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Home on the Range

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Wren has been traveling around the country wth her loyal Border Collie, Puck, when she lands a temp job as a mechanic on the sprawling Teller Farm and Estate in rural Montana. Everyone on the farm is warm and welcoming with the exception of her new boss, the handsome and brooding Lance Teller. The more Wren gets to know everyone at the farm, the more she realizes she isnt the only one trying to escape from their own past…and keep their own secrets.

4.9 32 reviews
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Chapter 1

I step out of my 76 Chevy pickup truck and scan the landscape.

The impressive Teller Family Farm and Ranch is sprawled out in front of me and my eyes attempt to take in all the animals, farm vehicles and people milling about on the rolling green pastures. It is slightly intimidating but it made sense seeing that the Teller name was on everything in the small Montana town I just drove through. Plus, I'd heard they were paying a decent amount to temporary summer workers.

My dog, Puck, leaps down from the cab of my truck and on to the gravel next to me. I shut the creaky truck door and lean against the warm hood, wondering where to start and who to approach first.

“Can I help you?”

I turn around and see a freckle-faced, blonde-haired kid looking back at me. He couldn’t be more than 12 or 13 years old.

“Maybe, I heard there’s still a need for summer help?”

He smiles back at me.

“Yeah, you can talk to my mom or dad,” his eyes fall on Puck. “Hey, can I pet your dog?”

“Sure,” I look down at my Border Collie. “Go say hi Puck.”

Puck seems to know exactly what I say as he always does. With his tail wagging, he approaches the kid who kneels down to put his arm around Puck’s back and scratch his face with his hands.

“He’s a good boy, Puck huh?”

“Yeah, and he is,” I reply. “I think he likes you.”

“He’s pretty cool! Anyway, mom’s in the house, follow me.”

The kid leads me towards the large white farmhouse that I parked in front of. It was just as magnificent and pristine as the farm laid out in front of it. It had the rustic charm of an old farmhouse but was clearly huge and meticulously cared for. On the wraparound porch, I turn to Puck.

“Down,” I say. Puck immediately lowers his belly to the ground. “Wait here til I get back.”

Puck responds by lowering his head to the ground between his paws and gives me a few wags of his tail to show he understands.

“Wow, he listens well huh? My name’s Jeremy, what’s yours?”

“Wren,” I say, smiling at Jeremy. I am not around a lot of kids and I am always amused by their gleefulness.

“Nice to meet you, hope you snag a spot here so I can hang out with Puck some more.”

I chuckle. They were honest too.

“He’d like that.”


We enter the house which is massive with tall vaulted ceilings featuring black, wooden beams and shiplap walls. Wide plank wood floors lead to a large living room on one side and a huge kitchen on the other. As we enter the kitchen, I can't help but gawk. It looks like it was plucked out of a magazine about French country kitchens with beautiful white cabinetry, a big apron sink, and a large pot belly gas stove. A vintage chandelier lights the area.

“Hey Ma, got another applicant for ya,” Jeremy yelled out.

A woman steps out of a side door I hadn’t even realized was there as I was too busy ogling the rest of the house.

“Hi, I’m Meredith,” the woman steps forward with her hand out. She was older and absolutely beautiful. Her gray hair was tied back in a simple braid and the sleeves on her flannel shirt were rolled up to reveal hands adorned with vintage rings and fingernails with dirt underneath. Her eyes were a sparkling blue and her whole demeanor exuded effortless grace. I’m rarely in awe of people but she was something else.

I took her hand which offered a strong grip.

“Wren, pleased to meet you. An employee down at the auto store mentioned that you were hiring for the summer, I’m hoping that’s still the case.”

She drops my hand and sighs.

“Well, all of the entry-level spots have been filled, you ever worked on a farm before?” She asks as she walks over to the stove and puts a copper kettle on a burner. She turns the knob and after a few clicks, the burner ignites with a low, blue flame.

“Yes ma’am,” I say.

“Any specialty skills? Horse training? Apiary?” She asks without pause.

“Unfortunately not,” I say awkwardly. “But I appreciate your time.”

“Wait,” she says.

I turn back to her.

“Sit, please.”

I would normally say I don’t want to bother but she didn’t seem like the type of woman to concede. If she told you to do something, you did it.

“Where are you from?”

The question always made me uneasy. My past was...complicated. Certainly too complicated to talk to a potential employer about.

“Honestly, all over. I was a military brat as a kid and for the last year, I’ve been traveling across the country finding work where I can. I enjoy working outside,” I say.

Meredith pours two cups of tea and sets one in front of me while she studies me.

“What brought you through Bryxton?”

I blew on the cup of tea to buy myself some time.

“I left California a few weeks ago, I was on a wildfire cleanup crew for several weeks.”

She nods as she considers this, I could tell she was impressed. It sounds much more...heroic than it actually was.

“What were you doing at the auto shop?”

“Purchasing a timing belt for my truck, I noticed mine was getting a little worn out,” I say.

