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Book 2: Overprotective Cowboy (Hope Eternal Ranch)

Book 2: Overprotective Cowboy (Hope Eternal Ranch)

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Cowboys looking for a second chance at life, love, and happiness. All with a dash of suspense, plenty of sweet & clean romance, and a powerful redemption story at the heart of every book.

Love cowboys and the beach? The Hope Eternal Ranch series combines them both! You'll get a sweet and sexy hero in every book as, one by one, the Mulbury boys get released from the low-securty prison in the Coastal Bend of Texas and go to Hope Eternal Ranch, where they find their second chance at life, love, and happiness.

About OVERPROTECTIVE COWBOY: Can Ted and Emma face their pasts so they can truly be ready to step into the future together? Or will everything between them fall apart once the truth comes out?

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Ted Burrows grinned when he saw the man sitting across the room, wearing a cowboy hat. His heart leapt at the familiar sight of Nathaniel Mulbury, though Ted hadn’t seen Nate in months.

He started chuckling a couple of tables away, and Nate stood up, a giant grin on his face too. “Nathaniel,” Ted said, engulfing Nate in a hug. The other man didn’t particularly like his full name, but he laughed too. Ted clapped him on the back a couple of times. “What are you doing here?”

Nate stepped back, something new lighting his eyes. Ted recognized the shine of freedom in his friend’s face, and he wondered what it would look like on him.

Ted was getting closer to his release date, but he’d been working very hard not to count down the days until he could walk out of the River Bay Federal Correctional Institution. He’d been counting up for so long, that counting down happened naturally. Somewhere in the back of his mind, he knew exactly how many days he had left inside these walls.

“I thought you were going to transfer to the camp,” Nate said, sitting back down in the seat where he’d been waiting for Ted. “Drive tourists from the ships to the restaurants and stuff.”

“Nah.” Ted sat down too, the chairs in this tiny cafeteria-like room too small for him. “The opportunity came up, but if I moved to the camp, I’d forfeit the opportunity for a halfway house.”

“Or the Residential Reentry Program,” Nate said.

“That too,” Ted said. “But I only have three and a half months. I think they put people in those programs who have more than that.”

“Well, I’m not getting strip searched again,” Nate said with a smile. “So I guess this’ll be the last time I see you before you show up at the ranch.” He reached into his back pocket and pulled out a folded piece of paper. It was a compact square that he fumbled to unfold, and when he finally did, he smoothed it on the tabletop and slid it toward Ted.

Ted’s heart beat strongly in his chest, and he didn’t dare hope for the chance to go to the same ranch where Nate had been. His friend had sent plenty of communications about how much he loved it, and how much he thought Ted would enjoy it too. He wouldn’t wear the cowboy hat though, and he glanced at the dark gray one perched on Nate’s head. It felt as natural to Ted as it felt unnatural, and Nate caught him looking.

“You don’t have to wear the hat.”


“You haven’t even looked at the paper.”

“Do I want to look at the paper?”

“Yes, Ted,” Nate said, with some measure of exasperation in his voice. “You want to look at the paper.”

Ted held his best friend’s eyes for another moment, and then he looked at the form Nate had put on the table. They’d both spent plenty of time in prison reading over their sentences and appeals, so a simple release form that listed Hope Eternal Ranch as the location of his Reentry Program was easy to understand.

Plus, Ted was a lawyer, and he still knew how to read complicated documents.

The date made him suck in a breath, and Nate didn’t miss that. Another chuckle came from his mouth, and he said, “So we’ll be here on Monday morning, and we’ll see how long you last without a hat.” He grinned like he knew something Ted didn’t, which was entirely possible.

Ted’s life had changed a lot over the past several years, and one of the key moments was the day Nathaniel Mulbury had joined him in prison. They’d become fast friends and blood brothers, always looking out for each other and forming a band of boys that wasn’t to be trifled with. They didn’t cause problems. They didn’t issue threats. Theirs was a mission to provide safety and security to everyone inside River Bay, and since it was a low-security facility, their strong presence ensured that the life here was fairly easy for everyone.

