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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!

Weekend Excerpt – Mistletoe and Moonbeams

Oct 29, 2016

So we’ve been keeping very hush-hush about this project, but the Wild Western Women are at it again! We’re bringing you a Christmas box set, but not just any box set. All four of the stories by me, Caroline Clemmons, Sylvia McDaniels, and Kirsten Osbourne are set in the same town of Mistletoe, Montana, and they’re all connected! The box set comes out on Tuesday! November 1st, that is. Here’s a sneak peek of my contribution, Mistletoe and Moonbeams….

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If she hadn’t had the bar to lean against, Miranda suspected she would have been knocked clear to the ground with the force of Randall Sinclair’s smile. It brought about such a transformation on his handsome, weary face that she caught herself smiling too. It took half a second for her to determine that there was no one else like this man in all of Mistletoe, maybe in all of Montana, although she couldn’t put her finger on whether it was his tailored coat, his high cheekbones and straight nose, or just the air he had about him.

Outside, the flurries were changing over to steadier snow, and it was the smack of the door flapping against the wall as another gust came through that startled the smile off of Mr. Sinclair’s face.

“I’m so sorry.” He rushed to put his trunk down and spun around to shut the door.

“Hold on a second there, sweetheart.” Starla pushed away from the bar with a knowing, teasing grin for Miranda. “I was just about to leave.” Before she did, she leaned closer to Miranda and said, “Just you remember what I said about loosening up and letting miracles happen.”

“He’s a man, not a miracle,” Miranda whispered in return.

Starla laughed. “Honey, in my experience, every man is some kind of miracle.” She ended her statement with a saucy wink and sashayed toward the door.

Mr. Sinclair was still in the entryway, and as Starla reached him, taking a light grey, wool coat from the row of hooks by the door and shrugging into it, he held the door for her with a slightly baffled, “Pleased to meet you, ma’am.”

Starla sent a glance in Miranda’s direction, chuckled, and patted Mr. Sinclair’s slightly shadowed cheek as she marched out into the snow.

Mr. Sinclair watched her go, shook his head and shrugged, then closed the door behind her. When that was done, he put his smile back on and strode a few steps deeper into the room. “Like I said,” he began again, “my name is Randall Sinclair, and I come to you today from the…”

His smile vanished once more. His hands dropped to his sides as he looked around the big, empty saloon.

“Oh. You’re closed, aren’t you?”

“In fact, we are.” A hot flush filled Miranda’s face. She tried to shake it away. Why did she feel guilty for stating the obvious to this man?

“My apologies.” Mr. Sinclair sidestepped to his trunk. “I should have known, what with the storm that looks like it’s blowing in. I won’t bother you.”

“It’s all right.” Miranda jumped out from around the bar, throwing down the rag she’d been clutching and wiping her hands on her skirt. “I was closing up early, but I don’t need to. Especially since you look like you could stand to sit down for a minute.” She blinked at the pun in her words, then giggled as her heart thumped hard against her ribs.

Mr. Sinclair looked confused for a moment, then laughed himself, cheeks a merry shade of red. “I get it. Stand to sit. You’re clever.”

A blossom of pleasure filled Miranda’s chest. Although she shouldn’t be so giddy about being called clever when Vicky was called beautiful every twelve minutes.

She shook that thought aside and moved a few steps closer to Mr. Sinclair, more like a hostess at a garden party than a saloonkeeper. “Why don’t you have a seat at one of these tables by the fire? I just added more wood not ten minutes ago, so it should warm you well.”

“That’s mighty generous of you, Miss…?”

“Clarke. Miranda Clarke. How do you do?” She crossed to meet him in the center of the saloon, hand outstretched.

Mr. Sinclair took her offered hand and not only shook it, he bowed over it. Miranda’s brow flew up. Obviously Mr. Sinclair was used to some degree of society. That wasn’t something she’d seen every day in the rugged little town of Mistletoe.

“Miss Clarke,” Mr. Sinclair said, letting her hand go. His smile grew, and a sort of manly mischief filled his eyes. “Say, with a name like Miranda, you don’t happen to have the nickname ‘Randi,’ do you?”

Miranda’s cheeks flushed hotter and her back went stiff. “Only at times when people wish to be nasty to me.”

“Oh, I’m sorry.” Mr. Sinclair blushed harder, his mischief switching to embarrassment near panic. “It’s just that my closest friends call me Randy too, although with a “y” as opposed to an “i,” which I imagine is the female equivalent of the nickname. I thought it was quaint, is all. Randy and Randi.”

“Oh!” Miranda clapped a hand to her mouth. Not only did a burst of awkwardness threaten to knock her over, but she had suddenly never wanted to be called “Randi” so much in her life. She managed to swallow, pull herself together, and say, “That is an amusing coincidence, isn’t it?”

“It must be fate.” The smile came back to Mr. Sinclair’s eyes. “Of all the saloons in all the towns in Montana, I happened to step into yours for a bit of refreshment after a long, wearying day.”

 

Are you ready for Tuesday??? =D