What’s a sexy rancher to do when an uptight accountant falls into his lap?
Already reeling at having inherited the family farm on his father’s death, photojournalist Cruz Brockman returns home to the Oregon town of Graciella to receive another blow—accountant Miranda Jenks is there to audit the books because the IRS suspect his late father of tax fraud. To their astonishment, sparks fly between the passionate Cruz and the career-focused Miranda upon first meeting and the heat rises with every encounter.
Threatened with losing everything his family has worked for, Cruz has no choice but to be completely open with Miranda, something that doesn’t come easily to him, just as focusing on her own needs is foreign to her. She’s put her own desires last all her life, but the longer she spends with Cruz, the more she wants to dive into a passionate affair with him.
An intense, toe-curling physical connection is one thing, but exposing their hearts is another. As Miranda finishes her audit and the clock counts down to her leaving, can the reluctant rancher and the shy accountant conquer their fears and fight for their love?
Reader advisory: This book contains references to domestic abuse, physical and emotional child abuse, and coerced marriage.
General Release Date: 15th October 2019
Cruz stood at the edge of the bluff above the Pacific. The ocean brooded, inky-dark and dangerous, while the wind whipped it onto the shore. He let the cadence of wild, crashing waves and gusting wind wash over him. He loved the water in its fierce and powerful nature as much as he loved it when it was calm and patient. Wide and open, the beach stretched on, completely untouched by footprints, secluded and vulnerable all at the same time.
He took one lasting breath of the misty sea air and headed towards his farm. His farm. He still had moments when he couldn’t believe it.
Wispy slips of fog teased and lifted around Cruz, revealing the morning dew on the grass as he made his way up towards the main house of Brockman Farms. Mornings on the farm were his favorite, the way the new light barely stroked the land, how the hues of everything were rich in those few moments of soft sun and leftover darkness. The salty air mixed with the scent of damp earth as it rose up. Home—Cruz was finally home—a place most people took for granted.
He’d been back in Graciella for five weeks after more than a decade away. His relief on hearing that his father, T.D. Brockman, was finally dead had been such that he’d nearly wept like a baby when his brother Adam had called with the news.
Thank goodness no one had seen his near breakdown. And that it hadn’t lasted long. He could finally breathe clear and easy here on this land he loved, knowing the monsters were gone. He aimed to do more than breathe easy, however. It was his time to take care of the farm and all the people who depended on it—and to put his stamp on something valuable.
As much as he liked helping out at the barns, this morning dictated that he make a dent on the estate paperwork and duties. That didn’t mean he had to do it without a fresh cup of coffee. Cruz entered the main house through the back to grab a mug of their housekeeper Elena’s rich espresso brew in the kitchen before he got to work.
Fueled by caffeine, he sat at T.D. Brockman’s old desk, going through bank statements and employee schedules. Since he’d returned, the phone hadn’t quit ringing with condolences for his father’s death and calls from the press. He wasn’t sure which group won the award for insincerity.
Who could blame them? T.D. Brockman had taken pleasure in his ruthless way of doing business. But he’d been a wealthy bastard, owning most of the commercial properties in downtown Graciella. And the farm was spread out over two hundred and fifty thousand acres, nestled between Oregon wine country and the prized breathtaking Pacific coast. Money was involved, and where money was involved, people were curious. What would happen now that he was dead? Everyone wanted to know.
The phone rang again. “Brockman Farms,” Cruz answered, the words clipped at one more interruption.
“Mr. Brockman? This is Ms. Selby from the Oregonian.”
Another reporter. “The family has no comment at this time.”
“Please, Mr. Brockman—”
“No comment!” Cruz said through clenched teeth and slammed the receiver down. The only reason he’d left the damn thing plugged in was because there were legitimate calls from banks and people regarding T.D.’s investments that Cruz had to deal with as executor.
“You must be Cruz Brockman.”
Cruz looked up at the musical voice. Normally he wouldn’t have to force a smile for anyone, let alone for an elegant woman. “Hello,” he said and tried to punch down his irritation. “Can I help you?”
“Do you ever wait to see who’s on the other end or are you that rude to everyone on the phone?” she asked as she walked into the room. Her body language might have said cool and put-together, but the haughty tone in her voice gave away one serious, pissed-off attitude.
“Excuse me?” He pushed his chair back and stood. “This is my office and if I remember correctly, I smiled and said hello. Perhaps you’d like to start over—”
“Mr. Brockman,” she snapped.
He locked his gaze with hers and came around from behind the desk. “I said, perhaps you’d like to start over.” His tone was sharp, no longer concealing his frustration.
“I’m Miranda Jenks, the audit accountant. I’ve been trying to contact you for days to let you know when I’d be arriving, but your phone etiquette made that impossible. The times you actually picked up the phone, you hung up on me before I could say more than three words. I finally got hold of your lawyer. He should have mentioned I’d be here today.”