In a lot of ways, life inside the low-security prison was like high school. There were a few cliques, but for the most part, everyone got along with everyone else. There wasn’t much drama, and only a few fights, depending on who was in the facility with them, and for how long.

“Monday?” Ted looked up, trying to remember what day it was now. Had to be a Friday or Saturday, as those were visiting days. Wasn’t a holiday.

“Four days, bud,” Nate said, glancing up as a guard walked by their table. “Hey, Percy.”

The guard turned, surprised, but his face melted into a smile when he recognized Nate. “Nate,” he said. “Wow.” He glanced at Ted as he stuck out his hand to shake Nate’s. “How’s life out there?”

“So great,” Nate said. “I’m engaged now, and Connor hasn’t died yet.”

Percy laughed, and Ted did a little as well. “Wow, engaged.”

Nate cut a look at Ted, who’d heard this news before. “Yeah, she owns the ranch where I did my reentry.”

“And you’re going there too, right Ted?” Percy asked.

“I suppose so,” Ted said, annoyed that he’d known before Ted had. But he knew that was just how things were done in the Bureau of Prisons. The prisoner was always the last to know his own fate, it seemed.

The bell rang, and Nate got to his feet. “That’s yours, Ted. See you Monday.”

Ted stood up and hugged Nate again, realizing he only had to count down three more days. He watched Nate head for the exit along with all the other visitors, and a flash of gratitude and appreciation for the man filled him.

Ted didn’t get a lot of visitors, as his family lived a few hundred miles away, and neither of his parents could make the drive alone anymore. They emailed still, and he talked to his mother on the phone every week, even if the conversation was only fifteen minutes long.

He waited in the room with all the tables and chairs where visiting took place until the guards released them, and he had to make a decision about that afternoon’s automotive class. It would be his last one, and he hadn’t anticipated that.

So he’d go, because Dallas ran the workshop, and the man who was part of the Mulbury Boys never went anywhere without the scent of grease accompanying him. He loved running the workshops, and he even had special permission to work in the shop when he wasn’t doing classes. The beauty of the low-security facility.

There were plenty of rules too, and Ted had bucked against them at first. He’d been in the unit for a while before Nate had shown up, wide-eyed and clenching his fingers into fists as he entered the unit for the first time.

Ted remembered exactly what it was like to walk into the facility for the first time, and he and Nate had tried to make the transition as easy as possible for newboots after that.

He wouldn’t be tinkering with an engine for a couple of hours though, so he returned to the dormitory, choosing not to go outside quite yet. Spring had arrived in Texas, and Ted wondered what the air at the ranch tasted like. Nate had told him about the bees the ranch cultivated, and Ted closed his eyes, almost able to hear the buzzing and taste the honey.


Ted had lived his whole life with the word almost riding on the back of his tongue. The fact that he’d almost used a knife in the brawl he’d gotten into which had landed him in this facility was the biggest one. Yeah, that was a very big almost.

“I saw Nate leaving,” a man said, and Ted opened his eyes to look at Slate Sanders. He’d joined the Mulbury Boys the moment he’d come into the facility, because he was a little bit older, a little bit wiser, and extremely laid back.

“Yeah,” Ted said. “He came to visit me. I’m going to Hope Eternal.”

A smile formed on Slate’s face, though Ted could see the longing in his eyes. He’d received a sentence of only thirty months, though, and he’d be out in ten. He could be in the camp too, but he’d stayed in the low because of the opportunities here. With more people, there was more access to health care, and infinitely more classes and opportunities to learn something.

Slate needed something else once he left this place, and he’d wanted the chance to take as many classes as possible so he could find something he could do after his sentence was up.

He came from the financial sector as well, the same as Nate, though Slate had been a stock broker out of Dallas, and Nate had been an investment banker in Houston.

Dallas had been a surgeon who liked to take apart engines on the weekends, and he’d really embraced his mechanic side behind locked doors and high fences.

“That’s great,” Slate said.

“Yeah,” Ted agreed. He honestly had no idea if the ranch was great or not. Nate acted like it was, but Ted had spent so much time here, with his schedule decided for him, his meals chosen for him, and his wardrobe handed to him.

He could barely remember life beyond the bars, and a tremor of nervousness ran through him.

