Saturday Excerpt: Texas-Sized Trouble by Delores Fossen

Welcome back to Saturday Excerpts, readers! Today we have a special early look at the latest from Delores Fossen, hitting shelves January 23. Are you ready for some Texas-Sized Trouble?

About Texas-Sized Trouble:

A local girl comes home to face the cowboy from her past—and finally claim her future…

Lawson Granger loved Eve Cooper once, but her dreams were grander than anything his Texas-cowboy destiny could provide. Letting her walk out of his life and into television stardom was a mistake he made eighteen years ago. Now everything’s changed. Eve is back—pregnant and desperate for someplace to hide. And their desire is just as stubborn as they are.

Escaping to the comforts of home is Eve’s one shot at giving her baby a safe life. Earning Lawson’s trust is her one chance at making amends for the past. But the long-buried secrets and unintentional damage she fled from aren’t far behind. When the truth finds her, she stands to lose the man she loves and the only place she’s ever called home…this time forever.

***

CHAPTER ONE

“You’ve got a curse on you, Lawson Granger,” the woman said the moment that Lawson stepped from his pickup. “A curse the size of elephant balls.”

That probably wasn’t something most men heard in their entire lifetimes, but most men didn’t live in Wrangler’s Creek, Texas, where the occurrence was slightly higher. Lawson had lost count, but he figured this was his third or fourth curse in the past year.

It was the first for the elephant balls’ part though. “Good morning, Vita,” Lawson greeted her, tipping

his Stetson. His upbringing forced him to be polite to his elders even if this particular elder fell into the bat- shit crazy category.

Vita Banchini.

The town’s resident fortune teller–weirdo who lived just up the road from the Granger Ranch, which Law- son helped run. Other towns had likely skipped the pleasure of having such a colorful character who sold love potions, chanted and foretold curses. Heck, most towns probably didn’t have anyone who used the word foretold, but it was a staple in Vita’s vocabulary.

“Did you put the curse on me, or was it somebody else’s doing?” he asked. He didn’t wait around for the answer though. Lawson hoisted his brand-spanking- new saddle from the truck seat and started for the barn.

“Not me. I don’t do curses unless someone’s wronged me or mine.” Vita followed him, of course, and she was wearing enough beads and bangles that she sounded like she was hauling Jacob Marley’s chains. “And by somebody else, are you talking about the woman whose heart you broke into a million little bitty pieces?”

There was no good answer to that since anything he said would give Vita unnecessary details about his ex, Darby Rester. So, Lawson just went with confirming it. “Yep, that’s who I’m talking about.”

“Hmmp,” Vita snarled.

For something that wasn’t even a real word, it had some stank attached to it. But then, the only person in town who’d thought it was a good idea for him to break up with Darby had been Lawson.

“Well, it wasn’t Darby,” Vita said. “It’s the fates who did this one. I know I get the signs wrong sometimes—”

“The last time you said I was going to need stitches  on my right butt cheek. Thankfully, that didn’t happen.”

“You’re sure?”

He gave her a flat look. “I’m sure.”

She plowed her fingers through her tangled mess of sugar-white hair and scratched her head. “Well, I must have misread the signs. But I didn’t misread these. They were foretold to me in a dream.”

Vita had jumped pretty quickly into “foretold” territory, so in her mind this must have been a serious matter. A lot of things in her mind were probably off-kilter.

Lawson kept walking, nodding a morning greeting to a couple of the ranch hands who worked for him and his cousin Garrett. It was a good fifty yards from the main house where Lawson had parked to the tack room in the barn where he was heading, but he doubted the little walk in the muggy ninety-five-degree heat would stop Vita from following him.

It didn’t.

“The curse involves horns,” Vita continued, keeping up with him.

Lawson couldn’t even muster up a sound of surprise. They were on a large Texas cattle ranch where horns were plentiful. If that was the gist of the foretold stuff, then he’d been living under a curse since he’d started working here when he turned eighteen. But if so, it was good juju, too, because being a cowboy was the only thing he’d ever wanted to do.

“Lawson?” someone called out. Jake Walter, one of their top hands. He was on a corral fence and was about to get in with a new cutting horse they were training. “Garrett’s looking for you. He said it’s important.”

“It might have something to do with the curse,” Vita concluded.

Not in a million years. More likely it was about quarterly taxes or expenses. “Did Garrett tell you what it was about?” Lawson asked Jake.

The ranch hand shrugged. “Nope, but he said you should see him before you go to the guesthouse.”

Lawson frowned. He had a master key to all the buildings on the ranch, including the guesthouse. But since he didn’t normally have a reason to go in there, it was a strange comment. It went along with the strange woman who was still trailing along beside him.

“Anything else on this curse?” he asked Vita. Best to finish this conversation so she could leave.

“Concussion and babies,” she readily answered. Lawson stopped, turned to her and frowned. “Are babies going to get concussions?” He reminded him- self there was only a remote possibility of that, but it did trouble him because his cousin Sophie had twins who were toddling all over the place.

