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Country Rain: King Creek Cowboys, #4
Country Rain: King Creek Cowboys, #4
Country Rain: King Creek Cowboys, #4
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Country Rain: King Creek Cowboys, #4

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Marlee Fox fell in love with Colt McLeod in high school, but he broke her heart in a way that she refused to let him into her life again.

 

Rancher Colt McLeod never stopped loving Marlee, but she has avoided him and refused to speak with him for all these years. On a not-so-chance encounter, he manages to get her attention and her promise to dance with him.

 

Marlee finds herself falling in love with Colt all over again. She tells herself that if he betrays her trust again, she'll never give him another chance. She couldn't take another heartbreak like the first.

 

The girl who broke up Colt and Marlee has returned to King Creek. Now a grown woman, she starts to stalk him again, and turns her vengeful attention on Marlee. Colt will do everything in his power to protect Marlee, even if it means pushing her away, if only to keep her safe.

LinguaEnglish
Data di uscita14 ott 2021
ISBN9781939778123
Country Rain: King Creek Cowboys, #4
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Autore

Cheyenne McCray

Cheyenne McCray is an award winning, New York Times and USA Today Best Selling author of upward of 100 novels and novellas. Chey grew up on a ranch in the southeastern corner of Arizona, and enjoys building worlds her readers can get lost in. She lives in a small AZ town with her hubby and a growing menagerie that includes two dogs (Checkers and Nikki), three ducks (the neighborhood celebrities), and five chickens named by the kids (Taco, Detective Spunky, Bubblegum, Zazu, and Dumpling). Find out what Chey is up to these days—cruise her website, follow her on Facebook and Twitter, and even drop her a line or two.

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    Anteprima del libro

    Country Rain - Cheyenne McCray

    Chapter 1

    Despite the chill in the late October air, perspiration rolled down the side of Marlee Fox’s face as she finished her morning jog. She slowed her pace then came to an easy walk when she reached the sidewalk leading into her neighborhood.

    King Creek wasn’t too far from Phoenix, and the temperatures normally didn’t drop this low until November. This year fall decided to bless them with cooler temperatures. Marlee didn’t mind one darn bit.

    She drew a breath in and blew it out as her heart rate lowered. She loved the neighborhood she lived in on the outskirts of town. Not quite country and not quite in town—the perfect space to breathe.

    Hey there. Amy Baker waved from her porch.

    Marlee came to a stop and smiled at her favorite neighbor. We haven’t done lunch in a while.

    Amy’s footsteps thunked on the wooden porch steps as she made her way down to the path that led to the sidewalk. I’m ready for some hole-in-the-wall tacos.

    Marlee rested her hands on the split rail fence. Ricardo’s next week?

    Perfect. I get off work from Heidi’s at twelve-thirty, so any time after that. Amy’s long brunette ponytail bounced as she nodded. We haven’t had a good gab in what seems like forever.

    Yeah, two weeks is an eternity. Marlee couldn’t help a grin. I’ll give you a call when I check my schedule.

    Only two weeks since our last lunch? Amy returned her smile. By the way, have you heard about the fund-raising event in November to help small businesses in King Creek?

    I heard someone mention it at Mickey’s the other night. Marlee tilted her head to the side. But I was on my out the door with Ben and didn’t hear the details.

    Amy raised her brows. You were out with Ben Campbell?

    We’ve gone out a few times, but nothing serious. Marlee shrugged. Now tell me about the event.

    With the economy sucking right now, Mayor Brown said he’d like to see something done to help our local businesses. Amy swiped a strand of hair that whipped into her face as a breeze picked up. I volunteered to help at the event, and I’m doing some recruiting. I know how you like to get involved in the community.

    I’d love to give a hand. The breeze caused Marlee to shiver as the perspiration dried on her skin. Do you have the details?

    I never had a doubt I could count on you. Amy smiled. We can go over deets Wednesday at lunch.

