Authors: Lynnette Kent
Tags: #Contemporary, #Romance, #Fiction, #Forever Love, #Adult, #Bachelor, #Single Woman, #Sensual, #Hearts Desire, #Marshall Brothers, #Series, #Wyoming, #Cowboy, #Western, #Rancher, #Minister, #At-Risk Kids, #Childrens Camp, #Doctor, #Faith, #Christian, #Inspirational, #Spirituality, #New In Town, #Community, #Circle M Ranch, #Second Chances, #Family Ranch
In July 2016, the HARLEQUIN® AMERICAN ROMANCE® series will become the HARLEQUIN® WESTERN ROMANCE series. Same great stories, new name!
A COWBOY’S FAITH
Rancher Garrett Marshall’s life revolves around the Circle M, his work as a minister and his camp for at-risk kids. Until Dr. Rachel Vale comes to town. There’s an instant and powerful attraction between Garrett and the beautiful doctor…one he’s convinced could lead to something wonderful.
Rachel can’t fall for the cowboy minister, no matter how kind and ruggedly handsome he may be. His whole life is rooted in faith, and her world is guided by facts. One fact she can’t deny—she’s falling for Garrett anyway. Will Rachel keep her distance, or will she finally let her heart lead her home?
“For what it’s worth, I think you’re pretty special, Rachel.”
He could see her defenses spring up. “You shouldn’t say that.”
“Of course I should. It’s true.”
“We agreed to keep things professional.”
“I’m really starting to hate that word.” He tried to rein in his frustration. “Ignoring what’s between us won’t make it disappear.”
Her blue gaze turned fierce. “Yes, it will.”
Around them, the house was still and quiet. Reaching out, he took Rachel’s hands in his. “So you’re just going to pretend you don’t feel anything when my fingers touch yours.” He linked their fingers and pressed their palms together.
“That’s right.” But she swallowed hard.
“And it wouldn’t make any difference if I stroked your hair.” He let go of her left hand and skimmed his fingers lightly over the smooth strands above her ear.
“No.” Her fingers twitched in his grasp.
“So a simple kiss wouldn’t matter at all.”
She drew a deep breath. “Of course not.”
“Okay, then.” He leaned forward and set his lips against hers…
While my husband served in the Navy, we lived in six different cities, and we moved to yet another location when he retired. Each move posed challenges—learning where to shop and how to get to school, finding piano teachers and the best place for pizza. Most important, we would be seeking new friends and discovering how our family could fit into the local community. You never really feel at home until you’ve established your special crowd, your “tribe.”
The Marshall brothers have lived in Bisons Creek, Wyoming, all their lives. So when Dr. Rachel Vale comes to town to set up a medical clinic, Garrett Marshall makes it his mission to help her feel comfortable in her new setting. Local opinion holds that the doctor and the minister are a perfect match, and Garrett is inclined to agree. But Rachel isn’t so easily persuaded, and past experience has left her wary of romantic complications. As a medical emergency at the Circle M Ranch brings them together, Garrett must find a way to convince this cautious woman that he can be trusted—with the safety of her patients and with her heart.
Mail from readers is always a delight. Feel free to contact me at my website,
, or at PO Box 204, Vass, North Carolina 28394.
A child of the North Carolina mountains,
seems destined to find herself living anywhere
the mountains. Her family moved to Florida when she was nine, inspiring her with a lifelong love of the ocean and a long day spent at the beach. After marrying a graduate of the US Naval Academy, she moved with him to Tennessee while he attended medical school and from there to Virginia, California and Washington, DC.
Now settled in southeastern North Carolina, Lynnette tries to remember that mountain flowers don’t grow well in the heat of a Sandhills summer, that fall isn’t an abrupt change of season but a gentle, lingering evolution, and that winter without snow can be…well, endured. With her two daughters married and on their own, she practices her nurturing skills with the six horses and five dogs on her farm. When she’s not immersed in writing a book, or reading one, she mows grass, moves hay and fights a never-ending battle with weeds.
Books by Lynnette Kent
Harlequin American Romance
The Marshall Brothers
Get rewarded every time you buy a Harlequin ebook!
Click here to Join Harlequin My Rewards
Funny how a day could change so quickly.
