A Second Chance<br/>Book Four of The Belanger Crreek Ranch Series

Author: Gloria Antypowich
Publisher: Gloria Antypowich
Published: 2015-05-03
Language(s): English
Category: Fiction
Audience: Adult
Genre(s): Women's Fiction, Western, Contemporary Read Excerpt >

Over the next week, Grayson’s mind was filled with turmoil. Telling Colt and Frank the truth had lifted a heavy weight of anxiety from his shoulders. Their response to his revelation had been an even greater relief. They hadn’t denounced him; they had accepted him as he was.

After the trial he’d still been so filled with guilt and regret that he couldn’t have acknowledged acceptance if it had been offered; he’d withdrawn into himself, shutting the world out, certain that everyone despised him; in truth many of them had. When he couldn’t bear the tension anymore, he’d left town, convinced that everyone would be better off without him around. He’d stayed in touch with his parents by phoning them three or four times a year, but other than that, the ranch had become his cocoon of safety. During the past four years, he’d learned to care for everyone who lived there; they had become his family.

Now the compassion of that family had stirred hope in him. The adulation of ten-year-old Taylor warmed his desolate heart. Sarah’s fierce protectiveness and unconditional love for her son filled Grayson with longing. Would she accept him with the same benevolence that the Thompsons had? He knew he had to tell her his secret soon. If she was shocked and shunned him, he’d have to leave. He couldn’t bear to see the pain in Taylor’s eyes. He couldn’t bear to see the disillusionment and betrayal in Sarah’s.

Every day Taylor came to the barn or the bunkhouse to see him. Each night Grayson laid in bed, thinking about the child who had become so special to him, the boy who openly showed his affection for him, and unabashedly spoke of his desire for him to be his father. His stomach burned as he thought about what could happen when Sarah knew the truth about him. He often buried his face in the pillow and let his tears silently flow. Regret was his companion when he finally fell asleep; regret for the action he’d taken in a moment in time and the lasting effect it had made in his life.


Sarah threw in the last load of laundry and went to the kitchen to start preparing supper. The house was quiet. Frank was taking a nap; calving had taken its toll on everyone’s sleep. Ellie and the children were still in the schoolroom. Colt was at the corrals, working among the cattle with Grayson and Ollie.

She smiled when she thought about Grayson. She hadn’t seen him all week and she realized that she missed him. Taylor had gone to see him every day. He loved to go to the corrals and help Grayson with whatever he was doing. If he was working with a new calf, Taylor would hand him the tag and the applicator, ready for him to use. And he’d talked about holding bottles of A, D & E and Selenium for Grayson and handing them to him when so he could fill a needle and inject the newborn calves. If the calf needed dehorning, Taylor was there to give Grayson a helping hand. Grayson had warned him never to get the dehorning paste on himself and Taylor took him seriously. If a calf had scours, Taylor would help Grayson catch it and give it scour pills. He’d come home more than once with stories of cows who’d threatened them, trying to protect their calves. You always keep the calf between you and the cow when you’re working on it, mom. Grayson says she’ll never run over her calf to get to you. She’ll snort and bellow and paw the dirt trying to scare you away; she even blew slobber on Grayson’s shirt, but she didn’t hit him and knock him over.

She’d died a thousand deaths, afraid that her son would be hurt, but Colt had assured her that Grayson always put Taylor’s safety before his own. In her heart, she knew that Grayson would protect him, and Taylor was totally involved in the new world that Grayson was sharing with him. She had done everything she could do to help Taylor grow into an emotionally healthy child, but the man he admired so much was meeting the one need she could not fill.

She hadn’t realized how much he’d wanted and needed a man in his life, until he’d turned to Grayson. At first, it had alarmed her, but now it warmed her heart to see the way that they had bonded. Grayson was the kind of man she would have chosen to be her son’s father. He was kind, considerate, thoughtful and respectful of everyone. In her heart, she knew he would never be involved in violence and criminal behavior, the way Duncan Talbot had been.

She noticed her heart was beating faster as she rinsed the potatoes and put them in a pot with water. Grayson’s face filled her thoughts; his clear blue eyes, his heartwarming smile that exposed the dimple in his left cheek. The lock of blonde hair that tended to fall forward on his forehead, and his tempting defined lips that had hovered close to hers more than once, uncertain and cautious. She ran her tongue along her lips, imagining his touch, shivering with the reality of her thoughts. I could fall in love with that man. What did Frank say? Maybe he’s been waiting for Taylor and me.

