Second Chance at Rancho Lindo


By Sabrina Sol

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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 29, 2022. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.

Fans of Rebekah Weatherspoon and R.C. Ryan will love this launch of a new western romance series exploring love and second chances in a small town in California.

This sexy cowboy is nothing but a complication…but he’s also impossible to resist.
As the new horticulturist at Rancho Lindo, Nora Torres is determined to make the garden a success and prove to the Ortega family that they made the right decision in hiring her. Plants take patience and care, and that should be Nora’s focus, not Gabe Ortega, who is back home on his family’s ranch after an injury abruptly ended his military career. A long time ago, Nora made the mistake of believing a promise from Gabe, and she’s determined not to make that mistake twice.

          His family hopes he’s home for good, but Gabe has always wanted something else—something more—than working at Rancho Lindo. So he can’t allow himself to be sidetracked by his feelings for Nora when he knows he’ll be leaving again. But soon, rather than keeping his distance from the garden and the talented horticulturist, Gabe finds what he really wants is to change Nora’s mind about him.


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Chapter One


Gabe's eyes flew open. Every nerve and muscle tightened in defense. Familiar pumps of anxiety revved up his heart, making it thump faster and faster.

It took a few seconds for Gabe to translate his surroundings. There was no smoke or rubble. No blackened sky above him. No dirt beneath him either.

More importantly, there were no screams.

Relief and recognition set in. He wasn't in Baghdad anymore. He was home at his family's ranch in Esperanza, California. He was back at Rancho Lindo.

Gabe let go of the comforter he'd been clutching between both fists and exhaled long and hard. Pain shot from the fingers of his right hand all the way up to his shoulder. He sat up and shook out his arm a few times until the burning dulled. He waited another couple of minutes before he got off the bed and walked over to the room's largest window.

As he pulled the string on the blinds, light began to sneak into the room, chasing away the darkness in more ways than one. He squinted through the invading brightness and tried to focus on the ruckus happening below his second-story window.

Gabe watched as his older brother Cruz and two other men he didn't recognize loaded large metal bins onto the bed of a white pickup. He couldn't help but laugh at the ridiculousness of it all. An exploding IED hadn't woken him up. It had been trash cans filled with horse shit.

He was definitely back on the ranch.

Half an hour later, a showered and dressed Gabe was ready to finally start his day. He was about to walk out of his bedroom door when he noticed the large white box sitting on his dresser. It hadn't been there last night. He lifted the lid and found a brand-new black felt cowboy hat. He didn't have to inspect it to know it was a Larry Mahan Norte hat. It was the kind made popular by the iconic Mexican band Los Tigres del Norte. And it was the same one his dad always wore.

There was no card, no note. Yet the message was as clear as day.

His mother had obviously thought that if Gabe wore the same kind of hat that his father did, then they'd have something in common to chat about. Especially since talking wasn't really something they did. At least, not like they had before. Their relationship had always been strained since he'd left the ranch at eighteen. During his rare visits home, their superficial conversations usually revolved around the same three topics: the weather, whatever they were eating, and sports. But something had changed with his dad after Gabe's accident. He'd barely said anything to him the one time he'd come with his mom to see Gabe in the hospital. The phone calls during his time in the rehab center were mainly from his abuelita, brothers, and mom. Once in a while she'd hand the phone to his dad, who'd ask the same question, "How are you feeling?" To which Gabe always said, "Getting better." So his dad would say, "That's good," and then hand the phone back to his mom.

He hadn't even been around last night when Gabe had arrived from the airport. His mom said his dad was tired and had gone to bed early.

Gabe thought about wearing the hat, just so he wouldn't have to explain later why he wasn't. But the stubborn part of him wouldn't give in. Not yet. He put the lid back on the box and headed downstairs.

A tirade of squeaky yips and yelps welcomed him into the kitchen.

Princesa, his mom's white shih tzu, charged at him with the bravado of a raging bull. She attacked first by jumping up on her hind legs and scratching at his jeans just below his kneecap. Then she began nipping and tugging at the hem, growling like some cartoon version of a Tasmanian devil.

"Princesa! No!" Abuelita yelled from across the kitchen.

His mom had gotten the dog as a present to herself three years ago for her fifty-fifth birthday. Gabe had met Princesa during his last visit home and she was just as friendly as she was now. Abuelita had suggested that he keep dog treats in his pocket to try to bribe her into not attacking him. It never worked.

"I guess she still doesn't like me," he said when she wouldn't even let him pet the top of her head.

"She just doesn't know you," Abuelita explained, and then pointed to the furry dog bed in the corner. "Princesa! Échate!"

