Title: The Cowboy’s Miracle
Author: Penelope Marzec
Genre: Christian Romance
Despite rodeo star fame and a veterinarian license, Seth Holmes is a social outcast because his father bilked investors out of millions. Among his father's papers, he discovers a photograph of his grandparents' farm in New Jersey. Seth never knew he had relatives. He sets out to find the farm, hoping to leave behind the angry investors seeking revenge.
Gabriella Cavallo runs a farm with alpacas, a greenhouse, and a carriage house, which is rented for events. Her godparents took her in when her parents died, but now her godmother is in the nursing home. She's skeptical when Seth arrives at the door claiming to be her godmother's grandson, but he bears a strong resemblance to photos of his father. Then someone targets the alpacas by trying to poison the animals. Seth pitches in and soon wins Gabriella's trust.
But Seth begins to suspect the bilked investors have found him—and this time they're targeting Gabriella as well.
The door opened and Seth blinked in shock. A young woman with long, curly, coal-black hair and hazel eyes smiled at him.
“You must be the vet.” She reached over to an oak coatrack and slipped into her jacket.
“Yes, ma’am. I’m a veterinarian, but—”
“I’m so glad you’re here. I’m terribly concerned about Harley.” She stepped onto the porch and closed the door.
“ʻCall the vet,ʼ he said.” She laughed. “Of course, he didn’t say that exactly, but he meant it.” She hurried down the steps. “Come along. I know it’s the day after Thanksgiving, but our regular doctor is out of town—as is everyone else in the county it seems—and I had to do something. Harley was very insistent.”
“Yes, ma’am, but where’s Mrs. Holmes?”
“In the nursing home, as usual. I visited with her earlier and she’s doing fine, all things considered, but Harley’s the problem right now. He’s not himself. I’m so worried—”
“Ma’am, is Harley Mr. Holmes?” He barely comprehended her. She spoke rapidly, without a breath between any of her words as he hobbled along in her wake.
She halted for a moment and peered at him as if he possessed a substantial mental deficit. “Why, no. Harley is one of the alpacas. I believe I mentioned that detail when I left the message on the phone, though it is possible I forgot, I was—after all—a bit upset since no one would come out here and examine him. Mrs. Holmes loves the alpacas. I still bring them around to the nursing home on fine days and it cheers her more than you can imagine—calms her, too. Sometimes, she’s almost lucid when she touches their soft fleece.”
His heart sank. Was his grandmother suffering from dementia? “Is Mr. Holmes here?”
“Oh, I’m sorry. Didn’t you hear? Dr. Holmes died three years ago.”
Doctor? Seth swallowed. “He’s...he’s gone?”
“Yes, a massive heart attack. It was so...sudden...” She took in a ragged breath before continuing. “He was the mayor for some time and practically a celebrity in these parts, though it doesn’t take much to be famous in Greenburg. Was he your professor? So many of his former students drop by on occasion. He’s still remembered fondly by many of them.”
“I went to college in Colorado. What did he teach?”
“English. Oh, how he loved Shakespeare,” she exclaimed. “To thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.”
A cold chill slid up Seth’s spine. His father often used that quote—mostly because it invariably impressed folks. He realized he discovered a link, though tenuous, but at least one thing made sense.
“It’s a shame you never met him,” she went on. “He was truly loved by one and all. His death broke his wife’s heart and now she’s living in the past—or somewhere, certainly not in the real world, but I guess it’s far too painful for her without him.”
When she lifted the latch to the gate, Seth noticed her disfigured hands. The mottled and uneven surface seemed indicative of scars remaining from a horrible burn and resulting skin grafts. He shuddered to think of the pain she endured.
They reached a small enclosure beside the large barn. “Harley’s inside. The other three appear to be a bit sluggish as well but Harley’s the male, as you may have guessed, and—”
“Ma’am, I must explain something to you—”
She frowned at him. “Don’t tell me you’re one of those holistic vets? I won’t allow anyone but a real doctor to examine Harley. He’s quite precious and I insist upon only a genuine vet having a look at him.”
“Ma’am, I am a certified veterinarian, but I didn’t come to see Harley. I came to call upon either Mr. or Mrs. Holmes. I’m their grandson, Seth Holmes.”
Her brows rose in shock. “They don’t have a grandson. Well, they had a son, but he ran away—”
“My father left New Jersey, married my mother, and I came along shortly thereafter.”
She crossed her arms and glared at him. “Can you prove it?”
“I have the birth certificates...and this photograph.” He took it out of his pocket and held it out to her.
She didn’t take the photo but she peered at it carefully. “That looks like—”
“I resemble my father.” Physically, he noted to himself. Fortunately, he never had a tendency to get involved in crazy schemes as his father had. Traveling east to discover the grandparents he never knew was more of a genealogical study—and practical, to save his own skin. Not that he was a coward. He just didn’t want anyone else getting caught in the crossfire.
He turned the picture over to show her the handwriting on the reverse side.
She frowned at it. “This doesn’t prove anything,” she stated.
“It led me here.” A weight settled on his shoulders. Had it been a wasted trip?
“Are you really a vet?”
“Do you want to see my credentials?”
Her lips thinned, but only for a moment. “Well, you’re aware I’m desperate and Harley needs help. If you think you may be of any service, please examine him. I’ll pay you double.” She stood stiff and formidable as she blocked his exit at the gate.
Seth sighed. Extra cash would be helpful. If he examined the alpaca, he might be able to gain additional information about his grandparents. He was also curious regarding this voluble woman. Who was she and what she was doing on the Holmes’ farm? Had she purchased it? Was she a relative of his—a cousin, perhaps?
His own heritage remained a mystery since his father never revealed it, other than to quote Shakespeare. Frailty, thy name is woman!
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Share a holiday family tradition:
Every year for Christmas, I’ve made Cape Cod Cranberry Pie. It’s a quick recipe, but very tasty and everyone loves it. I originally discovered the recipe in my New York Times Heritage Cook Book, but the recipe can now be found easily online. 2 cups cranberries 1 1/2 cups sugar 1/2 cup chopped nuts 2 eggs 1 cup flour 1/2 cup melted butter 1/4 cup canola oil 1. Preheat oven to 325F. 2. Spread the cranberries in the bottom of a well-greased ten-inch pie plate. 3. Sprinkle with one-half cup of the sugar and the nuts. 4. Add the remaining sugar to the eggs, beating well. Beat in the flour, butter, and shortening. Pour over the cranberries. 5. Bake about 1 hour, or until the crust is golden brown. The pie goes fast--so you better make two of them. :^)
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This is a story about finding family and home. The holidays are the perfect time to remember those we hold dear. For everyone who holds fast to their roots, this sweet tale of love and promise will be a treat.
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Runs December 1 – 31
Drawing will be held on January 4.
Penelope Marzec grew up along the Jersey shore. She started reading romances at a young age and fell hopelessly in love with happy endings. Two of her inspirational romances won EPIC’s eBook Award and another was a finalist in that contest. Her paranormal, Irons in the Fire, was a nominee for a Romantic Times Reviewers Choice award. Visit her website at penelopemarzec.com for more information.
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