At eighteen, Amanda Riley got her first lesson in love when Jacob Henderson broke her heart. But then she made the biggest mistake of her life – she ran off and married his younger brother.
Ten years later, she’s divorced and moving back to her small hometown. She’s made a name for herself in the cutting horse industry. That should count for something… Right? But decade old mistakes won’t be easily forgotten by everyone in town.
When Amanda and Jacob are thrown together to help an abused horse, old desires ignite and past truths are revealed. And just when they think they’ll get a second chance at love, the younger brother comes home.
Saturday morning Amanda was up and on the road at dawn. The rain had stopped sometime during the night and the sun struggled to break through the thick clouds blanketing the sky. The weatherman predicted a warm and sunny day.
Jacob’s house came into view and she remembered well the morning she’d left his house with her whole world turned up side down. She’d gone to him the night of her eighteenth birthday, determined to make him see her as a woman, not Matt’s little sister. She offered herself to him—heart, body and soul. He’d taken what she offered, never hesitated, and then afterwards told her it shouldn’t have happened. He’d told her to go home, scolding her like a child. She’d cried all the way home and then left town with his brother the next day.
The thoughts were inevitable. It had been a major turning point in her life. That night changed her and made her world less secure. She’d grown up. She knew eventually that she would be able to drive past his house without memories and sadness bombarding her.
As luck would have it, Jacob sat at the end of the driveway in his black pickup truck and waited for her to pass. She raised her hand in a half wave, which he ignored. She fought the urge to flip him the middle finger.
At her place, Amanda parked the car. Grabbing the cooler she’d filled with ice and bottled water, she headed for the house. She set the cooler just inside the side entrance, which served as a combined mud room/laundry room, adjacent to the kitchen. She’d made the decision, for better or worse, to keep the old refrigerator and stove the Ellison’s had left behind. They were easily twenty years old, but they worked and saved her money.
She made a quick run through the house flipping switches and smiling as light filled the rooms. She’d need light bulbs. The faucets squeaked and the pipes shuttered as water rushed forward bringing rust water before running clean. She added air freshener to her mental list to rid the rooms of the stuffy, unlived-in smell.
Satisfied with the house, she headed out to the barn to start stripping down the stalls. She made yet another mental note to stop by the feed mill and see if they could deliver shavings and feed next weekend.
Sweat rolled down the hollow of her back by late morning. She lost count of how many wheelbarrows of manure she’d hauled out of the barn, but her muscles ached with the strain. Her stomach grumbled and refused to be ignored any longer. She washed up at the kitchen sink and dried her hands on the legs of her jeans. Paper towels, toilet paper. She grabbed a pen and paper from her purse and made a list of items she would need.
First stop, the Henderson’s. Pride kept her from buying hay from another farmer. She knew the quality of the hay and while their families weren’t close anymore, she wouldn’t be forced to give her horses a lesser quality hay just to avoid the Hendersons.
She was here to stay and they all had to deal with the fact they’d run into each other now and then. Frank Henderson didn’t seem to have a problem with her, even if Jacob did, and she didn’t have a clue what Jacob’s mother, Grace, thought.
The shop doors stood wide open when Amanda pulled in at the main farm. She parked beside two trucks, one of them Jacob’s, and wished she had access to her truck. Maybe she’d rent a truck for next weekend.
Frank greeted her at the door. “Hey, Amanda.” He hugged her, catching her off guard. “Rumor has it you’re moving home, bought old Ellison’s place. Congratulations.”
“Thank you.” She spotted Jacob standing at the workbench, wiping grease off his hands. “Hello, Jacob.” She forced a smile onto her lips when he didn’t respond and his frown deepened. Never let them see you hurt. She’d used the same motto with Timothy and her father.
“I suppose you want to talk about the hundred acres we rent from Ellison.” Frank turned back into the shop and Amanda followed. “We’ve got soybeans planted for this year. We hope that won’t be a problem.”
“Not at all. I didn’t realize you rented ground from Ellison, but I don’t see any reason to change things.” She stood with her thumbs hooked into the back pockets of her jeans.
“We pay Ellison fifty bucks an acre. We won’t pay more than that,” Jacob stated sharply, refusing to acknowledge the warning look from his father. A truck pulled up outside the open garage doors, but the driver didn’t get out.
“Not a problem, Jacob. I stopped to put in an order for hay. I assume you’ll sell me hay for less than fifty bucks a bale.” Sarcasm dripped from her words in defense against his arrogance.
“Of course,” Frank interjected mildly and cast a pointed look at Jacob that said ‘be nice.’ “Jacob will get you all set up.” He excused himself to see to the passenger of the truck.
“I’m not sure what you have available from last year or your first cut. In three weeks, I’ll need about a hundred bales of hay.” His relentless stare unnerved her, but she managed to keep her gaze steady on his.
“We can manage that. Its four bucks a bale. It’s good hay.”
“I have no doubt. I’m going to need around six hundred alfalfa/clover bales every year, maybe more. I prefer them from the second cut. Any chance I can get on the list for this year?” She turned out her ankles then straightened them, never taking her eyes off his.
“Not a problem.” He took down a hardbound journal from a cabinet over the workbench, wrote down her information and then shoved the book back in place. “Consider it done.” He crossed his arms over his chest. Distracted by the corded muscles bulking around the band of his shirt sleeves, it took her a minute to realize he was dismissing her. What had she expected? And he was right, why pretend?
She turned and made it to the door before he spoke. “Amanda.”
She used to love the sound of her name on his lips, when it had been delivered without the bitterness she detected now. She closed her eyes for a brief second before turning back to face him.
“I’m sorry for the way I treated you at the wedding.” Even though a muscle jumped along his jaw, the words were spoken quietly and honestly.
She saw pain and anger in his ravaging blue eyes before he cast them down. Her heart broke for him. He’d been a part of her life forever and at one time, she’d considered him a friend.
“Thank you.” She wanted to give him comfort, give him something in return, but had little to offer. “I’m sorry, too. About Timothy. If I could change things, I would.”
He didn’t look up to meet her eyes, so she left him staring at his boots.
Thank you for joining me this month. I hope you've enjoyed the excerpts.Two Brothers is scheduled to be released August 1, 2011. Please check back here or my website: http://www.christinawolfer.com/ for the most updated information.