Vita huffed as if that was the dumbest question in the history of dumb questions. Lawson huffed as if her huff was the dumbest sound in the history of dumb sounds.

“They’re separate things,” she said. “Just like the horns. The final part of the curse is water.”

He started walking again. Since the ranch was near the creek and it’d been raining on and off for two days, water was a given. Still, it gave him a split second of concern. He was having a house built close to that very creek, and it was possible the land could flood. Of course, if that happened, it’d have nothing to do with a curse, but Vita would likely take credit for the fates foretelling it.

“Horns, concussions, babies and water,” Lawson repeated. “Sounds as if the fates had a little too much time on their hands when it came to me. Four things instead of just the butt stitches.”

She wagged her bony finger at him. “Don’t sass the fates, young man. And I only said concussion as in one, not multiple. But I am sorry to be the bearer of such bad news. If you need any soothing potions or such, just let me know.”

Lawson made a grunt of agreement, knowing there was nothing that could make him turn to Vita for that, but he did manage a polite goodbye and thank you be- fore she scurried away toward her bicycle. It was her standard mode of transportation, and she’d “parked” it in the side yard.

He dropped off the saddle in the tack room so he could head to the house to find Garrett. Then he could go over the schedule and take care of some paperwork. Not his favorite part of the day, but later he’d be able to work in a ride to see how the new herd was doing. And check on the progress of his house. The sooner the construction was done, the sooner he could get out of his place in town and move closer to the ranch. There was plenty enough to do if he wanted to beat the next wave of rain that would hit in a couple of hours. But knowing it still didn’t cause Lawson to keep walking when he reached the guesthouse. It wasn’t as if he’d gone out of his way to get there. It was in the backyard between the main house and the barn.

Everything seemed normal—making him  wonder why Garrett had issued the warning. Or rather it seemed normal until Lawson had a closer look. There was something brown on the welcome mat. At first Lawson thought it was an animal turd, but no.

It was a horn.

“What the hell?” He nudged it with the toe of his boot. Yeah, definitely a horn. Not from a cow though. His guess was maybe a goat, and there weren’t any of them on the ranch.

It was impossible for him not to think of the curse. Impossible, too, for Lawson to see this as anything more than a coincidence. Heck, Vita could have put it there before he even arrived. After all, she’d been waiting for him when he’d first pulled up. And she was fond of leaving weird gifts and offerings.

Just in case Vita had left something inside, too, Lawson reached for the doorknob to have a look around the place. But reaching was as far as he got.

“Wait!” Garrett called out to him. His cousin was on the back porch of the sprawling main house, and Garrett barreled down the steps. “Don’t go in there.”

Lawson had worked on the ranch for seventeen years, and as best as he could recall, it was the first time any of his cousins had told him something was off-limits. It was one of the reasons this place had always felt like home. Ditto for Garrett seeming more like a brother to him than his own brothers did. But that wasn’t exactly a brotherly look Garrett was giving him now.

“Uh, someone’s staying there,” Garrett added.

His cousin seemed to have a lot of urgency for something that wasn’t that out of the ordinary. Plenty of people stayed in that guesthouse. Garrett’s sister, So- phie, had a lot of college friends who came and went. So did her mother, Belle. However, Lawson was pretty sure that wasn’t just an ordinary FYI that Garrett was giving him.

His cousin stopped directly in front of him and was a little out of breath from his sprint across the yard. He opened his mouth, no doubt to start explaining, but his attention landed on the horn.

“Shit. How’d that get there?” Garrett asked, but it seemed rhetorical since he just kept talking. “I tossed one just a half hour ago.” He glanced around as if looking for the horn-dropper before his attention came back to Lawson. Garrett’s eyebrow lifted.

“Hey, I didn’t put it there. I think it was Vita’s doing. She said my curse has something to do with horns.”

Garrett kept looking around. “You’re cursed again?”

“Appears so. It’s becoming a quarterly thing now.”

“Did Darby have Vita do this?” Garrett asked.

Lawson sighed. “No. This is all Vita and her fate friends. The horn could be her attempt to make sure at least some part of it comes true this time.”

“No. I don’t think it was Vita.” Garrett paused, scrubbed his hand over his face. “I think we’ve got a trespasser who’s leaving gifts for our guest.”

For just a handful of words, they sure packed a punch. Everything inside Lawson went still. It would have been hard for a normal person to connect guest, horn and trespasser, but for him, there was only one logical conclusion.

“Eve,” Lawson managed to say.

There was a frog in his throat. Heck, an entire pond of frogs and their lily pads, from the sound of it.

Garrett nodded, confirming what Lawson had just pieced together. His cousin didn’t jump right into an explanation, though, of why Eve Cooper was here. Garrett seemed to know that Lawson would need a minute. Heck, he needed a week.

Lawson was long over the pain of having Eve crush his heart when she’d walked out on him when they’d been seventeen. He was long over the fact that she’d forgotten her down-home roots when she’d become an overnight teen TV star.

Well, maybe he wasn’t completely over it, but it wasn’t hurt he was feeling now. It was indifference. Maybe mixed with a smidge of being pissed off.

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