Authors: Judy Christenberry
Letter to Reader
When I first thought of doing a series about a family of brothers on a ranch in Wyoming, I had no idea how much those four men would come to mean to me. I fell in love with them! Jake, the protective oldest brother, Pete, a hardheaded, determined man, Brett, lighthearted and loving, and Chad, the baby, who wanted to prove himself but idolized Jake—they became my ideal men. Yes, they are all stubborn and demanding, but they love each other. And they each secretly wanted a woman to share their lives.
Best of all, they love children, and macho though they are, they think nothing of changing diapers. My kind of heroes!
Given the opportunity to revisit the Randall ranch, I couldn’t resist. So here’s the last of the Randalls, Griffin, a Chicago cowboy, alone and ignorant of the ways of a family like the Randalls. But blood is thicker than water, and Griff discovers he has more in common with these Wyoming Randalls than he’d thought.
I hope you enjoy visiting the Randalls once again.
COWBOY COME HOME
TORONTO • NEW YORK • LONDON
AMSTERDAM • PARIS • SYDNEY • HAMBURG
STOCKHOLM • ATHENS • TOKYO • MILAN • MADRID
PRAGUE • WARSAW • BUDAPEST • AUCKLAND
To my niece,
Heather Hughes, who loves reading and
cowboys as much as me.
Thanks for all the encouragement, Heather.
ake Randall, B.J. said to tell you you’re in big trouble!” Camille Henderson approached the back of the tall cowboy.
She’d only been on the ranch a few weeks, but she’d fallen in love with all the Randalls. Their unique take on life made sharing a house with them a lot of fun. She waited for Jake to turn around, expecting a big grin on his face.
When the man slowly turned to face her, she gasped in surprise. “You’re—you’re not Jake!”
“No, I’m not.” He didn’t smile, but that was one of only a few differences between him and Jake Randall, head of the Randall clan.
Both men were tall, broad shouldered, narrow hipped. The hair was the same color, dark, almost black, but this man’s was trimmed a little shorter, more stylishly cut. Their eyes were the same chocolate brown, only this man’s eyes didn’t smile.
“Who are you?”
He stared at her, giving no response, and a shiver rushed through her. She took a step backward.
“Jake, did Camille tell you—?”
Camille spun around, relieved to hear B.J. approaching. “It’s not Jake.”
“I can see,” B. J. Randall agreed, her eyes curious. She stepped toward the man, her hand extended. “Hello, I’m B.J., Jake’s wife. I’m sorry we mistook you for my husband, but you’re remarkably similar.”
Though he took B.J.’s hand, Camille read reluctance in his action. No one could resist B.J.; however, this man continued to keep his silence.
“May we help you? Are you lost?” BJ. finally asked.
Camille held her breath. Surely this man’s resemblance to Jake couldn’t be a coincidence.
“I need to speak to whoever is head of the family.” His voice was husky, as if emotion flooded him, but he held himself stiffly erect, staring, no hint of a smile on his face.
B.J. exchanged a look of concern with Camille, then faced the man again. “That would be my husband, Jake Randall. He’s due home any moment. I thought he’d already arrived in a new Lexus when you pulled up. That’s why we greeted you so strangely. If you’ll come in, we’ll—” She stopped her long-winded explanation at the sound of another approaching vehicle.
Camille turned around to verify that it was Jake’s pickup coming home. She returned her gaze to the stranger’s face, anxious to see his reaction when he saw Jake. Their resemblance was eerie.
Jake pulled his truck past them, close to the house, parked and got out. He made a beeline for B.J., all his attention focused on his wife.
That was one of the nice things about the Randall men. They were one-woman men, dedicated to their wives. Camille liked that, especially after her experience.
Jake slid his left arm around B.J., and looked at the other man in surprise. “Hello. I’m Jake Randall. I don’t believe we’ve met.”
Camille held her breath as the stranger stared first at Jake, then at the extended hand. Surely he was going to shake Jake’s hand. It would be an insult—
Finally, the man moved, taking Jake’s hand in his. But he said nothing.
“Your name?” Jake asked, his voice changing from warm geniality to tension.
“Aieoooooow!” A male howl of pain rose in the air, followed by staccato thumps and a fierce neigh from a disturbed horse.
