High Country Bride (The McKettrick Series #1)

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9780743422734: High Country Bride (The McKettrick Series #1)
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One ranch. Three sons. Only one will inherit...and on one condition. Tired of waiting for his sons to settle down, Arizona-territory rancher Angus McKettrick announces a competition: the first son to marry and produce a grandchild will inherit Triple M ranch. Now, three distinctly different, equally determined cowboys are searching high and low for brides.

Kade McKettrick’s got five mail-order brides-to-be camped out at the local hotel, all more than eager to provide him with the heir that will win him the Triple M ranch. But Kade, the newly appointed marshal, has his hands full with a troublesome outlaw gang. Why, then, is he so easily distracted by pretty “Sister Mandy”—who most assuredly is not the nun she claims to be? On the run from her outlaw stepfather, Mandy Sperrin hides beneath her solemn disguise, and vows to keep her wild, passionate nature from the respectable citizens of Indian Rock. Yet when the handsome marshal makes it clear that he wants her, Mandy gives in to her heated desires....

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About the Author:

The daughter of a town marshal, Linda Lael Miller is the author of more than a hundred historical and contemporary novels. Now living in Spokane, Washington, the “First Lady of the West” hit a career high when all three of her 2011 Creed Cowboy books debuted at #1 on the New York Times list. In 2007, the Romance Writers of America presented her their Lifetime Achievement Award. Visit her at LindaLaelMiller.com.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Chapter One

Rafe McKettrick peered at the small, tasteful advertisement in the back of the Cattleman's Journal, dog-eared the page, and then slammed the magazine against the edge of the desk in his father's study. It was a desperate measure, sending away for a bride, the way a person might send away for a book, or a custom-made belt buckle, but then, Rafe was a desperate man.

He had no doubt whatsoever that his father had meant precisely what he'd said that day at dinner; Angus was not the sort to make idle threats. Rafe neither knew nor wanted any other life than the one he had, right there on the Triple M, and he'd be damned if he'd spend the rest of his days dancing to whatever tune Kade or Jeb chose to play. Which meant he needed a wife, pronto, and if he got her in the family way on the way home from the church, so much the better.

Pushing back the big leather-upholstered chair, he jerked open a desk drawer and took out a sheet of the fancy vellum stationery his pa used for business correspondence. With great ceremony, he selected a pen, opened a bottle of India ink, and ordered his thoughts. Some moments had passed when he began to write.

To Whom It May Concern,

Please send one wife. Healthy, with good teeth. Able to read and write. And cook. Must want children. Soon.

Rafe McKettrick

Triple M Ranch,

near Indian Rock, Arizona Territory


Rafe read the note over a couple of times, decided it could not be improved upon in any significant way, folded the page, and jammed it into an envelope, along with a draft drawn on the bank in town. Nothing to do but slap on a stamp and get the letter onto a stagecoach headed east.

He frowned as he copied out the address. The few times he'd had occasion to send a letter, he'd simply entrusted it to whoever happened to be heading into town next, but this was different. For one thing, it said "Happy Home Matrimonial Service" right there on the front of the envelope, for everybody to see, and that alone was fodder enough for a merciless ribbing from every other man on the ranch. For another, he didn't want either of his brothers to beat him to the punch by swiping his letter, copying his idea, or both.

No, sir, Rafe reflected, leaning back in the chair, tucking the missive into his vest pocket, he'd post it himself, personally. Ride all the way down to Indian Rock and meet the outgoing stagecoach.

He sighed, closed his eyes, and kicked his feet up onto the desk.

He reckoned it wouldn't be so bad, having a wife. He'd have a woman right there handy, on a cold night, and that was no mean blessing in a place as isolated and lonesome as the Triple M. He'd get her to expecting before the ink dried in the family Bible, and that would be that. The ranch would be his, when the time came, and Kade and Jeb would either have to do his bidding or saddle up and ride.

He knew they'd never leave -- the place was in their blood, the way it was in his -- and he smiled at the thought of working them like a pair of field horses. He'd have them dig a new hole for the privy first, then shovel lime into the old one. The bunkhouse roof needed replacing come spring -- they'd be damned lucky if it held up through the coming winter -- and of course he and the missus would want an addition built on to the main house, so they could have a little privacy. While Jeb had been working to repair the boundary fences, many of them needed to be replaced, and up on the northern boundary there was timber to be cut. While his brothers were sweating over the chores he would outline for them, he would ride out looking for the fine roan stallion he'd seen haunting the red canyons like a ghost, but never gotten close to, and the capture of that horse would mark the beginning of his own herd.

