Born to Be a Cowboy

Includes a bonus novella


By R.C. Ryan

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This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around November 26, 2019. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.

This New York Times bestselling author delivers a “page-turning romance” (Nora Roberts) about a woman in jeopardy who finds protection–and love–in the arms of a small-town cowboy.

After running wild in his youth, Finn Monroe is now on the other side of the law as the local attorney. Between his practice and working at his family’s ranch, his days aren’t as exciting as they used to be–until Jessica Blair steps into his office. Gorgeous and determined, Jessie has a hunch her aunt is in trouble, and Finn is her last hope. As someone who relies on facts rather than feelings, Finn is skeptical. But it can’t hurt to do a little digging.

Jessie knows her aunt, and there is no way she would disappear on an “extended honeymoon” after hastily marrying a smooth-talking cowboy. Something is wrong, and Jessie is going to find out what. As soon as she and Finn start poking around, it becomes clear someone is willing to go to great lengths to keep them from the truth. But as the danger grows, so does their attraction. With both their lives on the line, Finn will discover just how far he’ll go to keep Jessie safe.

Includes Cowboy to the Rescue, a bonus novella by A.J. Pine!


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Stupid horse,” ten-year-old Finn Monroe muttered after he was tossed from the saddle. He slumped in the tall grass by the edge of Haller Creek, his backside thoroughly bruised, his faded jeans soaked.

Free of its inexperienced rider, the roan gelding, Beau, stepped into the creek to drink.

Mackenzie Monroe, Finn’s adoptive father, brought his own mare to a halt and dismounted. “Old Beau throw you again, son?”

“I’m not your son.” Finn’s knee-jerk response was spoken through clenched teeth.

His older brothers, Ben and Sam, might be fooled by this rancher’s soft words and kind eyes, but Finn knew better. He’d been through enough foster homes to know that sooner or later every adult he trusted would eventually turn on him. If they weren’t rationing food as punishment for some infraction of their cherished rules, they were writing scathing reports about his foul language, his unwillingness to handle the required chores, or his quick-trigger temper. And one, a hulk of a bully named Horace Fredlubber, had actually used his fists on him, leaving Finn so bloodied that he had vowed he would do whatever it took to escape that hellish existence.

And now here he was. In the middle of Nowhere, Montana, expected to muck stinky stalls and herd dumb cattle. Today he was being forced to ride to high country on the back of a horse that wouldn’t follow behind the others and constantly veered off the path to make its own way. Finn had been slapped in the head with low-hanging branches, had nearly toppled headfirst down an embankment, and was now soaked clear through, while his brothers were far ahead, playing at being cowboys and laughing like loons.

Mac reached out. “Give me your hand, Finn.”

“I don’t need your help.” Ignoring the outstretched hand, he got to his feet and let out a string of curses at the discomfort of waterlogged jeans weighing him down.

He enjoyed a moment of satisfaction at the frown that appeared on Mac’s handsome face. His adoptive father had made it clear he wouldn’t tolerate coarse language in his presence, and to reinforce the issue, saw to it that a chore was added each time one of the boys violated that rule.

“You’ll take Sam’s chore tomorrow. Mucking stalls.”

“Yeah. Sure. Bring it on.” Finn knew it wouldn’t be long until this man would be like the others before him, resorting to physical punishment when he’d had enough.

Mac reached out and Finn ducked, only to realize the man was just taking hold of the horse’s reins, which were dangling in the water.

Seeing the boy’s reaction, Mac deliberately kept his tone easy. This wasn’t the first time he’d seen Finn and his brothers brace themselves for physical punishment, something that was abhorrent to Mac.

“Beau’s testing you, Finn. A horse can sense a novice rider. If you want him to do things your way, you need to learn how to be firm without yanking on the reins and hurting him. Each time you pull too hard, he’ll go the other way just to show you he’s bigger and, therefore, in charge.”

“He’s always going to be bigger than me. How can I ever take charge?”

“By learning patience. Try liking him. Animals respond to kindness. Then give him a chance to like you, too.” Mac paused before adding, “I see something special in you, Finn.”

“Yeah? What?”

“A bright, inquiring mind.”

“I’d rather be as big as Ben, and as tough as Sam.”

“Being smart is even better than being big and tough.”


“Because a smart man can win every fight without resorting to violence. When you use that brain instead of your fists, you’ll win every time. Just ask Zachariah York about the many battles he’s won in the courtroom.”

Finn thought about the lion of a man who lived with them and used big, fancy words that only a genius could understand. “That fussy old geezer?”

