Read More from Calle J. Brookes

Free Stories from Finley Creek and more…

Well, this has been a crazy, crazy week! (It somehow always seems crazy around here lately.) Kiddo and I both have suspected Covid (my mom tested positive on Friday, after spending all day out here on Wednesday, and kiddo and I both have symptoms and fever). Kiddo is doing a lot better than this morning, but I feel horrible.

I plan to just sleep for the next week or so! Kiddo does have to miss her softball travel team tryouts, so she’s pretty upset. But…there are other teams out there (we’re signed up for a few other tryouts, already).

I did get Rory’s book back a little sooner than anticipated. It’s now LIVE on all the retailers!

Here’s a quick blurb (and links). Then I’m crashing again!

Rory Price made a mistake. Her Second Greatest Mistake to be exact. With…Texas State Police Detective Charlie Fields.

A man…she wasn’t so sure she even liked. Then when he gave her the brush off the next morning, Rory had to make a decision.

She was going to put that man behind her and move on! (Not so easy to do when one of her best friends is Charlie’s daughter Charlotte–her partner in the TSP forensics department!)

Things just keep getting more complicated after that…

Rory and Charlie’s book is now LIVE! It’s the final Season book–at least for a while–and I greatly enjoyed writing the entire series. It let me explore characters in a different way than I have before. There may be more Seasons books (or novellas) coming, I just don’t know when.

**Never Chasing Charlie is a bit different from the others in the series.

It takes place half in Masterson… and half in Finley Creek.

There are characters from both series’ who make appearances!***

Amazon. Barnes and Noble. Kobo. Google Play.

APPLE DOESN’T SEEM TO BE LIVE YET!

This week has been crazy busy. Last week was just as crazy. I took kiddo to softball camp, and we hit a museum while we were over in Illinois. (And btw, 11-year-olds get the giggles in rooms with Greek and Roman statue reproductions…) We added a second night in a hotel so that I didn’t have to drive home late that night after camp. Then…when we got back, we thought we were losing Liberty the Border Collie again. At 16 1/2, we know it’s just a matter of when, at this point.

We did the whole sudden vet visit yesterday (again). She’s doing fine today. The abscess on her leg wasn’t nearly as bad as we first thought. It was still scary, though.

Today is the second anniversary of her stroke. I was sure then that we’d lose her, but this dog just keeps on ticking. I’ve never seen a more determined dog in my life.

A quick book update, now:

I’m a little behind on everything on my “hoped for” schedule. Between Libby’s sudden trips to the vet, and the attack on our little ducks, Kiddo’s softball camp, and some other things that have been going on, my work time has been almost non-existent this week. I’m hoping to get back on schedule starting tomorrow.

I have sent the fourth (and possibly final) Seasons book to my editor. She’s going to get it back to me in time for a July 21st release! (But not in time for a preorder!) After that, I think it’s going to be Linsey’s turn to get her story! That may change as I get further into the process. Zoey is also moving along ok, at this point.

(Libby is doing better and can put weight on her leg again. The duck that was attacked by a raccoon does in fact still have her eye! She’s made a full recovery, but will have some very intriguing scars to talk about with the other ducks out there now!)

I’m also about to finish a brand new PNR title (Becca and Matt!) that has been in the making since 2012! I’m feeling confident that the rest of the summer will be far more productive than the last few months!

Coming July 21st.

Just a quick blog today with release links for Not Kissing Nick! I’m currently driving somewhere in a cornfield in Illinois on my way to the University of Illinois, to take Kiddo to a one-day softball clinic. She doesn’t know it yet, but when we get to Champaign, we’re going to hit the museum on campus. They have lots of exhibits on ancient civilizations. We just spent the last school year studying…ancient civilizations. 😉 I can’t pass up the opportunity when we have several hours to kill, anyway! (The hotel does NOT have a swimming pool, so…I’m sure she’s going to be thrilled, lol.)

** It looks like Google Play is taking their time getting it the book loaded! I’ll check again when I get to the hotel! **

Amazon. Apple. Barnes & Noble. Kobo. Google Play (coming soon).

HE’S ALWAYS WANTED HER.

Nick Tyler had done the noble thing twenty years ago by pushing Robin Patton away when she’d been a teenager with a crush on an older man. Then life had taken them in different directions.

Robin is back in Masterson now. As gorgeous, tempting and intriguing as ever.

Nick is never going to survive.

WOW. SOME MEN SERIOUSLY GOT BETTER WITH AGE…

Nick Tyler is definitely one of them. After one week working with him Robin came up with a plan. No touching Nick, no falling for Nick, and definitely no kissing Nick.

It just isn’t safe.

Besides, Robin is far too busy raising three kids on her own to even think about a relationship with a man like Nick…right?

But staying away from temptation is just so hard to do.

She is doing good—until one day at work…when there was a knock on the door. A social worker stands there—holding the hand of a little girl.

A little girl who is all alone now. A little girl with Tyler blue eyes, and the word daddy on her lips.

Uh-oh. Robin knows exactly what’s about to happen now…

HE HAS A DAUGHTER HE DOESN’T KNOW.

He’d been robbed of six years of his daughter’s life—he hadn’t even known she’d existed.

But Nick has her with him now, where she belongs.

Seeing Nick’s determination to be the best father he can be has Robin falling even harder. Changing her plans. Just a little. Because someone needs to help him. And it is going to be her.

But somehow helping Nick just keeps turning into kissing Nick.

And Robin doesn’t want to stop…It’s time they finished what they started, right?

Why is it whenever I make plans, something totally crazy derails them?

I was intending to write a post today about the newest release (June 21st!), Not Kissing Nick, but I just don’t have the energy to organize my thoughts right now!

The last few days have been hectic and a little bit traumatic.

Two weeks ago, I was almost certain we were going to lose Libby within a few days. She had stopped eating and was lethargic and listless. All she wanted to do was sleep. I was sure… So we did what we had to do to prep the kiddo for the “inevitable”.

Come to find out, Libby didn’t want her homemade dog food and her barkthritis was flaring up. She ate just fine when I gave her a bite of toast with strawberry jam. And when she nabbed a hamburger off kiddo’s plate. And leftover beef stew. And the other dogs’ weight management dry dog food… She was just not wanting the food we were giving her, so she decided not to eat it.

We fixed that issue with jarred baby food and dry dog food mixed together. She likes stuff with a stronger smell, apparently.

She’s back to her old Diva self and is doing just fine. We upped her pain meds for a few days and that was all it took.

She hit 16 and a 1/2 on June 15th and celebrated by getting into the trash can and the dishwasher in the same day.

So everything stressful eased off a bit, right?

Wrong.

Some murderous, sociopathic fanged and clawed beast got into our duck coop and killed one of our Quackies early yesterday morning. It was especially traumatic for our kiddo after the last week or so of worrying about Libby and just not a good day for any of us all around. (I didn’t realize just how attached to the ducks I actually am, either.)

