Use code DAD23 for 20% off + Free shipping on $45+ Shop Now!
Rocky Mountain Cowboy Christmas
Formats and Prices
Format:ebook (Digital original) $2.99 $3.99 CAD
This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around December 18, 2018. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.
Also available from:
When bullfighter Tucker McGrath’s mom suffers a minor heart attack just before Christmas, he decides it’s time to redeem himself from the Ghost of Christmas Failures Past. Knowing how much his mom loves the town’s annual Christmas pageant, he agrees to take her place as director even though he has zero experience wrangling kids. That’s not the only complication with taking on the pageant, either. There’s also the tempting but off limits local music teacher Kenna Hart.
A year after her husband’s scandalous betrayal and their divorce, Kenna is doing her best to move forward and give her two boys a magical Christmas. When she volunteers to help with the pageant, she doesn’t expect to reconnect with her old high school heartthrob. Tucker McGrath has always been Mr. No-Strings-Attached, so he’s definitely not one to fall for…or is he? The more time she spends with him, the more Kenna realizes Tucker has changed. And now he might just be the cowboy who can make all of her Christmas wishes come true.
Jingle bells, Batman smells, Robin laid an—”
“I’m not sure that’s the best song to sing right before we get ready to tell the Christmas story.” Kenna Hart pulled up in front of the old Episcopal church that now served as the town hall and winked at her boys in the rearview mirror. “We need to be on our best behavior for the rehearsal.”
“Okay.” Benny and Jake looked at each other with a shrug before breaking out into song again. “Grandma got ran over by a reindeer…”
Shaking her head, Kenna took her time parallel parking the Jeep along the snowy curb.
Outside the car’s frosted windows, the sights and sounds of Christmas gave the town that magical snow-globe ambiance. Farther down Main Street, garlands were strung above the road, anchored to wrought-iron lampposts adorned with red velvet bows. Since it was nearly dusk, the lights displayed on the storefront windows were just starting to come on, with some twinkling in different colors while others gave off a more traditional white-light welcome.
She tried to take a minute to appreciate it—to let that cheer all around her soak in and lift her spirits, but the decorations weren’t enough to nudge the burdens of the last year off her shoulders.
“Come on, Mom!” Her oldest son Jake released his seat belt. “We’ve gotta get our costumes on and get in there!”
“Yeah!” four-year-old Benny added. “What if they start without us?”
Her son’s enthusiasm warmed her heart. He’d been looking forward to being part of this pageant for over a month now. Her youngest had always been so shy, but with everything that had gone on over the last several months, he had grown even more timid, almost like he didn’t want to connect with anyone because he feared they wouldn’t stick around. But now it finally seemed he was starting to come out of his shell, and she had to do everything she could to fuel his excitement about getting up on that stage.
“They can’t start without us.” Not when she was volunteering to help with the music. Birdie McGrath had run the pageant for decades, and as the local music teacher, Kenna had always loved helping out. But that was before.
Before her husband had committed eight counts of felony insurance fraud, cheating people in town out of their hard-earned money. Before his conviction. Before the divorce. Before the financial troubles that had plagued her since. Before her life had fallen apart, Kenna had lived for the holidays—for the family time and the festivities and the charming small-town celebration that seemed to give Christmas even more meaning. But this year, all she wanted to do was hide from the pitying looks and the whispers and those overly empathetic expressions people gave her when they asked if she was doing “okay.”
She didn’t even know what okay meant anymore.
“Moooommmm.” Jake squeezed through the space between the two front seats and tumbled into the passenger’s seat. “Can we please, please, please hurry?” Instead of puppy-dog eyes, his were more like a fawn’s—big and bright and always overly emphatic. “I’ve been waiting my whole life to be a wise guy.”
“You were born a wise guy,” she teased, ruffling his blond hair. Which had turned out to be a blessing. Somehow, through the darkness that had descended over the last year, her boys’ humor and laughter had lit her way. They had been resilient and patient and strong, and even if she wasn’t feeling Christmas, she still had to make this the greatest one they’d ever had because they deserved her best. So she got out of the car. “All right, you two.” She helped them climb down onto the icy sidewalk and then located the bag that held their costumes. They were both simple—a white robe and halo for Benny, who would be part of the angel choir, and a shimmery satin cape and crown for her little wise guy.
