by LuAnn Nies
Catrina Pearson accepts an invitation from her estranged maternal grandmother in hopes of learning the identity and truth about the father she never knew and why her mother took that secret to her grave. As a photographer who's travelled the world, Catrina is ready to face any challenges the rugged Utah landscape may throw at her, but she's not prepared to handle the reclusive cowboy who ropes her heart.
Betrayed by his heritage and family, Clifford White Fox is determined to purchase the acreage surrounding his ranch and build a private world safe from judgment and emotional intrusion. His lifestyle and hard-won serenity are threatened when he stumbles across a naked woman sunbathing on the last parcel of land he needs to acquire.
Genre: Contemporary | Western Romance
~ Black River, Utah 1993 ~
Cliff reined in the big gray quarter horse on the fringe of the rocky ledge. Raising the binoculars, he scanned the far ridge and the meadow below searching for twenty head of wayward cattle. He pushed up the brim of his weathered cowboy hat and wiped a sleeve across his sweat-covered brow. Three days of easterly winds, storms brewing, he thought.
Off in the distance a hawk screeched and swooped toward something hiding amongst a clump of white Sego lilies. His gaze swept across the meadow below, coming to rest on the tattered tin roof of a little house in the distance. The old homestead wasn’t much more than a tarpaper shack and neglected barn. The scattered outbuildings had been empty since its owner, Millie Pearson, moved into town. It wasn’t the buildings Cliff coveted but the land. If he could get his hands on this section, he could expand his ranch, his private world. He’d shut out everyone, those who judged or criticized him for being half white and half Ute Indian.
A movement alongside the house caught his attention. Raising the binoculars, he spotted the stared at a naked woman lying on a blanket. Drawing in a deep breath and holding it, he watched as the woman leisurely rolled over and settled onto her back. A sour taste rose and burned the back of his throat. Every muscle in his body stiffened with indignation. His horse, Sonny, tossed his head and pawed the earth in restless anticipation.
Who the hell is that? What’s she doing on my land? Well, land that would soon enough belong to him when he finally persuaded that crotchety old woman into letting go of it. The horse sidestepped, anxious to be on the move, and that was all the encouragement Cliff needed. Irritated that someone had the nerve to be on that property without his knowledge or permission stuck in his craw. He maneuvered his horse down the narrow rocky trail that led to the deteriorating homestead.
He should have called out as he approached and moved around to the other side of the house to give the woman a moment to cover herself, but the one thing Clifford White Fox had never been accused of was being a gentleman.
With the sun at his back, he rode into the yard and halted several feet in front of the naked woman. Dark brown hair fell around her shoulders as she leaned on one elbow and attempted to shade her eyes against the bright sun.
She made no attempt to cover herself.
His muscles twisted into painful knots.
“What are you doing here?” His dry voice growled.
The woman frowned, as her gazed darted from one side to the other. “I’m staying here while I do some work.”
“Who are you?” His question slipped between clenched teeth and parched lips.
“My name’s Catrina. This is my grandmother’s place.” Her brows furrowed into a deep crevasse. “I have permission to be here. You don’t!” Her sharp response sliced through the air like a stray spark from a campfire. “And I don’t have to answer any of your questions.”