Princesa gave him one last threatening growl for good measure and then obeyed. Apparently, she too was smart enough to listen to Abuelita.

He was about to ask where his mom was, since the tiny terror never left her side, when a familiar musky aroma hit him. "Please tell me I'm smelling what I think I'm smelling," he said as he walked toward Abuelita, who was standing next to the stove.

He put both hands on the back of her shoulders and leaned over her four-foot-ten-inch frame to inhale the wafts of simmering beef broth with onion and garlic. "Caldo de res," he confirmed out loud.

"Pues, it's your favorite, no?" his abuelita asked as if she didn't already know the answer. "Besides, you missed breakfast. I have to make sure you at least get a good lunch."

Gabe lowered his head and planted a big kiss on her left cheek. "Gracias, Abuelita."

Although he'd only come home a handful of times over the past twelve years, he could always count on Abuelita to pack each visit with as many of his favorite dishes as possible. So much so that he'd usually return to base a few pounds heavier. The hearty beef soup with assorted vegetables was always one of his requests.

Except this was no visit. Gabe was back at Rancho Lindo for the foreseeable future. Whether he wanted to be there or not. Although his right shoulder and arm were almost back to full mobility, it was his hand that was being stubborn. The surgeons at Walter Reed had told him it would never be as strong as it had been. And the army couldn't use an explosives technician with a shaky grip. So the Physical Evaluation Board had deemed him unfit and offered retirement. He hadn't accepted it at first. But after second and third opinions, Gabe had to face the fact that his military career was over. And until he figured out what to do with the rest of his life, he'd agreed to come home. What he hadn't agreed to was to make the move permanent. Gabe knew that's what his family wanted—expected even. Little did they know, he had no plans to work on the ranch forever. He'd had to have that conversation with them, eventually.

But not yet.

At least he could rely on Abuelita's cooking to get him through the next few weeks.

Abuelita moved from the stove to the large island in the center of the kitchen and began chopping carrots. Gabe poured himself a glass of orange juice and then sat down on one of the stools on the opposite side of the counter. He eyed a basket of assorted muffins and bagels along with a tray of Danishes and other pastries. Based on the spread of pastry items, he figured his mom had probably expected him to join them earlier. Gabe ignored the flutter of guilt and scanned the room, making note of what looked the same and what was different from his last visit two years ago. He and his youngest brother Daniel had arrived from the Santa Barbara airport after ten the night before and he'd been too tired to talk to anyone, let alone check out his childhood home. He'd known his mom had been disappointed. But he had been exhausted. And hurting. Not that he'd ever admit that. So he'd crashed and hadn't woken up until after eleven—missing breakfast and another opportunity to catch up with everyone.

He'd been home barely twelve hours and was already disappointing people.

Some things never changed.

He grabbed a banana from the nearby bowl overflowing with various fruits. Before taking a bite, he asked, "Where is everyone?"

"Tu papá, Cruz, and Tomás are working outside, of course. I think Nico went to go make some deliveries. Y tu mamá and Daniel went to town to pick up some things for the party."

"What party?"


"Abuelita? What party?"

Instead of answering, Abuelita turned her attention back to the simmering pot on the stove.

Dammit. She was avoiding the question. That could only mean one thing. "I know how much you hate to keep secrets, Abuelita," he said. "Just tell me and then you can feel better." He hated manipulating her into spilling the beans, but he also knew how much it was killing her to keep quiet.

She let out a long sigh and then faced him again. "Aye, okay. They are making you a welcome home carne asada tomorrow night."

Gabe's muscles tensed, and he fought to control his irritation. He didn't want to take it out on Abuelita—it wasn't her fault. "I told Mom that I didn't want a party," he said carefully.

"I know, Mijo. But we haven't seen you in a long time, and we were all so worried when you got hurt. You should've seen your mamá, and your papá. It hurt them so much that they couldn't even visit you in the hospital that much. Let them do this for you."

Even after all these years, he still hadn't built up a resistance to the Abuelita guilt.

"Fine," he said after a long sigh. "But that's it. I don't want anyone to do anything special for me anymore, okay?"

She shrugged. "Pues, if that's what you want?"

"Yes, that's what I want."

Abuelita nodded and put down the knife she'd been using to cut the carrots. Then she turned around and shut off the stove burner.

"Wait," Gabe said. "What are you doing?"

Abuelita shrugged her shoulders. "You say you don't want anyone to do anything special for you, so I guess I won't finish making the caldo."

Gabe held out his hand. "Wait. No. That's not what I meant."

