Series: Cowboy SEALs Series #2
Genre: Contemporary Western Romance
Release Date: June 30, 2021
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The last thing Slade Williams, the intensely driven, hard-partying Navy SEAL, sees coming is his future as a single father. He already knows he sucks at the daddy part, not that it’s really his fault, but a tiny-for-her-age six-year-old daughter now looks to him as the center of her world.
Tina Anderson, the pretty first grade teacher Slade dated the previous year when he visited his SEAL buddy’s cattle ranch and then promptly dumped, wants nothing to do with the outgoing man who so easily forgot her. Her heartbreaking past made this rejection a nearly unbearable experience. Yet, when she hears that Slade will be taking in his grieving daughter, she’s ready to offer her help.
But trusting the handsome ex-SEAL is another matter. When passions sizzle, she refuses to give in. It’ll take a lot more than good looks and a devastating smile to win this strong woman over.
Has Slade finally met his match? Will Tina find a way to forgive and forget? If you like your romance to sizzle, get your copy of The Cowboy SEAL’s Daddy School, an irresistible blend of sweetness and heat.
Slade Williams twisted the strand of barbwire tight around the old mesquite post set at the edge of the flat buffelgrass pasture. Lightning slashed the sky from the swollen purple clouds coming in from the Gulf Coast. Short seconds later, thunder boomed as the storm that had been threatening for the last half hour drew close. Wind laid down the tall grass, tugging at Slade’s Stetson. He tied off the wire and tested it with his fingers. Nice and tight.
Slade loved playing cowboy at his friend Flint’s south Texas ranch on leave from his career as a Navy SEAL. He’d just come from Afghanistan and a mission where he’d spilled blood and taken lives—memories that would stay with him forever. That came with the job, and he didn’t regret it. A patriot, he served his country with pride.
Here, where a day’s problem meant a bull breaking through a fence, he could forget death and destruction. He could focus on tasks that had nothing to do with killing and everything to do with making life better.
The wind gusted, and with it came several heavy raindrops. He glanced up as more drops spattered his shoulders and forehead. He should get a move on. He grabbed the fence stretcher and shoved the pliers into his back pocket. The truck was far down the fence line, and that meant making a run for it. He took off, the rain pelting him with a vengeance now.
Keeping his head down, he followed the cleared area along the fence until he spotted the tailgate of the old white Chevy. Rain poured off the brim of his hat, and he was soaked to the skin. He chucked the stretcher into the back of the truck and yanked the door open. Water streamed down the windshield, and he couldn’t see out. Damn, he’d better hurry before it was too muddy to make it out on the unimproved pasture track.
The dependable old engine roared to life, and he eased the truck into first, keeping the wheels from spinning in the already-forming mud. The roar of the rain on the metal roof assaulted his ears. His phone rang, and he grabbed it from the dash, glancing at the screen. What the hell? Crossing his left arm over his chest to reach the gear shift, he stomped the clutch and put the truck in neutral again. What was his ex-father-in-law doing calling him? The man didn’t like him; had never had two words to say to him the whole time Slade had been married to his daughter.
After jabbing his finger in one ear to drown out the pounding rain, he punched open the call. “Peter? Is everything okay?” Slade’s heart pounded. Why wasn’t Ashley calling? If something was wrong, it should be his ex-wife on the phone.
“I’m sorry, Slade—” His voice sounded shaky, rough with emotion.
“Is Zoe all right? Tell me, Peter!” Panic stabbed Slade’s chest. He couldn’t breathe.
“Zoe’s fine. She’s here with us. It’s...” He stopped, and Slade heard him suck in a breath. “It’s Ashley. She and Jensen went to Switzerland for the opening of ski season. There was a storm, and their car went off the mountain. They... They didn’t make it.” His shaking voice trailed off at the end, as if he’d run out of strength.
Slade smothered a moan. No! How will Zoe cope? “Peter, I’m so sorry. I’ll get a flight up there as soon as I can book one. And I’d like to call Zoe tonight, if it’s all right?”