We realized last night when we put the other three ducks in a now better secured coop (I put paving bricks on the lid this time!) that Li’l S**t, our most daring/adventurous duck–previously named Buffy the Vampire Slayer Orpington–had also been grabbed around the head and was injured.

She has lost her eye on one side, and her beak is all claw-marked up. And there are scratches on the other side of her little duck face.

So this morning, after dropping kiddo off at her Saturday tae Kwan do class, I high-tailed it to our vet three blocks away with photos of the damage. Then after TKD I had to drive the 30 minutes home and weigh the duck before heading back to the vet to get a shot of antibiotics and a bottle of oral antibiotics. Then we had to go an additional 40 minutes to the nearest Walmart to get the other supplies we needed. (Joys of living in the middle of the forest–you have to drive everywhere! O.o)

So I spent all afternoon when I got home cleaning a little duck’s head with Dawn and warm water, flushing it with saline, covering it with bactricin, and then my husband and I gave a duck a shot of antibiotics.

I have a duck hanging out in a tote in my spare bathroom… She’ll be there for about a week. She’s a bit angry about things (I don’t blame her) and actually hissed and pecked at Libby when Lib wanted to check her out.

She needs oral antibiotics 2x a day for three days and 1x a day for three days after that. Plus the bactricin on the eye itself and we’ll need to flush it a few more times, as well.

And…did I mention I am going out of town with kiddo Tuesday–for 2.5 days? My husband is on duck duty. He’s…not exactly thrilled at the assignment.

I spent most of the drive today trying to explain to an eleven-year-old why some things just sort of happen and how to deal with them without panicking. How to pivot, how to make plans, and that when you take on the responsibilities of a pet–no matter what kind of animal–you have a responsibility for the bad times, too.

Life is always a lesson, right? Life is definitely an adventure. (Heaven help me, it’s about to get more adventurous. Kiddo asked to make dinner. All by herself. I’m not allowed in the kitchen at all. This can go either way!)

Now…I need to google how to give a duck oral antibiotics. The vet said to pry her beak open and shoot it in. I somehow suspect it’s not going to be that simple.

I swear this is going to end up in a book some day. (Dusty’s, maybe? I mean…the woman is a vet tech, after all! And they do have a flock of ducks at the Talley Inn…)

Anyway… I should say something about the books, right? That’s what people come here for, lol.

Not Kissing Nick releases on Tuesday, June 21st. It’s up for preorder everywhere but Google Play. I’m working on getting it on GP tonight. I forgot to post an excerpt from Nick before. I’m linking to it here!

The next book, Never Chasing Charlie is with the editor now. Because of scheduling, I won’t be getting Charlie back in time to put it on preorder, so it’ll just be a regular release! I’ll post when it goes live.

I’ve posted an extended excerpt of Never Chasing Charlie here.

I think it was my most enjoyable of the Seasons book to write. It takes place in both Masterson and Finley Creek. I got to blend in characters from both series’. Charlie releases on July 21st!

(This is my little baby quackie. She’s a 3.75 pound Buff Orpington. They are extremely sweet ducks, but wow! does this one have spirit and attitude. But she likes it when I hold her!)

I’m “recuperating” from coaching a bunch of 9-11 year old girls for the past three months. (Wow, they take a lot of energy!!!!) And I just sent There is a Season book 4 off to the editor! No release date yet, but Rory was a lot of fun to write. 😀 The book takes place between Masterson County and her home in Finley Creek, so I got to play with all of my favorite characters in both places.

Now I am back to the romantic suspense schedule. The next book is either Zoey’s, or Linsey’s, just depends on who gets finished first.

In the meantime, There is a Season book 1 (Rhea/Gerald in Just Loving Gerald) is on sale at all the retailers for 20% off for however long they leave it that price!

You can find links to it HERE.

Forever Holding Phil went live today! In this second book in the There is a Season series, Phil–father of the heroines in Masterson County books 1-4–gets his second chance at love when Glenna Carnes moves to Masterson to work as his temporary housekeeper. It can get real complicated, real quick–considering between them, they have 11 children ranging from 27 years old all the way down to 2!

The book is available at Apple, Amazon, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, and directly from Calle’s website. (Google Play is being a bit difficult, and should be live soon!) For links to the retailers, click the image below or visit: https://buy.bookfunnel.com/dns7bg9suz

It’s been a while since I’ve been able to post anything. I didn’t realize how long it had been.

I’ve been running around like a crazy woman for the past month, helping with kiddo’s softball team. She’s in an 11U league through our county, and is the pitcher. She either has practice, a game, or wants me to practice with her every single night that she can. Plus a few other things like physical therapy and her tae kwon do, and other activities have kept me hopping like mad. Around her crazy schedule, I’m working on finishing Seasons 4, I’m halfway through the next Masterson book (Linsey and Chandler), and I’m a quarter of the way through the next Small-Town Sheriffs book–Zoey and Murdoch.

I didn’t even realize I hadn’t updated the blog. I have finished There is a Season #3, and it will be back from the editor soon. It’ll release on June 21st.

It’s available to preorder at your favorite retailer!

I’ve included an excerpt below! It was a really fun book to write, as I got to explore a POV I’d never used before.

Also, Denying the Devil, Masterson County #4 is up in audio at Apple, Google Play, Barnes&Noble, and Kobo, as well as Chirp.

And finally… for the month of May, if you buy directly from my website, you can save 20% off your total order by using the coupon code SAVE20.

Not Kissing Nick

Chapter 1

The first thing Nick Tyler saw when he entered the building of the trucking company he ran with his nephew was a small, but perfect feminine rear end encased in khaki trousers. It was stuck straight up in the air, while the woman attached to it bent under the old metal desk one of his nieces had sourced for them to use in the main office.

The woman was muttering something dire as she reached for whatever she just couldn’t grab. 

“I could help you with that, if you’d like,” Nick said. He mostly just wanted to figure out who it was under his desk. It was a very nice rear end, after all.

The woman yelped, bumped her head, and stood quickly. She stared at him. 

He stared back.

She had hair that warred between red and brown that she’d pulled up in a twist. Big light blue eyes stared at him and a soft pink mouth parted slightly. An absolutely perfect looking mouth.

She was damned gorgeous. It was rather hard to miss.

“Nick? Wow. I think we both got old.” She gave a rueful grin that told him exactly who she was. She had sweet dimples and a smile that was crooked enough to say she liked to break the rules just a little bit.

Just like before. 

Robin. It really was her. Staring right back at him.

He had always liked how little Robin Patton looked.

She hadn’t changed much. Just gotten older. A little curvier, but that was a good thing. A very good thing from where he was standing. 

She had to be thirty-eight or nine now. 

“Robin, it’s good to see you.” 

“You, too, Nick.” She eyed him warily. Like she was afraid of him? Robin hadn’t been afraid of anything. She knew what she wanted and she went after it. 

