Crisis and Chaos in Paradise –
Rhiann Kelly married Levi Butler five years ago. Their blissful life on a Paradise Valley, Montana property, operating an animal sanctuary and a horse ranch, is challenged after Levi experiences a health crisis. When the nephew of a criminal the Butlers knew in their past shows up for a job during Levi’s recovery, Rhiann faces critical decisions. Can she keep the ranch and sanctuary operating or will past incidents and Levi’s suppressed fears cause chaos she cannot control?
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Levi rose from the kitchen table, balancing his unsteady body by placing a hand on the table as a brace. His reddened face contorted.
“Like hell he’ll work here!”
Rhiann flinched. He took a deep breath and tried to steady his voice.
“He’s the nephew of the man who tried to take this land. There’s no way I’ll allow him to work our ranch.”
Levi again sat down. He put a hand to his head. “Of all the men from here to Bozeman and west to Harrison, this guy had to answer the help wanted ad.”
“Maybe it’s a sign,” Rhiann responded in a low voice.
He looked at her. “A sign? What are you talking about?”
She sat in a chair next to him.
“I think we both have been carrying unforgiveness toward Dallas Patterson ….”
“For justified reasons. He meant to kill you, Rhiann.”
“We don’t know for sure,” she protested. “To scare me, yes, but we don’t know his real intentions. He certainly didn’t say he wanted to kill me. Even Dave said at the trial he didn’t know for sure….”
Levi stood again. “Ever since we brought Dave on, things haven’t gone as well for us, even between us.”
He looked at Rhiann and saw her ashen face.
“What do you mean by that?” she asked, her voice cracking.
“Our disagreements, our not being on the same page about things.”
Rhiann stood in front of him. “Levi, people don’t always agree on things. And Dave has turned out to be a great ranch hand.”
“Yeah, but why? Maybe he and Patterson’s nephew have been conniving all this time, spying on us for some loathsome purpose.”
Rhiann placed her hands on her hips. “Like what?”
“I don’t know! Something!”
Levi hobbled toward the kitchen sink and leaned against it.
“How come you’ve become so suspicious, Levi?” Rhiann asked.
He faced her, and she continued, “As far as our disagreements, we’ve had them before, but we always found a compromise.”
“Yeah, involving me giving in. I’m getting tired of it.”
He watched as her eyes first bulged and then narrowed.
“Levi Marcus Butler, what’s gotten into you?”
“Rhiann Elizabeth Kelly, maybe I’m just weary of being the dog in the fight.”
“You used my maiden name.”
His wife’s soft voice startled him. Their eyes locked.
“You don’t want to be married to me anymore, do you?”
Levi’s gut tightened, and he nearly doubled over. He reached out to her.
“No, no, that’s not it at all.”
“Of course it is. You just couldn’t come out and say it.”
Rhiann turned her back on him, and he watched her shoulders shake. He attempted to walk to her, but one leg wouldn’t budge. He stumbled and fell to the floor. He heard Rhiann’s deep intake of breath just as he heard a deep, male voice.
“I guess that’ll teach you to be such a jerk.”
Levi turned his head to see his friend Phil standing in the kitchen’s entryway, arms crossed over his chest, and a deep frown furrowed on his face.
Gayle M. Irwin is a contributor to seven Chicken Soup for the Soul books and the author of many inspirational pet books and stories for both children and adults. Her clean, contemporary romance series, Pet Rescue Romance, consists of Rescue Road, released November 2019, Finding Love at Compassion Ranch, released in May 2020, a 2020 holiday novella, Rhiann’s Rescue (the series’ prequel), and the upcoming My Montana Love. She subtly weaves important life lessons within the lines and pages of her stories, including the importance of pet rescue and adoption. Learn more about Gayle and her writing here: https://gaylemirwinauthor.com/.
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