    You’re on. Marlee shoved her hands into the pockets of her sweat jacket. So, where’s it being held?

    The Bar M, Amy said. Colt volunteered his ranch.

    Marlee held back a groan as her enthusiasm deflated, and she tried not to show her sudden reluctance. Amy had no idea just how much she would prefer to not be around Colt McLeod. High school had been a long time ago, but she’d never forgotten days better left behind.

    She usually managed to avoid Colt. Hard to do in a town full of McLeods, of which her cousin Rae could now be counted amongst.

    The ringing of her phone saved Marlee from having to try to find a way to back out of her new commitment. She fished her phone out of the side pocket of her leggings. The screen showed Rae McLeod.

    It’s my cousin. Marlee raised her phone. I’d better get this.

    I’ll see you Wednesday. Amy gave her a little wave. Tell Rae hello for me.

    I will. Marlee returned her wave then answered her phone as she walked away from Amy’s fence. Hey, cuz.

    Are you free for dinner tonight? Rae sounded breathless with excitement.

    You bet. Marlee’s calendar was filling up for the week. What’s going on?

    We can snag our booth at Gus’s, and I’ll tell you over garbage pizza.

    Marlee laughed. Since when did you like your pizza with everything on it?

    Just hungry for it. Marlee heard the shrug in Rae’s voice. Seven good for you?

    I’m single, I have no kids, and I live alone, Marlee said. What do you think?

    Rae laughed. See you then.

    Marlee pocketed her phone and walked the rest of the way home. She frowned as a thought occurred to her. Did Rae’s plan for dinner have anything to do with the event at Colt’s? She mentally shook her head. Nah. Rae knew that Colt was not Marlee’s favorite person, so why would she think Marlee would get excited? Rae wouldn’t, so it had to be something else.

    The wind picked up as Marlee reached her home, and she shivered. She’d have to wear a jacket tonight.

    Marlee pushed opened the gate of her white picket fence and jogged up the stairs to the front porch of her ninety-year-old home. The house creaked, the wind howled through the windows, the wood floors squeaked, and she wouldn’t trade it for anything.

    She’d put up Halloween decorations for the holiday and had a witch costume ready for trick-or-treaters who’d be stopping by on Saturday. She had a great neighborhood with lots of kids, so she always had a big plastic cauldron full of candy each year.

    After she let herself in, she dropped the key into a dish on a small table and locked the door behind her. She never felt like she needed to secure her door in her small town, but that was only the naïve side of her that wanted to think she was surrounded by good people and didn’t have to worry about crime like their not-so-far Phoenix neighbors. Sure, King Creek didn’t have much of a crime rate, but it always paid to be safe.

    Marlee’s shoes squeaked on the ceramic-tiled floor as she made her way to her small kitchen with its whimsically hand-painted table and mismatched yet matching chairs. The artist had painted each chair a different color, matching the shades she had used in the tabletop’s design. She’d fallen in love with the set when she spotted it in King Creek Treasures, the local consignment store. She’d been delighted to learn a local artist had painted it.

    She grabbed a water bottle from the fridge that was covered in magnets from places she’d visited and holding down postcards that friends and family had sent. She twisted off the cap and took long swallows of water before staring at the fridge. One day she wanted to have children and the refrigerator would be covered with their pictures and their drawings.

    First, she needed a hell of a man for a father. She tilted her head to the side. She couldn’t imagine the man she had recently been dating, Ben Campbell, as someone she’d want a long-term relationship with—much less seeing him as dad material.

    For some darn reason, Colt McLeod came to mind, and she ground her teeth. No way on earth would she have anything to do with him any farther than she could throw him—which would be about one inch if she could even budge that tall, muscular body.

    Marlee groaned and tilted her head to look up at her ceiling. She’d had it raised and added crown moldings. She rather liked how it made her small kitchen look bigger and more open.

