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Protecting Home Sneak Peek 

Chapter One


Today ranks as a day from hell. Not true, the last eight months are a close second to the worst time in my life. After shutting down my office computer at nearly nine in the evening, I ride to the lobby in the opulent elevator.

“Good evening, Miss Sinclair. Working late again?” the night shift security guard named Kurt asks. Kurt is a portly older gentleman who lost his wife three years ago.

“Yes.” I need the money to save Sinclair Farm. Don’t let my suit and stylish heels fool you. My wardrobe of choice would be tight jeans and boots. Cowgirl boots to be precise. However, this is my life for the foreseeable future. There are no morning horseback rides to check the fence line, early wakeups to feed the cattle, or sleepless nights in the barn with a pregnant cow or mare. No exhausting jumping sessions with my horses to prepare for competition. I’m working my tail off to get back to farm days for my future.

“I’m sure your dad appreciates the assistance,” he offers.

I shrug. Deep down, I’m not sure if I’m working this hard for him or for me. Losing the farm would be devastating. I intend to raise my family there. Then again, life is cruel and my plans merely foolish notions. “He does. I hope it’ll be enough.” At least I keep telling myself my father cares.

Kurt raises his hand to usher me into the elevator to the parking garage. His parents raised him right. Something I can’t say for the current generation. I know, I sound cynical. He was taught manners. Most men my age, not so much. From the first time I worked late, he escorted me to my car. 
“Thank you, Kurt.”


“You’re welcome. Drive safely,” he replies and waits for me to pull out of the spot before returning to his post. I imagine the night shift to be lonely and quiet. Honestly, those attributes of the evening hours are nearly as perfect as the calm before sunrise over the rolling hills at the far edge of our property. Beneath a massive oak tree, I’ve watched the sun peek over the horizon while I contemplated what I wanted out of my life numerous times. Frankly, working this job isn’t it. 

I shake away my thoughts and park in my assigned spot behind the Tap Room. My accommodations are sparse, but it’s purposeful. With my massive salary, I could afford a posh apartment with a doorman and all the amenities like a lavish pool and state-of-the-art gym. Neither of which I have time to use. The reality is I don’t plan to stay here longer than necessary. After my father’s debt is paid, I’ll dump the suits and heels and go back to dirt under my fingernails and sweat beading on my forehead from working in the stable. 
Tulsa is sixty miles from the small town of Chandler, which has been my home since birth. I don’t begrudge the amenities of the city. I don’t desire to have everything at my fingertips. Farm life is simpler and uncomplicated. We have about one hundred and twenty acres with a large stable, barn, as well as a spring barn on the far side of the property near the creek. That assumes I can save it.
I push open the door to the bar and head inside. Tap Room is a local hole-in-the-wall. It isn’t dank by any means, but it has a long history which shows with the wide oak bar and old school wooden stools instead of modern ones.


“Evening, Maren.” 
“Hi, Bray. Can you make me something to eat? I’ll be back down in a few.”


“Sure can. Any requests?”

I shake my head. “Surprise me,” I reply and climb the stairs at the far end of the bar. Bray owns Tap Room and graciously rented me his spare bedroom for a rock-bottom price. With an obscenely low rent, I can send more money home to preserve my father’s legacy. Technically, it’s more my mother’s, and we’re simply trying to preserve and expand it. 
Margaret James Sinclair was a force of nature. Born into a family of wealth beyond measure, she attended prestigious boarding schools and her family bred champion racehorses. Fast-forward twenty years, my mother was a decorated equestrian and budding breeder. Her first foal, Serendipity, went on to win numerous races and produce a line of champions. Two of whom reside at the farm I’m trying like hell to save.


The tale is as old as time. Margaret was besotted with Thomas. The problem is he didn’t meet the baseline qualifications my grandfather required. My father wasn’t rich or from an exceptional family. He was hired as a stable manager. He fell head over heels in love with his boss’s daughter and her for him. For the first few years of their relationship, they attempted to see each other in secret. They failed, and my grandfather, Edward, gave my mother an ultimatum. She had to decide between her family and Thomas. My mother held firm and chose Thomas, and well, the rest is my life. 
I release the professional French twist in my hair and braid it loosely at the nape of my neck. I strip off my suit and don leggings and a cozy tee. After slipping my feet into slides, I return to the bar to pick up my food for a solo dinner on my bed.
Bray has other plans. “Nope, sit down. Eat like a civilized person. You don’t have to work in the morning, do you?”
I scowl at him and dutifully take a seat. I should go into the office tomorrow. Bray is eight years older than me, six feet of gorgeous, perfectly coifed man, and impeccably dressed to run a bar. He’s also hopelessly in love with his partner, Mark.  


“How was work?” he asks.

“The usual. Slow here tonight?”

“Yes. Give me more, sweets.”

My shoulders slump, and I take a bite of one of his delicious creations. Tap Room food is your typical bar fare: wings, fries, and nachos to soak up the best line of craft beers in the city. However, Bray can cook, and his skills aren’t used frequently enough. Tonight he prepared hot honey chicken with truffle mashed potatoes and seasoned green beans. 

“You spoil me.” I admit and eat a little more. 

“I like caring for you, and frankly, you need it. You’re working yourself to the bone. I’m surprised you haven’t fallen ill yet. Your work

ethic is admirable, but you need to live a little.”

I scoff. “No. The last thing I need to be is attached to a man here when I’m not staying long term.”

“You wound me.” He places his hand over his heart and exhales sharply.

“I love you, Bray, but I need a man who wants to have sex with me, not Mark.”

Bray chuckles and leans against the bar. “I know, but you’ve been single since you arrived. When is the last time you….”