One moment Garrett Marshall was enjoying a beautiful Monday morning in July. He was putting the finishing touch on the converted building that would now house the new medical clinic for the little town of Bisons Creek—a hand-carved and painted sign created by his artist brother, Dylan, announcing the medical practice of Dr. Rachel Vale. Garrett measured the sign and the space, calculating exactly where the hangers should go. Then he took his hammer and the first nail, cocked his wrist...
And slammed the face of the hammer directly onto his thumb.
“Damnation!” The hammer clanked to the floor of the porch as Garrett swore. Sucking on the injured finger, he glanced around to see if anybody had heard him. According to his congregation, ministers didn’t use such words, except in their sermons about the rewards of sin. Garrett didn’t want to shatter their illusions if he could help it.
Luckily, no one had been within earshot, but as he bent to pick up the hammer, a dusty green SUV pulled up to the curb in front of the clinic and stopped. The driver came around the hood of the vehicle to survey the building. “There’s no sign,” she called. “How will people find the place?”
“I’m working on it,” Garrett called back. “Give me two minutes.” Aware that he was being watched, he picked up the hammer he’d dropped and blew out a breath. “Focus...”
He didn’t hit his thumb again, though it took a few extra taps to get the first hanger firmly seated. The second went in with a little more finesse. Then he picked up the sign and hung it on the wall. “There you go.”
When he turned, he found the woman standing on the porch with him—and the close-up view took his breath away. Bright blue eyes and rosy lips, long hair in a shade of red he labeled russet, creamy skin and a curvy figure accentuated by a T-shirt and shorts...it all added up to perfection, as far as Garrett was concerned.
“It’s a nice sign,” she said, “but I’m not sure it will be visible from the street.”
She was also, he gathered, rather picky. “There will be a bigger, freestanding sign in the yard for the Bisons Creek Medical Clinic. It’s not quite finished.”
“That sounds great.” Smiling, she extended a hand. “I’m Rachel Vale.”
“Garrett Marshall.” Taking off his hat, he held her right hand in his and squeezed, but then couldn’t prevent a wince.
Her warm smile became a worried frown. “What’s wrong?”
“I hammered my thumb just before you arrived. Don’t worry—”
“Your right thumb?” She brought his hand closer to her face. “Are you left-handed?”
“I am, as a matter of fact.” He was also flushing in embarrassment at this point.
Dr. Vale hadn’t noticed, her attention being concentrated on his thumb. Her fingers were cool and gentle on his skin, and very clean. As she bent her head, he caught the crisp herbal scent of her shampoo. Unobtrusively, he drew in a deeper breath.
“Has the pain diminished since it happened?”
“Yes, definitely diminished. I’m fine, really. Just feeling stupid.”
Nothing like looking clumsy in front of a gorgeous professional woman.
He might be a pastor, but he had his pride.
“It’ll be bruised.” She released his hand. “Ice would be a good idea. I’d offer some, but I have no idea if I even have any ice.”
“I’m okay,” Garrett assured her. Her touch seemed to linger on his skin. “Shall I let you inside? Or do you have the keys?”
“The mayor sent me a set,” she said, pulling a key ring out of her back pocket. “Let’s see how this works.” With a couple of quick twists of her wrist, the door swung open. “Ta-da! My own clinic.” She nodded toward the interior. “Want to share my first tour?”
For another smile, he’d hang around all day. “My pleasure.” He followed her into the waiting room, where a pass-through window opened into the receptionist’s office. “This building used to be a general store,” he said as she surveyed the space. “It had been empty for years but wasn’t too hard to clean up and renovate into what you needed. Mostly a matter of putting up walls and doors, dropping the ceiling and laying new vinyl over the concrete.”
“That all sounds pretty labor-intensive to me. I like the light gray walls and charcoal floor. Very soothing.” She went through the door patients would use into the back hallway, where there were two examining rooms, a laboratory and an office. “You’ve made a big effort.”
“We’re pretty excited to have a medical clinic. Driving to Kaycee or Casper isn’t an easy option for some folks.”
