Authors: Jodi Thomas
Where family bonds are made and broken, and where young love sparks as old flames grow dim, Ransom Canyon is ready to welcomeâand shelterâthose who need it
With a career and a relationship in ruins, Jubilee Hamilton is left reeling from a fast fall to the bottom. The run-down Texas farm she's inherited is a far cry from the second chance she hoped for, but it and the abrasive foreman she's forced to hire are all she's got.
Every time Charley Collins has let a woman get close, he's been burned. So Lone Heart ranch and the contrary woman who owns it are merely a means to an end, until Jubilee tempts him to take another riskâto stop resisting the attraction drawing them together despite all his hard-learned logic.
Desperation is all young Thatcher Jones knows. And when he finds himself mixed up in a murder investigation, his only protection is the shelter of a man and woman whoâjust like himâneed someone to trust.
Praise for Jodi Thomas
and her RANSOM CANYON series
“Jodi Thomas is a masterful storyteller. She grabs your attention on the first page, captures your heart, and then makes you sad when it's time to bid her wonderful characters farewell. You can count on Jodi Thomas to give you a satisfying and memorable read.”
New York Times
“Thomas sketches a slow, sweet surrender.”
“Compelling and beautifully written, it is exactly the kind of
heart-wrenching, emotional story one has come to expect from Jodi Thomas.”
âDebbie Macomber, #1
New York Times
“Jodi Thomas has the ability to reel me in every time with her enterprising, intelligent and caring cast of characters and
has some of the best yet. ”
“This book is like once again visiting old friends while making
new ones and will leave readers eager for the next visit. A pure joy to read.”
RT Book Reviews
“Thomas could make a city girl hang up her pumps for a pair of boots with her descriptions of clear blue skies and dusk-red dirt. Fans will anxiously await the next book in the series because, like meeting with old friends, catching up with the characters of
can't come soon enough.”
is a tale of redemption and hope filled with authentic dialogue and characters engaging enough to chat with over a cup of coffee.”
Fort Worth Star-Telegram
introduces readers to a close-knit society that takes care of its ownâ¦ In true Jodi Thomas fashion, readers will be drawn into this tale, feeling empathy for the beautifully written characters, and enjoying the everyday life in a small town.”
Romance Reviews Today
“Western romance legend Thomas's
will warm readers with its huge heart and gentle souls.”
Also available from
in front of Jubilee Hamilton's office looked more like a river of mud than a beautiful old brick lane.
“Why does it always have to rain on election day?” she asked the life-size cutout of her candidate.
The few volunteers left in the campaign office were cleaning out their desks. The polls hadn't been closed an hour, and Jubilee's horse in the race had already been declared the loser.
Or maybe she was the loser. Two months ago her live-in boyfriend, the man she'd thought she'd someday settle down with and have the two-point-five kids, had said goodbye. David had called her a self-absorbed workaholic. He'd accused her of being cold, uncaring, thoughtless, self-centered.
When she'd denied it, he'd asked one question. “When's my birthday, Jub?”
She'd folded her arms as if to say she wasn't playing games. But this time her mild-mannered lover hadn't backed down.
“Well,” he stared at her, heartbroken.
When she didn't answer, David asked again. “We've been together three years. When is my birthday, Jub?”
“February 19,” she guessed.
“Not even close.” David picked up his briefcase and walked toward the door. “I'll get my things after the election is over. You won't have time to open the door for me before then.”
Jubilee didn't have time to miss him, either. She had an election to run. She worked so many hours she started sleeping at the office every other night. Sometime in the weeks that followed, David had dropped by the apartment and packed his things. She'd walked in on a mountain of boxes marked with
s. All she remembered thinking at the time was that she was glad he'd left her clean clothes still hanging.
A few days later the
s were gone and one apartment key lay on the counter. There was no time to miss him or his boxes.
Jubilee had thought of crying, but she didn't bother. Boyfriends had vanished before. Two in college, one before David while she lived in Washington, DC. She'd have time for lovers later. Right now, at twenty-six, she needed to build her career. As always, work was her life. Men were simply extras she could live with or without. She barely noticed the mail piling up or the sign on the door telling her she had six weeks before she had to vacate the premises.
Then the rain came. The election ended. Her candidate had lost. She'd lost. No job would be waiting for her at dawn. No David would be standing in the door of their apartment this time, ready to comfort her.
Her third loss as a campaign manager.
Three strikes, you're out
, she thought.
She walked through the rain alone, not caring that she was soaked. She'd given her all this time and she'd ended up with nothing. The candidate she'd fought so hard for hadn't even bothered to call her at the end.
When she unlocked the door to the apartment that now looked more like a storage unit than a home, she wasn't surprised the lights wouldn't come on. David had always taken care of minor things like paying the bills.
She sat down on one of the boxes and reached for her phone before she realized she had no one to call. No friends. No old school buddies she'd kept up with. All the numbers in her contacts were business related except the three for her family. She scrolled down to the Hamiltons.
First number, her parents. They hadn't spoken to her since she'd missed her sister's wedding. Jubilee shrugged. Really, how important was a bridesmaid?
Destiny's wedding was beautiful anyway. Jubilee saw the pictures on Facebook. Had she attended, as the too tall, too thin sister, she would have only crumbled Destiny's perfection.
