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Book 7: Eight Second Ride (Three Rivers Ranch Romance™)

Book 7: Eight Second Ride (Three Rivers Ranch Romance™)

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Escape to Three Rivers, Texas for small-town charm, sweet and sexy cowboys, and faith and family centered romance. 

About EIGHT SECOND RIDE: A champion bull rider, a barrel racing winner, and the ride of a lifetime as these enemies attempt to become lovers. In this heartwarming Christian cowboy rodeo romance, two lost souls and driven champions are given the unexpected chance to find love, rekindle their faith, and live their small town dreams on the dusty trails of Three Rivers Ranch.

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Read Chapter 1 Now!

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The clothes Brynn Bowman wore had never weighed so much. Of course, she’d never chosen her saggiest jeans, her oldest cowgirl boots, or a canvas jacket that should’ve been retired years ago to meet anyone before.

But Tanner Wolf had insisted she make the six-hour drive to the small, Texas town of Three Rivers to pick him up and drive him out to some ranch. Some ranch where some cowhand worked. Some ranch Tanner believed held the key to his calf roping future.

She pulled into the gas station on the northern edge of town, her defenses on high as she coasted to a stop next to Tanner himself. She left the engine idling as she got out and stretched her back, already aware of the murderous winds and cool early-December temperatures.

Tanner scanned her like she carried a contagious disease. “I told you to wear something nice.”

“I heard you,” Brynn said as she studied the horizon, where a storm threatened. She pinned him with her most spiteful glare. “I just don’t care about what you said.”

His dark eyes turned hard as coal, a look he usually wore for someone else. She’d tried a relationship with Tanner a few years back, and that had ended almost before it began. Fun and fast, the broken relationship had left Brynn’s fragile ego in pieces.

She’d been picking them up since, going out with a few men here and there, but each date seemed forced, with cowboys who could only talk about one thing: rodeo.

Brynn wanted someone, anyone, but a cowboy. Someone who could see she was more than a champion barrel racer. Someone who knew a woman had more to her than a title—if she could even get them to notice she was a woman at all.

Tanner sighed, the fight leaving his expression as he yanked open the passenger door of her truck. “I’m surprised this old beast made it down here.”

She’d brought her father’s truck, half-hoping it would break down on the Interstate somewhere in Southern Colorado. Then she wouldn’t have to be Tanner’s errand girl. Why she’d said she’d help him, she wasn’t sure.

Oh, yes, she was. As she slid into the driver’s seat and buckled up, she remembered why she’d driven almost four hundred miles. Whoever lived out at Three Rivers Ranch would be better than Tanner inviting her ex-fiancé to be his calf roping partner. She hadn’t backed down in that argument, and her payment was to help Tanner find a suitable header who could train in time for the start of the rodeo season.

“You remember what to say?”

She snorted as she accelerated along the two-lane road. “You practically gave me a script. Say this. Don’t say that.” She lifted her hand and faced her palm toward him when he opened his mouth to speak. “I got it.”

“I could just call Da—”

“Don’t you dare,” she hissed. “I’ll get this guy to agree. What’s his name again?”

“Ethan,” Tanner said, his voice on the outer edge of frustration. “And I don’t know how you’re gonna convince anyone that joinin’ the rodeo circuit is a good thing.” He reached over and slid his finger down her leg like he could collect a bunch of dust from her faded jeans. “Ethan likes pretty women.”

Great, she thought. Another shallow cowboy. Just what Brynn needed. She’d been raised by a single father who couldn’t breathe if he wasn’t in a stable, along with two older brothers who trained horses twenty-four/seven. Becoming a barrel racer had been in her blood, and she couldn’t deny that any more than she could force herself to stop breathing.

But after her mama had died a decade ago, Brynn craved the company of someone who didn’t wear a cowboy hat, didn’t know which brand of boots were best for bull riding, didn’t care who currently held the top spot for the Xtreme Bulls Riding Championship.

In her circles, someone like that didn’t exist. As Brynn made the turn from highway to dirt road, she considered—again—quitting the rodeo altogether. She wondered what her father would say then.

She pulled into a nice parking lot in front of a newer building and swung her attention to Tanner. “Okay. So where is he?”

Tanner checked his watch like he didn’t know what time it was. “He’ll be in the horse barn. Invite him to dinner.”

Annoyance flashed through Brynn with the speed of a flash flood. She contained it behind a poisonous smile. “You got it, boss.”

“Don’t call me—” She slammed the truck door, effectively silencing Tanner’s words. The horse barn sat across the street to the north, and Brynn strode in that direction. Her pulse thrummed, though she did have Tanner’s blasted script memorized.

