Becoming a husband and family man in the middle of a raging land feud wasn’t the destiny Galen Callahan saw for himself. But once he laid eyes on Rose Carstairs, he knew the bouncy blonde with the warrior heart was his future. Now, with Rancho Diablo under siege, the eldest Callahan sibling will do whatever it takes to protect his new wife and triplets.
Except Rose refuses to be protected! No husband of hers can stop her from fighting by his side while keeping their newborn sons out of the line of fire. With Callahan lives and legacy on the line, Galen has a new mission: to vanquish a dangerous enemy and bring his family together in time for Christmas!
Galen Chacon Callahan looked over Rancho Diablo, where dark smoke filled the sky above the canyons with smudges of black. He put his binoculars to his eyes, studying the smoke as it grew and thickened.
He turned as his sister, Ashlyn, drove up in the jeep. “It’s not a wildfire,” she said.
“No.” Rancho Diablo was safely separated from the fire by the canyons, but if someone was sending up signals near the expansive ranch, it would be a message the Callahans couldn’t ignore. “It’s the land Storm Cash has offered to sell us.”
“I know. I wonder if the elderly farmer who sold that land to Storm still lives there.” She studied Galen’s face. “Think we should ride over and check on him?”
“I’ll call the sheriff. He can alert the proper authorities. I think it’s best if we stay out of it for now.” He was troubled by the fire, and an uneasy feeling was growing in the pit of his stomach. “I’m heading back.”
“I’ll stay here a bit longer.”
“Got your gun?” Galen asked, knowing full well that Ash could take care of herself. He could order her back to the ranch—should order her—but she’d just ignore him. Probably give him a blistering retort to send him on his way as well.
“When do I not have my gun?” Ash didn’t even bother to glance at him. Her eyes were glued to the horizon.
“Don’t go over there.”
“I won’t. Quit fussing. You’re like a mother hen.” Ash finally turned to look him in the eye. “By the way, the new agents are at the house, waiting for you to interview them.”
“The ones to replace Ana and River. Jace lined them up every hour on the hour for interviews. Remember we agreed we needed new agents? Sawyer Cash can’t handle everything on her own. And anyway,” Ash muttered under her breath, though he could plainly hear every word of her complaint, “I’m not exactly sure she’s capable of handling anything.”
He’d listened to all the negative things the Callahan clan said about Sawyer, and he couldn’t say there wasn’t real reason for concern. She was Storm Cash’s niece, after all, and they’d never been certain if they could trust their wily neighbor. He always seemed to be in the wrong place at the right time. “Maybe we’re just being suspicious,” Galen said.
“There’s no such thing as too much caution.”
“I know. I’m heading off. Be careful. Don’t invite trouble.” Even though he knew Ash was more than capable of protecting not just herself, but the ranch, Galen couldn’t help leaving his sister with that warning before riding toward Rancho Diablo’s main house. After last month, when their aunt Fiona blew up Uncle Wolf’s hideout in Montana, he and his brothers had decided that the women in their family had earned their stripes. They could more than take care of themselves. Ash, like the rest of them, had been in the military, a trained operative. She was as tough as any male Callahan. Tougher, maybe. And so he and his five brothers had finally decided that their overprotective attitude toward their baby sister was accomplishing nothing and was detrimental to their family harmony.
Ash had never listened to anyone’s concerns, anyway. Like Fiona, and the women who’d married into the Callahan family, she did what she wanted—which was mostly chase Xav Phillips, a family employee who rode the canyons and kept an eye out for trespassers.
Galen was pretty sure Ash caught him on occasion, too.
He was so busy pondering the smoke in the canyons and his platinum-haired baby sister that he almost missed the rider heading his way. A brunette he didn’t recognize rode up on a gray horse.
“Hi,” she said, smiling, as if it was every day strange women appeared at Rancho Diablo.
“Hello?” He swallowed, peering into the dark green eyes smiling at him from under a white cowgirl hat.
Her smile turned sweeter, somehow sexy. Galen tried to pull his brain back from the alluring abyss into which it was threatening to fall. “My name’s Somer Stevens. I’m here to apply for the agent position.”
“I believe the agents are supposed to be waiting for their interviews up at the house.”
“There are ten candidates over there right now. It’s not every day that an opening comes up for a position at Rancho Diablo.” Somer winked conspiratorially. “I figured I’d better take a look around before I decided whether I belong here or not.”
He frowned. “My brothers were going to show everyone around.”
“Yes, but if I’d waited for the canned tour, I wouldn’t have gotten to speak to you directly.”
Direct. Assertive. These were valuable traits in someone working for the Callahans. Most likely he would’ve done the same thing, if he’d been in her shoes. But he wasn’t, and he was going to let her know that stroking his ego wasn’t going to get her anywhere.
This one wasn’t getting the job. Somer didn’t follow directions, and she made him sweat. She wore dark blue pants and a blue jacket, all very proper for an interview; she had a great horse and a lot of attitude, yet something told him Somer was nothing but trouble.
And he never ignored his instincts.
USA Today bestselling and award-winning author Tina Leonard writes with humor, sexiness, and fun. With over 2.6 million books sold, she plans to keep writing books readers enjoy. Her writing schedule keeps her very busy with independent heroines and the heroes who love them. You can visit Tina at www.tinaleonard.com, or www.facebook.com/tinaleonardbooks.
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