Release Day! – His Christmas Bride/Holly: The Christmas Bride

Dec 09, 2016

I feel like I’ve been waiting forever to say this, but His Christmas Bride (spicy)/Holly: The Christmas Bride (sweet) is here! At last! For those of you who’ve been dying to find out more about George, here’s your chance! And who doesn’t like a good Christmas story to get them in the mood at this time of year? Wanna get started on the first chapter? Here you go! (buy links at the bottom)

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Haskell, Wyoming – December, 1876

Rev. George Pickering stood on the platform of Haskell’s train station, bundled against the cold nip in the air. The scent of imminent snow filled his senses, and he hunkered down into the scarf wound around his neck. He’d had the foresight to dress warmly enough so that he wasn’t standing there shivering as he waited for his mail-order bride to arrive on the next train, but even if he hadn’t, embarrassment would have kept him warm as toast.

Half of Haskell had turned out to wait with him.

“This is so exciting,” ranch-owner Virginia Piedmont commented to her best friend, Josephine Evans. The two women were liaisons with Hurst Home, the safe place for women in Nashville where most of the mail-order brides who had come to Haskell were from. They were the only ones who had a right to be there. Not that that stopped the others.

“I know,” Jill Abernathy, the wife of one of Haskell’s two doctors answered. “Imagine, our very own reverend finding true love at last.”

George sent her a modest smile, though he could barely manage that. Sending for a bride in the mail was hardly a recipe for true love. He hadn’t asked for that and he didn’t expect it. All he wanted was a companion to share his load, both temporally and spiritually. He’d agonized for weeks over whether it was cold-hearted of him to bring in a woman to marry simply because his congregation was getting bigger by the day and he needed help ministering to them. But help was needed. And his hope was that he and the woman Mrs. Breashears had picked out for him from the many unfortunate women taking refuge at Hurst Home would be someone he could come to care for deeply, make a life with, have children with. He’d always pictured himself as a father.

“Oh! I think I hear the train whistle,” Josephine announced.

A ripple went through the crowd—and it was a crowd—behind George. Sure enough, a few seconds later, the faint shriek of the train sounded faintly in the distance. George took a deep breath. This was it. His new wife was on the way. He prayed that this time his wedding would go better than the last time.

“Ah, Rev. Pickering. There you are.”

George turned to find Howard Haskell striding toward him, the crowd parting as if he were Moses and they were the Red Sea. A tall, somber man in black with a thick beard walked slightly behind him.

“I’d like to introduce you to Rev. Alexander Robbins,” Howard went on before he’d fully reached George. When he did, he stopped and gestured toward Rev. Robbins as though showing off a prize bull. “He’s the minister I’ve brought in to perform your wedding ceremony.”

George smiled and extended a hand to Robbins. “It’s a pleasure to meet you. Thank you so much for stepping in to help.”

“It is important for a man to be married properly in the eyes of God.” Robbins shook George’s offered hand, his grip almost too firm. His voice was solid and deep as well. Everything about him radiated stoicism and severity. “As God has decreed, it is better to marry than burn,” Robbins raised his voice, drawing the attention of some of the onlookers. “So you shall be married in His eyes and according to His laws, avoiding the sinful path that is so easy for man to walk.”

George blinked. “Yes.”

Howard raised a brow at the man, as if he was unsure whether to be shocked or impressed. A moment later, he cleared his throat. “Rev. Robbins here comes highly recommended by some of my new associates in the Wyoming Stock Growers Association.”

“Isn’t the WSGA that horrible organization that Rex Bonneville belongs to?” Josephine asked.

“It is,” Virginia—who was Howard’s sister—answered with a snort. “I told him not to join.”

“Unfortunately, my dear,” Howard grumbled, “it’s become apparent to me that all ranch owners worth their salt who want to be a voice in this territory must belong to the WSGA.”

“Oh, dear,” Josephine sighed.

The train whistle sounded again, closer this time, bringing George and everyone else back to the moment at hand. He sent Robbins a nod and a smile, hoping it wasn’t too dismissive, and turned to shield his eyes from the sun as he looked down the train tracks.

The tracks had originally been built to one side of town, meaning that the entire town of Haskell rested on the north side of the tracks. Up until recently, everything on the south side had been privately owned ranchland, uninhabited except for an occasional drifter or two setting up a tent when the weather was fine. But just a month before, Robert Petty, the old man who owned the land, had sold a huge parcel to Rupert Cole. Rupert was not only the husband of one of George’s oldest friends, Bonnie, he was also half of a construction company that operated out of Everland, a town down the line from Haskell. Already, the land on the opposite side of the tracks was laid out with parcels for half a dozen buildings, and George had it on good authority that Rupert was planning to build even more.

