Hope for the Hero - Signed Paperback
Hope for the Hero - Signed Paperback
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She’s his opposite, and opposites don’t attract. So why is she impossible to resist?
Book thirteen in the Heroes of Freedom Ridge series.
- Opposites Attract
- Workplace Romance
She’s his opposite, and opposites don’t attract. So why is she impossible to resist?
Tessa Mitchell is finally getting a chance to work at her brother’s private security firm, and after one hundred other jobs that didn’t work out, this one needs to stick. Headquarters could use a makeover anyway. Oh, and she’s working for up-tight Adam. Ruffling his meticulous feathers should be fun.
Adam Roberts doesn’t need an assistant, especially not flighty Tessa. If she’d let him get a word in between her constant questions, he’d save her the trouble. She’s not meant to work in the security field.
Except, Tessa is intelligent underneath all that flirty chatter, and Adam can’t focus when she’s around. The smart thing to do would be to shut down the feelings and put some space between them. Instead, they’re sent out of town for work. Together.
When a snowstorm descends on their first co-assignment, will a change in the weather cause a change in their hearts?
Return to Freedom, Colorado and enjoy the faith, friendships, and forever-afters of the Heroes of Freedom Ridge in this Christian Christmas romance.
Read Chapter One
Read Chapter One
Tessa swiped her fingertip around the edge of the mixing bowl and popped it into her mouth. She’d left batter behind for this very purpose, and the creamy mix tingled on her tongue. Success tasted a lot like chocolate.
She peeked over her shoulder to find her friend, Claire, glaring in her direction. Ever the rule-follower, Claire was plain dark chocolate. Probably sixty percent. Tessa, on the other hand, was more of a peppermint bark with sprinkles.
Two deep grooves took their place between Claire’s brows. She was forming permanent lines in all the wrong places. “There are raw eggs in the batter.”
Tessa rolled her eyes. “Tell me you’ve ever been able to resist tasting the batter. It’s delicious.” She held out the bowl to display the temptation.
Claire leaned close and whisper-screamed, “Raw eggs!”
“So good!” Tessa pointed to the bowl.
The class instructor, Patience, stepped up beside Tessa and crossed her arms over her chest. “What do you think? Have you figured out the secret to baking good brownies?”
Tessa nodded and picked up the piece she’d been eating. It was perfect–a feat she’d never been able to accomplish until the town’s best baker became her mentor. “Definitely. If you hadn’t opened my eyes, I might have stayed a brownie burner my entire life.”
Patience shook her head. “You burned one batch–”
“Ten. I burned ten batches,” Tessa corrected. “All while watching them through the oven window.” She waved her hands in the air, accentuating the ridiculousness of the tale.
“It’s true. I tried some of them,” Claire said, scrunching her nose and shuddering. “They were bricks.”
Patience pinched a bit off a corner and popped the brownie into her mouth. “I’d say your brick baking days are over.”
Claire snapped the lid onto her container of brownies. “Why is it such a big deal to conquer brownie baking? You’re great at so many other things.”
Tessa scoffed. “Do you know me at all? My obsessive hobbies consume me until I master them.”
It was an honorable yet sad truth. Tessa liked learning, so much so that she’d been accused of going “overboard.” Whatever that meant. It was crazy to start something without finishing, not to mention a waste of time.
And no, none of her hobbies were a waste of time. She liked to think of them as “continuing education.”
“Last I heard you hadn’t conquered Mandarin,” Claire pointed out.
Tessa narrowed her eyes at her friend. “Why did you have to go there?” Languages had always been a challenge for her, but the Asian-based language had stumped her through two classes already.
Claire held up her hands in surrender. “Sorry. I know it’s a sore spot, but I’m just saying the world didn’t end when you gave that one up without conquering it.”
Tessa packaged up her leftover brownies. There were half a dozen fewer squares in her dish than Claire’s by the time they’d chatted for several minutes after the class had ended. “I never said I gave up on Mandarin. I just haven’t found the course that works for me yet.”
“Do you plan on ever using Mandarin in your everyday life?” Patience asked as she wiped off the counter.
Tessa waved her hand in the air. “You never know. It might come in handy one day. It’s best to be prepared.”
