I recently completed and submitted my thirtieth book. I'm celebrating by offering a taste from each one. Enjoy!
From the moment I heard Liz, in Blame The Mistletoe, mention her brother worked at the family spa to put himself through college, I knew I wanted him to have his own story.
Bastian comes to Marietta for Liz's wedding. He's half convinced she's making a mistake, or at the very least, moving too fast. He has no intention of ever marrying himself. And then he meets Piper.
Here she meets him for the first time.
~ * ~
Whoa. Who was that?
Pulling into the driveway of her parents’ house, Piper jammed the car into park and stared at the guy leaning on the veranda rail. He wore a white T-shirt, faded jeans, and sneakers. He was reading the romance novel she’d left on the table between the two lounge chairs where she’d sat for five minutes and five pages while eating a breakfast wrap, catching this morning’s sun.
He lifted his head and Piper heard her own breath come in on a sharp inhale.
Wow. Good-bye virginity.
He was thirty-ish, muscled and tanned, had dirty blond hair that was overlong and shaggy, making him look very devil-may-care. Dark golden stubble coated his square jaw beneath hollow cheeks. When did the burgling industry start recruiting through modeling agencies?
Not bothering to pull into the garage since she had to run out again right away, she opened her door and set one foot on the ground, but kept the car between herself and the stranger. Marietta was about the safest place in the world, but she’d picked up some habits of caution at college in Billings. Her parents weren’t home and their neighbor was elderly. Better safe than sorry.
“Hi,” she greeted.
Inside the house, Charlie barked, letting her know he’d heard her pull in.
The stranger lifted one corner of his mouth in a friendly grin. “You must be Piper. You look just like your mother.”
“Do I?” She cocked her head, still cautious. “How do you know her?”
A flicker of surprise crossed his expression before his grin widened fractionally, making her feel like he was laughing at her. “I met Arlene two weeks ago, in Panama. With your father, Henry. They said I could stay in their house if I walked and fed the dog.” He thumbed toward the house, then came down the steps with his hand extended. “I’m Bastian. They said they were going to email you to let you know.”
“They did. Half an hour ago. It read like you wouldn’t be here for at least a week.” She hid her irritation as she stepped out of the car to slam the door and come around the hood.
Wow and wow again. He was tall and such nice shoulders—her fatal weakness. The line of his collarbone was even with the top of her head, filling her vision with his well-defined chest under that layer of damp, white cotton.
All she could think was the universe had picked up her call on the first ring and sent Mr. Fantasy in response. Which only made her feel obvious and juvenile as she tried to catch her breath. Shut that down right now, she told herself, trying to keep her cool, but honestly. He dazzled.
“They would have sent it last week,” he said, amusement dancing in his blue-green eyes.
Seriously. Who in real-life had eyes the shade of Caribbean waters? She couldn’t look away, they were so gorgeous.
“We met in a little town where the internet was really sketchy,” he explained. “The email might not have actually sent until they moved on to a bigger center and they had a decent signal.”
Terrific, she silently muttered, watching his mouth twitch. He knew exactly what was going on with her. He probably hypnotized women all the time. He was probably bored by her reaction.
“They said Sebastian, but you said Bastian?” She tried to pretend she wasn’t buzzing with electrified energy as she shook his hand. The contact actually made her pulse jump. Good grief, this was embarrassing. Since when did her hormones swarm for couch-surfing backpackers?
“Sebastian Bloom, but call me whatever you want.” He had a strong grip and wasn’t shy about letting his blue eyes roam.
When his gaze hung up on the right side of her face, she lost her comeback and pulled away, shifting her gaze to the open door of the car so she wouldn’t see the, What is that? question form behind his eyes.
“Welcome to Marietta.” She ignored the way his callused palm left a lingering impression on her hand and she moved back to the car to gather her things. “We’ll go in through the back—oh!”
He had followed and was really close behind her. He took her school bag from her shoulder as she straightened and she stumbled against the car in surprise, flooded with a fresh rush of excitement. “What are you doing?
The corners of his beautiful mouth deepened. “Helping.”
He took her insulated coffee mug from her lax grip and stepped back, leaving her with the car keys and enough room to swing the door shut before she led him to where the backyard was fenced in six-foot cedar planking. It was her father’s effort to keep the deer from jumping in to decimate her mother’s garden, but Charlie had turned out to be the better deterrent.
Her back and bottom tingled as she walked in front of Bastian. Her breasts felt heavy and achy, making her blush at how physically she was responding to just being in his vicinity. This was so weird.
