By R.C. Ryan
Formats and Prices
- Mass Market $8.00 $12.00 CAD
- ebook $7.99 $9.99 CAD
This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around November 1, 2010. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.
The last thing on Riley Mason’s mind is romance. Sent to the McCord ranch to save the family’s accounting problems, she only wants to impress her firm in Helena and be on her way. Life as a single mother isn’t easy and she needs to impress her bosses for a raise. But when Zane McCord opens the door, her breath catches in her throat and a desire she’s never experienced before takes over her. When the McCords insist that she and her daughter, Summer stay at the ranch, she’s forced to give in and before long, she’s pulled into their search for the long lost treasure. But she absolutely draws the line at getting involved with Zane McCord, playboy and heartbreaker extraordinaire.
But as they all get closer to finding Coot’s lost treasure, a dangerous series of accidents target Riley and her daughter Summer. Can Zane keep her safe while trying to win her heart?
Table of Contents
A Preview of "MONTANA LEGACY"
A Preview of "MONTANA DESTINY"
"IT'S GETTING HARDER AND HARDER
TO BEHAVE LIKE A GENTLEMAN
AND KEEP MY HANDS OFF YOU."
Zane's head lowered just as Riley's lifted, and his mouth covered hers. He'd intended it to be no more than a simple good-night kiss, but the instant their lips met, everything changed.
His arms wrapped around her, drawing her close. While his mouth moved over hers, he could feel her in every part of his body. The softness of her breasts against his chest. The press of her thighs to his. The tingle of warmth as her arms slowly lifted until they closed around his neck. And clung.
He heard her little sigh of pleasure as she offered her lips for more.
Somewhere in his mind an alarm bell went off and he realized that he needed to take a step back.
But not just yet. He wanted, needed, one more taste of her. One more kiss before leaving.
Zane took Riley fully into the kiss and could feel himself sinking into her. Into all that sweetness. And losing himself completely…
"A popular writer of heartwarming, emotionally involving romances."
Hoo, boy." Zane McCord grinned when he walked into the big kitchen of the Lost Nugget ranch house and caught sight of his cousins, Jesse and Wyatt. "You two look a whole lot better'n those cows I've been tending."
Jesse grinned. "Two weeks up in the hills, and you look more like a grizzly than a human."
Zane ran a hand over his rough beard. "The cattle don't care what we look like as long as we deliver food in the snow."
Though spring had arrived in Montana, the mountains were still hip-deep in drifts. A storm had dropped nearly a foot of snow the previous weekend.
Cal Randall, foreman of the Lost Nugget, turned from the stove where he was filling a mug with coffee. "These late snowfalls play hell with the calving."
"Yeah. But the flip side is"—Zane pulled a tiny video camera from his shirt pocket—"I got some fabulous shots of the hills buried in fresh snow. They'll make a great background for the introduction I'm planning for my documentary. I can see the camera panning a vast, snow-covered wilderness, while a voice intones, 'When Coot McCord died, the town of Gold Fever called him crazy for having spent a lifetime searching for the lost treasure of his ancestors. How could anyone in his right mind believe one man could find a sack of gold nuggets in such a primitive setting? But Coot's grandsons pledged at his graveside to carry on his search. This, then, is the record of one family's dream, and the successful conclusion of a treasure hunt that began in 1862, at Grasshopper Creek, in the Montana wilderness.' "
"Sounds great, cuz." Wyatt punched his arm. "Especially that part about the successful conclusion. The sooner the better."
"Yeah. Hey, it's slow going, but we're all committed."
Jesse nodded. "I've found another piece of equipment I'd like to have shipped out here as soon as the snow melts up in the hills."
"Good. I wish we could find a piece of radar that could see through tons of rock."
The three shared a grin as Jesse added, "If such a thing is ever invented, we'll be the first to buy it."
"Hey, Zane." Jesse's wife, Amy, stepped into the kitchen. "Welcome back to civilization."
Jesse and Amy embraced and even when they moved apart, Amy kept her arm around his waist.
"You staying for supper?" she asked Zane.
"Depends. What's Dandy fixing?"
"Slow-cooked pot roast."
Their ranch cook had been with the family for more than thirty years, and he knew just how to please a hardworking cowboy. From fiery chili to perfectly grilled steaks, nobody in Montana made better meals than Dandy Davis.
"I'm definitely not giving up Dandy's pot roast for Daffy Spence's greasy burgers."
