A Series Crossover Novel
Jared Walker is a single dad who knows what it’s like to be burned by a woman. His ex-wife tormented him in a way that’s unforgivable. It makes sense that Jared doesn’t trust women. He’s not looking for love, but when his cousin Travis puts Jared in charge of the Walker family reunion, Jared just might find himself in over his head. In more ways than one.
Hope Lambert has one goal in life. To keep Dead Heat Ranch prospering. From sun up to sun down, she has a single-minded focus working alongside her four sisters, the job isn’t always easy, but it’s definitely worth it. Hope is convinced she needs nothing more than what’s right in front of her. Until he walks into the stable.
It’s easy to think you know what’s best for you. That is until your heart is put to the test. What happens when the cautious cowgirl and the sexy single dad come face to face? The chemistry threatens to scorch them both. Giving in is easy. Not falling in love is the hard part.
The elder Walkers and Lamberts sure know how to raise strong-willed, passionate, and hot as hell children, so when Nicole Edwards fuses these two families together in a crossover of epic proportions, readers should be prepared to revel in a whole lot of snark, steam, and shenanigans like only the Walkers/Lamberts can bring.
Jared (The Walkers of Coyote Ridge, 2) - Prologue
Two and a half years ago
“WHERE ARE YOU going?” Sable screamed, her voice grating on his last nerve.
“I’m done. Fucking done, Sable,” Jared Walker informed his soon-to-be ex-wife. And that couldn’t come soon enough.
The second his boss had fired him, telling Jared that he could no longer deal with his crazed wife stopping by unannounced every day trying to start a fight, Jared had decided he’d had enough. The guy wasn’t wrong to fire him. Hell, he’d been putting up with Sable’s bullshit far longer than he should have. She was jealous and spiteful and fucking selfish. Yes, that’s what she was.
Everything was just so fucked up. Jared wasn’t sure how things had gone to shit so quickly, but they definitely had. The woman he’d married had shed her skin not two weeks into their marriage, demanding that she be taken care of. The second that ring was on her finger and the marriage license was signed, Sable had changed from the easygoing, somewhat kindhearted woman to an ex-employee at the makeup counter at Macy’s to a fucking diva who wanted him to make her breakfast in bed on the weekend.
No doubt about it, he’d been blinded by … what? What the hell had he seen in her? Even now, three years later, he had no clue what he’d been drawn to other than her smoking-hot body and her Hoover-worthy mouth. Oh, and she’d given him attention—batting her eyelashes and offering her relentless come-hither stare—something he’d been missing. Or thought he had anyway. In hindsight, the lack of attention from the opposite sex had been self-imposed. Jared had just turned thirty when they met, and he’d been going through the motions, trying to figure out where his life was headed and how he wanted it to go. Marriage had certainly been an idea he was looking forward to, should he find the right woman.
Enter Sable Hillman, with her perfectly applied lipstick and fancy hair. She’d clearly walked into his life at the right time. Or the wrong time, depending on how you looked at it.
He was definitely an idiot.
Sable didn’t want to work, but she didn’t want to stay home, either. She thought they belonged to the country club elite or some shit. He could see how she’d come to that conclusion. Jared’s parents were well off, and they’d set their children up accordingly. Jared had money—mostly family money—but he’d also been working since the day he turned sixteen. He hadn’t had a rough life, by any means, but his father had instilled in him the need to make a good living. Damn good thing his father had demanded he have a prenuptial agreement. Jared hadn’t thought it necessary, but at the last minute, he’d caved. For a second, he’d thought Sable was going to back out. He should’ve known better. The woman was more than willing to spend every penny he had while they were married. She didn’t need to wait until afterward.
“Fuck you, Jared.”
“No,” he turned to her. “Fuck. You. And every asshole who’s had the displeasure of fucking you over the last three fucking years.”
Three years he’d been dealing with this shit. If it weren’t for the fact Sable had gotten pregnant, Jared would’ve been long gone. Only he’d stayed because of his son. Derrick was the highlight of every single day. Jared went to work every morning, and when he came home, Sable generally went out while he enjoyed the peace and quiet and time he got to spend with his boy. It was the perfect routine, and since it got Sable out of his hair, Jared never complained.
