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When rancher Nate Talbert asked for a miracle to change his reclusive life, he wasn't sure he meant Pollyanna McDonald. The city woman, her eight-year-old daredevil and menagerie of unruly pets had moved next door, driving him crazy. But he was surprised to learn how much he and the widow had in common...and how much they were drawn to each other. Then, too, Pollyanna's son was sorely in need of a father figure. But Nate a dad? Pollyanna gave an enthusiastic thumbs-up, but proving it to Nate would take a real ...
When rancher Nate Talbert asked for a miracle to change his reclusive life, he wasn't sure he meant Pollyanna McDonald. The city woman, her eight-year-old daredevil and menagerie of unruly pets had moved next door, driving him crazy. But he was surprised to learn how much he and the widow had in common...and how much they were drawn to each other. Then, too, Pollyanna's son was sorely in need of a father figure. But Nate a dad? Pollyanna gave an enthusiastic thumbs-up, but proving it to Nate would take a real miracle!
A lug nut?
Whatever—she might not be able to put a finger on the name of the doohickey, thing, but her washing machine was connected to it and she didn't have to know its name in order to fix it.
Surely she could take care of that little, tiny water leak. They did it on HGTV all the time. Piece of cake. Women of all ages, shapes, sizes and ethnicities fixed any manner of things on those shows all the time and so could she.
Lifting her chin, she hiked the tool belt into a more comfortable position on her hips and hoped for confidence. The assortment of sparkling tools tinkled like wind chimes in the pockets, drawing her to study them. What in the world did one do with this many wrenches? They all looked the same.
Obviously Marc had found uses for all of them; they'd come from his toolbox, after all. She reached for one. You are not a plumber—
"Yet," she said out loud, firmly silencing the negative voice in her head. She'd been pushing herself for two years to do and be more than she'd ever thought she could be. She could tighten a silly piece of metal.
Shhh-whump! Whump! The resounding thud and immediate echo from the front room of the house sent Polly's heart skittering to a halt.
The exuberant "Ye-haw!" jump-started it up again. Followed by two small feet charging her way.
That banister was going to be the death of her. It was. And she'd have no one to blame but herself when she dropped in her tracks.
Any woman in her right mind should have known an eight-year-old-boy with daredevil genes would takeone look at the gorgeous, three-story, gracefully winding stair railing and see the ultimate joyride.
"That's one doozy of a ride, Mom!" her son, Gilly, howled. Fresh cheeks glowing, eyes twinkling with the elation of living life full tilt he burst into the room, racing by on his way to the back door.
Despite the wave of anxiety that overcame her every time he shot down the banister, his enthusiasm made Polly smile when she needed to censure.
Toenails churning as he sought traction on the hardwood, Bogie, Gilly's seven-month-old puppy, could be heard making his way through the house in hot pursuit. The wrinkled shar-pei was smile material, too, in his oversize birthday suit. His already comical appearance was made more so since, for medical reasons and not vanity, he'd had to have "some work" done on his droopy eyelids. Because of this he was wearing a hard plastic collar that resembled a lampshade and prevented him from scratching out the stitches. It was also dangerous to his health as it messed up his depth perception. Polly feared the worst as she watched the doorway for him to make his entrance. As expected, he misjudged the turn, snagged the contraption on the door frame and was sent sprawling to the floor. Poor Pepper, their cockatiel, aka dog jockey, as he loved to perch on Bogie's back, was ejected at impact and sent flying into the air!
Never a dull moment. Polly wasn't sure who was more embarrassed, the dog or the bird, as Pepper made a drunken beeline for the open cabinet door beside where Polly stood and glared at Bogie.
"Busted!" Pepper squealed in his childlike voice.
Thanks to Marc, Pepper had a huge vocabulary. Because of her husband's tutelage, a person could practically hold a conversation with the spunky fowl.
Watching the bedlam, Gil cringed. Polly saw his eyes melt with sympathy and her heart swelled with love for her son. Thank you, Lord.
"Poor Bogie. C'mon, little buddy," he said, bending forward and patting his knee. Poor Bogie needed all the encouragement he could get. Curly tail flattened out and hanging low, he trudged over, looking like Eeyore, and sat on Gil's feet, his face averted from view. "It's okay, little fella," Gil cooed, affectionately rubbing Bogie's ears. He had itchy ears and loved a good rub. And Polly loved that her son had inherited his father's way with animals. Watching his gentleness never ceased to touch her. She could almost feel Marc smiling beside her.
