Second Chances for Trampled Hearts is New York Times & USA Today bestselling author Shoshanna Evers’ first inspirational romance writing as Shoshanna Gabriel.
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SECOND CHANCES FOR TRAMPLED HEARTS
Book 1 in the Bear Creek Saddle Series
A handsome rancher who lost his faith along with his young wife…
A waitress, abandoned by her cheating ex, and looking for a fresh start…
Second Chances for Trampled Hearts hit the Amazon Bestseller lists in Western & Frontier Christian Romance, Christian Westerns, Christian Romance, Contemporary Christian Romance, Westerns, Women’s Fiction, and Religious Romance.
Allie Crawford buys half-ownership of the cowboy’s diner in the small mountain town of Bear Creek Saddle, Idaho. It’s all she can afford, and it’s about as far from Miami as she can get. Will it be far enough?
“Big Bad Bill” inherited the town’s infamous old diner from his great-uncle, who insisted it stay in the family. Bill knows cattle, not the restaurant business—so he’ll foot the bill to get it going again, and let the woman champing at the bit for her own restaurant handle running it.
Then Allie needs his help with renovations, and Bill finds he can’t stay away, after all.
Neither expects the friendship that blooms between them. But even beautiful evergreen trees and soaring mountain peaks can’t soothe the pain of betrayal and loss.
Faith may be the only thing big enough to heal their trampled hearts, and give them both a second chance at love…
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Excerpt from Second Chances for Trampled Hearts, Book 1 in the Bear Creek Saddle Series
© 2017 Shoshanna Gabriel
All Rights Reserved.
For all she knew, he was just trying to distract her from the fact that he’d let her apartment and diner go downhill. That she was only there at his house in the first place, because he had royally misled her—even if it hadn’t been on purpose.
Or maybe she had only heard what she wanted to hear—that she could live in the apartment right away.
Bill pushed open his unlocked front door—apparently locking up after himself was a foreign concept in general—and gestured her inside.
The interior of the cabin was warm and homey. From the entranceway, she could see the entire house, even the little kitchen off to the right. It was so small she couldn’t imagine more than one person cooking in it at any time. An open area consisted of the living room and dining area, and what appeared to be bedrooms down a little hall.
“Nice place,” she said.
“Built it with my own hands,” he said, and smiled. Then, “Well, the guys helped quite a bit, too.”
His teeth were white and straight, and his whole face brightened without his permanent scowl. She needed to get him to smile more often. It certainly would make him easier to be around.
Allie smiled back at him. “Being able to build your own home is a good skill to have.” Realization dawned on her. “I guess that’s why you decided to help me with the renovations… you have more experience than I do.”
Bill put his hand on her lower back, just like he’d done in the diner. His touch made her stand up straighter, the sheer unexpectedness of it. Why did she like it so much? He guided her into the kitchen. There was barely enough room for them both, and once again Allie found herself in the position of being so physically close to Bill that their bodies kept touching accidentally, a brush here, a bump there.
He smelled of fresh hay, wood, and something indescribably masculine…perhaps that was just his natural musk. His body heat warmed her whenever her skin came within a few inches of him.
He swung the cabinet open, his bicep suddenly up right near her cheek.
“Mugs are up here,” he said, “and dishes.” He closed the cabinet and pointed to the sink. “Don’t leave dirty dishes laying around—wash ‘em as you go. I ain’t cleanin’ up after you.”
Allie looked up at him in confusion. He’d been laughing with her only moments ago, and she’d even admitted that she understood why he was going to help her renovate the diner. So why was he being prickly again?
Maybe he was just trying to diffuse the tension… to remind them both not to get too friendly. Well, it was working.
“I know how to clean up after myself,” she said.
“If you need to cook somethin’, don’t bang up my cabinets.”
Allie shook her head. “You seem to have mistaken me for a bull in a china shop. However have I managed all this time without your micro-managing?”
“You think this is micro-managing? Wait till we get back to the diner,” he warned, his face close to hers. “You’ll have to earn my trust. You’re gonna have to prove to me you’re worth it.”
“I am worth it,” she said immediately.
“I bet,” he murmured.
Any anger she had melted with those words. He didn’t seem to be saying that sarcastically. His face was too close to hers to be anything but…sincere.
As if he realized just how close he’d gotten, Bill abruptly pulled back, knocking the back of his head on the cabinet behind him with a thwack.
“Oh no!” Allie gasped. “Are you okay?”
She reached her hand up to touch his head. Her fingertips grazed the ends of his dark hair, but Bill caught her wrist in his large hand.
“I’m fine,” he said. Slowly, he let go of her wrist. “Are you okay? I didn’t mean to grab you like that. It was just instinct or somethin’.”
A look of genuine concern crossed his face, and he rubbed her wrist with his thumb.
“It’s fine,” she whispered.
“I um…” Bill shook his head as if to clear his thoughts. “Before the kitchen cabinet decided to attack me—”
“You can joke!” Allie interrupted, feigning shock. “The surprises just keep coming.”
“You’ll like this surprise, then,” he said. “When you open the oven door, it won’t go all the way.”
Allie laughed and pulled the oven door open, to see. Sure enough, it only opened just enough that she’d be able to get something in and out, no more, before hitting the cabinet behind her.
“Just a suggestion,” she said, “perhaps if you’re going to help me with the renovations, we should spend a little extra time focusing on measurements.”
