Childhood neighbors get a chance at love in Should’ve Been You, an achingly romantic novella in Nicole McLaughlin’s Man Enough series!
National Guardsman Jase Beckford wants to live a quiet life raising cattle and taking care of his mother. His childhood friend and neighbor Hannah is still his best friend, but when he walks into the Walters house one morning and sees her twin sister Becca for the first time in five years, he wonders if he missed out on something special.
Becca Walters has nursed a secret crush on Jase since childhood, but he always preferred Hannah, so she buried her feelings assuming her sister and Jase would one day turn their flirtation into a real relationship. And this Christmas, she is anticipating a proposal of her own, so Jase’s reappearance in her life doesn’t mean anything. Much. Okay, maybe more than Becca would like to admit.
However, when Becca’s sister gets engaged to someone who’s not Jase, Becca and Jase find themselves spending more together. And when secrets are revealed, suddenly those dormant feelings come back to life; but is the possibility of something between them worth risking the happiness of everyone they love?

Bulls had the best life, hands down. Not the Spanish kind of bull that chased crazy thrill seekers through narrow streets, or the ones that charged red blankets. Nor the kind that bucked cowboys off their backs. No, the kind of bull Jase Beckford was thinking of was the good ol’ herd breeding variety. Those bulls had it made.
They had one job. One hell of a job.
“You can’t hardly wait, can ya?” Jase said to his new bull, Pitch, who was lazily chewing on the crunchy hay that Jase had just tossed over the pen fence. He stepped onto the bottom slat of the gate and rested his arms along the top so he could see his massive new creature without obstruction. Damn, he was beautiful. All seventeen hundred pounds of him.
“It’ll be a heck of a new year for you, boy. Fourteen females out in that field. You think you can handle that?” He chuckled, his breath a wispy puff in the frigid air. “I know you can.”
In a month or so, Jase would turn him out to pasture with the females he’d purchased several months back. Five cows and nine heifers, and he planned on Pitch working his magic on every single one of them.
Pitch appeared uninterested in small talk as he took another sloppy bite of hay off the snow-packed earth, his mouth chomping loudly. He sniffed hard, steam rising from his nostrils.
“I hope you’re a lot more charming when you meet the ladies,” Jase said with a headshake. “You’ll have to wine and dine them if you want things to go smoothly.”
Just then Pitch slowly raised his head, stopped chewing, and turned his head to stare at his owner. Jase grinned. “Okay, okay. Sorry I questioned your skills.”
Jase dug his phone from his pocket to check the time. Nearly eight a.m. and he was exhausted. He’d already moved his herd to another pasture, checked on his one pregnant cow—that had sure been a surprise when he’d brought them home—and made sure the ice on the pond was sufficiently cracked open. But although the work was taxing, he loved it. Felt grateful, because slowly, but surely, his plans were all falling into place.
Most people would probably assume that this had been his lifelong dream, or even a family enterprise, considering he’d grown up in the rural town of Pierson, about forty-five minutes north of Manhattan, Kansas, on the west side of Tuttle Creek. But neither were true. Growing up, he’d wanted nothing more than to get away from the small town that didn’t even have a real grocery store of its own. Even more, he’d wanted away from his home life.
The fastest—and most affordable—way out was to join the army, and it had taken him being stationed half a world away in Germany to realize that while he loved seeing the world, there was still something to appreciate about growing up in the rural Midwest. He’d gotten to know a German farmer who lived right off the base, mainly because it reminded him of home. Despite the elderly man’s broken English, they’d bonded. They’d talked a lot about the process of raising cattle, how he chose his animals, mated them, and what it was like during calving season. And several times Jase had given him a hand on his farm. That was when he’d realized that maybe the land he’d grown up on would be good for something similar. He’d never considered moving back to Pierson until then, but when his duty was up a couple of years ago, he’d done just that. The choice made easier by the fact that his father was dead and gone by that point.
Now it was just him and his mother. They talked occasionally, when she chose to have a conversation with him, or he with her. Eventually he’d maybe build a house of his own, but in the meantime, he didn’t mind staying with her. Besides, until this all paid off—literally—he hadn’t many options. A huge chunk of his savings had gone into starting this business. He’d joined the Army National Guard not long after coming home but that and a fledgling cattle operation wasn’t going to make him a fortune, so he was counting on Pitch here to be promiscuous male he was paid to be.