Swallowing the lump in her throat, she crooked her elbows, setting her fist on her hips, just above that monster of a tool belt.
"I'll call you when dinner's ready. But don't go too far."
"I won't," Gil called, pushing open the door, allowing Bogie plenty of room to make it out without further mishap. "You stay here, Pepper," Gil instructed unnecessarily.
Pepper bobbed and weaved from his perch but didn't try to follow. "Chicken! Chicken!" he chanted instead.
Gil laughed and glanced back at Polly. "Hey, you fixin' to work on something?" he asked, taking in the tool belt for the first time.
"Just a little water leak. You go ahead and play. This won't take long."
"Aw, Mom, you sure? Maybe I could help. I am the man of the house now."
Polly's heart hit a speed bump. "I know, dear. But this won't take a second. I'll let you help me next time."
He looked as if he wanted to say more, then shrugged and headed out to play. Polly felt guilty about not letting him help, but she needed to learn how to do things for herself before she could teach him.
Pepper flew from the cabinet door to perch on the curtain rod at the window, the perfect place to watch Gil and Bogie play on the lawn.
Polly crossed to the window. A semblance of contentment settled over her as she watched Gil and Bogie frolic on the hillside. Her heart tightened she'd done it. She'd actually moved her son from the city. He was going to grow up in the country with room to run and raise all kinds of animals just like his daddy had wanted him to.
And she'd chosen well. She felt it in her heart. From the moment she and Gil and their menagerie had pulled into the small Texas town of Mule Hollow four days ago they'd been embraced by the locals. She was expecting many of them back tomorrow to help with the daunting task of setting up her kitchen.
For a woman who desperately needed a new start and had just taken a huge leap of faith by moving here, the town's warm welcome was a much-needed and appreciated assurance that God was looking after her and her son.
They'd come a long way in more ways than one in the two years since Marc's death. But with the Lord's help they were making it. Marc would be proud of the way they'd learned were learning to be independent.
With renewed determination, she turned from the window and eyed the leak that was slowly soaking the pile of towels. Looking down, she pulled a wrench from one of the pockets of Marc's tool belt then looked up at Pepper. "What do you think, Pep? Time to rock 'n'roll?"
"Rock 'n' roll! Rooock 'n' roll!" Pepper quipped, and immediately busted into his signature duck-and-dive dance down the length of the curtain rod. Something else Marc had taught him.
Polly chuckled, took a deep breath and squeezed behind the washing machine. If that bird could learn to talk and dance, she, Pollyanna McDonald, could learn to fix a water leak.
Reba crooned a ballad on the radio as Nate Talbert, arm crooked out the open window, drove his Dodge up the gravel drive toward home. His attention was snagged by movement on the hill across the pasture. The kid and his odd-looking dog were wrestling on the front lawn of the recently inhabited house. Since the house had been vacant for years, the idea of having neighbors still hadn't sunk in totally for Nate. It was going to take some getting used to.
He'd been secluded out here; it suited him. Especially for the past three years.
As dust trailed behind him, Nate watched the dog run in wild awkward circles around the kid. The pup was wearing a protective collar, so it must have had some sort of work done. When the stiff plastic snagged in the grass it did a number on the pup, flipping him like a flapjack, straight over onto his back. The kid tumbled to the ground beside him, laughing and rubbing the dog's exposed belly. Despite himself, Nate smiled as he drove around the bend toward his home.
He was still thinking about the carefree picture the kid and the dog made as he exited his truck and strode toward the barn. He knew the neighborly thing to do was to go over and introduce himself. Everybody else in town already had but he wasn't neighborly. He would have preferred it if the house had remained empty. He wasn't sociable and he certainly wasn't looking to trade cups of sugar with anyone.
They'd know this about him soon enough, so what did it matter. The very idea of someone being near enough to interrupt his solitude was unsettling.
"Hey, Taco, how's my bud?" he asked the large bay who stuck his head out of the stall. Instantly, Taco snorted and kicked his big head back and forth, his signal that he was ready for a run. Nate agreed, and within moments he had the horse saddled and loping across the barnyard toward open pasture. He had plenty of work to keep him busy, but some days, just like Taco, Nate needed to feel the sun on his face and the wind rushing across his skin as he sought a semblance of peace.
The sight of the kid and the dog romping in their yard tugged at him as he rode. He'd wanted children. He and Kayla had dreamed of a large family. The bitter sense of dreams lost surged to the forefront of his memory like the bite of a bucket of ice water tossed at him.
Just as ruthlessly, he shoved the thoughts back into the dark corners of his mind.
