Spotlight & Giveaway: The Kentucky Cowboy’s Baby by Heidi Hormel

Posted July 10th, 2016 by in Blog, Spotlight / 49 comments

Today it is my pleasure to Welcome author Heidi Hormel to HJ!
Spotlight&Giveaway

Hi Heidi and welcome to HJ! We’re so excited to chat with you about your new release, THE KENTUCKY COWBOY’S BABY!

 
I’m so excited to be back again to talk about Angel Crossing, Arizona.
 

Please summarize the book for the readers here:

The Kentucky Cowboy's BabyA free-spirited cowgirl’s ranching dreams disappear when she has to share her inheritance with a footloose cowboy turned dad.
 

Please share the opening lines of this book:

EllaJayne was gone. The car seat in the back of the battered king-cab pickup was empty, the door hanging open. Even flat-as-a-pancake Oggie, her toy doggie, had vanished.

 

Please share a few Random facts about this book…

THE KENTUCKY COWBOY’S BABY includes some unusual herd animals — llamas and alpacas. So here are some fun facts about these critters:

  • Spitting: Both animals do it. Females do it to tell males to scram. Both genders use it to keep others away from food or tell aggressors to back off. BTW, the “spit” is actually regurgitated stomach contents and they animals can make it fly up to 10 feet (ick!)
  • Llamas are pack animals, and can carry 50 to 75 pounds up to 20 miles. If you overload the animals, though, they’ll refuse to move.
  • Llamas can reach speeds up to 35mph. So let’s hope no more get loose!
  • Alpaca fleece/fiber is flame-resistant, meeting consumer product safety standards.
  • Incas crossed a guanaco and a vicuno 6,000 years ago to create the alpaca, making it the second newest man-made mammal on earth. The newest? The mule.
  • BTW, Llamas and alpacas can successfully breed with each other. Their offspring are called huarizo, which are valued because of their long fleece.
  • The most expensive female alpaca sold for $180,000 and the most expensive male for $675,000.

 

Please tell us a little about the characters in your book. As you wrote your protagonist was there anything about them that surprised you?

Pepper Bourne hasn’t fit easily into the small Arizona town of Angel Crossing, with her mother’s unusual views of the world. Still, Pepper loves the town and wants to help the residents as a nurse practitioner and by starting a community garden.

AJ McCreary was happy to follow the rodeo until he finds out about his daughter. He gives up the life on the road to take care of her.

While both the hero and heroine are care takers, neither sees that in the other because they go about it in different ways. I think what surprised me most as I worked with them is that despite being very clear about what they wanted from their lives, they were not so inflexible that they couldn’t change and grow.

 

What, in your mind, distinguishes this book from other books out there in the same genre?

Llamas and alpacas? Humor and up-to-date view of life with a salt-of-the-earth foundation are something I work to bring to every book. I like to take the iconic cowboy (and cowgirl), put them in the modern world and let their integrity show.
 

The First kiss…

“Pepper?”

She glanced up at him. His gaze roamed over her face. She tipped up her chin, offering herself to him.

No. She needed to step away. She needed to—

His mouth came down on hers, feather-light in its touch. Testing and tasting her. She tasted back, then opened her mouth on a deep inhale of need and desire that ran through her, racing from the notch at the base of her throat south, settling hotly between her thighs. She should pull away. That would be smart. Instead, she turned into his one-armed embrace, reaching up and around his wide, solid shoulders, digging her fingers into the bunching muscles, enjoying the strength and resilience of his flesh. His arms wrapped around her. They fit just right, everything aligning as it should, as if they had been a couple for decades with every curve and hollow matched to make something that was greater than just the two of them.

His hands moved under her ponytail to pull her mouth more firmly against his, urging her to open to him further. She did and the explosion of taste, feeling and heat went straight to her knees, which wobbled with the unexpected but not unwelcome rush of lust. Lordy be. She reveled for long moments in the heat and want of that dance of their tongues but finally made herself pull her head away. She didn’t move out of his loose embrace, though, slowing her breathing even as she enjoyed the hot scent of him. His gaze didn’t leave her face, searching but not demanding. At last, she stepped out of his arms.

 

Did any scene have you crying or laughing (or blushing) while writing it?

“I’m just trying to figure out how you turned a cowboy into a farmer,” AJ answered.

“S-e-x,” Pepper spelled out.

He laughed until he heard his daughter singing, “S-e-x. S-e-x. Se-x.”