Somebody slapped his feet off the desk, and he sat bolt upright, with a sputtered curse, startled half out of his skin and ready to fight.

Kade, two years younger at twenty-seven, was gazing down at him. "What were you thinking about just then, Big Brother?" he asked in a slow drawl. He perched on the edge of the desk and folded his arms, eyes narrowed. "Why, from the look on your face, I'd say you were up to no good."

Rafe was glad he'd slipped the letter into his vest pocket, where it was out of sight. He laid splayed fingers to his chest and feigned an injured expression. "What's this? You don't trust me, Little Brother?"

"Not unless he's stupid, he doesn't," put in Jeb, from the doorway, his mouth curved into one of those wry grins that always made Rafe want to slap the holy be-jiggers out of him. "Me, I'd sooner trust a polecat." He stepped into the study, closed the door behind him. The large room seemed to shrink, with all of them there; Rafe considered getting up to open a window, but he wasn't about to risk losing the chair he already thought of as his own.

He did sit up straight, though, planting his boots squarely on the floor.

Kade turned, watched their youngest brother approach, drag up a chair of his own. Sit. He moved languidly, Jeb did, as if his bones were fitted loosely at the joints. He was the best broncobuster on the ranch -- Rafe and Kade had seen their little brother thrown from many a horse, and most of the time he landed on his feet.

"What are we going to do?" Jeb asked, serious now, resting one foot on the opposite knee. "This isn't just another of his tangents, you know. Pa meant what he said out there."

Kade nodded grimly, arms still folded. He was the quiet, mannerly brother, the thoughtful one, the reader and resident quoter of poetry, the one you had to watch like a ring-tailed snake. "I believe he did," he agreed. "It's got to do with his birthday. He's feeling old."

"Hell," Rafe said, "he is old."

Jeb chuckled, shook his head. "Tell that to that ranch hand he caught beating one of the mares with a switch last week," he said. "The fella's still laid up over there at Daisy's rooming house. Doc says it might be spring before the poor bastard can hit the trail."

Kade grinned. "Daisy," he said. "Now there's a prospective bride. Why don't you go sparking her, Rafe?"

"I'd sooner take up with an old sow bear," Rafe answered, and he was serious as a Montana winter. Daisy Pert was a dainty six-foot-five, in her stocking feet. She weighed more than a loaded hay wagon and had two teeth in her head, both of them bad. She chewed snoose, and anyway, she was sweet on the circuit preacher's cross-eyed brother, Lemuel, who feared her more than the devil himself.

"I think Rafe's got something up his sleeve," Kade speculated smoothly. The cadence of his voice was light, but there was a quiet, brotherly menace in it that you had to listen hard to hear. He leaned in a little. "Don't you, Rafe?"

Rafe did his damnedest to look innocent. He hadn't polished the skill over the years, so it didn't come easy, the way fighting, shooting, and riding did. "What makes you say a thing like that?" he asked.

"Just a feeling," Kade answered evenly, taking in the splotches of fresh ink drying on the blotter. "And twenty-seven years of experience."

Just then, the double doors of the study burst open, and Concepcion blew in like a storm cloud coming over the rise, burdened with bad weather and bristling with lightning bolts. Rafe, who had been expecting their father, was only slightly relieved; this didn't look like much of a reprieve to him.

Concepcion turned with immeasurable dignity, latched the two doors, and when she faced them again, her dark eyes were blazing. "How could you?" she seethed. "How could you forget such an important day?"

Jeb stood, if belatedly, his blue eyes dancing with mischief, and gestured for Concepcion to take his chair. "I can't speak for my brothers," he said, "but it just so happens that I did remember."

Kade and Rafe glared at him.

"Like hell you did," Rafe said.

"I've got a book upstairs, wrapped up fancy and tied with a ribbon, just for Pa," Jeb told them.

"You bought that for that new hurdy-gurdy girl that just hired on at the saloon," Kade accused.

