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Book 1: The Redesigned Ranch (Horseshoe Home Ranch)

Book 1: The Redesigned Ranch (Horseshoe Home Ranch)

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Embark on an unforgettable journey when you visit Horseshoe Home Ranch, where faith, love, and second chances abound.

START HERE! This is the first book in the Horseshoe Home Ranch Romance series. 

About THE REDESIGNED RANCH: The ranch foreman, the fiery interior designer he hires, and an old flame that could burn them both…As they navigate the challenges of working together, they grapple with their escalating attraction. But Jace is still far from forgiving his runaway bride, and he's unsure whether he's ready to let someone as vibrant and passionate as Belle into his guarded heart. Can Belle's patience and faith help Jace find the path to forgiveness and lead them to discover their own slice of happily-ever-after?

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Read Chapter 1 Now!

The chilled bite of the winter wind pulled against Jace Lovell’s cowboy hat, causing him to reach up and press one palm firmly on top of his head to keep it in place. A native of Gold Valley, Montana—and now the foreman at Horseshoe Home Ranch that spread partway up one of the mountains that surrounded the valley—Jace understood the weather. Almost like he and Mother Nature had come to an agreement.

But he didn’t smile at the drifts of snow along the path leading from his cabin to the administration lodge or the promise of more wet weather. He wasn’t planning on smiling at all. Because today, he had to conduct interviews to hire an interior designer to “renovate everything.”

Yep, those were the directions he’d received from the ranch owner’s wife, Gloria Brush. Renovate everything. Cowboy cabins—including his—the administration lodge, even the organization and flow of the tack rooms, and stables, and barns. Everything.

And Jace, as foreman, had to sit through an entire day of interviews. Caged between the walls, when he could be feeding cattle, or sweeping out horse stalls, or almost anything but talking to people and sitting in a chair all day.

At least the interior designers were coming to him. He climbed the stairs to the administration lodge—which functioned and looked just fine to him—and pushed through the door. A rush of heated air warmed his skin, driving away the icy chill that had kissed his cheeks. He lifted his hat, ran his fingers through his dark hair, and settled the hat back into place.

The lodge buzzed with activity. In anticipation of the upcoming interviews, he had the boys organizing tables and chairs this morning. He took a deep breath and tried to imagine the spacious building differently. But he didn’t have the eye or mind of a designer and couldn’t really picture anything that wasn’t already there. Surely the designer wouldn’t be satisfied with functionality, oh, no. Leave it to Gloria to try to make a cattle ranch feel like a day spa.

Jace wasn’t entirely sure why Gloria wanted to remodel, and a skin of worry encased him. Were they preparing to sell Horseshoe Home? What would become of him if they did? He’d just gotten his footing as foreman and he’d grown up on the ranch as his father had been foreman before Jace.

He squared his shoulders and dismissed his rampant worries. He’d ask Gloria why she wanted the renovation the next chance he got. No sense in worrying about it until then.

As he glanced around, he noticed that the carpet was worn, but this was a working ranch with two-dozen cowboys coming and going. The walls had been repainted a bright white just last year. He’d spearheaded that campaign during one of the worst weather weeks Montana had ever witnessed. Besides feeding and watering the livestock, the cowboys stayed indoors. Sixty degrees below zero would do that to a ranch.

The high ceilings bore the skeleton of the majestic wooden structure, with exposed beams slanting toward the pinnacle of the roof. Desks and chairs littered the open space out front, and doorways lined the perimeter. See, the lodge used to be the homestead. So the kitchen had stayed put, but the large dining room had been set up as a break room of sorts, where cowboys could eat lunch or relax.

The bedrooms down the hall functioned as offices for the accountant, the foreman, and the owner. The open living area had become their meeting room, and a few of the cowboys had desks to keep sales reports, folders of information about feed supplies, and whatever else they needed to do their particular job well.

“All set, boss.” Landon, the tall former rodeo star approached Jace. “I even had Howie clean the bathrooms.”

The owner had a cleaning service come through the lodge every week, but they weren’t scheduled to come until Thursday—and that was nowhere near enough with thirty men using the building day in and day out.

“Thanks.” Jace made his voice as friendly as he could, because he couldn’t get his lips to curve upward. “And we’ll be meeting them—” He glanced toward the flurry of activity in the open area to his left. “In my office?”

“You said you didn’t care where, and there’s a storm blowin’ in….” Landon cut a look toward a couple of rowdier cowhands, but they didn’t notice. “We’ll have the feeding done in an hour and then Rob said we could put on a movie after that while it snows.”

Jace fisted his hand so he wouldn’t pinch the bridge of his nose. It was only Monday—he had a long week ahead of him, if showing movies was any indication.

