Reaching For Family
Jenna learned early that family wasn’t safe. As Bloo Moose’s vet, she’s determined to find her patients loving homes even if she knows the same isn’t possible for her.
Noah Washington promised his adoptive parents he’d save their farm and now he’s bought almost all of it back. Only one acre to go but it belongs to a woman who makes his owned guarded heart seem vulnerable.
After a decade as an Army Ranger, Noah’s alpaca are supposed to ensure him of a peaceful life but someone is targeting them. Or Jenna.
As the danger escalates, Jenna and Noah build a wary trust but they’ll need to learn the true meaning of family if they want the farm—and themselves—to survive.
Reaching For Family is the 8th book in the Bloo Moose romantic suspense series. Each book can be read as a standalone. The book contains some strong language and sexy times. Enjoy.
Release date: August 10, 2021
Publisher: Jemi Fraser @ Just Jemi Books
Content advisory: The book contains some strong language and sexy times. Enjoy the read!
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Reaching For Family
Jenna Wilkes was in the business of saving lives but she was going to have to kill whoever was making that horrific racket.
She’d spent over twelve hours talking Bertha through labor and more than a few of those hours had been with her hand on the cow’s insides.
There were only a couple more hours before she had her first appointment at her clinic and she needed to spend those hours horizontal.
Alone and horizontal.
She hadn’t been anything but alone in a long time.
Even Bertha had her Bill. Although Bill the Bull was a bit of a player with the entire herd at Jeannie Prescott’s farm.
The banging continued and then a male voice shouted.
Not a voice Jenna recognized.
Maybe someone had an animal emergency.
Jenna sighed and shoved over the blanket then grabbed her jeans from the chair where she’d dropped them. She hadn’t bothered changing her t-shirt when she’d collapsed onto the bed and she wasn’t worrying about it now.
A shriek from Dragon had Jenna shoving her feet into her boots, unlocking her room and relocking it before flying across the room and into the barn proper.
Nothing seemed amiss in the barn area or the clinic in the front corner, so Jenna unlocked the outer door and blinked into the sunshine.
Zilla was head butting her horns into the rails of the corral. Jenna turned to find Dragon and stopped so quickly she could have been frozen in carbonite like Han Solo.
An alpaca stood in front of her. Right in front of her. Its reddish-brown curly hair made it look more like a stuffed animal than a real creature. They locked eyes and Jenna realized she’d treated a lot of animals in her years as a vet.
But not an alpaca.
Dragon’s shriek had her looking past the alpaca for the Canadian goose.
And that’s when her sleep-deprived brain realized that her alpaca friend wasn’t alone.
They were everywhere. Brown, black, white, and multi-colored six-foot fuzzballs all over her property.
Maybe she’d been transported into an alternate dimension while she’d slept for those twenty whole minutes.
Dragon flapped her wings and shrieked at any and all of the legs surrounding them.
None of the alpacas appeared to be bothered in the least by the noise or the chaos.
Then a noise like a Wookie who’d breathed in helium split the air making Jenna jump.
The alpacas near her were humming and the Wookie noise didn’t appear to scare them at all.
Hooves thundered and the bleating continued.
Jenna turned to see if Zilla was reacting to the noise and watched as the ancient goat leapt over the fence to join in the fray.
Jenna hurried toward the goat, not sure what she’d do once she got there. Zilla rarely listened to her but she didn’t want the old girl to get hurt or for her to hurt any of the alpacas.
Why was she surrounded by alpacas?
She’d figure that out once she saved them from a cranky animal half their size.
Of course, Dragon flapped along behind, honking at the alpacas who refused to get out of her way.
The Wookie noise sounded again and Zilla reared up on her feet and added her own shriek to the cacophony.
As Jenna ducked around a fuzzy black and white alpaca, she spotted the Wookie.
Well, the llama.
The not-impressed-with-the-world llama bearing right down on Zilla.
Jenna broke into a run, adding her own shout to the mix.
Of course, the goat ignored her and ran straight at the llama.
Jenna raced towards them, calling for the goat to stand down. But Zilla lowered her horns and raced right at the llama.
Jenna didn’t slow down at the sound of the male voice yelling.
Ears back, the llama shrieked and aimed a huge wad of spit at Zilla. The goat didn’t care.
At the last second, the llama avoided the goat and then they turned and eyed each other warily.
Huffing like a steam engine, Jenna put herself between them and kept an eye on both. Holding up a hand at each, she drew in deep breaths. She wanted her calm voice but couldn’t even get a full breath.
