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Cathy Gillen Thacker
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The Rancher Next Door

Chapter One

"I take it you've heard the rumors," Luke Carrigan said as he ushered Trevor McCabe into the study of his Laramie, Texas home.

Who in the country hadn't?

Tired of his three daughters' well-known aversion to commitment, Luke Carrigan had vowed to take a hand in introducing them all to suitable men, in what Trevor figured was a vain hope they would soon settle down and have families.

What was it about their parents' generation, Trevor wondered, dropping down into the wing chair Luke indicated, that made them think marriage was esential to a person's happiness? He was content living the single life, and saw no reason to change his own circumstances.

"Don't worry, that's not why you're here," Luke continued.

Trevor held back a sigh of relief.

Luke sat down behind his desk. "I did want to talk to you about Rebecca, though."

Trevor tensed. Luke's second-to-oldest child had been two years behind him in school. The two of them had nothing in common then--or now. He vaguely recalled Rebecca Carrigan as a rah-rah type who had always been busy organizing something.

"She has a tendency to go off on--well, let's just call them tangents."

Trevor didn't know what Luke was getting at, but he was willing to hear the noted family physician out and settled more comfortable in his seat. "Last I heard Rebecca was in Asia."

"Actually she's been all over the world with the tour company she worked for."

Trevor shrugged his broad shoulders. "That's one way to travel the globe."

"Don't get me wrong. I'm very proud of how hard Rebecca has worked since she graduated college. even more delighted with the staggering amount of money she has saved in the past six years." Luke paused and looked at Trevor, his eyes full of parental concern. "What worries me is what she plans to do with it."

Trevor grimaced. "Dr. Carrigan, I really don't think this is any of my business."

"You may change your mind when you hear what my second-to-oldest daughter has planned."

Trevor doubted it. Honorable men did not step in the middle of other families' contretemps.

"You know that small ranch you've had your eye on?"

Trevor tensed at the mention of his neighbor to the west. The fifty-acre tract was definitely in his sights, along with the much larger property on the other side of it, The Circle Y. "I gather you're talking about the Primrose?"

Luke dipped his head in acknowledgement. "Miss Mim is planning to sell it to Rebecca."

Trevor swallowed a curse. His jaw set. "That can't be right." He and Miss Mim had an understanding.

"I'm afraid it is," Luke replied. He didn't sound happy.

Trevor forced himself to put emotion aside and think about this rationally. "Your daughter doesn't have a background in ranching," he pointed out. Growing up, she'd never been a member of any of the agricultural groups such as 4-H. She'd selected SMU instead of Texas A&, where all the agricultural students went, for college.

Luke shrugged. "That won't stop Rebecca. She wants The Primrose. She's leveraging everything to get it. And that's what has me so worried, the lengths to which she's willing to go." Luke paused before continuing. "I need someone who's been there to talk some sense into her, make her realize that buying and starting up a ranching operation is no game. It's grueling, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, work."

And probably harder than anything she had ever done before, Trevor thought. He wondered how long it would take her to give up and sell out, like every other dilettante who had a romantic instead of practical view of the ranching life. Hell's afire.

Trevor exhaled in slow deliberation. "What makes you think she would listen to me?"

"Nothing, except you're her age and well respected in the ranching community."

"Are you sure your daughter is planning to work the property? Or just reap the financial rewards? After all, Miss Mim has never actually managed it. She's leased it out to me, and other ranchers who need extra land to run their herd." Trevor wouldn't have a problem with Rebecca living "next door" if she continued the lease.

Luke tapped his fingers on the desk. "If the risky financial dealings she's concocted with that San Angelo bank go through--and I have to tell you, right now it looks as if they will--Rebecca plans to breed alpacas."

"Alpacas!" Trevor echoed, gripping the arms of the chair. "She plans to raise alpacas in the middle of cattle country?"

"That's what she says unless someone can convince her otherwise. Which is why--" Luke leaned across his desk and looked Trevor straight in the eye "--since you're going to be living right next door to her, I've summoned you."

Also available in this Anthology Reissue

Texas Legacies: The Carrigans Book Series by Cathy Gillen Thacker

Cathy Gillen Thacker is the bestselling author of witty romantic comedies and warm, family stories whose books are published in 17 languages and 35 countries.