"No?" she asked. Her eyes were wide and innocent, but he knew better. He recognized that look—the one where she was pretending to not teach him a lesson.

"I'm sorry, Abuelita. I didn't mean that I didn't want the soup. Can you please still make it for me?"

She smiled and pinched his cheek. "That's better. Now go get me some calabacitas. Find Nora. She will help you."

A few minutes later, Gabe walked out the back door into the late August sun. Rancho Lindo was just over twelve thousand acres, and most of it was only accessible by truck, utility vehicle, or horseback.

Fortunately for Gabe, the ranch's garden was on the south side of the property, near the stables and main barn. It would take him less than ten minutes on foot. He followed the cobblestone path he'd walked probably a million times growing up. But on this particular day, it didn't lead him to the partially fenced-in patch of dirt that used to grow Abuelita's small collection of herbs and vegetables. Instead, Gabe was surprised to see rows and rows of green sprouting from the grounds of a large, plentiful garden.

He walked through the open gate of the garden's wooden picket fence and took in the view around him. That's when he noticed it. A greenhouse.

It sat on the other side of a group of tall cornstalks and just past a cluster of leafy greens labeled Cucumbers. He walked over to the arched structure covered in thick plastic and stared at it for a few minutes. It hadn't been there the last time he'd come home. In fact, none of the bigger vegetable or fruit patches had been there before. Abuelita had sent him to get squash from someone named Nora. Maybe she was the one responsible for this bigger garden and new greenhouse?

He was about to walk inside it when he spotted two huge wooden crates filled with tomatoes. But not just any tomatoes. These were the biggest and reddest tomatoes he'd ever seen.

Gabe picked up two of the plump fruits and marveled at how his curled fingers barely reached their midpoints. Did they taste as sweet as they looked? He had to know. Slowly, he brought one up to his mouth.

That's when someone behind him cleared their throat.

"Excuse me," he heard a woman say in a very annoyed tone. "Can you please stop fondling my tomatoes?"

He turned around with every intention to inform the garden's security guard that technically they were his family's tomatoes. But when he came face-to-face with the woman, Gabe decided for various reasons that it was best to keep his mouth shut.

First of all, her narrowed eyes and pinched lips let him know that she was every bit as annoyed as her voice sounded. Second of all, despite her small frame, he could tell she was as formidable as Abuelita—which meant she wasn't someone who would back down from an argument.

And third of all, she was damn beautiful. He needed a minute to take her all in.

Her dark hair was twisted into a single braid and covered with a white bandana headwrap which framed her tanned face and large dark eyes. She wore denim shorts and a white tank underneath an olive green, long-sleeved shirt. Even though the shirt was long and flowy, it didn't hide her ample cleavage, curvy hips, or smooth and toned thighs.

His eyes traveled back to her face and he couldn't help but notice her perfect pink lips. And for a second he wondered what she would taste like.

Was this Nora, the woman he'd been sent to find?

He still didn't say a word when she finally walked over to him and took the tomatoes from his hands.

"These are part of the batch I'm taking to the farmer's market tomorrow. If you bruise them, then no one will buy them," she explained as she put them back into the crate.

Gabe finally found his voice when the woman reached for the door to the greenhouse.

"I need squash," he yelled after her.

She stopped and looked back at him. "What kind?"

"Uh, the kind you eat?" He realized how stupid that sounded but she'd surprised him with the question.

"My abuelita sent me," he explained when she got closer again. "I'm Gabe Ortega."

The woman squinted up at him. "I know who you are. What kind of squash does Doña Alma need?"

I know who you are.

Why did it sound like an accusation? Her tone surprised him. So much so that he didn't notice that she was no longer standing in front of him.

Gabe's long legs helped him catch up to her as she walked quickly in the direction of the gate where he'd come in. He glanced sideways to look at her and a sense of familiarity washed over him. Was she working on the ranch the last time he'd been home? No, he definitely would've remembered meeting her, especially with that attitude.

"You must be Nora, right?" he said.

Instead of answering, the woman picked up her pace, turned left at a red wheelbarrow, and proceeded down a row lined with raised beds of dirt and greens. Gabe didn't bother to match her speed this time, and decided that following behind her wasn't the worst thing in the world. Until, she stopped suddenly and he nearly crashed into her back. Being so close to her revved up his attraction all over again. And he couldn't shake the feeling that he knew her from somewhere.

Calm down, Ortega. You don't even know this woman. Maybe she's not who you think she is?

"I am Nora, by the way," she said as if she'd read his mind. Then she crouched down to inspect one of the dirt beds.