“I want joint custody,” he informed her as he went to the closet and began tossing his clothes out. He was packing his shit and moving out. He had no choice. He would go stay in his parents’ guesthouse until the divorce was final. It would allow him to be close enough to Derrick so he could see him every other weekend and every Wednesday.
“Ha!” Sable sneered. “Like that’s ever gonna happen.”
Goddamn, that was going to hurt. He hated the idea of being away from Derrick for that long. He’d been hoping Sable would be level-headed about this, letting him spend time with his boy whenever he wanted. He should’ve known better.
Jared cast an angry glare over his shoulder. “I’ll fight you for full custody if that’s what you want.”
“Go ahead and try it,” she snapped. “Considering he’s not your kid, I’m not sure that’ll work out real well for you.”
Jared spun around so fast Sable had to take a step back.
“What did you say?” The impact of her words had caused his hands to shake, and there was a red haze clouding his vision, anger and…
Damn, it felt a hell of lot like fear clouded his mind.
Sable always said nasty shit to him. It seemed she got off on putting him down. Normally, he didn’t rise to the bait, but this… He hoped like hell she was lying.
“You heard me. You think you’re all high and mighty. Derrick isn’t yours. You’re not his father. So fuck you, Jared. You don’t get shit out of this deal.”
He had to sit down or his legs were going to give out. Jared managed to back up to the bed and drop down onto the mattress, staring at the woman he had vowed to love forever, a woman he no longer even liked.
“I want a paternity test,” he insisted. That would prove that Derrick was his. He had to be.
Sable rolled her eyes. “I’m marrying him.”
Jared tried to process her words, but they didn’t make sense.
“Derrick’s father. He’s been begging me to leave you. I should’ve done it before now. And yes, you’ll get your paternity test. I’ll prove to you that he ain’t yours.”
She should’ve left before now? She wasn’t the one leaving, Jared was.
“You’ll have nothing,” she spat.
Jared held back his retort, not sure what he could say. The woman had managed to single-handedly rip his heart right out of his chest and grind it into dust.
Derrick isn’t yours.
The fact that his marriage had disintegrated … Jared could get over.
Losing Derrick… That was a wound that would never heal.
* * *
Six months later
“Despite the fact that the paternity test states you are not the father,” Edna Holloway—the expensive lawyer he’d hired—clarified, “Sable is willing to give you full custody.”
Jared waited for her to continue. He was waiting for the “but.” There was always a “but.”
“However, in exchange, she wants twenty-five thousand dollars.”
“Done,” Jared said instantly.
“Jared, you should spend some time thinking about this,” Edna said kindly.
“Don’t need to. My name’s on his birth certificate. He’s my son. Find out where I need to wire the money.”
Edna pulled a sheet of paper from the pile she’d brought with her. “I think we need to ask that she give up her parental rights. That will protect you going forward. She has already made it clear that she doesn’t want Derrick.”
And by made it clear, Jared knew that Edna was referring to the fact that Sable had flat out told him that she didn’t have time for Derrick in her life. The man she’d claimed was Derrick’s father had insisted on a paternity test, also. The results had stated he was not the father. Which meant Sable had lied once again. The new man—some rich, older guy—in her life didn’t want kids, which meant Derrick had suddenly become expendable in her eyes.
“I agree,” he told her. “Do what you need to do, and tell Sable I want this done immediately. While we’re waiting for the legal system to putter along and do their thing, I want him living with me. In Coyote Ridge.”
Since he had moved to the small town where most of his extended family lived, in an attempt to put some distance between himself and Sable, Jared had started to build a life for himself. Although he wouldn’t be close to his parents, he wasn’t too far away. And he had a great job. Being in Coyote Ridge would also lessen the chance of him running into Sable again.
She nodded, jotting down notes before removing her reading glasses and depositing them into her purse. “I’ll keep you apprised of the proceedings. I’ll ask that Sable relinquish custody over to you today.” She glanced at her watch. “Why don’t I try for four o’clock. Will you still be in town?”
“Of course,” he said, his heart pounding. “Anything for Derrick.”
Little did his lawyer know, but Jared would’ve given ten times that much to get his son back. Granted, there was absolutely no reason to let Sable know that. The manipulative bitch would only ask for more.