She’d been pure hell on wheels once.

Until that damned Sheriff Gunderson had started harassing her. She’d been just a kid. Gunderson had been old enough to be her father. Nick had never forgotten the terror in her eyes that night he and Phil had found her and Gunderson alongside the highway. 

That had been the deciding factor. She’d left town then—and hadn’t come back.

The last place he’d expected to see her was in his own office, acting as if she belonged there. 

His nephew Chandler had let him know he’d hired a new secretary last week. Nick had been so busy with booking a large run that he hadn’t paid much attention.

Nick suspected he was looking at his new secretary right now. 

Damn

“Settling in ok?” He wasn’t sure he wanted Robin Patton working with him every single day. She was going to be highly distracting.  

Just like before. 

She remembered. Just like he did.

Robin had been taunting him …tempting him on purpose. 

He could see the memories of those two stolen kisses in the blue eyes staring at him now. She’d been so sweet—and it had been Robin who had kissed him. Had put those hands of hers places she had no business putting them—back then.

Nick had done the right thing both times. Probably a bit more harshly than he should have. He’d just…wanted her to understand. She had to stay away from him back then. Or he would do something totally stupid. She hadn’t been ready. He’d known that. He was nine years older—when she’d been almost nineteen, that had mattered.

This woman had been enough to tempt a saint into doing something totally stupid. Nick had never missed that.

The heat in her cheeks intensified. 

“It is good to see you. I mean that,” Nick said, softly.

Seeing her, yes. He wouldn’t mind seeing a lot more of her. She was buttoned up to the neck in a prissy little purple blouse that hid far more than it revealed. Far cry from what she’d been wearing the last time she’d practically accosted him. 

He’d always remembered her in that little blue tank top and the cut off shorts that had revealed far, far too much of Robin. 

This schoolmarm getup was the exact opposite of that.

Did she realize how that tempted a man, too? His fingers itched to hit those tiny buttons and just yank them off forever. See what that silky smooth skin looked like beneath. To touch that skin…

Having her in his office, thirty feet away from his own desk? That was going to prove problematic. Unless… “So what have you been up to over the last twenty years? Married, sixteen kids?”

Please let her say she had a six-foot-seven former linebacker husband just waiting for her to get home. Someone who’d kick Nick’s ass for the thoughts he was having right now. Someone who’d bring her lunch every day just so he could glower at Nick and Chandler and make certain they were behaving around the temptress that was Robin Patton.

That might be enough to have Nick behaving. Maybe.

She gave a soft smile. She looked so…shy. Robin had never been shy with him before. “I was married, but he passed away. I have three kids, though. Nine-year-old twin boys, and a little girl. She’s two-and-a-half—but going on thirty-five. She looks just like my sister.” 

He had never imagined her having kids. In his head, she was still the almost girl she’d been back then. The one who had tempted and tormented him and had him breaking out in a sweat. 

He’d always wondered what happened to the girl she had been. “What are their names?” 

“Philip and Wesley, and Rebecca. We call her Becky.” 

He saw the pain there and he reacted to the familiar names—her sister, her brother-in-law, and Wesley had been her grandfather’s name. The grandfather she and her sister had adored. Before he could stop himself, he cupped her cheek in one hand. 

Her skin was just as smooth as it had been twenty years ago. 

Traces of the girl remained, but…Robin was all grown up now. Beautiful. Gorgeous. Right in front of him. Widowed.

Every male cell of him was standing on alert, shouting Robin! It’s Robin! Grab hold now! 

Like they’d been waiting for her all along.

“I’m sorry about your sister, honey.” Losing her sister Becky in a car accident five years ago had been devastating for all of them. Nick had feared his brother would never recover. 

“Yeah, me, too.” 

He was half-afraid she’d start crying. That had sheer panic going through him. “But you are home for good now?” 

She nodded, a tentative smile on her lips. “I think so. Thank you for the job. I really needed it.” 

“Thank you. We needed someone we can trust in here. I’m trying to get things up and running so I can kick Chandler to the curb.” Then…it would just be him and Robin in the office every day. Together. 

Working side by side. Almost touching. 

Well, his office was down the hall, but…it was close enough. 

He was never going to survive this.

Startled blue eyes met his now. “Why would you do that?” 

“It’s no secret around the family. He wants a restaurant of his own, but was already committed to taking over here before I convinced him to let me buy in. I’m going to take over here and shove him off the ledge. The whole family is scheming to get him moving on his restaurant. He’s a bit risk adverse, that nephew of mine.” 

“Aren’t we all?” She stepped back firmly. 

Nick really didn’t want to let her get too far away. 

The exact opposite. 

It had been a long time, years, since he’d felt instant attraction to a beautiful—available—woman.

It figured that it would be her.

She smelled nice. She looked nice. And the idea that she was going to be right there in his office—and there wasn’t a big burly husband to keep him in check…

Robin Patton always had tempted the hell out of him. From the time she’d been almost nineteen to the day she’d run from town and Clive Gunderson, with four hundred dollar bills his brother had given her in her pocket. 

Nick’s four hundred dollars. He’d given it to his brother for her. 

He hadn’t known any other way to help her, except by taking her with him when he’d left Masterson for the army when his leave was up. 

He’d seriously considered it that night. Just…taking her with him and leaving Masterson forever. Marrying her, signing up for base housing. Building a life with a not-quite-nineteen-year-old girl who had never seen more than little Masterson County.

She wouldn’t have been ready for the life of a military wife, on her own so much, away from their families, friends. Home

Far from it. 

And he wouldn’t have wanted her with him just to escape a man who had no business stalking her. 

She’d just been too damned young back then.

But…he wasn’t too old for her now. 

There was no husband in the picture for her. No wife in the picture for him. No Clive Gunderson terrifying her.

Robin wasn’t too young now.

Nick wasn’t going to survive.

What had Phil been thinking, talking Chandler into hiring her

He had only one real answer.

His brother had done it on purpose.

Phil was out to get him. Out to put pure temptation right in front of Nick, just to mess with Nick’s head. 

Because Phil could—and was evil that way. 

Phil was getting back at Nick now for something. That was the only rational explanation. 

Probably for Nick’s continual flirting with Phil’s new ‘housekeeper’ whenever he saw her. 

Nick couldn’t help himself—one, it annoyed his widowed older brother, and two, Glenna was an extremely attractive woman. 

Phil had noticed that himself.

That’s why Glenna now wore an engagement ring on her left hand—and had a beautiful glow whenever she looked at Nick’s older brother.

Well played, big brother. Well played, indeed.

Nick just stood there and stared at her like a total idiot.

Chapter 2

Nicholas Tyler. In the flesh. 

Wow. 

Some flesh just got better with time. It totally wasn’t fair. She’d thought of him through the years. More than she’d wanted to admit. Imagined him getting a paunch and a receding hair line.

