June is for wedding romance!

 JUNE IS THE MONTH FOR WEDDINGS! GET YOUR FILL WITH THESE WEDDING THEMED ROMANCES…

HAPPY IS THE BRIDE

1 Wedding, 4 New York Times Bestselling Authors, 5 Happily Ever Afters! MORE

FLANKED (Studs in Spurs)

It’s a marriage of convenience neither wants to end . . . MORE

Flanked Studs in Spurs

NEW ORLEANS (Sex, Lies & Wedding Cake)

A comedy of errors occur when a maid of honor, pretending to be a stripper, encounters the best man, pretending to be the groom. Then things really start to heat up… MORE

Romantic Comedy Wedding Theme from Cat Johnson

GILLIAN’S ISLAND (Sex, Lies & Wedding Cake)

A beautiful bride, a handsome groom & a private cruise. What could possibly go wrong? MORE

Gillians Island

WED TO A SEAL (Hot SEALs)

Navy SEAL Rocky Mangiano is a bit thrown when he finds a baby on the doorstep . . . but when he tracks down the mother things really get crazy. MORE
Wed to a SEAL Hot SEALs Teaser

ROMANCED BY A SEAL (Hot SEALs)

Jon’s traveled to hell, danced with the devil and made it back to her, but his greatest challenge is still ahead. Getting Ali to marry him… MORE

Romanced by a SEAL Hot SEALs Series

 ESCAPE WITH A HOT SEAL (Hot SEALs)

It’s a Hot SEALs wedding but the path of true love never did run smooth… MORE

  GRAB JUNE’S WEDDING THEMED DESKTOP WALLPAPER/FB HEADER IMAGE HERE!

Read HOOKED #StudsInSpurs Chapter 1

HOOKED (STUDS IN SPURS)

“Cat Johnson…brings the sport of bull riding vividly to life.” Book Reviews & More by Kathy

In all of her years as a sideline reporter for the pro tour, Annie Grant has never been tempted by any of the sexy bull-riding studs in spurs she interviews . . . until she learns Luke Carpenter is back on the market.

CHAPTER ONE

Annie Grant steered the rental car into a spot and cut the engine. She was just gathering her stuff—a large tote bag, a bottle of water and car keys—when the sight of two cowboys crossing the parking lot caught her attention.

Her brain turned to mush and her heartbeat sped. Annie scrambled out of the car so fast she forgot to grab the change of clothes hanging from the hook behind the driver’s seat.

“Damn, damn, damn.” She grumbled aloud to no one as she unlocked the car and grabbed the hangers covered in the plastic dry cleaning bag.

Forgetting things and cursing aloud to herself were just two more indications she’d gone crazy. The first had been when she’d realized she had a crush on one of the professional bull riders she worked with.

What woman in her right mind would want to date a rider? A man who made his living by traveling the world amid hordes of women intent on bedding the star the moment he got off the back of a bucking bull? If he got off without being critically injured or worse.

Apparently Annie was not in her right mind because veteran rider Luke Carpenter had caught her eye a while ago. Recently, more of her anatomy than just her eyes had become very interested in him.

Without even knowing it, Luke had captured her, body and soul. It seemed she wasn’t getting either back from him anytime soon, despite her realization that hoping for more than a working relationship with him was crazy.

And now two of his friends, the guys he’d driven with from the hotel to the arena yesterday, were walking straight toward her.

It was obvious to her now Luke wasn’t with them today, but her hands were shaking anyway just from the brief moments she’d thought he might have been.

Frustrated with her body’s ridiculous reaction at the mere thought of Luke, Annie blew out a loud breath.

Dry cleaning bag draped over one arm and the tote bag weighing down the other, she flung the car door shut with probably more force than was necessary.

She really needed to get control of herself and her schoolgirl crush.

Who knew if Luke would even look twice at her as a woman instead of just a female co-worker? He hadn’t in all the years she’d known him . . . but he’d also had a steady girlfriend all that time.

