Wicked Witches of the West Book 1
A rancher and witch. A down on his luck cowboy. A love foretold for hundreds of years.
People called them the Wicked Witches of the West from the time the Murphy triplets were five and accidentally set their house on fire. Nothing they did disabused the notion they were different from the rest of the children in Saddlebrook, Wyoming. After their mother died giving birth to them, the girls were in the care of their father, big Gus Murphy, who didn’t know a thing about how to raise three little girls.
Much less little witches.
When the Triad Ranch is at its lowest point, and Gus injured, Rowan, the eldest, runs the horse ranch as best she can, but things are desperate. Then Jesse Nelson appears and she recognizes him as the boy and then man of her dreams—her mate. She is drawn to him as her powers strengthen with each passing moment.
Jesse doesn’t know what to make of the crazy ranch, or the oddball characters on it, but he is hungry and alone. Rowan is everything he ever wanted and all that he can’t have. Little does he know what awaits him and Rowan when the world around them explodes with magic, black and white.
When Rowan ascends to her true power with her cowboy at her side, she and her sisters have to use their combined strength to triumph or die in the darkest of magic.
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A vulture stalked him.
Jesse Nelson glanced behind him at the enormous bird. He swore the ugly bastard tried to look innocent, as if it hadn’t been on his tail for the last ten miles. His stomach gnawed on his backbone while he trudged forward, step by step. He hoped the Triad Ranch was close because he didn’t think he’d make it another mile without food and water.
After refusing to rent Jesse an old nag on credit, the old man at the livery in town told him the ranch was a pace up the road and he would get there in no time at all. Jesse snorted at the memory. A pace to an old timer was more like twenty miles to the rest of the world. Sweat trickled down Jesse’s back into the waistband of his trousers. It was more like August than May. Normally that would make him smile, but not today.
Fifteen minutes and at least twice as many curses later, Jesse finally saw a building in the distance. It put a spring in his step and he found an extra well of energy to hustle toward the sight. The Triad Ranch was small but well kept, with a house, a small barn, a large barn and a corral. The young colts in the corral were misbehaving, nipping a bit and kicking.
A grin creased his dusty face, unfamiliar and uncomfortable, but welcome. It looked like the old-timer in town was right. Jesse needed a job in the worst way, and a small, quiet place to be. This ranch appeared to be that place.
He knocked on the door, wondering what kind of reception he’d receive. To his surprise, he was rendered mute when a woman answered the door. Hell, women weren’t supposed to knock him stupid, but she had. It felt like an arc of lightning traveled between them and snapped, hitting him with the force of a mule kick to the gut.
Tall and curvy with blue eyes the color of a twilight sky, she was quite possibly the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen. It wasn’t just her beauty that affected him, though, it was something else he couldn’t explain if he tried. She snatched his words right off his tongue.
“Can I help you?” Her voice had a slight Irish lilt. A lock of black hair swung back and forth on her cheek as she looked him over. No doubt she noticed the tattered trousers, the threadbare shoes and the inch of dust.
With effort, he shook off his lingering reaction to her. “Afternoon, ma’am. Name’s Jesse Nelson.” He touched the tip of his hat. “I’m looking for Gus Murphy.”
“You’re looking for work.”
It wasn’t a question and he didn’t know if he should answer. Most women didn’t deal with hiring hands on a ranch.
“Is Mr. Murphy here?”
“I’m Rowan, his daughter. I’m, ah, running the ranch, so it’s me you need to talk to.” She blew out a breath hard enough to move the stray lock of hair. For a moment their gazes locked and Jesse swore he actually felt her hair brush against his skin. What the hell?
She opened the door a bit wider and stepped out onto the porch. “Do you have experience working as a ranch hand?”
Her height surprised him. Jesse was tall, but she was nearly eye level with him. Since he was twelve years old, he’d spent his time looking down at women. For once, he could look her in the eye. It was a strange feeling. “I’ve lived on ranches most of my life. Grew up on one in Missouri. Made my way here over the years.”
He had spent quite a few lean times since he was twelve and lit out on his own. It took quite a few years to slide that anger off his back. A stint in the territorial prison hadn’t done much to move the chip off his shoulder, no matter how many times other inmates tried to knock it off.
“You work with horses on those ranches, or beeves?” She crossed her arms, pushing her plump breasts up, which he tried, unsuccessfully, not to notice. His dick noticed and twitched in his trousers.
“Yes, ma’am. I’ve worked with breaking and breeding horses, not just riding them.” Jesse preferred to be around animals. People made him antsy, especially beautiful women who knocked him sideways.
“What brings you all the way here to the Triad Ranch? We’re a far piece out of town.” Her eyes were shuttered, not expressing any hint of what she really wanted to know. By his guess, she wondered if he were there to do them harm.
“I needed a job and I was told you might be hiring.” He was as honest as he could be.
She nodded. “Why don’t we sit out here in the chairs for a spell? I can tell you what we need.” As she stepped out of the house, he noted she wore a man’s shirt and a worn split riding skirt. Her equally worn boots poked out from beneath the skirt, which hung a few inches too short.
After they sat down in the rocker, a breeze kicked up, blowing tendrils of that jet-black hair out of the braid that held them. She tried to tuck them back in but only succeeded in freeing a few more.
It was low, but he caught it. Jesse kind of like the idea of her cussing. Unusual, but then again, a woman hiring hands was too.
“The job, ma’am?”
She stopped fiddling with her hair. “The job, yes. We raise quarter horses, although there are a few other breeds we’ve adopted for our own. There are two full-time ranch hands, Buster and Jackson. They work the older horses with my sister Maeve, some colts, geldings, fillies and mares. My other sister Talulla takes care of the dams, foals and yearlings. We need someone to help her, keep the stalls clean, take care of the younger stock.”
“I can do that. I’ve worked a dozen horse ranches, took care of the purebred stock for a rich man and his family once.” She turned her head and he lost his train of thought. Jesse had never seen eyes that color blue before. The irises seemed to shift and move as though there was a storm brewing. Fanciful notion.
“The job includes room and board, but we can only pay thirty dollars a month, and that’s only if the Army buys some of our geldings.” She leaned forward and a whiff of roses swept past him. “It isn’t much of an offer, but that’s all I have.”
Her voice had dropped lower, became huskier. It wasn’t all she had, of course. She had a great deal of womanly charms. None of which he needed to think about. The woman was sin incarnate, but she just offered him a job. Eating and surviving until tomorrow sounded like exactly what he needed.
“I’ll take it.”
Shock skittered across her face and her lips opened. Their red, plump appearance did not escape his attention. “Okay, then let’s go to the big barn then. I need to talk to my sister.”
She almost catapulted out of the chair and into the yard. Jesse fell in step with her, their legs nearly the same length. She smelled of biscuits and roses and swung her arms as she walked. It had been some time since he’d had female company. He probably smelled of sweat and desperation, and possibly stupidity, considering how he’d reacted to the woman.
The door to the big barn was open and yet another surprise awaited him. Out the door came an identical version of the woman beside him. This one wore britches, chaps and a flat-brimmed black hat. She looked the same but there was no physical reaction this time, no punch to the gut he’d had when he first saw Rowan.
“Who’s this?” the one in britches asked with a narrowed gaze pointed at him.
“He’s looking for work. Abner sent him.” Now how the hell did she know that? Rowan knew who sent him to the ranch that morning without him even telling her. How was that even possible?
“Kind of sketchy looking if you ask me.”
Jesse would not tell the woman exactly what he thought of that particular comment but he had to say something. “I am standing here. Listening.”