Home > A Rancher's Vow

A Rancher's Vow
Author: Vivian Arend





June, Silver Stone ranch



* * *


His fishing line stretched taut as the bobber resurfaced then floated gently toward the middle of the lake. Contented as only a man can be with a rod in his hand and an afternoon off from work stretching before him, Dustin Stone laid back on the shore and covered his face with his cowboy hat.

Sunshine had warmed the grass, and the scent of early summer filled his senses. Peacefulness wrapped him up in an embrace, and he reveled in it. Moments like this truly highlighted that he lived in a spot that was heaven on earth.

Didn’t mean he wasn’t also looking for excitement. Hell, he’d only turned twenty-four this past December…

The same age Caleb had been when he’d become responsible for the entire family.

For a moment the warmth of the day cooled a little, and something inside tightened as it always did when Dustin was reminded of his missing mom and dad. He was only eight when they’d died in a car accident, so it wasn’t memories of them that struck.

It was the fact his oldest brother, Caleb, had given up so much to always be there for them.

Dustin would be the first to admit he had a serious case of hero worship. Especially over the past years as Caleb had worked to rally the Stone clan into the tight-knit unit it was today. A successful ranch, a thriving family—

Yeah, Dustin would do anything for Caleb, and that pretty much carried down the line to the rest of his siblings. As the youngest of five, plus a foster sister, he’d gotten parented by all of them. Could have been hell, but it hadn’t been.

It simply was.

They were good people, his family. They’d been through a lot and come out the other side with a variety of skills that made them shine individually and as a group.

Made it difficult to stand out in the crowd, though. Dustin wasn’t one to crave the spotlight, but it would be nice to be the center of attention once in a while.

The wind whooshed over the lake hard enough that the warning bell attached to the tip of his fishing rod shook once. The light peal of sound faded instantly, but he sat up and checked his line anyway.

The bobber floated easily, the bait untouched.

Dustin’s phone pinged with an incoming message. During the workday, only a very short list of people could contact him. The Silver Stone foreman, Tucker Stewart, was a hard ass when it came to concentrating on the task at hand. Didn’t matter that Tucker was also Dustin’s brother-in-law, there would still be hell to pay if Dustin fucked with the rules.

But now that his shift was over, his phone was back on, and that sound was linked to his best friend, Shim. Another ping sounded, and Dustin dragged the phone from his pocket.

Shim: You never told me. Holy crap, seriously?

Shim: In case you need it. Here: [link]



Dustin stared at the message, confused. He hit the link Shim had included, only to end up on one of those scroll-through-the-bullshit clickbait articles. The title alone made him blink.

Ten billionaire cowboy bachelors you need to meet!



His phone pinged, and then pinged again. This time, one was the tone he’d assigned a different friend, as well as a third message from Shim. Dustin ignored them both and kept reading, not sure what the hell kind of joke Shim was playing.

The fourth clicked-through page made the hair on the back of Dustin’s neck stand up.

The article opened with a couple of pictures.

The first showed Dustin with his second-oldest brother, Luke, and Luke’s wife, Kelli, at a horse sale this past February. The two of them stood side by side, laughing. A good-looking couple, dark haired Luke’s arm was looped around Kelli’s waist as he held her to his side. Her brown hair hung in the two braids she usually wore while working, but the joy on her face made her as bright and shiny as a glamorous front-page model.

Dustin stood beside them with his hands shoved into his front pockets as he grinned toward the ground. For the first time, Dustin realized he stood taller than Luke. And maybe it was a trick of the camera angle, but his shoulders looked broader as well.

Huh. When had that happened?

The second image was just him. Dustin remembered the moment it had happened. He’d been walking beside Kelli, who was leading a new purchase they’d made. Some fool set off a firecracker, and the horse had spooked.

Kelli had the reins and shifted to haul the beast to a stop instantly—she was rock solid when it came to controlling even the unruliest animal. But the horse was big enough he’d reared skyward, jerking her petite frame off the ground.

There’d been no time to think, only react. Dustin had caught the animal around the head, corralling him to a standstill even as he spoke softly to gentle him.

Dustin had looked that horse in the eye and told him to mind his manners, and damn if the creature hadn’t listened. He’d shivered for a moment, as if chasing a fly off his withers. Then he’d breathed out a huge sigh and relaxed his head against Dustin’s shoulder.

When it was over, Kelli had kissed Dustin’s cheek. Luke had patted him on the shoulder with an older-brother approval that meant the world to Dustin.

Meanwhile, out in the crowd, someone had used that moment to take a picture of Dustin looking all serious and had now plastered it all over social media.

Dustin rolled his eyes. Stupid what people wanted to waste their time on. His gaze leapt to the words of the article, already wondering how much worse it could get.


Set your sights on this #SilverStoneStud



* * *


He might be young, but as part of the newly minted Silver Stone success story, twenty-four-year-old Dustin Stone is one very eligible bachelor. The ranch seems to have found the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow after a tragic beginning. This second-generation family operation is gaining ground in a huge way in the horse breeding community. Plus—we’ve heard there’s now oil rights added to the story, and well, there’s only one unmarried Stone who still needs to find his perfect match. You can all see that in the physical area, he’s got what it takes to make anyone sit up and take notice.



* * *


Who’s going to be the lucky woman to strike Silver?



Dustin flopped back on the ground, hands flung to the sides as he stared into the sky and groaned. Hell, he was in for such a razzing. His friends and brothers were never going to let him live this down. Cheesiest thing he’d ever read. Strike Silver? God. It wasn’t even a good pun.

And that hashtag? Gross.

His phone rang. Shim, obviously having given up on waiting for a response to his messages, had gone to the method of last resort.

Dustin hit accept and pressed speaker. “What?”

“Oh good. You are still speaking to the little people in your life.” Shim snickered then cleared his throat. “What the hell, Stone?”

“No idea, Choi. I’m busy minding my own business like usual. Hauled cattle this morning, and now I’m sitting here looking for some fish.”

“Well, you should consider looking for a hiding spot. Billionaire? They might as well have painted a red target on your back and shoved you onto a shooting range.”

Hot Books
» House of Earth and Blood (Crescent City #1)
» A Kingdom of Flesh and Fire
» From Blood and Ash (Blood And Ash #1)
» A Million Kisses in Your Lifetime
» Deviant King (Royal Elite #1)
» Den of Vipers
» House of Sky and Breath (Crescent City #2)
» Sweet Temptation
» The Sweetest Oblivion (Made #1)
» Chasing Cassandra (The Ravenels #6)
» Wreck & Ruin
» Steel Princess (Royal Elite #2)
» Twisted Hate (Twisted #3)
» The Play (Briar U Book 3)
» The War of Two Queens (Blood and Ash #4)