The Bad Rancher

(2 customer reviews)

Teasel Van Duran is the daughter of the largest cattle baron in the county, and she doesn’t suffer fools gladly. Especially those who come to pay her court. Why should she care if people call her a spinster? She’s happy to live free to do as she likes.

Horse trainer and rancher Brun Kadesh has traveled upriver to make a deal with the local cattle baron in order to save his land. A chance encounter with the arrogant Teasel leads to him taking her in hand, roughly, with her own riding crop. He only learns later this is the daughter of the man he needs to win a favor from.

As for Teasel, the most humiliating experience of her life also has an unforeseen consequence. She wants nothing more than to see this stranger again. Has to. But who is he, and how can she reconcile her desire for him with her pride? When her father sees this all as a way to get his daughter married off, it leaves Brun to try to win over the reluctant lady and save his land. But is she really so reluctant after all? And what happens when she learns she’s been used like a chip on a poker table, and this man may or may not even return her feelings? Either way, he seems dead set on dominating her.

Publisher’s Note: This steamy historical romance contains a theme of power exchange.

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$3.99

Sample Chapter

Teasel left the church after service like a bullet shot out of a gun, ignoring her stepmother’s cries for her to stop a moment. She set out at a brisk pace along the dirt road. It would be a long walk home, but the time was better spent than it would be with her parents, watching them fawning over the new class of people in town. Let them do it if they must; she’d be damned before she lowered herself that way. The scorching glare of the August sun pained her less.

“Miss Van Duran!”

Hell’s curtains. She didn’t have to look back to know it was Carter. She kept up her stride but he soon caught up with her, undeterred.

“Are you seriously thinking of walking all the way home?” he asked, aghast.

“I’m not thinking it, Carter. I’m doing it.”

“Then I shall accompany you,” he said, a cheerful grin in his voice. She groaned.

“Look out there, you can see my house.” He pointed, past the flat expanse of sage brush, to the heart of town itself. All the new, fine homes gleamed in the distance in their candy colors, filling all around the once dusty main street like the growing girth at an older man’s waistline. The dirt road was now paved, so the fine ladies wouldn’t jostle in their buggies.

“The blue one,” he said. “We had it built before we arrived. A Queen Anne.”

She stopped. She pointed out to the distance, beyond where he had indicated, out at the hundreds of soft red spots of cattle on the scrubland. “That’s our cattle,” she said. They belonged to her father, and so they belonged to her. “We made this whole town, with them,” she concluded, and continued on her walking. Had she sounded crass to him, a bumpkin of a woman? She hoped so. She might have added, the houses are nothing. But she wouldn’t talk to him anymore than she needed to.

“Yes, quite the kingdom,” said Carter pleasantly. No, there was no putting him off, because he didn’t want her at all. It was the kingdom he wanted. She pretended he was not with her and peered up to the crest of the mountain in the distance. Thick rows of stone cut into the side gave it the supernatural look of giant steps ascending to the heavens. The quarry belonged to the mine, which had belonged to her grandfather and by extension, belonged to her too.

So why did she have to put up with, nay, stoop down to, all these pompous city fools come here from back east? Father ought to have been proud to have made this town, rather than tremble lest that most garish of insults, “new money”, be tossed his way. She gritted her teeth to think on it.

“Miss Van Duran, I had a word with your mother the other day—”

“Lily isn’t my mother,” she cut him off cold, and he stood silent, thank God, taken aback for a moment at her rudeness.

He recovered quickly, though. “Your stepmother. There’s to be a dance Friday night at The Crystal, and we’ve decided to make a group of it, Henrietta and I, and you and your… and Mrs. Van Duran. Have you seen The Crystal since the renovation?”

What was he talking about? She whirled around to him. “Listen. Last month I let you kiss me, because I thought, why not? Because I was bored. Not because I meant to give you some kind of encouragement to ask me to something called The Crystal, whatever that is. Can you just let me alone now?”

“That wouldn’t be gentlemanly. You shouldn’t walk home by yourself.”

“I ride about everywhere by myself. I would be now, but they never let me take my horse to church. Besides, I can’t ride in this.” She made a vague, open gesture of frustration at the ivory linen layers of her dress.

He went on as though she hadn’t spoken. “Henrietta and Mother and I are coming by your house for coffee, didn’t your… didn’t Mrs. Van Duran tell you? So it’s just as well I see you home.”

Of course. As if Sundays weren’t bad enough already, what with half a day sitting in pews, they had to spend the rest of it “socializing”. This had never been the case growing up. It had been her world then, a world where she could spend the remainder of a Sunday climbing trees until dinner. Now they expected her to be a lady and converse with all these “fine” people. Expected she would marry one of them, add some distinction to the family.

She glared at Carter, hard enough that he stopped for a moment in his tracks. Good. She hadn’t hated him, not really, not until the kiss. Then his forgettable statue’s face went from bland to offensive. That she’d let him put his mouth on hers, intolerable. But she had never been kissed and was old enough that people called her a spinster. And so she had wanted to see what it was like.

Overrated. Terribly so.