The sun dipped lower in the sky as she walked, and she cursed winter. At least in Texas, there wasn’t two feet of snow on the ground. A few seconds passed before her eyes adjusted to the dim interior of the barn. Someone moved at the far end, and she went that way, reaching her fingers out and petting the multiple horse noses that stretched over the fence to smell her.

The clothes she’d chosen definitely smelled like they belonged on a ranch. The cowboy heard her coming and turned in her direction. He tipped his hat with one hand while he kept a firm grip on the reins of a large black stallion with the other.

“What can I do for you?” he asked, his voice as soft as melting butter. Something vibrated inside her chest. What would her name sound like in his velvety voice?

He’s a cowboy, she told herself sternly. And probably about to become a bull rider. Which, in Brynn’s opinion, was ten times worse.

“I’m lookin’ for Ethan Greene,” she said.

The cowboy paused in his work completely. “You found ‘im.” He looked her up and down, his bright blue eyes arcing with lightning. His mouth settled into a tight line, his teeth obviously clenched. “Give me two seconds to put Lincoln away.”

She wandered down the aisle as he spoke in a low tone and secured the gate on the horse’s pen before joining her. In the waning light coming from the barn’s entrance, Brynn found broad shoulders, a hint of blond hair under his cowboy hat, and very capable hands on Ethan.

“I’m Brynn, a friend of Tanner Wolf,” she started.

“Oh, boy.” Ethan stopped and swiped his hat off his head. “He sent out a pretty woman to try to convince me to be a calf roper?”

Warmth flowed through Brynn at his assessment of her looks. She tried to shake it away, tamp it down, but it didn’t go far.

“Look,” she said, glad her voice didn’t sound too sweet, or too emotional, the way she felt. “I don’t really care if it’s you or someone else who becomes his header. It just can’t be Da—” She clamped her lips shut. No way she was saying his name. She didn’t want to explain about Dave Patton, not to this gorgeous stranger.

He peered at her, something alive and electric in his eyes as he tried to figure out how she might have finished that sentence. She stuck her hands in her pockets and lifted her chin. The end of her braid felt heavy against her chest; her boots squeezed against her toes. Why was this man’s gaze undoing all her hard-fought years of cowboy resistance? What about him was so magnetic?

No matter what it was, it pulled against her. Pulled, and pulled, and pulled, until she unpocketed her hands and unstuck her voice. “It’s a good gig,” she said. “Tanner said you’re the best rider he’s seen in years. So you’ll come train in Colorado Springs for a while. The pro circuit starts in February. If you can get a sponsor—and Tanner already has his lined up—then your travel and expenses are paid. It’s not a bad life. Regular season ends in September, usually, but you can do the pro circuit; that goes all the way into December. And the purse is pretty great if you win. Tanner’s looking to be a back-to-back champion in team roping.” At least she’d stuck mostly to the script. “You can rope?”

Ethan swallowed and she watched the motion of his suntanned throat. “Did Tanner say I could?”

She shrugged. “I didn’t get all the details.”

A chuckle escaped his lips, drawing her attention there. The temperature in the barn skyrocketed to summer proportions, and Brynn darted her eyes away.

“Right,” he drawled. “Because that didn’t sound like a sales pitch for the PRCA or anything.”

“Oh, so you know about the PRCA?”

His face darkened. “Used to be in it, cowgirl.”

The word lashed her insides, eradicating all previous heat she’d felt toward Ethan. “Fine, whatever. I don’t care if you’re his partner or not.” She finally got her legs to move toward the exit.

He matched her pace easily. “Sure you do. You just said it can be anyone but Da. Who’s Da?”

“No one,” she snapped.

“Why don’t you like the PRCA?”

“Who said I didn’t like it?” She stepped from the barn and the wind hit her like a punch to the nose. She flinched, but kept going.

“I have eyes,” he said, still at her side.

Oh, she’d almost lost herself in the depth of those eyes. She determinedly didn’t look at them again. Instead, she focused on Tanner, on the downward slide of his lips, on the way his shoulders lifted as if to say, Well, is he coming to dinner?


The word almost tripped her. “Hey,” she said, turning back. “Are you done here on the ranch?”

Ethan looked over her shoulder, which wasn’t hard as he stood a good eight inches taller than her. “Why? What’d you have in mind?” He took a step closer, something strange crossed his expression, and he fell back two paces.

“Dinner,” she said. “I drove all the way from Colorado Springs today, and I haven’t eaten since breakfast.” She omitted the fact that her stomach had been rioting against her for days as she prepared for this trip.

Ethan glanced to where Tanner sat waiting in the cab of her truck. “Just me and you?”

Her gut flipped again, but this time because of the possibility of being alone with Ethan. “Sure.” She put on her most charming smile, the one she usually reserved for her father and the reporters. “Just me and you.”

