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Author: Jenika Snow

Chapter One
“You have no money, no assets to liquidate, and anything you had saved, any possessions, will be repossessed.”
My late father’s attorney’s words played through my head, even a week and a half later. I sat in this shitty pay-by-the-day motel in the small town of Falls View, Montana—a town named after the waterfall that cascaded down the mountain—and stressed over how I’d survive even a couple days from now. Ever since he told me those words. That my father had been so far in debt, kept it so hidden from me—his only living family—that any money rightfully mine, and the ranch he owned that I’d grown up on, was no more.
We had nothing now.
I had nothing.
“You don’t have anything saved up, Macey?”
I didn’t even have a job anymore, not when I’d gotten laid off just two days before my father passed and this shitstorm started. I guess the old saying about “when it rains, it pours” was never truer than in this moment.
My father was gone, the funeral last week, and the ranch I loved and thought I’d inherit was no more. I had no other family, no damn job or place to live, and I couldn’t do anything to help my situation immediately.
I ran my hand over my face and screamed in my head to stop thinking about the day my life was turned upside down in a matter of five minutes.
Aside from the five hundred dollars I had in a personal savings account—money I withdrew as soon as I’d left the attorney’s office—I was broke. My apartment was on a monthly leased basis, so getting out of it wasn’t an issue.
I supposed the first thing I needed to do was find a job. It would probably be shitty, but as long as I could make some money, it would be the lifeline I needed.
I picked up the newspaper that was sitting beside me on the stained, discolored paisley comforter, turned it to the classified section, and started looking over the ads. The small town of Falls View didn’t have a whole lot of employment opportunities, but traveling somewhere bigger like a city would be too much of an expense for me right now.
What I needed to do was find a job here, save up, and then see if I could find a position elsewhere that paid more and gave me more stability.
There was a cook opening at the local diner, and a nurse’s aide position available at the local retirement home. But the nursing assistant one specified the applicant needed to be state tested, which I was not. In fact, I didn’t have anything but a high school diploma, so I needed to look for entry-level employment.
As I scanned the rest of the classifieds, there was an opening for a maid at the local motel and an ad for a private employer who required daily needs met in his home. Cleaning and cooking at a ranch. The ranch part really called to me, so I made that my priority.
Three job prospects was better than nothing. Hell, one was a lifesaver. And in a small town like this, I knew jobs wouldn’t last forever. If something came up, everyone jumped to it if they could. Which meant I needed to get into these places, fill out applications, and hope for the best.
Chapter Two
I took my work gloves off and set them on the stable bench. I was covered from head to toe in dirt, pieces of straw sticking to me. I took off my hat and wiped my forearm across my brow, beads of sweat covering me all over. It was hot as hell today, but in the stables, it was even hotter. And then there was the scent of manure, feed, and the horses making everything seem real country-like on top of the furnace-like conditions.
The sound of the horses huffing and stomping on the ground filled my head. Blackstone Ranch had been in my family for four generations, and after my father passed away five years prior, I’d taken over. With no wife and no children, I was the last living heir to this place. And my employees were trusted friends, some having been around when my dad was alive.
But with no children and no living relatives, I had no one to pass the ranch on to. And the truth was, I hated not being able to keep it directly in the family, to have my son or daughter run things, to keep the legacy since my great-grandfather going forward. But finding a wife and having kids wasn’t at the top of my list right now. Keeping things afloat, which was an everyday struggle in this market, was my priority.
So, at thirty-five years old, I was busting my ass day-in and day-out, waking up before the sun rose and going to bed well sun set. It was hard, tedious, and backbreaking work, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I loved every moment of it.
I headed toward the house to make something to eat, waving at some of my ranch hands in the process. I had Jax, who was eighteen, and his nineteen-year-old brother Charlie. They’d graduated high school last year and decided to take the year off to “have fun” before heading to college but instead found themselves working for me, ‘cause they realized they needed money to actually buy shit.
I took the porch steps two at a time, and before I stepped inside, I took my work boots off and set them to the side of the door. I started wiping down my pants and shirt, trying to get the excess dirt and straw off. But the truth was, my house was a wreck as it was anyway, and that’s why I put an ad in the paper for someone to help tend to my chaos.
I was tired of the clutter and making bologna-and-cheese sandwiches every day for lunch. And because I was so busy with the farm, I had no time to clean my house or cook decent meals.
I stepped inside and looked around, exhausted with the state of my home. I needed more help, but I only had so much money to pay someone, which meant I was hoping when I did hire someone, negotiations could be made. I already included room and board in the classified ad, so that would help immensely.
I went into the kitchen, washed my hands and dried them, then went to the fridge and opened the door. It was pretty grim inside, with a pack of bologna, a pack of cheese, some condiments, a half-gallon of milk, and a loaf of bread, which I had two slices left.
I knew the ranch hands always brought their own lunch—most likely because they knew if they didn’t, they’d be hungry, since I didn’t have anything actually edible here and no one delivered this far out of town.
I grabbed the sandwich making stuff and proceeded to slap a couple pieces of meat and some cheese between two pieces of bread. I grabbed the milk, not bothering with a glass, and leaned against the sink as I ate my sandwich and intermittently drank out of the jug, looking out at my property through the window above the sink.