It’s not that Tess Kinley doesn’t appreciate the luxuries in her life, it’s just not the life she wants. She wants to live out west, to build a life on the land, and if it means running away from an arranged marriage and imposing herself on the Calloways, then that’s what she’ll do.
Experience has taught Gabe Calloway that city girls have no business living out west, and he has no intention of letting this one get too comfortable on his ranch. If he has any say in the matter, he’ll see her on the very first stage out of town.
Luckily for Tess, the first stage isn’t expected for a while, allowing her some time to prove her worth to Gabe, in more ways than one. Despite her willingness to dive in and do any task he sets before her, Gabe isn’t convinced, but as time goes by, Tess begins to get under his skin, something he fights with everything he has. Either he’s turning soft, or she’s stronger than he thought, because she seems to be winning the battle between them, but an encounter with a rattle snake hits too close to home, and Gabe is reminded once again why city girls don’t belong on his ranch.
Tess leaves the ranch, but she does not leave town as Gabe wanted. Instead she takes a room in the filthy hotel, and a job at the restaurant, determined to see her plan through, even if it means doing it without Gabe. He’s more confused than ever, torn between shutting Tess out of his heart and life forever or letting himself love her, knowing at some point she’ll succumb to the hardships as his mother did, or she’ll realize she belongs back in the city, as Catarina did.
Gabe’s certain it’s a sign of weakness, but he can’t live without Tess, and if that means he has to live every day in fear of losing her, then that’s what he’ll do.
It’s not long after they’re married that Tess’s father arrives with her former fiancé in tow. They mean to take her back to Boston and they’re not afraid to use whatever force is necessary. They’ve already killed two of Gabe’s closest friends, and he’s next on the list unless she agrees to come quietly. With no other option, she agrees to leave with them, knowing Gabe will never forgive her, but at least she will have kept him safe.
Safety be damned, Gabe is not about to give Tess up so easily. Once he discovers what has happened, he races after them, determined to get her back safe and sound. But determination might not be enough once the bullets start flying.
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