Jase stepped off the gate of the bullpen and headed up the snow-covered dirt path that led to the back porch of the Walters farmhouse. The big white house with black shutters and a classic L-shaped porch never failed to make Jase feel welcome . . . and safe. He and his mother lived down the road, and as soon as he’d informed his longtime neighbor Tim Walters of his idea to raise cattle, the other man had offered to lease his own land to the cause. Jase, having been close to the Walters family for years, hadn’t hesitated, and ever since he and Tim had established a morning coffee ritual that was quickly becoming one of Jase’s favorite times of the day.
Tim Walters was the kind of role model every young man needed in his life. Stern and serious when the occasion called for it, but quick with a laugh and a joke to lighten the mood. Jase had only heard him yell a handful of times in the twenty years he’d known him, and even then his understanding nature had always been apparent. Especially considering he’d probably been yelling at one of his twin daughters. More than likely, Hannah.
Hannah. The woman in Jase’s life. Sort of. They’d never officially dated. Never had sex. And yet . . . they were definitely each other’s “other.” He’d say except for when she wasn’t playing at seeing someone else, but even then he was usually still the one she called. For everything, be it a wedding date, or because she’d locked herself out of her apartment and needed his extra key to her apartment in Manhattan. She’d never said, but he was pretty sure that their odd relationship was the reason many of her real ones didn’t work out.
But he wasn’t sorry for it. Hannah was his girl, and if she was going to turn to another man to be her fixer, Jase needed it to be someone special. Once upon a time he’d hoped it might someday be him, but not so much anymore.
He wished he knew why, because he adored Hannah. Loved her, even. He wasn’t sure why he hadn’t pushed for things to move to the next level, but he never had, and each year that passed by—and every time he turned to another woman for a physical release—it became more likely he never would.
When he pulled open the back door to the kitchen of the Walters home, Jase was met with the delicious smell of coffee brewing and meat frying. The sight he was met with, however, was far from familiar, but definitely just as delicious as anything he’d ever set his eyes on. A woman stood inside the refrigerator door, and his eyes zeroed right in on her perfect ass, which was covered by covered by pink cotton panties.
“Dad! Turn around. I’m not dressed,” her voice screeched, the beautiful body trying to hide behind the fridge door.
Instantly Jase jerked his body around to face the other direction. Now that he’d heard her voice, he knew exactly whose cute ass that was, and lust he hadn’t felt in a long time hit him hard.
Becca Walters.
He should have known, but damn, she hadn’t been back home in ages. Not long enough for him to see her anyway.
“I thought you were gone, Dad. Didn’t you get my text? I told you to call on your way,” she said. Jase heard the refrigerator door shut, followed by a loud gasp. “Jase! Oh my God. What the—”

He’s Mr. Wrong, she’s Miss Independent. When the two come together, sparks fly! Don’t miss Along Came Us, a sexy and heartwarming romance from Nicole McLaughlin.
National Guardsman Tyler Cavallo knows all too well what it feels like to be a volatile teenager. There was a time when it seemed like everyone—be it his father, a rival gang member, or his opponent in the MMA cage—was out to get him. These days he focuses that fight into his gym where he mentors at-risk youths. But one particular teen has Tyler more concerned than usual, and if he’s learned one thing in life, it’s to trust his instincts, and right now those instincts are telling him that this boy isn’t safe.
Lia Hanson is a woman on a mission. With bills to pay, and a younger brother to raise, and two full time jobs, she’s working her ass off and doing the best she can. But in a few months she will finally graduate from college and be able to put most of that behind her for good. Or so she thinks, until a certain overbearing and stupidly good looking gym owner acts like he knows what’s best for her brother. A man is the last thing she wants, and this man is certainly not who she pictured as a stable role model. Lia thought she had a plan, but Tyler’s support, strength and passion have her realizing that sometimes the best things in life come when they’re least expected.

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