Second Chance Cowboy
Author: A.J. Pine
Publisher: Forever Romance
Releases: February 27, 2018
Once a cowboy, always a cowboy
Ten years ago, Jack Everett left his family’s ranch without a backward glance. Now, what was supposed to be a quick trip home for his father’s funeral has suddenly become more complicated. The ranch Jack can handle—he might be a lawyer, but he still remembers how to work with his hands. But turning around the failing vineyard he’s also inherited? That requires working with the one woman he never expected to see again.
Ava Ellis broke her own heart the night she let Jack go. She was young and scared—and secretly pregnant with Jack’s baby. Now that he’s back and asking for her help, Ava sees her opportunity to right the wrongs of the past. But how will he feel about the son he’s never known? Could this be their second chance—or their final heartbreak?
“Cross my heart, this sexy, sweet romance gives a cowboy-at-heart lawyer a second chance at first love and readers a fantastic ride.” — New York Times bestselling author Jennifer Ryan
“A.J. Pine’s writing is superb.” — Romancing-the-Book.com on Six Month Rule
Owen squirmed in the wooden booth next to her. “Mo-om. I’m so hungry I think I’m going to die.”
Ava laughed, hoping her son couldn’t see through the reaction to the nerves that lay beneath. Normally she’d give him a snack in the car—a bag of goldfish crackers or one of those squeezie applesauce pouches—but she hadn’t wanted him to be full once they got to the restaurant. He needed the food to keep him from getting bored. And to keep him from being idle enough to scrutinize anything about Jack he might not want scrutinized.
“In a few minutes, bud. Promise.”
But it was five minutes to one, and Jack wasn’t here. Yet. Because of course he was coming. She hadn’t spent the whole hour mentally reassuring herself only for him not to show.
Oh shit. What if he didn’t show?
She’d chosen to sit with their backs to the door. Otherwise her eagerness to see Jack enter would get the best of her. But this only made things worse. More than once she’d attempted to casually look over her shoulder only to meet the curious eyes of several BBQ on the Bluff patrons.
“Are you two ready to order, or are you waiting on someone else?”
Ava startled as a young woman with a blond pixie bounced a pen against a pad of paper. “It’s cool if you’re still waiting. I’ve got a couple of nephews, though, probably around your little guy’s age, and all they ever do is eat. Figured he might be hungry.”
Ava smiled and turned to Owen, who gave her a pleading look.
“We are waiting for someone, but I guess it couldn’t hurt to—”
“Lily Green, since when do they let the cook out of the kitchen?”
At the sound of Jack’s voice, a warmth spread through Ava’s veins like chocolate fondue, hot and sweet and delicious. She shook her head. This was not the place to let his smooth baritone start—doing things to her.
“Since I’m short two servers this afternoon,” the other woman said with a grin. “And how about you tell me why I’ve already seen you twice in the span of four days? Luke told Tucker you’d be hightailing it out of Oak Bluff first chance you got.” She turned her attention to Ava. “My husband and Jack’s little brother, Luke, are good friends. Best friends, actually. But me and Luke? We butt heads like you wouldn’t believe. Wonder if big brother here is as difficult as the other.” She winked at Jack.
He smiled and slid into the booth across from Ava and Owen.
“Am I late?” he asked, and Ava shook her head. He glanced back at the woman with the notepad—Lily. And Ava couldn’t help the surge of relief she’d felt when the woman said husband.
“Start us off with that cornbread you sent over the other night, will ya?” Jack added. “I’ve been craving it ever since.”
Lily shoved her pen behind her ear and dropped the pad into her apron pocket. “You got it. I’ll get the rest of your order when I deliver the goods.”
Only after Lily was gone did Jack give Ava his full attention, and she had to remind herself to breathe when he looked right past her and let his eyes fall on Owen.
“Hey, bud,” he said. “You like cornbread?”
Owen narrowed his eyes at Jack—at his father—and Ava watched as the boy studied the man. Finally, her son nodded.
“Yeah, I like it,” he said, then looked back and forth between his parents. “My mom calls me that, by the way. Bud.”
She held her breath, and Jack cleared his throat. He was nervous, and Owen was already giving him the third degree. But then Jack crossed his arms and smiled. She wasn’t sure what she was expecting, but he seemed ready to take whatever Owen had to dish out.
“What should I call you, then?” Jack asked him, and Owen crossed his arms as well.
“You’re a friend of my mom’s?”
“I am,” Jack said.
“A good friend? Because if you were a good friend I think I would have heard of you before.”
Jack let out a nervous laugh while Ava seemed to ignore her earlier directive reminding herself to breathe.
“Truth is,” Jack started, “your mom and I used to be real good friends. Then I left town, and we lost touch for a while.” He turned his attention to her, his blue-eyed gaze steady and intent. And Ava’s heart stuttered like it had the first time she saw him in high school. “But I think I’d like for us to be friends again.”
