When Love's Gone Country - By Merri Hiatt

Chapter One

“Seat belts on?” Courtney Abrams-Thompson asked as she placed the last bag in the back of the rented van.

“Everyone except Diego,” Jeremy said. “I don’t think his’ll fit.”

“Diego, sit,” Courtney said.

The Saint Bernard wagged his tail in Jacob’s direction.

“I’m counting on you two to keep him calm during the trip,” Court said.

“We will,” Jacob said as he pointed down. “Sit, Diego.”

Diego sprawled across the boys’ laps.

“That’s not exactly what I had in mind,” Jacob said as Diego’s rear end settled itself in his lap.

“I like it. I’ve got his head,” Jeremy said with a grin.

“Are we all set?” Brad Thompson asked, venturing around the van, checking the tires.

“That’s the third time you’ve done that. The tires are fine. The brakes are fine. The oil’s fine.”

“I just want to make sure we get the boys to the ranch safely. Bobby and Meg will have our hide if anything happens to them.”

“I know.” Courtney wrapped her arms around her husband of eleven months. “I love how much you care about them.”

“They’re family.”

“Yes, they are.” Their lips met as time slowed and a rush of warm heat slid across their skin.

“Oh, man, they’re kissing again. Maybe we should have gone with Mom and Dad.” Jeremy looked at Diego. “How can you stand it?”

Jacob watched them in the side mirror, hoping to pick up a few pointers from Brad. There was one girl he knew from school that he thought he might like to kiss. He’d probably never do anything about it, but if he did, he wanted to know he was doing it right.

Brad had one hand in the middle of Courtney’s back. His other hand was at the base of her neck, his thumb mixing with her hair. She had both her arms around his neck. There wasn’t a speck of space between their bodies.

He had kissed her lightly at first, then he thought he saw them open their mouths. It sounded kind of gross, but everyone he’d seen doing it seemed to like it. It was stuff like that that he needed to get right or he’d seem like some kid who didn’t know what he was doing.

“All right,” Court said as she opened the passenger’s side door. “Anyone need to pee? Last chance until we get to Alene.”

“How long’s that?” Jeremy asked.

“One hour and ten minutes, give or take.”

“I’m good.”

“Me, too,” Jacob said.

“Me, three,” Brad said.

“I’m glad to know you can hold it for an hour, honey.”

Brad chuckled as he buckled his seat belt and started the engine. “Double Y Ranch, here we come.”

“So, there’s really going to be cowboys at this ranch, right?” Jeremy asked.

“Absolutely. Want to see the brochure again?”

The boys nodded their heads. Courtney passed back the brochures and then found the ranch’s website page on her iPad. “There’s a virtual tour on here. Just tap that arrow.”

The boys used Diego’s back as a table as they watched horses being groomed, cows rounded up and weathered old men eating beans around a campfire.

“There is going to be something to eat besides beans, right?” Jacob asked.

“Probably hamburger,” Brad said.

“Nothin’ else?” Jeremy asked.

Courtney nudged Brad’s arm. “They believe you, you know.”

“It’ll do ‘em good to wonder for a few hours.”

Jacob leaned close to Jeremy. “They’re kiddin’. There’ll be all kinds of good food to eat.”

“How do you know?” Jeremy whispered.

“Do you think they’d eat beans for two weeks?”

Jeremy giggled.

“Hey, now, what’s goin’ on back there?” Brad asked.

“Nothin’,” the boys said at the same time.

“I’m an old cowhand from the Rio Grande,” Brad sang. Courtney joined him, “But my legs ain’t bowed and my skin ain’t tan.”

“You got a message, Court.” Jacob handed the iPad toward the front seat.

“It’s from Meg.”

“I want to talk to Mom,” Jeremy said.

“Bobby’s driving, so Meg’s hands are free. Let’s call her.”

Court dialed Meg’s cell number.

“Hey, I just sent you a message.”

“Yeah, the boys saw it and Jeremy wanted to talk with you.”

“Are you on the road?”

“We are, right on schedule.”

“I know I’m a bit over-organized, but I like having a plan.”

“I didn’t say anything.”

“I know you’re thinking it, though.”

Courtney laughed. “Here’s Jeremy.”

“Hi, Mom!”

“Hi, honey. How are you doing?”

“We’re good. Diego’s got his butt in Jacob’s face.”

“I’m sure he likes that.”

Jeremy laughed. “I got the good end.”

“Lucky you. You guys are on your best behavior, right?”

“Of course, Mom. It’s Court and Brad. They know how we are.”

“Still, treat them like you would Dad and me.”


“Love you, sweetie. Let me talk to Jacob for a minute.”

“She wants to talk to you.” Jeremy handed Jacob the phone.