Her Montana Christmas Cowboy Sneak Peek #2
Are you getting excited for Christmas and Christmas books? So am I! I’ve seen a few new Christmas books come out already! Wow! But my first one of the season will be out soon! And in order to help you wait, I’ve got another sneak peek just for you! Her Montana Christmas Cowboy will launch wide at the end of October, meaning it will be available on Apple, Kobo, Nook, and Amazon! But it will only be available wide for a very short period of time so be sure to grab your wide copy while you can!
Sneak Peek #2
One year later…
Chloe Manning loved Christmas. It was the best time of the year. Not only were people nicer in general, but the scents surrounding Christmas always energized Chloe. She had a habit of heading into the little coffee shop that served the best peppermint mochas she’d ever had.
The peppermint mocha was on their menu from the day after Thanksgiving until New Year’s Day, and the previous Christmas season she had spent every day stopping in there before heading in to work.
While it did cost a lot, she needed something to help her feel more grounded. And probably to help her feel better after Brandon had left. While the sweet drink didn’t heal her heart, it did comfort her and help her get going every morning. Then, in the afternoon she would make a cup of Joy Christmas tea to get her through the rest of the day.
This year, she was bound and determined to keep her little routine up starting the moment the Frenchtown Roasting Company began serving her favorite beverage. Not because she was still bemoaning the loss of Brandon, but because she was going to need the energy.
“Hi, Lottie.” Chloe smiled at her friend when she walked into the Frenchtown Roasting Company. It was mid-November, but the owner of the shop was already beginning to decorate for Christmas.
Some time after Chloe left the previous morning with her mocha, Lottie had put up garland around the windows and doors that was wrapped in red-and-white, candy cane-striped chunky ribbon. Chloe knew that from now until Thanksgiving there would be something new added every day, and she couldn’t wait to see as it unfolded each morning.
Music played softly on the overhead speakers. It wasn’t Christmas music, yet. Lottie was adamant about waiting for Black Friday before she began the Christmas tunes. Today, it sounded like Lottie had chosen 80s pop. Every day it was a different type of music, or a different era. The electronic notes of a song that sounded faintly familiar played, and then the distinctive voice of Simon Le Bon came over the air and filled her spirit with peace. Chloe would know that voice anywhere.
One of her favorite songs was “Rio,” but she was also a huge fan of “Hungry Like the Wolf.” Lottie must have put on their album, because the next song was also by Duran Duran.
Chloe chuckled and looked out the window before heading to the line to place her order. The view out the window onto the street was almost like a Christmas card. An inch of snow had fallen overnight, and it hadn’t yet melted or turned to goo. It would soon enough, but for now she was going to take in the sight. Chloe loved the snow, especially during the Christmas season. And now that the coffee shop was beginning its decorating, she hoped it snowed a little bit every night just so she could feel Christmas surrounding her.
She knew Christmas was much more than decorations and gifts. As a Christian, she had grown up going to church and learning the true meaning of Christmas. But that didn’t mean she couldn’t enjoy the flavors, scents, and images of the season.
This was what had helped Chloe bond with Lottie last year. That first morning she’d walked past the coffee shop and saw the beginning of the Christmas decorations, and it had put the first smile on her face in a week. She had just learned that Brandon was leaving town to join a rodeo crew. He wasn’t going to ride, but he was going to work with the horses and bulls.
Brandon wasn’t planning on coming home when the season was over, either. He would be heading to a ranch in South Dakota, where he would stay with the owners of the cattle company he’d be working for. Not even a long-distance relationship could work if he would only be home once a year, if that.
When Brandon broke up with her after only dating a for month, she felt like he’d ripped her heart out of her chest. Logically, she knew it had only been a month and they shouldn’t have gotten so serious so quickly, but she had fallen in love with him the moment he’d helped her up from her fall when she was moving into her house.
Since he’d left, she hadn’t seen him. Not even once.
That Christmas she drove home for one day, and then came back Christmas night so she could be at work the next morning. As the new person, she wasn’t allowed any vacation time yet. Which was a good thing. Being so busy helped her get through the rough time. As did the peppermint mochas and daily chats she had with Lottie.
