Authors: Verna Clay
Rock Star Kisses
Romance on the Ranch Series
This book is dedicated to classic
Rock Star Kisses
Romance on the Ranch Series
Copyright © 2014 by Verna Clay
All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this
book or portions thereof in any form whatsoever.
For information contact:
"Mirrors of Imagination"
Elaina Lee (For the Muse)
cowgirl (flashpackersphotos at CanStock);
rock musician (lunamarina at CanStock)
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places,
and incidents either are products of the author's imagination or are used
fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or
dead, is entirely coincidental.
It seems that most of the books in this series
have had more than one romance in the storyline, and this book is no exception.
When Freckles entered the scene, I knew I had to follow the same pattern. And
what a kick she is! I'll not give a spoiler, but I will say that her hero is
about to have his world turned upside down.
As for Tessa Branigan, it's about time the girl
found her happily-ever-after. She's been through a lot in her twenty-three
years. She also needs to overcome her complex about her weight and see herself
for the beautiful, caring, and compassionate woman that she is.
I tried to bring many of the characters from
past books into this one, which proved challenging. I had to go back and reread
the stories and make charts to keep everyone straight. I calculated that the
story time-lapse between the epilogue in
and the beginning
Rock Star Kisses
is about twenty years. The actual years it has taken
to bring this story from concept to book six, is about five.
Regarding the next book in this series, Epilogue
Three at the end of this book introduces the characters for book seven,
Life has not been easy for the heroine because of physical
challenges so she's protecting her heart from falling for our hero, but I don't
think she's going to win that battle.
Sequence of books in the
Romance on the Ranch Series:
Rock Star Kisses
Tessa Branigan sat at a window table inside
Dixie's Cuppa Joe Coffee Shop and watched the comings and goings in her
hometown of Paxtonville, Colorado. She had forty minutes of her lunch break
remaining. She spooned a bite of yogurt.
She'd returned home five months previous after
finally leaving her abusive ex. Even now she couldn't believe she'd been so
blind as to marry the man who had taunted and teased her when they were
children. After two years of marriage, she'd so despised him that in her
divorce papers, she'd been adamant about changing her last name back to her
maiden one. No way was she going to be saddled with the name of that low-life.
Cecelia MacKenzie, the owner of the coffee shop
and a close friend of Tessa and her family stepped to her table carrying a
tall, lidded coffee. "Here's one for the road, kiddo. You can take it back
to work with you."
Tessa grinned and shook her head. "You
know, don't you, that you wear invisible angel wings."
Cecelia laughed. "Tell that to my daughter,
Merry. Six years old and she thinks she knows everything. There are only two
people she idolizes, her big sister and her father."
Tessa started to respond when movement outside
the window jerked her to attention. "Oh, no!" she cried and jumped
from her chair.
"What's wrong?" Cecelia called as
Tessa ran toward the door.
Tessa didn't pause or respond. She was focused
on preventing an accident. Vaguely she heard chairs scraping as patrons turned
to see what was happening beyond the windows.
Outside, she shouted at a raggedy-looking dog,
but he kept barging across the street. Flailing her arms at the approaching
sports car, she tried to get the driver's attention. He appeared to be glancing
at something in his passenger seat.
The scene became surreal when the dog stopped
three quarters of the way across the road just as the driver returned his
attention forward. He slammed on his brakes, but it was too late. The dog got
smacked by the fender of the car.
Tessa squealed and raced to the large,
reddish-brown animal that looked to be part golden retriever and maybe lab. She
knelt beside the dog and assessed the damage. He was unconscious and his front
leg appeared broken. She wanted to cry, but she could do that later. She reached
into the pocket of her slacks for her cell phone and punched speed dial.
Because she was usually the one answering the telephone at Tanner Veterinary
Clinic, calls had been forwarded to voicemail during her lunch hour. So, instead
of calling the clinic, she called Toby's direct line.
Pick up. Pick up.
The man driving the car was now kneeling beside
her but she kept her eyes on the dog and prayed that Toby would answer his
phone. The guy reached a tanned forearm out to touch the pooch, but she placed
her hand over his to stop him. She warned, "Even though he's unconscious,
he could awaken and bite you because he's hurt and scared. I'm calling the vet
A voice sounded on the other end of her phone.
"Hi Tessa, what's up?"
"Toby, we've got an emergency. A dog was
hit in front of Dixie's Cuppa Joe. He's unconscious and it looks like his right
front leg is broken."
"I'm on my way."
Tessa disconnected the call, stuck the phone
back in her pocket, and turned toward the man. "The vet's on his way."
The guy was staring at her. Her mouth dropped open and she exclaimed,
"Sean, what are you doing in Paxtonville? Last I heard you were on tour on
the east coast."
He replied, "Hi, Tessa," and shrugged.
"I got a reprieve for a few months."
Tessa couldn't believe she was talking to Sean
Barfield, her teenage friend, and now a famous rock star.
She asked, "Are you staying with your
"I don't know. I just drove into
town." His eyes moved back to the dog. "I sure hope he lives. I
didn't see him. It's my fault because I spilled soda all over and was trying to
mop it up."
Behind them, Cecelia repeated Tessa's earlier
question, "Sean, what are you doing here?"
"Hi, Cecelia. I wanted to surprise you and
Dad. I've got some R and R time and was hoping to stay with the family for
Cecelia knelt beside the animal, too. "Of
course, honey. You're always welcome."
