Good morning! I am eagerly awaiting next Tuesday's release of The Cowboy's Secret Baby! This is my first novel release in some time, and I'm really happy to finally have this book added to my list of published works.
I know many of you downloaded the "pre-edited" sample of the book--and I hope you are ready to read the rest--but I thought I would also provide an advanced sneak peek of the first two scenes of TCSB for those who haven't read it yet. In these two scenes, I wanted to give you a peek at both Jillie and Mack.
With this book, hold on, because Mack and Jillie's HEA doesn't come that easily. There is a lot of "stuff" they need to get around first. Pick up your reins and hold on tight, cowgirl, because here we go!
Special Preorder/Release Week Sale / Goes off sale on September 1.
The Cowboy's Secret Baby
The Sequel to Roses & Rawhide
A Colorado Dreamin’ Book (#3)
The long-requested sequel to Maddie James’ first published novel, Roses & Rawhide is soon available!
But when Kim and Thad host their wedding at Thad’s Colorado ranch a few months later, Mack and Jillie must come face-to-face with reality—and with each other. She’s the maid of honor. He’s the best man. Both are harboring secrets—secrets that could break a potential future relationship if they both avoid telling the truth.
Can they reveal those secrets to each other? And if so, can they get past the withheld truths to plan a future together?
“I don’t understand.”
Behind her, Jillie Abernathy heard the early morning rustlings of the trail camp. Horses nickered. Utensils banged against pots and pans in the makeshift kitchen. The low voices of wranglers peppered the early morning as they prepared for their last day of the pack trip, punctuated by the muffled sounds of tents collapsing and guests chattering while helping pack the mules. Wind whistling through a stand of nearby Colorado mountain pines provided a steady backdrop to the conversation she’d been having with cowboy Mack Montgomery.
This had been her life for the past two weeks. Now, it was over.
All of it. Over.
She looked hard at the tall, lean wrangler standing in front of her. He’d been a dream come true—had fulfilled her every cowboy fantasy, and more. She’d had him for two weeks, and had fallen hopelessly, and unexpectedly, in love. Since Mack hadn’t responded, she repeated her words. “Mack, I don’t understand.”
It was a statement, but it was really a question. The question mark trailed off in her brain, even though she tried to sound firm and matter of fact.
Inside she was dying.
This isn’t happening.
Mack searched her face. She watched his gaze flick back and forth unsteadily over her features and land on her eyes, shift to her mouth, and then back to her eyes again as if he really didn’t want to stare—yet couldn’t drag his gaze away.
“I know you don’t, Jillie. But let’s face it—these past two weeks were great. Real great. Lots of fun. Now it’s time to move on. You have to get back to Kentucky and I have to get back to work.”
Lots of fun. Shit.
She tilted her chin. “I know that.”
“So, you do understand.”
In disbelief, she shook her head. “Not really. I don’t understand at all, Mack.” What does he think I am? Some silly schoolgirl planning to ride off into the sunset on those big pack horses behind us and live happily-ever-after in the mountains?
Well, that thought had crossed her mind. Hadn’t it?
“I guess you are going to have to explain it to me,” she said. If he thought she was going to make it easy for him, he could think again.
He glared. “You get that we can’t have a relationship, right? The distance and all, and well….”
“There are these things called phones, Mack. And email. And texting. Even damn snail mail letters if you prefer. And guess what? Airplanes. And cars. There are ways to do a long-distance relationship.”
“Neither of us have the time or energy for that, Jillie. We’re busy people.”
“If we make it a priority, we can do it.”
The staring again. “Of course. If one wanted to go that route.”
Jillie couldn’t believe what she was hearing. “So, the bottom line is you don’t want to go that route.”
He nodded. “That’s right. I don’t.”
“What are you really saying, Mack?”
“I’m saying it ends here. I’m not the kind to get attached, Jillie. I don’t want to be joined at the hip with any woman.”
She laughed. “Just say it. You’re not the marrying kind.”
She paused. Hell, she’d said the M word. Then she added for good measure. “Mack, I’m not trying to snag you into marrying me.” Way too soon for that.
His face turned stoic. Obviously, he didn’t think that was funny. “No. I’m not the marrying kind. I enjoy being unencumbered.”
