Category Archives: Special Edition

[Review] Flirting with Destiny by Christyne Butler

Flirting with Destiny  by Christyne Butler

Publication date: October 1, 2013
Publisher: Harlequin Special Edition

<div style=”font-size:11px”>Publication date: 05/01/2013</div>Welcome to Destiny # 6
Pages: 217

Back of the book

 
USA TODAY bestselling author Christyne Butler presents this story of healing, hope and love in her Welcome to Destiny series

It’s a tough road to recovery for Devlin Murphy after a helicopter accident leaves scars that are more than skin-deep. But there’s a new girl in Destiny, Wyoming, who’s got the healing touch. Sure, Tanya Reeves’s approach—acupuncture, anyone?—makes Dev’s eyes roll. The woman also makes his heart rev up like no other.

For her part, Tanya can’t believe it when she first runs into this fling from her past. Dev doesn’t even recognize her! Even crazier—history is repeating itself with this irresistible man. And Tanya has to ask herself: Who’s healing whom?



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My Review: 

4.5 Star Review – Flirting with Destiny (Welcome to Destiny # 6 series)

I recommend this book.

I enjoyed this book by Christyne.  This book includes passion, laughs, heartache, pain, and betrayal.

If you have not read the below I would recommend reading those books first.

The Cowboy’s Second Chance by Christyne Butler

The Sheriff’s Secret Wife by Christyne Butler

A Daddy for Jacoby by Christyne Butler

Welcome Home, Bobby Winslow by Christyne Butler

Having Adam’s Baby by Christyne Butler

Devlin “Dev” Murphy was in a helicopter accident with his brother that leaves him blaming himself for the entire event as he was the pilot.  He was hurt and feels the entire accident was his fault.  He is feeling so guilty that he is not participating in his physical therapy as he should.  His friend Mac who is also his sponsor for Alcoholics Anonymous for the last 6 years introduces him to his granddaughter Tanya Reeves.  She is in town for 6 weeks and then leaves to go to a school.  He wants Devlin to try acupuncture. Only problem is Dev is deathly afraid of needles. 

What Dev does not know is that he has already met Tanya but does not remember as it was before he was sober.  Tanya finally tells him about meeting before and he is embarrassed about how they met and knew each other. 

His brothers are keeping something from him and when he finds out if is really upset and feels betrayed.  After they explain the situation he is still not happy but has to deal with the hurt that they kept it from him.

As they work together to heal Dev’s body and mind they grow closer and start to fall for each other.  But Tanya is leaving how can they still be together when Dev is afraid to fly and she is going overseas?  He would never make her choose so what is he to do?

 The chemistry between these two is great.  Love both the characters. 


Look forward to the next book in this series.

 Coming Soon

Contact Info for Christyne Butler

 

 

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About Christyne:

Thanks to an aunt’s love of genealogy, Christyne discovered both Louisa May Alcott and Harriet Beecher Stowe are members in her extended family tree on her mother’s side, so she firmly believes her love of writing has always been her destiny.

Her father served in the Air Force for twenty years which resulted in her birth in Taipei, Taiwan and she spent her youth growing up all over the world before her family settled in New Hampshire in time for her to attend high school. She followed in her family’s rich military history and joined the United States Navy where she fell in love with romance novels after someone remembered women were serving aboard seagoing vessels and sent a box full of paperback romances to her ship, the USS VULCAN AR-5.

She started pursuing her own writing in 2002, sold her first ever ‘finished’ manuscript in 2006 and made her first sale to Harlequin Special Edition two years later! She writes contemporary romances full of life, love, a hint of laughter and perhaps a dash of danger too. Christyne loves the challenge of the boy-meets-girl, boy-loses-girl, boy-gets-girl-back and the journey of joy and hardship two people go through. And there has to be a ‘happily ever after’ or she’s just not satisfied.

When she’s not writing, she can be found hunting for treasures at yard sales and antique fairs to add to her collection of memorabilia of women who served in the military, watching classic romantic movies and the great movie musicals of the 40′s and 50′s, and reading books by her favorite authors.

She lives in central Massachusetts with her family, a four-footed double-pawed black cat who rules the house and a shelter-saved pup named Harley (short for Harlequin) who really thinks he’s a cat too! Christyne loves to hear from her readers.

 

Read an Excerpt

“Hey, cowboy.” The blonde barmaid leaned across the three-foot expanse of aged wood. “I know just what you need to make your day complete.”

