Only one entry for all four draws.
- June 1: Winner is Teresa R.
- June 6: Winner is Dianne K.
- June 13: Denise B.
- June 20: MIsty H.
All winners are chosen at random.
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by Sabrina York
Lands June 27, 2021
New York Times bestselling author Sabrina York kicks off her brand-new Stirling Ranch miniseries by asking does blood make you family?
Danny Diem’s life is upended when he inherits a small-town ranch. But learning he has a daughter in need of lifesaving surgery is his biggest shock yet. He’d never gotten over telling his ex Lizzie Michaels that he wasn’t the marrying kind. But her loving strength for their little girl tugs at his heartstrings—and makes him wonder if he’s ready to embrace the role he’s always run from: father.
From Harlequin Special Edition: Believe in love. Overcome obstacles. Find happiness.
READ AN EXCERPT
Wherein Danny Diem meets his daughter for the first time, after learning that she could be dying…
Before he knew it, his GPS directed him into the parking garage of Lizzie’s building. The tall modern structure, that seemed to be made of glass, faced Seattle’s Elliott Bay.
After he found a parking spot, he took a minute to sanitize his hands and pull on a mask—because everything he’d read made clear any exposure to germs could make Emma ill. Then he headed to the elevator. It was thickly carpeted, with mirrored walls. He tried not to look at himself as he glided to the tenth floor, but then, at the last minute, he realized he should check his reflection. Indeed, he had a rooster tail, which he hurriedly smoothed down.
The walk from the elevator to Lizzie’s condo seemed to take forever. And then, once he arrived, he sucked in a deep breath before he knocked.
This was it. This was the moment he would meet his daughter. Finally.
His heart stopped as Lizzie opened the door. She was so beautiful, he just wanted to stand there and take her in for a moment. As he languished in that momentary daze, and with no preamble, she gave each of his hands a squirt of Purell.
“What are you doing?” he asked.
“Emma has a low tolerance for germs. We try to keep her exposure at a minimum.”
“I know that. I sanitized in the car.”
“Did you push the buttons in the elevator?” she asked brusquely.
Heat rose on his cheeks. To cover it up, he rubbed his hands together, trying to make sure the gel was thoroughly absorbed. “Nice place,” he said after a quick glance around. The apartment was sleek and roomy, and had a nice view. It was also spotless.
“Thanks. It’s Nan’s condo.” She crossed into the kitchen to set the sanitizer on the counter. He hated that her tone was so casual. As though he was just dropping by for coffee or something. They’d lived together for several years. They’d been intimate. They’d been a couple. Now they were…strangers. He hated it.
“You’re living with Nan?” Though he’d heard about her, they’d never met.
“Mmm-hmm. We’ve all lived here, well, since I left Vegas.”
“It’s nice.” Damn. He’d already said that.
“There’s three bedrooms. Emma and I are over here.” She pointed to the right. “Nan’s in the master.” To the left, apparently.
“We keep it tidy. For Emma.” A reminder, on a deeper level, that Emma was different. “How was your drive?”
He shrugged. “It rained once I crossed the mountains.”
She gave a little laugh. “That does happen.”
“Since my car broke down, my brother Mark let me borrow his truck.” He glanced around the sterile condo. “Um, is Emma here?”
“She’s with Nan, getting an infusion. They’ll be here soon. I thought you and I could talk privately first. You know, set some boundaries.”
His mood took a nosedive. He didn’t like the boundaries idea at all, but he nodded. He wanted—no, needed—to make this easy for her, even if it cost him. “All right.”
“Shall we sit?” She waved at the sofa and he complied, though it felt wrong, sitting there on her sofa as she took a seat on the other side of the coffee table. Too far away, he thought, for the conversation they were to have.
He shoved that thought from his mind and laced his fingers together, trying to think of something to say. He wasn’t sure why it was so difficult now, when back in Butterscotch Ridge, they’d been chattering like magpies.
“So,” he finally said. “You said something about boundaries?”