“You’re going to explain that to Grammy Marie.”

“No problem. I’ll just tell her it’s Grana Faye’s fault.” Now, his daughter added Faye’s name to her chant.

He held Pepper again in his arms and watched his daughter move little piles of nuts and bolts around the lobby, while the dog Butch trailed behind her. In these kind of moments, he realized he was happy, beyond happy. He wasn’t sure exactly when that had happened. He knew it would last until the next time the furballs (aka llamas and alpacas) got out, but he couldn’t imagine his life any other way.

“You told him,” Faye said from where she stood at the entrance to the small old-fashioned theater.

“She told me,” he answered, not moving away from Pepper. “But she still hasn’t told me who will be running the project.” He tried to sound stern.

“Me and you, of course,” Faye said. “I’m a water sign.”

“Of course. Makes total sense.” It did in some weird Faye way. “When will you start?”

“The mayor and I are discussing that. I need to cleanse the building, then we’ll be ready. We have great plans. Gene would be so happy.” Faye’s smile wavered a little. She still obviously missed him.

Pepper pulled away from him and went to her mother. “He would. He’d like what you’ve helped us do at the ranch, too.”

“He would not like that you’d turned his ranch into a farm, but he’d do it for you.” Faye hugged Pepper. He saw tears in both women’s eyes. His own chest tightened.

“Don’t cry,” his little girl said as she hugged the women’s legs. Butch sat on Pepper’s feet in sympathy.

He couldn’t take the tears. He knew they would flow. They were women who felt deeply but their tears cut him down to the soles of his boots. “Enough of that. Gene’s good in cowboy heaven and there’s a potluck to judge.”

“S-e-x, s-e-x, s-e-x,” EllaJayne sang.

He joined the women’s laughter, catching the happy glint in Pepper’s gaze along with the promise for later. Yep. Sex. It’s a good thing.

 

If your book was optioned for a movie, what scene would you use for the audition of the main characters?

For AJ, I would use the opening scene where he can’t find his daughter. I think this shows his weaknesses and strengths all at once.

He squinted without his hat brim to shade his McCreary-gray eyes, hoping to catch a glimpse of his sturdy toddler daughter, with hair as dark as his own, its straight-as-a-preacher silkiness direct from her out-of-the-picture mama. He took off, ignoring the sharp bite of pain in his hip and back.

Was the crying closer? The familiar piercing sob was one he’d come to dread, his daughter letting him know he had no business calling himself her daddy.

“EllaJayne. Where are you, baby?” He kept moving as he yelled, not caring that his Kentucky twang had thickened. The cries stopped. He stopped. Where the hell was she? Dear lord, he’d been so sure he was better than any foster parent or her mama could be. Now, he’d lost his baby girl.

For Pepper, the actress needs to capture her no-nonsense manner that masks a very tender heart.

Here’s the scene I would choose, even though it’s longer than AJ’s:

PEPPER EXPECTED TO see Daddy Gene come around the side of the house and onto the patio, to greet everyone with a big shout and a laugh, then smooth his handlebar mustache into place before announcing that it was time to get the party started. Except that wouldn’t be happening. Faye had tried to make it festive with lights strung around the patio and a table laden with food. Of course, everyone knew the kinds of dishes Faye cooked so a number of pies, casseroles and platters had magically appeared, too.

Pepper saw the mayor chatting with Gene’s cousin. AJ. The man and his daughter had stayed with them last night at Faye’s insistence. Pepper had been so busy between work and getting everything set for the memorial that she’d only been home to sleep. Pepper turned away, not sure exactly what she was feeling. Today was a celebration, she reminded herself, but the weight of responsibility made her shoulders ache. Daddy Gene had been a part of her life since he’d shown up at the commune. Pepper had only been five years old, but she’d known he was the kind of man they both could count on. Now what?

“It’s time,” Faye announced. “We’re here to celebrate the life of my lover, companion and soul mate.” Then she started singing “Witchy Woman” while the silence got increasingly uncomfortable.

Dear lord. Angel Crossing had more or less accepted Faye…they’d loved Daddy Gene and he and Faye were a packaged deal. Alone, Faye might be just a little too filled with hippie hokum. … She could do this for Daddy Gene. This one last thing for him. The man who’d been her father and the one person she could count on no matter what. “Love you, Daddy Gene,” she said quietly, looking out toward the mountains dark against the brilliant pinks, purples and reds of the sunset. “Thanks for the show.” She smiled and then wiped away the tears. Time to honor a life well lived. She wouldn’t remember those last days of illness and pain. She’d remember him laughing. That was her favorite Daddy Gene.

