Monday, August 29, 2016

**SPOTLIGHT, EXCERPT & GIVEAWAY** A Cowboy Christmas Miracle by Carolyn Brown

It will take a miracle bigger than the state of Texas for these two feuding families to survive the holidays!

Opposites might attract…

The Brennans and the Gallaghers put aside their one-hundred-year feud every Tuesday for their weekly poker game. This week, the stakes are sky-high. Goaded to recklessness, Declan Brennan bets one thousand dollars that he can woo the next woman to walk into the saloon. A minute later, fiery-haired Betsy Gallagher pushes through the doors. If Declan can tame this wild Gallagher, he’ll have earned every penny.

If they don’t kill each other first…

Betsy can outshoot anybody in Burnt Boot and loves ranching more than anything—until she falls for Declan. He’s fallen for her too. But when she discovers what sparked their courtship, Declan will need a Christmas miracle to save his hide—and his heart.





Light from all the windows made a yellow streak across the yard at the Wild Horse ranch house. Betsy inhaled deeply and let it out slowly as she parked her truck in front of the house and got out. A blast of cold air hit her face and brought with it the first snowflakes of the season.

She wiped at the flakes stinging her face and opened the front door. A rush of warm air greeted her along with her grandmother’s voice yelling from the well-lit kitchen.

“Betsy, come on in here. I’m having hot chocolate. I couldn’t sleep for thinking about the Thanksgiving dinner, so I got up and started making a list,” Naomi said.

Betsy stopped at the door and leaned against the doorjamb. “It’s getting close to midnight.”

Her grandmother had a deal with a very good hairdresser that kept her red hair beautifully styled and dyed so that not a single root or gray hair ever showed. Her green eyes, the same color as Betsy’s, were set in a bed of wrinkles, and her round face had begun to resemble a bulldog’s with its drooping jaws.

Betsy studied her grandmother carefully. She should look like a bulldog because her nature was exactly like one—grab hold of a bone and hang on for eternity, no matter if something better, like a rib eye, came along.

It took an attitude like that to run this ranch, young lady, the voice inside Betsy’s head said loudly.

Naomi pointed at the clock on the wall. “It is past midnight. Where have you been? Down at that bar trying to pick up a man?”

“No, ma’am, to the last. Yes, ma’am, to the first. I had two beers and…” She stopped before she blurted out that she’d gone to the river and talked to Declan.

“And a shot of whiskey. I can smell it on your breath all the way over here. You’re not drunk are you?” Naomi leaned closer to Betsy.

Betsy shook her head. “I had a couple of beers and shots of whiskey. I barely got a buzz and I’m not drunk.”

“Could you pass a breathalyzer test?” Naomi asked.

“I wouldn’t blow a zero, but I don’t think it’s enough to haul me into jail,” Betsy said. “Why are you being so nosy about how much I drank?”

“You are going to take over Wild Horse when I’m ready to step down. You know that, and it’s time for you to start acting responsibly. You are thirty, Betsy. I want to see you settled in marriage within the next year, and that means less drinking and a lot less visiting the bar,” Naomi said.

Betsy did a half chuckle, part of it escaping her mouth and the other part hanging in her throat. Yeah right! She’d sure take that message to heart and get right on making it happen.

“You think that’s funny?” Naomi asked.

“Little bit.”

“Mavis is now grooming Honey to take over River Bend since Leah screwed up her life by marryin’ that hippie cowboy. And I want you to be ready to take over Wild Horse when I step down.”

Betsy crossed the room, opened the refrigerator, and took out a jar of salsa. “It would be real nice if this wasn’t a competition between you and Mavis. What if I don’t want to run Wild Horse, or what if I want to run it different than you do?” She carried the sauce to the table and went to the pantry, returning with a bag of chips.

“You”—Naomi’s glared across the table at Betsy—“will take care of this the way I’ve taught you. You can be displaced just like Leah if you get any fancy ideas.”

“You mean like hookin’ up with a Brennan?” Betsy dipped the first chip deeply into the red salsa.

“That’s blasphemy in this house, young lady. I’d just as soon shoot you as let that happen,” Naomi said.

“How ’bout if I promise not to hook up with a Brennan, and you donate enough money to the church so we can have a proper Christmas program? Angela is fretting because she’s having a boy and there will be no program for him to play the role of the baby Jesus,” Betsy said.

Naomi shook her finger so hard that it was barely a blur. “That is not going to happen if it means letting the Brennans enjoy it. They shouldn’t have burned down our school. Then, we could have had a program. They have to pay.”

“Be reasonable. Not only are they paying, but so are we, and Angela is upset and the townsfolk who aren’t part of this eternal feud are paying too. Come on, Granny, be the bigger person and show the Brennans that we aren’t—”

Naomi threw up both palms. “Enough! This conversation is over. I’m not giving the church a penny, and any Gallagher who does will be in big trouble.”

“Don’t you ever get tired of this feud?” Betsy pushed harder.

“Hell no! It’s what I live for. I only hope Mavis Brennan dies before I do so I can spit on her grave,” Naomi answered. “They are so high-and-mighty and holier-than-thou because their ancestor was a preacher and ours made moonshine. I’m expecting you to pick up the reins and keep ahead of them, and if you can’t, then I’ll choose another granddaughter to be the queen of Wild Horse. I’m going to bed now and you’d best think about what I said.”

“Yes, ma’am. Married in a year. Runnin’ Wild Horse and keepin’ up the feud like a good Gallagher. Slow down on my drinking. Can I have one beer a week and a shot of whiskey, or do I have to choose between them?” Betsy cocked her head to one side. “Did I forget anything?”

“Don’t you get sassy with me. I won’t tolerate it. Good night, Betsy.”

“’Night, Granny,” Betsy muttered.

“And no pouting either,” Naomi said.

“You ever known me to pout?” Betsy said loud and clear.

“No, you’re like me. You go after what you want. You stand your ground, and you take out anyone who gets in your way however you have to. That’s why you will run this ranch and you will be settled before I turn over the job to you. That means a husband and hopefully a child or two. You aren’t getting any younger. If you got married in a year…”

When Naomi inhaled, Betsy butted in, “And a baby the next year. Tell me, Granny, when will I have time to run a ranch with a husband and a bunch of kids?”

“I managed it and did a good job after your grandfather died. Wild Horse needs a strong woman. You think about that, and don’t disappoint me.”

Betsy crammed chips in her mouth to keep from saying another word. She was tired of the whole conversation, tired of the feud that had been going on over a hundred years, and, most of all, tired of listening to her grandmother issue orders.

Married in a year? It wasn’t damn likely.

About the author
 NY Times and USA Today Bestselling author and RITA Finalist, Carolyn Brown, has published more than seventy books. These days she is concentrating on her two loves: women’s fiction and contemporary cowboy romance. She and her husband, a retired English teacher, make their home in southern Oklahoma.


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