When It’s Right (Montana Men #2) synopsis:
Gillian ‘s turbulent life has never been easy, but nothing prepared her for the moment of violence that sends her and her little brother running from San Francisco to her grandfather’s ranch in Montana. A man she’s never met. She learned long ago not to trust anyone, but she’ll do anything to keep her brother safe and give him the happy childhood she never had. When she meets Blake Bowden, a strong, silent, gorgeous cowboy who teaches her about the ranch and rescued horses-animals who have been through hell and back, just as she has-Gillian begins to feel at ease for the first time in memory. In fact, she even starts to feel happy. But in her world happiness has always been fleeting, and she’s not sure she can believe in it or the man who has quickly found his way into her heart.
Blake has everything he’s ever wanted: a partnership on a ranch that allows him to spend his day in the saddle training racehorses. His life is good, steady, uncomplicated…until the most beautiful, haunted looking woman arrives at Three Peaks Ranch. If he wants to keep his ideal life, his partner’s granddaughter is entirely off limits, but Gillian awakens a protective instinct in Blake that he can’t ignore…and ignites a passion he shouldn’t feel. But as Gillian heals and finds her way back into the world, Blake knows that he’s found the one thing that he never knew he was missing. And when danger comes close, he will do anything he must to keep Gillian safe…even if it means risking his life’s dream.
IT’S RIGHT, Ch1 Excerpt
San Francisco, California
Home late from her shift washing dishes at the Jade Palace, Gillian pounded up the two flights of stairs as fast as her legs allowed. She hit the landing and turned right, racing down the hallway past her apartment’s open door to Mrs. Wicks’s unit at the end of the hall. She’d heard the screams from outside. Not the first time she’d answered that call, but so help her God, if her father touched one hair on Justin’s head, she’d kill him.
“I’m calling the police,” the babysitter, Mrs. Wicks, threatened loud enough for her voice to carry down the hall.
“Damnit, woman, he’s my blood,” her father bellowed.
Gillian rushed into the apartment, spotted Justin holding his arm, tears shimmering in his eyes, but otherwise appearing unharmed. She looked her father up and down assessing the situation in a glance and the odds on talking him down from whatever ludicrous idea had taken root in his shadowed mind. Dressed in the same clothes he’d left in four days ago, his hair an oily mass hanging lank to his shoulders, he reeked of whiskey, cigarette and pot smoke, and acrid body odor. The wild look in his bloodshot eyes told her he hadn’t slept in a good long while. Riding a meth high, he’d probably binged for days. Soon, he’d lose all sense of reality and need more of the drug that wouldn’t give him the high he needed, since he’d overloaded his system. He’d crash, his body shutting down and putting him into a deep sleep for a day, or two, or three before he woke up miserable, needing more of what put him in this psychotic state in the first place.
Frustrated and angry, but resigned to this same worn-out routine, she shored up her resolve to get through this night, like she’d done too many times in the past, trapped raising a child with little money and even fewer choices. None of them good.
Her father paced, his movements jerky. He scratched at his arm, his legs, the back of his neck with his grime filled nails. He slapped at his thigh, then bit at the tips of his fingers. A hint to how far he’d fallen down the rabbit hole. Not good.
“Dad, come on. Let’s go home. I’ll make you something to eat,” she coaxed, keeping her voice calm.
A powder keg of roiling rage, you never knew what would set him off.
Justin cowered in the corner of the couch, his eyes wide and watchful. He didn’t move, afraid of drawing her father’s attention. Even at six, he knew the rules of this twisted game.
Mrs. Wicks moved into the kitchen, leaving Jessie to handle getting her father out of there and back to their place. She’d done it before. Usually, he’d come looking for her. She’d been held up at work, and he’d found little Justin alone. She never left Justin with him if she could help it, especially over the last year when her father spent more time strung-out and paranoid on meth than comfortably numb with booze and pot, like he’d been every day of her life.
The last two weeks had been hell. Her patience had worn thin days ago. If she could hold on, get him out of Mrs. Wicks’s apartment and into theirs, she could take Justin and crash somewhere else for a few days until her father came down and leveled off.
Then, joy, they could start this whole thing over again.
I wish Justin and I were anywhere else.
Inside, the pressure built. How good it would feel to open her mouth and unleash a string of curses, insults, and blame for what her father put her and Justin through day in and day out. She hated him for spending his life drowning in a bottle and doing drugs, his life going up in smoke. Her life went up with it. Justin’s too. She wanted it to end. One way or another, just end.
Her father swatted at some imaginary bird, or butterfly, or dragon for all she knew. Only he saw the tormenting hallucinations. If he was this far gone, he was even more volatile and dangerous than usual.
“Dad, come on. I’ll make you a burger and get you a beer.”
“We have to go.” His words came out rushed. He swatted at the air again, this time spinning around to the right before he stopped and turned the other way again, tracking his imaginary flying devils, waving his arms over his head to swat them away.