“Margaret says she’s the sweetest thing.”

George yanked his thoughts out of speculation about Haskell’s imminent growth and paid attention to the conversation Virginia, Josephine, and Mrs. Abernathy continued to have just behind him.

“She is.” Eden Chance wedged her way through the crowd to join the conversation, her baby on her hip. “Holly was one of the sweetest girls I knew back at Hurst Home. I’m so excited she’s coming here.”

“Such a tragic history, though,” Josephine went on. “Although all of you ladies from Hurst Home have tragic histories.”

“That’s the point of the place, I suppose.” Mrs. Abernathy nodded sagely.

“And yet, every one of the women who have come out here to marry one of our boys has turned out to be a splendid person,” Virginia added.

“And we’re all so grateful for it,” Eden said. She bounced her baby boy and grinned. “Every one of us has been blessed with the life we’ve found here.”

“I’ve no doubt Holly Hannigan will be the same,” Josephine said. “Margaret writes that she’s a quiet sort, somber after an unhappy marriage.”

A knot formed in George’s gut. Unhappy was the ladies’ code for cruel and abusive. Margaret Breashears had made no secret of the fact that Holly had endured much pain in her first marriage, that fear of bodily harm was what had driven the poor woman to flee from her husband. The brutish husband in question had died several months after Holly took shelter at Hurst Home, but that was as much as George knew.

“I’m certain she’ll make a perfect minister’s wife,” Virginia continued. “Margaret says she’s pretty and intelligent, that she’s efficient and helpful. Apparently, she once worked in a shop.”

“She did,” Eden confirmed. “Her family owned the store where she worked, and a couple more besides.”

A prickle raced down George’s back. He shrugged it off. It must just be the chill and the threat of snow in the air. Beyond that, it had to be a coincidence. He’d known a woman named Holly once. Before, in his old life. She’d been a shop girl too. She’d almost been his wife. She would have been his wife. His entire life would have been drastically different…if she hadn’t left him at the altar.

 

Ready to read the rest? Here’s where you can get it!

His Christmas Bride (spicy) is available at AMAZON, IBOOKS, KOBO, and BARNES & NOBLE

Holly: The Christmas Bride (sweet) is available exclusively at AMAZON and for KU

Weekend Excerpt – His Christmas Bride/Holly: The Christmas Bride

Dec 03, 2016

It’s coming! Not only Christmas, but the release of His Christmas Bride (Spicy)/Holly: The Christmas Bride (Sweet)! For all of you who have been wondering about Rev. George Pickering, now is your chance to find out so much more about his past, his present, and his future. This one is very much a book about second chances and righting the wrongs of your past. Here’s a taste….

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Busy-work could only serve as a distraction for so long.

“I send the marriage certificates and other official documents executed by the church to the territory’s governmental offices in Cheyenne,” he explained to Holly—without looking at her—after everyone else left.

“What kinds of other documents?” she asked, following him into his office at the side of the chancel.

“Birth certificates, death certificates. Anything official goes through me, for some reason.”

He turned to look at her as he reached his desk and set their marriage certificate on the desktop. She had stopped a few feet inside of the doorway and looked around, her hands clasped in front of her, holding the gloves she’d taken off to sign the document. She still wore her wool coat and scarf. So did he, for that matter. Holly’s cheeks were still tinted pink from the cold. Or maybe it was from shock over what they’d just done. Her hazel eyes took in the room with an assessing gaze that revealed her quick mind. But it was that curious streak of white in her hair that held his attention. It wasn’t a sign of age. The rest of her hair was as dark and lush as ever.

Her gaze made its way around the room, then landed squarely on him. Their eyes met. Her brow lifted a fraction, as if asking what he was staring at. George cleared his throat and focused on the papers arranged in neat piles on his desk.

“Filing paperwork with the territory should be a town council job,” he fumbled on, pretending he hadn’t been so curious. “But Howard thinks I do a good job of it and wants me to continue doing what I’m doing. Howard is like that. He started the town and he more or less runs it the way he wants to. It’s been a boon for people with unusual backgrounds, like Wendy Montrose or Graham and Estelle Tremaine.” He paused for a moment, then added, “And Bonnie.”

An awkward silence followed before Holly said, “I see.”