* * *

Ethan didn’t think he’d ever showered as fast as he did after Brynn had said she’d go talk to Tanner and see if he could take her truck back to town so they could ride into Three Rivers together. He’d pointed her in the right direction to find his cabin, and said she could come on in when she was ready.

She wasn’t in the cabin when he emerged from the back bedroom, smelling like clean denim and his best, spicy cologne. His brain seemed to be battling with itself at a hundred miles an hour.

What are you doing?

Going to dinner.

You like her.

I do not. She invited me.

She’s pretty.

So what?

But Ethan knew he couldn’t go falling for another pretty woman. He’d asked out every available girl over the age of twenty-five in Three Rivers. Well, maybe not every single one. He’d gone on a few dates with the same woman several times, but the relationships always fizzled out. Half the time he got downright rejected when he asked, like Kelly Armstrong and Carly Winters had done.

He didn’t want to repeat his past mistakes. He’d been working for a solid year on reinventing himself, thinking that perhaps if he didn’t come at women with both guns blazing, he’d have better success.

And yet, old habits never seemed to die. The way he stepped closer to Brynn, all “What’d you have in mind?” made his muscles tighten and his face heat up. He wasn’t going to take that approach, not with her.

Give me the words to say, he prayed as he moved through his cabin toward the front door. Help me be the man a woman would actually want.

The better part of his year had been spent soul-searching, first as he started going to church with Garth and his wife, Juliette. Then as he realized some of the mistakes he’d made in the past. Then as he started wanting to be the best person he could be. He still wasn’t sure who that man was, but he wasn’t giving up until he knew.

He pulled open the front door and found Brynn lying in the hammock he’d installed last summer, fast asleep. He analyzed her features while he could. Long, dark hair she’d plaited into a single braid. Dark skin that came from hours in the sun, probably while in a saddle. He recognized the gait of another rider easily enough. Even during his own rodeo days, he knew who the bull riders were, who preferred bronc riding, and who did barrel racing.

He’d pegged her for barrel racing, something that suited her lithe frame and strong spirit really well.

As he stood there contemplating her offer—well, Tanner’s offer—Ethan wondered if he could go back to the PRCA. He’d left because his girlfriend at the time didn’t want to travel for six months out of the year, and she couldn’t stand to be home alone while he was on the road.

He realized after he quit, and after Suzy left him, how paranoid she was. How insecure.

But he couldn’t force himself to go back—too much pride for that. But this…this could be a way back into the PRCA where he didn’t have to explain why he’d left. It had been six years, besides. No one would even recognize him.

At least he hoped not.

Ethan took a deep breath of the fresh, ranch air, and immediately regretted the idea of leaving this place. It had become home, even if he hadn’t been able to find anyone to share it with. Even if he’d watched most of his friends find love and settle down, have families.

He still had time. He told himself that on a regular basis, and today was no different.

A door slammed, startling his heart into overdrive and waking Brynn. The hammock rustled, the chain squealed, and she flung her legs over the side.

“Sorry,” she said, a delicious blush creeping from under her collar to kiss her cheeks.

Ethan cleared his throat to tame his thoughts. “It’s fine. We don’t have to go to dinner.”

She peered up at him from under long lashes, her mocha eyes capturing his gaze and devouring it whole. “You’re not hungry?”

“I’m hungry,” he managed to say through a dry throat. “More thirsty, really.”

“Hey, Ethan,” Garth called from next door. “You wanna—?” He cut off as Brynn unfolded herself from the hammock. “Oh.” Garth blinked like he’d never seen a woman before.

“I’m gonna head into town.” Ethan hooked his thumb over his shoulder in the direction of Three Rivers. “Should I get that feed while I’m there? Save you the trip.”

Garth leaned against his porch railing, his sharp foreman’s gaze missing nothing, including the tiny shuffle-step Ethan took to put a teensy bit more distance between him and Brynn. “Sure, why not?

“Great,” Ethan said. “Garth, this is Brynn….” He glanced at her, but she didn’t offer him her last name. “A friend of a friend. Brynn, this is my boss, Garth. He’s the foreman here at Three Rivers Ranch.”

Garth nodded at her, and she man-nodded right back. A flicker of attraction flared to life deep in Ethan’s core. He shouldn’t be that impressed by her aloof behavior, but he found Brynn…intriguing.

And beautiful, the soft part of his brain added.

“Okay, let’s go,” Ethan said, wanting to grab onto her arm and take her down the steps with him. But she didn’t exactly seem like the touchy-feely type. So he clomped down the stairs by himself, satisfied when she followed, caught up to him, and matched her stride to his.

He managed to make it to town without making a fool of himself. Which, for Ethan, meant he didn’t ask Brynn out for real or make any passes at her. A balloon filled with accomplishment swelled in his chest as he considered where to go for dinner.

