A Christmas present for one lucky commenter: an ebook of choice from my backlist plus a $10 Gift Certificate to the estore of choice.
Stuffed full of Thanksgiving turkey as are now embarked upon the annual Christmas season—shopping, wrapping, baking, singing carols, and numerous other things. There are so many signs and symbols we associate with Christmas but for me, living in the Texas Hill Country, the iconic symbol of Christmas is that American hero, the cowboy. Close your eyes and picture him out at night beneath a starlit sky searching for lost cattle or checking on the herd in its winter pasture. Imagine him in his jeans, rancher’s jacket and boots shoveling a path to the barn to feed the faithful horses that do their job day after day.
What can possibly be more romantic than a sexy cowboy, dressed in traditional boots and Stetson, handing out Christmas gifts in the community and lending a solid baritone to Christmas carols.
I guess that’s why the hero of my Christmas story, He Came Upon a Midnight Clear, is—what else—a cowboy. One who is so married to his land he hasn’t had time to find the right woman—until he needs one right now or he’ll lose his beloved ranch that’s so much a part of his soul. And what better time for him to look for one than Christmas, when all things are possible.
Cody Alvarez needed to find a wife by Christmas or he would lose the ranch his uncle left to him. Libby Morris just needed, for once in her life, to feel desired. Sensual. Appealing. Especially after an intense reshaping at a high-end spa. Invited to Christmas Week at the Castillo Lodge in Alaska by Madame Eve of 1Night Stand, Cody and Libby were not given the names of the partners chosen for them. As they were forced to wait until they learned who their one-night stands were, they discovered an incredible spark of chemistry and a connection stronger than either had experienced before. Would spending a very erotic night together ruin their arrangements or give them another option?
“I’m not very good at this,” she said slowly.
He squeezed her hand gently. “At eating dinner?”
She shook her head, still not looking at him. “At…small talk. Dating. Things like this.” Her cheeks felt so hot she thought they must match her lipstick.
“Libby?” Cody’s voice barely penetrated the fog of embarrassment. And he still had hold of her hand. “Libby, look at me.”
Reluctantly she raised her eyes.
“I’m going to order us each another drink and then I’d be interested to find out why someone as beautiful and sexy as you has trouble in a social situation like this. Surely you must be beating the men off with a stick.”
She made herself breath evenly. She might as well tell him. They’d never see each other again and maybe he could give her some moral support. Besides, he made her feel comfortable, something her assigned date night not do.
The waiter cleared their dessert dishes, brought another glass of wine for her and bourbon on the rocks for Cody. He touched his glass to hers.
“To us. Two people enjoying a nice dinner.”
She laughed at that and swallowed some wine.
“Now. Let’s have it. What’s got you skittish as a newborn calf?”
“You’ll laugh at me.”
He smiled. “Darlin’, the last thing I’ll do is laugh. I promise.”
She took another gulp of wine. “Well, they say it’s easier to tell things to a stranger.”
“Oh, but we’re not strangers,” he protested. “Are we? We spent all that time on the plane together, right? But Libby? It’s still all right to talk to me. Tell me.”
She drained her wine glass and held it out. “C-Could I have another drink? Please?”
Cody laughed. “Yes, but then I’m cutting you off. I don’t want anyone to accuse me of getting you drunk and taking advantage of you.”
Her breath caught in her throat. “I…You…”
He signaled for the waiter then picked up her hand again. She wished he’d never drop it. It felt so good and secure.
“Breathe,” he teased gently. “It’s okay. Just relax. If you don’t want to say anything you don’t have to. Really.”
“I’ve been fat and frumpy and boring all my life,” she blurted out then wished she could dive under the table. When he didn’t say anything she made herself look up and saw him staring at her. “What?”
He cleared his throat. “Libby. I have to say that those are three words I would never associate with you.”
The waiter brought their drinks and she paused long enough to sip some of hers. “That’s because you didn’t know me. Even now I have a long ways to go.”
“For what?” He sounded astonished.
“For, you know. To look like everyone else.”
“Why the hell would you want that? You’re perfect the way you are.”
She snorted. “Oh, sure. That’s nice of you to say but you don’t have to be polite. I just spent two months at a spa to get to this point.” He hadn’t stopped staring at her. “That’s why I booked this thing through 1 Night Stand. A woman at the spa told me about them.” Her face heated again. “I wanted an exciting, erotic night like my girl friends talk about. An adventure. You know. Hot sex.”
Oh, god, maybe the floor would just open up and swallow her.
Cody downed his bourbon in two swallows and signaled the waiter for the check.
“Finish your wine. We’re getting out of here.”
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