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Love for a Lifetime - Signed Paperback

Love for a Lifetime - Signed Paperback

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They’ll always be friends, but they can never be more.

Love in Blackwater Series Book 2. 

Main Tropes

  • Friends to more
  • Brother's best friend
  • Small town romance


They’ll always be friends, but they can never be more. 

Dawson Keller has held a torch for his best friend’s little sister for as long as he can remember. He might be a flirt, but his heart will always belong to Olivia.

Olivia Lawrence lives to serve others and work on the family farm. Helping people and tending animals keep her mind off the one thing she wants but can’t have—a family.

Her brother’s best friend might joke that they’re meant to be, but he doesn’t know how little she has to offer a husband. Especially a man like Dawson who loves kids and makes everyone laugh.

On top of that, Olivia’s best friend is head over heels for Dawson, and hurting her friend is out of the question.

Dawson keeps showing up to save her at all the wrong times. From a disastrous wedding date to an unfortunate camping incident, Dawson is always there when Olivia needs him.

When Dawson finds out her secret, and her friend feels betrayed, Olivia is at risk of losing them both.

If you loved the Blackwater Ranch series and the Wolf Creek Ranch series, get ready to fall in love all over again in Blackwater, Wyoming.

Read Chapter One

Olivia’s foot slid on the gas pedal, causing her entire vehicle to jerk. “He what?”

“He put eggs in Brett’s backpack!” Heather shouted through the speakers of Olivia’s trusty old car. “I’m going to have to buy him a new one. It was already starting to smell by the time he got home yesterday. I had to toss it.”

Olivia leaned closer to the steering wheel and peered up at the darkening sky. She needed to get home before the rain if she wanted to make the trek to Cluckingham Palace and back without turning into a wet mop.

But seriously? Eggs in a backpack?

Kids were cruel.

“They weren’t my eggs, were they?” Olivia shouted. The thought of her eggs somehow contributing to a middle-school prank had her ready to riot.

The local news headlines would be epic. The Chicken Chick Conducts Citizens Arrest Following Egg Misuse.

On second thought, her Instagram followers would love the scandal. Maybe she’d go viral again with a reel of her exacting revenge on a twelve-year-old bully.

Heather laughed. “Honey, I have no idea, but I consider you innocent in all this. It’s a crime to waste your eggs.”

Olivia huffed, not at all appeased about the abuse of poultry, but this call wasn’t about the prank. It was about Heather’s son. “How is Brett?”

Heather sighed. “He’s upset. Embarrassed. I mean, kids don’t have enough to do these days if they spend their time thinking up new ways to humiliate their peers.”

“I’ll be praying for him. And you. I know this is hard, mama.”

Heather let out a sarcastic chuckle. “So hard. I’m at the end of my rope with these awful kids. I just want Brett to have a decent middle school experience. He can’t even focus on his schoolwork because he’s terrified to look anyone in the eye.”

“You’re a good mom. Remind him how special he is. Remind him that middle school and high school are preparing him for something greater. Brett is a smart kid, and he’s going to be a great man one day.”

Heather sniffed. “You’re right. He’s the best. I hope he still remembers that after all this mess. Thanks for talking me off a ledge.”

Olivia took a deep breath and stopped at the only stop sign in the tiny town she was driving through. “Anytime. I’m always here if you need me. Only a call away.”

“I’ll call you Thursday about the bake sale.”

“Talk to you soon. Tell Brett I said hi.”

Olivia pressed a button on her steering wheel to end the call and looked at the clock on the dash. Heather’s need for a chat couldn’t have come at a better time. Now, Olivia could pray the entire way home. Anything to keep her mind off the terrible news the doctor had just doled out.

A cold heaviness slid down her back. Why did she think about the appointment? She’d done such a good job of pushing it out of her mind since she left the doctor’s office.

Not today, Satan. She was going to pray, not wallow in self-pity.

Olivia’s silent pleas to the Lord soon took on a desperate tone. Despite her determination to push the thoughts from her head, thoughts of the impending surgery kept creeping back in. She’d had plenty of bad news about her endometriosis before, but it never got easier.

The panic was rising, and she couldn’t turn her thoughts back to Heather and Brett’s problems, no matter how hard she tried.

Her phone rang through the speakers, and she pressed the button to answer faster than a contestant on Family Feud.

“Hey! Are you busy?” Lyric asked.

The possibility of wedding plans made Olivia sit up straighter. “Not at all. What’s up?”