Now, since the tour had taken its midseason break, that girlfriend was suspiciously absent.

For the first time in years Luke had been going out with the other riders and acting more like a single man than a taken one.

If Annie didn’t get her butt in gear, some other woman would scoop him up. There were plenty of ready and willing women hanging around the local bars after an event looking for riders to flirt with.

That for the past couple of months Annie routinely knew Luke’s whereabouts—who he hung out with, where he went in his free time—only further proved she was crazy.

Practically a stalker.

He would probably run away in fear if he knew she was keeping tabs on him. But she couldn’t worry about that right now, because veteran riders Mustang Jackson and Slade Bower were standing next to her car waiting to walk her inside, because that’s what cowboys did.

Of course Mustang and Slade wouldn’t let a lady walk alone in a parking lot at dusk. If Luke were here, he’d do the same. She knew that for a fact because, like his fellow riders, that’s the kind of gentleman he was.

So why were Annie’s dreams strictly about getting naked and sweaty with Luke and never with any of the other very attractive guys she spent so much time with?

She wished she knew.

“Here’s our little Annie. How are you doing today, darlin’?” Mustang greeted Annie, pulling her out of her pondering.

“I’m good. How are you two?” Annie directed the question to both Mustang and Slade next to him.

GET HOOKED NOW

“In a couple of hours I’ll be in that arena riding and hopefully taking home some money, so I can’t say I could be any better if I were twins.” Mustang laughed.

Slade nodded. “Amen to that.”

Their enthusiasm had Annie smiling. These guys truly loved their jobs.

Actually, she loved hers too. Yes, the constant travel could be tough, but it wasn’t like she had anyone waiting for her at home.

That thought was less than uplifting.

She smothered a sigh and decided maybe now was the time to do something about her lonely situation. These two cowboys might be just the ones to give her the information she needed about Luke and his current dating status.

“So, are your girls coming to the next event?” With all the casualness she could muster, Annie began some investigating.

She’d have to start slowly and skirt around the real object of her interest for a bit so they wouldn’t get suspicious and realize she was interested in Luke.

“Unfortunately, no. Sage has some tests for her college classes to deal with.” Mustang screwed up his mouth in an unhappy expression.

“Jenna will be there.” Slade practically glowed when he spoke his girlfriend’s name. Obviously he was a man in love.

With a frown, Mustang shot his friend a look. “Yeah, yeah. Rub it in.”

“What? Sorry. I can’t help it if my girl can get away more often than yours can.” Grinning, Slade didn’t look very sorry at all.

Mustang blew out a loud breath. “It’s been two weeks since I’ve seen Sage. My nights have been awfully lonely.”

“Aw. A whole two weeks? I’m there for you, buddy.” Slade slapped Mustang on the back.

“Yeah, thanks a lot. A man has needs, Slade. Ones you sure as hell can’t fill.” Mustang glanced sideways at her with a grimace. “Sorry, Annie. I shouldn’t be talking like that in front of you.”

Annie laughed at Mustang’s reaction to his slip. “It’s fine, really.”

Thanks to her job as a sideline reporter she was around men pretty much constantly. She was used to them forgetting she was there and talking the way they would among themselves.

Besides, women had needs too. She could totally relate to Mustang’s frustration. In fact, her own needs in that department hadn’t been met in quite some time. Definitely much longer than Mustang’s two week stretch.

Annie smothered the envy she felt. She wanted a man of her own to look like Slade did when he spoke about Jenna. A man to miss her desperately the way Mustang missed being with Sage.

She needed to see about getting one.

Not just any one, but one in particular. “So, um, you know who I haven’t seen around lately? Luke’s girlfriend, Lilly.”

“Huh, you noticed that, did you?” Mustang asked. “No, you haven’t seen her around. Not since the tour went on summer break. Why do you ask?”

The smile that spread across Mustang’s face combined with the intensity of his stare made Annie realize this guy was a little more intuitive than she’d given him credit for.

