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Groom in Training

Groom in Training

4.0 22
by Gail Gaymer Martin

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A widow with a sad past, Steph Wright finds comfort in her faith and her adorable Border collie, Fred. When scampering Fred becomes friendly with the neighbor's pedigreed Bouvier, Steph meets the very handsome Nick Davis. With a broken engagement and a busy job, Nick isn't open to love and romance. Especially when Steph needs an escort to a wedding, and Nick


A widow with a sad past, Steph Wright finds comfort in her faith and her adorable Border collie, Fred. When scampering Fred becomes friendly with the neighbor's pedigreed Bouvier, Steph meets the very handsome Nick Davis. With a broken engagement and a busy job, Nick isn't open to love and romance. Especially when Steph needs an escort to a wedding, and Nick agrees to be her not-really-date. But through dog walks, long talks and a shared love of the Lord, Steph realizes there's some unexpected groom-in-training going on, too!

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Steeple Hill Books
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Steeple Hill Love Inspired Series
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Hearing a ruckus in the backyard, Steph leaped from the kitchen chair and darted to the patio door. She slid it open with a thud and stepped outside. "Fred. Stop."

The yips and barks split the air while Fred wagged his tail and leaped along the fence with a shaggy gray mop of a dog on the other side.

Steph's gaze shifted to a man leaning against the fence, her new neighbor she presumed. An amiable grin curved his full lips, and he gazed at her with twinkling saddle-brown eyes.

"Fred. Come." She clapped her hands to get her border collie's attention. He twisted his neck, and she could see his struggle to respond to her call or to stay with his nose against the chain-link fence while his shaggy friend mesmerized him. Finally Fred bounded toward her.

Steph approached the stranger, who lifted his hand in welcome and then ran his fingers through his dark brown, wavy hair. It looked tousled and made him seem playful. As she studied his classic good looks, Fred tangled around her feet, and she nearly tripped. So did her pulse.

The stranger gestured toward Fred. "It's nice to see another dog in the neighborhood and right next door."

Steph chuckled. "Not everyone feels like that." She'd forced the levity, startled by the sensation she'd felt when she looked in his eyes. She lowered her gaze to his ring finger. Bare.

What was she thinking? Steph released a puff of air and managed to meet his gaze again.

He grinned. "I'm getting a kick out of the dogs."

"I noticed." His warm smile heated her face.

He grasped the fence rail and tilted back on his heels. She watched as he lowered his body to the fence again, as if thinking of what to say next. She forced her focus away from his arms.

He straightened. "I hope I didn't disturb you."

"You didn't disturb me at all." Not true. His beautiful eyes disturbed her. "But Fred and his furry friend did." Furry friend? She cringed listening to herself. She sounded like an idiot.

"My furry friend is Suzette."

Happy to have another place to focus, she looked at the slate-gray dog, its eyes nearly covered by long silky bangs. "Nice to meet you, Suzette." Managing to get her wits under control, Steph lifted her head. "And nice to meet you, too." She extended her hand. "Stephanie Wright. Steph to my friends."

"A pleasure." He gave her fingers an easy squeeze. "Nick Davis." He smiled and tilted his head toward the dogs. "They seem to like each other. It's too bad people can't make friends that easily."

She eyed the dogs, grinning at their wagging tails and their snouts sniffing against the chain links. "You mean, as easily as rubbing our noses together?"

His grin broadened. "Sure, if we were Eskimos." He winked.

Why had she said "our" noses? Noses would have been bad enough. Feeling the heat reach her cheeks, she averted her eyes. While she grappled with her discomfort, she watched the dogs' antics. Fred appeared smitten.

When her cheeks cooled, Steph decided the dogs were safer conversation. "Your dog looks like a big rag mop. What breed is she?"

Nick's dark eyes twinkled. "A Bouvier."

"Bouvier. So that's what they look like."

He glanced over his shoulder, appearing to look for an intruder, then leaned closer as if sharing a secret. His breath whispered against her cheek. "If you ask my brother her breed, he'd tell you Suzette is a Bouvier des Flandres. She's actually Martin's dog." He drew back, giving her a crooked grin. "Martin thinks it sounds classier."

"Well, la-di-da." La-di-da? Get a grip. She had to stop herself from rolling her eyes. "Fred's just a border collie from Michigan." Steph hoped she sounded sane.

"But a very nice one, I'm sure."

He'd ignored her lunacy or else didn't notice. That made her feel better.

