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He hated being scared.
Jacoby pulled his ragged teddy bear tighter to his chest and wiped his wet eyes on the soft overalls Clem wore.
That was his bear's name, Clem.
The car swerved and tires squealed. Jacoby shut his eyes tight and buried his face in Clem's fur. He was glad the seat belt worked.
His mama swore and banged her fist against the steering wheel. She cursed the rain, the dark night, their piece of junk car and her miserable life.
Mama did that a lot.
Jacoby didn't like it, especially after a teacher pulled him aside at the start of the school year and told him that nice people didn't talk that way. And he wanted to be nice.
He wished his mama was nicer more.
He wished they were back at Miss Mazie's house, even if he did have to sleep on the floor in a sleeping bag that scratched his legs. But his mama had packed up their stuff, shoved his clothes into the worn pillowcase he used to carry his books and made him crawl out the window.
He'd turned back and watched her take all the money from a jar Miss Mazie thought they didn't know about. She'd then grabbed two unopened bottles of wine, leaving the almost-empty one where it lay on Miss Mazie's lap.
It was wrong to steal, but Jacoby didn't say anything. The last time he'd told his mama she'd done something wrong, his arm had hurt for three days where she'd grabbed him.
So he'd crept into the backseat next to his pillowcase book bag and kept quiet.
They did this a lot. Moved around.
They'd been with Miss Mazie since New Year's Eve and it would be Easter soon. He'd miss the egg hunt at his school tomorrow and wondered if his teacher would miss him.
He didn't know where they were going, but he hoped they got there soon. Or maybe the rain would stop when the sun came up and he wouldn't be so scared.
Lightning lit up the sky and Jacoby waited for the thunder, but it didn't come. His mama turned back and looked at him, tears on her cheeks.
Now, he was really scared.
She looked silly. She never looked silly.
Gina Steele studied her reflection in the full-length mirror hanging in the employee break room. She'd been called a lot of s words in her life. Scholarly, serious, studious, solemn.
Even scary, thanks to the jerk who'd sat next to her during her freshman year's Introduction to Classic Literature class at the University of Notre Dame. It wasn't her fault at fifteen she'd been the smartest person in the room.
Not to mention the youngest.
Smart was another s word associated her. Until today. Today, silly was the only word that fit. "Oh, I love it!"
Startled, Gina looked into the smiling green eyes that belonged to Barbie Felton, her best friend and fellow waitress, in the mirror's reflection. She focused back on her own face and grimaced. "It's pink."
With long blond hair, complete with bangs, and her athletic body, Barbie looked more like Skipper, the iconic doll's little sister, than her namesake. She leaned against the wall. "You can always cover it up. Relax and enjoy it!"
Gina couldn't help but smile as she twirled the inch-wide streak of pink in her hair.
She'd been excited about rekindling her friendship with her elementary school friend when she returned home to Destiny, Wyoming, last winter. Barbie had been one of the few kids who hadn't cared that Gina was years ahead of them in the smarts department.
When Gina had left town after the fifth grade to attend a private school, she and Barbie tried to stay in touch. But like most childhood promises, it hadn't lasted. When Gina started working at The Blue Creek Saloon a few months ago, she was surprised to find that Barbie still lived in town and worked here, too, and they'd reconnected.
"First stop, hair color." Her friend teased, her voice hushed in a dramatic whisper. "Next up a tattoo!"
Barbie laughed and turned around. Tucking her thumbs into the waistband of her jeans, she tugged the material lower by a few inches. A purple, green and gold dragonfly flitted across her lower back among colorful flowers and green leaves.
A flash of something coursed through Gina. Jealousy?
And was it over the beauty of the artwork or the courage it took to sit still while a needle—"When did you get that?"
"Two weeks ago in Laramie." Barbie grinned over her shoulder.
"And you're just showing it to me now?"
"I wanted to wait until it was completely healed so you'd get the full effect." She spun back around. "It's going to look so cool next week on the beaches of Nassau in my new bikini."
A senior at the University of Wyoming, Barbie was planning a trip to the Bahamas to celebrate spring break. Despite the fact Gina had completed graduate school almost a year ago earning her master's degree, her friend had been after her to join her and her college roommates on the trip.
