wasn’t enough, was it?
“I won’t be able to go to college if I don’t go with her.”
“Shh.” He rubbed a rhythmic circle on her back and tried to calm her shaking. The fact that Ava brought up staying at all soothed the ache just a little bit. At least he wasn’t the only one trying to rearrange the world so they could stay together.
“I know what that means to you.” He did, but it still left him feeling cold and empty.
Ava had confided a great secret to him when she’d told him of her hopes to go to college. On the surface, her decision to further her education was one that was expected and applauded. To her mother, it was a sign that her devoted daughter wanted to make her proud. But to Ava, it meant a chance to one day gain her freedom and make her own way—away from her mother’s manipulative hand.
Ava hadn’t used those words, but Jameson knew exactly what was going on between the Collins women. He’d grown up with a narcissistic mother, and he knew the unfair hand Ava had been dealt. He wanted her out of her mother’s grasp more than he wanted his next year’s worth of paychecks.
Why couldn’t Ava have grown up here at Wolf Creek with the grandparents who loved her?
Ava’s phone began ringing again. She lifted her head and wiped her cheeks. “I don’t want to leave. The ranch. You. Grandpa.”
This was his chance. He could ask her to stay. If he could say anything, what words would make her want to stay here? What could he offer her?
Nothing. Her mother’s snide comments from the past few weeks rang in his ears. Linda Collins was sure and loud about Jameson’s inability to live up to the lifestyle expectations the Collins women were used to.
But Ava didn’t seem as materialistic and pampered as her mother. Ava had been eager to jump on the trail rides, dance by the bonfire, and lie in the back of his truck watching the bright Wyoming stars.
“She won’t let me come back. She said so,” Ava cried.
Jameson wrapped his arms around her again, unable to say or do anything to alleviate the brokenness in Ava’s voice.
Could he go to Denver with her? He could find work there. No, he’d worked too hard to get this job.
Then there was his mom. She didn’t have anyone else to care for her, and her health had been going downhill fast and teetering on the point of no return for months now. Felicity refused to have anything to do with their mother, and he couldn’t ask his sister to help the woman who’d neglected and abused her for years. He hardly blamed Felicity for giving up on their mom. He despised her himself.
What about his firefighter certification? He was only days away from passing, and he’d be one step closer to his plan to build a better future. But what would be the point if he wasn’t working for something bigger than himself?
But he knew about Ava’s future plans, and her next step was getting a degree. Her mother had offered to pay for college and allow Ava to live with her while she studied. That was an offer that was hard to refuse.
She could keep her head down and work hard for four years. That was what he was doing, wasn’t it? Did he need to let Ava go for the greater good? So they could both stay on track for the future they’d planned?
Too bad they’d planned those futures separately. Two weeks wasn’t enough to change a life’s worth of dreaming.
Ava’s phone rang again, and she huffed. Frustration and tension wrapped in her every muscle. “Why do I feel like I should plant my feet right here and grow roots so she can’t take me away? I just met my grandpa, and he’s been so good to me. I already lost the grandma I never knew, and I hate that!”
She was screaming now, and Jameson couldn’t do anything except hold her and breathe. In and out. It had taken the death of the matriarch of Wolf Creek Ranch to bring Ava and her mom back here, and from where he stood, the whole trip out here was a slap in Ava’s face. She would have loved Lottie Chambers. Mrs. Chambers had taken Jameson in and been like the grandma he never had, but Ava hadn’t gotten the chance to know her real kin.
“Ava!” Linda’s piercing yell jerked Ava out of his arms.
She turned, and they both watched her mother stomping toward them in her heeled boots. They had to be uncomfortable, and they looked ridiculous as Linda marched into the barn. Her cheeks were red, and her jaw was tight as she came near. Without thinking, Jameson stepped in front of Ava. It was an instinct.
“I had to drive all the way up that dirty trail chasing you. What were you thinking? Why aren’t you answering your phone? We’re going to miss our flight!”
Ava’s tears renewed, slicing through Jameson’s chest like a hot knife. All he could hear was the roaring in his ears and Ava’s sobs.
Why was this happening? He’d finally found someone he liked, and she was being ripped away when things were going so well.
Well, not anymore.
Linda’s scowl wasn’t deep. She probably Botoxed the ability to frown out of her face years ago, but he could feel the rage coming off her in waves.
“Give me just a minute. Please,” Ava sobbed from behind Jameson’s shoulder.
“You’ve had your minute. Enough. Get in the car.”
Ava stepped forward and turned to look at him. Was she waiting on those words he hadn’t said? What were they? He despised her mother, and he cared about Ava, but he was smart enough in his twenty years to know that wasn’t enough, and it wouldn’t get either of them far.
“I—” Ava began.
“Come on!” Linda cut Ava off, grabbing her arm and pulling.
Jameson stuck his arm between Ava and her mother. “Don’t treat her like that.”
Linda rounded on him, but he wasn’t afraid of the fire in her eyes. He had a flame of his own burning inside him.
“Get out of the way,” Linda growled, low and tempered like a warning.
“You can’t jerk her around like that,” Jameson said.
“Stop,” Ava whispered through her quiet sobs.
The word was meant for both Jameson and her mother, but Linda wouldn’t give in.
He’d forgotten how much Ava hated confrontation, especially when it came to her mother. He hated that fear in her eyes, and the last thing he wanted was to be the cause of it.
Prepared to do anything Ava asked of him, he pulled back his hand. If he fought Linda, she’d only make things worse for Ava later.
Linda turned without hesitation, pulling Ava along behind her.
Pulling her away from him and Wolf Creek Ranch.
Ava’s sniffles lingered until he watched the last of her shadow disappear around the wall of hay squares stacked against the solitary wall of the pole barn.
Injustice swirled in his gut, but his shortcomings kept his boots cemented to the dirt floor.
She was gone, and the barn was quieter than ever. He exhaled a shaky breath. How had it happened so fast? In just a few short weeks, he’d gotten to know her and had developed feelings for her. Now she was gone.
Jameson rested his forehead against the cool metal of the nearest tractor. There were so many reasons Ava should’ve stayed. She’d never get to know her grandpa, who happened to be a great boss and one of the best men Jameson had ever met. Selfishly, Jameson would never get to find out what could’ve been between Ava and him. He’d never wanted to know a woman as much as he wanted to know Ava. Two weeks hadn’t been enough time to pour over the millions of opinions, ideas, likes, and quirks that made Ava Collins the incredible woman he’d been getting to know.
Jameson lifted his head when he heard footsteps and wiped the dirt from his forehead.
Henry Bowman, the foreman of Wolf Creek Ranch, stepped around the side of the tractor. “Hey, you okay?” The furrow in the older man’s brow said he knew the answer.
“Yeah. Fine.” Jameson picked up the grease pump and got back to work. The lie tasted rotten on his tongue.
He wasn’t okay, and everything inside him said to run to Ava and catch her before she left Wolf Creek Ranch for good.