Y’all, I cannot wait to get a chance to read this one. It’s book one in a great series (all of which have fantastic reviews on Amazon) … and a little birdie told me that Ms. Morgan is working on Book 4 right now. So hurry up and read the other three so you are ready 🙂
Crystal Springs Homecoming series
by Mary Jane Morgan
Megan Swearingen’s life changes forever with the death of her father. Leaving college, she returns home to find her younger sister mute with shock, her mother too depressed to function, and their beloved Thoroughbred horse farm on the verge of going under. She’s barely arrived when she’s forced to accept help from Brett Dawson — the man who once broke her heart — when a marauding mountain lion threatens one of the prized horses they depend on for survival.
Brett would rather be anywhere but the Swearingen ranch. Caught between his feelings for Megan and the powder keg of the ongoing feud between their families, he feels his only choice is to help Megan, regardless of the consequences. If it weren’t for Brett’s father, Megan’s dad might still be alive, and she wouldn’t be here now sacrificing her future to save her family’s ranch.
As the long-simmering attraction between Megan and Brett resurfaces, it is threatened almost before it begins by dark family secrets swirling around them — secrets that turn to danger and could very well destroy not only their new beginning, but the lives of everyone they both love.
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The sound of a vehicle outside drew Megan’s gaze away from the orphaned foal. She was too desperate to feel anything but relief that Brett had returned. She needed his help tonight if this foal was going to live. Needing Brett stuck in her craw, but there was no way around it, at least until she had time to talk to her vet and learn what to do.
“How’s she doing?” Brett stepped inside the stall carrying a shallow pan and a bucket of bottles full of what she assumed was colostrum.
“Good. She needs two to three liters of this yummy stuff. We’ll divide it into three or four doses, but no use trying to feed it to her now. She needs to be hungry or she’ll never drink from a pan.”
“A pan? Why can’t we bottle feed her?”
“We could. It’s a little risky, though. The bottle has to be held at a specific height or milk can run down her trachea into her lungs.”
“But can she can drink from a pan?” Megan watched him set his supplies down.
“We’ll teach her.”
She groaned. “I don’t know how.” God she hated to admit that.
“I do,” he said with a grin.
She must have looked as overwhelmed as she felt because he patted her shoulder. She should have pulled away from his touch but found it comforting, which irritated her to no end.
She’d always liked Brett’s touch. She remembered only too vividly that long-ago barn dance and hot summer night when Brett had dragged her out behind the barn and pulled her into his arms. His lips had not only stolen her breath but her heart. She’d had a crush on him most of her life and that night, when she’d just turned sixteen, he’d treated her like a woman.
And then never touched her again.
The sound of Brett’s voice dragged her mind away from the memory.
“In about three hours, when she’s up on her feet and good and hungry, we’ll pour her first liter into this pan. After she sucks it off my fingers, she’ll start sucking it out of the pan,” Brett explained. “I’ll demonstrate, then you should be able to do it yourself. She’ll need the rest of the colostrum about every hour. And she’ll need her immunoglobulin levels checked in about twelve to fourteen hours so we know if we’ve gotten enough colostrum in her for her to get passive immunity from it.”
Megan’s mind jammed with all the information. Thank God someone around here knew what he was doing, even if it was Brett, because she sure didn’t. She stroked the foal’s head with a shaky hand.
“Your vet knows all this, but I’ll go ahead and fill you in,” he said. She nodded, still in a daze. “Once her colostrum’s good to go, you’ll start on milk. Every two hours. I brought powdered milk to get you through a couple of days. Figured that’ll give you time to get to the vet’s office and get some of your own.”
“That was very generous of you,” she managed to say.
“Don’t want you to lose this little filly. This is going to be a lot of hard work, for the first few weeks especially, but it can be done.”
Her throat tightened. Every two hours. How would she possibly manage? “I can do it,” she squeezed out of her constricted throat, praying she was right.
“Not by yourself you can’t. No one could.” He shook his head. “Just can’t be done. Every two hours for five days is not a one-man job.” He knelt down beside the foal and gave her a brisk rub-down, his big hands strong and sure.
Megan’s mind flicked back to those hands on her, rubbing up and down her back and cupping her bottom. She felt her face flush and prayed he didn’t notice.
