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One Cowboy, One Christmas [NOOK Book]

Overview




Stranded and half-frozen in a South Dakota snowstorm, bull rider Zach Beaudry reached out for help at the nearest house he could find. And the beautiful rancher-schoolteacher who answered the door was a vision. Zach thanked his lucky stars for the kindness of strangers. But to Ann Drexler, this man was no stranger.

Zach didn't seem to remember their shared night of passion all those years ago—but how could Ann forget? Seeing Zach on her ...
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One Cowboy, One Christmas

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Overview




Stranded and half-frozen in a South Dakota snowstorm, bull rider Zach Beaudry reached out for help at the nearest house he could find. And the beautiful rancher-schoolteacher who answered the door was a vision. Zach thanked his lucky stars for the kindness of strangers. But to Ann Drexler, this man was no stranger.

Zach didn't seem to remember their shared night of passion all those years ago—but how could Ann forget? Seeing Zach on her doorstep was as shocking as seeing the ghost of Christmas past. And though running her family's wild mustang ranch gave Ann a thing for strays, she tried to keep her distance. Yet as Zach regained his strength and became indispensable with the horses, Ann had to wonder—was a second chance with this cowboy in her Christmas future?


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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Caught in a South Dakota blizzard when his aging truck gives out, bull rider Zach Beaudry barely manages to make it to the Drexler ranch in time for Ann and her sister, Sally, to thaw him out. But Zach is no stranger to Ann. Their one-night stand years earlier (which he can't remember) has left her wary and skittish, creating problems for Zach, who has decided Ann is the "angel" for him. VERDICT Although second in a series that readers will want to explore, this funny, spicy story is a touching holiday confection; overflowing with family and an abundance of likable characters, it more than stands on its own. Eagle (In Care of Sam Beaudry) is noted for her sensitive, realistic portrayal of Native American characters and issues; she lives in the Minneapolis area.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781426844621
  • Publisher: Silhouette
  • Publication date: 12/1/2009
  • Series: Silhouette Special Edition Series , #2011
  • Sold by: HARLEQUIN
  • Format: eBook
  • Edition description: Original
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 236,955
  • File size: 149 KB

Meet the Author


New York Time and USA Today bestselling author Kathleen Eagle published her first Silhouette Special Edition, an RWA Golden Heart winner, in 1984.  Since then she has published more than 40 books, including historical and contemporary, series and single title novels, earning her nearly every award in the industry including Romance Writers of America's RITA.  Kathleen lives in Minnesota with her husband, who is Lakota Sioux and forever a cowboy. 


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Read an Excerpt

"Don't die on me, Zel."

I've been dying, Zachary. I've been trying to tell you that.

"Come on, Zel. You know how much I love you, girl. You're all I've got. Don't do this to me here. Not now."

But it had to be here because it would be now. His beloved pickup truck, Zelda, had quit on him, and Zach Beaudry had no one to blame but himself. He'd taken his sweet time hitting the road, and then miscalculated a shortcut. For all he knew he was a hundred miles from gas. But even if they were sitting next to a pump, the three dollars he had in his pocket wouldn't get him out of South Dakota, which was not where he wanted to be right now.

Not even reliable old Zelda could get him much of anywhere on fumes. He was sitting out in the cold in the middle of nowhere. And getting colder. Zach made no apologies to anyone for being a fair-weather lover.

Cowboy. Fair-weather cowboy. As a lover, he was the all-weather model.

He shifted the pickup into Neutral and pulled hard on the steering wheel, using the downhill slope to get her off the blacktop and into the roadside grass, where she shuddered to a standstill. He stroked the padded dash. "You'll be safe here."

But Zach would not. It was getting dark, and it was already too damn cold for his cowboy ass. Was it December yet? November in this part of the country was hard enough on beat-up bones and worn-out joints. Zach's battered body was a barometer, and he was feeling South Dakota, big-time. He'd have given his right arm to be climbing into a hotel hot tub instead of a brutal blast of north wind. The right was his free arm anyway. Damn thing had lost altitude, touched some part of the bulland caused him a scoreless ride last time out. Whole lotta pain for an ugly little goose egg.

It wasn't scoring him a ride this night, either. A carload of teenagers whizzed by, topping off the insult by laying on the horn as they passed him. It was at least twenty minutes before another vehicle came along. He stepped out and waved both arms this time, damn near getting himself killed. Whatever happened to do unto others? In places like this, decent people didn't leave each other stranded in the cold.

His face was feeling stiff, and he figured he'd better start walking before his toes went numb. He struck out for a distant yard light, which was the only sign of human habitation in sight. He couldn't tell how distant, but he knew he'd be hurting by the time he got there, and he was counting on some kindly old man to be answering the door. No shame among the lame.

