Authors: Jannine Gallant
Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Westerns, #Romance, #Western, #Contemporary, #spicy
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales, is entirely coincidental.
Asking for Trouble
COPYRIGHT © 2014 by Jannine Gallant
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission of the author or The Wild Rose Press, Inc. except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews.
Contact Information: [email protected]
Cover Art by
The Wild Rose Press, Inc.
PO Box 708
Adams Basin, NY 14410-0708
Visit us at www.thewildrosepress.com
First Yellow Rose Edition, 2014
Digital ISBN 978-1-62830-198-4
Published in the United States of America
Praise for Jannine Gallant
“I adored the characters in
NOTHING BUT TROUBLE
... It’s completely endearing and if you love a charming southern romance, then
NOTHING BUT TROUBLE
is the perfect story for you.”
~Sizzling Hot Book Reviews (4 Stars)
A DEADLY LOVE
“Even though this book was a little over 300 pages, I read it in one sitting. I could not put the book down. Ms. Gallant really knows how to keep your attention, employing an explosive combination of suspense and sizzling chemistry...”
~The Romance Reviews (5 Stars)
MAYBE THIS TIME
“The course of true love never ran so sweetly.... I couldn’t stop turning the pages!”
~The One Hundred Romances Project (5 Stars)
AFTER ALL THESE YEARS
“This book was a great Friday night read, I fell in love with all the characters...a wonderful story.”
~Happily Ever After Reviews (5 Tea Cups)
LONELY ROAD TO YOU
“An amazing read. When I first began reading it, I had no idea that Kate and Tyler would have such an amazing adventure together.”
~Siren Book Reviews (5 Siren Stones)
To Pat, with love.
Only one thing in the state of Texas was louder than the whine of Cole Matheson’s chainsaw—the red-haired demon child he called a nephew. Easing a final cut into the cedar antler of the life-sized moose, he killed the engine, pushed safety glasses up beneath the brim of his weathered tan Stetson, and turned on the ladder to stare down at the baby squirming in his brother’s grip.
“How do you stand that racket?”
The screaming stopped, leaving blessed silence, as the ten-month-old grinned a mostly toothless smile and waved pudgy arms.
“What kind of question is that coming from a man who makes a living with a chainsaw?” Davis Matheson set his son on a pile of wood shavings and frowned up at him. “Do you want to come down from there? We need to talk.”
Nothing good ever began with those four words. Miranda had said them just before she kicked his ass to the curb six months ago. Not that he blamed her.
With care for the chainsaw cradled in his arms, he descended the ladder, wondering what bad news his brother had to share. After setting the saw well out of Jackson’s reach, and dropping a couple of wood scraps in front of the baby to keep him quiet, Cole leaned against the moose and met his brother’s worried gaze.
Looking at Davis was a lot like looking in the mirror. Though his brother was three years his senior, they were frequently mistaken for twins. Both had dark brown hair and eyes to match, and the same lanky build topped by sturdy shoulders, but Cole was a couple of inches taller. It had pissed big brother off to no end when he’d outgrown him his senior year in high school.
Davis crossed his arms over a faded denim jacket and ran the toe of a scuffed boot through the sawdust littering the ground. “Now, why would you think something is wrong?”
“Because you don’t stop work in the middle of the morning for no good reason. Not when you’re leaving town in a couple of days for a much deserved vacation.” He snorted. “At least Andee deserves a holiday. Your wife works harder than anyone I know, takes care of the little monster over there, and still manages to keep a smile on your ugly face.”
“You’re right, she does deserve this trip. Ten days in Hawaii, the honeymoon we never got around to taking.” He drew in a breath. “I have the vet clinic covered for emergencies, and Andee hired a temporary waitress to help Marge at the café. There’s just one little glitch.”
When his brother’s gaze strayed toward Jackson, who was rolling in the wood shavings and giggling like a loon, the breath seized in Cole’s chest. “I thought Honey and Chase were watching him.”
“They planned to, but Chase just called. Honey has chicken pox.”
Palms sweating, he wiped his hands down the sides of his jeans and stared into his brother’s determined eyes. “Kids get chicken pox, not adults. Maybe it’s just a rash.”
“The doctor confirmed it. They can’t keep Jackson while she’s contagious.”
Perspiration ran in a stream down his back as he glanced over at his nephew. The boy sat up and smiled at him then babbled something he couldn’t understand. He looked like an angel with those honest brown eyes and mop of red hair, not the little devil who’d been spurned by nearly every babysitter in Redemption.
“So, you’re asking one of your other friends to watch him.” He made it a statement, not a question, sucked in his breath and prayed.
“No, I’m asking you.”
His knees quivered, and he clutched the moose for support. “What do I know about kids? I’ve got chisels and knifes scattered all over the house. I live on chocolate bars and beer. Surely, someone—
—else would be a better choice for a babysitter.”
“Probably, but I refuse to beg all over town. If Andee finds out Honey can’t take our son, she’ll want to cancel the trip.” His voice deepened. “I’m not going to let that happen. I’ll present her with a done deal, and she won’t be able to say no.”
“Maybe Mom and Pop—”
“They have a road trip to Redemption planned for May, just in time for Jackson’s first birthday. I won’t ask them to fly out from the East Coast when you’re right here and perfectly capable of doing this. You owe me, Cole, and you’re going to pay up.”
He scowled. “It’s not like you gave me a kidney.”