Devlin Murphy glanced up from his mouthwatering burger and thick-cut fries, the house specialty here in the Blue Creek Saloon. He wasn’t really a cowboy, despite the black Stetson perched on his head. She must be new and it’d been a while since he’d been in here.

Eight long months to be exact.

His brothers had tried to coax him to his old stomping grounds a few times since he’d gotten his feet back under him—literally. Devlin just hadn’t been ready.

But spring had come early in Destiny, Wyoming, and on this warm, late April afternoon, Dev decided it was past time to rejoin the world of the living.

He bumped up the brim of his hat and offered what he hoped was more of his old prowler grin than his recent pain-filled grimace. Not an easy feat thanks to the familiar white-hot fire crawling down both shoulders toward his elbows.

“Oh, yeah? What’s that?”

“Just one minute.” She offered a quick wink and then turned away.

That simple gesture did nothing for him. Not anymore.

This time last year he would’ve been all over that suggestive sign, making sure he left with her phone number, if not the lady herself.

Now? Not interested.

And wasn’t that just another kick in the ass to go along with the butt whipping he’d taken since the helicopter crash that had left him and his eldest brother, Adam, stranded for three days in the Grand Tetons National Forest.

A helicopter he’d been piloting.

Thankfully Adam had come out with just a few bruises and scratches. Dev had been the one who’d spent five months in the hospital dealing with a broken leg and two broken arms. His recovery had been slow and painful, and while he could finally take care of himself again, he’d hit a brick wall with his physical therapy. When he bothered to go, the weekly sessions were painful, without any lasting results to show for his efforts.

Of course, sitting at a bar with a straight-on view of the rows of bottles waiting to be mixed and poured for the saloon’s patrons probably wasn’t the smartest thing to be doing right now. Not with three of his former best friends staring back at him.

Jim Beam, Jack Daniels and Johnny Walker.

Yes, he and the boys went way back. Back to before he could even drive. But the four of them hadn’t pulled an all-nighter in six years.

That didn’t mean the desire had left him.

No, that stayed with him every day.

Just then the barmaid returned and placed a frosty mug of freshly poured beer in front of him.

Every pain-filled muscle in Devlin’s body froze.

“Here you go.” She offered a toothy grin. “You look like a man who’s earned a tall, cold one.”

Dev kept his gaze glued to the glass, the golden color calling to him like buried treasure to a weary pirate. White frothy foam lapped against the rim while beads of condensation chased one another down the length of the mug until they soaked the paper napkin below.

He swallowed, his forearms pressing hard into the rolled edge of the bar as his fingers curled into tight fists. A deep inhale through his nose caused the yeasty, bitter flavor he still remembered to come alive again inside his mouth.

Damn, coming here had been a bad idea.

“Uh.” He paused and blinked hard, breaking the hypnotic hold the beer had over him. After clearing his throat, Dev looked up at the barmaid and tried to summon the courage to set her straight. “I don’t—”

“Lisa, why don’t you take care of the crew at the end of the bar?” A strong feminine voice cut him off. “I’ll take over here.”

The blonde turned and looked at her boss, Racy Steele, the fiery redhead whose personality matched her name even though she was happily married to the town’s sheriff and was the mother of twins.

“But I’m talking to— I mean, I’m helping…”

Dev sat silently as the two women stared each other down. He knew who would win, and sure enough, when Racy tilted her head slightly, the barmaid shrugged and turned away.

With the ease of experience, Racy made the beer disappear, replacing it with a tall glass of ice water. “Sorry about that. She’s new.”

Dev nodded, releasing a deep breath.

“It’s good to see you up and on your feet again,” Racy continued, offering an easy smile. “You’ve been away from the Blue Creek for too long.”

“Been away from everything too long.”

“Of course, when you are here you usually don’t sit at the bar.”

Another defense mechanism.

When he’d decided to give up the booze, he refused to give up the friendships or the fun. Somehow sitting in one of the booths or the tables scattered around the large dance floor made the ongoing battle easier to fight.

“Yeah, I know.” He grabbed a fry and popped it into his mouth.

“And you rarely come in alone.”

He’d waved to a couple of familiar faces when he’d first come inside, but purposely kept walking until he reached the bar, determined to do this by himself.

“Everyone’s working,” he finally said. “You know, being how it’s Wednesday.”

