Back home on her family's Texas Longhorn ranch, Grace Murray is busy preparing for her wedding. After a scruffy tattooed drifter saves her life, she takes on the mission of helping her savior, Heath Carter, find peace. The steady friendship and unconditional acceptance she receives from him encourages her to trade an old dream for a new one—a dream true to her heart. When she calls off her wedding, Grace is finally set free to fully love Heath.
After a decade of military service, Special Forces veteran Heath Carter is living with war's tragic consequences. Struggling with PTSD, anger, and guilt, he travels through Texas, solitarily moving from job to job. Working with Grace on the ranch, Heath's guilt over his past actions make him feel unworthy of her love. As their paths lead them in different directions, Heath needs to discover the courage to fight his toughest battle yet—the one inside himself.
Is that what she thought of him—a friend? He stepped away, ready to continue his walk to the barn, when she reached out and touched his arm. A spark shot straight to his heart, and he involuntarily flinched. Did Grace notice the effect she had on him? Hope not. She’d tell her dad. If Bruce knew Heath’s intense attraction to his only daughter, he’d toss him out on his rear.
The dog moved from Grace to Heath and licked at his hand, and then sat at his feet with his pink tongue lolling out the side of his mouth.
“Shadow’s been with us since he was a pup.” Grace tilted her head toward the dog. “My dad brought him home from the shelter ten years ago. You give him a little love, and he’ll be your best friend.”
Heath rubbed the dog’s shaggy head. “Pretty soon, I’ll have more friends than I’ll know what to do with.”
Shadow looked at him with amber eyes and barked.
“Seriously, though, thanks again for last night. The events are somewhat hazy, but I do know I’d still be wandering the countryside if not for your persistence.” He grinned, causing a burst of pain inside his busted nose. “Would you mind giving me a ride into town so I can get my bike? The poor girl will develop a complex if I keep abandoning her.”
Grace laughed. “Sure, but you’ll have to make it up to me.”
Her smile was pure innocence, but the spark in her eyes told a different story. “Is that so?” A slow smile emerged as he crossed his arms. “Name it.”
“Do you know how to ride? Horses, that is.”
“That’s a negative, ma’am.”
“Well, I guess it’s time you learn.” She rubbed her hands together. “The ranch is fun to explore on horseback.”
“As grateful as I am that you sprung me from jail, I’m not interested in death by horse. Is there anything else I can do? Wash your car? Paint your nails? I’m building your wedding gazebo, don’t forget.” His internal temperature rose along with his panic. The thought of riding one of those huge beasts made his nausea revisit with full force.
“You were in the Army, right?” she asked.
Afraid of where this line of questioning was headed, he nodded.
“You jumped out of planes? Fast roped out of helicopters? Was shot at?”
“But you’re afraid of riding a sweet, tame horse?” A smirk formed on her face.
“I didn’t say I was afraid.” Too late, he realized his assertion of fearlessness was tantamount to surrender. How would he get out of this situation with his male pride still intact? News flash, soldier—you’re not. Grace was on the offensive and showed no signs of surrender.
“Great! I’ll go change and meet you in the stables.” She smiled and took off toward the house, her spry legs moving quickly across the lawn.
He forced his gaze away and slowly walked to the stables. “I survived multiple tours in a war zone only to be ensnared by a bewitching siren and lured to my death on horseback,” he muttered to himself.
Bruce exited the stable and gave Heath a hearty pat on the back. “Ain’t that the way it goes, son? But if you’re lucky, she won’t let you escape her net.”