Authors: Mia Ross
Her Country Hero
Searching for a safe haven in the Kentucky hills, city girl Bekah Holloway encounters the unexpected—a handsome country boy who offers her help. Drew Kinley gives her a job working with wounded animals, but on the run from an abusive boyfriend, Bekah needs more than employment. She needs a hero. Instinct tells Drew he’s the perfect man for the skittish beauty. But he’s spent a lifetime saving his family farm and now it’s his turn to see the world outside of Oaks Crossing. As Bekah finds her forever home, will Drew leave…or stay and embrace a future together?
The mystery of Bekah.
He’d unravel it, no matter how long it took. And this was the first step.
But when he opened her door, her head whipped around to reveal a look of panic.
“You took ten years off my life,” she said. “What are you doing here this time of night?”
“I saw the light. Is everything okay?”
“So you’ve come to save the damsel in distress? My hero.” She fluttered her hands. “Or is this just another flirtation from Drew Kinley? I’ve heard all about you, you know.”
“You’re smart enough to make up your own mind about lots of things. Including me.”
“That’s a line.”
“No, it’s not.” He edged closer. “Who was he, Bekah? The guy who scares you so much, you can’t trust me not to hurt you the way he did.”
Panic seized her features again, but Drew rested a comforting hand on hers. “You can be honest with me.”
Bekah had called him her hero. He had every intention of proving to her that he was worthy of that title.
loves great stories. She enjoys reading about fascinating people, long-ago times and exotic places. But only for a little while, because her reality is pretty sweet. Married to her college sweetheart, she’s the proud mom of two amazing kids, whose schedules keep her hopping. Busy as she is, she can’t imagine trading her life for anyone else’s—and she has a pretty good imagination. You can visit her online at
Books by Mia Ross
Rescued by the Farmer
Blue Ridge Reunion
Rocky Coast Romance
Jingle Bell Romance
Circle of Family
A Gift of Family
A Place for Family
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BY THE FARMER
Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
I’m grateful to the very talented folks who help
me make my books everything they can be:
Melissa Endlich and the dedicated staff
at Love Inspired.
More thanks to the gang at Seekerville
), a great place to
hang out with readers—and writers.
I’ve been blessed with a wonderful network of
supportive, encouraging family and friends.
You inspire me every day!
kay, it was official. She was lost.
Sighing in frustration, Bekah Holloway squinted through the branches alongside the isolated country road she was currently on, hunting for a sign to tell her where she was. It was probably intended to be two lanes, she complained silently, but considering the washed-out sections and complete lack of a shoulder, it was more like a lane and a half. That made it tough for someone who had no clue where she was going to keep the small hatchback out of the wide ditches on either side.
It sure was pretty out here, though, she had to admit as she drove beneath massive oak trees whose leaves were in the midst of changing colors for fall. It was almost October, and some were still green, but most had gone over to various shades of gold and red, giving her the impression that she was driving beneath nature’s own archway.
And it was so quiet, she could actually hear her own breathing. She couldn’t recall the last time she’d been able to do that, and she drank in her peaceful surroundings with sincere gratitude. It was a far cry from the traffic jams and crammed sidewalks she’d left behind her less than a month ago. Breaking away from the only life she’d ever known had taken a huge effort on her part, but now that she’d managed to gain her freedom, she’d rather die than go back to her old ways.
That thought had just flitted through her mind when something hit the windshield with a force that jerked her back to reality with a startled yelp. Before her eyes, the already chipped upper right corner of the glass spider-webbed into a large crack. She let out a dejected sigh. Repairing the radiator a few days ago had taken the last of her meager cash. There was no way she could do anything more until she found herself a job.
A fluttering at the side of the road dragged her attention away from her pity party, and she realized that whatever she’d hit was still alive. She wasn’t exactly a nature girl, so she wasn’t sure what to do, but she couldn’t leave an injured animal alone and helpless in the woods, suffering until it finally died. Moving slowly to avoid scaring it any further, she eased the driver’s door open and crept to the edge of the gravel lane. There, in a wallow filled with mud, lay the most incredible creature she’d ever seen.
A hawk with striking white-and-rust-colored feathers lay on the ground, clearly stunned but still conscious enough to watch her through one dark, mistrustful eye. The other was half closed, and from the odd angle at which its wing rested, Bekah assumed it was broken. The poor thing was breathing so fast, she couldn’t have kept up without hyperventilating. It seemed to her that it was waiting for her to finish the job her windshield had started.
“Please, don’t be scared,” she cooed to the terrified bird. “I want to help you.”
When she moved closer, it began flapping its good wing in a panicky gesture that made Bekah instinctively stop in her tracks. She wanted to help, but she didn’t know how.
“Hey there,” a deep voice murmured. “Need a hand?”