“Thought the best place for that was here,” Landon said. “But I can—”

“It’s fine, Landon.” Jace had asked him to get things set up and keep the cowboys busy. “I guess I’ll be in my office. Will you show the first applicant back when they arrive?”

“Sure thing, boss,” Landon called after him, as Jace had already started walking away. He maneuvered through the maze and escaped down the hall. His office sat through the first door on the right, and a sense of calm prevailed after he shut the door. He closed his eyes and thought, Help me get through this day.

He wasn’t terribly religious, but since his brother, Tom, had moved back to Gold Valley, Jace had been attending church with him and his family. Maybe some of the pastor’s words about prayer had infused into Jace’s mind.

No matter what, he felt calmer as he settled behind his desk, ran his hands down his face and over his beard, and opened the first folder. He’d prepared them on Saturday afternoon after he’d de-iced the outdoor watering troughs. He hadn’t had a chance to review every applicant, and he probably wouldn’t be able to finish that job before the first applicant arrived for her interview.

Jace had known enough to ask for a portfolio from each applicant, and he flipped the page to see what this first one had designed. So many pastels met his eye he wondered if he’d been swallowed by a rainbow. He could not imagine walking into a cowboy cabin only to be greeted by sea green walls and lavender cabinets.

Wild hope that the approaching storm would keep the applicants in town tore through him. Maybe he could put this off until another day. He closed the folder just as someone knocked on the door. Heart sinking, he called, “C’mon in.”

The door opened, showing Landon standing just to the side of the doorway. “Right in there, ma’am.”

A woman entered, her dark hair plaited, with the end of her braid riding over her shoulder. She wore a professional pantsuit and carried a leather briefcase purse. Sourness stained the back of Jace’s throat. She wasn’t Wendy, but her clothing and accessory selections reminded him so much of his ex that Jace thought seriously about bolting.

After all, that was what she’d done.

He stuffed his emotions down to the bottom of his steel-tipped cowboy boots and stood. “Hello.” He tried not to feel intimidated by her, but the truth was, the feeling that he was outclassed in every sense of the word flowed through him like a fast-moving river.

His panic only increased as the interview commenced. He made it through, told Miss Purple Pastel that he’d let her know very soon, and let her go. He pulled the door closed behind her, and Jace paced back to the window. Sure enough, fat flakes had started to drift down to the ground, adding to the already high piles of snow.

His thoughts fled to Wendy, as they always did when he let his guard down. She’d left him after three years together. Left him standing at the altar by himself—oh, and half the town in attendance. Left him for a more exciting life and career in Los Angeles. Everything about that designer reminded him of Wendy, and for that reason alone—not to mention the horrendous pastels—he couldn’t hire her.

Another knock sounded. Another woman entered. Another interview started. Miss Wood Nymph favored dark woods and light, gauzy materials. Jace wondered if such curtains would withstand a single day against twenty-four cowhands.

Miss Giddy bubbled into the room with giggles and grins, spoke the same way, and left in a cloud of expensive-smelling perfume. By lunch, Jace knew today was shaping up to be the worst day he’d ever experienced on the ranch. And he hated that, because the ranch was his safe haven. The one place Wendy hadn’t permeated, hadn’t poisoned, hadn’t permanently altered in his life.

Three more interviews, and still Jace didn’t see something in the folders—or the applicants—he thought might fit at Horseshoe Home. Finally, only one folder remained on his desk. He didn’t bother to open it. All the designers had brought a copy of their designs for the different spaces on the ranch.

Landon opened the door and said, “Miss Belle.”

Jace snapped his head up, ice sinking through his chest, coating his lungs and internal organs in stiff blocks he’d never escape. Why hadn’t—?

“Well, look at you.” Belle strode forward, her luxurious auburn hair flowing behind her like a curtain. She’d pinned back only the very front, leaving the rest to frame her high cheekbones, her bright green eyes, and her very glossed lips.

Jace yanked his attention away from those lips, which had always intrigued him. “Look at me?” he asked, making a conscious effort not to reach up and smooth down his beard like he did when he wanted to look his best. “Look at you. What happened? Did Sacramento run out of red lipstick? You had to come all the way to Gold Valley to get stocked up?”

“Ha ha.” She swept him from head to toe. “I see you’re still wearing that ridiculous hat.”

“Everyone wears these hats,” he shot back. “We’re cowboys.”

“Yes, well, most decent men buy a replacement every few years.” She sniffed as she perched on the edge of the chair across from his desk and pulled a folder from her purse. No briefcase bag. No pretentious heels—Belle didn’t need them. She stood almost as tall as her brother, Landon.

