I grew up in southern California right along the coast where the weather varied minimally from a calm 72 degrees. I think that is why I appreciate having the four seasons in my life now that I live in the Midwest. As a child, my family would take day-trips to the back country of San Diego to hike and picnic among the falling leaves and snow. It was always fun.
My Christmas story, Dance With A Cowboy in the Wild West Christmas Anthology takes place there in the fictional town of Clear Springs in the Cuyamaca mountains. This story won the 2015 Holt Medallion Award of Merit. (And if I do say so myself–has a very sigh-worthy hero!) At the end of the excerpt you’ll find how to enter the giveaway!
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Excerpt ~ Dance With A Cowboy
Garrett held the door open and followed her out into the late afternoon light that filtered through the pines. They stood for a moment, staring at each other. He was taller than she remembered…taller than Josh. And where Josh’s nose had tilted up in a friendly fashion, Garrett’s was straight as a knife’s blade. He didn’t say a word, just turned and started down the boardwalk.
She supposed walking—and talking—would be easier than standing still and looking at each other in an awkward attempt at normality. Although her legs ached from standing all day, she fell into step. They headed away from the mill. The sound of the saw’s constant whirring lessened even as the buzz of nervous energy inside her began to build. Their footsteps grew louder on the boards, emphasizing their lack of conversation.
At the corner he stopped.
“We could sit.” He tilted his chin toward the bench in front of the hotel.
“I’d like that.” Stilted. Proper.
They crossed the street and he waited while she settled herself. He didn’t sit, but leaned against the post that supported the small overhang to the hotel’s front entrance. To anyone passing by it looked like a casual meeting, but the sharpness of his gaze belied that. She drew in a deep breath, filling her lungs with the scent of the crisp mountain air. “I’ve missed the smell of the pines. It’s different on the coast. Salt in the air. Brine.”
He raised his chin slightly in acknowledgement. Small lines fanned out at the corners of his eyes, yet she doubted with Garrett that the lines were from laughing.
“So you’re back.”
She nodded, pasted on a bright smile.
“With my daughter.”
“Josh’s daughter,” he murmured. The lines deepened between his dark brows. “You named her Lily?”
“After my grandmother.” He should know this, she’d sent a note after the birth. “She is five now.”
“Why did you come back?”
It was more a challenge than a question. She’d been asked the same thing half a dozen times since her return, but now the answer sounded too simple, even to her own ears. “I wanted Lily to grow up here.”
He seemed to turn her words over in his mind.
She stiffened her spine. She wasn’t about to blurt out all that had really gone on—the snide comments questioning Lily’s parentage. The suggestive glances and remarks from men who thought she was lonely. Her parents’ constant disappointment in her, in Lily.
“The memories are still here,” he said.
Meaning Josh. Those memories. She relaxed slightly. “I have good memories from growing up here—the schoolhouse, swimming in the lake. It’s a good place to raise a child.”
Again, he seemed to consider her answer, looking past the surface of her words. He’d always done that, even when they’d been younger. Her gaze drifted to his lips, remembering her very first kiss and how sweet and gentle it had been. So different from his brother. She frowned, upset at the comparison. She’d come here to move on with her life, not to dwell in the past.
She stood, gathered her shawl closer around her and moved to the edge of the porch. “I’d better go. Sue is in a tizzy getting ready for the season.”
He straightened and moved away from the post. “I’ll walk you back.”
Always the gentleman. He hadn’t changed in that regard.
“It’s not necessary. I’ll see myself back to the bakery.” She started down the steps to the street.
“When can I see Lily?”
She stopped. She’d been expecting the request, but she wasn’t ready to share her daughter. “Another time.”
“I don’t get into town very often. I can wait until you’re done working.”
“No!” It came out fast—unthinkingly—without tact.
His eyes narrowed. “Do you want to explain why not?”
“I need to prepare her first.”
“Prepare her! What the heck for?”
She raised her chin. “Other than my great-aunt Molly, Lily has no idea she has relatives here.” Before he could say another word, she turned and hurried away.
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Wild West Christmas ~ Dance with a Cowboy by Kathryn Albright
Since the heroine (her name is Kathleen) has just moved back to town and has found work in the bakery I thought I’d ask the question…
What is your favorite Autumn dish or dessert?
Comment for a chance to win a free copy of Wild West Christmas today!
Please refer here for all contest rules.