Welcome back for day two of my birthday celebration. Nothing like extending the fun past the actual day! Yesterday I told you about the renaming of my first series and the future of my current Brides series. Today's post is simpler--just one story to talk about because I promised you an excerpt from the next "Seven Brides for Seven Cowboys" book – Grace’s story! I've also posted my inspirations pictures for the story. Enjoy! And then read to the end for more birthday present giveaways!
Here’s a little about the book (title coming soon):
Grace is one of the Crockett family triplets, whom their father named Grace, Kelly, and Raquel after his two favorite movie stars: Grace Kelly and Raquel Welch. Grace is the eldest by twenty minutes and is most reserved of the three—the one who is slightly OCD, slightly more spiritual thinking, slightly more exhausted at being what she sees as the least important partner in the sisters’ restaurant business.
Looking for a chance to make it on her own, she goes home to her family’s Paradise Ranch in search of her future—and maybe a man who’ll see her for who she really is, not as a novelty along with her identical sisters or an uptight perfectionist—which is how her sisters present her to the world. Grace doesn’t need perfection in a guy, but she does want sensitive, romantic, caring, and safe. After all, she believes, who wouldn’t?
The last kind of man she’d ever go for is a two-bit gambler with a precocious child and an agenda to take away part of her family’s ranch. That’s exactly what Ty Garraway plans when he gets a job as ranch hand on Paradise Ranch. He’s biding his time, awaiting the right moment to set his goals into motion.
And then sweet, smart, very very good Grace Crockett sets every desire of his heart spinning upside down and backwards, and makes him wonder if he’s really doing what’s right—even though it’s all for his daughter.
I’m so excited to get the next books of this series into your hands. I hope you’ll wait patiently as it gets finished and ready for your reading pleasure! For now—how about a little taste of the prologue? I think this will give you a bit of an idea about our hero Ty. He’s been a little slow to figure out life—except when it comes to his daughter Teagan, aka “Lucky.” Hope you enjoy it, and when you get to the end—there’ll be two more birthday presents for YOU!
( Set up: Small time gambler, Ty Garraway, is hosting his poker buddies at his low-rent apartment, and is in the middle of a hand that could potentially net him a significant amount of money when a woman from his past knocks on his door with a movie-worthy cliché of a surprise.)
“She is not my child.”
Crap on a Cheez-it, Ty thought. He sounded like Michael Jackson.
“Oh, honey, that’s where you’re wrong.”
He liked women, he couldn’t deny it. But he wasn’t callous, and he didn’t sow his oats without protection. Ever. He’d learned that lesson from his old man who’d been anything but careful his entire miserable life.
“Carrie, you can’t do this to a child.”
“Give her to her father? I can, and I’m about to.” She turned to the girl who hadn’t made a peep and now turned her face upward. “Teagan, this your dad. I told you about him. See? He’s real.”
Teagan? If that wasn’t the trendiest name for a kid. Who saddled a baby with a name like that?
“Say hello,” Carrie continued.
The girl switched her gaze calmly to him. “Hello, Daddy.”
The punch this time was different—deeper, harder, less expected, and much scarier. Ty sensed the incredulous stares of his poker mates before he glanced over his shoulder and saw the four men gaping like they’d spotted Bigfoot, Nessie, and Santa Claus rolled into one. He couldn’t blame them. Flying reindeer were more believable than the idea of Ty Garraway as a father.
He’d never know what made him squat in front of the little girl named Teagan, but when he did, prepared to let her down gently while warning her not to think of him as her daddy, something snared the words in his throat. She looked back at him, quizzical and baby-faced but with a perception far beyond what he thought a three-year-old should have had. Then her tiny tongue poked from between her lips and twisted sideways before she bit down on it thoughtfully. Ty’s heart skipped a beat. Any number of people, even little kids, bit their tongues when they were thinking, but that added tongue twist . . . how many times had been teased about that very habit as a kid.
He still did it when he was tired.
A freaking coincidence.
“Look . . .” What did you call a miniature human? Honey, sweetheart, kid? He shook his head. “Look, uh, Teagan? I’m not—”
Her little body launched itself at his, and she wrapped her arms around his neck, snuggling in tightly as if to ward off a rejection.
“Aw . . .” He bit off a mild curse and tried to heed the voice in his brain warning him—loudly—to peel the child off and hand her back to her mother.
“I wanted for you to be real,” she said.
The earlier sensation of a boxer’s fisted knuckles slamming into his chest returned, morphing into fingers that grabbed his heart and squeezed. Not knowing what else to do, he supported her by her tiny little butt and stood. Teagan laid her head on his shoulder, and something inside heated and melted. The sensation terrified him.
“Looks like the bonding happened in record time.” Carrie gave a quick, satisfied nod. She pulled the girl’s tiny suitcase through the door and propped it against the wall. Reaching into the bag she’d set down earlier, she pulled out a thick manila envelope. “Everything you need is in here, Ty. She’s a good kid. Take care of her.” She held out the packet, and when he didn’t take it she set it on Teagan’s suitcase. With a shrug she turned to leave.
