Callie: The Long Road Home - Excerpt

Callie: The Long Road Home
The Montana McKennas, Book Three

Leaving her job behind and heading home to Montana for a family emergency is worrisome enough, but when Callie McKenna’s New York future collides head-on with her Montana past, she is faced with making a life-altering decision.

Callie McKenna is going home. Her father has suffered a fall from his horse and she is needed back at the ranch. She temporarily leaves New York and her promotion behind to be with her family in Montana, planning only to stay until her father is well again.

But she doesn’t expect the worse, and Callie loses her father. Nor does she expect to rekindle an old relationship with ranch hand, Murphy Reynolds.

Nothing goes according to plan. Callie must face her past, to not only mend some family fences, but to figure out what is happening between her and Murphy. She knows the choices she makes now will shape her future. But will that future be with Murphy and her family on the ranch, or will it be back in New York, where her promotion waits along with that quaint little brownstone she adores?

Chapter One


Manhattan, New York City
March 2014

“You know I’m proud of you, baby girl, don’t you?”

Callie McKenna smiled and closed her eyes at the familiarity of her father’s words. She looked forward to their weekly calls, the deep draw of his voice pulling her back home again for a little while.

“I know, Daddy. I work hard. You taught me that.” She smiled and pushed back a curtain with one finger, staring out the window of her second-story walk-up. The street below was busy this Sunday morning. She itched to take a walk. The winter had been long and brutal, and this burst of springtime was a welcome change. “I do love my job. There’s talk of a promotion if I play my cards right.”
“You got that strong McKenna work ethic in you, that’s for sure,” he said.

She did. It had served her well in the rodeo days of her youth and continued to be an asset in her career. That work ethic was important to her. “That’s very true, Daddy.” And I owe it all to you.
There was a short pause, and then her father continued, changing the subject. “Sugar sure could use a good run around those barrels.”

“Sugar’s getting a little old for that, Daddy. Me, too.”

The thought of her quarter horse, though, sent a slight spiral of homesickness into her belly. “I do miss her. I would stable her here but that’s impossible and she wouldn’t be happy. Besides, I work a lot of late nights and I don’t know when I would be able to ride her.”

“Your life sure has changed.”

He always said that, as if it was a surprise—like it was yesterday. Fact was, it was coming up on ten years since she’d left for college. It was his way of staying she had changed. “I’m still the same ol’ Callie,” she teased.

He laughed and took in his bellow. “Montana misses you somethin’ awful, baby girl.”

Translation: He missed her something awful. She knew he did. It wasn’t Sugar, or Montana, it was him. “I’ll be home soon, Daddy.”

“When?”

Reaching into her bag, she pulled out her planner. She was the only one of her friends who still carried a paper planner and didn’t record everything on her cell. Phone tucked between her chin and shoulder, she sifted through the pages. “Let me see when I can get away. Maybe July or August.”
“It’s been two years, girl. You realize that?”

“What?” Certainly not. “I’m sure it’s been—”

“Nope. Two years since last Christmas. So, it’s been almost two and a half.”

Oh, dear. She flipped a few more pages. “August. I’ll come in August, Daddy. Promise.” She could almost see his nod.

“August is a good month,” he said. “Your mama’s birthday and all. Maybe we’ll ride up to the family plot.”

Callie’s eyes immediately stung. She reached for the locket around her neck and fiddled with it—a simple gold locket her father had one time given to her mother. Now it was hers. “I’d like that a lot,” she told him, trying not to sniffle.

“Me, too. So I’m expecting you now, girl. Got that? A McKenna doesn’t back down on her word. I can’t wait to see you in August.” He paused and then added. “But if you can come before that, it sure would be good. Got some things to talk about.”

Something prickled in her chest. Oh? “Daddy, is everything okay?”

He snorted. “Sure it is. Just some business about the ranch I want to go over with you and Parker. You know one day McKenna Ranch will be yours.”

She wished he wouldn’t talk like that.

Maybe it was his tone, or maybe it was something heavy in her heart, but things were suddenly off. His mood had shifted from happy to talk to you to serious shit on a dime. That prickle morphed into a trigger of worry and curled up under her breastbone. How could she tell him she never intended to run the ranch with Parker? He knew that, deep down, didn’t he?

But her father was a stubborn, Alpha rancher used to getting his way….

He continued. “And you need to be prepared, Callie-girl, for me to convince you to stay.”

“Daddy, you know—”

“I gotta run now. Time for me to get out of the kitchen and into the saddle.”

She glanced at her watch. Seven o’clock in the morning there. Didn’t matter that it was a Sunday. Ranch work never ends. “Okay, Daddy. Give my love to Parker and the others. Love you and talk soon.”

“Love you more, baby girl. Love you more.”

He clicked off the phone before she did. With a sigh, she sat by the window and looked down at her planner, now in her lap. She fished a pen out of her bag and wrote the word “Montana” in big block letters across the month of August.

She stared at the word for a moment.

No more skirting it, no excuses. She was going home.

Beneath the word Montana, she made a list:
·         Schedule vacation
·         Get airfare
·         Book rental vehicle
·         Get head on straight.

 


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