All four of them turned in the direction of the noise, coming from one of the barns.
“Damn!” Jake muttered. As he began to run, he called over his shoulder, “Someone find Pete. That sounds like the new bronc he brought home yesterday!”
“Camille,” B.J. pleaded as she followed Jake.
Camille exchanged startled looks with the stranger. Pete had come in early today because he and Janie, his wife, had taken the twins in for their checkup, but she thought they’d come back an hour ago. She started running to the house.
Halfway to the porch, she saw Toby, B.J.’s eight-year-old son, come out the back door. “Toby? Is Uncle Pete in the house?”
“Tell him to come to the barn, quick!” she exclaimed, and reversed her direction. She wanted to see what was happening. She noted, as she ran, that the stranger was no longer in sight, but his car was still there.
Charging into the barn, she discovered Jake and the stranger in a large box stall, with BJ. standing outside it. Jake was starting to lift an unconscious man from the hay while the stranger held the head of the horse.
Camille stared as the man appeared to be talking to the animal, caressing its head and neck. Then she noted several boards almost pushed apart from the frame of the stall.
B.J. moved to help Jake, but he stopped her. “Stay outside. I don’t want you in here in case Griff can’t keep the animal under control.”
B.J. did as he said, but she kept anxious eyes on her husband and his burden.
“Can I help?” Camille asked softly.
“Get some blankets from the tack room,” B.J. said just as quietly.
Camille slipped past B.J. and hurried to do as she asked. She’d already learned in the two weeks she’d been on the ranch not to startle the horses. She took extra care with this one. He’d almost kicked down the wall.
Pete erupted into the quiet of the barn, Toby on his heels, just as Jake got the unconscious man past the gate of the stall. B.J. took the blankets from Camille and began making a pallet on the floor.
The noise from the latest arrivals sent spasms of fear through the horse, and the stranger redoubled his efforts to calm him.
“What’s going on?” Pete demanded, then immediately lowered his voice. “What’s he doing in there with that horse? The thing’s wild.”
“Too bad you didn’t tell your new hand,” Jake muttered, taking a deep breath as he stood from putting the man on the pallet.
“Barney? Is he hurt bad?” Pete asked, kneeling down beside the man.
“He hasn’t come to,” B.J. said. “Is Anna home?” Anna, Brett Randall’s wife, was a nurse who delivered babies in the area.
“She’s giving that birthing class at Doc’s office, remember?” Camille said. Her gaze kept darting to the dark stranger.
“We’re going to need the ambulance,” B.J., the local veterinarian, determined.
“Toby, go get my cell phone out of the truck,” Jake ordered, and the boy scooted out of the barn at once.
Pete seemed concerned about his employee, Barney, but, like Camille, his gaze kept drifting back to the stranger, who remained with the horse.
When Toby returned, Jake made the emergency call. B.J. remained beside the injured man, but Pete moved to the stall.
“Maybe you should come out now, before he gets difficult again,” he suggested, but his words sounded like an order.
The man patted the horse one last time and turned toward the gate. To everyone’s surprise, the animal docilely followed him.
“Watch out!” Pete called hoarsely.
The man ignored his warning, reached the gate, opened it, then closed it behind him. Then he patted the horse again.
“Who are you?” Pete demanded, his brows furrowed.
The man gave him a steady regard, but he didn’t answer.
“Name’s Griff,” Jake said. “Right?”
The man nodded.
Pete continued to stare. “Well, you shouldn’t—Hell, Jake, the man looks just like you!” Pete exclaimed.
A groan from the man on the floor caught everyone’s attention. Pete squatted down beside him. “Easy, Barney. We’ve got help on the way.”
“Sorry, Pete,” the older man muttered. “Wanted to show you I could—” He stopped, grimacing as he drew breath.
“What was your role in this fiasco?” Pete asked the stranger. Camille held her breath, anxious for an explanation of the man’s arrival.
But it was Jake who answered. “He was introducing himself to me when we heard Barney howl and your new acquisition protesting whatever was going on.”
“I told Barney we were going to give Rambo here his shots this afternoon, but we were waiting for BJ. I guess he decided to go ahead by himself.” Pete frowned down at the man, who had his eyes closed.