“Don’t you have luggage?” she asked over her shoulder as she held the wooden gate, trying to act normal, but he came through her space in a faint cloud of masculine scent and stallion power. Her knees felt weak, for heavens’ sake!
“Stolen. In Dallas, if you can believe it. I made it six months across South America, but lost everything fifteen minutes after I hit American soil. I was holding my wallet and passport and was wearing these clothes, but I had just tucked my phone into a pocket on the backpack so I lost that, too. Everything was saved to the cloud, but still.”
“Bummer.” Awesome. She was regressing to twelve. Try again, Piper. “Marietta seems an odd destination from Panama,” she commented. “Do you have family here?” And therefore, why aren’t you staying with them instead of making me feel like an idiot?
“My sister is here. She’s getting married—”
“You are not related to NancyLynn Pruitt,” she charged, letting the wooden gate slam closed with a clank of its catch. She didn’t know all the Pruitts, but she would have remembered Sebastian Bloom if he’d grown up around here.
“Never heard of her. No, my sister is Liz Flowers. You might know my niece, Petra. You teach at the high school, don’t you?”
“Oh! Second flute and keyboard.” She had talked to Bella about how Petra would be a sort of mentor and was new to the area, too. It had seemed a good match.
Piper saw a vague resemblance in Bastian’s blond, blue-eyed California looks now. Darn it, why did he have to have such a nice family connection? Now she couldn’t help but warm to him on a more personal level.
“Your sister is marrying Blake Canon, isn’t she? I know who he is, but I’m friendlier with his sister, Meg.” Meg was yet another woman in town glowing with the joy of a fresh relationship.
“Yeah, she’s the reason I needed a place to stay. Moved back home, I guess, so there’s no room for me at the ranch. I’d rather be in town anyway. It was nice of your parents to offer their house.”
Piper couldn’t help pausing on the porch steps, not the least surprised her parents had done it and confident in their judgment. They wouldn’t have sent a creep to Marietta, let alone their own house where their daughter lived over the garage. Still, Piper thought it was curious. “How did they know you were coming here?”
He shrugged. “It was just one of those things where you hear an American accent in a cantina and get to chatting. They said they were from Marietta. I said, small world and that I was coming here for my sister’s wedding...”
She nodded and moved to set the key in the lock on the back door. “Brace yourself,” she warned and opened it.
Charlie came out in all his excited glory, never jumping, but he had to scramble a frantic, wiggling figure eight around both pairs of legs, bumping and nosing, tail whapping crazily against their legs while he moaned a prolonged greeting of whines and near-howls.
“Lab and spaniel?” Bastian guessed, bending to pat and make friends. Best friends. Charlie tried to lick Bastian’s fingers right off his hands.
“That’s our guess. He’s a rescue and so happy to have a home it’s ridiculous.” She gave Charlie a few jostles and rubs as he came over to her, scrubbing his ears and getting under his collar before she nudged him toward the stairs and the lawn. “Go, you goof. Work out your kinks. I’ve had to leave him inside the last few days. The neighbor is having some work done and he just stands at the fence and barks the whole time. But he should be fine until I get back in an hour or so?”
“Where are you going?”
That took her slightly aback. It must have shown. His mouth twitched again.
She was getting really tired of being laughed at. Especially by a guy who looked a little too old to be living like a broke student taking a gap year.
“I need some things,” he explained patiently. “Clothes. Groceries. Does it make sense to drop me off and I’ll shop while you run your errands? Your parents said I could use their car, but why waste the gas? Unless the store is close enough to walk?”
“Oh. Of course.” She supposed it was reassuring to know he planned to buy his own food, but she’d just been looking forward to time alone to pull herself together and quit acting like an infatuated teenager. “I mean, you could walk, but it’s a long walk back if you have a lot to carry. I can drop you. It’s on the way. Let me put my bag away and get changed.” And maybe stop babbling. Argh.
~ * ~
Want more? Read these excerpts posted as #SampleSundays when the book came out in May of 2015.
Here are the Love In Montana books in order:
Book One: Hometown Hero
Book Two: Blame The Mistletoe
Book Three: The Bachelor's Baby
Book Four: His Blushing Bride
Book Four and a half: Scorch*
Book Five: His Christmas Miracle (releases Oct 27, 2016)
*Scorch takes place in Glacier Creek. Jacqui is friends with Nicki from His Christmas Miracle.
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