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A Wild Raven

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23 year old Raven is about to meet her match in 36 year old Coal – the eldest son of Devonshire Ranch. This cowboy has a broken heart and distrusts deeply – but so does Raven. Having no home and wandering about from state to state, Raven looks for temporary work anywhere she can to work with horses. The unlikely match will bond over their love of equines – and their shared power of being able to communicate with animals. THEMES: COZY, WESTERN ROMANCE, HORSES, COWBOYS, RANCH LIFESTYLE, AGE-GAP, SMALL TOWN.

Romance / Erotica
C. Swallow
4.8 8 reviews
Age Rating:

Chapter 1

Raven’s POV

It had been three days since I arrived for my stay on Devonshire Ranch. I was getting paid to help with the upkeep of the horses, plus any other odd jobs where they might need an extra hand.

It’s busy and wild, that’s for sure.

It was a massive ranch, with lots of family running amok.

Uncle Grey and Aunt Jean welcomed me to their homestead on the right of the property. The main homestead was a massive mansion run by Ken Wilde, Trish Wilde and their four daughters and two sons.

The four daughters were Annabelle, Izabella, Bella and Bell… the last two who were twins.

I thought naming them all similar was somewhat ridiculous until I met them, and they were all so utterly different that I just didn’t care anymore how their names crisscrossed.

Annabelle was 35 and a vet, usually in town during the day, she was the eldest daughter. Izabella was 17 and always dressed in black, staring out a window reading a book. Bella and Bell were 16, the only twins I had ever met that didn’t enjoy each other’s company. Bell had already dropped out of school and moved out – more like, ‘ran away’ – to live in town with her mysterious boyfriend. Bella hated boys and just wanted to work hard on the ranch.

The two Wilde sons I hadn’t met yet, although I would very soon – since they had gone off searching for missing cows, as the fences at the back of the 10 thousand acre ranch had been sabotaged and the cows had been chased, yes, chased – far, far away. Timothy was the youngest, fourteen and I was told he was quietly happy to be a cowboy, with a girlfriend, Haline, staying out at the ranch from school for the holidays.

Haline and I had become good friends even though I was twenty-three and she was nine years younger. We hung out together since we were both guests this holiday season.

The eldest son was called Coal, he was thirty-six years old.

Apparently he had – had-had – a wife from a big city, but she divorced and took their three kids to that big city, on the other side of the world. That happened two years ago and they had been married ten years before that. I did not understand how his ex-wife managed to leave with full custody so easily, but apparently she knew people who knew people who knew all the right fuckin’ people – and by the time she managed to take his kids away, Coal was unapproachable.

At least that’s what everyone constantly murmured about, how changed Coal was. From super upbeat and friendly, to… I guess taking a page out of Izabella’s book. Even though I had not met Coal yet, Izabella just looked angry all the time, I hadn’t seen her smile once, so I imagined that’s what he looked like. Even Haline wouldn’t approach her.

Everyone also talked incessantly about Coal’s three kids, all sons, whom everyone adored, who were raised on the Ranch, until they were taken by the mother.

Honestly, his ex-wife sounded like an EF-4 tornado, either that or Coal was actually the nightmare.

I guess I’d make my mind up on that, on my own when I met him. I hadn’t done much with the horses yet but general clean-up around the stables because Coal was meant to teach me how to tame some of the horses. That’s what his parents had promised me. Ken and Trish had welcomed me to the Ranch because I was a wanderer.

I was just moving about from city to city looking for temporary work, because my past was… complicated.

My father died when I was a baby.

My mother died when I was two.

I was adopted after that, then put into foster care, then just constantly shifted between families.

I wasn’t ‘white’ and I wasn’t ‘native’. I was half, half. And I had no idea what to identify with, I just felt like Raven – me, myself and my own personality, separate from everything else including whatever the hell skin color I had.

But every family I was taken into, either wanted to force me to identify as super religious, or tried to convince me I must be from this tribe or that tribe and I should reach out and connect.

But the whole time I just didn’t care, I barely had a family to start with, why would I care where their families family came from? No one had proof of anything. I was a nobody.

Well, maybe others would care about that kind of stuff, but I found the whole idea of me having a past worth acknowledging, way too painful to even think about.

