the third heartwarming installment of Darlene Panzera’s Montana Hearts series,
a hot-shot rodeo star tries to win the tender heart of his biggest critic
the fun. The famous rodeo rider has spent most of life chasing down steers and
championship rodeo belts, but after an accident in the arena, his career is put
on temporary hold. When he’s offered a chance to stay at Collins Country
Cabins, Jace jumps at the opportunity to spend more time with the beautiful but
wary Delaney Collins.
business a success, raising her daughter single-handedly, and volunteering at
the local wildlife shelter, Delaney doesn’t have time for love. Even though
she’s determined to not let the handsome cowboy under her skin, Delaney can’t
deny how much she looks forward to every day with him. She’s determined to be
friends with the handsome cowboy, nothing more, even though Delaney’s heart
flutters every time he draws near.
when a violent poaching ring escalates out of control, Delaney must trust that
Jace is the true country hero she hopes he is.
From MONTANA HEARTS: TRUE COUNTRY HERO by Darlene Panzera. Copyright © 2016 by Darlene Panzera. Reprinted by permission of Avon, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.
Excerpt from MONTANA HEARTS: TRUE COUNTRY HERO
The cowboy winked at her. Delaney Collins lowered her camera lens and glanced around twice to make sure, but no one else behind the roping chute was looking his direction. Heat flooded her cheeks as he followed up the wink with a grin, and a multitude of wary warnings sounded off in her heart. The last thing she’d wanted was to catch the rodeo circuit star’s interest. She pretended to adjust the settings, then raised the camera to her eye once again, determined to fulfill her duty and take the required photos of the handsome dark-haired devil.
Except he wouldn’t stand still. He climbed off his buckskin horse, handed the reins to a nearby gatekeeper, gave a young kid in the stands a high five, and then walked straight toward her.
Delaney tightened her hold on the camera, wishing she could stay hidden behind the lens, and considered several different ways to slip away unnoticed. But she knew she couldn’t avoid him forever. Not when it was her job to shadow the guy and capture the highlights from his steer-wrestling runs. Maybe he only wanted to check in to make sure she was getting the right shots?
Most cowboys like Jace Aldridge had large egos to match their championship-sized belt buckles, one reason she usually avoided these events and preferred capturing images of plants and animals. But when the lead photographer for True Montana Magazine called in sick before the event and they needed a fill-in, Delaney had been both honored and excited to accept the position. Perhaps after the magazine viewed her work, they’d hire her for more photo ops. Then she wouldn’t have to rely solely on the profits from her share of her family’s guest ranch to support herself.
She swallowed hard as the stocky, dark-haired figure, whose image continuously graced the cover of every western periodical, smiled, his eyes on her—yes, definitely her—as he drew near.
He stretched out his hand. “Jace Aldridge.”
She stared at his chapped knuckles. Beside her, Sammy Jo gave her arm a discreet nudge, urging her to accept his handshake. After all, it would be impolite to refuse. Even if, in addition to riding rodeo, he was a hunter, an adversary of the animals she and her wildlife rescue group regularly sought to save.
Lifting her gaze to meet his, she replied, “Delaney Collins.”
“Nice to meet you,” Jace said, his rich, baritone voice smooth and … dangerously distracting. His hand gave hers a warm squeeze, and although he glanced toward Sammy Jo to include her in his greeting, it was clear who held his real interest. “Are you with the press?”
Delaney glanced down at the Canon EOS 7D with its high-definition 20.2 megapixel zoom lens hanging down from the strap around her neck. “Yes. I’m taking photos for True Montana.”
The edges of his mouth curved into another smile. “I haven’t seen you around before.”
“I—I’m not around much, but Sammy Jo here,” she said, motioning toward her friend to divert his attention, “used to race barrels. You must know her. Sammy Jo Macpherson?”
Jace gave her friend a brief nod. “I believe we’ve met.”
“Del’s a great photographer,” Sammy Jo said, bouncing the attention back to her.
Jace grinned. “I bet.”
“It’s the lens,” Delaney said, averting her gaze, and Sammy Jo shot her a disgruntled look as if to say, Smarten up, this guy’s into you. Don’t blow it!
Except she had no desire to get involved in a relationship right now. And definitely not one with a hunter. She needed to focus on her two-and-a-half-year-old daughter, Meghan, and help her family’s guest ranch bring in enough money to support them. Especially since her ex-husband hadn’t made a child support payment for the last nine months. The money she did make she spent on lawyer fees trying to sort it all out.
