"The saga of the Flynn boys and Grayhawk girls comes to a lovely conclusion..."
Reviewed by Sandra Wurman
Posted May 7, 2019
Well, we've reached the end of the road or should we say the start of a
whole brand new life for the crazy characters brought to life by Joan
Johnston in her Kings Brats Series which is actually a branch off from
her Bitter Creek novels. Joan Johnston has captured my interest for
quite a while now writing about stuff I love -- cowboys, cowgirls, and
ranching. I've never stepped onto a ranch myself but her novels take
me to a place that lives in my imagination. In SULLIVAN'S PROMISE, Joan Johnston actually ties
together a few storylines that have been left behind in the three
previous Kings Brat books. But the main storyline centers on Ryan
Sullivan and Victoria Grayhawk.
We finally get to know the woman Rye had a one night stand with five
years before and had basically left with no word. But from this one
night stand, Rye was left with an infant son Cody who he has raised
with the help of his family. Victoria had finally shown up after six
months claiming that she regretted abandoning her baby but Rye had
no intention of letting her have custody of this baby. So they agreed on
a one weekend a month visit and that is how they proceeded for the
last several years.
Neither Rye nor Vick has moved on with their own personal lives it
seems. Both equally devoted to Cody in their own way. But life has a
way of intruding on even the best plans and that is what happens when
Rye's brother Mike is mauled by a grizzly bear.
Rye has few options. His mother needs to be at Mike's bedside, his
sister is away at school, and the ranch needs his undivided attention.
So the only option Rye sees is asking help from Cody's mother Vick.
And that means spending more time than he would like with this woman
who so easily walked away from both him and his son. Vick is delighted
to spend more time with Cody, but equally at odds with the idea of
living -- albeit for a short time -- at the ranch with Rye and Cody. There
is no choice and she will not turn her back on this opportunity to prove
her worthiness at being a more full-time mother for Cody.
Of course, there are bound to be issues. And one of the biggest hurdles
will be with their families that candidly are not aware of the co-
parenting agreement. And in SULLIVAN'S PROMISE, Joan Johnston reveals quite a
few relationships that have managed to remain secret for several years.
All of these secrets will finally come to light and in SULLIVAN'S PROMISE the stories of the awful Flynn
boys and the King brats come to a very satisfying conclusion.
Two unforgiving lovers reunite for the sake of their
child in this fiery contemporary romance from the New
York Times bestselling author of Surrender.
Facing the unexpected consequences of a life-altering night
of passion with a cowboy she met in a Jackson Hole bar, and
with her life committed to protecting endangered species,
Victoria Grayhawk does what she believes is the right
She hunts down the cowboy, seeking his agreement that their
baby should be adopted by a loving family.
Montana rancher Ryan Sullivan has no intention of giving
away his own flesh and blood, and takes their son to raise
himself. When Vick realizes what a horrible mistake sheâ€™s
made, and wants back into their childâ€™s life, Rye remains
inflexibleâ€”because once trust is lost there are no second
chancesâ€”until an attack by one of the grizzlies Vick has
spent her life protecting changes everything and Rye learns
that sometimes love can heal all wounds.
Ryan Sullivanâ€™s heart jumped when he saw whoâ€™d finally
gotten up the nerve to show her face at his ranch in
Montana. An image of Victoria Grayhawk, stark naked,
appeared in his mindâ€™s eye, her golden curls spilling
across his pillow, her lithe body arched in ecstasy beneath
him. He shook his head to dispel the disturbing memory and
fixed his gaze on the unwelcome woman dressed in a denim
jacket, jeans, and cowboy boots standing on his back porch.
â€śWhat the hell are you doing here, Lexie?â€ť
Her striking blue eyes, concealed by shadows during their
night together, looked wounded in the bright light of day.
He noticed her hands were trembling about the same time she
stuck them in her back pockets. He realized she hadnâ€™t
answered him and said, â€śI asked you a question.â€ť
Her chin lifted, and he saw a spark of the vibrant woman
whoâ€™d attracted him when heâ€™d first spotted her in the
Million Dollar Cowboy Bar in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.
