Can Hope heal the heroes?
Max Allen and Cameron Ryder return from Afghanistan as heroes—to everyone except themselves. As they battle the trauma and nightmares of the ambush that left Cam wounded, they arrive home to Moone Mountain only to find the Ryder Ranch has been floundering without them. Cameron’s elderly father and uncle have been hiding their problems from the soldiers for fear of adding to their worries.
Hope Bradley has badly missed the boys she grew up with, but she doesn’t dare reveal how she feels—how she yearns to see them again, to feel their touch... She moved away from the ranch shortly after they enlisted, finding the loneliness too much to bear. Complicating matters further, a businessman has just made an offer on her thriving florist business, despite it not being for sale. If there ever was a chance to get away somewhere fresh and start over, this was it... She might be falling for them both, but as soon as the army calls, they will only leave her again.
The two cowboys wrestle with their trauma and struggle with their growing love for Hope. But when Hope is threatened and stalked by a stranger, the two cowboys must find it in themselves to overcome their past to save Hope and their future together.
Reader note: contains M/F/M ménage elements
CHAPTER ONECameron heard the shot ring out, and a toe-curling scream filled his ears. He felt the bullet rip into his chest and fought for his breath. The air was filled with shouting, but he couldn’t understand a word that was said. For a minute the world was black, and pain seared his torso.“Come on, man, open your eyes,” a familiar voice was calling to him from somewhere far off, and he followed the sound. He eventually opened his eyes to see Max staring at him and shaking him none-too-gently. His friend’s dark eyes were studying him closely.“Did I nod off?” Cameron felt a little embarrassed as he looked around Phil Ryder’s sitting room.“Sure did, bro. You must be tired.” Max patted him on the back as Cam sat up, rubbing his eyes.“Yep. Been a long week.”Max frowned. “The usual nightmare, bro?” He reminded Cameron of one of the army medics, with his dark crew cut and his calm manner.“Yeah, I guess. Just seems so real, you know?” Cameron shook his head to try to regain his senses. His fair hair was a little longer than it had been in years, and his waves brushed the sides of his cheeks slightly.“Well it’s good to know I’m not the only one who screams like a girl,” Max replied with a grin.Cameron felt himself go hot. “Oh no, I didn’t, did I?”“You sure did.” Max smirked as he sat back down on the sofa opposite his friend. “Sounded like a strangled cat.”Cameron rolled his eyes. Trust Max to make him feel better about himself—not.Max chuckled. “Don’t sweat it, bro, we all do it.”Cameron nodded, conceding that he was absolutely right; like a lot of their army buddies, they had both woken up yelling after nightmares about what happened in the Helmand Province of Afghanistan. It was going to take a while to put it behind them, but they were determined they would. He hadn’t died and that was all that mattered. Max hadn’t actually been hit, but being such close buddies he had certainly felt the pain of that shot and the terror and confusion of the ambush. They’d each spent hours with their counselors, something which would continue for a long time, but the US Army’s medical staff was satisfied that they were now mentally well enough to go home. Cam ran a hand through his blond hair and sighed.Phil Ryder entered the room, carrying a fresh pot of coffee. They both fell silent, not wanting to discuss his nightmares in front of anyone else. Phil was sheriff of Reedlake County, and a damn good one at that. He was a good guy, in his late fifties, making him quite a bit younger than his twin cousins, Joe and Gideon Ryder. Gideon was Cameron’s dad, and Cam had always regarded the sheriff as another uncle.“How’s Uncle Joe holding up?” Max asked him. Cameron was grateful for the change of subject and took a drink to help compose himself.“He’s gone a bit quiet,” Phil replied with a sigh, sitting back into his armchair to enjoy his drink. “We were all expecting your Aunt Rose to pass on sometime soon, but it’s still been a shock, you know?”“I still can’t believe it myself,” Cameron said gloomily. “Aunt Rose was always so lively, so much fun. The place just won’t be the same without her.”“I’m looking forward to seeing old Gideon again,” Max said with a smile. He had a knack for lightening the mood.“Don’t you let him hear you calling him that, son,” Phil warned in jest.“Well they are both past retirement age.” Max grinned. “Must be high time those guys took a backseat up there. There’s plenty ranch hands who could take over from them, surely?”Phil stood up with a stretch. “Don’t you be too sure about that, boy,” he said, a little more seriously. “There seem to be fewer hands up there each time I go up. Those two don’t appear to be in a hurry to replace them as they leave neither, just keep saying they can manage. I worry that they’re pushing themselves a little too hard, but they won’t be told.” He shook his head.Max frowned as they all got up and grabbed their jackets and hats. “They’ll run themselves into the ground trying to do it all,” he said as they made their way to the front door.“Are you gonna be the one to tell them that?” Phil grimaced. Max knew that Phil’s cousins were proud men and would never admit that they were struggling, but he couldn’t shake a suspicion that they weren’t managing as well as they tried to make out.“Bagsy the front seat,” Cameron yelled as they reached Phil’s large black SUV. Despite the dust, the sheriff tried to keep it highly polished, and the star shone out on the door. Normally Cam would’ve loved to have had those emergency lights flashing and the siren wailing out as they sped up the road, but not today. Today he wanted to keep a low profile.“I suppose you’re gonna play the ‘injury card’ if I fight you for it?” Max rolled his eyes playfully.Cameron clutched his chest in an exaggerated move. “Hell, yeah,” he replied with a grin.“You can’t argue with that one, son,” Phil chirped as he climbed behind the wheel, shaking his head.“I’ll figure a way,” Max promised with a grin of his own.