Welcome to Farraday Country, a twist on the favorite 7 Brides for 7 Brothers theme set in cattle-ranching west Texas, with all the friends, family and fun that fans have come to expect from USA TODAY Bestselling author Chris Keniston.
Born to be a cattleman, Finn Farraday is living his dream—running the family's West Texas ranch. Even though his brothers have found the loves of their lives, Finn isn't looking for a wife. Not even if she literally falls into his arms.
City Girl Joanna Gaines knows she's not cut out for the nine to five rat race. But the ambling West Texas pace isn’t her speed either. That is until a ghost of an idea, and a last minute career-building opportunity lands her in the arms of the one good man that got away.
More Audio available in Farraday Country:
Release date: February 28, 2017
Publisher: Indie House Publishing
Print pages: 165
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Four years at Texas A&M and Joanna Gaines had seen a lot of cow country. But not all the ranchland near College Station combined could compare to the vast nothing called West Texas.
Pulled over at the side of the road, she'd taken a drink from the cooler and downed most of it in a single gulp. At the beginning of her trek from ghost town to town, she'd drink her favorite cola. Not long into this new adventure of hours between destination and the unforgiving Texas sun beating down on a person, she'd bought a cooler to keep in her trunk and stocked it with bottled water. Folding the marked up map in front of her and placing it in the glove compartment, she figured she had to be getting pretty close to Finn's.
In her breast pocket, her phone buzzed. Linda. "No, I haven't been eaten by a coyote. No, I haven't been bitten by a snake. And no, I have not been captured by Indians."
"I did not say a word about Indians," her sister huffed.
"But you did mention coyotes, snakes, and, I believe, mountain lions."
"It was bobcats."
"Oh yeah, forgive me." Joanna took another drink of water. "Bobcats. Right."
"You know, if you got a regular nine to five job in an office like normal people with a college degree, I wouldn't have to worry."
Joanna screwed the cap on the empty bottle and tossed it into the back seat. She was going to have to clean the thing out soon, her interior was beginning to look like a salvage yard. "You like worrying. It gives you purpose in life."
"I'd rather be adrift if it'll keep you within spitting distance of a real city."
"As opposed to a fake city." On the other side of the fence a few horses grazed in the distance. One in particular picked that moment to look up at her. The beautiful animal and her foal would make a stunning picture. "Listen, I need to get going, we can pick up on this old argument another day."
"And what about Peter?"
Camera strap in hand, Joanna blew out a sigh. "What about him?"
"He came by my office yesterday."
"Look, I'm sorry, but one very boring dinner date does not a relationship make."
"I think he wants another chance."
She really wanted to take the photograph before the horses moved. "If he comes by again tell him I've joined the Peace Corps."
"French Foreign Legion?" Camera strap over her shoulder, she slowly ducked between the taught fence wires to the same side as the horses and eased toward the only shade tree she'd seen for miles.
"I'm not going to lie."
She glanced back toward her car and the map she'd folded away and smiled. "Tell him I've come home to my husband."
* * * *
"Man that feels good." Finn set his hat by his side, leaned against the post, and lifted his face to the sun.
"Move went pretty quick this morning.” Finn's dad, Sean Farraday, looked across the pasture at the contented cows, drinking and snacking and pretty much doing what cows do all year long. "Mothering up went well, too."
"Yep." A couple of mother cows were still looking for their calf, but not as many had been separated en route to this pasture as in days past. So far, the few that seemed hell bent on going back where they came from were being held behind the invisible line in the grass the dogs had drawn. Scratching the dust from his hair, Finn put his hat back on and listened to the steady thrum of cows calling out for their calves, or perhaps simply chewing the fat with their friends.
The best part of saddling up in the pitch black of early morning to start moving cows at first light was the chance to relax and watch Mother Nature at work until lunchtime. "Flow seems off on the water. I'll pull the pump tomorrow before we start working on the new fence section."
Sean nodded and sat beside his son. "Some days, I look out at the pasture and I'd swear I can see you and your brothers roping the dummy, or playing with the water, or even just worn out and napping."
A smile took over Finn's face. He remembered those days well. Especially when they wound up in pastures by the creek. Those were fun times swimming, catching toads, and all around doing his best to keep up with his older brothers.
"Gates closed. So far none of the herd is backtracking." Sam, their ranch hand, left his horse ground-tied with the others and came up beside his bosses. "Are we taking turns heading back to the house for lunch?"