“You like burgers?” he asked.

She wrinkled her nose. “Is there anywhere else?”

“You’re in Texas.” He glanced at her, sure she was joking. Who didn’t like a hamburger?

She glared at him. “Anything like Thai? Or a salad bar. I could really use something smothered in ranch dressing right now.”

Ethan refrained from rolling his eyes. “You know, you can have them put ranch dressing on a burger.” He turned left so he wouldn’t have to look at her, and headed for the all-you-can-eat buffet. They’d have rabbit food—and steak.

He pulled into the parking lot, but Brynn protested. “I can’t eat here.”

Ethan stopped his truck and full-on scanned her like he could find defects just by looking. “Why not?”

“Too many germs.” She shuddered.

“Good gravy,” he mumbled under his breath. “Why don’t you figure out where you want to go?” He didn’t mean the words to come out with such an acidic bite, especially because his tone made Brynn’s coffee-colored eyes frost over.

“I don’t know anywhere here.”

“How about I drive around and you tell me when you see something that looks satisfactory?”

He thought she’d like that, but her frown deepened and her fists clenched. “I don’t need to be catered to.” She reached for the door. “This is fine.”

Ethan punched the lock before she could grip the door handle. “This is not fine. You said you didn’t like buffets.”

“I can cope.”

“You don’t need to. There’s lots of places to eat. Maybe not Thai….”

She flexed her fingers and curled them tighter. Flex, curl. “Why do you care?”

You asked me to dinner. I’m just trying to be nice.”

“I don’t need you to be nice.”

Ethan sighed. Even when he tried a different tactic, he couldn’t win. “Look,” he said. “Let’s just start over.” He reached for his phone, which he’d tossed on the dashboard when he’d left the ranch. “How about I map some places and you let me know if they sound good?” He didn’t wait for her to respond. “Okay, great.” He opened his map app, and typed in “nearby restaurants.”

“All right, cowgirl, we’ve got—” He cut off at the sound of a growl coming from her throat. He glanced at her, impressed by how fast she could lock her jaw. “Okay, sorry.” He cleared his throat, wishing her anger didn’t make him want to call her cowgirl again, see if maybe she’d touch him, even if it was to slug him in the shoulder for being chauvinistic.

“Oh, look, Thai Pan.” He tilted the phone toward her. “Never been there. Can’t say if it’s good or not.” He suspected it wouldn’t be. Seriously, who came to the Texas Panhandle and wanted to eat Thai food?

He put his truck in gear when she didn’t argue and headed toward the western edge of town, where Thai Pan waited. With each passing moment, he wondered how Brynn had roped him into this dinner, into considering going back to the rodeo, into eating food with names he couldn’t even pronounce.

The previous veteran care handler had told her Three Rivers Ranch was another forty minutes north of town. Carly had half-thought she’d been kidding. But now, with her orchid satin heels pressing against the accelerator and the minutes ticking by, she realized Lex hadn’t exaggerated at all.

Dismay tore through her when her tires met dirt instead of asphalt, and she knew her shoes wouldn’t survive more than a couple of steps in the dust and gravel. She’d bought the heels as a graduation gift for herself when she’d finished her social work Master’s degree at TCU a couple of years ago, and they remained the most expensive piece of her wardrobe.

“This is a good job,” she breathed to herself as that wide-open sky continued to suffocate her. “It’s a promotion—one where you can afford to buy another pair of three hundred dollar shoes. So what if you have to come out to the sticks every couple of weeks? It’s going to be fine.”

But as she pulled her cute, compact car into the parking lot next to a newer building, a sinking sensation in her stomach spoke that nothing would be fine. Carly pulled up the zipper on her jacket and reached for the file of the veteran she’d come all the way out to this ranch to see: Reese Sanders.

A Sergeant, Reese had suffered massive core injuries from a bombing a few years ago. Carly had already pored over Lex’s notes, and she expected to find a “happy-go-lucky veteran who left his wheelchair behind after endless hours of horseback riding.”

After she’d read his file, Carly had admired his tenacity, the way he’d clawed himself back from the edge of physical devastation. She’d had a hint of that kind of heartache in her life too, but it tasted bitter in the back of her throat and she painted over it with a fresh layer of lipstick and a smile almost as bright as the near-spring sun.

One of her mother’s adages sprang to her mind. Comparison is the thief of joy.

Carly had tried to make the words mean something in her life, but with two Mary Poppins Practically Perfect in Every Way older sisters, and a twin sister that Carly was technically older than, she’d never quite been able to measure up.

Even her choice of social work—of dedicating her life to helping others—had been overshadowed by her twin’s acceptance into a Ph.D program.

