In order to escape all the labels that she’s worn her entire life, Isla Whitlock moves across the state to open her own bakery business called, Cowboys & Cupcakes. While most her age are settling in for retirement, Isla is doing the opposite and taking the greatest risk of her life. She’s ready for the second half of her life, and she’s going to live it free of everyone’s judgement and expectations. This move has allowed her the find freedom to grown and change and she isn’t ready to adapt that for anyone.
Except for maybe that one cowboy…
AJ Reed 's life morphed unexpectedly and he is left with a ridiculously successful estate. The money he receives allows him to buy several ranches in the River's End area. Desperate for something to fill his time, and bring some meaning to his days, he soon opens Reed Ranch Enterprises. To date, he now owns five separate ranching spreads, that he will hire key foremen in the area to help him manage. With these new hires come new adventures, dramas, romance and experiences.
Including... AJ's own.
“Date? This? Us?” AJ’s tone of voice suddenly became sloppy and inarticulate. Right up until that moment, he was so calming. Now, he literally bounced onto his feet. “Sorry to mislead you, but I—I can’t date.”
“I assumed it was when you asked…” Isla’s previously strong, independent, confident voice faded into wispy brittleness. The unsure Isla returned as fast as that and she was back to her usual state of insecurity.
“It’s just… I thought you knew… I mean, everyone knows I’m married to Kate. I mean, I just…well, I… am still.”
Well. Isla wondered about the answers he gave her after hearing that name. Kate. Kate was the source of AJ Reed’s windfall that gave him a career in real estate before becoming a boss. Kate was obviously dead now. And AJ, the widower, was still very much grieving and hurt. He was merely being nice when he asked Isla, the cupcake wizard, to have a look around the valley. He simply intended to get her out of her shop. No more than that. She was mortified that she allowed herself to see so much more into it than was actually there. Shutting her eyes to the glare of the sun, she also denied herself the beauty of this disgruntled man. She was slightly offended by his shock and adamant insistence that he could not date her.
“Everyone who knew her, you mean? Everyone who lives and works in River’s End and has done so for years? Decades even? All the time you spent with Kate came before me. I never knew you as Kate’s husband. I didn’t even know there was a Kate. I know you as a cowboy named AJ who likes my cupcakes. I see only a man close to my age with the good looks, nice manners, and sense of humor that I look forward to everyday. In fact, I can’t wait to see you every morning. I don’t know you as Kate’s husband and I never will.”
“But I am Kate’s husband.” AJ shrugged and his tone was strained. He sounded confused. Unsure of himself.