“See you later,” Slate said, and just as quickly as he’d come, he left. Ted sighed and closed his eyes again, images running through his mind. He wasn’t sure if they were memories or imaginations, because he’d had plenty of time to daydream in here. The fact was, Ted could barely distinguish between what was real and what wasn’t, what his life before he’d come to River Bay had been like, and what he’d wished it had been.

Three more days, he told himself.

Then it was two days. Then one.

Monday dawned, and Ted had everything packed and ready to go before the sun rose. The door to the dormitory opened for the five a.m. count, but this time Gregory Fellows walked in. “Ready, Ted?” The Unit Manager wore a smile, but Ted didn’t quite know how to return it.

He looked at the men he was leaving behind. He’d said all of his goodbyes already, and he met Dallas’s eyes, then Slate’s, then Luke’s.

“Yeah,” he said, shouldering his bag that held all of his worldly belongings. He’d have to surrender it when he left, and it would be searched. He didn’t mind. He had nothing left to hide. All of his secrets, all of his dirty laundry, had been exposed, and Ted had survived.

Buoyed by the thought, he followed Greg out of the dormitory as the men he’d shared his sleeping and living quarters with cheered and clapped for him.

Outside in the hall, no one was cheering and applauding, but Ted rode the energy the other inmates had given him. Every step that took him farther from the dorm made his heart pound harder, and he went outside with the guards, getting a pair of handcuffs around his wrists before they went down the steps to make the move between buildings.

Ted hated the jangle of shackles, but he held still as a Unit Officer put them on his ankles. Once he had all his jewelry on, he shuffled down the steps and along the sidewalk, wondering what waited through the door. The Warden? Nate and Ginger, a woman he’d never met in real life? His lawyer?

Greg opened the door with a keycard, and he stood back as a couple of officers entered first, followed by Ted. His lawyer did stand there, and he took Ted’s bag and handed it to a couple of officers who wore gloves and unzipped his duffle. Ted tried not to care, and really, he didn’t.

Prison really had removed the anger from him. Then Jarrell Rose shook his hand, and Ted didn’t hate seeing his lawyer, maybe for the first time. When he’d first been indicted, he’d thought his lawyer could help him. After all, Ted himself had been a lawyer in his first life. He thought he’d worked to help people. 

But as Ted had learned painful lesson after painful lesson during his trial and subsequent incarceration, his faith in lawyers was nearly gone.

The Warden came into the room, and all the paperwork got reviewed. Ted had learned to be patient over the years, and how to hold very still, a mask on his face, hiding his emotions. Inside, his muscles itched, and he wanted someone to say something, do something.

Finally, Warden Dickerson looked up and said, “All right, boys. He’s ready.” The Warden ran a tight ship here, and he didn’t make personal connections with the inmates. Ted had never seen him wear anything but a suit and tie, just as he was now, despite the early hour on a Monday morning.

Ted stood still while all the restraints got removed, and one of the officers handed him his duffle bag. “Your clothes,” the man said, and Ted watched them all leave.

He quickly changed out of the prison blues and oranges, things he never wanted to see again. The clothes in the bag were what he’d worn in, and they didn’t seem to fit right. The shoulder in his shirt was too small, and he felt like an oversized man trying to wear children’s clothes.

No one came to get him, and Ted wasn’t sure if he should just walk out.

Thankfully, Jarrell knocked in that moment. He reentered the room and took Ted by the elbow, and they did walk out of the office, down the hall, and right on out of the building. A huge, black truck waited in the circle drive, the early morning sunlight glinting off all the chrome. Jarrell strode toward it, extending the thick folder of paperwork toward whoever was inside.

Nate got out of the passenger side and took the folder with the words, “Thanks, Jarrell.” His gaze switched to Ted, a smile blooming on his face. “You ready?”

He was going to have to be, Ted supposed, and he swallowed and nodded. He relaxed as Nate embraced him again, as Jarrell promised to follow up with him in a couple of weeks, and as he got in the truck after Nate had slid into the middle.

“Ted,” Nate said. “My fiancée, Ginger Talbot.” He looked from Ted to Ginger. “Ginger, this is Ted Burrows, my best friend.”

