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Forever Together

Forever Together


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Kate Jennings hasn’t seen or heard from her father in fifteen years. When a genetic fluke makes her a perfect match for her half sister’s bone marrow transplant, she travels to Montana to help save her sister’s life. With a new family to meet and old wounds to heal, Bozeman is the last place she wants to be.

Dan Carter doesn’t trust easily. The deputy chief of police has learned the hard way that everything in life has a price. When Kate arrives in Montana he does everything he can to keep her there, even if it means spending time with a woman who’ll end up taking more than she’s willing to give. 

Chapter One Look Inside

Kate glanced at the crumpled piece of paper in her hands, then up at the red-brick building. Bozeman Deaconess Hospital stretched out in front of her, ready to swallow her whole if she let it.

“Are you lost, ma’am?” 

She looked at the unsmiling cowboy standing beside her. “I’m not lost. I...” Stuffing the paper into her back pocket, she squared her shoulders. She could do this. She could walk into the hospital, find her father, and pretend the last fifteen years hadn’t mattered. That she didn’t care if Tom Jennings only wanted her here because a genetic fluke made her the perfect match for his eight-year-old daughter. 


“Sorry...I was...” Kate looked into the man’s clear blue eyes. They stayed leveled on hers, steady and calm. For the second time in as many minutes, she forgot what she was about to say. Except this time, her forgetfulness had nothing to do with why she was here and everything to do with the man standing beside her. 

The last time she’d been this tongue-tied was when Billy Anderson asked her to marry him. Except Billy hadn’t tilted his head to one side and waited for her brain to catch up with her mouth.

“I’m going to the pediatric ward to see my half sister. She’s sick and I’ve just arrived in town. I live in San Diego.” She shut her mouth before any more Jennings’ family history spouted forth. “Thanks for asking if I need help. I guess I’ll go in now and, well...thanks.” She rushed past his six-foot denim-clad body before he thought she should be looking for the mental health clinic. 

She ignored the heat of his gaze on her back, ignored everything except what she was here to do. The phone message from her father said to take the elevator to the second floor and keep walking until she reached the end of the corridor. The pediatric ward would be on her right. She couldn’t miss it, even if she wanted to.

She pushed the elevator button, hoping Mr. Tall, Dark, and Handsome didn’t want to share a ride. She wasn’t capable of making small talk and he didn’t seem like the type to try.

“I hope everything works out for you, ma’am.” He walked past her and took off his hat.

Kate stared at his jet black hair. It curled a little wildly over the collar of his white cotton shirt, not at all like the buzz cut she’d expected. And why she’d thought that was beyond her. Except for the way he moved, he could have been anyone. 

By the time he’d disappeared up the stairs, she knew what set him apart. He had a don’t-mess-with-me attitude, a way of being that belonged on a soldier, or someone who was as far removed from Montana as she was. 

Taking a deep breath, she stepped into the waiting elevator, preparing herself for what would happen next. Her father would be waiting for her. His wife and her half sister, too. A ready-made family waiting for her bone marrow. 

She couldn’t remember what her father looked like, and that worried her. If he was in the corridor, she might walk straight past him, ignoring him for the stranger he’d become. 

The only family photos her mom had kept were of Kate and her sister Lily. So she’d done what she did best. She’d spent the first few days after her father’s phone call trawling through the Internet, searching newspaper articles and whatever else she could get her hands on. Anything to make her father real, to give her some idea of what she was coming back to. 

But as hard as she’d looked, she hadn’t found anything. She could have called him and asked for a photo, asked him about his new family. About his life after he’d left. But talking to him would start building a relationship and she didn’t want to go there. 

She crossed her arms in front of her chest, regretting not bringing her tote bag. She needed something to hold onto. Something to stop her hands from trembling and her head from remembering other hospital visits that had ended in heartbreak.

The elevator came to a smooth stop. It opened onto a wide corridor painted with rainbows, fairies, and pirates. 


Bear footprints on the white vinyl floor led her toward a large orange desk. Machines beeped and nurses moved quickly from room to room. She hated hospitals almost as much as she hated her father for divorcing her mom. For leaving her with nothing except his DNA and a lot of broken promises.

