USA Today Bestselling Author
Professional saddle bronc rider Jace Rice has a habit of falling in love with women who turn around and fall in love with someone else.
It had happened three times, and as much as he vowed to never let it happen again, it does. Although this time, the woman is in love with a guy Jace can’t possibly compete with—a dead man.
Comforting sad-eyed widow, Bree Fox, leaves Jace Rice with plenty of gaping wounds himself, and a pent up desire to get to know more about her, other than how much she loved her late husband. But he knows Bree is not ready for that, so he waits…and waits. When she never contacts him again, he takes that as a sign, but that sign doesn’t stop him from thinking about her, from wondering what could be if he just confronted her with how he felt.
The problem was confronting her would be almost impossible, since her sister was married to his brother, who hated him, and they all lived together in Crested Butte, where he wasn’t welcome. Going there would be like walking into a hornet’s nest where he would likely be stung.
Jace had been stung before, though, so many times he should be immune. And he wasn’t a coward–otherwise he wouldn’t be the fierce competitor he was in the rodeo arena. He knew he had what it took to go to Crested Butte and pound things out with his twin brother, if necessary. It wasn’t like it was the first time they’d come to blows. What he didn’t know was whether it would be worth it in the end.
Could Bree Fox ever feel about him the way she felt about her former husband? Or would she forever be just another woman Jace was rejected by when the dust settled?
I almost feel sorry for Jace Rice, he seems to fall for women who are in love with someone else. It started in the second book of this series with Renie, then continued on the same path with Blythe who is now married to his twin Tucker. Tucker hates him now and he has no idea how to make amends. Then there’s Bree, still mourning her husband but not even close to being ready for a relationship.
Jace needing to be far away and wanting something more than Bronc riding, got a tip to invest in a rough stock ranch. It turned out the family wanted to sell that part of the business in Montana. Now Jace and his parents own that ranch and the business and hope to merge it with the businesses in Crested Butte.
Bree is leaving Monument for a while, she needs to grieve for her husband. With everything going on she hasn’t allowed herself to think about him, although the nightmares bring it back, time and again. She’s going to go stay where she has the best memories of Zack. Then there’s the feelings Jace awakened in her. She not ready to move into another relationship or with her life right now and that needs to change.
Idaho Rocky Mountain Ranch is Bree’s destination, there she meets Red Dugan, who brings to her mind a grandfather figure. One who knows the best places for her to fish. Her nightmares still dog her but the days are filled with things she loved to do with her late husband.
In a rather sneaky move, Jace’s parents have him traveling to Idaho to see a man named Red about a bull he’s selling. When he arrives he’s told Red is away and they give him the cabin adjoined to the one Bree is staying in.
While waiting enjoying the surroundings he decides to take a ride around the nearby lake. It’s here he sees Bree with Red. The ensuing conversation reveals there’s no bull for sale and that his parents and possibly Bree’s had set this all up.
Red invites Jace to join them for dinner and left them to talk.
This is a favorite scene.
Dinner was served in the main lodge, and the food was as good as it had been the night before, but Jace wasn’t paying any attention to what he was eating. Bree’s cheeks were pink. Was it from the time she’d been spending outdoors or the wine she drank with dinner? Whatever it was, it looked good on her. Damn good. Somehow, her eyes were even bluer than he remembered. She kept her dark hair cut short, but it had grown some since he last saw her. It was just long enough that it curled around the edges of her face. He longed to wind his fingers through those curls and pull her close enough to brush his lips over hers.
He heard what sounded like live music coming from outside the dining room and saw other guests making their way in that direction.
“You wanna go see what’s goin’ on?” he asked her.
“I’m okay sitting here a while longer, unless you want to.”
“I’m good,” he answered. He leaned forward so he was only a couple of inches from her, rested his arm on the table, and looked into her eyes.
“How’ve you been, Bree?”
“I’ve been good,” she paused. “No, that isn’t true. I haven’t been good at all. I’ve been terrible, in fact.” She shook her head and laughed.
Jace laughed too, although he sensed the conversation was about to turn more serious. When she rested her hand on the table, he ran his fingers over her knuckles. “Tell me,” he whispered.
“I decided I couldn’t hide from it any longer. I had to face it.”
She nodded. “He and I spent a week at this ranch. It was part of our honeymoon. I thought, if I came back here and let myself remember, maybe I could also let myself grieve.” Soft tears rolled down her cheeks.
“I’m sorry, sweetheart.”
“I have to do this, Jace. I can’t keep denying he’s gone.”
He could tell her he understood, but he didn’t. He missed his brother so much there were times he felt as though he’d die from the ache of it. But Tucker was still alive. If he wanted to see him, he could. He might not be welcome, but he could see him. Bree couldn’t see Zack.
“I’m sorry I never answered your texts.”
“Yeah, about that,” she laughed through her tears. “What the hell, Jace?”
“I just didn’t—”
“You don’t have to explain. I understand, and I’m not just saying that.”
“You were awful mad at me the last time I saw you.”
“I handled that badly, didn’t I?”
He leaned closer, so close he could almost kiss her. “You handled it honestly. Somethin’ I’m tryin’ to do more often.”
“Jace…I’m sorry about you and Tucker.”
“Nothin’ for you to be sorry about, darlin’. Did that all on my own. Can’t say as I blame Tuck for not wantin’ to see me. I wouldn’t want to see him if the situation were reversed.”