    She lowered her head and blew out her breath. There, did she manage to vanquish thoughts of Colt from her mind? No. Must be the fact that Amy had told her about the event at Colt’s ranch. Time to get that man out of her mind. She pictured him falling flat on his ass in a huge mud puddle in a pig pen.

    Marlee couldn’t help a laugh. He so deserved that.

    Since kids likely weren’t in her near future, maybe she should get a puppy. She scrunched her nose as she gave the thought serious consideration. Bear McLeod, also known as Doc McLeod, was the local vet and her cousin’s husband. She didn’t hold it against Bear that Colt was his brother. Bear would know what shelters she should look into, or he might even know of a dog that needed a good home.

    She downed the rest of her water bottle and tossed the plastic into the recycle bin. She continued to think about bringing a dog into her home as she headed up the squeaking wood steps to the second floor. She’d put off getting a pet for years, but really, why wait any longer? She worked from home as an editor, so the dog wouldn’t be alone unless she went out for a while and couldn’t take it with her. She had time to train a pet and even take it on her daily jog.

    I’ll talk with Rae about it tonight. Marlee tugged off her athletic wear and tossed it all into the clothes hamper.

    Enthusiasm buoyed her steps as she headed for the shower. Kids weren’t in her near future, but she’d decided a fur-baby was.


    Marlee leaned back in her recliner, rubbed the bridge of her nose, and squeezed her eyes shut. She’d been going through the slush pile, looking for a gem of a memoir that would jump and say, Ta-da! I’m the manuscript you’ve always dreamed of receiving!

    Ha. Not even close.

    Finding a manuscript that completely excited her hadn’t happened in a while. Most submissions for memoirs were boring as hell—no one wanted to read about the average person’s life. She lowered her hand, opened her eyes, and sighed.

    Tomorrow she’d look at her other submissions. She accepted non-fiction queries for parenting, health, biographies, cooking, writing, humor, history, and sports. And thanks to her senior editor, Molly Shoemaker, she now accepted memoirs, currently the bane of Marlee’s life.

    She rubbed the head of the polished ironwood duck on her end table, the only pet she’d had since she was a kid. "Did I ever tell you I really hate memoirs?"

    The duck didn’t answer.

    She glanced at her email and saw one from an online dictionary. The word of the day is ‘numinous,’ Marlee told the wooden duck That’s a new one. She scrunched up her face. Means something has a mysterious or spiritual quality. She thought about the week’s activities. Sounds like something that will go with Halloween. I’ll have a numinous night.

    Marlee shook her head. She’d be handing out Halloween candy on her own, rather than going to a party. She’d probably make it an early night once the trick-or-treaters dwindled to nothing.

    She looked at the duck. Time to pack it up.

    Marlee intended to go out and have fun with Rae. She needed tonight—red wine and pizza. And she’d even get to eat garbage pizza instead of pepperoni for a change.

    She dressed in jeans, a lightweight V-necked black sweater, and athletic shoes, and pulled her blonde hair up into a high ponytail. A touch of makeup, and she was ready to go. Who knew if she’d meet the father of her 2.4 children?

    Colt once again popped into her brain.

    She thumped her skull with the flat of her hand. She’d gotten the man out of her system way back when. So why was he intruding now?

    Nope. She was having none of it.

    The walk to Gus’s Pizza took all of fifteen minutes. The evening was clear and cool, but she wore her purple Phoenix Suns jacket, which warded off the chill.

    Warm air flowed over her face as she walked inside the pizza joint. The stained-glass lights over dark-wood booths with red vinyl-covered bench seats gave off a warm glow. The juke box played a country tune by the Phoenix-born son Dierks Bentley.

    She looked in the direction of the booth she usually shared with Rae, and her cousin waved her over. Marlee smiled as she headed across the tiled floor to the booth. Rae looked flushed and happy.

    Marlee slid into the booth and shrugged out of her jacket. You look fantastic, even more than usual.

