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The Headless Horseman Trail: Ranch Rivalry, Book Two

By: Gray Gardner
Published By: Blushing Press
Copyright: Copyright 2016 Blushing Books
14 Chapters / 34,000 Words
Heat Level:
4.8 Out Of 5 (4.8 on 9)   |  Write a review

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Legend. Mystery. And love?

Eager to set up her archeological dig site on her cousins’ ranch, Ellison Holliday is completely stunned to find that the always empty McCann Guest House isn’t actually empty. She’s even more unprepared for the muscular Adonis who greeted her. Or his gun. Or his nakedness.

FBI Agent Waller Beckindorf has taken solo residence on the McCann Ranch during his investigation into Jackson McCann’s disappearance. But all of his training does nothing to prepare him for the spitfire that blows into his life in the form of Ellison Holliday. More than just a bit like her cousin Case—Jackson’s baby sister who keeps trying to sneak into the still quarantined crime scene—Ellison is beauty, brains, and in desperate need of discipline. His discipline.


1870, South Central Texas

A single branch groaned under the weight of the body swinging from the hemp rope. The crowd of people gathered at the stagecoach stop shuffled back into the lonely structure in the middle of nowhere, numb to the execution of such a young woman in a time of poverty and national unrest.

As the sun fell behind the horizon of flat, sandy plains and low brush, the unnamed woman was laid to rest next to the fresh grave of her husband. The man she was accused of murdering. A man whose head was never recovered.

Chapter 1

“I thought I told you no one can go in there.”

“It’s my house!”

The tall, broad shouldered man in the gray suit stood on the porch of the white, plantation style home with one very angry, very petite brunette—the owner of the previously mentioned home.

“It’s a crime scene, Buttercup,” he said, his voice only rising a little. He was tired and achy after a long drive in from Dallas.

“Don’t patronize me, G-man,” Case McCann replied, squaring up her stance to the much larger gentleman. “It’s been like, 2 months. You haven’t found out anything about my brother, Jackson. All of my stuff is in there. I need my stuff. I need my house!”

“Again, Miss McCann, I’m a federal crime scene investigator. I have to pick through every fiber in that house to find clues. Then I have to send things off to the lab at Dallas FBI Headquarters to be analyzed. That takes time.”

“What happened to the short fat one?” she grumbled, folding her arms and looking up at the agent with a frown. That first guy, Agent Longfellow, was slow and she could get around him, usually only getting caught after rummaging in her closet for a pair of shoes and jeans.

“It doesn’t matter. I’m here and I don’t want to catch you on this porch again. No crossing the yellow tape! You hear?” He used his forceful government agent voice which usually scared people. He wasn’t so sure this tenacious little girl frightened easily.

“So are you living here or something?” she asked, leaning in and reading the name inside the leather wallet he’d flipped open when he’d caught her unlocking the kitchen door. “Agent Beckindorf?”

“You don’t need to worry about that. Now scram,” he sighed, shoving his wallet and shield back into his pocket and wiping the sweat off his brow. He needed to get out of that suit and into more appropriate South Texas-in-August clothes.

Her demeanor quickly changed as she fisted her hands at her sides and her cheeks flushed with anger.

“Are you sleeping in my parents’ bed?” she quietly asked, not breaking eye contact.

Exhaling and shaking his head, he relented a little. The kid had a pretty sad story. and couldn’t seem to be able to catch a break. He didn’t need to make things worse for her.

“Look, Miss McCann…”

“Call me Case,” she evenly said, still staring up at him.

“Case,” he nodded, pulling the sides of his suit jacket back as he rested his hands low on his hips. “I couldn’t stay in this house even if I wanted to. It’s a crime scene. I’m staying over in that place down the dirt road.”

She glanced over her shoulder down the winding white caliche road at the white 2-story clapboard house.

“The guest house?” she asked, frowning.

“That 4000 square foot mansion is your guest house?” he asked, raising his brow. He was about to counter with a remark when she suddenly slapped his arm.

“But! It was covered in yellow tape! I didn’t know we could stay there! I want to stay there! You move out!” she ordered, pointing her finger at him.

“All of my equipment and files are in there. And my director signed off on it. So… no,” he replied, becoming extremely amused by her rising temper.

“Listen here, Agent Breckindork…”

“Call me Waller,” he grinned, liking her policy of candor and persistence. In any other circumstance, they may have been friends.

“Waller,” she said between her teeth, trying to find a place of serenity as the anger whirled around her. “You have until sundown to grab your gear and clear out of my house, and if you do not comply, I’m sorry but I will be forced to take legal action!”