She locked her car as she clicked across the blessedly paved parking lot, the familiar ba-beep! somehow strengthening her to carry out this meeting in her usual cheerful manner. The wind caught her hair and blew the blonde locks around her face. She scrambled for the door handle, the weather pulling at her skirt, her jacket, her file.

Almost like God had pressed the fast-forward button on her life, the wind ripped the folder from Carly’s grip. The folder containing all of Reese’s accomplishments. The folder the previous handler had warned her not to misplace or rearrange. The folder that symbolized the beginning of her new career.

The weather snatched at the pages, sent them twirling through the air, and Carly could do nothing but watch. All at once, her life resumed its normal pace—all except her pulse, which thundered at four times its normal speed. She swiped for the pages with her hands, stomped on others with her precious heels, even hipped one into the doorjamb to keep it from getting sucked into the open Texas range, never to be seen again.

As she attempted to gather together what pages she could, the crunching of paper behind her attracted her attention. She turned, hoping for a handsome cowboy with exceptional lassoing skills.

She got the handsome cowboy bit about right, and she straightened, forgetting about the need to keep her hip curved into the building.

“Let me help you.” He bent to grab a fistful of papers before they could be tornadoed away. When he straightened, his dark eyes sparkled with a smile, causing Carly’s chest to squeeze in a good way.

“That must be your purple car.” He nodded his cowboy-hatted head toward the parking lot.

Her defenses rose. “I like purple.”

The man drank in her orchid heels. “Obviously.”

“It gets good gas mileage.”

“I’m sure it does.” He took a couple of stunted steps forward, his hand outstretched, and understanding flooded her. “I’m Reese Sanders. What can I help you with?”

Instead of answering, she reached for his hand and catalogued the thrill that squirreled down her spine at the contact. Warmth from his skin bled into hers, and she allowed her lips to curve upward. “I’m looking for you, Sergeant Sanders.” With a measure of regret she didn’t quite understand, she withdrew her fingers from his. “I’m your new veteran care coordinator, Carly Watters.”

“Ah.” He glanced down at the papers again before pushing them toward her. “These must be Lex’s notes.” Reese shuffled backward, and it looked like he might fall. Carly automatically reached out to steady him.

The death glare he gave first to her hand on his forearm and then which he speared straight into her eyes left zero doubt about how he felt. She yanked her hand back, heat rising through her chest to her cheeks.

“S-sorry,” she mumbled, her pinpoint heels suddenly too small to hold her weight. She sagged into the building again, not caring that it slouched her figure, despite her mother’s warning voice in her head. “Can we go in? You were expecting me, right? Lex told me—”

“I’ve been expectin’ you, yeah.” He bent and collected a paper stuck against the glass, handed it to her, and entered the building before holding the door open for her. “We can meet in the conference room.” He nodded to the right. “Through there.”

Carly took a deep breath as she passed him, not because she wanted to get a better sense of his smoky, spicy scent, but because she needed the extra oxygen to settle her nerves. Hadn’t she read in that blasted file that Reese resisted help? That the only reason he’d even signed up for services was because someone else had called first?

Once inside the conference room, Carly shoved the papers back into the folder, intending to sort through them and put them back in order when she could be alone. She didn’t need him to witness first-hand her OCD when it came to her client’s files. She moved to the head of the table and sat down.

“So,” she started. “Tell me about your job here.”

Reese closed the door and moved to the chair next to hers. He possessed a fluidity in his injury, something Carly hadn’t expected. She admired the dark stubble along his jaw and found herself fantasizing about what it would feel like against her cheek. If his lips would be soft in comparison as they touched hers.

Her hand flew to her mouth as she sucked in a breath. She needed to find her center, stop this ridiculous train of crazy thoughts. Reese was a client. A veteran she was supposed to help. Nothing more.

“I’m the receptionist here at Courage Reins.” Reese spoke with quiet authority, and another traitorous trickle of delight made her skin prickle.

“I answer phones, make appointments, help with the horses. That kind of stuff.”

Carly pulled out a random piece of paper from the folder and flipped it over. She clicked her pen into operational mode and wrote something. What, she didn’t even know. She just wanted to look official, like she knew what she was doing. “You live in Three Rivers?”


“You drive out here everyday?”

“Everyday I want to get paid.”

Carly glanced up from her chicken scratch at the gruff amusement in his voice. His dark diamond eyes studied her, unsettling her and making her next question abandon her mind. Heat rumbled through her stomach, rising until it settled in her face. She shoved the useless notes back into the folder. “What can I help you with, Sergeant Sanders?”

He leaned away from the table, his injury nowhere near his impressive biceps. The biceps that bulged as he crossed his arms and continued watching her with those gorgeous eyes. He seemed to be able to see right through her pretended professionalism.

