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Josie Calhoun squinted against the late afternoon sunlight, studying the front of the big, beautiful Montana log cabin. The ranch house, not even three years ago, had been built for a man who had everything.
For a man who thought he had everything.
The twenty-four year old designer-in-training stood at the edge of the sweeping gravel driveway, holding her breath, feeling the awful weight, and truth, of this house. Of what this grand sprawling house represented. It was to have been a celebration of a Montana man’s accomplishments. This was his success story. His reward.
She hadn’t been part of the design team that built it, but she’d been aware that her firm had created the luxurious home, turning Bear Anderson’s wish list and dreams into reality. He’d been an integral part of the plans and after being hired, she’d poured over the plans curious about the design decisions because Bear Anderson was huge. He wasn’t just a rodeo champion, he was a star, a Montana hero. Everybody knew him, even if they hadn’t met him, and the local and state papers religiously covered his career, keeping everyone up to date on his success as one of the world’s top cowboys and bull riders.
She, like everyone else in Montana, knew the moment it all changed. It had only taken six and a half seconds in Tulsa to destroy a life.
No one thought it’d happen to Braden “Bear” Anderson. The Livingston native, a three time national bull-riding champion, had never even been seriously hurt before.
Bear was Bear. A legend. He earned his nickname as a skinny freckled faced ten year old when he took on a grizzly during a family fishing trip outside West Yellowstone, distracting the bear who’d gotten a little too interested in Braden’s eight year old sister.
Montanans loved courage. Bravery. And they loved that one of their own would challenge a Grizzly and live to tell about it.
So Bear became a hero long before he ever won his first big belt buckle. It went without saying that it just about broke everyone’s heart when that rank bull came crashing down on him in Tulsa, and wouldn’t let him up.
Folks watching the event that night—whether there at the Bank of Oklahoma Center or home watching live–thought the bull had killed Bear. People wept as he was carried unconscious from the arena and the other PBR cowboys took off their hats, formed a circle and got down on a knee to pray. Please, Lord, don’t take Bear.
God heard. He spared Bear’s life, but Bear was done riding and competing. Done walking, too. No way he could walk, not with what that bull did to his spinal cord.
It’d taken tough, fearless Bear Braden Anderson a full year to accept that he wasn’t going to walk again, and only now was he coming home, back to his Clyde Park ranch with the jagged, snowcapped Crazies for a view.
Josie blinked against the sun, the reflection off the long metal ramp making it hard to focus on the handsome log cabin’s big front porch. The two-story five bedroom home had been built with reclaimed lumber, which had cost a fortune, but Bear hadn’t cared. Bear had been making good money on the circuit—he was a three time national champion after all—and great money through sponsors and endorsements. Everyone loved a success story, and Bear’s was downright mythical.
Or had been, til Tulsa.
Now Bear was back, broken, and he couldn’t even pee in his multi-million dollar dream home because his wheelchair couldn’t fit through the bathroom door, of the only bathroom on the main floor.
Which is why Josie was here, to get changes made. Fast.
But before she could even get to the interior modifications, they were going to have do something about this ramp out front.
Bear hated it. The lead architect with her firm had tried explaining to him on the phone yesterday that it was just a temporary ramp, quickly constructed so Bear could get into his house, as there were three steps to the front porch, and six at the back, where the property sloped down. But Bear didn’t care that it had been built for his convenience. He hung up on the lead architect, and then one of the project managers. He refused to speak to the contractor who came out yesterday to meet him, and now she was here, not because they had no one else, but because she’d volunteered.
Her brother was in a wheelchair. She’d grown up in watching him struggle. Accessibility wasn’t an option. It was necessary. But it didn’t have to be ugly, and she could see how the cheap aluminum ramp in front of his house upset him.
Standing outside she called Bear’s phone, hoping he’d pick up. It took him five rings, but he did.
“It is an ugly ramp,” Josie took a quick breath. “I’m standing outside and I can see why you hate it. Everyone could have done better. We should have done better.”
“Who is this?” he asked after a moment, his voice deep, hoarse.
“I don’t recognize your name.”
“I wasn’t part of the design team.”
“So why are you here?”
“Because I want to make it right.” She hesitated, firmed her voice. “And I know I can.”
“Are you the one standing in my yard?”
“I am,” she said.
He sighed, exasperated, and then the line went dead.
Josie glanced at her phone. He’d hung up on her.
But then the front door opened and a shadow stretched across the porch. “You coming in?” The deep voice called, coming from the threshold. “Or are you waiting for an invitation?”
Josie swallowed hard, suddenly nervous, and clutched her notebook closer to her chest. “No invitation needed,” she answered, squaring her shoulders before walking up the shiny silver ramp, her footsteps sounding like thunder on the aluminum surface.
End of Excerpt