The doctor nodded as she peeked behind cabinet doors, opened drawers and examined the boxes of equipment stacked on the counter. “I grew up in a small town, with no local doctor and a mother who had health issues. Getting to and from her appointments could take up most of a day. And as a doctor, I’ve experienced firsthand how beneficial it is for patients in an isolated community to have accessible health care. Problems can be handled relatively easily in the office rather than exacerbated by patients’ reluctance to make a long drive, especially the elderly. It’s one of the issues I specifically want to address in my career.”
Talk about commitment! Garrett thought she might be too good to be true. “I’m glad to hear that. We have our share of older folks in Bisons Creek.” He followed her down the hallway. “I understand your training is in family medicine?”
“At the University of Washington, in Seattle. I’ve also worked in small towns in Idaho and Montana.” She stood at the door to the office. “But never with an office this nice. There’s even a desk and an armchair and carpet, as if this were a real doctor’s study. Next I’ll be thinking I’m a real doctor.”
“That’s what we’re hoping anyway.”
“I do have certificates,” she said, grinning at him. “I can fake it pretty well.”
“I won’t tell.” He returned the grin with one of his own. Her bright blue gaze held his and there was a second when he could have sworn he felt the click of a connection between them.
Then she looked away and gestured at a cluster of boxes on the floor. “I’m glad my professional books arrived. I didn’t have room for everything in the car. I’ll have to buy some bookcases to put them on.”
“Having carried them in here, I can say you’d better get heavy-duty shelves. Each of those boxes weighs a ton.”
“And they cost a fortune to mail. I hope I don’t have to ship them again for a long, long time.”
“I like the sound of that. You’re welcome for as long as you want to stay.”
“Thanks.” She crossed the hall to the lab area. The equipment she’d ordered was already in place. “Functional and efficient—just what I asked for. And there’s a room set aside for the X-ray machine, right? I’m hoping that will be my first big purchase.”
“Right here.” Garrett opened the door to show her the windowless space. “We built it to the dimensions you gave us.”
Eyes shining, she spread her arms wide. “Everything I could ask for. You’ve done a terrific job.”
He held up a hand in protest. “I can’t take too much credit. The whole town worked together on raising funds to restore the building.”
“But you must be the town carpenter, right?”
“Um, no. Kimble Construction did most of the real work. I’m the minister at Bisons Creek Church. My brother built the sign and I said I’d hang it.”
“Oh.” Her glow of excitement seemed to dim. “Well...thank you for all your help.” She walked away, toward the front of the clinic. “I’ll let you get on with your day. I’m sure you have things to do.”
Following, Garrett felt dismissed. “We do have a friend in common, though. Caroline Donnelly, who recommended you for the job, is my brother Ford’s fiancée.”
In the waiting room, she faced him again. “You’re one of the Marshall brothers. Now I see.” She thawed slightly. “Caroline has talked a lot about all of you in her emails this summer. I understand you have a camp on your ranch for some of her at-risk kids.”
“We do. And I should be getting back to them right now. I just wanted to be sure you had a sign to welcome you to town.”
“I appreciate the effort. Really.” But her pretty face was empty of expression. The contagious enthusiasm of a few minutes before had vanished. She held the door open and actually waved him out. “Have a good one.”
“You, too.” Garrett found himself on the porch, the door firmly shut behind him. Staring at the panel, he couldn’t figure out what the heck had happened, why Rachel Vale’s attitude had changed so fast—from friendly and outgoing to almost hostile. He didn’t remember anything he’d said or done that accounted for the difference.
In fact, he’d been anticipating getting to know her better, maybe building up to the suggestion of a cup of coffee at the diner, or even some lunch. He’d been reflecting what a welcome addition to the Bisons Creek social scene she would be...
Funny how the tone of the day could change so fast.
After replacing his hammer and the package of nails in his toolbox, Garrett climbed behind the wheel of his truck, intending to head toward the Circle M Ranch, where he and his brothers lived and worked. But just as he put his hand on the key to start the engine, he heard a door slam. He glanced at the clinic to find Rachel Vale hurrying down the walk. She opened the back of her SUV and pulled out a large duffel bag, then came up to his truck.
She opened the rear passenger door. “I just got a call from Caroline. There’s some kind of emergency at your place.” After slinging the duffel into the backseat, she climbed in the front. “We need to get out there right away.”
