A Christmas Wedding for the Cowboy (Harlequin American Romance)

 
9780373755974: A Christmas Wedding for the Cowboy (Harlequin American Romance)

HAVE WEDDING, NEED BRIDE! 

Wedding planner Zoe Smart is getting a reputation for being a jinx. The worst part is, the rumors may be true. Zoe's last two brides bailed on their grooms, so she really needs cowboy Carson Grant's wedding to go off without a hitch, aside from the one in her heart every time they meet. 

Though Carson knows he has to tell Zoe the wedding's canceled, he doesn't want to give the town's wagging tongues more fodder. Besides, Carson is having way more fun planning a nonexistent wedding with Zoe than he ever did planning his real one. But time is running out to tell the truth. Will Carson's ruse charm Zoe's romantic spirit, or will their love be jinxed from the start?

"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.

About the Author:

Mary Leo grew up in a big Italian family in South Chicago. She now lives in Las Vegas with her husband where she enjoys writing for the Harlequin American line and is busy working on her next book. You can read more about Mary at www.maryleo.com where you can sign up for her newsletter and learn about her upcoming books and events. You can also find her on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/maryleoauthor

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Carson Grant emerged from yet another sleepless night with one thought on his mind: Marilyn Rose Connor, his fiancée, had called off their wedding. Not only was his body bruised and battered from the bronc riding accident in the arena, which almost killed Barney, a rodeo clown who had tried to save him, but now his heart had been hung out to dry.

He'd known things hadn't been good between him and Marilyn Rose for months. But he thought they could work it out, talk it over, see a counselor or, at the very least, argue.

Apparently, that wasn't what Marilyn Rose had thought. She wanted it over, plain and simple. No talks. No therapy, and under no circumstances would she argue. Going over the past two years of their love affair, he couldn't remember one moment when she'd fought with him over anything. Even when he'd forgotten their anniversary and inadvertently stood her up for dinner at some fancy restaurant in Las Vegas.

When he'd finally caught up with her, she'd merely pouted for a few minutes and let it go.

He had expected a bit of fire, a few harsh words, a verbal slap, but Marilyn Rose didn't believe in arguments of any kind. She viewed an argument as a failure in the relationship and therefore under no circumstances would she fall into the trap of angry words.

Carson had mustered up a few of those angry words last night when, cool as a breeze coming off a snowcapped mountain, she'd handed him his engagement ring, which he had refused to accept. Instead of lashing out or pleading like a puppy dog, he'd left her sitting at a table inside Sammy's Smokehouse at the edge of town and somehow managed to walk the five blocks home, in the icy snow, alone, totally dependent on his cane to see him through. She'd followed him, calling out to him to please get in her car, but eventually, after he ignored her pleas the entire way, she drove off right before he opened his front door.

"Dang fool," he mumbled to himself.

Carson rolled over on his back and stared up at the blank ceiling wondering why he'd never taken the time to do something interesting to all that emptiness. When he was a kid, he'd taped every poster he could find of his favorite saddle bronc rider or bull rider or generic rodeo flyer on his bedroom ceiling. He'd spend hours lying on his bed, staring up at the rodeo stars, dreaming of the day when he'd be one of them. Why was it that when you grew up posters on your bedroom ceiling became taboo? Who made up the adult rules, and why? He would have liked to stare at something right now other than white nothingness. To be able to focus on something positive instead of all the negative crap that spun around in his head, keeping him from thinking straight and keeping him from sleeping.

He blew out a sigh and shoved a hand under his head, realizing that posters of saddle bronc riders would only make him more stressed right now, especially if they were of him, which was one of the reasons why he rented this house in town. The walls at his parents' ranch house were littered with framed photos of his rides, his awards and his "promising future" as a saddle bronc rider from the time he'd won his first buckle to just before his last ride.

He stopped himself from musing any further. He wasn't going to think about that last ride. Not now. Not this morning when he'd just been dumped with less than a month to go before his wedding. Couldn't she have called it off before they'd sent out the invitations? Before all those people had started sending gifts?

At least she dumped your butt before you were standing at the altar waiting for her to happily walk down the aisle.

He thought about his sister Kayla's wedding day and what a fiasco that had turned out to be, and decided this was probably some kind of cosmic payback...that he fully deserved. He still felt bad for Jimmy Bartley.

"Poor sap probably never saw it coming."

At the time, Carson had been focused on his sister's misery and her not wanting to go through with the wedding. Now, after being dumped, he knew exactly what Jimmy Bartley had felt: total humiliation.

He knew his sisters could change their minds on a dime, but he'd never thought any one of them would actually change her mind minutes before one of the biggest decisions of her life.

But then this wasn't the first potential marriage for Kayla. He'd been the one who'd rescued her out of the first one, as well. Seemed he did a lot of rescuing for his sisters over the years. Probably more than his fair share. And where did it get him?