"Nora," he repeated as if saying her name out loud would help him place her. It didn't.

"So what am I picking for Doña Alma? Zucchini? Yellow squash? Butternut?"

Gabe scanned the spread of green in front of him. Not that he even knew what he was looking for. "Uh, I'm not sure, actually. She didn't specify."

"What is she cooking?"

"Oh. She's making me caldo de res."

"Of course she is," he heard her mutter. "Well then, I'll send you back with some zucchini and chayote."

As Nora picked the vegetables from a nearby section of the garden, Gabe wondered why she seemed so irritated with him. How could he have known that he wasn't supposed to touch her tomatoes? Though he got the sense that there was something else behind her prickly demeanor. It was almost as if she didn't like him even though she'd only known him for less than ten minutes. He was intrigued.

"So how long have you been working on the ranch?" he asked as he watched her inspect each vegetable she pulled from the ground.

"Just over a year," she answered without looking at him.

"And have you always been into gardening?"

This time she raised her eyes and met his. "I'm a horticulturist."

"Oh. Cool."


"Well, the garden looks amazing. Especially the greenhouse. You've really made the place, uh, grow." God. What the hell was he saying? Gabe knew he sounded lame. He was normally a pretty smooth talker, but something about her jumbled his brain and the words coming out of his mouth.

Nora the horticulturist finally stood up and handed him two large zucchinis and two smaller light green vegetables that he assumed were the chayotes.

"Tell Doña Alma that I'll bring her some more later to stock up her pantry. I usually try to check to see what she needs in the morning, but I forgot today."

Gabe nodded in response. He expected her to leave him then, but instead she said, "So. Are you home for good like they're saying?"

He knew the "they" without her having to explain. He'd bet good money that Cruz, his mom, hell, even the rest of his brothers, were telling everyone they knew that Gabe was going to help run the ranch. Maybe he should've just went along with it. But there was something about the way Nora asked the question. Like she knew it wasn't the truth and she was daring him to lie to her.

Something in his gut wanted to prove her wrong. He decided to go with the truth.

"We'll see," he said with a shrug. "I know that's what they expect, what they want. But I need time to figure things out first."

If he thought she'd be surprised, or even pleased, by his response, he'd be wrong. Instead, her straight expression fell a little, and for a second, he thought he saw disappointment in her eyes. He wanted to explain, but she got her words out first.

"Well, then," Nora said before walking away.

As he headed back to the main house, Gabe tried to figure out why it seemed like he'd become Nora's least favorite person on the ranch. It was such a shame though if that was the case. He would much prefer spending time with the pretty brunette than doing whatever work Cruz and their dad had in store for him over the next several weeks.

It's not as if Gabe didn't love a good challenge. It was the reason he'd joined the army in the first place. His family, especially his father, had been dead set against it. So much so that they'd gotten into a huge fight about it and Gabe had enlisted at eighteen and left home to prove to himself that he could be more than just a rancher.

For some reason, he couldn't help but feel like he had something to prove to Nora too.

Still, it was probably better this way. He had to focus on his recovery and getting the strength in his hand as back to normal as possible. He also needed to find a job that didn't involve shoveling manure into trash cans.

Nora was a distraction he didn't need. Not if he wanted to leave Rancho Lindo again.

So as much as he wouldn't mind trying to figure her out, Gabe decided it would be better if he kept his distance from the garden and the pretty horticulturist who guarded its tomatoes.

After all, the property spanned thousands of acres. How hard could it be to stay away?

Chapter Two

So much for a small family party.

Nora scanned the backyard of Rancho Lindo's main house and counted at least sixty-two people. Most were those who worked on the ranch and their own families. She also spotted a few of the Ortegas' neighbors and some people she knew from town.

And they were all there to welcome Gabe back home.

She checked the time on her watch again. She'd told herself she was only going to stay an hour. Technically, it had only been forty-nine minutes, but Nora gave herself permission to get up and leave.

First, though, she had to plan her escape route. Because if she ran into any of the Ortegas on her way out, most of them would keep her chatting until midnight. She was going to have a long day tomorrow and needed to get to sleep as soon as possible.

From her folding chair nestled in the corner of the patio, Nora scanned the crowd and made note of each Ortega and their position.

Santiago Ortega, her boss and the family's patriarch, was stationed at the patio's large, built-in barbecue grill still tending to his carne asada. He was a towering man with a resting bear face—serious, a little scary, and full of hair. Although he could be intimidating to strangers, Nora knew he was a big, old, sentimental softie when it came to his family and Rancho Lindo. And he was as comfortable in front of a grill as he was wrangling cattle. He always selected the cuts of beef or chicken himself and marinated them with his secret seasonings the day before. Señor Ortega took pride in the fact that every cut of meat came from his ranch, and he believed only he could grill them the way they deserved.

