WINNERS UPDATE!! The winners of last week’s giveaway of Nicole Flockton’s book, Masquerade, are: Laura Smith and Brandy Bosquez. Unfortunately, Brandy cannot collect her prize and has graciously stepped aside so someone else may receive it. So, our next lucky winner is . . . Nadine! Congratulations!
Please email me at: christie (at) christie-craig (dot) com with your preferred email addy.
Boy, howdy! I’m so excited! My good friend Lori Wilde is here to tell us all about herself and her book, A Cowboy for Christmas. I love her and I love cowboys, so we can’t go wrong today!
CONTEST! CONTEST! Leave a comment (below the excerpt) and fifteen people will receive a free book. Here’s how it goes. If you have Lori’s book, let us know in your comments and if you are one of the lucky fifteen chosen, I will send you a copy of Blame it on Texas, (or one of my backlist titles if you’ve already bought both books.) If you have Blame it on Texas, leave that in your comments, and if you’re one of the lucky fifteen, I’ll send you a copy of A Cowboy for Christmas. Make sure you check back next week to see if your name was picked out of the cowboy hat. If you’re chosen, I’ll have you email your preference for e-book or print and your info for your prize. Hey . . . it’s almost Christmas. Consider it a gift for the holidays.
It’s Christmastime in Jubilee, Texas, but Lissette Moncrief is having a hard time celebrating . . .
Especially after she accidentally smashes her car into Rafferty Jones’s pick-up truck. Yes, he’s a whole lot of handsome—from the tips of his boots to the top of his Stetson. But he’s no Christmas present. Lissy’s not about to let herself get whisked away by his charming ways and words . . . only to watch him drive away in the end.
But what Lissy doesn’t know is Rafferty’s in town just to meet her—and to give her a share in a windfall that doesn’t rightly belong to him. At first, he just wants to do his good deed and get out. But one look at this green-eyed beauty has him deciding to turn this into a Christmas to remember . . . making promises he’s determined to keep—whether she believes in them or not.
When she got right down to it, Lissette Moncrief’s infatuation with cowboys was what really started all the trouble.
There was just something about those laconic alpha males that stirred her romantic soul. Their uniforms of faded Wranglers, scuffed cowboy boots, jangling spurs and proudly cocked Stetsons represented rugged strength, fierce independence and a solemn reverence for the land. Their stony determination to tame wild horses, tend broken fences and take care of their families made her stomach go fluttery. Their cool way of facing problems head on, no shirking or skirting responsibilities weakened her knees.
A cowboy was stalwart, and steady, honest and honorable, stoic and down-to-earth. At least that’s what the movies had taught her. From John Wayne to Clint Eastwood to Sam Elliott, she’d crushed on them all. She loved Wayne’s self-confident swagger, Eastwood’s steely-eyed ethics and Elliott’s toe-tingling voice.
When she was sixteen, Lissette and her best friend, Audra, had snuck off to see a fortuneteller at the Scarborough Renaissance Fair in Waxahachie. Inside the canvas tent, Lady Divine, a pancake-faced woman in a wheelchair, spread spooky looking cards across an oil-stained folding table. She wore dreadlocks tied up in a red bandana and a flowy rainbow caftan. On the end of her chin perched a fat brown mole with long black hairs sprouting from it like spider legs. The tent smelled of fried onions and the farty pit-bull mix stretched out on a braided rug.
Lady Divine studied the cards’ alignment. She tapped her lips with an index finger and glanced up to grab Lissette’s tentative gaze. She didn’t say anything for a long dramatic moment.
“What is?” Lissette whispered, gripping the corner of the cheap greasy table, bracing for some horrific prestidigitation like, you have no future.
“What?” Lissette blinked, thrilled to the word.
“I see a cowboy in your future.”
“Only you can say.”
“Is he handsome? What’s he like?”
“Dark.” Lady Divine’s voice turned ominous.
“In personality or looks?”
“I can’t say. But this cowboy will deeply influence you in one way or the other.”
“A bad way?” Her anxious fingers knotted a strand of fringe dangling from the sleeve of her western jacket.
