Here it is, folks! The last book from me in the Culpepper Cowboy series (although I know Kirsten Osbourne is planning at least one more)! I hope you enjoy Architect’s Angel and the super fun rivalry between Arch O’Donnell and Tabby Ross. Sometimes two people are just meant to be, in spite of how they get in their own way. Architect’s Angel is currently available at Amazon and for Kindle Unlimited, but in three months it will be available wherever eBooks are sold. Wanna get started reading Chapter One? Her you go!
Christmas was only two days away, but so far, Dr. Tabitha Ross, Culpepper’s premier OB/GYN, had yet to get into the spirit.
“I just haven’t felt like celebrating,” she explained to her patient and friend, Elvie Lipinski, as Elvie sat in the chair on the other side of Tabby’s desk.
Elvie shrugged. “It takes a while for me to get into the Christmas spirit every year. Everyone rushes things so much. Why can’t we just focus on Thanksgiving before charging into all the consumerism and grabbiness?”
Tabby smirked. “Is grabbiness a word?”
“If it isn’t, it should be.” Elvie chuckled, then tilted her head to the side, a dreamy smile coming to her face. “Although, I’ll admit, this year has been so good that I was already blissed out—even before December.”
Tabby smiled for her friend and handed her the piece of paper she’d been explaining. “Totally understandable. That tends to happen when you meet a hunky guy out of the blue, marry him three seconds later, inherit a fortune, and settle down to raise a family. You’ll want to start taking prenatal vitamins now, by the way. Then, when you do come back in here with good news, you’ll be ready to go.”
Elvie took the paper with a beaming smile. “I can’t wait. I’m determined to beat both Doc and Nancy and Sly and Rachel in the whole baby race.”
“Still nothing from either of those pairs?”
“Not yet, but I know Doc and Nancy have started trying.” Elvie paused. “I think Sly and Rachel are too concerned with their businesses to get started on a family at the moment. You know those two, they have a five-year plan for everything.”
“Yeah.” Tabby laughed, but a part of her was unsettled. The part that sped instantly from thinking about the three older O’Donnell siblings and straight to the youngest.
Arch O’Donnell. She couldn’t even think about the man without pangs of…well, lots of pangs. The man was a menace. He was arrogant, self-involved, and petty. He’d gotten in her way at the class reunion six weeks ago, messing up her plans, arguing with her decisions, and generally making her job way more difficult than it needed to be. He’d been doing the same thing since their senior year of high school too. Just thinking about him set her teeth on edge.
Arch and his smarmy grin, that twinkle in his eyes, the smooth way he had of moving. He’d been away from Culpepper for years, first at school, then building his architecture business. But now he was back. Back in all his buff, snappy-dressing, male glory. He’d wound her up so tightly at the reunion, then had the nerve to ask her to dance. And the extra nerve to hold her close during that dance, his warmth seeping into her, his cologne intoxicating, his—
“Whoa! Earth to Tabby.” Elvie waved her hand to snap Tabby out of her thoughts.
“Sorry, what?” Tabby cleared her throat and sat straighter, pretending to fuss with the paperwork on her desk. It was almost quitting time anyhow.
Elvie wasn’t fooled. She fixed Tabby with a lop-sided grin. “I wonder what you were thinking about.”
“I was thinking about what I’m going to have for supper,” Tabby bluffed.
“No, you weren’t.”
Tabby stopped fussing with the papers and frowned at her friend. “How do you know?”
“Because you have that look in your eyes.”
“What look? I don’t have any looks,” she answered, a little too fast.
Elvie just leaned back in her chair and smiled. “So, no Christmas spirit this year?”
Tabby could see Elvie was trying to lure her into talking about Arch, but she took the bait anyhow. “I just don’t feel like it. Mom is in Tahiti with her new boyfriend this year.”
“And Dad…” She let her sentence trail off with a sigh. “Dad is Dad.”
“He still living in Haskell?” The corner of Elvie’s mouth twitched into a grin.
“Yeah,” Tabby answered, avoiding her eyes. “He and his partner have expanded their law firm, now that Paradise Space Flight is drawing more people to town. He says they’re up to their eyeballs in work.”
“Haskell isn’t that far away. Are you guys going to get together at all on Christmas day?”
“Well, Sammy and I are doing a little Christmas something together, though we haven’t decided what yet. Probably just brunch at her place before heading to church.”
“I see.” Elvie nodded and hummed. Her expression turned innocent…or rather, fake innocent. “Things are going to be way different in the O’Donnell family this year too, what with three out of the four of us getting married in the last year. Doc and Nancy already have plans to do their own thing on Christmas morning. Sly and Rachel keep talking about heading out to the ski lodge for a romantic getaway. And Evan and I are heading down to Colorado for a quick visit with his family.”
“Oh?” Tabby shouldn’t have commented on the plans at all. She knew just what Elvie would do with her single syllable.
She was right.
“You should get in touch with Arch to see if he wants to do something on Christmas,” Elvie said.
“No.” Tabby’s answer was swift and definitive.
“He’ll probably be feeling left out,” Elvie went on, tugging on exactly the right heartstrings. “With Evan and I gone, he’ll be all by himself in that old house.”
Tabby still couldn’t believe that with all of Evan’s new money, he and Elvie were still living in the old O’Donnell house with Arch.
“He could at least use some food after church,” Elvie went on. “Poor guy.”
Tabby sighed. “No.” This time, her argument was less solid. Probably because the unaccountable desire to be there for Arch on Christmas, to wrap her arms around him and tell him everything would be all right, that someone did actually care about him, reared its ugly head. “Arch and I hate each other,” she reminded Elvie…and herself. “We have since high school.”
“I was under the impression that you two dated in high school.”
Tabby’s face flared red. Her heart thumped faster. “That was only for a few months in the summer before senior year.”
“Yeah, but I remember that really well,” Elvie argued. “You two were all over each other. Head over heels. Arch couldn’t talk about anything else, and neither could you.”
“It was a long time ago, and it ended badly.” Tabby pushed her chair back and stood. She took off her white coat and hung it on the rack to the side of her desk. Elvie was the last patient of the day, and suddenly all Tabby wanted to do was go home and fix herself a comfort food dinner full of fat and carbs.
Elvie stood and joined Tabby at the rack, getting her coat as Tabby shrugged into hers. “How did it end again?”
Tabby huffed out a breath and stared hard at Elvie. “You know how it ended.”
“There had to have been more to it than that silly election for class president,” Elvie said.
Tabby focused on her coat’s zipper to keep the old hurt of that election from showing on her face. “Nope. It was the election. Or rather, the rivalry of the campaign.”
“I still can’t believe Arch ran against you, even after you told him you were running.”
Coats on, purses in hand, Tabby and Elvie headed for the door. Night had fallen on the other side of the windows they passed. Already, the days were getting longer, but only barely. It would be months still until Tabby left her office in the daylight.
“I can’t believe he ran against me either,” Tabby muttered as they reached the front desk.