The High Country Rancher. Jan HambrightЧитать онлайн книгу.
The High Country Rancher
MILLS & BOON
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Table of Contents
JAN HAMBRIGHT penned her first novel at seventeen, but claims it was pure rubbish. However, it did open the door on her love for storytelling. Born in Idaho, she resides there with her husband, three of their five children, a three-legged watch dog and a spoiled horse named Texas, who always has time to listen to her next story idea while they gallop along.
Jan can be reached at PO Box 2537, McCall, Idaho 83638, USA.
To my editor, Allison. Thank you for making me push myself.
To my family, who endured too many chili nights while I worked late. You’re the best! Love Ya.
And to my friend Ellen, for the great pictures you took of my horse Texas, who may or may not have made the book’s cover. Smiles.
Baylor McCullough flipped the collar of his oilskin duster up around his neck, and spurred his horse into the wind raging from the north in icy waves.
Snow pelted his face, stinging like tiny BBs, but he focused instead on the lay of the land, trying to define it in the blizzard swirling around him.
The warming pen in the barn brimmed with early spring calves, too young to survive the freak storm hammering the Salmon River high country.
Only one was missing. A bald-faced calf he’d seen with its mother yesterday afternoon before the sky clouded to murky white and the air temperature dipped below freezing.
Reining in his horse, Texas, he paused, spotting an outline in the snow just below the border of ancient ponderosa pines that lined the driveway leading into the ranch. The shape disappeared as the wind shifted, smearing his vision.
“Get up.” He tapped his heels against the horse’s flanks and rocked forward in the saddle, aiming for the trees less than twenty yards away.
Night would fall soon; the storm was intensifying. Nothing would survive after dark. He was running out of time.
Texas’s hooves thudded against the frozen earth as he searched for traction in the blowing snow and plowed through the drifts accumulating and dissipating like sand dunes on the Sahara.
Baylor forced his hat down hard on his head and steered the horse around a tangle of branches that had been ripped from one of the ponderosa. He’d be lucky if the storm didn’t take out the power before it spent its fury on the Bellwether Ranch.
“Whoa.” He eased back on the reins, stopped the horse and climbed down out of the saddle. Kneeling in the snow, he brushed hard, exposing the hide of the bald-faced calf he’d seen only yesterday, but he was too late.
He straightened. It was only one calf, only one in his herd of hundreds, but it was a loss. A knot clinched in the pit of his stomach. He mounted up, and turned Texas for the ranch a quarter of a mile away, fighting for every breath he dragged into his lungs from the blasting wind.
The pine branches he’d passed earlier whipped and jerked in the gale, like sheets on a clothesline.
Texas spooked and skittered sideways.
Baylor kept his seat in the saddle, bringing the scared horse under control.
For an instant the snow cleared, giving him a view he hadn’t expected.
Concern slid through his veins, driving him forward. He bailed off his horse and went to the ground, digging into the snowdrift piled up against the limb, looking for the thing he believed he’d seen for a brief second, and praying he was wrong.
Brushing away the last of the snow, he stared down at a human hand.
He jerked off his leather glove and pressed his fingers to the wrist, feeling for a pulse. It drummed beneath his fingertips, faint and thready.
Still alive. But not for long if he didn’t do something.
Baylor pushed to his feet and rushed to his horse.
Texas’s eyes went wide. He took a couple of steps back.
“Easy boy.” Hand out, Baylor touched