Authors: Tina Leonard
A Lonesome Cowboy Finds His Destiny
Former Navy SEAL Sloan Callahan lives by his own rules, free and alone. But now urgent family business brings Sloan and his brothers and sister to New Mexico—and the cousins he’d never met. That isn’t all he finds on Rancho Diablo, where a petite blonde is about to completely upend Sloan’s world.
As the liaison between the two branches of the Callahan clan, Kendall Phillips’s job description doesn’t include being bossed around by one ex-military cowboy. It’s hard enough to concentrate with the sparks she and Sloan are creating together. Now the sexy rebel has two more lives to safeguard: the baby boys Kendall’s carrying.
No way is Sloan allowing danger to touch Kendall and the twins. His new mission: to protect his loved ones as he gets ready to change the course of Callahan destiny forever!
“I don't need a psychological evaluation. I need you.”
He was only so much of a saint. In fact, he wasn't a saint at all. “Kendall, you're scared. I understand that. But I'm not the answer.”
“I'm not looking for answers.” She ran her palms up his back, pressing him closer. “You treat me like a china doll. As if you're afraid of me.”
“I'm notâ” She did scare the hell out of him. They had nothing in common except Rancho Diablo, which wasn't even his home, or hers.
The problem was how much he wanted her.
“I want you, Sloan.”
He didn't reply. In the darkness, Kendall couldn't read his face. He'd tensed up, a hard stone fortress in her armsâbut then his lips touched hers, seeking, before turning demanding.
Sparks shattered inside her. She kissed him back, drawing him to her, not about to let him get up on his good-soldier horse and ride away.
I love the Callahans, and I’m thrilled you have found a place for them in your hearts, too! The New Year starts off with Sloan’s story, as he and his family meet their Callahan cousins at Rancho Diablo. Sloan never dreamed he’d find himself battling to keep the Callahan legacy secure—let alone falling for the beautiful, sexy Kendall Phillips. But the biggest shocker of all for Sloan is discovering how much he loves the idea of being a father, when he never saw himself settling down. How can he resist falling for the woman who makes him realize the last thing he wants is to be a lone wolf?
I hope you enjoy this new chapter in the Callahan saga. This is the first of seven new stories, where the Chacon Callahans are brought into the fold, where love and land intertwine to forge new ties for them all. As we meet these Callahan cousins, it’s my fondest wish that you will love, laugh and enjoy their journey home with them.
Best wishes to you all,
A Callahan Outlaw’s Twins
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Tina Leonard is a
bestselling and award-winning author of more than fifty projects, including several popular miniseries for Harlequin American Romance. Known for bad-boy heroes and smart, adventurous heroines, her books have made the
Waldenbooks, Ingram and Nielsen BookScan bestseller lists. Born on a military base, Tina lived in many states before eventually marrying the boy who did her crayon printing for her in the first grade. You can visit her at
Books by Tina Leonard
HARLEQUIN AMERICAN ROMANCE
1037—NAVARRO OR NOT†
1069—BELONGING TO BANDERA†
1129—MY BABY, MY BRIDE *
1137—THE CHRISTMAS TWINS *
1153—HER SECRET SONS*
1241—THE TEXAS RANGER’S TWINS
1246—THE SECRET AGENT’S SURPRISES‡
1250—THE TRIPLETS’ RODEO MAN‡
1263—THE TEXAS TWINS
1282—THE COWBOY FROM CHRISTMAS PAST
1354—THE COWBOY’S TRIPLETS**
1362—THE COWBOY’S BONUS BABY**
1370—THE BULL RIDER’S TWINS**
1378—HOLIDAY IN A STETSON: “A Rancho Diablo Christmas”
1385—HIS VALENTINE TRIPLETS**
1393—COWBOY SAM’S QUADRUPLETS**
1401—A CALLAHAN WEDDING**
1411—THE RENEGADE COWBOY RETURNS**
1418—THE COWBOY SOLDIER’S SONS**
1427—CHRISTMAS IN TEXAS: “Christmas Baby Blessings”
†Cowboys by the Dozen
*The Tulips Saloon
‡The Morgan Men
Many thanks and much love to the readers who have supported my writing with such devotion and generosity. Your enthusiasm is the reason I write.