Lyric sighed. “Wendy’s having a rough day. Things are slow at the flower shop, and she thinks Julia might let her go soon. Can you say a prayer for her?”

“I’ll do one better. Are you free tomorrow afternoon around four?” Olivia asked.

“Yep. As of right now, I’m free as a bird.”

“Good. Pencil in some plans with me and Wendy, but for now, I’ll definitely say a prayer for her.”

“Thanks. I know I can always count on you.”

“Every time. Love you.”

“Love you too.”

Olivia ended the call and asked her incredibly smart vehicle to call Julia’s Flower Shop. Was it the car or the phone making the call? Either way, technology was phenomenal.

The robotic voice announced, “Calling Julia’s Flower Shop.”
Wendy was at the top of Olivia’s prayer list with good reason. The woman was getting pummeled by life lately, and the hits didn’t seem to stop coming.

She’d only known Wendy for a few months, but that was another relationship forged by fire. Wendy was a recovering addict who recently lost a friend to the drugs that kept a hold on so many desperate lives. If anyone needed help, it was Wendy, and Olivia never missed a chance to help someone in need. It kept her mind off the soul-crushing fact that she’d probably have another surgery under her belt soon.

Nope. Not going down that road.

“Thanks for calling Julia’s Flower Shop. This is Wendy.”

“Hey! How are you?”

“Hey! I’m makin’ it. How about you?”

And that question would get a quick side-step. “I’m great.” (Read: Not great, but I want to assure you that I am absolutely, one hundred percent, great.)

“What can I do for you today?” Wendy asked.

“I was wondering if I could set up a consultation to talk about Lyric’s wedding.” Asa and Lyric’s wedding wouldn’t be a massive event, but Olivia and Lyric had already mapped out a small floral budget.

“Oh, of course! That’ll be fun. Do you know what colors she wants? I’ll put some samples together.”

“Navy and chocolate.”

“That’ll be gorgeous for a fall wedding,” Wendy said. “How about tomorrow afternoon.”

“Does four work for you?” Olivia asked.

“Of course! When the bride has two jobs, it’s usually hard to make plans.”

Wasn’t that the truth. Thankfully, Lyric’s long hours meant she delegated most of the tasks to Olivia, her unofficial wedding planner.

She’d have to add that to her ever-growing resume. If she kept volunteering to help people with things, her credentials were going to look like a trade encyclopedia.

Caterer? Been there.

Moving service? Done that.

Charity event planner? Got the T-shirt.

Snake sitter? Never again.

Face painter for parties and festivals? So many times.

“What time do you get off work tomorrow? Want to have dinner with Lyric and me after?”

“Um, I get off at five, but…”

“My treat,” Olivia added. If Wendy was having a hard time, dinner and girl talk might cheer her up.

“Okay. That sounds great. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Talk to you later,” Olivia said as she ended the call.

There. Plans were made. Distractions were set in place.

Oh, no. Thinking about distractions only reminded her of the reason why she needed them, which only led her thoughts back to the news that had left her hollow and hopeless less than an hour ago.

Yeah, it was that kind of appointment. Predestined to gut her like an avocado. Doctor Barnes scooped out her insides and spread them on toast.

Her stomach growled at the thought of avocado toast, clearly angry about being left empty all day.

It wasn’t Doctor Barnes’s fault. She was just the messenger. She’d been on the endometriosis hit list for as long as she could remember. The “treatment” only served to leave her scarred on the inside time after time. Each surgery decreased her chances of ever being able to have children–a family.

No, no, no. That age-old grief was mixing with Olivia’s fears to create a gnawing pain in her middle. She tightened her shoulders as she gripped the wheel. She had to avoid the tears at all costs. If she allowed one bit of weakness in, everything would crumble.

The slow whine of a police siren jerked her out of the pressing panic just as blue lights pulsed in her rear-view mirror.

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” Olivia spat through gritted teeth. If she wanted a distraction, here it was in full color.

She pulled over to the side of the road, making sure to keep a good distance from the ditch. Reaching for her purse in the passenger seat, she rummaged for her license and registration.

With credentials in hand, she checked her side mirror. The police officer opened the cruiser door and stepped out.

Dawson. Of course it was Dawson. He would get a good laugh out of this and be sure to tell all of the old ladies at church that she was a menace to society.

The unstable emotions tumbled in her gut. Any other time, she’d be thrilled to see Dawson. He was one of her best friends, and he always knew how to make her smile.