“Don’t you worry about my sex life. My pink vibrating friend is enough for now.”

He shakes his head. “If you say so, honey. Those are supplements, not meant to replace the real thing.”

“Fair point.”

“Is there a man you’re pining for back home?”

“No.” I said it out loud. Did Bray believe me? Probably, despite his excellent interpersonal skills honed from owning and tending a bar. Do I believe me? Not even a little. He is off limits. My best friend’s younger brother is undeniably out of bounds. Plus, he left when I needed him to stay the most. It isn’t fair for me to blame him though. There is no way he would’ve known I had feelings for him. I hid them exceptionally well. I had no choice. My feelings were highly inappropriate given our age difference. The gap isn’t huge, but at the time it might as well have been decades. 

I finish my dinner, thank Bray, and climb the stairs to my bed. Before I can fall onto the lumpy mattress, my phone rings. The name “Mariah” flashes on the screen.

I answer. “Hey, sis. What’s up?”

Squeals meet my ears. “I’m getting married!” 

Huh? To who? Or is it to whom? Anyway. I force out, “Congratulations! Who’s the lucky guy?”

“Really, Mare?”

“What? I don’t know who you’ve been dating.” While I have been in the city working a job I loathe to save my childhood home, my sister has been searching for a man to save her. Mariah has run through a slew of rich men from the surrounding cities. She and I are complete opposites in that respect. My sister takes the easiest route possible in all things.
“It’s Carlos.” Her on again-off again boyfriend. My gut twists for my niece. Perhaps a ring will keep them together, said no one ever.


“Great! Is he okay with you being a single mom?”

“It isn’t like I kept my daughter a secret.”

I pinch the bridge of my nose. My sister’s choices in men aren’t the best. My niece’s father is… was a day laborer who worked the farm for my father a few years back. “As always, I’m looking out for you. Are you happy?”

“Of course I am!”

“Send me a pic of your ring,” I request.

Silence greets me over the telephone line until she says, “Um. We’re going to buy one soon.”

Red flag in my book. “Oh. Nice. I’m sure you will find one you love.”

“I will. How’s it going there?”

I look around my barren, white-walled bedroom with the popcorn ceiling. “It’s going. I probably need to work this job for another six months to a year before the debt is paid off.” 

“Who knew you could make ridiculous money in marketing?” Her question is rhetorical, but I did. Hence why I’m here.

“Me, silly girl, or I wouldn’t be here slaving away.”

I can see the grimace on her face. “Always the martyr, Mare.”

“No. It was the only solution I could come up with to keep the Doughtys from stealing our home.”

“You could enter more competitions,” my sister suggests.

“Maybe, but the prize money would never cover the total due. It could possibly supplement if necessary.”

“I could care less about the farm and whether you can save it.”

“Your opinion is evident from your behavior. It’s fine. I’m going to preserve it for Mom and her legacy, namely Sprite and Rainier. It’s the least I can do for Dad.”

“He can’t bear to look at those horses, a fact you are well aware of. Maybe you don’t because you’re away. Our father sees the love of his life every time he steps into the stable. He always has except now… she’s gone.”

“I have no control over that, Mariah. Never have. Mom died and we can’t change it.”

“Have you considered letting it go? Are you working this hard for him or for you? Don’t bother answering. It doesn’t matter anyway.

Dad mentioned the Doughtys changed the due date. You will fall short.”

My chest tightens in anger. “What are you talking about? I spoke with him four days ago.”

“Well, the oldest son showed up since then and shortened the timeline. You better scrape up the final amounts due and fast, or your hard work will be for nothing.”

The acid in my stomach churns not only for the way my sister shared this news but the real possibility leaving the farm may have been futile. “Let me talk to Dad.”

“Call tomorrow. I was just there to share about my engagement. He went to bed,” my sister informs me.

“I will. Congrats again. Let me know when you pick a date. Night, sis.”

“Good night, Mare.”

As if my day wasn’t horrid enough, my sister adds an ill-advised engagement and news of increased urgency to complete my big city mission. With nothing left to do, I slither under my covers and attempt to sleep. After tossing and turning all night, I pad to the kitchen at the crack of dawn and make coffee as quietly as possible. Bray will be sleeping for the next five hours at least. 
With a freshly brewed cup, I slip back into my bedroom and close the door with a snick. Settling on the dressing bench, I dial home. I’m sure my father is wide awake as well.


“Morning, Mare. What are you doing up with the sun on this fine weekend morning?”

“Dad. What is going on?”

He groans. “Your sister called you, huh? She can’t keep anything to herself.”

“She did. Please tell me what has changed.”

“Don’t worry. I found a solution and bought some more time with the down payment.”

“Which is?” I ask with concern running through me at the same time.

“A big-time movie is going to be filmed here. They had another location lined up, but it fell through. The lease will be enough to eliminate the debt. Then you can come home for good instead of a quick visit.” If only I could trust the potential assistance. I appreciate my father taking steps to pay his debt, but until the last amounts are turned over, I’ll keep working at the marketing agency.

“Are you sure this is legit?”

“Yes, I’m sure. I had my lawyer review the paperwork.”

Not sure I trust Attorney Gilson. Then again, he stood up for my parents in opposition to my grandparents. That’s a plus in my book. “Okay, Dad. I trust you. When does filming start?” 

He coughs, and it sounds atrocious. “In less than a week.”

“How long have you had that cough?”

“Woke up with it. I’m fine. Love you, Mare.”

“Love you too.” After I end the call, I dress for work. I won’t quit until my mother’s legacy is safe and secure. I owe it to her and myself to protect the Sinclair name. Despite his solutions, I need to keep going. Just in case.

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