Her Mistletoe Cowboy (Forever, Texas)

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9780373755950: Her Mistletoe Cowboy (Forever, Texas)
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Second Chance Ranch with First-Rate Cowboy  

Kimberly Lee isn't sure what she'll find when she comes to Forever, Texas, to do a story on a groundbreaking program that could put this small town on the map. It certainly isn't the warm, friendly community that makes the roving reporter feel instantly at home. Or the accident that lays her up at Garrett White Eagle's ranch, where the blue-eyed rancher awakens feelings she long ago gave up. 

Giving people hope again is the goal of the healing ranch Garrett started with his brother. And the lovely, hardworking writer is no exception. Doesn't Kim realize how much good they can do—together? Her future is here with him. If she's willing to trust in a love that could fulfill the promise of forever.

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About the Author:

This USA TODAY bestselling and RITA Award-winning author has written more than two hundred books for Harlequin Books and Silhouette Books, some under the name Marie Nicole. Her romances are beloved by fans worldwide. Visit her website at www.marieferrarella.com.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

"Really? You're serious? Two weeks before Christmas and you're sending me to Siberia?" Kimberly Lee cried, appalled and stunned.

"Forever, Texas," Stan Saunders corrected her tranquilly.

The editor in chief of Western Times Magazine, as well as several other magazines that came under the Union-Post Publishing masthead, was known for his calm, almost monotone demeanor. He had a voice to match. It never rose above a certain level, no matter what was being said or how upset the person on the receiving end might be.

As was the case with Kim, who had asked to see the editor in chief in order to score an assignment for one of the magazines he oversaw. At the time she definitely hadn't set her sights on an article for Western Times Magazine, in her opinion the least sophisticated of the magazines in the array.

She'd grown more and more stunned as Stan described the article he wanted and the place that he was sending her to.

"Same thing," Kim complained. Grasping the armrests, she moved to the edge of the chair she'd taken in his glassenclosed office. "Look, I know I'm just a lowly freelance writer—"

"Yes, you are," Stan agreed all too readily, indicating that she had made her point for him.

Refusing to be deterred, Kim forged on. "But you've got to have some other story than this you want me to write."

She stopped just short of pleading, aware that Stan had no use for that sort of tactic. She'd been writing for Stan for a little over a year now, coming in twice a month to see what sort of articles were up for grabs. Each magazine had its own small in-house stable of writers. The slack was taken up by freelance writers who were eager, like her, to prove their worth while earning extra pocket money. Most stitched together a living—if that was their goal rather than just some additional income—by making the rounds to various publishers, as well as haunting blogoriented websites.

"No, I don't," Stan told her. "It's either this, or come back in a couple of weeks."

She sighed. "I don't have a couple of weeks. My rent check is due now—not to mention that in a couple of weeks, it'll be Christmas and last year, there was nothing to be had," she reminded him.

There was just a hint of concern on the crusty, bald man's face as he asked, "Can't hit up Mom and Dad for the money?"

Kim knew he was aware of her backstory. At least, as much as she'd told to him. Whether or not he remembered it, given how many writers he dealt with, was another matter.

Giving him the benefit of the doubt, she pretended he remembered. "And have them look at me with pity in their eyes?" She shook her head emphatically. "I'd rather die first."

Stan inclined his head, conceding the point. "Fair enough. How about those two successful sisters of yours? Didn't you tell me they were surgeons or something like that? They must have money they can lend their little sister."

Monica and Maureen would have more than readily given her the money she needed, but they were like her parents, convinced that she should have done something better with her life and if nothing else, should now be running, not walking, to the nearest university to enroll and get herself on track for a real career, not one that was grounded in make-believe.

That was how her whole family viewed her career path—chasing after make-believe.

More than anything, ever since she could remember, she had dreamed of being a writer, an important writer who would someday write that one book people would always remember. Not for a week, or a month, but one that would live on through the decades, a book that would make a real difference to people.

In the meantime, she had resigned herself to the fact that she had bills to pay, so any work she could get as a freelance writer had to make do for now.

Almost any work, she silently amended. There had to be something else, some other article that didn't involve sagebrush and horses and brawny, uneducated cowboys.

"See the above answer," Kim quipped regarding asking her sisters for help.

Stan believed in being helpful, but only up to a point. That point did not include fabricating work for his writers, even if he had come to secretly like their spirit, and Kim was nothing if not the embodiment of that old-fashioned term, spunk.

"Well, unless you have a rich sugar daddy tucked away somewhere, or are planning on selling your soul to the devil by midnight to keep that old wolf from the door, I'd say you'd better get busy, pack up your go-bag and book a flight to Laredo."

"Laredo?" she repeated, confused. "I thought you said that I was going to some place in Texas called Farewell."