“Chloe! Good morning, my friend. I have a surprise for you.” Charlotte Keith, who went by the nickname of Lottie, walked around the coffee bar to give her friend a hug.
Chloe’s eyes widened. “Really? Do you have a new brew for me to try?”
Lottie loved to experiment with different roasts and flavored beans. Usually she had Chloe try the new flavors before deciding if she was going to sell them.
The coffee shop owner shook her head. “Nope, something better.” She made her way behind the espresso maker and began crafting a specialty coffee. “No peeking. I want this to be a surprise.”
Without being able to see the labels on the ingredients, Chloe had no idea what Lottie was making her.
Her nose lifted and she smelled the air, but with so many different types of coffee and teas being served up, Chloe had no clue what Lottie was doing. “Do you have a new Christmas blend for me to try?” She couldn’t stand there waiting without talking, and she really did want to know what Lottie had in mind.
It wasn’t Thanksgiving yet, so she knew it wasn’t her favorite drink. A month ago, Chloe had tried to talk Lottie into serving up the Christmas drinks early, like a lot of the big city coffee shops did. The proprietor did love Christmas, and she always started decorating early, so it only made sense. But Lottie was adamant about waiting for Thanksgiving.
Lottie only grinned and continued making her drink.
Chloe could tell it was going to be some sort of flavored mocha. She knew the pump for the mocha flavoring, and when Lottie pumped it four times into her large cup, she at least recognized that ingredient. The bottle holding the flavored syrup was covered, so she couldn’t read the label.
When Chloe thought her friend was done, Lottie turned around to the cabinet behind her and pulled out a shaker bottle, also covered, and poured something out on top. Then followed it up with something else. Since Lottie had her back turned, she was blocking Chloe’s view of the masterpiece in progress.
Excitement rang through Chloe as she wondered what it could be. She had been up to Bozeman at Thanksgiving before and had a fancy cinnamon mocha once. She thought that might be the drink Lottie was making. If it was, she’d be in here every day before work getting one of those until her peppermint mochas were available.
Lottie turned around with the white cup already covered. “Tada!” She extended the drink to Chloe. “Let me know what you think.”
When Chloe took a sniff, she was in heaven. She couldn’t believe her friend had done this for her. Before she said anything, she took a sip and sighed in utter delight. “Oh, I think this is even better than last year.”
“I knew you’d like it.” Lottie clapped her hands and her blonde ponytail swished behind her.
After two more very satisfying sips, Chloe licked some of the peppermint-flavored cream off her lips and eyed her friend. “I thought you said the peppermint mocha couldn’t come out until after Thanksgiving. What’s up?”
When Chloe had spent an hour trying to talk her friend into bringing out the drink early and Lottie emphatically declined many times, Chloe had resigned herself to waiting a few more weeks for her favorite drink. Something must have happened to get Lottie to make it early. Granted, it was only about two weeks early, but still.
Something was wrong. Chloe’s shoulders stiffened and she set the cup of coffee on the counter in anticipation of bad news.
The smile on Lottie’s face faltered, and she looked around the shop. She waved her friend back to the break room.
Chloe picked up her drink and followed her friend.
Once they were both in the room, Lottie took a deep breath. “Alright. I don’t know how this is going to affect you, which was why I brought the Christmas drink out early.” She bit her lip, hating that she was going to be the bearer of bad news. “You might want to take a seat.” Lottie pulled out a chair.
Chloe was really worried. She hoped her friend wasn’t going to tell her she was sick or something horrible like that. But that wouldn’t cause Lottie to bring out Chloe’s favorite drink, would it? “What’s going on? You’re worrying me.” Chloe set her drink on the table and took the offered seat. “Are you alright?”
Lottie laughed. “I’m fine. Sorry, I’m making this out to be more than it really is.”
Chloe blinked and waited.
“Well”—Lottie took a deep breath—“Brandon is coming home. For good.”