He wouldn't be moving anytime soon.

Satisfied that she could leave easily as long as she stayed away from the grill and other side of the patio, Nora searched for the rest of the family. After another minute or so, she located Cruz, the oldest Ortega son and the ranch's second in charge. He was standing near the back entrance to the main house and looked to be in deep conversation with some of the ranch hands. He too wore his signature Stetson and usual non-working uniform of boots, jeans, and a henley. He was as big and as strong as his dad. Though Nora noted his presence seemed more commanding lately than Señor Ortega's. It was probably because he seemed to be taking more of a lead when it came to the ranch's lines of business. Although Cruz was always respectful and friendly, he was usually too busy to carry on a conversation with her unless it had to do with the garden. If he saw her leaving, he might wave. But she was confident he wouldn't go out of his way to stop her so they could chat.

Her eyes then fell on Tomás as he walked around the patio with his mom and Doña Alma. They would stop and hug different people they came upon and it surprised her that he was being so outgoing. Tomás once told her that horses were easier to talk to than most people. She almost confessed that she'd felt the same about her produce.

But where was Gabe?

Nora took another look around and couldn't find him right away. She wasn't surprised that he was missing from his own party. Typical.

She had recognized him as soon as she'd seen him standing in her garden the day before. Even from the back, she could tell it was him. Not only was he the tallest of the Ortega boys, he also had the broadest shoulders. When she'd finally seen his face, it was as if he were standing in front of her all those years ago. He was older, obviously. She spotted creases around his eyes that hadn't been there before. His dark brown hair had been longer and wavier when he was a teenager. The wild and carefree locks had fit his rebellious attitude perfectly back then. Now he wore it short and neat. She assumed that was a carryover from his active duty days. But the glint in his eyes and telltale smirk she saw yesterday told her that the army hadn't tamed everything about Gabe.

Familiar waves of want warmed her from the inside out and it took everything she had to not to show how much seeing him again had affected her.

Fortunately, Nora hadn't run into Gabe since she'd arrived for his welcome home barbecue. After their interaction the day before in the garden, she had hoped she'd have another few days before having to speak to Gabe again. The fact that he didn't remember her at all stung her pride more than she'd care to admit. Nora had tried to get out of coming to the barbecue altogether. She'd told Doña Alma that she was too tired after being at the farmer's market all day and just wanted to go to bed early. But the elderly woman had insisted. And guilted. After all, who would help her make the salsas and guacamole?

So Nora had gone home to quickly get ready. After taking a shower, she'd begrudgingly put on her favorite strawberry-print sundress, combed out her hair, applied mascara and lip gloss, and added her favorite necklace and earrings. Satisfied with the final result, Nora had headed back to the main house in the UTV she usually drove to get around the property.

Although she really had only gone to help Doña Alma, Nora had to admit she was just a little curious to see how the Ortegas' prodigal son would interact with everyone. She hadn't been working at the ranch the last time he'd been there for a visit. And from what she'd heard over the past few days, Gabe was known for keeping to himself and staying away from town.

Some things, and people, never changed.

That's why she'd asked him about whether he was staying for good. She wanted to hear him say it. Even if she already knew not to believe him. She'd learned that lesson a long time ago.

Nora would never understand why the second-oldest Ortega brother didn't like to stay at Rancho Lindo very long. This was his home. It could be his future too. But he'd never wanted it.


  • "Sol’s nimble plotting and characterization make it easy to emotionally invest in this winning couple. Standout supporting characters—including Gabe’s abuelita, who’s always whipping up delectable-sounding dishes, and his many handsome brothers—spell good things for the series to come. Readers will be hooked." —Publishers Weekly

On Sale
Nov 29, 2022
Page Count
352 pages

Sabrina Sol

About the Author

Sabrina Sol is the chica who loves love. She writes sexy romance stories featuring strong and smart Latina heroines in search of their Happily Ever Afters. Sabrina and her books have been featured in Entertainment Weekly, Bookriot, and PopSugar, and her Delicious Desires series has made The Latina Book Club’s annual Books of the Year lists. Sabrina’s common themes of food, family and love are weaved into intricate plots that all connect for a powerful read that lingers in the hearts of readers. She is proud of her Mexican-American heritage, culture, and traditions—all of which can be found within the pages of her books. Sabrina is a native of Southern California, where she currently lives with her husband, three children, and four dogs. 

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