George waited. She was sure to ask about Bonnie, pry into the details of how the two of them knew each other, what he was doing with a madam for a friend, question just how far their relationship went. He scrambled to come up with answers that would absolve him of any guilt while explaining how important it was to him that even marginalized people, like Bonnie and her girls, feel welcome at God’s table.

It wasn’t until she continued to watch him in tense confusion that it dawned on him she didn’t have the first clue who Bonnie Cole was. He was working himself up over nothing.

He cleared his throat, leaving their marriage certificate on the desk as he stepped back to Holly. “The long and the short of it is, Haskell isn’t your average frontier town. We like to think of ourselves as progressive while maintaining the community feeling of places back East, inclusive of all people while promoting the values of honesty and hard work.”

“It sounds delightful.” A faint smile flickered across Holly’s face, but her flush wasn’t going away. She looked as out of place as if she was standing alone on the platform at Baltimore Union Station.

He shouldn’t have married her. He should have let her go on with her life the way she’d obviously intended to. Now here she was, a fish out of water, swimming in all the water that flowed under the bridge of their past.

He was saved from having to conjure up something to say by a knock coming from the door in his apartment. “Hello?” the muffled voice of Hubert Strong followed. “Rev. Pickering, are you home? Should I bring this around to the front of the church?”

Holly blinked rapidly, surprised. George answered her questioning look by striding for the door that connected his office to the apartment where he lived. “Come,” he invited her. “This is where I live, at least for now.”

“Rev. Pickering?” Hubert continued to knock.

George checked over his shoulder to make sure Holly was with him, then headed for the door. He opened it to reveal Hubert standing on the church’s back steps, a medium-sized trunk at his feet.

Hubert smiled in relief. “Oh good. I’m not interrupting anything.” He bent to lift the trunk. His young face dropped as he carried it through the doorway. “At least, I hope I’m not interrupting anything.”

“No, no, not at all.” George stepped back and gestured for Hubert to bring the trunk all the way into the room. “Holly, this is Hubert Strong, son of Athos Strong, the stationmaster.”

“Pleased to meet you, ma’am,” Hubert was quick to add with all of his boyish enthusiasm.

“Likewise.” Holly’s smile was warm and genuine, and a sign that she was recovering from her initial shock. “You look so young to be working so hard.”

Hubert straightened with pride. “I graduated school this past spring, ma’am, and begged my pop to give me a job working at the train station. But what I really want to do is get a job as a porter. I want to travel and see the world.”

Holly’s smile brightened…so much so that George was struck with a strange pang of jealousy. Had she ever smiled at him like that?

“I’m sure you’ll do just that,” she told Hubert.

“And I’m sure you’ll make a great preacher’s wife,” Hubert returned the compliment. He peeked to the side and must have caught the conflicted look on George’s face. His eagerness vanished. “Oh, sorry, is that not the right thing to say?”

It was George’s turn to smile as if everything was perfectly fine. “Not at all, Hubert. It’s very kind of you to support Miss…uh, Mrs. Pickering that way.”

A chill passed down his spine. Mrs. Pickering. After all these years.

“Thank you…Hubert was it?”

“Yes, ma’am.” Hubert touched the brim of his cap, then backed toward the door. “If you’ll excuse me, we got a lot of bags and parcels in on that last train and Pop needs me to help deliver them.”

“We won’t keep you,” George said, escorting him to the door. “Thanks again.”

As soon as Hubert was gone and the door was shut behind him, the room crackled with tension once more. George took his time turning to face Holly. He needed to gather his thoughts so that he could figure out what to do next.

His Christmas Bride (Spicy)/Holly: The Christmas Bride (Sweet) comes out on Friday, December 9th. That’s less than a week away! Stay tuned!

Release Day! – Hairdresser’s Honey

Nov 18, 2016

It’s finally here! Denise Bonneville is finally about to meet her Hero. Hairdresser’s Honey, book 14 in the Culpepper Cowboys series, is finally available, exclusively at Amazon and for Kindle Unlimited for now, but available everywhere in 90 days! Want to get a head start and see what Denise has been up to since the last time we saw her? Read on!

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“So then Andy actually had the nerve to admit that he was getting paid for each day that Evan didn’t come forward to claim the Kissie Lips fortune.”

“No way!” Denise Bonneville exclaimed, keeping her eyes on the road as she drove. Everything about her friend, Elvie O’Donnell-soon-to-be-Lipinski’s story shocked her, but also made her laugh.

“Yeah, and he had the nerve to think I would still want to marry him,” Elvie went on. She snorted. “Why would I want a hot dog when I can have a juicy steak?”

