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The Maverick's Thanksgiving Baby (Montana Mavericks: 20 Years in the Saddle! Book 5) by [Brenda Harlen]

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The Maverick's Thanksgiving Baby (Montana Mavericks: 20 Years in the Saddle! Book 5) Kindle Edition

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About the Author

Brenda Harlen is a multi-award winning author for Harlequin Special Edition who has written over 25 books for the company. --This text refers to an alternate kindle_edition edition.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.


Jesse Crawford was an idiot. A completely smitten and tongue-tied idiot.

But far worse than that indisputable fact was that Maggie Roarke now knew it, too.

What had ever possessed him to approach her? What had made him think he could introduce himself and have an actual conversation with a woman like her?

While he'd never been as smooth with women as any of his three brothers, he'd never been so embarrassingly inept, either. But being in close proximity to Maggie seemed to rattle his brain as completely as if he'd been thrown from the back of a horse—and that hadn't happened to him in more than fifteen years.

The first time he saw her, even before he knew her name, he'd been mesmerized. She was tall and willowy with subtle but distinctly feminine curves. Her blond hair spilled onto her shoulders like golden silk and her deep brown eyes could shine with humor or warm with compassion. And her smile—there was just something about her smile that seemed to reach right inside his chest and wrap around his heart. A ridiculously fanciful and foolish idea, of course, and one that he wouldn't dare acknowledge to anyone else.

It was no mystery to Jesse why a man would be attracted to her, but he was still a little mystified by the intensity of
his reaction to her—especially when he didn't know the first thing about her. The discovery that she was a successful attorney in Los Angeles should have put an end to his ridiculous crush. Experience had proven to him that city girls didn't adapt well to the country, and there was no way a lawyer—from Hollywood of all places—would be interested in a small-town rancher. But still his long-guarded heart refused to be dissuaded.

He'd come to the official opening of the Grace Traub Community Center today because he knew she would be there, because he couldn't resist the opportunity to see her again, even from a distance. It had taken the better part of an hour for him to finally summon the courage to introduce himself. And when he did, without muttering or stumbling over words, he felt reassured that things weren't going too badly.

She offered her hand and, in that brief moment of contact, he'd been certain that he felt a real connection with her. And then she smiled at him, and all his carefully rehearsed words slid back down his throat, leaving him awestruck and tongue-tied and destroying any hope he had of making a good first impression.

He'd almost been grateful that Arthur Swinton intruded on the moment, whisking her away for a private word. Jesse had stood there for another minute, watching her with the older man and wondering if she might come back to finish the conversation they hadn't even started. But Arthur had no sooner turned away when another man stepped into her path: Jared Winfree—also known as the Romeo of Rust Creek Falls.

The cowboy tipped his head down to talk to her. Maggie smiled at him, though Jesse noticed that her smile didn't seem to have the same debilitating effect on the other man, who leaned closer for a more intimate discussion. Jesse finally unglued his feet from the floor and walked out of the community center, berating himself for his awkwardness.

His cell phone started ringing before he'd hit the bottom step, and he pulled it out to answer the call. At this point, he didn't even care who was on the other end of the line—he was grateful for any distraction.

After a brief conversation with Brett Gable, he was feeling marginally better. The local rancher was having trouble with an ornery stallion and wondered if Jesse could take a look at him and let the owner know if he was wasting his time trying to tame the animal or if he just needed to adjust his tactics. Jesse promised that he'd go out to the Gable ranch the next day.

As he tucked his phone away again, he resolved to keep his focus on four-legged creatures and forget about women. Because while horses might not look as good or smell as pretty, they were a lot easier to understand and a lot less likely to trample all over his heart.

Or throw themselves into his arms?

"Whoa." Jesse caught her gently as she bounced off his chest.

Maggie's wide, startled gaze locked with his. "I'm so sorry," she said breathlessly. "Everything okay?"

She shook her head, an introspective look now competing with the panic in her dark chocolate-colored eyes. "Are you married?"

"What?" He had no idea what thought process had precipitated the question, but he immediately shook his head. "No."

"Engaged? Involved?"

"No and no," he said, just a little warily.

"Then I'll apologize now and explain later," she told him.


He'd intended to ask what she thought she needed to apologize for, but that was as far as he got before she lifted her hands to his shoulders and pressed her lips to his.

To say that he was stunned would have been an understatement. But the initial shock was quickly supplanted by other stronger emotions: pleasure, happiness, desire.

He wanted this. He wanted
her. As if of their own volition, his arms wrapped around her, pulling her against him as he kissed her back.

