No Direction Home (Sweet Home Colorado)

BOOK: No Direction Home (Sweet Home Colorado)
9.19Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub



Jude Willhoff



No Direction Home


Sweet Home Colorado ~

Book One






No Direction Home
Sweet Home Colorado ~ Book One

A Contemporary Romance

Copyright 2013 by Jude Willhoff


and Book Design by



All Rights Reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission, in writing from the publisher. E-books are not transferable. They cannot be sold, shared or given away as it is an infringement on the copyright of this book.


This book is a work of fiction. All names, characters, places, and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.






About the Book
Sweet Home Colorado ~ Book One


No Direction Home




Grace Sanders
lost everything that mattered to her, her health to a debilitating disease and her husband to another woman. Experimental surgery gave her back her health, but couldn’t repair her heart. Only time will heal the damage left behind by an unfaithful man so Grace throws herself into a new project—to save her trusting grandmother from being preyed on by an ex-con



Convicted of a crime he didn‘t commit,
Seth Taylor lost everything that mattered to him, years with his daughter and the belief he’ll never love again. Released from prison, he finds a job as a ranch foreman at the Cactus Rose Ranch in Cedar Falls, Colorado. His widowed boss refuses to let growing old destroy her dreams and she believes in second chances.


Second chances are what both Grace and Seth need to create their own Sweet Home Colorado.






Character is who you are when there’s nobody looking. Because my heroine, Grace Sanders lives with
Arachnoiditis and chronic pain I dedicate this book to all the millions of people in this world who suffer with chronic pain. Most people don’t understand chronic pain unless they live with it. I live with Arachnoiditis, a noncurable progressive disease of the spinal cord, which causes constant, excruciating chronic pain. I am one of the lucky ones who can control most of my pain with a spinal cord implant. Bless all of you who have chronic pain and may you have more manageable pain free days.


I also dedicate this book to the most important people in my life—my family. I thank my loving family for believing in me.


And last, but far from least, to my Rosecoloredink critique group who are my writing sisters that keep me on track when I go off the rails. Thanks, ladies. You rock. Always.






Chapter One





Being stranded in the high mountains of Colorado with a blizzard on the way wasn’t what Grace Sanders had set out to do. Low clouds wrapped wispy gray fingers around her car while the tree-covered mountainside disappeared into the gloom.  

The eerie red glow from her emergency flashers illuminated the interior of the car
. With a groan she lifted her head from the steering wheel and stared out the windshield.

Anxious to get to the Cactus Rose Ranch, s
he punched in the roadside assistance number for the umpteenth time praying for a signal.
Nothing. Damn. Enough of this pity poor me crap.
She pushed the car door open.         

cy mist soaked her thin silk dress, making her teeth chatter. California wear wasn’t suited to the frigid mountain temperatures. She knew better, but getting home to protect her Nana from that smooth talking cowboy had been the only thing on her mind. As far as she was concerned all men were pigs.

Making love to you is like screwing a corpse
Even after all this time, the memory of her ex-husband Lee’s parting words still had the ability to wound. He’d betrayed her, ripped a hole in her heart the size of Montana. She pushed the unwanted recollection to the far corners of her mind and shivered.

Her bare skin prickled with goose bumps against the chill as the trunk popped open and she pulled out the heavy lug wrench
. With a sick taste of fear settling in the pit of her stomach, she stared at the spare tire bolted to the trunk floor.

Could she lift it
? Her spinal cord implant was working, but she couldn’t risk pulling lose any of the fine wires traveling up her spine and into her central nervous system. How much did a tire weigh? The doctors had said not to lift anything over ten pounds. What to do? Lord, she hated feeling helpless.

She unbolted the tire and tugged at it
. An instant strain started up her lower back and she had to let go. "Damn."  She moved around the car and kicked the flat tire with a vengeance.

From out of the dense fog, a semi barreled past and sprayed her with cold dirty water
. Brushing grit and hot tears from her face, she kicked the tire once again, only hurting her toe. “Damn, damn, damn.”  She raised her foot to strike it a third time.

“Whoa, little lady, what’d that tire do to you?

Grace jumped at the sound of a deep voice coming from behind her
. She was no longer alone. Her heart beat an unsteady rhythm against her ribcage as she turned. A stranger stood five feet away in the dusky light smiling at her with a twinkle in his eyes. At least he was smiling. Maybe he wasn’t a serial killer.

“Where’d you come from?
” Frustration quivered in her voice as she tried to sound in complete control of the situation.

