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Merry Christmas, Cowboy

Merry Christmas, Cowboy

3.7 13
by Janet Dailey

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A delightful annual tradition. --RT Book Reviews

A Colorado Christmas To Remember

On the Denver streets, officer Paula Lewis is as tough as she needs to be. But away from skyscrapers and suspects, Paula gives back to the community she loves. This holiday season she's moonlighting at the Christmas House, a turn-of-the-century mansion


A delightful annual tradition. --RT Book Reviews

A Colorado Christmas To Remember

On the Denver streets, officer Paula Lewis is as tough as she needs to be. But away from skyscrapers and suspects, Paula gives back to the community she loves. This holiday season she's moonlighting at the Christmas House, a turn-of-the-century mansion transformed into a festive wonderland to delight local children thanks to volunteers like Paula--and Zach Bennett.

Zach left his family's Colorado ranch to sign on as a carpenter at the Christmas House. Freewheeling Zach hopes to make this holiday the merriest yet--from coaxing Paula onto the bunny slopes to filling in as a last-minute Santa. And as she and Zach are drawn together to keep one young boy out of harm's way, Paula realizes that the best gifts are second chances, happy endings, and the kind of love that makes every day warm and bright. . .

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Jaded Denver cop Paula Lewis tries to get into the holiday spirit by joining a group of volunteers at a local mansion that is being extravagantly decorated as a Christmas showpiece. Through an unnecessary traffic stop she encounters hunky cowboy Zach Bennett, who coincidentally has come to town to do carpentry work on the “Christmas House.” The transformed mansion enchants the crowds, and despite the plotting of some troublesome teens to steal the admission fees, the magic of Christmas and Zach’s blue eyes eventually soften Paula’s lonely heart. The characters are disappointingly one-dimensional, but perennial bestseller Dailey (A Cowboy Under My Christmas Tree) evokes an appealing sense of community as the backdrop for the romance. (Oct.)

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Merry Christmas, Cowboy



Copyright © 201 Janet Dailey
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4201-3275-5


The huge pickup ahead of Paula Lewis's cop cruiser was spattered with frozen mud and straw, beat up but serviceable, with rugged tires intended for rough roads. Looked to her like it belonged to a cowboy. About all she could see of the man at the wheel were big shoulders and a Stetson.

He was probably in town to see the sights and raise a little hell. Denver was a magnet this time of year. The glittering Parade of Lights that kicked off the Christmas season started tonight. People came from all over to view the gorgeous floats and the bands marching past brick and stone buildings that were dressed up in lights too.

Solo for this shift, Paula was going to miss most of the excitement. Her usual partner had bailed on her, and there was no one available to sub for him. But other officers were in the area if she happened to need backup. Absently, she listened to the cop talk coming over the radio. Nothing noteworthy going on.

So far, her routine patrol around the civic center had been uneventful, which was good. The officers on the evening shift had been briefed on which streets were closed to vehicular traffic and other details. The parade would start in a few hours. It was already dark.

Paula braked when the pickup's taillights flashed again. The driver kept slowing down, then speeding up again without ever going over the limit. A yellow light at the next intersection brought him to a complete halt. Paula gripped the steering wheel, rocked by the jolt of stopping short. She'd expected him to go through it. She shook her head. The cowboy was cautious. Or lost.

When he leaned sideways to peer at the street sign, another car swung to the left and went past her. Its headlights gave Paula a glimpse of the cowboy's chiseled profile above the turned-up collar of his denim jacket. The light turned red, and he straightened to look forward through the windshield again, tipping back the wide-brimmed hat he wore.

Hands still on the steering wheel, she glanced around. No minor mayhem or rowdy revelers yet. But the temporary placard restricting the cross street to pedestrians had been torn down. A white paper corner still dangled from a strip of tape attached to the lamppost.

Paula sighed. The light was taking forever to change.

For something to do, she ran the pickup's plates, taking in the information on the laptop while they both waited. The vehicle was registered to Zachary Bennett, age twenty-nine, in a county that was mostly ranches. No surprise there.

He seemed to be a law-abiding type. Clean record. No moving violations, not even an unpaid parking ticket.

Paula tapped a key to see more. His driver's license photo was dynamite. Strong jaw, sexy mouth. She glanced at the official description. Brown hair, blue eyes. Six foot three.