Yeah, that hadn’t happened.

Nick looked even better than he had before.

Every Tyler had red in their hair; Nick was no exception. His eyes were still that dark blue that she had never forgotten. His shoulders still broad and muscled.

He was three or four inches over six feet, tall and strong. He had almost fourteen inches on her. 

Nick had always seemed larger than life. 

Maybe he’d had been. Hotly intense, determined to get out of Masterson for a while, to build a life for himself that wasn’t ranch-related. Wild and rugged and just a little bit too dangerous for the tame life that was Masterson.

A woman would burn up in flames if Nick Tyler even looked at her. 

Robin had been no exception. None at all.

Her first crush at fifteen had been on Nick Tyler. Her first kiss had been Nick, when she’d been all of eighteen and a half.

It had taken all the courage she possessed to kiss him that day.

He’d shot her down, fast. Saying… he was too old for a child like her.

The last thing she was going to do was allow herself to get distracted from her plans by her still too-hot new boss. 

It wasn’t fair that he looked like that. Broad-shouldered, hard chested, strong—it was obvious Nick had taken care of himself in the last two decades. 

Either that, or time had been really, really good to him. 

She suspected it was that—every Tyler man she’d ever met was far too good-looking for a woman’s own good.

He didn’t deserve it. She just knew he didn’t. There had to be an inner troll inside him somewhere. Something that would make a man like him still be unmarried and…free to the first woman to snap him up.

Not that Robin was the type to snap anyone up. Even if she’d wanted to.

Marriage had cured her of romance forever, after all.

As he settled into the office behind her desk, with the door partially opened in case she had questions, Robin sat at her desk and remembered. 

Tried to come up with a game plan where her new, far too hot to be real, boss was concerned. 

His nephew Chandler was, as her best friend Rory would say, too delicious to be real—but he was just a younger, less seasoned version of Nick. She’d thought that the first time she’d met Chandler.

When he’d told her that the uncle he worked so closely with was Nick her heart had dropped straight to her gut, as she’d remembered.

Phil hadn’t told her Nick was back.

Nick was going to be dangerous. There was no denying that.

She needed a real plan. Number one—she wasn’t going to be as foolish as she’d been twenty years ago. 

That meant absolutely no kissing Nick.

No remembering kissing Nick. No thinking about kissing Nick. And no wanting to be kissing Nick. It was as simple as that.

Just because she was back in Masterson, didn’t mean she and Nick were going to pick right back up where she had left off.

Twenty years was a long time to be away from home. She had only been back in Masterson for a little over a week. She was bound to feel disconcerted and disoriented coming back. Especially considering the traumatic way she’d left town back then. Half of her nightmares had started in Masterson—the other half had ended in Finley Creek. 

Robin was still recovering. 

Never had she been more terrified than she had been that night.  

She’d had to get out of Masterson back then; she wouldn’t have survived there. Not with the way Clive Gunderson had been terrorizing her. Stalking her.

It would have just kept escalating until he’d hurt her. 

Robin would never forget that. 

Her best friend Glenna had told her that Phil still felt guilty for not stopping Clive sooner. Said Phil had believed he could have done more for Robin than what he had. But that just wasn’t true.

Clive had had all the power then. No one could miss that.

Phil was working past it—with Glenna’s help. Glenna had needed help weeks ago, had needed to get out of Finley Creek. She’d found her way to Masterson, instead.

To Phil. Glenna moving to Masterson had given Robin the courage to come back home. To bring her children back to their family, too.

She just couldn’t be distracted by a man like Nick.  

Her kids…they came first. No matter what. And they deserved to know her family, too. 

That meant, she was going to learn everything she could about the trucking business and what she was supposed to be doing exactly. Make this job work for her. So that she could make Masterson work for them. Even if that meant her new best friend was the last Tyler man in Masterson she would ever want to work with. Every day. Seeing Nick every weekday, from 8:30 am until 4:30 in the afternoon.

Nick. Right there. Looking like that.

Darn it. It wasn’t fair that the man still looked hot enough to melt a woman’s insides. 

She was so going to have to get ahold of herself. She had a future to focus on, after all.

Chapter 3

His sexy-as-sin secretary was deliberately avoiding him. 

Nick would bet a million, if he had it, that that was exactly what she had been doing—all week long. He bit back a laugh at what he knew it meant.

Robin was going out of her way to never be alone with him.

When Nick would look at her directly, a faint red would hit her cheeks. It took him two days to figure out that she felt safer with Chandler. And most certainly not safe with Nick. 

Nick had spent four days—and nights—trying to decide what he wanted to do about that. 

He’d dreamed about doing something about that, actually. 

In hot detail.

Last night hadn’t helped. And the only thing he’d done was eat dinner at his brother Phil’s.

Phil had had people everywhere. The chaos had driven Nick nuts, but in a good way. Everyone had looked like they were happy and right where they belonged. Together.

But when he had seen how Glenna had looked at his brother in the rare moment they’d almost been alone…

A shot of envy so strong he’d never felt anything like it before had torn right through Nick in that moment. 

He wanted a woman like Glenna to look at him in the same way.

Then…Glenna had turned to Nick and asked him how her best friend Robin was working out.

Oh, what he’d wanted to say in that moment would have shocked the sweet little blonde his brother had a real thing for. Right down to her then-bare little toes.

They were getting married in a matter of weeks. Phil hadn’t wasted any time, that was for sure. Phil had eight kids—three still under the age of eighteen—and Glenna had three, all under the age of seven. His brother was going to get a chance to do the dad thing all over again with three more daughters. 

Phil’s house had been full of people, of family, of laughter. Of love.

Nick hadn’t missed that. Nor had he missed the contrast between that and his own current existence.

Nick was still bunking on the office fold-out in the back until he made a plan to get his nephews together and fix the house he’d bought from his uncle ten years back. For when he eventually retired from the army.

The house was in reasonable shape. It needed new floors, new plumbing, and updated wiring. Then cosmetics. He had the money for all of it, he just figured he’d get to it in his own good time. He was in no hurry.

Paint chips and countertop choices weren’t exactly his forte. 

Nick would get his house finished eventually. All three thousand square feet of it. When he’d bought the place—once his own paternal uncle’s—he’d thought he’d find a woman and settle down there in Masterson someday. He’d have three or four kids and a loving wife of his own that he’d adore as much as Phil had adored his Becky. His and Phil’s, and the rest of his brothers’, kids would all grow up together. Until he and his brothers were doddering old idiots, flirting with their still way-too-hot wives—while great-grandkids ran around like wild demons. That had been what Nick had wanted. Imagined.

Life apparently hadn’t had that in mind for Nick. Or for three of his older brothers, who they’d already lost. Lost long before those brothers had even the first grandchild among them. That would always sting.

It had been time he came home, to enjoy the time left with his family. 

Even if he’d done so alone.