But today was not the day, and now was not the time. Olivia teetered on the verge of not only cracking but breaking open like one of the eggs in Brett’s backpack.

Officer Dawson Keller strode confidently toward her. Even in the small mirror, his smooth walk and tall build were suave enough to make any woman between the ages of eighteen and sixty-five break into a nervous sweat. Add a police uniform and you had a delicious recipe for a long-term crush.

Caution: Objects in mirror are hotter than they appear.

Olivia groaned. Going toe-to-toe with her handsome friend required a ton of focus–something she didn’t have today.

Dawson approached her car and rested his hands on the open windowsill. His short hair framed playful blue eyes and a strong jaw. Even his slightly crooked nose was cute. Especially since she knew he broke it playing football with the youth at church two years ago and decided against getting it reset because he claimed it gave him “character.”

Before she could catch her breath, Dawson Keller smiled, and oh, was it a good one. He had the kind of slow grin that won him dozens of hearts.

Including hers.

But she was completely unarmed and unprepared to protect herself from his charms today.

Dawson bent slightly, leaning on his propped arms to peer into her vehicle. “How’s your day going, ma’am?”

“Fine. Yours?”

There. That sounded perfectly grounded. She’d give herself a pat on the back for her performance later.

Dawson crossed his arms on the windowsill and settled in. “Just got a lot better.”

“I’m not in the mood, Dawson. Just give me the ticket, and we can go about our days.”

Escaping this interaction in the next three minutes was her only chance of getting away without alerting Dawson to her diminished mood.

“It’s Officer Keller,” he reminded her.

“No, it’s not,” she said with a laugh. “It’s Dawson Theodore Keller.”

“Just once,” he begged, throwing his head back in an exaggerated plea.

“I’m not playing your fantasy game.”

Dawson didn’t need the uniform to turn every woman’s head. He had personality in spades, making everyone laugh and feel special with one phrase or joke. The uniform only made him lethal. Only when hearts were on the line.

And as far as hearts went–Dawson’s was pure gold. He might joke about wanting to be called officer, but he was the epitome of the good cop stereotype. He wanted justice, but he wanted things to be set right. He wanted harmony and fun.

It was too bad his job was a double-edged sword. To right the wrongs, he had to see the darkness in all its many forms.

“Will you call me sir?” he asked in a last-ditch effort to get a rise out of her.

Olivia looked up, ready to keep the sparring match going, until she saw the look on his face. His brows were pulled slightly together, frowning in concern.
Or was it pain?

He already knew something was wrong. She hadn’t fooled him for one minute.

“What’s wrong, my queen?” he asked softly.

And that stupid nickname he’d given her back when she used to boss him and her brother around when they were kids shattered every gate holding back the tears.

The pressure in her chest expanded until a sob burst out of her, hard and loud, as she covered her face with her hands. He couldn’t see her like this. She was known for keeping it together. It’s what she was good at!

She hadn’t cried like this since her mom died, and the disappointment crushed her already sagging shoulders.

Her car door opened, and Dawson pulled her to her feet, holding her tight to his chest. His strong arms created a barricade around her as she pressed her face into the hard material of his uniform.

“Who did this to you?” His warm breath brushed against her ear–stern and foreboding. “Who upset you? I’ll find them.”

Another sob was her only answer. Dawson didn’t have a cruel bone in his body, but she had no doubt he’d exact justice on anyone who hurt her.

But this wasn’t someone’s fault. It was hers. Her own body was attacking her, stealing any hope for the future she wanted.

She should be used to it by now, but she’d keep praying. If it was the Lord’s will for her, she’d have to find a way to accept her fate.

That didn’t stop the anger from penetrating her every thought. She’d done a good job protecting her heart from Dawson’s flirting all these years, because that’s all it was–flirting. He flirted with everyone.

She would be thoroughly and completely crushed if she gave in and opened her heart to Dawson only to have him leave when he found out she had a medical condition that was severe enough to most likely render her unable to have kids.

He wasn’t going to find out today, and she was glad she hadn’t let Dawson charm his way into her heart. He wanted kids, and he wasn’t quiet about it.

She had a reason for keeping everyone at arm’s length. Every boyfriend she’d ever had eventually got tired of trying to break through her walls and said a quick goodbye.

No one in town knew about her condition, except her dad and her brother, Beau. She’d been careful not to let the word get out. She couldn’t stand it if people started looking at her like she was defective. Lots of people wanted to have kids. It just so happened she was one of them, but that dream would most likely never belong to her.