She shook her head, frustrated and tired of dealing with him. This. Everything. She wanted to run away, but where would she go? It was all she could do now to keep a roof over Justin’s head and food in his belly with the diminishing help her father supplied. Out on the streets, or in a shelter, they’d be vulnerable to even more horrors. What kind of life would that be for Justin? Better than this one? Maybe. Maybe not. Still, she needed to find a way to give Justin better than she’d had growing up with a volatile drunk, who could barely keep a bartending job and supplemented his income selling drugs to support his own habits.
“We have to go. We have to go. We have to go,” her father chanted, getting agitated, hitting the side of his head with one hand and scratching at the imaginary bugs crawling under his skin on his leg with the other.
Fed up, she stepped toward him to grab his arm and lead him back to their place. He jumped out of her reach and laughed. The sound held no humor, but a touch of hysteria in the odd shriek. Her father pointed at her, shaking his head side to side. “No. No. No. No. No.” Again, his ominous giggle sent a chill up her spine.
Her father grabbed Justin’s arm and yanked him off the couch. She stood her ground in front of him. No way he left here with Justin.
“Let him go. He needs to finish his homework.” She made up the excuse, hoping he’d release Justin, and she could get him out of there.
“He’s mine. He’ll keep them away. He’s got the light that turns them away.”
Paranoid, delusional asshole.
She sighed, knowing just where this was going and not liking it one bit. Soon, her father would spiral into a psychotic delusion no one could talk him out of.
Please, just pass out already.
Not that lucky, she tensed and waited to see what came next. Her father pulled Justin in front of him, held him by both arms and turned him this way and that, a shield against an enemy only he could see.
“Ow!” Justin cried out when her father’s fingers dug into his thin arms.
“Keep them back.” Her father tugged on Justin again. Hurt and scared, Justin planted his feet and pulled away, trying to get free. Her father held tighter, spun him around to face him, and when her father hurt Justin and he fell to the floor, tears spilling from his eyes, Jessie’s couldn’t take the ache in her heart and her anger exploded.
“Keep them back.” Her father shook Justin again.
Jessie lost it. “I warned you, if you ever touched him…” She lunged for her father, striking him in the arm, breaking his hold on Justin. She shoved her father two steps back and Justin ran for Mrs. Wicks in the kitchen, who rattled off the building address to the police on the phone. Not the first time someone called the cops on her father, and it probably wouldn’t be the last. No way they got here in time to stop him. Whatever happened next, she’d sure as hell make sure he never got anywhere near Justin again.
Her father came after her in a drug-hazed rage that gave him strength and sent him into a mindless attack. All other thoughts disappeared behind the fury filling his mind. Her father only knew how to hurt. She’d been through this too many times to count and braced for the impact when his fist came at her straight into her eye. Pain exploded in her head. She shoved him in the chest, but he came back with a slap to her jaw that stung something fierce. She kicked him in the shin and shoved him again. He fell back two steps, his hand coming up from behind his back. Momentarily stunned, she didn’t move, but stared down the gun’s black barrel in disbelief that he’d actually pulled a weapon on her. She didn’t know where he’d gotten it, only that this added a whole other level to what had seemed like just another rotten night in her life.
Her father held the gun steady, even when he swatted the imaginary devils pestering him. His eyes narrowed on her and in that moment she joined him in the madness she saw swirling in his gaze.
You or me?
One of them wasn’t leaving that room alive.
Justin needs me.
She rushed him, grabbed the gun, spun her back into his chest, the gun in both their hands pointed to the window. He tried to wrench it free, punching her in the ribs with his free hand. She jerked on the gun again and again and scratched his hand to get him to release it until he finally let go and the gun thumped onto the floor and skittered across the scarred hardwood. He shoved her from behind. She stumbled forward, scooped the gun off the floor, and turned to face him.
Never turn your back on a psycho.
He leaned forward and charged her like a wounded beast, murder in his eyes and a guttural yell that made the hairs on the back of her neck stand on end.
She swung the gun up and fired. Once. Twice.
Mrs. Wicks screamed.
Blood bloomed on his chest. Still he kept coming. His hands fisted in her T-shirt. He lifted her off her feet and shoved her backward into the window. Her back and head hit the glass with a crack a split second before it shattered. Glass tore and bit into her skin, but she didn’t feel the pain past the one thought in her head. It’s done.
Justin screamed, “Gillian, no!”
She flew through the window.
Her father’s dark form stood in the opening, highlighted by the lights behind him. He literally dropped to the floor out of her sight.
Be safe, Justin. Be happy.
Her body slammed into the roof of a car with a sickening thud. Everything went black.
About the Author:
Jennifer Ryan is the New York Times & USA Today bestselling author of The Hunted Series and The McBrides Series. She writes romantic suspense and contemporary small-town romances featuring strong men and equally resilient women. Her stories are filled with love, family, friendship, and the happily-ever-after we all hope to find.
Jennifer lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and three children. When she isn’t writing a book, she’s reading one. Her obsession with both is often revealed in the state of her home and in how late dinner is to the table. When she finally leaves those fictional worlds, you’ll find her in the garden, playing in the dirt and daydreaming about people who live only in her head, until she puts them on paper.
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