Rhonda Lee Carver
A fake marriage will set a Texas holiday on fire…
Sadie Locke has always been great at giving her friends relationship advice, but when it comes to her own love life not so much. She and Channing decide a friends-with-benefits relationship will work perfectly…
Until, they get married—fake married—so that she can protect a secret she’s kept for fifteen years.
Channing Dawson has life just the way he likes it. His business is thriving. And he and Sadie have a no-strings “friendlationship”. What more could a man want?
Then she goes and pulls a fast one by making him her husband. Pretend or not, the rules change. He isn’t sure about having a holiday bride, until he realizes he doesn’t have a cold heart after all. He could get used to sharing Christmas with Sadie, but does she feel the same? Her secrets, and she has plenty, might ruin any chance they have for a future.
Sadie and Channing have long had a friend with benefits relationship. Neither one really wants it to go further than that although they both have so much in common aside from the physical.
Sadie has been trying to adopt her cousin’s daughter Ruby. Her cousin Dorothy has agreed to this however she keeps putting stipulations on the adoption. It’s a text from Dorothy that ruins her good mood after waking up in Channing’s arms that morning. She can’t help but wonder what’s next.
Although Dorothy hints at yet another stipulation, she refuses to elaborate. Instead, she says she’ll talk to the lawyer involved.
While Sadie is dealing with Dorothy, Channing hits the diner for a breakfast he shouldn’t have. Having been diagnosed with a heart condition the year before his family has been all about healthier eating habits. He spends some time with his friend Keef but his demeanor changes when Sadie walks in with a man he doesn’t recognize. It was truly interesting when he follows Sadie to the rest room.
It’s a couple of days later when Sadie has Ruby at the park that she finds out what Dorothy’s latest demand is. Her attorney Leah shows up to tell her since she didn’t want to tell this over the phone. This latest is by far the most difficult, it seems Dorothy will sign the adoption papers once Sadie is married.
Dorothy is an addict and although she’s been doing better, her daughter Ruby needs far more stability in her life. Sadie is willing to do anything for Ruby, even get married. The question is who will she marry? There’s only one answer in her mind.
This is a favorite scene.
Sadie knew in her heart she’d be willing to do anything, marry anyone…
Her cell phone buzzed, and she read the screen. Channing had sent her a message.
“Are we seeing each other tonight?”
She started to put away her phone when a thought came to her, then she tapped into the keyboard… “Are you at the ranch? I have a friend who loves horses. Can we drop by?”
A minute later, he answered, “Sure.”
Sadie didn’t have time to think over her actions, but at that moment she had an idea.
Channing was almost asleep in the hammock hung from the branches of an old shade tree, his hat pulled low over his eyes, when he heard tires crunch on the gravel. He pushed up the rim of the Stetson and slitted one eye. Sadie. He’d been taken by surprise when she asked if she could stop by the ranch with a friend.
Slowly standing, he stretched his arms high above his head and watched her slide out of the driver’s side. She looked good enough to eat. The low neckline of the tank showed off the tops of her breasts that jiggled with each step. He felt a stirring behind his zipper that disappeared the instant he saw her company. A pint-sized girl with pigtails and a smile that revealed missing teeth.
“Hey there, Channing,” Sadie said as she approached.
The girl stopped short when she saw him, and her smile faded some. He didn’t know a lot of kids, but most liked him.
“So, who do we have here?” He adjusted his hat higher on his forehead.
“This is my friend, Ruby, who loves horses.”
The old Blue Heelers jumped up from their resting spots in the grass and sauntered their way to the girl. Her smile quickly returned.
“Hello, Ruby.” Channing hadn’t seen the dogs this energetic in over a year.
She shyly looked up at him and continued petting both dogs, one for each hand. “I like your dogs.”
“It appears Jimmy Shu and Jinx like you too.”
“Ruby, this is my friend, Channing. He owns many horses,” Sadie said.
“Are you a cowboy?” Ruby’s voice was so soft he had to strain to hear it.
“I like your hat.” Ruby stood and wiped her hands on her jeans. That’s when he saw the prominent scar on her cheek, but he made sure he didn’t stare. “Can I ride a horse?”
“Well, we have one rule ‘round here. If you are going to get on the back of one of the horses, you must be first inducted into the cowboys of the round table.” The little girl just stared. He slipped off his hat and dropped it on her tiny head, but the pigtails kept it from slipping over her face. “Looks like my hat’s a bit too big, but it’ll do for a moment.”