“I suppose it depends on how big the hot dog is,” Denise joked.

The two of them bubbled with laughter. Elvie doubled over as much as her seatbelt would let her. Denise beamed from ear-to-ear, half because of the joke, but half because one of the nicest, most popular women in town counted her as a friend. Sure, she wasn’t in high school anymore and shouldn’t be thinking of people as popular and unpopular, but not only had she never been able to shake the specter of high school, her fifteen-year class reunion was in a matter of days. It had been a massive relief when Elvie had asked her for a ride out to the Mountain View Spa for a pre-wedding overnight stay with Evan.

“Oh! Oh!” Elvie suddenly sat straighter, flapping her hands as she giggled. “And then, once Andy actually got the probate paperwork filed and turned everything over to Evan last week, he actually had the nerve to ask if Evan would hire him to be a financial advisor for the company.”

“You’re kidding!” Denise gaped, peeking sideways at Elvie for a moment. It wasn’t like anyone else was on the roads so far away from Culpepper proper. And since the roads were all pretty much straight and flat, she could have taken her hands off the wheels, rested back in her seat, and driven with her knees if she had to.

“Not kidding.” Elvie shook her head and rolled her eyes. “Evan said no, of course. His great-aunt had a whole team of financial advisors and business advisors and every kind of advisor you could want. Andy was also holding back on that.”

“How could he get away with that?”

“I don’t know,” Elvie sighed. “Here, this whole time, Evan has been so worried that the Kissie Lips business will be too much for him to handle, that he won’t know what he’s doing, but his great-aunt built all of that help into the company, knowing Evan would have a steep learning curve. All he really has to do is listen to what the advisors and CEO of the company have to say, and he can be involved as much or as little as he wants.”

“So what’s he going to do?”

“He started out thinking that he wanted to do nothing, just continue working for the Culpeppers. But now he thinks he wants to buy some land of his own. Not a lot, mind you. Just enough to build a house, keep some horses, and maybe ease into the cattle business.”

“That’s so sweet.” Denise grinned, happy that her friend was getting the life she deserved.

That happiness melted into a sad sigh. Elvie was the kind of person who got a happy ending. She, on the other hand, was not. She wasn’t pretty, like Elvie or Nancy O’Donnell or any of the women the Culpepper boys had married. She wasn’t well-liked either. That was her own fault, if she was being honest. Well, it was the fault of high school Denise. High school Denise had been a real bitch, bullying the people she thought were nerdy, forming nasty cliques with other popular girls, and sucking up to the football players…in every way.

“Hey, what’s that sudden gloomy face all about?” Elvie asked.

Denise sighed. “Oh, nothing. I’m just thinking about my class reunion.”

“Yeah, that all happens a couple days after the wedding,” Elvie answered with a voice infused with cheer, probably in an effort to boost Denise’s spirits, which was sweet. “Arch’s class has their reunion this year. I’m so glad I don’t have one.”

“I wish I didn’t have one either,” Denise sent her a quick look before turning off of the main highway and onto the road that led to the spa. “High school wasn’t exactly the best time of my life.”

Elvie hummed and nodded. “At least you’ve made a substantial change in who you are,” she said softly, with respect that Denise wasn’t sure she deserved. “I wouldn’t have picked you to be my bridesmaid if I didn’t genuinely think you were a great person.”

That put a smile on Denise’s face and brought a few tears to her eyes. “Thanks so much, Elvie. I still can’t believe we’re friends after…” There was no point denying the truth. “After how mean I was.”

Elvie shrugged. “Hey. We all have bad days.”

“My bad day lasted for about fifteen years,” Denise snorted.

“But those days are behind you. That’s all that matters,” Elvie insisted as Denise pulled into a parking space in front of the spa. “And if your old classmates don’t appreciate that, then they aren’t worth knowing.”

“I suppose so.” Denise did her best to think positively. “And as crappy as high school and everything afterwards was, I got Destiny out of the deal.”

She smiled with pride, heart filling with love, at the thought of her daughter. Destiny had meant the world to her, even if her father was a gigantic, neglectful, ex-boyfriend jerk who had knocked her up senior year then dumped her to run off to college. As hard as it was, there were times when she was glad Wes hadn’t stuck around, hadn’t shown much interest in Destiny.

Okay, so that wasn’t very fair to Destiny. Every girl deserved a father. But as much as her daughter pined for a father figure, she didn’t really know what she was yearning for when she wished her real daddy would swoop back into town and make her life better, like some fairytale. If anything, Wes was the troll who lived under the bridge.