At forty-seven, he was good with that. Mostly.

It still got lonely sometimes. Phil’s house of chaos just illustrated that even more.

Nick had spent four nights on that office couch imagining he could smell the lotion Robin used on her hands. Blueberry. Blueberry and vanilla; he’d wondered far too often if she used that lotion everywhere. 

Nick wanted to find out, up close and personal.

He’d even devised a plan involving sending her three kids—who he had yet to meet—to Phil’s, and just absconding with their mother for the weekend. 

There was a cabin up behind Phil’s place…it would do perfectly. He and Robin could…get to know each other again. 

If she was willing. In his fantasies over the last week, Robin had been very, very willing.

Nick wanted that woman, bad.

Wanting her now was giving him more gray hair. And sleepless nights.

And she was aware of him, too. 

Now he had to figure out what it was he was going to do about her.

There was quite a bit he wanted to do to her, after all.

He was contemplating that list while he listened to her moving around in the reception area when someone walked through the front door, the first Friday morning Robin had worked for them.

Nick coughed, both to clear his throat and to clear his head from lustful thoughts about his secretary, and stood. 

If it was a potential client, it was him they’d want to see. 

Chandler had left for the afternoon on other business. If Nick got rid of whoever was out there, he’d be able to steal a few minutes with Robin before she darted away for the weekend. 

Maybe, if he was lucky, he could get her to smile at him one more time. He’d always loved it when that woman smiled.

And this time…Nick was going to chase her. Like he wished he could have before. He wasn’t much of a planner—but a woman like Robin demanded a man be a master strategist to make what he wanted happen.

He was going to catch that woman. As fast as he possibly could.

Chapter 4

Robin was organizing her new filing system when a dark-haired woman stepped inside the front door of the small modular home that served as the headquarters for Tyler Trucking, a little redheaded girl of around six or seven at her side.

“Hello, can I help you?” Robin stood and rounded the metal desk. The woman had a backpack over one shoulder, clutched two duffle bags in one hand, and held the girl by the other. 

“Actually, I’m Jude. Jude Tyler.” She turned slightly, and Robin saw the small rounding of the woman’s stomach.

Robin took the heaviest bag from her quickly. 

“Are you looking for Chandler or Nick?” The woman was around a decade younger than Robin, she thought. Big green eyes dominated her face. Very pretty, in an understated way.

“Nick. I’m also Chandler’s sister-in-law. I…this is a bit awkward. I’m the head of child and family services for this region. But I’m actually here on official business today. Normally, I’d have had one of my people handle this particular case, but they aren’t in the office right now and Nova has been waiting long enough. Years too long for this, in my opinion.” She glanced down at the little girl, a compassionate look in her eyes. Robin studied the child quickly. She was a few years older than Robin’s own daughter, but a few years younger than Robin’s sons. So…between four and seven or so. Tiny, dainty. Big dark-blue eyes looked up at Robin warily. Fire-engine red curly hair was everywhere, and very long. Tangled, and it looked like it could use a good washing. Maybe even two. 

Her clothes weren’t exactly the cleanest, either. And they weren’t in the greatest condition. She was ragged and unkempt in a way that Robin’s heart broke to see.

The social worker was kind and gentle when she spoke to the little girl. “You can have a seat right here. Here’s Snuggly, too. You hold him while I talk for a few minutes, ok?” She handed the little girl a battered yellow bear.

The little girl nodded solemnly. She looked at Robin suspiciously out of tired, world-weary eyes that no little girl her age should ever possess. Robin wanted to scoop her up and hold her tight, tell her everything would be ok. Just like she would her baby Becky if the world turned scary.

“I have some juice in the fridge. Would you like one? I have some fish crackers. My little girl says they are the best ever. My boys like them, too.”

Robin looked at the social worker, who nodded. “Thank you. Nova has had a very, very long morning. A snack probably wouldn’t hurt. I just got her two hours ago myself. And we had to do paperwork to transfer her to our region. She’s had to sit around waiting. She’s colored me a bunch of beautiful pictures already.”

“Then it sounds like goldfish are exactly what’s needed. I’m Robin. My sister was Phil Tyler’s wife.”

“Oh, of course. Welcome back to Masterson. Are you settling in ok?”

“Starting to. The kids are adjusting. It helps having their cousins around, and Glenna’s girls.” Robin grabbed one of the juice boxes and one of the snack bags of goldfish crackers, grateful she had grabbed what she could find that morning for her own lunch today—a run to the grocery store was in order. Someone—she had three suspects—had eaten the food she’d bought to put in her own lunch this week. She took care of the little girl, as Nick came into the small waiting area. “This has been their first week at the school.”

And fingers crossed, it had gone ok. Thankfully. So far. Her boys could be handfuls.

Another handful came out of his office and stared.

Nick looked at the younger woman and concern hit his far-too-handsome face.

“Jude, honey? What’s going on? Are you ok? Chandler’s not here right now…”

Jude pulled in a deep breath and faced him. “Well, it’s not Chandler we’re here to see, Nick. I have something to tell you. Something very important.”

“Oh? What is it?”

Robin studied the little girl again. Social services didn’t just show up at a man’s work with a kid in tow. Not without good reason. “Can we talk in private? There are things Nova doesn’t need to hear right now.”

Nick just nodded. Stepped aside so she could go ahead of him into his office at the end of the hall. Robin listened as his door closed.

An inkling of things to come tickled her gut.

“I can’t get my fishies open,” the little girl whispered as soon as Nick and the social worker were gone. “Can you help me?”

Robin knelt down. And looked into those dark blue eyes behind little glasses. Those eyes looked so familiar. Eyes just that color and shape had watched her while she’d worked this week. 

Tyler blue. The kid had Tyler blue eyes. And red hair. Just like every Tyler Robin had ever seen.

A social worker on official business had just showed up on Nick Tyler’s doorstep. Robin wasn’t stupid. She strongly suspected what was about to happen. She just hoped the man was ready…

Rhea Masterson and Gerald Talley have known each other for more than fifty years. Gerald’s always been the real stick-in-the-mud, trying to tell Rhea what she should and shouldn’t do.

That hasn’t changed now that General Gerald has returned to Masterson after his retirement. How is Rhea supposed to deal with Gerald, while helping his daughter Marin heal from the trauma she’d recently experienced?

Sparks fly between Rhea and the man who was her late husband’s closest friend in this new later in life romance series set in Masterson County.

Rhea and Gerald’s book is $3.99 until Friday, when it reverts to its full price of $4.99.

APPLE LINK

AMAZON LINK

KOBO LINK

NOOK LINK

GOOGLE PLAY

BUY DIRECT.

One more week until Rhea’s book releases!

I’m in the final rush around to get things ready for release—I’ll be uploading the paperback over the next few days to get it up for launch.