“That fussy old geezer is one of the most brilliant lawyers in the country. And he never had to resort to his fists to win a case.”

Leading Beau to dry land, Mac surprised the boy by tethering the animal before choosing a sunny spot in the grass to sit, as though he had nothing more important to do than sit and talk.

Mac whipped off his wide-brimmed hat and wiped an arm across his forehead before glancing up. “A good day to ride. Look at that. Not a cloud in the sky.” Mac waited until Finn followed his lead and settled in a warm, dry spot. “My wife, Rachel, used to say a day this perfect was proof that God’s in His heaven and all’s right with the world.”

Finn shot him a quizzical look. “What the fu…” He caught himself in time to avoid another chore. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“I like to think it means that on a day this perfect, we can trust that there’s a Higher Being watching out for us.”

“Yeah?” Finn’s scowl deepened. “Where was your Higher Being when horrible Horace Fredlubber was beating me senseless?”

Mac went very still, as he always did when one of his boys revealed a hint of the unbearable pain they’d endured before coming into his life. These three brothers usually guarded their secrets like hoarders, and Finn, the youngest, most of all.

Mac chose his words carefully. “I believe that even at our lowest point, when we feel we can’t take anything more, goodness finds a way. Maybe it’s just a hint of a smile when our eyes are filled with tears. Or maybe it’s three ragged boys, bent on stealing, who showed a glimmer of light in the darkness.”

Something in the way he spoke had Finn looking at him more closely. “Oh, man. Are you crying?”

“Even grown men cry, son.” Mac swiped an arm across his eyes and got to his feet before offering a hand to Finn.

This time the boy accepted his help and stood quietly while Mac pulled himself into the saddle and led Beau toward Finn.

Without a word Finn mounted.

As he followed behind Mac’s mare, Finn found himself comparing the life he had now with the life he’d lived before coming to this ranch. It was true that he and his brothers were expected to work alongside Mac and the three old men who lived here. Roscoe Flute was an ancient cowboy. He only had a couple of teeth, but he had a killer smile—and he seemed to always be smiling. Otis Green was a black man from the south side of Chicago, who should have been a fish out of water on a ranch in Montana but managed to fit right in, raising a variety of fruits and vegetables in his carefully tended garden behind the barns. And Zachariah York was a prim and proper retired lawyer who did most of the cooking, while the others handled the ranch chores. Mac called the old man brilliant. Finn decided to pay more attention to what he had to say.

Finn had to admit that here in this place he and his brothers routinely did things a city boy like him had only dreamed of doing. But they were constantly exposed to something else they’d never had before—books and respect. Teasing and laughter. So much laughter that sometimes Finn forgot for hours the miserable life he’d left behind. The laughter was contagious. He found himself wanting more of it.

As for the books, he often got lost in them, especially if Zachariah was the one reading aloud before bedtime.

There was a gentle kindness in this place. A special kind of respect for one another he’d never experienced before.

He was intrigued to learn that Mac thought he had a good mind. Nobody had ever encouraged him to be smart. Was it possible he could one day be as smart as Zachariah?

Maybe, Finn thought as he caught up with his brothers, he’d give his adoptive father and life as a rancher a real chance.

Hell, what did he have to lose?

Chapter One

Finn Monroe unlocked the door to his law office and tossed his battered attaché case on the desk. He then removed his fringed buckskin jacket and draped it on the back of his chair. Both the attaché and the jacket had been gifts from his mentor, Zachariah York, when Finn had passed the bar. They’d been the old lawyer’s trademark and were now Finn’s daily uniform, as was his longer-than-typical hair. He figured if Zachariah could look like a lion in court, he could, too.

He’d begun his practice here in the little town of Haller Creek by accepting every legal request that came his way, from an arrest for impaired driving to settling neighbors’ property disputes. Recently he’d snagged the attention of the national media by winning a case against the county for the largest monetary award ever, for a rancher who had suspected county officials were blocking his herd’s access to his water supply. There was now talk of submitting Finn’s name for a city office, even though he insisted it wasn’t his dream.

Finn ignored all the background noise of politics and continued to go about his business.

Hearing the door open behind him, he glanced over his shoulder.

“Mr. Monroe?”

The feminine voice was soft, tentative.

He tried not to stare, but the women who usually came to his little office here in Haller Creek didn’t look like corporate executives.

Instead of boots, denims, and a T-shirt, she wore heels, a sleek dress, and a matching jacket. Her blond-streaked hair fell in soft waves around a small, heart-shaped face. Except for the nerves that had her wringing her hands, she was almost too perfect to believe.