“Easy, Khan. Nothing to be afraid of.”
Jenna whirled to find a full-blown cowboy coming up behind her. Hat. Boots. Jeans and denim shirt.
Soft brown skin and a face that would be gorgeous when he smiled. Which he definitely wasn’t.
Even with the scowl, he was stunning.
Parts of Jenna that hadn’t reacted to a man in a very long time, maybe ever, reacted to this man.
Had to be the lack of sleep.
Jenna checked to find Zilla side-eyeing the llama. And circling. Dragon flew over to land at Jenna’s feet and watch the proceedings.
With the goat and llama quiet, Jenna’s heart rate slowed and all of the questions that needed answers swirled back to the forefront.
Before she had a chance to ask any of them, the man turned those gorgeous deep eyes to hers.
“What the hell are you doing on my land?”
His eyes remained flat as he barked out the question. As if he was used to everyone answering immediately with a Sir, yes sir at the end.
Jenna returned the flat stare but pasted a very fake smile on her face. “This is my land.”
“The hell it is. I bought it and have the papers to prove it.”
“Impossible. This land has been mine for the past six years.”
The man shook his head at her. “I’ve bought the land and it’s easy to prove. If you’ve been squatting on it, you’ll have to move.”
Horrid memories of her childhood flared. She had been a squatter at different times of her life. This wasn’t one of them.
“I’m going to get my phone. Don’t hurt my animals.”
She knew he wouldn’t. He’d been gentle with the angry llama and his touch obviously soothed the animal. But Jenna wasn’t above swapping insult for insult.
Another leftover from childhood that she wasn’t proud of.
She’d taken only three steps when the man spoke again. This time his voice was soft.
“Goatzilla? Is that you? Is that really you?”
Jenna turned to find the cranky old goat trotting over to nuzzle the man’s outstretched hand.
The goat who didn’t listen to a word Jenna said. The goat who’d escaped from every pen in history. The goat who’d eaten half her wardrobe.
That cantankerous old goat was acting like a besotted teenager primping for the quarterback.
Maybe if Jenna went back to bed, she’d wake up in her normal world.
Meeting her eyes while continuing to pat the goat, the man studied her. “Why do you have Goatzilla?”
“That is none of your business.”
But she worried as she headed inside the barn for her phone.
If he knew the goat, he had some kind of connection to not only Bloo Moose, but to the land she owned.
Hoping she wasn’t about to lose everything, again, Jenna grabbed her phone to call the police chief.
Noah Washington watched the woman stride through the alpacas and into the barn.
He’d bought the land back.
Suzanne and William might be gone, but he’d fulfilled his promise. The land wasn’t going to belong to strangers.
Not even a sexy, rumpled stranger who might be pissed, but who wasn’t the least bit scared being surrounded by a herd of alpacas and a pissed-off llama.
Of course, if she’d been living near Goatzilla for any length of time, she’d be used to almost anything.
Noah stroked the goat absently as it chewed on the grass. Why was she on his land?
She didn’t look like she was homeless. He’d guess she’d popped out of bed except the only house nearby was the farmhouse across the field. Also his.
And he would have seen her arrive.
She must have been in the barn.
He wondered if she was actually going to call the police chief. Seemed odd when she was in the wrong. Maybe she was leaving and her comment was only to save face.
That would be the best all around.
But he didn’t hear a vehicle and the farm was a couple of miles from anything.
Putting the woman out of his mind for the moment, Noah turned to look around the land.
It had been a dozen years since he’d lived with William and Suzanne but the memories were vivid. Probably because the couple had brought color to a gloomy and dim childhood.
He hadn’t known his own parents, had been passed from foster home to foster home. Nothing terrible had happened. He’d been luckier than many. But nothing had been home.
William and Suzanne, a white couple well past their child-bearing years had taken him in and taught him all the important things in life.
Love. Laughter. Duty. Responsibility. Courage.
Damn, he missed them.
Being on their land would be a connection. A connection he sorely needed. Being an Army Ranger was a lonely job.
One that ate at your soul.
The alpacas would be better.
He knew William and Suzanne would have loved them.
They might have even loved Khan. And they definitely would have approved of the name.
Which made him smile, not something he was accustomed to lately.
Vermont was going to be good for him. Bloo Moose was the only place he’d ever felt was home. And his adoptive parents would be thrilled he was back.
Like the photos the realtor had sent him, the fences looked intact. He’d been comfortable letting the alpacas out of the trailers to roam on their own.
Inspecting the fences would be the afternoon’s task. Double checking information was second nature. If the animals hadn’t needed to be shipped a day early, he would have finished the task before their arrival.
