JACK EVERETT, JR.
Name: Jackson Everett Junior, but please don’t ever call me that. Just plain old Jack is fine.
Age: 28 years old.
Location: Oak Bluff, California (San Luis Obispo County)
Profession: Good question. First and foremost—a rancher. But I’m also a lawyer. And soon, thanks to circumstances beyond my control, it looks like I’m going to be a vintner. Guess you could say I’m a little busy.
If your best friends had to pick four words to describe you, what would they pick? Protective as hell, loyal. Does that count as four?
What are you passionate about? My family.
Describe a typical Friday night. A bonfire out back, a cold drink, and the woman who broke my heart ten years ago back by my side.
What are three things you enjoy doing in your free time? Riding, teaching my son how to throw a curveball, and watching Ava Ellis paint.
What’s the last song you listened to? Ava singing Owen to sleep with “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.” Pretty sure I could listen to that every night.
Favorite book? The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach.
If you could go back in time and change one thing in your life, what would it be? I’d have never let ten years get between me and Ava Ellis. I’d change everything about the last night I saw her when we were eighteen.
What are you looking for in an ideal mate? Fiery red hair with a spirit to match. Freckles that would take forever to count—and the woman who would let me count each and every one. A woman who is strong when I feel like I don’t have the strength left to fight yet still needs to lean on me when life pulls the rug out. Because life seems to be doing that a hell of a lot these days. And if she can paint—and likes to do it while wearing a T-shirt of mine that hangs off her shoulder so I can kiss those freckles—well then she just might be the perfect woman for me.
Favorite superhero? Well that’s a no brainer…Captain America, the first Avenger. And the answer can’t be wrong because my nine-year-old son agrees.
Favorite baseball team? The Dodgers, but we probably shouldn’t talk about that. I think the author of this book is a Cubs fan.
Favorite of your two younger brothers? What? Did Luke put you up to this? No way it was Walker. I’ll tell you what…whichever brother told you to ask me that question—the other one is my favorite.
An excerpt from SECOND CHANCE COWBOY…
That night she lay in bed, exhausted but unable to fall asleep. At a quarter past eleven, her cell phone vibrated on her nightstand. She assumed it was a text, but when the vibrating continued, she remembered that she’d turned her ringer off after Owen had fallen asleep. She grabbed the phone quickly and accepted the call even though she didn’t recognize the number.
“Hello?” she said in a half whisper, tiptoeing to her door and closing it so she didn’t wake her son.
“You were sleeping. Shit. I shouldn’t have called so late. Sorry if I—”
“I wasn’t asleep.”
“And—I’m glad you called.”
He was silent for a few beats, so she waited, giving him his space.
“He’s my son.”
“Yeah,” she said again, her voice breaking softly as she crawled back into bed. He’d said it with such conviction she wasn’t sure what to make of it. But that didn’t matter. He knew about Owen and acknowledged him, and that was already more than she could have hoped for after all this time.
“Of course I want to meet him. I never for a second should have made you think I didn’t.”
“It’s okay.” She swiped at a tear, then rolled her eyes at herself. Hadn’t she cried enough for one day? But this was a happy tear. A hopeful one. She kind of liked it for a change.
“No,” he said. “It’s not okay. I was an asshole for letting you leave today without saying anything, but it’s been a hell of a two days.”
She laughed at this, and God it felt good to smile. The weight hadn’t lifted from her chest, but it was suddenly a lot lighter. “I think you’ve earned a free pass or a get-out-of-jail-free card. Or something.”
A deep, soft laugh sounded in her ear, and it only made her smile broaden.
“Jack Everett, did you just laugh?”
She heard the sound again.
“I think maybe I did,” he said.
She opened her mouth to say more but then bit her tongue. She liked being the reason he laughed, but knowing it was enough. She wasn’t going to break the spell by gloating.
“What about tomorrow after school?” he asked.
She grinned. “He gets out early. Noon, I think. Teacher in-service day or something like that. Are you free for a late lunch?”
“How about this great little barbecue place in town, BBQ on the Bluff? I hear they buy local, and from what Luke and Walker tell me, Crossroads Ranch has some of the best beef in the area.”
She laughed again. “Did you make a joke?”
“I think maybe I did.”
“We’d love to meet you for lunch,” she told him. “And as far as Owen knows, you’re my good friend Jack who I haven’t seen in years.”
He cleared his throat. “So, one o’clock?”
She let out a long breath and nodded, then remembered he couldn’t see her. “Yeah. One o’clock. We’ll see you then.”
“I’m glad I called, too.”
And then he was gone.
After the adrenaline wore off, her head sank against her pillow. She barely had time to double-check that her alarm was set before she drifted off into her first restful night of sleep in years.
She dreamed of kissing a boy under an olive tree—and what it would have been like if he’d stayed.