At his reference to Daffy, owner of the Fortune Saloon in the nearest town of Gold Fever, the others began laughing just as Wyatt's bride, Marilee, stepped through the doorway and paused to brush a kiss over her husband's cheek. "Hello, you."
"Hello, yourself." Wyatt affectionately brushed a lock of red hair from her eye.
Zane turned to Cal with a mock shudder. "There's just way too much of this newlywed affection going on here. I hope it isn't contagious."
"I wouldn't worry, if I were you." Cal shared a laugh with the others. "We've seen the way you keep cutting fresh fillies out of the herd and then discarding them."
Zane smiled. "So many women. So little time."
"So I've noticed." Cal grinned. "I think your bachelor days won't be threatened until you're old and gray."
"Like you, Cal?"
The old cowboy chuckled before ducking his head in embarrassment.
It occurred to Zane that the only woman who ever really got Cal's attention was their aunt, Cora McCord. An artist who was a bit of an eccentric, she was more comfortable wearing her brother's cast-off clothing while she worked in her studio. And though her paintings brought fabulous sums of money from art patrons around the world, she remained a simple woman who had turned her back on the European art scene to live in her beloved Montana.
"Where's Aunt Cora?"
"Off on one of her nature campouts. While a spring blizzard rages."
Zane heard the worry in Cal's voice and was quick to soothe. "She'll be fine, Cal. And if she doesn't check in tonight, we'll send the cavalry after her."
"I'll be leading the charge," the foreman said firmly.
Zane gave him a long look. "Is that a clean shirt in the middle of the day?"
Cal nodded. "Thought I'd clean up for the interview."
"Interview?" Zane glanced around. "What've I missed?"
Cal took a sip of coffee before saying, "With Coot gone, I'm buried in paperwork. I complained to our accounting firm in Helena, and they agreed to send me their new hotshot bookkeeper to clean up the mess."
"A hotshot bookkeeper is coming all this way?"
"Schooled in the East." Cal took a sip of coffee. "Guy named Riley Mason."
"A city boy?" The cousins shared a grin. "How long do you think he'll last out here?"
Cal shrugged. "Depends. The last one they sent lasted all of four days before he said he needed to get back to civilization. Can't say I blame him. If he's used to spending his off-hours at coffeehouses or bars, there's just not that much to entice him into feeling at home here. And after a visit to town, and a night at the Fortune Saloon, what's left? So I told them to send someone who's not only sharp, but willing to spend a lot of his downtime doing ordinary things like reading or watching old videos."
Zane nodded in agreement. "How long would you like him to stay?"
Cal thought about it. "I guess that depends on what he finds. I figure he's going to need a couple of weeks, maybe months, to get everything into a computer database so the Helena firm can handle all those mysterious government forms that need to be filled out in triplicate."
"Where will he stay?"
Cal pointed his mug toward the doorway. "He can have his pick of empty rooms. There's that bedroom next to the office that would probably work best."
"If he doesn't mind living in a cave." Marilee gave a throaty chuckle. "Maybe you can keep him chained to his desk, Cal. Then he can clear up the paperwork in half the time."
"Believe me, I'd be happy to, as long as I wouldn't have to deal with legal documents ever again. I don't know how Coot could stand doing all the paperwork involved in running this place."
"Good luck with the interview. I'm more interested in supper." Zane turned away, rubbing a hand over his bristly beard. "Excuse me while I head upstairs for the longest shower and shave in history."
He ambled out of the kitchen and was heading through the great room on his way to the stairs when he heard a knock on the front door.
Since nobody but a stranger would ever use the front entrance, Zane was grinning good-naturedly as he grasped the knob and threw open the door to admit the accountant.
Zane knew he was staring, but it took him a moment to switch gears. He'd expected a dark suit and he wasn't disappointed. And a firm handshake, which he returned woodenly. But the image of the nerdy accountant in his mind was replaced by a gorgeous female, dark hair slicked back into a knot at the back of her head, trim figure encased in a knee-skimming dark skirt and figure-hugging jacket. And that was quite a figure to hug.
Then there was the voice. Soft and breathy, with just a hint of nerves.
"I'm Riley Mason. Are you Cal Randall?"
"No. Cal's in his office." Because she was female, and because it came naturally to him, Zane gave her one of his most charming smiles. "My name's Zane. I'll show you the way."
"That's all right." She took a step back, studying him warily. "Maybe I'll just wait here and you can tell him I've arrived for my interview."