To put her at ease, Finn stepped around his desk to offer a handshake. “My friends call me Finn. Finn Monroe.”

“Jessica Blair.” She paused and tried to smile. It had her lips quivering. “My friends call me Jessie.”

“Nice to meet you, Jessie. You’re not from around here.”

“I grew up in Arvid. It’s a little town about a hundred miles from here.”

He nodded. “I’ve heard of it. Lots of great cattle ranches. Did you grow up on a ranch?”

“Yes. My aunt Nola, Nolinda Blair, raised me on her ranch after my parents died when I was five. She’s the only family I’ve ever had.”

“You’re lucky to have family willing to take you in. It sounds as though you love her a lot.”

Her eyes filled, and Finn had to resist an unnatural urge to wrap his arms around her and offer her comfort.

Instead he indicated the chair facing his desk. “Why don’t you sit and tell me why you’re here.”

As she sat, she said, “Please, give me a minute.”

He rounded his desk and took a seat facing her. To give her time, he asked the first question that came to him. “Is your aunt’s ranch big?”

Jessie nodded. “Big enough to provide a comfortable life for us, and for four previous generations of Blairs.”

“I bet she and her husband needed a big family to keep it all going.”

“Aunt Nola never married. There were just the two of us. And a team of loyal wranglers who’d been with her for years.”

“So you worked the ranch with her?”

“I did until I left for college. And even then, I came back every chance I had, and every summer. I’ve always loved living on her ranch.”

Seeing the glint of fresh tears, he gave her time to compose herself. “I know what you mean. My family has a ranch outside of town. When I’m not here, I’m at home on a tractor or riding in the high country with the herds.”

Her eyes brightened. “You’re a rancher? Then you understand how important the land is.”

“I do.” He folded his hands, hoping to ease her into the reason for her visit. “If you grew up in Arvid, why are you here?”

“When I went on the internet and researched the town of Haller Creek, yours was the only law office listed.”

“Why Haller Creek?”

“My aunt mentioned it. She said that’s where her new wrangler had once worked.”

“Does your aunt want me to look into this wrangler’s background?”

She shook her head. “I’m here because…” Again that threat of tears. When her lower lip quivered, she bit down before speaking. “I believe my aunt is in some sort of serious trouble. All because of a smooth-talking cowboy. She’s disappeared without a trace.”


Finn let out a slow breath. “So your aunt’s missing?”

She nodded.

“And this wrangler…?”

“Wayne Stone.” She lifted a handkerchief to her nose as if she’d just smelled something distasteful.

“Wayne Stone is the smooth-talking cowboy?”

Another nod while she twisted the handkerchief around and around her fingers.

“Have you gone to the police with your suspicions?”

“Yes.” She lifted her head. “They looked into it. They said the marriage was valid, and there was no sign of foul play.”

“Wait a minute.” He held up a hand to stop her. “Marriage? When did your aunt marry him?”

“Two weeks ago. Even though she barely had time to get to know him.”

“That must have been a surprise. Did she tell you about it before the wedding?”

“She called me the day they were getting married, on the way to town. She said after the wedding they were leaving for a honeymoon. And there hasn’t been a word from her since.”

“I’m guessing your feelings were hurt that she waited so long to let you know.”

“This isn’t about my hurt feelings.” A big tear rolled down her cheek and she brushed it aside. “It isn’t like Aunt Nola to do something like this. This is completely out of character.”

“It may not be usual, but a woman has the right to share her life with someone. And going on a honeymoon isn’t a crime.”

“You don’t understand. She couldn’t bear to be away from the ranch for more than a few days at a time. And now she’s been gone for two weeks without a word. I just know something’s wrong.”

Finn steepled his hands on the desk. “Miss Blair, you don’t need a lawyer. If the police won’t help, and you want to pursue this further, I’d suggest a private detective.”

“I hired one.” She dug into her pocket and held out a business card.

Finn took it and read the name. “Matthew Carver. Retired FBI agent.” He looked over at her. “Are you happy with his work?”

She nodded. “He called to say he had some news. He sounded…agitated. We were supposed to meet yesterday.”

“Let me guess.” Finn sat back, folding his hands atop the desk. “He never showed up, and you realize he skipped town with your money.”

“No.” Another tear slipped out and she brushed it aside. “He was involved in an accident on the interstate. He’s dead, and whatever information he had for me died with him.”

Finn experienced a little tingling at the base of his spine—a sure sign that he was beginning to get sucked in. “A good investigator would have kept notes. Could you call his office and ask his assistant…”

“I called. Her name is Bev, and she’s his wife. She was so grief-stricken she could barely speak, but she said when his belongings were returned to her, his briefcase containing all his notes was not among them.”

