The Rancher's Redemption

By: Kate Pearce

DANCING WITH THE RANCHER

“Would you like to dance?” He nodded in the direction of the dance floor.

“You don’t dance,” Lizzie said. “You never did.”

“I think I can manage this one.” He tugged on her hand and pulled her gently into his arms. “I’ll try not to step on your toes.”

She laughed, and wrapped her arms around his neck, aligning herself against him, her head fitting nicely against his shoulder. He let out a long sigh as his body recognized hers and flowed to close the gap between them. The actual song made no impression on him because he was too busy enjoying having Lizzie in his arms. She felt right there—as if suddenly all the pieces of their particular puzzle made sense.

“This is nice,” Lizzie murmured eventually.

“Mmm.” He breathed in the essence of her and kissed the top of her head. If it was up to him, he could stay there all night, swaying with her, and holding her close . . .









Chapter One

Morgantown

Morgan Valley, California





Roman ran up the path and knocked hard on the front door. When Gabby unlocked the child gate and bent to give him a hug, the excitement on his face made both women smile.

“Hey.” Gabby let Roman wiggle past her into the house. “Is everything good?”

“Seems to be,” Lizzie said. “I washed Doofus the Dinosaur.”

“Thanks.” Gabby made an amused face. “Roman and Gus found a muddy spot in the yard where one of the sprinklers was leaking. By the time I cleaned them up, I had no time for the stuffed toy.”

“It’s all good.” Lizzie nodded. “I’ll pick him up at the usual time.”

Gabby lowered her voice. “Coretta was looking over the fence again, yesterday.”

Lizzie tensed. “Did she say anything?”

“Nope, but I think she might have been taking pictures.” Gabby hesitated. “If you like, I can call Nate Turner and see if there’s anything we can do about it.”

“I think that would just make everything worse.” Lizzie sighed. “I’m going to have to try and talk to her again.” She checked the time on her phone and looked at the house next door. The drapes and blinds were closed against the morning sun, giving the place a bland, shuttered look. “I can’t have her scaring Roman.”

“She’s usually up and about by nine,” Gabby said. “Should I text you if I see her?”

“Would you?” Lizzie smiled at her friend. “I’d really appreciate it.”

Deep in thought, Lizzie went back onto Main Street and walked toward Yvonne’s café where the owner had been at work since four baking bread and creating fabulous confections. Lizzie loved her boss and enjoyed her job, although when it was tourist season, it could get extremely busy. Sometimes she didn’t sit down for hours.

It was good that her commute was so short. When Ted Baker had converted the top floor of his mechanics shop into an apartment, she’d jumped at the chance to rent it from him. Ro’s day care was right around the corner, and everything in Morgantown was within easy walking distance.

Using her key, she entered the rear of the shop, hung her coat in the back, and went through into the huge industrial-sized kitchen.

“Hey!” Yvonne Payet called out to her. “How are you this fine morning?”

“I’m good.” Lizzie fixed on a bright smile. “I might have to pop out today to deal with something for Roman. Is that okay?”

“As long as someone can cover you from the kitchen, then of course it is.” Yvonne gave her a quizzical look as Lizzie washed her hands and put on her apron. “Is everything all right?”

“It will be,” Lizzie reassured her boss. Gabby was the only person in town who knew the full story about Roman’s parentage, and Lizzie preferred to keep it that way. Yvonne had never asked who the father of her son was or made a big deal out of it, for which Lizzie was eternally grateful.

“Roman’s not sick, is he?” Yvonne placed a tray of choux buns out on the stainless-steel work surface and picked up a piping bag of crème pâtissière.

“No, he’s doing great.” Lizzie delved into the pocket of her apron and drew out her notepad and pen. “What are the specials today?”

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