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Colton's Surprise Heir (The Coltons of Texas) Mass Market Paperback – February 9, 2016
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About the Author
Addison Fox can't remember a time when words weren't a part of her life. In addition to being an avid reader, she loves writing novels about strong-willed and exciting heroes and heroines – individuals who are meant for each other and who deserve their happy ever after. After she makes them work for it, of course!
Addison lives in Dallas. You can find her at her home on the web at www.addisonfox.com or on Facebook (facebook.com/addisonfoxauthor) and Twitter (@addisonfox).
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Stars winked like diamonds in a sky black as pitch, the cool Texas night buffeting him with a thick wind. Frost covered the ground, crunching under his feet, a sure sign winter wasn't yet done with them. Ethan Colton kept his head down and ignored nature's display as he trudged toward the barn and the pregnant horse one of his ranch hands had called him about.
"Boss! Glad you're here." Bill Peabody, his ranch foreman, waved him over to the last stall in the barn.
"Where's Doc Peters?"
"On his way."
Ethan nodded and took in the scene before him. His favorite filly, Dream, wasn't due to deliver for about six more weeks. But her heavy breathing and wide-eyed fright suggested her new foal wasn't prepared to wait for spring.
Ethan dropped to his knees beside Dream, his hands gentle when he reached out to stroke her neck. "Hey, baby. Shh there, beautiful girl. It's okay."
His gaze drifted from the clear lines of pain that suffused her dark brown face on down over the sleek lines of her body. The filly's rib cage contracted hard with her labored breaths, and the distended bellythe telltale sign of her pregnancyquivered almost of its own accord.
"Think we can stop her from delivering?"
"Doc told me to keep her comfortable and as still as possible until he got here." Bill paced next to the stall. "Says he'll know better after he looks at her."
Bill's words kicked up an odd twist of memoryabsolutely unbiddenof another night long ago. But with an outcome that had no hope of ending well.
Those memories had become more frequent of late, his brother's recent tussle with their father stirring it all to the fore. With the iron will he'd honed through the years, he pushed the ever-clear memory away and focused on Dream.
She was his pride and joy, along with the rest of the horses in his stable. The years of hard work, building something that was his own. That no one could taint.
He'd be damned if he'd sit by and let her suffer. Or see to it he didn't do everything he could do to make sure she had a healthy foal.
Bill worked with him in silence as they followed the vet's instructions, keeping Dream as calm as possible while they waited for help. He was pleased to see her breathing even out a bit as they settled a blanket beneath her head and several more to support the long length of her back.
"Babies are a tough thing. They're natural but not normal." Doc Peters bustled in, his cheery smile at odds with the still-sleepy eyes and tufts of gray hair that stuck out all over his head.
"Not normal?" Ethan kept his voice low, not wanting to spook Dream, but he couldn't keep from questioning the vet.
"Of course. Pregnancy is a natural state, but it's hard on the body." Doc Peters dropped to his knees, his lithe form belying what had to be at least forty years of caring for large animals. "But we'll take care of Dream here, won't we, sweetheart."
Ethan kept a calming hand on Dream's neck but said nothing more, allowing the doctor to do his work. The vet inspected the horse, his hands following all the places Ethan's own gaze had roamed for the past twenty minutes. After several endless moments of inspection and even more checks with the stethoscope, Doc Peters got to his feet.
"You ready for a long night?"
Ethan stared up at the doc's slim figure, standing over his horse. "She's having the foal tonight?"
"Not if we can help it. But we do have to get him turned around. There are two pairs of long, long legs pointing exactly where they don't belong."
Ethan took solace that the doctor seemed in control of the situation and nodded his head. "Tell us what to do."
The frigid night had given way to a cold crisp morning, and Ethan breathed in deep as he headed for the ranch house. He'd spent hours worrying they wouldn't be able to help Dream, but Doc Peters had been a pro. Bit by bit, he'd managed to turn Dream's foal back into position. Ethan knew they were out of the woods now, but he hadn't missed the concern that had stamped itself deep in the grooves on Peters's face around four that morning.