Racy braced her elbows on the bar, leveling a familiar stare that told him she wasn’t buying his flimsy excuse. A move she’d probably perfected over the years from dealing with Blue Creek customers. “Except you?”

“No, I’m back behind the desk at the family business.”

Finally. Only whenever he sat for longer than an hour in front of the bank of computers that he used to design the home security systems sold by Murphy Mountain Log Homes, his shoulders started to pulsate, sending electric shocks into his elbows and making his fingers numb.

“Just decided to get some fresh air.”

“Inside a bar? At two in the afternoon?”

“I had a craving.” Damn, that didn’t sound right. “For a burger.”

“Do you need me to call anyone?”

Her softly spoken question caused Dev’s back to stiffen, his hands falling to his lap. He rubbed at the front pocket of his jeans, searching for and finding the bronze Alcoholics Anonymous medallion he always carried with him. A reminder of what he had achieved over the last six years.

“Someone like the good sheriff of Destiny?” he asked, an edge to his words.

“If you need to talk to Gage, he’ll come. As a friend.” Compassion filled Racy’s brown eyes. “You know that, right?”

The fight disappeared as quickly as it came.

Hell, he and Gage had a history that went back to playing football together in high school. He was also the one who took Dev to his first AA meeting. “Yeah, I know.”

“Or maybe there’s someone else you’d like to talk to?”

Meaning his sponsor.

Mac had been there for Dev from the very beginning. They’d met at a local meeting, bonding over a shared love of flying, and soon Dev had asked the older man to be the one person he could turn to, anytime day or night, the one person who’d understand the fight Dev faced as he struggled for sanity, for sobriety.

For his life.

Dev pulled in a deep breath, and then slowly released it. The crisis had passed. He’d faced temptation before and would again. Recognizing the want and walking away was something he’d done on a daily basis, especially over the last few months. “No, thanks. I’m good.”

There was that head tilt again.

“I mean it, Racy. Just let me enjoy my meal.” He paused, searching for a way to lighten the mood. His gaze flicked to the end of the bar. “And the view.”

Racy grinned. “Forget it, Murphy. She’s only twentythree.”

“Ouch. Now, you’re making me feel old.”

“You’re not old.” Racy fiddled with something behind the bar out of his sight. “She’s just too young.”

Dev reached for his burger. “Doesn’t look that way from here.”

“She was still in elementary school when you were going to fraternity parties at the University of Wyoming.”

“Thanks a lot.” Okay, that was too young even if he had been interested. Dev took a bite of his burger, chewed and then swallowed, watching as Racy hovered nearby. “You don’t have to babysit me.”

“I’m not babysitting.” She wiped down the already clean areas on either side of him. “I’m working.”

“Yeah, right.”

“You do realize the Blue Creek belongs to me, right? That means I get to decide where and when—”

A buzzing noise had Racy dropping the rag and reaching for the cell phone tucked into a rear pocket. Her face lit up with a big smile as she hit a button and pressed the phone to her ear.

“Hey, honey. How’s the world’s sexiest sheriff?” She offered Dev a quick wink, then laughed. “Yes, I can feel you blushing from here.”

Devlin just shook his head as Racy stepped away to have a private conversation with her husband. Sometimes it still amazed him that Racy and Gage, two people as different as night and day, had fallen in love and married, but he’d stood up for them at their wedding.

Something he hadn’t been able to do for Adam and Fay.

His sister-in-law had been almost four months pregnant by the time she and Adam had worked out their issues last summer, and they hadn’t wanted to wait any longer to get married.

He’d ended up watching a video of their September wedding from his hospital bed, unable to keep his promise to be his eldest brother’s best man.

At least he’d been back on his feet, sort of, when the newest member of the Murphy family, Adam Alistair Murphy Jr., A.J. for short, had arrived back in February.

“How about a fresh piece of apple pie topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream for dessert?”

Racy’s question pulled Dev from his thoughts, and he realized she’d finished her call and had cleared away his empty plate. “No, thanks.”

He climbed off the bar stool, leaning heavily against the bar as he dug for his wallet. Damn, his leg felt like jelly and he’d left the cane his physical therapist insisted he still needed in his Jeep.

“Time for me to head back to work.”

She smiled and gave his hand a quick squeeze after taking his money. “You plan to stop by the firehouse on your way?”

That question caught him by surprise. “No. Why?”