As it was, he’d driven in at the same time as the semi.
“The police chief is on his way.”
Noah turned to find the woman standing about three yards away. Her posture showed nerves but determination as well. After years in law enforcement, Noah could read body language as well as anyone.
This woman wasn’t a deliberate squatter. She believed she owned the land.
She didn’t appear delusional.
She’d tamed her hair into a ponytail and changed her Yoda t-shirt for one showing a moose dressed as Leia brandishing a lightsaber. A Star Wars fan but not delusional.
At least Noah had the paperwork in his emails to prove he owned the land. He’d been moving from Texas so the actual paperwork was still in the realtor’s office.
He could call him if he needed him. But the police chief should be able to sort it out.
The woman stood right next to Troi and didn’t show any nerves at being within a foot of an alpaca. Most people thought they were going to spit at them even though alpacas didn’t spit.
She didn’t seem worried at all.
“How do you know Zilla?”
He liked that she’d shortened the name of the old goat but she would always be Goatzilla to him.
“I lived here for a few years when I was a teen. I’m surprised she remembered me.” He laughed a bit. “Actually, I’m surprised she’s still alive.”
The woman nodded. “She’s almost eighteen, ancient for a goat. But when she heard your llama calling she jumped over her fence like she was a kid.”
They both turned to look at the goat now curled up on the ground looking every minute of her eighteen years.
“I’m Noah. Noah Washington.”
The woman nodded. “I’m Jenna Wilkes.”
The awkward silence was broken by the sound of tires on gravel. Jenna turned and walked away leaving him to follow. Most of the alpacas had wandered around the large fenced-in area, grazing and socializing.
A police cruiser pulled in beside Noah’s truck. Two men got out, one in uniform and one in casual dress clothes.
“Hey Jenna. And you’re Noah Washington?”
Noah nodded, wondering how the officer had known. He hadn’t shared his name with Jenna until a few moments before.
The officer came over and offered his hand, which Noah shook. “Hi. I’m Chief Dave Belanger. Call me Dave. Welcome to Bloo Moose.”
Jenna’s mouth dropped open. “Seriously? He’s claiming he owns my land and you say Welcome?”
The chief turned to her and smiled. “Relax, Jenna. It’s a misunderstanding is all.”
Misunderstanding? Not hardly. “I bought the land. I’ve got documents to prove it.”
The chief nodded. “Figured as much. That’s why I brought Kurt along.”
The other man smiled and offered his hand. “Hi Noah. Kurt Donaldson, the realtor you’ve been working with.”
Noah nodded and shook his hand but didn’t bother replying. Bad news was coming and he was too busy shoring up his reserves to waste the energy on words.
Kurt turned to Jenna.
Jenna pasted on a fake smile. It didn’t reach her eyes and Noah was sure it covered fear.
Had she been squatting after all?
No. He wasn’t that off. But she was living in the barn. Which she believed she owned.
Why was she living in a barn?
Kurt smiled a business man’s smile. At least it wasn’t a smarmy salesman smile.
“This is easy to clear up. Noah, you bought the forty-nine acres that were for sale.”
“Those forty-nine acres surround this one acre that Jenna owns.”
“What?” He and Jenna spoke at the same time and exchanged wary looks.
“And where does the barn sit?”
“On Jenna’s acre.”
Noah’s stomach dropped. The barn was the heart of any farm. He needed it. Wanted it.
He had a ton of good memories of working in the barn. While Suzanne and William had owned a couple of horses, the farm had been a vegetable farm in his time. A lot of work for an elderly couple and a kid who didn’t have a clue.
But they’d made it work.
Until Suzanne had got sick and the bill had piled up. Noah had joined the army to earn money. He’d sent back every cent he hadn’t used.
But it hadn’t been enough.
He needed their whole farm. Had promised them he’d keep it for them.
“I’ll buy it from you.”
Jenna looked shocked but she plastered on another fake smile and shook her head. “No. I’m sorry.”
Noah glared at Kurt. “Why wasn’t it clear that I wasn’t getting the barn? I thought I was getting the entire property.”
Kurt handed over a large envelope. “The property lines were drawn on the map. I assumed you knew.”
But he hadn’t. Hadn’t thought to check. Had assumed.
And he knew what they said about assumptions.
Gritting his teeth, Noah nodded at everyone and walked to his truck. He was careful not to storm off. No way was he giving that much away.
He drove to the farmhouse. At least he owned that.
Now he needed a plan to get back the rest.
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