"Martin's pitiful with his pretentiousness at times. I don't know where he gets it."

Steph appreciated the distraction. "I'd like to strangle my brother once in a while." More often than she wanted to remember. He'd upset her much too often. "My parents were thrilled to finally have a son to carry on the family name, and Hal knew it. He seemed to think he'd been born with a crown, and he expected us to bow to his every need."

She peered at Fred, his tail slapping against the grass.

"Fred usually doesn't carry on like that. He's used to being around other dogs."

"Suzette's a flirt." Nick flashed Steph a grin, then crouched down and put his finger through the chain link. "Is she playing with your heart, old man?"

Fred gave his finger a sniff and then swiped it with his tongue.

Suzette had no intention of being outdone. She wiggled between Fred and Nick, then nuzzled her nose against the links. Nick petted her, then looked up at Steph. "If you're not familiar with a Bouvier, feel her coat."

Steph leaned over the fence and drew her hand across the dog's fur. "She's not a rag mop at all. She feels like chenille."

He ran his fingers through her coat, too, their hands brushing against each other's, and when he rose, they stood eye to eye.

Something happened. Her stomach flipped, and she felt out of control. Steph motioned toward the patio door. "It's been nice, but I need to get inside. This is housework day for me."

His lips curved to a teasing frown. "That doesn't sound like fun." He shoved his hand into his pocket. "It's been nice talking with you, Steph." His brow arched. "I hope it's okay to call you that."

"Consider yourself a friend."

"I'd like that." He took a step backward. "Maybe we could walk the dogs one day. They seem to get along well."

Her stomach shot to her chest, and her response followed at the same speed. "We have a park nearby." She swung her hand in that direction. "That would be fun."

He stepped back. "Great. I'll talk with you again." He backed away, then pivoted and headed toward the house with Suzette bouncing beside him.

Fred let out a whimper and so did Steph.

She made her way to the patio and through the door, then caved into the same kitchen chair she'd been sitting on before the distraction. She'd flirted with the man. Flirting wasn't her style, and on top of it, she'd talked about rubbing noses. Where did that come from?

Steph rolled her eyes as she got up and opened the refrigerator. She pulled out a soft drink, snapped the tab and took a swallow before leaning against the kitchen counter. She'd been a widow four years, and as time passed, she'd decided relationships were too difficult. Before he'd died, Doug had drifted from her like bubbles on the wind. She reached out to grasp him, and he vanished. Her life became dark, but these past years, she'd finally found the light. Artificial light sometimes, but she'd learned to keep her eyes wide-open. Today she'd squinted and look what happened.

Steph pulled her spine from the counter and grasped the dust cloth and lemony spray. Back to work and forget the few moments of backyard fantasy. Reality made more sense.

Nick stood inside the house and gazed through the window at Steph as she strode toward her patio door. Her straight blond hair whisked against her shoulders. The woman put a grin on his face. She loved that dog. Fred. The name gave him a chuckle. The border collie seemed well behaved and friendly. So did Steph. His mouth pulled to a grin again.

He rested his hand on the windowsill as he watched Fred trot beside her. Steph's large blue eyes, canopied by long lashes, reminded him of a summer sky. He'd been drawn to her blunt comments, especially the witty ones that made him smile. And she'd flirted, but in a nice way. She'd even flushed. His pulse heightened, picturing her playfulness.

The garage door rumbled and dragged him from his thoughts. Nick heard a car door slam. Then the garage door closed and he listened for his brother's footsteps.

Martin came through the doorway with a puzzled look. "What are you doing here?

"Want me to leave?" Nick didn't wait for an answer. He opened the refrigerator and gazed inside.

"You can't afford your own food with that business of yours?"

Nick's back stiffened. When it came to his business, Martin's humor grated on his nerves. He forced himself to let it go, then faced his brother. "You asked me to drop by to walk your dog and feed her because you're too busy. Now you begrudge me a drink?" He pulled out a cola and popped the tab. "I stopped by to offer my service."

"Service?" Distrust grew on Martin's face.

Nick motioned toward the boxes. "Thought I'd help you unpack."

His chin raised as he eyed Nick. "Unpack? Why?"

"Why not? If you tell me where you want things, I'll unpack some of the cartons or they'll be there forever."

A questioning look filled Martin's face. "You're not looking for a handout?"

"No handouts." The reference stabbed Nick in the gut. He'd never asked Martin for anything, and he never would.

"You really want to unpack boxes? Are you sure?"


