Head Over Heels
Head Over Heels
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Sally Gray has been surrounded by tall, dark, handsome men her entire life. It will take a lot more than big muscles and a fondness for Irish wolfhounds to make her fall for the man from Copper Creek.
Todd Randall had the perfect life; a career that took him around the world, a wife and son that he loved beyond words. Then in one terrifying night everything changed, and he's never been the same since.
Sally needs Todd’s help to make a bride's dream come true, but he gave up believing in dreams a long time ago. With a wedding disaster looming and no happy ending in sight, Sally has no choice but to do what it takes to make Todd change his mind. If that means confronting everything that’s kept him locked away from the world, then she’ll do it. Even if the price turns out to be more than either of them can afford.
Chapter One Look Inside
Chapter One Look Inside
Sally looked in her rearview mirror at Max, the big, shaggy Irish wolfhound she’d been looking after.
He was staring through the window, blissfully unaware of the life-changing event that was about to happen. She just hoped Todd knew what he was taking on. At 130 pounds, Max wasn’t the kind of dog who melted into the background. With a big heart and a personality that loved people, you had the makings of a great family friend or a disaster waiting to happen.
“It won’t be long now, boy.”
Max yawned, hunching further into his seat as they passed under a sign welcoming them to Copper Creek Ranch.
She didn’t know an awful lot about Todd Randall. What she did know created more questions than answers. He leased most of his ranch to a neighbor and kept to himself. He had a part-time job at one of the local veterinary practices, disappeared for weeks on end, and scared the living daylights out of most people.
The last part might have been a slight exaggeration, but Sally wasn’t taking any chances with Max’s care. Todd’s reputation around town didn’t exactly paint him as Mr. Wonderful, and Max needed all the wonderful he could find.
After six months in the Bozeman animal shelter, Max was running out of options. She’d been working hard to find the perfect home for him, but it hadn’t been easy. Todd might be Max’s last hope of having a happy life.
She parked her truck close to the main house, not liking what she saw. She was beginning to worry that she’d made a mistake. Her dad always said you could judge a man by the care he took of what was his. Todd didn’t live by the same standard.
The fences surrounding his home were well-tended and the rolling landscape around her was breathtaking. But his house would need more than a lick of paint to make it look even half-decent. With its flaking exterior and sun-blistered roof, it looked neglected and unloved.
Max stuck his head through the gap between the front seats and sighed.
Sally frowned at the old wooden swing on the porch. “It’s okay, boy. I won’t leave you here if you’re not happy.”
Max turned around and banged his paw against the window beside him. Sally smiled at the way he let her know exactly what he was thinking. He wanted out of her truck, and he wanted it now.
She undid her seatbelt and opened her door. Max stared at her through the window, his goofy smile making her heart clench tight.
“Are you Sally Gray?”
A man was walking toward her. He was big, easily as big as her brothers. He’d pulled his cowboy hat low over his face, shielding himself from her curious gaze. He moved quickly across the yard, not bothering to hide his irritation at being disturbed.
She pulled her spine straight and ignored the bark coming from inside her truck. The man in front of her glanced at Max, then back at her.
“I’m looking for Todd Randall,” she said.
The man’s blue eyes flashed impatiently at her. “You’ve found him.”
Narrowing her eyes, she let him know she wasn’t intimidated by his grouchy attitude. Living with four older brothers had given her an advantage when it came to bossy men. She’d learned to ignore the caveman tactics her brothers used, and focus on what was important. And, in this case, it was Max. She didn’t care if Todd Randall was grumpy. What she cared about was giving Max a good home.
“You offered to adopt Max. I want to look around the ranch and make sure he’ll be okay.”
Todd frowned. “Why wouldn’t he?”
Sally stuck her hands in her pockets. She wouldn’t take offense at the suspicious look on his face. “He’s a big dog. He needs space, somewhere warm to sleep, and someone who understands his needs.” She didn’t add that someone with a heart would help, too.
Todd looked over his shoulder at his barn. “Max came and saw me with Dylan a few weeks ago. He seemed happy enough.”
Dylan was Sally’s best friend’s fiancé. He’d met Todd at a counseling group for men dealing with post-traumatic stress issues. Sally hadn’t asked Dylan why Todd went to the sessions. It wasn’t any of her business but, what was her business, was Max.
Todd looked at his watch. “I really need to get back to the barn. Max will be fine with me. Can you look around the ranch another day?”
Sally shook her head. “I’m a schoolteacher and I have a busy week ahead of me. The earliest I could come back would be next Saturday.”
Todd’s steady gaze saw right through her intentions. “You’re worried about Max.”
“He’s a wonderful dog.” She looked at the barn and saw another truck parked outside its big wooden doors. The truck belonged to Chris Harvey, one of the local animal vets. “Is something wrong?”
