Home > Cowboy SEAL Homecoming (Navy SEAL Cowboys #1)

Cowboy SEAL Homecoming (Navy SEAL Cowboys #1)
Author: Nicole Helm

Chapter 1

   “I can’t believe you talked me into this,” Jack said.

   Alex Maguire smiled at his friend’s utter disgust. The big Montana sky, famous for its size and unending vastness, stretched out blue and bright. Mountains lined the distance, and if he squinted, he could almost forget he was in the parking lot of the Bozeman airport.

   It was a strange thing to be back in Montana and know it was probably for good, even though in the back of his mind, he’d known he couldn’t be a Navy SEAL forever. There’d been the vague idea that, when he was old, he’d probably make it back to Blue Valley and the ranch he’d grown up on.

   He hadn’t expected that to happen at the age of thirty-four, and he certainly hadn’t expected…well, any of what lay before him.

   “So, what does this woman look like?” Gabe asked, scanning the parking lot.

   Truth be told, Alex had only fuzzy recollections of his stepsister, Becca. His visits to Blue Valley had been quick and infrequent since his father’s second marriage.

   Alex hadn’t been conscious of how purposeful that had been until news of his father’s sudden death had reached him. He’d been in the rehabilitation center, recovering from his injuries. There, he’d had to come to terms with his father’s death, and he’d had to face the fact that he’d avoided home over the years because he had never quite grown comfortable with the idea of someone taking his mother’s place. He’d never wanted to witness it.

   That meant that, including his father’s funeral, he’d only met Becca a handful of times. She was almost ten years younger than him, so each time he saw her, she looked completely different. He had no idea what kind of changes she could have gone through since the last time he’d been home.

   Still, he was the leader of this trio of men come to Blue Valley to build something for soldiers like them—soldiers who’d lost their purpose long before they were ready to do so. He couldn’t let them think he was leading them into this blind.

   Uncomfortable with that line of thinking, Alex scanned the parking lot again. “Short. Brown hair. Woman.”

   “How very descriptive of you,” Gabe returned dryly.

   “I told you I don’t know her that well.”

   “But you trust her enough to do this?” Jack demanded. Though he sounded surly, Alex much preferred Jack surly to quiet and moody. The youngest of them—and the one who’d suffered the most—he’d had the longest recovery and seemed to be the worst for the wear.

   This would fix it though. Alex was sure of it.

   “My dad trusted her with half his ranch. He wouldn’t do that for just anybody.” Which was as true as it could possibly be. Though Becca and her mother had lived on the ranch for much of the time Alex had been away, Alex had been shocked to find his dad had left half the place to Becca, instead of leaving it all to him.

   Alex glanced at the two men who had become first his brothers in combat, then his friends, then his fellow wounded veterans. They’d had their plans and dreams ripped away from them in the same instant. Over and over in the past year, Alex had vowed to himself to fix this. To give them all some hope again.

   He could tell, standing in front of this vast landscape, Gabe and Jack had their doubts, but Alex would make sure no matter what it took, they would find something new to sustain them here.

   “That her?”

   Alex looked to where Gabe was gesturing. A small brunette was walking toward them. She had her hands shoved into her jeans pockets and a baseball cap low on her head, covering most of her face. The height and build was about right, he thought, but he couldn’t see her face to be certain. Then again, he wasn’t certain he would recognize her face if he could see it.

   But she was walking straight for them, and that was proof enough. This was the woman he was going to share his ranch with—his stepsister. Technically. Or she had been when his father had been alive. Whatever the case, she was a part of this whole puzzle, and he had to deal with it. Accept it. Find a way to make a partnership work.

   Alex liked having goals like that. The purpose. So as she approached, he did his best to smile welcomingly.

   “You never mentioned she was hot,” Gabe said with a mischievous grin.

   Alex gave him a hard elbow to the ribs that had Gabe sucking in a breath. “You’ll be respectful.” He shifted on his feet as she looked both ways before crossing the road between the airport exit and the parking lot. “Besides, you can’t see her face,” Alex muttered.

   “Her face wasn’t what I was looking at.”

   Alex knew it was good-natured, but he also knew this was a damn perilous partnership. “You’re an ass to her, you answer to me.”

   “Yes, sir.”

   Gabe offered a mock salute and Alex considered elbowing him again, but the woman was watching. When she got close enough to speak, she pushed the hat up on her forehead.

   The first thought he had—one he wanted to erase immediately—was that Gabe was right. She was hot.

   And she was his stepsister or whatever, so that was completely inappropriate. Besides that, she was his partner now. If he hadn’t had time for women in the past few years, he certainly didn’t have time for one now.

   “Hi, Alex,” she greeted. Her voice was soft, maybe a little…intimidated. He was used to reading people to gauge a situation, but he couldn’t read Becca. Not quite nervous, definitely not confident, but none of the words he had in his arsenal adequately labeled her demeanor.

   She smiled, something small and definitely timid. Fleeting. “Welcome home,” she offered with a nod.

   The word hit hard. Home. He’d never dreamed of coming home to a ranch his father wasn’t running.

   “Thanks, Becca. Allow me to introduce my colleagues. Gabe Cortez. Jack Armstrong. Guys, this is…” Alex realized too late he didn’t remember her last name. Unless she’d taken Dad’s which would have been…weird. Very weird.

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