The response relaxed Martin's expression. He tilted his head toward the largest stack of cartons. "I guess you can start over there."

Nick had stretched the truth a bit. Not that he hadn't planned to help, but his offer was the way to a means. He needed to work it into the conversation without making a big deal out of it although it was to him. He could ask point-blank, but he preferred to ease it in. Martin enjoyed pointing out his guilt.

He hoisted a heavy box onto the table and flipped open the lid. "By the way, I met your neighbor."

Martin grunted.

"She's very nice."

"She?" Martin arched an eyebrow.

Nick nodded. "Good sense of humor. Attractive."

"What does that mean?" Martin's voice left no question that he was aggravated.

Nick swiveled. "It means she's a pretty woman." Pretty wasn't the half of it. She was great looking. "And she likes dogs."

A dark frown filled Martin's face. "I hope you're not matchmaking."

"You're kidding? I wouldn't put a lovely woman through that." Nick had tried to sound lighthearted.

"Glad to hear it."

Nick avoided looking in Martin's direction. His brother would see the truth in his eyes. He'd been drawn to Steph from the moment he watched her march across the grass, and the more he thought about it, an unsettled feeling rocked in his stomach. Nick dug deeper into the box.

The rustle of packing material quieted, and their conversation ended until Martin blurted into the silence. "What makes you think this woman likes dogs?"

"She owns a border collie."

"Seems like everyone owns some kind of mutt." Irritation weighted Martin's voice.

"Attitude. Attitude, bro. Suzette's not the only dog in the world." Steph's spoiled brother had nothing on the Bouvier. Suzette also wore a crown in Martin's eyes. Nick pulled out more packing material from the box. "He might not be as classy, but he's a well-trained dog. That's more than I can say about Suzette."

Martin spun around to face him, but Nick refused to back off. "The border collie's friendly. Give him a chance. I know how you are."

"I don't want him getting friendly with Suzette. She's purebred."

Despite his provocation, Nick tried to cover his grin, thinking of Steph's "la-di-da" comment.

Rather than start a quarrel, Nick didn't respond. "Where do you want the china dinnerware?"

Martin didn't speak but motioned to a cabinet.

Nick opened the door, then lifted an octagonal plate with a bamboo shaped edge and slid it onto a shelf. Expensive he could tell. He grabbed another and flipped it over. Royal Signet China. Nick never heard of it, but he knew Martin's taste.

His own taste raised in question. What had happened to him? He'd never cared about fancy china or expensive crystal. Women often fussed about that, he remembered. What kind of tableware did Steph own? What difference did it make? He'd never see it.

He emptied the box, then slapped the lid closed. He'd already experienced one fiancée who tossed her ring in his face just before the wedding. Why would he allow himself to even daydream about another?

The memory triggered a new question. He paused until he got Martin's attention. "Have you ever thought about dating again?"

Martin's head drew back. "Me?"

"You're the only other person in the room." Nick stood with his hand on the box lid. Martin's social life ended after his failed marriage. He'd never been one to hang out with friends, and Nick didn't recall Martin dating anyone other than the woman he'd married.

"Why would I date?"

"You have a good life. You have a new home that's too big for even one person."

"One person and a dog."

"Okay, and a dog." A stream of air burst from his nose. "I just wondered. You're still young enough. You've been divorced for—"

"Don't bring that up."

Nick drew in a breath. "You have lots of things going for you, but for some reason, you aren't happy."

"I'm happy." Martin spun around, pointing his index finger at him. "And what about you? I don't see you with a social life to brag about."

His brother had nailed him. But Nick had an excuse. The business took a lot of time and money. Nick faltered. That was an excuse. He'd avoided commitment since his failed engagement. Maybe dating would work without marriage as an option. He wondered about Steph's situation. She was single, he assumed. He'd noticed she didn't wear a ring, and she'd even flirted a little. But that didn't mean much in today's society.

Nick opened another carton and removed layers of Bubble Wrap. When he looked inside, he caught his breath. He grasped a crystal plate as memories flooded back. He drew out a faceted crystal bowl, and beside it, he recognized other pieces from his youth. "These were Mother's." Sadness washed over him, picturing his mom since the stroke.

Martin glanced up and nodded. "You took some of her dishes, didn't you?"

"A few things."

Tension grew on his brother's face.

"I'm not challenging the pieces you have, Martin. You use them more than I would."

His brother gave a shrug and lifted another box from the floor.

