1st book in the Five Oaks Ranch Series
By: Stephanie Payne Hurt
Ridge?2015 Stephanie Payne Hurt
Five Oaks Ranch Series
Cover Designer: Kaleigh Payne
Any person mentioned in this book is not based on any person, living or nonliving.
Form or used in part or whole without the permission of the author or publisher.
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Ridge stood looking out at the cattle as it grazed in the far field. It was good to be home, but he couldn't quite get his head on straight. That's when he saw the lone horse out in the field. It was out of place and he realized it was one of their prize Stallions.
Anger surged in him as he urged his horse into a run across the large expanse of pasture. If one of those longhorn cattle came near enough to gore that Stallion they'd be out a lot of money. His mind kept going over who was in charge of the horses this morning when he headed out. Then he remembered that it was Maggie. Shaking his head as he easily jumped the fence and gained on the skittish Stallion. Evidently the horse realized he was in the wrong place.
Once he neared the horse he saw the dangling rope. Grinding his teeth and jumping off his horse he grabbed the rope and reached up to tie it to the horn of his saddle. He stepped up into the saddle and started for the barn. He'd have her hide for this. She knew how to tie a proper knot. Where was that girls mind at?
When he neared the barn he saw his little sister brushing her mare. She looked up and their eyes locked. Hers was the first to dart away. She knew instantly that he was angry. The horse he was leading toward her was one of the prize Stallions that her father had paid a lot of money for.
Stepping around the back of her horse, she gazed over the horses back timidly, dreading his wrath. Maybe if she put the horse between them it would be better, but the anger in his eyes was growing. Finally she walked out of the stall and reached up for the rope that he handed her.
"Maggie, what were you thinking? Do you have any idea where this horse was when I found him?" Not giving her time to respond, he continued with a loud, booming voice full of anger. "He was out in the pasture with the longhorn cattle. What if one of those bulls decided to tear open this Stallion? How'd he get loose? You know how to tie a knot." He slowly dismounted his horse and stood in front of his sister. Grabbing the rope he tied it in a proper knot and slipped it over the hook on the side of the stall.
"I'm sorry Ridge. I don't know how he got loose. I swear I tied the knot tightly." She edged away from him as he continued to stare at her.
He reached up and pulled his cowboy hat off to wipe the sweat from his forehead. How could he stay mad with her? With a quick motion he pulled her into his embrace. "Just be glad it was me that found him and not dad. He'd have you cleaning out stalls with your hands." He reached up and pulled her ponytail.
She made a face just thinking about that punishment. "Thanks Ridge for not ratting on me this time but I'll do better. I guess I was distracted with the new horse and all." Looking over her shoulder at her new mare she smiled. "But you've got to admit she's worth the distraction."
He laughed and pushed her gently back toward her mare. "Well, distraction or not, don't let it happen again or I'll have you using your toothbrush on the bits." As she giggled he rolled his eyes and headed over to brush his horse down, his heart melting slightly at the sound of her giggle. That was one of the many things he'd missed while in Iraq.
His mind went back to that bad place that haunted his dreams and woke him in a cold sweat every night. The sand ate into his feet as he stood with his back against the jeep. He held his gun against his body in complete silence, waiting on the enemy to move closer. The cries from his injured fellow soldiers filled the air, causing his heart to pound loud in his ears.
Suddenly a loud explosion rattled the air, the next thing he woke in a hospital room. Then he was brought back to the stable when he felt a slight shiver run up his spine. Turning he realized a woman was in the stables that he didn't know.
"Ridge have you met the new vet yet?" She asked in a sweet telling voice. He looked down at her with a warning in his eyes, letting her know he was aware of the slight hint in her voice.
The woman stepped forward and extended her hand. "I'm glad to finally meet the town's hero, Ridge Cauthen. Thank you for all you've done for this country." She said in almost an exhale as she took in his gorgeous face and lean, muscular body.
He took her hand sheepishly as he grinned down at her. "I'm just a normal man doing what he had to do."
Suddenly embarrassed, she said, "I'm sorry, I didn't say my name, it's Mallory Rutger."
"Good to meet you Mallory." He tipped his hat and spun on his booted heel, heading back out of the stable. One thing he'd learned while at war, when that tingle went down your spine, you needed to take cover and felt it strongly when he was in the presence of Mallory Rutger.