The little tingling got stronger.

Finn sat staring at the woman across the desk, mulling the consequences of what he was about to do. If he took this case, he’d be up to his eyebrows in work that could keep him from helping friends and neighbors in need of legal counsel.

Still, there was that tingle.

And the fact that she was just about the prettiest woman he’d ever met.

He dismissed that out of hand. He wasn’t stupid enough to let important work pile up while he pursued some ridiculous story for the sake of a pretty face.

Was he?

Yeah, maybe he was.

And right now, though he could think of all the reasons why he should send her packing, the only thing that mattered at the moment was getting a chance to know more about the fascinating Jessica Blair. And maybe, just maybe, he could help her.

“I’ll need a lot more information than this.” He lifted a packet of documents from his desk drawer and passed them to her. “I’d like you to fill these out. If I need more, where can I find you?”

She took in a deep breath. “I checked into the Dew Drop Inn on the interstate last night so I could find you first thing today.”

“Okay.” He shoved back his chair. “While you answer everything on these pages, I’ll head on over to Dolly’s Diner and bring back coffee. How do you take it?”

“Two sugars and two creams.”

He grinned. “So you like a little coffee with your cream and sugar.”

That remark brought a half smile to her lips.

As he started down the street, he was chuckling to himself. He’d figured that a woman with a figure like that would never let sugar past her lips.

His smile suddenly dissolved when he realized it may not be the only wrong impression he’d had. As he began to put time and distance between them on the walk to Dolly’s and back, he began to question his rash decision to take this on.

Jessica Blair could turn out to be a jealous, vindictive relative who’d just discovered she’d been locked out of a hefty inheritance. And though her nerves looked real enough, she could be nothing more than a really good actress playing on his sympathy.


“Two creams. Two sugars.” Finn set the lidded cup on his visitor’s side of the desk before taking his chair and picking up the completed pages.

As he started to read, he looked up. “You’re an accountant?”

“A certified public accountant with Ayers and Lanyer in Bozeman.”

At the mention of one of the state’s biggest firms, he lifted a brow. He would have pegged her for something in the public eye. Modeling. TV news.

“I’ve taken a leave of absence until my aunt is found. My boss isn’t exactly happy about it.”

Finn nodded. “Then there’s no time to waste. I’ll begin by running a check on Wayne Stone. If he worked on ranches in Haller Creek, he should be easy to find. From time to time I employ a detective, Basil Caldwell, also a retired FBI agent, and I trust him to be thorough and discreet. He should have something for me by the end of the day. Can you give me a number where I can reach you?”

She spoke the numbers, and he entered them in his cell phone before giving her his number as well.

“As soon as I hear from Basil, I’ll call you with the information.”

For the first time her smile wasn’t forced or nervous. “Thank you, Finn. You don’t know how much this means to me.”

“Don’t thank me yet. The police could prove to be right, and we’ll find we don’t even have a case.”

She touched a hand to her heart. “I don’t care what the police think. I know I’m right. And I know when your detective starts checking, he’ll know it, too. I’ve lived with my aunt long enough to guarantee she would never willingly be gone from her ranch this long.”

Finn watched her walk out the door before sitting down to continue reading through the papers she’d filled out. Her handwriting was easy to read. He wished he could say the same for the woman. He wouldn’t be the first person to lose perspective because of a pretty face. But what he liked even more was that she had a good mind to go with the looks. Anyone working for Ayers and Lanyer had to be sharp. But that didn’t mean she was to be trusted. He intended to reserve judgment until he found out more about Jessica Blair and her aunt.

If he’d learned one thing since going into this business, it was the fact that a good mind and a pretty face could mask a greedy heart.

Chapter Two

Finn tossed his attaché case on the passenger side of his truck before heading back to his family’s ranch.

The little town of Haller Creek was bustling with people happy to be outdoors. Winter in Montana was always blustery, but this particular year had been long and bitter. Now the hillsides, covered with snow just weeks ago, were showing signs of green. Cattle were being herded to higher elevations, where they could soon feast on lush grass. The wranglers who tended them had replaced their heavy parkas with rolled shirtsleeves.

Springtime was a season of hope, and nowhere more than here in Montana.

When he arrived home, he noted the line of vehicles parked alongside the back porch and found himself grinning. As always, his oldest brother, Ben, and his wife, Becca, had managed to make it out to the ranch for supper. And that was a good thing, especially since Penny, his middle brother Sam’s new bride, was just about the best cook in the entire state. Ben, Haller Creek’s sheriff, was happy about that because Becca was taking cooking lessons from Penny. Ben claimed he didn’t marry Becca for her cooking skills, and it was true that they were madly in love, but Finn figured good cooking couldn’t hurt.

