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Trusting the Cowboy's Heart

Trusting the Cowboy's Heart

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She’s from a rival family. He’s not supposed to like her. Can they make a forbidden romance work?

Narrated by Lorana Hoopes

  • Small town
  • Fake relationship
  • Forbidden love
  • Military hero
  • Mystery treasure hunt
  • Brothers/family saga


She’s from a rival family. He’s not supposed to like her. Can they make a forbidden romance work?

Adeline Cole is not looking for love. She only returns home to add a horse to her therapeutic riding business. Not to see her family for Thanksgiving and definitely not to meet a cowboy whose kiss takes her breath away.

Clint Ritchie served in the military for twenty years. He should stand proud upon his return home, but shadows from his past haunt him along with an injury. He aims to help save the family ranch and not get back in the saddle.

After a luggage mix up, Adeline convinces Clint to fake a relationship to spare her from having to face her lousy ex. When their stories get tangled, they spend more time together and uncover secrets from the past that might just save the ranch.

Sparks fly, but their families have a long-standing feud. Can they find common ground for a future together?

This is book 3 in the Richie Ranch Clean Cowboy Romance series. Because of the mystery subplot, the first three books in the series are best read in order for a deeper, richer experience. It is a sweet, small-town, cowboy “clean and wholesome” romance that’s Christian faith-friendly without swearing or mature content and contains a happily ever after.

Chapter 1 Look Inside

Chapter 1: Adeline

There were three things anyone who met Adeline Cole
needed to know about her.

One, she didn’t suffer fools.

Two, she was feisty.

Three, she was not looking for love.

Instead, she was looking for a horse.

Adeline was a equine-assisted therapist. She’d started her
practice at a barn in South Dakota. There, her mentor, Rosalind, said Adeline was so successful with clients, her talents were wasted on that little corner of the country. So she’d set out, travelling all over the world training others in her methods and helping countless people develop emotional awareness and assisted in their healing from various emotional challenges, traumas, and anxiety.

Sadly, Rosalind passed away over the summer, prompting
Adeline to think more deeply about her direction in life.

She dreamed of having her own barn someday, but not in
Smuggler’s Springs, Texas. It was her hometown. After a
layover in Georgia, as the airplane flew west, she was about as excited about going back there as getting poked by a sharp object. She’d know, too.

A ranch in Smuggler’s Springs was at risk of being bought
out by the state or some such.

The town pipeline aka the rumor mill managed to reach her in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont, where she’d been working most recently. The stable there was in need of another horse to add to their therapy center, and word
was the ranch in Texas had the perfect animal.

She longed to have her own barn someday—a place for
helping people heal from the past as well as develop relationships with horses as a form of proactive mental health management. Adeline liked to think of the work to take care of an animal of that sort, riding, and the relationship formed as part of a toolkit that people, especially youth, could have for when life got challenging. Because it would. She knew that well enough too.

Adeline had learned that lesson and taught what she knew.
Seated in first class, she reviewed her recent client notes and logged some information on her laptop. One of the young women she’d been working with for months had recently had a breakthrough. A trend she’d noticed over the years was after someone progressed in their healing, taking two steps forward, they’d often take a step back.

It was almost as if they feared breaking out of the familiarity
of their pain. She prepared a plan for Josie to recognize it, should it happen. Adeline was all about keeping between the rails.

She caught up on emails, referencing the one about the horse at the ranch. She knew how to drive a bargain. Not that she’d pay less than the horse was worth, but if the ranch was at risk, it
wouldn’t be hard to cajole the owner into letting the animal go.

Piedmont Pines in Vermont was a beautiful stable and the horse would be well cared for—until Adeline had her own stable.

The flight attendant appeared. “Can I offer you a beverage?”

“Yes. Just water, please,” Adeline replied.

“Are you going home for the holidays?” asked the woman
wearing the dark blue uniform with a little red scarf tied neatly around her neck.

“No.” The word landed like the ice in the glass.

“Oh.” The attendant cleared her throat as though not
expecting such a blunt answer.

She and Adeline shared the hint of the same Texas accent,
which was probably why she’d asked.

“I was going to say it’s a good thing you’re traveling early.
The weeks leading up to Thanksgiving and the day before get intense. I’m always grateful when it’s over.” The attendant passed the beverage.

Adeline offered a sympathetic smile. “I am going back to
where I grew up.” She took a deep breath. “And I’ll be grateful when it’s over.”

She wasn’t going home. Smuggler’s Springs didn’t fit that description. Actually, she had nothing against the town. Rather, a certain house with trim window boxes and a red door was the subject of her dread.

Home was a place she had given up looking for, and
spending time with her family was something she’d given up

For one thing, her ex would likely be at her parents’ house.

She was sure her mother had a thing for him. Weird and gross,
but Karen Cole adored Lance Suborn more than she cared for her children and their father. At least it seemed. For another, Adeline wanted nothing to do with her brother—he was smarmy and
about as honest as a counterfeit bill.

She wasn’t staying at her childhood home either. She’d left as soon as she could and went to an all-girls boarding school, meaning she hadn’t dated much and when she did, it had been a disaster. But Lance, the guy her mother tried to set her up with, was worse.

From down the aisle, the flight attendant’s cheerful voice
echoed, asking another passenger if they’d like a beverage.

The reply was the same as hers had been.

Same request. Just water.
Same accent. The hint of a central Texas drawl.

The only difference was his voice was lower, deeper, rich
and velvety like the blanket of night beyond the plane’s

She took a big sip of the cold water.

She didn’t twist around in her seat to peek at him, but
couldn’t help overhear the polite conversation.

Like with Adeline, the attendant asked him about his travels.

“Yeah, going home. Finally. It’s been a while.” The way he
said the word home suggested deep roots and relief.

“Well, thank you for your service to our country. How long before you have to leave again?” the attendant asked.

“That’s mighty kind of you, ma’am. I’ve officially retired—
Navy SEAL, so to answer your question how long until I leave
again. Never.”

Adeline’s job required her to gather information, put pieces
of a story together, and assess the base cause of a problem.

Her mentor, Rosalind, said it was an occupational hazard and had to be careful because she’d likely find herself analyzing people all the time—friends, family, and strangers.

Rosalind wasn’t wrong.
The guy with the irresistible drawl was military, retired,
going home...and never wanted to leave again.

Adeline couldn’t fathom such a thing. Where was that mystical, magical place? And who was the guy with the voice that
stuck in her head? The words mighty kind repeated...and repeated. Mighty kind.

“So where do you call home?” the flight attendant asked him.

“Home is the—” the guy started to reply, but a message from the pilot interrupted him.

They were going to hit some turbulence as they approached a storm.

Adeline wasn’t the kind of person to procrastinate. She’d
drank the entire glass of water and had to use the bathroom,
otherwise that turbulence was going to be especially unpleasant.

But just like she wasn’t going home for the holidays, she
wouldn’t use the lavatory behind her and risk seeing the guy with the deep voice—she didn’t have time for silly fantasies.

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