"Dumped by your fiancée, that's where," he said out loud.

He could use a little rescuing right about now.

Unfortunately, he knew he wasn't the type to accept it or he'd be recovering comfortably at home with his mom and sisters doting on him day and night.

The mere thought of all those women bringing him food and fussing over his battered body was way too much for him to think about much less allow. Nope, he'd much rather be sulking on his own until he could figure out his next step. He didn't want or need anyone's care, apparently not even his own fiancée's.

Careful to not sit up too quickly, he slid out of bed with deliberate care. His head still wasn't right from the concussion he'd suffered, and he was sure his shoulder would never be the same after the torn rotator cuff and broken collarbone. Even though his doctors had assured him he'd be as good as new in a few months, Carson realized "good as new" wasn't in the cards for him. Not this time. He'd suffered a lot of injuries since he'd started the rodeo circuit, but none had been this devastating. His ribs still ached from having been cracked, and if he tried to put all his weight on his left leg, the pain in his thigh would sometimes bring him to tears. His thigh bone had been cracked in four places, and if it wasn't for the metal rod that held it all together, he probably wouldn't be able to walk.

But none of that mattered this morning.

What mattered was that Marilyn Rose had come all the way to Briggs, Idaho, right before the Vegas Nationals, where she was a shoo-in to win a buckle and a substantial purse for barrel racing, to extinguish the only light that still burned in his otherwise bleak life.

"At least she'd had the decency to tell me to my face," he said as he slipped on a robe over his T-shirt and pj bottoms to keep warm in the chilly, essentially empty house.

He'd rented the two-bedroom bungalow a couple months back thinking he and Marilyn Rose would furnish it together, would call it home for the next year or two when they weren't on the road pursuing championships to keep their dreams alive. Unfortunately, Marilyn Rose had never stepped one foot into his house and even last night she'd insisted they meet at a restaurant.

He should have known something was up as soon as she'd suggested Sammy's, but he'd been so excited that she was finally flying in for a visit that he hadn't considered anything other than a heart-to-heart conversation on how they could make their relationship work.

"Dang romantic chump," he mumbled as he made his way out to the kitchen, rubbing his two-day-old beard while walking past the stacked wedding presents that had begun to arrive on a daily basis. He'd opened the outer boxes on a few of them, but hadn't unwrapped anything. Now there they sat as a reminder of his failed attempt at love.

He really needed that first cup of strong black tea and a dose of his drugs to ease the pain that still racked his body.

He'd stopped taking heavy pain meds about a month ago, replacing them with over-the-counter types that at least allowed him to move around freely. He wondered if he could find something on the drugstore shelves to help ease his broken heart...or was it more his broken ego? Nothing made much sense anymore. It was almost as if his emotions had somehow gotten tangled up with his physical discomfort and he could no longer tell which was hurting more.

The doorbell rang before he could get to the kitchen and instead of answering it he proceeded to his destination, put the teakettle on, poured a glass of orange juice and dumped out his pills on the cluttered counter. He wasn't much for keeping things tidy and had hired a cleaning service to come in once a week to manage the place, which seemed to make him only more careless.

Ding-dong.

He figured either it had to be another wedding present being delivered by an energetic UPS driver, or it might be Sal Hastings ringing his doorbell. Sal was his eighty-two-year-old neighbor who liked to drop by to remind him they needed to clear the fresh snow from the sidewalks and walkways out front. Whenever even one snowflake fell, Sal revved up the old snowblower and proceeded to clear off the entire block. Carson had no choice but to help him. If Sal collapsed blowing snow off his walkway, Carson would never forgive himself. Besides, Sal had been a rock to him while he'd been recuperating. He hoped it wasn't more snow; he couldn't be loopy while handling machinery with a senior citizen in tow. He'd tried it once and nearly ran over Sal's right foot. Ding-dong.

"I'll be right there," he yelled at the closed door. He glanced out through the sheer curtains on the front windows and didn't see the familiar brown UPS truck, which meant that Sal was ringing the bell. Problem was, he really didn't want to deal with Sal this morning. He needed time to brood and feel sorry for himself. The thought of conversing with another human being was like a heavy weight bearing down on his shoulders. He hoped Sal would somehow get the telepathic message, lose interest and go away.

Unfortunately, Sal, being a determined, persnickety senior, was now knocking on Carson's door. Quick little jabs of noise sparked through his already-aching head, causing him more pain than he wanted to suffer.

So much for Sal's foot.

He downed his medication and the juice, pulled in a deep breath and headed for the front door, hoping Sal would be scared off by his disheveled look and ornery disposition. The snow could wait this morning, at least until he'd had his tea.

