My name is Roan Taggart and I’m a wrangler on the Wind River Ranch in Wyoming.
I came here two years ago, broken by PTSD. Maud and Steve Whitcomb, owners of the hundred thousand acre ranch, hire military vets. I got lucky. These are good people.
Having been in the U.S. Army as a Special Forces weapons sergeant for nearly ten years, I was ready to get out of Afghanistan and the nonstop deployments into that country. The last two years spent in the Wind River Valley, has healed my soul. I still have nightmares, sometimes, but they’re lessening. All the other wranglers at the ranch are ex-military vets as well, so we’re like a tight family. It’s more than a job to me. It’s a way of life.
Can you imagine when Maud called me into her office one June morning and asked a special favor of me? I always know when I’m called in the office, something is up. And I’d do anything for Maud and Steve, to pay them back for their humanity toward me and the other vets on their ranch.
A woman by the name of Shiloh Gallagher, a good friend of hers, was coming to stay at the ranch. She would be assigned to the same employee house that I was living in. I’d be responsible for shepherding the city slicker around for the month she was going to be visiting. I saw nothing wrong with that except when Maud added that Shiloh was a romance writer!
Now, I’ve gotta be honest about this. When she said ‘romance writer,’ you can imagine where my brain and body went. As soon as Maud told me Shiloh was being stalked by an unknown man in New York City where she lived, that she had writer’s block, I felt sorry for her.
I guess I had some preconceived notions about what a romance writer was. When Maud showed me Shiloh’s photo, my notions really got heated up and then took off. And this woman was going to be living under MY roof for a month? Hell, I’d rather watch her walk than eat fried chicken.
Maud reminded me that I was her trusted mentor charged with introducing her to ranch life. She eyeballed me with a silent warning, as if reading my naked thoughts. The fact she entrusted me with her dear friend told me that Shiloh was off limits to me in every conceivable way. And then she told me, “Roan, don’t dig up more snakes than you can kill.”
Yes, ma’am, I’ll keep my hands off Shiloh and my lustful thoughts to myself. But hells bells, she’s a romance writer! Seems the deck was stacked against me from the git go…