"Forever," Stan corrected patiently. "And your hearing's good. You are."

She didn't get it. "If I'm going to Forever, why am I flying to Laredo?"

"Simple," he told her. "Forever doesn't have an airport. You're going to have to rent a car and drive the rest of the way. Keep your receipts," he advised. "There's a little extra in petty cash. I'll see what I can do about reimbursing you for some of that."

This was beginning to sound better and better, she thought, exasperated.

"Do they have indoor plumbing?" she asked. She was only half kidding.

Stan never cracked a smile. "So I hear." He raised his deep-set eyes to hers. "I also hear they've built a hotel."

Why was he telling her that? "Is there something unusual about it?"

Thin, bony shoulders rose and fell beneath a light gray shirt that appeared to have been slept in at least a couple of times. "Not that I know."

Okay, she still wasn't enlightened about the point of this conversation.

"Then why are you...?" And then it hit her. "Wait, you don't mean that they didn't have hotels there before this one."

This time, he did allow a small smile to edge out. "That's exactly what I mean."

"What kind of a hellhole is this place?" she cried.

"The kind of hellhole where kids whose parents think there's no reaching them get turned around and become the decent people they were always meant to be." The editor paused for a long moment, as if silently debating something with himself. Finally, in the same low-key voice he always used, he said, "My nephew, Jordy, is there."

Kim's dark brown eyes widened. He'd told her it was a sort of reformatory school with horses. That meant his nephew was one of those troubled delinquents he'd mentioned.

"I'm so sorry." She assumed that would be the response Stan was expecting.

But the editor surprised her by saying, "Don't be. That place is the best thing that could have happened to him." The most genuine smile she'd ever seen was curving Stan's lips as he went on to tell her, "My sister Paula said Jordy actually called home last week. Told me he sounded more like himself than he had in the last three years. She was crying those ridiculous happy tears at the time, the ones that you women use to confuse men.

"A place that can do that for a kid, for a family," he went on to say, "well, other people deserve to know about it." He grew very serious now as he looked at her. "You want to do an important story? This is an important story," he told her with emphasis. "Go do it and do it right." It was more of an order than an instruction. "You do a good enough job, then we'll talk about where your career could go with the magazines I edit when you get back."

She warned herself not to get excited. There was always a downside to everything. She just hadn't heard all of it yet. "Is that anything like dangling a carrot in front of me?"

"Carrot?" Stan echoed. He permitted himself a dismissive snort. "More like the whole damn bushel. Open your eyes, Lee, and take in the whole picture. I'm giving you a chance here."

Kim tightened her hands on the armrests and pushed herself up to her feet. She knew Stan. She wasn't going to get a better offer no matter how much she battered him. It was up to her to turn what really sounded like a fluff piece to her into something golden. "Then I guess I'm off," she told him.

The phone on his desk was ringing. Stan covered the receiver with his wide, spidery hand, waiting to pick it up.

"Yes, you are," he acknowledged just before he picked up the receiver.

This wasn't just another state, Kim thought as she drove the compact tan Toyota she'd rented at the airport, it was another world. Some parallel universe that perversely coexisted beside the modern, sophisticated one to which she had not only been born, but where she thrived and definitely preferred being.

San Francisco had been home to her for all of her twenty-eight years, and while some of the people she knew claimed to actively love "getting away from it all" by doing things like going camping and hiking in the mountains, the thought of being somewhere where sidewalks were only a theory, not a genuine fact of life, seemed somehow barbaric to her.

Even in her teens, she had never had a desire to be "one with the earth" or to even mildly pretend to be "roughing it." To her, roughing it meant doing without her cell phone or her laptop for half a day and even that made her feel more than vaguely uncomfortable, as if she had lost her hold on civilization, her connection to the outside world.

Which was what she was beginning to feel as she traveled down what she supposed amounted to a two-lane road to this town that seemed to mean so much to Saunders. A town that some of the maps didn't even have listed.

Kim could feel a sense of desperation beginning to build up within her.

"Brigadoon, Stan is sending me to Brigadoon," she muttered under her breath, thinking of the village in the musical revival her mother had all but dragged her to when she was only about nine.

Looking back, she recalled that her mother was always trying to infuse a love of music and culture into her three daughters. Monica and Maureen had lapped it up. She remembered feeling that a play about a town that popped up every hundred years for a day's time before disappearing again was dumb, not to mention scary. Her mother had called her hopeless; her father had come to her defense, calling her a free thinker. But eventually, even he had given up on her.

Both her parents, she knew, wanted her to "be somebody." Her sisters had both followed their example, or at least their father's example. David Lee was a well-respected neurosurgeon at the prestigious UCSF Medical Center and each of her sisters had their own surgical specialties and enjoyed surgery privileges at the same hospital, making her father exceedingly proud.

