by Anna Dynowski
Smart, no-nonsense Tessa Kramer, devastated by a messy divorce brought about by the revelation of the shattering secret of her adoption, determines two things: one, to never trust a man again, and two, to find out who she really is. Her search takes her to Bandera, Texas, to a dude ranch, to a certain cowboy...and the air sizzles and not from the Texan heat.
Handsome-in-a-not-quite-tame sort of way, C. J. Tremaine, owner of El Rancho Relaxo, has hidden behind his confirmed bachelorhood since his mother's death years earlier and is afraid of commitment until...the cool and aloof bookkeeper arrives to work on his ranch and trips his heart into high gear.
Will they be able to lay down their fears of being hurt and take a chance on love? Dare they believe God is in control and has a perfect plan?
ISBN 1-59431-421-7 Romance, Inspiration, Christian
Cover art by Shelley Rodgerson
Also available in RTF and HTML formats.
Tessa Kramer hated flying.
Staring out the tiny window of the American Airlines Super 80, she gripped the armrests with the same tenacity a bald eagle clutches its prey. As the plane bounced in the rough air above the multi-layered clouds, her stomach seesawed between a dry throat and cold feet.
Maybe she shouldn't have been so quick to unload the BMW and driven from Toronto instead of flying? She winced at the notion of actually having kept the cabriolet.
How could she have held onto any gift coming from…No, she would not think of him.
She firmed her lips. Not now. Not ever. Yeah, but if she had kept the little black car, she now wouldn't be trapped in this dancing sardine can.
"Dear God, how could this have happened to me?" she whispered to her faint reflection in the window, knowing the turbulent flight wasn't the only thing troubling her.
Closing her eyes, she drew in a deep breath, and as she released it slowly, she relaxed her white-knuckled grip.
The whine of the engines changed.
"Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking. We will be commencing our approach to the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport. We would ask you kindly place your seats in the upright position and fasten your seat belts. The time is two forty-five and the afternoon temperature is currently ninety-seven degrees fahrenheit. We thank you for choosing American Airlines and we hope you will fly with us again."
Like Mexican jumping beans, the nerves in Tessa's stomach hopped, leaped, and vaulted. She clenched her hands into fists, barely feeling the nails biting into her palms.
Her eyelids flew open and her gaze skittered out the window. As the land below rushed up to meet the descending plane, she swallowed hard around the tightness in her throat.
What am I doing here? she thought, a wave of helpless fear swamping her. The more she thought about why she had come, what she'd hope to accomplish, the more nervous she became. What if I blow it? What if I make a nuisance of myself? What if they want nothing to do with me? What if…
"It's okay, darlin'. The landing'll be a smooth one. I know. I've flown many a-time. There's nothin' to worry 'bout."
At the southern drawl and the gentle pat on her arm, Tessa turned to meet the gray-haired grandmotherly woman with sympathetic pale blue eyes seated beside her. Fine lines fanned from the corners of those eyes, bearing testimony of a long, hard life. The wrinkles carving her face testified to many years of living.
"There's no need to be 'fraid," the grandmother continued, squeezing Tessa's hand.
"God didn't give ya a spirit o' fear, darlin'."
Tessa nodded. If it was just fear of flying…
The woman reached out to steady both of Tessa's hands. "There really is nothin' to worry 'bout."
"I know," Tessa replied stiffly, refusing to look at the concern reflected in the other woman's face. "I just have…things on my mind. That's all." She concentrated her attention on the flight attendant beginning a final pass down the narrow aisle.
"Darlin', my mamma used to say if ya have a problem, ya gotta talk 'bout it. 'Cause it just might be that the person yer talkin' to has gone through a similar situation and can offer ya some advice."
Tessa gently but firmly pulled her hands free and shifted slightly in the seat. "Thank you, but you can't help me."
No one could. This was something she would have to deal with, alone. Alone. She let out a long sigh while squeezing the bridge of her nose.
Besides, there was no way she was going to confide in anyone. Even if the person had a grandmotherly look about her, she couldn't be trusted.
No one could.
She'd learned that lesson the hard way.
Her parents--or the people she had believed to be her mother and father--hadn't had the decency to tell her she was adopted. She'd had to find it out in such a hateful, hurtful manner.
Her husband-her ex-husband--had tossed her aside, dismissed her as inferior. Discarded her like a scrunched up piece of paper thrown into the garbage can.
In a flood of emotion, she experienced again the recognizable pain of rejection. Her mind was spinning with burning memories and the realization she hadn't healed. She felt tears clog her throat.
No. She will not lose control. She squared her shoulders. No one was going to hurt her again, she vowed silently, pinching her lips together. No one would ever again be given the opportunity to drop her into the giant, black hole she now found herself. Not ever again.
Moments later, the plane touched down, slowed, and taxied toward the terminal. Tessa reached for her purse beneath the seat in front of her and, on impulse, pulled out the newspaper cutting. She ran her eyes over the now familiar words. Dude ranch, Bandera, Texas, requires experienced bookkeeper. Excellent wages, benefits. Accommodation provided.
Her gut contracted in a hard, painful knot. The unknown of a new job in a new country working with new people--especially people who might prove to be her real family?--sent terror rolling through her. How was she to act? What was she to say? How would they respond to her?
She folded the paper and slipped it back into her purse, knowing, with a stab of despair, she would not reveal her true identity. She would just convince them she'd come for the position of bookkeeper.
She'd been out of the work force awhile. Would she be able to perform well at her job? She'd always lived in Toronto, had always been a city girl. Would she be able to adjust to the ranch life of "cowboy" country? She'd always been on the shy side, finding small talk difficult to engage in. Would she be able to speak with ease to…?
Fear not, my child.
Tessa took a calming breath. I know fear is simply a distrust of You, Lord. Please forgive me. And please help me in the days and months to come. I know You are in control here. And I have nothing to be afraid of.