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Book 6: Second Chance Family (Horseshoe Home Ranch)

Book 6: Second Chance Family (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.

About SECOND CHANCE FAMILY: A handsome cowboy, a single mother, and a second chance for these high school sweethearts… Ty is quick to realize that River Lee needs time to adjust to her new job, her new home, and her life as a single mother. But patience has never been Ty's strong suit. He knows he wants River Lee in his life—but the question is, can he navigate the delicate steps needed to make her stay with him?

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Read Chapter 1 Now!

Ty Barker sang along to the radio as he wound down the canyon, Horseshoe Home Ranch in his rearview mirror. He belted out the lyrics, the tune catchy and the singer’s voice in the exact range of Ty’s capabilities.

The song ended, and Ty slung his arm out the open window, the whole afternoon ahead of him. “That’s a good song, right there, Owen,” he said, as if the country music star who used to live in Gold Valley rode shotgun next to him. Of course he didn’t, but Ty felt a connection to Owen Carr anyway, mostly because he’d been covering the staff horseback riding lessons at Silver Creek since the cowboy left a couple of summers ago.

Everyone Ty knew had found some way to move on, leave him behind. Caleb had gotten married. Jace and Tom too. There were several cowboys at Horseshoe Home that weren’t attached, but they all seemed much younger than Ty, and he definitely felt isolated from the crowd where he’d once fit.

Another song came on, and Ty exchanged his troubled thoughts for the lyrics he had memorized. The sun shone overhead, and everything in Gold Valley seemed carpeted in shades of green, from the sagebrush surrounding the waterfalls, to the lawn framing the church, to the trees towering at the park.

A sense of contentment filled Ty at the familiar sight of the only home he’d ever known. He hadn’t left and traveled like some did. He hadn’t joined the rodeo. He’d never left Gold Valley; couldn’t even understand why someone would want to.

Both of his sisters—one older and one younger—had felt the pull to other parts of the country, leaving Ty here to take care of his parents and the house they’d all grown up in. Ty didn’t mind. He liked getting away from the ranch, enjoyed an easy afternoon of mowing the lawn and shaping the shrubbery along his parents’ front walk. If he could get the morning chores—which no one wanted on Saturdays except for him—he’d stay in town for the weekend dances that happened all summer long.

Tonight, in fact, and a smile stole across his face. He drove through downtown, his gaze wandering to the park where the dance would be later that evening, the weight of needing more committee members pulling on his mind. 

A horn sounded, and Ty refocused his attention forward just in time to see the red light. He slammed on his brakes moments before a blue truck sailed in front of him. His head snapped forward and then back, and his heart catapulted to the base of his throat. “Can’t dance if you’re dead,” he muttered to himself, checking both directions before he inched forward again, even though his light had turned green.

He kept his mind on driving for the rest of the way to Silver Creek, where he arrived with a half hour to spare before the riding lessons began. After walking around the barn from the parking lot, he entered it and moved down the row of horses, greeting them all as if they were old friends.

Ty paused outside Pompeii’s stall—which was empty. The patients at Silver Creek didn’t ride on Saturdays, so the horse shouldn’t have been gone. Ty glanced around, his pulse skipping ahead of itself once more.

“Where is he?” he asked a smaller horse named Kimchi. “He’s all right, isn’t he?” Ty considered horses as much his friends as humans, and his concern for the tall quarter horse spiked.

He vaulted the fence and landed in Pompeii’s stall, moving quickly toward the back opening that led to an outdoor arena. Though his boots made clomping noises against the cement, he could distinctly hear the uneven rhythm of horse’s hooves as he approached the arena.

Sure enough, a woman rode Pompeii in the arena, her hair fanning out like a fantastic white-blonde curtain behind her. He couldn’t see her face, but he could see she didn’t quite know how to get Pompeii to do what she wanted. The horse’s gait was stilted, and she yanked on the reins when she wanted him to go right, but he didn’t. 

