The Rebellious Rancher - Kate Pearce

Chapter One

Miller Ranch

Morgan Valley, California

Ben Miller didn’t know what was worse, sitting on the back of a horse in the middle of a field of bawling calves, or not giving a damn about sitting in that field because he didn’t want to be there anymore. Now that his big brother, Adam, owned the whole ranch, what did that make him? A hired hand? A man without a purpose?

“Ben! What the hell are you doing?” Adam yelled. “You’re supposed to be moving these calves toward the gate!”

He blinked the squalling rain from his eyes, angled his Stetson against the wind, and looked over to where his brother sat waiting by the fence. Adam never looked particularly happy, not having the face for it, but now he was positively grim.

“Come on!”

Ben gathered his reins, clicked to his horse, and went around the back of the bunch of complaining calves. With the help of his two dogs, he pushed the youngsters toward the gate. Luckily, the calves stayed tightly together and, as their mothers started to call out for them, they were more than willing to be funneled into the next field to find food and shelter.

Adam rode off to make sure they all got settled in, and Ben leaned down to secure the gate. It was hard to tell what time it was, as everything was gray, but he had a sense that it was getting late. Most of the delays had been his fault because he hadn’t been concentrating, and the calves kept getting away from him.

Jenna Morgan looked up as he approached the covered area where she was completing the paperwork for the inoculations they had just given the calves. She wore a heavy jacket with a hood, fingerless gloves, and long boots over her jeans to keep out the chill and the mud.

“I think I’ve got everything. Thanks for your help.”

Adam, who had dismounted and brought his horse into the shelter, grunted. “Not that you were much help, Ben.”

Ben dismounted, patted Calder, brought him out of the rain, and studiously avoided his brother’s gaze.

Jenna glanced uncertainly from him to Adam and stashed her paperwork in her bag. “I’ll get back to you tomorrow if I have any issues. Keep an eye on the calves for the next couple of days to see if there are any adverse reactions.”

“Will do. Thanks, Jenna,” Adam said.

“Have a great evening.” She slogged off through the mud toward her SUV, which was parked on the other side of the fence.

Adam waited until she drove away and then cleared his throat.

“You got something to say to me, bro?”

“Why would you think that?” Ben fussed around with the straps of his saddlebags.

“Because you’re acting like an ass.”

“Takes one to know one,” Ben muttered, as he found a cloth and went around to clean off Calder’s nose strap, which was so splattered with mud that his nostrils were practically closed up.

“You’ve been salty ever since Dad announced he was leaving me the ranch and stepping back.”

“Really? I wonder why?”

“Ben . . . will you just talk to me?” Adam asked. “If you hate the idea so much, I’ll talk some sense into Dad and make it right.”

Ben finally met his brother’s gaze. They were almost the same height although Adam was slightly taller and leaner. “If Dad wants you to have the ranch, then it’s yours. It makes a lot of sense, and you’ll definitely run it better than he does.”

“Just because something makes sense doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do.”

“Why are you arguing against yourself, bro?” Ben patted Calder’s nose and put the cloth away. “I totally get why he did what he did. This is on me.” He poked himself in the chest. “I’ve got to work out how I feel about it—not you.”

Adam held his gaze. “I’ll tell him no.”

“It’s too late for that. The paperwork was all done and dusted last week.” Ben took off his Stetson and banged it against his thigh to shake some of the water off.

“I don’t care. We can do it again. I’ll even pay for it if you’ll just stop walking around looking like someone kicked your favorite puppy.”

Guilt coalesced in Ben’s gut. “That bad, eh?”


Ben could never say that his older brother wasn’t a straight shooter. If he said he was willing to go back and renegotiate the deal, then he’d do it. But what would that give Ben? Maybe he should’ve stood up and voiced his concerns straight off rather than stewing on them