Falling in Love in Hawk Ridge Hollow
Falling in Love in Hawk Ridge Hollow
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Brynn doesn’t want another hero. Owen believes relationships can ruin lives. Can they trust themselves to love again?
- Small town during Thanksgiving
- Man in uniform
- Single dad
- School teacher
- Afraid to commit
- Brothers/family saga
She doesn’t want another hero. He believes relationships can ruin lives.
Brynn Powell had a tough childhood and after her husband died in the line of duty, she leaves the city for the small-town of Hawk Ridge Hollow to start over as a teacher. Aside from her lively classroom, she leads a quiet life fixing up an old house and would like to keep it that way.
Owen Hawkins, former Olympian, cop, and single father moves to the town where he grew up to give his daughter a sense of belonging even though he’d turned his back on his brothers. He isn’t looking for anyone to replace his ex-wife, especially not the pretty kindergarten teacher.
She needs a room parent and he’s perfect. He needs someone to look after his little girl because he works the night shift. The arrangement suits them just fine until they start turning to each other for laughs, for friendship, for something more...
Brynn’s thankful that she has Owen in her life. He and his daughter are like the family she’s always wanted. Then she makes a mistake and oversteps a boundary. Owen isn’t sure he can forgive her. But he hasn’t told her his entire story either.
They’re both keeping secrets. Can they trust each other? Can they trust themselves to love again?
This is book 4 in the Hawkins Family Romance series. Each book stands alone but reading them in order provides a deeper, richer experience. It is a sweet, “clean and wholesome” romance without swearing or mature content and contains a happily ever after.
Chapter 1 Look Inside
Chapter 1 Look Inside
Chapter 1: Brynn
A little girl’s hand with fingernails coated in chipped pink polish shot into the air at the same time she wiggled around like she had ants in her pants. “Miss Powell, I have to go.”
The kindergartner danced around as she edged toward the door. The district was in desperate need of room assistants. Brynn’s solution was a room parent, but so far no one had volunteered. “Okay, Daisy, but you know the rules. Straight there and straight back.”
“And I have my whistle.”
“And you have your whistle,” Brynn repeated and smiled at her student who had to use the bathroom at least five to eight times a day.
Some years back, the school instituted a rule that students grades three and below couldn’t be unaccompanied in the hallways. A teacher or aide had to be with them while walking to and from the bathroom, for instance, but for liability reasons weren’t allowed in the bathroom with them. Brynn had suggested a buddy system, but she was relatively new in Hawk Ridge Hollow and the idea was passed over. But she couldn’t very well leave the rest of the class alone either. Much like in her life, she felt caught between two places: the classroom and the hall, a temporary place to live and a home, loss and love.
Daisy’s mother was what her colleagues referred to as a helicopter parent, always hovering. She’d provided her daughter with the whistle in case the little girl was in distress. Sound reasoning, but as it stood, Brynn couldn’t leave the classroom alone, so she felt like her hands were tied. Also, Daisy’s mother’s helicoptering was solely focused on her daughter and didn’t extend to offering to help out in the classroom.
So much had changed in the ten years since she’d started teaching. Some things for better and others for worse.
Brynn stood in the doorway, watching the little girl disappear into the bathroom. A little sigh escaped. Being a teacher was the closest she’d ever come to being a mother herself, and it weighed on her daily. She didn’t judge Daisy’s mom for micromanaging every aspect of her daughter’s life because Brynn had no idea how she’d be if she’d been able to be a mother, but she’d give anything for the chance.
Thankfully, Daisy was quick and she soon returned to her desk. Brynn circled the classroom, checking to be sure everyone had their supplies as they worked on their Halloween projects.
A chubby hand tugged on her shirt sleeve. “Mrs. Powell, my scissors got carried away.”
Aaron held up a piece of paper that was supposed to be an oval or circle but had turned into a jagged spiral.
Her smile faltered at the little boy’s mistake of calling her Mrs. Powell. She was just Ms. now. She didn’t think the ache of that loss would ever ease. Still, she was teaching a group of amazing kids and that was a blessing. “I see that those scissors of yours did get just a bit carried away. We can use it as a decoration for our party though.” She dipped the spiral up and down, making it bob.