Jace looked up just as Red turned to leave the room. “Red? Can I help you?”
“Didn’t want to interrupt.”
Jace recognized the look on Red’s face as he gazed at Bree. He looked at her that way too. Red wanted to comfort her, help her through the pain, ease it if he could.
“You aren’t interrupting,” Bree told him. “What’s up?”
“Thought you might give an old fella a dance.”
Bree stood, put her arm through Red’s, and let him lead her into the other room. She turned back to make sure Jace was following. She didn’t want to leave him sitting in the dining room all alone.
He stood and stretched his leg. Just when she was about to turn around and go back to him, he looked up and waved her off.
“Go dance,” he said. “I’ll be right along, soon as I loosen my leg up.”
Red was a good dancer, just like her dad was. It felt good to have his strong arms lead her around the room.
“Seems like a nice young man.” He pulled back to look in her eyes.
“Yes, he is. He’s very nice,” she laughed. “Although I didn’t always think so.”
“I can’t remember why not. Except that he was kind of pushy with my sister. She’s, uh, married to his brother now. His twin brother.”
“Why do I think there’s more to the story?”
“There is, but it isn’t very interesting.” She rested her head against Red’s shoulder. “The truth is, he comforted me. He helped me a lot right after Zack’s death. He didn’t have to, but he did. Even when I pushed him away.”
“Must care about you.”
“It’s a family thing. I love my sister; he loves his brother. We were thrown together, whether we wanted to be or not.”
Was it that obvious? She supposed it was. Jace Rice made her heart beat faster, and she loved that he was here. She still didn’t understand why he was, but they’d get to the bottom of it eventually. In the meantime, she’d take whatever time with him she could get.
“Pretty moon tonight. Maybe you and your young man would like to sit out on the porch, take in the sky. Nothin’ like a clear night in Idaho for stargazing.”
When the song ended, Bree walked over to where Jace stood, waiting for her. “Red recommends the porch for stargazing.”
“I know just the spot he’s talkin’ about.” Jace took her hand in his.
No one else was out there, so they sat on the porch swing. Jace put his arm around her and pulled her close.
“I know I said it before, but it bears repeating. I’ve missed you.”
She rested her head on his shoulder. “I’ve missed you, too.”
Should she tell him that she’d missed him as much as she missed Zack? He would think she was crazy if she did. Or he’d think the same thing she was. Missing Zack and missing Jace got jumbled up together. She couldn’t tell the difference between the two sometimes. And that wasn’t healthy. It also wasn’t real. What she’d had with Zack had been real. She hardly knew Jace.
“I’m here because I need to let myself mourn the death of my husband.”
“I know, and I won’t do anything to interfere with that. In fact, you say the word, and I’ll be in the truck back to Montana come sunrise.”
Pain bit her stomach. “No, Jace, that isn’t what I’m saying. Please, don’t misunderstand.”
“I’m glad to be here with you, Bree, but I know there’s a road you have to go down. I get it. I’m a detour. You’re gonna have to go down that road eventually.”
He’d articulated her thoughts perfectly. Jace was a distraction. A detour.
“Maybe you could stay another day?”
He smiled. “That could be arranged.”
The mountains, with their peaks illuminated by the full moon, took her breath away. Or was it Jace? Probably both. “Oh…uh, where are you staying?”
“I stayed in that cabin right over there last night.” He pointed to her cabin. “I think they might let me stay there again tonight if I promise not to disturb the ‘little lady’ stayin’ on the other side.”
Bree closed her eyes and felt heat flush her cheeks. They hadn’t booked anyone else on the other side of the cabin, and she’d wondered about that. It must have been intentional. “They’ve been so good to me here.”
“They’re very protective of you.”
“Yep. The only reason they let me stay, last night, was because you weren’t here.”
“Nope. Think you can put in a good word for me tonight?”
“I’ll do that,” she said softly.
He wanted to tell her he’d be there for her, on the other side of the cabin. If she wanted him to, he’d hold her when she cried. He’d comfort her, like he had one other night, when she’d begged him not to go.
The door opened, and Red came out on the porch with a key in his hand. “You’re welcome to bunk in the same place you did last night,” he said and went back inside.
Jace tucked the key in his pocket. “You ready to call it a night?”
“Not yet.” She sighed and put her head back on his shoulder.
Slade, Heather. Cowboys of Crested Butte Boxed Set Volume 1. Kindle Locations (12508-12578). Sparrow Publishing. Kindle Edition.
Jace and Bree spend much time together it almost seems perfect except for the fact Zack is still between them. Jace can’t compete with a memory.
Jace and Bree are definitely meant for one another and it’s almost heartbreaking to watch the ups and downs in this book. There’s also Jace’s relationship with his brother that needs to be resolved. Both Jace and Bree need the connection to that part of the family and to be part of baby Cochran’s life.
Plenty of tears, laughter, surprises and that sizzling connection between Jace and Bree.
5 Contented Purrs for Heather!
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Collection Books 1-5!
My books are filled with things that bring me joy: music, wine, skiing, families, artists, and cowboys. Not always in that order.
I’m an Amazon best-selling author, and a PAN member of Romance Writers of America. I speak, teach, blog, am an executive sommelier, and all-around entrepreneur.
I grew up an east coast girl, and then spent half my life on the west coast. Now my husband, our two boys, and I happily call Colorado home.