Concepcion plopped into the chair, singed the short hairs on Kade and Rafe with a single scorching glance. The look she gave Jeb was only slightly less incendiary; clearly, she was skeptical about his story, but willing to give him the benefit of a doubt. Females were always inclined to give that rascal the benefit of a doubt, it seemed to Rafe.

Jeb's smile became a smirk, and he gave a cocky shrug. "Think what you like," he told his brothers.

"Sit down," Concepcion told him smartly, "and shut your mouth."

Jeb grimaced and sat on the raised hearth, his hands loosely clasped and dangling between his knees. Kade shifted his attention from the ceiling to the floor, and Rafe fixed his eyes on a point just above Concepcion's left shoulder.

"Do you know what I think?" she rattled on, shaking that familiar finger, taking them all in. Rafe figured they were about to get some clarification on what she thought, whether they already knew or not. "Your father is right. It's time you were settled down, all of you, with homes and families of your own."

Kade was the first to break. He gave a long sigh. "I forgot that it was Pa's birthday," he admitted. "All the same, I don't see what that has to do with -- "

Concepcion turned huffy. "If you thought about something besides books, bad women, and horses," she accused, "you would realize that you are wasting your life." When Jeb and Rafe grinned, enjoying Kade's discomfort, she turned on them, fierce as a she-wolf. "You think you are any better, either of you?" She made a spitting sound, purely Latin and very expressive. "You, Rafe, with your temper and your brawling? You, Jeb, with your card-playing?"

Kade raised both hands, palms out, in a gesture of surrender.

Rafe set his jaw and tried to stare Concepcion down, knowing all the while that he'd never succeed.

"I guess," Jeb said meekly, breaking the ominous silence, "I'll just go and give Pa the birthday present I got him."

"You set one foot out of this room," Kade warned, in a furious undertone, "and I'll take a layer of hide off you, right here and right now."

Jeb flushed and shot to his feet, fists clenched, always ready for a fight. Concepcion was quick, though, due to long practice, and she got between him and Kade before either of them could throw a punch. Being the youngest, Jeb usually got himself whupped in these little set-tos, but he kept trying anyhow.

"That is enough," Concepcion said, in a tone no one could have mistaken for anything but utter sincerity.

Jeb laid his hands on her shoulders, turned her around, and made calf eyes at her. "Concepcion," he said, sweet as pie, "will you marry me, and be the mother of my children?"

For a moment, there was silence, reminiscent of those few seconds of shock that come just after a wasp's sting and right before the venom starts to spread. A cracking sound followed, and Jeb's face glowed red where Concepcion had slapped him.

"No more," she fumed, all fury and fire.

Rafe and Kade looked at each other, stifling their laughter, and just as quickly looked away.

"You have broken that fine man's heart," Concepcion went on, after pausing to gather herself up like a chicken settling its ruffled feathers. "You are a disappointment, a disgrace. All of you."

They all stared at her. None of them had ever seen her in such a fine dither, and given some of the pranks they'd pulled over the years, both independently and in cahoots with one another, that was saying something.

"Until you start treating your father with the respect he deserves," she said, straightening her spine and smoothing her flour-splotched skirts, "I will not cook another bite of food for any of you. I will not sew buttons or make beds or wash clothes. For once in your lives, you can do for yourselves." With that, she turned, chin at a regal angle, eyes bright with conviction, and swept to the study doors. She worked the latch, flung the doors wide, and stepped through without looking back.

"Do you think she meant all that?" Jeb asked, not so cocksure now.

Kade rolled his eyes. "Oh, yeah," he said, resigned. "She meant it, all right."

Rafe stared at the ceiling, wondering how long it would be before his bride arrived. He didn't fancy cooking his own meals, and he'd never done a lick of laundry in his life. He'd best get himself down to Indian Rock and send off that letter.

"Pa will never allow it," Jeb said, grasping at straws. "He pays her to cook and clean."

"For him," Kade pointed out. "Not us."

Jeb pondered that, looking pained. "Oh."

"We'd better figure out how to get back on her good side," Kade speculated. "It's that or eat in the bunkhouse, and you know what Red's cooking is like -- scorched beans for breakfast, dinner, supper, and dessert."

"What do you suggest?" Rafe asked, without opening his eyes. He was doing his best to keep his spirits up by imagining himself with a wife by his side. In the meantime, he'd just make do with meals in town. That Chinese fella, Kwan Somebody-or-other, could do his wash once a month. A man just had to be resourceful, that was all.

