The Texan's Secret Daughter

By: Jolene Navarro

Can this rancher make up for his past?

A Cowboys of Diamondback Ranch romance

Turning his life around was the hardest thing Elijah De La Rosa ever had to do—until his ex-wife, Jazmine Daniels, returns with their young daughter he didn’t know existed. Now this successful rancher will do anything to be a good father. But can he forgive himself for the past...and turn their second chance into a family for always?

“You’re Rosemarie, right?” Elijah asked.

The little girl nodded, moving toward her mother one slow, agonizing step at a time. She eyed him as if he was a coiled rattlesnake. Her hand stayed on the railing. The wall behind her was covered with photos.

Sweat broke out across Elijah’s body.

His daughter was five. The family had to hate that their only surviving child had married an alcoholic. He had a lot to prove, but first he wanted to see his daughter smile. He lowered himself to a crouch so he wouldn’t tower over her.

Finally, she made it to her mother’s side and wrapped an arm around Jazmine’s jean-clad leg.

“Hi, Rosemarie.” He tried again, making sure to give her an easy smile. “I’m...” Your dad, father, daddy. Each word clogged his throat. None of them sounded right. “I’m so happy to meet you.”

“You’re my daddy, right?” Her tiny, bow-shaped lips twisted to the side.

He couldn’t breathe for a minute. “I am.”

Chapter One

No. That couldn’t be him.

Jazmine Daniels stood in the doorway of the food bank. The bags loaded with canned goods cut into her fingers, but she couldn’t move. She understood now why deer froze in the middle of the road.

Walk in, turn around, run, hide.

The options tumbled over each other in her brain, confusing her body and making it impossible to pick one.

Elijah De La Rosa. It had been over six years since she’d seen her husband. Ex-husband.

His hair was a little longer and there was more red tangled in the dark strands, as though he’d spent a lot of time outdoors. He looked older, his skin weathered in a good way. A small groan formed in the back of her throat. How was it possible that he was even better looking now than the day she had first seen him? Not fair.

He laughed at something one of his companions said, and she forced herself to look away. Her mother and daughter would be following her any minute. She needed to leave before that happened.

Her eyes scanned the large open room for a fast escape. Colorful carved starfish hung on the walls while windows flooded the dining area with friendly sunlight. About twenty-five people gathered around the long tables, eating the lunch that the local mission provided to the homeless and needy.

Homeless? Her stomach plunged. He couldn’t be homeless, but why else would he be here? The drinking must’ve gotten worse after she left. Had his family refused to help him or had he refused to accept their help?

His pride had always been bigger than his common sense. Not that she had blamed him. Her heart had wanted to fix all his hurts, but she hadn’t been enough.

She shook her head and bit hard against the remorse. No. Her actions kept her and her daughter safe. That had to stay at the forefront of her brain.

The good times wanted to sneak in and melt her heart for the boy she had loved with every fiber of her being. That boy was long gone.

This was the reason her mother had told her to stay away from their beach home. Both of her parents had agreed that any kind of contact was dangerous for her. They had handled everything needed for the divorce.

She hadn’t seen him again, only his signature on the papers that broke the vows they had made to each other.

No, he had broken those vows. She glanced down at the ugly white scar running from her palm to the underside of her wrist. It had been caused by her own careless mistake, but it was a was a tangible reminder of that night.

The night she had come face-to-face with the ugly truth of his self-destruction.

He had never hurt her, physically or emotionally, but his hatred of the world leaked into all his actions.

When her heart’s memory failed her, one glance at the mark reinforced why she had left. He had refused her help and closed her out.

Her daughter’s safety had been her priority. So, she had run from him without saying a word about the pregnancy.

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