Publication date: March 7th 2023
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Western
“Brimming with suspense and adventure, Captured Secrets, is a love story I’ll not soon forget. An engrossing tale with all the twists and turns that make a contemporary Western so hard to put down.” Debra Whiting Alexander, award-winning author of Zetty
After her parents die in a horrific car accident, Sydney Moomaw is thrust into running their guest ranch in eastern Washington. She soon discovers that her parents were keeping secrets. Why is the ranch in serious debt? Why did her parents allow the insurance to lapse? Why didn’t they tell her about it? And where are their wills? Sydney needs to figure out a way to save the ranch she loves before her sister sells it.
Photographer Trey Hardy arrives at the ranch the same day Sydney’s parents are killed. His working-vacation plans change when he decides to help Sydney save her ranch. But, his offers to help are met with resistance. Her stubbornness and independence are both maddening and alluring.
Amid the tangle of finances, tensions with her sister, and her own grief and anger, Sydney begins receiving threatening notes. They must be from her abusive ex-husband, but he’s in jail. Isn’t he? When a teenager appears at the ranch insisting she is Sydney’s daughter, Sydney finally realizes she’s going to have to start trusting people to help her. Will Trey’s plan work? Can they save her beloved ranch? Can she really have the life she’s dreamed of?
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Sydney took a bite of salad and enjoyed the tangy dressing. “What’re your ideas?”
Trey wiped his mouth with a napkin. “You might be able to catch your breath if you sold half the herd of cows or more. You could have a dispersal sale.”
“Bidders come to you. Since you have purebred Angus, you’ll bring in a better price. You’d sell cow/calf pairs and half the bulls. How many bulls do you have?”
“You can sell ten bulls. What about horses?”
“Hang on, I’ll grab a notebook.” She rushed to the office. The answering machine light flashed, so she pushed the Play button. Glenda wanted to talk about the ranch. Sydney cringed. If she had a plan before finding the will, she could hold Glenda off.
She took a minute to google and print off information about probate to read later. She tugged a leather tooled notebook from her drawer, grabbed a mechanical pencil from a Seven Tine–logoed cup, and went back to the table.
“Got it.” Trey tapped his cell and set it on the table.
She opened the book and made notes and columns. “A hundred fifty pairs, ten bulls, horses . . .” Trey had barbecue sauce around his lips. She reached for a napkin and dabbed his mouth. Their gazes locked for a few seconds before she sat back and focused on the notebook. “We list five colts for sure. If Twister pulls through, I want to keep him. He could potentially salvage this place.”
“That’s a big gamble. How’s he doing?”
“It is, but he’s much better. He was up and nursing this morning. Weak, but he’s making remarkable improvements.”
Trey studied her as though she’d stretched the truth, then gulped the last of his strawberry lemonade and clinked the glass on the table. “Good. You have a couple of reputable studs. Let’s start listing stud fees online. I’ll take their pictures tomorrow. You can work with Dr. Saul to freeze and ship semen. That will broaden the playing field.”
“How do you know all this?”
“My dad raised more than cattle. He bred and trained high-end quarter horses too. When he had a good but middleaged one that he wanted to cut and sell as a competition horse, he did the same thing.” Sydney pushed potatoes around on her plate. “Why are you so intent on helping me?”
“To be honest, I care about you guys and would like to see you save this place. It’s got a heartbeat to it that pumps a fruitful spirit through its veins. I’ve never known folks like you. This place has renewed me. It’s filled with a sentimental grit and has sparked something in me that’s been dead for a long time.”
“Grit?” Sydney didn’t feel an ounce of courage or security in herself or the ranch. Everything seemed to be crumbling around her. The dispersal sale would be a long shot depending on cattle prices.
“I know you can’t see it right now, but I feel a huge sense of peace. I felt it the moment I stepped over the threshold––”
“That’s because you’re always on the go. This is new territory for you. The difference between parched desert and lush mountains.”
Trey shook his head. “It’s more than that. A kind of stability or bond or unity surrounds this place. It’s strong. Like a gigantic magnet.” He pointed to a framed photo of a young Lester and Jennie Moomaw on the wall. “You can see it in their eyes. You have that same determined look.”
“The determination that used to exist? It’s gone. I don’t know where the money will come from to pay employee wages. I can’t leave a single, pregnant mother in a lurch.”
Carmen Peone is an award-winning author who has lived in Northeast Washington and on the Colville Confederated Indian Reservation since 1988. She had worked with a Tribal Elder, Marguerite Ensminger, for three years learning the Arrow Lakes Language and various cultural traditions. She owns and trains her horses and competes in local Extreme Challenge and Mountain Trail competitions. With a degree in psychology, the thought of writing never entered her mind, until she married her husband and they moved to the reservation after college. With the love of history and western-woman lifestyle, she brings stories of hope, family, relationships, and faith to her novels.
These books were a labor of love, especially the second edition of the True to Heart Trilogy.
Thank you to my cover model, Shayna Palmanteer of the Colville Confederated Tribes, for your willingness to be a part of this adventure. Visit my website for information on the workbooks that go along with my young adult books at https://carmenpeone.com/books/.
Healing, Hope, Horses
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