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Texas Heroes_ Volume 1

By:Jean Brashear

Chapter One

Morning Star, Texas

A man she’d never met had bequeathed her a house in Texas.

And then exposed her father’s whole life for a lie.

On the heels of finding her business partner and lover in bed with the woman he’d deemed more proper to marry, Maddie Rose Collins would have thought nothing could surprise her now.

She would have been wrong.

Here she was in Texas after driving cross-country for three days. Halfway up the dusty road that led to the big white house on the tree-dotted hill, Maddie stopped, her heart drumming.

A shiver ran through her. In the deepest part of her dreams, she knew this place—never mind that she had never laid eyes on it before, had never even known it existed.

A picture of this house should be in the dictionary right beside the word home.

Ah, you’re a hopeless romantic, Maddie. Only one of Robert’s scathing indictments. But she’d never been able to please Robert van Appel, and she was through trying to become someone she wasn’t.

She here she was, staring hungrily at a house that might have stepped right out of her childhood longings. It was the haven her father’s wanderlust had denied them, the kind of home she’d given up hoping for many years ago. She rolled down the car window and drew in a deep breath of country air.

Two stories, white, deep wraparound porch. Trees cast welcome shade, a lacy green overskirt billowing to either side of the structure. Spotting a porch swing curved Maddie’s lips in delight. She could already picture herself there in the heat of the day with a cool glass of iced tea. Drops of moisture would roll down the sides of the glass, falling to her bare legs, cool and welcome.

I wronged your father, Maddie Rose, but it’s too late to make it right with him, so I’m giving you the house that should have been his.

Thank you, Sam Gallagher. I need this.

Her whole life was upside down. She had money from dissolving the partnership. She had restaurants lined up to hire her as chef. The whole world was open to Maddie…

And she had no idea what to do next.

So Sam’s bequest was a godsend. She needed time and space to think, and here she would have both. Assured by her lawyer that it was all legit, Maddie had packed her car and left New York, here to explore a heritage she’d never known she had.

She would put Maddie back together here and figure out where to go next.

Just then, a piteous cry sounded, and she sought the source.

A calf in the pen to the left worried at something near its feet, but Maddie couldn’t see anything for the weeds growing just outside the fence. She looked toward the house, wondering why someone didn’t come to help.

The calf bawled again, and the heart Robert had damned as too soft wouldn’t let her linger. She opened the door and emerged, her sandals turning whiter with dust with every step.

“What’s the matter, sweetheart?” she crooned.

The calf’s head reared up; it took a jerky step backward but couldn’t move far, bawling louder.

A cow nearby stirred restlessly. Maddie gave her a glance, then looked back at the ugly stretch of barbed wire tangled around the calf’s foot.

Maddie eyed the weeds with suspicion. Snakes. Texas had snakes. She’d never been here, but everyone knew that. Maybe she’d just go to the house for help.

The calf cried out again, and Maddie saw blood well in the new gash. The baby couldn’t wait. “Hold on, sweetie. Just let me find something to—” She spotted a big rock and chucked it at the weeds, listening for a rustling sound.

The calf jumped back, bawling louder. The cow bellowed.

Smooth, Maddie. She eyed the ground between her and them. “Hello? Anyone here?” She looked around, wishing someone would notice and come to help, but there wasn’t a soul in sight and the calf was flailing around, ripping the gash deeper.

The section of weeds was sparse and only about two feet in depth. Surely she’d be okay.

Maddie took a deep breath and waded into her first taste of Texas.

Sitting in the kitchen of the place that had once been home, Boone Gallagher expected to hear his father’s booming voice, unable to imagine anything bringing Sam Gallagher down. Sam had fought land and weather and lack of money to wrangle a living from this harsh country. Boone still couldn’t believe that his father was gone.

Or that it was forever too late to heal the breach.

A cup of coffee he didn’t need steamed on the scarred maple tabletop. He’d done his homework here all those years ago, listening to his mother hum church hymns while she worked, back in those golden days when this house had still been a home. So many years gone. So much loss. Exhausted by more than a day of travel from Asia to Texas, memories knotted in his chest, Boone sagged in the creaking chair.