She looked him in the eye and said, â€śI made a mistake.â€ť
â€śWhich mistake are we talking about here? The one where
you lied about being on the pill? Or the one where you
wanted me to give up parental rights to my son?â€ť
â€śI didnâ€™t lie. I was on the pill. I donâ€™t know why I got
pregnant. I only asked you to give up your parental rights
because I wanted the child to be adopted by a loving
â€śLet me stop you right there. Cody isnâ€™t the child or a
child. Heâ€™s my child, since you gave up your right to have
anything to do with him the day he was born.â€ť
She flinched, as well she should. He couldnâ€™t imagine any
woman caring so little about her child that she would give
him up to anyone, even his own father, and walk away
without a second thought.
She met his gaze again, and he saw tears welling in her
eyes. He hardened his heart. He didnâ€™t care what she
wanted now. Sheâ€™d had her chance to be a mother, and sheâ€™d
thrown it away like a sack of trash. He wasnâ€™t going to
let her back into Codyâ€™s life now. His son was a happy,
healthy, six-month-old boy. He was doing fine without a
mother. He had a doting father, a grandmother, an uncle,
and a teenage aunt to give him all the love he needed.
â€śI know what I did was wrong,â€ť she said in a voice that
grated like a rusty gate. â€śYou canâ€™t say anything to meâ€”or
about meâ€”that I havenâ€™t said to myself a thousand times
over the past six months. I never should have walked away.
It was the dumbest, most idiotic, utterly shameful thing
Iâ€™ve ever done in my life. But Iâ€™m here now, and I want to
see my son.â€ť
â€śHeâ€™s my son,â€ť Sullivan shot back.
â€śI have visitation rights.â€ť
Sullivan remembered how surprised his lawyer had been when
Victoria Grayhawk said she didnâ€™t want visitation rights,
because she didnâ€™t plan to be a part of the childâ€™s life.
It was her lawyer whoâ€™d insisted on writing in a clause
allowing her to see their son â€śOne weekend per month, from
5 p.m. on Friday to 5 p.m. on Sunday.â€ť
Sullivan remembered how sheâ€™d pursed her lips and shaken
her head when her lawyer said, â€śYou might change your
mind.â€ť Sullivan had been tired of fighting and had agreed
to her lawyerâ€™s terms, certain he would never see her
again. Theyâ€™d both signed the legal document, which was
approved by a family court judge, making Ryan Patrick
Sullivan the primary custodial parent and giving Victoria
Alexandra Grayhawk visiting privileges one weekend a month.
For the past six months, he hadnâ€™t seen hide nor hair of
her. Now, here she was at the back door of his Montana
ranch house on a Friday afternoon demanding to see his son.
â€śYou canâ€™t see Cody. You canâ€™t hold him. You canâ€™t have
him for the weekend. Get the hell off my doorstep. Get
the hell off my property. Go away and donâ€™t come back.â€ť
â€śHeâ€™s my son, too! You canâ€™t deny me the right to be a
mother to him.â€ť
The flash of fire in her eyes reminded him of the look
sheâ€™d given him at the bar, when heâ€™d asked if sheâ€™d come
back to his room at the Wort Hotel. The one that had
turned him hard as a rock. The one that had made it
impossible to swallow. The one that had caused him to
capture her nape and touch his mouth to hers. A shiver of
excitement skittered down his spine at the mere thought of
He knotted his fists and forced the feeling down. â€śYouâ€™re
the one who walked away,â€ť he said in a voice made harsh by
vivid memories he thought heâ€™d put behind him. â€śYou said
you didnâ€™t want to be a mother. Itâ€™s not something Iâ€™m
ever likely to forget hearing.â€ť
â€śI told you, I made a mistake!â€ť
â€śYou sure as hell did!â€ť
â€śI have legal rights,â€ť she protested.
â€śGood luck with that. Where were you planning to keep Cody
for the weekend? You canâ€™t take him out of state without
my permission, and I wonâ€™t give it. Do you have a home
here in Montana?â€ť
â€śIâ€™ve bought a cabin.â€ť
â€śOn the edge of your property.â€ť
â€śNot the Wingate place,â€ť he said, horrified at the thought
of having her so close.
â€śI think that was the old manâ€™s name.â€ť
Sullivan had been planning to buy that tiny log home on the
edge of Glacier National Park, and the five hundred acres
that surrounded it, for himself. Heâ€™d just been waiting
for old man Wingate to lower his price, since he didnâ€™t
think there was anyone else willing to buy such a shabby
hovel so deep in the woods. Now the mother of his child
was going to be living right on the edge of his property,
day in and day out.