He realized, too late, that he probably smelled like a barnyard and looked like a trail bum, causing her to be completely repelled.
"At least wait inside." He held the door wider, and she was forced to accept his invitation to step inside.
She did so hesitantly.
As she brushed past him, he breathed her in. Her hair smelled like a spring garden. Something light and floral and fresh as a breeze.
For two long weeks he'd smelled nothing but horses and saddle leather and unwashed wranglers.
Pure heaven, he thought as he gave her one last look. "I'll go get Cal."
He sauntered away, leaving her standing in the foyer, staring after him.
Riley didn't relax until the cowboy disappeared along a hallway. She'd known, of course, that the Lost Nugget was a working ranch. But she'd assumed that she would be isolated from the wranglers, since she'd been told they lived in bunkhouses scattered across thousands of acres of rangeland.
Not that she felt herself above working cowboys. She'd been working since she was fifteen, and she was proud of it. But if the men on the ranch looked anything like that one, she preferred to give them a wide berth. There had been a fierce, dangerous look to him. Like a throwback to the cowboys of the Old West who could calmly shoot a gunslinger, toss back a glass of whiskey, and ride out of town without a backward glance.
Silly, she knew. She'd always been cursed with a wild imagination. But being on a ranch in Montana was about as far from her comfort zone as possible.
"You're not in Philly anymore, little girl," she muttered.
She watched the approach of a handsome, white-haired man. Now this was how she'd envisioned Cal Randall, foreman of the Lost Nugget. Tall, rangy, weathered, and extremely courtly as he extended his hand.
"Riley Mason? Cal Randall."
"So nice to meet you, Mr. Randall."
"That's too formal for my taste. Call me Cal." He put a hand beneath her elbow. "Let's go to my office and chat."
They passed through an enormous room with a four-sided fireplace surrounded by comfortable furniture. The floor-to-ceiling windows offered an incredible view of the towering spires of the mountains in the distance. Riley caught her breath at the sheer beauty of it.
Before she could take it all in, Cal led her along a hallway and paused to open a set of double doors. Inside was a purely masculine retreat, complete with walls of shelves holding an assortment of leather-bound books and yet another fireplace.
Cal settled himself into a leather chair behind an oversize desk littered with paperwork. He indicated a chair across from him and Riley perched on the edge of the seat.
Seeing her nerves, he strove to put her at ease. "Tell me about yourself, Riley."
"I'm twenty-four. Fresh out of college." She flushed. "I took some time off to work, so that set me back a bit. I've worked since I was fifteen. Mostly as a clerk in a local store, and at a coffeehouse off-campus. I'm trained in accounting. But I have to be honest with you." She stared openly at the mountains of paperwork that spilled from open file drawers and was piled haphazardly on top of every available surface. "I just don't know how much help I can be until I have a chance to look over some of this. It looks—"
Cal interrupted. "I know what you mean." He tapped a pen against the desktop. "It intimidates the hell out of me."
That had the desired effect, causing her to relax a bit as she matched his grin.
"I'm current with state and federal guidelines on fees and assessments, and even though I haven't been in Montana long, I know I can get up to speed on local issues as well."
She dug an envelope out of her pocket and set it on the desk. "Our firm suggested independent assessments of my work. These are the e-mail addresses of my immediate superiors at our Philadelphia firm, and also my college professors who are familiar with me. They agreed to answer any questions you might have about my abilities. They were in contact with the firm in Helena before I was hired."
She took in a breath. "I've been apprised of your business and I'm of course prepared to handle daily sheets and payroll. I think I could get all the necessary paperwork ready for our CPA firm in Helena. And though I can't promise miracles, I'm pretty sure I could get most of this"—she indicated the desk—"cleaned up and in some sort of order. But, as I said, neither of us will really know what I'm capable of until I take a look at the work you need done."
Cal grinned. "That was quite a mouthful."
Riley flushed, knowing he had seen through her prepared remarks. She'd rehearsed them all the way out here.
"I don't value speed nearly as much as I value efficiency. I told the firm that I want someone who will take the time to simplify this paperwork and make my job run smoothly." Cal leaned back in his chair. "And, to make your job a bit easier, I'm prepared to offer you a room here."
She seemed surprised. "The firm didn't say anything about living on the ranch."
"Is that a problem?"