One of Paxtonville's locals had started
directing traffic around the scene and now motioned the vet's van around Sean's
car. Toby Tanner braked and jumped out of the van, rushing toward the dog. When
he saw Sean he said, "Hi Sean," but didn't pause in his mission. He
assessed the dog by feeling for his pulse and then opened his bag. "His
heart rate is good, his breathing is labored. I'm going to give him a pain shot
and get him started on an IV. Tessa, you can put some of your training to use
now, I'll need your help moving him onto the gurney."
Toby worked quickly and was soon giving Tessa
instructions on how to lift the backend of the dog onto an emergency board
while he lifted the frontend. The board was then placed on a gurney. Since being
hired by the Tanner twins four months previous, they'd been training her to
eventually become a veterinarian's assistant. She loved animals and the job had
been perfect after being on the receiving end of an abusive marriage. She could
shower the animals with the love she had wanted to give her husband.
Sean Barfield ran a hand through his
shoulder-length mahogany hair. His publicist had wanted him to dye it blond,
but he'd adamantly refused. If he let the overbearing woman dictate his
appearance, it wouldn't be long before she was dictating other aspects of his
life. In retrospect, he regretted having had a fling with her. Granted, it had
been short and all about sex, but if he could do things over, he'd have run the
other direction as fast as he could when she started coming on to him. Even
explained that he wasn't interested in anything long
term, she'd called his cell phone so frequently he'd finally blocked her number
from ringing and told his manager to get another publicist. His manager had
been pissed and started lecturing him on contracts. His life sucked.
Watching Tessa help Toby lift the poor dog made
him feel horrible. Actually, he felt horrible most of the time, but this
feeling was worse than that. He had a soft spot for animals and if he didn't
have to travel so much, he'd adopt a couple of dogs from a shelter and maybe a
Toby and Tessa got the mutt in the back of the van
and Tessa climbed in with him. After Toby had the dog stabilized, he shut the
slider and jumped into the driver's seat.
Sean said, "I'll follow you."
The emergency situation had halted conversation
and now his stepmom hugged him. "I'll call your father and let him know
"Thanks, Cecelia. After I find out what's
happening with the dog and pay the bill, I'll be over. Are you sure you don't
mind me staying? My showing up is unexpected. I can check into a motel."
Cecelia frowned. "I should box your ears
for even suggesting that. Besides, once your presence was known, you'd have girls
lining up outside the motel."
As if to verify her words, they heard a teenage
girl squeal, "Oh, my God, you're Sean Barfield!"
Sean quickly kissed his stepmother's cheek.
"I'll see you later," he said, and raced to his car to catch up with
the emergency van.
His stepmom called, "Toby's office is
across from Biggie's."
The veterinary clinic was only about a mile from
downtown and easy to find since it was across the street from Biggie Bag-n-Save
Big Mart. When Sean pulled into the vet clinic's parking lot, Toby and another
woman were hurrying the gurney through a side door. Tessa was at the front door
unlocking it. He sucked a breath and followed her inside. She had already
disappeared into the back, so he sat and waited for someone to return to
reception. He could hear muted voices coming from the treatment room, but couldn't
make out what was being said. He decided that if the dog lived and didn't have
an owner, he'd make sure to find a loving home for him. He drummed his thumbs
on his Levis.
Several minutes later Tessa returned. He jumped
to his feet and rushed to the reception window and held his breath.
She released a breath. "He's in shock, but
it looks like he could survive. We won't know for sure for maybe a day or two,
but Toby is optimistic. The dog has a fractured right leg, probably a
concussion, and a small amount of internal bleeding. He's sedated so he's not
Sean felt his body relax and stopped clenching
and unclenching his hands. "Thanks, Tessa. I feel terrible about this.
Give the dog whatever he needs; I don't care about the expense. In fact, I can
pay right now. I'll give you extra too.
Tessa waved her hand in a dismissive gesture.
"I'll get the paperwork started later." She gave a little chuckle.
"I know you're good for it."
Sean had always loved the one dimple in Tessa's
right cheek and her outrageously curly brunette hair. She had tied the unruly
locks at the nape of her neck, but some of the long curls had escaped and
twisted like corkscrews around her face. She was as cute now as she had been at
the age of twelve, and just about as round. Sean knew that as a child and teen
she'd been bullied about her weight by a classmate, and that's why her marriage
to the creep only a year out of high school had shocked him. According to his
stepmom, everyone had been shocked. Only a few months ago he'd learned that she
was divorcing the guy and had returned to Paxtonville.
He said, "Are you sure I shouldn't leave
some money?" He pulled out his wallet.
"I'm sure, Sean. Anyway, it's easier if I
He placed his wallet back in his pocket.
"Do you know who the dog belongs to? I'd like to apologize."
"Actually, I've never seen him before. You should
probably run an ad in the newspaper describing him and letting readers know
he's at the vet's. When people lose an animal they almost always check the
"Okay. But if no one claims him, I'll find him
a home. I don't want him going to some shelter."
"Maybe you'll want to keep him for yourself?"
"Yeah, right. Believe me; he'd get just as sick
as I am of traveling from town-to-town in an RV, no matter how extravagant it
She tilted her head. "So, you're taking a
break and visiting your family?"
He shrugged. "Yeah. I've got three months
of freedom." He placed his thumbs in his back pockets. "Hey, why don't
we get together tonight for pizza? I'll wear a disguise. It usually works."
Tessa laughed. "Too late. The news about
the famous Sean Barfield hitting a dog in his sports car will already have spread
like wildfire and everyone will be on the lookout for you and your car."
He frowned. "Then why don't we get together
at your place or my parents' house and have a pizza delivered."
Tessa glanced down at some paperwork on her desk
and shuffled her feet.