She moved down the list. Destiny. Her sister, six years older, always prettier, always smarter, never liking having her around.
Jubilee ran through memories like flashcards of her childhood. Destiny had cut off all her hair when she was three. Told Jubilee she was adopted when she was five. Left her at the park after dark when she was seven. Slashed her bike tires when she was ten so she couldn't follow along.
, don't forget about telling me I was dying when I got my first period.
The whole family was laughing as she'd written out her will at twelve.
The flashcards tumbled to the floor in her mind along with any need to talk to Destiny whatever-her-last-name-was-now.
If big sisters were measured on a scale of one to ten, Destiny would be double digits in the negative.
She moved down to the next Hamilton on her contact list. Her great-grandfather. She'd lived with him the summer she'd been eleven because her parents wanted to tour college options with Destiny. They'd all waved as they dropped her off at Grandpa Levy's with smiles as if they'd left a bothersome pet at the pound.
Two weeks later they'd called and said they couldn't make the trip back to Texas to get her because of car trouble. A week after that there was another school to consider. Then her father wanted to wait until he had a few days off so the trip from Kansas to Texas wouldn't be so hard on the family.
Jubilee had missed the first two weeks of school before they made it back, and she hadn't cared. She would have stayed on the ranch forever.
Grandpa Levy was ornery and old. Even at eleven she could tell the whole family didn't like him or want the worthless dry-land farm he'd lived on since birth. Levy talked with his mouth full, cussed more than Methodists allow, only bathed once a week and complained about everything but her.
Jubilee's parents barely took the time to turn off the engine when they picked her up. The old man didn't hug her, but his knotted, leathered hand dug into her shoulder as if he couldn't bear to let her go. That meant more than anything he could have said.
She never told anyone how wonderful Grandpa Levy had been to her. He gave her a horse and taught her to ride, and all summer she was right by his side. Collecting eggs, birthing calves, cutting hay. For the first time in her life no one told her what she was doing wrong.
Jubilee stared at his number. She hadn't talked to him since Christmas, but the moment she'd heard his raspy voice, she'd felt like the eleven-year-old again, giggling and telling him things he probably cared nothing about. Her great-grandfather had listened and answered each rant she went through with comments like, “You'll figure it out, kid. God didn't give you all those brains for nothing.”
She wanted to talk to him now. She needed to say she hadn't figured anything out.
Jubilee pushed the number and listened to it ring. She could imagine the house phone on the wall between his kitchen and living room ringing through empty bedrooms and hallways that always smelled dusty. He lived in the two rooms off the kitchen and left the other rooms to sleep, he claimed.
“Answer,” she whispered, needing to know that someone was out there. Right now, tonight, she could almost believe she was the only one left alive. “Answer, Grandpa.”
Finally, after twenty rings, she hung up. The old guy didn't even have an answering machine, and he'd probably never heard of a cell phone. Maybe he was in the barn or over near the corral where the cowhands who worked for him lived from spring to fall. Maybe he'd driven the two-lane road to town for his once-a-month trip. If so, he'd be having dinner at the little cafÃ© in Crossroads. He was probably ordering two slices of Dorothy's pie right now.
She wished she were there in the booth across from him.
With the streetlight's glow from the window, she crossed to her fireplace and lit the logs. Strange how after more than a dozen years she still missed him when she'd never missed anyone else. She had lived years with her parents and remembered only slices of her life, but she remembered every detail of that summer.
As the paper-wrapped logs caught fire, the flames' light danced off the boxes and blank walls of her world. She found a half bottle of wine in the warm fridge and a bag of Halloween candy she hadn't been home to hand out. Curled up by the fire in her dark apartment, she began to read her mail. Most of the time she would fling the envelope into the fire without opening it. Ads. Letters from strangers. Catalogs filled with stuff she didn't need or want.
One by one she tossed the envelopes into the fire along with every hope and dream she'd had about a career as a campaign manager.
In the last stack of mail, she noticed a large white envelope hand-addressed to her. Curiosity finally caught her attention. The postmark was over a month ago. Surely it wasn't something important, or someone would have called her.
Slowly, she opened the envelope.
Tears silently tumbled as she saw the top of the page. She began to read Levy Hamilton's will. Word by word. Aloud. Making herself feel truth's pain.
The last page was a note scribbled on a lawyer's office stationery.
Levy died two months ago, Miss Hamilton. We were unable to reach any family, so I followed his request and buried him on his land. When he named you his sole heir of Lone Heart Ranch, he told me you'd figure out what to do with the old place. I hope this will get to you eventually. I'll see you when you get here.
Jubilee turned over the envelope. It had been forwarded twice before reaching her.
She laid the will aside and cried harder than she'd ever cried for the one person who'd ever really loved her. The one person she'd ever loved.
After the fire burned low and shadows slowly waltzed as if circling the last bit of light, she thought she felt Levy's hand resting on her shoulder. His knotted fingers didn't seem ready to let her go.
At dawn she packed the last of her clothes, called a storage company to pick up the boxes and walked away from her life in DC with one suitcase and her empty briefcase.
She'd go to her parents' house over the holidays. She'd try to find the pieces of herself and see if she could glue them together. But together or not, she'd start over where the wind never stopped blowing, and dust came as a side dish at every meal. She may have only lived there a few months, but Lone Heart Ranch might be the only place where she'd ever felt she belonged.