She hesitated. "Before driving out here, I arranged for a room in Gold Fever, with a lady named Delia Cowling, who was recommended by a banker in Helena."
Cal smiled. "I know Delia. Her brother was owner of the Gold Fever bank before his untimely death." He thought a minute. "As you know, the ranch is an hour's drive from town. Living here could save you time, as well as gas and wear and tear on your car."
The way she was chewing on her lower lip told Cal that something was bothering her. "Of course, the decision is up to you, Riley. I certainly don't want you to find yourself in an uncomfortable situation."
She took a deep breath. "I didn't come to town alone. I have a four-year-old daughter."
"Oh." It was Cal's turn to be surprised. "Is your husband okay with the hours you'll be away?"
Her head came up. "My husband?"
"I figure he'll be stuck with some of the child care if you sign on for this."
Riley realized she'd been sitting on the edge of her seat. She sat back in the chair and met Cal's questioning look directly. "I didn't mean to mislead you. I don't have a husband. I've never been married. There's just Summer and me."
"I see." He saw more. Much more. Though the job interview may have unnerved her, questions about her private life were infinitely more painful. This was obviously not the first time she'd been asked about her unmarried status. Though she was direct and honest, she didn't volunteer any more information than necessary. Despite her honest explanation, he could see the way her chin came up, waiting for him to throw the first punch.
"You haven't said if you'd be willing to live here on the ranch."
"I… I'd be more than willing, as long as you understand that I'd be bringing along my daughter."
"That's fine with me." Cal stared at the envelope she'd dropped on his desk. "I don't need to check any further references, Riley. Our firm in Helena had nothing but good things to say about your work. That's good enough for me. So, if you're agreeable, I'd like you to get started as quickly as possible."
His abrupt end to the interview caught her by surprise. She'd expected Cal Randall, once he'd heard about her daughter, to use her references, or possibly her lack of experience, as an excuse to dismiss her. She'd expected him to be like so many others who judged her without even knowing her.
And he had, she realized. But he was judging her by her work ethic, and not by her personal life.
Cal got to his feet and leaned across the desk to extend his hand. "If you'd like to wait in the great room, I'll phone the firm in Helena and affirm your employment."
She was reeling from the speed with which he'd come to a decision.
She stood and offered her hand. "Thanks for giving me this opportunity, Cal." She turned toward the door.
"Can you find your way?" he called to her retreating back.
"Yes. I'm fine with it." Riley closed the door and backtracked until, pausing in the massive great room, she sank into an overstuffed chair, feeling a wave of giddy relief.
Needing to calm her nerves, she closed her eyes and took long, deep breaths until her heartbeat returned to normal.
Zane was whistling as he descended the stairs and headed toward the kitchen. He'd noted the door to Cal's office was closed, and he wondered about the foreman's reaction to the new guy, Riley. That had Zane grinning. It was a natural mistake, and they'd all been guilty. Who'd have believed the new hire would be female? And so darned pretty.
In the great room he came to an abrupt halt. The object of his thoughts was seated in a chair, hands folded in her lap, head back, eyes closed, practicing some sort of deep breathing.
Yoga? he wondered.
He took that moment to study her more closely, enjoying the way a lock of dark hair had fallen from that prim knot to curl against her cheek. Such a pretty, dimpled cheek. Everything about her was pretty. And soft. From the lips, pursed as though in prayer, to the gentle curve of her eyebrows.
Just then her eyes opened and she caught him staring.
At the sound of his voice her eyes widened in recognition. "You're… the one I met at the front door."
"Yes, of course. Zane."
"When do you get to tackle Cal's office mess?"
"Whenever he wants me to start."
"I'd say the sooner the better. Cal doesn't have much patience with paperwork."
"That's what he told me." She laughed. "Fortunately, it's what I do best."
Just then Cal stepped into the room. "You two getting acquainted?"
"Yeah. When does Riley start?"
Cal turned to her. "You'll need tomorrow to move your things out here and get settled in. Then you can start the following morning. How does that sound?"
"Perfect." She offered her hand. "I'd better get back to town now. I have to get the rental car back before closing."
Cal accepted her handshake. "Rental car? How did you get here from Helena?"
"Well, then, you'll need some help getting your stuff out here."
"Oh, I don't think…"
Zane interrupted. "I'm free in the morning. I could take one of the ranch trucks into town and lend a hand."
"No. That isn't neces—"
"Perfect." Ignoring her protest, Cal gave Riley a smile. "How does eight o'clock sound?"