Claire shook her head. “No, I don’t think that one will come up. Ever.”
Tessa leaned on the counter, ready to defend her position as a career student. “I never thought I would need to use my commercial driver’s license, but who did they call when that tractor trailer got stuck in a hairpin turn on the ridge last year?”
“That was a special incident,” Claire said, waving a hand in the air. “I still can’t believe you, of all people, got a call to help with that.”
“Um, knowledge is power.” Tessa held up the tray of brownies. “This is proof. I’m planning on winning the Thanksgiving competition and the church bake-off.”
Patience held up a finger. “It’s not a bake-off. It’s a Christmas charity dinner.”
“Right, and my brownies will be the best,” Tessa said.
Patience looked at Claire, then back to Tessa with an amused grin. “Is everything a competition?”
Tessa looked from one friend to the other. “Is that a trick question? Because, yes, everything is a competition.”
“What if there isn’t an opponent?” Claire asked as she hooked her purse strap over her shoulder. “Who wins if you don’t master Mandarin?”
Tessa gathered up her tray and some of the supplies for the class. “If I don’t win, I lose. Bottom line? I like to win.”
Patience laid a hand on the light switch for the church fellowship hall where they’d held the cooking class. “I get it. If I mess up a recipe, I keep trying until I get it right. I do feel a little bit like a failure if it doesn’t turn out perfect.”
“But that’s your job. Of course you want to get it right,” Claire said.
The women walked out into the dark church parking lot and locked up the building. Patience pocketed the keys and gestured to Claire. “I bet you feel the same way if you paint something that doesn’t turn out like you wanted.”
“Well, yeah, but I just keep working on it until it’s finished.”
“Ha!” Tessa shouted into the night. “See? Everyone does it.”
At least, she hoped that was the point being made. There wasn’t anything wrong with her growing list of accomplishments. Right?
No, there wasn’t. End of story.
Claire fell into step beside Tessa and wrapped an arm around her shoulders. “I love you, but your obsessive hobbies are a little extra.”
Tessa lifted her chin. “My latest obsession got me my new job.”
“I don’t think getting a degree in Information Systems Technology is an obsession. That’s a career path,” Claire said.
“The obsession was getting a job at Got Your Six Security,” Tessa said.
Patience stopped walking and held up a hand. “Wait a minute. You got an undergraduate degree just so Heath would let you work at his firm?”
Claire threw her head back and sighed. “Yes. She did.”
“Why do you want to work there?” Patience said. “Because it’s your brother’s company?”
“No. Because he told me ‘no.’” Tessa wrapped her coat tighter around her. “I don’t like being told ‘no.’”
“Tessa, you have to accept ‘no’ as an answer sometimes,” Claire said.
“I know that. I respect ‘no’ as an answer. But now I’m qualified to work there. He has no reason to say no.”
There were a lot of nos being thrown around, and Tessa ignored the itch creeping under the collar of her sweater. If there was one thing her parents had taught her, it was that she could accomplish anything she wanted, as long as she put in the work. She slept well at night knowing Mandarin would not get the best of her.
Claire’s shoulders sagged, and she tilted her head. Tessa tensed when her friend’s sympathetic smile flashed in the dim streetlights. “He’s actually excited about working with you.”
“Did he really say that? In those words?” Tessa asked. Claire was the link to all things Heath now that they were married. Having a best friend turned sister-in-law was the best.
“Yes. He said that. I think the exact words were, ‘This might be okay.’”
Tessa tried to temper her reaction to those words, but she couldn’t hide the smile that spread over her face. Heath had always been her supportive big brother, but knowing he really believed in her and wasn’t just cheering her on so she would succeed at the next thing made her love him more.
“I can’t believe I start tomorrow,” she said with a squeal, almost dropping the tray of brownies. “My dream is finally coming true.”
“I hope this job is the right fit for you,” Claire said.
“I hope so too.” After years of trying everything from nursing to calligraphy to welding, she was finally ready to settle down in the job that would become her career. This one was it–the real deal. She could feel it in her blood. Or was it her bones? Either way, the nervous bubbling in her stomach was a good thing. She just knew it.
Patience checked her watch and waved. “I have to get home. Tuck will be worried about me. I’ll see you two on Sunday.”