And he would be in town for the reunion.

“Hey, it’ll be okay.” Elvie assured her, squeezing her arm like a true friend. “And if it isn’t, you can always ditch your reunion and come hang out with us.”

“You and Evan will be on your honeymoon, won’t you?”

“We decided to delay leaving for a few days so that we can help out with Culpepper’s homecoming events.”

Denise let out a breath, shaking her head. “You are the nicest person I’ve ever known, Elvie. I have no idea how we’re actually friends.”

Elvie laughed, opening her car door and stepping out. “Hey, you’re the one who drove me all the way out here into the middle of nowhere so I could meet up with my future hubby to be slathered in mud together.”

“Have fun with that.” Denise laughed, waving as Elvie got out of the car. Evan was already waiting for her on the sidewalk in front of the spa. Elvie skipped into his arms and threw her arms around him in a big hug. Evan—manly hunk of awesomeness that he was—hugged her back and planted a kiss on her lips that made Denise ache with sentimentality and regret.

No one would ever kiss her like that. She’d spent too long being too horrible to everyone. And she was all bloated and chubby. She wasn’t the super-cool cheerleader dating the captain of the football team anymore—she was the loser who barely managed to graduate and faded into obscurity after being shunned by everyone else. Girls who had made the mistakes she had didn’t get the chance to have a happily ever after.

But she had Destiny. As she pulled out of the spa and headed back to the highway, that thought made her smile. She had her beautiful, bright, hard-working daughter. And sure, Destiny had turned into a total teenager lately, getting moody, stomping around the house slamming doors, and giggling on the phone with her girlfriends, but Denise wouldn’t trade her for the world. So help her, if Wes complained about his daughter in any way during this stupid reunion week or if he broke Destiny’s heart by ignoring her, Denise would cut the man’s balls off with an old pair of her haircutting shears.

That’s right, Hairdresser’s Honey is available now at Amazon and for Kindle Unlimited!

Release Day! – His Secret Bride (spicy)/Bonnie: The Secret Bride (sweet)

Nov 04, 2016

The day has finally come! I know I’ve been looking forward to telling Bonnie and Rupert’s story for a while, and now you get to read it! Man, these two have so much water under the bridge! Here’s your chance to enjoy it all. His Secret Bride (spicy)/Bonnie: The Secret Bride (sweet) is (are?) available now! (Links at the bottom)

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Between Haskell and Everland, Wyoming – 1876

There was only a short distance between Haskell, Wyoming and Everland, but every inch of the journey, every second that the train chugged along through wild territory, filled Bonnie Horner with dread. She’d known this moment would come. Known for years. She knew that she couldn’t keep her head buried in the sand forever, pretending everything was as it seemed and there were no secrets creeping under the surface. She just hadn’t thought everything would come to a head so soon.

Everything had been fine, rambling along as steadily as the train, until Honoria Bonneville finally did what Bonnie had been wishing and hoping she would do for years. The brilliant young woman, her friend, had broken away from her family—the family that had bullied and belittled her for as long as Bonnie had known them. She’d followed her heart and married the man of her dreams, Haskell’s unique, black banker, Solomon Templesmith. Bonnie had cheered and helped the couple in every way she could, but all that help had come at a heavy price for her. The carefully constructed relationship she and Honoria’s father, Rex Bonneville, had developed—a relationship as artificial as it was beneficial to them both—had reached a crossroads. Honoria wasn’t the only one who had put her foot down. Rex had issued his ultimatum, and now Bonnie was stuck.

“Are you all right, Miss Bonnie?” Lyle, the porter who worked the Wyoming train line asked. He knew Bonnie well, knew her because whenever the train stopped over in Haskell for more than an hour or so, Lyle jumped off so he could visit her establishment and spend time with her girls. He paid them generously and treated them kindly, so Bonnie approved of him.

She sent him a weary smile. “I’m fine, Lyle. Thanks for asking.”

Kind, if not exactly gentlemanly, Lyle sniffed and pressed on. “Because you look a might peaked.”

Bonnie reached out to pat Lyle’s arm. “I’ll be fine.”

She expected Lyle to move on, and, in fact, he swayed forward with the motion of the train. Then he stopped, his expression pained. “Um, congratulations on your engagement to Rex Bonneville.” It came out as more of a question than genuine felicitations. Worry clouded Lyle’s eyes.

“I’ll be fine,” Bonnie repeated, softer, less convincing.