So far, Ken and Trish didn’t make assumptions about my appearance, which was nice.

They were both amazing and I had never fit in anywhere as much as here, even though it had only been three days... and I was only staying two weeks through Christmas. I, myself, was from a big city, so even though my passion was horses, I had random, limited experience from moving here and there.

Sometimes I’d work at a local supermarket if things got desperate, so I had that experience for a resume. My only possession was my leaky sedan. I say leaky because every week something leaked, the engine, the radiator, hell, one day even the ‘blinker fluid’ might leak and I wouldn’t be surprised.

Somehow the thing still managed to run though – probably from all the money I put into constantly fixing it.

It was stupid to keep it but since it was the first thing I ever bought that felt like my property, I was kind of hard-assed about letting it go.

So, anyway, I was staying with Uncle Grey and Aunt Jean in the guest house next to the main ranch house. They had a spare room which was, I’ll admit, kind of sad to be in. They could never have kids so they tended to house temporary people like me, I guess to feel like they had someone to take care of every now and then. So even already, I felt like I was adopted once again, considering how much they fussed over me.

But for once, I didn’t feel resentment or suspicion.

Probably because I was leaving in a week and a half.

“Timothy,” Haline whispers next to me, already looking like she’s going to cry when she sees two cowboys coming in from the left gate to the front of the homestead.

We had been sitting on the front steps of the gigantic porch, watching the sun set and waiting for her boyfriend to come back.

I had been waiting for Coal… and I’ll admit, I wasn’t feeling any particular way about meeting him.

He was just going to be that ‘horsey-person’ who’d teach me more about horses.

Probably a little harshly, I expected some pudgy, unshaven, holes-in-boots, saggy depressed jeans, sorrowful looking dude who’d no doubt bitch about his ex-wife incessantly. My expectations were mean, unfounded, bitchy even – but for some reason that’s just what my brain did, it painted together an image of the divorced dad who lost his kids and hated everyone.

Or maybe I was projecting since I had no parents and often felt resentment for being alone most of my life.


Um, anyway.

So… anyway…


My thoughts scramble.

I breathe a little funny, as I barely focus on Haline yelling out a welcome to her boyfriend. The two teens embrace but my eyes are focused on the horse coming in last.

The big black horse, Galvin – everyone talked about their favorite gelding. He was the biggest horse, the only draft horse they owned, rescued from some abandoned farmstead. The story went that he had become rather wild until Coal brought him in and fixed him up, now everyone loved Galvin.

But I wasn’t really looking at Galvin.

“Coal!” Trish rushes out of the house, eager to see her first son back safe, she runs down the steps to meet him – but her rush isn’t just past me and that’s it, rather, it’s past me with her hand outstretched and then clamping down onto my elbow with a strength I cannot refuse.

I’m laughing awkwardly as she drags me down out onto the grass, pulling me so swiftly to the side to meet Coal as he approaches from the gate, passing Haline and Timothy.

I was not ready for this, and my hands had been stuffed in the pockets of the extra large coat they gave me – which I now feel very awkward about because it was also Coals. I feel like I’ve stolen it as I hold my hands out of the pockets stiffly, standing by his mother’s side as he walks Galvin up to us, Coal is still in the saddle up high.

I keep staring at the horse’s face – and Galvin keeps looking at me like he is reading my mind.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know that look. Coal is one of a kind, isn’t he? You really are crushing on my human, aren’t you, you silly girl?

“…Raven,” Trish had been talking about something, she squeezes my arm, “Raven – this is Raven,” she keeps saying my name, and I look at her and then up at Coal, “What?” I ask her again, “Sorry I…”

“You weren’t listening,” Coal tells me.

I stare at his leg.

I had looked him in the eye once and once was enough.

So the stories were true.

He was the eldest but half related to the rest of his siblings, because Coal looked like me. He looked half native, the same long dark hair, tied back the same as mine, with the same darkest brown eyes… and um, he was kind of very, very, very fit.

He didn’t look thiry-six, that’s for sure.

He looked twenty-six.

He looked damn sexy, that’s what I’m tryna’ say, right?!

“So, Raven?” Trish had been talking again, repeating the question again, but I still didn’t hear what she said.

I had just become an instant introvert, thinking so deep in my head, I couldn’t hear.

