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….
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