"Loved it. Fast moving and fun."Jodi Thomas
New York Times Bestselling Author
Welcome to Farraday Country, set in cattle-ranching west Texas, with all the friends, family and fun that fans have come to expect from USA TODAY Bestselling Author Chris Keniston.
Declan Farraday left the Dallas PD to take the job of Police Chief in his peaceful and uncomplicated West Texas hometown. He just wished the folks in Tuckers Bluff would cooperate. Especially when someone leaves a definite complication on his doorstep and his only option is to reach out to the one girl in town he has no business asking for help.
Becky Wilson has loved Declan Farraday's brother since the first grade and the whole town knows it. When Declan needs help, she doesn't hesitate to step up. Working with the normally serious big brother reveals his gentler sweeter side. The more time they spend together, the more she questions has she been dreaming of the wrong Farraday?
More Audio available in Farraday Country:
Release date: November 30, 2016
Publisher: Indie House Publishing
Print pages: 163
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"The Louisville Slugger strikes again." DJ dropped the receiver into place and pushed back from his desk. "That's the fifth mailbox this week."
Teenage hijinks were one thing, but this was getting totally out of hand. And picking on old Mrs. Peabody this time. Since her husband died, the woman had more than enough imaginary problems, she didn't need real ones. Who knew how long he and his department would have to drive by her house more regularly until she found something new to fret about. With only a few officers besides himself for the small town and the handful of ranches inside the Tuckers Bluff limits, circling Mrs. Peabody's neighborhood all day—and night—wasn't practical, but he'd do it.
Esther, his dispatcher, stuck her arm out. A single pink message slip dangled between her fingers. "You may want to call your brother back."
"Brooks. I took the call while you were calming down Mrs. Peabody."
DJ looked at the note. Says he may have saved your day. "Thanks." A rustling noise near the front door caught his attention, but his cell phone ringing pulled him back. "Farraday."
"If you're coming over you'd better get here sooner than later," Brooks said quickly. "I'm almost done with Christopher Brady."
"Christopher?" More movement out front had him crossing the bullpen toward the window. "What about him?"
"Mom brought him in with a broken arm."
"Oh really?" Christopher was about to learn the hard way, Karma was a bitch.
"Yeah. I'm guessing you had another mailbox go down."
Scanning the street, DJ nodded even though his brother couldn't see him. "Mrs. Peabody."
"If you want my professional opinion, looks like this Brady son isn't taking too well to the attention the twins are getting."
"Yeah, you're probably right. I'll be right over." DJ slid his phone into his pocket and took a step toward the scratching sound coming from the front door and waited. Nothing. Maybe his family was right, he needed a little time off. A break. Tuckers Bluff was no Mecca for crime, but sometimes having nothing to do all day was as draining as having too much to do. Though he'd take those long winter days with no sign of trouble anywhere on the horizon and the increased mischief come spring over big city crap any day. Turning to face Esther, the indispensable dispatcher who'd worn a badge long before he'd become a cop, he waited for her to finish her call.
"Yes, ma'am," Esther said with a smile. "I know how you feel." She also nodded even though the caller couldn't see her. "You can be sure I'll remind him." This time Esther chuckled. "I don't know if I'd say that." Her head bobbed a few more times before her eyes rolled and then the smile came back again. "Yes, ma'am, you have a better day now."
"Let me guess," DJ shifted his weight. "Mrs. Peabody."
Esther nodded. "You talk to your brother?"
"On my way now." Almost at the door, another scraping sound drew his attention. Waving to Esther, he took a quick broad step and yanked the door open. "Well."
Resting on his haunches beside one of the old wooden benches flanking either side of the front stoop, with his tail wagging and tongue lolling, a dog who had to be first cousins with a neighborhood wolf sat as contented as any family mascot.
"Hey there." DJ inched forward, not sure how long that tail would keep wagging. He was rewarded with a raised paw. "You shake, do you?" Taking his chances, DJ accepted the proffered paw, pumped it once and then scratched the animal's neck in search of a collar or tags. "You must belong to someone. No stray learns to shake." Wait a minute. "I bet you're the fellow who has been popping up all over the place."
DJ would have sworn the dog nodded.
"Don't go anywhere. I know some people who are going to want to check you out." Continuing to scratch the dog's neck, DJ pulled out his cell and called his other brother's office. Came in handy having both a people and animal doctor in the family.
"Animal Clinic, how may I help you?" Becky Wilson's jubilant voice came through his phone and made him smile. The kid was always so happy and perky, just the sound of her voice could put a smile on the Grinch.
"I've got someone here for Adam to check out."
"Well, he's not here. Things were pretty slow so he and Meg took off for some shopping in Butler Springs."