Carter stayed a few steps behind for the rest of the long walk, following out of some kind of awkward duty to play the gentleman. After a while the wagons rumbled past, everyone leaving church, even her parents’ wagon. Henrietta Carter sat alongside her mother in the back of it. Teasel couldn’t believe the Carters had ridden out in the open this way. Lily waved from under her parasol, a knowing smile on her face as she caught Teasel’s eye. Dead pleased to see Carter with her.

“Would you like to ride the rest of the way?” she called out, as Mr. Van Duran slowed the horses.

“I’m enjoying the walk,” said Teasel. “But Carter might like a rest.”

Carter, bright with sweat and already showing the signs of a sunburn, shook his head vigorously. “It’s a brilliant day, how could we not enjoy it?”

She laughed. What a stubborn rabbit. He’d rather be miserable than admit defeat. It did not make her like him any more for it. She cut from the road and into a little deer trail through the scrub, the dry brush clawing at her skirts.

“Twice as fast this way,” she said.

“But there might be rattlers in the brush.”

“Might be,” she said and smiled.

She stood waiting with Carter at the huge front door, aching with impatience as the wagon made its way up the long drive. His mother and Henrietta were indistinguishable from a distance; really, if you put Carter in a dress, he’d look just like them too. Same unmemorable features, same blond hair, only shorter.

“I still say you all ought to get a second house, in town,” said Carter.

“I’m sure they will.”

“And I’m sure you’ll say you won’t like living there?”

“I’ll say no such thing, for I’ll live here.”

The wagon rolled to a stop in the drive, kicking up a mad dust from the wheels. Carter held out his handkerchief and she ignored it.

Mr. Van Duran got out first, raising his hand for Lily. Then he helped the other two ladies out. Even in the shade of the doorway, the heat of the walk, so much worse now that she stood still, all but crushed her. Her dress felt like six wool blankets strapped to her body. No way in hell could she endure wearing it for the rest of the afternoon.

The ranch interior was moderately cooler, the chill of the night still held in the stone walls and copper toned ceramic of the floor. Of course, Lily would want to cram them all into the parlour, that airless plush place that had no resemblance to the rest of the ranch but looked to have been surgically attached. Indeed, it had not existed here before Lily had come.

Carter had started to remove his coat, then paused, as if uncertain it were the proper thing to do.

“I’m going upstairs to freshen up,” Teasel said, and he had no power to follow her, not up to her own room. She sighed a breath of relief on leaving him.

This had to be nipped in the bud, and quickly. She wasn’t going to go on spending her Sunday afternoons like this, simply because Carter had designs on her. No, sir. Once in her room, she undressed swiftly and put on her riding clothes. They weren’t proper riding things at all, but simply breeches and a loose white shirt which kept her cool. She wore an old leather hat too, to keep the sun out of her eyes, but that she kept in the stable, because she feared Lily would up and faint if she ever saw it. It was, to be fair, an ugly old thing.

Part of her was inclined to slip out the window, climb down the rose trellis that ran up her wall, if it weren’t so cowardly. No, she had to walk out facing them, and she had to do it immediately. Every moment she waited, would make it worse. She left the cool, high ceilinged vault of her bedroom and stepped down the stairs to where everyone had now gathered in the lobby. Carter frowned on seeing her, such a mild twitch on his otherwise insipid face. She slipped into the group of them, all smiles and greetings, and approached the doorway with a natural grace which made her quite proud of herself.

“Teasel, dear, what—” Lily started.

“Where on earth are you off to?” came her father’s more blustering tone.

“You know I always ride on Sundays.”

“You always ride whatever blasted, eh, whatever day it is,” and remembering he had company, his tone settled a notch, and he even smiled. She smiled right back.

“Dearest,” Lily chimed in, “we have company for coffee right now, won’t you hold off on your ride for a bit and sit down with us?”

“I’m terribly, terribly sorry. I’m afraid I just can’t,” she said, using Lily’s own invincible method of declining invitations. She had, of course, learned something at least from her in the last twenty odd years.

“Do forgive me,” she finished and bounced out onto the porch.

Her father walked out behind her and shut the heavy door behind himself as he did. His face shone sweaty and red. “Teasel,” he said, through clenched teeth. She stepped back. He’d not ever laid a hand on her, but one never knew. This time he looked pretty put out.

“Father.”

“Your mother wants you to visit with us.”

“She’s not my—”she cut off, because his grizzled grey brows came together in a way that stopped her.

She started over. “Why do I need to sit with all them anyway? They’re her friends.”

“Carter is here to see you and you know it. Why must you continually ruin your chances like this?”

“My chances?” She laughed.

“Yes,” he spoke very low now, “your chances to marry, to do what a woman is supposed to do. Have her own family. Not hitch on to her parents her whole life. You aren’t getting any younger.”

“Certainly not. Neither are you. Who gets younger?”

“Watch your tongue. Haven’t you tired of being a child?”

She snorted but could think of nothing to say.

“Is this what you want?” he pressed, seeing her weaken. “To go on in this unnatural way?”

“Marrying Carter would hardly be natural.”

