snowy montana nights
A cowboy who isn’t what he appears must play private host to a spoiled Dallas Debutante who isn’t what she seems. Between frozen pipes, bonfires, bowling, a flu epidemic, a jealous ex-girlfriend and a snowstorm of the century, when will they ever find time to discover the real person under their façade?
After an embarrassing disaster at her cousin’s wedding, Dr. Wendy McCool needs a change of scene and some quiet time to reflect on her medical career choices, her future and her lack of a love life…or really, any life outside of eighty-hour work weeks. An offer of a private apartment from her mother’s friend sends her off to Montana only to discover the unexpected.
Over a decade in Chicago as a hedge fund manager and Zane Miller is ready to call it quits. He misses the family ranch in Montana, the fresh mountain air, and even the smell of a barn full of horses. When his mother falls ill, he heads to Montana, ready to do what it takes to get her health back, even running the ranch while his parents winter in Florida. What he didn’t agree to was playing host to a spoiled Dallas Debutante/jilted bride. Heaven help him.
Read an Excerpt
Copyright © 2020 Cynthia D’Alba
All rights reserved — Riante, Inc.
Zane Miller clicked his tongue and squeezed his legs. The horse under him picked up her pace from barely moving to a trot. He knew that’s all he’d get today from this mare, and that was fine. This was only a bit of exercise for Belle. The mare’s owner lived out of state in the winter and boarded the mare at Grizzly Bitterroot Ranch during those months. Not all Montana horse ranches would take on boarding in the winter for absentee owners. Winter time boarding meant additional staffing, but for the Miller ranch, the extra winter fees came in handy. One thing was for sure—no one got rich going into the horse-boarding business.
Grizzly Bitterroot had been started by Zane’s grandfather and was still owned by his parents. However, after his mother’s illness last year, his parents had headed off to Florida for winter sunshine and no snow, leaving Zane—who’d only been back in Montana for six months—in charge.
The cell phone on his belt vibrated. Zane slowed Belle to a walk and pulled his phone out. His mother.
“Hey, Mom,” he said as a way of greeting. “How’s Florida?”
“Eighties with bright sun.”
Zane looked up at the gray sky that promised more snow later. “Rub it in, why don’t you?” he said jokingly.
As he hoped, she laughed. “How are things there?”
“Good. Cowboy Russ and I have it under control. I’m out on Misty Simpson’s horse this morning.”
“She’s a sweet gal. Very calm.”
“The owner or the horse?” he joked.
His mom laughed again. “The horse.”
“Belle’d be perfect for some beginner riding lessons in the spring.”
“Talk to Misty. She would probably be glad to loan you Belle for that. Since the birth of her twins, her time is quite limited.”
“Uh-huh,” he said, distracted by a moose and calf walking across the pasture in the distance.
He lifted his binoculars to watch the moose amble along. Sure, he’d seen lots of moose growing up here, but he’d lived away so long that seeing all the wildlife again made his return to Montana worth it. Chicago had its perks, but the wildlife, this view, and the clean air certainly weren’t any of them.
His mother began talking about her college days and sorority sisters she was still in contact with and something about a wedding and a jilted bride.
He mumbled “Uh-huh” a couple of times so his mother would think he was listening, but when she got going, his eyes had a tendency to glaze over.
“So I told Janet we would be happy to have Wendy stay at the ranch for a while. That won’t be a problem, will it?”
He caught her last sentence and startled. Lowering the field glasses, he said, “Wait. What? You’re sending someone to the ranch?”
She sighed. “Sometimes, you don’t hear a word I say. You’re just like your father. Yes, my friend Janet has a daughter who needs a break from her life in Dallas. I said our little ranch is a perfect place for her to R&R.”
“Our ranch?” he repeated. “In the middle of winter. It’s December, Mom.”
“I know what month it is, but she can stay in the barn apartment. It’s tiny, but she’d have all the privacy she needs.”
“What am I supposed to do with her?”
“Just treat her nicely. She’s had a couple of rough months.”
Ah. The pieces connected in his head. This is the jilted bride from the epic saga his mother had been regaling him with earlier.
He released a silent groan. Great. Just great. That’s all he needed. Another mouth to feed in between her wailing and crying over some guy.
“Has she ever been on a ranch? Know anything about horses?”
“Oh, honey, I don’t know for sure, but I think so. Janet inherited her family’s ranch, so I assume her daughter rides, but we didn’t talk about that. Poor Janet was just so beside herself about that whole wedding disaster that I wanted to do whatever I could to help.”
“That’s fine. I’ll take care of it.”
Mentally, he moved repairing the barn apartment to the top of his list. He hadn’t mentioned anything to his parents, but the hot water tank had finally given out, dropping its entire one-hundred-gallon load and flooding the downstairs. Of course, the temperature had bottomed out that night and everything had frozen. He, Cowboy Russ and Russ’s wife Lori had chipped the ice and mopped up the melted mess, but the flooring and baseboards would have to be replaced. And he might have to replace the sofa before the apartment would be suitable for a guest.
Being that today was early December, she’d probably come right after Christmas, which gave him three weeks to get it all done. It’d be close, but he’d make it work. He’d do anything to make his mom happy.
“I knew you would, honey,” his mom said. “Now, she’ll be there this afternoon about four.”
“Be where?” he asked, hoping like hell she didn’t mean what he feared she meant.
“Gardiner. She’s flying into the Gardiner airport. I told her you’d pick her up. Give her the keys to my SUV to drive while she’s there. No sense in her renting something when my old car needs to be driven.”
His mom’s “old car” was a two-year old Jeep Grand Cherokee without a scratch on it.
His heart sank to his knees. Crap and double crap.
“Honey, you still there?” his mother said. “Did I lose you?”
“No, no. I’m here. I’m out on Ridgeback trail and the phone service fades in and out. You know that.”
“So four o’clock. You’ll pick her up?”
“I’ll pick her up,” he said somewhat grudgingly. “What’s her name?”
His mother chuckled. “Yes, I suppose you would need to know that. Wendy McCool.”
End of Excerpt
Christmas in his arms
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Snowy Montana Nights
…fun, wonderful read…Love the Characters. Love the Story
Fell in love with both of these characters. I could/would follow them forever.