“No reason. It’s just that your name comes up whenever any of the team is here. I thought they’d like to know one of their best and brightest volunteers is up and around.”

Yeah, up and around, but nowhere close to being able to rejoin the department. If ever. No, he wasn’t ready to face his former coworkers yet.

Dev shoved his wallet back in his pocket and offered a quick prayer he wouldn’t fall on his face when he turned around. “See you later, Racy. Thanks for the great meal.”

“Say hi to your family.”

Dev acknowledged her words with a wave, hating the ever-present limp that marked his walk as he headed out. His family said the slight hitch in his step wasn’t as noticeable as Dev thought, but it was just another reminder of how much his life had changed in the last year.

Making his way across the gravel parking lot, he opened the door to his Jeep and climbed inside, trying to ignore the fresh round of pain racing through his veins.

Maybe this hadn’t been such a great idea.

As wonderful as his family had been since the accident, Dev had been desperate to get out on his own again. Lord knew he hadn’t had a moment to himself in the last four months except when he was in bed at night. Even then, either one of his parents or Liam—the only brother who still lived in the log mansion that was the family home—would check in.

He appreciated all they’d done for him. Hell, with two broken arms he’d been like a baby, relying on his family for everything from his meals to bathing. It’d been three months since the casts were removed and still everyone hovered.

He needed space to think, to breathe.

And despite his father’s offer to replace the four-wheel drive Wrangler with something that made it easier to get behind the wheel, Dev had insisted on keeping it—it was the vehicle he’d bought the day he kicked his drinking habit.

“But why the Blue Creek?” he asked his reflection in the rearview mirror as he turned over the engine and backed out of the parking space. “Why not go to Sherry’s Diner? Or grab a sandwich at Doucette’s Bakery?”

He didn’t have an answer, or didn’t want to come up with one, so he cranked up the radio as he slowed to a stop at the parking lot exit, waiting for the chance to pull onto the street.

Diagonally across from him was White’s Liquors, a red brick building with a faded red, white and blue advertisement from the 1940s to buy war bonds still visible on the side.

When old man White had been alive, he’d had the ad repainted every five years in honor of the two brothers he’d lost during the war, but his kids owned the place now and the anniversary of the repainting had come and gone last fall without being touched up.

The traffic had cleared, but Dev still sat there, staring at the building, wondering about the ad and realizing he hadn’t stepped foot inside the building in the last six years.

Hadn’t needed to. Hadn’t wanted to.

Until this very moment.

His grip was so tight on the steering wheel that his knuckles turned white. Pulling in a deep breath, he let go and put the Jeep in gear. Once he was on the street, he grabbed his cell phone and hit the button that connected him directly to Mac. Three rings later a buzzing noise filled his ear as Mac answered.

“Dev?”

Mac’s voice came through, but the reception was terrible. Dev released the pent-up breath with one whoosh. “Yeah, it’s me. Can you talk?”

“At…airport.”

Dev’s heart lurched. That was the last place he wanted to go. Okay, the second to last place.

“Heading…home…meet you there.”

Every other word of Mac’s was indecipherable, but Dev breathed a sigh of relief. “On my way.”

“Dev…need to…arrived yesterday.”

Circling the town square, Dev headed toward the sheriff’s office and the fire station. His gaze firmly on the road ahead, he didn’t allow even his peripheral vision to stray toward the open bays where a few of the firefighters were washing down the engine and the light-duty rescue truck.

“Mac, you’re breaking up. This connection sucks.” The tightness in Dev’s chest eased as he headed out of town. “You can tell me when you see me. I’ll be waiting on the front porch.”

Moments later, Dev drove past the entrance to his family’s ranch and the turnoff to his brother Adam’s place, and kept going until he saw the road to Mac’s farm. The land had been in his friend’s family for generations, much like the land the Murphy M7 Ranch sat on, but it hadn’t been a working farm for years.

Turning into the driveway, he started to slow to a stop near the two-story farmhouse, but noticed a car parked down near the metal hangar out back. When a storm had destroyed the unused barn almost a dozen years ago, Mac had it torn down and erected a steel structure that housed his baby, a 1929 Travel Air 4000 biplane.
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Filed under 2013, Christyne Butler, Harlequin, October, Review, Romance, Special Edition, Welcome to Destiny

[Review] Marrying Dr. Maverick by Karen Rose Smith

Marrying Dr. Maverick  by Karen Rose Smith

Publication date: October 1, 2013
Publisher: Harlequin Special Edition

<div style=”font-size:11px”>Publication date: 05/01/2013</div>Montana Mavericks: Rust Creek Cowboys # 4
Pages: 219

Back of the book

 
Hitched for love—or business? Find out as Karen Rose Smith returns to Rust Creek Falls in the latest installment of the Montana Mavericks: Rust Creek Cowboys!