Meredith considers this for a moment as she looks me over.

“Do you have experience with machinery?” She asks.

My eyebrows go up.

“Yeah, some,” is all I offer. I had worked on some trucks in the fire camp but always with others.

“My son usually hires his own mechanic for the summer but he’s just returned from a, er, challenging break so I think that’ll be a good place for you to start.”

“Really?!” I ask, not even trying to hide my excitement.

“Yes but before you get your hopes up, just know that Lance Teller is not the...warmest individual, you’ll have your work cut out for you,” she says with a smirk.

“I’ve had my share of difficult bosses,” I say, meaning it. I took a sip of the tea, it was still too hot but I don’t show it.

“Where do you plan to stay Wren?”

“I have camping gear, it’s easier since I have a dog. Is there a KOA campground nearby?”

She sips her tea as well and shakes her head.

“It’d be a long daily drive. We have a bunkhouse but its pretty cramped. There’s a studio apartment in the barn, you can rent that for $250 per month. It’s nothing glamorous but it’ll beat a 50 mile commute any day,” she offers.

“I don’t want to be any trouble,” I say.

“Nonsense, it gets rented out every summer but most people have their accommodations at the hostels in town. Is your dog well-behaved?” She asks.

“Yes, I know lots of dog-owners will say that but he is a very good listener. He used to herd so he is used to this environment and he’s fixed.”

She smiles at me which made me feel happy for some reason.

“Sounds great, I don’t see any issues then. Welcome to the farm hun,” she reaches her hand out again.

I take it and smile back.

“Thank you so much Ms. Teller,” I say.

“Please, Meredith.”

Meredith and I chat for a few more minutes before her phone rings.

“I really have to take this dear, can you hang out for a little bit? I will walk you down to the apartment shortly so I can show you around.”

I wave my hand.

“No problem, I’ll be out on the porch.”

Out on the porch I find Jeremy sitting with Puck right where I’d left him.

“Hi Wren, I was just keeping Puck company.”

“Thanks Jeremy, I’m sure he loved it.”

“Did you get the job?”

“Sounds like it, I’m going to be staying in the barn too,” I say.

“Oh cool! I’ll get to hang out with Puck all the time!”

I laugh.

“That’s right!”

Suddenly, Puck barks. It is just once but he is telling me someone is approaching. I squint into the late afternoon sun and try to stop my jaw from dropping.

An absolutely gorgeous man approaches the porch. From his cowboy hat down to his boots he looks like he stepped straight out of a sexy men’s wall calendar. A flannel is flung over his broad shoulder and his white, v-neck is coated in dust and sweat. It’s tight enough to see his rippling muscles stretch across his chest and biceps. His swagger is exaggerated by a slight limp. Light-colored stubble graced the lower half of his face and his eyes were ocean blue.

Even the scowl on his face was electrifying.

“Who’s mutt is that?”

My eyebrows immediately furrow but Jeremy answers before I have a chance.

“Wren,” he points to me. “He’s a good dog though Lance, you don’t have to worry about him.”

Oh shit, this is the Lance? As in my new boss?

“And who is Wren?” Lance turns his scowl to me as he talks about me as if I’m not even here. I am thoroughly annoyed now on top of being awestruck by this breathtaking man.

“I am, Meredith just hired me,” I say wishing my voice sounded a little more confident.

Lance steps up on to the porch and approaches me. He is a good five inches taller than I am. His musky scent of deodorant and sun-drenched sweat invades my nostrils and his blue eyes bore into me. I suddenly feel incredibly exposed.

“I do the hiring around here, and I certainly don’t have space for a dog I don’t know or trust around the farm,” he says. I can tell he is trying to intimidate me and, frankly, it is working. I narrow my eyes at him and stand up a bit taller.

“Look, I can appreciate your protectiveness, but I deserve a chance just like everyone else. Do you really think she’d hire me if I wasn’t trustworthy?” I cock my head to the side in question.

He glares at me even more.

“What’s going on here? Lance?!”

The screen door creaks as Meredith steps out on to the porch and pushes Lance back a step to give me some space. I let out a breath I didn’t know I was holding.

“You hired someone without talking to me? Someone with a dog?”

Meredith raises her eyebrows and folds her arms across her chest.

“You’re damn right I did. I’m still the owner Lance and frankly, you can’t do it all yourself. She has experience and she’s going to rent out the studio too so just get. over. it.”

In between each of her last words, she pokes Lance in his broad chest.

“Mom, you don’t even know this dog, or this woman! We have livestock, we can’t chance it.”

“It’s called instinct son, just cause yours was wrong once or twice doesn’t mean you shouldn’t listen to it,” she spat back. I see Lance’s jaw tighten.

Meredith, whatever she is referring to, just struck a nerve.

Lance’s eyes shoot to me.

“Fine but if there’s one slip up, you’re both out of here.”

Lance turns on his heel and storms off the porch towards the guest house. Meredith rolls her eyes and turns to me.

“Well, let’s go see your new digs!”

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