“How do I get to be at the table?” Her eyes were wide and twinkling. Her mouth was thin.
“It’s not an actual table, but more like an idea, or promise, that you’ll always uphold the code of honor of cowboys and cowgirls all over the land. You must swear to be kind and helpful to every horse you meet because they’ll be loyal to you.”
“Can I swear, Sadie? Can I be a cowgirl?” She practically jumped out of her untied tennis shoes.
“You can be anything you want to be.” Sadie gave her a hug.
“I’m allowed,” Ruby squealed, all signs of the shy girl gone.
“First, we need to fix these. Can you tie your own shoes?” The girl gave a sharp shake of her head. “Watch closely.” He knelt and tied her frayed shoestrings. He stayed on his knees, at her eye level. “Now, place your right hand over your heart and repeat after me. I, Ruby, promise to be kind and helpful to all horses forever and a day.”
She repeated the vow, focusing hard on each word.
“Let’s bump fists on that.” Her fist was so tiny compared to his. “And now I bequeath you an honorary cowgirl.” He took his hat back, pressed it down on his head and stood.
“Can I ride now? Can I?” Ruby squirmed.
Channing looked over at Sadie who had a mysterious moisture in her eyes. “Is that okay? Can I put her on a horse?”
“If you have the time.” There was a breathlessness to her tone.
“I have all the time in the world for an honorary member. Come on, Ruby. Let’s go saddle up a horse.” He took a step toward the barn, and she slipped her hand into his. He felt a hitch in his chest. Obviously, the child had been through something that no kid should ever experience. Not only did she have the visible wound on her face, but she walked with a limp too.
Inside the barn, he asked one of the hands to saddle Nellie, the oldest, tamest horse on the ranch. Channing wasn’t sure if Ruby would be scared at first and Nellie was always aware of who was on her back.
When the horse was brought around, Channing scratched her behind the ears. “Ruby, meet Nellie. She’s been here at Dawson Creek for almost twenty years.”
“Can I pet her?” Ruby asked reverently.
Hearing a noise behind them, he looked at Sadie and she mouthed, “Thank you.”
After an hour of leading Nellie around with a smiling Ruby in the saddle, he led them into the corral, then helped the girl down.
“Did we have to stop?” Ruby whined.
“For now, yes.” Channing handed the horse off to the waiting stable hand.
As if she let the idea go completely, she raced out of the enclosure and ran to the dogs sprawled out under the shade tree. Channing joined Sadie where she sat on the bench swing, using her toes to rock back and forth.
“I can’t thank you enough,” she said once he sat down.
He hooked his hat on his bent knee. “Something tells me that little girl has been through hell and back.”
“A car accident a little over six months ago.” There was a pause long enough for Sadie to wave at Ruby. “Her mother was driving and a truck T-boned them. Everyone survived, barely.”
Shifting so he could look at Sadie’s profile, he sensed an underlying tension in her. He scratched the whiskers on his jaw. “She’s welcome anytime. She’s a natural in the saddle.”
A silence fell over them until Sadie finally said, “I have something I want to speak to you about. Actually, ask you. It’s a big favor.”
“I already told you I’d help with the committee.”
“I need a husband, Chan, and I need one fast.”
Rhonda Lee Carver. All Cowboy and a Holiday Bride (Kindle Locations 559-614).
Channing is more than a little stunned with Sadie’s declaration of needing a husband fast. He needs a bit of time to think, this is more than a huge favor.
Channing is also going to change the rules on Sadie. This is where things not only become fun they also get complicated.
Holiday fun, heartrending truths and plenty of romance and sizzle!
5 Contented Purrs for Rhonda!
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Rhonda Lee Carver is a published book writer with a collection of print and eBooks under her wing. She is also a freelance editor. Her first book was published with Wild Rose Press in 2010.
She writes everything from contemporary to steamy to paranormal to suspense…you name it, she’s written it. Her specialty is writing men who love to get their hands dirty—hardworking, blue collar, heroes in everyday life.
When Rhonda isn’t crafting edge-of-your-seat, sizzling novels, you’ll find her with her children and husband watching soccer, watching a breathtaking movie, traveling to exotic places (with Bora Bora on her bucket list), doing (or trying) yoga, saving cats and dogs, and finding new ways to keep life interesting.
Rhonda thrives on making her readers happy. She believes life can be a challenge, but reading is a place where fantasy comes to life. Her motto: “Everyone deserves romance—one page at a time.“