“My mare gave birth an hour ago.”
Sally frowned. “Is she okay?”
“We had a couple of issues. I would have called you to postpone Max’s arrival, but with everything that’s happened, I forgot.” Todd glanced at her truck. “Max looks as though he wants to get out. If you’re happy to take him for a walk, I could meet you back here in thirty minutes.”
Sally smiled at the paw Max had planted against the window. “I won’t let him get close to the new foal.”
“Thanks. I’ll see you soon.” Todd turned toward the barn.
“I hope your mare and foal are all right,” Sally said quickly.
He ignored her comment and kept walking.
With a relieved smile, she opened Max’s door and attached the leash to his collar. “Come on, boy. It’s time to explore.”
Max didn’t need to be told twice. He bounded out of the truck and pulled her behind him. He was excited and she supposed that was something. At least he’d get a chance to stretch his long legs before they saw Todd again.
Max headed across the yard in the opposite direction to the barn. She didn’t know where they were going, but Max did.
“What’s over here, boy?”
Max gave one sharp bark before lunging forward. Sally held onto his leash, stomping through the tall grass and wildflowers surrounding Todd’s home. A few minutes later she knew what had sent Max dashing into the great unknown. Geese.
A mad flap of wings and deep throated squawks sent her canine buddy hurtling toward the edge of a creek. The birds took flight, heading in a deceptively lazy formation away from an excited Irish wolfhound.
Max stood on the edge of the water, panting as if he’d just run a marathon. Sally patted his back and looked around. This wasn’t your run-of-the-mill, almost dry creek ranchers dealt with in the middle of summer. This creek was full of fresh water. It gently cascaded over boulders, lapped at their feet, and moved along a route forged by millions of gallons of water.
As well as looking pretty, the creek was a huge asset that most ranchers in the area could only dream about. She didn’t know Todd’s reasons for buying the property, but he couldn’t have chosen a better one.
She pulled Max along the edge of the creek. Living here would be exciting for him. He could chase geese every day and, with a new foal, it would give him another reason to be happy.
Her gaze wandered over the mountains in the distance and the blue sky that stretched into forever. There were a lot of good reasons why this property was perfect for Max. And a lot of reasons why she still wasn’t sure about the owner of Copper Creek Ranch.
* * *
Todd watched the new foal find its center of gravity as it suckled its mama’s milk. Its legs wobbled like half-set jello, but it stayed upright, too hungry to consider tumbling to the ground again. It had been a hard birth, but Moon Dance had done what she could to deliver a healthy baby.
“What will you call her?” Chris closed the lid on his box of medical supplies and looked at the foal.
“Starlight.” Todd’s mouth tilted into a smile when the foal’s long ears pricked to attention. “Thanks for helping.”
Chris shrugged his shoulders. “It’s what I do. Moon Dance was lucky you were here.”
Todd knew he’d spent too much time away from his ranch in the last four years. As hard as it was, he needed to move on with his life. Revenge might be sweet, but it wouldn’t bring back his family.
“I’m not planning on going anywhere in a hurry.”
“Glad to hear it. If you have any questions or if you’re worried about anything, call me.” Chris picked up his box and walked outside.
Todd opened the tailgate on Chris’ truck and stared across the yard. Sally was sitting on the front porch of his home, patting the huge Irish wolfhound beside her.
Chris smiled. “Did Sally convince you to look after Max?”
“Not Sally, Dylan. He brought Max to the ranch a few weeks ago and told me he needed a home. Sally’s supposed to leave him with me today.” He wasn’t sure how that would work out.
“Max had a hard life before he arrived at the shelter.” Chris opened his truck door and waved at Sally. She waved back and leaned over Max, saying something to him as she clambered to her feet.
Todd didn’t know what to make of her. She volunteered at the same animal shelter he had before he’d started working at Chris’ veterinary clinic. He’d worked at the shelter most weekdays. Sally volunteered over the weekends. In the twelve months he’d been there, he’d seen her once or twice, but he’d never spoken to her. That wasn’t unusual.
It wasn’t that he didn’t like people, he did. But it hadn’t been easy, moving to a new town, dealing with all the issues that had brought him here.
If he was being honest with himself, he’d say he was just plain scared. Scared to get close to anyone, scared to make plans, scared to start living again. Volunteering at the shelter had been hard enough. Talking to people would have been impossible.
He frowned at the obvious bond between Sally and Max. From what Dylan had told him, Sally had been taking Max home to socialize him with other people. He’d almost smiled when he’d heard that. It sounded as though he had a lot in common with the big Irish wolfhound.
Chris went back into the barn to get more of his gear, and he studied Sally as she walked toward him. She’d jammed her hat low on her head, covering most of her face from the heat of the sun. But nothing could hide the way her long legs swallowed the distance between them.