“According to your file you’ve already got a pretty little place to live in University Park right next to SMU,” he replied, watching the emotion wipe right off of her face, replaced, finally, by a look of fear.

“You… you have a file on me?”

“We always rule out the family as suspects first, Cupcake. Don’t look so worried.”

She straightened her shoulders again and tried to regain a foothold in her argument. “So. I’m not a suspect. Now you have to move or I will get the authorities involved.”

“I am the authorities,” he quietly said, taking a step towards her to see if she’d back down. Her mouth dropped open a little and a small line appeared between her eyebrows, but she otherwise was not going to concede very easily. Luckily, he didn’t have to see how far things would go before he had to arrest her for assaulting a federal agent. Backup arrived.



Case stepped back and looked behind her, just in time to see Hall rounding the corner from the front of the house, all hot in his worn jeans and button down, hair a mess from driving with the windows down. He’d always be able to take her breath away. She frowned at the familiarity in the greeting, though.

“Wait, you two don’t know each other… do you?”

“Harvard,” they both replied, shaking hands.

“So you’re assigned to Jackson McCann’s case?” Hall asked, drawing his little girlfriend to him and kissing the top of her head.

“Yeah,” Waller nodded, noting how they were acting. “So you’re dating my lead suspect?”

“What?” Case squealed, stepping towards him as he held his hands up and joined Hall in a good laugh at her expense.

“Kidding,” he grinned, shaking his head. “Your little lady and I were just discussing the finer points of eminent domain.”

“You’ll get to move back in soon enough, Case,” Hall smiled indulgently at her, brushing a loose strand of hair behind her ear. “Are you that eager to move out of my place?”

“No. No, of course not,” she sighed, looking down at the toe of her dirty white tennis shoe. “I just…I want my stuff. I want my home. I still feel like a guest in your house, Hall.”

“Anything new on the hunt for Jackson?” Hall asked, wrapping his arms around Case and pulling her into him.

“Nothing I can disclose,” Waller shrugged, looking apologetic. “And, I’m sorry that y’all can’t move back in, but you just can’t. If we retrieve Jackson and take the suspects to court, we don’t want the defense to accuse anyone of tampering with evidence. So no entering the house. Not yet. And no more sneaking in either, Buttercup. I mean it.”

“You tried to sneak in again?” Hall asked, holding her shoulder. It was the third time in a month. He knew she had been taking way too long to pick up milk.

“Caught her right here about half an hour ago,” Waller grinned, watching her cheeks flush as his friend gave her an annoyed look. She had spunk and she was cute. Two things his good friend deserved in his life. There had just been too many sad stories in this small town.

“He’s living in the guest house. I want to live there!” Case pouted, pointing at the house down the road.

“He needs it so they can find your brother,” Hall said, taking a step down off of the porch. “Now come on. It’s getting late.”

“No!” she replied, backing up.

“I’ll see you, Hall,” Waller smiled, putting his Ray Bans on and walking down the road towards the McCann guest mansion.

“Later, Beck. Now come on, Baby Girl, you’re in enough trouble as it is.”

Waller shook his head and laughed as he strolled away, pausing only briefly as the argument escalated. He glanced back.

“Get in the car!”

“I’m getting in that house! And besides, I brought the 4 wheeler so I am not getting into your car!”

“You’re asking, no, begging me to spank you, Case.”

“God, shut up! He’ll hear you!”

“And he’ll probably hear this,” Hall stated, holding her arm and swinging his hand around to her backside. The smack echoed, as did her startled squeal, and Waller had to force himself to turn and keep walking. A spanking? So that was how a guy like Hall kept a girl like Case around.

The arguing, spanking, and squealing continued as he walked away. The whole exchange had been fascinating. Appealing. Even stimulating. He washed away the day in a hot shower, but kept their little fight on deck so he could relieve his aching erection. He was a little surprised at his arousal since no woman had piqued his interest in the past year at the Bureau, but he realized it wasn’t the girl, really. It was the argument. The action. The sound. He came hard as the water washed over him. His relief wasn’t enough to leave him satisfied, though, so he was about to let the shower run a little longer when he heard the front door.

He quickly turned off the water, grabbed his Glock, and carefully stepped out of the downstairs master suite to the living area.

