USA Today Bestselling Author
“Your wish has been granted,” Santa said, but neither Jolie nor Red had made a wish . . . or had they?
Jolie Shepherd didn’t want to spend Christmas alone. So when she accepts an open invitation to visit Starlight Bend, Montana from her best friend, Jolie expects to pass most of the holiday season holed up inside a rustic cabin, not playing cowgirl with quite possibly the most adorable cowboy in the entire state.
Red Weisman is a man who prefers to ride alone . . . that is until he meets Jolie Shepherd. She doesn’t know the first thing about ranching, and she certainly can’t ride a horse, but once they team up to grant a Christmas wish for a needy child, something magical happens between them. Has Santa truly granted their most secret wish, or is this simply a temporary Christmas enchantment?
This book was read as part of the Holiday Heat: The Men of Starlight Bend.
Jolie Shepherd has finally had the opportunity to visit her friend Riley in Starlight Bend. Unfortunately she really had no clue as to how cold it would be. Being from Los Vegas she could only imagine, and her imagination didn’t come close.
When Riley takes her to get warmer gear, she catches the eye of Red Weisman, Starlight’s most eligible bachelor. Red finally found out what to get his Mom and Aunt for Christmas, unfortunately Jolie has claimed the coat he needs to get for his Mom.
This is a favorite scene as he wins the coat and loses the Wishing Star he wanted.
“Your mother wants this coat for Christmas?”
“That very one, but I wouldn’t dream of trying to talk you out of it even though my mama had her heart set on it.”
“There must another one.”
He shook his head. “Nope. That’s it.”
“In another store?”
“This is the only sporting goods store for a hundred miles.”
She pulled the coat in tighter and held onto it with both arms a sure sign he was losing the battle.
“And I suppose your mama is a tiny slip of a woman who’s always cold.”
“Something like that, yes, but I’m sure she’ll be fine with a different coat, one not as warm, and in a different color . . . even though that particular shade of white is her favorite.”
“And what about the wish? You probably want that as well, being the stand-up kind of cowboy and all.”
He’d forgotten all about the wish. He was having too much fun playing the bungling distortion of a cowboy with the fragile, always-cold mom.
“Well I . . . ”
She thrust the coat at him. “Here, take it, but you can’t have the wish. That’s mine.”
He took the coat, grateful for her generosity.
“Sure. Thanks. Whatever you want to do.”
Jolie once again reached for the wish, but it was a little too high for her. She couldn’t have been more than five-feet-five inches tall even in those high-heeled citified boots of hers.
“Let me get that for you,” he told her as he easily reached for it. At six-foot-two he towered over her.
As he plucked the wish from the tree, he reread it: For Holly: Western horseback riding lessons for a special needs child.
“That’s some kind of wish. Are you sure you want this one?”
“Yes, that one.”
“You know this child is asking for horseback riding lessons, right?”
“Yes. Why? Do you have some reason you think I can’t grant that wish?”
“Me? No. It’s just that riding lessons can be pricey, and difficult for the child if they aren’t special needs, but if they are it can be even more tough to find the right trainer and a suitable horse.”
She swiped the wish from his hand. “Then I’ll have to find a trainer who knows how to teach special needs children.”
“You’re looking at him.” He tried to look as sincere as possible, knowing full well that the wish couldn’t have been more perfect for him to grant. And despite it taking a monetary hit to his bank account, he figured he could make it up by boarding a couple more horses this winter. “I’ve worked with several special needs kids before. Even kids who are terrified to get up on a horse. It’s what I do.”
The bungling cowboy routine had to be pushed aside. Now he had to convince her that he was the only cowboy for the job.
She looked him over with a skeptical grin. “So you’re a teacher. I never would have guessed it.”
“Why?” He gazed down at himself. Everything looked in order. His duster had been newly cleaned, his jeans were a bit dusty, and worn, but they were decent. And his boots needed polishing, but his boots always needed polishing. It was part of the cowboy creed to have scuffed, and grimy boots. “What is a teacher supposed to look like?”
Her gaze dropped over him again. “Neat. Clean. Tidy.”
He couldn’t help the chuckle that escaped from the back of his throat. “I work on a ranch, not in a schoolhouse.”
