Finding Samantha (Rolling Hills Ranch Book 1)

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Samantha hasn’t moved on after the death of her husband, Tom, two years ago. In an effort to find closure she moves to a ranch in North Carolina where she meets Luke. A handsome cowboy that causes her to have feelings she thought she lost with her husband. Torn between wanting Luke and not wanting to forget her husband Sam must decide to love Luke, or forever be lost in the past of what could have been with Tom.

After Luke’s wife left him for another man six years ago Luke still doesn’t have faith in women. All that changes when Sam arrives. Right away he feels something for her, something he thought he would never feel again. Knowing he is risking his heart Luke decides that Sam is worth it. Can he help her get over her loss and love again, or will she break his heart as well?

Chapter 1

Samantha woke early. She had to shower before her brother got there. Crawling out of the sleeping bag on her living room floor, she looked around. Zeus, her black lab mix lifted his head and looked at her, his sad brown eyes mirroring hers. This was what her life had come down to. A little over two years ago she had been the happiest person she knew. Her life had been on the right track. A great husband, great job, even a baby on the way; everything she thought she would have at thirty. The memories of the night it all fell apart slammed into her. Catching her off guard, she couldn’t hold back the vision as if it was happening all over again.

A knock on the door turned her head. Tom should have been home soon. She had no idea who would be visiting at ten o’clock at night. Right before she opened the door a chill ran down her spine. She was suddenly afraid to open it. “Sammy?” The moment she heard her brother’s voice she knew. She backed away from the door, her head shaking. It couldn’t be… no… she wouldn’t believe it. If she didn’t answer the door, it wouldn’t be true. If she didn’t answer, then maybe Tom would walk through any moment.

Sam jumped when there was a knock on the door. She scrambled to her feet wiping the tears off her face with angry fists. The memories were the worst. She wished she could just forget him. Forget the life they had lived. Everywhere they would slam into her when she least expected it. She had tried to go back to work at the police station they both had worked out of for so many years, but she couldn’t do it. She would walk by the utility closet, glance in and wham – a memory would have her curled on the floor in the closet crying her eyes out.

The chief hadn’t told her to leave but she knew that he wanted her to. She had become a liability. She couldn’t go out on the streets as she was. They had tried it, but she would drive by a place that she and Tom used to go and it was back to crying. She couldn’t even do deskwork because everywhere she looked she thought he would come walking around the corner looking for a kiss. She was pathetic and the longer she stayed there the worse she felt about herself.

It was fine at home for a while. She enjoyed the memories, smiling whenever she thought of him. There wasn’t a spot in the house that they hadn’t made a memory in.

Her brother, Charlie was the first one to realize that she had locked herself away. He tried to get her to go out but she refused. She didn’t feel like going out. She wanted to stay home where she could remember Tom. She didn’t want to meet anyone. She had a million excuses, but he knew it was all a cover. He knew she was depressed. He had convinced her to see someone. He’d told her that if she wouldn’t seek help he wouldn’t be able to bring his child around her. She wasn’t healthy for Ty. That had snapped her out of it, forced her to go to someone.

It was the shrink that told her she needed a change. Not just a change of job, but of scenery – house and life style. She needed to be somewhere she wouldn’t be reminded of him every day. The shrink had asked her what she had done in college, what she liked to do before meeting her husband. The first thing that popped out was her minor in equine studies. She had loved horses and had always wanted to live on a ranch, but all that changed when she met Tom.

The shrink suggested she find a job that included that. Somewhere she could move to that would give her a sense of her old self before she knew Tom, something that would help to find herself again. The shrink said somewhere along the way in married life that Samantha had become lost and now it was time for her to find that person again. Sam thought it was a load of crap but she looked into ranches. The more she looked the more excited she had become until that was all she thought about. She would talk to Charlie about it. She would smile when thinking about actually working on a ranch. Again it was Charlie who convinced her that she needed to do it. He had seen the change in her. She wasn’t as depressed.

“Sammy!” her brother yelled, making Sam jump.  How long had she been sitting there?

“Hold your horses. I’m coming!” She was glad she had her brother come over but did he need to be such an ass? “Some guard dog you are,” she mumbled to Zeus. He just looked at the door wagging his tail. She knew the only reason he wasn’t barking was because he knew who was on the other side. After fixing her shorts and tee shirt – they were a tangled mess from sleep – she walked to the door. Her long brown hair was half out of the ponytail that it had been in last night.

