Welcome to the 1st day of my newsletter subscriber Christmas party. It’s my chance to say thank you to so many fabulous readers/friends. I had a lot of fun putting together the party. I hope you enjoy it too. :-) The gifts includes books, Amazon Gift Cards, a Kindle Fire and more…
NOTE: this giveaway is now closed. However, if you are interested in joining my newsletter for book release updates, special sales and subscriber-only giveaways, you can sign up HERE.
And on the 1st Day of Christmas, the winner is…Judy Anderson.
For Judy’s Christmas gift, she got to pick one of my books.
When trouble strikes…Whistle Stop pulls together
For Ella Morgan, moving to Whistle Stop is a chance to start over, put her horrific past behind her. But now she’s living in a mountain cabin—in dire need of renovation—that her grandmother left her, along with a sizable tax bill. Her job teaching school isn’t going to cover it. She needs cash, and soon.
Volunteer firefighter Tony Granger has returned to Whistle Stop to run the family ranch and be guardian to his orphaned nephew, Johnny. But being a single parent isn’t coming easy, and he’s worried sick he won’t succeed with his plan to adopt the boy, especially if Johnny’s grades don’t improve. He needs a break, and fast.
When Ella finds out Tony doesn’t have a partner for the Dancing With the Firefighters’ benefit—which is offering a large cash prize—and he hits upon hiring her as Johnny’s tutor, it looks like their problems might be solved. But taking dance lessons to win the competition sets alight a burning attraction between them. Can they let go and learn to trust again, or will the scars of their pasts still haunt them?
A new town.
A clean slate.
And a chance to begin again.
Ella Morgan stepped out of her car onto the quiet street of Whistle Stop, New Mexico. The April sunshine rained down on her as she lifted her smiling face to bask in its warmth. After the whirlwind of settling into the cabin she’d recently inherited and learning the ropes to her new teaching position at the local school, she was plain worn out. All she wanted to do was grab a few items for dinner at Marty’s Market and head home.
She stepped onto the curb to put money in the parking meter when a young boy in a white T-shirt and denim shorts darted in front of her, causing her to teeter to a halt. Ella shook her head in disbelief before dropping a quarter in the meter.
A gentle breeze tickled across her skin, carrying with it the aroma of grilled burgers. She sucked in a deep breath, and her stomach rumbled. She glanced up the street at the white block building with the red and white awning—Benny’s Burger Joint. She sighed, remembering how her grandparents had treated her to one of Benny’s huge green-chile cheeseburgers smothered in melted Monterey Jack cheese while on summer vacation. That was back in the good days—back before it all went so wrong.
She swallowed her craving and started toward the little market, anxious to put some distance between herself and the diner. No sense daydreaming about a dinner she couldn’t afford. At this point, she had to keep track of every penny—
A swift movement caught her attention. The same young boy dodged between two parked cars. He stepped into the street and came to a stop. What in the world was he doing? Juggling something in his hands? A small animal?
The hum of an approaching vehicle had her peering down the road. A red pickup at the other end of the block barreled toward them, going far too fast.
Her heart clenched.
“Hey! Move!” she screamed, waving her arms in the air.
The child didn’t budge.
Had he heard her? Did he have any idea of the danger he was in?
An angry horn blast sent adrenaline surging through her body. With her long skirt hiked up, she raced the short distance to the boy.
The squeal of tires sounded as she lunged forward. Her fingers clenched in the boy’s shirt. With every ounce of strength, she yanked. The force threw them both back between the two parked cars.
The jolt of the child’s body bumping into her and the unevenness of the pavement caused her to stumble. Her free hand flailed through the air. With a thud, her backside landed hard on the asphalt. Her back teeth rattled together. The boy, with his heavy backpack, landed on her legs. In a fraction of a second, the tractor-trailer rumbled past. A gust of warm air rushed over her as pain ricocheted from her hip down her leg. Thank God, they were safe.
The child yanked forward, struggling to free himself from her hold. He didn’t appear to be more than nine years old. And lucky for her, he was skinny.
“Let. Me. Go. You’re ruining my shirt.”
Not realizing she still had her fingers clenched on the back of his shirt, she loosened her grip while still keeping an eye on him. This child was too young to be left to his own defenses, as was evidenced by the near-miss with the truck.
“Where are…your…parents?” She struggled to get the words out between ragged breaths.
The boy pulled away from her. “I don’t have any.”
“What’s your name?”
He backed away from her toward the sidewalk while still cupping something in his hands. “I’m not telling you. You’re a stranger.”
Not only had she risked her own neck and most likely ruined her favorite skirt to save him, but now he refused to be cooperative. She frowned at him. If he wouldn’t give her a straight answer, surely one of the town’s residents would stroll by and let her know where he belonged.
In answer to her thoughts, she heard a vehicle slow to a stop. A door opened, followed by rushed footsteps. Good. Someone was here to help sort things out.
“What’s going on?” a deep male voice bellowed.
If the man’s thunderous tone was meant to gain attention, it did the job. The boy rushed over to the man, obviously familiar with him. Ella straightened and dusted herself off. She frowned when she detected a long rip in her skirt. She might be able to mend it, but it’d never be the same.
With a resigned sigh, she turned her attention to the man. She had to crane her neck to see the man’s face. My, he was tall, probably six-four, if not more. Her line of vision drifted down to his navy T-shirt, which was pulled snug over his broad chest. Her gaze lingered, taking in the white insignia of the Whistle Stop Volunteer Firefighters in the upper left corner with Station House 87 printed below it. She wondered if he was in fact a fireman. By the looks of his hefty biceps, he certainly was strong enough.
“I’m waiting for an answer,” the man’s voice boomed.
When she found him staring at her instead of the child, she was startled. Her gaze moved to the boy. The kid shot her a smug now-you’re-in-trouble look.
The scowling man shoved his deep brown Stetson higher, revealing a hint of dark hair. His tanned face was obscured by a bit of scruff, but it was his eyes that did it for her. Their chocolate shade with gold flecks drew her in with their intensity. He wasn’t bad-looking—a shame he was so abrasive.
“She grabbed me.” The boy pointed an accusing finger at her.
The man crossed his arms and glared at her. “You better tell me why you had your hands on him before I call the sheriff.”
The once-deserted sidewalk now had a few people passing by. Ella glanced over her shoulder to find pedestrians pausing to stare in their direction. She wrung her hands together and turned away. Heat flared in her chest and warmed her face.
Just what she needed—a scene sure to be followed by gossip. She’d hoped to leave that all behind in Albuquerque. For the first time, she wanted to fit in, feel accepted. And if the cowboy kept shouting, he’d ruin her fresh start in Whistle Stop.