Ty climbed the rungs on the fence and sat on the top one. “You’re squeezin’ ’im too tight,” he called.

The woman swung toward him, surprise etched across her face. She yelped as Pompeii also turned his attention to Ty—and then headed right for him.

Shock traveled through Ty as the horse rose into a gallop, and he scrambled over the fence just as Pompeii arrived, skidding to a stop and throwing the woman from his back.

Her scream embedded itself into Ty’s ears, his mind, his very soul, before she landed right on top of him.

They both collapsed to the ground in a flurry of limbs and grunts. Ty ended up on the bottom, the woman’s elbow digging painfully into his ribs, and her knee where no one’s knee should ever be.

Ty tried to hold still as pain radiated through his body from sole to skull, but the woman scrambled around, her limbs made of sharp points and sudden movements. He groaned as her elbow made contact with his stomach.

“What was that?” she sputtered, trying desperately to find somewhere to lean her weight that wasn’t part of Ty. He’d appreciate that too, to tell the truth. In the end, she pressed both palms against his chest and pushed herself up.

The air rushed from Ty’s lungs, and he emitted a strangled sound as she gained her feet and started brushing off her decidedly city clothes. How she could move and breathe in jeans so tight and a blouse so silky almost seemed beyond Ty’s reasoning.

He took a few extra seconds to find a decent lungful of air, to realize that the aches in his muscles were just that—aches. Not breaks. 

“You were squeezin’ ’im too tight,” Ty drawled again as he got himself into a seated position. The woman’s bright blue eyes seemed so familiar, but he hadn’t seen hair so silvery-white on someone her age ever. “I was just trying to help.”

“Yeah, help me get thrown.”

Pompeii pawed the ground and Ty said, “I wouldn’t go back in there quite yet,” as the woman started to duck to go under the rungs. He got to his feet and dusted himself down. “He’s not interested in riding right now.”

“Thanks to you.”

Ire rose in Ty. “Who are you? Why are you out here ridin’ one of the horses by yourself?”

The woman shook out her hair and squared her shoulders. “I’m new here. I was waiting for the riding instructor, and thought I’d give it a try.”

Ty’s eyebrows shot up. “You thought you’d give riding a horse a try?”

“I rode when I was younger.” She rolled her right shoulder—Ty wondered if it ached the way his did—and trained those aquamarine eyes of hers right on his. Ty forgot his own name for a moment. Because he’d suddenly remembered hers.

“River Lee?”

She flinched, and dark shutters drew themselves over those crystal clear eyes. “I go by River now.”

Every organ in Ty’s body danced the tango. River Lee Whitely had returned to Gold Valley. His heart remembered the last time he’d seen her, and it clenched painfully at the same time hope soared through him.

“River Lee Whitely.” He chuckled and shook his head, his usual playfulness rising within him. “You didn’t ride when you were younger.”

“I’ve been on a horse before, Ty.”

So she remembered him too. He wondered if her memories were as strong as his, as saturated with the color and sound of the fair, the taste of that caramel apple they’d shared—and the kiss that followed it.

Ty swallowed hard, his fantasies suddenly overwhelming his memories. “But you didn’t ride,” he said. “If I remember right, you sat right behind me in the saddle, no work necessary.” He slid her a playful smile, wondering—and hoping—it would work as well now as it had fifteen years ago. 

Judging by the insta-scowl on her face, his smile had lost some of its charm. A ripple of unease tripped through Ty. “Well,” he said. “I’m your riding instructor today, but the lesson doesn’t start for another twenty minutes.”

* * *

River blinked at Ty, sure she’d heard him wrong. He was her riding instructor? Half of her wanted to march over to the office and demand someone else. She knew it would be pointless. The director of Silver Creek, Dr. Richards, didn’t work weekends. The office wasn’t even open as only a skeleton staff stayed on-site through the weekends. And she had to be trained with horses to keep the job.

