Shannon here: I’m sharing an excerpt from A Texas Bond today. Follow my blog tour (watch Facebook & Fiction Addiction Fix for links). You can also comment here or answer the question in any post dated Feb 19 – 23 to enter the drawing for a copy. Deadline: March 6th, 11:59 pm central time.
“There she is. She’ll be right with you,” Daddy said.
“Aunt Stacia!” the twins shouted in unison and rushed her.
“When did y’all get here?” She knelt to hug them.
“Aunt Larae dropped us off. She didn’t want us to get sick cuz Jayda started sneezing this morning,” Madison reported. “She said it’s probably allergies, but just in case, she brought us home.”
“Do y’all feel okay?” She pressed a palm to each of their foreheads. Both cool.
“Yep,” their voices blended.
Saturdays were a real challenge since her clerk had married her ranch hand and moved to Waco. Now that they were shorthanded, the twins often spent Friday night and the following day at her friend’s ranch. But sometimes that didn’t work out. Like today, making Stacia wish she and Daddy could leave the store in someone else’s hands and spend the day with them.
But weekends were always busy. The usual rush before and after lunch required two clerks in the showroom while Daddy helped customers load purchases.
“If you’ll be real good—that means no running, giggling or squealing—I’ll get Grandpa to take y’all to get ice cream.”
“Ice cream!” Mason jumped up and down. “Before lunch?”
“Just this once, we’ll have a late lunch.” She winked. “But that includes no jumping.”
Mason quickly stilled.
“We’ll be extra good,” Madison promised. “Won’t we, Mason?”
Mason nodded. Always the weak link. It wasn’t that he was bad. Just mischievous, full of energy and easily bored. Which usually got him in trouble. A lot like his mom had been.
She ushered the children ahead of her and they dutifully returned to their seats behind the counter.
Daddy hurried toward her, lowering his voice to a whisper. “He wants to talk to you. Hasn’t browsed or anything, just patiently waited for you. Maybe he’s here about a job. An answer to our prayers.”
“I hope so. Waverly wants the coffee bar and all five of the claw-foot tubs we have finished. Plus she ordered ninety-nine more bars and ninety-five more tubs.”
“She wants all of it in a month.”
“Tell me you didn’t agree to those terms.”
Stacia winced. “I’ve got a nice check in my pocket.”
“Aye yai yai. You better hope he’s here for a job.”
The man waited at the counter, his gaze still riveted on the twins. Nothing new there. Both strawberry blond, freckled, large blue-green eyes, obviously twins—carbon copies of one another except for gender. Double the cuteness factor.
“I’m Stacia Keyes.” She offered her hand.
He tore his attention away from the children. “Ross Lyles. Nice to meet you.”
The last name sent a jolt through her heart. No. Ron didn’t have any family.
Intense green eyes scrutinized her as his hand engulfed hers in a firm grip.
“Are you interested in the ranch hand position? Or the furniture handyman position?”
“Huh?” His gaze darted back to the kids.
“Do you have experience in either?”
“Actually both.” He cleared his throat.
Daddy chuckled. “You’re hired.”
“Daddy.” This guy was way too focused on her niece and nephew. “We usually get references on new hires.”
“I know, but we’re in a real pickle. Can’t afford to be too choosy.”
“Why don’t you take the kids to get ice cream? I told them you would if they were good in the store.” Both had been quiet as a mouse, staring back at Ross Lyles. She wanted them out of his sight. And rid of Daddy’s big mouth.
“Sounds like a plan, once Angel gets here.”
“Shouldn’t she be here by now?” Stacia checked her watch.
“She called, said her car’s still in the shop and her mom had to go in to work early, so she’s driving their farm truck and it didn’t want to start this morning.”
A pickup badly in need of a new muffler sounded out front. “Sounds like she just pulled up.”
“I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream.” Daddy waggled his eyebrows at the twins, eliciting a fit of giggles.
“Shh.” Madison caught herself, tried to shush Mason. “No giggles in the store or we don’t get ice cream.”
“I don’t think that rule counts when I’m the one who made you giggle.” Daddy came out from behind the counter. “Let’s go. What flavor do y’all want?”
“I want cotton candy.” Mason darted for the door.
“No running,” Madison cautioned. “I want bubble gum.”