Somewhere in a part of his brain that was still capable of registering anything beyond the heavenly feel of this woman in his arms, he heard the crunch of gravel beneath heavy, impatient footsteps and a frustrated voice muttering, "Where on earth could she have… Maggie?"

The woman in question eased her mouth from his.

There was desire in her eyes—he wasn't mistaken in that. But there was something else, too—a silent plea?

A plea for what, he didn't know and didn't care. Right now, he would have promised her anything. Everything.

She finally turned to look at the other man, and Jesse did the same.

Jared Winfree's brows were drawn together, his expression dark as he glanced from Maggie to Jesse. "Are you making a move on my woman?"

Since Jesse had no idea how to respond to that question, he was glad that Maggie spoke up.

"I'm not—and never have been—your woman," she told the Romeo.

But Jared continued to scowl. "We were supposed to be going to grab a bite to eat."

"No—you offered to take me for a bite to eat and I told you that I already had plans."

"With this guy?" His tone was skeptical.

She took Jesse's hand and lied without compunction. "We've been dating for the past several months."

"Then how come I've never seen you with him before?" Jared challenged.

"We've been trying to keep a low profile and avoid being the topic of gossip," she said easily.

It was obvious by the stormy look in the other guy's eyes that he wanted to challenge the claim, but with Maggie's hand linked with Jesse's and her lipstick on his mouth, the evidence was pretty convincing.

"When you decide you want a real cowboy, give me a call," Jared told her, and stormed off in the direction from which he'd come.

Maggie blew out a breath. "Thank goodness." She released the hand that she'd been holding on to as if it was a lifeline and turned to him. "And thank

"No need to thank me for something that was very much my pleasure," he assured her.

And the big-city lawyer with the razor-sharp mind and persuasive tongue actually blushed when his gaze dropped to linger on the sweet curve of her lips.

"Do you want me to explain now?" she asked.

"Only if you want to."

"I feel as if I owe you at least that much."

Half an hour earlier, he'd barely been able to say two words to her, but locking lips seemed to have loosened his, and he couldn't resist teasing her a little. "Or you could just kiss me again and we'll call it even."

Her mouth curved as she held his gaze, and he knew she was giving his offer serious consideration. "I think, for now, we'll go with the explanation."

"Your choice," he said.

"I met him at the Ace in the Hole a few months back," she began. "I was there to have lunch with my cousin, Lissa, but before we even had a chance to order, Lissa got called away. I decided to stay and at least finish my coffee, and he slid into the empty seat and introduced himself. He seemed friendly and we chatted for a while, but when he asked for my number, I told him I wasn't interested in starting anything up with someone in Rust Creek Falls because my life was in Los Angeles."

Which, Jesse reminded himself, was a fact he'd be wise to remember.

"He seemed to accept that easily enough and said maybe he'd see me around the next time I was in town. And I know Rust Creek Falls isn't a big city, but every single time I've been back since then, I've run into him. And every single time, he asks me to go out with him."

"So why didn't you just tell him you had a boyfriend in Los Angeles? I got the impression he would have believed that more readily than he believed you were with me."

"I don't think he would've believed anything without proof—which you're still wearing," she said, and lifted a hand to rub her lipstick off the corner of his mouth with her thumb.

And he felt it again—the sizzle and crackle of awareness when she touched him. And when her gaze locked on his, he knew that he wasn't the only one who had felt it.

"He hit on Lissa, too, when she first came to Rust Creek Falls," Maggie told him. "Apparently he even started a bar fight with some other guy who asked her to dance."

"I don't pay much attention to the gossip around town," Jesse said. "But I remember hearing about that—both the sheriff and his deputy got punched and two guys got arrested."

Maggie smiled. "Lissa insisted it wasn't her fault, but Gage said something about beautiful women being the cause of most trouble at the Ace in the Hole."

"Then you better stay away from the bar or you might incite a riot."

Her cheeks colored prettily, as if she hadn't heard the same thing a thousand times before. And if she hadn't, he figured there was something seriously wrong with the guys in LA, because Maggie Roarke was a definite knockout.

"So why aren't you involved with anyone back home?" he asked now.

"How do you know I'm not?" she asked.

"You didn't kiss me until you'd confirmed that I wasn't seeing anyone, and I can't imagine you'd be any less respectful of your own relationship."

"You're right," she acknowledged. "As for not being involved—I guess I've just been too busy to do much dating."

"Until me," he teased. She laughed. "Until you."

The magical sound of her soft laughter filled his heart, and the sparkle in her eyes took his breath away. He didn't know what else to say—or if he should say anything else at all. Maybe he should just walk away while she was smiling and hopefully not thinking that he was an idiot.

