The BookA man without memories, and the cop who never gave up hope.
When he wakes up in the hospital, the victim of a brutal beating, John Doe has no memories of who he is or who hurt him. The cops can find nothing to identify him and he can't remember anything to help... except the name Ethan and one recurring place from his dreams. Two words, and they're not much, but it's a start: Crooked Tree.
Detective Ethan Allens has never stopped searching for the two boys who vanished. When a report lands on Ethan's desk that may give new leads, he jumps at the chance to follow them up. The man he finds isn't his brother, but it's someone who could maybe help him discover what happened twelve years ago.
What neither man can know is that facing the very real demons of the past could destroy any kind of future they may have together.
- Cover art by Meredith Russell
- Edited by Sue Adams
- ISBN: 978-1-78564-044-5
- Word Count: 66,200
The Montana Series
Book 1 - Crooked Tree Ranch
Book 2 - The Rancher's Son
Book 3 - A Cowboy's Home
Book 4 - Snow in Montana
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ReviewsMultitasking Momma - 4/5 - "....Entertainment wise, this is a truly romantic read and does tell the enduring love Ethan has for Adam and vice versa. Compared to the first book, I think I enjoyed this more. I especially liked how the author walked the reader through Adam's recovery, giving us a hint of how he felt and thought when something strange is familiar and what he thought familiar was not truly that. The story developed very well, for Adam's story, but for the rest, well not so well. What I do know is I need that third book now so I can get closure for this mystery is getting deeper and I need the answers...."
The Blogger Girls - 4.5/5 - "....This is probably my favorite R.J. Scott to date. I loved it from beginning to end…well, almost to the end because we have a little teeny, weeny cliffy and I am now dying for the next book....
....This story and mystery grabbed me from the beginning, and I could not put it down. I needed to know what happened to Adam and Justin; I needed Adam to remember Ethan; and I needed it now. It was a great telling, it was full of tension and intrigue, but it wasn’t fast. You have to really get through all the ups and downs of what Adam was going through, you learn about Ethan and Adam’s past, and you fight for them to come out whole on the other side....
....Overall Impression: I loved it...."
Lustfull Literature - 5/5 - "....I need to start off by saying that this book is definitely my favourite so far from what I’ve read from this author. I literally read this book in one sitting. From the beginning to the very end I was captivated by the storyline and I was eager to find out the mystery of what really happened to Justin and Adam 12 years ago....
....I don’t want to go into too much detail about the story because really once you pick this story up you’ll be glued to your pages too. However, I will say that this story is more than a romance novel. It’s sweet, and sexy and honestly there isn’t a whole lot of angst to it, but it has some really interesting twists and turns that I found truly captivating. I loved being able to see all these puzzle pieces fit together. And I certainly was not expecting some the things that happened. R.J. Scott really created this amazing storyline that has so much intrigue to it...."
Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words - 4.5/5 - "....Let’s just say that it’s a very well-developed story line, complete with danger and intrigue, and heavy on the romance, but not on the sex. It’s the perfect combo, and I loved it so much I went right out and picked up book one and am hoping that after I devour that one, I can get book three. I’m hooked on this series, and most definitely enjoyed the ending to this story though it isn’t a complete resolution to the mystery. It did intrigue me enough to salivate over the need to get into book three quickly. Thankfully, the time frame between releases was short and it’s already out.
I highly recommend this one to all who love MM romance, cowboys, cops, mysterious amnesia victims, and of course, an RJ Scott story...."
Diverse Reader - "....There were so many little things that put together this story that made it great for me, things I could point out that I loved about these two men or the story, but really the overall package that this author delivered was perfect! I can’t wait to get the book 3 A Cowboy’s Home with Justin and Sam!...."
The Way She Reads - "....This is a quiet sorta romance. The tension isn’t found in a ‘will they – won’t they’ scenario but in the unraveling of what happened in the past and what, if any, dangers it poses for the present and future. I adored Adam and Ethan, I adored their story and I adored the way it was told. It doesn’t get much better than that. To say I’m ready for the next book, A Cowboy’s Home, would be a gross understatement...."
Ethan must have nodded off at some point, waking to another coffee from Clare and a ten-minute warning that breakfast was about to be brought up to the patients. His neck ached, and he was semi curled up in the hard chair.
“Thought you needed this. If you want to go to the cafeteria, I can keep an eye on Adam.”
“No, I’ll stay here. Thank you, though.”
“I’ll see if I can get someone to bring you up something.”
A quick glance at his watch showed Ethan it was a few minutes after six. He checked his email. He’d only sent the information to Navy Liaison at late last night, but there was already a message back saying all efforts would be made to get the information to Cole Strachan. There was a group joke sent by one of the shift officers back at the precinct, and some spam. Other than that, nothing.
Ethan stood and stretched tall, sipped his hot coffee, and watched the April morning unfold before his eyes. Clare managed to scrounge up some pastries, and he ate them at the window, a hundred thoughts racing through his head.
