One cowboy, one bar, one hell of a holiday!
Praise for Carolyn Brown's country music romances:
"You won't want to miss this boot scootin' contemporary full of sexy cowboys and sassy women."—The Romance Studio (My Give a Damn's Busted)
She means business...
Sharlene Waverly is determined to have the "new and improved" Honky Tonk up and running before the holiday. For that, she'll need Holt Jackson, the best darn carpenter in the state. But his warm, whisky-colored eyes make her insides melt, and before she knows it, she's sharing her darkest secrets and talking about the nightmares...
He's determined to keep things professional...
Holt Jackson needs the job at the Honky Tonk, but is completely unprepared to handle the beautiful new bar owner he's working for.
Sharlene and Holt try like crazy to deny the sparks flying between them, but their love may just be the best Christmas present either one of them ever got.
Praise for I Love This Bar:
"Heart...sass...a lot of sparks and romance...country music. What more can I say? I really had fun with this book."—Red-Headed Book Child
"Guaranteed to leave you countrified and satisfied!"—Love Romance Passion
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
The whirring of the helicopter blades cut through the hot Iraqi desert wind. It was late summer and the Shamal wind was throwing enough sand around to limit visibility. But she could make out the target in her crosshairs and the sand kept the choppers from getting a direct bead on her and Jonah. They'd already made four passes. She had sand in her mouth, sand in her boots and in her ears. She'd been trained to ignore everything and take out the target, but that damned buzzing noise reminded her of a bunch of swarming bees-and she hated bees. "Keep focused on the target," she whispered so low that Jonah couldn't hear the words.
She set the crosshairs on the terrorist behind the machine gun mounted on the hood of a military jeep. She'd never missed yet and didn't want to spoil her record. "Convoy is less than a mile from the ambush," her commander's voice said on the radio. "Fire when ready."
"Yes sir," she said. "Adjustments, Jonah?"
Her spotter ran his finger down a column of numbers and called out the wind velocity. She made adjustments in the blistering heat. She took a deep breath and blinked twice for good luck. If she took out the ambush, the convoy took her friends back to base. If she didn't, there'd be widows and orphans crying that night in the States. Sweat trickled down between her breasts to puddle at the bottom of her bra where a sand trap waited.
Evidently God knew what he was doing when he gave breasts to women and not men. Boy soldiers wouldn't last ten minutes out in the heat with bras biting their ribs and shoulders. They'd scratch and fidget until the enemy blew their weak little asses all over the sand. She wiped moisture from her brow, inhaled, and blinked twice again for good luck. Then she pulled the trigger and the target dropped graveyard dead.
"Mission complete. Convoy can proceed. Send in rescue," she said.
Gunfire started and the sand kicked up all around her. She looked over at Jonah to tell him to keep his head down and get ready to run when their rescue team lit. His chin rested on his chest and blood was everywhere.
"Jonah's down!" she screamed into the radio. "Send me some help now. Jonah is shot."
"Hello, anybody home?" a deep Texas drawl yelled and light from the open door filled the Honky Tonk. She jerked her head up and scanned the area. It was dark and cool. Where had the desert gone? Where was her rifle and why was she wearing cowboy boots? She looked to her right and Jonah Black was gone. She drew her eyebrows down. He'd been there the last time she blinked. Then the past faded into the dark corners of the beer joint and the present brought a cowboy across the hardwood dance floor.
"Back here." Her voice was hoarse and her mouth dry. She'd fallen asleep on the table when she sat down for a rest. Her arms tingled as the feeling returned and her heart pounded. It was the same thing every time she went to sleep. Recurring dreams of Iraq, of the job that women did not do and were not trained to do in the Army. But Sharlene had done the job and when she was discharged she'd brought it home with her in the form of nightmares.
The sound of cowboy boot heels on hardwood floors coming toward her sounded like gunfire. She covered her ears and shook her head. She needed another second or two to bury the visions and pull herself away from the sight of Jonah and his dark brown dead eyes.
"I'm looking for Sharlene Waverly. I was supposed to meet her here at one o'clock," the Texas voice grew closer.
She stood up and extended her hand. "I'm Sharlene. You must be Holt Jackson. Have a seat. Can I get you a beer?"
Holt's big hand swallowed hers. He noticed that her hand trembled when he shook it.
"No, I'm fine. You are Sharlene Waverly?" He frowned as he let go of her hand.
She had kinky red hair and green eyes. She didn't look old enough to work behind the bar much less own one. She barely came to his shoulder and would have to produce an ID to get out of a convenience store with a six-pack.
"Yes, I am. Sit and we'll talk." She motioned toward the table with four chairs around it and an empty beer bottle on the top. "I was just about to start cleaning up the place from last night's business. I fell asleep with my arms under my head and they're still tingling." She shook her arms to restore feeling.
He pulled out a chair and sat across the table from her. He was tall with thick dark hair that tickled his shirt collar. His mossy green eyes scanned the beer joint, finally coming to rest on her.
"So where do you want to build an addition to this place?"
She pointed toward the north end of the Honky Tonk.
"I want to knock out half of that wall and make a room as big as the original Honky Tonk. I'll put the pool tables and jukeboxes back there and that will leave more room in here for a bigger dance floor. Hardwood floors, paneling on the walls. The good stuff, not that stuff that looks as cheap as it is."
"Why not go to the south?" he asked.
"Because I'm barely over the county line as it is. Erath County is dry. Palo Pinto is wet. If I get over into Erath County I couldn't have a beer joint," she explained. He stood up and reached for a steel tape fastened to his belt. A vision of someone grabbing a gun made her flinch but she covered it well by throwing her hand over her mouth to cover a fake cough.
He pulled a small spiral-topped notebook from the pocket of his chambray work shirt and began measuring and making calculations. "Twice as big? That's a hell of a big addition."
"I need a big addition. Folks are waiting in the parking lot now because my max says three hundred or less. I want to be able to bring in more customers." Holt made notations and measured some more.
"No. Solid walls. No windows and no frilly curtains. I run a beer joint here, not a boarding house for proper little girls."
"Why?" Holt asked.
"Because I like running a beer joint and I would not like a bunch of whiny little girls fussing all day long about having to learn the proper way to set a table," she said.
"Why no windows? It's your business what you do for a living, lady, not mine. I'm just here to build an addition." Holt grinned.
"Sorry that I bit at you. I'm grouchy today. It's not your fault. Drunks aren't real good with windows. If they get into a fight before Luther can break it up, the walls don't break. I'm going to clean while you figure, then we'll talk when you get the estimate worked up," Sharlene answered.
Holt worked for half an hour then slipped the tape back on his belt and hiked a hip onto a bar stool. "I'll take that beer now, Miz Waverly. If you like my estimate and can find me a rental house with a yard in Mingus, I can do this job for you."
"Call me Sharlene. Miz Waverly makes me look behind me to see if my momma is in the place. Let's see, it's mid-August. I'd like to have it finished and ready by Christmas..." She hesitated because it was on the tip of her tongue to tell him that she'd give him her apartment if he could have it done by Thanksgiving.
"You don't know much about building, do you?" he asked.
She shrugged. "Not really. Is that not doable?"
"I can get this done by Halloween if we have good weather. Probably within eight weeks, which would finish it by mid-to-late October," he said.
"I'm figuring we can have it done in eight weeks, maximum," he said.