A smiling nurse dressed from head to toe in purple greeted her at the desk. “Hi, honey. Can I help you?”

Kate stuck her hands in her pockets, feeling about as comfortable as a goldfish swimming in a tank of sharks. “I’m looking for Kaylee Jennings’ father. I’m supposed to meet him here.” There was no point telling her Tom was her father, too. It would lead to too many questions. Too much of everything she wasn’t ready to answer.

The nurse’s smile slipped. “Let me get Kaylee’s doctor for you.” She stood and waved Kate across to an alcove beside her desk. “Have a seat in the waiting room. I’ll be back in a minute.” Instead of pirates and fairies, this area was painted like a wildlife safari. Elephants, tigers, and crocodiles smiled at each other beneath a clear blue sky. 

Kate sat on the edge of a bright red chair and tried not to stare at a little boy drawing a picture in front of her. He leaned across the table, picked up a yellow crayon and glanced at her before adding more color to his masterpiece. Apart from the dark circles under his eyes, his face was as white as the bandages wrapped around his head. Two thin tubes ran from the side of his neck into bags of fluid strapped onto a pole beside him. She glanced back to the nurse’s desk, hoping Kaylee’s doctor wasn’t far away.

“It’s a beach.”

Kate jerked her head toward the little boy. “Pardon?”

He twisted the piece of paper around, pushing it toward her. “It’s a beach. In Hawaii. Mom and Dad are taking me there when I’m better. They’re taking Stacey too, only she’s a baby and Mom says babies don’t fly too good. She might cry, but that’s okay because Dad said he’s got earplugs.”

Kate looked at the picture, then at the little boy. She rubbed her hands down the side of her jeans and felt a trickle of sweat between her shoulder blades. 

“You ever been to the beach?” he asked.

Numbers flashed on the gray box strapped to his stand. The machine let out a shrill beep. “It does that sometimes.” The boy shrugged and stood up, pushing a button on the monitor. “Nurse Julie makes a fuss when it happens, but sometimes I want to be left alone.” He sat on the floor and pulled his drawing toward him. “You ever been to the beach?”

Kate glanced back at the nurse’s desk. “I live by the ocean. On a beach in California.”

The little boy’s mouth dropped open and he crawled toward her, pulling his pole of drugs behind him. “I’ve never met no one who’s been to a beach. Even Dad’s never seen waves and seashells and stuff. What’s it like?”

Big bruised eyes gazed up at her, excitement mixed with awe as the little boy wiggled closer. If the base of his pole hadn’t got caught between the table and her chair he might have landed in her lap. 

“The ocean’s big and bright. Kind of like the blue water you’ve drawn. And it’s almost always warm.” He nodded his head, soaking in what she was saying like a sea sponge dipped in the salty waves.

“What about sand? What does it feel like?”

Kate thought about the long walks she enjoyed on the beach. The times when she felt like the only person alive with her can of pepper spray and the neighbor’s Rottweiler. “It’s squishy and cold when the waves wash over it. But when the tide’s out, it feels like you’re walking in a big bag of flour.” It didn’t have the poetic description she’d hoped for, but the boy didn’t seem to mind.

“Toby, what are you doing out here?”

They both glanced up. A man with eyes as bruised as the little boys reached out his hand. “I’m Scott Hamilton. Toby’s dad.”

Kate wiped her palms on her jeans and shook his hand. “I’m Kate. Toby tells me he’s going to the beach.”

The smile in Scott’s eyes dimmed. He stared down at his son with such longing that she had to blink back the tears gathering in her eyes. 

“That’s the plan. Have you finished your drawing, Toby?”

“Just about.” He added four stick figures and turned to Kate, handing her the picture. “This is for you. It’s a picture of my family and me on the beach. Only Stacey’s standing up because I don’t know how to draw a baby who’s crawling.”

Kate swallowed the lump that jammed itself in her throat. “It’s beautiful. Thanks, Toby.”