Gorgeous and haughty, what a combination, like a goddess rising from the morning’s crashing waves. The image, unbidden, teased through his temper. Cruz half-listened as he studied her. In her charcoal-gray suit and black high heels, with that tone of reprimand in her voice, she reminded him of his finance professor in college, who’d believed Cruz’s choice of photojournalism a waste of time. That was where the similarities came to a screeching halt. His professor had been in her sixties, very short and very thick.
The woman in front of him certainly wasn’t sixty, short or thick. In fact, she looked more like she could stand to eat a good meal or two. Contradictions surrounded her. Deep, confident and extremely sexy, her voice was like a rich port. It also vibrated with indignation. But the rest of her seemed guarded. Her long dark hair was pulled back and held in a simple ribbon at her neck. Tall and stiff, she did a good job of trying to pretend calm. Gaunt cheekbones shaped her face and dark circles rested under her eyes. Very green, very frustrated eyes. That expressive gaze and sultry voice were at odds with the rest of her controlled, veiled demeanor.
“Mr. Brockman?” Impatience sliced the woman’s words.
“Accountant? Jake never mentioned you were coming today.”
“Yes, I did, Cruz.” Jake walked in. “Sorry I’m late, Ms. Jenks, I’m Jake Burns. We spoke on the phone.”
“Nice to meet you, Mr. Burns.”
Cruz watched her almost-smile at Jake and enjoyed the way her face warmed and softened a hint. Wonder what she looks like when she really lets herself smile?
“Cruz, good to see you.” Jake smacked him on the shoulder. “Ms. Jenks, thanks for your patience. Cruz, Miranda Jenks—the accountant I told you would be auditing the books if we plan on settling this estate.”
Cruz had a vague memory of the conversation. One of about five hundred he’d had about the estate since the funeral. “I apologize, Ms. Jenks,” he said. “The phones have been on fire since T.D. died and I lost my patience with them days ago.” He flashed her a grin in apology.
He held out his hand, and when she took it, his nerves sizzled. Every pulse point in his body awakened. He nearly tugged her closer so her entire body could touch his. She closed her eyes and quickly removed her hand, one that had trembled slightly in his and had such soft skin that he wanted to hold it again. She opened her briefcase to search through her paperwork.
“Excuse me, it seems my phone’s busy today,” Jake said. He took out his cell and walked into the hall.
“Ms. Jenks, thanks for coming all the way from…?” Cruz began.
“How was the trip?”
“The trip was fine. Shall we get to work? I’m certain none of us has any time to waste.”
All business. Cruz sighed. From experience, he found accountants shallow and driven by money. But he needed one to handle the books. Cruz had lived most of his adult life traveling from one assignment to another, documenting the beauty and tragedy of the world, photographing and writing other people’s stories. He had not been running a large company or settling estates, meaning he needed help to get things reconciled. Only then could he begin making lasting improvements and changes to Brockman Farms, fulfilling his dream of making this place something to be proud of.
“I’ll need all the records your father kept. Bills paid, bills due, revenue, assets, expenses, wages, tax forms from the past few years, receipts, investments.” She drew him out of his thoughts with her long list of demands.
Cruz looked around at the piles of paperwork covering the desk. “Most of it is here somewhere, but it’s a mess at the moment, a mess I’ve been trying to sort through. Jake and I have some things to take care of. I know you’ve come a long way. How about if we begin in the morning? That will give me some time to get things more organized for you.”
Damn! The force of that word breathed at him like a dragon’s fire. He could almost see the inner turmoil as she fought the need to roll her eyes at his incompetence. “But time isn’t something you have a lot of, Mr. Brockman. I’m sure you’re aware of that.”
“I realize the importance of this, Ms. Jenks, but it’s not exactly life or death now, is it?” He grinned at her again, trying to prod some emotion out of her. At the least he wished she’d relax. At the most he wanted to see her smile again. He liked the way it softened her face, gave her a bit of mystery, as though she was holding a special secret or two. He’d even take the fierce side of her—it showed her strength.
“That depends on how you feel about the IRS shutting you down for good.”
“What the hell’s that supposed to mean?” he demanded.
Puget Sound based writer, Sara Ohlin is a mom, wannabe photographer, obsessive reader, ridiculous foodie, and the author of the contemporary romance novels, Handling the Rancher, Salvaging Love, Seducing the Dragonfly, Igniting Love and Flirting with Forever.
Sara loves creating imaginary worlds with tight-knit communities in her romance novels. She credits her mother, Mary, Nora Roberts and Rosamunde Pilcher for her love of romance.
If she’s not reading or writing, you will most likely find her in the kitchen creating scrumptious meals with her kids and husband, or perhaps cooking up her next love story.
She once met a person who both “didn’t read books” and wasn’t “that into food” and it nearly broke her heart.
You can follow Sara on Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. Check out her website, Goodreads, Bookbub and Facebook.