Its March! That means a new #CowboyOfTheMonth 🙂 For March, we have Jack from Second Chance Cowboy by AJ Pine!
Once a cowboy, always a cowboy
Ten years ago, Jack Everett left his family’s ranch without a backward glance. Now, what was supposed to be a quick trip home for his father’s funeral has suddenly become more complicated. The ranch Jack can handle—he might be a lawyer, but he still remembers how to work with his hands. But turning around the failing vineyard he’s also inherited? That requires working with the one woman he never expected to see again.
Ava Ellis broke her own heart the night she let Jack go. She was young and scared—and secretly pregnant with Jack’s baby. Now that he’s back and asking for her help, Ava sees her opportunity to right the wrongs of the past. But how will he feel about the son he’s never known? Could this be their second chance—or their final heartbreak?
From Second Chance Cowboy by AJ Pine
Owen squirmed in the wooden booth next to her. “Mo-om. I’m so hungry I think I’m going to die.”
Ava laughed, hoping her son couldn’t see through the reaction to the nerves that lay beneath. Normally she’d give him a snack in the car—a bag of goldfish crackers or one of those squeezie applesauce pouches—but she hadn’t wanted him to be full once they got to the restaurant. He needed the food to keep him from getting bored. And to keep him from being idle enough to scrutinize anything about Jack he might not want scrutinized.
“In a few minutes, bud. Promise.”
But it was five minutes to one, and Jack wasn’t here. Yet. Because of course he was coming. She hadn’t spent the whole hour mentally reassuring herself only for him not to show.
Oh shit. What if he didn’t show?
She’d chosen to sit with their backs to the door. Otherwise her eagerness to see Jack enter would get the best of her. But this only made things worse. More than once she’d attempted to casually look over her shoulder only to meet the curious eyes of several BBQ on the Bluff patrons.
“Are you two ready to order, or are you waiting on someone else?”
Ava startled as a young woman with a blond pixie bounced a pen against a pad of paper. “It’s cool if you’re still waiting. I’ve got a couple of nephews, though, probably around your little guy’s age, and all they ever do is eat. Figured he might be hungry.”
Ava smiled and turned to Owen, who gave her a pleading look.
“We are waiting for someone, but I guess it couldn’t hurt to—”
“Lily Green, since when do they let the cook out of the kitchen?”
At the sound of Jack’s voice, a warmth spread through Ava’s veins like chocolate fondue, hot and sweet and delicious. She shook her head. This was not the place to let his smooth baritone start—doing things to her.
“Since I’m short two servers this afternoon,” the other woman said with a grin. “And how about you tell me why I’ve already seen you twice in the span of four days? Luke told Tucker you’d be hightailing it out of Oak Bluff first chance you got.” She turned her attention to Ava. “My husband and Jack’s little brother, Luke, are good friends. Best friends, actually. But me and Luke? We butt heads like you wouldn’t believe. Wonder if big brother here is as difficult as the other.” She winked at Jack.
He smiled and slid into the booth across from Ava and Owen.
“Am I late?” he asked, and Ava shook her head. He glanced back at the woman with the notepad—Lily. And Ava couldn’t help the surge of relief she’d felt when the woman said husband.
“Start us off with that cornbread you sent over the other night, will ya?” Jack added. “I’ve been craving it ever since.”
Lily shoved her pen behind her ear and dropped the pad into her apron pocket. “You got it. I’ll get the rest of your order when I deliver the goods.”
Only after Lily was gone did Jack give Ava his full attention, and she had to remind herself to breathe when he looked right past her and let his eyes fall on Owen.
“Hey, bud,” he said. “You like cornbread?”
Owen narrowed his eyes at Jack—at his father—and Ava watched as the boy studied the man. Finally, her son nodded.
“Yeah, I like it,” he said, then looked back and forth between his parents. “My mom calls me that, by the way. Bud.”
She held her breath, and Jack cleared his throat. He was nervous, and Owen was already giving him the third degree. But then Jack crossed his arms and smiled. She wasn’t sure what she was expecting, but he seemed ready to take whatever Owen had to dish out.
“What should I call you, then?” Jack asked him, and Owen crossed his arms as well.
“You’re a friend of my mom’s?”
“I am,” Jack said.
“A good friend? Because if you were a good friend I think I would have heard of you before.”
Jack let out a nervous laugh while Ava seemed to ignore her earlier directive reminding herself to breathe.
“Truth is,” Jack started, “your mom and I used to be real good friends. Then I left town, and we lost touch for a while.” He turned his attention to her, his blue-eyed gaze steady and intent. And Ava’s heart stuttered like it had the first time she saw him in high school. “But I think I’d like for us to be friends again.”
Owen tilted his head toward her so that both of their gazes were fixed on hers.
“Do you wanna be friends with him again?” Owen asked.
Ava cleared her throat. “Yeah, bud. I think I do.”
Because friendship she could admit to wanting. Friendship was a start. What she wouldn’t do was hope—this early on—that it would lead to more.
Owen nodded and faced Jack again. “One more question.”
“I’m all ears,” Jack said, his lips hinting at a grin.
“Marvel or DC?”
Jack’s brows raised, and Ava bit her lip.
“And here I thought I was going to get a hard question,” Jack said. “Because the only right answer is Marvel, and the top Avenger, of course, is the first Avenger, Captain Steve Rogers.”
Owen pumped his fist in the air and shouted, “Yes! Okay, Mom. This guy’s cool. I think you two should be friends again.”
Ava’s breathing finally steadied, but she had a rising tide of emotion. Because Jack and Owen had connected. Her son had just given his own father the seal of approval. And she—well, she’d never expected this day to happen, let alone have it be a success.
“Cornbread for all my friends!” Lily said, placing a basket on the table.
The spell was broken, but a new one took hold as Owen devoured a piece before Lily even had time to leave the table. They all watched as he sank into the booth as he swallowed—satiated for the moment.
“Did he even chew that?” Lily asked.
Owen grinned and rubbed a hand over his belly. “Whatever I did, I’m gonna do it again.” He reached for piece number two, but Ava’s hand landed on his wrist before he could swipe another golden square.
“Drink something, bud. You’re gonna choke or make yourself sick if you don’t slow down.”
Jack scratched the back of his neck and squinted at Lily. “I remember my brothers saying this place had the best strawberry lemonade. You still got that?”
She shook her head, and Ava watched as Owen deflated.
“I change the menu monthly. But I’ve got a frozen strawberry limeade that’ll knock your socks off. What do you say?”
Owen perked up again. Ava smiled and lifted her shoulders. Jack slapped a palm down on the table.
“I guess that settles it,” he said. “Three strawberry limeades, and judging by this guy’s appetite, I think we’re ready to order.”
I do love me some cowboys!!! They are my favorites to read.