It wasn't like Zach was fresh off the operating table—it had been a few months since his last round of repairs—but he hadn't given himself enough time. He'd lopped a couple of weeks off the near end of the doc's estimated recovery time, rigged up a brace, done some heavy-duty taping and climbed onto another bull. Hung in there for five seconds—four seconds past feeling the pop in his hip and three seconds short of the buzzer.

He could still feel the pain shooting down his leg with every step. Only this time he had to pick the damn thing up, swing it forward and drop it down again on his own. Couldn't even wangle a ride off his own kind.

Pride be damned, he just hoped somebody would be answering the door at the end of the road. The light in the front window was a good sign.

The four steps to the covered porch might as well have been four hundred, and he was looking to climb them with a lead weight chained to his left leg. His eyes were just as screwed up as his hip. Big black spots danced around with tiny red flashers, and he couldn't tell what was real and what wasn't. He stumbled over some shrubbery, steadied himself on the porch railing and peered between vertical slats.

There in the front window stood a spruce tree with a silver star affixed to the top. Zach was pretty sure the red sparks were all in his head, but the white lights twinkling by the hundreds throughout the huge tree, those were real. He wasn't too sure about the woman hanging the shiny balls. Most of her hair was caught up on her head and fastened in a curly clump, but the light captured by the escaped bits crowned her with a golden halo. Her face was a soft shadow, her body a willowy silhouette beneath a long white gown. If this was where the mind ran off to when cold started shutting down the rest of the body, then Zach's final worldly thought was, This ain't such a bad way to go.

He wanted to tell her, touch her, thank her. If she would just turn to the window, he could die looking into the eyes of a Christmas angel. She would find him, know him, forgive and love him, all in a look, and he would go to his Maker feeling good inside. Fighting to free his leg from a dried-out bush, he stumbled over a stone face with the bulging eyes, fangs and flaring nostrils of a hideous watchdog sitting on the porch beside the steps. It took all the strength he had left to throw the hellhound off him. Down the steps he went.

But he went down fighting.

"Sally?"

Something—someone—had fallen. The glass ornament that had just slipped from Ann's fingers crunched under her slippered foot.

"Sally, what happened?"

No answer. No movement in the foyer. She would have heard the door if her sister had tried to sneak outside. Ann flipped the porch light on and peered through the narrow window flanking the front door. One of her gargoyles lay in pieces at the edge of the porch. Ann's heartbeat tripped into overdrive as she opened the door, expecting the worst. "Sally?"

"What's going on?" Sally called out from down the hall.

She was safe inside, thank God. If Ann knew her older sister, Sally had had her fingers crossed when she'd promised not to leave the house anymore without telling somebody where she was going. Sally hated being treated like an invalid, and Ann tried not to do it. They seldom talked about Sally's condition, especially when the symptoms were in remission. They knew the pain of multiple sclerosis, each in her own way. It had become a third sister. The cruel and unpredictable one.

"I don't know," Ann said. "Probably just the wind."

Or the fourteen-year-old she'd presented with an ultimatum at school earlier in the week. If we can't depend on you to show up when you're supposed to, Kevin, we'll have to reassess the terms of our agreement.

"It sounded like a battering ram. Where's that dog when you need him?"

"Someplace warm." And no doubt having a good laugh. The dog and the boy had become a team over the summer, which had been part of the plan. Kevin Thunder Shield needed a loyal and true friend, and Baby needed a boy of her own. Ann just never knew with Kevin. Maybe he'd gotten a ride and she'd go out to the barn and find clean stalls. Wouldn't that be a nice surprise? "My gargoyle's broken, but other than that…"

There was something on the top step. A glove? Ann grabbed her parka off the hefty hook under the hat rack and plunged her arm into the sleeve.

"Sounds like a trespasser with good taste," Sally said. "Maybe a wandering gnome."

"He left a clue," Ann reported as she opened the door. "Cover me. I'm going out there." It was an old joke between them, but it used to be Sally stepping out in front. The idea of little Annie serving as a convincing backup for her once-mighty sister was almost laughable.

But times and conditions had changed. Stepping out had become Ann's job, and what she found was hand in glove. Hand attached to arm attached to the rest of a man's body draped facedown over her front-porch steps.

"Oh…dear God."

"What is it, Annie?"

"Stay inside." For what it was worth, Ann tossed the order over her shoulder as she stepped onto the porch. "It's colder than…" Her nightclothes puddled around her thin slippers as she squatted close to the man's head. She clutched the front of her parka together with one hand and gingerly lifted the brim of his black cowboy hat with the other. "Hey. Mister. Are you…" Oh. Dear. God. No. Way.

"Who's out there, Annie?"

"Sally, please stay—"

Too late. Sally was standing in the doorway, leaning heavily on her cane. "Is he drunk?"