"Dang. I've got the dog."
"The dog?" she repeated. "Oh wait. You mean that dog?" Her voice kicked up an octave and now he really smiled.
"I think so."
"Cool! Don't let him go. I'm on my way."
Before he could say another word, the line went dead and he decided the Brady boy could wait. It wasn't like DJ didn't know where the family lived. He just really wished Christopher hadn't graduated from TPing houses to destruction of private property. Turning a blind eye wasn't an option and this level of vandalism surpassed the token stern warning.
"Becky's on her way," he explained to the dog. "You're going to like her."
Again the pooch did that head bob that looked like nodding. Spinning around, he leaped up on his hind legs as if he were asking to dance, and then coming back down, shifted to the opposite side, giving DJ a better view of what had been nestled under the old bench behind the fluffy dog.
"Don't tell me someone dumped your puppies here and that's what's brought you out into the open." Keeping one hand on the dog's collar, DJ leaned over, grabbed hold of the cardboard edge and slid the box out into the open. For a split second he thought he was hallucinating. Blinking once and then twice, he shook his head. No hallucination. Squatting down, he reached forward. "Son of a—"
* * *
Bolting up from her seat, Becky spun around to face her friend and receptionist, Kelly. "Looks like DJ found that mysterious dog. He's got him at the station. I'm running over now."
"Is he hurt?" Like everyone else in town who'd heard about the disappearing dog, Kelly knew some reports had the pup limping. No one liked the idea of an injured animal out on its own.
"We'll see. I'll bring him back. Even if he's not hurt, the poor fellow needs a good home."
"The way he took care of Toni's husband and little Stacey, I'd say he seems to have a protective streak. Maybe your grandmother would like another dog now that you've moved out."
Becky rolled her eyes and fished her keys out of her purse. "Don't give her any ideas." Skirting the edge of the counter, she waved at Kelly. "Be back soon."
"No hurry," Kelly called back.
One of the nicer things about Becky's job was working with one of her best friends and the coolest boss. It didn't hurt any that by working for the eldest Farraday brother, she could keep tabs on Ethan without having to straight out ask about him. Though she saw plenty on social media, she knew there was plenty more that wasn't available for public consumption. And then she tried not to think about the plenty more that not even his family would know of.
The police station was halfway down Main Street. Not a great distance in Tuckers Bluff, but under the circumstances, walking would take too long. Riding down the block in her little pickup, she moved as quickly as possible without drawing too much attention. Of course, she had to take a minute to wave at Burt Larson pulling in some sale barrels from the sidewalk in front of the hardware store. No doubt lugging those things in and out all day is how he managed to keep up with the town gossip. Then the small town code of ethics required her to roll the window down a minute to share a word with Polly closing up the Cut and Curl. "Early day today?"
"Yeah, Mrs. Thorton cancelled her color. Figure it's about time I had an afternoon off."
Becky nodded and waved. "Enjoy."
Most of the storefronts rolled up the welcome mat early during the week, and if she'd waited a few more minutes she'd have probably had to stop for every single proprietor making their way home.
For a place intended to contain lawbreakers, the police station had a very pleasant curb appeal. Becky slid into an open spot in front and then, scurrying past the benches and potted plants to the inset triple glass door, she practically ran inside, only to stop short in the middle of the bullpen.
As expected, DJ stood with a better-than-medium-sized furry gray animal at his feet, but rather than waiting for her in his office, the two were completely fixated on Esther, patting and rocking a baby. "Starting a babysitting service now?" Becky asked.
"Apparently." Esther hummed to the infant curled into her shoulder.
The dog broke free of DJ's hold and loped in Becky's direction.
"Whoa." DJ turned after the dog.
Tail wagging, the pup reached Becky first, plopped his butt in front of her and offered his paw.
"He did that to me too." DJ stopped in front of her, his darkened gaze darting back to the baby.
"So you're a gentleman, are you?" She squatted down and using both hands scratched at the dog's neck and raised her head to look at DJ. "Whose baby?"
"We were just about to find out."
"Find out?" She glanced from DJ to Esther and back.
DJ waved a couple of envelopes at her. "The baby was left here on the stoop in a cardboard box. These came with the bundle." Turning toward his office, the envelopes in one hand, DJ gestured to the dog with the other. "Rin Tin Tin here was standing guard."
"Aren't you a good doggie." She continued scratching behind his ears. "I can't believe anyone from around here would just drop an unprotected baby off on the doorstep." Patting the top of the dog's head, she pushed upright and walked over to Esther. "Girl or boy?"
"Haven't checked. When the chief picked the box up, the poor thing startled awake and Mr. Dad over there handed it off to me so fast you'd have thought the baby was on fire."