Chief Running Bear looked out across the canyons as he sat astride a black Diablo mustang. He looked to the east, then the west, and finally northward. A huge plume of dust rose on the horizon, painting the New Mexico sky an ominous gray. The air stirred, unsettled. The chief knew what the signs meant.
What was coming could not be stopped, nor changed. The past was rising to meet them, just as before.
He turned the Diablo mustang south, and they melted into the canyons.
There was no time to waste.
“All I can say is that the Callahans are unafraid to live by their own rules, no matter the consequences. It makes you want to live a little harder yourself. I call it Callahan fire.”
—Bode Jenkins, when asked by a reporter
about his neighbors
Sloan Chacon stared at the note tacked to the door of his isolated cabin, an event that had happened three times before in his life. This time it had been placed while he was sleeping. Highly trained and decorated Navy SEALs did not normally find themselves in the presence of someone stealthier than they.
Sloan pulled the note off the rustic wood. It was from Chief Running Bear, the connection to his old life, and his paternal grandfather.
The instructions, as always, were cryptic.
There are many mysteries in a man’s life. You are needed now, to protect the family and your heritage. Go to the Callahan ranch in New Mexico. Near the canyons you will find seven large stones, one placed for each of you. This ring of stone will be your home from now on, in your heart.
He’d known this day was coming, from the day his parents had left. They’d said “the chief will guide you”—and they’d disappeared. He and his brothers and sister had split up, moved in separate directions when they were old enough. Life in the tribe was over.
He hadn’t understood much then. But his parents had been right: the chief had guided them.
He’d just resented the hell out of it.
* * *
stared across the ranch land of Rancho Diablo toward the canyons. Jonas lowered the night-vision binoculars. “I see a circle of seven large rocks, and a small fire in the center. My guess is it’s the bat signal, with our grandfather starring as Alfred.”
“Chief business,” Sam said.
Jonas nodded. “The chief’s not holding a séance, so something’s up.”
Sam took the binoculars. “I knew the peace couldn’t last forever.”
Jonas waited for Sam’s assessment of the fire and ring of stone.
“There are eight people. Six dudes, the chief and what may be a reasonably decent-looking chick with spiky light hair. Around our age, but hard to tell. They look fit.”
“You mean they look like they’re strong enough to tote diaper bags and baby gear,” Jonas said. “I’ve bulked up with the nineteen kids on this ranch.”
“Exactly. Shall we butt in?”
“I thought you’d never ask.”
Sam set the binoculars down. “The chief wouldn’t have let us see him if he didn’t want us to know something’s going on. That means he expects all of us to show.”
“I’m on it,” Jonas said, sending a mass text to the brothers.
Cut yourselves loose. Chief situation.
“Here we go,” Sam said.
“Ever think what our lives would be like without the chief?” Jonas asked his brother, hearing a rumble of thunder deep in the heart of the canyons that could only be the mystical Diablos running, a portent of things to come.
“Yeah.” Sam slid into a leather jacket, stuck a small pistol in the back of his jeans. “Boring as hell.”
But boring had been nice for the past year.
* * *
easily enough—the small fire was an excellent marker. He put his pack down and eyed the dark landscape around him, checking for danger. His heart beat hard, adrenaline kicking in. “You can come out. Let’s get this party started.”
His five brothers slowly materialized from the shadows. Sloan waited. A few seconds passed, then his slightly built sister stepped close to the fire.
the party can get rocking,” Ashlyn said.
They embraced each other. Cold night air blew down his jacket collar, but Sloan didn’t care. It felt too good to be with his family again. They’d waited a long time for this moment.
He wished they could stay together forever.
But they weren’t alone. Sloan stood still as six tall men appeared out of the darkness like night specters. The two groups stared across the fire, sizing each other up.
