It’s never too late to start over.
Lacie Gentry, a young widow and mom, is struggling with the aftermath of her husband’s tragic death. When she bumps into former classmate Quinn Remington, her future is undecided. She accepts a job teaching kids to ride at Quinn’s neighboring ranch, hoping to revitalize her life with an old pastime but soon sees in Quinn a chance to move forward with new love. . .if she’s ready.
It’s been years since Quinn has seen lovely Lacie Gentry—the girl he always admired in high school but never came close to dating. By the time they met, Lacie was engaged to rodeo star Mel Gentry then happily married. Now Lacie’s closer than ever. The attraction is still there, but so is a secret that might end any chance of romance.
Can they rise from the rodeo ashes?
About the Author
Shannon Taylor Vannatter is a stay-at-home mom/pastor’s wife/writer. When not writing, she runs circles in the care and feeding of her husband, Grant, their eight-year-old son, and their church congregation. Home is a central Arkansas zoo with two charcoal gray cats, a chocolate lab, a dragonfish, and three dachshunds in weenie dog heaven. If given the chance to clean house or write, she’d rather write. Her goal is to hire Alice from the Brady Bunch.
Read an Excerpt
"How did I fall for this?" Lacie Gentry squeezed the steering wheel of her parked SUV until her fingers went numb. "Because I'm the biggest idiot in Texas. And to top things offI'm talking to myself."
Movement at the curb in front of her car, and strains of a cry-in-your-beer country song twanged out the open bar door. Please let it be her friends, ready to head home. She looked up into the leer of a man.
Oh goodness, what if he comes over here? Without taking her eyes off him, she found the lock button. The loud click broke the spell, and he turned away.
Her breath released in a huff.
She couldn't stay here like a sitting duck, waiting for some carjacker. Or worse. She'd never heard of anything good happening inside or outside a bar. Maybe she could go somewhere else and wait. But if she did, how would her friends find her when they got done with whatever they were doing in there?
She waited until the man drove away, scanned the Fort Worth parking lot three times, unlocked the door, and bolted to the bar. The August night air hadn't cooled one iota, but a chill moved through her.
Safer inside or out? At least there were witnesses inside. She scurried into the bar as if wolves waited in the shadows.
But the wolves were inside.
A dishwater-blond man swaggered over to her. "Hey beautiful, I lost my phone number. Can I borrow yours?"
She sidestepped him and searched for a quiet corner.
One of her friends had plastered herself against a man in a booth. Big-time public display of affection. Lacie averted her eyes and spotted a corner. She hurried to the table.
No one notice me. No one notice me. No one notice me.
She scanned the bar for her other friend. There on the dance floor with a manif you could call that dancing. La-cie's hand flew to her heart. What had she been thinking, getting in the car with these two? That they were grown women with sense and decency now? Wrong.
A painfully skinny man stumbled in her direction. She looked down at the table in front of her.
"Hey baby, I hope you know CPR, 'cause you take my breath away!" He leaned close enough for her to smell the liquor on his breath.
"Excuse me." She inched past him, searching frantically for an escape.
A neon sign proclaimed Gals, and she ran for the safety of the ladies' room.
The door swung closed, and she surveyed the dingy bathroom.
A denim-clad woman swayed to the country music as she stood at the sink applying lipstick. She missed her mouth, giggled, and tried again.
Lacie found a clean, empty stall. Lord, if You'll get me out of here safely, I'll never be so stupid again. She dug her cell phone from her pocket.
She couldn't call her sister. Star would tell Mama. And Mama had told her never, ever, ever step foot in a bar. She never had. Until now. Twenty-seven years old and her first time in a bar.
She grabbed a wad of toilet paper, shut the toilet lid, covered it with three paper liners, and then sat.
Call Rayna and Clay? Lacie would never hear the end of it. Her friends already thought her too trusting and naive. They didn't need any more ammo to convince her to move.
No choice. Just wait it out. Besides, even though Marcy and Geena hadn't acted as friends, Lacie couldn't leave them here without a ride home.
Rayna and Clay would ask questions if she came in really late, but she'd come up with something, and Max was fine with them.
Half the time she still thought of her son as Little Mel, even though she'd changed his nickname to Max over a year ago.
The door opened, followed by a moan. High-heel-clad feet stumbled to the stall next to Lacie. Heaving and splashing liquid. A foul odor emanated.
Lacie's stomach lurched. Covering her nose and mouth with one hand, she wrenched the door open and bolted for the exit.
She ran into something solid then stepped back away from the wobbly man. "I'm sorry. I wasn't watching where I was going."
"That's all right, darlin'. Can you give me directions?"
"To your heart."
Lacie rolled her eyes and blew out a big breath. Hmm drunk guy or hurling woman in the bathroom?
"Here's your Coke, sweetheart." A man's deep voice, over her right shoulder. A calloused hand clamped on her elbow. "I found us a table right over here."
She spun around to give him a piece of her mind and met celery-colored eyes from her past. Quinn Remington.
"Sorry man"the drunk splayed both hands up in the air"I didn't know she was with someone." Then he slunk away.
Quinn tucked her hand in the crook of his elbow and steered her to an empty booth.
Sweetheart? They'd gone to high school together but never come close to dating. And she hadn't seen him since graduation. They definitely weren't on sweetheart terms, much less touching terms.
Besides, she was a widow. She pulled her arm away from him.
"Relax, Lacie. I'm not making any moves, just trying to rescue you. Unless you're interested in that guy."
"Oh. Definitely not." Heat warmed her face. "Thank you."
"I get the feeling you're not exactly comfortable here."
She scrambled to the safety of the booth he'd found for her. "I've never never been in a bar before."
Quinn slid in on the vinyl seat across from her. His black coffee-colored hair contrasted with his pale eyes.
His eyebrows rose. "Never?"
"Well I've been to restaurants with bars in them, but never to a plain ol' bar before."
"I wish I could say the same."
As far as she knew, he'd never done the party scene in high school and hadn't been a drinker. She'd never pegged him as the type to hang out in a bar. But his eyes were different than she remembered. Haunted, as if pain dwelt there. "If you don't like bars, then why are you here?"
"Looking for one of my ranch hands."
Her parched lips longed to taste her cola, but what else was in it? Not that she didn't trust Quinn, but he might think mixed drinks were the norm. "Is he here?"
"Not so far." He scanned the crowd. "He's a great guy, a hard worker, but an alcoholic who hasn't admitted he has a problem yet. He told me he went to one AA meeting, and I agreed to be his accountability partner."
"That's sad, but it's good of you to try to help him. Anybody else would've probably fired him."
"The other hands probably wish I would. When he doesn't show, it makes their load tougher. Everyone else has given up on himhis wife, his folks. But I know he's better than this. I keep hoping my support will somehow see him through." His gaze landed on her. "Why'd you pick tonight to hit your first bar?"
She rolled her eyes. "A couple of old high school friends are in town for a wedding. I thought we were going to the steakhouse down the street, but they piled out of my car and came here."
"I saw you come in a while after Geena Woods and Marcy Smithson."
She nodded. "I was afraid to sit in the car by myself. I think I got tricked into being their designated driver for the night."
"You never did fit in with them." Quinn's gaze cut to the PDA in the booth across the bar. He winced.