Things had been more than touch and go for a while, and Ethan had barely dared to believe things could end well, convinced he needed to brace himself for the worst. For the inevitable.
Yet the doc had done it. Dream was on her feet and happily grazing on a fresh batch of oats Bill had poured just for her when Ethan finished washing up in the sinks in the barn.
Now all he could think about was a hot shower and roughly a gallon of coffee. He might even manage something beyond the breakfast sandwiches he typically microwaved each morning. In fact, he thought he remembered seeing a rasher of bacon in the fridge the last time Bill's wife, Joyce, did a shopping order.
The back door swung open under his hand and he caught himself. Hadn't he locked it when he headed out?
The smell of coffee accosted him and the mystery of the back door vanished as he imagined Joyce over here, putting on a pot for when he got back. That woman was gold, and he'd have to remember to thank her later.
He dragged off his boots in the mudroom and turned for the kitchen. The distinct scent of bacon assailed him just before the soft, subtle hum of a popular country song followed.
But it was the woman who stood before his stove that had Ethan going still.
"What the hell are you doing here?"
Elizabeth Marie ConnerLizzie to the few who knew and loved heralready knew she was pushing beyond acceptable boundaries by coming here in the first place.
Since she figured she had to get this over with, she might as well add bacon to the mix.
Men loved bacon. Heck, there were whole websites devoted to the very best part of the pig. And based on what Joyce had said when she'd let her in, Ethan had just spent a hard night.
She was smart enough to know the bacon wouldn't go all that far to soften the blow she was about to deliver, but she was hungry as a horse all the time, and it would make her feel better.
"That's some welcome."
The man had the sense to look contrite, and she took it as a good sign. But when a quick shot of something warm and hungry flitted through his gaze before those rich hazel depths turned cold once more, Lizzie pressed a firm hand to her fluttering stomach beneath the oversize sweatshirt she'd tugged on for the visit.
Ethan Colton was anything but cold.
And she'd had six months of very warm memories reminding her of that fact.
"You can imagine my surprise to find a woman cooking me breakfast."
Lizzie did her best to keep her body facing the stove, only turning to eye Ethan over her shoulder. "Joyce let me in. Said you were having a tough night with one of your horses. How is she?"
"Good. Fine." Talk of his horse seemed to mellow him a bit more, and he crossed to the pot of coffee.
"No, thanks. I'm not a coffee girl. No one at work can understand it but" She broke off, the reality that there was no work any longer more bitter than she'd expected.
Ethan poured his coffee and, after doctoring it with a sugar and some creamer from the fridge, moved to the long island counter at her back. "Look. I'm sorry for my greeting. I'm tired and I didn't expect anyone to be in here when I got back. And"
He stilled, a small smile edging his lips. "And that's lame. I'm sorry for my greeting. How are you, Lizzie?"
She'd thought she was prepared. Had believed she could keep her emotions in check and her mind clear for all that was still to come between them.
Oh, how wrong she'd been.
Those hazel eyesthe ones that were an amazing mix of green and brown and several spots of graydrew her in and touched something deep inside she couldn't quite define.
Love? She was so not going there.
Even if she had harbored feelings for him since she was young. He was the big brother of her best friend in foster care. As a lifelong foster child, she'd known full well that getting attached was a bad idea, but she'd gone and done it anyway. Josie Colton had been her best friend, and her older brother Ethan Oh, how Lizzie had looked forward to those visits he'd made three times a year to see his sister.
Until it had all ended with nothing but empty promises and long, lonely days without her best friend.
So when he'd appeared like a dream six months ago at a rodeo they were both attending, she couldn't shake off the chance to see him again and spend some time together.
"Lizzie? How are you?"
She pulled herself back from the thick morass of memories and unfulfilled wants. "Good. I'm good."
