Second Chances, Book 1
Gabriela Navarro believed she and Eli Wolverton would always be together…until he abandoned her.
Years later, Gaby has made a new life in the big city. Her future is bright, and Eli is her past. When she returns to bury her father and learns that Eli is accused of his murder, she is stunned, but she no longer knows the man who’s replaced the boy she loved.
Then their paths cross again, and though the longing between them is more powerful than ever, Eli refuses to defend himself and pushes her to go. Does Gaby believe the charges against him, or the urgings of her heart?
There is so much more at stake than Gaby can imagine. With his freedom and his life on the line, only one thing would draw Eli away from his search for the truth: Gaby’s safety.
Even if that means he’ll lose her forever.
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“There’s a call for you from Texas,” the receptionist said. “A Sheriff Anderson. He refuses to leave a message. Congratulations, by the way.”
Sheriff Anderson? It had been nine years since she’d had contact with anyone back there.
“Okay, I’ll take the call. And thanks.”
She punched the flickering button. “Gaby Navarro.”
“Gabriela?” So strange to be called Gabriela once more. And the voice was not the older one she expected. This was his son, Chad. Her former boyfriend.
“Chad? You’re…the sheriff?”
He chuckled. “Amazing, huh? My dad passed away two years ago, and the voters saw fit to give me the job.” Memories crashed in on her…Chad, the golden boy, literally. Blond, tall and handsome. Quarterback of the football team, student body president. All that a girl could dream.
Until Eli changed everything.
“Gabriela, I’m sorry, but this isn’t a social call. I’m afraid I have bad news.”
The past vanished with the warning in his tone. “Papa is all right, isn’t he?”
A long silence. “That’s why I’m calling. You need to come home.”
“Is he sick? Hurt?” Papa had always seemed invincible.
“I wish I didn’t have to do this on the phone. No easy way to break it: your father is gone, Gabriela.”
“Gone?” she echoed. Dropped into her chair and opened the middle desk drawer, groping for the picture she kept there.
“There was a fire in one of the barns. He was alone.”
“Where was Ramon?” The foreman had been with her father as long as she could remember.
A pause. “Your father had to let Ramon go several months back, so there was no one—” He cleared his throat. “By the time a passerby noticed the smoke, it was too late.”
She hunched over her desk, clutching the photograph. She’d left in a fury. Thrown ugly words in her father’s face, and now they would never—
She barely registered what Chad was saying. “—good man, but in the last few years, his health had deteriorated.”
The knife slid in a little deeper. “I’ll be on the first plane.”
“Let me know which flight, and I’ll pick you up.”
“Gabriela, please. I want to help you.”
“I have to go now. I’ll take care of it.” She hung up before he could tell her anything else.
Before she had to hear more recrimination in his voice. Her father had wanted her to marry Chad and unite their adjoining ranches.
But she’d had other dreams, even before—
Eli. Outcast Eli Wolverton had been her dark secret.
Her one true love.
Or so she’d believed until he’d abandoned her. Vanished under a cloud of suspicion.
Eli was old history now, not worth a second’s thought, but Papa…
What have I done?
She stroked one finger across the photo of Papa and herself on her seventh birthday, a dignified man smiling at the girl in the pink organdy dress. Ruthlessly, she pushed back the black demon that would devour her if she thought about never being able to make up for what she’d done to her father—
Stop it. Focus on the details. Get online and find a plane ticket. With a leaden heart, she reached for her keyboard drawer.
“Hey, girl, I got us— What’s wrong?” Beth at the door.
Gaby couldn’t figure out how to answer her. She’d never told a soul how she and her father had parted. She’d left her past behind in Texas.
“I just—” She crumpled. “My—my father—he’s—” She lifted stinging eyes. “He’s dead.”
“Oh, honey…” In minutes, Beth had the whole story and, in her inimitable mode, had swung into action. Before Gaby could blink, she was booked on a flight leaving in three hours and tucked into a cab, headed to pack her things and return home.
Except it hadn’t been home for nine years.
And now it never would.
…Excerpt from GUARDING GABY by Jean Brashear © 2019