â€śWhat happened to your grand plans to save grizzlies and
wolves from extinction?â€ť he said with a sneer.
â€śIâ€™m still working to save endangered species.â€ť
â€śI thought you had to travel to do your job. After all,
that was the excuse you gave for not wanting to be a
mother.â€ť That, and the fact that she didnâ€™t know him
from Adam. He was just a guy sheâ€™d met in a bar. It had
been good sex, she told him (great sex as far as he was
concerned, though he hadnâ€™t bothered to contradict her),
but that had been the extent of it. The pregnancy was
merely an unforeseen, entirely unexpected, consequence. At
twenty-two, she wasnâ€™t ready to become a single mother, and
she wanted the child to grow up in a loving home.
At twenty-four, he hadnâ€™t exactly been ready for
parenthood, either, but heâ€™d known he could never give his
own flesh and blood away to someone else to raise.
â€śI still have to travel,â€ť she said defensively. â€śBut I
plan to be here at least one weekend a month to see my
â€śHeâ€™s not yours. Heâ€™s mine,â€ť Sullivan said. â€śAnd donâ€™t
you forget it.â€ť
His gut clenched with fear for his child. He could
probably put off the Grayhawk woman for a while, by
bringing in social services to check out the living
conditions in that old cabin in the woods. But eventually,
she was going to get Cody one weekend a month. His little
boy would be scared if he went off alone with some
stranger. Which meant Sullivan was going to have to let
that damned woman into his home to spend time with Cody,
before she took him away and kept him by herself.
Not to mention making sure she knew how and what to feed
Cody, how to change a diaper, what his bedtime ritual was,
and how he sometimes woke up at night and needed a small
light turned on before he would go back to sleepâ€”for no
reason Sullivan had ever been able to determine.
He studied the somber look on Victoria Grayhawkâ€™s face, so
different from the bubbly smile and laughing eyes that had
caught his attention at the bar. The air had shimmered
with tension when he was still half a room away from her.
It was as though she were tugging him toward her with an
invisible rope, from which there was no escape. He felt
the same attraction now and fought against it.
She wasnâ€™t the woman heâ€™d imagined she was when heâ€™d taken
her to bed. That woman spoke of noble ideals and goals
which, even though they ran counter to his personal
feelings, still resonated with him. She wanted to save
wolves and grizzlies from extinctionâ€”the same wolves and
grizzlies that killed his cattle every year. She hadnâ€™t
changed her tune, even when sheâ€™d found out they were on
opposite sides of the fence. Sheâ€™d simply cozened him with
kisses to convince him to take a look at her point of view.
Heâ€™d been willing to sacrifice every cow on his ranch to
feed hungry bears and wolves by the time she got done with
him. He was well and truly lost, readyâ€”if sheâ€™d just said
the wordâ€”to tie the knot and take her home with him to
Except, when heâ€™d woken up the next morning, sheâ€™d been
gone. And heâ€™d never gotten her last name. Sheâ€™d simply
called herself â€śLexie.â€ť Heâ€™d only been in town for a two-
day cattlemenâ€™s meeting, and when heâ€™d asked about a
â€śLexieâ€ť in the bar the next evening, no one knew a woman of
her description by that name. Nor had there been anyone in
the lobby when theyâ€™d entered the hotel who might have
known her. It was only later he discovered her name was
Victoria Grayhawk, and folks in Jackson called her Vick.
It was one more transgression to add to the growing list.
â€śLexieâ€ť had been more careful than he was, asking enough
questions to find out his full name, and that he lived on a
ranch in Montana. Sheâ€™d come looking for him when she
found out she was pregnant, and that whole sorry legal mess
He wondered if he would be so mad at Lexie now, if he
hadnâ€™t felt so foolish for wanting more time with her, when
sheâ€™d apparently forgotten all about him once the sun hit
the morning sky.
â€śRye? Whoâ€™s at the door?â€ť
â€śNo one, Mom.â€ť Thatâ€™s what Lexie Grayhawk was and always
would be to him and his son.