"You look good" He broke off before he added, "But you always look good. No one I've ever met has green eyes quite like yours."
She stilled, the bacon popping and crackling, as she braced herself for what she had to do. Flipping off the stove, she moved the bacon to the back burner and turned around and looked her fill.
Her gaze roamed, hungry, over the sandy-brown hair she knew was the texture of unrefined cotton. On down over the broad shoulders that seemed custom-made for a woman's hands. And then over the broad chest that was banded in thick sinew, from the hard swath of his pectorals on down to the ridges of muscle that framed his stomach.
The man was a vision, and the sweet boy she'd had a crush on had grown into a formidable man.
Get it together, Elizabeth Marie. Stop ogling him and tell the man the reason you're here.
Yet even as that steely voicethe one that had pushed her through college and on into becoming the youngest loan officer at her bankwhispered to her to just come out with it, she couldn't help but indulge the woman's need that had her stopping for a moment. It was rude to starehadn't one of her foster mothers taught her that?but she couldn't quite help herself.
She'd look her fill, because after this morning things would never again be the same.
And as Ethan's gaze traveled its own path, over her face, a tentative smile quirking his lips, she knew the moment when something else registered.
Knew the moment that smile faltered when he caught sight of the very clear bump that had replaced her normally flat stomach.
A loud popping sound pulled her from the moment and Lizzie turned on a hard exhalation. "Oh, no!"
Even though she'd moved it off the heat, the bacon had continued cooking in the oil and had gone crisp to the point of burning.
"Let me." Ethan moved into her space, gently pushing her aside as he grabbed the thick cast iron off the stove. He tilted the pan over a pie plate she'd already set aside, layered with paper towels to absorb the grease.
And as she watched the bacon slide from the skillet, the grease that had cooked out sliding along with it, Lizzie felt the bottom drop out of her stomach.
Clamping a hand over her mouth, she ran toward the mudroom and prayed she'd make it to the back door in time.
One moment he was staring into eyes of the most vivid green, fresh as a spring day, and imagining things he most definitely should not be imagining. Then his mind had taken an entirely different tack as his gaze settled on her stomach.
And then Ethan was watching Lizzie Conner race out of his kitchen as though Satan's hounds were nipping at her heels.
He slammed the skillet back on the stove, then raced after her. What in the blazing hell was going on?
Ethan heard the hard slam of the back screen door and the distinctive sounds of retching just as he came upon the entryway. As clear as a bell, Doc Peters's words screamed through his mind.
Babies are a tough thing. They're natural but not normal.
"Lizzie!" He pushed through the door, his mind whirling with a thousand thoughts, all louder than the cicadas in August.
But the thought that screamed the loudest was to get to her.
He closed the short distance between the door and the bushes that rimmed his back patio and wrapped his arm around her shoulders, holding her as she leaned forward once more. He kept one hand on her arm while the other gathered the thick, curly strands of her hair into a firm hold.
"Shh. It's all right."
Heat suffused her cheeks, and he felt the same warmth radiating from her slim shoulders as he pulled her close. "Are you okay?"
"Oh, no." The words came out in a mix of half squeak and half moan as she straightened. "Oh, Ethan. I'm so sorry."
Those slim shoulders straightened right up and she pulled out of his hold. The soft strands of her hair slipped through his fingers, and he was surprised at how bereft he felt when nothing but cold morning air took their place.
"What's going on, Lizzie?"
Pregnancy is a natural state, but it's hard on the body.
Those damn words continued to taunt him, the unspoken truth hovering between them more powerful than the tornadoes that whipped through Texas in spring.
"Can we go back inside?" Her lips quivered, and he quickly shrugged out of the old sweatshirt he'd shoved on the night before.
"Layer up. It's only February."