The door had been opened to his true purpose for dropping by. Feeling the weight of his question, Nick managed to form the words. "Have you talked with her?"

"By her, you mean Mom?"

The question was moot. Nick didn't answer.

"I've talked to her. She can't utter a thing that makes sense." He turned from the carton and leaned against the counter, his eyes piercing Nick's. "You're avoiding her."

The words lashed Nick like a whip. "I'm not avoiding her. It kills me to see her so helpless."

"You don't think it kills me? Ignoring her doesn't help. Do you think I don't have to force myself to visit her in that condition and fill the time with one-sided conversation? You can't shun her. She's still your mother."

"I know. I know." Nick blocked his ears from Martin's accusations. "I visit."

"When was the last time?"

Like a punch in the stomach, Martin's question knocked the wind out of Nick. "I'll go. I just wondered if there's any improvement."

"Not much. She tries to talk, but it's nearly impossible to understand her. The nurses do a better job than I do."

Knots twisted in Nick's chest. His mother was a good woman, and the horrible stroke had taken away her identity. She couldn't do much for herself. She lay there being fed and diapered like a baby. The image tore at him.

"I'll go this week. I promise."

Meet the Author

Growing up in Michigan, award-winning novelist Gail Gaymer Martin loved to read and write her own stories. On her report card, her third-grade teacher wrote, "Gail is a good writer," but it took years before Gail began to think about writing as a second career. Instead Gail received her bachelor's degree from Wayne State University in Detroit and taught high school English and public speaking in Madison Heights, Michigan. After receiving a master's degree and taking post-master's classes, she became a licensed counselor. When she retired from public education in 1995, she became an adjunct instructor of English and public speaking for Davenport University in Warren, Michigan.

Gail began her career writing church programs and skits for children and adults published by Christian publishers. Using her counseling expertise, she wrote hundreds of parenting and teen articles for national magazines, as well as Sunday school materials and short stories. In 1997, Gail decided to follow her childhood dream and write fiction. She sold her first novel in 1998 to Barbour Publishing and another in 1999. The same year she sold her first novel to Steeple Hill Love Inspired. Besides romance, Gail writes romantic suspense and women's fiction. Today she has signed forty-four fiction contracts with nearly three million books in print. She is a columnist for the Spirit-Led Writer e-zine and is the author of Writing the Christian Romance.

Gail's books have been awarded a National Readers' Choice Award, two Booksellers' Best awards, two HOLT Medallions, a Winter Rose, the ACFW 2002 Book of the Year for Short Inspirational, and the 2002 Romantic Times Reviewers' Choice Award. She has sixteen book award finals to her credit. Two Barbour anthologies, which include Gail's novellas, ranked on the Christian Booksellers Association bestseller list in 2000 and 2001. Gail was also honored with the Heartsong Readers' 2008 Favorite Author of the Year award.

Gail is a cofounder of the 2,000-member American Christian Fiction Writers and serves on the advisory board. She is a member of three chapters of the Romance Writers of America: Great Detroit, Mid-Michigan and Faith Hope & Love. She is a member of the Advanced Speakers and Writers Association and a promotional group, Christian Authors Network.

A popular keynote speaker and workshop presenter, Gail speaks at libraries and writers' conferences across the U.S. and abroad. She is a keynote speaker at churches, as well as women's business and civic groups.

Gail loves to travel and has wonderful memories of her recent trips to Greece and Turkey as well as the British Isles where she has family. Her husband, Bob, also has family in Germany and Italy, and they enjoy traveling there. Gail is very active in her church, especially in the music program. She is a soloist, choir member and sings on the praise team, as well as plays handbells and hand chimes. Gail is a member of a renowned chorale in the Detroit area, the Detroit Lutheran Singers, and performs three to four series of concerts each year.

Gail lives in Michigan with her husband, Bob. She is the stepmother to two adult children: Dave, and daughter Brenda, who died of ovarian cancer in 2006. Visit Gail's Web site at gailmartin.com as well as her blog, Writing Fiction Right, at writingright-martin.blogspot.com for comprehensive lessons on writing fiction of all genres.

