Megan McQuarry returned to Primrose Creek after attempting to become an actress -- and innocently losing both her heart and her beloved land. But instead of the healing homecoming she needs, Megan is met with a shocking revelation that changes everything she believed about her family. Feeling lost and betrayed, she finds herself befriending Webb Stratton, the handsome new owner of her land.
Webb can see this lovely lady is in need of refuge, and he could certainly use her help around his ranch. He offers her a position as his housekeeper -- and soon, Megan and Webb find themselves falling head over heels in love. But Webb is haunted by a tragic incident from the past...and when he leaves to confront his own family betrayals, Megan now faces her heart's greatest challenge: trusting that Webb's devotion is truly a promise for a lifetime.
Primrose Creek, Nevada
Dust billowed around the stagecoach as Megan McQuarry stepped down, grasping the skirts of her black-and-white striped silk dress in one hand. She'd been traveling for several endless, bone-jolting days, but she'd taken care with her appearance all along the way. She'd washed whenever the opportunity arose, which was seldom enough, and done her best to keep her auburn hair tidy and her hat firmly affixed, at just the proper angle. She was penniless, a miserable failure, with nothing but a trunk full of missed cues and frayed dreams to show for two years on her own, but she still had the formidable McQuarry pride.
She had returned to Primrose Creek in defeat, there was no denying that, but not without a certain bittersweet sense of homecoming. Coming back meant seeing her sister Christy again, after all, and her two cousins, Bridget and Skye. They'd had the good sense to stay put, Christy and the others, and now they had homes, husbands, children. Their lives were busy and full, bright with color and passion; she knew that from the letters Skye had written while she was away, always pleading with her to return to Primrose Creek.
She sighed and squared her aching shoulders, bracing herself for what lay ahead. Her kin would welcome her, she knew; they'd enfold her in laughter and love, include her in their doings, defend her fiercely against the inevitable snubs and gossip her return would arouse. But they would be angry, too, and confused, for she had left suddenly, leaving behind only a brief note of explanation.
She shaded her eyes as she looked up at the coach driver, who was unstrapping her secondhand trunk and getting ready to toss it down at her feet. She hoped he wouldn't expect any sort of recompense, because she'd used the last of her funds the day before, to purchase a bowl of stew at a way station. She hadn't eaten since.
"Be careful with that, please," she said, indicating the trunk. It's all I have. And it was. She'd long since sold her share of the prime timber- and grassland left to the four McQuarry women to some rancher, through a banker and a lawyer, and now she would be the poor relation, beholden for every bite of bread and bolt of calico she got until the day she went to her final rest. If only that were the worst of it, she thought.
"Yes, ma'am," the driver answered, and let the trunk fall with an unceremonious clunk onto the wooden sidewalk, raising grit from between the boards. Megan would have taken off some of the fellow's hide if she hadn't been so weary, so hungry, and so utterly disconsolate.
She was just reaching for the trunk's battered handle, meaning to drag the monstrosity across the road to her brother-in-law's office -- Zachary Shaw was the town marshal -- when a large leather-gloved hand eased her own aside. She looked up, expecting to see Zachary, or perhaps Trace Qualtrough, Bridget's husband, or Jake Vigil, who had married Skye around the time of Megan's flight. Instead, she found herself gazing into a stranger's face; a man with tanned skin, wheat-colored hair, and periwinkle-blue eyes grinned down at her. His teeth were sturdy and white as a new snowfall gleaming under morning sunlight.
He tugged at the brim of his weathered leather hat. "You planning to stay on here at Primrose Creek, ma'am? I do hope you aren't just passing through -- that would be a sore disappointment."
Megan was used to sweet-talking men, God knew, and good-looking ones, too, but there was something about this one that caused her breath to catch as surely as if she'd just tumbled headfirst into an ice-cold mountain stream. All her senses, dulled by...