Rust Creek Ramblings

It seems as if all we’ve been hearing about these days in Rust Creek Falls is folks falling in love and getting engaged. But this latest one tops them all. Dr. Brooks Smith, our favorite veterinarian, the most confirmed bachelor in all of Montana, is taking himself a bride!

The fact that he has chosen Jasmine “Jazzy” Cates, his new assistant, a visitor from Thunder Canyon, is only fueling speculation. Rumors are this “love match” is really just a business proposition, but sweet Jazzy may have something more in mind. Can she turn her convenient husband’s wedding fever into a lifelong condition? 

Pre-order Marrying Dr. Maverick

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My Review: 

4.5 Star Review – Marrying Dr. Maverick (Montana Mavericks: Rust Creek Cowboys # 4 series)

I recommend this book.

I enjoyed this book by Karen.  This book includes passion, laughs, heartache, and betrayal.

If you have not read the below I would recommend reading those books first.


Marooned with the Maverick by Christine Rimmer

The Maverick’s Summer Love by Christyne Butler

The Maverick & the Manhattanite by Leanne Banks



Dr. Brooks Smith a veterinarian is frustrated as his Dad is exhausted and will not let him help with the work load at his practice until he settles down and gets a wife.  He decides instead to open another practice in the town to lighten the load on his father.  


Jasmine “Jazzy” Cates, his new assistant is really helping out Brooks with all the organizing and getting to word out about the new practice.    


When his father is sick Brooks decides they should have a marriage of convenience so his father will let him take over the practice.  But what seemed at the time a good idea might not really be a good idea.  When feelings start getting in the way will they be headed for heartbreak or happily ever after?  With Brooks being a confirmed bachelor before they were married is Jazzy in for a fight in making him fall in love?

 

The chemistry between these two is great.  Love both the characters and you really feel them draw you into the story. 


 
Look forward to the next book in this series.


A Maverick under the Mistletoe by Brenda Harlen – Due out in November

Contact Info for Karen Rose Smith

 
 

 

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About Karen:


Karen Rose Smith’s plots are all about emotion. She began writing when she listened to music and created stories to accompany the songs. After expressing feelings in poetry, earning a degree in English and French, completing short stories that became too long to find a market, she turned to her love of relationships in romance. This award-winning best-selling author has sold 75 books since 1991 and has published with Silhouette, Harlequin, Kensington and Meteor/Kismet. Her awards include the Golden Leaf in short contemporary romance, the Golden Quill in traditional romance, cataromance.com’s award for Best Special Edition and Romance Review’s Today’s Best series romance award. Jane Bowers of Romance Reviews Today states: “Karen Rose Smith’s storeyworlds are complete and realistic and lovely places to visit and revisit. She excels at stories that feature couples brought together by infants and children, and she handles her plots and characters with sublime sensitivity.”

Karen is well-known for writing emotion. An only child, she spent a lot of time in her imagination and with books—Nancy Drew, Zane Gray, The Black Stallion and Anne of Green Gables. She dreamed of brothers and sisters and a big family like her mother and father came from, seven children in her mom’s family and ten in her dad’s. On weekends she was often surrounded by aunts, uncles and cousins. This is the root of her plotlines that include small communities and family relationships as part of everyday living. She believes universal emotions unite us all and that is the reason she uses them to propel her plots.

 

Read an Excerpt

Brooks Smith rapped firmly on the ranch-house door, scanning the all-too-familiar property in the dusk.

His dad didn’t answer right away, and Brooks thought about going around back to the veterinary clinic, but then he heard footsteps and waited, bracing himself for this conversation.

After his father opened the door, he looked Brooks over, from the beard stubble that seemed to be ever present since the flood to his mud-covered boots. Tending to large animals required trekking through fields sometimes.

“You don’t usually come calling on a Tuesday night. Run into a problem you need me for?”