Stop it, she told herself. The Colorado DMV wasn't operating a dating service, and she was on the job.

Paula looked up when the light turned green, startled to see the pickup turn suddenly and fast, a shade too close to the curb. Fortunately, no one was standing there. But sign or no sign, Zachary Bennett had just gone down a street that was now closed. She would have to tactfully inform him of that fact and ask him to turn around.

She waited to follow him until the pickup stopped at the end of the block and eased into a parking spot, the engine still running. Despite the cold, there were plenty of people on the sidewalk. Couples and families headed toward the parade area to stake out good spots well in advance.

Paula pulled up beside the truck, looking at Zachary Bennett by the faint glow of the smart-phone screen he was tapping. She rolled down the passenger side window of the cruiser and called to him. "Sir. Sir."

He didn't seem to hear, absorbed in whatever was on the screen.

In her side mirror, she spotted a boy of about ten being yanked along by a big, goofy dog on a taut leash just before they crossed the street in front of her. Paula decided against using the loudspeaker, not wanting to get the dog barking or startle the kid. When they had passed, she switched on her roof lights for a few seconds. The brilliant flashes got her a bewildered stare from the cowboy. Now she had his attention.

Zachary Bennett rolled down his window. He made no attempt to hide the smartphone, holding it in the hand resting on the steering wheel. Paula leaned over to talk to him again. "Sir, are you aware that—"

"I pulled over and parked," he interrupted her. "I don't text and drive. Never have, never will."

He really hadn't done anything wrong, but she was still inclined to show him who was boss. As a general rule, Paula liked to finish her sentences. "Glad to hear it. But that's not the issue." A few individuals glanced their way as she got out, walking around the cruiser to the pickup.

Paula was five-nine, but the height of the cab—and the man inside it—made her feel short. The winter Stetson, made of thick dark felt, framed a masculine face with strong cheekbones and intense blue eyes. The annoyed set of his jaw didn't keep her from thinking that he probably had a great smile. His face was lean and sun-weathered.

"So what did I do?"

She rested a gloved hand on her equipment belt. "You clipped the curb when you made that turn back there."

Technically, the huge tires had only kissed the concrete. But she could make the point that he had been going a little too fast if she wanted to.

He thought it over, staring down at her. "I don't think so." The reply was calm, almost cool. Zachary Bennett didn't seem like the type who'd argue with a cop, but she had a feeling he was stubborn. Cowboy attitude.

She cleared her throat. "I'm willing to let it go. But I do have to tell you that this street is temporarily closed off for the parade. Foot traffic only."

"Oh. Sorry." He stuck his head out of the window and looked back the way he'd come. "I didn't see a sign."

Paula acknowledged that with a nod. "There was a placard, but it was torn down. That's why I followed you. I'm not trying to give you a hard time or make a ticket quota."

"All right." He seemed okay with that, taking a moment to survey her from head to toe, but not in an obnoxious way.

There wasn't much to see, she thought. Dark uniform pants and a heavy jacket hid most of her slender body. Her long auburn hair was braided into a style that fit under her cap. Still, Paula was used to being flirted with.

A lot of guys thought female cops were fair game. She'd heard every dumb line there was. What color are your eyes, officer? Take off that hat and let me see. You're too pretty for law enforcement. And her personal favorite: Don't tell me you take this job seriously.

She did, though. Some people found that out the hard way.

Paula planted herself in her regulation-black shoes and stood tall. Close up, Zachary Bennett was too attractive for her peace of mind. Best to keep on doing the talking and not let him get started.

"You have to move your vehicle," Paula insisted. "No standing, no parking. Just go back. And be careful," she added. "It's a big night. I assume you're in town for the parade." She gestured toward the hurrying people.


"You're missing out. It's spectacular."

"So I hear," he said. "But I'm meeting a friend and I'm late."

Something told her the friend he was meeting was female. Instinct was a real bitch sometimes.

He smiled at her. "I hate to admit it but I'm lost. Maybe you can help."

Paula only nodded. The unexpected smile was a lot more effective than any line. Combined with the flash of humor in his blue eyes, it was downright unsettling.


He turned the smartphone toward her to show the map on the screen. "This damn thing keeps indicating a detour. The way it tells me to go will take me straight into the river—I'm sure of it. And it's way too cold for swimming."

