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Book 8: Love at First Cowboy (Horseshoe Home Ranch)

Book 8: Love at First Cowboy (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 LOVE AT FIRST COWBOY: A career cowboy, a home health nurse, and an instantaneous connection they both try to fight… As they encounter the complex dynamics of family responsibilities and personal desires, can their love-at-first-sight grow strong enough to withstand the test of time?

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Read Chapter 1 Now!

Elliott Hawthorne opened the cabin door to a blast of air conditioning—thankfully—and the sight of Archer taping the top of a box. Unthankfully.

“Hey.” He sighed and straightened his back with a groan. “You’re still helping me move tonight, right?”

Elliott didn’t want to, but as he closed the door behind him so he wouldn’t air condition the ranch with all its September heat, he said, “Yeah.”

“Don’t sound so happy about it.”

“I’m not happy about it.” Elliott tried to smile to soften the words. “And I’m totally jealous you’re going up to Landon’s cabin on Bear Mountain.”

Archer smiled, reminding Elliott why they’d gotten along so well as roommates. “So it’s nice?”

Elliott also reminded himself that they would still be friends. Co-workers too. So Archer was getting married. Big deal. It was what adults did.

Well, everyone except for Elliott at least.

“It’s really nice,” Elliott said. “It’s small, but intimate, and quiet, and it’s a great place to relax and unwind.” He wished he could go right now. Take his bay horse Precious with him and go. Skip Archer moving out. Skip Archer and Emery’s wedding. Skip the whole Labor Day picnic—which he would attend alone. Again.

But the ranch was buzzing with all of the above. The cowboys didn’t get off the ranch much in the late summer and early fall because of the harvest, but Ty, the foreman, had announced last week that minimal chores would be done on Labor Day and no one was allowed to come back until evening.

Elliott was planning to attend the picnic with the cowboys, and then he’d probably go visit his parents. He didn’t get down to see them much because of his workload, but they were starting to get older and he knew he needed to make more of an effort to help them. 

With two of his brothers already living in other cities, and one preparing to sell his carpet cleaning company and relocate, Elliott would be the only son left in Gold Valley soon enough. 

“Need some help?” he asked as he unwrapped a granola bar. He didn’t like to eat a lot for lunch, especially when it was really hot outside. 

“I think I’m good,” Archer said. “I moved up here with just two truckloads, so it shouldn’t take long.”

“You’re buying me dinner after, right?” Elliott grinned at him. 

Archer rolled his eyes. “Steak, if I remember your conditions.”

“Hey, I have to drive you to the church tomorrow too,” he said, scowling. “I deserve steak.”

Archer’s expression turned sympathetic, and Elliott hated it. He appreciated it too, but he really didn’t need Archer’s pity.

“So Andra didn’t work out.” He wasn’t really asking. 

“She…wasn’t my type.” Elliott was starting to think he didn’t have a type. That no matter how many women he went out with, none of them would ever be a fit for him. 

He’d had some luck with women in his early twenties, but the last five years had been a painful stretch of being single punctuated with first date after disastrous first date.

“Emery can check around better this time,” Archer said, but Elliott shook his head and took off his black cowboy hat. 

“I’m not interested in getting set up again,” he said. “No more blind dates, no more friend-of-a-friend, none of it.” Elliott’s brown hair flopped around and he picked up his phone to text his barber. Maybe he could squeeze in a haircut between moving and the steak.

With the appointment set and his granola bar gone, Elliott left Archer to finish the packing and went back out to the ranch.

That evening, it took Elliott and Archer thirty minutes to load the boxes, clothes, and Archer’s bed into two pickup trucks. “See you down there,” Archer said, climbing behind the wheel of his smaller truck. 

Elliott lifted his hand and got into his ranch truck to follow Archer to Emery’s townhome. Another thirty minutes passed during the drive. Another thirty to get everything unloaded. Another thirty for the haircut.

Elliott was starting to wonder if he could just continue in this pattern. Thirty minute increments where he didn’t have to worry about being single, where no one asked him who he was dating, where he didn’t have to concern himself with meeting someone. 

It sounded like a good plan, and he immediately adopted it.

Another thirty minutes later, he had his prime rib in front of him, a beautiful mid-rare cook on the meat and a pile of garlic mashed potatoes that made his mouth water. He ate the green beans and baby carrots because his mother had trained him to eat his vegetables and he’d trained himself to get that part over with first.

Archer asked questions about the cabin, and they talked about the ranch, and Elliott, drowsy on steak and potatoes, decided that it wasn’t so bad that he’d be getting a new roommate in a couple of weeks. That he’d have to live alone until then. 