Terrified by the unexpected sound, she whipped around to find a tall man behind her. Dressed in running attire, he was obviously out for a jog, which explained why she hadn’t heard him coming. Apparently, he sensed her fear, because he held his hand out to her with a friendly grin. “Drew Kinley.”
Shocked into silence, at first she couldn’t make herself respond. He patiently kept his hand within her reach until she managed to reply. “Bekah.”
She didn’t shake his hand, and out of habit, she stopped short of adding her last name. Either he didn’t notice, or he didn’t care, because he skirted around her and assessed the injured animal from a safe distance. “Looks bad. What happened?”
“I’m not sure. One minute, I was driving along trying to figure out where I am, and the next, blam! I ran into this poor hawk. I feel terrible,” she added in a near whisper. She’d had enough pain inflicted on her in her life to know how it felt, and she knew all too well that being all alone only made the problem worse. Knowing she’d caused this beautiful creature so much pain made her nauseous.
Unfortunately, her confession brought Drew’s gaze back to her. His light brown hair was damp from his run, and it occurred to her that his eyes were a unique blend of green and gold she’d never seen before. When they focused on her, she watched as idle curiosity shifted to concern. “Are you okay?”
“Yes.” When she realized he was staring at her cheek, she lifted her palm to cover the healing bruise. “This happened a while ago.”
Darkening like thunderclouds, those eyes took on a fierce quality that made her backpedal in self-defense. When he noticed her motion, he put on a smile that looked forced but much less menacing.
“I’m sorry, Bekah,” he told her in a soothing Kentucky drawl. “I didn’t mean to frighten you. I just hate seeing a woman hurt that way is all.”
Why did he even care? she wondered. She was a complete stranger, and he’d interrupted his morning run to help her. This sort of innate kindness was so far beyond her experience, she didn’t know what to say.
After waiting several seconds, he seemed to understand she wasn’t going to respond. “So, back to your friend here,” he said in a chipper tone. Unzipping his hoodie, he asked, “Do you have a box for us to put this hawk in to keep him from struggling?”
“You can tell he’s male from way over here?”
Looking a little puzzled, Drew shrugged. “Not really. I just assumed.”
Typical guy, she huffed silently. “What’s wrong with assuming she’s female?”
“Good point,” he conceded with a sheepish grin. “Do you have a box to put
“Um, no. But I have a big duffel bag.”
“That’ll do. Why don’t you empty it out, and I’ll try not to scare the poor thing any more than we have to.”
Relieved to finally have a plan, she opened the rear hatch and took out the bag holding all her clothes. She dumped them on the floor of the car and offered the bag to Drew.
Cocking his head, he gave her a half-grin. “Yeah, that’s not gonna work. I’m gonna have my hands full of angry hawk, so you’ll need to hold the bag for me to drop her into.”
Backing away, she shook her head in protest. “I don’t think so.”
“I can’t do this by myself,” he reasoned. “There’s an animal rescue center not far from here, but I need your help to get her there. Otherwise, I could end up hurting her worse.”
That did it for her. Feeling responsible for the poor animal being wounded in the first place, Bekah knew that the least she could do was help Drew get her to someone who could care for her properly. Screwing up the tiny bit of courage she still had in her, she grasped both edges of the bag and followed him to where the bird lay.
“Now, I’ll cover her with my sweatshirt to keep her from going nuts. Once her eyes are blocked, she should settle down some, and you can catch her in the bag.” Giving Bekah a bracing look, he asked, “Ready?”
“As I’ll ever be.”
“Good. I’ll make sure to get a solid hold on her, so she won’t hurt you.”
That he was concerned about her safety touched Bekah in a way so unexpected, she didn’t know how to process the emotion. In the few minutes she’d known this tall, good-looking man, he’d rattled her thoroughly more than once. And not in the bad way she’d grown so accustomed to.
Yanking her errant thoughts back to the matter at hand, she waited while he spoke reassuringly to the bird, edging closer when she calmed and pausing when she seemed to be growing unnerved by his presence. Finally, he was close enough to wrap the hawk in his jacket, and Bekah stepped up with the duffel bag to enclose the frightened animal.
Cradling the bundle, she felt the bird’s frantic heartbeat as if it were her own. She knew how it was to feel powerless, and she cuddled the hawk to her chest hoping to make her feel safer. “It’s all right, baby—you’re safe now. We won’t let any more bad things happen to you.”
The struggling eased a bit, and Drew opened the passenger door for her. When she understood what he was suggesting, she took a large step back. “What are you doing?”
“You’ve got her calmed down, so I figured I’d drive us to the rescue center. Is that okay?”
Not in a million years.
She was more or less comfortable with holding their patient, but the idea of allowing someone else to drive her to an unknown destination filled her with a terror so deep, it was threatening to choke her. That kind of blind trust had caused her no end of trouble in the past, and she wasn’t keen to set herself up for that again.
