Book 5: The Cowboy’s Surprise Return is the story we’ve all been waiting for since Jean’s Veils and Vows series where Cole Wylder became a mysterious fixture in Blueberry Springs. Now’s he’s returned home and things will never be the same again!
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Cole Wylder has sworn off women.
But what’s a cowboy to do when the key to rebuilding bridges with his family means faking something serious with the town sweetheart, a pretty spitfire named Jackie Moorhouse?
Jackie’s waited for Cole to return home for five long years. Surely the crush she’s been sporting since she was knee-high to a grasshopper no longer means anything.
There’s only one way to find out, and that’s to date Cole—even if it’s something fake.
But what will Jackie do when their ruse starts to feel real? And what will she do when family circumstances force her to cut things off with the only man she’s ever loved?
Can Cole figure out how to keep the woman his heart belongs to—the one woman who refuses to keep it?
This is a sweet small town romance set on the beautiful Sweet Meadows Ranch in Hill Country Texas. Come fall in love in this heartwarming fake romance that’s full of true love.
Sneak Peek from The Cowboy’s Surprise Return!
Jackie was done. She’d been sitting off to the side, pretending to have a good time, for almost two hours. Sure, she’d floated from table to table occasionally so people wouldn’t think something was up, but she’d mostly stuck to herself, sorting through her moods. All she could think about was the fight she’d had with April on their walk over to The Watering Hole, and how her friend took love for granted.
April had called her a chicken for not throwing herself all over her long-time crush Cole Wylder as soon as he’d stepped foot in Sweetheart Creek again. But anyone could see that his years away had weighed on him, and that he wasn’t the same man who’d left town. It was right there in the haunted glimmer in his eyes, available for all to see.
Jackie sighed and swirled the drink she’d been nursing all night. Like a fool, she’d continued to carry the burden of her childhood crush even when Cole had disappeared for five years. Now she wasn’t sure the man she’d dreamed of for so long still existed.
To make matters worse, she realized that April had been right: milk did last longer than Jackie’s boyfriends. She was just a flirt the local men didn’t consider as marriage material. So what had she done? She’d pinned her hopes and dreams on a man who didn’t do serious or long-term.
No wonder April had been so cavalier about telling her to throw herself at Cole. And maybe the reason her words had struck so deep was that they’d hit upon some truths Jackie had been hiding from herself for too long.
She checked the clock on the wall, figuring she’d been at Cole’s welcome-back party long enough that she could politely leave. After all, April and Brant had left an hour ago, their expressions dark. They were going to have a blowout fight, neither of them realizing just how good they had it. Stuck in their own drama, they couldn’t see the relationship gold they were sitting on.
It seemed like every time Jackie turned around, her friend had effortlessly ensnared another man. But this time it was true love, and April taking it for granted made Jackie so frustrated she wanted to shake her. Whereas Jackie wasn’t sure she’d ever truly been in love, despite her thirty-two years living in a town full of matchmakers—herself included.
Maybe it was envy?
The fight with April had at least reinforced what she already knew. If she was looking for love—which she was—that meant no more flings. They were nothing but diversions, something to hide behind so she didn’t have to deal with the scary idea that true love might not be waiting out there for her.
Jackie downed the last of her drink, tracking Cole Wylder, the man of the hour, as she did so. He was still hot. Still had that fluid, confident way of moving that made her want to sigh in satisfaction every time she saw him.
She’d been chasing him for as long as she could remember. Him. Just him. Sure, she’d flirted with his brothers, but that had simply been to ensure she didn’t freak Cole out with her steady, pinpointed interest.
She set her empty glass on the small table and stood.
It was time to bid that old crush farewell and move on.
Jackie collected her jacket from the back of her chair, then moved to the door, smiling and waving, putting on the Jackie Show as she went. She’d had to work at sitting alone tonight, giving herself space to cool down after the fight with April, as well as sort out her true feelings about Cole. Sometimes a gal just needed to sit and think. But if the town got to know that was the real Jackie, the quieter one who wasn’t a trouble-free flirt, she wasn’t sure where she’d fit in.
As she neared the exit she turned to take one last glance at Cole. He was shaking hands with someone she couldn’t see through the crowd, that slightly haunted look flickering in his gaze. The man was still all brawn and devilish smile, coupled with that intensely quiet way of looking at a person, making her feel like a shaken bottle of soda that was ready to fizz over at any moment.
“Jackie!” called Karen Hartley, pulling Jackie’s attention away from Cole. The local librarian was beaming, having just been ensconced in the arms of Myles, the second youngest of the five Wylder brothers.
“Your lipstick is smeared,” Jackie informed her, wincing as she shifted from foot to foot. Her arches were protesting tonight’s choice of footwear, a pair of high heels instead of her usual cowboy boots.
“Oh!” Karen quickly dabbed at her mouth, blushing and appearing happier than Jackie had ever seen her. Love looked good on her.
“Hey, are you free on the thirteenth and fourteenth?”
Jackie shrugged, swallowing the lump of loneliness that had formed in her throat at the thought of Valentine’s Day. She’d planned to spend it, a Saturday, at her father’s nursing home. Even if he didn’t always remember who she was, the cookies were good and the stories the other elders told tended to be entertaining, although a bit repetitive.
“I guess so. Why?”
“The library’s thinking about holding a fundraising event.”
“You need volunteers?” Jackie perked up. Helping out would be a great excuse to be busy if anyone asked if she had a date for the most romantic day of the year.
“No, we need fun people to keep it lively. Will you come?” Karen looked so pleased and excited that Jackie nodded even though her stomach had dropped.
“I’d be happy to.”
Karen gave an uncharacteristic squeal of delight and ran back to Myles, who opened his arms, collecting her in a hug that swept her off her feet.
Jackie held herself together and gave a small wave before pushing her way through the saloon’s swinging doors. As soon as she did, the January Texas air bit into her. She should have worn her boots, not these ridiculous heels. Her feet were going to be frozen by the time she walked all the way back to her car, which she’d left at April’s.
The light hanging above the saloon door flickered, and she knew if she looked to the right, she’d see the edge of town, as well as a glimpse of her apartment on the corner, across and one block down. To the left and many blocks away was her car. After April’s hurtful words tonight, going home without her car was a much more pleasant prospect than the idea of possibly running into her friend.
Sniffing back a sudden flood of unexpected tears, Jackie hurried down the saloon’s two steps as the light above the door flickered once again, then died, instantly creating deep, dark shadows across the sidewalk. Her foot struck something solid, and a dog yipped in surprise. Jackie went down hard on the concrete as she tried to avoid falling on Rusty, a dog that always hung around the saloon.
Jackie gasped as her right hand and left knee took the brunt of her tumble. She rolled onto her back, trying to breathe through the agony, a numbing, breathtaking pain. Rusty, a brown-and-white retriever of some sort, was at her side in an instant, nuzzling her cheek.
The saloon door had opened and a cowboy was silhouetted against the light. Then the door creaked shut, and suddenly Jackie was being hoisted to her feet, a muscular arm behind her back. She staggered on her heels while a man wearing spicy aftershave held her close in the darkness.
And being in his arms felt even better than she’d imagined…
* * *
Can Jackie convince Cole she’s the woman he’s been waiting for? Find out! Continue reading THE COWBOY’S SURPRISE RETURN!
Available in ebook and paperback!
Copyright 2021 Jean Oram