"I'd suggest," Kade said, "that we do what Pa wants. We do that, and our problems will be over."

"That goes for one of us," Jeb said, and something in his tone indicated that he figured on being that one. "The other two are pretty well screwed."

Rafe didn't comment.

"I plan on getting myself married to the first decent woman I can find," Kade said confidently. "You two needn't worry too much, though. I won't make you salute or wear uniforms. You can put in a ten-hour day, like all the other hands, and take off one Sunday a month."

Rafe opened his eyes. "Just who do you figure on marrying?" he asked, suspicious and more than a little alarmed. Of the three of them, Kade was the craftiest. A fellow never knew what might be going on in that clockwork mind of his.

Kade smiled; butter wouldn't have melted in his mouth. "Do you really think I'd be fool enough to tell you?" he asked. Then, just like that, he strolled out without another word. You'd have thought he had a wife upstairs at that moment, in the throes of childbirth, he was so damn sure of himself.

Rafe slammed to his feet to follow, and Jeb was right behind him.

Out in the large entryway, Kade was buckling on his gunbelt. He took his round-brimmed hat down from the usual hook on the hall tree, stuck it on his head, and reached for his three-quarter-length coat, the one Concepcion said made him look like a drifter and an outlaw.

"You headed for town?" Rafe demanded, brows lowered.

Kade straightened his collar, checked the angle of his hat in the wall mirror next to the long-case clock, and offered not a single word in reply.

Jeb, meanwhile, was sprinting up the stairs, taking them two at a time. Probably going to get the present he'd bought for that saloon girl and go toadying to their father, acting like he'd remembered all along what day it was.

Rafe was downright disgusted. His brothers were deceitful men, both of them.

He reached for his own hat, his coat, and the gun belt and pistol he kept in the top drawer of the hall bureau. Yes, sir, he'd just ride on over to Indian Rock, meet the stage, and send out his letter. Before he could say "Shivaree," his bride would be arriving, ready to set up housekeeping and start a baby.

Hell, with a little luck, she might even be halfway presentable.

Kansas City, Missouri

Emmeline Hardi...

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Book Description Simon Schuster Australia, Australia, 2002. Paperback. Condition: New. Language: English . This book usually ship within 10-15 business days and we will endeavor to dispatch orders quicker than this where possible. Brand New Book. One ranch. Three sons. Only one will inherit.and on one condition. Tired of waiting for his sons to settle down, Arizona-territory rancher Angus McKettrick announces a competition: the first son to marry and produce a grandchild will inherit Triple M ranch. Now, three distinctly different, equally determined cowboys are searching high and low for brides. Kade McKettrick s got five mail-order brides-to-be camped out at the local hotel, all more than eager to provide him with the heir that will win him the Triple M ranch. But Kade, the newly appointed marshal, has his hands full with a troublesome outlaw gang. Why, then, is he so easily distracted by pretty Sister Mandy --who most assuredly is not the nun she claims to be? On the run from her outlaw stepfather, Mandy Sperrin hides beneath her solemn disguise, and vows to keep her wild, passionate nature from the respectable citizens of Indian Rock. Yet when the handsome marshal makes it clear that he wants her, Mandy gives in to her heated desires. Seller Inventory # BZV9780743422734

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Book Description Simon Schuster Australia, Australia, 2002. Paperback. Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. One ranch. Three sons. Only one will inherit.and on one condition. Tired of waiting for his sons to settle down, Arizona-territory rancher Angus McKettrick announces a competition: the first son to marry and produce a grandchild will inherit Triple M ranch. Now, three distinctly different, equally determined cowboys are searching high and low for brides. Kade McKettrick s got five mail-order brides-to-be camped out at the local hotel, all more than eager to provide him with the heir that will win him the Triple M ranch. But Kade, the newly appointed marshal, has his hands full with a troublesome outlaw gang. Why, then, is he so easily distracted by pretty Sister Mandy --who most assuredly is not the nun she claims to be? On the run from her outlaw stepfather, Mandy Sperrin hides beneath her solemn disguise, and vows to keep her wild, passionate nature from the respectable citizens of Indian Rock. Yet when the handsome marshal makes it clear that he wants her, Mandy gives in to her heated desires. Seller Inventory # AAS9780743422734

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