“Big word for a cowboy.” The words were out of her mouth before she knew it.
He put up a hand. “Don’t, Jillie.”
“You’re just the screwing kind then?”
He narrowed his gaze. “It wasn’t like that and you know it.”
“Then how was it? It sure meant more to me than a casual vacation fling.”
“But that’s just what it was, Jillie. And it ends now.”
“And when did you decide this? Before or after we had wild monkey sex earlier this morning? Or did you know this all along?” Suddenly, she was nauseous. Hell, the last thing she wanted to do right now was puke.
“Don’t go there either, Jillie.”
Queasiness hit her stomach like a cannonball. Crap. “Then this is it.”
He glared hard, and then looked at his boots. Shuffled his feet. Glanced to his right. Then, back to her face. “Yes. This is it.”
Every bit of air pushed out of her lungs. Now she was light-headed. “Like, good-bye? We’ll never see each other again? Have a great life?”
He nodded. “If you want to put it that way, yes.”
She didn’t want to put it that way.
“Why?” The word squeaked out smaller and weaker than she would have liked. She felt like yelling. Wanted to yell at him. All sorts of words flew around inside her head. Words like liar, and bastard, and lying bastard sonofabitch. But only one little word fell off her lips. “Why?”
“I told you why. It’s for the best. For you. For me. Look, just head back home to Kentucky and your students, and I’ll bet you’ll find someone new to be with before football season starts.”
Jillie scowled. Her life back in Kentucky had nothing to do with this. She could feel her face screwing up into a ball, and imagined the result wasn’t very pretty. “I don’t want someone else and I don’t even like football.”
“Just a metaphor. Or whatever,” he said.
“More big words from the cowboy. I’m impressed. I thought I was the English teacher.” That was another low blow and she knew it.
He ignored her. “We had a great time, though, didn’t we?”
A great time. She fought the sting of tears. “Peachy.”
Jillie crossed her arms, stepped back, and looked over the cowboy she’d spent every night cuddled up with in his sleeping bag. Riding beside him over the mountains. Working alongside him when they made camp. And yeah, the sleeping bag part….
“Just what I was after,” she muttered. What a fool I have been. Then she said louder, “I thought we had something special. Different.”
He shifted again and peered off behind her shoulder.
She added, “You told me you loved me.”
He closed his eyes briefly. Mack stepped back a few steps and shoved his hands into his pockets. “Jillie, look. You’re a great woman. It’s easy to get caught up in things here in the mountains, away from home. I know you have this thing for cowboys, but you know how it is—you’ll go back home, reminisce about how you got your fantasy lover, and I’ll be old news before the week is out. You’ll be on to some other guy.”
His words wounded her to the pit of her gut. Fantasy lover? “What in the world do you think I am? I’m appalled you would think such a thing of me!” Her stomach hurt, and she rubbed her abdomen.
He shifted. “Face it, Jillie. I was on your bucket list, right? It happens all the time with girls from back east. They want to fuck a cowboy so they can go back and brag to their girlfriends.”
“Oh my God!” She bristled and squared her shoulders, then rushed toward him to stab a forefinger into his chest. “I did not! I never thought such a thing about you!”
Laughing and standing firm, he countered, “Oh sure. I heard you and Kim talking. Cowboy lust, right? You were telling her you had it. You were aching to have a cowboy. Well, you had one. Now it is over. Besides, you live in Kentucky. I live in Colorado….”
“This is ridiculous.”
He shrugged. “You know I was using you too, right? Move on, Jillie.”
He was using me? “You are an ass.”
“Yes, I am.”
“You weren’t like this a week ago. Hell, or yesterday. You were a gentleman. You said and did the right things. You were happy to be with me—you even told me you loved me—and now you are telling me you think all I wanted was a cowboy conquest, and that you were using me to get off? What the hell, Mack? Where are your cowboy code scruples?”
He didn’t immediately respond—just stood there, stoic, unmoving. “Like you said, I’m an ass.”
She whirled and took a few steps away, then turned back to glare at him. “Yes, you are. And you are still avoiding my question. Twice now.”
“I didn’t hear a question.”
She cocked her head and crossed her arms. “True. It wasn’t a question. It was a statement. You told me you loved me. So, here is the question—was that was a lie?”