"Yes. All right." She turned to Zane. "Thanks for the offer. I'm staying at Delia Cowling's place. Do you know it?"
"Sure thing." Zane's smile grew. "I'll see you at eight."
When she and Cal walked to the front door, Zane stood admiring her backside.
Minutes later, when Cal closed the door and joined him, he was grinning like a conspirator.
"Very slick," Cal muttered as they made their way to the kitchen.
"I was thinking the same thing. Thanks for giving me that perfect opening. It'll give me a chance to get to know our pretty new accountant."
"A word of warning." Cal paused at the kitchen door. "She's going to be an employee now, Zane. You make the wrong moves, she could sue you for harassment."
"Me?" Zane threw back his head and roared before dropping an arm around the foreman's shoulders. "When have you ever known me to make a wrong move on an unwilling female?"
"Willing or unwilling, Riley Mason is off-limits. And if she doesn't sue your hide, I'll do it for her."
"Thanks for that fatherly advice. I'll keep it in mind."
Zane was still chuckling as he joined the others.
Riley drove the rental car down the long, curving driveway leading away from the Lost Nugget Ranch.
She was still reeling from her second encounter with the cowboy. She'd had to keep from staring at the change in him. Gone was the dark beard, the filthy clothes. He'd been freshly showered and shaved, with little drops of water still glistening in his hair. Dark hair, she'd noted, that just brushed the collar of his plaid shirt. Long legs were encased in faded denims. On his feet were scuffed boots.
He had piercing blue eyes in a tanned face that wasn't so much handsome as commanding. With that killer smile aimed at her, it was impossible to look away. But she wasn't interested in a fling with a cowboy.
A man was the last thing on her mind.
But a job…
The magnitude of what had just transpired came over her in waves.
She had the job.
Right this minute, nothing else mattered except that.
She had the job.
This wasn't just the start of a new job. This was the start of a brand-new life.
A new life, in a place so far away from where she'd begun, nobody searching for her would ever be able to find her or Summer.
Not ever again.
Zane was whistling as he descended the stairs and walked to the kitchen.
At the Lost Nugget Ranch, breakfast was an important meal, bringing everyone together before they went their separate ways for the day. And, because ranch chores started at dawn, the men had often put in several hours of hard work before breakfast.
Jesse and Amy were already seated at the table, along with Wyatt and Marilee.
Cora, who had returned to the ranch sometime during the night, was engaged in a familiar argument with Cal.
"I was never in any danger, Cal." Cora's tone was patient.
"So you say. But you admitted that the heavy snow brought down a tree right beside your tent. You could be lying out there right now, pinned and gravely wounded, and we wouldn't have a clue."
"Cal, I always have my cell phone under my pillow."
"A lot of good that would do if you were crushed beneath a tree. The calendar may say it's springtime, but somebody forgot to tell Mother Nature. If it isn't a tree falling, it could be an avalanche. And there you are, all alone in the wilderness, at the mercy of any number of dangers."
Cora gave a long, deep sigh. "You know I'm not going to give up my art excursions. It's where I do my best work. I love it too much to ever stop."
"And I'm not going to stop worrying. I've been doing it too long."
"Now, children," Jesse said with a laugh. "There will be no fighting at the table."
That eased the tension as everyone, even Cal and Cora, joined in the laughter.
Jesse turned to Zane. "You look awfully happy this morning."
Cal sipped orange juice. "Could it be because you're driving into town to pick up Riley Mason?"
"The new accountant that everyone figured was a man?" Jesse's remark brought a round of laughter.
"A man?" Cora looked intrigued.
"Because of the name, I guess." Zane merely smiled as he settled himself at the table. "Actually, Aunt Cora, she's a real looker."
FANTASTIC PRAISE FOR R. C. RYAN AND MONTANA LEGACY:
"Found love, lost treasure and ever-present danger. R.C. Ryan delivers it all with page-turning romance."
-Nora Roberts, New York Times bestselling author
"Fabulous...A well written story with fully-developed characters that I easily came to care for."
- "...a tapestry of beauty filled with the colors of love. A must read..."—RT Book Reviews on Highland Heaven
- "...a delightful addition to a memorable series. Catch this before it flies off the shelves..."—RT Book Reviews on Ruby
- "...Powerful story...Exquisitely done."—Rendezvous on The Highlander
- On Sale
- Nov 1, 2010
- Page Count
- 384 pages