He took her hand and pulled her toward the house. Something in his chest turned over when she dragged the ratty old Dallas Cowboys sweatshirt on over her head, her stomach pressed against the material of the sweatshirt she already wore. She was a slender thing, tall and willowy, but even with another thick layer of material covering her torso, her stomach still bore a definitive bump.
It was no trick of the morning light through his back windows. Nor was it some fanciful play of imagination after a long night without sleep.
The flat stomach he'd explored on a sensual journey one lonely night was nowhere in evidence. And after living with a head full of erotic visions for six agonizing months, he knew damn well his memory wasn't the least bit faulty.
He'd explored every inch of Lizzie Conner's body. Had tasted every soft dip and expanse of her skin. Had buried himself deep inside her, allowing every one of the long, lonely years they'd held in common to fade away in the joy of being together.
Ethan stopped himself, pushing away the sharp tang of awareness that made him want things he had resolved never to have.
The scent of bacon still lit up the kitchen, and he shot a concerned glance at her. "Do you need me to throw out breakfast?"
"No!" She shook her head before wrapping her hands tight around herself. "No, I'm fine now."
"Why don't we go into the living room. It'll keep for a few more minutes."
"Drain it first. Please. It was" She broke off, swallowing hard. "The grease was what turned my stomach. If you don't drain it, we can't eat it later. I just need to slip to your powder room for a quick minute."
He directed her down the hall, then did as she'd asked with breakfast. He snatched up one of the slices as he patted the rest dry with paper towels, knowing full well he needed a heck of a lot more fortification than a few pieces of bacon.
But a man took what he could get.
And braced himself for the news he was going to be a father.
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Ethan Colton is the youngest son of serial killer Matthew Colton. He's also the son who found his mother's body and is responsible for his father being imprisoned with his testimony when he was only 7 years old. Ethan has lived with the stigma of being a serial killer's son, all of his siblings have. He is the only sibling not in law enforcement somehow. He owns his own ranch.
Lizzie Connor is someone who's known Ethan since she was a young foster child who shared a foster home with his sister Josie. Due to threats against her, she goes to Ethan's ranch and has to tell him that their one night six months ago made a child. A child Ethan never wanted. He had it in his head that he didn't want to pass along the blood that runs in his father's veins. He's always liked Lizzie, and he feels able to open up to her when he's never been able to anyone before. She knows who he is, who his father is, and she accepts him anyway.
Almost right away Ethan finds himself accepting his impending fatherhood. He has Lizzie move in the house to protect her. She's always loved Ethan and finds herself wondering how she can "live" in the same house and not let her love show.
Ethan is written very well. He knows the murder of his mother by his father and then being separated from his siblings in different foster homes has shaped his life. He just wants to live a quiet life. Lizzie understands him, but she isn't a delicate flower. She argues with him with truth in her words. You can see them as a couple, even when Ethan doesn't.
Lizzie is also written well. She's an independent woman who, like Ethan, has risen above her foster care upbringing and her abandonment of the parents she never knew. She loves the child she carries and wants to protect it. Ethan is proud of who she has become.
The stalker she has was really easy to figure out and wasn't really the criminal mind one would think. And, the reasons for stalking her were so unbelievable, but it provided action along the way. This story also brings the Colton missing sister into the series more than the first book.
This was a good read. We get the chance to learn more about the rest of the siblings as the new stories for them come forth. We also get a glimpse of the Alphabet Killer. This killer is not who the authors are trying to guide you to believe.
After Lizzie announced her pregnancy at work she started receiving flowers, cards, and notes that scared her. She knew she had to ask for Ethan's protection when the notes escalated. She found a note wrapped around a rattle in the crib, inside her home. His brother, and sister were both in law enforcement.
In the small town there is also a alphabet serial killer. The killer started with someone's name that began with the letter A. So far the police, and detective's does not know if the serial killer is after Lizzie, and she will be the next target. The suspense of the story was very good. I loved how protective Ethan was of Lizzie. Once he found out he was going to be a dad, he embraced the idea with love, and hope. Great book!