    You’re good for my ego. Rae laughed. Best cousin ever. She pointed to the two red plastic tumblers on the table, a straw sticking out of each one. I got root beer.

    Great. Marlee set her jacket on the bench seat and grabbed a menu from behind the jars of red pepper flakes and parmesan cheese on the table. She flipped the menu open to the pizza section. "I am so hungry."

    Good. Rae tugged the menu down. I already ordered a large garbage pizza.

    Awesome. Marlee slid the menu back into the holder. How long ago?

    Rae pointed toward the kitchen. Long enough that it’s almost to our table now.

    Marlee glanced over her shoulder and saw Gus himself carrying a large pizza pan in one hand.

    Gus’s best for you. The man’s thick Greek accent sometimes made it hard to understand him, especially when the place was noisy like tonight. With everything.

    Anchovies? Marlee glanced at the pizza then to Rae. Really?

    Rae shrugged. I had a craving for them.

    Marlee shook her head and smiled at the owner as he slid the pizza pan onto their table. Thanks, Gus.

    The eighty-one-year-old man gave a nod, his craggy face reminding her of an ancient sea captain’s. Eat. He walked away in an old man’s slow gate.

    Marlee glanced at Rae to see that she already had a big slice. Marlee took one and slid it onto her plate.

    Rae took a big bite and gave a happy sigh. "Gus makes the best pizza."

    Marlee shook her head. "I must be in the Twilight Zone. You never eat garbage pizza, much less anchovies."

    Rae grinned as Marlee bit into her own pizza. That’s because I’m pregnant.

    Marlee nearly choked on her mouthful. She hurried to chew then swallow. "That’s wonderful, Rae. Congrats to both you and Bear."

    We suspected it for the past two weeks. Rae practically bounced in her seat. We just found out for sure from Dr. Martin today. Apparently, that’s why I’ve been having mood swings and want to eat all the time and hungry for weird things. No morning sickness so far. Thank God. She bit into an anchovy on her pizza again.

    Marlee felt a bright warmth in her chest at the news. I’m so excited for you. Have you told your sister?

    Rae shook her head. I’ll tell Carrie when Bear and I visit her and the kids next weekend. I wanted to share the news with her in person.

    Marlee sipped her root beer before setting down the red tumbler. The twins will be beyond excited.

    Rae nodded enthusiastically. The girls will probably think they have a new doll to play with when the baby is born. Rae laughed. Even though neither of them is into dolls.

    Maybe they’ll teach the baby to kick a soccer ball when she or he is bigger. Marlee leaned forward. Are you going to find out if it’s a girl or boy when they can tell?

    We haven’t decided. Rae looked thoughtful. There’s something to say about knowing and being prepared, or just finding out after the birth.

    I’d want to know. Marlee eased back and picked up her slice. I’d be planning every last moment of it.

    Rae laughed. You would. You always have had to know everything you can about everything that interests you or comes up in your life.

    That’s me. Marlee dug into her pizza again.

    Bear and I would like you to be our baby’s godmother, Rae said when Marlee set down her pizza.

    Marlee wiped her mouth with a napkin and smiled. Thank you, Rae. I would love to. Marlee laughed. You know, godmother sounds much too close to grandmother.

    Rae grinned. Grandmotherhood is a long way off for both of us.

    Thank God, Marlee said. I’m not even ready to be a mom, whenever that might be.

    For a few moments they munched on their dinner. When Marlee reached for a second slice, Rae folded her arms on the table. Have you heard about the small business fundraising event?

    Marlee groaned and looked up at the stained-glass lamp over their table. I practically committed to Amy Baker this morning that I’d help, before she told me it would be held at Colt’s ranch.

    He’s really not a bad guy, Rae said tentatively. Maybe it’s time to bury the hatchet.

    Marlee sighed and let the thought roll around in her mind. Maybe.

    Rae nodded in the direction of the front door. Well, here comes your chance.

    Marlee wanted to

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