Home > Romancing the Rancher (The Millers of Morgan Valley #6)

Romancing the Rancher (The Millers of Morgan Valley #6)
Author: Kate Pearce

 


Chapter One

Miller Ranch

Morgan Valley, California

 

 

Evan Miller kicked off his boots in the mudroom, washed up, and walked through into the large family kitchen where the smell of coffee and fried bacon still hung in the air. He scowled at his oldest brother, Adam, who was seated at the kitchen table chatting with their father.

“Where were you? I had to muck out all the stalls by myself.”

“It’s a nice change to see you working hard,” his father, Jeff, said and held up his phone. “We had some good news.”

“What would that be?” Evan helped himself to coffee, which at least warmed his hands. Even in summer it could still be cool in the mornings in the shadow of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. His brother Kaiden emerged from the pantry with a fresh loaf of bread and grinned at him as they both sat down at the table.

“Danny went and did it.”

Seeing as Danny wasn’t talking to him right now, Evan had no idea what was going on, and he sure as hell wasn’t going to beg for info.

“So what?” Evan sipped his coffee.

Kaiden sat back. “Jeez, I suppose you already knew, seeing as you and Danny are so close. Kudos for not blabbing, which isn’t like you.”

“I suppose this has to do with Faith?” Evan hazarded a guess.

“Yeah.” It was Jeff’s turn to chip in. “Somehow they ended up in Vegas yesterday and got hitched!”

Evan sucked in his gut like someone had punched him, and covered up his shock with a nonchalant shrug. “Not exactly a surprise.”

“I’m guessing either Silver or Mom helped them with the planning.” Kaiden shook his head and whistled. “I never thought Danny had it in him to move so fast.”

“He saw a good thing and he went for it,” their father said.

“And you’re okay with this, Dad?” Kaiden raised an eyebrow. “I thought you’d be pissed.”

“Why? I told him not to let her get away.”

“Faith’s not a wayward steer,” Adam said. “She’s perfect for Danny. We could all see he was still in love with her.”

All three of them nodded. Evan shot to his feet again.

“What’s up?” Adam asked.

“I left my phone in the tack room.” Evan was already halfway out the door. “I’ll be back in a minute.”

He stepped into his muddy boots, grabbed his heavy jacket, and set off for the barn, his phone already securely in his pocket. He bypassed his supposed destination and went to stare out over the pastureland and foothills that comprised the majority of the Miller property. His breath condensed in the fresh, morning air as he propped his arms on the top of the gate, his brain barely registering the amazing view.

Danny hadn’t told him.

His closest brother in age, his best friend, and the person who always set him straight, hadn’t bothered to share that he was getting married. The worst thing was that Evan knew exactly why. The last time they’d been together Danny had gotten mad at him for revealing some personal information about him and Faith over the family dinner table. He’d only been trying to protect his favorite brother, but Danny hadn’t seen it that way and had gone off on him.

“Hey.”

Evan didn’t turn his head as Adam came to join him at the fence. At least he didn’t have to deal with wisecracking Kaiden. It took a while for Adam to actually say anything, which was just like him. He wasn’t a man who wasted words.

“I guess Danny didn’t tell you?”

“Why would he when he was barely talking to me before he left.” Evan sighed. “You know what happened, I screwed up. I apologized to him and to Faith, but apparently he’s still mad at me.”

“Or he simply had to make a quick decision and only had time to ask for help from someone who had the means to get him there and get things done fast.”

“Like someone with money or power, you mean.” Evan snorted. “Neither of which I have or will ever have.”

“Danny probably wanted to keep it quiet as well.”

Evan finally glanced over at Adam’s calm face. “Thanks.”

“You aren’t known for your ability to keep a secret, Bro.”

“So, two strikes already against me,” Evan said bitterly. “I can’t keep a secret, I don’t have any money, and let’s not forget that Danny currently hates my guts.”

“I bet he’s not even thinking about you right now,” Adam suggested mildly. “And you know what? That’s okay. Maybe he needed to put himself and Faith first for once.”

“I get that.” Evan grimaced. “I also get that I screwed up, and that despite everything that went down, he wanted to fall in love with her again and didn’t need me getting involved.”

“Sometimes love doesn’t give you a choice.” Adam smiled. “Look at me and Lizzie.”

“Yeah, when are you two going to get married anyway?” Evan asked, eager to change the subject.

“As soon as Lizzie’s okay with it and we’ve worked out how to balance our lives together.”

“That could take a while.”

“Yeah, but that’s okay.” Adam glanced over at Evan again, his expression serious. “Maybe it’s time for you to start thinking about what you’re going to do with your own life, rather than worrying about everyone else’s.”

Evan turned to face his big brother. “Like, seriously? You’re going to lay that on me right now?”

“Why not?” Adam shrugged. “Danny was right. You’re not a kid anymore. You can’t just drift along, never committing to anything or anybody.”

“I do my work.” Evan pushed away from the fence to confront his much-taller brother.

“Now you do.”

Evan winced. “Wow, did Dad send you out to get at me, or is this all on you? I suppose technically you are my boss now since Dad’s supposed to have stepped back. Are you firing me?”

Adam shook his head. “See? This is just like you, turning a genuine attempt to help you into some kind of dramatic ultimatum. You’ve got a job here until you die, Evan. You know that. But is that what you really want?”

“I’m done talking.” Evan turned around and headed to the barn. “I’ve got fences to mend.”

“Okay, fine,” Adam called after him. “If you’re determined to leave, do me a favor and check in with Ines at Rio’s place? I was going to go myself, but it looks like I’m stuck here for a while doing Danny’s chores.”

Evan briefly raised a hand to acknowledge his brother’s words and kept going. When Adam didn’t attempt to call him back or apologize, Evan’s indignation continued to rise, fueling his escape. He saddled his horse, Joker, grabbed his fencing supplies, and rode out toward the far boundary of the ranch.

He was sick of his family telling him what to do. When Kaiden had taken on the Garcia Ranch project, Evan had stepped up and done more than his fair share of his brother’s chores without a single word of thanks from anyone. So, what if he was content to remain a ranch hand for the rest of his life? He would’ve thought that a man like Adam, who was always complaining about the scarcity of available labor, would be begging him to stick around.

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