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Catalina and the Winter Texan
SERIES: The Snowbird Series, Book 1
GENRE: Holiday, Second Chance/Divorced/Widows
ENDING: HEA (They’re a couple and live Happily Ever After)
WORD COUNT: 60,000 to 74,999 (average book)
HERO’S AGE: 40-49
HEROINE’S AGE: 40-49
HEAT LEVEL: Very Sexy (Let Me Show Exactly What I Want)
GRAPHIC LANGUAGE: Just a little (No “F” Bombs, but a little other stuff, no explicit sex)
Catalina Reyes has sacrificed everything to own a beach-front recreational vehicle park. Widowed and struggling, her Park falls on hard times and needs extensive renovations to stay open.
When Manuel Batista, a widower and successful contractor rents a slot at the Park, he’s immediately attracted to Catalina and captivated by her fiery spirit and determination. Manuel helps Catalina to renovate her Park. Working together, their relationship sizzles, but Catalina knows Manuel will return north after the winter. Unwilling to start a long-distance relationship after a painful breakup in her previous marriage, she must learn to trust again.
Can they overcome Catalina’s fears and bridge the gap of hundreds of miles between their homes and families to find a second chance at love?
READ AN EXCERPT
Catalina patted Migo. “What are you doing with my dog?” she asked.
Unfortunately, she had to crane her neck to meet his gaze. He was taller than she remembered. Like one of those big Sequoias in California, he towered over her.
He spread his hands, palms out. “I found him on the beach tangled in somebody’s fishing lines. I cut him loose and brought him home.”
She looked him up and down and glanced at Migo again. Her dog appeared to be all right, and there was no reason Señor Batista wouldn’t be telling the truth.
“Gracias, for rescuing Migo. Was anyone around?”
“Nope, didn’t see anyone. Just the two poles propped in the sand.”
“¡Coño! I wish people wouldn’t do that. It’s dangerous.”
Her face grew warm. She covered her mouth with one hand. She’d done it again. That was the third time she’d cursed in front of Señor Batista.
“I agree. They shouldn’t leave their poles like that.”
“I could post a sign on my property, warning people not to leave their fishing poles unattended. But I wish the State would take responsibility since the beaches are public.”
“Signs would be a good idea.” He nodded and stroked his jaw. “I didn’t realize the beaches were public.”
“Yes, all of Padre Island’s beaches are public. None are privately owned.”
“That’s interesting. Explains some things.” He turned to go and then turned back. “You might want to look at your dog’s hind legs. He got some shallow cuts from the fishing lines, but I couldn’t find any other injuries.”
“Yes, thank you. Umm…how did you know his name?”
“I heard you call him.”
“You mean that morning on the beach?” Her face grew warm again, thinking of how she’d ignored his offer to help.
His gaze snagged hers and held, his brown eyes assessing. She knew what he was thinking, but she refused to acknowledge it.
Tilting her chin up, she stared back at him. And liked what she saw. Chocolate-colored eyes, a hatchet-straight nose, and a chiseled, sensuous mouth. A lock of straight brown hair fell across his forehead, lending a boyish appeal to his rugged features.
“I remembered your Lab’s name when he was fetching the stick for you.”
His reply was straight forward, but she knew he implied more than he said.
“You don’t have to be embarrassed, Señora Reyes, I’m not the morality patrol.”
She lifted her head and met his gaze. “I’m glad, Señor Batista, especially since it’s none of your business.”
Despite her snippy reply, he grinned. “My name is Manuel. But my friends call me Manny. This señor y señora stuff is getting silly. What’s your name?”
“I don’t think—”
“Come on, I rescued your dog.”
What could it hurt? After all, he had helped Migo. And she had been rude. She thrust out her hand. “Nice to meet you, Manuel. I’m Catalina.”
He swallowed up her hand in his huge, callused paw. At his touch, an unexpected tingle trickled down her spine. A slow seep of heat suffused her when she realized how strong and work-roughened his hand was.
“Catalina,” he repeated. “I like that name. My grandmother was named Catalina.”
“I’m glad you approve, Señor, uh, Manuel.”
“Manuel,” she repeated, standing firm.
His grin broadened into a smile. And when he smiled, his rough features softened and his warm eyes glowed. Madre de Dios, he exuded a rugged charm that was very attractive. Even more, in a strange sort of way, he made her feel safe. Like he would champion her or something. He reminded her of the big bear, Balu, from the Disney movie, “The Jungle Book.” She should know because her kids had watched the video until the tape wore out.
“Do you want me to hold Migo while you look at his legs?” he asked.
The safer course of action would be to say no. He might seem charming and safe on the surface, but she’d learned the hard way she possessed poor judgment when it came to men.
“Yes, I could use some help,” she agreed. “I’d like to put him on the kitchen counter, but I don’t think I can keep him there.”