Barrett Smith was a barrel-chested man with gray hair and ruddy cheeks. At six-two, Brooks topped him by a couple of inches. The elder Smith had put on another ten pounds over the past year, and Brooks realized he should have been concerned about that before today.

There was challenge in his dad’s tone as there had been since they’d parted ways. But as a doctor with four years of practice under his belt, Brooks didn’t ask for his dad’s advice on animal care or frankly anything else these days.

“Can I come in?”

“Sure.”

Brooks entered the living room where he’d played as a child. The Navajo rugs were worn now, the floor scuffed.

“I only have a few minutes,” his father warned him. “I haven’t fed the horses yet.”

“I’ll get straight to the point, then.” Brooks swiped off his Stetson and ran his hand through his hair, knowing this conversation was going to get sticky. “I ran into Charlie Hartzell at the General Store.”

His father avoided his gaze. “So?”

“He told me that when he stopped by over the weekend, you weren’t doing too well.”

“I don’t know what he’s talking about,” his dad muttered, not meeting Brooks’s eyes.

“He said you carried a pail of oats to the barn and you were looking winded and pale. You dropped the bucket and almost passed out.”

“Anybody can have an accident. After I drank a little water, I was fine.”

Not so true according to Charlie, Brooks thought. His dad’s longtime friend had stayed another hour to make sure Barrett wasn’t going to keel over.

“You’re working too hard,” Brooks insisted. “If you’d let me take over the practice, you could retire, take care of the horses in the barn and help out as you want.”

“Nothing has changed,” Barrett said angrily. “You still show no sign of settling down.”

This was an old argument, one that had started after Lynnette had broken their engagement right before Brooks had earned his degree in veterinary medicine from Colorado State. That long-ago night, his father had wanted to discuss it with him, but with Brooks’s pride stinging, he’d asked his dad to drop it. Barrett hadn’t. Frustrated, his father had blown his top, which wasn’t unusual. What was unusual was his warning and threat—he’d never retire and turn his practice over to Brooks until his son found a woman who would stick by him and build a house on the land his grandmother had left him.

Sure enough…

“Your grandmama’s land is still sitting there with no signs of a foundation,” his dad went on. “She wanted you to have roots, too. That’s why she left it to you. Until you get married and at least thinkabout having kids, I can handle my own practice just fine. And you should butt out.”

He could rise to the bait. He could argue with his father as he’d done before. But he didn’t want his dad’s blood pressure to go any higher so he stuck to being reasonable. “You can issue an ultimatum if you want, but this isn’t about me. It’s about you. You can’t keep working the hours you’ve been working since the flood. You’re probably not eating properly, grabbing donuts at Daisy’s and potato chips at the General Store.”

“Are you keeping track of what I buy where?”

“Of course not. I’m worried about you.”

“Well, don’t be. Worry about yourself. Worry about the life you don’t have.”

“I have a life, Dad. I’m living it my way.”

“Yeah, well, twenty years from now you just tell me how that went. I’m going out back. You can see yourself out.”

As his father turned to leave, Brooks knew this conversation had been useless. He knew he probably shouldn’t even have come. He had to find a way to make his father wake up to the reality of his deteriorating health. He would…one way or another.

Jasmine Cates—”Jazzy” to her friends and family—stood outside the Ace in the Hole, Rust Creek Falls’ lone bar, staring up at the wood-burned sign. She glanced around at the almost deserted street, hoping she’d catch sight of her friend Cecilia, who was tied up at a community meeting. They were supposed to meet here.

On the north side of town, the Ace in the Hole hadn’t been touched by the devastating July flood, but Jazzy didn’t know if she felt comfortable walking into the place alone. It was a rough and rowdy cowboy hangout, a place single guys gathered to relax. But when they relaxed, all hell could break loose. She’d heard about occasional rumbles and bar fights here.

Feeling as if she’d scrubbed herself raw from her shower at Strickland’s Boarding House, attempting to wash off the mud from a disastrous date, she passed the old-fashioned hitching post out front and stared up at the oversize playing card—an ace of hearts—that blinked in red neon over the door. After she climbed two rough-hewn wooden steps, Jazzy opened the old screen door with its rusty hinges and let it slap behind her. A country tune poured from a jukebox. Booths lined the outer walls while wooden tables with ladder-back chairs were scattered across the plank flooring around a small dance floor. Jazzy glimpsed pool tables in the far back. Old West photos as well as those from local ranches hung on the walls. A wooden bar was situated on the right side of the establishment crowded with about a dozen bar stools, and a mirrored wall reflected the rows of glass bottles.