“I don’t need help,” he said. “I’m doin’ great. That’s what I told Lex a month ago, when she said she was leavin’.”

“It’s procedure when a new care coordinator—”

Reese lifted one hand, rendering her silent. “I know,” he said. “I get it. But I don’t need anything right now. I’m good.”

Oh, he was. Carly licked her lips and pressed them together, a slim vein of frustration sliding through her. She’d driven two hours for him to tell her he was good?

“Well, maybe I can get some groceries for you on my way back through town.”

“I do all my shopping online.”

Her eyebrows shot up. “You do your grocery shopping online?”

“You say that like I don’t know how to use a computer.” A deep chuckle accompanied the words. “It’s easy, Miss Carly. You just login to this app, order what you want, and show up at the store. They bring everything right to me. I don’t even get out of my truck.”

Of course he’d drive a truck. Probably one of those huge, obnoxious pick-ups that she could never see around. Still, she wanted to hear him say Miss Carly over and over.

She cleared her throat and straightened the already-straight file. “You sure there’s nothing you need? I could stick something in the oven, start a sprinkler, get your mail—”

His arms uncrossed and his left hand came down on hers. “Miss Carly, I don’t need anything. But if you wanted to hang around here for a while, I could show you the horses.”

Panic streamed through her, mixing with a wild thread of joy at his touch. She could hardly sort through how to feel, not to mention what to say.

Finally, her mind came up with He needs company. And she could give him that, if nothing else.

“I—Okay,” she said. “But I don’t think I’ve ever seen a horse up close.”

He looked at her like she’d just said she wasn’t human. “Well, Miss Carly, that simply won’t do.” He pushed against the table and stood. Carly noticed the weakness in his core, the difference in length between his left leg and his right. Even with his injuries, he radiated power and confidence as he reached the door and opened it.

Reese paused on the threshold. “Well? Come on. You can’t leave Three Rivers without seeing at least one horse.”

* * *

Reese had no idea why he’d invited Carly Watters to stay and see the horses. Even more surprising was that she’d agreed. He’d watched her war with something within, but in the end, she’d said yes.

Why’d you ask her at all? he wondered for the fifth time as he stepped onto the dirt road that led to the horse barn. He didn’t know. But he did like her bright, blue eyes, her platinum hair, her purple car.

“So tell me about you,” he said. “I’m sure that file gives you all my details.”

“Six older brothers,” Carly said. “From Amarillo. Served two deployments.” Her voice caught on the last word, and Reese slid her a glance. She seemed mortified by what she’d said.

“I know I served in the Army,” he said. “I know I got hurt. It’s okay to talk about.”

“Is it?” She peered at him like she wasn’t really sure.

“Yeah, sure.” Lex had assured him that her replacement was amazing. That she’d take good care of him. Reese didn’t need a lot now that he’d gotten the job at Courage Reins, now that he’d signed up for free shipping and online grocery shopping. But he missed Lex. She’d always been good company for him. He wondered if his file said that.

Lonely. A sad, lonely veteran whose best friends have four legs and long manes. Or are already married.

“How long have you been a care coordinator?” he asked, glad when his voice didn’t betray the storm of emotions stirring inside.

She gave a nervous giggle. “This is my first appointment.” She froze on the gravel, and he thought she’d hurt herself in those bright heels. “I’m totally doing it wrong, aren’t I?”

Reese retraced his steps back to her and hooked her elbow in his. “’Course not, Miss Carly. You’re keeping me company, and that’s exactly what I need right now.”

She gazed up at him, and Reese’s mind went into a tailspin. His pulse followed suit, and he forced himself to look away so he wouldn’t say or do something stupid. He took a slow step toward the barn, relieved when Carly came with him.

He hadn’t dated since he’d come home broken, three years ago. Hadn’t even thought about it. Had told Chelsea no over and over when she suggested women he could take out. But now, with Carly’s cold fingers pressing into his forearm, he thought maybe he was ready to take a step toward getting to know her.

“So, you?” he asked. “I do have six brothers, and they’re all married and successful. Does my file say that? That I’m seventh best? The seventh sergeant in the family?”

She shook her head, her loose curls brushing his arm. Fireworks tumbled up his arm and sparked in his shoulder. He hadn’t felt like this about anyone for so, so long. He hardly trusted himself to know what it meant.

“No, your file lists your family stats, but nothing about them. Where are they?”

Reese took a deep breath as they stepped out of the weak sunshine and into the barn. Just the presence of animals settled him. “You’re not getting out of telling me about yourself.” He led her past the first stall, heading for Elvis. He clucked his tongue at the black-and-white paint stallion.

“Oh, he’s gorgeous,” Carly breathed as the horse lumbered toward them.