Paula had to smile back. She glanced at the moving lines on the GPS map and up at him again. "Where exactly are you going?"

He told her, then added, "But I haven't been to Denver for a while. Maybe the app is right and I'm wrong."

"Actually, you are. That street's being repaired and there is a detour. Let me think for a sec. I'll try to keep you out of the river."

She gave him better directions, and he listened without asking for a repeat.

"Got it," he said when she'd finished. "Thanks, officer. I appreciate your assistance."

Paula had a feeling he'd find his way with no more trouble. Job done. And she'd satisfied her momentary curiosity about him.

"No problem. Enjoy your stay in Denver." She returned to the cruiser and got in, pulling ahead to let him turn around before she followed him back to the main street.

She turned left after he turned right. A marching band was coming her way, holding their instruments without playing them. The drum major turned and shouted an order that brought them to a bumping halt before he sorted them out into orderly ranks. He raised his baton and brought it down. In an instant, their uniforms brightened with tiny LEDs that shimmered in the night.

They fell into step and headed on.

Paula watched the illuminated band go down the closed street, marching to the tinkling melody of the xylophonist. The bare trees in the distance lit up with fairy lights as a brilliantly colored locomotive moved slowly into position behind other floats. She sighed. The magic was about to begin. Too bad she had no one to share it with.

Last time she'd been a spectator at the Parade of Lights, she'd been with her grandmother. Hildy Lewis had passed away two years ago and Paula never stopped missing her.

A call came over the radio. Drunk and disorderly at Colfax and Ninth. Available units, please report. Paula snapped out of it. She confirmed her location to the dispatcher and drove away.

* * *

She entered her apartment several hours later, slinging her wet jacket over a hook by the door. A light snow mixed with sleet had started toward the end of the parade, and Paula had been out in it.

Besides writing three summonses for petty mischief, she'd found the half-frozen drunk and arrested him for his own good. He was better off in a nice warm holding cell than out on the streets.

She made a cup of cocoa and traded her clunky shoes for shearling slippers, settling into a big pink armchair bequeathed to her by the former tenant. Paula groaned when her cell phone rang, debating whether to answer it.

She set down the cup and took the phone out of her shirt pocket, looking at the number. Edith Clayborne. Great old lady. Doing her best under difficult circumstances.

Paula had shown Edith the ropes the first time she'd come down to the station to pick up her teenaged grandson for a minor infraction. Brandon was a nice enough kid, but he was a handful and known to more than one officer. According to the social worker on the case, his parents' where-abouts were unknown, and Edith, a widow, was raising him alone.

The ringing stopped. Paula made a mental promise to check her voice mail in five minutes, just in case there was a genuine emergency. She'd given Edith her cell number for that reason. Paula had done youth outreach with at-risk teenagers like Brandon. She liked his grandmother and didn't want to see him end up in the overloaded juvenile justice system if she could help it.

She sipped her cocoa, warming her hands around the smooth cup. It was good to be home.

The phone rang again. She checked the number. Edith wasn't giving up. This time Paula answered it.

"Hi, honey," a raspy voice said cheerfully. "Hope I didn't catch you at a bad time."

"Hey, Edith. No, you didn't."

"Just thought I'd call."

Paula relaxed somewhat. It wasn't an emergency. But it was an interruption.

"Were you at the parade?" Edith asked.

"Yes. I just got home. Did you see it?"

"On TV. The floats are always so pretty." Edith paused. "I wanted to ask you about something—not Brandon. He's been behaving himself."

"Good. Keep him busy and keep him out of trouble."

"My thoughts exactly. That's why I got him to volunteer with me at the Christmas House."

Paula had seen a flyer for it in the station break room. A fine old mansion had been rescued from foreclosure and turned into a holiday attraction to benefit Denver-area charitable programs. Each room was a different theme. Candy-cane sculptures, elves, decorated trees, toy displays, the whole nine yards.

She set her cup aside. "When does it open?"

"We were shooting for the first of December."

"That's tomorrow," Paula said.

"The building and fire inspectors just certified the house today, so we can open just as soon as we get approval from our insurers. But there's a catch."


"We have to have a security person on the premises."

"That could be expensive."

Edith sighed. "Well, the agent said we could use qualified volunteers if necessary."

Paula knew exactly where this conversation was going. She let Edith do the talking.