 

If you could have given your characters one piece of advice before the opening pages of the book, what would it be and why?

I would tell AJ that no parent thinks he or she is good at their job, so cut himself some slack. For Pepper, I would tell her that she needs to watch more Sesame Street so that she understands being different is not a bad thing.
 

What are you currently working on? What other releases do you have planned for 2016?

Next up is Mayor Danny Leigh’s story – The Bull Rider’s Redemption, out in October. He’s been talked about in a number of books but he’s finally getting his own story of first love rediscovered. I’m also working on creating more stories set in Angel Crossing.
 

Thanks for blogging at HJ!

 

Giveaway: 1 Signed copy of THE KENTUCKY COWBOY’S BABY (US residents only)
1 e-copy each of THE SURGEON AND THE COWGIRL and THE KENTUCKY COWBOY’S BABY (International)

 

To enter Giveaway: Please complete the Rafflecopter form and Post a comment to this Q: In THE KENTUCKY COWBOY’S BABY, AJ’s daughter loves her stuffed toy, Oggie. Did you have a favorite stuffed animal and what was its name (or if you were a blanket lover — share that)?

 
a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

Excerpt from THE KENTUCKY COWBOY’S BABY:

EllaJayne was gone. The car seat in the back of the battered king-cab pickup was empty, the door hanging open. Even flat-as-a-pancake Oggie, her toy doggie, had vanished. AJ had been right there, fixing the loose hose while his daughter slept in her safest-for-its-price-tag car seat. He’d been standing right there. He hadn’t heard a damned thing. He should have a loyal dog so no one could sneak up and—call the cops, his mind snapped.

He pulled out his phone as he scanned the dusty lot stretching behind a stuccoed cement-block building. Empty, except for a purple SUV. He ran, his well-worn boots kicking up whirls of bleached-out grit. No EllaJayne in or behind the small SUV. How could he have forgotten she was Houdini in a diaper? No sign of her in the dirt-and-gravel parking lot baking in the Arizona high-noon sun. The emergency operator picked up as he raced back to his grimy truck for one more check in every nook, cranny and crevice.

“What’s your emergency?” the operator asked.

“My daughter’s gone.” He ran for the short alley that ran along the building and onto the main street. “Shit,” he said.

“Excuse me, sir?”

He kept moving. “Get the police out here. She might have gone onto the road.”
“I’ll need your location, please.”

Her voice was too calm. He wanted to reach through the phone and tell her that his baby girl had disappeared. Instead, as he panted for breath against the heat and the pain in his hip, he said, “I’m in Angel Crossing. I only stopped for a minute to check the truck before I went to find Gene’s—” He stopped the rush of words. None of that mattered. “My daughter is 16 months old. She has dark hair and eyes.”

“What’s she wearing, sir?”

“Purple shirt with sparkles.”

“A little more information, then the police will contact you. I’ll need your full name, place of—”
He hung up. He couldn’t run and talk. They should be sending police, the K-9 unit, not asking him stupid questions. He stared up and down the uneven, broken sidewalk that stretched in front of the bright-colored facades of empty buildings. Had someone driven in and stolen his daughter while he’d had his head under the hood? A wailing, escalating cry drifted to him. He squinted without his hat brim to shade his McCreary-gray eyes, hoping to catch a glimpse of his sturdy toddler daughter, with hair as dark as his own, its straight-as-a-preacher silkiness direct from her out-of-the-picture mama. He took off, ignoring the sharp bite of pain in his hip and back.
Was the crying closer? The familiar piercing sob was one he’d come to dread, his daughter letting him know he had no business calling himself her daddy.

“EllaJayne. Where are you, baby?” He kept moving as he yelled, not caring that his Kentucky twang had thickened. The cries stopped. He stopped. Where the hell was she? Dear lord, he’d been so sure he was better than any foster parent or her mama could be. Now, he’d lost his baby girl.

