USA Today Bestselling Author
Rhonda Lee Carver
Strength had always been her greatest asset,
until August West took her life by lasso…
Over her dead body would she allow her grandmother to give the family farm to a cocky cowboy. So, Tobi Saint dropped everything and headed to Cooper’s Hawk, a place she swore she wouldn’t step foot in again, but the vague call she received concerned her.
August West had lived a lot of places in his lifetime, but none had felt more like home than Cooper’s Hawk. He was back and liked working on River Saint Farm. The owner, Isobella, had taken him under her wing and treated him like her own. As her health started to decline, she asked for his help in convincing Tobi to take over the farm. He wanted no part of the scheme. His memory of Tobi involved a kiss behind the barn a second before she punched him in the nose.
Yet, how could he deny helping Isobella?
The old chemistry remained between August and Tobi. Things start to heat up and a fiery kiss between old friends leads to a moment that changes everything.
He found himself unraveling. For the first time he saw a chance at a future. A chance at love. But there was more to Tobi than met the eye. She’d been hurt by everyone she loved and to find his way into her heart he’d have to shovel through a brick wall.
The deeper he dug the harder it became, but love was worth fighting for…
Tobi is who we meet first as she’s working with her friend and partner Ellen on a new formula for their skin care line. A phone call from her grandmother Isobella with hints of selling her ranch River Saint, has Tobi rethinking her priorities. She’s been in a rut and has some serious trust issues. The thought that perhaps spending time at River Saint could help her clear her mind has her booking flights.
When we meet August, he’s with Search and Rescue and the woman involved isn’t hurt so much as wanting the rescuer. This appears to happen frequently with the Search and Rescue teams. He’s also the new ranch manager for Isobella. When he arrived he found the ranch near bankruptcy, now it’s slowly getting back on track. He’s been doing a lot of repairs on the house himself and he’s working on the hot water heater when Tobi arrives.
Tobi had a conversation with the ‘retired’ ranch manager and he didn’t have anything good to say about August. She also didn’t expect to find a man in her grandmother’s basement at night and is holding him at gunpoint when Isobella gets home.
This is a favorite scene.
“What in tarnation is going on here?” Isobella’s high-pitched voice echoed from the doorway. “Why are you holding August at gunpoint?”
The cowboy didn’t take his sparkling gaze off her. “She seems to think I’m an intruder,” he said in a lazy tone.
Gram’s laughter rattled Tobi. “Let’s put the shotgun away. Shall we, child? And have a more…peaceful introduction.” Gram swooped in, carefully took the weapon from Tobi’s hands then snickered. “It’s not even loaded, honey.”
August chuckled, scraping Tobi’s nerves even more. “What is he doing down here rummaging around?”
“I wasn’t ‘rummaging’. I was fixing the hot water tank, like I told you already,” he said, his voice a touch icier than before.
“Both of you come upstairs. I baked a pumpkin pie earlier.” Tobi took a long look at Gram. She looked tired, older, and thinner. Her hair, usually styled into a neat bob, was now shorter than August’s.
“Are you staring at me because of the hair?” Gram chuckled. “What do you think? I had my stylist do something different.”
Tobi couldn’t get her tongue to work, a tad shocked at her grandmother’s physical changes.
“I think it’s fabulous,” August said. “Right, Tobi?”
“Thank you, son. Daphne promised it’s wash and wear. Who has time to worry about hair?” Gram winked.
Feeling a bit like she’d woke up in the twilight zone, Tobi gave her head a quick shake. “Yes, I like it. I was just taken back.”
“And you, dear, look more and more like your father.” Gram rested her palm against her still-large bosom.
At the mention of the man Tobi had never met she felt the familiar sting in the pit of her stomach. What she knew about her father could fit into a tea cup. Loretta never spoke of him, didn’t even have any pictures. From what Tobi knew, Tobias had inky, dark hair, captivating green eyes and had a scar across one cheek from a fall off a horse when he was eleven. Gathering her emotions, Tobi didn’t like that August was watching her closely. Was he hoping to see a slip of her composure? Well, he wouldn’t. “I tried to call to let you know I was coming but I didn’t get an answer.”
Gram’s thin chin bobbed as she observed Tobi with a narrowed gaze. “You didn’t have to come, but now that you’re here, let’s go have some of that pie.” She had weary, pale features, and her clothes hung on her diminutive frame.
“I’d love a piece of pie,” August said, hooking his thumbs in his front pockets, still wearing a smile that should come with a warning label.
“Tobi? What about you?” Gram asked.
“Sure. Let’s have pie.” She swiped a glace back at the cowboy who didn’t seem a bit embarrassed that she’d caught him staring at her behind. And why did her body respond like she’d run a marathon?
“I’ll gather my things here and be right up,” August said.
“And maybe you can find a shirt too,” Tobi said under her breath.