Owen tilted his head toward her so that both of their gazes were fixed on hers.
“Do you wanna be friends with him again?” Owen asked.
Ava cleared her throat. “Yeah, bud. I think I do.”
Because friendship she could admit to wanting. Friendship was a start. What she wouldn’t do was hope—this early on—that it would lead to more.
Owen nodded and faced Jack again. “One more question.”
“I’m all ears,” Jack said, his lips hinting at a grin.
“Marvel or DC?”
Jack’s brows raised, and Ava bit her lip.
“And here I thought I was going to get a hard question,” Jack said. “Because the only right answer is Marvel, and the top Avenger, of course, is the first Avenger, Captain Steve Rogers.”
Owen pumped his fist in the air and shouted, “Yes! Okay, Mom. This guy’s cool. I think you two should be friends again.”
Ava’s breathing finally steadied, but she had a rising tide of emotion. Because Jack and Owen had connected. Her son had just given his own father the seal of approval. And she—well, she’d never expected this day to happen, let alone have it be a success.
“Cornbread for all my friends!” Lily said, placing a basket on the table.
The spell was broken, but a new one took hold as Owen devoured a piece before Lily even had time to leave the table. They all watched as he sank into the booth as he swallowed—satiated for the moment.
“Did he even chew that?” Lily asked.
Owen grinned and rubbed a hand over his belly. “Whatever I did, I’m gonna do it again.” He reached for piece number two, but Ava’s hand landed on his wrist before he could swipe another golden square.
“Drink something, bud. You’re gonna choke or make yourself sick if you don’t slow down.”
Jack scratched the back of his neck and squinted at Lily. “I remember my brothers saying this place had the best strawberry lemonade. You still got that?”
She shook her head, and Ava watched as Owen deflated.
“I change the menu monthly. But I’ve got a frozen strawberry limeade that’ll knock your socks off. What do you say?”
Owen perked up again. Ava smiled and lifted her shoulders. Jack slapped a palm down on the table.
“I guess that settles it,” he said. “Three strawberry limeades, and judging by this guy’s appetite, I think we’re ready to order.”
A.J. Pine writes stories to break readers’ hearts, but don’t worry-she’ll mend them with a happily ever after. As an English teacher and a librarian, A.J. has always surrounded herself with books. All her favorites have one big commonality-romance. Naturally, her own books have the same. When she’s not writing, she’s of course reading. Then there’s online shopping (everything from groceries to shoes) and a tiny bit of TV where she nourishes her undying love of vampires and superheroes. You’ll also find her hanging with her family in the Chicago ‘burbs. Learn more about this author here: http://ajpine.com
After enduring abuse at the hands of his father Jack Everett couldn't wait to leave home at the ripe age of eighteen, he was determined to leave all the hatred behind and make a new life for himself, one that he could be proud of, and earn by his own right. And now ten years later he has found that life, working as a lawyer, and doing something that he is quite proud of, but life has just handed him an unexpected blow, his father has passed away and it's on him to return to settle his affairs. So he packs a bag and heads to the one place he never wanted to return to, thinking he'll blow into town, put his father in the ground, handle some paperwork, and then be on his way. But once he is there he soon realizes it isn't going to be that easy, he has inherited a vineyard, which means there are vines to care for, chores to be done, and of course angry brothers to contend with. And a certain beautiful woman from his past with a secret to seek answers from too...
The day Jack Everett left town he took a small part of Ava Ellis's heart with him, she knows it was wrong to let him go without telling him that he was about to be a father, but she was scared and unsure of what to do, so she just let him walk away. It has been a long ten years without him in her life, but she has never stopped loving him, and seeing him in the face of their child reminds her that she made a huge mistake all those years ago... one that she has paid dearly for too. So, when she hears that he has returned home to bury his father she makes a plan to capture a little of his time and clue him in on the secret she has kept from him all these years, one that she hopes will reunite them... question is will Jack be able to forgive her for keeping it?
Second Chance Cowboy is a touching story about forgiveness, hope, and happy reunions, but not without a little drama thrown in here and there too! From the first page of this one I was pulled into the world of Everett family, quickly finding myself feeling right at home, and also quickly falling quite smitten for a certain brooding cowboy. This was a very impressive introduction to not only a new series but also a new author, Ms. Pine's beautifully crafted tale left me dazzled and anxious for more, I just can't wait to see what she has in store for this family next!! The story line was engaging, rich with heartfelt emotion, and had just the right amount of toe curling romance sprinkled in to trigger the swoons too! I highly recommend you take a chance on this one, it's a second chance romance story that is sure to have you feeling the words and leave your heart overflowing!!
I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this title.