Hi everyone! Maddie James here today. I thought I’d share a sneak peek of a fall release in my new Sweet Water Ranch series. This title will be released initially as part of the Renegades boxed set with several more of your favorite cowboy authors! (more on that soon!) Here’s the book description:
ETHAN: Black Sheep Cowboy, Sweet Water Ranch, Book 2
Tag line: Her heart is still vulnerable; his still beats like a renegade.
Navy SEAL Ethan Mackay returns to Sweet Water to manage the family South Dakota ranch with his identical twin brother, Evan. But at thirty-four, he’s been gone nearly fifteen years, and he’s not the man who left the ranch all those years ago. Not by a long shot. His body broken, and hopefully not his mind, he prays what they say is true—that cowboy runs deep in your blood—because this black sheep cowboy could sure use something familiar to hang his hat on.
But being back home at Sweet Water is almost more of a challenge than heading up a special ops mission in Libya. Especially when something familiar turns out to be the main challenge—his ex-wife, Brandley Mendoza.
Brandley returns to Sweet Water for the first time since she and Ethan divorced. Their marriage quickly unraveled when Ethan headed into SEAL training, and by the time of his first deployment, their relationship was fatally severed. Hired under the pretense of fixing the ranch’s accounting books, Brandley questions Evan’s motive. Why he thinks she is the person to help Ethan get his head back on straight, she doesn’t know—but she risks coming down from her Black Hills safe haven to find out. Only to realize her heart is still vulnerable, and that Ethan still possesses the soul a renegade.
Can she tease out the real cowboy in Ethan’s black sheep heart, and rediscover the man she once knew and loved? Or is Ethan too far over the edge, to let her back in again.
And a teaser!
Brandley Mendoza swallowed hard and glanced into her rear view mirror at the dust billowing up behind her. It had been a very long time since she’d driven up this dirt road toward the main house at Sweet Water Ranch, and truth be told, she’d never thought she’d ever be driving up it again. If it hadn’t been for that fact that Evan MacKay had cornered her at his father’s wake a few weeks ago, and asked for her help, she wouldn’t have caved. But Evan had always been nice to her and his sweet talking didn’t hurt much either.
If she hadn’t known he’d just gotten engaged, she would have thought he was flirting with her. Which would have been weird, too, since she was once married to his brother.
And that fact was what made her say yes. Eventually. She’d had to think on it for a while. But Evan and his family were like her own. Had been for many years and even though she and Ethan had parted ways a long time ago, she felt she owed it to them.
Especially now, with Hap MacKay gone.
“I’m forever grateful for your help,” Evan told her the other evening on the phone. “Just a lot on my shoulders right now.”
She nodded. “I’m sure of that, being the oldest. I know your younger brothers help but I also know they are busy with their own lives and careers. It’s too bad Ethan can’t dig himself out of some desert hidey-hole somewhere to come home and help you.”
Evan’s voice took on a stoic tone. “Ethan is off protecting our country and I’m damned proud of that fact, Brandley. You should have been too.”
She’d immediately felt remorse at her words, and purposely avoided his last comment. “I know you’re proud of him, Evan,” she said quietly, “and I meant no disrespect. Whatever bumps in the road Ethan and I had, he was always loyal to his country and his men. They came first, no matter what. Always.” And fifteen years ago as a young, teenage bride, I had a hard time understanding that.
But all that was water under the bridge now, and there was no reason why she couldn’t help out the MacKay’s in their time of need. That’s what people did around here.
As she pulled up to the house and parked, though, Brandley was beginning to doubt her reasoning—and her sanity. Seeing the old house again felt like coming home, in so many ways, and there was a huge void in the pit of her stomach that ached with the nostalgia of it all. But she was here now, and this was business. Lord knows she could use the cash. She had a job to do, and she would just have to push any thoughts of the happy, earlier times with Ethan MacKay, and his family, out of her head.
She was a grown woman, now. Not a silly, love-struck teenage girl, in love with the idea of being in love. And in love with the idea of being Ethan’s wife. The young girl who would have been perfectly happy barefoot and pregnant, and running the ranch from her perspective—from home and hearth. The kitchen. And the bedroom.
She’d wanted that like nothing else. Then Ethan joined the Navy.
She shook her head to rid herself of her thoughts as she exited her truck and headed up the porch steps. She had work to do.
And seeing that she was not the kind of person to back out on a promise, putting Ethan out of her head was what she had to do. Ethan MacKay, the black sheep of the family, was long gone from her life, and she doubted she would ever see him again.
Brandley raised her hand to knock on the door but before her knuckles hit the wood, it swung open slowly. Evan stood in the doorway.
“Hi, Evan.” She took a step. He stood solid in her way, blocking the entrance. Brandley glanced up. “Evan?”
No. Wait. Shit.
Her heartbeat kicked at her breastbone, and her head suddenly went a little dizzy. She leaned against the door frame. The hair—too short. His chest—too broad. His eyes?
She took a breath. “Oh my God. Ethan.”