“Nonsense, August. That can wait. Come to the kitchen.” Gram took the lead up the narrow stairs, stopping at the gun case. “Remember what I told you, Tobi. You always check to make sure a gun is unloaded…or loaded.”
She felt a bit foolish, but she pushed it aside.
The old kitchen hadn’t changed one bit. From the apple wallpaper trim along the yellow walls to the antique stove. The handmade cabinets to the butcher block island where she’d sit and watch Gram bake pies and make goat cheese that she’d sell at the farmer’s market on Saturdays.
“Are you okay, Tobi?”
She offered Gram a forced smile. “I’m fine. This place, especially the kitchen, brings back a lot of memories I’d forgotten.”
“Come in. Have a seat. Both of you.” Gram grabbed a knife from the drawer and sliced the pie that looked delicious.
Tobi slid up on the stool that still had her initials carved into the wood and inhaled the sweet, spicy scent of spices.
“This is a celebration of sorts. What’s a party without spirits?” Gram took down an unembellished bottle from the cabinet along with two mason jars.
“Is that dandelion wine, Gram?”
“It most certainly is,” she said proudly. “I saved back a bottle for special occasions, but I usually sell out at the farmer’s market. No one makes their own wine anymore.”
“You still have a booth at the market?” Tobi used to help her Gram. The highlight of the morning’s spent in the booth had been a visit to the candy store after.
“Of course, but August built me a refrigerated shed close to the house where I store pies, cheese, and vegetables from the garden so buyers can come here to purchase what they want. Now, can anyone tell me how we got off on the wrong foot?” She swiped her grey eyes between Tobi and August who’d casually leaned himself against the counter, arms crossed, and returning the stare with a hooded gaze.
“Just like he said, Gram. I thought he was an intruder,” Tobi muttered, eyeing the wine in desperation. If her memory served her well, the concoction was strong enough to make a person’s hair stand up. She’d learned her lesson when she snuck a drink at thirteen, but she believed she could handle herself now.
“Oh for heaven’s sake. Who’d want to break into this old place?” Gram handed August a large slice of pie topped high with whipped topping and a sprinkling of cinnamon.
Tobi made a mental note that he got the first slice. She wasn’t petty, but after speaking to Bush, she needed to find out if August could be trusted. Taking a gulp of the wine, she squinted and saw stars. “Sheesh, Gram. This should come with a warning.”
“It does. The label says, “Drink responsibly’. I can trust that you won’t be meddling in my gun cabinet again, right?”
What could Tobi say? It was best to remain quiet.
“I don’t hold any hard feelings.” August shifted on his worn boots. “Tobi only meant to protect the homestead. Who can blame her for that?”
She caught a bit of sarcasm in his tone. Their gazes connected for an awkward breath and Tobi forced a smile onto her tight lips. Easier to catch flies with honey than vinegar. “Honest mistake. Could have happened to anyone.”
“Right.” He winked.
Why did her stomach turn? She was quite aware of this new August with his handsome face, charming smile, and rock-hard body. She guessed he got a lot of attention from all the ladies in town. When he dug into his pie, she took the opportunity to sneak another peek down the stretch of T-shirt that hugged his torso to the bulge just below his leather belt anchored with an eye-catching buckle wide enough to serve a T-bone on. The temperature rose a notch. As a kid she thought he had cooties, and he probably still did, but she wouldn’t mind catching a few…
What the hell?
Had she lost her mind?
Rhonda Carver. CowboyAugustFinal (Kindle Locations 616-670). Kindle Edition.
While these two get off on the wrong foot, Isobella throws them together consistently. They were friends as children they can get along now. But Tobi has to open up to conversations and things that can be proven.
The relationship between Isobella and Tobi needs some work and the things that Isobella holds back she really shouldn’t have. August has to prove himself more than once even as he falls for Tobi all over again.
Tobi has to deal with her issues in order for this romance to work.
Twists and Turns, a bit of suspense and a simmer to sizzle romance.
5 Contented Purrs for Rhonda!
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Rhonda Lee Carver is a published book writer with a collection of print and eBooks under her wing. She is also a freelance editor. Her first book was published with Wild Rose Press in 2010.
She writes everything from contemporary to steamy to paranormal to suspense…you name it, she’s written it. Her specialty is writing men who love to get their hands dirty—hardworking, blue collar, heroes in everyday life.
When Rhonda isn’t crafting edge-of-your-seat, sizzling novels, you’ll find her with her children and husband watching soccer, watching a breathtaking movie, traveling to exotic places (with Bora Bora on her bucket list), doing (or trying) yoga, saving cats and dogs, and finding new ways to keep life interesting.
Rhonda thrives on making her readers happy. She believes life can be a challenge, but reading is a place where fantasy comes to life. Her motto: “Everyone deserves romance—one page at a time.“