Ten years ago, an oil tycoon’s daughter and a farmer’s son shared a moment neither would ever forget. When she left town in disgrace, a piece of her stayed locked deep within his soul. And like the ground he tended, his emotions lay fallow for years. Cooper Gerhardt’s deeply buried feelings for Jo Ellen Rawlings grew more fertile over time, just waiting for the day she would return to release his deepest desires. When she strolls back into Tommy Creek, Texas for her ten-year class reunion, Cooper shows her farm boy style exactly what she missed by leaving. Starting a short-term affair is simply unavoidable. But when the week is over, can either of them let go of the responsibilities and apprehensions keeping them apart? Or will their fallow hearts learn to flourish together?
Jo Ellen took a deep breath as she entered the tavern, paying careful attention to dropping her keys into her purse and clicking the latch closed.
She hated entering a social establishment alone. She should’ve just told Emma Leigh she’d meet her at their parents’ house where they were staying the entire week.
Thank God she heard her sister’s voice as soon as she tucked her purse under her arm. “Hey, Joey. Over here.”
She didn’t know what she would’ve done, loitering around the bar and looking pathetic all by her lonesome until Emma Leigh had arrived. Relieved she didn’t have to worry about any of that, she smiled and glanced toward the call to find Alexa and Dexter gathered around Branson and her sister. Her step faltered before she regained her momentum, forcing herself to suck it up. If she was going to be stuck as their fifth wheel for the entire week, she might as well get used to it now.
“I’m sorry I’m late. I ran into a traffic jam on the interstate and—”
“You’re not late.” Em checked the Rolex on her wrist. “You’re ten minutes early.”
“I am?” Jo Ellen frowned and consulted her own slim, silver watch. “Then what’re you doing here?”
Her sister really had changed if she actually ran on time these days. Emma Leigh tossed back her long, dark hair and laughed before explaining, “Oh no. I haven’t changed that much.” She hooked a loving thumb Branson’s way. “Even Mr. Dependable here can’t keep me on time for anything. This one is all Lexi’s fault. She was starving, which forced us to get here early.”
As they glanced in unison at Dexter’s wife, the bartender served her a plate of steaming barbeque. She grinned and waved before she picked up a sauce-dripping rib with her bare fingers and tore into the juicy meat.
Jo Ellen smiled fondly and neared Alexa to set her hand on the baby bump. “How’s my little goddaughter doing in there?” She stroked once before she felt an answering kick. The sign of growing life caught her in the throat, choking her up. So bittersweet, it had her blinking back tears as she dropped her fingers from Lexi’s abdomen.
Nearby, Dexter corrected her, saying, “Godson.”
She brightened. “Oh, you found out the gender?”
“Oops.” Emma Leigh cringed. “Forgot to tell you. They’re having a boy.”
Jo Ellen rolled her eyes. How typical of her sister to forget something so important. Setting her hand on her hip in a scolding manner, she angled a frown at Emma Leigh’s husband. “I thought we discussed this, Branson. You were supposed to work on her communication skills, remember?” She tried to look stern but was sure he could see the teasing glint in her eyes, not to mention the lips she tightened to keep from grinning.
He lifted his hands in surrender. “Hey, she has no problem communicating to me, telling me whenever I mess something up.” Then he grinned, showing how much he didn’t mind such communication.
Jo Ellen laughed, pleased to see her sister so happily married to a man who adored her. This was exactly the life she’d always dreamed of for her twin…and herself.
As the amused sound chimed from her vocal chords, she heard a sharp intake of breath nearby, from the man seated at the bar next to her group. She could make out a vague, blurry image of him from her peripheral vision. By his jeans, boots, and hat, he screamed local, which was exactly why she refused to glance over and focus on his face. From the instant she’d entered Rio’s, she’d been too nervous to look directly at anyone besides the four she’d come to see, too afraid she might recognize someone from years ago.
Cowardly move, sure, but she didn’t care. Her nerves had wadded themselves into a huge, messy ball and she was performing as well as could be expected, faking all her smiles.
But Emma Leigh just had to go and say, “Oh, hey. Look who we ran into as soon as we got here.”
She grabbed Jo Ellen’s arm and revolved her toward the man, practically shoving her into his lap, right between a pair of spread knees. Eyes widening, Jo Ellen gaped at those thick, masculine knees, covered by thin, fraying denim. Her eyes strayed up of their own will, taking in strong, muscled thighs and somehow landing on his crotch, where the fly of his jeans stretched over an impressive bulge nestled under a big shiny brass belt buckle.
She gulped as the man scooted upright, obviously also alarmed by Emma Leigh thrusting her so close.
“Coop’s here,” her sister announced.