“You’re the one that wanted me here at the ass crack of dawn,” she heard him mutter.  Being a morning person didn’t run in the family. Opening the door she found Charlie standing there in jean shorts and a tee shirt that said ‘Keep Staring I May Do a Trick’ on it. “You’re not even up and dressed yet?”

Charlie looked his sister over as he walked into her living room. His eyes tightened in the corners. She knew she wasn’t fooling him. He knew her better than anyone. His voice changed to the soft ‘I feel sorry for you’ voice that he used when he knew she wasn’t doing well.

“I could have come over later. It’s four thirty in the morning,” he said.

She hated that voice, hated that he worried about her so much. Most of all she hated that she was such a baby. “Well then I would never have gotten up. You’re my wakeup call big brother.” She smiled sweetly, fixing her hair. She tried to make him feel better, teasing him to get rid of the sadness in his eyes. It’s just very hard to sleep without someone when you’re so used to having him or her at your back. She shook her head trying to stop those thoughts. “Besides I’m going to take a shower while you run around and make sure I haven’t left anything.” She kissed him on the cheek and headed down the hall.

“Fine. You know everything is packed already. They have been for the last week,” Charlie called after her.

Sam knew that he knew why he was there. Zeus followed Sam down the hall to the bathroom door and sat outside it. She hurried into the guest bathroom. She hadn’t used the master bedroom/bathroom for two years. Every time she had tried it had been too much on her. There was no way she was going to use it today. It was bad enough having the memories that tried to invade her mind now. She didn’t want to think of what a mess she would be after using their bathroom.

She closed her eyes willing herself not to think about him but her mind and body wouldn’t listen to her today. The harder she tried the more she remembered. His arms around her, his lips pressing a kiss to her collarbone, then up the side of her neck until he reached her ear. “You know I love you, right Sammy? You’re my world and our baby will be icing on the cake.” His hand ran over her stomach and the extremely small swell there. “I promise after this investigation is over I’ll take it easy.” The last shower she had taken with her husband took over control of her thoughts. Her tears started falling, mixing with the shower water.

Charlie looked at the bathroom door. His sister had been in there far too long for a quick shower. She was having trouble again. He knew that today would be hard on her. He hadn’t expected how hard it would be on him, though. “Are you coming out any time soon?” he asked, feeling helpless as he knocked on the door.

It had been two years now and she just couldn’t get over Tom. He didn’t want his little sister to move so far away but she’d felt she had to. He was determined to be there, even if it killed him.

Sam sighed in the shower and turned the water off right away. That was the other reason she had to leave. She was causing her brother such pain having to watch her this way. She had tried to fake it but he knew her too well.  She was causing both him and his wife pain seeing her depressed all the time. She had to leave so they could be happy.

Her shrink was all about her doing this for herself. Sam had never been one to do something just for her though. As soon as she had come to the realization that her brother would be better without him nearby right now, she had started seriously looking at ranches to go to. She had gotten good at covering her pain but she could tell sometimes it came out. Like now, staying in the shower too long when he knew she needed to get going. He knew she was crying. She was a strong woman. She felt like she shouldn’t be crying like a baby.

She shook herself and stepped out of the shower. “I’m sorry.  I’ll be right there.”

“It’s alright Sammy,” he called back, knowing his voice was the ‘I feel sorry for you’ pitch that she hated. He couldn’t help it though. He hadn’t even realized he was doing it until his wife had pointed it out the last time Sam had come over for dinner. She had stopped coming over soon after that. Jan had said that Sam had been trying very hard. She said it was difficult for Sam, knowing that she was making her brother sad.

In the bathroom Sam pulled out clothes from her bag. New blue jean shorts, a red tank top, with a sports bra underneath. Her long brown hair was pulled up into a ponytail. She liked it out of the way and she wanted to be ready to do some work if they wanted her to. White socks and sneakers completed the outfit. She hoped she didn’t look to ‘Yankee’ for them.

Part of her was disappointed that the only place she found that would hire her was in North Carolina. The other part of her – the part that was ready to move on with her life – was excited for the big change. She wasn’t quite sure what was going to be expected of her. The only one she had talked to was Pops (that’s what he told her to call him) on the phone. Her gun went in its holster at her hip. She didn’t bother with make up or earrings. She had taken off her rings a few months ago as an exercise from her shrink. The only jewelry she wore now was a necklace that had been her mother’s. She had always worn it and always would as far as she was concerned.