She meant it as a lighthearted joke, but Bill shot her a warning look, as if she’d be sent to the principal’s office if she kept it up.
And once again, his hand was on her back, the heat of it burning through the thin material of her blouse as he led her back out of the kitchen. She stumbled a bit on her heels. So dumb to wear heels to a ranch. What had she been thinking? This man obviously didn’t care one bit about how she was dressed.
He walked her across the living room to the painted white door, and opened it. “You can stay in this room while you’re here,” he said.
Allie stepped inside the bedroom, looking around in surprise. The queen-sized bed was fitted with a rose floral comforter, and an iron bed frame. The dresser with the large mirror over it and the little accents around the room all spoke of a woman’s touch. But there was nothing that spoke of Bill in this room.
“Where do you sleep?” Allie asked, suddenly unsure of herself. “I mean, I know you’ll sleep at the apartment, but, where do you normally sleep and get dressed and everything? Here?”
It seemed like this room must’ve been Melody’s. If it had been Melody’s, didn’t that mean it had been Bill’s, as well? Was he giving up his bedroom for her?
Bill took off his hat and set it on top of the dresser by the door. “I’m not gonna bother you,” he said, cocking his head. “You’ve made yourself clear enough. I’ll be all the way at the end of the hall, in my room. They may call me Big Bad Bill, but I’ll keep my hands to myself if it kills me.”
If it kills me? Interesting…
“I didn’t mean to offend you,” she said. “That wasn’t at all why I was asking where you normally sleep. I didn’t think you were going to…barge in and ravish me or something.” She forced a laugh and looked away, first at the bed, then the window.
Look at anything but the bed.
A strand of dark brown hair had fallen across Bill’s forehead. “Right.”
A flush heated Allie’s cheeks, and she focused on not looking at either him or the bed—hard to do in a tiny room filled only with him, and a bed.
Now she was certain she was blushing. How ridiculous. It took a lot to make her blush—so how could this cowboy affect her like that?
“This looks like your wife’s bedroom,” she said finally. “And if it was Melody’s bedroom, then I assumed it would be your bedroom, too. Since she was your wife and all.”
“That’s none of your business,” he growled. “If you think you’re gonna stay at my house, don’t you dare talk about her.”
He left her alone in the bedroom, her mouth hanging open like fish. Allie stormed after him and—though she had no idea what possessed her to do such a thing—grabbed his shoulder in an attempt to turn him around to face her.
Bill’s body was immovable, a tree trunk against her palm. She wouldn’t have been able to turn him if she had tried. But she got what she wanted anyway when Bill snapped his head back toward her and faced her full on.
“Is this what you want?” he growled, stepping in closer to her. “You’re tellin’ me you ain’t done with me yet?”
“Don’t pull that ‘my house, my rules’ stuff,” she said. “You’re the one who sold me an uninhabitable apartment. It’s your fault I’m here in the first place.”
“And you’re the one that showed up two weeks early.”
“Forget it,” she said.
He was right about that. And, she’d chosen to completely ignore everything he’d told her about needing to fix the apartment up first, because she’d thought it would be fine to rough it. Still, Bill needed to learn to talk to her nicely if they were going to be working together.
He couldn’t just be mean one moment, and then sweet the next. There had to be an in-between. A cordial business-partner type of relationship.
“I’m too exhausted to fight,” Allie said. It wasn’t an apology or admission of being wrong, but it was her way of putting up a white flag, at least for now. “I think I need to take a nap and charge my phone before I can go back to start cleaning up the diner,” she admitted. “Is that…okay?”
“Are you asking my permission to fall asleep?” The anger faded from his face, and he raised an eyebrow in amusement.
Allie laughed at the absurdity of it. “I guess I was,” she said. “I thought you’d like that…” Ooh, that sounded a touch too flirty. She tamped it down a notch. “I need to get out of the heels.”
Not much better. What was it about the heat of an argument that made Bill seem so…attractive to her? It must be his testosterone rising—she could sense it. Hormones, nothing more. She kicked off her heels right where she stood, and picked them up to bring into her room.
Bill looked at her. “Now you’re even tinier,” he mused. “You’re gonna get a crick in your neck starin’ up at me all the time like that, you know.”
He was too handsome for his own good. Thank goodness he was a jerk as well—that made it easier not to want to mix business with dating. Though Allie couldn’t ignore the tiny voice inside that suggested a few dates after the painful separation from her former husband would be nice. As long as she didn’t let her heart get involved. And as long as they kept the business out of it.
No. Bill was clearly still tortured by memories of Melody. He probably had no desire to start up a “just dating for fun” sort of deal. But were they ever friends at all? Or had they gone from emailing about business to flirting online?
Stop that. No point in trying to reevaluate what she thought she knew about him. Now she had Bill in real life, and their relationship from now on was what was real.
She turned and walked into her room and shut the door. As long as she could actually sleep in this stranger’s house (that’s what he was, no need to think otherwise), in his late wife’s bed, then she’d be ready to tackle cleaning up the mess she could now proudly call fifty-percent her own. And no matter what, she absolutely wouldn’t let herself dream about how amazing working with Bill would be, if only they could both avoid either killing each other, or falling for each other.
Either one seemed like a real possibility at this point.
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Pick up a book and visit Bear Creek Saddle, Idaho, anytime — you’re always welcome HOME.