The Rancher’s Second Chance

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He wants his ranch back…she won’t give it up.

Nell Sutherland is a born cowgirl, but she still lives in a man’s world. And when Cooper Ransom, her first love, shows up to reclaim the land he lost to her family years ago, Nell really meets her match. To keep her enemy close, she hires Cooper as her new foreman, and in this partial, edited scene they’ve been hunting a pack of troublesome coyotes near the border of his former ranch.

By now, they’d passed over the original boundary from the NLS. She must realize where they were, but when Nell didn’t object, he rode on. Ransom land. There was the overgrown trail he’d ridden with his dad, the stand of trees where he’d first kissed Nell…and down the slope ahead, he saw the house.

He expected her to rein Bear [her horse] around, tell him he didn’t live here anymore and never would again.

“Let’s take a look,” she said instead and cantered down the slope. Inside, they looked around. “Sad, isn’t it? The whole house seems sad.” She paused. “And yet there are happy memories too.”

Upstairs, Cooper’s room held even more memories. With Nell. He ran a hand over the door latch. “In my teens, I installed this lock for privacy. Remember?”

“We spent a lot of time here,” she said, looking around, “doing homework—”

He raised his eyebrows. “Making out.”

“Oh, Cooper.” Her expression shifted, softening, and without another word, Nell slipped her arms around his waist, then laid her head against his pounding heart. He hugged her in return, but the embrace didn’t last long. Nell drew away and took a few steps toward his bedroom door. “Well. Hmm.” She cleared her throat. A glance into the hallway as if she were waiting for rescue.

Suppressing a sigh, Cooper clattered down the steps behind her. He didn’t trust himself to be alone with her in this place that made him wish for their long-ago friendship and that first love. “Careful. No telling what shape this structure may be in by now—but I hope not that bad.”

At the bottom of the stairs, Nell faced him. “Meaning you do plan to fix it up for your mother.”

“I told you what she wants, Nell. What I want.”

She squared her shoulders, pressed her lips together as if to keep from saying, No, you won’t get this house, this ranch. I don’t care about the past we shared. I don’t care about you.

Yet the very air in these rooms had changed the dynamic between them, and underneath her determination to run the NLS and keep his land as part of it, he sensed she also understood.