Charlie laughed at her when she walked out of the bathroom. “You’re really wearing that there?” he asked, smiling at her. His little sister really didn’t know how to intimidate people. She wasn’t short at 5’7 but she was long and lean. She was quite beautiful, which made guys underestimate her. It had been to her advantage in the police department.

“Why not?” she asked, giving him a disgruntled look. “I’m going to be surrounded by a bunch of cowboys that aren’t going to want me there. I was kind of thinking maybe they would leave me alone if I showed up with this thing on.”

She absently patted Zeus on the head as she stood glaring at Charlie from the bathroom door way. Her brother just looked at her, a smile breaking out on his face.

God he was gonna miss her. She really had no idea that more than half the guys on the force wanted her in a bad way. It was only because of him that half didn’t try to go after her. The other half knew she would kick their asses herself if they hit on her.

“Oh I’m sure the guys won’t mind you there once they get a good look at you. They just won’t expect you to be able to do your share of the work,” he said, laughing at the look on her face. She smacked him on his arm for good measure. His face sobered a bit. “Besides a lot of guys find a girl with a gun hot. I think you should put something on over it. If you need to flash it to make the ‘cowboys’ back off, then show it. It won’t be as hot if you’re pissed off showing it,” he explained while she laughed at him.

He was really afraid that she was going to get eaten alive. She could always handle herself, but she was an emotional time bomb and he pitied the first poor soul that tried to hit on her.

“The inner workings of a male mind,” she mumbled, shaking her head.

Now she was a little nervous. She wouldn’t have anyone down there. She’d always had someone watching out for her. She would just have to let them know right away that she wasn’t for the taking. She was there to work and that was it. Zeus suddenly took off down the hall, barking his head off. The siblings tensed.

“You invite anyone else at six in the morning?” he whispered to her, un-holstering his gun and looking at his baby sis.

She looked petrified.  How was she going to live without him? New fear was building in him. He couldn’t protect her so far away.

“Jesus Sam, call your dog off!” A familiar voice yelled from the living room.

“Zeus, it’s alright boy,” Sam called to her dog walking into the living room.

Jack stood in her living room looking at Zeus like he would bite him. He had known the family for five years now and Zeus had never warmed up to him.  She eyed him, wondering what he was doing in her house.  She’d made it clear that she didn’t really want him just coming over like this. After her husband died he had tried to come over a lot, saying that it was his duty to look after his dead partner’s wife. At first she didn’t mind. She didn’t like him all that much, but he seemed to be hurting as much as she was. She had grown to like him, at least a little. She certainly didn’t hate him. Then three short months after Tom’s death, Jack had asked her out. She had been shocked and kicked him out of her house. He had apologized right away but she couldn’t look at him the same. She knew that Zeus was right in his instincts to not like him. She vowed to always listen to her dog from now on. Zeus sat at her feet, a constant low growl coming from his mouth. She absently petted his head again while watching Jack.

“I heard you were moving today and wanted to say goodbye. I wish you had told me. I could have helped you pack, or move stuff. May I give you a hug goodbye?”

“Why?” Charlie took a step toward him. The anger was rolling off him in waves and he was surprised the other man didn’t react to it at all.

Everyone was afraid of Charlie, if they were smart. Jack was different.  It was like he didn’t care what Charlie thought. He only cared about what Sam thought. He didn’t seem to see Charlie as a threat of any kind. If Sam hadn’t made him promise to leave Jack alone he would have kicked his ass a long time ago.

“It’s alright.” She held out her hand to halt him and then walked over.

Zeus stayed sitting but watched her closely. She was going towards Jack so he knew that it was all right, for now.  Jack pulled her to him, closer than necessary. She patted his back twice and pulled away.

“Where are you going?” he asked as she backed up so she was standing by Zeus again. She started petting him right away.

“None of your business,” Charlie grumbled. He hated this man. Why Sam put up with him he had no idea. Maybe she felt obligated. One good thing out of this was that Jack wasn’t going to be able to bug her anymore. It was the silver lining to a very bad idea.  “You’ve said your goodbye, now go,” he said as he put a hand on Sam’s shoulder.

“Alright.  If you need me, you know the number. Don’t hesitate to call.”