After searching another five minutes without hearing her voice again, AJ turned back the way he’d come, moving as fast as he could down the uneven concrete. Where the heck was she? He stepped into a hole where there should have been sidewalk and sharp pain shot down his leg. He hobbled two more steps until the sign for the police department and town hall sprang up like an oasis in the desert. He raced toward it and yanked open the door into a narrow lobby with plastic signs lining the walls. He scanned them looking for…on the right, a small sign in red declared: POLICE. He hurried to the door. Beyond it, a battered metal desk with neat in and out trays stood empty. He didn’t hear anything.

“I want to report a missing child.” He raised his voice, needing to talk with someone, right now, or he’d—

“What the hell’s going on?” asked a tall, blond, unexpectedly familiar man. “AJ? What are you doing here?”

“My daughter.” He pulled in as deep a breath as he could with his heart pounding enough to hurt his ribs. “Are you a cop now? I need a search party.”

“Not a cop. Mayor. So you’re the daddy.”

“Where is my daughter?” he asked slowly, with menace. He wasn’t playing here. No matter this was Danny Leigh, his old partner in crime. The big blond angel—fitting that he was mayor of a place called Angel Crossing—to AJ’s dark-haired and black-hatted devil.

“Pepper said she found the baby walking around by herself.”

“Where is she?”

“I don’t mean to tell you your business, but—”

AJ had been right there under the hood while Baby Girl slept, after hours of crying. He’d been right there. “I’m getting my daughter.” AJ turned from Danny, who he’d last seen at a rodeo in Tulsa. Now it seemed neither of them was following the money on the back of a bull.

AJ listened for his daughter’s cries, but the blood roared so loudly in his ears he wouldn’t have been able to hear a jet take off.

“Let me get the chief,” Danny said, his hand on AJ’s arm. Tight. AJ hadn’t lost an ounce of muscle since “retiring.” He used it to throw off his friend. Danny let go but stayed beside AJ, saying, “I heard them talking about calling Child Services.”

Every one of AJ’s straining muscles tightened until his back sent a shooting pain down into his still-aching hip. Even if he’d been able to speak, he wouldn’t have known what to say to such crap, except a lot of four-letter words, which he tried not to use anymore because of EllaJayne. Everything he did now was to protect her. He’d quit riding bulls and wrangling for the rodeo.
No one was taking his daughter. He’d rescued her once. He’d do it again. AJ moved past Danny to the doorway beyond the desk. Finally, he heard voices and—“EllaJayne,” he shouted, except he felt like he’d been gut-punched and only had enough air for the shout to be a strained whisper.

Danny moved past him in the narrow hallway, through an open archway on the left and said, “She belongs to my buddy. He’s one hell of a bull rider.”

AJ followed him into the room with a fridge and microwave. There she was. Baby Girl in the arms of a woman wearing scrubs and her hair in a no-nonsense golden-brown ponytail. The disapproving line of the woman’s mouth couldn’t mar its soft pink charm. He held out his arms for his daughter. EllaJayne lifted her head from the woman’s shoulder, tear tracks silvery bright on her rounded cheeks where strands of her McCreary raven-black hair lay in a sticky mess. His heart hurt. His baby girl had been crying…again. He sucked at this father stuff.
“She was wandering around on her own. She could have ended up getting hit by a car or kidnapped,” said the woman’s voice, firm and soft at the same time.

“My daughter,” AJ said as he continued to hold out his now shaking hands. The woman glared at him.

“Absolutely not,” she said, clutching the girl tighter to her.

He dropped his arms. “I was fixing a hose. She was asleep.”

“You should have been paying more attention,” whispered the woman as she patted the little girl’s back, soothing her into laying down her head. “I found her wandering and brought her to the police. I could probably report you for neglect. I’m a physician’s assistant and we’re obligated by law to—”

“Neglect?” AJ didn’t try to keep his voice down and Baby Girl’s head popped up. He moved closer to snatch EllaJayne away.

A large man stepped in front of him. Where had this guy come from? “Now, sir, I’m Chief Rudy and we need to have a talk before I can release your daughter to you.”

The man, just shy of AJ’s six feet two inches with close-cropped, cop-style graying brown hair, took AJ by the shoulder with a big hand and steered him out of the break room and down the hall. He directed him into a cramped office. “Sit.” The chief pointed to a chair across from a wooden desk that nearly filled the room, his steel-blue gaze clearly telling AJ he was taking the situation seriously. “Seems like you know our mayor, but I still want details and information so I can check your background.” The man pushed a paper across the desk.