Cowboys and ranch hands filled the tables, and a few gave her glances that said they might be interested in talking…or more. Jazzy quickly glanced toward the bar. There was one bar stool open and it was next to—

Wasn’t that Dr. Brooks Smith? She hadn’t officially met him, but in her volunteer work, helping ranch owners clean up, paint and repair, she’d caught sight of him now and then as he tended to their animals. She’d liked the way he’d handled a horse that’d been injured. He’d been respectful of the animal and downright kind.

Decision made, she crossed to the bar and settled on the stool beside him. Brooks had that sexy, scruffy look tonight. He was tall and lean and broad-shouldered. Usually he wore a smile for anyone he came in contact with, but now his expression was granitelike, and his hands were balled into fists. It didn’t even look like he’d touched his beer.

As if sensing her regard, and maybe her curiosity, he turned toward her. Their gazes met and there was intensity in his brown eyes that told her he’d been thinking about something very serious. His gaze swept over her blond hair, snap-button blouse and jeans, and that intensity shifted into male appreciation.

“You might need a bodyguard tonight,” he drawled. “You’re the only woman in the place.”

He could be her bodyguard anytime. She quickly banished that thought. Hadn’t she heard somewhere that he didn’t date much? Love gone wrong in his romantic history?

“I’m meeting a friend.” She stuck out her hand. “You’re Brooks Smith. I’m Jazzy Cates. I’ve seen you around the ranches.”

He studied her again. “You’re one of the volunteers from Thunder Canyon.”

“I am,” she said with a smile, glad he’d recognized her.

When he took her hand to shake it, she felt tingles up her arm. That couldn’t be, could it? She’d almost been engaged to a man and hadn’t felt tingles like that. Brooks’s grip was strong and firm, his hand warm, and when he took it away, she felt…odd.

“Everyone in town appreciates the help,” he said.

“Rust Creek Falls is a tight-knit community. I heard stories about what happened after the flood. Everyone shared what was in their freezers so no one would go hungry.”

Brooks nodded. “The community spirit was stoked by Collin Traub and the way he pulled everyone together.”

“I heard about his proposal to Willa Christensen on Main Street but I didn’t see it myself.”

Brooks’s eyes darkened at her mention of a proposal, and she wondered why.

“He and Willa seem happy” was all Brooks said.

So the man didn’t gossip. She liked that. She liked a lot about him. Compared to the cowboy she’d been out with earlier tonight—

A highenergy country tune played on the jukebox and snagged their attention for a moment. Jazzy asked, “Do you come here often?”

“Living and mostly working in Kalispell, I don’t usually have the time. But I’ll meet a friend here now and then.”

Kalispell was about twenty miles away, the go-to town for everything anyone in Rust Creek Falls needed and couldn’t find in their small town. “So you have a practice in Kalispell?”

“I work with a group practice there. We were called in to help here because my dad couldn’t handle it all.”

She’d heard Brooks’s father had a practice in Rust Creek Falls and had assumed father and son worked together. Her curiosity was aroused. She certainly knew about family complications. “I guess you’re not needed here as much now since the town’s getting back on its feet.”

“Not as much. But there are still animals recovering from injuries during the flood and afterward. How about you? Are you still cleaning out mud from homes that had water damage?”

“Yep, but I’m working at the elementary school, too.”

“That’s right, I remember now. You came with Dean Pritchett’s group.”

“Dean’s been a friend of our family for years. He was one of the first to volunteer to help.”

“How long can you be away from Thunder Canyon?”

“I’m not sure.” Because Brooks was a stranger, she found herself saying what she couldn’t to those closest to her. “My job was…static. I need a business degree to get a promotion and I’ve been saving for that. I came here to help, but I also came to escape my family. And.I needed a change.”

“I can understand that,” Brooks said with a nod. “But surely they miss you back home, and a woman like you—”

“A woman like me?”

“I’d think you’d have someone special back there.”

She thought about Griff Wellington and the proposal he’d wanted to make and the proposal she’d avoided by breaking off their relationship. Her family had tried to convince her she should marry him, but something inside her had told her she’d known better. Griff had been hurt and she hated that. But she couldn’t tie them both to a relationship she’d known wasn’t right.

