Christmas Countdown: Christmas at Butler Ranch – A Butler Ranch Novella – by Heather Slade

Christmas at Butler Ranch
A Butler Ranch Novella
By
USA Today Bestselling Author
Heather Slade

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The magic of Christmas can be found in the stories of these beloved characters.

The two most requested stories from the Butler Ranch series are finally available in one book!
Laird and Sorcha Butler are the glue that holds not just their own family together, but the countless agents and operatives who have trained and worked with them. Their story unfolds from the streets of Belfast to the vineyards of the Central Coast of California.

Ainsley Butler is only of her siblings not married. She’s engaged, but it could go down as the longest engagement in history. Cristobal Avila is the boy next door who became the love of her life. So why is he in Northern California setting the genetic research world on fire, while she’s five hours away helping to run her family’s winery operations.

The prologue to this book is something that has me tearing up. Laird and Sorcha are favorites of mine.

But the first chapter takes us back a bit into Ainsley’s story.

We start with her beginning college, attending Stanford is her dream. She never considered anywhere else because that’s where Cristobal is. Unfortunately for her he really ignored her after he ran into her and Skye. Then came the day he didn’t anymore, her twenty-first birthday.

It seems Cris has been fighting his inclination to be with her from that first day. Now he’s not going to fight it anymore.

Now it’s been six years that these two have been living together, and Cris is tired of hiding it from their families. He issues an ultimatum that Aisley just wasn’t ready to comply with. It’s been a month since he moved out and he’s finally realized he couldn’t force Aisley to come clean to the families, he loves her and doesn’t want to be without her any longer.

Fortunately for him Aisley is ready to come clean so they can be together at Maddox and Alex’s wedding. Ainsley is more than a little surprised at both families reaction, although she really shouldn’t have been.

Now there’s the wedding and also Brodie and Peyton’s baby is due any time, oh and Christmas is right around the corner too.

This is one of my favorite scenes.

“May I have this dance, niña bonita.”

I put my hand in Cris’ and let him guide me around the makeshift dance floor set up in the tasting room.

“It was a beautiful wedding, don’t you agree?” I asked, resting my cheek against his shoulder.

“Beautiful bridesmaid too.”

“Your sister is glowing.” I wondered if he knew Alex was pregnant, or if anyone did. Several people here tonight probably suspected it, since neither she nor Maddox had anything more than sparkling water to drink.

“Tomorrow is Christmas,” Cris murmured. “Our first together.”

In the past, we’d talked about telling our families we couldn’t leave Palo Alto for one reason or another, just so we could spend one Christmas morning together, but neither of us had been able to go through with it.

“I guess we should decide what we’re going to do tomorrow…”

Cris smiled. “We’re going to sleep as late as we want to, take a walk on the beach, have breakfast—just the two of us—then, in the afternoon, we’ll visit both of our families.”

“Cris…I…uh…um…”

“Didn’t get me anything for Christmas?”

I hadn’t, but how did he always know what I was thinking?

We’d been broken up. Then after he came to the Kensey building last weekend, we’d only been apart when he was working or I was teaching, or finishing up my paperwork for the semester. I’d tried a couple of times to get something for him online, but nothing seemed right.

“I hope you didn’t get anything for me…”

“Just something little, Ains.” He leaned forward and brushed my lips with his. “You gave me the thing I wanted most already. The only thing I wanted.”

“I’m sorry I held out for so long.”

“Don’t be. What did I overhear Maddox say a couple of days ago? It’s over. Let’s move on.”

When the song we were dancing to ended, Cris led me over to where Alex and Maddox stood, talking with Peyton and Brodie, who held Kismet in his arms.

“She’s so beautiful, Brodie.” I kissed the baby’s head.

“I’d let you hold her, but you have two people in line ahead of you.”

I looked over and saw Peyton’s two sons from another marriage, Jamison and Finn, waiting patiently.

“Who won the toss to go next?” I asked.

Finn raised his hand in the air. “I did!”

“Because you cheated,” said Jamison.

“Did not.”

The older of the two shook his head. “It doesn’t matter. Even if I got to hold her first, you’d just be bugging me every five seconds for your turn anyway.”

“I doubt any of you ever argued over holding me.” I nudged Brodie, who shook his head, and then sat next to Finn, making sure he cradled his sister’s head and held her tight, but not too tight.

I leaned back, thinking it was Cris standing behind me, but Maddox rested his hands on my shoulders. I peeked at the ring on his left hand, then turned around and noticed Cris dancing with Alex.

“I like your ring.”

“Scottish thistle.”

I rolled my eyes. “Yes, Mad. I know.”

“Have you seen Al’s ring?”

I had, but until Alex pulled me aside to show it off, I hadn’t realized that the first time she saw it, was when my brother slipped it on her finger during the ceremony.

“I can’t believe you chose the same thing for each other, with neither of you knowing it.”

Alex’s ring had a Scottish thistle design as well, but far more elaborate than Mad’s. Hers was made of platinum, with one large diamond in the center and several smaller ones all around the band.

“You know why we never fought over holding you?” he asked.

“I was just joking, Maddox.”

“I’m not. It’s because Kade was always first. He’d spend hours sitting on the front porch, rocking you to sleep. Even after you’d closed your eyes, he’d still hold you. Ma would scold him, saying you’d never go to sleep on your own if he held you so much, but he ignored her.”

“He ignored Ma? You had me convinced until you added that, Maddox. Tell me the truth, did Kade even hold me once?”

“It’s true, lass,” said our mother, who I hadn’t realized was listening.

Right after Maddox asked our mother to dance, Naughton joined me, tweaking my cheek. “You look about a million times better than you did at the last wedding.”

“Thanks, Naught. I appreciate the compliment so much.”

“I heard you and Mad talking about Kade. I remember him holding you all the time.”

“I bet you weren’t second in line.”

I caught the flash of hurt on his face. “I’m sorry. That wasn’t funny.”

“I guess you owed me one since I just told you, you looked like shit at Brodie’s wedding.”

I slugged him. “You’re hysterical, Naughton.”

I watched Brodie help Finn hand the baby to his brother. “It’s sad, though, isn’t it?”

“What’s that, Ains?”

“That Kade isn’t here to see Maddox get married, just like he wasn’t at your wedding or Brodie’s.”

Naughton put his arm around me and kissed my forehead. “We all miss him, sweetheart.”
Slade, Heather. Christmas at Butler Ranch (Kindle Locations 558-604). Sparrow Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Of course things aren’t going to go totally smooth for Cris and Ainsley, she has doubts and he isn’t seeing things the way she is.

We learn a lot more about how Laird and Sorcha got together under some difficult circumstances.

Plenty of ups and downs, laughter, tears and surprises in this wonderful visit back to the Butler Ranch.

5 Contented Purrs for Heather!

Click the Cover for Buy Links and More!

Heather Slade

My books are filled with things that bring me joy: music, wine, skiing, families, artists, and cowboys. Not always in that order.

I’m an Amazon best-selling author, and a PAN member of Romance Writers of America. I speak, teach, blog, am an executive sommelier, and all-around entrepreneur.

I grew up an east coast girl, and then spent half my life on the west coast. Now my husband, our two boys, and I happily call Colorado home.

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