Wyoming Heart

By: Diana Palmer


Her cousin had a ranch of his own, much bigger than Bart’s, and he’d been keeping the Michaels ranch going for several years, with men and money that Mina’s vicious mother couldn’t touch. The men he’d had on the ranch answered to him, not to Anthea, so the ranch stayed solvent. Mina learned from him how to buy and sell cattle when she was barely in her teens. She used that knowledge after graduation to help with expenses. The cowboys were patient with her and helped teach her how to keep the ranch going in Cousin Rogan’s absence. One of them, an older cowboy named Bill McAllister, was her part-time foreman. She learned a lot from him. He’d worked on ranches all over the West, and he knew ways of doing things that saved both time and money. Her friend Bart was one of his other employers. The little profit that she managed from her efforts was more than enough to pay the utilities and grocery bills and even give her a little extra to spend on clothes. She loved cattle.

But what Mina wanted to do more than anything on earth was to be a writer. She loved romance novels. She was also crazy about soldiers of fortune and people in law enforcement. She found a way to combine those preferences and put them into a book. The first one she tried to market wasn’t well received. She put it away and tried again, slanting the book more toward romance than hard fiction. And she made her first sale.

Two years later, after her graduation, Mina was selling novels and garnering praise from reviewers and readers. Her old-fashioned attitude and small-town slant on life, besides the realistic action scenes, gave her a unique voice that went over well with her reading public. She’d attracted a group of mercenaries through a friend who gave a copy of her book to its leader. The group adopted her and taught her all about covert ops, even taking her on missions with them. She achieved a realism in her novels that made them stand out, especially when her research group was known.

It was like a dream come true, especially considering what her life had been like. Her cousin Rogan was proud of her. So was Bart.

So now at twenty-four, Mina was selling novels to a major publishing house and she was hitting bestseller lists. Her latest novel, about a gunrunner who reformed, had made the USA Today bestseller list. She was hoping that it would move to other lists as well. Reviewers had been kind. She had a bright future.

It was just that her past haunted her. That mean cowboy who was staying with Bart made her angry every time she thought of him. He was handsome and attractive and looked as if he knew more about women than she did. He made her uneasy, because she knew she’d be fair game for such a man if he turned up the heat. So she was going to avoid him like the plague. Because she was never going to let a man into her life. She knew what men were like from the ones her mother had brought home, especially Henry. She knew that when men drank, they were dangerous. She’d had quite enough of dangerous men. Well, except for her tutors, she mused.





CHAPTER TWO


“BUT YOU CAN’T go to a party looking like that,” Sassy wailed as she studied Mina. “You just can’t! Mina, there will be society people from all over the county at the party. You have to look the part of an upcoming, successful author!”

Mina bit her lower lip. She was wearing a simple black dress, very modest, with black pumps. But her hair was in its tight knot and she wore no makeup at all. “Sassy...”

“Look, just let me improve you. Only a little. Please? I brought my makeup kit with me...” She stopped and looked repentant.

“You planned this. You didn’t just happen to stop by,” Mina accused, but gently.

“Yes, I did,” Sassy confessed. “I don’t want you to be gossiped about. And you don’t want that, either,” she added firmly. “‘Willow Shane’ has to look good for her readers!”

Mina’s mouth pulled down at the corner. “I suppose I’ve had enough gossip to last me a lifetime,” she agreed. “Well, I guess...”

She stopped because there was a hard knock at the front door.

She went to answer it. There was an older cowboy standing there, one who worked on the ranch part-time as her foreman. Mina shared him with Bart, who had the same sort of financial issues she had. Neither of them could afford a full-time foreman, but Bill was perfect for the job. She smiled. “Hi, Bill, what is it?”

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