Thank you for allowing me to be happy for him, Elliott thought as Archer set his credit card on the bill.

His phone rang, and Elliott checked the screen. “It’s my brother,” he said to Archer. “I’ll meet you outside.” He stood and swiped open the call. “Hey, Joel.”

“Elliott.”

With that one word, Elliott’s insides iced. The food he’d eaten—which was a lot—solidified into cement. 

“What’s wrong?”

“Mom just called. Dad’s fallen down and they’re on their way to the hospital.”

“Fell down? Where? How long ago?” He frantically patted his pockets to find his keys. Archer had planned to leave his truck at Emery’s and ride back up the canyon with Elliott, but new arrangements would have to be made.

“About half an hour ago, and he was going to do some work in the backyard.”

Guilt pulled through Elliott with the force of gravity. His father shouldn’t be doing yard work; Elliott should’ve been going down and helping his parents out, the way Ty had been for the past few years.

“I’m on my way,” he told Joel, turning back to talk to Archer.

One thirty-minute increment later, Elliott finally found his brother in the emergency waiting room. They embraced, and Elliott didn’t like the worry in his brother’s brown eyes. “Broken hip,” Joel said. “He’s going into surgery within the hour.”

Two increments, Elliott thought. He could wait that long. Wait and worry, which was exactly what he did. His mother—his petite, sandy-haired mother—came through the doors only fifty-two minutes later. She’d been crying, and Elliott swamped her in a tight hug, his own emotions threatening to overflow. 

“He’s okay,” she said as they all sat down in the waiting area. “There’s no reason for you boys to wait here. It’s getting late. Go on home and get some rest.”

Neither Joel nor Elliott moved. They exchanged a glance, and Joel leaned forward. “Ma, why don’t you let Elliott take you home? He’ll stay with you and I’ll wait here to talk to the doctors when they come out of surgery.”

Mom started shaking her head before Joel could even finish speaking, and Elliott knew she’d never leave Dad here. 

Joel tried again anyway. “Mom, he’ll be in there for a few hours. Elliott will bring you back when they finish.”

Elliott put his hand on his mother’s. “Ma, come on.” To his surprise, she rose to her feet and went with him. Elliott tossed a look over his shoulder to his older brother, who nodded with a sad smile.

* * *

A week later, Elliott woke in the cabin by himself. He made a pot of coffee for himself, something Archer had been doing for nine months. He wasn’t a morning person, so he’d let Archer set the alarms, make the coffee, and get them out the door. But he had to do all that himself now. 

He’d been down to the valley every evening since his father’s fall. His dad had been released from the hospital yesterday, and Joel had called late last night to ask Elliott to come down again tonight to meet the nursing staff that would be assisting their father for the next several months.

“I can’t be there after the end of the month,” Joel said. “I need you to handle it.”

Elliott didn’t want to handle it. He was the youngest of the four boys, and the only one not married. He worked twelve hours a day, and adding the care of his parents to his plate felt like it was going to choke him.

But he made it through the twelve hours and down the canyon to his parents’ house. Joel’s car was already there, as were two other vehicles, leaving Elliott to park on the street.

Get through this one increment, he coached himself before he entered the house, the familiar smell of marinara meeting his nose. His mother had likely been cooking all day, adding her tears into the homemade sauce while she waited for evening and her sons to come.

“Elliott,” his mom said, coming down the hall from the great room where he assumed everyone would be. She drew him into a tight hug. “We’re just fine,” she whispered.

He drew back, confused. “Who says you aren’t?”

“Elliott’s here,” Joel said before she could answer, and he joined them, drawing Mom back into the great room. Elliott followed, unsure of what he’d find once he rounded the corner.

The kitchen stretched to his right, with a dining set in front of a pair of French doors that led into the backyard. Four steps went down—the site of his father’s fall.

A big living room filled the rest of space, with a large sectional that held Joel’s wife and two kids on the longest side and two women on the shorter one.

Elliott’s gaze landed on a woman with silver-purple hair that only reached her chin. It was very straight, not a hair out of place. She turned toward him, and everything around him fell away. 

Only her brown eyes existed. Her heart-shaped face. Her timid yet strong smile. 

Elliott needed to know her name, right now. Find out how she got her hair to fall like that. Her skin reminded him of the shimmery-white way the horizon shone when the sun was at its pinnacle, and he wanted to touch her, stat.