“Bye,” Tessa and Claire shouted in unison. Their hands waved in the air over their heads.
Claire exhaled a warm breath that billowed in the cold night air. “I need to get home too. I’m surprised Heath hasn’t already called.”
Tessa pouted. “I was hoping you’d come with me to Stories and Scones.”
“I can’t drink coffee at this hour. I’d be up all night,” Claire said.
Tessa held up a finger. “First, caffeine doesn’t affect me. I run on natural energy.”
“And lots of it,” Claire added.
Tessa held up the tray. “Number two, I want Jan to taste my brownies.”
Claire covered her mouth as she yawned. “I wish I could come, but it’s my bedtime. I haven’t been out this late in years.”
Tessa bit her lips between her teeth. Claire didn’t go out much, no matter what time. Getting her to this class was a feat, but it helped that it was a small group of ladies from their church.
Claire was Tessa’s social opposite, and their friendship had lasted because she was understanding of Claire’s reasons for staying home ninety percent of the time. Anyone would be skittish after being attacked the way Claire had been.
No, Tessa didn’t allow herself to think about the awful thing that had happened to her friend. It made her sad, and sadness was bad for her health.
Besides, Claire was happy now. She was married to Heath, they had two adorable kids, and she was a famous artist. Yes, famous. Like, people paid good money for Claire’s paintings. She was the real deal, and Tessa couldn’t be more proud of her friend.
“Tell little booger I love him more, and tell sugar plum she’s my sunshine,” Tessa said.
“I will. Are you sure you’re up for babysitting on Saturday? I can do my Christmas shopping online.”
“Of course. We’ll have a blast. Go shopping and have fun.” Tessa shimmied her shoulders, careful to hold onto her dessert in the process.
Claire gave Tessa a side glance. “If you’re sure.”
“I’m positive. A thousand percent positive. I’m bringing all the stuff we need to make your Christmas present too.”
Claire’s eyes widened. “Um–”
“Relax. The paint is water-soluble, so it’ll be easy to clean up.”
Tessa gently bumped her shoulder against Claire’s. “I think you said you needed to get home.”
Claire huffed a defeated sigh. “Don’t destroy my house.”
“I would never. Be safe,” Tessa said as she herded her friend into her car.
When Claire was safely on her way home, Tessa headed for Stories and Scones. She’d worked at the bakery and bookstore for a brief time, and Jan hadn’t let her forget the charcoal brownie incident–or the others that followed. Tessa wasn’t going home until her reputation was mended.
A dozen streetlights lit up the main square in downtown Freedom, and Tessa found a convenient parking spot on the street right outside of the bakery. She bundled her coat around her neck and grabbed the brownies before bolting out into the cold night. It had been six days since they’d had new snow, and the wind held the bite that promised a dumping of the slushy white stuff was on its way.
The cheery bell above the door chimed as Tessa darted into the bakery. The warm scent of sugar and spice greeted her with a comforting hug. “Jan!”
Jan stepped out of the room behind the counter and beamed. “Tessa, good to see you.”
“You too. How are you and the mister?”
“Peachy as usual.” Jan tilted her head toward the back room as she walked around the counter.
“How are you?”
Tessa set the tray of brownies on the counter and opened her arms to Jan. “Wonderful as always.”
Jan’s embrace held all of the comfort of a mother’s arms. Tessa had her own mom, whom she loved dearly, but Jan had that mature friend vibe that was always nurturing. Jan and her husband, Pete, had graduated from high school with her parents, and despite the difference in their ages, Tessa considered Jan one of her best friends.
After the hug, Jan pointed to the tray. “Did you bring me a present?”
“You bet I did.” Tessa pulled the top off the brownie dish and waved her arms over the masterpiece. She was a magician, and she’d just made perfect brownies appear from thin air.
“You didn’t burn them!”
“I took a class with Patience at the church tonight.”
Jan gasped. “Speaking of church. I forgot to tell you that Martha Justice said her nephew is moving back to Freedom, and he wants to make friends. She said he’s handsome, single, and thirty-two. Oh, and he has a good job.”
Tessa tilted her head and squinted at the meddling older woman. “Did you set me up on another blind date?”
