Coming May 22nd
Single father, Weston Parker is set in his ways, and raising his daughter is his top priority. But his ten-year-old feisty little girl is growing up faster than he ever realized. Her go-getter attitude is one he’s seen before–mainly on himself. When she starts trading in her ponytails for makeup, Weston realizes he just might be in over his head.
Dedicated and driven veterinarian, Timber Sellers always knew that she’d head back home, but she wasn’t quite ready for it to happen so soon. Running into the stubborn and bossy Weston from her high school days doesn’t make it any better either. But when she meets his spunky daughter, Timber knows she’s right where she’s supposed to be. As Timber grows closer to Weston’s daughter, his rough exterior softens. Suddenly, the heat between them explodes and neither can deny the attraction. Weston always goes after what he wants, and this time, he wants a future with Timber.
10 years ago
For nine months I’ve prayed that this is all a dream and that I didn’t make the biggest mistake of my life. However, the voice I hear calling from the other room and a positive pregnancy test proved me wrong. I’m going to be a father, and that’s not how my life was supposed to go. One careless night at Brandy’s, our local bar, is to blame for it. I’m never this stupid, but I let loose one time and it had to be with her: Hannah Cole. It’s not that she’s a bad person, but she isn’t supposed to be my forever. Hell, I don’t even want a wife, but I’ve got one. One thing is for certain, my parents raised me right, and that little girl she’s carrying is mine, so I promised I’d always take care of her and Hannah. Hannah grew up differently than me; she didn’t have two parents that took time to make her feel important while she was growing up. Instead, she has a piece-of-shit dad who’s always running around on her mom, and a mom that continues to sit back and take it. They don’t hold steady jobs, and for as long as I can remember, Hannah has been craving attention in any shape and form. In school, she did well, but she never made good decisions when it came to guys, and lately I’ve wondered if I was the end game for her.
“Weston! Can you come in here a minute?” Hannah yells. All she ever does is bitch and moan about how her feet hurt and how I got her this way. Well, I hate to tell her that it takes two, sweet pea, and if I didn’t let my friend Jim Beam cloud my vision, I wouldn’t be in this damn situation. Why did I knock up Hannah Cole and then marry her? Some days I literally want to hit my head against the wall for being such a dumb ass.
I shake my head as I walk into the bedroom, where I see her standing there with a million pieces of clothing on the bed.
“What should I wear?” She’s got to be kidding me.
“Where are you going?” I half-heartedly ask. I don’t have time for this. I’ve got a shit-ton of stuff to get done on the farm today so I can scoot out this weekend for qualifying at the rodeo in Blacksburg.
“The hospital. Hello! We’ve got a baby on the way,” she says, pointing at her belly that’s swollen to the size of a basketball.
“Now?” She shakes her head no and I shrug it off, but then I see it coming. She pushes out that lip and crosses her arms.
“But Weston, I have no idea what to pack in the bag to take to the hospital.” I pause because I can’t believe she’s this worried about what she’s going to wear. Don’t they have hospital gowns for this?
“Hannah, it’s really not that big of a deal. I’d pack some pajamas and something to wear home. Don’t stress out about it.” I’ve tried to be polite with my words. These days that’s harder than usual with all the stress of the farm, rodeo qualifying, and the baby.
When I look in her direction, I know I’ve said the wrong thing. Tears begin to well in her eyes, her lip begins to quiver, and dammit, I hate when she cries even if I don’t truly love her. I hate to see any woman cry.
I take a step toward her and pull her into my arms. “I’m sorry. I didn’t think it was a big deal.”
Through her tears, I hear her whimper. “I’ve blown up like a toad and just want to be back to normal. Why us? Why?”
“Hannah, that doesn’t matter. Think about that sweet little girl growing inside you. It will all be worth it once she’s here.”
“Are you sure? Neither one of us wanted this. What if you make it in the rodeo? You’re not going to leave me, are you?” Here we go again. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times.
“No, I’m not. We’ve been over this. I’m in it for the long haul. Is this how either of us planned our future?” She shakes her head no. “I’m not leaving. You’re Mrs. Parker. I want our little girl to grow up in a home with two parents. I know things aren’t perfect, but maybe over time things will change for us. You are a good person, and will be a great mom. Hell, if I make the circuit, we’ll do that together.”
“Weston Parker, I don’t care what anyone says about you. You’re a good man.”
I start to cackle at that comment. “What do you mean by that?”
“Oh, you know. Weston Parker is the most arrogant man this side of the state line.”
“Well, I guess it’s a good thing I’m crossing that state line tomorrow for qualifying.”
“Yeah, about that… I don’t think you should go.”
I stop and look at her as the blood begins to boil within my veins. What in the hell? Didn’t we just have this conversation? She knows how important this is to me. That’s all I’ve been working toward my entire life. The peaches pay the damn bills, but this is my last shot at making the circuit before the baby arrives. It’s now or never.
Hannah begins to speak calmly. “Weston, my water just broke. I’m so sorry,” she says as tears stream down her face, “You can still go tomorrow. She should be here by then. We’ll be okay. It’s your dream; you’ve got to do it.”
“Okay.” I know it’s shitty to want to go, but it’s been my dream since I can remember. I’m going come hell or high water.
“Congrats! It’s a girl,” the doctor says to Hannah and me.
Looking at the mother of my child, lying in the bed covered in sweat but smiling from ear to ear, I’m in awe of her strength, but that’s where my feelings stop. She’s given all she’s had to give today and now we have a precious baby girl. I never felt ready to be a husband much less a dad, but today, in this moment all of those thoughts fade.
“She’s perfect,” I say, looking between Hannah and my new daughter.
When her eyes meet mine, I know in my heart that life will be okay. Then she smiles and my heart literally skips a beat. It’s amazing how one moment has changed the way I see my future. It’s been almost a year since I made the decision to stand by Hannah and I’ve been kicking myself in the ass every day since. But tonight, everything has changed, and there’s no way I’m leaving my girls to go to the rodeo even if it’s my dream. There will be another one in a few months. Man, I sound like a pansy, but I can’t help it. This little girl has stolen my heart.
Hannah looks down at the baby and then up at me with tears in her eyes. Our relationship isn’t like most, but today our feelings for each other have been put to the side. It’s about our baby girl and not the mistake we made nine months ago.
“She looks just like you, Weston.”
“But she’s got your eyes. Hey there, Miss Bryndle Cole.” She looks toward me.
“You know how I feel about horses, and I thought your maiden name would be a nice touch.” We talked about a name for months. Bryndle is something we both agreed on, but Cole wasn’t even discussed. I know growing up in her family was hard. Her parents never gave two shits about her, but it’s a part of her life. I felt that our little one needs a piece of each of us.
“Hannah, it’s part of who you are, and with the way things have gone, I want her to have equal parts of us.”
Tears begin to trail down her face as she looks up to me. “That’s the sweetest thing anyone has ever done for me.” She reaches for my hand as we both stare at our seven-pound, three-ounce little girl. Hannah squeezes my hand right before my world begins to spin out of control.
Casey Peeler grew up in North Carolina and still lives there with her husband and daughter.
Growing up Casey wasn’t an avid reader or writer, but after reading Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neal Hurston during her senior year of high school, and multiple Nicholas Sparks’ novels, she found a hidden love and appreciation for reading. That love ignited the passion for writing several years later, and her writing style combines real life scenarios with morals and values teenagers need in their daily lives.
When Casey isn’t writing, you can find her near a body of water listening to country music with a cold beverage and a great book.
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