“An obedient dog like Migo?” Manuel glanced at her pet. “He’ll stay if you ask him to.”
Catalina rolled her eyes. Why had he offered to help if he didn’t think she needed it? She had a good idea, and it was on the tip of her tongue to tell Señor Smarty-Pants she’d changed her mind.
“Migo might be obedient but when it comes to pain, he’s a big sissy. Like a lot of his gender.” She couldn’t help but add. “He won’t want me to get within ten feet of his wounds with soap and alcohol.”
Manuel frowned, but he didn’t take the bait. “Not a problem. I’m glad to help. Just show me where you want him.”
“Follow me.” She led him into the back, through her office and into the kitchen.
“You live here?” he asked.
“Yes, I do.” She threw back her shoulders, telling herself she had no reason to be ashamed.
Torres was the one who should be ashamed. He appeared to have a penchant for tearing down, but so far, he hadn’t started any of the necessary restoration work.
She’d reached her limit. If he didn’t fix something the next time, she’d fire his sorry ass. Still, she knew how awful her place looked.
Behind the reception area and tiny office, the A-frame building was one big space with an enclosed bathroom. The kitchen took up most of the bottom floor. And it was a mess. Cabinets had been pulled from the walls and drawers were missing. There was a hole where the pantry should be. The refrigerator sat in the middle of the floor so the drywall could be taped and bedded.
Across from the kitchen was a small living area tucked into one corner where the paneling had been removed, leaving the naked drywall beneath. Upstairs was a loft bedroom that looked down into the living area. Fortunately, for her sanity, Torres hadn’t touched the bathroom or bedroom yet.
Manuel opened his mouth as if he was going to say something. She caught his eye. He dropped his gaze and reached down to grab Migo. That was good. If he dared to say anything about how her home looked, she’d tell him to put a sock in it.
“Could you put Migo there?” She pointed to the counter beside the sink.
“Sure.” Manuel hoisted the Lab as if he weighed no more than a cream puff.
Watching him lift her dog, Catalina couldn’t help but notice the bulge of Manuel’s biceps and the corded strength of the tendons in his forearms.
Her mouth went dry as sawdust. The air in the kitchen felt close. She swallowed hard and fought the urge to fan herself. Like Super Glue, her gaze was locked on his muscular arms. Not only did he look like a bear, if she were any judge, he was as strong as one.
Standing this close to his raw masculine strength and with the soapy-clean, man-smell of him tantalizing her senses, her stomach muscles tightened. And lower, she felt the old, familiar stinging ache.
He glanced over his shoulder. “I’ve got him. Bring on the soap and alcohol.”
She jerked her head up, and a flash of heat basted her face. She’d been daydreaming—or fantasizing.
She grabbed a bar of soap and the bottle of alcohol she kept by the sink. Then she turned on the water faucet and lathered her hands with soap. She grasped one of her dog’s hind legs and worked the lather into his fur.
Migo whined and tried to wriggle away, but Manuel clamped down, holding him still and soothing him with low words.
She focused on Migo, not daring to look at Manuel or accidentally brush against him. After liberally soaping the cuts, she used a wet dishtowel to rinse them. Then she bent over to examine the wounds.
“They’re not deep,” he said.
His voice, rumbling from the expanse of his broad chest, forced her to glance up. Her gaze met his. This close, she could see the thick fringe of his eyelashes framing his brown eyes. He had a small bump in the middle of his nose. An old break—maybe from a fistfight?
But as strong as he was, she couldn’t imagine him fighting. There was something innately gentle about Manuel Batista. Even the firm but tender way he held Migo.
A lump lodged in her throat. What she wouldn’t give to be held like that. How long had it been since someone had protected and cherished her? She closed her eyes, fighting an overpowering urge to bury her face in Manuel’s broad chest. And just as swiftly as the urge swept over her, she recoiled.
What was wrong with her? Had she flipped out?
Meet Hebby Roman
Hebby Roman is a New York traditionally published, small-press published, and Indie published #1 Amazon best-selling author of both historical and contemporary romances.
Her first contemporary romance, SUMMER DREAMS, was the launch title for Encanto, a print line featuring Latino romances. And her re-published e-book, SUMMER DREAMS, was #1 in Amazon fiction and romance. Her medieval historical romance, THE PRINCESS AND THE TEMPLAR, was selected for the Amazon Encore program and was #1 in medieval fiction.
She was selected for the Romantic Times “Texas Author” award, and she won a national Harlequin contest. Her book, BORDER HEAT, was a Los Angeles Times Book Festival selection. Her contemporary romance, TO DANCE AGAIN, was a 2016 RONE Finalist.
She is blessed to have all her family living close by in North Texas, including her two granddaughters, Mackenzie Reese and Presley Davis. Hebby lives in Arlington, Texas with her husband, Luis, and Maltipoo, Maximillian.