Charlie didn’t miss the look the guy gave him as he backed out the door. He was mad at Charlie, like he had wanted time alone with his sister. Charlie didn’t give a shit what the guy wanted. He wasn’t coming near his sister without him around. The guy gave off a creepy vibe that Sam just didn’t seem to pick up on.

Sam rolled her eyes.  If he was waiting for a call from her, he’d be waiting a long time.  He left the house then and she sighed sagging a bit.

“Why do you deal with that guy?” Charlie asked as soon as he was sure Jack was gone. There was something defiantly off about Jack. Charlie took a step away from her, putting his hands on her shoulders while looking her in the eye. “He gives me the creeps.” He just watched her like she was crazy.

Finally she cracked sighing, “I don’t know. He was really helpful in the beginning. He would bring me over soup and talk to me about Tom,” she mumbled. “It was fine until he asked me out. I never should have told you that. You’ve been horrible to him ever since. I mean I don’t like the guy, but you could be a little nicer.”

At least she wouldn’t have to be flat out mean to him to make him go away. She would just leave to where he wouldn’t know, and she would be free of him. “Well I better get going. I’m going to miss you.” She could feel herself getting choked up again.

“I’m going to miss you too.  I don’t know who I’m going to go to when I need an escape from the wife now,” he laughed, pulling on her hair like he used to when they were kids.

He smiled down at her. Tears were threatening to fall. He never cried. The last time had been when he was little and their mother had died. He hadn’t cried since and now he was going to cry? What a big baby he scolded himself.

“Oh you know you never need an escape from her,” she teased. He and his wife were madly in love and had a new one-and-a-half year old baby boy. She pulled him to her, hugging him tightly. “Take care of each other alright? I have my phone if you need to talk.” She didn’t want to let go.

“I have one too so the same goes for you. If you want to come back, Jan would love to have you stay at the house until you find a place of your own. So don’t hesitate. Those cowboys get too annoying, just pack and come back no matter what the time.” He slowly let her go. “I’ll miss you Sammy.”

She looked up into his soft brown eyes that were so like hers. She couldn’t imagine living in a house with a happily married couple with a baby. She felt sure she would go insane, but Sam smiled and nodded that she would do just that if she needed too.

For as long as she could remember it had always been the two of them. Their father was a workaholic and their mother had died a few years after Samantha was born. Charlie had always taken care of her and she was a little afraid she wouldn’t be able to do the job herself. The siblings had found their spouses about the same time, and for a few short months they had thought their children would grow up together like they had. She cringed, hugging him one more time. She needed to get away.

Finally she walked out of the house, Zeus hot on her heels not wanting to be left behind. He was the only one she could count on anymore, the only male she had left in her life. There was no way she was going anywhere without him. She didn’t even want to think about what she would have been like the past few years if she hadn’t had him. He had been her comfort, and had lain next to her in bed for the two months she had been in depression after it happened. He was the best dog she had ever owned and it hurt her that he was already six. She pushed that thought away, though it was getting harder to do.

Sam held the door open for him. It took him a couple of tries, but he hopped in and went right into his passenger seat. She worried about having to increase his pain medication. She hoped living on a ranch would give him the exercise he needed to strengthen his hips again. Deep down, where she wasn’t looking right now, she knew there wasn’t much hope for that.

She had gotten a Chevy Silverado with a crew cab, so it had four doors and plenty of space. There were a few boxes in the back that she didn’t want any chance of getting wet, but other than that, it was empty in case Zeus got tired and wanted to stretch out. “Goodbye Charlie!” she yelled, waving her hand out the open window. She gave one last look at what was her dream house. The place she had thought Tom and she would raise their children, the place she thought they would grow old together. Sighing, she shook her head and backed out. Leaving was the best thing for her. Those dreams were gone now. She needed to make new ones. She needed to remind herself that that house wasn’t her dream house anymore.

4 thoughts on “Finding Samantha (Rolling Hills Ranch Book 1)

  1. I’m only two thirds of the way through and I love it. The characters are so likable and your reading style makes you feel like you really get to know everyone. I found the book on Goodreads.com and will leave a review there once I’m finished . I look forward to the next book in the series.

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    • Thanks so much for the comment. I would love to have another review of Finding Samantha. I’m glad you find the characters likeable I enjoy writing them. I seem to be stuck a bit on the ending for John’s book but after my AAD trip that is what I will be focusing on to get it out there. Hope you enjoy the ending of Sam’s book! ~Megan

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