Annie shrugged as if it didn’t matter and regretted saying anything. “No reason. Just wondering is all.”

“Uh, huh.” Mustang continued to grin while Annie tried to estimate exactly how much longer it would take to walk to the arena from here. She needed to get away from his probing.

“Mustang, leave poor Annie alone.”
One look at Slade proved that even though he was defending her, he was grinning too.

“Why are you two acting so weird? Jeez, all I did was ask about Lilly, just like I asked about Sage and Jenna. It’s nice to have other girls around here after being with you guys all the time.” Annie scowled when they continued to look at her like they didn’t believe a word she was saying.

“Sorry, darlin’. It’s just we’ve noticed how you look at Luke. I was wondering how long it would be before you made a move.”

Mustang had noticed her stalking—uh, observing—Luke? Crap.

“What do you mean how I look at him? I watch all you guys ride. It’s part of my job.” If she was going to report on air about the competition, she had to watch both the rides and the riders.

Of course, keeping an eye on Luke before and after the events was a different story, but hopefully Mustang hadn’t noticed that.

“Nah, uh.” Slade shook his head. “You don’t watch the rest of us the way you watch him.”

“You’re both crazy.” Knowing her expression would show exactly how unhappy she was about the course the conversation had taken, and how close to the truth they’d come, Annie lowered her head to hide from the two cowboys’ scrutiny.

She picked up speed, only to be foiled by the closed door leading from the parking lot to the building. She reached for it as Mustang sprang forward. He grabbed the handle and she was forced to wait for him to open it for her.

Only he didn’t.

He stood, waiting and watching her until she felt compelled to do or say something to get this conversation over with.

If only she could think of something to say.

“Look, Annie. I have one thing to say then I’ll leave you alone.” Mustang’s gaze zeroed in on her face as she waited. The fact he’d used her name and hadn’t followed it up with the usual darlin’ told her he was serious. “For years now we’ve worked with you and you’ve been nothing but professional. Not a one of us will think any less of you if you decide to go for it with Luke.”

Next to Mustang, arms crossed over his chest, Slade nodded. “Agreed.”

Annie let out a half-laugh, half-sigh. “First of all, you’re assuming I’m interested in going for it. Second, who says Luke, or any of the other guys, would be interested in me? Huh? With all the pretty young things hanging around the chutes after the events to meet you guys why would anyone look twice at me?”

At thirty-something—Annie couldn’t even bring herself to name the exact number in her head—she felt suddenly very old next to the barely twenty-somethings hanging around in pursuit of their own champion bull rider.

Slade rolled his eyes and let out a snort. “Yeah, right.”

Meanwhile, Mustang laughed. “Yeah, you’re really old. Jeez, woman. No young girl is going to turn Luke’s head when a real woman is interested. Luke’s been around here long enough to know the real deal when he sees it.”

Was Mustang saying Luke thought she was the real deal? Had Luke talked to them about her while they were hanging out? The guys had all gone out for dinner and beers together last night.

“I’ll believe that when I hear it from Luke.” She’d played it off a dismissive as she could, like she was joking, but her traitorous heart pounded as she waited for them to react.

She was letting Mustang get her hopes up about Luke when she was supposed to be playing it cool. She sucked at dating and men.

“I won’t speak for Luke, darlin’.” Mustang shook his head as he finally opened the door and waited for her to step through. “But you can ask him yourself, now can’t you?”

Damn cowboy code. One rider would never betray the confidence of another. Annie should have known better than to even hope they would.

As they walked down the hallway toward the arena, Mustang glanced at her again. “I can tell you this though. Any man who isn’t interested in getting to know you better is crazy.”

“Mustang Jackson, are you flirting with me?” She laughed, happy to have the subject stray from Luke into territory she could deal with.

He shook his head with a grin. “No, ma’am. If I was flirting, you’d know it.”