"I really do appreciate your cooperation," she told him. "If there's anything I can do to possibly repay the favor, I hope you'll ask."

"Well, I was planning to grab a burger at the Ace in the Hole," he admitted. "And despite the sheriff's warning to your cousin, I'd be willing to take the risk if you wanted to join me."

"Are you inviting me to have dinner with you?"

"It would substantiate your claim that we're dating."

"The Ace in the Hole?" she said dubiously.

He shrugged. "Since this isn't your first visit to Rust Creek Falls, you know that our options here are limited."

Still she hesitated, and Jesse began to suspect that her gratitude didn't actually extend to the point where she wanted to be seen in public with him. And that was okay. He understood what she'd been saying about small-town gossip, and he really didn't want to be put under the microscope any more than she did. But damn, he really did want to spend more time with her.

"I could do better than a burger," she finally said. "I could make dinner."

"You'd cook for me?"

"Which part surprises you the most—that I
can cook or that I'm offering to cook for you?"

"I'm not sure," he admitted. She laughed again. "At least you're honest."

"I guess I just thought, with you being a busy lawyer and all."

"Lawyers have to eat on occasion, too," she said, when his explanation ran out.

"Yeah, but I would figure you've got a lot of dining options in LA."

"We do," she agreed. "But as it turns out, I like to cook. It helps me unwind at the end of the day. So what do you say—are you going to let me make you dinner?"

He was beginning to suspect that he would let Maggie Roarke do absolutely anything she wanted, but he figured dinner was a good start.

"An offer I can't refuse," he told her.

Maggie prided herself on the fact that she was an intelligent, educated woman. She'd graduated summa cum laude from Stanford Law School and was establishing a reputation for herself at Alliston & Blake—a prominent Los Angeles law firm. She'd gone toe-to-toe with formidable opponents in the courtroom, she'd held her ground in front of arrogant judges and she'd refused to be impressed or intimidated by powerful clients. One of her greatest assets was her ability to remain calm and cool whatever the circumstances. She simply didn't get flustered.

But as Jesse followed her into Gage and Lissa's kitchen, she was definitely feeling flustered. There was just something about this shy, sexy cowboy that had her heart jumping around in her chest. She opened the refrigerator, peered inside.

"What do you like?" she asked. He looked at her blankly. "For dinner," she clarified.

He flashed a quick smile. "Sorry, I guess my mind wandered. As for food—I'm not fussy. I'll eat whatever you want to make."

"Chicken and pasta okay?" she asked him.


She took a package of chicken breasts out of the fridge, then rummaged for some other ingredients. She found green peppers in the crisper, onions in the pantry and a bowl of ripe tomatoes on the counter. But what she really needed was fresh basil, and Lissa didn't have any.

"Do you know if they carry fresh herbs at the General Store?"

"I doubt it," Jesse said. "You'd probably have to go into Kalispell for something like that."

"I can use dried," she admitted. "But fresh basil leaves would add a lot more visual appeal to the dish."

"I'm going to have dinner with a beautiful woman," he said. "That's enough visual appeal that I wouldn't mind if you made macaroni and cheese from a box."

She felt her cheeks heat. She'd received more effusive compliments, but none had ever sounded as sincere. No one had looked at her the way he looked at her.

"Even without fresh basil, I do think this will be a step up from boxed mac and cheese."

She filled a pot with water and set it on the back burner, then drizzled some oil into a deep frying pan. While the oil heated, she sliced the chicken into strips and tossed them into the pan. As the chicken was cooking, she chopped up peppers and onions, then added those, too.

"Can I do anything to help?"

"You could open the wine," she suggested. "There's a bottle of Riesling in the fridge and glasses in the cupboard above."
--This text refers to an alternate kindle_edition edition.

Product details

  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B00K9ZWH16
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Harlequin Special Edition; Original edition (November 1, 2014)
  • Publication date ‏ : ‎ November 1, 2014
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • File size ‏ : ‎ 368 KB
  • Text-to-Speech ‏ : ‎ Enabled
  • Screen Reader ‏ : ‎ Supported
  • Enhanced typesetting ‏ : ‎ Enabled
  • X-Ray ‏ : ‎ Not Enabled
  • Word Wise ‏ : ‎ Enabled
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 222 pages
  • Lending ‏ : ‎ Not Enabled
  • Customer Reviews:
    4.4 out of 5 stars 24 ratings

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4.0 out of 5 stars Als Einzelroman nicht sooo spannend, als Teil der Reihe um Rust Creek Falls ein Muss.
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