AJ felt a yawning chasm of fear and despair opening at his feet. The same one that had been showing up in his nightmares as he and his daughter worked their way across the country, and before that, when he’d learned he had a daughter in foster care. He’d hooked up with her mother during a stint in Kentucky when he’d been drinking more than he should. When he’d first seen EllaJayne…he couldn’t think about that now. The police chief wasn’t fooling around, no matter this town wasn’t much more than a wide place in the road. Then there was the woman who didn’t look old enough to be such a…stick in the mud. Why hadn’t she just found him and chewed him out instead of going to the authorities? He focused again on the paper asking for his vital details. He filled it out quickly and handed it to the uniformed chief.
“Stay here while I run this.”

AJ stood and paced in what space there was in the room. What the hell would he do if they didn’t give him back his daughter? He didn’t have money for an attorney. Nothing like this had been covered on any of the parenting sites he’d been reading every night. Other parents didn’t lose their kids.

He’d had to fix the truck and she’d been sleeping after screaming at the top of her tiny lungs on their trip into Angel Crossing. He’d only stopped here to pay his respects at Gene’s memorial, then they’d head to California where an old rodeo buddy had promised him work and regular hours. He wasn’t going back to Kentucky no matter what.

When he’d found out about EllaJayne less than three months ago, he’d vowed he’d be a better father than any of the long line of McCreary men had been. He’d ditched life on the road and promised himself no women who would come into and out of the little girl’s life. She’d already had more knocks than any child deserved.

“Mr. McCreary,” the police chief said. “Your record looks clean, other than two drunk and disorderlies. Mayor Leigh said those were ‘misunderstandings.’”

AJ relaxed by a millimeter. “I’ll take my daughter and be on my way.”

“Before you do that, I’d like you to talk with Miss Pepper. I know a little one can be tough to keep track of—you’re not the first daddy I’ve had in here. But…Miss Pepper’s heart and her worries are in the right place. Plus being a medical professional, she’s got to be extra careful about these kinds of situations.”

AJ stayed silent, following the chief back to the break room. The Pepper woman was seated at a table, holding his daughter. EllaJayne didn’t even turn to him when he said her name. That hurt.

“The little darling’s daddy checks out. He’s here to take her back.” The officer hovered just behind AJ.

“Did you hear that? Daddy’s here,” Pepper said, turning her head, pinning AJ with a glare of condemnation from her autumn-brown eyes.

“Baby Girl,” he said, walking to the woman, holding out his hands for his daughter. Contrary as any McCreary, she pulled away and buried her face in the stranger’s shoulder.

PEPPER BOURNE HELD TIGHT to the little girl. No matter what this tall man with his worn jeans and boots said now, he couldn’t be much of a father if he hadn’t even known his child had wandered off. She’d seen plenty of cowboys like him over the years, especially friends of Daddy Gene’s. Just thinking that name still hurt. She snuggled the toddler closer.

“Hand her over,” said Chief Rudy. “Kids wander off. It’s happened to every parent.”

“Are you sure? Her diaper was dirty.”

“That happens to all kids, too,” the cowboy said swiftly. “I was right there. Under the hood.”
“And that worked so well, didn’t it? She didn’t even have a hat or shoes. What are you doing in town?” Not that it was really her business.

“Come to pay my respects to Gene Daniels. Got word he’d passed, and there was a memorial.”
Pepper squeezed the little girl who squeaked in protest. Daddy Gene had been gone for a month. Tears filled her eyes and she couldn’t choke out the words. A tiny hand patted her cheek. Pepper feared she would burst into ugly sobs.

“How did you know him?” she asked to distract herself.

“Barely kissin’ cousins and the rodeo,” the man answered. “Now, if I can have my daughter, I’ll be going.”

“Chief, I don’t know that I’m comfortable with the situation.” She stared hard at the toddler’s daddy, while ignoring the muscled strength and length of him. “Where’s your wife? Your daughter’s mother.”

“None of that’s your business, lady. The police chief here says I’m good to go,” he snapped back, his storm-cloud-gray eyes locked on hers.

“That may be but as a health care professional, I have a duty to ensure that any child is not being abused or neglected.” She made sure her tone let this cowboy know that he wasn’t fit to care for a chicken, let alone a precious little human being.

“Mama,” the toddler whimpered and rubbed her forehead into the crook of Pepper’s neck.

“Chief, you’ve got to let me examine her. Who knows how long she was in the sun.”
“Fine. Come on, Mr. McCreary, let’s get this settled,” Rudy said.