Cooing, Becky patted the baby's back. "Aren't babies so sweet."
DJ tore at an envelope and walked into his office.
The phone rang. Esther looked over to her boss, shook her head, and handed the baby to Becky. "Someone needs to answer that."
"Yes, someone does," DJ called from behind his desk, whipping the folded sheet of paper open.
Becky followed him in. The dog plopped down at the doorway, his gaze on the front door. Swaying and patting, she rocked the little bundle back to sleep. She loved babies. All children, actually. Ever since she was a little kid herself, she'd dreamed of a pretty white ranch house with a picket fenced side yard and small children with those strong chiseled Farraday features, deep blue green eyes, and Ethan's sandy hair. Though with every passing year, the longer Ethan stayed married to the marines, the less Becky's dreams of happily ever after seemed likely to come true. But she wasn't ready to give up on the dream. Not yet. Some day he'd come home and see her for the grown up woman she'd become and then he'd have no choice but to fall head over heels in love with her the same way she'd stumbled into loving him back in first grade. "Who would abandon something so precious?"
"That's what I'm trying to figure out." DJ continued to scan the page in front of him. "All this says is that the few days she and the father spent together were fantastic." He glanced up over the edge of the page. "I'll spare you the er…intimate details."
Becky looked down in an effort to hide the blush she knew would creep into her cheeks any minute. She could joke and tease about sex with the girls any Friday night, no problem, but surrounded by strong handsome men, or in this case, man, her old fashioned upbringing always came to life.
"Sounds like mama was—is—a bit of a wild child," DJ continued scanning. "Thought maybe it was time to settle down. That getting pregnant even though they'd used precautions was a sign from God." DJ raised his dark brows at that one.
"I'm guessing the novelty wore off pretty quick."
"Yeah." He turned to a second page. "She's just going to drive and stop wherever the bright lights call to her, knows Brittany—"
"So you're a girl." Becky kissed the top of the precious child's head. "I should have known. Such a sweet face."
DJ continued, "The mother knows she'll be better off with a stable family. Family? Sh—oot." DJ blew out a heavy sigh, and closing his eyes, pinched the bridge of his nose. "If the clueless papa already has a family then Daddy Dearest is married. Wonder how well that's going to go over with Mrs. Daddy Dearest."
"Don't know how stable the family can be if Mr. Daddy is stepping out on the Mrs. Does the letter say who Daddy is?"
Shaking his head, DJ set the paper on the desk and pulled out his cell. "Reed, I want you to park yourself at the mouth of Route 9."
"We looking for drunks or speeders at this time of day?" the junior officer asked.
"Neither. You see any car you don't recognize, pull the plates and call me back." DJ disconnected the call and continued scanning the letter.
"You think the mother's not local?"
DJ nodded. "We don't have any place in town for a married man to have a long weekend party that his wife won't find out about."
"Why'd she drop Brittany off here instead of with Daddy?"
"Probably," DJ folded the letter back into the envelope and slid out another sheet, "so that she can't be arrested. Leaving the baby at a safe house in Texas protects her from prosecution."
"I don't call the front stoop very safe."
"Yeah, she probably knew one of us would be coming in or out." He looked up through the glass windows of his office and toward the front door. "This is going to be a mess. Even if we figure out who the father is, I'll have to call in protective services, find a certified foster parent. You know the father's going to want DNA tests and unlike TV, with the state in charge, that sure as hell won't happen overnight."
From all the rocking in place, even with the conversation, the sweet baby had fallen fast asleep. Becky shifted her weight. "I can help."
DJ unfolded the next paper and looked up at Becky. "You know something I don't?"
She shook her head. "I'm still certified for emergency foster care. Remember Gran's cousin Gert died while visiting a couple of years ago? She had her grandson Chase with her. His mama had been gone a while by then and she'd never told Gert who his daddy was."
"That's right. Y'all had the boy for a couple of months before Social Services found the father."
"We'd have kept him too if Gran hadn't liked the guy. Apparently he didn't even know he had a son."
"Seems there's a lot of that going around." DJ returned his attention to the page in front of him. Like a full moon in fall, his eyes rounded wide until the whites totally surrounded those deep blue orbs.
"What is it?"
His hand fell hard to the table. "This is a birth certificate."
"Good. At least we know who the mother is."
DJ nodded. "We know the father too."
Something in his voice gave her goose flesh. Surely DJ hadn't been the one carousing with strange women. Though now that she thought about it, none of the Farraday men dated the local girls, and she'd have to be a damn fool to think they were all celibate. She swallowed hard and waited for his next words.
"Becky." He sucked in a breath. "It's Ethan."
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