I’m too embarrassed to say ‘what’ again, so I just say…

“Yes,” I smile.

I have no idea what I said yes to.

Trish smiles with tears in her eyes and when I gulp and look up to Coal again, he is doing that thing that cowboys do naturally, holding his hands on his left thigh, but he is just looking at me, with the same look Galvin is giving me.

We know you didn’t listen to a single word she said.

“You’re going to love it,” Trish nods to the horse, and Coal leans down with one hand, offering me a leg up…


Did I just agree to a horse ride?

I was not ready for this! I was not ready!

Say something normal, Raven, fuck.

“Nice to meet you, Coal,” I force out a nice sentence, talking to his boot.

That boot comes out of the stirrup, so I can put my foot in while I grab his hand.

It happens so fast, when I imagined it happening slow.

The moment his hand clasps mine – he helps me do the rest.

My body just rises, twists and floats down into the saddle in front of him.

He was that strong.

How was anyone that strong.

I don’t have time to be embarrassed while snug in between Coal’s crotch and legs, because I’m still dazzled by how fast he hoisted me up here like nothing.

I look to Trish with my mouth agape and she winks, knowing it was impressive.

“I told you he was strong,” she laughs and Coal sighs in annoyance but also with tons of love.

“We’ll be back in an hour,” Coal says simply.

His voice is like, entering my bloodstream. I can’t even think straight.

I don’t even know what’s happening.

I should have listened.

Galvin elegantly trots around and then we follow a path into the forest behind the homestead.

I try to put two and two together.

They had all talked about Coal building his own wood cabin, so maybe he was taking me there.

I surmise that makes sense.

It was a house tour – of his small house. Right? That sounds right.

Everything that’s happening with the horse and Coal behind me, hahaha… ha… I try very hard not to focus on the movements, especially the way we can’t help our bodies knocking into each other over and over again.

I just focus on the beauty and smells of the forest.

“I’m sorry, for the smell,” Coal is so softly spoken, so polite, not at all cold like I’d thought he’d be, “I haven’t showered in three days.”

That’s odd… because I thought he smelled amazing.

And that’s kind of what I blurt.

“It’s all good. You smell great, amazing! Really!” I make the mistake of looking over my shoulder, to see his eyes rather intensely studying my reaction.

It freaks me out and I immediately look forward again, holding onto the horn of the saddle so I have something to focus my grip on.

At the end of the trail, Galvin comes to a stop in front of his wooden cabin, Coal jumps off and helps me down second.

I do my best to avoid all eye contact.

He was a cowboy from every girl’s fantasy. No, seriously.

I walk with him up to the cabin’s front, nestled in nature, it’s a perfect camping or hunting spot.

Okay, I’ll admit, I’m barely taking in anything around me. I’m just hyper focused on where he stands or walks or moves, or how he reaches around me to open the door, and waits for me to go first – a gentleman.

I mean, what else should I expect from a cowboy?!

Coal ushers me into the cabin.

Everything is quaint.

There’s a little fireplace, one couch/bed – and a tiny kitchen.

I see three little horses hand carved from wood on the table, and I already know who they’re for.

His three sons.

I try not to stare at them too long, as I stand in the cabin and turn to Coal, as he waits for me to take everything in.

“Do you like it?” he asks, “I haven’t shown anyone yet, I finished building this place myself just before the cows got out.”

“I like it,” I answer, kind of robotically. I like you too, but – fuck, why have I reverted to a twelve year old talking to their crush for the first time? I can’t think any thoughts coherently.

“Why are you here?” he asks me.

“The Devonshire Ranch?” I ask. He nods. “Temporary work. Uncle Grey and Aunt Jean.”

“Their last charity case caused them a lot of trouble and stole from them,” he murmurs, seriously, propping his boot on a chest, “Don’t cause them trouble and don’t disrespect my mother again.”

“I was a little dazed before, sorry, I haven’t eaten, not that they haven’t fed me, I was just… nauseous in the morning and waited,” I think of an excuse, any excuse, “And I won’t cause any trouble. I love horses. I love Galvin. What a beautiful draft horse.”

“He’ll like you too, he does well with any kind of person, stupid or intelligent, so he won’t cause you any trouble while you help,” he explains, “Do you mind waiting here, I’m going to swim in the creek to clean off real quick.”