"All is not lost," the older woman said with dramatic emphasis. She did have a flair for it.

"Oh, good."

"I know some nice retired men," Edith continued.


"They work security for clothing and shoe stores, and all we would need is two to cover the mornings and afternoons."

Grandpa guards. They didn't scare anyone, but the Christmas House didn't need scary staff.

"The problem is that no one is available in the evenings," Edith fretted. "And the plan was to stay open late on Fridays and Saturdays to attract as many visitors as possible."

"Makes sense."

"So do you think ..."

Edith also was a master of the dramatic pause. Paula waited.

"Are you working nights?"

"Not next week."

"Is it possible ..."

"Yes," Paula answered, laughing. "I could help you guys out for a few days. After that, I'm not sure. We don't get to pick and choose our holiday shifts-the sergeant does."

Edith heard only the positive part of the reply. She crowed with delight. "You're a doll! Wait until I tell the board! A real policewoman!"

"A moonlighting policewoman," Paula reminded her. "No uniform and no gun. And you have to keep looking for my replacement."

"Of course, of course," Edith said hurriedly. "Can you stop by the Christmas House tomorrow? You might have to pick your way through the ladders and sawdust, though."

"I don't care about stuff like that." Paula thought for a moment. As far as she knew, she would be working a day shift tomorrow. "I can come around six. How's that?"

"I'll be there with bells on. Can't wait to show you around and introduce you to everybody. Paula, thank you from the bottom of my heart. I can't believe you said yes."

Paula didn't quite believe it either. When Edith finally stopped talking and said good-bye, Paula got up to put her cup in the sink, peeking into the fridge on her way back into the living room. The white-wire shelves held a burger bag that had to have turned into a science experiment by now and two containers of plain yogurt.

She was too tired to order takeout and not inclined to cook for just herself. Around the holidays, living alone was no fun.

Paula drove her own car into the lot next to the Christmas House at ten to six, finding a slot among the many vehicles already parked. She took a few minutes to collect her thoughts, tired after a long day. Frazzled shoppers and oblivious drivers flooded downtown Denver. She'd dealt with everything from fender benders to arguments over parking spaces.

The tall windows of the mansion glowed with warm light on the first floor. Paula frowned as she peered through the wavy old glass. It didn't look like sawdust and ladders to her—it looked like a fancy reception in full swing. She'd thrown on old jeans and a ratty sweater after a quick stop at her apartment. That and her dusty sneakers would have to do. She was here.

Excerpted from Merry Christmas, Cowboy by JANET DAILEY. Copyright © 201 Janet Dailey. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

After her first romance novel was published in 1976, Janet Dailey (1944-2013) went on to write over 100 more romance novels, with 300 million copies of her books sold in 98 countries. She was the author of the Americana series, where each book was set in one of the 50 states, the Calder series, and the Bannon Brothers series, along with many stand-alone novels. Her book, Foxfire Light, was turned into a moving starring Leslie Nielsen and Tippi Hedren.