Rhea’s book, Just Loving Gerald, releases on 4/12. Book two, Phil’s story, Forever Holding Phil, releases on 5/17. I’m ‘thinking’ at this point book 3 will release on 6/21, but I need to talk to my editor before I know for sure. Book 4 (featuring Charlotte’s father, from the Finley Creek series!) will most likely release in July or August.

If things are productive today, I’ll be sending book 3 flying off to my editor. Book 3 involves Phil Tyler’s younger brother Nick—and the woman who has always tempted him. (Hint: it’s Phil’s late wife’s sister, who ran away from Masterson County twenty years ago!). It turned into a sweet story that I love, featuring a twelve-year-old boy I had never intended to create. But…now…once he gets a bit older, I can see him being the hero of his own book someday!

Paperbacks & Large Print!

I’ve also been hard at work at creating paperbacks of my entire catalog. And large print. I do feel very strongly that the books need to be in large print. (I went to the eye doctor last week, and the eyeballs haven’t gotten a bit more worse than expected, so large print is dear to my heart!)

I do plan to sell signed copies through my website—at a much better price than Amazon can offer. I have now made all of the ebooks available for direct sale via my website. Amazon’s TOS say I can’t price lower than they do, but…

I can offer as many coupons as I want. (After all, they are my books, and it’s my site!).

Coupon for 20% off…

So now I’m offering a 20% Off coupon for the month of April, on all the ebooksl. (Just type in SAVE20 when prompted). The books are delivered via bookfunnel, which is so easy to use. Plus, Bookfunnel has a great customer service experience.

Masterson #4 in Audio

Another thing I just finished doing an hour ago—I final proofed Masterson #4 (Perci and Nate) in audio! I’m not sure the actual release date, but it’ll be soon. 

Sometime next week, I’ll be prepping the next Masterson for audio (Maggie and Clint). I hope to have all the current Mastersons in audio by Christmas.

The narrator for this book absolutely nailed Nate’s character perfectly, and I love how he portrayed Perci. I got the shivers in several spots in the book. 😉 

If you’d like to listen, I’ve included a sample here.

If you are interested in books 1-3 in audio, Chirp has the best prices. The audiobooks are also available on Apple, Kobo, and Google Play!

I’m hard at work, finishing some books, and playing around with making hand-poured candles this week.

It’s our “break” between basketball ending and softball starting, so I’m trying to get a few things done. Kiddo’s got a test for her purple belt in tae Kwan do this Saturday, too.

She’s exhausting, lol. And very nervous about testing for her belt in front of the rest of her class.

I did get the preorder uploaded for book 2 in the There is a Season... series this week. It’s now available as a preorder. (I’m working on Google now!) The excerpt below is from Forever Holding Phil!

Phil Tyler, the dad from the first four Masterson novellas, is being tormented by the woman he hired to be his housekeeper! That’s a bit ironic, that’s for sure. It releases on May 17th. If you haven’t grabbed your copy of the preorder of book 1 (Just Loving Gerald) featuring Rhea Masterson, the mom from the first four Masterson novellas, you can grab it here now, as well!

There came a time when you had to make a choice. 

This was one of them.

“I’m going to have to do something.”

Glenna Carnes stared at the four women surrounding her as the words seared themselves into her soul. She couldn’t keep doing this to her daughters.

All Glenna wanted was for her daughters to feel safe. This was just proof that she was failing miserably at that task. 

Emmaline was still crying. Emmy—her tough one. Her middle child who had never been afraid of anything before. Today she had been terrified by a delivery man. 

Glenna scooped her up and rocked her, meeting the eyes of her two closest friends, and the two other women at W4HAV, the women’s charity where she worked as a trauma counselor. They all knew this couldn’t keep going on. This fear was destroying her baby girls. “I…this is getting out of hand. I can’t seem to avoid them anywhere. I have to do something.”

The delivery man hadn’t been one of her former brothers-in-law, but Emmy hadn’t known that. All her just almost five-year-old daughter remembered about the uncle who had shown up in the front yard four months ago screaming that Glenna owed them something was that he had been dressed in a private-delivery-company uniform. That had been enough to have her little girl screaming today. Between that and the way her seven-year-old Evangeline flinched each time the telephone rang and her two-and-a-half-year-old baby Eleanor cried and resisted whenever Glenna tried to leave her in the co-op nursery room now…

The girls weren’t getting over their fears—they were just getting worse.

She had to do something.

Glenna looked at Robin and Rory, her two closest friends on the planet. Her sisters of the heart. Rory had scooped Elly into her own arms and was rocking her, too. 

Her most empathetic baby always cried when one of her sisters was upset. 

Evey watched from the doorway to the children’s playroom at W4HAV, a leery look on her beautiful face. One filled with suspicion. Fear. Worry that no child her age should have.

It was the last straw. 

Her ex’s family wasn’t anywhere near them now—not that she knew, anyway, but she wouldn’t put it past them—but their constant harassment of her was destroying her daughters’ sense of safety and peace. 

She wouldn’t have it. Not any longer.

She’d do anything for her daughters.

She looked at the women surrounding her. She knew how the charity operated—knew   what it was capable of. And Lacy, the blond woman next to her, had been trying to talk her into asking for help for weeks “I need to find a place to get away for a while. Build a new life for the four of us. Where they don’t have to be afraid of their father’s family any longer.”

It wasn’t running, exactly. It was relocating. Doing what was best for her daughters.

Even though it meant leaving everything, everyone, she knew behind.

“I have to do this. Before I change my mind.”

“Where are you going to go?” Robin asked, tears filling her big blue eyes. Tears—and understanding. Robin and Rory knew her struggles, knew exactly what battle she had been fighting for just too long…

Robin’s own two-year-old daughter was in the playroom with Robin’s nine-year-old twin boys. Innocent children, too. 

Children who had experienced far too much pain already. 

All Glenna wanted was for them to grow up in a world without this kind of fear and hurt and loss. If she could keep that from touching her girls, she would do whatever it took.

“I…I don’t know. I just know I have to get them away from here for a while. So that they can learn not to be afraid.” Her heart broke for her daughters. She’d tried everything from confronting her ex’s family to speaking with an attorney about restraining orders against all of them. 

She’d filed a report with Detective Acardi, a friend of Rory’s, after the latest incident. 

He had told her the Texas State Police could make a case for attempted kidnapping, but her ex-mother-in-law would probably plead it down to maintaining a common nuisance or something trivial like that. 

Never mind that Elly had had dreams of the scary lady trying to take her away every night since. Nothing Glenna did could fix that.

“I have a brother, but…he lives on a military base. I don’t want to impose on him.” Her half brother would let them stay with him for a while, but it would be awkward for them all. They weren’t exactly close.

“Let W4HAV find you a place,” Lacy said for about the fifteenth time in a week. “It’s what we do.”