“There.” She finished tying the knot on Benny’s robe and stood back to admire her children. “It’s really not fair to the other actors,” she said, frowning.
Jake’s eyes looked worried. “What’s not fair?” As the oldest, he was the fair police.
“How cute you two are,” she fussed, even wrinkling her nose as she lightly pinched his cheek. The inevitable groans came at her.
“Mom, I’m seven,” Jake grumbled. “You can’t call me cute anymore. Especially not in front of anyone else.”
“Yeah,” Benny agreed, crossing his arms over his chest in a harrumph, but his smile still beamed.
Before she could snap a picture, both boys bounded straight for the doors, right across the knee-deep snow that covered the hall’s front lawn. “You’re not wearing your boots,” she reminded them, but even the snow couldn’t slow them down. Within seconds, they had disappeared into the building.
Kenna, however, took her time navigating the icy walkway. As she approached the door, it flew open and Carly Lammers marched out. Just her luck. Kenna had had Carly’s daughter Violet in music class last year and the woman was seemingly perfect in every way—from her sleek black always perfectly styled hair to her $500 thigh-length Frye boots. Her husband happened to be a pediatrician in Vail, and she was always showing off the new necklace or bracelet or earrings he’d brought her from one of the high-end shops that catered to tourists in the famous ski town.
“Kenna!” No matter what was going on, Carly always greeted Kenna with a worried expression, like she feared Kenna might break down in tears any second. “How are you?” The woman rested a hand on her shoulder, her silvery manicured nails shimmering from the light of the streetlamp a few feet away. She didn’t wait for an answer. “It’s so good to see you here. I know this has to be such a difficult time of year for you.”
She didn’t know. How could she know? Carly would spend Christmas with her husband and kids. She wasn’t struggling to buy the presents her kids had been writing letters to Santa about for the better part of three months. “Well, actually—”
“It must be so hard being a single mom over the holidays,” Carly went on. “I can’t imagine! With all the events and parties and errands. How awful to have to go to everything alone.”
Kenna didn’t bother telling her she didn’t plan to go to any of the events and parties this year. Not because she’d be alone but because of conversations exactly like this one. She’d been doing the poor Kenna song and dance routine far too long and she was tired of it.
The woman reached out and squeezed Kenna’s hand. “You be sure to let me know if there’s anything I can do for you, okay? Anything at all. I’m happy to help.”
“Thank you.” She put on a worn-out smile. “We’re okay right now, but I’ll definitely let you know if I need anything.” She wouldn’t. Carly wasn’t exactly a good friend.
“You do that!” Carly swept past her, wiggling her fingers in a wave. “Toodles!”
Still holding her smile intact, Kenna gave her a silent wave and let go of her misplaced anger. It wasn’t that she didn’t appreciate people’s concern. After the shock of Mike’s deception, people in town had done their best to be supportive. But instead of dwelling on all of the horrible things that happened—instead of making her dwell on it—she wished everyone would start giving her high fives rather than looking at her and talking to her like she was a wounded puppy.
She tried to picture Carly giving her a high five and telling her what she needed to hear instead of what she didn’t want to remember. That last year really must’ve sucked, but you made it through! You owned that difficult time—way to go! Look how strong you are! After getting through that, you can get through anything!
A real smile broke out as she let herself into the town hall. At least she’d know what to do next time one of her friends went through hell.
Warmth engulfed her the second she stepped into the foyer. Kids crowded the cramped entryway, giggling and screeching and basically bouncing off the walls the same way they had at school lately. Benny and Jake were right in there with the rest of them, competing for the loudest voice award.
“Kenna!” Birdie McGrath ambled over. From her dangling jingle bell earrings to her tinsel-accented sweater to the shiny red tennis shoes on her feet, the woman had enough spirit to fill the entire room with Christmas cheer. She could’ve easily passed for Mrs. Claus, too, with her comfortably round build, pink cheeks, and nest of white hair.
“Hi, Birdie.” Kenna returned the woman’s hug, hoping her shortage of passion didn’t show. With her own mother so far away, she lingered an extra second in the embrace, somehow feeling a bit stronger.