A sharp pain hit Chloe’s chest, but she wasn’t going to acknowledge it. And she certainly wasn’t going to let Lottie know about it. Her fingers flexed and she tried to rub her chest, but as her hand went up to the spot, she redirected it to grab the cup of peppermint mocha.
Before Chloe said a word, she needed some liquid courage. She took a long drink from her cup and winced when the hot liquid burned its way down her throat. “Why?” She couldn’t get anything else out before she swallowed…hard.
Lottie sighed. “This isn’t known yet, but you know how gossip goes. Plus, where you work.” She winced. She was actually surprised that Chloe didn’t know this yet. “Brandon’s mom is sick.”
Chloe’s brows furrowed, and she thought back to the last time she’d seen Mrs. Beck. She had seen her in the clinic a few times over the last few months. She also knew, but could not say, that several referrals to doctors in Helena had been ordered. However, she had never heard the diagnosis. She wasn’t going to ask Lottie if she knew, but when she got into the clinic she would look it up. She probably had some forms on her desk waiting for her in regards to the billing for Mrs. Beck’s latest visits, which would say something about her diagnosis.
Since Chloe was the medical billing manager, she would have access to anything in a patient’s file. But, she would have to be very careful with the information when she looked it up. Normally she didn’t bother with reading a patient’s diagnosis—she only managed the files and submitted the billing for insurance or Medicare payments.
With a heavy heart, she sighed and nodded. “So, he’s moving home? When?” Most people who got sick usually had cancer or heart disease, if it wasn’t an accident. Had Mrs. Beck been injured in an accident, she would have known that for sure. So, it was most likely cancer or heart disease. She felt awful for the nice, quiet rancher.
“Soon. I don’t have an exact date. But he’s needed back here on the ranch to help his mom. She’s not doing well.” Lottie winced, knowing this was going to hurt her friend more than anything else going on at the moment.
Mrs. Beck had always been very nice to Chloe. Even after Brandon left, she always had a smile and nice things to say. In small towns most single ladies gossiped, but not Mrs. Beck. Since her husband had died five years earlier, she had been too busy to worry about gossiping. And with Brandon gone for the past year, there certainly wasn’t any time for the lady to sit around drinking tea, or whatever those gossipmongers drank, and talk about other people’s lives.
Chloe saw her every Sunday at church, and while the woman did talk to a few of the parishioners and attended most events, she wasn’t a talker. Mrs. Beck seemed to listen more than she spoke.
When they first met, Chloe got the feeling that the woman was a bit shy. Over the past year, Mrs. Beck had been seen at some of the local events, and at least once a month she would help out with various charities. In fact, she was usually the person who headed up the Christmas festival. Her illness must be the reason Chloe hadn’t seen her at the last planning meeting.
“That’s horrible. I hope she’ll be alright. I’ll keep her in my prayers.” Chloe sighed and sat back in her chair.
Brandon coming home was going to be tough, but poor Mrs. Beck. If Brandon was coming home before the planned time, then it must be serious. He’d had to leave for at least three years to learn the business and make the contacts needed so his ranch could raise and provide more bulls for the rodeo.
When Brandon had first told her about his plans to leave, she’d asked him if he would be home soon, but when he told her it would take three to five years to learn the ropes, she was torn up. While they hadn’t been together very long, there was something about Brandon that made her think he was the one.
Her sister told her to take it slow when she spoke about her feelings for the cowboy, and now she wished she would have listened. While Chloe was glad that Brandon would be coming home to help take care of his mother, she hoped she wouldn’t have to see him too often. At least, not until she got used to the idea of him being back.
She would have to be very careful around town. The last thing she needed was the handsome cowboy breaking her heart again. No way was she going to give him a chance to hurt her. Not after what she’d gone through last year.
Right after he left, Chloe had taken it hard. But eventually she’d gotten past him. Although, she had only been on one date in the past year, and it wasn’t good. She did think that she could see Brandon and not be affected by their past…too much.
No matter what, he couldn’t see that he still had any claim to her heart. For he did not. Did he?
What do you think? Does Brandon still hold a piece of Chloe’s heart? And if so, what will she do about it? What will he do? Grab your pre-order today!