On the other side of Mustang, Slade let out a burst of a laugh. “Oh yeah. I can vouch for that.”

Slade’s cell phone rang and he excused himself to take the call, leaving her to walk alone with Mustang.

“Listen, I’m just saying don’t wait for what you want. None of us knows how long we’ve got. Not here on this earth and certainly not here in the pros. In eight seconds out there on that dirt, a man’s whole life can change.”

Annie sobered immediately. She knew. She’d seen it happen. “I’ll keep that in mind.”

“Make sure you do.” Mustang tipped his hat. Then he headed down the stairs to the rider’s dressing room, leaving Annie with quite a bit to think about.

Annie must have been thinking harder than she realized, because the next thing she knew she’d walked head on into something about as hard as a brick wall, although a lot better smelling.

The rich scent of his cologne—a combination of leather and spice perhaps—assaulted her senses as she gazed up and into the tempting, handsome face of Luke Carpenter.

He grabbed both her arms in his big, firm grasp and steadied her.

Tiny, incredibly endearing crinkles appeared in the corners of his intense blue eyes as he smiled down at her. “Whoa, there. Where are you heading in such a daze?”

He released his hold, but the warmth where his hands had been remained.

Flustered at being caught by the very man who’d been occupying her mind and had caused the daze, Annie scrambled for an excuse. “I, uh, need to change before the broadcast.”

She held up the drycleaner bag full of clothes draped over her arm, feeling the need to prove to him she wasn’t lying. That it wasn’t thoughts of how and when to make her move on him that had her so distracted.

“Ah, gotcha. A woman has to look her best for the cameras.” He smiled.

What was he saying? That she needed all the time she could get to look good?

No, of course not. Now she was being paranoid.

Luke continued, “I better do a little prep work myself.”

“Why?” she asked, letting herself glance at how great he looked in jeans and his sponsor shirt. “You look great already.”

And he smelled even better.

“I meant, I need to get my rope cleaned and rosined up, but thanks.” Luke grinned and Annie couldn’t help but stare at his lips, wondering if they’d be soft or firm when—if—he ever kissed her.

She swallowed hard. “Oh, yeah, of course. Um, maybe I should get that on camera. You know, for the viewers. They might like to see all the preparation you guys go through before a ride.”

God, did that sound as lame to him as it did in her own head? Hopefully it wasn’t totally obvious to Luke that this idea for a piece was strictly so she could spend more time with him, even if it was on camera.

“Great idea. Anytime. You know where to find me. Right now I better get. See ya later?”

She nodded. “Later.”

With a tip of his brown cowboy hat, he was gone, but the effects lingered on.

Annie sagged against the wall and drew in a deep breath to settle herself before she made her way to where she needed to get to herself.

BUY LINKS

VIEW ALL THE STUDS IN SPURS NOVELS

Hot New Cowboy Wedding Anthology! Read a Full Chapter Excerpt

Out now in eBook, Mass Market Paperback & Audiobook

HAPPY IS THE BRIDE

“Johnson gives us humor and heat”- RT Book Reviews

Scroll down to read a full chapter excerpt!

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLING AUTHORS LORI WILDE * JANET DAILEY * CAT JOHNSON * KATE PEARCE

1 Wedding, 4 New York Times Bestselling Authors, 5 Happily Ever Afters!

Opposites attract when a wealthy cattleman and a penniless artist decide to get hitched at a Texas dude ranch in tornado country—and the whirlwind festivities are as filled with surprises as their love…especially when the guest list includes: one pretty party crasher on a mission, a sheriff known as the One Night Stand King, and a workaholic event planner who definitely did not plan to fall for a laid back cowboy.

AMZ~   BN~   GOOGLE~   IBOOKS~   KOBO

Enjoy this EXCERPT from “Getting Saddled” by Cat Johnson in HAPPY IS THE BRIDE

It was hot as hell. But then again, that shouldn’t be a surprise. This was Texas after all, but today was hotter than usual for a day in late May.