“I didn’t yet, but I was just waiting to talk to you about it first.”
Who was she kidding? Tessa loved Jan’s meddling, and she wasn’t opposed to going out with someone new.
She shrugged. “Go ahead. I think I’ve been on a first date with every eligible bachelor in Freedom, so a newbie might be my only hope of finding love close to home.”
“Don’t give up, sweetheart. There’s a man out there for you.”
Tessa scoffed. “I don’t know how to give up.”
“That’s the spirit,” Jan said as she reached for a brownie.
Jan’s husband, Pete, stepped out of the back room. “I thought I recognized that voice.”
“Petey!” Tessa had started using the silly nickname for Pete when she worked at his rental agency a few years ago. It was Jan’s nickname for him when they were still just friends, and Tessa picked it up when Jan stopped using it as much after they married.
His salt-and-pepper hair and turtleneck sweater was deceiving. Pete was none other than a spy. Not the Boris and Natasha from Rocky and Bullwinkle knockoff either. He was an undercover agent, dabbled in espionage, had top-secret clearance, and all the other exciting stuff.
“I heard there might be a blind date in your future,” Pete said.
“Maybe. If this one doesn’t work out, I might start to believe I’m meant to be single forever.” Cue the sad music that would accompany her pity party. Tessa was optimism in human form, so any negativity was cause for alarm. Today, Pete and Jan were picking up on the twinge in Tessa’s mood, and they shared one of those knowing glances where married people could read each other’s thoughts.
“Patience is key,” Pete said. “I knew Jan for years before anything romantic started between us.”
“It’s true,” Jan mumbled around a mouthful of brownie.
Tessa looked back and forth between her friends. “Are you saying that one of those dud dates might be my future prince charming?” Tessa asked. That was a scary thought. Would it be Mr. You-ate-the-last-cheese-stick-without-asking or Mr. It’s-Kenneth-not-Ken? There wasn’t a single man in Freedom she’d entertain a second date with, and she definitely didn’t want any of the taken ones.
Pete shrugged. “I don’t know, but I think you’ll end up with the right man one day.”
“Thanks. Would it be wrong to ask the church to pray for an end to my singleness?” Tessa asked. Maybe the late hour was to blame for her morbid mood.
“I’ll mention you at the women’s prayer group,” Jan said as she finished the last bite of brownie. “Well, these are delicious. Does this mean you’re coming back to work here?”
Tessa bounced on her toes and clapped. “I start my new job tomorrow.”
“Where?” Jan asked.
“I’m working for Heath!” She’d never get tired of saying it.
“Congratulations,” Pete said. He was the one who encouraged her to go all in and get the education if she really wanted her brother to consider her for a position at Got Your Six Security.
“Yep. I have my first degree under my belt, and I’m ready to work,” Tessa said with her usual over-the-top level of optimism. There. That sounded much better.
She’d been reaching for this job for years. If anything would push her enthusiasm over the top, it was her dream job.
“First degree?” Jan asked. “First implies there will be a second.”
“Well, I can’t rule that out,” Tessa said. “I like to learn.”
“And that’s a good thing,” Pete said. “Especially in the security field. Technology is always advancing. Sometimes it’s hard to keep up.”
Jan bumped her husband’s shoulder. “Good thing you’ve stepped back from all that secret agent stuff.”
Stepped back was a loose term, apparently. Pete still helped out at Got Your Six on a regular basis. Jan definitely knew, but asking Pete to go cold turkey on the agent stuff was like asking a dog not to wag its tail.
Pete wrapped an arm around Jan. “I think what she’s asking is do you think you’ll want to stick with this one?”
It would be easy to read a jab into his question, but Pete didn’t mean any harm. In fact, her history implied she wouldn’t settle for this job. But she’d worked almost everywhere in Freedom, and none of those jobs had given her a sense of fulfillment like what Heath had at Got Your Six. The company was his baby, and for good reason. He was saving lives. He’d saved Claire back before they got married and started a family.
Tessa wanted that. She wanted purpose and fulfillment. She wanted a job where she could make a difference and help others.
She straightened her shoulders, emboldened by determination. “I can’t say for sure yet, but I think this is the one.”