Book 2 in the Rocky Mountain Front Series
Thirty-five-year-old rancher Jarod Beck sacrificed his rodeo dreams to run the family ranch. Now he’s on track to restart his life building a training business and starting a family. The new teacher in town interests him, but she is intent on keeping her independence and following her own path. Can they each give enough to find something better than their solitary lives?
The oldest son in a small town Montana family, Jarod had dreams of becoming a champion rodeo calf roper and had the high school level buckles to prove it. But his father’s death on a lonely Montana highway and his mother’s passing a year later forced him to step up and learn to run the ranch that had been in the family since the 1800s. The time has come to restart his own life by opening a business to train horses and riders to compete in the arena.
Samantha Deveaux fought free of a past of teenage drug use, only to become pregnant. When her boyfriend dumped her, she enlisted her mother’s help to care for her Asperger’s daughter so she could secure her college degree and teaching license. Determined to succeed at her first job in Choteau, her plans don’t include settling down in a small town forever. She has two goals: give her daughter the best opportunities she can and keep her ex out of their lives.
Finding Home is a story about of a young woman who must learn to have faith in people again, and a young man who needs to find a way to help her without stifling her independence. If you enjoy women’s fiction with romantic elements, you’ll enjoy this book.
Coming soon to Amazon and other online retailers.
Read an Excerpt
The two-story solid sandstone courthouse anchored the center of the roundabout. Imposing, but where was she supposed to park? Following the roundabout past the watered-green lawn and dark green shrubs, she missed the entrance to the parking lot on her first pass.
Once again, Samantha Deveaux regretted she’d given up cursing.
“Mommy, why are you driving in circles?” eight-year-old Ava asked from the passenger seat. “You’re making me dizzy.”
The huge smile on her daughter’s face told Samantha her daughter was getting a kick out of her predicament.
“For fun.” And she did it one more time simply to keep the smile on Ava’s face.
The move to isolated Teton County on the Rocky Mountain Front had been hard on her daughter, pulling her away from lifelong friends and her beloved grandmother who was a better mother to Ava than she’d ever been to Samantha.
“Why are we going here?” Ava asked when Samantha pulled into a parking place.
“Just more stuff we have to do to live in a new place. Hop out,” she said as she pushed open the driver’s door of her beige second-hand Toyota Camry to walk to the passenger side. The car wasn’t her first choice, but the brand-new pale yellow one had been way beyond her reach as a para-teacher in Billings.
Operating on her own time schedule, Ava pushed the door halfway open, then became distracted by a bright red lady beetle crawling out from the windshield wiper well. As usual by late morning, her daughter’s hair looked like no one had ever run a comb through it, the flyaway brown locks, so like her own, glistening from the hot August sun.
At least here in Choteau, a cool breeze floated in from the mountains now and again, unlike the overheated Yellowstone River valley they’d left a few weeks before.
Patiently, she waited for her daughter to complete her examination. Let the teachers in her new school try to move what could be an immovable object. Samantha had learned long ago to roll with her daughter’s timetable whenever possible. Besides, it gave her time to breathe and pretend everything in her life was normal, the total opposite of reality.
“But why, Mommy?” Ava asked when she finally got out of the car. “Why did we have to move?”
To keep you safe.
“I got a new job, remember? Now I can be a real teacher.”
“Instead of being a paratrooper,” Ava said, tilting her head and trying to hide a little smile.
They walked up the steps to the courthouse, going one level at a time as Ava played her own internal game.
“But aren’t para-teachers real teachers, too?” Ava asked.
One would think. Many paras had teaching degrees and wanted a full-time job, but didn’t want to move to a town of fewer than a hundred people like Two Dot, Montana. So they stayed in the states’ five big cities and prayed for an opening.
“Almost, sweetie, almost. C’mon, kiddo, we have to get this done so we can visit the new school.”
“Okay.” Finding her next gear, Ava walked ahead so quickly, Samantha had to rush to keep up with her.
After checking the directory, she located the motor vehicle offices. Good lord, why were all these people here? Didn’t they have to work?