Hope W on 07/26/2016 08:46am
I read this book as a standalone novel and had no problem understanding the story. However, I found myself wanting to go back and read Case and Hall's story. While they were only secondary characters in this book they still drew me in with their powerful chemistry and love. Ellison and Waller showed a lot of love. They had many humorous as well as serious conflicts to keep us interested. Waller, an FBI agent, was falling in love with Ellison and becoming more protective by the day. Ellison was headstrong, independent, and use to answering to no man! This short story is a wonderful read that will keep your attention. It is well written and the characters are complex. Overall I recommend this book to anyone who would like a fun night filled with mystery, danger and intrigue along with humor, love, spankings, and hot sex scenes. I hope you will read and enjoy!!
Stats23 on 07/25/2016 02:05pm
This second short story by Gray Gardner is a really enjoyable read that will leave you very satisfied with both the content and the ending. The plot centres, loosely, around the kidnapping of Case McCann’s brother, but the real story is the budding romance between the FBI lead investigator (Waller Breckindork) and her cousin (Ellison Holiday). With numerous subplots and extended family interventions, there is a lot going on, but it all comes together in a most exciting way. There are lots of spankings, as his first book would lead you to expect, as well as some awesome sex scenes. For sure you will want to read this one, and quite likely go back and read the first in the series (if you haven’t already). Five Stars.
SL on 07/25/2016 12:18pm
It grabbed you from the first with the FBI investigating a missing person, the intrigue of the headless horseman, and an old murder. I enjoyed the chemistry between Ellison and Waller. She is so strong minded and is use to doing everything herself. Waller just wants to serve and protect. Throw in men that spank in order to keep their women safe, and you have this story. It is a standalone. Enjoyable read. Lots of sex and steam.
Toni L on 07/24/2016 05:51pm
I enjoyed this story & found it a nice, light, easily read tale. That said, I did have problems with the idea that a law enforcement officer could call a female he's just met as 'buttercup' or 'little girl' & consider it to be acceptable with no prior relationship. However, I decided to put that aside simply because I found the story that enjoyable. Yes, it's lightweight. But that actually worked in it's favour. I especially loved that you were given insight into the thinking of Waller.
Redrabbitt on 07/22/2016 12:15pm
The plot takes the reader on the trail of mystery, suspense, history, and throws in some angst, determined women, dominant men, and crime. Ground rules must be laid down and followed to keep Ellie safe, from those who would do her harm, from those who are wolves in sheep’s clothing and from her own self. Waller falls hard for this spitfire woman, what will it take for him to show her he honestly cares without shattering her enthusiasm as she plans and executes her dig of family land. Will they find Jackson before it is too late? How will the McCann family treat Casey with a Blackhill in the mix? The story may give some answers, but I think we are in for more of the family down the road.
DB on 07/20/2016 11:42pm
I loved this book! I had not read the first one, so now I will have to go back and read it! This book had me from the first page. It had so much dialogue - that was just about all there was - and I love a book like that! Ellison and Waller are so good together. There were laugh out loud moments, many spankings, mystery, suspense, hot sex, love and caring. This was the first book of Gray Gardner's I have read but it won't be the last! Great job! 5 big stars!
madpuss on 07/19/2016 08:07pm
 I hadn't read the first story so I read its description and that was enough for me to follow this one. I enjoyed it. I liked Waller and Ellison, their growing relationship was fun and sweet. Waller saw Hall with Case and wanted the kind of relationship they had. I liked Hall and Case enough to want to read their story now too. This story was fast paced, light and fun with plenty of discipline and a little mystery to keep us all wondering.
Jaycee on 07/17/2016 03:34pm
I disagree with a previous reviewer - you DO need to have read the first story in order to follow this one. I did not read the first story and was quite confused at first - it would have had more impact had I known what was going on. That being said, I did find myself drawn into the story fairly quickly and enjoying it. I really liked Waller and Ellison - their relationship was humorous and touching. I loved how Ellison depicted true reactions after her first spanking. So many times, the woman just melts or is contrite. She was angry and humiliated, as I imagine I would be. Great mystery and lots going on. I did not care for the scene where Case is spanked by her sister-in-law in front of the entire family. I would have liked to have seen Millie chastised more for that and her brothers apologizing for their part in that fiasco. Loved how Hall was there for Case at every turn. There were a few too many editing mistakes to give this a 5. I also wish we would have found out more about the Headless Horseman mystery - I wanted to know the truth about the murder but we are never given an answer.I gave 4 stars, but it's more like a 3 1/2 because of the editing and the family humiliation scene.
Susan on 07/17/2016 03:11pm
I really enjoyed this book, I haven't read the first in the series but appears this can be read as standalone. Ellison is trying to work on an archeological dig on her cousins property whilst FBI agent Waller is trying to locate her kidnapped cousin, there is mystery with the headless horseman and the cousins disappearance love and spanking. Great book couldn't put down.

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