USA Today Bestselling Author
Two years ago, Hayden Fox wasn’t sure she would walk again, much ride a bucking bronco. Being on the backside of a horse was bittersweet and while being a cowgirl was all she’d ever dreamed of, it came at a price.
One she knew this time she might pay with her life. However, she didn’t know what else to do. Her uncle had paid all her bills. He’d made sure she was well-taken care of and he never let her forget he’d given up everything to ensure she had the best doctors and the best training money could buy.
For the last ten years, Sawyer Lawson has been making his way from one country bar stage to the next. All he cared about was plucking his guitar, keeping his head, and staying out of trouble.
Only trouble had a way of finding him and this time it came in the form of a sexy cowgirl who needs the same kind of help that once landed Sawyer behind bars.
Hayden Fox is going to make a comeback, she has to make some good money to get her Uncle out of debt and away from her for good.
Sawyer sings at Boone’s, performing his own songs and hoping to connect to the audience. He’s a loner, with little interest in the women who proposition him. Often he slips out the back and walks home at the end of the night. It’s at the end of that walk he first meets Hayden.
This is a favorite scene.
However, when he stepped up on the shared front porch and found a young lady sitting on the swing by herself with a glass of wine, he wasn’t sure what to think, much less say or do.
“Hey there,” he said, deciding he couldn’t be rude, though he might consider using the back entrance from now on. It wasn’t that he didn’t want to be social. Okay. He didn’t. It was just that this part of singing was fake, and he preferred to let the music speak for itself.
However, having a conversation with his neighbor wasn’t the same. It was a normalcy he needed to let into his life.
She raised her glass. “Hi.”
“We haven’t really had a chance to meet. I’m Sawyer Lawson. I rent the upstairs apartment.”
“The name is Hayden Fox, and my uncle Kevin and I rent the lower level.”
Sawyer had wished he could have afforded the four-bedroom apartment that made up the rest of the house, but instead he occupied the one-bedroom loft of the Cape Cod style home that might as well be a studio but who was he to complain. He had a roof over his head and every night he got to sing and thus far, for the last eighteen months, he hadn’t had to move because of his past.
However, his past always had a way of catching up to him and he was already considering moving on. He’d even gotten a couple of gigs a few towns away, just to check things out.
They weren’t Boone’s and Sawyer hadn’t the inclination to pack up just yet.
“Your uncle?” Sawyer leaned against the railing and folded his arms. He remembered the morning he’d been woken from a sound sleep when Hayden and her uncle had moved in. “I’m glad you clarified that.”
She rocked back and forth, sipping her wine, staring off into the night. She’d pulled her long blond hair into a high ponytail and she wore a pair of faded jeans, cowboy boots, and a red-and-white shirt tucked neatly into her slacks. She had a slender figure. Or at least he assumed she did, but it was hard to tell because her clothes were a tad baggy.
And he was surprised she wore a long-sleeved shirt when it was close to seventy-five degrees out.
He found himself slowly checking out the way she carried herself, looking for other signs.
Just because a woman wore long sleeves in the middle of summer didn’t mean anything.
“The older couple next door might mistake your uncle for a dirty old man who likes young girls.” Sawyer laughed. “And if they thought it, I’m sure that rumor is spreading like wildfire through this small town.”
She cocked her head. “You don’t know who I am, do you?”
“No. Not necessarily.” She waved her hand in front of her face. “I’ve been away from the rodeo for a couple of years, but most people around here know who I am and why I left.”
“Sorry. I barely know how to ride a horse and even though I’ve lived here for a year and everyone knows my name, I don’t think I know anyone but Boone and Crew and maybe a couple of the Whiskey brothers, but I always get them confused.”
She looked him up and down with a smirk. “You dress like a country boy. You sing like a country boy. But you can’t ride a horse? That’s shameful.”
He shrugged. “I was born and raised a city slicker. What can I say.” Out of the corner of his eye, he saw the man she called uncle strolling down the street.
She stopped swinging.
“You should be in bed, young lady,” her uncle said, waving his fingers. “And you certainly shouldn’t be drinking while training.”
“It’s just one glass to unwind and last time I checked, I was a grown-up.” Hayden leaned forward and groaned as she stood.
Sawyer reached out and curled his fingers around her forearm. “Are you okay?”
She shrugged free. “I’m fine.” She handed the wineglass to her uncle, then placed both hands on her back and stretched. “Sawyer, this is my uncle Kevin.”
“You’re the singer at Boone’s place,” Kevin said.
Sawyer winced as he watched Hayden twist her body and contort her face. He’d seen that look before on his mother’s face, though never in public. She always did her best to hide the pain and to cover up the shame whenever they were around other people. Whatever was going on with Hayden, it was out in the open and Sawyer should mind his own fucking business.
Something else that often got him in trouble and forced him to have to move on.
“I am.” “You’re pretty good,” Kevin said.
Kevin opened the door to the downstairs apartment. “Too bad we won’t be able to appreciate your music too often, but between my early morning work schedule and my niece’s training and traveling, we’ll be really busy, but it was nice meeting you.” He took Hayden by the arm and guided her through the door. “I’m sure you’re a stand-up guy, but my niece is trying to get her career back on track. I’d appreciate it if you kept your distance.” Kevin turned on his heel and tugged the door closed, clicking the lock.
Then the deadbolt.
The hair on the back of Sawyer’s neck stood straight up.
He ran a hand across his short, thick hair.
Something didn’t add up. He pulled out his cell, tapped on the internet icon app, and typed in Hayden’s name.
A few articles, images, and YouTube videos came up.
He scanned the headlines.
Hayden Fox may be only sixteen, but she’s going to give Cheyenne Hawkins a run for her money.
Hayden Fox is favored to make a clean sweep at the Twin City Rodeo.
Tragedy nearly takes Hayden Fox’s life.
Hayden Fox may never walk again.
Hayden Fox was seen leaving the Whiskey Ranch last month, making everyone wonder if she’s going to make a comeback.
Sawyer tapped the YouTube video of the accident that nearly crippled Hayden. It took eight seconds before he had to turn away. “Jesus,” he muttered. He blinked, watching the rest of the video, which was only nine minutes, documenting her recovery.
No wonder she wore clothes covering herself up if all this was true about her injuries.
The light in the front room flicked off.
At least she had someone who stood by her and helped to take care of her, even if he seemed a little rough around the edges.
Jen Talty. Whiskey Smash: It’s All In The Whiskey (Kindle Locations 258-311). Jupiter Press.
There is far more in play than Hayden knows. Her uncle is in far more trouble than he believes.
Sawyer knows a lot more than he’s telling as well, but much comes out as he and Hayden start a relationship.
Some intrigue combined with a simmer to sizzle romance.
5 Contented Purrs for Jen!
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Welcome to my World! I’m a USA Today Bestseller of Romantic Suspense, Contemporary Romance, and Paranormal Romance.
I first started writing while carting my kids to one hockey rink after the other, averaging 170 games per year between 3 kids in 2 countries and 5 states. My first book, IN TWO WEEKS was originally published in 2007. In 2010 I helped form a publishing company (Cool Gus Publishing) with NY Times Bestselling Author Bob Mayer where I ran the technical side of the business through 2016.
I’m currently enjoying the next phase of my life…the empty NESTER! My husband and I spend our winters in Jupiter, Florida and our summers in Rochester, NY. We have three amazing children who have all gone off to carve out their places in the world, while I continue to craft stories that I hope will make you readers feel good and put a smile on your face.