Twenty-year-old Ryelee Snyder is pregnant and alone. Fortunately, she finds a job as a nanny to precocious four-year-old Rheenie Maloney. Life is perfect except for Horse Trainer, Clint Maloney. Ryelee feels his disapproval and is in constant fear of being fired.
Clint Maloney needs help with his daughter but he never bargained on Ryelee Snyder. The tall, gangly, girl is a menace. Clint spends too much of his time rescuing her from her latest mishap. Upon finding out about her pregnancy, Clint’s feelings begin to change. He no longer views her as a nuisance but as a passionate woman with a generous heart.
Secrets, misunderstandings, and cattle rustling put an increasing strain on their relationship, until they finally turn from each other. Just as they seem to find their way back, Ryelee’s part in the cattle rustling is unveiled. Ryelee fights unyieldingly to win the love of a lifetime.
Ryelee sat on the edge of the seat, fearing the outcome of their conversation, but when she lifted her eyes to Clint, the tenderness in his brown eyes surprised her. She had always watched him from afar, too intimidated to look at him when he was close. She loved his rough, angular face and black curly hair. He usually kept it quite short, but it definitely needed a cut. Her eyes traveled downward to his strong, broad shoulders, and she wished she could lay her head on his shoulder and cry. She had a feeling that having his arms around her would make her feel protected. Suddenly, she realized she was staring and brought her gaze back up to his amused one.
“I’m sorry about this afternoon,” Ryelee started uneasily. “Rheenie asked about Texas history, and, well, the next thing I knew we were playing cowboys and Indians.” Not wanting to see the censure in his eyes, she looked down at her hands. “I didn’t know that Dottie would be here.”
“Ryelee, look at me,” Clint said, his voice gentle and coaxing. “This is your home too, and if you and Rheenie are having fun—safe fun—then so be it. The look of joy on her face when I drove up was priceless. That's what matter's. I heard some of what Dottie said to you, and it’s inexcusable.”
“It’s not true.”
“What’s not true?”
“I’m not ignorant. In fact, I’ve taken a few college classes,” she said with a tinge of defensiveness in her tone. It had been hard going but she did it. She completed each lesson and each assignment. Her grades had been good, but no one cared.
“Huh. Dottie said you dropped out of school.”
“I did only after she made it impossible for me to go to school without being ridiculed for being poor, having to get my clothes from the Church bin, and for being the town drunk's kid. Mrs. Steven the librarian took an interest in me. She helped me to get my GED and take a few on-line college classes.”
Clint got out of his chair, came around, and leaned against the front of his desk. Reaching down, he took Ryelee’s hand. “I’m sorry that you were bullied in school. It’s not right. But getting your GED and taking college courses are accomplishments that you should be proud of.”
Ryelee simply nodded her head. She didn’t feel proud. She knew she never would again, not after all the unspeakable things her father had done to her.
“Are the few clothes I’ve seen all that you have?”
Ryelee’s face flamed and she pulled her hand back. “Yes,” she whispered. There was never any money and…
“I pay you well enough, why don’t you go to town and get yourself a few new things?”
“I have to save every penny.” She turned away from him. “I need to have enough cash for when you throw me away, like my father did.”
“I don’t understand.”
“I know,” Ryelee said sadly. “I’ll get dinner going.” She stood.
“Wait a minute, Ryelee. Annie told me that you had nowhere to go. I guess I didn’t give it much thought.”
“There’s not much to tell. My father kicked me out. Noreen from the diner let me stay with her for a week or so. I waitressed to earn my keep. Then this job came up, and I jumped at it. I’ve always liked kids, and you have a good reputation in town.”
Clint nodded. “You’ve had a hard time of it. I’m sorry.”
Ryelee shrugged her shoulders. “Like I said, there’s not much to tell. I have to get dinner ready.” She didn’t wait for a reply. She wasn’t up to any more questions. She made a hasty escape.
Closing the door behind her, she sagged against it. Too many questions that she didn't want to answer. It hurt to know that her past would always be a black mark against her. What she'd give for a clean slate.