“Oh. Um. Yes.” She brushed back her auburn hair and he watched it fall over her shoulders. God, she was pretty, even though she wore a mask, even though there were worry lines on her forehead and her eyes crinkled when she smiled. How he wished she would smile now. “Not restrictions, per se. I just wanted to ask you to…”
When she hesitated, he prompted her. “Yes?”
“I just… Oh, how do I say this? Could you please…take it slow with her?”
Take it slow? What the hell did that mean? Was Lizzie expecting him to act like a random stranger, some…sperm donor, when he met his own daughter? He didn’t really understand the anger building in him, but he recognized the feeling of being sidelined.
“Does she even know I’m her…father?” He didn’t know why the word caught in his throat.
She nodded and he nearly collapsed in relief. “I’ve told her. And that you’re planning to be tested.” Her eyes narrowed. “You are still planning to do that, aren’t you?”
“Of course. I’ve already made an appointment. Tomorrow, in fact.”
She lurched back and gaped at him as though he’d sprouted a third eye. “You have?”
The incredulity in her tone slayed him. “I said I would. Did you think I would flake?” But even as he asked, he knew. He knew, because flaking was what the old Danny did best. But that’s why he was here—to prove to her that everything was different. That he was different. “I have changed, you know.”
“I know. I know. I… Thank you, Danny. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate this.”
His blood froze. “Let’s get something straight. I’m not doing you a favor. She’s my daughter, too. And I care about what happens to her.”
A flush rose on her cheeks, but before she had a chance to retort—thank God, because this was not going well—they heard the sound of the key in the lock. The clicks filled the room like a live wire. Danny’s blood fizzled and his back went ramrod-straight. His attention whipped to the door, and he stared, breathless and terrified and hopeful all at once.
The door swung open and Emma appeared. His gaze locked on her. He had the impression of a small sprite with a tumble of black curls that looked just like the ones he’d had as a kid. She wore a mask decorated with mice wearing colorful hair bows. It bothered Danny that the mask covered most of her face. Only her eyes were visible, and they were wide and pinned on him.
“Come on in, Emma,” Lizzie said, when she seemed to hesitate.
“Go ahead, sweetie,” the woman behind her encouraged. She had to be Lizzie’s sister. They looked alike, except for the color of their hair.
“Danny,” Nan said with a curt nod, then she headed straight to her bedroom to give them privacy, which was decent of her. Because who knew how this would go?
Emma stepped toward him. When she came close, she tipped her head and studied him from one angle and then another.
His pulse pounded. His lungs burned. She was perfect. Perfect. He longed to sweep her up into his arms and hug her, but he knew it was far too soon for such a gesture. He was a stranger to her. And he didn’t want to frighten her. Aside from that, she was sick. And yeah, she was pale and far too frail for the hungry hug he wanted to give her.
“Hi,” he said, even though he knew such a greeting was utterly absurd and wholly inadequate for the circumstance of such a meeting.
She tipped her head again and her eyes narrowed. “So you’re my daddy,” she said in a matter-of-fact, far too grown-up voice.
He cleared his throat in an attempt to swallow a sudden knot. “I, ah, am. How do you…feel about that?”
Her tiny shoulder lifted. Then she said, “I want to see your face.”
Oh, hell. Of course she did. Not knowing the protocol here, he glanced at Lizzie, who nodded subtly. Danny sucked in a deep breath and pulled down his mask. He let her study him as long as he could hold his breath, then he raised the mask again and gasped for air.
She seemed impressed. At least he imagined she did. And then she said, “If you’re my daddy, where have you been?”
And, yeah, his heart clenched.
Lizzie, to her credit, leaned forward and said, “Remember? We talked about this. He didn’t know about you, honey.”
Emma’s attention never left his face. “Why did you leave us?”
He cleared his throat. “I didn’t, not exactly.” When Emma’s probing gaze sharpened, he quickly added, “I wasn’t ready to be a good dad. I guess I needed time to learn how to do the job right.”
Emma considered this for a moment and then asked, “Well? Are you ready now?”
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