He had materialized in the dreary, misty evening without a sound
. Grace brushed dripping water from her face while he glanced at the ruined tire.

”  His fingers touched the brim of his Stetson. “I was heading back to the ranch and saw your flashing lights. Thought you might be having some kind of trouble.”

Living in LA, she had learned to be cautious with strangers
. However, she couldn't change the tire by herself and the rugged cowboy did seem harmless. She detested admitting defeat, but in this situation she had no choice. "I can’t get the tire out of the trunk."  Through the swirling fog she could make out the dim lights of a house sitting high on a hill in the distance. A horse nickered. Grace glanced at the large brown animal with a splash of white on its head. It stood tied to a fence post next to the road. Apparently, Mr. Cowboy was telling the truth.

"Ma'am, I'd be happy to oblige."  Feather-like laugh lines crinkled around his deep blue eyes

He probably thought she was nuts
. No doubt a dripping wet overweight blond kicking a tire in the icy rain, must make quite a picture. No matter how embarrassed she was, she needed his strength.
One more time this damn disease wins.
Shivering, she folded her arms across her chest and nodded. “Okay.”  

“You’re freezing.
”  He took off his rain slicker and placed it around her damp shoulders. “Put this on while I help you get back on the road.”  He tugged the coat snug to her body. When his fingertips accidently grazed her neck she felt his warmth pass to her skin.  

” she mumbled. Enveloped in the large coat she watched him work. It had been a long time since anyone besides the doctors had touched her. The aroma of leather and man rose from the coat and tickled her nose. He easily removed the tire and the rest of the tools from the trunk as if they weighed nothing.

To her surprise, he took off his shirt and wrapped it around the tire iron
. She swallowed a gasp. Self-conscious about her reaction she clutched the coat close. After working on movie sets in Hollywood for the past several years, she wasn’t naive, but this man made her feel things that she thought were long behind her. The sight of him made her want things she couldn’t have. She had never felt this kind of instant attraction, not even with Lee.

A smile crossed his face as he gazed up at her
. “The dry shirt helps me to get a better grip.”  He loosened the bolts with each tug of the wrench.

Fascinated, she watched the misty rain drip off his sinewy muscles, down his back and over a washboard stomach with dark chest hair curling in tiny ringlets
. He tossed the bolts into the upturned hubcap.

His blue eyes flashed
in friendship when he glanced in her direction. She wasn't a prude, but she was glad it was getting darker, not wanting him to see the blush on her cheeks. It had been a long time since she’d seen a handsome man shirtless. Though her heart lifted at the sight, she had no business staring at him. Those days were behind her.  

He slipped the ruined tire free
. “Looks like you ran over something that punched a hole in it.”  He nodded toward the damaged tire and laid it on the ground. Placing the spare on the wheel, he tightened down the bolts and shrugged on his damp shirt. “There you go. It should get you where you’re going.”  He hit the hubcap into place with the palm of his hand and tossed the flat in the trunk next to her luggage.

When he slammed it shut, she saw him glance at her LA Lady vanity plates
. He didn’t say anything. Aware of her soggy, deflated appearance in contrast to her sensuous thoughts she handed him his coat. “You’ve been a godsend.”

“Glad I could help.
”  He held the car door open so she could slide behind the wheel. After putting his slicker on, he nodded toward the sky. “This storm is going to get worse. It’s best you get on your way to somewhere dry.”

Grace was glad to be back in the warm car
. “You’re right. Thanks a lot.”  He didn't know how right he was. The last thing she needed with her chronic condition was to get sick. She flipped on the headlights and waved at the stranger as she drove back onto the road heading home to the Cactus Rose Ranch. In just a short time she’d be home.

Warm air flowed through the car as she glanced into the rearview mirror and brushed her hair back with her fingertips
. Thanks to that handsome cowboy, she would dry out and make it home. Still chilled, she turned the heat on high.  

She’d been in terrible pain before the surgery and unable to walk
. Being dependant on other people had been the hardest thing she had ever dealt with in her life. Through hard work and sheer determination, she had regained her independence. In her heart, Grace knew coming home to the ranch to help her grandmother was the best thing.

Over the years, she'd made solo trips home and had brought Nana and Papa to Los Angeles for visits but it hadn't been nearly enough
. She should've done more.

Many miles later and now dry, she finally turned onto the two mile drive to the Cactus Rose Ranch
. Right on cue, big fat snowflakes gently swirled in the headlights. She loved snow and hadn't seen it for years. This was a good omen.

