years after his divorce, Clay Colton feels like he's
getting his life back on track in Esperanza, Texas.
Then, in one second, it all turns upside down. First, he
finds an abandoned car on his land with a large amount
of money in the trunk. When a CSI team from Austin comes
to investigate, Clay gets more surprises: One of the
investigators is his ex-wife, Tamara Brown, and she
discovers a dead body. As the two are pushed together,
they have an unexpected opportunity to talk about what
went wrong with their marriage. Will they give love a
second chance? Beth Cornelison adds a wonderful,
emotion-filled, second-chance-at-love-story to The
Coltons: Family First. Readers will enjoy this journey
as Clay and Tamara find they can go home again in Rancher's Redemption (4). " —Sandra Garcia-Myers, RT BookClub
Jericho met Clay
halfway and extended a hand in greeting. "Clay."
his friend's hand, Clay nodded a hello. "Afternoon,
Hoss. So what did you learn about the car?"
swiped a hand over his blond mustache and sighed.
"It's a rental from a little outfit up the road.
Reported stolen a few days ago."
arched a thick eyebrow. "Stolen?" He scowled. "Guess
it figures. So now what?"
squinted in the bright sun and glanced toward the
stolen Taurus where one of his deputies was already
marking off the area with yellow police tape.
"Chances are that money didn't come from someone's
mattress. Heaven only knows what we could be dealing
with here. I'll call in a crime scene team to do a
thorough investigation. Probably San Antonio. They'd
resounded in Clay's ears like a gong, and he
to hide the shot of pain that swept over him as
bittersweet memories swamped his brain.
two regrets in life. The first was his failure with
Ryder– the brother he'd helped raise, the brother
who'd gone astray and ended up in prison.
was his failed marriage. Five years ago, his high
school sweetheart had walked away from their
three-year marriage to follow her dream of becoming
a crime scene investigator. Clay blamed himself for
her leaving. If he'd been more sensitive to her
needs, if he could have made her happier, if he
could have found a way to–
ya hear me?" Jericho's question jolted Clay from his
if you'd altered anything on or around the car
before you called me. Say opening a door or moving
his head. "I nudged the trunk open. One finger, on
the edge of the trunk hood. Didn't touch anything
jerked a nod. "Good. I'll let the CSI team know. Be
sure to tell your men this area is off limits until
we finish our investigation."
need you to answer some questions later."
Clay cut a
sharp glance toward Sheriff Yates.
raised a hand to forestall Clay's protest. "Just
basic stuff. You're not a suspect. All standard
clenched his teeth. "Fine. Whatever you need."
Removing his Stetson, Clay raked his fingers through
his unkempt hair. "Guess I'm just on edge
considering what Georgie's been through with that
"Understandable. But there's no reason at this point
to think there's any connection."
The deputy who'd arrived with Jericho approached
sheriff turned to his officer and hitched his chin
toward Clay. "Rawlings, this Clay Colton. Clay, my
new deputy Adam Rawlings."
Clay nodded to the neatly groomed deputy and shook
interrupt, Sheriff, but I found something. Thought
you should take a look."
faced Clay, but before he could speak, Clay waved a
hand. "Go ahead. I need to get back to work, too."
his worn gloves from his back pocket, Clay strode
back toward the ravine where his fence had been
damaged and got busy stringing wire again. He had a
large section to repair before he went back to the
house, and all the usual chores of a thriving ranch
to finish before he called it a day. Unfortunately,
though fixing the damaged fence was hot, hard work,
it didn't require any particular mental
concentration. So Clay's thoughts drifted– to the
one person he'd spent the last five years trying to
get out of his head.
If he knew
Tamara, not only had she achieved her dream of
working in investigative law enforcement, but she
was likely working for a large city department by
now, moving up the ranks with her skill, gritty
determination and sharp mind. Once Tamara set her
sights on a goal, little could stand in her way of
a misguided husband, who'd foolishly thought that
ranching would be enough to fill her life and make
A prick of
guilt twisted in Clay's gut.
Why had he
thought that his own satisfaction with their
marriage and the challenge of getting the Bar None
up and running would be enough for Tamara? Ranching
had been his dream, not hers.
he listened, truly heard her, when she spoke of her
hopes for leaving Esperanza and her dream of working
in law enforcement? Because of the newlywed
happiness in other aspects of their relationship,
he'd too easily dismissed signs of her discontent
and her restless yearning to achieve her own
professional dreams. Soon even the honeymoon stars
in her eyes dimmed and her unhappiness began eroding
ignored the warning signs until the night they'd
argued over the right course of treatment for a sick
stud, and he'd returned from the quarantine stable
to find her packing her bags. His heartache over
having to put down his best breeding stallion paled
to the pain of seeing his wife in tears, pulling the
plug on their life together.
frustration burned in Clay's chest. Failure of any
kind didn't sit well with him, but failure in his
personal life was especially hard to accept. His
broken marriage was a blemish in his past that
marred even the success of the Bar None. His
single-minded dedication to building the ranch was
what had blinded him to the deterioration of his
relationship with Tamara. Until it was too late.
the barbed wire a vicious tug. His grip slipped, and
the razor-sharp barb pierced his glove.
he growled and flung off his glove to suck the blood
beading on the pad of his thumb.
wire might not take much mental power, but letting
his mind rehash the painful dissolution of his
marriage didn't serve any purpose. Tamara was gone,
and no amount of regret or second guessing could
change that. Besides, he was married to his ranch
now. Keeping the Bar None running smoothly was a
labor of love that took all his energy, all his
time. He'd scraped and saved, sweated and toiled to
build the Bar None from nothing but a boy's youthful
the sense of accomplishment and pride that normally
filled him when he surveyed his land or closed his
financial books at the end of the day was shadowed
by the reminder of what could have been.
squinted up at the blazing Texas sun, which was far
lower in the sky than he'd realized. How long had he
been out here?
his wrist, he checked his watch. Two hours.
snorted and tossed his mane.
know, boy. Almost done. I'm ready to get back to the
stables and get something to drink, too."
Daniel's. Something to help take the edge off.
Revived memories of Tamara left him off balance and
had picked the scab from a wound he'd thought
the wire he'd secured on the last post and started
gathering his tools.
he thought he'd imagined the soft feminine voice, an
illusion conjured by thoughts of his ex-wife. But
the voice called his name again.
shielded his eyes from the sun's bright glare as he
angled his gaze toward the top of the ravine. A
slim, golden-haired beauty strode across the parched
land and stopped at the edge of the rise. "Clay, can
I talk to you?"
mouth went dry, and his heart did a Texas two-step.