“What are you doing with your life, Teasel? You’re making yourself ridiculous—”

She flew away down the stairs at this, not even feeling the steps beneath her boots. He shouted behind her, but she was too fast, and besides, he wouldn’t want to make a scene, would he? She glanced back over her shoulder; no, he remained on the porch, glowering ruddy-faced after her. She kept up her speed until she reached the stables. She saddled her horse roughly, barely noticing him as she pulled him out the stable door by the reins.

“Walnut!” she groaned as he whinnied and bucked his head back from the bit. She hoisted herself up onto his back, yanking at the reins in answer to his protest. With a click of her heels, she set to a gallop away from the ranch. They rode out towards the river, and she did not look back.

He paused at the top of the bluff; she clicked at him and set her spurs to his sides. “Get,” she growled. Why’d he always have to be such a big coward? Together, they plunged over the slope that led down the bluffs and raced toward the spine of trees which hid the river.

Her parents would never stop, would they? They’d never stop haranguing her, not ’til she’d married Carter or some equal idiot.

And what if they were right? What the hell was she doing, living with them like some overgrown child? But, really, what else could she do but go on living with them? Not anything! Except marry.

She gained enough ground toward the river that its flat, broad shade of brown came into view as it weaved lazily in and out of the trees. Then the thoughts fell away, because the green of the leaves contrasted too vividly against the sky for anything else to remain. Such troubles could only be laughed at as she galloped toward the trees, the sound of hoofbeats carried upward in the warm wind.

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2 reviews for The Bad Rancher

  1. Redrabbitt

    FATE’S WOVEN FROM A TAPESTRY OF COINCIDENCES

    The story is a western-based historical tale with plenty of mystery, suspense, danger, secrets, lies, and even racial tension. The story revolves around the Van Duran family and Brun Kadesh.

    Teasel Van Duran would be considered a spinster, but others would call her a hoyden. She is wild, wears men’s britches, rides her horse, and doesn’t conform to society. Her father is pretentious, has a cattle empire, and lords it over other people, thinking he is above them. His second wife, Lily, is a sweet lady.

    Brun Kadesh needs to make arrangements to no longer have the Van Duran cattle running over the land, destroying it. He never dreams that the deal Van Duran makes comes with marrying his daughter, Teasel, as part of the deal.

    The story’s plot will have Brun and Teasel’s meeting turn violent when he asks her a question; she is rude and harsh with her horse. She strikes him when he catches up with her, but he also punishes her. What a shock when he discovers that her father wants him to marry her to give him the land he needs for his sheep. But, this story is full of lies, deceit, bargaining, and danger.

    The story has the good, the bad, and the ugly of people. Bargains will be made and broken, lives placed in danger, threats made, and marriages damaged. Teasel refuses to conform to societal rules, and they come back to haunt her, forcing her into a marriage to save the family name. She goes from home with servants to a small cottage where she is expected to do things she is not accustomed to doing—and doing it Brun’s way.

    Teasel: You don’t seem to approve of me at all. But you want to court me. That strikes me as contradictory.
    Brun: Ah, you make assumptions. Assuming I still wish to do any such thing, it’s not contradictory at all. I tame horses, and perhaps I should like to tame you. The challenge intrigues me.
    Teasel: That’s a wicked reason to court someone.
    Brun: It might be, but you like it all the same. You need someone who can master you, and that I can do.

    Brun: I’ll not be brought to task for every slight you perceive. I told you I’d not let you disturb my contentment here. Let this go.
    Teasel: You upended my whole life. I’ve changed everything for you. But God forbid I disturb your contentment.
    Brun: That’s the way of things. A woman follows her husband. Don’t tell me you want to run back to your parents already?

    I’ll be honest; I wouldn’t say I liked the characters, their interactions and had a hard time staying focused on this story. In many ways, I pitied Teasel; she goes from a self-serving father, forced to marry a man who then treats her like his property, rather than his wife. I felt like she was used as a pawn and then treated as a chattel. He does things to humiliate her and seems to get joy out of it. Her father proves to be a low-life, and Brun abandons her to a new fate. The only person who cares about Teasel is her stepmother, Lily.

    “Brun had come to stop her, to put her fire out, to break her. She couldn’t find it, could feel nothing but a wounded ache where the fire had been.”

    The story does have a resolution at the end. There are many disciplines and explicit sex scenes throughout the story.

  2. Stats23

    Though this book is not about horses per se, horses and horseplay are the glue that holds the story-lines together. Brun first encounters Teasel when she is mistreating (from his point of view) her horse and the story comes to an end in the stables. In between, a very rocky relationship forms with Brun referring to Teasel as his “little horse” who he intends to break and push and Teasel intends to fight him every step of the way. Some great characters and characterizations, though not everyone is who they appear (or try) to be. Lots of twists and turns, betrayals and redemptions so it’s hard not to give away the whole plot if I said anything more. Having said that, some of those twists are really gut wrenching. A little slow and methodical at times, but it’s because the story is a very realistic portrayal of attitudes, prejudices and social norms of the times. One of the more historically accurate portrayals of what I take to be the late 1800’s. Very enjoyable read. 4 Stars.
    I received a free copy of this book via Booksprout and am voluntarily leaving a review.

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