The snake, Jace thought as he rounded the desk and took his seat. Landon should’ve told him his sister had applied. Growing up, Jace had never seen eye-to-eye with the redhead, though he did enjoy trading jabs with her when she visited from her hoity-toity job at a design firm in Sacramento.

Instead of focusing on her tight black jeans and flowing top of cobalt blue—which he thought made her hair look positively decadent—he flipped open the folder to check her address. “You moved back?”

She shrugged one shoulder, the silky blouse she wore slipping a little. “My parents are on a six-month service mission in Africa. I’m taking care of the house.”

He returned his gaze to the folder, which was safer than drinking in Belle’s curves. “Mm hm.” He’d heard that before. Pretty princess left home, and instead of admitting that the world had chewed her up, she came home “to take care of the house.”

“You must be tired.” Her tone, which someone less experienced than Jace could’ve misinterpreted to be sympathetic, caused him to abandon the folder.

“Why do you say that?” Jace knew Belle’s body didn’t actually house sympathetic bones, even though she dressed it up nice and sprayed intoxicating, lilac-scented perfume across her collarbone. His gaze dropped to that spot, and her golden skin made his blood run a little faster.

“You didn’t even make a joke about me taking care of the house.”

Jace opened his mouth to say something, but closed it when nothing came to mind. “It’s been a long day. Let’s get this over with.” With effort, he closed her folder and shoved his traitorous thoughts about Belle’s attractiveness to the back of his mind. “Did you bring your portfolio?”

* * *

Belle’s stomach flipped and flopped like a fish someone had left to die on the shore. Jace took forever to look at her portfolio, and he knew it. Was enjoying making her wait on him—just like he always had. At least not everything in Belle’s world had exploded when she’d lost her job in Sacramento. It only felt that way, especially being back in her hometown and having to see everyone who’d never left.

“What’s the last thing you worked on?” he asked, the slow rumble of his voice sending a shiver through her body.

Belle smiled, and it actually felt real on her face. “I did an old ranch-style house near the Redwoods. Beautiful setting. Trees everywhere. Lots of natural wood.” She slid an oversized sheet toward him. The vibrant photos didn’t do the place justice. She’d loved that property, the serenity she’d felt in those woods. In truth, she’d been hoping to recapture some of those feelings in Gold Valley, which boasted of the same slow pace of life, similar mountains and trees and peace.

“This is nice, Belle.” He glanced up at her. Not long enough to truly make eye contact, but she heard the sincerity in his voice. She basked in the compliment, as she hadn’t had many in a long time.

“Nice?” came out of her mouth. She cursed her quick wit—and Jace Lovell. He seemed to bring out the sharpest edge to her tongue.

His eyes came up more slowly this time and sank into hers. She could lose herself in the deep, dark depths of them—if she were anywhere close to even thinking about dating a man. And even if she was, he would most certainly not be a rancher, a friend of her brother’s, or Jace Lovell. Three strikes against him.

He’s out, she told herself firmly.

Still, he had beautiful eyes. And a full beard she wanted to trace her fingers through. “It’s more than nice. That’s gorgeous work.”

“Gorgeous?” He turned the paper over as if there’d be evidence of gorgeousness on the back. “I guess you’re the expert.” He put it unceremoniously in the folder and closed the file. “I’ll let you know soon.”

“How many applicants did you have?” She leaned back and crossed her legs. Just because he was the interviewer didn’t mean she couldn’t ask some of her own questions.

He stared at her, and she didn’t entirely hate the way his gaze seemed to see past all of her carefully crafted defenses. “’Bout eight, I reckon.”

“You reckon?” She laughed. “It’s a number,” she said. “It’s either seven, or eight, or nine. There’s no guessing at it.”

He came around the desk and sat on the edge of it, his powerful presence combined with the delicious scent of his cologne nearly knocking Belle backward. She straightened her spine to maintain her position, especially when he crossed those enormous arms. He must eat a pound of meat for every meal to keep muscles like that.

“Since we’re keeping track of torture,” he growled. “Eight.”

“Are any of them better than me?”

“All of ’em.”

Her heart sank, though she knew Jace had only said that to rub at her. Maybe he had seen her extreme insecurity when he stared at her. She swallowed hard, trying to find her center and pull all her masks back in place.

Finally, she stood and tossed her purse strap over her shoulder. “Well, it’s been a pleasure, Mister Lovell.” She made her voice sticky sweet and as Southern as possible. She flounced toward the door, turning back with her hand on the knob. “You still oiling your beard?”

She didn’t wait for him to answer. She flung him a smirk and practically ran from his office before he could respond. Ooh, that’d make him mad. A tug of regret pulled through her, but she couldn’t afford for him to see anything but the powerhouse Belle had been when she’d gone off to Sacramento to conquer the world.

