Romance readers love a good meet cute, that first, awkward interaction between the hero and heroine. Sometimes sparks fly, sometimes someone face plants — either way, it's always memorable. So we were pretty excited when Lynnette Austin, author of this month's Nearest Thing to Heaven, agreed to write an extra scene where we can further see the beginnings of the love story between Ty and Sophie.
Lynnette set things up for us:
Ty Rawlins and Sophie London, the hero and heroine in my new release, Nearest Thing to Heaven, actually meet for the first time in Somebody Like You. Here, just for you, is an extended, never-before-seen version of that meet cute. Enjoy!
And now for the deleted scene ...
From inside the barn, Ty heard the sounds of the Fourth of July party in full swing. A thrown-together band played an old Reba tune, kids squealed, and laughter and conversation drifted to him. Here in Texas, they took America’s independence seriously, and nobody celebrated the day better than the Hardemans.
Ty was tired. Stroking the new foal’s flanks, he whispered, “You’re a real beauty, sweetheart.”
Josh had wakened him just before midnight, and Ty’d spent the rest of the night alternating between holding his son’s head in the bathroom and cleaning up messes. He seemed fine today, though, and, thank God, neither of his brothers showed any sign of catching the bug.
Outside, everything went quiet, and Ty tipped his head, listening.
Striding to the big double doors, he spotted three shiny limos wending their way down the ranch road. Annie’s family had arrived. This should prove interesting. Arms folded over his chest, he leaned against the barn and watched the cars, one by one, disgorge their passengers. Every single one of them looked dressed for a night at the opera.
Whoa, back up, guy. Who is that?
He straightened, his gaze caught on a tiny bit of a thing as she slid from the second car, her pale blond hair catching the sunlight. When Annie’d turned up in town, despite her money and breeding, she’d fit right in. Watching this new arrival, he doubted she ever would.
But there was something about her... If he didn’t know better, he’d say she looked scared. Maybe just overwhelmed. Whatever. No concern of his. Still…he couldn’t take his eyes off her.
When the driver opened Sophie’s door, heat and sunshine assaulted her. This was where Annelise had run away to? Hordes of people, country music, and the smell of barbecue. Beyond that? Horses and cows with gigantic horns. And a real, honest-to-God, Norman Rockwell barn.
She sighed. It had been a long day already. Her aunt, knowing her fear of flying, had waited till this morning to tell her of their plans. By that time, she and Uncle Edmund were already in the air, winging from Boston to Chicago to pick her up. If she’d had more time to think about it, Sophie would have refused to come. Annelise didn’t need them butting in.
She stood to one side of the group, her attention drawn to the incredible cowboy lounging against the side of the barn, half-hidden by the shadows.
She practically drooled. No. He so wasn’t her type. Her aunt and uncle had dragged her here, but after putting in her time today being the dutiful niece, it was back to Chicago and civilization for her.
Her cousin spoke to her and Sophie turned to answer. When she looked back toward the barn, the cowboy was gone.
Half-an-hour later, she sat at a picnic table, her plate loaded with comfort food.
“I’m so glad you came along.” Annelise took her hand. “We don’t get to spend enough time together.”
Sophie laughed. “You do understand your parents brought me along to talk some sense into you. To be the voice of reason. I’m not going to, of course. Personally, I think you’re doing the right thing. It’s a shame nobody else has the courage to fight for your grandfather’s life.” She took another bite of Rosie’s potato salad. “You know, she could make a fortune on this in Chicago.”
“She could make a fortune on her cooking anywhere. But she likes it here.”
“That I don’t understand.” She studied Annelise. “The cows freak me out. All that testosterone running around on hooves.” She shuddered, then grabbed Annelise’s arm. “Who is that? I saw him when I first got here.”
Annelise followed her gaze and smiled. “Ty Rawlins. The scenery doesn’t get much better, does it?”
“The man is gorgeous in capital letters.”
Annelise sobered. “His wife died.”
“Oh, my, gosh. How sad. Children?”
“Three boys. Triplets.”
“Him?” She grinned, then shrieked as a glass of cherry soda landed in her white silk lap.
“Jonah, look what you’ve done!” Ty grabbed a pile of napkins and knelt to sop up the mess on her lap.
Sophie’s cheeks turned as red as the cherry soda. “Why don’t you give me those? I’ll do it.”
By now, Ty realized exactly where he was dabbing and the tips of his ears turned scarlet.
Annelise watched it all with horrified amusement.
“I’ll have your outfit cleaned. I promise. Or buy you new,” Ty stammered. “God, I’m so sorry.” He shot his son a dark look.
“It’s okay. Honest,” Sophie assured him. “No harm done. It’s a picnic.”
“But cherry soda? That’s going to leave a stain.”
“Don’t worry about it.”
“I’m hungry, Daddy.” Jonah pulled at his dad’s arm. “When can I eat?”
“Go.” Sophie laughed. “Feed him.”
While Sophie patted her lap, Ty sat the boy down and fixed him a plate of food. The other two quickly joined them.
Sophie stared at them, dumbfounded. “They all look exactly the same.”
Annelise nodded. “Like I said, triplets.”
“How do you tell them apart?”
“I don’t. But since the cherry soda kid is Jonah, one of the other two is Jesse and one is Josh.”
“Boy, does he have his hands full. I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy.”
They watched as Ty patiently filled the other two plates with exactly the right foods for each child.
“The man’s good,” Sophie whispered to Annelise.
“Yes, he is.”
Just as Ty turned back to her and Sophie, one of the boys let out a howl. Staubach, Cash’s dog, sat by the table, a stolen plate at his feet. Clamping his mouth around a hot dog, he hightailed it across the field.
Ty sighed, picked up the crying triplet in one arm, and moved back to the table to fix another dog.
“You’d have to be a plate short of a setting to get mixed up in that situation,” Sophie muttered. “What a shame.”
If you're hankering for more — personally we really want some of Rosie's potato salad right now — Nearest Thing to Heaven is available online now. And for more romantic meet cutes, be sure to visit our Everything Romance page.