He could hear his motherâ€”who was nosy, but in a good wayâ€”
crossing the mudroom to see for herself whoâ€™d come to
The sudden intense look of longing on Lexieâ€™s face told him
something was amiss. Then he heard the screen door screech
behind him and turned to see his mother stepping onto the
back porch with Cody in her arms.
Cody leaned over and thrust out both arms, but it wasnâ€™t
Sullivan he was reaching for. As Rye had turned to watch
his motherâ€™s approach, Lexie had held out her arms to the
child, her face lit with joy. Rye realized with a sudden
pang that it was her smile he saw reflected on Codyâ€™s face
each morning when he greeted his sonâ€”the same bow on the
upper lip, the same fullness of the lower one, and the
wide, inviting mouth.
Her arms reached for the baby, who was grinning toothlessly
back at her.
Sullivan saw what was going to happen and intercepted the
infant before the boyâ€™s motherâ€”this strangerâ€”could touch
He felt disconcerted because Cody was still straining to
reach the woman, his tiny arms outstretched.
At the sound of Lexieâ€™s voice, low and husky, goosebumps
rose all over Sullivanâ€™s body. That was the same
mesmerizing voice that had coaxed him into her arms.
He tried to hand Cody back to his grandmother, to put him
out of Lexieâ€™s reach, but his momâ€™s arms were folded over
her chest, and she had â€śthat lookâ€ť on her face that told
him she knew exactly who was standing on their back porch.
And that what Sullivan was doingâ€”keeping a mother and her
son apartâ€”was wrong.
But he wasnâ€™t wrong. He knew it in his gut.
What if Lexie stepped into Codyâ€™s life and made the
vulnerable little boy love her, and then changed her mind
again? He wanted to spare his child that pain. Better she
never became a part of Codyâ€™s life in the first place.
Lexie had dropped her hands, and her smile had faded, but
her eyes still implored him to let her hold the baby.
Cody settled his warm body against Sullivanâ€™s heart and
stuck his thumb in his mouth, but his eyes remained focused
on the woman standing in front of him.
â€śGo away, Miss Grayhawk,â€ť Sullivan said in a calm voice
that wouldnâ€™t upset the child in his arms. â€śThereâ€™s
nothing for you here.â€ť
â€śExcept my son, whom I love with every fiber of my being.â€ť
He was startled by the fierceness of her voice as much as
by the words sheâ€™d spoken.
â€śYou canâ€™t stop me from being a mother to Cody,â€ť she
continued. â€śThe courts are on my side. Make up your mind
that this is going to happen.â€ť
His heart was beating frantically, pushing against his ribs
like a terrified animal trying to escape, knowing there is
no escape. â€śFine.â€ť The single word was harsh, and
startled both her and Cody, who lifted his head and looked
up at him with a tiny furrow between his brows.
â€śFine,â€ť he repeated in a more moderate voice.
â€śI can take him?â€ť she said, her arched eyebrows raised in
question, reminding him that he saw her every day when he
looked at Codyâ€™s face.
â€śCody doesnâ€™t know you. And you donâ€™t know his routine.
If youâ€™re going to do this, you might as well start from
â€śMay I hold him?â€ť
Rye felt an ache in his chest. Why couldnâ€™t she have asked
that at the hospital? But the time for regrets was past.
She was here now, and he was going to have to make the best
of a bad situation. He would do what had to be done for
â€śHe might not want to go to you,â€ť he said as she took a
step toward him.
Cody put the lie to his words, as Lexie smiled again and
held out her arms and cooed, â€śHello, Cody. Iâ€™m your
The little boy eagerly reached out to her and left the
safety of his fatherâ€™s arms for the far less certain ones
of his mother.
She held the infant awkwardly at first, shifting him until
she had him sitting on her female hip, which God had
apparently made for just that purpose. Her whole face was
lit up so brightly it hurt to look at her. He saw before
him the vivacious woman heâ€™d met in a bar, whoâ€™d become his
lover, and who was now the mother of his child.
Heâ€™d forgotten about his own mother. She pulled the screen
door open wide with another loud screech and said, â€śWhy
donâ€™t you come inside?â€ť
He stood helplessly by as Lexie Grayhawk, a woman he could
never trust, a woman he both despised and desired, stepped
into his kitchen . . . and into his life.
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