He retreated a step.
“Look. It’s the last day of the trip,” he said. “I’ll be busy and won’t be able to talk to you when we get back to the ranch, so….”
“So, this is goodbye.” And you don’t love me. Jillie jerked her chin up again. How many times am I going to make him freaking say it?
His lips thinned out and finally, his eyes stopped shifting. He looked straight at her. “Yes. Goodbye, Jillie. Safe travels home.” He turned and began walking toward his horse.
“Go screw yourself.”
Mack pulled up short, paused, and then walked on. Jillie watched him move farther away, a lump in her throat the size of Durango. Why was this happening?
He didn’t look back. And she promised herself she wouldn’t, either.
Mack Montgomery slowed his truck and rounded a bend as he descended the mountain, his gaze fixed on the clouds to the west. There was a storm brewing, that was for certain, and he wondered if he was ready for it. If he accomplished anything today, he needed to stock up on groceries and get batteries, making sure he also had enough wood handy near the house in case he needed to hole up for a few days.
Seemed like the past couple of years he largely operated in survival mode. He was ready for things to be different.
He’d been away from Last Valley Ranch, his Colorado home, for a few weeks, so provisions at the house were low. He knew that Bill Fischer, his ranch manager, had everything under control at the bunk house and with the livestock, though. Good man, Bill. Mack never had to worry about the ranch while he was away. This imminent winter storm, however, might be something to worry about. The weather forecast was uncertain, and he didn’t like the looks of those darker clouds heading into the valley.
Experience told him he needed to be prepared to ride out the storm without full electrical power. Last Valley was a bit off the beaten path—which was of course, the way he liked it—but that meant he had to be ready to isolate from civilization for periods of time in the winter.
He didn’t mind if he was prepared.
He made a mental note to check the generator as soon as he got home. On second thought, he pulled his cell phone off the dash and tapped Bill’s number.
He answered on the second ring. “Yeah, boss.”
“How’s the gas supply at the ranch? Do I need to pick up a few gallons?”
“Naw,” Bill said. “We had the tanks filled a few days ago. We’re good.”
“Great. Figured as much since you are always on top of things but thought I’d check. How’s the generator looking? Have we tested it out lately?”
“Now that’s a thought,” said Bill. “I don’t think we’ve cranked it up since last winter. I’ll get someone on that today if I can. At least by morning.”
“Great. And thanks.” He navigated a curve, thinking. “Seems uncertain when this storm will hit. Anything else you think I should pick up if the weather escalates? How’s the wood supply?”
“We’re good here, boss. The boys stacked some firewood on your back porch yesterday, so you have some within easy reach. The bunkhouse is stocked with food and water and we have plenty of feed handy. Just get what you need personally for the main house and we should be good to go. You be safe heading back home now. You hear?”
“Roger that, Bill. I’ll see you in a few hours.”
“Have you been in touch with Kim? The woman is on pins and needles.” Kim was the fiancée of his best friend, Thad Winchester. Their wedding was coming up in about ten days, which was one of the reasons Mack was back in Colorado.
“She called twice yesterday wanting to know when you were getting home.”
“Did she say what she wanted?”
“Only that Thad was out of town and she needed a favor.”
Mack frowned. Great. He should have checked in with her before he left that morning, He knew Thad and a couple of his wranglers were down in New Mexico looking at a bull. “All right. I’d already planned to drop by there before heading home, but I’ll give her a call before I leave town.”
He hung up and was once again grateful that Bill Fischer had stumbled into his life a couple of years ago. Bill’s ranch management skills had saved him on more than one occasion. He was simply happy to have a warm place to live and work to do.
So, it seemed that once he got home, he’d be set for a few weeks. That was a good thing.
He wasn’t concerned for himself. Cody was coming to visit soon for Thad and Kim’s wedding and would stay through Christmas. Mack needed to make sure he had everything he needed for the kid. It had been several weeks since he’d seen him, so he was looking forward to their time together. Given the storm, and all the upcoming festivities, now was the best time to get his tasks done.
He was glad he’d gotten an early start.