She turned away from him for a moment, as if she had to reconsider her assumptions. “Good point.” A full minute later she swung back around to face him. “ Fine, but I’m not giving this up. I want to grant the wish. I want to pay for it.”
“You can, and I’ll teach her how to ride.”
“How much do you charge?”
“A lot, but I’m worth it.”
He caught the little eye roll. “You’re full of yourself, aren’t you?”
“Only because it’s the truth.”
“And who else better to judge?”
“You wanted the best, and I’m telling you it’s me. I already offered to do it for free. You’re the one who wants to pay for the lessons.”
“I do, but . . .” He saw the hesitation in her sweet eyes. “I’m kind of strapped for cash right now.”
He had a hard time believing that from the way she was dressed, plus her desire to buy a relatively expensive coat. He wasn’t completely out of touch about women’s clothing and shoes. His ex-fiancée would order two-hundred-dollar designer shoes, and expensive designer clothes and purses online. Of course, her buying habits should have been a clue that ranch life didn’t exactly match up with her heels and high-end tastes, but denial was a powerful drug.
For the sake of the kid who asked for the Christmas wish, he decided to go along with what had to be a lie. “Then how ‘bout if I give you a discount?”
She thought about it for a moment. “That will help, but I want to pay for this by myself. It’s important to me. The thing is, I don’t have any money.”
He didn’t believe her. “Then how were you going to buy this coat?”
“I have my mom’s charge card.”
Everything became clear. He figured she’d been raised by helicopter parents who’d doted on her every desire, she’d been coddled her entire life, and made use of those ‘safe zones’ in college where the real world wasn’t welcome.
He wanted to walk away, but something kept him talking. Maybe it was her desire to actually do something on her own.
“Must be nice.”
“Actually, it’s not.” She held out the wish card to give it to him. “Here, you take it.”
But Red couldn’t take it. He’d never seen a more pathetic look on anyone’s face before. If she really had a desire to reach out and do something good for someone else, who was he to stop her?
“How about if you work for me to pay for the lessons?”
“Doing what? Cleaning out stalls? Slopping the pigs? Milking the cows?”
He could tell this woman knew nothing about a horse ranch. “Do you know how to do any of those things? Hog slopping can be grueling work.”
Not that he owned even one pig.
Her eyes went wide. “Sure I do,” she said, but he knew she was lying to save face. He thought he’d have some fun with this.
“Okay then. It’s a deal.” He stuck out his hand, and they shook on it. “You can work off the cost of the lessons.” Her hand fit perfectly into his, warm and petite. He liked the feel of her skin against his.
“The deal is for the discounted lessons.”
“Yes, the discounted lessons,” he said as she slipped her hand from his. As soon as she did, he once again felt the jolt of electricity shoot between them. And if he wasn’t mistaken, he could swear it sparked a bright blue again.
“What is that?” she asked, shaking out her hand. The spark had stung. Nothing bad, but enough so he’d noticed, and apparently she had, too.
“Kismet,” he told her, smiling, wondering what the heck was going on.
She grinned. “I don’t believe in all that magical stuff.”
He hadn’t made up his mind yet. “Maybe so, but Starlight Bend is known for being a magical city, especially around Christmas.”
Leo, Mary. Ropin’ the Lone Cowboy of Starlight Bend.Starlight Bend Book 4. Holiday Heat Kindle Locations (4976-5032). Bella Media Management. Kindle Edition.
The deal to give Holly riding lessons has Jolie at the ranch bright and early, and Red’s Mom has breakfast waiting.
It’s a fun time as we watch Jolie discover the truths of a horse ranch, and her reactions to Red are sizzling.
A birth, a song, a snow storm and so much more make this a perfect holiday read.
5 Contented Purrs for Mary!
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USA Today bestselling author, Mary Leo, spent several years working in the mysterious world of computer chip design in Silicon Valley before breaking into fiction writing. Her first contemporary romance, Stick Shift, was published in 2004 and was nominated for a RT Best First Book Award.
Since then her Briggs, Idaho cowboy romance series has been published in several different languages throughout the world. That series begins with Falling For The Cowboy, where a city girl mixes it up with a rugged cowboy.
Her latest romance, Cowboy Undone, is available now! Mary also writes magical romance, featuring Jackie Cupid, granddaughter to Eros, the God of Love. You can learn more about Mary, and enter her monthly giveaway on her Website.