“Can I come see the creek –”

“I’ll be naked,” Coal explains, not even blinking, “No offense, I don’t want to put you in that kind of position... darling?”

I stare at the fireplace like it’s oh-so-interesting when he calls me darling.

“Oh, of course not, I’ll wait here with Galvin.”

“Good,” Coal likes that I just agreed.

I smile as he turns to a rack where he has a new set of clothes. He grabs a set with blue jeans and a white shirt and walks out quite fast, looking like he is desperate to get away from me.

The way he powerwalks is both awesomely strong and insulting.

Was I that revolting to be around?

I look at Galvin who isn’t even tied up outside, but he waits close by, staring at me, you’re a funny girl, then after the look is final and long enough to make me feel inadequate, he turns to follow Coal to the creek.

I stay outside and sit on the small porch.

The whole place might be small enough for one, at most, two, people – but each part of this cabin is made with intricate detail.

I see art in the wood in random places, carvings of more horses and other wildlife. Owls, turtles… ravens… but most carvings are of the horses.

Coal loved horses too. I mean, he was a cowboy, duh…

I wander back into the cabin and look around, and eventually I spy a letter near the kitchen bench and I slyly fold it open and read it.

I shouldn’t read it but here I am.

Dearest Coal,

Jean and I met a gorgeous girl in town, she’s called Raven.

My heart thumps.

I fold it closed for a second, feeling rather nervous about what is to come next in this letter about me.

I open it and speed read.

She was looking for work as a stable hand. We accepted her for this Christmas period, a bit of extra help is always appreciated and she needs somewhere to stay anyway. I’ll send Raven your way.



P.S. Maybe you could try dating again! Raven reminds me of the kind of girl we always pictured you’d end up with. We’re all thinking about you. Be safe. Please stay for dinner more often, Coal, you know we will always be here for you. Don’t go through this alone.

It’s so personal by the end, I feel guilt ridden for going that far. However, the dating thing, and the suggestion about me is embarrassing but also a compliment. I am conflicted and feel weird.

So I wasn’t just hired to help out.

They were trying to set Coal up?

With me.

A complete stranger?

They must be desperate, if they’re going to the lengths of hoping hired help will bring him out of his isolated thoughts.

I stand at the bench for a long time, my fingers on the edge of the letter, feeling deep in thought.

I hear some nearby crunches outside from Galvin’s hooves… but he walked slower… behind Coal… which meant Coal was already here.

I turn around and Coal is leaning on the doorframe, dressed in fresh clothes, still with dripping wet black hair let loose, drying around him.

He looks at me and my guilty expression.

“There’s nothing of value in here to steal,” he murmurs, suspiciously.

“I wasn’t looking for something to steal, I was just reading the…” the letter. I dig my own grave already. I shut my lips, then quickly add, “I’m sorry… I saw my name on the inside and…”

“It was folded shut,” Coal corrects me, still polite as ever.

He doesn’t make a big deal out of me making a total fool of myself. I’m not sure if that’s nice or him just enjoying making me sweat.

“Your mom is a very nice person,” I say anyway, “And I am very grateful to be here for Christmas. I promise to help out any way I can. I won’t be a nuisance. I’m just… I should stop talking, shouldn’t I…” I trail off with an awkward smile, “I’m very sorry for reading that letter.”

“It’s okay, you’re young, I’ll let it slide this time,” Coal looks me up and down very quickly, raises a brow as if to say, congratulations, you’ve been demoted to the bratty-little-sister role.

There was not a chance that he would date me now.

Why was I even thinking like that?!

I walk out with him, already addicted to his voice. It was so quiet, yet so clear, so sure – and so knowing.

He didn’t say anything he didn’t mean.

As we walk back to Galvin, this time I’m helped up first, and then Coal sits behind me.

I look at the back of Galvin’s mane, patting it to distract myself.

We head off back to the homestead, without a word said between us.

I can feel his eyes though, burning through me with finality.




I’d be tolerated while I was here, and then I’d be sent on my way.

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leenho84: Me encanta la amo pero sobre todo te amo escritora 🥰

Fany: Me gustó todo se lo recomiendo a mis amigas jikokas jeje

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