Mercer: The Montana McKenna’s

Mercer_200-300Can a new love comfort Mercer in her grief?

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Mercer, the youngest child of James McKenna, faces life on the ranch without the support of her father after his tragic death. Things are changing. Her brothers and sister are moving on with their lives. Can a new love give Mercer comfort in her grief, or does she need to dig deeper when she learns some problems too big for her to solve?

Professional bull rider Drake Hawkins is more than a two-bit, washed up cowboy, but he has to prove it to himself and the woman he loves. If he doesn’t cowboy up, he threatens to wreck his chance for redemption. Will the secret he hides also ruin his chance for true love?

Amazon Review: One of Ms. Scarbrough’s strong points is delicately weaving emotions into a story while keeping it from being drawn out. She does not disappoint in her latest addition to the Montana Ranchers series.

A solid contemporary cowboy family romance series. I’ll be looking forward to reading more in this series. The Romance Reviews

Fans of cowboy romance will enjoy this series.” Night Owl Romance

Amazon Review: 5-Stars—This series was a page turner—I would have given a bigger rating if I could. It pretty much traveled thru the families lives one at a time. This was a well put together boxed set. You don’t find that often. You feel like you are going thru the chapter but all of a sudden you are on to the next persons life. Great writing.

Excerpt

Prologue

MGM Resorts Village
Las Vegas, NV
May Professional Bull Riders event

Drake Hawkins’ heart surged. Damn! He loved this sport. No matter where events were held, they all smelled pleasantly the same—a blend of dirt, cowboy sweat, and bull manure. Spectacular explosions, pyrotechnics, and earsplitting rock music started each competition, and then the smoky smell of extinguished fireworks mixed with the other familiar odors until it faded as competition got under way.

Cowboy-crazed fans were the same everywhere, shouting for autographs and requesting selfies with their favorite bull riders. And there were plenty of good cowboys at each major event, from the point leaders to hot-riding kids coming up for the first time from minor ranks—all Professional Bull Riders wearing starched jeans and starched Western shirts, their fringed, colorful, leather chaps swishing as they walked and the star-shaped rowels on their spurs chinking with every step.

This was Drake’s life. And he loved it. He wanted to be nowhere else.

It was his best friend Brody’s life too. They’d traveled together for eight years until Brody hooked up with his girl Lori Ann. Even though their hard drinking, partying days were behind them, they continued to enjoy an off-colored joke, a slap on the back, and the kind of camaraderie only good friends could share.

“Ya got this one,” Brody said, as Drake climbed into the chute and settled on his bull.

“Yeah, no problem.”

Drake spoke with confidence, but he had none. Tonight his future was on the line. He needed a solid performance in the worst way, because he was in danger of being sent down to the lower ranks if he couldn’t keep up his scores.

And if he couldn’t keep up his standing and win events, he didn’t make money. What would happen to Gracie if that happened?

As he began to pull his bull rope, Drake couldn’t combat the nagging fear gripping him in the gut—not so much of falling, of getting hurt—but of failure. He’d failed once before, and the overwhelming guilt of that failure rode him hard, as hard as he rode the dangerous bucking bulls that were his livelihood.

***

Standing behind the chute ready to help Drake pull his bull rope, Brody Caldera sensed the tension in his friend, and it didn’t bode well for a good ride tonight.

Bulls won most of the battles at an event. Even eight seconds were too long for most riders who were tossed before the buzzer. It wasn’t if a competitor would be hurt, but when and how bad. Bull riders knew that. They knew the odds were against them, but they climbed on board ill-tempered bulls night after night. Whether it was pure, hardheaded orneriness that caused a rider to think he could best a bull or the lure of big money and fame, young men kept coming back for more.

Brody had been one of them at age eighteen. Right away he’d joined up with Drake, and they toured the circuit together, finally making the big times. But whereas Brody’s career was now riding on high, Drake’s seemed to be bottoming out. He’d slid in the rankings, recently fighting injury after injury. Now healed, tonight was Drake’s best shot for making a comeback.

The fifteen-hundred pound, American bucking bull Drake had drawn was named Hang ‘em High. The bovine was solid brown with a white face and clipped horns. He bucked off his rider eighty-three percent of the time and scored an average of forty-five points out of fifty. If Drake could stick this big bull for eight seconds, he’d have a good shot of a score in the eighties—a score high enough to put him into the short-go, the championship round.

Over the years, bull riders had started wearing black protective vests and mouthpieces. Many had taken to putting on a helmet. But Drake was a purest. He steadfastly refused to don a helmet, saying it hampered his line of sight. He continued the tradition of wearing only his cowboy hat.

The bull remained eerily quiet in the enclosure.

Drake adjusted his seat as Brody leaned over the chute and helped him pull the slack of the bull rope. “He’ll go left out of the chute,” Brody said.

Grim-faced, Drake said, “Thanks. I know.”

Drake made a hand wrap around his leather glove. He pounded the roped hand with the fist of his free hand, just as the stock contractor wrapped a flank strap around the bull’s hindquarters. Drake scooted up behind the animal’s shoulders and nodded.

The gateman swung open the gate, and Hang ‘em High blasted out of the chute as if someone had lit his butt on fire. The bull whirled left and then turned back to the right with a series of hard bucks. Drake went with him.

“Ya got ‘em! Ya got ‘em!” Brody repeated under his breath, excitement for his friend building with each jump, each kick. “C’mon, man, you need this one!”

The eight-second buzzer sounded.

Drake yanked the tail of the rope with his free hand and bailed out. But the rope didn’t give. He was hung up. Trying to get his feet under him while his riding hand was plastered to the side of the agitated bull, Drake fought for his life. Hang ‘em High picked up speed.

The cheers of the crowd turned into screams of fear.

Three of the best bullfighters in the sport, guys who distracted the bull and protected the rider, were working hard to free Drake, who ricocheted across the dirt tied to the spinning and bucking bull. It wasn’t going well, Brody’s gut told him. Without thinking, he did the unthinkable and vaulted off the chute into the fray.

Heart pumping adrenalin, Brody threw his body in front of the bull, dodging the lowered head and horns. This gave one of the bullfighters enough time to snatch the tail of the rope, unhooking Drake’s hand. Drake soared through the air like a rag doll and hit the ground with a fierce whack, planting his face in the dirt.

The danger wasn’t over. The angry bull turned on the prone body.

Hang ‘em High was within goring distance, and Drake wasn’t moving. Brody reacted. Flinging himself over Drake’s body, Brody covered his head with his arms. There wasn’t even time for a quick prayer. The white-faced bull hurdled over them both, grazing the side of Drake’s skull, and then giving up the fight, trotted like a pet dog to the center gate and exit.

Fans cheered. Bullfighters shouted, cursing Brody’s stupidity, while Brody’s ears rang with the rushing sound of his own fear.

“Ya okay, Drake?” he asked, pushing away from his friend’s back.

No answer. Blood oozed from Drake’s head onto the dirt.

“Hey, get the docs!” Brody shouted.

Beneath him, Drake Hawkins was out cold.