Lyle nodded and moved on. Bonnie watched his back as he moved down the train’s aisle, checking on passengers. Then she sighed and glanced out the window. Would she be fine? That was a question she had yet to answer for herself. On paper, life as Mrs. Rex Bonneville would be a good one. She’d never lack for anything—except affection, kindness, and human decency. She would be one of the most well-placed women in the state, in spite of her scandalous background. Most importantly, she would have all the funds she needed to continue her work at her Place. The young women under her care could continue to be safe, learn, and flourish. They could escape the fate life had handed them, make something more of themselves. As long as Bonnie was willing to sacrifice everything.

It all looked wonderful on paper.

It was a shame that paper was her biggest problem.

She let out another, painful sigh and smoothed her hand over the carpetbag on the seat beside her. The paper in question was tucked neatly inside, along with a couple of changes of clothes. Its corners were dog-eared, and it was beginning to yellow with age, even though the document was a scant four years old. She’d struggled to get the bloody thing—begged, bullied, and pushed it through all of the legal channels she could, expending more money than she should have in the process. And once the courts had granted her the blasted thing, what had she done with it? Nothing.

Until now.

The train’s whistle sounded, jerking Bonnie out of her increasingly morbid thoughts. “Everland,” Lyle shouted from the front of the car. “We’re approaching Everland. Get yer things in order.”

The train began to slow. Outside, the wilderness gave way first to ranchland, then to the inexplicably lush farmland that had always mystified Bonnie. Wyoming, as far as she had traveled it, was mostly high prairie filled with scrubby bushes, grass, and rocks, but Everland was a different story. Things grew there. She’d even heard tell of a lake, Lake Enchantment. It was enchanted indeed if it was all the way out in the middle of the wilderness. Almost like a magical land in a fairy story.

Well, she thought as she scooted to the edge of her seat, fussing with her carpetbag so that she’d be ready to disembark as soon as the train stopped, she could use a little bit of fairy magic right now. Because the task that awaited her was right up there in the category of curses that couldn’t be broken. And if she was being honest, it was a curse she’d hexed herself with almost ten years ago.

Ten years ago, when she was nineteen, wide-eyed, stubborn as a mule, and as stupid as one too. When she’d thought the best way to spite her overbearing family was to answer Rupert Cole’s advertisement for a mail-order bride.

The train’s whistle blasted again, and its brakes screeched. Buildings now slid past the windows. Bonnie stood, gripped her bag firmly, and marched up the aisle to stand next to Lyle by the door, waiting for the train to come to a complete stop.

“So, uh, is it true that Honoria Bonneville up and married that negro…uh…” He cleared his throat, flushing. “That fine banker man, Mr. Templesmith?”

“It is.” Bonnie smiled. “And they’re very happy.” Honoria and Solomon were happy, and all signs pointed to them continuing to be happy. They had supportive friends who had rallied around them, and now they were expecting a baby.

Her smile dropped as she wondered whether friends would rally around her after she married Rex. No one liked the man, not even the people who walked around ready to lick his boots. And as for a baby? Well, Rex might need to come to Everland to have the town work its magic on him if he thought he was even slightly up to the task, as it were, all his demands for an heir aside.

With one final screech of the brakes and cry of the whistle, the train came to a stop. Bonnie sighed, spared one last, weak smile for Lyle as he opened the train’s door and hopped down onto the platform to help passengers disembark, and wondered once again how she’d managed to get herself tied up in this impossible knot.

 

You can purchase Bonnie: The Secret Bride (sweet) at Amazon or read it through Kindle Unlimited – http://amzn.to/2ev6g1k

His Secret Bride (spicy) is available wherever eBooks are sold:

Amazon – http://amzn.to/2ev8IF6

B&N – http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/his-secret-bride-merry-farmer/1125069369

iBooks – https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/id1172336292

Kobo – https://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/ebook/his-secret-bride

Release Day! – Mistletoe and Moonbeams

Nov 01, 2016

It’s here! The Wild Western Women, Mistletoe Montana box set is here today! It’s available at Amazon and for Kindle Unlimited for the first 90 days, then will be available wherever eBooks are sold. Come to Mistletoe Montana to fall in love with these four connected stories, and to get in the Christmas spirit! And it’s only 99 cents!

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Stories include:

Mistletoe Mistake, by Caroline Clemmons – When he sent for a doctor, he didn’t expect a woman!

Mistletoe Scandal, by Sylvia McDaniel – A city girl, a cowboy, and a dog trapped together in a blizzard discover Christmas wishes can come true.

