Unbridled

By: Diana Palmer

A lone wolf takes on the threat endangering everything he loves in an unforgettable story in the sensational Long, Tall Texans series

Widowed Texas Ranger and single dad John Ruiz hardened his heart years ago. Day after day, he tracks the roughest criminals in the Lone Star State, leaving little room for love. So when John butts heads with the beautiful nurse who’s helping his young son, he’s floored by how quickly the sparks fly.

Ever since her mother’s and brother’s brutal murders, Sunny Marlowe has devoted her life to helping save others. Adorable Tonio Ruiz is just another youngster she’s trying to help—or so she tells herself. Little does she know he’s John’s son. When her life comes under fire, can one mysterious rancher rescue her?



To Margaret and her sister, Carol, who take such wonderful care of my two Amazon parrots. Thanks for all the wonderful years of friendship. Love you both.





Dear Reader,

I never get tired of writing books about Jacobsville and Comanche Wells, my fictional homes in Texas. This is no exception. Every time I revisit the area, I connect with old friends (Cash Grier just won’t go away, and he turns up everywhere!) and catch up on news about characters from many books ago. It probably shows that I love Texas!

I grew up in southwest Georgia, where a Texan would feel at home. We had much the same sort of scenery, but I grew up on a farm, not a ranch. We had mules and hogs, and my grandfather looked after a small herd of cattle for the landowner—we even had Jack Russell terriers who were trained to round up the big animals if they got loose. I was a child, but everybody worked. Granny made me a little shoulder bag of canvas that I used to pick cotton in. I remember Grandaddy working beside me in the blazing heat, singing “Amazing Grace” off-key. Hard times. Wonderful times. No money, but an abundance of love. I was so happy that I never realized we were poor.

The heroine in this book is a nurse. My mother was, also. She trained at Grady Hospital in Atlanta and worked at many hospitals in the metro area while my sister and I were growing up. I have a special place in my heart for the profession. The hero is a Texas Ranger, one of the most unique law enforcement jobs in existence. There’s also a kindhearted young man of eleven who has serious problems of his own. Neither the hero nor the heroine knows about the other’s involvement in his life as they work to protect him from a dangerous gang of teens. His identity threatens their growing attraction. I had a wonderful time telling this story. I hope you enjoy reading it.

As always, I am your biggest fan.








ONE

It was two weeks until Christmas. Suna Wesley, whom her coworkers called Sunny, was standing by herself at the edge of the makeshift dance floor in the boardroom at the San Antonio Hal Marshall Memorial Children’s Hospital, watching as her colleagues in the hospital laughed and performed to the music on the loudspeakers. A disc jockey from a local radio station, related to one of the nurses, had been persuaded to provide commentary. There was plenty of punch and refreshments. Doctors and nurses, orderlies and dieticians, mingled around the buffet table. It was a holiday-themed party, the Saturday after Thanksgiving. One of the favorite staff doctors had taken a job back east, so it was mostly a going-away party.

Christmas decorations were draped around the room, marking the start of the holiday season. Holly and mistletoe and golden bells mingled with red bows. It made the holidays come to life in the red and green decor. But the whole holiday season was sad for Sunny. It brought back haunting memories of the season with her father and mother and little brother. Those days were long gone.

As she watched a nurse flirt with one of the interns, Sunny wished it was over. She’d been persuaded to stay after her shift and join in the fun. But it was the same as always. She was alone, because she was too shy to push herself into one of the many small groups and engage in conversation. She lived alone, stayed alone, was resigned to being alone for the rest of her life.

She pushed back her long, platinum blond hair and wished she were beautiful. Her hair was her one good quality. It was straight and pretty when she left it long, and it fell to her waist in back. She had big brown eyes that reflected her loneliness when she was alone and didn’t have to hide it from others.