Jace pulled his straw hat off his head and held the brim flat against his chest. “What are you two lovely ladies doing after—”
“Hey, Aldridge,” a balding, middle-aged man with gray sideburns cut in with a shout. “Have you given any more thought to my offer to come hunt big game this fall?”
Delaney stiffened as Gavin McKinley joined them. His property lay a short distance down the trail behind her family’s ranch and sometimes he crossed the line. In more ways than one.
“Don’t have the time,” Jace told him, then turned his attention back to her. “Del—”
“Delaney Collins,” Gavin exclaimed, interrupting again. “Is that you?”
She’d already taken three steps back, hoping she could slink off while the others were talking, but she hadn’t been fast enough. Gavin grabbed hold of her arm and spun her around. “It is you. I suppose you’ll need to pick up some extra photography jobs now that Labor Day’s approaching. Isn’t Collins Country Cabins about ready to close up for the season?”
Delaney shook her head. “No. Actually, we’ve decided to stay open during the fall this year.”
“Stay open?” Gavin’s jaw dropped and he squinted at her as if he hadn’t heard her right. “What for? Is your family trying to steal my business?”
“My family does not steal.” Delaney swallowed the bitter saliva gathering at the back of her throat.
He also rented out guest cabins, not nearly as nice as her family’s, but perfect for the barbarian hunters he housed, equipped, and led on backcountry expeditions.
Jace stepped between them, forcing Gavin to drop his arm away from her. “Mr. McKinley, you’ll have to excuse us. I’m scheduled for a private photo shoot before it’s my turn to compete and we only have twenty minutes.”
Who’s Who in Montana Hearts: True Country Hero
I am so excited to share the release of the third book in my Montana Hearts series with you! The characters have become dear to my heart and I hope you will love this suspenseful, fun-loving romance as much as I have. First, let me introduce you!
Jace Aldridge—He’s a rodeo champion whose over-confidence leads to an accident in the arena which injures his trusted horse, Rio. Now he must find a local ranch in Montana with an empty stall where his 4-legged friend can heal. Jace also hopes to win the affection of Delaney, the sweet blonde photographer, who with the click of her camera not only captured his image, but his heart.
Delaney Collins—Recently divorced and youngest of the 3 adult siblings to return to her family’s guest ranch when their father is injured, her primary focus is providing for her young daughter. But when her family insists she invite the flirtatious rodeo cowboy to stay at their ranch, her heart softens toward Jace, even though there are rivals trying their best to keep them apart.
Meghan—Almost three, she knows a thing or two about saving animals from her mother, but is naive enough to befriend the fun, playful cowboy who makes her laugh, plays games, and gives her piggy-back rides…until Jace leaves, and there’s no guarantee he’ll come back.
Jed Collins—Delaney’s father is glad his children have come home to operate the ranch as equal partners, even if he has a hard time showing it. He’s always believed things must be done his way, but when poachers threaten the family, he fears for their safety and realizes he might have to rely on others for protection.
Gavin McKinley—Both neighbor and rival outdoor outfitter, it’s unclear if the sheriff’s son is friend or foe. He makes no secret of the fact he’d like to get his hands on the Collins land, but he appears as disturbed as they when a third outfitter moves into the area.
Ryan Tanner—At first Jace thinks he’s a ranch hand, then finds the wrangler is engaged to Delaney’s sister, Bree. But it isn’t until Jace discovers the man is his own long-lost cousin that he understands why Ryan is looking at him funny. This leads Jace to question what other secrets his mother, who is running for Governor, has kept from him?
And does it have anything to do with the danger threatening him and Delaney?
Thank you for reading! Please leave a comment below and answer the question: Who is your favorite fictional character of all time?
PANZERA writes sweet, fun-loving
romance and is a member of the Romance Writers of America’s Greater Seattle
chapter. Her career launched when her novella “The Bet” was picked by Avon
Books and New York Times bestselling author Debbie Macomber to be published within
Debbie’s own novel, Family Affair. Darlene says, “I love writing stories that
help inspire people to laugh, value relationships, and pursue their dreams.”
Born and raised in New Jersey, Darlene is now a resident of the Pacific
Northwest, where she lives with her husband and three children. When not
writing she enjoys spending time with her family and her two horses, and loves
camping, hiking, photography, and lazy days at the lake.