“I know.” She didn’t want to need that kind of help. There were women out there who needed the escape the women’s charity provided far more than Glenna did. Abused women who needed to get away however they could. Abused men, too, who came to W4HAV for help, though far fewer men would admit they needed the help than women.

Glenna was a respected mental health counselor; she led four different counseling groups for the charity at two o’clock, four days each week. She worked the intake desk four nights a week from three thirty p.m. until nine, when she took the girls home and put them to bed. She had a small home she had purchased on Boethe Street after she’d paid off half of her student debt, and then she’d paid that house and her remaining debt off with the life insurance policy she’d still had on her ex at the time of his death over two years ago. 

She had a good job, her bills were paid, there was a roof over their heads, and her children were safe. They should have been just fine.

But they weren’t.

Her ex’s family could get to them at any time. 

His mother walking into the church multipurpose room where the homeschool co-op met each week and nearly walking out with Elly had just proven that. 

There had been a homeschool dad Glenna had known well in the parking lot who had seen what was happening—and stopped it. Just in time. She had been lucky he had recognized Elly that day and stepped in to make a difference. Had questioned.

Glenna hadn’t slept well since. 

Her arms tightened around Emmy. Her bright, fiery, passionate, brave little girl who would challenge the world just because she could.

Crying because of a package left on the desk at W4HAV. 

Glenna understood how trauma worked, though she didn’t work with children in her groups. She wasn’t going to see the trauma of their father’s death get compounded with her own children because of his family.

That was one thing he had been adamant about when she’d filed for divorce—he hadn’t wanted his mother or three brothers anywhere near the girls. No matter what. That had been something he and Glenna had actually agreed on.

Lincoln’s mother didn’t believe that. And she was determined to get to the girls, no matter what. 

“I need someplace to go. Even if it means I’m washing dishes for a living for a while. I need to get out of Finley Creek. Before they destroy my daughters even more.”

Lacy asked for her to give her a day or two to work things out. To find some options that would suit Glenna and the girls. 

Glenna knew how it worked. There was a fund that no one talked about. 

The escape fund.

It was designed to help those victims of violence who had no real recourse but to run.

Glenna wasn’t like that. 

The same procedures in place for that, would help her now. 

She looked at her children one more time. Yes. She would do whatever she had to for her girls. Anything.

Even if it meant leaving everything behind.

***

He wasn’t dead yet. At fifty, Philip Tyler knew he still had a lot of kick left in him. Even if it didn’t feel like it, all the time. He was too damned tired for this constant traveling between Masterson, Wyoming and Finley Creek, Texas. That was becoming clearer every time.

It was time he figured something else out.

He had a plan—go home, let his nephew Fletcher buy in to his partnership with Travis Worthington-Deane in Texas, and hire himself a housekeeper.

So he could spend more time with the four daughters and three sons he had in Masterson. His seven grandkids and any others that came along. And his oldest son, whenever that boy bothered to come back in from L.A. where he was making his own way in the world.

Phil wanted time with his family.

Phil wasn’t going to retire exactly. He was going to slow things down some. He’d accomplished what he’d set out to do with this partnership. His ranch was secure, for whichever of his kids took it over eventually. He had paid down most of his debts, and had put a little back in case some of the younger kids needed help with college. 

He had finished what he’d set out to do. That didn’t mean he was dead yet, though.

Now it was time to sit back and enjoy it. Enjoy the remainder of his younger kids’ childhoods while he still had that opportunity. And get to know the boy who was almost a man before it was too late.

Phil had taken Lacy and Travis up on their offer to spend another night with them after he’d not been able to get a flight in time the night before. He enjoyed himself. They were good kids. Good friends. He considered them family, too.

He was fond of them both, even if little Lacy, a blond dynamo a few years older than Phil’s eldest girl, was nervous with any man not her husband or his brothers when they got too close into her space. She was getting better with him, poor kid. After nearly dying in much the same way as Phil’s third daughter, Perci. 

Lacy reminded him of Perci.

Both girls had that same fighting spirit. 

It had given him time to talk with them about his plans for the next few months.

Or rather, his lack of plans. Phil was looking forward to it. Thanks to money he and Travis had earned through their risks, he had some extra cash. Cash he intended to use to fix up the house and barns a bit. He wanted to tackle the basement, finally. He and his late wife, Becky, had planned for years to finish it out and make a genuine family space down there for the kids. 

He just had the three at home now. He suspected Pete would stick around once he turned eighteen in six months, though. Phil was hoping. His second son was a rancher born and bred. He didn’t see Pete going anywhere too far away. If that was what his son wanted, then so be it. Phil would support him.

Just as he’d supported Phoenix’s move to Hollywood of all places. His oldest son had left after they’d used Phil’s ranch as a location shoot two and a half years ago. Phoenix was making his own way there.

Phil thought leaving Masterson was probably the best for Phoenix, but not having one of his children right there stung.

Phil thought about that as he and Travis headed toward the women’s charity Lacy volunteered at several nights a week. 

He was hoping to meet his new housekeeper there. Lacy had talked with him quietly the evening before. Had asked him to consider a woman she’d known for years.

He was there to do a favor for Lacy. That was it.

Travis’s daughter babbled at him as they walked up the sidewalk toward the charity. Phil laughed. 

The sight of little Alonna with her white-blond hair sticking up everywhere, and her little plaid shirt and denim overalls was cute. Made him miss his grandchildren. All seven of them, from five-year-old Ivy all the way down to the newest, Griffen. 

Phil would admit it—he was a homebody family man. He wanted to go home, and know he didn’t have to go anywhere for a while if he didn’t want to.

He’d turned his rental car in already—Travis was going to drop him off at the airport after he dropped the baby off with Lacy.

At W4HAV. Phil had heard great things about it but had never been there himself.

His niece Maggie had stayed with Travis’s in-laws for a few months after some trouble in Masterson. She’d received counseling there at the charity that she said had helped her through a great deal.

He was going to make a small donation while he was there. It was the least he could do for the place that had helped his Maggie. 

And if he could help Lacy help someone else in need, then Phil was going to damned well do it.

He saw the woman they were looking for the instant he opened the door to the charity and stepped inside.

Lacy stood near the receptionist desk speaking with a woman who looked so much like Phil’s daughters Pip and Perci that he did a double take.

And then he couldn’t believe what he was seeing at all. Who he was seeing.

***

Phil!

Phil opened his arms, and the woman jumped straight into them. He wrapped her up tight and just held her.

As everyone around them stared. He just held her. Remembered her as a scrawny, terrified kid so long ago. Finally, she pulled back. Wiped her wet cheeks.

Phil ignored the crowd around him.

He got his first real look at his late wife’s baby sister. She had put on a bit of weight, but not much. Still was on the small side.

Her sister had been the same way. His daughters all took after that side of their family. 

Robin’s hair was the same burnished red as three of Phil’s daughters, and three of his sons’. Her eyes were a lighter shade of blue. He and Becky had both been blue-eyed redheads. Their children had been bound to inherit the same.