With a sigh, she pulled a number from the dispenser and sat down, smoothing her floral skirt and crossing her legs at the ankle the way she’d been taught by her old-fashioned mother. Too bad her mom hadn’t given her any useful lessons, like how to get a job that didn’t pay minimum wage or stand up for herself.
“I want to look at the license plates,” Ava said, standing squarely before her, her blue eyes wide behind glasses with frames of the same hue.
God, she loved her daughter. As much of a challenge as a child on the Asperger’s scale could be, Ava had no artifice and a heart of gold.
“Sure, just make sure that’s the only place you go.”
Samantha smiled and glanced at the red numbers on the displays above the clerk’s heads—one for registrations and one for driver’s licenses. Too bad changing an address wasn’t something she could do online.
Pulling out the high school math curriculum from her oversized bag, she flipped to the spot she’d left off and began to review her notes. The job was only guaranteed for a year and she had to make as good an impression as possible to be invited back.
The hum of conversation, its tempo measured by a toddler beating on a chair with a plastic brick, surrounded her as she concentrated.
The freshman curriculum seemed standard enough: quadratic equations, vector analysis, applying mathematics to real life. The sophomore geometry curriculum had its own difficulties. Sometimes kids that grasped basic math never got solid in shapes and their measurements. The trick was to make this come alive for students who were number-challenged. Common Core had helped some, hindered some, and left parents baffled. Her time in Billings as a para-teacher with learning-challenged students had given her an intimate understanding of the problem.
That, and dealing with her own daughter. She glanced up.
Ava stared at the rows of specialty license plates available to Montana drivers, everything from fishing to quilting to schools and the two rival Montana teams—University of Montana Grizzlies and Montana State University Bobcats. They all supported some cause for an extra registration fee. Budget constrained Samantha was going to use whatever plate the state decided to give her.
A lanky man with raven black hair trimming the edge of his Choteau Bulldogs cap was squatting down next to her daughter.
Samantha dropped the curriculum on the chair and dashed over, her heartbeat ramping up.
“Is she bothering you?” she asked, not wanting him to take offense at being told to back off. No need to start a ruckus in the heart of a small town.
A pair of deep gray eyes turned up toward her, and the man rose to his full height, a good seven inches above her own five foot three. He had on a soft blue Carhartt shirt, jeans, and pointed-toe cowboy boots, like most ranchers in Montana. The difference was an ornate silver buckle adorning his brown leather belt.
He yanked the cap from his head.
“No ma’am,” he said. “We were simply having a difference of opinion about the best license plate. She likes the ones with cats and dogs, while I’m kind of partial to the one with the horse.” He held out his hand, “Jarod Beck,” he said.
She shook his hand. Warm. Strong. Calloused.
“Samantha Deveaux. This is my daughter Ava. We just got to town last week.”
“Figured that,” he said. “I don’t remember seeing you before.”
“I’m the new high school math teacher,” she blurted out.
He shook his head. “Not my best subject.” Then he grinned.
It was a good smile, the kind that made children and animals feel easy. No wonder Ava had been comfortable enough to start a conversation.
“Number seventy-six!” the clerk called out.
Samantha glanced at the paper stub in her hand.
“That’s me,” she said. “C’mon Ava.”
“But I want to stay here. It’s so boring over there.”
“I’ll keep an eye on her,” Jarod said.
She glared at him.
“Or not.” He raised his hands in mock surrender.
“Number seventy-six!” the clerk repeated.
She had to get this done. “Okay.” She walked to the counter and glanced back at them. He stared back with a grin.
End of Excerpt
Home Is Where the Heart Is
“Casey Dawes is charting a different route with a woman’s story that doesn’t discount the power of romance, but doesn’t make it the answer to everything either. Love, in this story, encompasses more than a good night in bed. It’s family, community, strangers on the street, and the magnificent landscape of Montana. And romance, if it happens, has to be a meeting of equals.” ~ Sasha Paulsen, Features Editor, Napa Valley Register