The woman pulled back and looked her over. “You’re looking positively lovely today. Have you done something different with your hair?”
“I have, actually. I had it cut and highlighted last week.” Originally, she’d hoped to cut off some of the lingering sadness along with her hair, but it hadn’t quite worked out that way. Still, it felt good to embrace a new style, to focus on the future instead of the past.
“Well I love it.” The woman fluffed the ends of Kenna’s hair, completely ignoring the chaos around them as though Birdie knew how important it was to take a few minutes to connect with her. “That gorgeous color really brings out your eyes. I’m telling you what, you’d best watch out. Next thing you know, you’re going to be fending off all the eligible bachelors in town.”
While she appreciated the sentiment, Kenna didn’t think she’d have to worry about that. Not one eligible bachelor had looked in her direction in a very long time. She didn’t blame them. They likely saw her the same way Carly did—as damaged goods. Still, it was sweet of Birdie to say. And she was a woman who obviously understood heartbreak. Her own husband had walked out on the family a good fifteen years ago, leaving Birdie to raise her teenaged son and daughter on her own. Kenna had been in high school then, so she didn’t know exactly what had happened, but folks in town said Mr. McGrath had taken off right after his wife had been diagnosed with lupus.
“Speaking of eligible bachelors, there’s my Tucker.” Birdie’s hand fluttered toward the doors, waving happily. “Over here!” she called.
Tucker McGrath sauntered across the room, a large presence in such a confined space. Kenna had known of him in school—he’d been a few years ahead of her—but they’d run in completely different circles, though she couldn’t deny she’d noticed him. All the girls had.
He’d always been kind of an enigma in her mind—popular with women but quiet about it, good-looking but at the same time seemingly unconcerned with his appearance. Most of the girls in high school had agreed that his eyes were his best feature—grayish blue and nothing short of magnetic. All of him happened to be magnetic, actually, despite Kenna’s best efforts not to notice. He had one of those smoldering faces, tanned skin, and a sharp-angled jaw complete with cowboy scruff. Tonight he’d traded in his Stetson for a stocking cap, which somehow made him look more approachable than he usually did. Not that she would be approaching him about anything.
“Who unleashed the lunatics?” he asked, glancing around at the kids with an amused glint lighting those eyes.
Kenna had never noticed how rich his voice sounded—deep and slow, full of a straightforward confidence.
“Oh, they’re just excited.” Birdie brushed away the kids’ raucous volume with a wave of her hand. “It’s almost Christmas after all! And they can’t wait to see the new set you’re going to build for the pageant.” She patted Tucker’s cheek like she would a little boy.
Ah, so that’s why he’d come. As far as she’d heard, Tucker didn’t love Christmas nearly as much as his mom did. Rumor had it, he’d once vandalized the town’s Christmas display, taking all of the reindeer and sticking them into Porta-Potties at construction sites all over town. Of course, that was back in high school, so she couldn’t judge him for it now.
“Tucker, you remember Kenna, I’m sure.” Birdie’s eyes held the same glimmer as her son’s. “Didn’t you two go to high school together?”
The cowboy’s eyes met hers, revealing nothing other than a vague recollection. “Sure. Yeah. You were a few years behind me, right?”
Two years. She’d been two years behind him, and it had been a sad day for every girl at Topaz Falls High when he’d graduated. She played down the memory with a shrug. “Think so. Sounds about right.”
“Oh perfect! Then you two can catch up while I get organized.” Birdie made a quick scan of the room, grimacing in the direction of two boys who were playing football with the baby Jesus. “Max and Luke—you two stop that right now!” She backed away with an apologetic look at Kenna. “I’ll just go open up the sanctuary. Hopefully we’ll be ready to get started in a few minutes.”
“Sure,” Kenna said, though she’d rather get started right now than stand here with Tucker McGrath. God only knew what he’d heard about her situation.
“You were the girl who took around that petition,” Tucker said as if it had just come back to him. “The petition about that football player who’d assaulted his girlfriend and was still allowed to play in the game that weekend.”
So he did remember her. He’d remembered something she’d almost forgotten. “Yeah. That was me.” The assault had happened her sophomore year, when he’d been a senior. It had caused quite the controversy at Topaz Falls High, with some of the kids threatening her for ruining their hopes of a winning season.
