The magic of Christmas
Could make her wish come true!
A small-town Christmas wedding. What could be more romantic? Unless you’re a plus-one for hire like single mom Maia MacKenzie. Too bad handsome cowboy Brent Hayes is her new coworker—and completely off-limits! Neither of them can afford to lose their job…or invest in a relationship. But when she sees Brent’s adorable connection with her young son, Maia can’t help wishing for a Christmas miracle.
In the third grade, NY Times, USA Today and Amazon bestselling author Cathy McDavid made it her goal to read every Black Stallion book ever written. Who knew such an illustrious ambition would eventually lead to a lifelong love of all things western, owning a stagecoach pulled by six mules, and a career writing contemporary romances for Harlequin? With over 50 titles in print and 1.3 million-plus books sold, Cathy is also a member of the prestigious Romance Writers of America’s Honor Roll. This “almost” Arizona native and mother of grown twins is married to her own real-life sweetheart. After leaving the corporate world six years ago, she now spends her days penning stories about good looking cowboys riding the range, busting broncs, and sweeping gals off their feet — oops, no. Make that winning the hearts of feisty, independent women who give the cowboys a run for their money. It’s a tough job, but she’s willing to make the sacrifice.
“Horses are judged on more than speed of recovery and endurance in trail riding. Good manners are a big part. Snapple sometimes reacts when a person or another horse gets too close to his lower left flank. He was bitten there as a yearling, and it left a nasty scar. He used to bolt and run away on Kenna. I’ve trained that out of him, but he shuffles sideways or dances on his front feet. Once in a while he bucks. Just a small hop. If that happens during a competitive ride, I’ll lose points or risk disqualification.”
“Maybe I can help.”
Maia studied him. “You have a special technique to correct bad habits like Snapple’s?”
Brent shrugged, keenly aware of her scrutiny. Rather than feel uncomfortable, he returned it. “I’ve ridden a lot of reactive horses.”
“Rodeo, right. Bucking broncs. But last I checked, cowboys encourage the broncs to buck. Not to behave.”
“You aren’t wrong. But I was part of a crew that broke and trained wild mustangs rounded up by the Bureau of Land Management. The mustangs deemed adoptable were then sold or auctioned off.”
She sat straighter in her chair. “When was that?”
“Last year.” Before she could ask for more details, he said, “The job was seasonal.” He didn’t admit to quitting. She might think he’d quit Mountainside Stables, too. Which he probably would at some point when the funk he refused to label as depression prevented him from performing his job. “I learned a few tricks.”
“Okay. Worth a shot. Might help and probably can’t hurt. Let’s talk more tomorrow before the ride.”
She slanted him a look. Something of a flirty look, if he wasn’t mistaken. At the very least, an I-find-you-interesting look. His pulse spiked before he could caution himself to keep cool and not respond.
Except, like at the wedding today, he smiled back. It felt good, normal, to be talking with a pretty girl. Brent could forget for a few moments and just be his old self.
He took the flirting one step further by saying, “I could use something to fill my days off. Can’t think of anything better than spending time with you.”
“What about Bobbie-Ann?” she asked, a hint of reservation in her voice.
“Doesn’t she fill your days off?”
He chuckled. “She’s not my girlfriend, if that’s what you’re asking.”
“Nope.” He leaned forward. “I’m single.”
Maia’s smile returned, and she also leaned forward. “Me, too. Single, that is.”
This piece of news cheered him more than it should, considering she could do a whole lot better than a flat-broke, has-been cowboy with little to show for himself.
Excerpted from A Secret Christmas Wish by Cathy McDavid, Copyright © 2021 by Cathy McDavid. Published by Harlequin Heartwarming.
One winner will receive a coffee mug, author bling, and $20 Starbucks gift card (US only)
Ends November 17, 2021
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