In the distance, the lights shone bright through the windows of the two-story log home nestled among the large rocks and blue spruce trees on the hillside
. There was a time she didn’t think she’d ever see this place again.

. A nostalgia she hadn’t expected tugged her lips into a smile just before a mind-numbing pain shot down her right leg. Scary-down-to-the-core-of-her-being pain. Pain that would never go away. Grimacing, she pulled into the circular driveway next to the house.
Not now.
She took several deep breaths and willed the fire burning down her leg to become more bearable. With the pain toned down to tolerable, she rushed from the car toward her Nana’s loving arms.

Her small white-haired grandmother hurried through the thickening snowflakes to greet her with a wide grin on her weathered face
. “Gracie Bell, for goodness sake, when you said you’d be on your way I didn’t think you meant this soon.”

Gracie Bell
. She hadn’t heard that endearment for such a long time it caused a lump to lodge in her throat. She swallowed it down. “I wanted to surprise you. I left the hospital as soon as I could.”  And when Grace had found out a strange man was running the ranch she didn’t have much choice.

“Well, whatever, it was worth it to get you home
. Are you okay?”  She held her at arm’s length for a moment, then hugged her tight again.

“I had a flat, but I’m okay, just a little tired
. Nana, I’m home. I’m really home,” she murmured against the familiar shoulder, inhaling her grandma’s fragrance mingled with the scent of snow. Her heart pounded with joy. The Cactus Rose Ranch had been her home since the age of five, after her parents died in an auto accident.

“Yes, you are
. Come inside. We’ll get your things later.”  She wrapped an arm around Grace's waist as they walked up the steps, across the wide country porch and into the comfortable living room.

The pungent smell of wood burning in the fireplace floated through the air
. The brown leather sofa piled high with soft mauve and green flowered pillows, beckoned to Grace. Tired and needing to sit for a moment, she sank into its welcome softness.

“Tell me, how was your trip
? Has it completely worn you out?”  Nana’s full head of thick curly white hair glistened in the soft light. Her warm brown eyes showed concern.

“No, I took my time and I’m doing fine
. I’m tired from driving, but nothing more."  She wasn’t about to worry Nana with her problems. She just couldn’t tell her about the stream of fire burning through her body. She glanced around the room at family pictures and well-worn comfortable furniture. It hadn’t changed much. Ollie, Nana's orange and white cat, snoozed peacefully in her recliner. He had been around for about eighteen years, a fixture in the home, sleeping on any lap that would take him.

Grace laid her head back against the sofa taking slow deep breaths and adjusted to take weight off her spine
. “How’s Ollie? He looks the same.” 

“Like me, slowing down, old and cranky, but he’s doing fine
. Spoiled rotten.”  She smiled. “Are you hungry?”

. I ate in Grand Junction.”

“I’ll fix you a cup of hot tea
. It’ll help you relax.”  Nana rushed across the room and into the open kitchen.

Grace followed at a slower pace
. “That does sound good, but you don’t have to wait on me. I can do it myself.”

“It’s nothing, sweetie.
”  Nana poured hot water over the tea bags waiting in the large coffee mugs. “Sit down. I know you're worn out.”  She pulled a cushioned chair from the oak table and gently pushed Grace into it.

The open kitchen was warm and inviting with the smell of fresh baked banana bread lingering in the air
. “Something smells good."  She enjoyed the aroma, knowing Nana had baked for her.

“Yes, I made your favorite.
”  She pushed a steaming mug of cinnamon apple tea in front of Grace. “This will warm you up.”

”  Looking out the wide wall of windows over the kitchen sink, Grace watched the snow falling silently to the ground. It was peaceful. She'd missed Nana and home.

“Were the roads bad?

“No, not really, lots of rain, but no snow until I got here.
”  Clasping cold fingers around the warm mug Grace sipped the tea.

“You’ve probably been a little ahead of the storm all the way
. We’ve been preparing for it for the past few days. Seth already moved the cattle down to the lower pasture.”

She tensed at the mention of Seth
. She would have to tread lightly on this topic with Nana. “So things are working out with Seth?”  Nana had hired the new foreman after Papa passed, but Grace had never met the man.

“Yes, real well
. I don’t know what I’d do without him. He’s always ahead of the game. Seems to know by instinct when bad weather is coming. I've let him take over the bookkeeping for me. Other than your grandfather, he’s the best foreman I’ve ever worked with.”

BOOK: No Direction Home (Sweet Home Colorado)
9.19Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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