“Of course.” After giving Slade the information for the upcoming service, the heartbroken man ended the call.
Slade returned the phone to the dash, his fingers fumbling the simple task. Ashley gone? He couldn’t wrap his mind around the idea that the forceful personality who never let a detail escape her notice, the woman who was mother to his daughter, was gone forever. A pit opened in the center of his belly.
Flipping on the wipers, he noted the water already pooled along the pasture drive. Damn, he couldn’t afford to get stuck. Not now. He put the truck in first and eased his foot down on the accelerator, ruing the fact that the old vehicle had worn-out tires. He groaned when the wheels spun, but then they gained traction, and the vehicle moved ahead.
Then it hit him. He was a single parent now! His pulse raced. He’d hardly been any kind of a father at all—Ashley had made sure of that. She had left him when Zoe was an infant, and each of his visits to see his daughter had been more problematic than the last until the trips to Greenwich, Connecticut had become further and further apart. If he was honest, he didn’t have a real relationship with his six-year-old daughter at all.
That had to change. He scrubbed his hand over his face. At the eight-year mark in his SEAL career, he’d been prepared to re-up when he returned to the sandpit. Now he was left with a decision he’d never seen coming. Did he give up the Navy, or did he turn his back on his daughter?
* * *
Seated in a booth at the Blackbrush Café, Tina took a sip of her coffee.
“He’s flying back to Greenwich in the morning. Zoe’s staying with Ashley’s parents. Poor little thing. How does a six-year-old even process something like this? I remember how messed up I was when I lost my mom.” Morgan, one of Tina’s best friends and the wife of Slade’s friend, Flint, sat across from her.
Tina shuddered and picked up her coffee mug again, clasping it with both hands. The news about Slade had hit her hard. The fact that the Navy SEAL hadn’t told her that he’d been married before didn’t matter. The death of his ex-wife and her new husband, leaving Slade’s daughter without a mother, was a terrible thing.
Bailey, Flint’s sister and Tina’s other best friend, touched her shoulder. “I’m sure you’re worried about Slade. He really meant something to you when you went out with him last year.”
Tina nodded. “We didn’t have a lot of time with each other, but, yes, I did care for him. I’m so sorry that this has happened.”
The three women were seldom able to meet up on a Saturday, and Tina cherished their time together. Morgan and Bailey were both nurses at the hospital in town and rarely had the same weekend off.
Tina took another sip from her steaming cup. Clinking silverware and the aroma of bacon surrounded her. The café never quit serving breakfast, and it was one of the things she loved best about the place. She sighed, considering Morgan’s question. “Zoe will need help. This kind of trauma is going to rock her world.”
Some families were open to counseling for their children, and others were sharply opposed. She’d seen children in her class who hadn’t had the benefit of therapy after suffering a tragedy, and the havoc that had created in their lives. Maybe she should say something to Slade before he left. She hoped to help him and his little girl, though he would be going far away where she would never see him again.
She should be used to him being distant. She hadn’t had any contact with him since he’d quit answering her calls and texts. They’d met at the Barbwire Bar in town last year while he was visiting Flint and had even gone on another date before he’d returned to his SEAL duty. They’d called and texted every day. However, after a few weeks, his contact had petered out.
She’d liked the outgoing, fun-loving, sexy man and had been incredibly disappointed when he began ignoring her. In truth, it had hurt. Had reminded her of before... She shuddered, taking far too big a swallow of coffee and starting to cough.
She still didn’t understand. What had caused Slade to lose interest in her? When she’d realized that he had no intention of staying in touch with her, terrible feelings of rejection that she’d hoped were gone forever had come crashing down on her. Thank God she’d never slept with him. That would have made everything even more humiliating.
She hadn’t even been aware that he was visiting Flint and Morgan now. He had obviously marked her off his list of friends. Gnawing her lip, the remembered desolation from years ago threatening to resurface, she closed her eyes. Not again. I can’t go through that again.
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