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Racing Hearts (Bennett Boys Ranch #3)
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A tomboy tames the cocky cowboy next door in Wall Street Journal and Washington Post bestselling author Lauren Landish’s forbidden romance.
Luke is damn near invisible, or at least that’s how he usually feels. He takes care of things around the ranch before his boss-brother even knows there’s a problem, and no one even notices when he’s done. But when he finds Shayanne sitting in a tree on his property, that all changes. She sees him and doesn’t seem to mind his gruff cowboy ways and dirty jokes that tease and test them both.
Shayanne is a tomboy cowgirl down to her boots, and a damn adult, regardless of whether her father and brothers agree. She escapes their smothering love and expectations to the furthest pasture and finds . . . Luke. And though their families have a rivalry worthy of the Hatfields & McCoys, she wants him. She wants him to take her and make her his woman, because in her heart, she already is.
Can Luke mediate the long-standing anger between the two families to get his girl, and can Shayanne finally be an adult in her family’s eyes, able to choose a future with a man they don’t want her to have?
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“You ready for this, Shayannie?” my dad asks. In his middle age, Paul Tannen, with his big personality and bigger belly paunch, is not a man I can lie to. In this case, I don’t need to.
I’m ready, though I wish he hadn’t used that nickname. I’ve hated it ever since I was about eight years old.
After all, is it still a nickname if it’s actually longer than your given name? I’m not sure on the rules of that, but it’s what he’s called me since I went through a curly hair phase as a kid, even though my light brown hair has zero red and my tanned skin has no freckles, unlike the famous orphan.
“Yes, sir. I’ve got this,” I call back confidently.
Today is a big day. I’m finalizing a deal to stock my goat milk soap line in the gift shop at the mountain resort in town. This country girl is going big time! Well, as big as I can right now, since my business is a one-woman operation run out of a farmhouse and I plan to keep it that way.
It’s my baby, and no one else’s.
Daddy eyes me critically, his judgment heavy. “Maybe I should come with you? Help smooth it over.” He pulls his hat off, running a handkerchief over his greying but still full head of hair before putting his hat back in place.
I’m rough around the edges, but I don’t need his cowboy slick style mucking up the business meeting that I set up. I know refusing is bad manners and will likely set off a domino effect I don’t want to deal with, but I’m adept in my own way, and I know my dad’s weak spot.
He doesn’t feel comfortable around ‘city’ types. He thinks it puts him at a disadvantage, and Daddy never likes being at a disadvantage . . . ever.
“Daddy, this is a done deal. I’m just going in to answer questions they might have so they can represent the brand appropriately. Do you know about goat milk benefits for skin care? What scents I create? Can you tell the cute story about the logo I drew by hand?”
I eye him back just as harshly, having learned at his knee and knowing he can’t answer any of those questions.
“Okay, Shayanne. I’m trusting you with this. We need this to go well.”
The words hit like stones, weighing me down because if anyone knows how much the family needs me to succeed with this venture, it’s me. I’m the one who does the books for the family farm, sees every penny going in and out, and has to pinch those pennies till they scream to feed my dad, three hard-working brothers, and myself.
We’ve had years where it was lean and times when it was easier, and after my mom passed seven years ago and I took over her household duties, I’ve successfully financially guided us through them all.
There was a point where Daddy’s personal issues meant we really were tight, but Daddy, bless his heart, is doing okay with the love of his family. And while things aren’t tight now, a little more income is always a welcome padding to the bottom line.
“I know, Daddy. I’ve got this.” I inject hard assurance into the words, making them a vow I can’t, and won’t, go back on.
He dips his chin once, giving a stamp of approval that I don’t need, and then spins on his booted heel to walk out the front door toward his truck.
I don’t know where he’s off to today, which is worrying because I almost always know exactly where he is and what he’s doing. Even when he’s gambling.
Yeah, that’s his demon. Cat’s out of the bag. No Schrodinger’s cat question of ‘is he or isn’t he,’ this one. Dad’s alive and therefore betting, for sure. He keeps it separate from our household budget, maybe because he’s responsible, or maybe because he doesn’t want me to see how much he’s winning and losing, but most likely, it’s a mix of both.
I watch him leave, mentally checking the family calendar, and decide he’s probably going to lunch with the boys in town since he didn’t ask for anything to eat.
From behind me, I hear heavy bootsteps. “He’s right, you know. But I trust you,” my oldest brother, Brody, says softly in his deep timbre.
“I know, Brody,” I tell him for the millionth time since I first got serious about this idea. “I’ve got this under control, just like I always do.”
He nods, then studiously ignores the fact that he’s repeating back to me damn-near verbatim what I’ve told him my plan for the day is. But I recognize that it’s more for him than for me. He’s excited, understandably so, and I am too.
“So, take the batch of soaps into the resort, double-check the order and set them up, and make sure to touch base with the manager and give them the purchase order so we get paid. If you run into any problems, call me.”