Maybe it was Brooks’s easy way; maybe it was the interest in his eyes; maybe it was the way he listened, but she admitted, “No one special. In fact, I had a date tonight before I ended up here.”

“Something about that doesn’t sound right. If you had a date, why isn’t he here with you?”

“He’s a calf roper.”

Brooks leaned a little closer to hear her above the music. His shoulder brushed hers and she felt heat other places besides there. “What does that have to do with your date?”

“That was the date.”

Brooks pushed his Stetson higher on his head with his forefinger. “What?”

“Calf-roping. He thought it would be fun if he showed me how he did it. That would have been fine, but then he wanted me to do it. Yes, I ride. Yes, I love horses. But I’d never calf-roped before and so I tried it.

There was mud all over the place and I slipped and fell and I was covered with mud from head to toe.”

Brooks was laughing by then, a deep, hearty laugh that seemed to echo through her. She liked the fact she could make him laugh. Genially, she bumped his arm. “It wasn’t so funny when it was happening.”

He gave her a crooked smile that said he was a little bit sorry he laughed, but not much. “Whatever gave him the impression you’d like to try that out?”

“I have no clue, except I did tell him I like horses. I did try to be interested in what he did, and I asked him questions about it.”

“This was a first date?” Brooks guessed.

“It was the last date,” Jazzy responded.

“Not the last date ever!”

She sighed. “Probably not.”

Was he thinking of asking her out? Or were they just flirting? With that twinkle in his eyes, she imagined he could flirt with the best of them if he really wanted to.

“So you came here to meet a friend and hash out everything that’s happened,” he concluded.

“My gosh, a guy who understands women!”

He laughed again. “No, not so well.”

She wondered what that meant. “When I’m at home, sometimes I talk it all out with my sisters.”

“How many do you have?”

“I have four sisters, a brother and parents who think they know what’s best for me.”

“You’re lucky,” Brooks said.

“Lucky?”

“Yep. I’m the only one. And I lost my mom a long time ago.”

“I’m sorry.”

He shrugged. “Water under the bridge.” But something in his tone said that it wasn’t, so she asked, “Are you close to your dad?”

“He’s the reason I stopped in here tonight.”

“To meet him?”

“Nope.” He hesitated, then added, “We had another argument.”

“Another?”

Brooks paused again before saying, “My dad’s not taking care of himself, and I can’t give him what he wants most.”

In her family, Jazzy usually said what she thought, and most of the time, no one heard her. But now she asked, “And what’s that?”

“He wants me to marry, and I’ll never do that.”

Whoa! She wanted to ask that all-important question—why?—but they’d just officially met and she knew better than to probe too much. She hated when her family did that.

Her questions must have led Brooks to think he could ask some of his own because he leaned toward her again. This time his face was very close to hers as he inquired, “So what was the job you left?”

After a heavy sigh, she admitted, “I was a glorified secretary.”

“A secretary,” he murmured, studying her. “How long are you staying in Rust Creek Falls?”

“I’ve already been in town for a while, so I guess I’ll have to go back soon. I work for Thunder Canyon Resort. I’m in the pool of assistants who handle everything to do about skiing. I had a lot of vacation time built up but that’s gone now. I don’t want to use all my savings because I want to earn my degree. Someday I’m going to own a ranch and run a non-profit organization to rescue horses.”

Brooks leaned away again and really assessed her as if he was trying to read every thought in her head, as if he was trying to decide if what she’d told him was really true. Of course it was true. A rescue ranch had been a burning goal for a while.

“How did you get involved in rescuing horses?”

“I help out a friend who does it.”

Finally, Brooks took a few long swigs of his beer and then set down his glass. He looked at it and then grimaced. “I didn’t even offer to buy you a drink. What would you like?”

“A beer would be fine.”

Brooks waved down the bartender and soon Jazzy was rolling her finger around the foam on the rim of her glass. This felt like a date, though it wasn’t. This felt…nice.

The music on the jukebox had stopped for the moment, and she listened to the chatter of voices, the clink of glasses and bang of a dish as a waitress set a burger in front of a cowboy.

Finally, as if Brooks had come to some conclusion, he swiveled on his stool and faced her. “If you had a job in Rust Creek Falls, would you stay longer?”

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Filed under 2013, Harlequin, Karen Rose Smith, Montana Mavericks: Rust Creek Cowboys, October, Review, Romance, Special Edition