“You’re welcome,” he chirped, pulling his drugs behind him. He turned before he disappeared out of sight. “This is my room. You can tell me about the beach later on if you like?”

Kate’s heart squeezed tight at the hopeful expression on his little face. “I’ll do my best.”

That was enough for Toby. He waved goodbye and disappeared behind the curtain.

His dad scooped up the crayons and left them in the plastic box on the table. “Thanks for talking to Toby. He gets bored in here, but he’s too sick to leave.”

“He’s a nice boy,” Kate said. 

“Yes, he is,” Scott sighed. “You’re more than welcome to visit whenever you like. If I’m not here, my wife will be with him.”

“Excuse me. Are you Kathleen Jennings?”

Kate looked at the man who joined them. Without the white coat stretched across his tall frame, she wouldn’t have picked him for a doctor. Football halfback, maybe. Healer of the sick and injured? No way. “Yes, but you can call me Kate.”

His blue eyes crinkled at the edges. “I’m Taylor Keegan, Doctor T to everyone. If you follow me, we can start the family conference.”

Kate said goodbye to Scott, then followed Doctor T down a short corridor. Her heart hammered against her ribs. This was it. After three weeks of planning and tests, she was about to see her father for the first time.

Doctor T stopped outside a closed door. “I understand from what your dad told me, you haven’t seen each other for nearly fifteen years.”

Kate nodded.

“If you feel uncomfortable at any stage, just let me know and we’ll take a break. You need to know Kaylee won’t be at this meeting. She’s got a chest infection. Until it goes away, we’ve had to put the transplant on hold. We’ll discuss Kaylee’s treatment and care. After that, I want to go over what the transplant will mean for you. Are you ready?”

Kate glanced at the wooden door, then back at Doctor T. “I’m ready.”

He opened the door and she braced herself against the impact of seeing her father. Her eyes darted around the small room, confusion replacing the worry that had kept her awake most nights. Instead of only meeting her dad, three people were staring at her.

Doctor T nodded to a man hovering by the window. “Kate, this is your father.” 

She didn’t know what to say, what to think. Her father was about her height. Blue eyes stared at her with the same uncertainty she felt. Dark hair, peppered with gray, framed a face that had seen more than its share of the sun and wind. 

And he wore a suit. A dark blue suit with an emerald green tie. She couldn’t have said anything or moved if her life depended on it. Her body felt like it had been slammed into a concrete wall, head-first, leaving her dizzy and breathless and scared.

“Hi, Kate. I’m Anna, Tom’s wife. Thank you for helping Kaylee.” 

Her gaze slowly shifted to the woman moving toward her. 

Tears swam in her stepmother’s eyes. Reaching out, she gave Kate a quick hug. 

Kate closed her eyes and tried to plow through the shock of seeing her father, of meeting his new wife.

Anna stepped back and wiped her face. “Kate, this is my brother, Dan Carter.”

Kate looked into the same unsmiling blue eyes she’d met downstairs. 

He nodded and she straightened her spine. She knew that look. The one that was quick to blame and took even longer to trust.

She’d seen it staring back at her in the mirror, on the days when she wanted to forget about her past. Days like today.

Fans of Netflix’s Virgin River series will love this small-town, feel-good romance!

Kate Jennings hasn’t seen or heard from her father in fifteen years. When a genetic fluke makes her a perfect match for her half sister’s bone marrow transplant, she travels to Montana to help save her sister’s life. With a new family to meet and old wounds to heal, Bozeman is the last place she wants to be.

Dan Carter doesn’t trust easily. The deputy chief of police has learned the hard way that everything in life has a price. When Kate arrives in Montana he does everything he can to keep her there, even if it means spending time with a woman who’ll end up taking more than she’s willing to give. 

★ ★ ★ ★ ★ “Every book in the Montana Brides Series is filled with laughter, joy, and tears. The romance and loving relationships are the best!”

★ ★ ★ ★ ★ "I couldn’t help but smile the whole time I was reading. So uplifting!"

 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ "Loved the chemistry between the characters! And the town itself is like another character in the story."

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