Hope on the Range (Turn Around Ranch #2) - Cindi Madsen

Chapter 1

A package from FedEx was rare around these parts, since most people in Silver Springs, Colorado, adored the postman they’d had going on forty years and thought any other delivery method was akin to treason.

Didn’t matter that Gerald’s eyesight was going or that he often mixed up addresses and delivered the wrong mail to the wrong people. Which was why Tanya had been so adamant about using another shipping method. Even in the privacy of her own bedroom, merely placing the order had caused her face to grow too hot. If one of the busybodies in town accidentally ended up with her package, she’d never hear the end of it. Especially since no one around these parts could keep a secret.

Tanya’s heart pumped double time, and she barely refrained from snatching the large padded envelope out of the flustered-looking FedEx driver’s hands. A jingling bell filled the air as Winston, the three-legged goat Tanya had recently nursed back to health, hobbled over to see what was going on.

The FedEx driver read off her name and, at Tanya’s nod, finally extended the parcel her way. “This place wasn’t easy to find.”

“Real sorry about that,” she said, more to be polite, since being off the beaten path was pretty much the point of Bullhead Valley Dude Ranch. Admittedly, she was also distracted, her mind preoccupied with the contents of the envelope and keeping Winston from nibbling on the corner. Thanks to the peg leg she’d fashioned, the lopsided goat could get around well enough, and he mostly used his newfound mobility to eat things he wasn’t supposed to.

After she informed the delivery guy that no, there wasn’t an easier way back to the main road, he left, and a hesitant sort of excitement rose. Tanya had learned to manage her hopes and expectations, but there was also that saying about desperate times and desperate measures. Unfortunately, that term fit her all too well lately, so this summer, she’d resolved to take back the reins on her own life.

She did a quick scan to confirm she was still alone. Between the guests and the staff, solitude was a rarity on the dude ranch. A family of five had checked out shortly before the FedEx truck had arrived; there would be a new group arriving for a corporate retreat momentarily; and then there was the big-shot CEO who’d booked a cabin for the entire month, starting this evening. Apparently, he’d inherited some land and was thinking of getting into the ranching biz. The guy would undoubtedly change his mind once he discovered visiting a ranch and running one were two very different things. Seeing as how he was willing to pay for the full Cowboy Up package, far be it from her to discourage him from learning that lesson the hard way.

With the coast clear, Tanya lowered herself onto a nearby tree stump. “Shall we have a look?” she asked Winston as she ripped open the envelope. The cardboard tab fluttered in the early-morning breeze, and a stray red curl stuck to her lip gloss. Usually, she wore her hair up and didn’t bother with makeup, but these days, she was making more of an effort.

Because she’d lost her mind, as the book she withdrew from the envelope confirmed.

How to Land Your Dream Guy: Tips from Today’s Top Dating Expert.

A mixture of embarrassment and anticipation whirled through her as she cracked open the spine. She skimmed the intro, since she’d already read it online, and flipped to the first chapter—“Know What You Want.”

Well, that was easy. Tanya continually found herself wanting the one thing she shouldn’t—her best and oldest friend, who happened to be her neighbor to the east. Butterflies took flight in her gut as she recalled Brady Dawson’s scruffy face and the way his lazy, crooked smile spread across it. Then the groove in his cheek would appear, a perfect little accent she’d been tempted to run her finger over the past couple of months.

Okay, fine. It’d been closer to four months, maybe five. At first, she’d been sure it was some kind of delusional phase, mostly due to the shortage of eligible men and having no time for a social life. After all, she and Brady had sworn long ago never to let anything ruin their friendship. They’d seen it time and time again in their small town. Two people crossed the line, only for friendship to turn to hate.

But they were different, right?

They had to be, because the desire that