It was easier that way. Still, the kid and the dog refused to disappear from his thoughts. They were his new neighbors. They'd lived next door to him for almost a week and he'd yet to show any kind of Texas hospitality. Forget Texas hospitality; he hadn't shown any kind of hospitality. His Kayla would have nailed his hide to the barn for his bad behavior, and he didn't even want to think about what his mother would do if she got wind of it. Not that he'd worried too much about etiquette since he'd laid Kayla to rest three years ago.
During that time the entire town had given him a wide berth, but lately they'd begun to try to ease him back into the fold. He'd given in on occasion, almost as if willing a change to happen inside of him. It hadn't.
He'd heard in town at the feed store that the kid's mother was a widow woman. That knowledge alone should make him ashamed of his neglect. He knew the hardships that came with losing a wife. A widow with a kid would have even more struggles to overcome and deal with His conscience pricked, hitting a nerve.
The saddle creaked as he shifted in the seat and glanced back over his shoulder to the house that had come into view. He should just drop by, introduce himself.
Welcome the woman and her son. Meet the dog. But it wouldn't end there. His grip tightened uncertainly. Propriety would demand that he offer to help her out with anything she might have a problem with. That was where the hesitancy came in. He'd been operating on autopilot for so long, dug in so deep into himself, that even the idea of opening a window for someone was a struggle. And there was the other issue to think of
He lived in a town that had gone crazy over matching folks up and marrying them off. The last thing he wanted was to get any kind of expectation started about him and some woman. A widow woman at that.
Nope, that was a place he wasn't willing to go. Turning away he started to head back home.
But Kayla would have wanted him to show his manners. It went without saying that the Lord would, too.
Taco drew up of his own accord, and before he could back out of the idea he turned Taco west and loped down the hill toward the house. He might as well get it out of the way or he wasn't going to have any peace.
Leaving Taco tied to the fence, he ducked between the middle strands of barbed wire and strode across the yard. The kid and the dog were nowhere in sight as he headed toward the back porch. It was closer, and he didn't see any reason to waste time tramping to the front of the house besides the fact that he was in his dusty work clothes.As he stepped up onto the small porch, he could hear muffled sounds on the other side of the heavy wooden door. He paused, lifting his hand to knock as the strange sounds radiated through the door.
Shoving his hat back, he put an ear close to the door-jamb. What in the world'A high-pitched childlike voice was screaming something he couldn't make out on the other side. Nate's pulse spiked as he slammed his knuckles against the door. "Hey," he shouted, pounding.
Almost instantly, before he could get another shout out the door flew open and he was confronted by a small woman with alarm-filled eyes. She was drenched from head to toe and wearing a tool belt stuffed with what appeared to be every possible tool known to man. It had to weigh more than she did.
The instant she saw him her expression of water-logged alarm brightened. "Oh, hallelujah!" she exclaimed. "You are the answer to my prayers!"
Before Nate had time to react she latched on to him and all but yanked him across the threshold.
Posted March 21, 2012
Posted March 4, 2008
I absolutely love Debra Clopton's Mule Hollow Series, they are so full of life and laughter. She did not disappoint with her new book in the Series Next Door Daddy. Nate is a grieving widower who can't seem to get past the pain, he has asked God for a miracle to help him get over the hurt inside. What he never asked for was Pollyanna and her son Gil to move in next door. Pollyanna is a widow and trying to get past her hurt also, but she finds out living on her own with a young son is not as easy as she thought it would be especially with a child to provide for. As soon as Nate walks into Pollyanna's house Nate knew he was in trouble. You really felt the characters in this story. Debra put her heart and soul into telling us what life is like after a spouse has passed on. Way to go Debra, keep these great books a coming! :)Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 18, 2008
When your soul mate dies, does your chance for romantic love die too? Widower Nate Talbert and widow Pollyanna McDonald have both decided that the answer is yes. But when Pollyanna, her son and their eclectic menagerie move next door to Nate, none of their lives will ever be the same. Once again, Debra Clopton invites readers to the fictional town of Mule Hollow and delivers a story full of unique characters and heartfelt emotions. This is Debra's most personal novel to date, and is dedicated to the memory of her late husband, Wayne. If you're a Debra Clopton fan, be prepared for another rolicking, romantic adventure. If you're a new comer to Mule Hollow, get ready for a read you won't soon forget!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 30, 2010
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Posted May 8, 2011
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Posted January 21, 2010
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Posted July 12, 2010
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Posted February 25, 2012
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