Everything rushed forward again, and Elliott managed to smile when Joel introduced the dark-haired woman next to the exotic beauty who’d rendered him breathless with a single look. 

“And this is Holland Marsh,” Joel said. “She’s a physical therapist from the home health center.”

Holland Marsh. Even her name was sexy, and Elliott reached out to shake her hand.

“Nice to meet you,” she said, painting his world in glorious colors just with her voice. 

His heart pounded, nearly romping around in his chest like a bull gone rogue. He felt ridiculous—or like he’d been transported back in time fifteen years, when he was ruled by first impressions and strong hormones.

“Hey, Dad,” he managed to say, bending down to give his father a quick, soft hug. “I see Ma’s made her spaghetti and meatballs.”

His father smiled though Elliott knew he was in a lot of pain, and said, “You know how she is.”

Elliott did, and he cut a quick glance at the violet-haired Holland, who wore a patient and kind smile for his dad. “She likes to cook for a crowd.”

“Elliott,” Joel said. “Since Demmie and I are moving to Sacramento, you’ll need to sign the power of attorney papers.”

Elliott tore his gaze from Holland, wrenched his mind away from his fully formed fantasies. “I’m sorry,” he said. “Power of attorney?” He glanced at his mother, who stood with her arms cinched across her chest, everything making sense now.

Joel also watched their mom for a moment before turning back to Elliott with a long, impatient sigh. “They need help.”

“With the yard,” Elliott said. “The snow. The weeds.” He normally didn’t argue with anyone, but something told him this was wrong. “Joel, they’re mentally sound. Dad just broke his hip. He didn’t hit his head.”

“I’m fine,” Dad said, his voice barely audible.

“We’re fine,” Mom added, giving Elliott all the fuel he needed to see this through to the end.

“You go on to Sacramento,” Elliott said. “I’ll take care of Mom and Dad.”

Joel looked like he wanted to argue. Instead, he stepped past Elliott and perched on the arm of the couch by his wife, Demmie. “Holland?” he asked.

“Your father needs a lot of care,” the beautiful woman said, making Elliott’s pulse zing through him like someone had hooked him up to a huge battery.

“I’m here,” Mom said. “Elliott will come down from the ranch in the evenings. And you ladies will be here.”

“Just one nurse, ma’am.” Holland looked apologetic as she said it, her eyes filled with tenderness. “Your insurance only covers one home health nurse.”

“We’ll be fine,” Mom said again, this time with a note of pleading in her tone. 

Elliott met Holland’s eyes, but she didn’t give him an indication of what he should do. He did want the best medical care for his father. 

“How about we just see how they do?” Elliott asked, swinging his gaze from his mother, to Holland, and to Joel. “Give them a couple of months and see how things go.”

He looked hopefully back to Holland, as if she alone had the power to make this decision. Or maybe he just wanted to absorb the beauty of her face again.

She clasped her hands and gave him a small smile before ducking her head toward the other woman. “We’ll leave you. See you tomorrow, Mister Hawthorne,” she said to his father. She moved toward the corner, and Elliott’s heart screamed at him to go with her! Follow her! Get her phone number!

“I’ll be right back,” he said to the room and went with them. “Excuse me?” he asked, causing both women to turn back. 

“How often will you come?” he asked.

“The nurse will come a few times a week,” Holland explained. “The physical therapist comes as often as the insurance will let me. In the beginning, that will be every day.”

“What time?” He hoped he wasn’t being too obvious, but he also really needed to know.

“Your brother has everything to explain the physical therapy,” Holland said, not unkindly. In fact, she seemed good, and kind, and caring. She seemed strong, and capable, and sure of herself. Elliott wondered if that was his type. He sure hoped so. 

“One more question,” he said as she opened the door. “You’ll be coming to do the physical therapy?”

A smile formed fully on her face, and Elliott almost got knocked backward from the brilliance of it. “No one has been assigned yet,” she said. “We meet in the morning.”

Elliott’s heart plummeted, but he kept his face placid. “Okay, thanks,” he said, his mind racing. At least he had one night to beg God to assign Holland to his father’s care.

What Readers are Saying

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ “I have really enjoyed this series! This book added another new character that felt like a friend and a sweet storyline. If you want romance and cowboys try it you'll like it.” ~Phyl

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ “This was another sweet read from Liz Isaacson! I love her stories. The characters are always real and somehow flawed or challenged… This is a story about love at first sight... It also has a message about forgiveness and loving oneself. The relationship between Elliot and Holland was sweet, a delightful read! I totally reccomend it!” ~Patricia

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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.