Sloan had no idea how long the chief had been standing next to him. His grandfather’s face gave away nothing, and Sloan wondered why they’d all been called to this remote location.
“This is Callahan land,” the chief said. “You are all Callahans.”
Sloan looked at the impassive faces gathered around the fire. If this was family, it felt very strange to learn about it now. “We are Chacon.”
“Chacon Callahan. You are related by blood. Your fathers are brothers.” The chief met the gaze of each of them in turn. “One of you is the hunted one.”
Sloan stared at the chief. “What does that mean, hunted?”
“It means one may die if the thirteen do not work together. No matter what, nothing can separate you from your purpose.”
“Which is what?” Sloan demanded.
“Protecting the family.” The chief looked at Jonas.
“Is there another mercenary coming?” Jonas asked.
“There was never only one,” the chief said. “You knew they would send more. They are nearing Rancho Diablo even as we speak.”
“If these guys have a problem, what does that have to do with us?” Sloan asked.
“Callahan is Callahan. The fight is the same.” The chief gestured one last time at the clan gathered in a circle. “Get to know each other well. A single stick can be broken, but a bundle not so easily.”
“I’ve heard that before,” Sloan said. “Any further intel would be appreciated.”
“Your home is here,” the chief said. “Keep the ring of stone and fire in your hearts. Across the canyons, a few miles as the eagles flies, lies danger.”
“If we’re supposed to be a bundle,” Jonas said, “I assume they’re staying with us at Rancho Diablo? They’re welcome to, of course, though we can take care of ourselves.”
“For now they stay here.” The chief squatted next to the fire, waved a hand over it. “You have nineteen children, six wives and two elderly people on the ranch, Jonas. It is best to have your cousins remain in this place so they can keep a lookout.”
“I’d watch calling Aunt Fiona and Uncle Burke elderly,” Jonas replied. “Chief, we can establish our own lookouts.” He glanced across the fire at his new kin.
Sloan knew exactly how Jonas felt. “Why again is this our problem?”
“Brother takes care of brother.” The chief let that sink in for a moment. “Remember that only blood matters. Stay together and yet separate. There is strength in all of you, but even a chain can be broken if the weakest link is not reinforced,” the chief said, rising. “Here the past and the future become one. What comes now will change you all.”
He disappeared, and the fire dimmed. Hoofbeats echoed eerily in the darkness.
Sloan had little patience for open-ended missions with little purpose, and slackers who couldn’t take care of themselves. He appointed himself troubleshooter, deciding to go ahead and shoot this trouble in the head before it took over their lives. “I take it you’re in some kind of jam, cousins,” he said. “Not really sure we can help you.”
“I’m Jonas Callahan. And as far as I knew when I woke up this morning, the only jam in my world was on my toast. We thought we were doing just fine until you showed up.”
Sloan took the hand stretched out to him, giving it a brief shake. “Sloan. These are my brothers and sister. Falcon, Galen, Jace, Dante, Tighe and Ashlyn.”
Ashlyn’s diminutive size caught Jonas’s attention. He glanced at Sloan.
“She’s not the weak link,” Sloan said drily. “Trust me on that. Five feet two of meanness if you cross her.”
“Good,” Jonas said. “No offense, Ashlyn.”
“Not a problem,” she said.
Jonas looked at Sloan. “These are my brothers. Creed, Pete, Sam, Rafe and Judah.”
“Seven of us, six of you?” Sloan asked.
“Guess your father was more prolific,” Jonas said.
“Or he was determined to have a girl,” Ashlyn said, her tone sweet.
Jonas eyed Sloan. “We’ll head on now.”
He nodded. Sloan glanced around at the rest of the Callahans on the opposite side of the fire. There was definitely a strong resemblance, but they didn’t feel like family.
Yet they were supposed to fight for a common cause, against something dangerous that affected all of them.
Sloan didn’t get it. Frankly, if the seven of them had been brought in to help these six, he wasn’t all that interested.
family could stand on their own.
Too bad if theirs couldn’t.