Will the valley’s feud between cattlemen and shepherds keep Konrad and Anora apart?
After losing half his herd in the Great Blizzard of 1886, rancher Konrad Werner needs to safeguard his cattle. Tomboy Anora Huxley trains the Australian Shepherds and Kelpies that run the family’s sheep herd. Although cattlemen and shepherds are at odds, the pair discovers common interests. A threat is overheard, and Konrad rides out to Anora’s ranch to protect her. The tense situation reveals their true feelings. Will Anora be swayed by family loyalty, or will she listen to her heart that responds to Konrad’s silent signals?
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Mikel returned, dropping two rolls of wire onto the counter. “I have a new shipment of barbed wire too. Perhaps that works better for your needs?”
Konrad turned and laid a hand on the smooth wire. “The fence to pen in my cattle has several components, so this is what I need. But thanks, Toussaint.”
The shopkeeper shrugged. “Some ranchers prefer the barbed.”
“I do too, and I may have to resort to that when the winter weather sets in. But I’ll wait on that purchase.” He leaned his other hand on the counter. “This year, I’m building a brush fence. I’ll use what I can from downed branches and rocks cleared from the field that will be planted in the spring.” He shrugged and straightened.
“Makes sense.” Mikel nodded as he pulled the pencil from his ear. “I remember those types of fences in old country. Uncle had them around his vineyard.”
Konrad was sure his wasn’t the only sad story the store owner had heard over the last year. “Gotta come up with the cheapest solution for protecting my cattle.” He shook his head. “The ranch can’t withstand any more losses like last year.”
“Excuse me, sir.” A female voice floated in the air.
The tone was pitched low, almost intimate. Konrad shifted and raised an eyebrow at the tall woman dressed in an ill-fitting coat and a split skirt that showed several inches of boot-encased legs. “Are you speaking to me?”
“Have you considered using herding dogs to contain your cattle?” The blonde woman took one step closer, her gaze intent.
“No.” This stranger had an opinion about how he ran his ranch? His body stiffened.
“I train the dogs that work the sheep at Green Meadows Ranch, and I don’t see why the dogs couldn’t be used with cattle.” She glanced over her shoulder and then back to connect with his gaze. “The principles are the same, as long as the person uses the right cues.”
He squinted at the green-eyed woman who stood only a few inches shorter than his six-foot height. Wisps of blonde hair had escaped the edges of her plain black bonnet and straggled along her cheeks. Her face was pleasant enough—probably would be more so without the frown creasing her forehead. “Have we met?”
“I apologize, Mr. Werner. I’m Anora Huxley.” A blush reddened her cheeks. “I am acquainted with Gaelle.”
His younger sister by five years. Which explained why he didn’t know this woman from his schooling years. Huxley did sound familiar, though. But he didn’t have time to contemplate why because the woman now stood by his side. Out of the corner of his eye, he spotted a thick-set scowling man hovering two feet away who looked madder than a newly branded steer. The second member of the arguing duo.
“My dogs are exceedingly smart. A special breed with strong herding instincts. They respond to hand signs and whistles, and from a distance of more than ten rods.”
He held up a hand lest he be stuck here listening to her run down every detail. “I do not wish to be lectured on how to run my ranch. My brush fence will suffice.” Regretting the stiffness of his tone, he lifted a finger to tap the brim of his hat. “Good day, Mrs. Huxley.” He spotted the brief widening of her gaze before scooping up the roll of wire and headed toward the storeroom. Irritation at the outspoken women and her high-handed advice put an extra punch into each footfall.
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