Ben and Becca were currently building a new home on a parcel of land on the family ranch. Until it was ready, they still lived in town in her rental house.

Sam and Penny were planning on doing the same, but they were still in the talking and planning stage, and still living in the main house.

The old red van parked alongside the barn belonged to Mary Pat Healy, and that meant she’d just returned from another road trip. Mary Pat, the county’s social worker, nurse, and homeschool advisor, visited every isolated ranch in the district during the year, dispensing equal amounts of advice, comfort, and hugs to the many ranch families who held her in highest esteem. She’d been a friend to their family since before Finn and his brothers had come here to live as Mac’s sons.

As Finn walked up the porch steps, he could smell the amazing scent of pot roast and cherry pie and was reminded once again of how happy he was that his brothers’ wives enjoyed cooking. Though he had no intention of following their lead, the women who graced their family were much better cooks than Zachariah, who had formerly assumed most of the kitchen duties.

Now Zachariah could concentrate all his energy on assisting Finn whenever he had to prepare for a particularly challenging trial.

The first to greet Finn was Archie, Ben and Becca’s dog, wriggling with delight. Finn knelt to scratch behind the big brown mutt’s ears and was rewarded with wet kisses.

“About time you got here.” The shiny sheriff’s badge on Ben’s shirt winked in the light as he clapped a big hand on his brother’s shoulder. “We’re holding supper for you.”

“Nice of you, bro.” Finn tossed aside his attaché case bulging with papers and rolled the sleeves of his white shirt before accepting a longneck from Sam.

Otis Green and Roscoe Flute tramped into the mudroom and washed up at the big sink before strolling into the kitchen, to greet the others.

Archie rushed up to greet each member of the family as they entered, expecting to be petted. He wasn’t disappointed. The entire family lavished him with love. He dashed over to Zachariah, whose lion’s mane of white hair framed a handsome, weathered face.


  • "The action and danger ramp up from the beginning and never let down."—Library Journal
  • "R.C. Ryan delivers it all with page-turning romance."—Nora Roberts, New York Times bestselling author
  • "Satisfying....This sweetly domestic story should win Ryan many new fans."—Publishers Weekly on The Cowboy Next Door
  • "(The) Montana Strong series begins with a fabulous story....This talented writer... invites you to join a little journey that has you biting at the bit for more."—Fresh Fiction on Cowboy on My Mind
  • "A strong, protective hero and an independent heroine fight for their future in this modern rough-and-tumble Western."—Library Journal on Cowboy on My Mind
  • "4 stars! A heartwarming plot filled with down-to-earth cowboys and warm, memorable characters. Reed and Ally are engaging and endearing, and their sweet, fiery chemistry heats up the pages, which will leave readers' hearts melting...A delightful read."—RT Book Reviews on Reed
  • "Ryan creates vivid characters against the lovingly rendered backdrop of sweeping Montana ranchlands. The passion between Ryan's protagonists, which they keep discreet, is tender and heartwarming. The plot is drawn in broad strokes, but Ryan expertly brings it to a satisfying conclusion."—Publishers Weekly on Luke
  • "Ryan has created a gripping love story fraught with danger and lust, pain and sweet, sweet triumph."—Library Journal starred review of Matt
  • "Beguiling...Touching and romantic, Ryan's portrayal of a city slicker falling for a cowboy delves into the depths of each of their personalities to find common ground in their love for the land. Readers will eagerly anticipate future installments."—Publishers Weekly on Matt
  • "4 stars!!! With tough, sex cowboys set against the beautiful, rural landscape of Montana, Ryan's latest is a must-read."—RT Book Review on Matt

On Sale
Nov 26, 2019
Page Count
448 pages

R.C. Ryan

About the Author

New York Times bestselling author R.C. Ryan has written more than ninety fiction novels, both contemporary and historical. Quite an accomplishment for someone who, after her fifth child started school, gave herself the gift of an hour a day to follow her dream to become a writer. In a career spanning more than twenty years, Ms. Ryan has given dozens of radio, television, and print interviews across the country and Canada, and has been quoted in such diverse publications as the Wall Street Journal and Cosmopolitan. She has also appeared on CNN News, as well as Good Morning America. R.C. Ryan is a pseudonym of New York Times bestselling author Ruth Ryan Langan.

You can learn more about R.C. Ryan and her alter ego Ruth Ryan Langan at:
Twitter @RuthRyanLangan

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