When class was over for the day, Taylor, Sam, Selena, and Ellie came to the kitchen for their daily after school snack. Taylor drank his hot chocolate quickly and gobbled down a cookie. Then he hurried to the porch and put on his heavy coat and boots. “I’m going down to the barn to see what Grayson’s doing, mom.”

“If you want to, you can invite him up to our place for dessert tonight.”

“Whoopee. I’ll do that. I hope he’s not too tired to come.”

Later that evening Grayson knocked on the door at Sarah’s apartment. Taylor beat her to the door. “Hi Grayson,” he greeted him. “Come in. Mom’s got hot chocolate for us and some cake.”

Grayson took off his coat and hung it on a coat hook. Then he turned and grabbed Taylor, pulling him under his arm and ruffling his hair affectionately. He smiled as his eyes met Sarah’s. “Hi there, stranger, I’ve missed seeing you. Thanks for inviting me up.”

Sarah blushed softly. “It’s nice to see you, too. You guys have been so busy with calving, but its Friday night so I thought Taylor could stay up later and we could spend part of the evening together.”

Grayson walked over and slid his arm around her waist, pulling her against his side. “That sounds cozy. It beats looking at the walls in the bunkhouse.”

“Do you guys want to sit here at the table or should we sit on the couch and watch a bit of TV?”

“Let’s watch TV. I can sit between you two like we did at Christmas. I like that; it feels like we’re family.”

Sarah and Grayson smiled as they looked at each other over his head. “Let’s go then. After we’ve watched for a couple of hours, I want you to go to bed, Taylor.” Grayson look became serious. “I have something private that I need to talk to your mom about.”

Taylor couldn’t hide his grin. “Let me guess. Are you going to ask her to marry you, so you can really be my dad?”

Sarah’s face flushed red. “Taylor! People need more reasons to get married than that.”

Grayson hugged his shoulder. “No, Taylor. That’s not what I want to talk to your mom about. This is something else entirely.”

Taylor fidgeted as he sat between his two favorite people. His mind was teeming with possibilities and he couldn’t concentrate on the TV program. Finally, he yawned and said he thought he’d go to bed. Grayson looked at him sternly. “I don’t want you standing at the door and trying to listen to your mother and I talking, Taylor.”

Taylor looked sheepish. “I won’t. Call me when you’re finished and let me know.”

Grayson’s eyes suddenly glistened with emotion. “This is a very serious talk son. You may not like what happens after we have it.”

“Naw, she likes you.”

Sarah, shaken by the sadness in Grayson’s eyes, felt her chest tighten. Grayson walked Taylor to his room and gave him a hug goodnight, then closed the door and came back to Sarah. “Can we sit in the kitchen, Sarah?”

Sarah nodded and followed him. He walked to the table, pulled out a chair for her, and sat down across from her. He tapped his fingers on the table, glanced at a picture on the wall, cleared his throat and looked at Sarah intensely. “Do you remember the night we sat here before?”

Moisture gathered in her eyes. She nodded.

“You told me your secret.”

Dread flooded through Sarah as she nodded.

“God,” he said softly as he rubbed his hand across his mouth. “I wish I didn’t have to tell you this, but I’ve been living with a secret too.”

Sarah's eyes were frightened. She twisted her hands together as she stared at him. “Are you married? Do you have a family?”

“No. It’s nothing like that.” He ran his hand nervously through his hair, his look was pleading. “God, how do I tell you this?” He swallowed hard. “Six years ago I hit a man. He fell and hit his head on the sharp edge of a rock. It caused brain damage. I was charged with Aggravated Assault.”

The color drained out of Sarah’s face. “No,” she gasped, jumping up from the table. “What have I done?” she cried. “How could you do this? You encouraged Taylor, he loves you…but you are a common criminal just like his father.”

Grayson stood up and reached out to her. “No, Sarah. What happened was a freak accident. I am not…”

Sarah turned away from him. “Damn you. I let my guard down. Things were going so good here. I began to trust you…have feelings for you, dreams of a future. The ranch is the best thing that ever happened to Taylor. He thinks you are perfect. How am I going to tell him he has to stay away from you? He’s going to be devastated, but I can’t let him be influenced by someone like you…we’re going to have to leave.”