Gina turned back to the mirror to get a closer look at the streak of hot pink running the length of her dark hair. "I guess this doesn't seem too wild compared to that."
"I noticed you didn't get your hair straightened like you usually do. Hoping to hide the color in all those curls?"
That's exactly what she'd been hoping.
Gina ran her fingers over the rest of her dark brown hair, her glittery, silver nails sparkling in the overhead lights. Another change.
Her own fingernails, always blunt and well-kept, were just fine, but they weren't sexy. Barbie had guaranteed her that tips from customers would improve if Gina took her advice and got the fake extensions. She was right and after a few weeks of getting used to them, Gina found she liked the nails and experimented with new colors every few weeks.
First, her nails. Now, her hair. Was she trying too hard to be like everyone else?
She used to love being different, loved studying and learning, feeding her insatiable appetite for knowledge. But after last summer, all she wanted was to belong, to be one of the girls.
"At least it matches your outfit."
Barbie's remark pulled Gina from her thoughts. She looked down at her light pink T-shirt. "Good thing I passed on the neon green this morning."
"You worried what your mom is going to say?"
"I don't think my mom will even notice. Between the twins, her job and her boyfriend—" Gina shrugged "—she's got a lot on her plate. Anyway, I'm an adult."
Barbie crossed her arms over her chest. "So is it the good sheriff you're worried about?"
"Oh, I'm sure my big brother will have something to say. It might take him a while to notice as he's still playing newly-wed with our boss."
Secretly, Gina was glad Racy Steele, the owner of The Blue Creek Saloon and Gina's new sister-in-law, was keeping Gage so well occupied that he had little time to harass her about her life choices. If he had his way, she'd be putting her degrees and her brains to good use by teaching. But it was high time she stretched her wings and enjoyed herself.
"So what's his name?"
Gina blinked. "Huh?"
"Well, if it's not your family you're rebelling against, it's got to be a guy—ohmigod, is it Justin?"
Tall, dark and one-hundred-percent dangerous with his jet-black hair, dark eyes and lean, muscular body. He'd made it clear to Gina the first day they met that he was unavailable and uninterested.
Not that she let that stop her from spending the night with him a few weeks later. That, too, had gone a long way in changing her image from the "smart" girl to—
To what she wasn't sure.
"You're thinking about him."
Gina spun away from the mirror, heading for the boxes of Blue Creek logo items she'd agreed to put away. "I am not!"
"Hey, I get the attraction." Barbie followed her. "Justin is a total hottie, but he's too old, too obstinate and too—I don't know—"
"Too smart be led around by the nose?"
"Or any other body part," Barbie said, then giggled. "Okay, so I like my men to treat me like the goddess my daddy tells me I am. But you actually scored a visit to Justin's apartment upstairs. That's more than any of the other girls who work here. And you still refuse to spill any details."
"I told you—"
"I know. You forgot your purse after closing that night so you came back inside the bar and found Justin playing pool. Alone," Barbie interrupted, reciting the story Gina had told her. "After a few lessons on the fine art of billiards, one thing led to another and the two of you went upstairs."
"So?" Gina kept her gaze glued to the T-shirts, coffee mugs and key chains she was dividing into separate piles.
"So, inquiring minds want more. When you wouldn't spill, I figured you were over that one night of crazy, un-Gina-like behavior." Barbie leaned against the table and propped her chin on her hands, her stare intent. "Now, I'm not so sure."
Gina's hands stilled as the memory of that night came rushing back to her.
It'd been just the two of them in the bar until three of his old friends had shown up. Justin made it clear they weren't welcome and things got unfriendly fast. The fight lasted only a few minutes and afterward she'd refused to leave, despite his protests. Of course, falling asleep in his bed didn't lend much credibility to her assurance she was staying to keep an eye on him in case he was seriously hurt.
"And I'm guessing you figured no one would've even found out about that night if you hadn't had to step up to be Justin's alibi," Barbie added.
Her friend's comment yanked Gina back to the present. "I wasn't going to let my brother try to pin that fire at Racy's house on Justin. Not when I knew there was no way he was involved."
Once the news of her night with Justin became public, both her mother and older brother had expressed their disappointment over what they assumed had happened that night.