Then logic kicked in to remind her that it would be impossible for her to drive while holding the injured bird. Not to mention, she had no idea how to get to this rescue center he’d referred to. So, undone by necessity, she let out a quiet sigh and nodded. “I guess.”
Once she was settled in the passenger seat, he quietly shut the door and hurried around the front to get behind the wheel and start the engine. He pulled his cell phone from a cargo pocket on his shorts and put it on speaker before pulling onto the road. A pleasant voice on the other end answered, “Oaks Crossing Rescue Center. This is Sierra, how can I help you?”
“Hey, it’s Drew. I’m coming in with a badly injured red-tailed hawk. Thought you’d like a heads-up.”
“Get it here as fast as you can,” the woman replied in a crisp, efficient tone laced with concern. “I’ll be waiting.”
Drew tapped the screen to shut off his phone and tucked it back in his pocket before glancing over at Bekah. “How’re you ladies doing over there?”
“Still breathing.” Bekah peeked into the bag to check on their passenger. The hawk was coiled like a spring, but at least she’d stopped wriggling and trying to get loose. Either she was calming down, or she was fading fast. Since she knew next to nothing about birds, Bekah realized she had no choice but to hope for the best. “She’s really scared, though. I wish there was something more I could do.”
“It’s not your fault she got hit,” he assured her as he took a sharp curve like a pro. “We’ve got a lot of red-tails around here, and they like to hunt at the edges of these woods. They get so focused on their meal, they don’t check for cars, so most likely she ran into you instead of the other way around.”
“Where did you learn so much about hawks?”
“I grew up here, so that’s some of it. The behavior stuff I’ve learned from the folks who rehab wildlife at the rescue center. You’d be amazed what kind of critters end up there.”
“Really? Like what?”
It was very unlike her to prolong any conversation beyond the absolute basics, so the curiosity she heard in her voice surprised her. Apparently, her dramatic bird encounter had unsettled her even more than she’d realized.
“Skunks, orphaned bear cubs, last week an entire possum family. Then there’s the usual dogs and cats, rabbits, stuff like that. My family and I run Gallimore Stables on the other side of the property, retraining retired racehorses for new owners.”
The mention of horses got her attention, and she couldn’t help being intrigued by this outgoing man who’d interrupted his morning to stop and help out a complete stranger and a hawk. Feeling some of her reluctance seeping away, she took a deep breath and blurted, “My last name’s Holloway.”
“Pleased to meet you, Bekah Holloway.” Sliding her an easygoing grin, he added, “What brings you to Oaks Crossing?”
Despite her lingering tension, she laughed. “So, that’s where I am. I was trying to get to a job interview in Rockville. The receptionist gave me directions, but I got turned around somewhere and couldn’t find any road signs.”
“Worked out well for me.” When she gave him a puzzled look, his grin widened. “If you hadn’t gotten lost, I never would’ve met you.”
She’d known more than her share of smooth talkers, and she recognized a line when she heard one. Normally, she would have let it pass since she’d never see him again. But something inside her raised up its head and pushed her to nip his subtle advance in the bud. Maybe she still had some of her dignity, after all.
Not wanting to sound rude, she came up with a polite way to set him straight. “And without you to help her, this hawk would be in major trouble. Right?”
He seemed to pick up on her meaning, and he nodded. “Right.”
They made the rest of their trip in silence. While that was what she’d had in mind, Bekah was almost disappointed. Drew struck her as a genuinely decent guy willing to lend a hand where it was needed, even if it was inconvenient for him.
Unfortunately, she’d run across too many people who seemed good at first and turned out to be anything but. It had left her jaded and, by necessity, leery of—well, everyone. It was really too bad, she thought as she stared out the window at the trees flashing by. If she was someone else, she might have considered finding a job here and staying a while. A long string of personal disasters had soured her on serious relationships, but based on their quick connection, there was a chance she and Drew might have become friends.
She’d grown weary of constantly traveling from one place to another to hide her tracks, and always being an outsider was disheartening, to say the least. Now that summer was over, she’d love nothing more than to spend the winter in a nice little town way off the grid and catch her breath. The trouble was, she knew she hadn’t come close to shedding her past, and she didn’t have the luxury of becoming complacent. She’d have to settle for finding a reasonably safe harbor until her well-honed survival instinct warned her it was time to move on again.
It wasn’t the life she wanted, but it was the one she had to live. And there was nothing she could do about that.
* * *
Bekah Holloway was a puzzle wrapped in a mystery.
To Drew, it looked as if she’d been living in her car, and the condition of it told him she was pretty hard up for money. As if that wasn’t bad enough, her skittish behavior made it obvious to him that she was running from something—or someone. Slender but clearly stronger than she looked, her auburn hair and vivid blue eyes accented a pretty face with freckles sprinkled across her cheeks. In truth, she reminded him of the pixies in the stories his mother used to read him when he was a boy.