“Oh no you don’t. Hold on just a go—ol dang minute.” Again he narrowly avoided cursing and pulled Teagan from their embrace to set her on the floor. “You cannot walk out and leave me with a kid who doesn’t have a clue who I am. I have no way of taking care of her. What do you mean, your husband knows she’s not his?”
“I told him she was, but when he needed some medical tests done there was a reason to do a DNA match. It was pretty obvious I’d lied. If I’m staying with him, you’re the only choice there is for her.” She nodded coolly at the child in his arms.
“Carrie, for crying out loud.”
“Sorry.” She turned away again.
“Stop! How do I get in touch with you if she needs you?”
Carrie halted. Her eyes betrayed nothing, no regret, no sadness, not even the light indicating crazy. “Oh she won’t. Will you baby?” She regarded Teagan as if the child were a stray she was leaving at the pound. “I’m not the warm maternal mommy type, anyway. She’s spent most of her time with my parents, and they’re gone now. Good bye, Ty.”
He pleaded with himself to run after her, and imagined spinning her around to shake sense into the freaky red head. Teagan’s face stopped him. She, like her mother, didn’t cry, but she was the poster child for utter sadness. Good God in heaven what must she be thinking? What did a three-year-old even understand? Weren’t they temper tantrums waiting to happen? Or was that a two-year-old?”
Another wave of panic, pure and absolute, swept over him, crashing him into rocks of uncertainty and freezing him in place with no clue what to do or say.
“Daddy?” she asked.
He halted. He’d just been wondering what she was thinking—worrying about her feelings. How could he crush her further? This wasn’t her fault.
“Hey,” he said. “I’m sorry about your mom leaving you here like this. Are you okay?”
He didn’t even know if she understood everything he was saying, but to his shock she took the pointer finger of his left hand and gripped it as if it brought her comfort. “Mommy and Daddy Curt don’t want any little girls. Do you? If you do, I’m okay.”
She had the face of an angel, the stature of a small child, and the diction and vocabulary of a ten-year-old. Or a six-year-old. Or maybe all three-year-olds talked like this. He had no freakin’ clue. But her eyes bored into his as if she were trying to read the answer there, and when he couldn’t turn away, she smiled as if to encourage him. It was tentative, questioning. And there were those enormous, brown, baby deer eyes again. A fresh new swell, big as a surfer’s dream wave, rose up and crashed over him—but this time it was protectiveness. He couldn’t keep this helpless creature for any length of time. He’d find out who she really was and then find her true relatives. But until then he could try, despite the four gamblers, two cigar butts, and ten empty beer bottles that made up most of his décor, to keep her safe for the moment.
“You know what? Tonight I do want at least one little girl. And I promise. We’ll find a way to get you back with your mom where you belong.”
“I could just belong here,” she said. “That would be easier.” She pronounced it ‘easy-oh’ the first sign of baby talk he’d heard.
Panic reared its ugly head again. Oh, it so would not be “easy-oh” to have her there. It was the furthest thing from easy—or even possible—he could imagine. He didn’t know where she was going to sleep tonight—forget about forever.
“Well, well, pops.” Pete was the first to break the awkward silence. “Are you going to introduce us?”
His four fellow hold-’em partners converged, and another surge of protectiveness spurred Ty to help the child take off her back pack, which sported Hello Kitty—the only child toy thing he recognized. Then he lifted her into his arms again.
“What’s your whole name?” he asked.
“Teagan Ann Garraway.”
He nearly dropped her. “Garraway?” he asked. “When did you get that name?”
“It was Miller. Mommy said I have a new last name now.”
He sent a helpless, silent plea to his four friends. They only slapped him on the back with raucous congratulations.
“I think it’s time for us to head out,” Pete said, but held out his arms first, asking Teagan to come to him. She shrank closer to Ty’s shoulder.
“Yeah, you’ll be busy now,” Carl added. “Besides, you won the hand, and I’m all out of betting budget. With a dam…dang low card three of a kind. Your lucky charm turned up just in time.”
He patted Teagan’s back as he made for the door. Pete, Mark and Bryce had gathered their belonging and followed Carl out with good-byes that were far too cheerful and way too sudden.
Once he was alone with the child, Ty patted her back awkwardly while a fog of confusion and despair settled firmly over both of them. Even the windfall of bills in the middle of the table didn’t help.
Lucky? This was lucky? What in the name of all that was holy was he supposed to do now?
And that’s how Lucky gets to be in Ty’s, and eventually Grace’s, life. I hope it got you a little interested in the story and eager for it to come out. Look for news sometime between November and January!!
And, in the meantime, be sure to check out Grace's sisters' books, already published!
Harper Mia Joely
Thanks so much for coming to my birthday party here on GLIAS. Be sure to stay in touch!