Title: Close to Heart
Series: Healing Harts, Book 3
Author: T.J. Kline
Publisher: Avon Impulse
Release Date: July 14, 2015
Genre: Contemporary, Western, Romance
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It only took an instant for her world to come crashing down…but Heart Fire Ranch is a place of new beginnings, even for those who find their way there by accident
As the only veterinarian in town, Justin Hart doesn't have time to think about romance. So when A-list actress Alyssa Cole crashes her car outside his clinic, it's entirely unexpected when there's a spark between them he can't ignore. Still, she's a movie star, and he's just a small town cowboy.
Alyssa has learned the hard way not to believe first impressions, especially not in Hollywood. But, 400 miles from her former life with nowhere to go and no one to turn to, she places her trust in the handsome vet who comes to her rescue.
Other books in this series
Alyssa laid her head in the crook of her elbow, trying to stay awake. Justin was finishing with the female Lab as she watched the puppies. She was keeping a close eye on the littlest one, the one that had trouble breathing. They were all so small and weak, but he was even more so. Her hand instinctively curled around the side of her pregnant belly, where her child lay, nestled under her ribs. In less than six weeks, she’d be watching her own child sleep. Rather than comforting her, the thought made her panic.
She had no idea what she was going to do next. The last thing she’d expected when she went out to lunch with her best friend yesterday was to find out Lillian had been sleeping with her husband for the past four years. Elijah’s infidelity hadn’t come as a complete surprise. They’d been drifting apart for years; however, it didn’t lessen the pain of the betrayal, or the shock that it had been with her friend. The confrontation with Elijah that followed had been bad enough, but with his apathetic response when she had demanded he either remain faithful or give her a divorce, he shattered the last remnants of the illusion she’d clung to that their Hollywood marriage wasn’t as fake as everything else in the industry. He’d laughed at her, reminding her that she was nothing more than an out-of-work actress, and nothing without him, before agreeing to the divorce. He’d told her to leave the house before he returned from the office for dinner, as casually as if he was dismissing one of the house staff instead of throwing out his wife and child. In a daze, Alyssa had packed the car up with her clothing and jewelry, assuming she would find a way to sell what she didn’t need to support her and the baby.
But that would last only so long. Her mother suggested she come home for a short visit, which would at least give her a roof over her head and buy a little time before the baby was born, but she hadn’t told her parents about Elijah’s cheating, or the divorce. She wasn’t sure how long she could stay without telling them the truth. They both adored Elijah; he’d paid for their condo. What if they blamed her? She’d invested everything she’d had into Elijah’s agency, and he’d already warned her that she wouldn’t get anything from him. She didn’t even have a way to pay for doctor’s visits or the delivery now, she reminded herself. Worse, she didn’t even have a doctor any longer. Worries beat against her brain like the staccato beat of a drum, making her heart race in her chest as her child moved within her.
Two strong hands settled on her shoulders. “You did a good job.”
“Oh!” Alyssa jerked upright and slid the rolling chair to one side.
Justin’s lips curved into an apologetic smile. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you. I thought you were awake.”
He cocked his head to one side, and his dimple sank into his cheek, giving him a boyish charm. She brushed back the bangs that had fallen from her bun and tucked them behind her ear. “I was. I just thought you were still with the mom.” She realized she was staring at his perfect mouth and quickly looked back at the puppies, which were grunting softly and wiggling against one another. “I was just sort of lost in my own head, I guess.”
He turned to a cupboard nearby and withdrew two needleless syringes. “What are those for?”
“We need to give them colostrum so they have the antibodies they need and don’t get sick.” He walked back and handed her the syringe. “Just a little on the back of their tongues, and we’ll do it again in an hour. Like this.” He reached for the first puppy and put a few drops of the liquid into its mouth. “Later, she should be able to feed them all. If not, we’ll supplement them the same way.”
Justin glanced up at her through thick, dark lashes—lashes most of the women in her career field would kill for. “This is a nice litter. What do you think you’re going to do with them?”
“Me?” she squeaked, pausing as she reached for a puppy. “Doctor, I can’t take them with me.”
“I think we’re beyond that ‘Doctor’ business. Just Justin is fine.” He arched a brow and smiled at her, the dimple creasing his cheek before his brows dropped forward between his eyes, thoughtfully, and he set the puppy down, reaching for the next one. “You won’t be going anywhere for a while, at least not until your car gets fixed. But I guess you probably won’t be able to keep them in a hotel either. I guess they could stay here until you head out.” His brows lifted again, as if he was certain his explanation was sufficient.
Crap, how am I going to pay for a hotel, or to fix the car? Is he really expecting me to pay to keep these puppies, or for the surgery?
“Um . . . I can’t pay for any of this.” She tucked the strand of hair behind her ear again and saw his eyes flick to the massive diamond solitaire settled on her left hand under the latex glove.
Alyssa couldn’t meet his gaze for fear of the recrimination she expected to see there. She wanted to tell him it was none of his business, remind him that appearances could be misleading, but knew she wouldn’t. She used to have a backbone, but over the past six years of her marriage, she had caved as Elijah pressured her to spend less time on set and more time helping him build his agency. She’d given him control of her already successful career, allowing him to make higher demands in her contracts, until producers could no longer meet them. She had believed him when he convinced her that it was time to “retire” in order to focus more attention on his agency and starting a family.
Her hand trailed over the baby, quiet within her. Now that fantasy lay in rubble at her feet. Her husband had kicked her out, said he didn’t love her, didn’t want her or their child, and left her pregnant and alone. She should have been devastated. Instead, she felt hollow.
Her eyes slid over the man seated in front of her, his still-wet hair standing at odd angles at the top of his head as he fed the puppies, and guilt swept in. The least she could do was offer him some sort of explanation. He had come to her rescue and stayed outside in the sleet to find the dog she hit.
Alyssa cleared her throat, breaking the awkward silence that had fallen. “The truth is that expensive things are all I have right now. I don’t have any money or any way to get any until I sell a few things. I’m not even sure I still have insurance on the car to fix it.” She looked down at the puppies, praying he wouldn’t force her to admit anything more.
“Sounds like you’ve got yourself in a real mess, Alyssa.” He ducked his head to meet her gaze. “Give me some time to see if I can’t figure out something to help you.”
“Why . . . I can’t ask you to . . .”
Justin arched a brow and cocked his head at her. “I don’t recall you asking. Besides, my father would skin my hide if I was anything less than a gentleman for a damsel in distress.”
She wanted to believe he could be her white knight, but Elijah had taught her the hard way that fairy tales were nothing but fantasy. The only person she could count on now was herself.
T. J. Kline was raised competing in rodeos and rodeo queen competitions since the age of 14, She has thorough knowledge of the sport as well as the culture involved. She has had several articles about rodeo published in the past in small periodicals as well as a more recent how-to article for RevWriter. She is also an avid reader and book reviewer for both Tyndale and Multnomah.