But Gina was tired of being careful. She was also tired of Justin doing his best to ignore her for the last three months.
Much like he'd ignored her that January night when it was just the two of them upstairs in his apartment.
Maybe it was time to do something about that.
They stared at him.
Justin hated it when they stared.
Three months and he was still the talk of the town. Three months since everyone thought the town's ex-con had tarnished the angelic reputation of the sheriff's sister by sleeping with her. Three months and it was still considered hot gossip.
Too bad it never happened.
Justin Dillon ignored the two girls giggling outside the hardware store and shoved another load of wood into the bed of his truck. They were probably in high school and at thirty-two, he was old enough to be their father. Almost.
He slammed the tailgate closed and climbed inside the truck that was older than the teenagers gawking at him, but beggars couldn't be choosers. He started the engine and rolled down the window, letting a spring breeze blow in as he headed down Main Street. April in Wyoming could still bring nasty snowstorms, but lately, it had been sunny and warm.
Good thing, too, as he had plenty of work to do at the cabin. He'd grown tired of living in the makeshift apartment over the bar, especially now that his sister owned the place.
She'd let him stay rent-free, but working in the kitchen and sleeping above it had gotten old.
And the memories from that night with Gina were killing him. Dark hair fanned out over his pillows, lush curves outlined beneath his sheets, soft sighs punctuating her sleep.
Yep, that's all Gina had done.
Him? Not a wink. And it wasn't because of the beating he'd taken that had left him with a pounding headache and sore ribs.
No, it was more like figuring out why Gina, of all people, had stayed with him.
Justin pulled into the lot at The Blue Creek and parked near the back entrance. He wanted to grab the last of his stuff and take it out to the cabin. Thanks to his new brother-in-law purchasing the old campground across the lake from his log home, Justin had somewhere to call his own for the first time in his life.
The good sheriff had agreed to let him stay in one of the two-bedroom cabins in exchange for fixing up the place. Justin figured Gage did it for two reasons. His wife, who also happened to be Justin's sister, had asked him to, and Gage wanted to make sure a repeat performance between his little sister and Justin didn't happen.
Not likely. He was going to make sure of that.
He checked his watch. Almost five. The bar traffic should be light, including the waitstaff, as most of the girls didn't come in until later.
Not that he was trying to avoid anyone.
Stop trying so damn hard to convince yourself.
He heard feminine laughter as he pushed open the door to the employee lounge. Gina stood atop a ladder, reaching to put a box on the top shelf where the items sold out front were stored. Her T-shirt hugged her curves and as she moved, it rose, revealing a few inches of skin at her midsection.
Posted September 16, 2011
I read most of the Welcome to Destiny series, and so far, A Daddy for Jacoby is my favorite. Maybe I truly have a thing for bad boys. There is something deep in the story of Jacoby, and how he ends up being the responsibility of a father he barely knows. Jacoby's obsession with the pillowcase that holds his few possessions, made me teary-eyed.
After serving his time, Justin Dillon is back in town, trying of getting the stability he never had. The only disturbing element in this new life is Gina Steele, who happens to be the sister of Destiny's Sheriff, Gage Steele. Whose story we enjoyed in The Sheriff's Secret Wife. Where he had his own passionate romance with Justin's sister, Racy Dillon. During this book, we witness Racy and Gage's happy-ever-after.
Gina is a good girl, whose charm and generosity make Justin's world a little bit harder. Because she is the one woman he can't have. After spending a night together, during which they only shared a room, in spite of the whole town thinking they shared more. Gina is resolved to get Justin for real, but he doesn't want to mess with his little hard-earned peace, besides, Jacoby's presence is not the best time to start a romance with Gina. There is a lot of sexual tension between them, and the sensual scenes are intense.
It's touching seeing their process into love, specially Justin's acceptance of deserving a happy ending too. Since most of his reactions to Gina are because he thinks that his past mistakes make him worthless. The author writes in an amazing realistic way, all characters well developed and details that made us care about their fates. So get ready to laugh, get mad, wipe a teary eye, and smile at the romantic ending.
Posted February 19, 2011
Posted February 15, 2011
Posted January 13, 2011
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Posted February 20, 2011
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Posted December 13, 2013
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Posted March 13, 2011
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