Aaron smiled, likely with relief that he wasn’t in trouble. Brynn couldn’t bear to waste anything and believed there was a solution to every problem. Well, every problem except one.
“How about you have a talk with those scissors of yours about cutting along the dotted line that you made and I’ll get you a new piece of orange paper,” she said to Aaron.
When Brynn checked the supply closet, they were out of orange construction paper.
Short-staffed and short on supplies. She knew the feeling. Her finances were tight too.
Hawk Ridge Hollow was a relatively wealthy town nestled in the mountains that drew winter sports enthusiasts and resort goers by the droves.
Even during the summer months, when she’d moved there, the quaint town at the foot of the enormous mountain was bustling with tourists, athletes who competed in marathons, mountain biking, and even an annual mud run.
There was also a lake by the Hawk Ridge Ranch that she’d discovered when she’d missed the turn for her rental.
She returned to Aaron’s desk with an assortment of sheets of paper. “Let’s see here, you can use a white piece of paper and color it orange or you can have a spooky pumpkin that’s purple.”
His eyes lit up. “Definitely a spooky pumpkin. I pick purple.” He reached for the piece of paper.
She continued her rounds, helping out the kids as needed.
When she reached Daisy’s desk, the little girl squished up her face.
“Are you okay, Daisy?”
The little girl shook her head.
Brynn crouched down, so she was at eye level. “You’ve made a great start on your pumpkin.”
“Do pumpkins ever have to go potty?” Daisy asked.
She bit her lip, forcing a straight face. Kids really did say the darndest things.
“Um, no. Pumpkins don’t have to go potty. Just people like us and animals too.”
“When you were pregnant did you have to go a lot?” Daisy asked.
“Oh, um,” Brynn faltered.
“No. I don’t have children.”
“I thought you were a mom. My mom said so.”
“I think she must’ve gotten me mixed up with someone else.” Brynn’s eyebrows knit together.
“Oh.” Daisy drew her knees up to her chest.
“We should get back to work on your pumpkin,” Brynn suggested.
Daisy dipped her head to her knees and shook it.
Brynn rocked back on her heels, sensing something was wrong. “Daisy, I may not be a mom, but I’m here to listen if something is bothering you.”
Her voice was barely a whisper.
“Sometimes I pretend that you’re my mom.”
“Oh,” Brynn said this time. She was not expecting to hear that.
“I’m your teacher which is really special, but your mom is your mom and she loves you.”
“I know, but you don’t have so many worries.” Daisy lifted her head and her eyes were damp.
“My mom worries about everything. If I have enough water. If I remembered to go to the bathroom. If I tied my shoes. If I...” She drifted off.
She wiggled in her chair like she had to go to the girls’ room again.
Maybe all the worrying was the source of the repeated bathroom visits. It sounded like Daisy didn’t want to give her a reason to be concerned.
Brynn drew a deep breath. “Do your mom’s worries sometimes feel like your worries too?”
“Sort of. I just don’t want to let her down. I don’t want her to worry.” Daisy’s voice quavered.
“You could never let her down. Or me. I have an idea. I’ll be right back.” Brynn went to the supply closet and got another piece of purple paper.
Daisy waited expectantly, her expression transformed from sad to eyes wide with curiosity.
“Remember how I told everyone that I moved into a big, old house?” Brynn asked.
Daisy nodded. “It must get lonely living there all alone.”
“That and sometimes a little spooky, but this is what I do when I have worries.” She cut the piece of paper out into the shape of a house with a square bottom and a triangular roof. “I give them someplace else to live that’s not my head. So I take my worry about the strange sound coming from down the hall, the creaky floors, and the wind outside, and instead of letting them be inside my mind, I put them in a place like this.” She presented the house to Daisy. “If you’d like, we can write down all the worries you have, put them in here, and then they can have a place to be that’s all their own and you can use your mind for other thoughts like who’ll you play with at recess, your favorite story, and thoughts about your cat.”
The little girl brightened. “I like that idea.” She took the paper and started writing the word bath. “Mrs. Powell, does the word room have two o’s or one?”
“Two, like moo or like ooh, the way a ghost sounds.” First, she made a cow noise and then she playfully pretended to be a ghost. “That’s definitely in my paper worry house because my real house sometimes seems a little bit...” Daisy’s mouth fell open. “Wait. Is your house...”