Shaking his head, Finn pulled a blade of grass from the ground. "Nope. Aunt Eileen is bringing lunch today."
"Sweet." Sam peeled off his gloves and shoved them in his back pocket.
Finn pushed to his feet, noticing a couple spots in the fence that would need to be fixed in the days to come. "She has been doting on Ethan and the baby."
"Speaking of which." Sean Farraday stood up beside his son and ranch hand, all three eyeing the large truck making its way across the pasture. The men smiled like fools when the door opened and out popped Aunt Eileen.
"Y'all made good time this morning." She slammed the door shut with her foot.
"No water to cross. Calves kept up pretty good." Sam moved to reach for the aluminum tray. "Allow me."
As they'd done for ages and eons, the trays of warm food were spread out on the tail of the truck and one by one, Sean first, plates were filled and folks moved to sit and enjoy.
"Boy, I missed these hot lunches," Sam said.
Frowning, Eileen looked up from her plate. "It's not like you don't have a freezer stocked with my casseroles."
"Gotta admit, it's nice to have a warm meal midday to fill the belly." Finn kissed his aunt on the cheek and turned to where the others sat.
"Hmm," Aunt Eileen groused, plate in hand, leaning against the truck, "not my fault you two are still single."
"Now don't get your britches in a knot," Sean said. "Sam and Finn didn't mean anything more than we just appreciate a hearty lunch is all. Thank you."
"Yes, ma'am, Miss Eileen," Sam repeated. "No matter who I marry, she'll have a hard time competing with your cooking."
Just a hint of pink singed his aunt's cheeks and Finn thought they really didn't pay her compliments nearly often enough. "Thanks, Aunt Eileen. This is delicious."
One of the dogs began barking and Sean turned, recognizing King's yap. King was one of the best cattle dogs Finn had ever seen. The animal did the work of two men some days. Without the dogs, they'd never be able to run all the cattle with just the three of them.
The louder lowing coming from the cows along with shifting by the animals near King had Finn putting his plate on the tail of the truck and walking around to grab the rifle from the rack.
"You thinking the cows disturbed a rattler?" Aunt Eileen scanned the ground around the truck. "All these years and those things still give me the heebie jeebies."
"You're not the only one." Sam smiled at her. "Back in Wyoming, we could kill a snake with a shovel, but down here, the snakes are bigger than the shovels."
The closer Finn got to where all the ruckus was, the less of the snake jokes being told by the truck he could hear. Sam was a nice guy, he'd come to Texas a few years ago during the rodeo circuit complaining about Wyoming being cold enough to freeze a cow to the ground where it stood. After a couple of days talking and drinking, the Farradays had a new ranch hand. First time anyone not a blood relative lived or worked on the ranch, and Sam hadn't yet done anything to make Finn or his dad regret the decision.
"Yep," Finn mumbled to himself. Not quite upon the bedlam, like a pair of Latin maracas at an all-night party, the snake's rattle could be heard loud and clear. Good at their jobs, giving the rattler a wide berth, King and Bo had the few cows too indifferent to do more than give the snake a dirty look moving away from striking distance. Truth was, around this part of the country more dogs than cows got bit by snakes, and the last thing Finn wanted was for that to happen to either of the dogs.
"That'll do, Bo. That'll do, King." Like the well-trained cattle dogs they were, the two quit and hurried to Finn's side. At least real life wasn't like an old cowboy movie. He'd be able to shoot the hissing thing from where he stood and the worst that would happen is a dirty-cow-look would be flashed in his direction. The stampede of cattle because of a gunshot in the distance was all Hollywood hooey.
Not wasting time, he brought up the rifle, took aim at the angry reptile, and fired. Still squirming and wiggling, like a fish out of water, the snake hit the ground hard.
His eyes on the intruder, Finn called over his shoulder, “Hey Sam, bring me that shovel.”
Shovel in hand, Sam ran up to him. "Nice shot!"
"Lets get his head chopped off and buried before one of the dogs tries to play with him and gets bit.”
With a nod Sam took off a few feet to where the rattler had finally stopped moving.
Turning toward where his dad and aunt watched the excitement, Finn did a double take. Off in the distance a gray shadow streaked across the pasture. A suspiciously four-legged furry shadow.
"Oh, man. Fourteen buttons on the tail." Sam gave a low whistle. "This guy must have really made some noise. Just thinking about it makes my hair stand on end."
Finn nodded. He felt the same way, except the shiver going up his back didn't have a blessed thing to do with the rattler.
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