Lady Divine shrugged. “What’s good? What’s bad? You can’t avoid this cowboy. He is inevitability. Surrender.”
The fortuneteller continued on with the reading, but Lissette absorbed none of the rest of it. She was so stunned by how the woman had zeroed in on her cowboy infatuation. Later, she and Audra had dissected the woman’s uncanny prediction. They were in Texas, after all. The likelihood of running across an influential cowboy at some point in her future were far above 50/50. Not such a mystifying forecast when you thought about it. Yet, Lissette couldn’t shake the feeling that this woman knew unexplainable things about her future.
Most people would have blown off the reading, forgotten about it, dismissed it as nothing more than the silly pitch of a woman who made her money telling gullible people what they wanted to hear. But for a girl who’d been besotted with cowboy culture from age seven when her family had moved from Raleigh, North Carolina to Dallas, Texas the fortuneteller’s prophecy had not only mesmerized Lissette but set her up for heartache.
If she hadn’t been convinced that a cowboy was her future, she would never have ignored the warning signs in regard to her late husband, Jake. If she hadn’t romanticized him into a modern day version of John Wayne, she wouldn’t have married him. If he hadn’t sounded like Sam Elliot on steroids, she wouldn’t have heard to the lies he told her. If she hadn’t duped herself into thinking that he was the second coming of Clint Eastwood, she wouldn’t have had a child with him. If she hadn’t swallowed the cowboy mystique hook, line and sinker, she wouldn’t be here in Jubilee, Texas, the cutting horse capital of the world, dealing with this new life-shattering situation alone.
She glanced at her two-year-old son, Kyle, who was seated in the grocery cart. Unable to draw in a full breath, she ran a hand over Kyle’s curly brown hair as he sat in the grocery cart eating cheddar goldfish crackers from a lidless sippy cup decorated with images of gray Eeyore. Cheesy, yellow crumbs clung to his cupid bow lips and there was a grape juice stain on his light blue T-shirt. Her heart catapulted into her throat.
Genetic non-syndromic autosomal recessive progressive hearing loss.
The words were a mouthful that boiled down to one gut-wrenching truth. Kyle, was slowly going deaf. Medical science could not cure him, and it was all her fault.
Turns out both she and her late husband, Jake, unwittingly carried a recessive connexin 26 mutation and poor Kyle had lost the genetic lottery. So said the audiologist, geneticist and pediatric otolaryngologist whose Fort Worth office she’d just left with the astringent smell of cold antiseptic in her nose and a handful of damning paperwork and referrals clutched in her fist.
Such a frightening word. It sounded too much like dead.
Her poor fatherless baby.
Foggy as a sleepwalker, Lissette pushed her grocery cart down the baking products aisle of Searcy’s Grocery, past an array of orange and black cupcake sprinkles, candy molds in the shapes of ghosts and pumpkins, and haunted gingerbread house kits.
Her lips pressed into a hard line, resisting any stiff attempts she made to lift them into a smile for fellow shoppers. Misery bulged at the seams of her heart until it felt too swollen to fit in her chest. It beat, as if barely stitched together, in halting ragtag jolts and a sense of impending doom pressed in on her, hot and smothering.
It couldn’t be true that her child was losing his hearing in slow, agonizing increments, never to be reclaimed. She had to seek a second opinion. A third. And a fourth if necessary.
With what? Consultations did not come cheaply.
Blinking back tears, Lissette refocused on her goal. Shopping for baking supplies. It was the answer to her money troubles.
Searcy’s was the only locally owned and operated supermarket in Jubilee, the cowboy-infused town Jake had settled her in over four years ago before he first shipped off to the Middle East. In the beginning, she’d embraced the place, the community, the culture, the cowboys, but then, bit-by-bit, her eyes had been opened to the truth. Cowboys were like everyone else. Some good. Some bad. All fallible. It had been a mistake to romanticize a myth.
The store, with its narrow aisles, sometimes felt like a womb—comforting, cozy, communal—but today, it felt like a straight jacket with the straps cinched tight. Maybe it was the candy pumpkin molds, but an old nursery rhyme popped into her head.
