When college professor Ellie McKay walks into the Maverick Bar in Farmington, New Mexico, late one evening, she plans to get drunk, not engaged. But within thirty minutes, she's met cowboy Al Robison, he's proposed to her, and she's accepted. Al only knows that Ellie is attractive, vulnerable, and single; he doesn't know that she has been on the run for weeks from a sociopath who killed her surgeon boyfriend in Pennsylvania and raped and tortured her.
Reeling from the ordeal and deeply scarred emotionally and physically, Ellie flees first to Paris, where she seeks refuge in the bottle. Then, coming to her senses, she returns to Pittsburgh to resume her life and her career, believing she will be safe there. When that proves untrue, she takes to the road, no longer caring much what happens to her.
Ellie's escape route leads her to Santa Fe and then north to Farmington, where Al seems the safest bet. When she says yes to Al's proposal, she knows only that he is a local rancher. She doesn't know about Al's own dark past, and she doesn't tell him that her heart belongs to Doug Hansen, the detective who originally investigated the case.
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