Mail-Order Merry, by Kirsten Osbourne – He wanted an independent wife, but he wasn’t so sure he wanted her to come with two young children and a nurse!

And, of course, Mistletoe and Moonbeams, by yours truly, Merry Farmer. Here’s a taste of Chapter One to get you started!

 

Mistletoe, Montana – 1890

Randall Sinclair heaved a heavy sigh and climbed out of the crowded stagecoach within seconds of it stopping in Mistletoe, Montana. The other passengers grunted and shifted behind him, as irritated and weary as he was. He should have taken the train, but they’d all stopped running after rumors of snow further down the line.

“Shut the dang door,” one of the stagecoach passengers growled. “It’s cold out there.”

It certainly was that. For miles, days, the only thing the stagecoach passengers had been able to see out the windows was snow and ice. It was a wonder the coach and its team could get through the winter wonderland at all. Randall wasn’t that familiar with Montana, but in the last few weeks while he’d been traveling from town to town, he’d never seen so much snow.

“Here’s your trunk,” the stagecoach driver called down from the top of the coach, unfastening Randall’s huge brush trunk from the rest of the baggage. The driver wore a long, thick, wool coat with a fur-lined hat pulled down over his head and a muffler wound tight around his neck. He grunted as he handed the trunk to Randall. “That thing’s heavy. What have you got in there?”

Randall answered with a wry laugh, setting his trunk on the packed snow of the street. “The weight of the world.”

It was hard to tell through the layers of wool protecting the driver from the cold, but Randall thought he got a strange look for his comment. A second later, the driver shook his head and climbed back into his seat.

“Aren’t you going to stop for a while and take in the sights of Mistletoe?” he asked, confused. They’d at least stopped long enough for the passengers to get out and stretch their legs at every small town before this.

The driver made a low, warning sound, then said, “Nope. Not with the talk of measles in town, and not with those clouds on the horizon looking the way they do.”

Randall raised a hand to shield his eyes from the glare of light on the snow and looked toward the western horizon. He squinted. What he’d thought were mountains now looked more like cold, worrisome clouds. There was a definite bite in the air, and the wind nipped at his exposed cheeks and ears.

The driver snapped the reins over the backs of his horses. With a, “Yee-ah!” the stagecoach lurched and rolled on. Randall figured he’d better move on too, if he knew what was good for himself.

He thrust his gloved hands under his arms and glanced down at his trunk. The words “Mendel’s Marvelous Brushes” were stenciled on the side. They’d been crisp and dark when he’d started out from Chicago two months ago, but they were battered and worn now. A little like him. But no matter how monotonous the traveling had become, no matter how many plaintive telegrams he sent back to his enterprising, demanding father, he couldn’t stop.

Stomping his feet to coax blood back into them and to disperse the ever-present, gnawing frustration in his gut, Randall grabbed his trunk by the handle and hefted it high enough to walk. Not that he knew where he was going. The tiny town of Mistletoe seemed overly quiet, even for all the snow. Several businesses lined the road where the stagecoach had dropped him off, and several houses beyond that. Something that might have been a hotel rested down the way. There was even a church at one end of town. A few wrapped-up people scurried from one building to another, but none of them seemed in a social mood.

“Perfect,” he muttered under his breath. “Just what every traveling salesman wants to see.”

He slogged his way to one side of the street, spirits as low as they’d been in ages. A part of him wanted to just sit down in the snow and give up. This wasn’t the life he’d imagined having, it was the life his father imagined. No, it wasn’t even that. His father imagined him being a successful and powerful business magnate, like him. Randall imagined a simple life with a simple wife and a small business. He didn’t need to be grand, just happy.

At the moment, the only way to happiness was by keeping his father happy, so Randall squared his shoulders, put on a smile of false cheer, and headed for the closest business, a barber’s shop. His frustrated sense of duty was eased by a hair at the sight of a pretty Christmas swag of pine, tied with red ribbon and hanging on the shop’s door.

“Excuse me,” he announced as he walked into the business. A weary-looking man who must have been the barber sat in the barber’s chair, reading a yellowed newspaper. “My name is Randall Sinclair, and I come to you today from the Mendel’s Marvelous Brushes company.”

“Huh?” The barber frowned.

It didn’t bode well, but if there was one thing Randall’s indomitable dad had always told him, it was that only the weak took no for an answer.