He yanked open the door ready to tell Sal he wasn't in the mood to clean sidewalks, but standing in front of him, with two feet of snow piled up on the walkway behind her, flashing those innocent, pure brown doe eyes of hers, was Zoe Smart, his wedding planner. She looked all warm and cozy wearing a white knit hat over long fire-colored waves that cascaded down the front of a tan quilted jacket. Her tight jeans clung to every curve, while high chunky gray boots warded off the cold and snow.

He wished now he'd never opened the door. Granted, she was pleasant to look at on this dark and gloomy morning; however, this cowboy wanted nothing to do with her, and especially her wedding plans.

She gave him a once-over, an eyebrow went up, and he could tell she wasn't happy with his appearance, but then he wasn't too happy with hers, either. What was she doing knocking on his door so early in the morning looking so perky and organized and, well, cute as a button?

"We had an appointment at ten o'clock today," she said, sounding much too chipper for his dour disposition. "Your fiancée made it about two months ago. I confirmed it with her last week. We were supposed to go over the final details of your wedding. If this is a bad time, I can—"

"Wait. What time is it? Are you early or am I late? And why didn't anyone tell me the meeting would be at my house?"

He'd last seen Zoe Smart when she'd been waiting for his sister Kayla in front of St. Paul's. He had driven his sister to the church, as he'd promised Zoe the night before at the rehearsal dinner, but when it came time for Kayla to get out of his SUV, she wouldn't budge.

The whole way to the church, he'd tried to convince her that Jimmy Bartley was her soul mate, but Kayla would have none of it. He'd learned long ago that once his baby sister made up her mind, nothing short of divine intervention was going to change it.

He clearly remembered Zoe's stunned expression when he'd driven away that morning with the bride still sitting in the backseat of his SUV, sobbing uncontrollably. In fact, he hadn't been able to stop watching the wedding planner in his rearview mirror, noticing her shoulders slump, and her head moving from side to side in disbelief. It was almost as if their gazes were one in that frozen moment. Suddenly he wasn't sure whom he felt worse for, his confused sister, Jimmy Bartley—patiently waiting at the altar inside the church for his beautiful bride—or their wedding planner. He knew Kayla had put Zoe Smart through hell changing her mind at least five times about every little detail.

Since that horrible day, he had deliberately steered clear of Zoe and made up excuses to his fiancée as to why he couldn't attend any of the meetings about their wedding. If he'd known about the meeting today, he would have done something to get out of it. Yet here he was, staring at Zoe Smart standing in his doorway.

Whatever Marilyn Rose and Zoe planned for the wedding had always been fine with him. Carson had simply nodded and agreed whenever he was asked a question. The wedding details were his fiancée's responsibility. His job was planning the honeymoon.

Damn. He'd made the final payment and confirmed their two-week Hawaiian trip just last week.

"In order," Zoe began, "it's now past noon, so you're extremely late and in the realm of standing me up. I don't usually make house calls unless I'm invited, which I was not. However, I tried calling you, but you didn't pick up. Also, I couldn't leave a message, because you've reached your limit on your cell phone. You should really take care of that. It's annoying to your callers. I tried texting, and again no reply. You left me no alternative. You and your fiancée have to decide on your flowers for the church today or you might not be able to get what you want." She paused a moment as if considering his appearance and foul mood. "But again, if this is inconvenient for you, I can try to hold the florist off for another day or so."

"About this title" may belong to another edition of this title.

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Book Description Harlequin, United States, 2015. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. HAVE WEDDING, NEED BRIDE! Wedding planner Zoe Smart is getting a reputation for being a jinx. The worst part is, the rumors may be true. Zoe s last two brides bailed on their grooms, so she really needs cowboy Carson Grant s wedding to go off without a hitch, aside from the one in her heart every time they meet. Though Carson knows he has to tell Zoe the wedding s canceled, he doesn t want to give the town s wagging tongues more fodder. Besides, Carson is having way more fun planning a nonexistent wedding with Zoe than he ever did planning his real one. But time is running out to tell the truth. Will Carson s ruse charm Zoe s romantic spirit, or will their love be jinxed from the start?. Bookseller Inventory # BRD9780373755974

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Book Description Harlequin, United States, 2015. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. HAVE WEDDING, NEED BRIDE! Wedding planner Zoe Smart is getting a reputation for being a jinx. The worst part is, the rumors may be true. Zoe s last two brides bailed on their grooms, so she really needs cowboy Carson Grant s wedding to go off without a hitch, aside from the one in her heart every time they meet. Though Carson knows he has to tell Zoe the wedding s canceled, he doesn t want to give the town s wagging tongues more fodder. Besides, Carson is having way more fun planning a nonexistent wedding with Zoe than he ever did planning his real one. But time is running out to tell the truth. Will Carson s ruse charm Zoe s romantic spirit, or will their love be jinxed from the start?. Bookseller Inventory # BRD9780373755974

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