Seeing Robin was like seeing Becky all over again. Twenty years—it had been twenty years, now. He’d heard rumors she’d returned to Masterson fifteen years ago, but it hadn’t been her. He’d looked for her. They’d missed her so damned much. Especially her sister.

But she was in front of him right now. 

“I didn’t realize you were in Finley Creek.”

“I bounced around a bit…after I left…and ended up here. Built a life here. Married. I’m a widow, now. Three years ago.”

He suspected it was more complicated than she was making it out to be. Phil looked at the people surrounding them. Even little Alonna was watching them. He saw the obvious confusion. “Robin is my late wife’s younger sister. She had to leave Masterson twenty years or so ago after some trouble with the former sheriff. We haven’t seen her since. Or really even known where she was. One hell of a coincidence finding her here.”

Once again, an oversimplification of what had been an extremely tense situation, and Robin had been no more than eighteen at the time.

Phil had put her on the bus out of town himself, with four hundred borrowed dollars and a prayer. He would never forget how that moment had felt.

“You needing a job, Robbie? It’s yours. Come on home.” He had had to help her leave, because he had had no other way to protect her back then. 

“I’m not the one for the job, Phil. But…my best friend, Glenna…is.” She stepped aside, and he got his first good look at the woman sitting at the table behind her.

She was around the same age as Robin, maybe a bit older. But was around three inches taller and a bit curvier. But not much. She was a pretty woman, one who would probably age very well. And there was a fear, a sadness, in her eyes that Phil didn’t like to see.

It was far too similar to what had been in his second daughter’s eyes not that long ago. 

The woman stood. Stared at him out of beautiful green eyes. She held out a hand. “Hello, I’m Glenna Carnes, Robin’s best friend. I’m the one who…Lacy…told me you are looking for a housekeeper to help with your children.”

Phil wrapped his fingers around hers. She had a very soft, feminine hand. Delicate and silk beneath his work-roughened fingers. “Yes. I will be honest. It’s not a high-paying job. I simply can’t afford it now. And the work will only be part-time now. I am throwing in room and board as part of the deal.”

“I’d…need that. I want to start completely fresh somewhere away from Finley Creek. I am not a housekeeper by trade, though I worked my way through college with my own cleaning business eighteen years ago. I know what the work involves.”

“Glenna is a licensed mental health counselor here,” Lacy, his business partner’s wife, said quietly. “She’s intending to transfer her license to wherever she settles eventually. That will take time. She’ll need a job in the meantime. I thought the two of you could help each other.”

Phil nodded. He hadn’t had any intention of interviewing a housekeeper tonight. He’d wanted to wait a few weeks after he got home. Talk to the boys—he still had three at home, ranging from almost eighteen down to his youngest at ten—see what kind of a woman they wanted living in their house.

When Lacy had come to him, telling him of a woman who needed a bit of help for a while, Phil had had to say yes. He was the kind of man who did what he could to help those who needed it.

Finding Robin again was just a miracle that he had never expected to have again.  

“What kind of job do you have in Masterson?” Robin asked quietly.

Glenna stepped forward, shooting him a shy look that had him feeling a bit protective. She did have that air about her just like his daughter Pip had once had. “I should tell you before this goes any further. If you offered me the job, I wouldn’t come alone. I have three children. Girls. Ages seven, almost five, and two-and-a-half..”

That was something he hadn’t counted on. He also saw the fear in her eyes.

The desperation. 

She wanted out of Finley Creek. And Robin and Lacy were trying to help her.

“I need someone to help me with the ranch now. The house, I mean. And the boys. It’s not fair to keep putting it on the girls when they are trying to build their own lives, their own families. I need someone I can trust, but I can’t afford much more than room and board. I can feed extra mouths, Mrs. Carnes. Food’s not the problem. And I have extra bedrooms. I was planning on hiring someone when I got home. Pip and Phoebe usually help with the boys, but they have four kids between them now. I can’t keep asking this of my girls. I’m a fair employer, and the ranch is a safe place for kids. I’ve made sure of that years ago. There will be room for them to play and grow. They’ll be treated as honorary Tylers. And it’ll get you far away from Texas, if that’s what you’re wanting. For as long as you are needing it to.”

* * *

Glenna didn’t see where she had much choice. Not if she wanted to take the girls someplace safe. Lacy had called her late the night before and told her she had a job in mind for her. That Lacy was one hundred percent certain the job would be perfect for her—and would provide exactly the safety she was looking for her girls. 

Glenna wanted that so much. They couldn’t even play in the yard without fear that Lincoln’s crazy family would drive by and harass them again. They lived three blocks away. His family walked by her house every single day. 

After they tried to take Elly, Glenna hadn’t been able to sleep at night, afraid they’d break in and take one—or all—of the girls. She and the girls could just leave—just pack up the rest of their things, load a rental truck and just…go. 

To Masterson.

Leaving Rory and Robin. To even think of that was like the idea of tearing off a limb. 

They were her family, too.

“It is beautiful there,” Robin said. She had spoken of home so many times, but the reason why she had left had always been a secret. “Go there, Glenna. It’s a wonderful place.”

“Room for you and yours, too, Robin. There always will be. And don’t you ever forget it. We can do some shifting around, and if the kids wouldn’t mind doubling up, there are plenty of bedrooms. The house may be small, but it was built for a family.”

Glenna looked over at her children, at her three little girls playing together, with Robin’s daughter’s bright strawberry-red head in the middle of them. The boys, older, strong and sturdy, played a board game. They were laughing, having fun. Being children. 

She lived in a tiny house on Boethe Street. Robin was just three doors down. They were still trying to fight with insurance companies more than a year after the tornado, just to make the rest of the repairs. Half of Robin’s windows were still covered with plywood. Their yards were tiny, not much room for children to run and play. Boethe Street wasn’t the kind of place you let your children play unattended either.

Not like the place this man had described.  

His name was Philip Tyler. He’d been married to Robin’s sister Rebecca. Robin’s children: Philip, Wesley Tyler, and Rebecca.

Her best friend had missed her family so much she’d named her children after them. 

She looked at him, wondering what she should say next. Lacy Deane’s baby reached for him, and he took her. Naturally. Like he’d held her a hundred times before. 

She just wanted someplace where she and her girls could relax. Not worry about someone gossiping about something they’d done to Lincoln’s mother or brothers. 

The petty harassment his family repeatedly dished out to her and her daughters was sickening. They walked by her house all the time. Calling to her, calling to the girls. Nothing she’d done had been able to stop them.

Rory had even asked a few friends from the TSP to talk to them. It hadn’t helped. 

If a six-foot-four, angry detective from Major Crimes couldn’t stop them from harassing her, nothing could.

She just wanted to get away from it. Here was a man that her best friend was telling her she could trust offering her exactly that. 

She just had to make a deal with a total stranger to make it happen…