“Nice to meet you,” Ginger said, and she gave him a real nice smile too, as if she actually meant it.

“And you,” Ted said, because he’d been taught manners once upon a time in his life. He was Texan, after all. He settled into the comfortable seats as Nate told him they had about a three and a half hour drive ahead of them.

“And we’ve got better clothes at the ranch,” he said. “That shirt looks a little small.”

Ted didn’t care about the ill-fitting clothes or the long drive; he wasn’t behind the walls of River Bay, and when Ginger turned down road after road and then onto a highway with the water on the left, all Ted could do was stare.

Nate didn’t try to engage Ted in conversation, thankfully, as Ted felt like he was having an out-of-body experience. The sky was so blue. The water so beautiful. The sunshine so bright.

Eventually, they reached the town of Sweet Water Falls, and Ted thought even the name was too good to be true.

Then Ginger turned onto the dirt lane that led to the ranch. The instructions started then, and he learned where he’d live, and where the women on the ranch lived, and when he’d meet with Ginger.

She pulled into a garage that had doors on both sides, so she could essentially drive straight through the house in one of the three stalls separating the West Wing—where the women lived—from the Annex—where the cowboys lived.

“Your room is right by mine,” Nate said. “And Connor’s. We’ll share a bathroom.”

Ted made a sound of affirmation, because he wasn’t sure what to vocalize. He’d met Connor before, because Nate’s brother used to bring him to the prison to visit.

“Emma will have lunch ready,” Ginger said, opening her door. “You hungry, Ted?”

He looked over at her and nodded. “I didn’t get breakfast.”

“We should’ve stopped,” Nate said. “Why didn’t you say something?”

“I’m fine,” Ted said, though he did get grumpy if he didn’t eat enough. His stomach growled at the same time it told him not to eat, because it was nervous and wouldn’t know what to do with the food he gave it.

“Let’s go eat.” Nate got out on the driver’s side, and Ted finally got himself to move. Ginger had gone into the house ahead of them, and Nate met Ted’s eye. “It’ll be overwhelming for a little bit. But this is a great place, I swear, and you just do the same thing here that you did at River Bay.”

“What’s that?”

“Take it one day at a time.” Nate gave him another smile and said, “Okay, so you’re going to meet a bunch of people at once. Don’t try to remember all of their names. You just need to know Ginger’s.”

“Ginger,” Ted repeated. “Got it.” He never forgot a face, but names did sometimes slip through the cracks in his mind.

Nate climbed up the couple of steps and opened the door, and Ted followed him, a little weirded out that there wasn’t any clinking of chains accompanying his footsteps. Just like he’d had to get used to life at River Bay, he’d have to figure out how to get used to life here at Hope Eternal Ranch.

“All right, guys,” Ginger said over the gaggle of people inside, most of whom were talking. Ted saw several more men wearing cowboy hats. Women wearing cowgirl hats. One in an apron. All of them looked fresh, and happy, and almost like they glowed.

Ted felt completely out of place, and he’d wished he’d asked Ginger to pull over so he could change his clothes. He stood halfway behind Nate as Ginger continued with, “This is Ted Burrows, our new cowboy. I expect everyone to welcome him to Hope Eternal Ranch the way we do.”

He wondered what way that was, and Nate glanced at him, questions in his eyes.

“I need to change,” Ted hissed, and recognition lit Nate’s face.

“Emma has your clothes.” He nodded toward a brunette, who was walking toward them with the widest smile on her face. “Ted, this is Emma Clemson.”

Ted blinked at her, because he knew her face, and her name tickled something in the back of his mind too. He knew this woman. He knew the slender face with the slightly pointed chin at the bottom. He knew the dark eyes with long lashes on the top and bottom. He knew the width of her shoulders, and the high cheekbones, and the dark hair that parted on the right side and fell toward her shoulders in straight sheets.

His eyes narrowed at her, because she didn’t quite look like the woman he’d seen before. She wore a lot of makeup, for one, and Ted felt sure she hadn’t in the past. He’d compartmentalized things from his past, and he wasn’t sure of anything anymore.