“Mendel’s Marvelous Brushes manufactures every sort of brush a savvy businessman like you could want,” he went on, setting his trunk down and preparing to open it to display his wares. “Why, not only do I have shaving brushes and dust-brushes, I have a whole variety of—”

“No!” The barber leapt up out of his chair, shoving the newspaper aside. “No, no, no! I don’t want none of your fancy, overpriced brushes. I buy everything I need from the mercantile, just like any other person in this town. So you just stop right there and git!”

Randall sighed, re-buckling the straps of his trunk. “Oh. Um, all right, sir. Thank you for your time.” So much for not taking no for an answer. But if he was honest with himself, he hated confrontation, and he hated pushing brushes on people who didn’t want or need them. He lifted his trunk and headed back out into the frosty, Montana afternoon. The clouds had drawn closer.

He looked around, searching for any business that might need brushes. Farther down the street was a building that looked like a bathhouse, though it didn’t seem to be doing much business at the moment. He cleared his throat, stood taller, and headed down that way.

“Good day to you, sir,” he announced himself as soon as he walked into the bathhouse to find a stocky man at work scrubbing out a large tub. Perfect. “My name is Randall Sinclair, and I come to you today from the Mendel’s Marvelous Brushes company. We provide a wide range of brushes designed to—”

“No offense, sir, but can’t you see I’m busy?” the man said, turning to Randall with drooping shoulders and tired eyes.

“Well, yes.” Randall hesitated. He could hear his father’s voice in his head, pushing him on…relentlessly. “I think I can help. Mendel’s Marvelous Brushes carries every sort of scrub brush and bath brush that a business like yours could need. If you’d allow me to demonstrate…” He bent to open his trunk.

“If it’s all the same,” the bathhouse owner stopped him with a sigh, “I’d rather not. It’s been a heck of a month here in Mistletoe, and I can’t spare a second to listen to salesmen.”

“It’s…it’s not a long presentation.” At least it wasn’t if Randall did the short version.

The bathhouse owner shook his head. “No can do. I’m up to my elbows in work, what with the measles and all.”

“Measles?” The driver had said something about that.

“Sorry.”

Whether the bathhouse owner meant to be dismissive or not, Randall took the hint. Working hard not to be discouraged, he took up his trunk once more and headed out into the bitterness. The sun was gone entirely. Once more, he searched the town’s main street for any signs of life, any sign of someone who needed a brush. His gaze settled on a newspaper office across the street and down a ways. Figuring he couldn’t do any worse than he had already, he headed over, slipping on snow and ice as he went.

“Good afternoon, sir. My name is Randall Sinclair, and I come to you today from the Mendel’s Marvelous Brushes company,” he said, voice dripping with weariness as he stepped into the small office.

The man at work over the printing press glanced up. “Brushes?”

“Yes.” Smiling had never been so hard. “Mendel’s Marvelous Brushes has every kind of brush you would need to keep your office neat, tidy and in order.” He stopped at the end of his sentence, at a loss for what else to say.

The newspaper man blinked at him. A sympathetic grin pulled at the corners of his mouth. “My friend, you know there’s a measles epidemic raging through town right now, don’t you?”

“I heard something about that, yes.”

“And the weather has been awful.”

Randall glanced over his shoulder out the window. He needed to stay positive, he needed to make the sale. … Or was that his father talking. “It should make for a beautiful Christmas.”

The newspaper man chuckled lightly. “Yes, it should. But it makes for a mighty pitiful market for a traveling salesman in the meantime.” He stepped away from his press and approached Randall. “I’m sorry that I don’t need any brushes. I’m even more sorry that you probably won’t find a single taker in town right now. At least not until the epidemic is over.”

Randall sighed and returned the man’s kindness with as much of his own as he could muster. “Thanks anyhow.” He nodded, then picked up his trunk one more time and headed back out into the cold.

Well, that was it. He was stranded in a frosty town with a measles epidemic, no clue when the next stage would come by, fairly certain the trains wouldn’t stop at all. Not if the ever-increasing clouds were any indication. No one was in the mood to buy brushes. By his father’s standards, he was a complete failure. By his own standards, he was due for a change. He rubbed his gloved hands over his face, warming up his red nose. He needed something else to warm him up, and fast. The only thing he could see that would help with that was the saloon across the way.

“Well, at least I’ll be able to forget my troubles for a while,” he said aloud. And now he was talking to himself.

He picked up his trunk and headed on to the saloon. Something in his life had to change, and soon.

 

Come find out what Randall discovers at the saloon, how he and Miranda weather the blizzard, and celebrate Christmas in Mistletoe Montana. Only 99 cents for four stories from four bestselling authors!