Pepper hesitated for a second. McCreary. That last name struck a chord. She needed to focus on the little girl. Her daddy didn’t look like a bad guy. He had dark hair like his daughter’s, though his had an unruly curl around his nape and ears. But the little girl hadn’t gotten her mink-brown eyes from him. He didn’t look or act like an abuser. An outlaw maybe, a bad-boy rodeo cowboy. Still, it was her duty to make sure the toddler was being cared for properly. She had to give the girl a good once-over.

Followed by the chief and the cowboy holding his daughter’s stuffed animal, Pepper carried EllaJayne on her hip, coming out of the building that housed the town hall, the police station, a real estate office, and a law office. The clinic was half a block down on the right, across from the Angel Crossing Emporium of Wonders. The sign, with its painted road runner and mountain lion, always made her smile, even though the emporium had closed long ago. The mayor was trying to get a grant to hire artists to paint the plywood and “refresh” the sign to make the town look less abandoned.

The facades along the main road, which was picturesquely called Miners Gulch, had been added in the 1970s to entice tourists to the town, as the nearby mine and the county’s biggest employer started to close its operations. Tourists hadn’t been lured in, but the townsfolk had come to love the signs that gave the vibe of a Spaghetti Western set. Or a bona fide ghost town. The problem was a ghost town was a dead town. With no good jobs, Angel Crossing was edging toward that as the younger residents scattered to the wind. Pepper was the exception, rather than the rule. Although technically, she wasn’t local, not having moved to town until she was seven.
Today wasn’t the day to worry about Angel Crossing. She had a little darling in her arms who needed her attention. Like the old-timey facades, her clinic had the feeling of a bygone era. It served residents well enough, even if it housed more than one piece of equipment that should have been in a museum. She did what she could for her patients, many of them retired and living on minuscule pensions and Social Security. She regularly had to beg, borrow and nearly steal supplies, especially free samples. She knew of more than one patient who skimped on medications to pay for food. That’s why the garden would make such a difference.

“Oggie,” EllaJayne said into Pepper’s ear, reaching out with her hand and flexing her fingers.

Pepper followed her gesture and saw the girl’s cowboy daddy, still holding onto the flattened stuffed animal she’d given him. The man had a hitch in his step that didn’t keep her from noticing his rodeo swagger. He needed a hat. What cowboy didn’t have a hat? It would have shaded his handsome face. Pepper knew trouble and she didn’t need anyone to tell her this guy was that plus more. She also didn’t need anyone to tell her that his kind of trouble could give a woman memories to warm up her nights.

Pepper focused on the bundle in her arms as she walked into Angel Crossing Medical Clinic. “I’m going to Exam One,” she said to Claudette, her right-hand woman at the reception desk.
“Who is this?” asked Claudette, her short dark hair streaked with highlights and spiked to fit her warrior-woman attitude in a grandmother’s body.

“We’ll give you everything as soon as I’m done with the exam.” The ring of boot heels followed Pepper. An uneven sound. She glanced back and caught the man grimacing. No time to worry about that.

“Okay, little darling, let’s just see how your ‘daddy’ was caring for you.” She ignored the snort from the cowboy.

She put him and everything else out of her mind, concentrating on the girl and the exam. She didn’t want to miss anything. But other than the dirty diaper—which Pepper changed from her own supplies—and a little diaper rash, the toddler was fine.

“So?” he asked when she finished with the final tug of the girl’s T-shirt.

“What about her vaccinations?”

“I…I…Of course she’s had them. I have papers in the truck.”
He didn’t know. “Allergies?”

He stood feet planted and long fingers tapping against his leg. “It’s all in her records. She’s fine. You just said so.”

She’d been working with patients ever since she’d started as an EMT in her teens, and read annoyance in the tightness of his mouth. She also saw fear in the tilt of his head. What to do? The child looked fine.

“You’re good to go then, but little ones are quicker than their parents think and can easily get into things they shouldn’t. Let’s go see if Claudette can’t find cream for the rash.” Pepper scooped up the girl and walked out. The exam room as they’d stood there had suddenly gotten smaller. She’d started to think trouble might be what she needed in her life. Because trouble had started to look a lot like a good time, which she hadn’t had since…forever. Then smart Pepper reminded not-so-smart Pepper he was a patient’s father…and a cowboy. The kind of man she’d long ago figured out wasn’t for her. They might look pretty, but the shine wore off quickly.