“It was nice to meet you, Ross.”
He was already on a first-name basis with her dad?
The door closed behind them. And only then did Ross Lyles’s gaze return to hers.
Was he somehow related to Ron? Here on a spy mission for him? Or was Lyles even really his last name? He could be some random nut who’d gotten wind of a scandal. An obsessed fan, reporter, or blackmailer. Foreboding crept up the back of her neck. She squelched a shudder. There’s no way she could hire him.
“I’m afraid I already hired someone for both positions this morning. My dad didn’t know, so I’m sorry if he got your hopes up.”
He did a slight shake of his head. As if to wake himself up from a trance. “I’m—”
Nothing else came out of his mouth. This guy was creeping her out. And there were no other customers in the store. Angel, the eighty-pound teenager, wouldn’t be any help, if she ever made it inside. Stacia needed to get rid of him. Fast.
Ross tried to focus. It was tempting to pretend he was here for the jobs. Since he’d worked at his grandfather’s ranch and his parents’ furniture store, he was qualified for both. And he had an inkling both positions were still open. If not, surely she’d have told her dad. Or at least taken the sign out of the window. And she wouldn’t have asked him about experience. But he’d already gotten her suspicious. Did she know who he was?
No. Ron hadn’t used his real name in years. Except maybe on legal documents. Like when he signed the twins away. They looked similar, but Ron wore thick black eyeliner and kept his dark hair dyed blue, which would throw anybody off.
So tempting to play his name off as a coincidence. Talk her into hiring him. That way, he’d have a direct window into her interactions with the twins.
“Can I help you with anything else?”
Best to come clean. “Are you familiar with the name Ronny Outrageous?”
She caved in on herself, as if someone had kicked her in the stomach. “Why?”
“Because he’s my brother.”
“Oh.” Something akin to fear shone in her pale aqua eyes.
“Last week, he was in a really bad bus wreck with an eighteen wheeler on the way to a concert.”
“I heard about it on the news.” She tried to recover, act all calm, cool and collected. But it was too late. Her reaction to Ron’s stage name told the tale.
“One long, dark, pain-filled night he made a confession to me. That he’d had a one-night stand which resulted in twins.” The more information he gave, the more certain he was that he’d found the right Stacia Keyes. “That he signed custody over to the mother. That she died three years ago.” The children’s pale coloring had thrown him off since his family had olive skin and dark hair. “That her sister has them now. Sounding familiar?”
“What do you want?” She sank into a chair behind the counter, as if her legs would no longer hold her up, pushed damp, auburn tendrils away from her face.
“For now, I just want to get to know my niece and nephew.” To make sure they’re well taken care of. And if not, he’d fight for them.
She’d turned positively green and he felt kind of sorry for her. Whether she took good care of the children or not, she definitely loved them.
About Shannon: Award winning author, Shannon Taylor Vannatter writes contemporary Christian cowboy romance and has over a dozen published titles. A romance reader since her teens, she hopes to entertain Christian women and plant seeds in the non-believer’s heart as she demonstrates that love doesn’t conquer all—Jesus does.
She gleans fodder for her fiction in rural Arkansas where she spent her teenage summers working the concession stand with her rodeo announcing dad and married a Texan who morphed into a pastor. In her spare time, she loves hanging out with her husband and son, flea marketing, and doing craft projects. Recently, Shannon joined Scrivenings Press as co-owner/acquisitions/content editor. Learn more & connect:
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Check out my Pinterest Board full of inspiration for A Texas Bond: A Texas Bond – Pinterest
About the book – A Texas Bond – Book 3: Texas Hill Country series:
Finding his family is only the beginning… He came to find the children… Will he stay to win her heart?
Learning he’s an uncle shocks Ross Lyles—but after years of handling his brother’s bombshells, at least this surprise is a blessing. A pair of five-year-old blessings Ross is determined to meet, if he can convince their aunt to give him a chance. Fiercely protective, Stacia Keyes is worried he’ll try to take the children…and lassoing her trust is harder than he ever imagined.
Available at Walmart from mid-Feb to mid-March. Or online:
Question for Readers: What’s your favorite ice cream flavor and your favorite brand or place to get it?
Come back Feb 26th for Kelly Irvin!