Layne Mabrey is on the run. Determined to hide their Down Syndrome daughter from the world, her ex-husband wants to have six-year-old Chloe institutionalized, but Layne will go to any lengths to keep her child. Dex Beckett falls immediately in love with both Layne and Chloe, but Layne can't afford to get close to anyone--not even the shy, gentle cowboy next door. She and Chloe have to be ready to run at any moment.Concerned that Chloe's sudden creation of an imaginary friend could be used to substantiate her father's claims, Layne is shocked when Dex offers an unbelievable opinion about the child's invisible visitor. But there's more to Heart's Haven than meets the eye. Is it possible a Christmas miracle awaits Layne and Chloe on the Heart's Haven Angel Tree?
Layne reached down to reassure her and stiffened. With Chloe’s face no longer hidden, the man would get a good look at her little girl. She braced herself for the reaction that always came when people saw her daughter’s round face and slightly upturned eyes. Usually they became speechless because they didn’t know how to treat a child with Down Syndrome, or they forgot their manners and stared. Layne’s instincts switched into full mama-lion mode, prepared for either response from the long-legged stranger.
Instead, he dropped to a crouch and tipped his large cowboy hat back, giving Chloe a clear view of his face. He waited silently until she peeked at him again. Then he turned one boot to the side so she could see the spur.
“Look here, little one.” His voice had a pleasant timbre, deep and smooth. “It’s not my shoes makin’ that jingle bell sound. It’s this silver thing.” He smiled, and Layne caught her breath at its sweetness. “See? It’s called a spur. You wear ‘em when you ride horses. But I never let mine hurt the animals.” He tilted his head and drew his brows together. “Do you like horses?”
Chloe’s beautiful, blonde, corkscrew ponytail swung rapidly back and forth as she shook her head.
“No?” The man kept his voice low and comforting. “That’s too bad. ‘Cause I happen to know horses love little girls like you.”
Layne’s hackles rose, and she started to ask exactly what he meant by ‘little girls like her,’ but Chloe spoke first, with her slight lisp. “How do you know they like little girls?”
Once again, Layne was shocked into silence. Her daughter never talked to strangers, especially men.
The cowboy’s brilliant white smile stood out on his tanned face. “Why, ‘cause they told me so.”
Chloe’s mouth opened and she shook her head. “Horses don’t talk.” She raised her head to look at Layne. “Do they, Mommy?”
Layne would have had to be deaf not to hear the almost wishful tone in Chloe’s voice. How was she going to explain this one?
But the cowboy saved the day. “‘Course they don’t talk,” he said in the same mellow tone. “They show us what they’re thinkin’, though. When they’re scared, they roll their eyes up so you can see the whites, and sometimes their sides shiver. When they’re happy, they nicker and push you with their noses, kinda like a kiss. And when a little girl gets on a horse’s back, that horse will trot real soft and easy so she won’t be scared.” He grinned and winked at Chloe. “Every time.”
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At twenty-one, Lea Dale is well-adjusted and happy, despite the facial scars she's carried since infancy. She has friends in the highest of places; possesses colorful vision (since for some reason she can see auras around folks); and her family and friends adore her. Corrective surgery is a possibility, but not one Lea has felt the need to consider…until wealthy investor Laren Meadows walks into her life and turns it upside down. Suddenly, Lea is painfully conscious of her lack of perfection, given Laren's flawless looks and ultra-charming personality. What a blessing that he's attracted to her despite her scars—and even her special angel seems to approve of the match. Then a secret from Laren's past threatens to destroy any hope of a future for the two of them. Now there's only one way for Lea to know if Laren's love is true, but taking that action could mark the end of their relationship. Can love survive such a tangled mess of physical and emotional scars?
I rested my head on the back of Molly’s chair and closed my eyes. The non-stop blur of the morning, after my late night, was starting to make itself felt. Did I doze off, or just take a little mental vacation? Heaven only knows, but either way, I nearly flew right out of my skin when Dad’s visitor spoke softly into the silence.
“I hope I’m not interrupting your beauty sleep.”
“Oh!” I sat up so fast I had to brace my hand on the desk to keep from catapulting right over the top and into a broad chest that strained against the soft fabric of a dark blue button-up shirt. Mortified to have been caught off guard, I moved my gaze slowly upward, past a neatly knotted ivory tone-on-tone tie and over the slight cleft in a strong chin. I noted a pair of full lips curved into an appealing grin, swallowed hard and took in a straight, aquiline nose. By the time my searching gaze reached a pair of eyes bluer than any sky I’d ever seen in my admittedly short life, I was already head over heels in love with Laren Meadows.
My hand jerked upward to cover my left cheek. To hide the scars. Because the man standing in front of me personified “perfect,” and—for the first time in my life—I felt my own lack of it.
Solomon had said my life would change, starting today, and every nerve in my body told me he’d been right, as always. But he’d sure messed up part of his message. Because this was not a blessing. It was the worst thing that could possibly happen to me.
Lea Dale. Daddy’s little princess of propriety, who insisted everything be done in an orderly fashion. The girl who had a place for everything, and kept everything in its place…who’d always followed every rule, never caused problems, never stepped outside her own perfectly drawn lines.
That girl had fallen heart over head over heels in love. At first sight.
My heart thudded like a heavy stone against my rib cage. I opened my mouth, desperate to reclaim some semblance of normality and extend a proper greeting.
But then I realized that oh-so-perfect blue gaze had gone wide and was fixed on my face. My left cheek, to be precise. I spread my fingers, desperately wishing for bigger hands, and trying hard not to burst into tears.