She kept her gaze on Claudette and glanced at Chief Rudy, who had an odd look on his face as he stared down at his phone.

“What?” she asked because it was obvious that something had just popped up on the screen.
“I ran his name, but, well, I didn’t connect it…hell—”

This was bad. The chief didn’t swear. It was a contest in town to see who could make him curse when they got pulled over or visited the station. The man just didn’t get provoked, and if he did, he didn’t say bad words. So that meant whatever he’d just discovered was horrible.
“His name is Arthur John McCreary.”

“Everybody calls me AJ,” the cowboy said irritably.

“You’re Daddy Gene’s cousin.” The words popped out of her mouth in shock as the connection fell into place.

“Yeah, Gene is…was my cousin. I told you that.” His voice had thickened with true emotion.
“Welcome to Angel Crossing,” Rudy said. “Sorry the circumstances aren’t better. Gene was a good man and a good friend.”

“Thanks,” AJ said and added, “I should have known. How many Peppers could there be in Angel Crossing?” He rubbed his hand over the back of his neck. “Gene talked about you and your mama. Please accept my condolences.”

She nodded. Now she remembered him. He rode bulls and had dragged Daddy Gene from the ring when the animals had nearly stomped him to death. The one or two pictures she’d seen of AJ, his black hat had nearly covered his face.

“I guess I should take you to the ranch. Faye would never forgive me if I didn’t bring you out to say hello. Daddy Gene hoped you’d come for a visit one day, but I don’t think this is how he imagined it.”

Excerpts. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
 

Book Info:

HOME AT LAST

Pepper Bourne has big plans for her stepdaddy’s Arizona ranch. The physician’s assistant dreams of opening a community garden for Angel Crossing’s neediest. The only thing standing in her way is the tall, rugged cowboy who just inherited the property!

Former bull rider AJ McCreary gave up the rodeo to raise his baby girl, and selling the ranch is the only way he can support her now. While Pepper’s claim on the property may be uncertain, there’s no denying her claim on AJ’s heart. He’s ready to become a family man. But can he prove it to the one woman who makes his family complete?

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Meet the Author:

Heidi HormelA former innkeeper and radio talk show host, Heidi Hormel has always been a writer. She spent years as a small-town newspaper reporter and as a PR flunky before settling happily into penning romances with a wink and a wiggle.

While living in the Snack Food Capital of the World, Heidi has trotted around the globe from forays into Death Valley to stops at Loch Ness in Scotland.
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49 Responses to “Spotlight & Giveaway: The Kentucky Cowboy’s Baby by Heidi Hormel”

  1. Patricia B.

    It has been a very long time since I was that young. I don’t remember any name or really the toy, but there are pictures of me with a stuffed zebra.

  2. Diana Tidlund

    I didn’t have either. I was 3 rd of 13 and we always had a baby to told and help take care of

  3. Jen B

    I have a stuffed dog called Jakey, I was given him when I was 19 months old and I broke my leg.

  4. kermitsgirl

    I had a blanket that I kept with me until it disintegrated when I was about 10. My little brother still has a stuffed Simba he’s had since he was 4 (when the Lion King came out); he’s now 26. It still sits on his bed in a place of honor.

  5. Amy Rickman

    I had (still have) an orange stuff dog and a yellow stuff dog named Fluffy 1 and Fluffy 2.

  6. Natasha Persaud

    I always have stuffed toys I have a penchant for them I have teddy bears, sponge bob , Barney, minion, penguins I have a ton of them

  7. Cynthia Powers

    I had a blanket I loved because it was so soft and cool: it was made of pale yellow seersucker cotton, and I hugged it every night.

  8. Nancy Luebke

    I didn’t have a blanky or a stuffed animal, I was the 2nd of 5. I do remember when I was a little older, a black haired barbie that I called Katie. I had her for a long time till someone stole her from a display I had made for barbie clothes that I crocheted.

  9. veRONIca

    I had a Mickey stuffed toy that went everywhere with me. I still have it in my house now as an adult (but he doesn’t travel with me anymore lol)

  10. Banana cake

    I didn’t have a favorite stuffed animal but my sister had a teddy bear she called ginger.

  11. Amanda Thompson

    I had a stuffed Barney for a few years but my favorite stuffed animal is the 91′ Kmart Christmas bear my grandfather gave me for my first Christmas. She has a holly design all over her so I named her Holly, lol.

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