Wind River Rancher: Shattered, but still fighting to be whole once more…
Wind River Rancher, Book 2, Wind River Valley series, s an emotional story that will suck every reader in. I’m known for gritty, visceral and emotional writing, and this book is no exception. It just happened to catch the eye of Publisher’s Weekly and it received a ‘starred’ review (like winning an Oscar) on 12.3.16.
This series I’m writing is about military vets returning home from combat from all over the world, mostly focused on the Middle East. Having been in the US Navy during the Vietnam War era (I served stateside as a weather forecaster at USNAS Moffett Field (now known as Silicon Valley) near San Francisco, California.
Book 1, Wind River Wrangler, the hero is an ex-Army Special Forces operator, Roan Taggart. He has left the Army with PTSD, no longer able to function at that high level any longer in black ops duties. He gets a job as a wrangler at the Wind River Ranch, where it’s quieter, it’s out in Nature and he is slowly healing from his internal PTSD wounds. Only, as life usually slaps us in the face, one way or another, he’s thrown back into a threat/life-and-death situation with Shiloh Gallagher, a writer from New York City. She’s escaped to the ranch to hide from a stalker who has torn her life apart. Figuring if she lives in Wyoming to write, her stalker won’t find her and she can breath once more, not look over her shoulder 24/7/365. Roan’s peaceful, back water life explodes when the stalker locates Shiloh. Once again, he’s thrust back into a combat situation. And for Shiloh, the nightmare begins anew when she thought she’d found safety at the ranch.
Book 2, Wind River Rancher, the hero is an ex-Marine Corps captain who commanded a company of Marines over in Afghanistan for years. The deployments, the combat, eventually took a toll on him, too. Reese Lockhart was a twenty-year man, his only dream was to become a Marine officer and protect his people, guide them and support them. Only the Afghanistan war gradually wore him down and sucked the life out of him, as it did so many others. He was given an honorable medical discharge, against his wishes. His whole life-dream has been shattered. He’s fractured internally by the PTSD, and you will meet him two years later as his story unfolds. He’s degraded to being like so many other vets we see on the streets of every city in the USA: shamed, hopeless, depressed and he cannot hold a job. In this book, I took “the gloves off,” as we say, and delved into the hero’s state of mind, his distorted emotions, his thinking he was a failure in every possible way.
EXCERPT from the opening to Chapter 1 of Wind River Rancher
Reese Lockhart’s stomach was tight with hunger as he stood at the outskirts of a small Wyoming town called Wind River. The sign indicated a population of two thousand. He’d gone a month without decent food. Six inches of snow stood on the sides of the road where he’d walked the last ten miles on 89A north. It headed toward Jackson Hole, where he was hoping to find work.
The town, for a Monday afternoon, was pretty slow. A couple of pickup trucks came and went, a few people walked along the sidewalks on either side of the highway that ran through the center of town. He halted outside Becker’s Hay and Feed Store, an aged redbrick building standing two stories high. The red tin roof was steep and sunlight reflected off it, making Reese squint. Bright lights now hurt his eyes.
Taking a deep breath, feeling the fear of rejection once again, he pushed open the door to the store. Would he get yelled at by the owner? Told to get out? It was early May and snow had fallen the night before. The sleepy town of Wind River still had slush on its streets midday.
The place was quiet, smelled of leather, and he saw a man in his sixties, tall, lean, and with silver hair, behind the counter. He was sitting on a wooden stool that
was probably the same age as he was, an ancient-looking calculator in his work-worn hands as he methodically punched the buttons.
Girding himself, ignoring the fact he hadn’t eaten in two days, Reese’s gaze automatically swung around the huge establishment. A hay and feed store was something he was familiar with. Maybe the owner wanted some part-time help. He needed to make enough money to buy a decent meal.
Shoving away the shame he felt over his situation, he saw the man lift his head, wire-rim spectacles halfway down his large nose, his blue eyes squinting at Reese as he approached the long wooden counter.
“Howdy, stranger. Can I help you?” the man asked.
“Maybe,” Reese said. “I’m looking for work. I saw you have several big barns out back, and a granary. Do you have any openings?” Automatically, Reese tensed. He knew he looked rough with a month’s worth of beard on his face, and his clothes were dirty and shabby. At one time, he’d been a Marine Corps captain commanding a company of 120 Marines. And he’d been damn good at it until—
“I’m Charlie Becker, the owner,” the man said, shifting and thrusting his hand across the desk toward him. “Welcome to Wind River. Who might you be?”
“Reese Lockhart,” he said, and he gripped the man’s strong hand. He liked Charlie’s large, watery eyes because he saw kindness in them. Reese was very good at assessing people. He’d kept his Marines safe and helped them through their professional and personal ups and downs over the years he commanded Mike Company in Afghanistan. Charlie was close to six feet tall, lean like a rail, and wore a white cowboy shirt and blue jeans. Reese sensed this older gentleman wouldn’t throw him out of here with a curse— or even worse, call law enforcement and accuse him of trespassing.
The last place where he’d tried to find some work, they’d called him a druggie and told him to get the hell out; he smelled. While walking the last ten miles to Wind River, Reese had stopped when he discovered a stream on the flat, snow-covered land, and tried to clean up the best he could. The temperature was near freezing as he’d gone into the bushes, away from the busy highway, and stripped to his waist. He’d taken handfuls of snow and scrubbed his body, shivering, but hell, that was a small price to pay to try to not smell so bad. He hadn’t had a real shower in a month, either.
“You a vet, by any chance?” Charlie asked, his eyes narrowing speculatively upon Reese.
“Yes, sir. Marine Corps.” He said it with pride.