Another set of blue eyes danced through her mind. Her daughter, Lexi’s. And another pair: Hannah’s. River needed this job, for herself and her two daughters. 

She blinked and breathed, and when she looked at Ty again, his stunning, sunny hazel eyes stared back at her, no blue in sight. She could take riding lessons from him. It wasn’t like they’d be dating or anything.

“I’ll get Pompeii back in his stall.” Ty went over the fence, not through it like River was going to, and held the horse’s reins in his hand before River had even moved. The horse didn’t snort or paw at him, and he spoke to it like it was his grandmother, soothing and low and with a slight coo in his voice.

River shouldn’t have been surprised. Ty Barker had always had a way with horses, with dogs—and with girls. River remembered their fun-filled summer together, those hot nights they walked around the town and up to the waterfalls, the single kiss she’d shared with him.

“You comin’?” 

She shook herself out of the memory and found him already at the door leading inside. She strode after him despite the hitch of pain in her right ankle and the slight discomfort in her shoulders, wishing she looked more like a resident of Gold Valley instead of where she’d come from: Las Vegas.

At least it was summer in Montana, and she didn’t need to buy a whole new wardrobe for a few more months. “Why do we have to take him back?” she asked.

“Well, for starters, you didn’t put his saddle on right. So that needs to be redone. And secondly, you’re not the only person in the lesson. It’s a group lesson, and I was told there were four of you starting today.”

“Four of us?” River had only been back in town for a week, and she’d only signed her employment paperwork on Wednesday. She’d start with a group of girls on Monday, and Dr. Richards wanted her to learn to ride a horse over the next twelve weeks—just like the girls did when they came to Silver Creek. 

“This place turns over counselors like they’re pancakes.” Ty led the horse back into his stall while River took the path between two stalls and out to the front of the barn. 

“They do?” River hated that everything she’d said had been a question.

“It’s a tough job,” he said. 

Fear boiled inside her, along with a healthy helping of indignation. “Have you done it?”

He laughed, the sound as full and glorious as it had been when River was a teenager. She shivered and a spring of desire to hear his chuckle again bubbled up inside her. She couldn’t believe a noise she hadn’t heard in a long, long time could elicit such a strong reaction from her. Like the lyrics of a song, his laugh had never left her mind, even if she couldn’t recall it at will.

“I work at Horseshoe Home,” he said. “I only do this on the weekends.” He scanned her, a hint of something mischievous in his eye. She shifted her feet, noticing how his muscles filled out his shoulders, his arms, his chest. He’d been broad as a sixteen-year-old, but skinny. Now he had the form of a man who worked a ranch and tamed wild horses in his spare time. And she had a new hair color, two daughters under the age of five, and her old bedroom in her parents’ house.

“So, what brings you back to town?” he asked as he removed the offensive saddle and redid the work.

River opened her mouth to answer, glad when two other men showed up before she could speak. They both wore cowboy hats and boots, and once again, River felt completely misdressed.

“You must be Ty,” one of them said. He shook hands with Ty over the railing and then glanced at River. “I’m Rueben.”

Introductions were made, and conversations started, and River did her best to paint her smile in place and speak only when spoken to. Her strategy worked, and before she knew it, Ty had paired her with a much smaller, red-haired horse named, believe it or not, Ole Red.

What Readers are Saying

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ “ I could not put it down and finished it a few minutes ago. This book is packed with fun, activity, cowboys, parades, friends, doubts, frustrations, laughter, tears, and love.” ~Darlene R.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ “This was a sweet and captivating love story!!! I enjoyed this book very much. Another winner by Liz!! You won't be disappointed!” ~Elizabeth U.

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Inspirational tales of love, faith, and second chances in the heart of Montana. Come fall in love with your next cowboy boyfriend!

In this heartwarming series of Christian cowboy romance novels by USA Today bestselling author Liz Isaacson, each standalone tale is an invitation to explore the intertwined lives of rugged cowboys and the resilient women who win their hearts.