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Groom in Training 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 21 reviews.
JoHuddleston More than 1 year ago
Steph is a widow, Nick has had a broken engagement. Her Border Collie, Fred, is enchanted with her neighbor's pedigreed Bouvier. Trying to calm Fred down and get him away from the chain link fence separating their two yards, Steph meets Nick. Their attraction is instant but neither of them admits it to anyone. She has no intention of dating, neither has Nick; they're both wary after the outcome of their past relationships. Steph asks Nick to be her "date" for a wedding she must attend and he agrees. Each of them hide their emotions for one another. This is a delightful story of two bruised hearts discovering where they belong. Martin's characters come across as real people in the real world. The story is believable and well told.
Carlybird More than 1 year ago
Steph Wright is no stranger to pain. Still dealing with the painful death of her husband, she has sought comfort in her doggie day care business and in her Border Collie, Fred. When she meets her new neighbor's brother, Nick, Steph begins to feel alive again. But Nick is dealing with a painful past as well. As Nick and Steph embark on a friendship, they both find their feelings for each other growing beyond friendship. Nick is concerned though because Steph is not a Christian and his faith is very important to him. Readers will enjoy watching this tender new friendship blossom into true love. Groom in Training by Gail Gaymer Martin has three very strong elements going for it. First of all, it is a very cute story, although it is more than just a love story. It is a story about healing. Both Nick and Steph have dealt with a lot of pain and sadness in their lives and have never really dealt with their pain. With each other's help, and God's help, they are able to move on and able to love again. The dogs add an extra layer of happiness and cuteness to the story. The second strong point this book has is the Christian message. I was amazed by the author's skill with blending practical Biblical lessons into the story. Readers can learn a lot about healing, forgiveness, and God's unconditional love for us. Letting go of pain can be so difficult and by using Nick and Steph, the author shows us how we can heal by trusting God. The third element of this story that stood out was the author's talent for creating a beautiful setting. I was struck by the lovely settings of this story from Steph's yard with all her flowers, to the park where Nick and Steph has their picnic. This is a good time of year for this book to come out because it is so cold outside and this story takes place in the spring and summer. I could actually feel the warmth and see the beauty of summer on the pages of this book. Overall, Groom in Training is a wonderful book. It has everything going for it and readers will be delighted with each and every page. I know I was. This book warmed by heart and lifted my spirit.
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mlmkoalas More than 1 year ago
Steph is trying to get passed the death of her husband and move on with her life as dog trainer, and rescuer. She has kept the Lord at arms length but will find out that when the Lord starts to work on her there is nothing she can do but open her heart to Him...and her neighbor. Nick is a busy business owner that Loves the Lord but is not so sure marriage is his future. But when he meets Steph and Fred her dog, he starts to wonder what the Lord is doing. And so together they find a friendship and love that is true gift from God.
WendyAK More than 1 year ago
DAD IN TRAINING by Gail Gaymer Martin Pub. Date: September 2009 Publisher: Steeple Hill Books ISBN-13: 9780373875504 ISBN: 0373875509 From the Publisher How is Brent Runyan supposed to reach his troubled nephew? The workaholic businessman knows nothing about providing a real home to the orphaned boy who needs him so much. Special education teacher Molly Manning thinks the answer is threefold: love, time-and a dog. But Brent can barely let his nephew into his heart, let alone a golden retriever. With his tragic past, Brent knows what can happen when you love anything: you can lose it. Until Molly asks this dad-in-training to start with the basics by letting her stay.forever. DAD IN TRAINING by Gail Gaymer Martin is a Inspirational Romance with a great story about faith, forgiveness, trust, love and a strong love for animals and problem children.It also gives insight into the need for animal shelters and animal adoption. This story has strong characters. The story line has depth and is very inspiration. It shows how Christians also have struggles with their faith and other issues. I would recommend this book, especially if you enjoy inspirational stories. Reviewed by AAR Rating: 4 GROOM IN TRAINING Gail Gaymer Martin Pub. Date: February 01, 2010 Publisher: Steeple Hill Books GROOM IN TRAINING by Gail Gaymer Martin is an Inspiration Romance. This story has depth, it is about forgiveness, faith, the power of God's love, struggles with the past, animal shelters and their adoption, and of course love. There are strong characters and the story has depth. It also gives us insight into the struggles that Christians endure. If you enough true inspirational stories this is a keeper. I would recommend this book. www.mybookaddictioandmore.wordpress.com
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
"A Groom In Training" tells the story of a widower named "Steph" and her dog, Fred. One day, Steph is outside training Fred, and then, meet up with a dog named Suzette and her owner Nick Davis, Steph and Nick start to connect after waking their dogs together and share a friendship at first, but the reason for Stephanie being a widow is shocking and something you will never expect. Stephanie has to deal with it before she can form a relationship with Nick. A great read.