The Cowboy's Christmas Baby

By: Cathy McDavid

She gifted him with a daughter

He stunned her with the truth

When Tanner Bridwell discovers he’s a father, he gains some much needed hope. A year ago, Tanner lost his livelihood as a champion bull rider, and—more important—Jewel Saunders, the love of his life. Now this cowboy wants to do right by his family. But first he must reveal a stunning secret that will send Jewel and his beloved daughter either packing...or into his arms forever!

“Before you leave, can I hold Ava?”

Jewel couldn’t have looked more startled if he’d demanded full custody. “She, uh, doesn’t like strangers.”

Strangers. Tanner hated the sound of that.

“Just for a minute,” he said.

They squared off in silence, Jewel reluctant and Tanner insistent.

“I’ve held babies before. Daniel’s two kids.”

She swallowed. Finally, she scooted closer and lifted Ava, depositing her in Tanner’s lap. “She’s going to cry.”

And when that happened, Jewel was taking her back. She didn’t have to say it, her message was crystal clear.

The wiggly weight on Tanner’s lap felt odd at first. Remembering his sister-in-law’s instructions, he nestled Ava in the crook of his arm, making sure to support her head.

All at once she lifted her head to peer up at him, and Tanner’s breath caught.

“Hi there.” A huge smile spread across his face.

Ava peered at him owl eyed, and then her small mouth opened into a silly toothless grin.

 Dear Reader,

I’m very excited to bring you book three in my Sweetheart Ranch series, The Cowboy’s Christmas Baby. This wasn’t the easiest book for me to write. Jewel and Tanner face some difficult and heart-wrenching problems. While they love each other and want to spend their lives together raising their beautiful daughter, whichever way they turn, someone is going to get hurt. It was a real challenge for me to create a believable way for them to navigate this nearly impossible situation and find their happily-ever-after.

But at a place called Sweetheart Ranch, how is a happy ending not possible? I admit, I came up with the idea of a Western-themed wedding ranch a few years ago when I was looking for a venue to host my own wedding. I melded a Victorian wedding house I found with a cowboy ranch I once stayed at, and Sweetheart Ranch was born. I think if my life hadn’t taken the path it did, I could see myself owning and managing a place just like this. What could be more fun and rewarding than helping couples celebrate the best day of their lives? Only one thing I can think of, mixing it with the holidays—the best season of the year.

Warmest wishes,

Cathy McDavid


THE HORSE TUCKED in so close to the barrel and at such a severe angle it was a wonder the rider didn’t topple off.

Watching the practice run from the arena fence, Jewel Saunders held her breath as the rider spurred her horse into a gallop for the last stretch. She imagined herself in the rider’s place, leaning forward over the saddle horn, heart pounding, the wind whipping her face, and all the while silently urging the horse to give every ounce of speed it possessed.

She’d been this rider once and on her way to a potential world championship at the National Finals Rodeo. But that was a year ago, before her life had drastically changed and the worst thing imaginable happened to her—followed by the best thing.

At the same moment the rider galloped across the electronic timer’s invisible line, Ava awoke and let out an unhappy wail. Blinking herself back to reality, Jewel leaned over the stroller and lovingly stroked her four-month-old daughter’s cheek.

“Shh. It’s okay.”

Ava wasn’t soothed. Jewel took hold of the handle and gently rocked the stroller. That sometimes did the trick, lulling Ava back to sleep. Not today, however, and her crying intensified.

Jewel removed her phone from a side pocket of the diaper bag stowed in the nylon sling beneath the stroller. For convenience’s sake, she’d quit carrying a purse and transferred everything into the diaper bag. That was the day she’d realized her entire existence revolved around being a mother.

It was also when she’d started thinking seriously about a career direction, either returning to barrel racing or expanding her paying photography hobby into a full-fledged business. Now it was early December, and she was finally taking steps toward making a decision.

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