“That was pretty badass.” He gave her a nod of respect. “I signed it. I remember. You marched up to me and basically didn’t give me a choice.”
“I was pretty passionate about it.” Looking back, it was almost hard to believe she’d ever been that brave. To approach a senior—Tucker McGrath, no less—and demand he sign her petition. She couldn’t help but laugh. “You could’ve refused. I couldn’t have done much about it.” Even back then, he’d been tall and muscular. Her gaze momentarily fell to his broad chest. He’d hardly changed at all.
A thoughtful look gave the corners of his eyes a slight crinkle. “I didn’t want to refuse. I was impressed. Not everyone has that kind of grit. Seems to me it’s served you well.”
Maybe he hadn’t meant it as an insinuation about the last year of her life, but something in his eyes hinted that it might be. He didn’t give her that look she’d come to hate—the one that said all he could see were the terrible things that had happened to her. Instead, his face projected more of an impressed smirk, like he still saw that brave girl standing in front of him, even though Kenna had forgotten all about her.
This was the point in a conversation where Tucker would usually ask a woman out.
He and Kenna Hart had been reminiscing about their high school days for well over a half hour while his mom had herded the kids into their groups and led them into the town hall’s sanctuary, where she sat them in neat rows. They’d both offered their help, but she had a system, and no one could mess with Birdie’s sense of order. Well, that and he suspected his sweet mama didn’t think it was such a bad idea for him to be chatting up Kenna Hart.
If it hadn’t been for what Kenna had gone through in the last year, he might agree with his mom, but he couldn’t ask the woman out. (A) she likely wouldn’t be interested in going anyway, given the hell her ex-husband had recently put her through. And (B) she didn’t exactly fit his criteria for the casual, no-strings arrangement he typically preferred.
He couldn’t deny that Kenna was a real stunner—with shoulder-length hair the color of mahogany and delicate skin that made her green eyes stand out, but the two of them lived in different worlds—she was fully immersed in the young suburbia family scene while he maintained a detached freedom on the small ranch he’d purchased near the Cortez place, where he worked as manager.
“I guess I’d better head over to the piano so I can get organized too.” Kenna’s smile landed somewhere between shy and cautious. “It was nice talking to you.”
Surprisingly, it had been nice. To hear everyone in town talk, Kenna was barely hanging on after the divorce, but that wasn’t how it seemed to him. She’d held up her end of the conversation and had even smiled and laughed some. Tucker gave her a nod. “I’m sure we’ll be seeing more of each other, working on the pageant and all.” Which would be tricky given the way he could tell his mom’s hopes were growing bigger and bigger every time she looked in their direction.
Not gonna happen.
“See you around, then.” Kenna ducked away and headed for the right side of the stage, where they’d set up the baby grand piano earlier.
His mom now stood on the center of the stage, addressing the kids, so Tucker headed for the vestibule where he’d stashed the tools and wood scraps he’d need to build the new set. Thankfully, that would keep him too busy to spend much more time getting any fancy ideas about Kenna. His mom wanted him to build a stable from scratch, complete with a bright star fashioned out of twinkling Christmas lights. He’d already drawn up some plans, but he’d have to measure the stage to see exactly how this would work.
In the hallway, he dug through one of his tool chests until he found a measuring tape and then headed back to the sanctuary. He stepped through the doors right as the music started. Kenna sat at the piano, her shoulders straight and tall, eyes focused on sheet music in front of her while her hands moved effortlessly over the keys.
Damn, she really was a beautiful woman. And off-limits, he reminded himself with a grunt. She taught music at an elementary school. She had a couple of kids. A mortgage. A woman like her would likely want a guarantee once she was ready to think about a relationship again. And he sure as hell wasn’t a guarantee.
“She’s very talented, isn’t she?” his mom whispered. She must’ve snuck up behind him when he’d had his eyes on the forbidden fruit.
“She can play, that’s for sure.” He glanced sideways at his mom’s face, trying to get a read on how long she’d been watching him watch Kenna.
“And she’s such a sweet girl,” his mom prompted. “Single too now, you know.”
- On Sale
- Dec 18, 2018
- Page Count
- 160 pages
- Forever Yours