Grayson pulled her into his arms. His tears mixed with hers. “No, Sarah. You can’t do that. I’ll leave.”

“He’s going to resent me no matter what happens. He won’t want to stay on the ranch without you.” She pushed away from him. “Damn you,” she cried as her hand flashed up and slapped his face. “I wish we’d never met you! Get out of here.”

Grayson stumbled to the door, grabbing his coat on the way. Sarah ran to her bedroom and fell on the bed, sobbing inconsolably. Taylor lay in bed, listening to her distressed cries. His heart twisted with fear. What had happened?

He waited for half an hour. Then he couldn’t stand not knowing what was wrong. He got out of bed and went to his mother’s bedroom door. He pushed it open and tiptoed inside. Sarah lay on the bed, her sobs accompanied by pitiful moans. He sat down beside her. “Mom,” he whispered fearfully. “What is wrong?”

“Oh honey, I’m so sorry.”

“About what mom?”

“Grayson…he’s not who we think he is. He’s…he’s …I know how much you love him, but he’s a violent man. You…you can’t hang out with him anymore. We’re going to have to move again. I can’t let you…”

“No!” Taylor’s cry was a wail. “I don’t want to move again. And Grayson is not a bad man, he’s like my Dad, and I know he loves me. He loves you too; you’re just too stupid to see it. I’m not moving away from Grayson.”

“Taylor, I’m your mother. You’ll listen to me.”


Taylor’s look became set and stubborn. “I am not moving again and... I’m not leaving Grayson. You’re wrong about him. I know it!”

A Second Chance ~ Book Four of The Belanger Crreek Ranch Series   by   Gloria Antypowich   |   See Bio >
Book 0 of 0 in the A Second Chance Series.
Contemporary fiction, Western Romance, Adult content, ranch, veterinarian, ranch hand, Maple Creek Saskatchewan, defiant teenager, father daughter clashes, drug dealer, murder threats, housekeeper, 10 yr old son, father figure, single mother, betrayal,

“No!” Taylor’s cry was a wail. “I don’t want to move again........ 
“Taylor, I’m your mother. You’ll listen to me.” 
Taylor’s look became set and stubborn. “I am not moving again and... I’m not leaving Grayson. You’re wrong about him. I know it!” 

When Sarah Brite arrives at Belanger Creek Ranch, it's like a sanctuary from her troubles, even though she can never totally relax. She is always looking over her shoulder—alert and waiting to run. The ranch is a vast rural area, a place where it doesn’t seem likely that her son's violent father would find them. The ranch ‘family’ is a close-knit group consisting of co-workers and the owners, Colt and Frank Thompson. They all look out for each other. There's only one thing that makes Sarah uneasy… that's gentle, friendly Grayson McNaughton. Her son, Taylor. immediately bonds with Grayson. This disquiets Sarah. Grayson is a nice enough man, but Taylor makes it increasingly clear that he would love it if they became a family. 

Sarah decides to share her dark secret with Grayson so he will understand why he can never be Taylor’s father. He is filled with compassion and insists she share her fears with the Thompsons, who stand staunchly behind her. Sarah relaxes and begins to want to make Taylor’s wish a reality. 

However, Grayson McNaughton has a secret of his own; he had destroyed a man’s life, and he was charged but not convicted of aggravated assault, eight years before he came to the ranch. Burdened with deep-seated guilt, he chooses to live in obscurity and hideaway in pain. He loves Sarah, and as they gradually grow closer, he knows he has to be honest with her, so even though it may jeopardize their relationship, he shares his painful past. 

Sarah is devastated; furious that she has let him get close to her son. Even though she does not have all of the facts, she immediately labels Grayson as a violent person. She has had enough violence and fear in her life, and she doesn’t want to expose Taylor to it. She is ready to pack up and run again, but Taylor is older now, and he isn’t having it. He loves Grayson and is through with running. He digs in his heels, ready to fight his mother. 

Colt Thompson offers a solution to Sarah that will allow everyone to stay at the ranch. Taylor begrudgingly accepts the terms, but Sarah’s ultimatums come at a cost… she realizes she is losing her sons affection and respect. 

An unexpected tragedy intervenes. Is it too late for Sarah and Grayson to make Taylors world complete? Will they have A Second Chance?

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