“Olivia. Tell me what’s wrong. I’ll fix it.”

She sniffed and wiped her tears on the back of her hand. “It’s nothing. Just a bad day. Or I guess a lot of bad days hitting me all at once.”

“It’s not Toby, is it? If he bothers you again–”

“His name was Trey, and I haven’t heard from him since he broke up with me. It is not Trey.”

Trey could go for a dip in the Amazon River for all she cared. She hadn’t lost a single night’s sleep over that loser.

“What can I do?” Dawson asked.

The hurt in his question hit her right in the chest. This man would do anything for her, but he couldn’t scare this monster away.

“I’m okay. Really.” She sniffed and wiped beneath her eyes, thankful she hadn’t worn a lot of makeup today.

“Can I help you feed the chicks?” he asked. “I already fed and milked the goats today.”

Of course he had already done half the farm chores. Well, it made sense, considering he claimed the goats were his.

They were hers, but she gladly let him take care of them. The chickens were her babies. She only kept the goats because they used to be her mom’s favorites, and she hadn’t worked up the courage to sell them.

“Nah. I’ll be fine. Thanks for letting me water your uniform.” She pointed to the dark spot on his chest.

He didn’t take his eyes off her. “Are you sure?”

“I’m sure. Totally sure.”

Say it one more time, and he’ll know you’re definitely not sure.

“Will you at least call one of the girls?” he asked, almost pleading.

“No, I don’t want to talk. I’m really okay. It’s just been a long day.”

Dawson nodded, but he didn’t look convinced. “Can I follow you home?”

“Nope. I promise I’m okay. I need to feed the chickens, then I have a long night of making place cards for the wedding. Last I checked, your handwriting was chicken scratch.”

Dawson crossed his arms over his chest. “I’ll be sure to write very clearly in my report about this incident.”

Olivia’s eyes widened. “Are you really giving me a ticket?”

“No, but you are getting a nice, official warning. It’s a school zone, and even if school isn’t in session, the speed limit is still thirty-five miles per hour through here.”

Thirty-five? She’d definitely been going faster than that. Olivia tucked her chin to her chest. “I’m sorry, Officer. It won’t happen again.”

Dawson lifted her chin with one finger and gave her a wicked smile. “Keep your chin up, my queen. Just be careful.”

Oh no. The tears were building again. She nodded quickly, desperate to escape before the waterworks came on. “Uh-huh. I’ll do that. Thanks for setting me straight.” She turned and ducked back into her car and closed the door with a bit too much force.

“Bye,” she whispered out the window as she buckled her seatbelt.

Dawson gave her a quick “See you later” and walked off.

Her heart pounded hard and fast like a full marathon of feet hitting the pavement in rapid succession. She had to get home and find a bunch of things to do to keep her mind busy. Sitting in the car on the long drive back to Blackwater from Cody wasn’t doing her any favors.

Dawson reappeared at her window, and a shriek filled the car as she jerked away from the door.

Oh, that was her high-pitched shriek. Very smooth.

Dawson chuckled, clearly proud of himself for effectively scaring the life out of her. “I’ll call you tomorrow.”

“Mhmm,” she hummed. “Talk to you tomorrow.”

Olivia clamped her mouth shut. If she said one more word, she’d spill the beans and get all woe-is-me about the awful news she got today.

She wanted to tell him. She really did. They shared everything else. Very few topics were off-limits between them. He would be a great listener, and he’d be encouraging. She had no doubt about that.

But Dawson felt things more than other men. He’d be utterly and completely brokenhearted for her, and she couldn’t bear seeing the sadness on his face.

He walked back toward his cruiser, and all of her stability left with him. Her moment of bravery was crushing like a paper castle. The urge to cry built again.

Her phone dinged with a text, and she reached for it before getting back on the road.

Karen: Hey, I know this is short notice, but can you work in the morning? Someone called in sick.

Olivia typed out a quick yes and rested her phone in the cupholder. Work was just what she needed to keep her thoughts on the straight and narrow. It also helped to remind her that some people had bigger problems than hers. Working at a senior care facility kept her grateful her disease only rendered her unable to function a couple of times a month.

Her life would go on, at least for now, and she couldn’t let the fear keep her from living. The doctor had high hopes for her treatment and recovery, and she had to hold onto that hope. The best thing she could do would be to throw herself into work.

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