“She’s a beauty,” Brett said, stroking her neck.
Megan forced herself to quit thinking about what his hands had felt like on her and focus on the task she was up against. Panic threatened to overwhelm her. He was right. She couldn’t do it alone. If she had nothing else to do, she couldn’t manage it, but add on her responsibilities around here, and it was all she could do not to put her head in her hands and cry.
Brett stroked the filly’s shoulder, ran a finger down the blaze on her forehead. “Pretty markings. You’ve got a good one.”
Lauren patted the foal’s nose and Brett smiled. “You want to help?” Lauren nodded with enthusiasm. “Good. Keep rubbing her. She needs the stimulation. Got any names picked out?”
Lauren shook her head.
Brett furrowed his brows, and Megan could tell he was wondering about Lauren’s lack of speech.
Megan stood. “I’ve got a refrigerator in the office. Let me go stick these bottles in it.” She picked up the bucket full of bottles and headed to the office, bracing herself before going in where they’d found her father. She put the supplies in the refrigerator as quickly as she could, eager to get out of there.
When she stepped back into the stall, the filly was up on her chest. “I think I’ll call her Gracie. Saving Grace will be her registered name.”
“You thinking she’ll be your saving grace?” Brett asked, standing and straddling the foal as he supported her in her efforts to stand. “She’ll more than likely be the straw that broke the camel’s back, especially if you won’t let me help you.”
Megan glared at him. “I’m letting you help me now, aren’t I?”
“Yeah, but it’s about to kill you.”
“You got that right.” Megan put her hands on her hips and watched the foal. She was beautiful. “I have high hopes for this little filly. Her sire held every racing record in the region. I’ve got to keep her alive.”
“Jack was a great one, that’s for sure,” Brett responded. “I figured you’d have his frozen sperm.”
Megan cleared her throat. “We did,” she said, embarrassment washing over her. “Dad sold it.”
“Damn and double damn.”
Megan shrugged. What was there to say? This was such a nightmare, she had no choice but to agree to Brett’s help, at least for tonight. “I have friends who can take feeding shifts. And Lauren will help, too. After tonight you’ll be off the hook.”
“No hook for me. I live for this sort of thing. Pumps me up. I shoulda been a vet I guess.”
“Why aren’t you?” she asked.
He scowled. “Good question. One I’ve thought about, too, but I know you don’t really care so I’ll spare you.”
Surprisingly enough she did care, in a detached sort of way. She sat on the stall floor. “Suit yourself.”
“Be right back.” He stepped out of the stall and went outside the barn. She heard his truck door open and shut and hoped he wasn’t going too far. She felt totally inadequate to care for this foal. And the foal was what was important now, not her feelings toward the Lawsons.
Brett stepped back inside. He handed her a piece of paper with a couple of names and numbers written on it. “First name is the lady with the Doberman. Second name is a guy who’ll come haul off the mare.”
She nodded, wondering how much that would cost. It had to be done, no matter, but it made her sick and it was one more expense she couldn’t pay.
“I’ll get a bunch of ranchers together tomorrow to try and ferret out the lion. It’s a renegade. Not looking for food. Bad news for us all. I’ll let you know when we kill it.”
“I hope it’s soon.” She watched as Gracie tried once again to stand and wanted to applaud when the struggling filly made it to her feet on wobbly legs. “Should I go heat up the colostrum?”
“In a bit. Let her get up and down a few more times. Then she should be good and hungry.”
“I need to get some of the horses in their stalls and finish feeding them,” Megan said, shoving to her feet and stepping out into the barn aisle. She was more than ready to get away from Brett. Being around him made it difficult to stay angry with him. The man seemed to truly care, at least about the foal.
She went outside to the corral and petted each of her horses. “I know you’re hungry, guys. Your feed’s coming in a minute.” She leaned against Dancer and willed herself to gather enough strength to get through this evening.
In addition to the Crystal Springs Homecoming Romances:
Mary Jane is also the author of Dangerous Moves and Shelby’s Gift. You can find her at http://www.maryjanemorganauthor.com/. She’s always happy to hear from readers so make sure you send her a note at email@example.com.