FALLING HARD
by Stacy Finz
Pub date: 4/11/2017
Genre: Contemporary Romance
In the beautiful Sierra Nevada mountain town of Nugget, California,
falling hard is all too easy . . .
This is the summer of Annie Sparks—at least according to her. No more
supporting lazy jerks or coddling irresponsible family or taking care
of anyone who doesn’t deserve her help. Instead she’s headed to
an estate in a remote mountain town, to spend her summer with her
boots covered in mud and her hands working the earth. Love is the
last thing on her mind.
Nugget is a long way from Logan Jenkins’ old life as a Navy SEAL. But
before he starts fresh in the private sector, he receives a bequest
from a man he never knew: his biological father. To learn more about
his background, Logan makes his way to his late father’s estate,
where he is immediately knocked on his heels by an incredible woman
with a heart of gold.
Annie’s not looking for a fling, and Logan knows Nugget can’t be forever,
so falling in love should be impossible. But when they’re together,
time stops, and suddenly the impossible seems like the only thinkable
option . . .
fh- excerpt
Chapter 1
The big gate stopped Logan Jenkins in his tracks. He didn’t know what he was thinking, coming here like this. But his curiosity had gotten the better of him. A man ought to know where he came from and who his people were, he supposed.

Until a week ago, he hadn’t given a good goddamn. Then, boom, life had changed with just one phone call.

He pulled his pickup to the side of the road, slung his backpack over his shoulder, and got out to have a look around. Picturesque and peaceful, nothing like the hellholes he’d come from.

The gate was impressive with its curlicue ironwork, but not much for keeping anyone out. To prove it, Logan hopped the twelve-foot fence, avoiding the top’s sharp, ornamental spears, in under a minute and hiked up the long gravel road. At the peak of the hill he paused and let out a low whistle. Even from a hundred yards away, he could see that the house put the gate to shame. It looked like one of those mega–ski chalets plucked from an Alpine mountainside. Lots of large windows, tiered decks, and big log siding. It was built to appear rustic, though it was anything but. The landscape wasn’t bad either. A river snaked through miles of rolling pastures with the Sierra Nevada mountain range looming in the background.

This is where he would’ve grown up if things had been different. Instead, for the last twelve years he hadn’t belonged anywhere—or everywhere, depending on how he looked at it. His last address—be- sides the apartment he shared with Gabe when he was stateside—had been Afghanistan. A far cry from Rosser Ranch.
No one tried to stop him, so he continued down the driveway, to- ward the house, taking in the sights. A four-car garage with a guest house. A front lawn as big as a soccer field. And lots of flagstone pathways. Someone went to a lot of trouble to make the gardens seem native to match the surrounding countryside.

By now he would’ve expected at least a dog to have barked at his presence. Crappy security. But he suspected there wasn’t much crime in Nugget, California. Just a spot on the map, really. According to a quick search on the internet, its claim to fame was the Western Pacific Railroad Museum, which offered a train ride through gold country. The blurb he’d read said Nugget was still very much a railroad town, now a crew-change site for Union Pacific. Before the railroad, there’d been the Gold Rush. But ultimately, the pioneers had made their fortunes from timber and cattle. Major cattle ranches still covered the countryside.

Logan laughed to himself. Who would’ve thought his ancestors were cowboys? The closest he’d ever gotten to livestock was the Kochis’ goat and sheep herds in the Hindu Kush. Here, he could see plenty of cows dotting the hills in the foreground like a poster advertising rural life on the farm. Pretty domesticated and attractive, he had to admit. Just not for him. He maneuvered better in chaos. Thrived in it, actually.

When he got close to the house, he circled around it to the back- yard. A couple of hammocks swayed under a log cabana. The large, kidney-shaped pool was tempting in the heat. The whole upscale setup was very dude-ranch spa.

So far, he wasn’t feeling his roots. No cosmic connection with the land. All he was feeling was a shitload of money. The old man was supposed to be buried in the family plot on the property. Maybe Logan would check that out and see if he could summon the ghost of the man who’d given him life. Thank him for being a douche bag.

Logan ambled down a well-worn path designated by a split-rail trail fence that jutted off from the pool area toward a stable. Like the house, the building was constructed of logs with two cupolas and a weather vane on top. It was probably where Rosser had kept the thoroughbreds or whatever kind of horses he’d raised.
“You’re late,” a woman called to him. She leaned against the side of the barn, shielding her eyes from the sun, a cowboy hat pulled over her forehead.

“Excuse me?” He walked toward her. Up close, he noticed her com- bat boots right off the bat. They looked funny with the bubblegum-pink tank top and short floral skirt that flared a few inches above her knees.

When he met her eyes—big ones that reminded him of golden brown sugar—she smiled and he went to DEFCON 3 in less than a heartbeat. It was like sunshine, that smile. So damn guileless that it instantly put him on alert. Where he’d come from everyone had an agenda.

Stacy Finz is an award-winning reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle.
After more than twenty years covering notorious serial killers,
naked-tractor-driving farmers, fanatical foodies, aging rock stars
and weird Western towns, she figured she finally had enough material
to launch a career writing fiction. In 2012 she won the Daphne du
Maurier Award for unpublished single-title mystery/suspense. She
lives in Berkeley, California with her husband.
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