“Who bailed you out of jail after you got arrested for brawling down at the Rusty Nail Saloon? Who loaned you the money to start Texas Chainsaw Critters?” His eyes narrowed. “Who convinced Miranda you would never cheat on her when those women in Amarillo plastered your half-naked picture all over every social media site on the internet?”
He let out a deep sigh. “I didn’t cheat. I just got drunk and took off my shirt. She dumped me two weeks later, anyway.” He rubbed a spot of dirt off the moose’s nose then glanced over at his dog, snoozing beneath a cottonwood tree. “I wouldn’t have been drinking to start with if I hadn’t felt our relationship was in trouble.”
“It still counts. Fact is, you’re my brother, and you’ll do it because you’re family. You’ll do it because you love Andee like the sister she is to you. You’ll do it because even though he scares the living crap out of you, you have a soft spot for Jackson.”
Cole’s gaze strayed to the baby, who stared back without blinking. “I’m not afraid of the little guy. I just don’t know what to do with him. It’ll be different when I can teach him to ride a horse or throw a football. I like kids—as long as I can hand them back to their parents after an hour or two.”
“You can hand him back in ten days.”
“That implies we’ll both survive the ordeal. I have my doubts.”
“You’ve survived worse than Jackson can dish out. Anyway, he’ll be at Sugar ’n‘ Spice weekdays from eight to five. You’re only responsible for weekends and evenings. Miranda agreed to take him full time at the daycare while we’re away.”
Regret compressed his chest to make breathing a chore. It had been six months. Shouldn’t the pain of hearing Miranda’s name, the reminder of her rejection, have eased by now? Every time he ran into his ex-girlfriend in town, old feelings surged to the surface. She’d wanted more—marriage, kids and a white picket fence. He’d been content with the status quo. So, she’d quietly walked away. Maybe if he saw her again on a regular basis, even if it was just to drop off Jackson at the daycare, he’d finally be able to put the past behind him where it belonged.
“Earth to Cole.” Fingers snapped in front of his face. “Will you do it, or not?”
He heaved a long sigh. “Since
doesn’t appear to be an option, I suppose I will.”
His brother stepped forward to give him a back-slapping hug. When he pulled away, a grin stretched his cheeks. “I appreciate this. We’ll be by on Friday evening to hand over Jackson and all his stuff. Our flight out of Amarillo leaves at some God awful hour on Saturday morning, so we’re spending the night there.”
Bending, Davis scooped up his son. As he turned to walk away, Jackson let out a holler that woke Tucker from his slumber. The old ridgeback rose on stiff legs and let out a woof.
Patting the baby’s back, his brother kept walking. “Don’t you worry, boy. You’ll be seeing plenty of your favorite uncle in the very near future.”
The words rang in Cole’s ears.
After strapping the baby into the car seat, his brother started the van and pulled out of the gravel drive, leaving a plume of dust—and silence. An early spring breeze rustled the leaves on the cottonwood tree where a meadowlark chirped as Tucker dropped back down to continue his interrupted nap.
Cole shivered despite the sun beating down on his shoulders to soak into the thin cotton shirt. A big, black storm cloud would have been more fitting.
Trouble was definitely on the horizon.
Pushing a lock of unruly auburn hair behind one ear as she scooped up the last of the scattered alphabet blocks, Miranda O’Neill rose to her feet and stared with envy at her employee and friend’s sleek blonde mane. It wasn’t just the perfect hair and gorgeous face she coveted; the baby bump protruding beneath the lavender gauze top Jenna Nichols wore set her biological clock ticking at warp speed. Maybe it had something to do with celebrating her thirtieth birthday the previous month, or finding out the really nice guy she’d been dating was going back to his ex-wife. Whatever the cause, the thought she’d likely wind up an old maid with nothing but a houseful of cats for company had been plaguing her like a persistent rash.
Jenna trundled the vacuum cleaner into the closet and shut the door before turning with one hand resting on her belly. “Do you have something fun planned for this weekend, maybe a date with that pharmacist from Amarillo you’ve been seeing?”
She’d contemplated inviting Brett on an overnight trip to perk up the romance in their relationship—but that was before he sprang the news about his ex-wife. “We broke up.”
“You did? I’m sorry.” Jenna grimaced and rolled her eyes. “Okay, maybe I’m not sorry. The guy was bo-o-oring. Did he talk about FDA restrictions while you were in bed?”
Miranda clapped a hand across her mouth, but couldn’t suppress a snort of laughter. “We never got far enough to find out.”
“I’m pretty sure you didn’t miss anything.” She pulled a sweater off the hook by the door and struggled into it, belly swaying.
Walking through the maze of pint-sized tables and chairs that filled the main room of the daycare, Miranda snapped off the overhead lights. Her shoulders sagged. “I suppose I should make an effort to go out, but quite frankly, I’d rather have a root canal without anesthesia than throw myself into the dating pool again.”
“Can’t say I blame you, but there must be some nice, unattached guy out there who won’t bore you into a stupor. Look at you—” Stretching out a hand, she tugged on a long curl of red hair that bounced back the second she released it. “—beautiful, smart, sexy.”
“Thanks, but you exaggerate.” Pausing on the threshold after they exited the building, Miranda turned to lock the door. The late afternoon breeze touched her cheek like a lover’s caress, and a memory of laughing brown eyes beneath a thatch of wavy, dark hair intruded. She forced the image away and followed her friend to the parking lot. “Not that I don’t appreciate the vote of confidence, but sexy is a stretch. If I had to use one word to describe myself, it would be competent. When men look at me, they see someone who always pays the bills on time and will remind them to get a haircut. Not the woman voted most likely to win a wet T-shirt contest.”