Title: The Cowboy’s Twin Surprise
Author: K. T. Byington
Genre: Sweet Contemporary Romance
When a little surprise changes her life, Jessie McKinnon has less than nine months to figure it out. A job at Chase Tanner’s ranch seems like a good short-term fix until she can get herself settled elsewhere, hopefully before she even begins to show.
Left to care for his abandoned twin baby nieces, Chase can’t believe his luck when Jessie offers hope of reining in the chaos his life has become. There’s only one problem—the feisty redhead from his past has the potential to break his heart all over again.
Jessie McKinnon stepped inside the employment agency and let the heavy door fall shut behind her, glad for refuge from the bone-chilling cold. She ran her fingers through tousled curls and glanced at her watch. Nine o’clock. “Right on time.”
Tugging her long, navy coat closer, she settled into a seat as a voice that sounded oddly familiar caught her attention. A tall, broad-shouldered man stood by the front desk, speaking to an agency receptionist in a quiet but insistent tone. She cocked her head to one side, straining to hear the conversation.
From the back, she thought it could be him. His usual cowboy hat was missing, but the long, lean frame, dark hair, faded jeans, and scuffed boots with bits of mud clinging to them easily fit her memory. Typical Chase Tanner. But there was something—no, two things—making it very unlikely. Namely, a little girl with blonde curls peeking over his left shoulder and a second fair-haired cutie clinging to his leg who appeared to be mere moments away from a full-fledged meltdown. Twins, barely old enough to walk.
No way would the fella she grew up with have allowed himself to be found in a situation like this. He was not the marrying kind, much less a family man. Whoever this guy was, buried in domestic responsibility, he could not be the man she remembered. Besides, why would a fourth-generation Montana rancher be standing in the middle of the local employment agency on a freezing January morning when there must be cattle, horses, and a million other things to tend to back at the homestead?
She winked at the happier of the two toddlers and the little girl flashed a grin before burying her face in the man’s shoulder. He turned around just as the other child burst into a wailing cry. The grimace that momentarily crossed the poor dad’s face tugged at her heart…so did those unmistakable slate blue eyes.
“Chase? How are you?” She blurted out the words. And then wished she hadn’t. How was he? How did he look? Miserable. Trapped. As though if there were any way out of his predicament, he would have taken it. Gladly.
“Jessie McKinnon? I didn’t know you were back in town.” He switched the one-year-olds, placing the mellower of the twins on the floor at his feet, and scooping up the weeping child. “Shhh, baby girl. You’ll be okay.” He brushed a soothing kiss against the top of the child's head. “What are you doing here?”
“Checking to see if the agency has found anything for me yet.”
Tears kept flowing as the toddler in his arms grew louder and more restless. That tired, don’t-know-what-to-do look had replaced his usual air of self-confidence from days gone by. “Hey, Jess, you grew up in a large family. Part of the McKinnon Mob, right? Any good with crying kids?”
She flinched at his words, an ugly reminder of childhood taunts. Being called part of a mob had never appealed to her. Painful remembrances from school days should have a statute of limitations on them. She was somewhat surprised to find, deep in her heart, they did not.
Trying to ignore the hurtful memory, she focused on a distressed little girl and reached for the child, who, amazingly, was also reaching for her with tiny outstretched arms. “C’mere, sweetie pie.”
He handed over the weeping bundle. “That’s D.J.” Leaning down, he gathered up the other child. “This is her twin sister, P.J.”
Jessie wrinkled her nose as she enveloped the crying little one in comforting arms. D.J. and P.J.? “Those initials make them sound like they’re in middle school. But you’re no more than babies, are you, sugar?” She spoke softly to the child whose crying faded to a whimper in the midst of all the affection.
“Meet Daisy Jane.” He nodded toward the toddler quieting in Jessie’s arms.
“Ahh...very girlie. I like it.”
Then he ruffled short blonde curls on her twin. “And this is Poppy Jo, the more optimistic of the two, at the moment.”
“Another pretty name.” She gently brushed messy ringlets from Poppy’s warm forehead.
“I can’t believe it.” He shoved fingers through his dark hair in frustration as he stared at them. “She’s been crying off and on for hours. But Daisy calmed right down for you. What’s your secret?”
“A woman’s touch. Maybe she’s just missing her mama,” she added casually, like she wasn’t dying to know who the mama of these twins actually was. She couldn’t even hazard a guess. A good-looking and charismatic man like Chase must have married a beauty queen. Or, perhaps, he’d landed the dazzling daughter of some wealthy rancher, who came with an attractive inheritance package. This guy didn’t do anything without a motive. She was convinced of it.
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K. T. has worked as a legal assistant and probate paralegal. She enjoys cooking and baking, including preparing some of the scrumptious recipes that Housekeeper Birdie served up in this story. She also loves vacations at the beach, dining out, watching old movies, and, of course, writing more stories.
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Amazon Author Central: https://www.amazon.com/author/ktbyington