The truck downshifted and rounded the second turn of the switchback. In his head, Mack ticked off a list of supplies he needed and the stores he wanted to shop. He calculated the best route—where to shop first, then second, and so on—to make the best use of his time. He was anxious to get his errands accomplished in a timely manner and get back to the ranch before those clouds rolled into the valley.
He’d check the weather on his phone once he reached Durango.
Flying in the night before from San Antonio, he’d hitched a ride to his place from the airport with one of his ranch hands, who had gone into town to see his girlfriend. He was fortunate to have good men who worked for him. The flight had been delayed and it was late when he’d arrived home, and he was grateful the wrangler had waited. By the time they had gotten to the ranch, he wanted nothing more than to fall into bed and sleep. The past few months had taken their toll and he was ready for a brain break. He would work from Last Valley during the month of December, but the sheer fact that he would be away from his corporate offices and nestled into his haven in the San Juan Mountains, helped ease his daily work stress.
Now, he was simply ready to get on with the day.
His cell phone pinged indicating a message. A call had likely come in while he was out of service. There were plenty of dead pockets in the mountains. He punched a few buttons and listened: Mack, it’s Kim. Could you give me a call, please? Thank you!
Shit. What was so urgent? He hit the call button for Kim’s number.
“Hey, Kim. Got your message. What’s up?”
“I’m so glad you are home, Mack.”
“Thanks. Is everything okay there?”
“Oh sure. Yes. Just hectic.” She paused and he heard her speak to someone else off the phone, saying something about sausage. Then she was back. “Sorry. I’m trying to fix breakfast for my parents and stuff just keeps happening.”
“One of those days?”
“How can I help?” He might as well put that out there. He knew she was going to ask for something, anyway. Besides, he didn’t mind.
“Well, I did wonder if you could do something for me,” she said.
“Sure. I’m on my way into Durango now. What can I pick up for you?”
Another pause. “It might be a bit out of your way, so if it is a major inconvenience, please let me know.”
Pause number three, and Mack’s caution radar went up.
“Can you run by the airport? Around nine?”
“Yes. To pick someone up.”
Mack gritted his jaw and attempted to pipe down the gnawing sensation of apprehension creeping into his gut. He knew that only one more person was coming in for the wedding by plane. Kim’s parents had arrived last week. Retired, they wanted to spend a few weeks in the mountains with their daughter and future son-in-law before the wedding—and of course, Kim’s mom was there to help with details. Seeing that the wedding was small, and that Kim’s best friend, Jillie, was the only other out-of-town guest expected, he swallowed hard the harsh words he wanted to say, but didn’t.
He glanced at the clock on his dashboard. If the pickup was at nine, that left him only an hour to get his errands done—but that wasn’t his biggest concern.
“Jillie is coming in today.” Not a question. He was damned certain that was the case.
He cleared his throat. “And you want me to pick her up.”
Kim’s voice softened and her sweet, Kentucky dialect floated into the phone. “Well, that is if you don’t mind, Mack. I have a to-do list a mile long. And Mama and Daddy want to drive down to the Four Corners area—Lord knows I don’t even have time for that today, but when?—and Thad is in New Mexico, you know, or I wouldn’t bother you. I mean, it’s been months since you’ve seen her, Mack. Surely you two can get past whatever it was that happened last summer and be civil toward one another?”
His head spun. Adults? Yes, they were adults. He and Jillie had done some very adult things last summer. Just then, he didn’t want to think about those adult things, or Jillie, for that matter, he just wanted—
He shook his head. “Of course. I’ll be adult and pick her up. I promise not to rile her or pick a fight with her on the way home, either.”
Kim laughed. “I’m more worried about her picking at you.”
You and me both.
“But nevertheless,” she continued, “I’m sure you two can find some common ground while she is here and then you each can go your merry way.”
Easier said than done.
He listened to a few more words from her, pitched a half-hearted plea to get out of this thing, then fell silent. Kim listened on the other end until he stopped talking. “Just humor me, Mack. Okay?”
He forced out a breath. “Sorry, Kim. You know how this stings. I hope you also know I’ll do what you ask and won’t cause you and Thad any trouble.”
“I’m not worried about trouble, Mack. I only want you two to get along. I can’t thank you enough.”
“Not a problem, Kim.”
And he meant that. At least he thought he did.