A Riding Hard Novella (Book 3.5)
NY Times Bestselling Author
Haley McKee is furious to find herself stuck in the tiny town of Starlight Bend so near Christmas. The only one who can help her is the handsome Maddox Campbell, a cowboy who’s not impressed with her fancy job title and money. In fact, no one has given Haley this much grief her entire life.
But there’s a lot more to Maddox than at first seems—he’s a hard-working man who gives much of his time and patience to help those who have little.
When a Starlight Bend tradition promises to bring Haley all she wants, will she make her Christmas wish with her head or her heart?
This novella was originally released in Holiday Heat: The Men of Starlight Bend. New in this edition: Expanded epilogue.
I read this originally in Holiday Heat: The Men of Starlight Bend.
Haley has gotten herself caught in a snowstorm that cancelled her flight. So in a move typical for her, she buys a car and starts driving, determined to make it home for Christmas.
Unfortunately when she decides to take a detour through a small town she ends up in a snowbank and rescued by an honest to God cowboy.
Maddox is her rescuer along with his dog Lance. But his method of transportation surprises Haley.
This is a favorite scene.
Standing patiently just inside the tree line, reins looped around the big saddle on his back, was a horse. A tall, shaggy horse that turned around when he saw Maddox. He was a black-brown color all over except for a large white streak down his face that widened to take in his entire nose. He walked interestedly toward them, ears pricking, brown eyes taking in Maddox and Haley.
Haley wrenched her numb hand from Maddox’s. “That’s your transportation?”
“This is Sammy,” Maddox said. “My four-legged drive. Best way to get back and forth from town today. What did you think he was?”
“I don’t know—some kind of snowmobile?”
Maddox’s low laughter warmed the air. He didn’t laugh in understanding—he was enjoying himself at Haley’s expense.
He caught up the reins and turned Sammy so the saddle’s left stirrup was at Haley’s side. She backed a few steps.
“Why don’t you have him tied up?” she babbled. “Why doesn’t he run away?”
“Because he’s Sammy,” Maddox said as though he considered this a reasonable explanation. “He stays put when I tell him to.” He gave Haley a skeptical look. “You ever ridden a horse before?”
Haley wet her lips, which were chapped with the cold. “No.”
“You ever seen a horse before?”
“Of course I have,” Haley answered indignantly. “We have horses in Seattle. My school had a pony club.”
“A ,em>pony club?” Maddox all but snorted. “Like riding lessons for rich city kids?”
“Something like that, yes.”
“Were you in this pony club?” Maddox’s eyes were glinting again as though he’d burst into another round of laughter any second.
“Well, no, actually.”
“What club were you in? Let me guess. Debate? Computer?”
Haley swallowed. “Chess.”
Maddox let the laughter pour free. It made his blue eyes light up and the corners of them crinkle. “You know, sweetheart, I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone like you before. Come on, I’ll give you a leg up.”
Haley moved to him in trepidation. Riding a massive horse wasn’t her idea of safety, but she was getting colder by the minute. If she didn’t find a warm place out of the snow and wind, she’d die of hyperthermia.
She bit back a surprised noise as Maddox grabbed her foot and shin and boosted her upward. Haley scrambled to catch the saddle, nearly going off the other side with the momentum. Maddox caught her with a strong hand and hauled her back, settling her on the seat.
Without waiting, he grasped the stirrup, put his own foot into it, and vaulted up behind her.
Warm, hard male landed at her back. Haley struggled to find her breath as Maddox reached around her and took up the reins, enclosing her in a heated space. Warmth radiated from him like a furnace.
“Ready, sugar?” he asked.
Haley gulped air. “Will you stop calling me sugar? I’m a CEO!”
“Yeah?” Maddox’s voice vibrated through her body. “Well I’m a CWDGAS.”
Haley blinked and looked back at him, his strong chest and curving mouth stealing her breath again. “What’s that?”
“Cowboy Who Doesn’t Give a Shit.” He let out a sharp whistle to the dog. “Come on, Lance. Sammy, take us home.”
Ashley, Jennifer. Holiday Heat: The Men of Starlight Bend.Kindle Locations (126-153). Bella Media Management. Kindle Edition.
Haley was more than a little surprised at his method of transportation, Sammy is a horse. She perseveres but not without a bit of protest.For some reason these two just like to bicker, fortunately his Aunt Jane was warm and welcoming. Unable to reach her father, she is able to text her best friend, who would notify her Dad. Otherwise her phone wouldn’t work at all.
A surprise winter storm party with many good neighbors that make her feel welcome add to Haley’s adventure.
The Sporting Goods store gift tree, a Santa Claus with unusual gifts in his bag and a strange geeky nerd named Andy all add to the charm and laughter of this book.
Interesting developments as Haley takes a star from the tree and Maddox finds he is more than a little interested in this city girl.
Fun, laughter and intrigue as they find the gifts requested for the children on the selected stars and the two of them become an item in spite of themselves.
5 Contented Purrs for Jennifer!
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NY Times Bestselling author Jennifer Ashley writes historical, contemporary, and paranormal romance, historical mysteries, and urban fantasy as Jennifer Ashley, Allyson James, and Ashley Gardner.
Jennifer’s novels have won RWA’s RITA and RT Reviewer’s Choice awards, have been translated into many different languages, and earned starred reviews from Booklist and Publisher’s Weekly.