As in Cooper Gerhardt?
Cooper Thaddeus Gerhardt?
Jo Ellen’s eyes widened on that denim-clad bulge, her face draining of color. If Travis Untermeyer was the number one person she didn’t want to run into, Cooper Gerhardt was the second. Didn’t even matter that he’d turned into a delicious hunk of heaven, which from what she’d seen so far, it looked as if he had.
She jerked her face up, her lips instantly parting with surprise as she came face to face with the grown-up version of Cooper Gerhardt.
Oh, Lord have mercy.
“How I Got Into Writing”
This journey started twenty-seven years ago when I was in the first grade. At the time, I wanted to milk cows like my mom or be an artist. Strange options, I know. But that’s me; strange.
Then it happened.
Mrs. Coltrane, my first grade teacher, asked us to write a poem. My poem totally sucked eggs sadly. It was about a rainbow and after I listed all the colors in a rainbow, I called it a pretty, pretty rainbow (did you see there, I used TWO pretties. It’s awesomeness astound me too!).
Well, not one to beat down her student’s fragile egos, Mrs. Coltrane actually praised my awful poem in front of the entire class. And from that day forward, I’ve always wanted to be a writer.
My love for the “romance genre” came when I was a freshman in high school. I was listening in on my older sisters talking about how much they loved Sandra Brown stories, so…I read one. Then I had to read another. And another, and before I knew it, I was a total romance junkie.
The short stories I had always written suddenly turned into romance stories and grew longer.
It was during the summer break before my senior year in high school that I finished writing my first full-length romance novel. I’d been working on it all morning and was printing out the last few pages when my mom came down to my room and started in on me for not cleaning up my space.
Instead of apologizing, I turned to her and showed her my book. “I just finished it,” I said. After that, she forgot all about my messy room. My wonderful mother praised me for being an artist!
Since book number one totally reeked, I wrote another one. This one I submitted to Silhouette, and received a long, horrifying rejection letter. I was only eighteen, so it broke my heart. Oh, hell. Rejection letters still do that to me. It would’ve broken my heart if I had gotten it yesterday.
Anyway, moving along. I didn’t submit another story for another five years. I wrote some, but I had started college (with a creative fiction writing major) and met my soul mate, so I was a little busy and preoccupied in those years.
The sixth full-length story I finished was a young adult. My family absolutely loved it. So, I submitted it to a couple places. And received one hundred percent rejections back.
Three years passed and I completed my twelfth story before I decided to join Romance Writers of America. The closest chapter to me was over two hours away in Kansas City, but I joined anyway. And I have only actually been to a handful of their physical meetings to this day.
I really started pushing publication after that, submitting story after story, and learning what NOT to do through all my many rejection letters. I joined a critique group and learned about the ebook industry.
And after being in RWA for a little bit over a year, I finally sold the first Young Adult story I’d written to The Wild Rose Press. It remains to be my biggest seller to this day.
I fell in love with ebooks after that. I have Kindle and iBooks apps on my iPad, and the only physical books I read now are the ones given to me or that I win in a contest!
And that is the tale of my writing journey. Regret asking yet?! Oh, well. Thanks so much for stopping by anyway. I honestly believe the only reason I have any book published today is because I never gave up.
So that’s how I got into writing. I just kept at it because not-writing simply wasn’t an option!
Thank you so much for taking the time to join us, Linda!
REVIEW BY SHAE:
This book was amazing! I couldn’t put it down. I thoroughly enjoy books that stir all my emotions. Linda Kage wrote an emotionally amazing story of love and hope.
Cooper is a “farm boy” who was raised to be a gentleman. In a dog eat dog world, the good guys tend to finish last. With the love of his life within reach, he has to decide whether it is more important to put other’s feelings first or go after what he wants most in the world – Jo Ellen. Cooper and Jo Ellen learn that even in tragedy love can flourish and find a way to help heal the heart and soul.
Kage gives us glimpse into the past of the characters 10 years prior to the current events. This allows us to see how even over time, the heart can be “fallow” like a piece of land, but still flourish and produce a great harvest with time and healing.
This is a must add to all romantic reader’s libraries.
Rated 5 Stars
Linda grew up on a dairy farm in the Midwest as the youngest of eight children. Now she lives in Kansas with her husband, toddler daughter, and their nine cuckoo clocks. She works a day job in the acquisitions department of a university library and feels her life has been blessed with lots of people to learn from and love. Writing’s always been a major part her world, and she’s thrilled to finally share some of her stories with other romance lovers.
Follow the rest of the tourHERE! Don’t forget to Enter the contest HEREfor your chance to WIN A $20.00 GIFT CARD FROM AMAZON OR B&N!!