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Book 3: Rugged Cowboy (Hope Eternal Ranch)

Book 3: Rugged 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 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?

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Dallas Dreyer breathed a silent sigh of relief as he saw the city limits sign for Sweet Water Falls. He’d been driving for hours, and he was so ready to be out of the car. 

At the same time, the temperature gauge on the dashboard told him not to get out of the car unless he wanted to be instantly incinerated. How Nate could get married in weather like this, Dallas didn’t understand.

Why Nate wanted to get married at all eluded Dallas. Bitterness gathered on the back of his tongue, and it was new and hard to deal with.

He’d had no idea Martha was so unsure about their marriage. She’d been coming to River Bay for over two years—every week—and she’d brought the kids many times.

Her departure from their life had surprised him. Shocked him, actually. Rendered him speechless.

He could clearly remember when he’d gotten the news, and that he’d sat on the bottom bunk where he’d been sleeping for twenty-seven months and just stared.

Even when Slate had come to tell him it was time for dinner. Even when Luke had gotten him a special pass for an extra hour in the library without anyone there, Dallas had just stared at it.

He didn’t know what life would be like on the outside as it was. And without Martha? Dallas didn’t know how to function.

She’d been in Louisiana for the past three months, and her sister had been taking care of his two children. Martha had left them behind too, and Dallas honestly didn’t comprehend her behavior.

He’d been released five days ago, and Amy had been kind enough to come pick him up. She’d brought Thomas and Remmy with her, and Dallas had held his children tightly for several minutes right on the sidewalk outside the River Bay Federal Correctional Facility.

He glanced to Remmy, his six-year-old asleep in the backseat of the used sedan his brother-in-law had helped him purchase.

Dallas had money from before his time in prison, but not a whole lot. Enough to buy new clothes and this car and food and gas for the trip to Sweet Water Falls.

He’d stayed with Amy and Brent for a couple days to get the essentials in order, and then he’d set his app to direct him to Hope Eternal Ranch.

He would not miss Nate’s wedding. The man had done more for Dallas than anyone else on Earth—save Martha. But now that she was gone, Dallas’s only fall-back was Nathaniel Mulbury.

Ted Burrows was at the ranch too, and Dallas couldn’t wait to see his friends. The pull to them was all he had left, and he’d embraced it. After they’d come for Family Weekend and treated him exactly like one of their brothers…Dallas got choked up just thinking about it.

“Turn right in a quarter mile,” said the cool female voice of his navigation app. Dallas started to slow down, and his son lifted his head from his game machine. 

“Almost there, bud,” Dallas said, surprised at how chipper his voice came out.

Thomas nodded and powered down the game. Dallas felt like he didn’t know his ten-year-old. He’d missed all of his eighth and ninth year on the planet, and though Dallas had seen his son start to grow in his permanent front teeth and he’d gotten emails with attachments of the boy’s art, it was completely different than being with the child day in and day out.

Dallas had never considered the fact that he might be a single parent one day. Martha had been the perfect surgeon’s wife, and she’d charmed hospital administrators, kept the house tidy and the bills paid, and the children in appropriate, wholesome activities. Dallas had loved coming home to her and the kids, and until the lawsuit that had diverted his life onto another path, he’d been blissfully unaware of any of the things he was currently dealing with.

He made the right turn, and the road started to wind out of town. Dallas glanced at his new phone, the weight of it heavy in his mind. He’d used smart phones before of course; he’d only been in prison for thirty months. But he’d gotten used to short, clipped calls, only at appropriate times. To make a call whenever he wanted, for however long he wanted was a bit novel to him.

“Just a couple more miles,” he said more to reassure himself than Thomas. 

And just a couple more miles and a few more minutes down the road, Dallas made the right turn onto the road that had Hope Eternal Ranch at the end of it.

The road turned from asphalt to dirt, and the sedan bumped over the new surface. He crossed a bridge, passed the trees, and the ranch spread in front of him. 

A massive house sat just beyond a small patch of grass, which had a fence separating it from a large gravel pad, where Dallas pulled to a stop.

He peered out of the windshield, taking in the house that was really two houses—one on each side of a three-car garage. Nate and Ted had told him all about it, and Dallas could see the appeal of it.

And then Ted was walking toward him, a giant smile on his bearded face. Dallas started laughing and said, “Come on, guys. Let’s get out.”

He got out of the car and met Ted at the opening of the fence. The other man had four inches on Dallas, and at least fifty pounds. He really was like a big teddy bear, and Dallas clapped him heartily on the back as they embraced. 

“Look at you,” Ted said, and that was all. Dallas didn’t need more; he knew what Ted meant. 

Look at him outside the fences of River Bay. Look at him in regular clothes. Look at him, a single dad to two kids.

