Justice needs to start afresh someplace her abusive ex can’t find or hurt her and her son anymore. Just her luck to be stranded in Scenic Falls, Montana where, instead of being faceless people in the big city, they stick out like sore thumbs. Being so conspicuous and drawing everyone’s attention, especially that of hot cattle rancher, Hank, means they can’t stay. No matter how much it feels like home.
Hank was born, raised, and plans to die in Scenic Falls. What he doesn’t need is to obsess over the city woman who’s come to town and no doubt would soon move on. Then Justice becomes his live-in cook and bookkeeper and, despite knowing she has secrets she won’t share, Hank realizes he’ll do anything to make her stay in the small town, and with him. That is, until Justice’s past comes calling, threatening everything.
Including their lives.
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Justice studied the worn menu. What she really wanted was a nice, juicy, medium-well-done steak with a side of scrambled eggs. Her stomach groaned with just the thought of it. She saw the price, fifteen dollars. That wasn’t a lot of money, but her funds were rapidly depleting. They were still saying at the bed and breakfast and, at sixty-nine dollars a night for the past two months, had taken up a hefty chunk of her money. Luckily Abigale provided breakfast every morning and even though she wasn’t obligated to, cooked dinner every night except the weekends.
Justice also had to spend money on new clothes. Well, not new-new, but new to her. She’d gotten them from a secondhand shop for a bargain, but money was spent just the same. All in all she only had a little over three thousand dollars left.
What she needed was a job.
But a job meant setting down roots. Which meant supplying her driver’s license and social security number. Both were a way for Tyler to find her and TJ. She’d known that this was inevitable, but she was sure that the ten thousand dollars she’d taken from Tyler’s safe would’ve been enough to support her and TJ a little while longer. She’d wanted to get the extra five thousand from her own savings account but waiting until the bank opened in the morning hadn’t been an option at the time.
If she was feeling lucky, she could go to the bank here in town and withdrawal money from her account. But she wasn’t feeling that lucky. Tyler had access to her bank account and would see on the statement exactly where she’d withdrawn the money from. Nope. Not an option.
“Um, water with lemon and a side of toast please.” Her stomach grumbled in protest. Tonight was not one of the nights when Abigale cooked dinner, but she would survive until the morning.
“Water and toast?” Madeline frowned. “That’s not a healthy lunch.”
Justice stored the menus back in their spot. “I had a large breakfast. Abigale makes sure of it.”
That seemed to please Madeline, because the frown dropped from her face. “I can attest to that. Abbie sure loves to cook breakfast. That’s one of the reasons she started her B&B in the first place.” Madeline stuffed her notepad in her pocket. “And of course chocolate milk for the young man here.”
“Yes!” TJ beamed.
“TJ, don’t yell. These good people want to eat in peace and quiet.”
“He’s not bothering anyone,” came a low voice from the booth behind theirs.
That was the only invitation that TJ needed to pop up from his knees and press his stomach against the back of his seat to stare at the man. “Hi, my name is TJ.”
The man adjusted in his seat to look at TJ. “Nice to meet you, sir.” He held out a hand and shook TJ’s.
“He’s my son,” Justice interrupted.
The man tilted his head at her. He had brown hair, with streaks of blond, curling around his ears. Dark-green eyes that seemed to smile. Full lips and stubble around his mouth and chin and on his cheeks gave him that rustic look. Like everyone else in this town, there was a little twang to his accent. And when he smiled at TJ, two dimples appeared in his cheeks.
“Hank, do you need anything else?” Madeline asked him.
Hank released TJ’s hand. “Nope. I’m good. I’m about to head back to work. Been gone long enough now.”
Madeline let out a snort and walked away.
“TJ, turn back around. Let the nice man finish his meal,” Justice said.
“He’s fine,” Hank said. “Not bothering anyone.”
Justice could’ve kept her gaze on Hank forever, but she lowered her eyes. That didn’t matter because his image seemed as though it was burned within her mind.
“I’m getting chicken nuggets,” TJ explained.
“So I heard. You like them, huh?”
“Mm mm mm.” TJ said, while rubbing his stomach.
“That’s enough now.” Justice said. Even though he’d said TJ wasn’t bothering anyone, Justice wanted him to mind his business just the same. TJ liked to talk to everyone about everything and before he started talking about his father and Brooklyn, Justice wanted him to stop. “Turn around and sit.” She reached into her bag to retrieve the coloring book and crayons that she’d gotten used to keeping on her.
“Ma’am, I said—”
“I know what you said. But it’s still rude.” She placed the items on the table and TJ turned and sat. Justice blew out a silent breath. TJ liked to talk, but he liked to color even more.
Hank got up from his seat with a red cap in hand. Justice tried not to look at his face. She talked about rudeness, but she really had been the rude one. He hadn’t done anything to her and her tone had been less than friendly.
“Good bye, little man,” he said. “And have a nice day, Miss.”
She still didn’t look at him. Guilt made her look at his booted feet. “You too.”
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A. M. Griffin is a wife who rarely cooks, mother of three, dog owner (and sometimes dog owned), a daughter, sister, aunt and friend. She’s a hard worker whose two favorite outlets are reading and writing. She enjoys reading everything from mystery novels to historical romances and of course fantasy romance. She is a believer in the unbelievable, open to all possibilities from mermaids in our oceans and seas, angels in the skies and intelligent life forms in distant galaxies.
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