Conservative businessman Jake Braddock had a heart that was all cowboy--and closely guarded. Following his stepmother's death, he learned he'd be sharing custody of his five-year-old half sister with a sexy dancer--not his notion of the ideal mommy.
Chloe Haskell had barely begun playing mother to little Brianna when she found herself at odds with stuffy Jake, who seemed determined to fight her at every turn. But the long-legged beauty soon got under the Texan's skin in more ways than he cared to admit. Now Jake had to decide whether he was ready to let Chloe into his heart--and help him build the family he'd always wanted....
There are no customer reviews available at this time. Would you like to write a review?
May 31, 2007
Number of Print Pages*
Adobe DRM EPUB
* Number of eBook pages may differ. Click here for more information.
Excerpt from The Cowboy's Lullaby by Judy Duarte
Jake Braddock was nursing a Monday-morning hangover and brewing a pot of coffee when the call came in, telling him that his stepmother, Desiree, had passed away.
"What do you mean she passed away?" he asked the hospital spokeswoman. Desiree hadn't even reached her fortieth birthday. "What happened?"
"Officially the cause of death was pneumonia. But it was cancer related."
Jake pulled out the black-and-chrome bar stool nearest to the phone line and took a seat, raking a hand through his hair. He cursed the throbbing in his head, which was now pounding like a son of a gun. "I didn't know she was sick," he muttered. Not really. Well, not that sick.
A week or so ago, when she'd returned from San Diego for the last time, Jake had taken a good hard look at her and noticed dark circles under her eyes and a wan complexion. When he'd suggested she see a doctor, she'd said not to worry, that she was under medical care.
he'd suspected she was ill, but he hadn't had any idea that her condition was terminal.
"I, uh..." He stumbled over an explanation. "She and I...weren't very close."
Apparently not, the silence seemed to say.
He cleared his throat, hoping to clear his head, as well. "Let's start over. I knew she was sick, but she never mentioned cancer."
Or told him that she was dying. "I'm sorry for your loss," the woman said. "Mrs. Braddock made all of her arrangements, so there isn't anything for you to do. I'm just following hospital protocol by notifying the next of kin."
"Then, I guess, that's me."
"And Chloe Haskell in San Diego."
Jake stiffened. "Who the hell is Chloe Haskell?"
"I don't know, sir. Mrs. Braddock listed the two of you as her next of kin."
"What about her daughter?" he asked.
"Would that be Ms. Haskell?"
"No, it wouldn't." Well, hell. Maybe it was. He supposed Desiree could have another child. Older, maybe. Grown. Like him. He hadn't really known his stepmother that well, other than the fact she'd been a topless dancer before marrying his old man.
Either way, now he'd have to tell Brianna, his nearly five-year-old half sister, that her mommy had died. Of course, he'd have to find her first. Desiree had been traveling back and forth to San Diego for the past couple of months, but last week she'd returned to Dallas without the child.
And that was odd.
Jake might have issues with Desiree about a lot of things, but he'd come to realize she was a devoted mother. At least, that had been his opinion before she'd left Brianna in San Diego.
When he'd questioned her about it, she'd said, "Brianna is staying with a dear friend. She's happy and well cared for."
Jake didn't know much about his stepmother's friends, although he suspected they all worked at the same San Diego strip club Desiree used to manage, so he had good reason to feel uneasy.
Maybe Brianna was with Chloe--whoever she was. "There's no one else on my contact list," the spokeswoman said. "Just you and Miss Haskell, whom I've already called."
The hospital had notified someone other than Jake first?
He cursed, although he wasn't sure whether it was at the news he'd just heard or the hammering in his head and the bile swirling in his gut. "I'm sorry," the woman on the line said. "Is there someone I can call for you? Perhaps a grief counselor from hospice?"