Those kids came up beside him, Remmy clutching her blanket, though it was far too hot to cart that around for long, and rubbing her eyes.

“Guys,” he said. “This is Ted Burrows. Do you remember him?”

“Yes,” Thomas said at the same time Remmy said, “No,” and shrank into Dallas’s side.

He put his palm on her back and gave her a quick squeeze. 

“He’s one of my best friends,” Dallas said. “Ted, these are my kids, Thomas and Remmy.”

Ted crouched down, his smile bright and genuine. “Hey, guys. I’ve got something for you in the West Wing. It involves chocolate. You want to come see what it is?”

Remmy edged away from Dallas, and Ted straightened as he took her hand. Thomas looked up at Dallas, and he nodded. “I’m coming in too.”

Thomas went ahead of him, and Ted chatted with Remmy about her blanket and the character on her T-shirt. 

“Oh, our clothes.” Dallas turned back to the car to get the small suitcase he’d brought with their dress clothes for the wedding. “I’ll catch up. I’m grabbing our clothes.”

He retrieved the bag and turned to follow Ted, but they’d disappeared. A flash of panic hit Dallas, and he worked to tamp it back. He hadn’t been alone for so long, and he didn’t like the feeling of not knowing exactly where to go.

The panic itself was new, and Dallas loathed it. He’d never had a confidence problem or been plagued with anxiety or other mental illnesses. But his incarceration had changed a lot more than the status of his marriage and the age of his children.

He walked down the driveway toward the wide garages, and Nate came out of a doorway, clearly looking for Dallas.

Relief rushed through him, and to his great surprise, tears pricked his eyes. “Nate,” he said, and Nate’s face burst into a grin.

“You made it.” He came down the few steps and engulfed Dallas in a hug. They embraced for several long moments, neither of them saying anything.

“Come on in,” Nate finally said, falling back. “There’s food, and you can change.”

“The big day,” Dallas said. 

“Yeah, in a couple of hours,” Nate said, ducking his head so the big, black cowboy hat he wore hid his face. 

Dallas studied his friend—the man who’d literally saved his life on the inside. There was something so different about him, and yet so familiar.

“I like the hat,” he said, and Nate glanced up. He reached up and touched the cowboy hat as if he didn’t even know he was wearing it.

“It’s useful,” Nate said.

“And you like it,” Dallas said, because he may not have seen Nate for a while, but he knew the man didn’t do anything he didn’t like for very long. At least not by choice. Now that they were out, they could all choose.

“I like it,” Nate admitted. “Come meet Ginger.” He led the way up the steps and into the house, which had blessedly cool air conditioning.

Dallas immediately looked around for his children, and he didn’t have to look far. They sat at the bar with two other kids, one of whom Dallas recognized. Connor, Nate’s son. The other was a dark-haired girl who looked to be close to Thomas’s age, and he assumed that was Ted’s fiancée’s daughter.

Dallas couldn’t remember her name, though, and he paused as he took in the enormity of the kitchen.

An auburn-haired woman turned toward them, a warm smile on her face. She came over to Nate, and he took her hand in his. “Ginger, this is Dallas Dreyer.”

“One of your boys,” she said, extending her hand toward Dallas.

“I’m actually the same age as Nate,” Dallas said. “But it’s so nice to meet you.” And he was one of Nate’s boys. Nate had created a family inside River Bay, and Dallas had been lucky to be included in it.

He smiled, which was also not his default for the past couple of years. But the gesture sat nicely on his face, and he watched his kids as they stuck chocolate kisses into cookie dough.

It felt like such a normal thing to do. A normal place to be. He liked the energy in the house, and he needed somewhere like this to settle down. 

He wasn’t sure where he’d go after the wedding. He had the house in the suburbs of Houston, but he wasn’t sure he could just go back there. 

The man he’d been the last time he’d left that house didn’t exist anymore. He didn’t want to interact with any of those neighbors. He didn’t want to go into the bedroom he’d once shared with Martha.

So he’d sell that house and find somewhere else to build a life. He’d lost his medical license, so he couldn’t go back to that career. 

He wanted to be a mechanic, open his own shop, and take care of his kids.

He let Nate sweep him into the kitchen for a sandwich, where he met Ted’s significant other, Emma Clemson.

The girl was definitely her daughter, as they looked so much alike, and Emma introduced the girl as Missy.

Dallas met a couple of other women and cowboys, and then everyone started talking about getting ready for the wedding.

“You can use this bedroom,” Ginger said, taking him down a hall to a room with a queen bed in it. “Ted said he’d come get you guys when he goes out to the tents.”

“Thanks,” Dallas said, herding his kids into the room with him. The door closed behind him, and he just wanted to lie down for a bit. Close his eyes and just see if the world was the same when he woke up.

Instead, he hefted the suitcase onto the bed and opened it. “All right, Tommy,” he said. “Here’s your suit.”

