Saturday Excerpt: Lone Wolf Cowboy by Maisey Yates
Start your weekend with a Western romance! The latest in the Gold Valley series from New York Times bestselling author Maisey Yates is a must-read for anyone looking for a cowboy hero.
About Lone Wolf Cowboy:
As a former EMT and a wildland firefighter, there’s no one Jacob Dalton can’t rescue—except himself. Since his best friend’s tragic death, Jacob has isolated himself…until Vanessa Logan returns to Gold Valley. He saved her life during a medical call years ago, and he’s never forgotten her. The instant jolt of heat between them takes him by surprise, but he knows that giving in to it would only end in disaster…
For Vanessa, returning home was about healing, not about exploring her attraction with Jacob. He is the guardian angel from her past—with strong, capable hands and an irresistible mouth. A temptation she knows she can’t afford. Until the chemistry between them explodes, and unites them in a way they could never have imagined…
Vanessa Logan had been avoiding coming home again for a very long time.
And for most of that time, she had been convinced that no one was terribly sad about her absence. It had been seven years since she’d seen her family by the time she’d come back to town about two years earlier for her sister Olivia’s wedding.
She’d been in a haze then—not a drug haze—which she imagined was what her family would have assumed, but just a kind of strange, surreal sensation, returning to a place that she hadn’t been to in so long.
It was different this time.
Different now two years later as she drove past the welcome sign all done up in blue and cheery yellow, welcoming her to the town of Gold Valley.
Back to the county that bore her last name, where she had been born, raised and let everyone down who had ever loved her.
She was closing the loop. That was why she was back. Anyway, there was an opportunity here, and she figured she might as well take it. Olivia had a baby. Olivia had a family, and no matter what had happened between them in the past, Olivia was her twin. It seemed… It seemed like she should be closer to her.
Geographically, and emotionally. Though she knew it would all have to be done in stages.
She imagined her parents would want her near eventually. Maybe. She couldn’t say for sure. She wouldn’t particularly blame them, she supposed, if they couldn’t get over it.
She had been difficult. She’d caused them worry. They had assumed the worst about her…and in many ways, they’d been right to. At least, at the time.
Her childhood had been ideal for a while. Before she’d wanted to be anything other than Olivia’s twin, and Cole and Tamara Logan’s daughter. Before she ever got curious about the forbidden things her parents had warned her so sternly about.
She ached for that sometimes. For those simple days. When a hug from her father had healed all wounds. When she’d gone for long lunches with her mom after shopping in town.
When she and Olivia had whispered secrets under the covers. Until Olivia had gotten scared of secrets, and Vanessa’s had gotten too dark to share.
She might never get back to those times. It might all be too broken. But even if it was…Even if it was, she was still glad she was here.
She was back for her.
Gold Valley was the last refuge for her demons, and the final locked door in her life.
It was her origin story. And everyone needed to revisit an origin story.
She’d gone out on her own, failed, hit rock bottom and healed. But she had healed away, not at the site of her very first fall from grace.
And it was time.
It was just time.
She maneuvered her car through Main Street, marveling at the brick buildings, the faded advertisements painted on the sides, the lone neon sign above the Gold Valley Saloon—allowed only because it had been in- stalled in the early sixties and was considered historic.
Any new neon would not be considered historic. And the fact that Vanessa still knew those things—
could still hear her father explaining them in that cool, authoritative voice of his that Vanessa could’ve listened to forever—made her smile.
Though it wasn’t an entirely happy smile. Home was complicated.
That was for sure.
Well, home would be a little less complicated now than it had been, maybe. She had her own place, and the keys were waiting for her. All of her possessions fit in the back of her car, and she was ready to start a new job in a couple of days.
She had things lined up. She was responsible now. Had been for a number of years.
And she’d been too cowardly to get in touch with her family and let them know that she was doing better.
So maybe she wasn’t totally responsible.
She tried not to dwell on that as the road carried her through the main part of town and back out again, out into a densely wooded stretch of highway, with long, direct gravel driveways.
One of those long gravel driveways would be hers. Well, hers and a couple of other people’s. There were typically several homes back up one of those roads.
Her car’s navigation system buzzed and let her know that she was in fact at her road. She turned left and started to look for numbers. Every few trees, there was a sign posted and Vanessa kept watch for the four-digit number that marked her new home.
She would have hated this when she was a teenager. She’d hated where she lived already, and a road like this—that took her out farther away from the nearest large town, that was several miles out of Gold Valley, and over all this dirt and gravel—would have mortally wounded and offended her.
Thinking of that girl, with her bright, big ambition, her seeds of dissatisfaction and her deep certainty she knew better than everyone else around her…
It was almost painful.
She’d had no idea what she was going to walk herself into.
And she supposed that was another reason she’d had to come here.
It was the last place she’d been that Vanessa.
It was also where she’d changed. Completely and utterly.
She saw the number for her rental, nailed to a tree. She turned her car onto a much narrower gravel road than the one she’d just been on.
The house at the end of the drive was small, humble, with white siding that was peeling in places, a shingled roof and a covered porch with a few hanging flowerpots.
She wondered if Ellie Bell, her contact in Gold Valley, was responsible for the flowers.
She doubted it was the landlord’s work, given the state of the paint.
Rustic was a generous description. Both for the landscape and the house itself.
She got out and looked around, the pine trees that towered overhead seeming to swallow her whole as she stood there, feeling increasingly smaller. As if her place in the universe had shrunk significantly.
She didn’t mind the feeling. She grabbed her shoulder bag from the car and began to walk up the porch steps, one of the pieces of wood creaking beneath her feet.
It was such a lovely little place and would make a welcome change to the apartment she’d called home for the past few years. Quiet. Isolation.
Well, except for all the teenagers she would be working with.
That wouldn’t be very quiet. She was okay with that too.
Teenagers shouldn’t have to be quiet. They should get to live as loudly as they could, in safe spaces where they wouldn’t be punished for trying and failing.
Of course, they needed boundaries too. She did know that.
It was just boundaries had been suffocating for her, and sometimes it was tough to remember that others suffered from a lack of them.
She heard the sound of tires on gravel, and she turned just in time to see a mint-green SUV headed up the roadway.
There was a blonde woman in the car, looking harried. She parked behind Vanessa’s car and got out.
“Hi,” Vanessa said hesitantly.
“Vanessa?” the woman asked. She moved to the back of the car and opened the door. A little blonde girl hopped out, her hair bouncing with each movement.
The tiny child gave Vanessa a momentary feeling of discomfort.
“I’m Ellie,” she said, walking forward and extending her hand.
“Oh,” Vanessa said. “It’s nice to meet you.”
“I’m Amelia!” The little girl spun in a circle as she announced her name.
“Hi, Amelia,” Vanessa said, not sure what to do with her hands.
“I didn’t make it up here earlier to put the key out for you,” Ellie said. “I’m really sorry. I was hoping to beat you here, but I had drama with Amelia’s sitter. It’s just been a day. Plus, everything at the ranch is a little bit nutty right now.”
“I’d guess so, with you just getting everything up and running.”
The whole endeavor sounded great to Vanessa. An alternative school for kids who were either having trouble in school, or at home. Or in the system. Kids who were at their last stop, basically.
As a kid who’d been there, Vanessa wished there had been something like that for her. Of course… she doubted her parents would have ever been able to admit she needed help.
That was if she’d ever been able to admit to them that she did.