Rosie’s Diner is at the center of the small town of Saddle Creek, Wyoming, in the shadows of the Grand Teton Mountain range. When horse rancher Chase Montgomery first lays eyes on a waitress’s bruised and swollen face, and beautiful green eyes, his first instinct is to kiss the bruises away.
Lauren McCray flees Michigan and heads west to escape another beating from her ex-boyfriend, Clint Jackson. When she sees him looking inside her car outside the diner where she works, she runs again. This time, jumping into the bed of a nearby pickup truck hauling a horse trailer.
Chase’s life is enriched when he pulls back the tarp in the bed of his pick up and finds the green-eyed beauty. Lauren is running and needs protection from something or someone, and he agrees to protect her with his life, but will it be in time?
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Chase Montgomery entered his coordinates into the GPS to check his location. Out here in the middle of nowhere, it could sometimes be hard to tell how far he’d come since the last sign. Next time he would remember to check the odometer.
Dammit! Still eighty-eight miles to get to his ranch. He needed a break from his nonstop drive from Colorado. Heading back from the big horse sale in Denver, he was beat and anxious to get to his home not far outside the small town of Saddle Creek, Wyoming. He needed to stable the new horses whinnying impatiently in the trailer, who were just as desperate for a break, too.
His backside was numb, and the rumbling in his belly reminded him of Rosie’s Diner. His mouth watered thinking about the restaurant’s belly-filling comfort food they served. He decided to stretch his legs and grab some food from his favorite stop.
A few miles later, he parked the truck and trailer outside the back door of the family diner. He shoved the truck door open and inhaled. After more than a week of leather and horse odor, the warm, welcoming aroma of hot, fresh coffee and home-cooked food assaulting him was refreshing. After saying hello to some friends, he moseyed up to the counter. “Susan.” He nodded to the manager.
She waved. “Welcome back, Chase. Where have you and your buddies been? Haven’t seen any of you for a while.”
“Ranching. Just workin’ and ranchin’.” He perched on a barstool at the counter, plopped his hat on his right knee, and picked up a menu out of habit. He already knew what he wanted to order. The homemade meatloaf, dripping with ketchup and juices, the mashed potatoes, so real and fresh that he didn’t mind at all if there were a few little lumps in them, and everything smothered with a rich, savory gravy he could have eaten out of a bowl like soup, it was so tasty.
* * * *
Lauren smiled. Since Rosie’s was the only eatery around for miles, many of the locals, as well as people passing through, had to frequent the place.
She was pleased with her nice, private room upstairs. It was simple and homey. It had everything she needed: a queen-size bed with extra linens, a desk and chair along one wall, and a dresser that sat beneath two small windows. A full bath supplied with towels and washcloths completed her personal space.
Over the last week,she’d settled in and started her duties, getting to know everyone in Saddle Creek as she served them. She found she enjoyed talking to the patrons.
Saddle Creek was a small town, about ten miles from Jackson, Wyoming. It had a down-home-charm feeling where everybody knew everyone and news traveled fast. People were friendly and always anxious to lend a helpful hand.
She gazed around the diner while she waited for the coffee to brew. The dark-blue tablecloths worked well with the powder-blue walls and gave the place a soothing atmosphere. A wooden railing about a foot down from the ceiling held a variety of antique cookware and knickknacks. It already felt like home.
Before long, I’ll know what every one of these folks mean when they ask for “the usual.”
She wasn’t surprised the menus didn’t get much attention. A gust of cool, spring air burst into the room when a tall, ruggedly handsome man with piercing blue eyes stepped into the diner. He took off his hat and ran his fingers through the thick blond hair lapping the collar of his blue-and-red checkered cowboy shirt.
Butterflies danced in her tummy.
He nodded at some of the other customers as he passed their table, stopping to shake hands with a few of them. She was impressed with his politeness, probably something his mama or grandmother had taught him. Lauren hadn’t seen that kind of respect from a man in a long time.
Susan greeted him and called him by name. Chase. The name suited him. He undoubtedly ate here often, since he seemed to know the manager and his way around.
Lauren’s nerves tingled when he sat at the counter in her section.
“Honey, can you get this one?” Susan threw the question over her shoulder.
The cowboy raised his head, their eyes locked, and Lauren could barely breathe.
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