The Widow’s Rancher – 19

FOR a man who said he wanted to court me, you sure jumped ahead of yourself,” Nadia commented dryly as they stepped out of the church.

Diggory patted her hand gently as they walked down the steps.

“It’s the only way to keep you safe. With my ring and name, no-one will dare say or do a thing to you. You’re safe from strife. Let me carry all your worries.”

“I was fine…” she began to argue but Diggory stepped in.

“As much as you want to deny it, deep down you know I’m right. Or you wouldn’t have married me.”

True, but there was no way she was going to admit it. The man already believed he knew the best about everything. With a little praise, he’d become impossible.

“You gave me little choice. Has to be the quickest courtship in the history of this town.”

“I always like to be different.”

She sighed and considered him, praying he was. That this marriage wasn’t another mistake to add to all the others she’d made in her life.

“Congratulations to you both,” Mac Lonnen came forward and shook Diggory’s hand. He and the other rancher were good friends. His smile was wide and his blue eyes jolly, and Nadia saw no judgement in his expression. “About time you wed again. Your boys are all men and your ranch don’t seem right unless it’s filled with children and noise. Perhaps this time round, you and Nadia can fill it with some girls.”

Diggory placed an arm around Nadia’s waist, causing her to startle as he drew her to his side.

“Who knows what the future holds. As long as I have this woman, I’ll be happy.”

Once the crowd started to climb into their wagons for home, Diggory gathered his horse and led Nadia over to hers.

“Let’s take a ride before we go home,” he suggested as he lifted her up on to Joey’s back before swinging up into his own saddle and manoeuvring his horse closer to hers. He reached out and softly stroked his fingers over her cheek, his touch as gentle as his voice when he said, “How about you follow me?”

“Follow you, Diggory Rorke?” She snorted at him and kicked her horse to move.


Diggory laughed at the sight of her riding away from the church, head and back held proud, her hair shining in the sunlight.

Diggory caught up with Nadia easily and then led the way to the hill where they had spent their one and only outing. While they were in church, the breeze had dropped and the heat from the sun increased.

He waited until they were both down from their horses before he guided her to stand in front of him, facing out over the landscape.

“Why are we here?” she asked, curious for his reason for returning to this spot.

“I want to talk to you before we head to the house. Once we’re there I doubt we’ll have five minutes alone. My family will have plenty to say about our marriage when we arrive and be eager to share it with us.”

“Will they be upset with you?” she asked, not certain she wanted to face a houseful of unhappy Rorkes. One about stretched her limit.

“No. My boys know better than to tell me how to live my life. Doesn’t mean they won’t have an opinion, though.” He drew her back against him, wrapping his arms around to hold her close.

“Mr Rorke . . .” she started, unnerved by his unexpected show of affection.

Her new spouse appeared to be a demonstrative man. Yes, they were married, but really they’d only held hands for the first time that morning.

“Hush your fussing, Nadia. No need to fret.”

He raised an arm and pointed down at the valley where his house sat in the far distance. Slowly he pointed across the space, drawing an invisible line on the horizon.

“All in front of us belongs to the ranch.”

Her eyes widened at the extensive area he indicated.

“You own all this land?”

“Every inch and stone of it for as far as we can see and on some more,” he admitted.

She smiled at the pride in his voice, and teased, “Braggart.”

He chuckled.

“I guess I sound like one, but me, the boys and my men work hard for it, so why not? I’ve brought you here for two reasons,” he said. “One, because it’s where we shared our first proper conversation, brief though it was. And the other reason is I want to make you a promise I know you have had it hard so far in life, married to a man who didn’t treat you the right way. Who disgraced you in front of the
town . . .”

“I’d rather not talk about Henry.” She didn’t want her past to taint this unexpected turn to her future.

He reached for her hand and linked their fingers.

“Nadia, sweet girl, I promise to look after you and treat you always with respect. I’ll never purposely hurt you and I will do everything I can to take care of you.”

He turned her to him and placed his palm against her face. “I’m a man of my word, Nadia, and I intend to spend the rest of my life proving it to you.”

He bent his head and kissed her, long and slow, deep and warm.

Nadia had only shared kisses with Henry, so she wasn’t expecting the caress to be more than a warm lock of lips. But she should have guessed the experience with Diggory would be something quite different.

For the first time in her life, stars and hopes lit up inside her heart. Her stomach tingled with nerves and lightness. And she fell sincerely and completely in love with the man who held her.

Tracey Steel

Having worked on a number of magazines over the years, Tracey has found her perfect place on The Friend as she’s obsessed with reading and never goes anywhere without a book! She reads all the PF stories with a mug of tea close by and usually a bit of strong cheese too!