Belle noticed the traveling eyes of the cowboys who watched her as she wove through the desks, tables, and chairs toward the exit. Landon had kept them all at bay since she’d returned to Gold Valley two weeks ago.

Isn’t that just like Jace not to know I’d come home? she thought as she faced the winter storm. Indignation filled her, marred by a tiny part of her that simply felt wounded. Sure, she and Jace weren’t going to text and hang out, but she considered him a friend. Maybe not a close one, or one she actually wanted to spend much time with, but at least someone who should’ve known she’d come back.

As she drove along the sloppy ruts in the road toward civilization, she remembered that she hadn’t seen him at all either. Not at church, though she’d only gone once and sat in the balcony so she could escape quicker. Not in town. Nowhere. Landon had told her he was the foreman now, so maybe that kept him busier than she would have thought.

Please help me get this job. Her fingers turned white from her death grip on the steering wheel, and a rush of fear made her wish she could recall her poisoned words about Jace’s beard. Even if he did oil it, she shouldn’t have said so—not if she wanted to get the job. She turned back onto the paved, snow-plowed highway and headed for the town of Gold Valley, her mind churning.

Maybe she should go back. Apologize about the beard comment. Her mouth turned dry at the thought of maybe tracing her fingertips along Jace’s jaw…. Her phone chimed as she made it out of the canyon. Six texts from her new supervisor at the design firm had come in at the same time. She realized she didn’t have cell service in the canyon or up at the ranch, and hurried to call him back.

“Hey, Calvin,” she said when he answered.

“Where have you been? The samples for the Montgomery cabin came in, and I need you here.”

“You sent me out to Horseshoe Home Ranch.” The saucy side of Belle almost added, “Remember?” but she managed to swallow the word back before it came out. She would’ve said it to Jace, but Calvin was as far from Jace as someone could get. He wouldn’t appreciate it—but he didn’t have the authority to cut her loose because of it.

“Oh, right.” Shuffling came through the line, and Belle suspected his attention had already shifted to something else. “How did it go?”

“Great,” Belle said, hoping she wasn’t fibbing. “He said I’d know soon.”

“I hope so,” Calvin said. “You need to book a client.”

I know, she wanted to scream. Calvin had made his opinion of her very clear, and he wasn’t impressed. She came with no loyal clients, no prospects, no accounts, and hardly any experience. A year in the Sacramento firm, where she’d basically been an intern to the top designer there, hadn’t exactly catapulted her career.

“I feel good about it.” Her voice sounded false and too bright to her own ears.

“Feeling good about something doesn’t mean much.”

“I’ll be back to the office in a few minutes.” One glance at the clock on her dashboard told her she should’ve finished work fifteen minutes ago. But when Calvin called….

“No need,” he said. “We’ll go over these samples first thing in the morning. Don’t forget my coffee.” He hung up before Belle could confirm.

Steam practically leaked from her ears. She was his colleague, not his secretary. She paid for her own desk space, same as he did. He brought in more money to the conglomerate, sure. But that didn’t mean she had to bring him coffee. In fact, he’d “asked” her several times to bring him a cappuccino, and each time she’d “forgotten.”

She’d “forget” tomorrow too, even though her forgetfulness probably lowered his opinion of her. “Can’t get much lower,” she muttered to herself as she rounded the corner and came face-to-face with the horseshoe-shaped waterfalls. Past them, she finally saw the outskirts of town ahead.

Belle didn’t care. She wasn’t going to take the guy coffee. She’d land the account at Horseshoe Home, and start saving to open her own design company. She knew she was a good designer—better than anyone else in Gold Valley. She’d signed on with the design firm for legitimacy, to have a name to put on her business cards, but she dreamed of having her name speak for itself, her own name on her stationery, on the side of a building.

She prayed again for help from the Lord as the desperation to accomplish all she hoped to do crowded her lungs and made her gasp for air.

What Readers are Saying

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ “I enjoyed the story of Belle and Jace and their developing love story. It took time to develop the trust needed to fall in love. It was clean romance story with a very faith based history. Definitely feel like it will be a happily ever after story. I envision them building a family and their story continuing.” ~Jodi W.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ “It's wonderful to find a new author I enjoy so much I want to read everything she has written. The western setting is authentic, the characters so real that the hero is actually allowed to shed tears of happiness when he has a happier ending on his second trip to the altar. This author has an allusion to sex but it doesn't let it fill page after page of needless detail. The plot doesn't need it to overrun the story. Her style of writing moves easily through the pages and a nitpicker such as I found only one spelling error and that was one easily missed when editing. A must read!” ~Nancy P.

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