Chapter One

The sun was shining, the birds were singing as they soared through the clear blue sky, and fifteen year old Samantha Forster was sitting on the front porch of the Riverband ranch house reading Jane Eyre. She was so engrossed in the book that she didn't notice the blue Chevy pick-up pull into the yard. She also didn't notice the tall, young man with bronze skin and shoulder length black hair descend from the truck placing a black Stetson on his head, or that he was heading toward her wearing a tomcat grin with amusement shining in his brown mustang eyes.

"Spendin' too much time with Jennifer aren't ya, Brat," he said, startling Sam out of her story.

"Jeez! Jake, don't scare me like that!" Sam exclaimed, "Don't you have any common sense? You don't just…"

Jake grinned at the red haired girl who was staring at him in complete shock, "Don't just what, Brat?"

"Oh my gosh! Jake you're back!" she squealed, jumping off the porch and tackling him in a hug. "How are you? How's college? Why didn't you tell me you were coming home?" she asked in one breath.

"First, I'd like to breath, Sam," he said. "Sorry," she stated while backing up.

"I'm fine and college is ok. I wanted to surprise you, which I did a good job at doing," he answered proudly.

"My! Aren't we getting a big head?" Sam teasingly accused.

Grinning down at her, he retorted, "At least I've got a good reason to be unlike some people around here."

"Now why don't we go see Witch and Ace," he suggested, "or would you rather read your book?"

Sam rolled her eyes and started walking, "I'll go with you. I can always read later," and with that they walked in comfortable silence to the pasture where the horses waited for them.