Her mother was a law professor at the University of San Francisco. Her classes were always in demand. Which made her, with her BA in Liberal Arts—emphasis on English—the official black sheep of the family.

"You'd think, with an Asian-American father and a mother whose grandparents hailed from Ireland and Scotland, and came here eager to make something of themselves in their adopted county, you'd have some real drive, some kind of ambition to become someone," her mother had lamented when she had informed her parents that she was not applying to either medical school or law school.

Well, she had drive. Only her drive just happened to be in another direction than her parents and sisters had taken.

A drive that was stalling, Kim thought in disgust, with this detour to write a story about a town that was barely a visible dot on the map.

She would have been tempted to say that Stan had made the whole thing up, playing some really bizarre belated April Fool's prank on her two weeks before Christmas—except that she had actually managed to find the damn hole-in-the-wall on her GPS when she'd gotten into the car she'd rented at the airport.

The airport at Laredo had been all right, she supposed. Nothing like what she was used to in San Francisco, but compared to what she was looking at now on her way to Forever, the airport seemed like an absolute Shangri-la.

How did people survive in places like this? And why would they even want to if they had to live out their whole lives here? Kim couldn't help wondering. There were miles and miles of miles and miles, nothing else in either direction.

All she knew was that if she'd been born in a place like this, she would have saved every dime she could and the moment she graduated high school, she would have been gone—maybe even before then if the opportunity presented itself—but definitely the second she graduated.

There was nothing out here except for desolation, with an occasional ranch thrown in between, but she hadn't even seen one of those for an hour now.

People who lived in this part of the country probably looked like dried-up, wrinkled prunes by the time they were thirty-five, she estimated, glancing up toward the sky through her windshield.

Not wanting to usher in the dust, she had her windows rolled up and soon discovered that it was warm in her car. The weather down here was a lot warmer than she was accustomed to this time of year. She shouldn't have wasted her time packing heavy sweaters and jackets, she thought.

You shouldn't have wasted your time coming here at all, a nagging voice in her head that sounded suspiciously like her sister, Monica, whispered to her. Mom and Dad would have been more than happy to lend you the money—or better yet, have you move back into the house. It's way too big for just the two of them.

Great, now she was hearing voices. More specifically, Monica's voice.

That was all she needed, to get heatstroke out here, Kim thought in exasperation. Next, she would start hallucinating.

Damn it, she should have held out. There had to be some other story on Stan's docket, something she could have worked on that was a lot closer to home than this. Union-Post Publishing owned a theater magazine, didn't it? Stan could have easily sent her to do some puff piece on the new theater season that was coming next fall. Anything other than this Sagebrush Cowboys Save Troubled Teens thing he wanted her to write.

With every passing minute, she grew more irritable.

She should have stood her ground and dug in. Now it was too late and she was stuck out here. Stuck going to some stupid town called Farewell, or Forever, or Four Miles From Nowhere—

Kim's eyes widened as she stared at the small rectangular screen on the dashboard that had, until a moment ago, been her GPS monitoring unit.

Except now it wasn't.

It wasn't anything.

The screen had gone blank. Desperate, Kim hit the blank screen with the heel of her hand, trying to make it come around. It remained blank.

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Book Description Harlequin, 2015. Paperback. Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. Second Chance Ranch with First-Rate Cowboy Kimberly Lee isn t sure what she ll find when she comes to Forever, Texas, to do a story on a groundbreaking program that could put this small town on the map. It certainly isn t the warm, friendly community that makes the roving reporter feel instantly at home. Or the accident that lays her up at Garrett White Eagle s ranch, where the blue-eyed rancher awakens feelings she long ago gave up. Giving people hope again is the goal of the healing ranch Garrett started with his brother. And the lovely, hardworking writer is no exception. Doesn t Kim realize how much good they can dotogether? Her future is here with him. If she s willing to trust in a love that could fulfill the promise of forever. Seller Inventory # BRD9780373755950

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Book Description Harlequin, 2015. Paperback. Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. Second Chance Ranch with First-Rate Cowboy Kimberly Lee isn t sure what she ll find when she comes to Forever, Texas, to do a story on a groundbreaking program that could put this small town on the map. It certainly isn t the warm, friendly community that makes the roving reporter feel instantly at home. Or the accident that lays her up at Garrett White Eagle s ranch, where the blue-eyed rancher awakens feelings she long ago gave up. Giving people hope again is the goal of the healing ranch Garrett started with his brother. And the lovely, hardworking writer is no exception. Doesn t Kim realize how much good they can dotogether? Her future is here with him. If she s willing to trust in a love that could fulfill the promise of forever. Seller Inventory # BRD9780373755950

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