“It’s way too hot to wear a suit,” his son complained.

“Yes, it is,” Dallas agreed. “But Nate said they have misters and fans out in the tents, so it’ll be okay.” He had to believe that, because if he didn’t, he wouldn’t be able to get himself to leave the house.

The West Wing, he told himself. Apparently, all of the women lived in the house on this side, and all of the cowboys lived in what Nate had called the Annex, the house on the other side of the garages.

After they returned from their honeymoon, Nate and Ginger were going to move into a cabin in the corner of the yard, which was apparently next door to where Emma lived with her daughter. 

Dallas found that odd. Ginger owned this house and this ranch. Seemed to him that the other women living in the West Wing should have to find somewhere else to live so she and Nate could live here. But he hadn’t said anything. He didn’t know the situation, and if prison had taught him one thing, it had taught him to reserve judgment on things he knew nothing about.

He pulled Remmy’s dress out of the suitcase and told her to get changed. He then stepped out of his khaki shorts and T-shirt and started buttoning himself into the suit he’d bought off the rack at a cheap department store.

He couldn’t remember the last time he’d worn something off the rack, and it was simply another testament of how different his life was now.

With everyone changed, Dallas told Thomas to go brush his teeth, and he pulled a hair bag out of the suitcase. Amy had put it together for him, and it had a brush, two combs, a bunch of hair ties and bows, and a spray bottle so Dallas could do his daughter’s hair.

He’d done it twice now, and he still felt like Edward Scissorhands when he touched his daughter’s fine hair to try to make it into something beautiful.

“Ponytail?” he asked her. “That’ll keep your hair off your neck, and you’ll be cooler.”

“Can you do two ponies?” she asked.

“Pigtails, sure,” he said, because he’d done those yesterday. Well, he’d done half of the hairdo. Amy had demonstrated how to do the first one, and he’d attempted to copy her on the second one. He’d only had to try twice before he got it tight enough.

Today, he sprayed and parted her hair, then began smoothing the hair on half of her head into a pigtail that sat just above her ear. The right side was easier than the left, and he secured that one on the first try. 

The other side took a couple of tries, but he eventually persevered, and he grinned at Remmy. “All ready.”

“Thanks, Daddy.” She threw her arms around his neck, and Dallas’s heart swelled to three times its normal size. 

“Love you, bug,” he said, calling on the familiar nickname from years ago.

“Love you too, Daddy.” 

He was so grateful she did, and he hoped she wouldn’t have too many memories of his absence in her life. He adored her high-pitched, Texas-twang voice, and he threaded his fingers through hers.

“Let’s go wait for Ted out in the kitchen.”

Thomas was out there, wiping down the counter, and Dallas paused to look at him. When had he become responsible enough to clean up without being asked? Dallas barely did that. 

“Thanks for doing that,” Dallas said, not sure how to relate to his son. 

“There’s a bunch of chocolate on the floor right there,” he said, and Dallas went to the sink and got another washrag. He wetted it down and moved over to the floor where sure enough, chocolate had been tracked toward the door he’d entered from the garage.

He didn’t want to kneel down in his suit, so he bent over and started scrubbing the dried chocolate. After several minutes and several trips to the sink to rewet the washcloth, he got the floor clean.

“There.”

He stood up and looked at his hard work, a sense of pride moving through him. He’d felt like this after stitching up the arteries leading to a heart too, and after getting all the parts in the exact right spot to rebuild a motorcycle engine. 

“I’m so late,” a woman said, and Dallas turned toward a tall, dark-haired woman he hadn’t seen in the brief time he’d eaten a sandwich earlier. “Excuse me.”

She ran toward him, her cowgirl boots making loud, slapping noises on the floor. He backed up, an alarm sounding in his head.

“The floor is—”

She yelped as she slipped, and time slowed into terrible bursts of motion. The woman flailed her arms.

“Wet,” Dallas finished.

He reached for her.

She grabbed onto his forearm.

But she was going down. 

He blinked, and he was bending over, her hand still gripping his arm in a painful way.

She groaned, her eyes staring straight up as she was now flat on her back on the floor. 

“I’m so sorry,” he said. “Are you okay?”

She blinked a couple of times, and a brand-new fire entered those dark eyes. Dallas felt sure he was about to be burned, and he actually found himself welcoming it.

What Readers are Saying

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ "I can't believe each book is better than the last one. Elana, you are by far my favorite author..I wish I could have the time to read all of your books. I've read quite a lot of them but have so so many more to go. Can't wait to start the next one in this series." ~Kindle Customer Violet

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ "Another great book in a great series by one of my favorite authors. I loved Dallas and Jess's story and all the characters at Hope Eternal Ranch. The book captivated me from the beginning. I can't wait for the next one." ~MJ

View full details

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