A nurse disappeared into Adam’s room, and Ethan tensed in expectation. He desperately wanted to go in there, but would Adam even be interested in talking to him?
“Are you Ethan?” the nurse asked. The tray in her hand carried untouched food.
“You can go in. He’s asking for you.”
As he started to walk past her, she thrust the tray at him. There was a plate of eggs, and a sorry-looking pancake. “Try to get him to eat some of this,” she said.
He took the tray, because he didn’t really have a choice, and went into Adam’s room, kicking the door shut behind him. There was no one in the bed, but the bathroom door was closed, so Ethan assumed that was where the errant Adam was. He placed the tray on the table and waited, looking out of the same window Adam had been standing at last night. From this angle and at this height, Ethan could see the water of Lake Michigan and watch the hospital parking lot grow busier by the minute.
The bathroom door opened. Ethan instinctively turned and wished he hadn’t, because now he was staring. Not so much at the pajama bottoms that rode low on slim hips, or the broad chest that had a smattering of hair, tapering to a happy trail downward, nor to the muscles in Adam’s arms. No, Ethan was staring at the scars—new ones and some way older by the look of them—bruises purple and yellow and green, and the tattoos.
Tribal tattoos circled Adam’s arms, over his right shoulder, and down onto his pec: big swathes of dark ink with finer detail in curls around muscles. Something that looked like old burns marked his neck. A body that had seen a lot, felt a lot.
“I don’t remember them,” Adam said, his voice lost. He ran his fingers over the tattoos as if touching them would bring back memories. “They must have hurt, don’t you think?”
Ethan thought of the small tattoo over his heart and recalled the discomfort of getting it. His hadn’t hurt; the million tiny pricks into his skin were nothing.
“Maybe,” he offered.
Adam turned a little and checked the tattoos in the mirror, peering close. “I wonder what they mean?”
When he turned, he exposed more marks on his back and the fine lines of a horse standing on his hind legs. Ethan inhaled sharply.
“What?” Adam snapped, attempting to see his back even though he couldn’t get the right angle. “What is it?”
Adam frowned. “That is my horse? I want to see that again, the detective took a photo but he didn’t have a copy for me.”
Ethan pulled out his cell and snapped a shot of the beautiful tattoo, then passed the phone to Adam, who stared at the picture.
“Why is it—” Any energy seemed to leave him in the exhalation of a sigh, and he slumped to sit on his bed. “—I remember this is a cell phone, but I don’t recall patterns on my own skin?”
From his research Ethan learned terms like brain centers and retrograde amnesia, alongside traumatic stress, he didn’t understand a lot of it. “I have no idea.”
Adam curled into himself, hunching over his knees, looking utterly defeated.
Compassion welled inside Ethan, and he sat next to his old friend, pushing the tray toward him. “Eat your eggs,” he said gruffly.
Adam side-eyed him and huffed before taking the tray and resting it on the small hospital table. He forked some into his mouth, grimacing as he chewed and swallowed, but at least he ate half of what was there, and one cold, dry pancake.
“I need a proper breakfast,” Adam grumped.
“Hot fresh bacon,” Adam said immediately, paling at what he was saying. “I think that I love bacon. I’d eat plates of the stuff if you gave them to me.”
“And real pancakes,” Ethan added. He reached over and poked at the sorry excuse for one that had been served. “But not like this one. Fluffy, steaming pancakes.”
Adam nodded and darted his tongue out to collect a small piece of egg resting on his lips. “Maple syrup,” he added softly.
“You always liked maple syrup.”
Adam finished the eggs and grimaced again. “When we get out of here, will you find me bacon?”
“Real bacon, and pancakes with maple syrup. That sounds just like what I want to eat.”
Ethan’s chest tightened as Adam looked up at him under his eyelashes, his dark eyes holding humor. Adam and Justin had spent their childhoods getting Ethan to do what they wanted: the older brother with money from a part-time job, the one with the car. And he’d done everything they asked.
“I wouldn’t take you anywhere bad,” Ethan said
Adam pushed the tray to one side. “I need a shower, and then we go, right?”
“You should take photos of all my tattoos, so you could maybe find out more about me.”
“I know who you are. The rest will follow when your memories return.” He didn’t want to say that he’d already decided to email the tattoo of the horse to Jen, just in case she could track down where it had been done. It was a beautiful piece of work, and likely whoever did it would have it in a portfolio somewhere. Of course, that was a needle in a haystack. Who knew where Adam had been in the last twelve years? Chicago, where he was now? Or had he traveled from Montana to another city?
Adam looked at him, confused. “You said I disappeared. How old was I when that happened? Fifteen, you said?”
“You were nearly sixteen.”
Adam glanced down at himself, “And I’m twenty-eight now, so what happened in between?” He stood up and half turned. “You should get them all.”
Ethan did as Adam wanted, and pulled all the photos into one email, sending the whole lot to Jen with a particular request about tracking down the artist. Meanwhile, Adam went into the bathroom, closed the door, and left Ethan staring at the wood.