Reese let Elvis snuffle against his hand. “He’s a thoroughbred. Won a few races before he hurt his leg.” He spoke with love and reverence about the horse. “I rescued him from death. When a racehorse can’t race….” He let the sentence hang there, grateful the gentle animal hadn’t lost his life.

He’d been saved, the same way Reese had. Though he’d struggled to find worth inside himself, he saw it in Elvis, and he knew God had rescued them both. It had taken Reese many long months to get to that place, and a sense of gratitude filled him every time he thought about his journey.

Elvis eyed Carly, and she shrank behind Reese. “Oh, come on, Miss Carly. He won’t bite.”

“He’s taller than I thought.”

Reese turned around. “Let’s go see Tabasco. He’s smaller.”

She went with him, sure and strong on such skinny heels. “Who names the horses?”

“Whoever owns them as foals. We don’t get a lot of those here on the ranch. Our horses are retired from working or whatever. We use them for therapy.” Further down the line, Tabasco waited with his head already over the fence.

“See? He’s much shorter.”

Carly reached hesitantly toward him, and Reese willed the bay to behave. He did, his eyes falling halfway closed as Carly stroked his cheek.

“He likes you.”

Carly beamed under the compliment, and Reese wanted to make her feel like that again. “So, your family?”

“I have three sisters. Two older, and one twin, who I’m four minutes older than.”

“A twin, huh?”

“Mirror twins,” she said. “My hair parts on the left, hers on the right. I have a dimple on my left cheek, hers is on the right.”

Reese had no idea what mirror twins meant, but before he could ask more, she said, “Basically everything Cassie does is right, while everything I do isn’t.”

He heard every syllable of resentment, of frustration, of sadness in her statement. In her next breath, she put on a happy smile and started asking him about the different kinds of horses.

Reese obliged and kept the conversation light and flowing. But he couldn’t shake the feeling that maybe Carly Watters was as lonely as he was.

What Readers are Saying

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ “Hang on tight! once you pick this book up you won't be able to put it down. I have loved rodeo since I was little and this book made me remember all the reasons why I do. A good horse and a handsome cowboy along with a spunky cowgirl make it a perfect book. You feel like you're there and go through the ups and downs with Brynn and Ethan. You cheer for them and hurt for them as they struggle to find their places in life.” ~HorseCrazy

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ “Liz has done it again! Loved this addition to the Three Rivers series - a beautiful story of Ethan's emotional and spiritual evolution and growing relationship with Brynn. Brynn's story is just as compelling. They were both able to make the seemingly difficult choice to step away from fame to build a better life without any guarantee their relationship would continue. The HEA was sweet and satisfying.” ~Gmalr

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Escape to Three Rivers, Texas for small-town charm, sweet and sexy cowboys, and faith and family centered romance. 

This is the series that started it all, and the world continues to grow in other cowboy romance series by USA Today bestselling and Top 10 Kindle All-Star Author, Liz Isaacson. You'll get second chance romance, friends to lovers. older brother's best friend, military romance, secret babies, and more! The Three Rivers cowboys and the women who rope their hearts are waiting for you, so start reading today!

  • Book 1: Second Chance Ranch

    A wounded Army cowboy, a divorcée with a child, and their second chance to heal old hurts...As Squire and Kelly work to save the ranch and navigate their complicated relationship, can they also give love a second chance, follow God’s plan for them, and build a family out of heartache?

  • Book 2: Third Time's the Charm

    He’s her brother’s best friend, and she’s so broken she’s sure not even the strong Army cowboy and his therapeutic riding program can help her… Can Pete and Chelsea confront their insecurities and learn to trust in love, acceptance, and the promise of a brighter future together?

  • Book 3: Fourth and Long

    A cowboy contractor, his ex-wife, and the son he never knew he had… Will their love be enough to heal the wounds they've inflicted on one another? Or will they allow the bitterness of their past to tear their family apart forever?

  • Book 4: Fifth Generation Cowboy

    A shy cowboy, a single mother, and their journey out of the friend zone. Can they face the challenges of single parenthood, past traumas, and societal expectations to build a life together? Or will their leap of faith leave them all broken-hearted?

  • Book 5: Sixth Street Love Affair

    In the heart of Texas, where the sunsets paint the sky with fiery passion, a rugged ranch foreman and a courageous veterinary technician find themselves entwined in a tale of second chances, faith, and unyielding love—even in the face of danger. Can these two wounded souls discover that love and redemption are within reach, but if only they dare to take the leap of faith…together?

  • Book 6: The Seventh Sergeant

    A veteran cowboy, his care coordinator, and the chance to heal their hearts together. Will Reese allow Carly into his guarded heart so they can build a happily-ever-after together?