Ann leaned close to his face, took a sniff and shook her head. "He'd be better off if he were," she decided. "I think he's frozen."

"Totally?"

He answered with a groan.

"I know him." Sally suddenly had her sister's back. "That's—"

"Will you please get back in the house?" Ann knew him, too. Better than her sister did, she suspected, but it had been years. Eight and a half, to be about a month short of exact. "Hey." She touched his shoulder. "Hey, mister, can you stand up? Or maybe just…"

"That's Zach Beaudry," Sally said. "He's a bull rider. Used to be really good. I remember—"

The man groaned again and mumbled something about a pickup. Ann moved around to his side, down two steps, and tried to haul him up by his arm. Then by her two arms, an effort that nearly sent both of them down another two steps.

"Did something happen? Are you hurt?" His pile-lined denim jacket didn't look very warm, but it was clean. "I don't see any blood."

"He's frozen," Sally reminded her. "He must have walked from the road."

"I'll get you in the house, but you have to help me," Ann told the cowboy hat, and then she warned her sister, "Not you! I'll do it. You hold the door." She sat him up against the railing. "Can you grab on here, and I'll… That's it, that's it." He almost fell over on her before he got his legs underneath him—railing under one arm, Ann under the other. "Okay, two steps up." He managed one. "Now the left."

"Left side… no good."

"How about the right?"

"Solid."

"Okay, so… hang on." She moved around to his left side. "We'll figure out a way to get you to a doctor."

"Just thaw-awww…" He tried and failed to hold his own, took a moment to brace himself against his slim-shouldered buttress, and tried again. Through her parka and his jacket, Ann could feel the violent quiver in his left hip. The cause was more than mere cold. "… thaw me out. Damn."

"I'm afraid you've broken something."

"Yeah." He waved his free arm toward the pottery shards scattered across the porch. "Hadda… kill that… dog. S-sorry."

"I'll put him in Grandma's room," Ann told her sister, the doorstop. "No way can we get him up the stairs."

Grandma had been dead for fifteen years, but the spare room in the back of the house was still Grandma's. Sally had the master bedroom on the main floor, and the hired man had his own bunkhouse, so Ann had the second floor all to herself. If nothing else, there was no shortage of sleeping quarters at the Double D Ranch.

"We should put him in some warm water first." Sally closed the front door and ducked under Zach's free arm, where she'd been once before. Briefly. "Or tepid water. Can you handle yourself in the bathtub, Zach?"

"Handle my… self?"

"Get your blood circulating again," Sally chirped. She'd been hurting and tired an hour ago, but cowboys—on TV or, better yet, in person—never failed to put some lift in her voice, which was music to momentarily dispel all Ann's misgivings about the man. After so many years, why not?

"Hands f-frozen," the cowboy muttered. "Can't handle m-much."

"How about your clothes? Can you take your clothes—oops." Ann grabbed the newel post and redoubled her support. "Steady."

"Blackin' out a little."

He was leaning a lot. The hard brim of that big hat clobbered her in the eye. That hat. She remembered trying to find the windows to his soul in the shadows, but from where she had lain, he'd been all succulent lips, chiseled nose and hat brim.

Aren't you going to take off your hat?

That's up to you.

Ann grabbed his hat and scored a ringer over the newel post as they started down the hall. She kept her eyes on the road and off the passenger as the threesome bounced off the walls a few times on their way to the bathroom, where Sally used the rubber end of her cane to push the door wide open. She took the lead but stepped aside with a nod toward the toilet. "Sit down. No, wait." Again the cane extended her reach, and the toilet lid clattered over the seat.

Their guest gave a dry chuckle. "Up for b-boys, down for girls. I'm a…"

"Here." While Sally started running the bathwater, Ann shouldered him into place over the toilet seat. Heave… "Sit right here, Zach."

"No, I'm good. Boys can go…" ho "… outside. But don't tell Ma." He looked up at Ann and frowned as she unbuttoned his long-on-style, lean-on-insulation jacket. "Ma?"

Sally grabbed her arm. "You'd better let me handle that, Annie."

"I don't think so. He's a big hunk of dead weight." His pathetic excuse for a laugh turned into a feeble groan. Ann closed her eyes and tugged on his belt buckle. "I just hope he's wearing some kind of underwear." Not that she was prudish, really.

Well, maybe a little.

"Me, too," he muttered.

"How's the water, Sally?" Ann straddled his leg and started working on a boot. "Help me out, Zach. Wiggle your foot a little."

"Can't feel 'em. Musta lost 'em."

"Just a little," she coaxed, and felt a little movement, a little slippage. "That's good."

"Aaaaa!"

"There. Found a foot."

"It sure smells like a foot," Sally said in response to the drop of a ripe black sock.

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