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Merry Christmas, Cowboy 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 11 reviews.
sunshineJB More than 1 year ago
Not Just A Romance! This book isn’t your typical romance.  I found there was mystery and suspense in the story line too.  It wasn’t hard to figure out the culprits involved but I found it to be an enjoyable read regardless. Paula Lewis is a Denver police officer who agrees to volunteer as a security officer at the Christmas House and soon learns she is enjoying herself immensely.  She helps out wherever she is needed to help make this a delightful place to visit during the Holiday season for the public coming through to look at and enjoy the decor.  Children especially enjoy taking a tour of this wonderful Christmas House. Zach Bennett left his family’s ranch to volunteer to work as a carpenter, at the Christmas House, at the suggestion from his friend Jake.  Turning the former Denver Mansion into a magical place finds Zach enjoying the work he is doing.  What is even more enjoyable is Paula Lewis, very easy on the eyes. Is love in the air for this couple or is it just a close friendship and nothing more?  Being a police officer Paula doesn’t have time for a social life.  Will that change?   To my knowledge this is the first book that I have read of Janet Dailey’s so I can’t compare this book to other books of hers.  I do know that I enjoyed this story line. Heads up for readers that are Christian fiction fans like me.  There are a few mild cuss words and a few times the Lord’s name is used as a cuss word.  All in all, I think readers will enjoy this story. I wish to thank the publisher for sending me a copy to read and review.  The opinions expressed are mine alone.
My_Peace More than 1 year ago
In Merry Christmas Cowboy, by Janet Dailey, Paula is a police officer in Denver.  She's volunteered to work security, as well as generally helping out, at The Christmas House.  Zach is a rancher who also does carpentry work, he's in Denver to help a friend.  After being pulled over by Paula, he is just as intrigued when he meets her at The Christmas House also.  Not needed at his family ranch for a while, Zach decides to stay on in Denver for a while, also volunteering at The Holiday House.  Besides being for a good cause, it also means he'll get to see more of Paula. As Paula and Zach start to know each other, they also start to enjoy each others company more and more.  It's been a while since Paula has any kind of social life, but Paula can't help if Zach is hiding something from her back on his ranch.  As Paula and Zach alternatively fight the attraction and attempt to give in to it, they are drawn into the life of Brandon, the teenage boy living with his Grandma (who runs The Christmas House).  They are worried about the path he's on, who he's hanging around with, and what kind of future he'll have. Between the romantic dance Zach and Paula are doing, Paula's mixed signals, knowing what they want but neither of them sure enough to reach for it, and dealing with Brandon and some mystery's at The Christmas House, Merry Christmas, Cowboy is a sweet holiday read that will keep you on your toes.  Will Paula and Zach find a way to be together, or is this destined to be a holiday romance only?  Can they find a way to reach Brandon and help him off a destructive path? Janet gives us a lot of interesting characters in Merry Christmas, Cowboy that help strengthen the story.  Paula and Zach alone were a bit ho-hum and even if they could feel the attraction I had a hard time capturing it.  I never felt like I had a good grasp on Paula and her story...Zach jumps out at the reader way more!  I felt the romance between Zach and Paula had a bit of a too slow build up, so it was a bit hard for me to get into the book. I liked the concept of the plot, The Christmas House and the mix of a bit of mystery into the story line. Merry Christmas, Cowboy is a clean Christmas romance, the heat is there but what happens behind closed doors stays off the pages and I think that worked well with Zach and Paula's story. I'd recommend Merry Christmas, Cowboy to romance readers looking for a light holiday read.   
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Gee. That a jerk. I would have said, "And you have a nice day.", turn around, and walk away.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Love reading, and a good book
ReadersFavorite More than 1 year ago
Reviewed by Karen Pirnot for Readers' Favorite Merry Christmas Cowboy by Janet Dailey is her latest gift to the women's fiction market. We meet Paula Lewis who is a tough cop on the Denver police force. She is roped into helping with security for a house which is to be decorated for a fund raising attempt to save the old mansion. Zach Bennett rides into town in his pickup truck to lend a hand and the two are immediately attracted. Despite the potential for romance, Paula must attend to her friend Edith's grandson. Edith is a sturdy but aging woman who seems to take care of everyone but herself. When Zach befriends Edith's grandson, Brandon, he takes on more than he bargained for; and when money is stolen from the funds for the Christmas house, Paula must decide on her loyalties. She suspects Brandon but has loyalties toward Edith who desperately needs support from her closest friend. I felt the beginning of the book to be a bit slow to develop. We did meet some of the members of the decorating committee but we didn't get a true glimpse into Paula's hopes and dreams. She seemed to take a hit-and-miss approach to any relationship with Zach and, for a while, he appeared equally elusive in his intentions. Once the story got into full swing, it was a winner. People began to show their true colors and reluctant characters were forced to make decisions. This was an enjoyable read for a day snuggled up with a snowstorm outside and a ready cup of hot chocolate.
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jbarr5 More than 1 year ago
Merry Christmas Cowboy by Janet Dailey Paula Lewis this holiday season is not only working as a cop but she's helping out at the Christmas House. There are many rooms with different themes and visitors come and pay an entrance fee and have safe fun with their friends and family. Zach Bennett had left his familys ranch and is in town as a carpenter which the House can use. They do hit it off and are great company for one another. The story also follows Brandon and he's a teen and all the mishaps he has. And elderly Edith who runs the whole show and what problems she has. Love that different generations are in this book. Medical problems and things are stolen are a few of the things that keep this story interesting along with love stories. Loved the setting, the house and the snow and instructions. I received this book from The Kennsington Books in exchange for my honest review