Peter, Peter, Pumpkin Eater had a wife and couldn’t keep her. Put her in a pumpkin shell and there he kept her very well.
“Da…” Kyle gurgled with the limited vocabulary of a child half his age. “Da.”
Guilt suffocated her. Was he calling for his lost father? Or did he even remember Jake? Maybe he was trying to say something else entirely but simply lacked the auditory tools to do so.
Shoppers crowded her. She needed over by the flour, but Jubilee’s version of two soccer moms—i.e. Little Britches rodeo moms—stood leaning against the shelves gossiping, oblivious to those around them.
Lissette cleared her throat, but the moms either ignored her or didn’t hear her. Something she’d grown accustomed to as the middle-child, book-ended by more attractive, gregarious sisters. When her mother had arranged them in stair-steps according to height before ushering them out the front door on one venture or the other, her eyes grazing from Brittney to Samantha without noticing Lissette sandwiched in between.
Brittney possessed straight glossy blond hair, inherited from their mother’s side of the family, while Samantha resembled their father with spiral curls the color of roasted chestnuts. Lissette’s own hair was a plain mix of light brown with dull blond strands and wavy in an unattractive way, necessitating countless hours with either curlers or a flat iron. Lissette’s skin was pale and unlike her sisters, she did not tan well. She spent her childhood slathered in sunscreen, her face hidden by wide-brimmed hats. While Brittney boasted a precise, straight profile and Samantha had a cute up-turned nose, a small bump ran the bridge of Lissette’s nose. Her mother told her that her lips were her best feature, not too big, not to small, full in the right places. “You’re face lights up when you smile, Lissy, so make sure to smile often.”
“Um,” Lissette ventured, surrendering a smile. “Could one of you ladies please hand me a ten pound sack of cake flour?”
“Did you hear about Denise?” the shorter of the two women asked the other as if Lissette hadn’t uttered a word. “She up and left Jiff for a man eight years younger than she is.”
“Get out! Denise? No way.”
“I tell you, losing all that weight went straight to her head. She thinks she’s God’s gift to men now that she can squeeze into a size four.”
“My cousin, Callie, is single and searching,” the taller one mused. “I wonder if Jiff’s ready to start dating.”
Feeling invisible, Lissette sighed and bent over, trying to reach around to get to the flour, but the ten-pound bags were on the bottom shelf. The woman with the single cousin had her fashionable Old Gringo cowboy boots cocked in such a way that Lissette couldn’t get at the flour.
Normally, she would have stopped at Costco for a fifty pound bag when she’d been in Fort Worth, but those big bags were so hard for her to lift and besides she’d driven the twenty-six miles back to Jubilee in a such a fog she didn’t even remember leaving the medical complex.
She straightened. It was on the tip of her tongue to ask the women to kindly step aside when a ten-year-old boy on wheeled skate-shoes darted past, almost crashing into Lissette’s elbow. She jumped back and gritted her teeth, anxiety climbing high in her throat.
Kyle was staring at her, studying her face.
She was on edge. Kyle was picking up on her negative energy and that was the last thing he needs. If she thought her morning had been lousy, all she had to do was imagine what it feels like to her son—poked and prodded and unable to understand why.
It hit her then, how confusing life must be when you couldn’t hear. How much communication you missed. Then again, in some regards, that might be a blessing. Did she really need to hear about Denise and Jiff’s crumbling marriage? Her own marriage had been filled with so many thorns that the occasional sweet bloom couldn’t make up for the painful sticks.
“Da.” Kyle raised his small head, his usual somber expression searching her face through impossibly long eyelashes—Jake’s eyelashes—as if seeking an answer to the silent question. Why can’t I hear you, Mommy?
To read the rest of this excerpt, you can visit Lori’s website at:
So, tell us, what do you want for Christmas? And remember, leave a comment, including if you’ve read either Lori’s book OR Blame it on Texas, and we’ll be choosing up to fifteen lucky people to win either a print or e-book copy of the other gal’s book!