How about another SNEAK PEAK of Cole’s Dilemma?

But first I want to share another review that had me smiling: “I just finished Cole’s Dilemma and absolutely loved it! I’ve been waiting a few books to read Cole’s story, and when I found out his other half was none other than Eva Trout? Cue huge grin. I loved watching them fall in love, and while I shed more than a few tears throughout the book, I wouldn’t change a thing. Another one knocked out of the park for Stephanie Fowers!”



They worked on the rest of the broken fencing. This time, they kept their conversation light, though Cole still couldn’t help teasing Eva again about pretending to be a bad shot. “I don’t believe you’re that awful for a second,” he said.
“Oh yeah? What gave it away? Not that I’m saying you’re right.”
A panicked cry cut through the peace of the morning. Cole’s stomach dropped. He knew that sound anywhere. It was a lone calf. The young animal let out another squeal. It was definitely in danger.
Lizardman pulled upright, growling as he shivered with rapt attention. Cole’s gaze was drawn to the reeds blocking their view from the swamp. That’s where the bawling came from. The calf wouldn’t last long out there in the mud.
The scrappy little puppy let out a bark and dashed into the reeds to follow the anguished mewling. Cole stepped towards the sound too, hearing Eva follow closely behind. He turned to study her fashionable boots. They wouldn’t hold up in this kind of terrain. The swamp would swallow her like it had the calf.
“Stay here,” he said. “I’m going in.”


Did Cole really just say that? Just like a fireman. He was going in.
Eva smiled.
Cole disappeared through the reeds. The muscles rippled through his arms as he made his way through the mud. He looked like a knight wearing a tunic with those sleeves ripped off his shirt. It gave her a good view of his strong back and shoulders. Now this was the kind of man who rescued the weak and saved the hurting.
A hero. She couldn’t be prouder of her future family.
The poor calf let out another cry at seeing Cole push through the reeds.
She heard some shouting, then splashing, a bit of coaxing before a large head crashed through the reeds. The rest of its reddish-brown body came charging over the same pathway that Cole had made. Mud ran down the calf’s shoulders and legs as it whipped its head around in an agitated way. The poor thing bawled and cried out like a baby.
The lumbering thing was a baby! It came straight for the fencing that they’d fixed.
Eva grabbed the side of the barrier that acted like a gate and opened it to let the crying calf barrel its way through.
The calf paced back and forth on the other side until it eventually wandered back to where Eva stood. Its big eyes stared up at her like it wanted something.
“Hey there, little one.” She had no idea if this was a boy or a girl.
Its mouth smacked together like a baby asking for milk, and then the clumsy sweetheart caught a hold of her sleeve and started to chomp at it.
She laughed and screamed and then scrambled away. “Oh no, you poor thing! Are you hungry? We don’t eat clothes.” She peered over the fencing at the reeds. “Cole,” she called out. “You coming out or what?”
“Um… about that…”
“What’s the problem?”
“I lost my overalls somewhere.”
She covered her face, feeling her body ache with the effort of trying to keep her howls of laughter from reaching him. She was doing a poor job of it. Reaching over to pat the squirmy calf on the top of its soft head, she puckered her lips. “Is that your fault… Dopey?” she quickly named the cute thing. He sure liked to eat clothes.
Though she knew who the true culprit was. After all, Cole never would’ve grabbed the overalls if she hadn’t started this little war of fashion with him. She’d make this right. “I’m coming.”
“No!” he tried to shout her back.
“Don’t be a baby.” She wriggled through the fence, making sure that Dopey stayed on the other side of it. “I can help.”
“How?” he asked incredulously. “You’ll make me a pair of pants out of mud?”
She giggled again, searching around for something, anything. She remembered that there was a dirty blanket that they’d wrapped around the bottles. She ran to fetch it, dragging it away from the rest of the target practice equipment. She tried to air it out by whipping it around. It was a little dusty, but it would do the trick. “I think I have something you could use!”
“You really shouldn’t come in here,” he said.
“Now, now, you’re a big strong cowboy.” She followed the trail that Dopey had flattened in his escape from the swamp. “You shouldn’t be afraid of a little missy like me.” She dissolved into giggles again. Their roles were reversed from yesterday.
“No, I mean…”
She cleared her way through the reeds and took one step and dropped through the ground. She shrieked out as she sank up to her thighs in the mud. Oh! Eva finally figured out what Cole meant. She tried to wriggle out and felt her boots wrenched from her feet in one sucking motion. “My boots!” she moaned.
“Don’t move! Don’t move.”
Looking to the side, she saw Cole almost chest deep in the water ahead of her. Lizardman dashed around the edge of the pond, whimpering pathetically.
“Lizardman!” she cried. “Keep away!”
“Don’t worry! Don’t worry,” Cole said. “He’s light. He won’t sink.”
“What is this, quicksand or something?”
“No, no, just mud. Stay where you are. I’m coming.”
“What are you going to do?” He was already missing his pants. She snickered again at the thought. This was both hilarious and super scary. Clutching the blanket close to her, she threw the end of it at him. He grabbed it and wrapped the heavy wool around his legs before he started to climb his way out. Water drained from his chest and arms as he struggled to get to her side.
Once he reached her, he took her hand. It practically swallowed hers in its immensity, and then taking a deep breath, he made sure that the blanket was tucked in place before he turned to her. She let out a hysterical giggle. The man looked like a mud-caked Pict warrior in a kilt.
This was going to get interesting.
His beautiful eyes ran over her to figure out her predicament. The next instant, Cole’s hands went under her arms and he tugged her up. She gasped at his strength, throwing her flailing arms around his neck. The mud surrendered her leg with a pop.
She was completely barefoot. “My boots! My boots.” She tried to reach them.
“I’ve got it.” He set her near the reeds where the plants gave her firm ground. He clawed around the mud, prying out one boot. A loud sucking noise followed his movements.
Where was the other one?
She inched closer and the slippery mud did the rest. It carried her down the small incline. She careened forward, falling face first into the cold mud. She lifted her head from the watery sludge. Her hair dripped with it.
By now, Cole was laughing so hard that he was having trouble keeping his own balance. He landed on one knee and lent her his hand. “Let’s try to get out of this together. You ready?”
She nodded, concentrating with all her might to find some footing that wouldn’t suck her under or make her slip. “Walk on your tiptoes,” he said. “Don’t plant your feet on the ground. That way you won’t get stuck.”
Eva tried to do it like he said. She reached for her final boot, but she lost her balance again and fell back into the mud. “Okay… you’re okay.” Cole’s reassurances were lost in more of his amusement. “I’ve got you.” His hands found her and she let out a surprised breath when he scooped her easily up into his arms.
She was pretty positive that they both resembled mud wrestlers at this point.
Eva searched for her boots again, this time catching sight of those overalls. “There!” She pointed. They’d drifted up at the edge of the reeds. “You’re in luck! You don’t have to wear a kilt.”
He hadn’t stopped snickering since she’d done a face plant in the mud, and he didn’t quit now. Setting her back in the reeds, he snatched at the overalls. “Turn around,” he said.
Eva covered her face. The blanket landed against her, and she caught it. When he finally gave her permission to use her eyes again, she burst out into laughter. If she ever did behold a redneck from the deepest parts of the Ozarks, there he was with one strap of his bib overalls stretched over those filthy muscular shoulders. The rough beginnings of a beard shadowed his strong jaw. The only thing missing was a piece of straw sticking from his mouth.
Also strangely attractive.
Not a surprise, since he was a Slade.