A cowboy, a former cowgirl, and their second chance…
Darren Buttars is cool, collected, and quiet–and utterly devastated when his girlfriend of nine months, Farrah Irvine, breaks up with him because he wanted her to ride her horse in a parade.
But Farrah doesn’t ride anymore, a fact she made very clear to Darren. When they run into each other again in small-town Island Park, the spark between them is as hot as ever. But they can’t seem to agree on anything and end up arguing as much as they kiss.
Farrah returned to her childhood home with so much baggage, she doesn’t know where to start with the unpacking. Darren’s the only Buttars brother who isn’t married, and he wants to make Island Park his permanent home–with Farrah. Can they find their way through the heartache to achieve a happily-ever-after together?
Every once in a while I take a break from the ultra steamy romance and read something on the sweeter side. This book is in that category. It’s got a hint of religion, but not preachy.
Darren and Farrah had broken up years ago and she disappeared. Now she’s back in town. Farrah has a lot of issues, all stemming from something that happened on the ranch where Darren now works and lives.
Darren knows Farrah’s back and she appears to be avoiding him. Living around the same small town, she won’t be able to hide forever. They meet up at a most unexpected place, at least to Darren.
Their first encounter sets up part of the mystery, but the encounter that begins a new relationship is the one that surprises Darren the most. His sanctuary, his ‘adopted’ family.
So he drove north and west from Steeple Ride, from Island Park, until he found the single-lane road out to the farm where he’d been spending more and more time since Logan had left. He’d come before Logan had left too, but not nearly as often as he did now. The owners let him come in the evenings and check on the plants. Sometimes he helped them harvest firewood they’d use to keep their fish tanks toasty during the long, cold Vermont winters. He always took home something they’d grown, along with their love and acceptance, and a lighter heart.
He didn’t dare tell any of his brothers that Jim and Corey Bybee had almost become surrogate parents for him. The brothers had been so united in their grief after their parents had died that Darren felt disloyal needing someone else. But he absolutely needed someone. And if that meant he spent his evenings on an organic farm with two people old enough to be his parents, he’d take them.
And they had taken him, too. Just the way he was. Surly sometimes. Quiet always. Sure, Corey asked him questions until he thought he’d explode, but she seemed just as satisfied with one-word answers as she did when he gave her a whole sentence.
Jim sat on the porch most evenings, whittling, something Darren had always wanted to learn to do. He parked in front of the giant farmhouse and grabbed his knife—a birthday gift from Jim last January—from the middle console. If he could just find the right piece of wood, take his chair on the porch, and get his fingers working, maybe he could forget about the encounter with Farrah at the cemetery. Maybe he wouldn’t feel so flattened by Sam and Bonnie’s wedded and pregnant bliss.
Jim wasn’t on the porch, but Darren didn’t care. He didn’t need an invitation anymore. He could enter their house if he wanted to, open the fridge and find something to eat. Heck, Corey would chastise him if he didn’t do that.
He went around to the backyard instead, scanning the ground for a good piece of basswood. Jim grew the trees in clumps, and made marvelous things from them. Dressers, tables, chairs, the mailbox at the end of the lane. Anything he could envision, he could mold out of wood. Today, Darren just wanted something small, and he spotted a long switch of wood that would make a perfect spoon for Bonnie.
Just touching it soothed him, and he settled on the front porch to strip away the bark and start carving the form he wanted. The handle emerged, and he added flowers to it, his fingers working without direction from his mind. He thought of Bonnie, and what she’d like, and the spoon simply presented itself.
He’d just started the bowl when the front door opened and Jim stepped out. Darren had never seen the man wearing anything but a pair of jean overalls and a gray T-shirt, at least when out on the farm. Today was no different.
“Hey, bud.” He grinned down at Darren as if he was truly happy to see him. “Didn’t think I’d see you for a few days. Aren’t your brother and his wife in town?”
“Yep.” Darren kept the knife going, the shavings gathering against his cowboy boots. He angled his head down a bit to ensure the brim of his hat hid his face.
“Corey put together a basket for them.” Jim sighed as he settled into his chair, but he didn’t have a knife this evening.
“Great.” Darren didn’t want to talk about Sam and Bonnie. Didn’t want to talk at all.
“Staying for dinner?”
“If I can.”
“Of course you can.” Jim got the hint after that, because he didn’t say anything else. Soon enough, soft snores came from the chair on the other side of the small table that Corey kept decorated with flowers from the farm. During the winter, one of Jim’s ice sculptures became the centerpiece.
Darren slowed his knife and looked up. Across the road stretched fields and trees, all part of the Bybee’s land. He’d never felt such peace in all his life. He loved Vermont, especially this little corner of it, and he closed his eyes and offered a prayer of gratitude that God had brought him here.
Even if it had taken a plane crash to kill his parents. Even if it had taken his three brothers leaving him behind. Even if.
He opened his eyes as the sound of a vehicle approached. A few minutes passed before the ritzy, black sedan rounded the bend in the road and kept on coming.
Darren dropped his knife, glad it didn’t impale his foot when it hit the porch with a thud. He knew that car. Knew the woman wearing the oversized shades behind the wheel.
Couldn’t believe Farrah had come out to this farm when she wouldn’t come to his.
Liz Isaacson. Coming Home to Steeple Ridge: A Buttars Brothers Novel (Steeple Ridge Romance Book 4) (Kindle Locations 271-308). AEJ Creative Works. Kindle Edition.
Now Farrah’s reasons for being there had nothing to do with him but Darren still feels betrayed.
He has to get over his anger, and she is going to have to figure out a lot of things.
I must say these two really tried my patience. It bothered me that Farrah had way too much baggage and really wasn’t addressing any of it.
While Darren did set her on the right path, he certainly didn’t help by wanting the relationship to resume right away.
Lots of secrets, pain, frustration and memories.
Perhaps if I had started the series the beginning I would have enjoyed this book more.
3 Contented Purrs for Liz
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Liz Isaacson is the pen name for USA Today bestselling author Elana Johnson as she writes inspirational romances. Her Three Rivers Ranch Romance series has multiple #1 bestsellers in half a dozen categories. She loves all things cowboys, and will write romance in Texas, Montana, and anywhere else she can find horses and mountains.
She lives in Utah, where she teaches elementary school, taxis her daughter to dance several times a week, and eats a lot of peanut butter M&Ms while writing.