Author: Karen Michelle Nutt
Genre: Western Romance
Sheriff Jace Kelly's wife died birthing his remarkable daughter, Emma. She inherited the families' seer abilities. At six years old, she can't tell the difference between a vision and an ordinary dream. So Jace doesn't put much faith in Emma's recent premonition: marriage for him and a new mother for her. When JoBeth Riley arrives, Emma is convinced she's the woman in her dream: dark hair, green eyes, and shamrocks in her pocket. There's one problem – she's the notorious outlaw, Baby Face Jo. Her stay in town is meant to keep Shane Maverick, the leader of the outlaw gang, from finding her before the authorities devise a plan to capture him. JoBeth finds the Kellys a strange lot. A little girl, who believes her dreams are tales of the future and the rugged sheriff whose kindness proves a distraction. She's an outlaw, for heaven's sake, but Jace is bound and determined to steal her heart.
JoBeth leaned against the wall of the jail, stretching out her weary limbs on the cot. For the first time in ages, she didn't fear for her life. Jace Kelly may be a sheriff, but he proved a man of honor. She couldn't remember the last time anyone addressed her as a lady. She snorted with amusement. Do I call you Miss Maverick or is it Misses? God, the man was too polite for his own good. Nice on the eyes, too, with his sandy colored strands draped over his ears from lack of a trim. Blue-gray eyes looked at her with curiosity and not disdain. He stood perhaps six feet or close to it with a build that told her he didn't sit behind his desk all day. She wondered if the good sheriff had a wife tucked away at home. Seemed like all the polite men did. They were snatched off the market the moment they were available.
"Papa, Papa." A little cherub, in the lovely form of a child came traipsing through the door. Her blonde braided-ponytails bobbed behind her like a flag. She flew into Sheriff Jace Kelly's outstretched arms.
"Hello darlin'." His large arms encircled the little girl with affection. "Where's Mrs. Gunthry?"
"Oh, you know how her old bones don't move so fast. She's right behind me, only not so close 'cause I ran." Her lips curved into a bright toothless grin.
So the good sheriff was married after all. A stab of disappointment wormed its way into her heart before she managed to shut down the foolish notion of wishing the sheriff had no wife to warm his bed. So what if he was married? Had a little girl, too. She was cute as a button with rosy cheeks and big blue eyes, a brighter blue than her father's. As if the little girl sensed someone staring at her, she turned. Her gaze landed on JoBeth with curiosity before those baby blues widened in surprise.
She tilted her head to the side then squealed in delight, clapping her hands together as if someone presented her with a wondrous gift. "She's here. She's really here."
JoBeth's brows drew together. She turned to look beside her, half expecting someone to be standing next to the cot. Her gaze fastened onto the little girl once more with a frown.
"Now, Emma, don't be making this out to be something it's not," her father gently told her.
Emma's hand went to her mouth, cupping it as if she were going to whisper, but her voice rang clear as day. "She has dark hair and green eyes. Didn't you notice?"
JoBeth studied Jace's reaction to his daughter's bold statement and, by damn, he turned two shades of red. Strange, but she couldn't help being a tad bit intrigued. She glanced at Emma again. Who did the child think she was?
"That's quite enough, Emma. We'll talk about this later."
"But she's my Christmas present." Her hands flew to her waist and she stomped her foot with indignation.
JoBeth's brows rose on their own accord. A Christmas present? Now this she had to hear. Surely the good sheriff didn't offer up prisoners as some sort of perverse entertainment for the child.
"I tell you, Emma Kelly..." An older woman with gray hair and a round figure strolled into the office with a purpose. "You're faster than anyone I know," she added. "You can't be bothering your Papa at work." Waving her hand in front of her face, she drew in a breath and let it out again. Poor woman probably had her hands full if she had to contend on a daily basis with the little cherub, while the sheriff conducted his civic duties.
"Oh, he don't mind. Do you, Papa?" She looked up at him with her baby blues.
Good Lord, JoBeth thought. Even she'd be hard press not to fall for the sweet-as-pie expression the child gave her father.
"No, I don't mind, darlin'." He patted her head. His lips curved into a smile, but his eyes said it all. He loved his little girl.
"See." Emma faced the older woman again. "He don't mind." Now she leaned close to Mrs. Gunthry as if to tell her a secret, but obviously no one explained the art of whispering. "Did you see? She's here."
"Who's here?" Mrs. Gunthry asked, glancing at the sheriff for the explanation.
"No one," the sheriff insisted, his skin still sporting a nice crimson color.
The child simply would not take the hint. "My mama, she's here." Emma turned her gaze on JoBeth and pointed.
JoBeth thought the sheriff would have liked to hide under his wood carved desk, but the man apparently didn't hightail it at the first sign of trouble. His gaze wavered over to her with an apologetic shrug.
JoBeth chuckled, enjoying the sheriff's discomfort. "Please do tell, Sheriff. Why would such a sweet angel think I'm her mother?" Her fingers feathered down her dirt-worn threads. She hadn't heard a good story in a long time and this one ought to be good.
Mrs. Gunthry appeared uncomfortable with the conversation or, at the very least, her apprehension stemmed from the child believing her mother stood behind bars. Either way the effect proved the same. Mrs. Gunthry reached for the child and drew her close to her bosom.
JoBeth couldn't help herself. She laughed even harder until tears stung her eyes and her side ached. Goodness, it felt good to laugh. It had been a long time. Too long. If she'd known being behind bars would prove such a hoot, she would have turned herself in a long time ago. "My, my, do you think I can slink through the bars here and steal the child away?"
Emma shrugged out of Mrs. Gunthry's arms. "Can you truly slink through bars?" Her eyes widened with awe. "'Cause that would be somethin' to see."
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What I love most about the holiday season:
Family, Christmas music, and decorations! I love decorating the house with festive lights, themed Christmas trees with ornaments we've collected throughout the years. My family gathers at my mother's house for Christmas dinner. I love the scent of hot apple cider and delectable food set out on the table. One of our family traditions passed down from generation to generation: My mother makes a yummy Italian dumpling dish.
Why is your featured book a must-read to get you in the holiday mood?
WANTED is about second chances and just a wee bit Christmas magic.
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Karen Michelle Nutt resides in California with her husband. Though her three children are grown and starting their own adventures, she still has a houseful of demanding pets. Jack, her Chorkie, is her writing buddy and sits long hours with her at the computer.
When she's not time traveling, fighting outlaws, or otherworldly creatures, she creates book covers at Gillian's Book Covers, "Judge Your Book By Its Cover".
Whether your reading fancy is paranormal, time travel or contemporary romances, all her stories capture the rich array of emotions that ac