It's been six months since Vance Wolf buried his father. Driven to an early grave by the constant harassment of the new owner of the neighboring property, Andrew Blackwell. Now Vance's cattle are disappearing faster than he can replace them and their cash flow has been wiped out by the new barn they had to build after the other one mysteriously caught fire. The local sheriff's pockets are being lined by Blackwell, so Vance knows they're on their own and is at his wits end. Then his mother suggests they open up the ranch to business types as a cowboy camp.
Adam Prentiss arrives at Wolf Creek Ranch on a team-building exercise with the four colleagues in his department. He is not the cowboy type, but has no choice as his boss, and father, has sent him to Wolf Creek with instructions to delve into the financial status of the ranch and report back to him. Falling for Vance Wolf had not been part of the plan, but the connection between them had been instant. But what was he more afraid of? Disobeying his boss or Vance finding out Adam's father was in fact Andrew Blackwell and he'd been sent to help him appropriate Vance's land by any means necessary?
Vance surveyed the ranch from on top of the hill overlooking the valley, his right leg crossed over the pommel, the horn digging into his thigh. Leaning forward, he stroked along the length of his horse's sweat-dampened neck, mumbling soothing nonsense as he stared down at his home. He'd ridden Goliath hard across the south pasture in an attempt to clear his head, and he knew the animal would be grateful for the breather. A chuckle rumbled in his chest as Goliath dipped his head to nibble at the grass, obviously taking full advantage of Vance's pensive mood. Could the horse sense he wasn't exactly eager to return home? Vance wouldn't be surprised.
Gazing down at the ranch, the familiar flash of pride washed through him. Wolf Creek was a little Texan town sixty miles from the hustle and bustle of Austin, where life moved along at a sedate pace, a far cry from the big city. Benjamin Wolf, Vance's great-great grandfather, had been one of the town's original founders in 1878 and there had always been a Wolf in residence at Wolf Creek Ranch. As far as Vance was concerned, that's how it was going to stay.
Some of the cattle had been spooked during last night’s storm and broken through one of the fences, and Vance had spent most of the morning herding them off his neighbor's ranch. Thankfully he’d known the Carters, who'd owned the land along the south side of Wolf Creek since he was a kid, so he'd had help from Jake Carter's men to round up the wanderers. Not that the same could be said for the ranch that stretched away on the other side of the shallow creek bed that gave Vance's ranch its name. Sweet Meadow Ranch had been owned by the Gartons for forty years until a year ago when old man Garton had died. His son, Malcolm, had moved off the farm as soon as he could and his father had barely been in the ground before he'd sold the spread to some businessman no one had ever heard of out of New York. Two weeks later Andrew Blackwell had moved in, bringing more money than Wolf Creek had ever seen, charming his way into the good graces of the townsfolk, and lining the pockets of the local council and sheriff's offices.
Hell, he'd even charmed Vance's parents, Jacob and Audrey Wolf, for a while, too—but not him. Vance remembered the night Blackwell had sat at their dinner table, eating his momma's roast off his grandmother's china with the best silver. He'd seemed nice enough; said all the right things, made all the right jokes, but Vance had noted, with a sense of unease, that Blackwell's smile never reached his eyes. Cold, dead eyes—like a shark's.
It had been during dessert, his momma's apple cobbler if he remembered it right, that Blackwell had expressed an interest in Wolf Creek. Vance's father had laughed it off and they'd continued with the meal, but Vance hadn't missed the flicker of annoyance Blackwell hadn't quite been able to disguise before the subject had been changed. Throughout the rest of the evening Vance's first impression of the man hadn't improved and, two weeks later, when they received the first formal offer from Blackwell's solicitors, he'd known he'd been right to go with his gut instinct.