“Welcome to Bisons Creek,” Garrett said, pulling out into street. “I can’t tell you how glad I am that you’re here.”
* * *
what happened?” Garrett Marshall asked.
“Only that one of the kids was very sick,” Rachel told him. “I didn’t get any other details.”
After a short, mostly silent drive out of town, they turned in underneath the iron arch of the Circle M Ranch. Though her mind was preoccupied with the situation waiting for her, Rachel could appreciate the landscape of rolling, grassy plains and the big blue sky stretching overhead.
“A beautiful setting,” she said. “You must be proud of your property.”
“Not so much proud as grateful.” He smiled as he glanced over. “We feel pretty lucky to be able to take care of this parcel of land.”
Even though he’d said he was a minister, he certainly looked the part of the traditional rancher—close-fitting jeans, a dark blue work shirt and the quintessential white Western hat. With medium brown hair in a conservative cut and those sharp blue eyes, he made a very attractive cowboy, for those who found the type appealing.
Telling herself she wasn’t one of them, Rachel turned her gaze back to the view outside. “Has your family lived on the Circle M for generations?”
“No, as a matter of fact. My brothers and I lost both our parents before I was twelve. My oldest brother, Wyatt, was hired on here by Henry MacPherson, the man who owned the Circle M at that time. Eventually Henry had us all move out from town to live with him. When he died, he left the ranch to us. The Marshall brothers are relatively new to the ranching business, all told.”
She saw buildings in the distance—a timber-sided house and a big red barn on the hill above it. “Mr. MacPherson must have thought very highly of you.”
“Well, Wyatt is a responsible and dedicated worker—Henry knew he’d do his best for the place. The rest of us help out as much as we can, given our other responsibilities. Especially this summer, because Wyatt got bucked off a horse and broke a couple of bones in his back, so he’s out of commission for the time being.”
“That’s too bad. I hope he’s taking good care of himself.”
They approached the sprawling, single-story house, where a group of teenagers had gathered on the porch, most of them staring at their phones. Garrett stopped the truck in front of the steps. Before he’d even shifted into park, Rachel swung out of her seat, pulled the duffel from the rear seat, then crossed to the door and knocked.
Dark-haired Caroline Donnelly opened the screen door. “Oh, Rachel, I’m so glad you’re here. And so glad I could call you.” Behind her was a blond man who looked enough like Garrett that he had to be one of his brothers. Handsome evidently ran in the Marshall family.
Rachel gave her friend a one-armed hug. “Me, too. What’s going on?”
Across the room, a young girl lay bonelessly on the sofa.
“We were doing rodeo practice on the bucking barrel. Lena said she wanted to ride and walked over...but then she just sort of staggered and fell down. We carried her in and called an ambulance. And you.”
“Smart thinking.” Rachel knelt by the sofa. One deep breath of the fruity aroma surrounding the patient gave her all the information she needed. “Did she say anything?” From the front pocket of the duffel, she pulled out a glucometer to test Lena’s blood glucose level.
“She was acting kinda crazy this morning.” A tanned, black-haired boy sat in a recliner nearby. “I said she shouldn’t ride, but she wouldn’t listen.” His dark eyes were wide with fear. “Is she okay?”
Caroline came over and put a hand on his shoulder. “We’ve got help now, Justino. Dr. Vale will know what to do.”
“Did she eat breakfast?” Rachel asked. The blood-sugar result was high. And her blood pressure was low.
Justino shook his head. “She’s been sick for a couple of days. Throwing up and stuff.”
“Why didn’t she say something?” Garrett asked. “Why didn’t you?”
Rachel cut in. “She’s quite slender. Has she always been thin?”
“Yeah. But she said her jeans are getting loose, even though she’s been hungry a lot.”
“And thirsty?” Rachel asked.
“Oh, yeah. She drinks all the time.”
Lena fluttered her eyelashes and moved her head slightly.
“There you are,” Rachel said. “Hi, Lena, I’m Dr. Vale. How are you?”
“So thirsty,” Lena whispered without opening her eyes. “So tired.”
Turning again to her bag, Rachel began pulling out materials—an IV bag of saline and tubing, a syringe and a bottle of insulin. “Raise her legs,” she ordered over her shoulder. “Above her heart.”