Her eyes widened.
“Don’t worry. It’s not actually haunted. But late at night, when I’m there all alone, sometimes my imagination gets the best of me.”
“I didn’t think you had worries like my mom.”
“I think most people have worries from time to time. It’s normal. It’s what we do with them that makes the difference.” Brynn had a lot of experience with that.
“Maybe my mom would like the paper worry house.”
Daisy straightened at her desk and as though forgetting that she thought she might have to go to the bathroom again and she got back to work.
Brynn enjoyed the kindergartners, even though almost daily they’d ask or tell her something that would cause deep contemplation, laughter, or major mortification.
Just that week, she’d been asked how old she was. Before she could answer thirty-three, someone guessed that she was one hundred. The day before, one kid told a long and detailed story about their little brother’s diapering difficulty and how a certain substance got all over the ceiling.
Sometimes the kindergartners just didn’t have a filter. Almost every day, another asked her if she was going to have a baby soon. That just made her sad.
But she couldn’t cry. Not then.
Usually, the kids made her laugh and smile though, and that was but one reason she loved her job as a teacher. She was expecting a new student that day and hoped the little girl spared her a lengthy impression of a worm, dinosaur, or unicorn, which were all currently trending in the classroom. If one kid did their imitation, it started a chain reaction, and then they all had to demonstrate.
As she surveyed pumpkin progress and checked the time, she realized that she had to get moving. “Okay, everyone. Please, bring your paper scraps to the recycling, put away your scissors and other materials, and grab your pumpkins. When the song is over, we’re going to meet on the community carpet.” That was the round rug in the middle of the room where everyone sat in a circle. She pressed play on the cleanup song and everyone sang along as they followed her instructions.
The song soon ended and everyone settled on the rug.
She’d had to assign seats because friends wanting to sit beside each other had caused more than a few squabbles and there was a constant battle between who sat next to her so she’d come up with a rotating system so everyone would have a chance.
“Okay, girls and boys, we’re going to practice our song once, and then when everyone gets here for the Halloween party, we’ll do the whole routine. They can’t wait to see what you’ve been working on.
Oh, and don’t forget, we have a new student coming this afternoon. She should be here anytime now, so we have to remember to give her a warm Room Four welcome.”
They ran through the song and then parents started filtering in. Moms, Dads, guardians, and caregivers all sat down at their children’s desks and the students lined up to perform the mini-play and sing along before having snacks, show off the books they’d written as part of a literacy project, and play a few games Brynn had organized.
She hoped that at least one of them would love it so much in Room Four that they’d volunteer to help. She’d had no luck on family night and hoped this effort would persuade someone, anyone.
She introduced the story they were enacting and got into position. The kids were all designated as Halloween characters like ghosts, vampires, witches, and bats. Plus, one girl was a ballerina because the other options scared her, so Brynn made an exception. The skit was based on a story that the kids loved and had her read over and over.
They pretended to pull their paper pumpkins from a field so they could carve them into jack-o'-lanterns as they sang a little song about how the pumpkins were stubborn and wouldn’t budge from the vine.
Then they’d fall over like dominos. This went on for a few more minutes as various characters tried to come up with a solution, but each time, they’d fall over. Before they reached the resolution to the story where they’d work together to get the pumpkins off the vine, they tumbled down, getting very silly. Brynn wasn’t supposed to go down with the others, but someone jostled her just as the door to the classroom opened. She landed, splat, on her backside.
“Oof,” she said
All the kids were in a fit of giggles and seemed thrilled that she’d participated even though she’d intended to stay firmly on her two feet.
A strong, masculine hand reached toward her. “May I?” a deep voice intoned.
“Oh, yes. Thank you,” she said, flustered.
Her hand fit perfectly in his and as she followed it up the length of his toned arm, to his broad shoulders and firm chest...her heart bumped and then tensed in a peculiar way.
Brynn’s gaze traveled to his face and her breath caught in her throat. He was around her age, had close-cropped light brown hair with a little bit extra on the top, effortlessly styled.
No, not styled. On second glance, not that she’d looked away, he needed a haircut. And a shave, but the stubble growing on the cut plane of his face was indisputably attractive. As were his dark brown eyes. She felt her expression slacken, all the blood rush through her body, and a faint hum in her ears distracted her.