Series: Stand Alones
Published by: Suspenseful Seduction Publishing
Release Date: May 25, 2017
Contributors: Edited by Eve Arroyo; Cover design by Judi Perkins of Concierge Literary Design
Genre: Contemporary, Romance, Romance/Contemporary, Romance/Suspense, Starting Over, Suspense
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***A 2017 Readers' Favorite Award Silver Medal Winner***
Adam Westfield is an ex-friar just released from prison. Unsure of his destiny, he roams America, hoping to find a purpose . . . and forgiveness.
A widowed mother of two, Sage Hammond is struggling to keep her horse ranch afloat. Unable to find a ranch hand willing to work for meager wages, she’s close to giving up. Then, an answer to her prayers appears—a quiet, handsome stranger.
Adam is falling in love for the first time in his life, however, strange things begin to happen at the ranch—things that are putting Sage and her children in danger—and he finds he’s willing to sell his soul to protect them. But will it be enough?
A man trying to overcome his past. A woman trying to secure her children’s future. Can they both learn to live in the present and discover that second chances do exist?
***The Friar is a standalone novel and not related to any of Samantha A. Cole's current series.
Buy the Book: Amazon
After tucking her children into bed, Sage checked the locks on the front door before cutting through the kitchen to the backdoor. When she’d been a young child, small town people never locked their doors, but times had changed and she felt safer knowing the house was secure, especially since Mark had died. Even though Evan and Maddie’s cabin was only about a football field to the east of the main house, it was still far enough away that someone could break in and remain unnoticed by the older couple.
Swinging the screen door open, she stepped out onto the back porch and descended the stairs. She wanted to do a walk through the barn to check on the horses before climbing into bed herself. The three nursing mares would start weaning their yearlings soon and the six pregnant ones would be going into labor within the next week or so. Hopefully this year’s births would all be healthy. Last year’s stillborn had been a financial disappointment, in addition to being a sad lesson in life and death for Sage’s children, who loved to watch the foals being born.
It’d been a long day and her feet were killing her. After her errands in town, she’d returned to the Little League field to wait for the boys’ practice to be finished. Unfortunately, that meant she had to deal with Seth Chapman—divorced father of three kids of whom he had partial custody, avid drinker and, according to him, God’s gift to women everywhere. Little did he know, his crassness, pot belly, and yellowing teeth from tobacco chewing begged to differ with that opinion. The man had been hitting on Sage since the month after Mark had died and still couldn’t get it through his thick skull that she had absolutely no interest in him.
When she’d finally driven Toby home, she’d ended up chatting with Ashley for a few minutes while the boys played with the new barn kittens. At first her friend had been happy Sage found someone to help around the ranch, but as soon as she mentioned Adam’s past, Sage knew she’d made a mistake.
“Are you crazy? A criminal? Sage, how could you hire an ex-con? What was he in for?”
She bit her tongue. Even though she loved her best friend, Ashley tended to be a bit of a blabbermouth at times. She knew Ash didn’t mean to gossip as much as she did, but occasionally her brain-to-mouth filter was broken. “I’d rather not say. It’s in his past, and he’s paid his debt to society. Everyone deserves a second chance, right? Besides, he was up front about everything and told me to call a few people to make sure he was being honest. I did, and they gave him glowing references. He even won over Reverend Stevens and Evan.”
Ash raised her brow. “Really? Evan is more protective of you and the kids than Mark was and that’s saying a lot. Okay. I understand that you don’t want his background to get out, but please just be careful and sleep with your gun under your pillow. Second chances or not, I would hate to see anything happen to you or the kids.”
After making sure none of the pregnant mares were in labor, Sage scratched a few noses on her way out of the barn. Shutting the big red door, she glanced over at the little two-room cabin which sat a few yards away. The lights were still on inside, and she pivoted in that direction, telling herself she was just going to check and see if Adam needed anything. At dinner earlier, he’d said the cabin appeared to have everything, but she wanted to make sure.
As she approached, she noticed the curtains were open in the front living room. The bedroom and bath were at the rear of the structure. Not wanting to disturb him if he’d fallen asleep with the lights on—Evan had said the younger man had worked his ass off during the day—she peeked through the window.
Well, he definitely wasn’t asleep. Dressed in a pair of black sweatpants and nothing more, Adam was kneeling in profile on the floor with his hands resting on his muscular thighs and his head tilted down. His eyes were shut, and she guessed he was meditating. Staying in the shadows, she studied his features—dark blond hair in need of a slight trim, a chiseled jaw covered in coarse stubble, corded neck muscles, broad shoulders and chest, followed by a narrow waist and rock hard abs. A deep V of muscles, dusted with fine hair down the middle, disappeared into his sweatpants. Holy crap, is it getting hot out here? She may be a widow who was still mourning the only man she’d ever loved, but she would have to be six feet under along with Mark to not appreciate the perfect male form in front of her.
A stirring developed deep in her womb, and she felt her panties grow damp. For the first time since Mark’s death, Sage felt a longing and desire. Her nipples tightened as her mouth watered. Shit! Why did it have to be this man who brought her libido out of its thirty-month slumber? She’d felt something earlier after he’d caught her smiling at how he’d managed to get Jenna talking at dinner. There was something about the way his eyes seemed to dance while his deep, rumbling laughter filled the air, and, jeez, his dimples were just too adorable. Stop it. Stop thinking about him as a man. He’s your employee and nothing more. He probably wouldn’t be here for long and one-night-stands weren’t her thing. And there was no way she was having a meaningless fling one hundred and fifty feet from where her children were sleeping soundly. But, damn she was lonely. It wasn’t a new feeling, or one she’d been denying to herself, but it wasn’t something she’d acted on. She missed being held, caressed, and loved. Maybe Ashley was right—her friend had spent the past six months trying to convince Sage it was okay to start dating again. Maybe it was time to rejoin the living in every way.
Adam’s chin dipped, and it wasn’t until he made the sign of the cross that she realized he’d been praying. He’d mentioned he wanted to attend church—she was a member of Reverend Stevens’ congregation as well—but she wasn’t used to seeing anyone pray like that outside of Sunday service or the dinner table.
Suddenly embarrassed she’d been ogling him, she stepped further into the shadows as Adam stood and stretched. With one last admiring glance at the man, she spun on her heel and hurried back to her house, completely forgetting what she’d been doing outside of the cottage in the first place.
Closing and locking the kitchen door behind her, Sage leaned against it with a sigh and subconsciously fingered the gold wedding ring that still occupied her left hand. She had to be out of her mind. Adam was an employee . . . an ex-con employee . . . a drifting, ex-con employee, whom she had just met this morning. There . . . now that she had that straight in her mind, she could push away the thoughts of his amazing physique and how her own body had reacted at the sight. Damn.
Copyright ©2017 Samantha A. Cole
All Rights Reserved.
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