  • Book 7: Eight Second Ride

    A champion bull rider, a barrel racing winner, and the ride of a lifetime as these enemies attempt to become lovers. Torn between their familial obligations and their hearts, can Ethan and Brynn embrace a different future together? Or will their hearts be broken on the rodeo circuit the way they have been before?

  • Book 8: The Ninth Inning

    The Christmas season has never felt like such a burden to boutique owner Andrea Larsen. But with Mama gone and the holidays upon her, Andy finds herself wishing she hadn't been so quick to judge her former boyfriend, cowboy Lawrence Collins. Well, Lawrence hasn't forgotten about Andy either, and he devises a plan to get her out to the ranch so they can reconnect. Do they have the faith and humility to patch things up and start a new relationship?

  • Book 9: Ten Days in Town

    Sandy Keller is tired of the dating scene in Three Rivers. Though she owns the pancake house, she's looking for a fresh start, which means an escape from the town where she grew up. When her older brother's best friend, Tad Jorgensen, comes to town for the holidays, it is a balm to his weary soul. A helicopter tour guide who experienced a near-death experience, he's looking to start over too--but in Three Rivers. Can Sandy and Tad navigate their troubles to find the path God wants them to take--and discover true love--in only ten days?

  • Book 10: Eleven Year Reunion

    Pastry chef extraordinaire, Grace Lewis has moved to Three Rivers to help Heidi Ackerman open a bakery in Three Rivers. Grace relishes the idea of starting over in a town where no one knows about her failed cupcakery. She doesn't expect to run into her old high school boyfriend, Jonathan Carver. A carpenter working at Three Rivers Ranch, Jon's in town against his will. But with Grace now on the scene, Jon's thinking life in Three Rivers is suddenly looking up. But with her focus on baking and his disdain for small towns, can they make their eleven year reunion stick?

  • Book 11: The Twelfth Town

    Newscaster Taryn Tucker has had enough of life on-screen. She's bounced from town to town before arriving in Three Rivers, completely alone and completely anonymous--just the way she now likes it. She takes a job cleaning at Three Rivers Ranch, hoping for a chance to figure out who she is and where God wants her. When she meets happy-go-lucky cowhand Kenny Stockton, she doesn't expect sparks to fly. Kenny's always been "the best friend" for his female friends, but the pull between him and Taryn can't be denied. Will they have the courage and faith necessary to make their opposite worlds mesh?

  • Book 12: Lucky Number Thirteen

    A wounded rodeo champion and a tender-hearted nurse find healing and love where they least expect it—with each other. Has God put him in Three Rivers for a reason, and is this the divine plan that will finally lead him to happiness and love?

  • Book 13: The Curse of February Fourteenth

    A runaway tennis star with a secret identity, a single dad cowboy, and the Cinderellaesque fairy tale romance that changes their hearts. Will she take a leap of faith and embrace her role as Cal's Cinderella no matter the cost, or will she continue to run from the shadows of her former life?

  • Book 14: Fifteen Minutes of Fame

    A nurse seeking for answers, a skeptical cowboy, and the legends of Three Rivers that help them see past their differences to the possibility of true love. Can love and legend come together for Gavin and Navy to create a tale of true love? Or will the walls around Gavin’s heart be too strong for Navy to break down?

  • Book 15: Sixteen Steps to Fall in Love

    A cowboy veterinarian who works sixteen steps from the woman of his dreams...and doesn't even know she's there. Can a chance meeting in a different location open his eyes to happily-ever-after?

  • Book 16: The Sleigh on Seventeenth Street

    When sparks fly in Three Rivers, can love light up the Christmas season for these two opposites? Can Camila and Dylan finish the build without breaking up or losing their shirts? Will they be able to traverse the delicate balance of water and electricity, the spell of mistletoe and Santa’s sleigh versus reality, without losing their hearts?

  • Book 17: The First Lady of Three Rivers Ranch

    A dance with destiny at Three Rivers Ranch between the sexy cowboy owner and the woman he hires to clean the cabins…who ends up stealing his heart. Will she return to school to fulfill her dreams or follow her heart and stay in Three Rivers with Frank?Can their faith in God and each other guide them to the sweetest of happy endings?

  • Coming Soon! Book 18: Eighteen Bow Ties and Counting

    Coming soon - summer 2024!

Escape to Montana with more sweet & swoony cowboys!

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


From the rolling ranchlands to the intimate corners of small-town life, these stirring stories are filled with emotional trials, inspirational transformations, and love's redeeming power. Whether it's a chance encounter, a second chance at love, or an unexpected competition, these tales of faith, hope, and love highlight the enduring bonds of community, the healing power of forgiveness, and the irresistible pull of the heart.


"Isaacson artfully combines disparate threads in her contemporary Western Christian romance…in her Three Rivers Ranch series." ~BookLife, Publisher's Weekly


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