Emma smiled at him, and everything in Ted’s world got brighter. She had a gorgeous smile, with straight, white teeth, and an inner light that shone out of her dark eyes. She wore a sleeveless, purple shirt with a pair of jeans, and she said, “I’ll show you where you can change.”

Her voice wasn’t as familiar to him, and he wondered if his firm had represented her as a client. Or if she’d been a witness he hadn’t had to interview in person. Something…something worked in the back of his mind, and he knew she was tied to his old job somehow.

He followed Emma while another woman started explaining the vast amounts of food covering the counter. Emma led him away from the fray, and relief spread through Ted. He was ready to be away from the crowd. He’d lived for too long with dozens of other people in close quarters, and he just wanted to be alone.

“Here you are,” she said, handing him an obviously brand-new backpack.

Ted took it but hesitated. “Have we met?”

Something like fear flickered across her face, but she kept her smile hitched in place. “I don’t think so.”

“Of course not,” he said, feeling stupid for asking. But he’d definitely seen her face before. At least he thought he had. “Thanks.”

He ducked into the bathroom and closed the door, locking it behind him. And finally, it was quiet.

What Readers are Saying

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ "The author knows how to draw the reader in and move the story along from the very first page. There were lots of twists and turns but a wonderful ending gathered all the loose threads. These stories are “good, clean” romances and a pleasure to read." ~JeanDiff

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ "A MUST READ: Both Ted and Emma have made mistakes in their lives. Ted was an attorney who ended up in prison and Emma is using Hope Eternal Ranch as her hideout. They both have made mistakes, is one unforgivable more than the other? Emma has secrets she can't tell anyone, not even to the man she's falling for. Does Ted wait for Emma to trust him enough to tell him her secret? So many secrets, so many questions. Can love flourish between these two? I loved reading all the twists in this story. Something different for a romance story." ~Kindle Customer

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Join the Mulbury Boys as they journey to Hope Eternal Ranch looking for healing, hope, and happily-ever-after!

Cowboys looking for a second chance at life, love, and happiness. All with a dash of suspense, plenty of sweet & clean romance, and a powerful redemption story at the heart of every book.

Love cowboys and the beach? The Hope Eternal Ranch series combines them both! You’ll get a sweet and sexy hero in every book as, one by one, the Mulbury Boys get released from a low-security prison in the Coastal Bend of Texas and go to Hope Eternal Ranch, where they search for their second chance at life, love, and happiness.

  • Book 1: Hopeful Cowboy

    He’s struggling to step into his new role as a single dad. She’s trying to keep her ranch operational and her heart intact. Can Nate and Ginger build forever out of heartache?

  • Book 2: Overprotective Cowboy

    Can Ted and Emma face their pasts so they can truly be ready to step into the future together? Or will everything between them fall apart once the truth comes out?

  • Book 3: Rugged Cowboy

    He’s a cowboy mechanic with two kids and an ex-wife on the run. She connects better to horses than humans. Can Dallas and Jess find their way to each other at Hope Eternal Ranch?

  • Book 4: Christmas Cowboy

    He needs to start a new story for his life. She’s dealing with a lot of family issues. Can Slate and Jill find solace in each other at Hope Eternal Ranch?

  • Book 5: Wishful Cowboy

    He needs a place where he can thrive without his past haunting him. She’s been waiting for the cowboy to return so she can confess her feelings. Can Luke and Hannah make their second chance into a forever love?

  • Book 6: Risky Cowboy

    She’s tired of making cheese and ice cream on her family’s dairy farm, but when the cowboy hired to replace her turns out to be an ex-boyfriend, Clarissa suddenly isn’t so sure about leaving town… Will Spencer risk it all to convince Clarissa to stay and give him a second chance?

Meet more Sweet Water Falls cowboys!

Fall in love with the Cooper Brothers at Sweet Water Falls Farm today!

Read this series if you like: 

✔ Grumpy sunshine

✔ Loud, loving family saga

✔ Small town romance

✔ Sweet & Sexy cowboys

✔ Enemies to lovers

✔ Second chance romance

✔ Single dads

✔ Heroines who tame their hero

✔ Steamy, sweet kisses

✔ Sweet & Clean Romance