She was pretty, in a country-girl meets small-town America kind of way. She had attitude by the bucketload and she wanted the best home she could find for Max. Todd had a feeling his ranch wasn’t living up to her high expectations.
Chris threw a couple of blankets in the back of his truck and followed Todd’s gaze. “She’s single.”
He frowned. “So?”
“Just saying. Makes sense a single guy might be interested in going out with a single woman.”
“I don’t date,” Todd growled.
“I know.” Chris’ dry voice had an edge of humor attached to it.
Todd scowled at his friend, hoping he’d get the message and quit talking about dating anyone. Especially when Sally was only a few feet away.
“Hi, Chris. I thought you were going to Europe?”
“If my truck hadn’t died, Mandy and I would be there now. Paris will have to wait for another year.”
Sally nodded at the red pickup. “At least you’ll be traveling around Montana in style.”
“That’s true. How’s Max?”
Sally glanced across the yard. “He’s ready to find a permanent home.”
Chris snapped the tailgate closed and headed toward the driver’s door. “Max will be happy here. I’m heading to Trent McKenzie’s ranch. If either of you need anything, give me a call.”
Sally nodded and watched Chris drive away. “He’s a good vet. How are your mare and foal?” she asked.
“You don’t believe in using more words than you need to, do you?”
Her green eyes flashed and he felt a smile work its way onto his face. “You can come and see them if you like.”
Sally looked back at Max, then over at the barn. It was almost as though she didn’t want to leave him alone.
“He’ll be all right.” Todd started walking toward the barn. Sally followed behind, still looking unsure about leaving Max on the porch. “Come and meet Moon Dance and Starlight.”
Sally’s eyes widened. “Nice names.”
“The foal’s named after a horse I owned when I was a kid.”
Sally frowned and stuck her hands in her pockets. “And here I was thinking you were being romantic.”
He didn’t have a romantic bone left in his body, but he wasn’t about to tell her why. “They’re in the stall at the end of the breezeway.”
She moved swiftly toward the new foal. Starlight nudged her mama’s belly and Sally smiled. “Your foal is beautiful.”
Todd thought so, too. Starlight had a light chestnut coat with a big white circle on her forehead. She was alert and energetic, all the things that would make her transition into the world a lot easier.
Sally looked over her shoulder. “Why do you want Max to live with you?”
He thought about the first time he’d seen Max. Dylan had brought him to the ranch and right away the big dog had worked his way into Todd’s heart.
Max’s brown eyes had studied him, watched every move he’d made. After half an hour of close inspection, Todd figured he must have passed whatever test Max had devised. For the rest of his visit, the Irish wolfhound hadn’t left his side. But Todd didn’t know how to explain any of that to Sally. So he stuck with a story he could explain, something that didn’t lead to more questions he didn’t want to answer.
“I grew up on a cattle ranch in Wyoming. For half of my life, I’ve been surrounded by more animals than people. Dylan told me about Max and it seemed like a perfect fit.” He wasn’t sure his words would convince her Max would be in good hands, but they’d have to do.
“Max is six years old. He doesn’t run around an awful lot, but he likes to explore. How would you keep him safe?”
Todd gripped the top rail of Moon Dance’s stall. Keeping people safe wasn’t something he was good at. “He’ll be as safe as any dog is on a ranch. I can’t promise you nothing will happen, but I’ll do my best to give Max a good home.”
Sally turned her back on Moon Dance and Starlight. She looked straight at him, weighing what he’d said against what her brain was telling her. “I guess that’s all anyone can ask. Do you have time to show me where Max will be sleeping?”
“Does this mean you’re happy for him to stay with me?”
Sally stuck her hands in her pockets and sighed. “About the only thing I’m sure about is that you’ll look after him. He’s a special dog.”
“At least that’s something we can agree on,” Todd said half-seriously.
Sally’s mouth tilted into a smile. The air around Todd stilled, and he held his breath, waiting for what would happen next.
“I like the way you think, Todd Randall.”
He stared at the dimple on Sally’s cheek and wondered why he felt so relieved.
Fans of Netflix’s Virgin River series will love this small-town, feel-good romance!
Sally needs Todd’s help to make a bride's dream come true, but he gave up believing in dreams a long time ago. With a wedding disaster looming and no happy ending in sight, she has no choice but to do what it takes to make Todd change his mind.
If that means confronting everything that’s kept him locked away from the world, then she’ll do it. Even if the price turns out to be more than either of them can afford.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★ “My favorite kind of books! I enjoyed each story, the characters, and the happy endings.”
★ ★ ★ ★ ★ "Such a heartwarming love story. Made me dream of living in a small town!"
★ ★ ★ ★ ★ "This book is like comfort food for the soul. Couldn't put it down!"