Tanner should be able to handle the heat. He’d been working a ranch most of his adult life. He didn’t let that stop him from bitching about it now.

“Damn, it’s hot as blazes out here today.” Letting out a huff, Tanner ran his handkerchief across his forehead.

The thin cotton was so damp with sweat and smeared with the dust he’d been working in, the red paisley pattern was barely visible any longer.

Knowing it would only get worse before he was done for the day, Tanner shoved it dirty into the rear pocket of his jeans.

“Eh, the heat won’t last. Supposed to cool off a bit next week.” Randy, the young ranch hand working with him, didn’t look particularly disturbed by the heat kicking Tanner’s ass.

That made Tanner feel old, which only annoyed him more.

Was he just getting old? He considered the possibility.

Nah.

He quickly dismissed the thought. At forty-one he was still in his prime. But that didn’t mean he had to like sweating under the noonday sun. Oh he’d do it, but he sure as hell didn’t have to enjoy it.

Taking the tool in hand again, Tanner went back to work.

The steady sound of the post-hole digger—the chomp of the metal blade hitting the dirt and the swoosh as Tanner pulled it out again—became hypnotic. Combined with the warmth of the sun and the touch of the wind, it lulled him into a relaxed rhythm.

After today’s work he’d sleep good tonight.

City folk wouldn’t need yoga for their meditation or pills to sleep at night—and more pills to get through the day—if they’d just pick up a tool and work up a good sweat every day.

Planting his tool in the ground, Randy leaned on the long wooden handles and let out a long, low whistle. “Holy cow . . . Who is that?”

Frowning at Randy, Tanner wondered what had the kid ignoring his work this time.

Today’s youth had a crap work ethic.

With that thought, Tanner realized he really was starting to act old. That was something his papaw would have said. In fact, Papaw might have actually said it, word for word.

He supposed he shouldn’t be quite so cranky, but damn, was it hot. And it would be nice if the ranch hand helping him would actually, you know, help.

Tanner planted his own posthole digger into the dirt and leaned on it as he tried to see what had Randy so distracted. He spotted the car parked in front of the Cutwrights’ house.

Actually, it was less car and more mommy minivan, but either way it was nothing for Randy to be so excited about. People came and went all day around here, especially since Brady had gotten engaged. And as far as vehicles went, this one was pretty plain. Straightforward. White. Square. Probably useless in the mud.

Then a woman stepped from around the nose of the van and into Tanner’s view and he had to give Randy a pass for staring.

She opened the passenger door and bent at the waist as she fiddled with something inside.

Holy cow was right. A few other exclamations, not quite as tame, flew into Tanner’s mind.

“Don’t know who that is.” But Tanner would sure like to get to know her.

Mommy van or not, she certainly didn’t look like any mother he’d ever seen. Though he wouldn’t mind if she called him daddy.

Even at this distance he could see the glint of red as the sun hit her glossy chestnut hair while it bounced around her shoulders.

And that body . . . phew!

In spite of the length of the skirt that came all the way down to her knees, he could tell she had legs that went on for days and hips he’d really enjoy getting his hands on.

Nope, he didn’t know who she was or why she was here, but he’d have to make it his business to find out.

It was a rare occurrence that a female—and one that shapely to boot—showed up unexpectedly at the ranch. Brady Cutwright’s wife-to-be, Ellie, was here a lot. And Brady’s friend Meg Stoddard, who owned the adjacent ranch, visited all the time. But this woman . . . he was sure she’d never crossed his path before.

Maybe she was lost. If that was the case, it was up to him to investigate and help her out; she might need some direction. In fact, his being ranch boss meant it was Tanner’s duty to be on top of what happened around here.

He pulled off his work gloves and shoved them into the belt on his jeans. “I’m gonna go check it out. See if she needs any help. You keep digging. I’ll be right back.”

“Hey, why do I have to stay and keep working and you get to go?”

Tanner glanced back and saw the kid’s deep frown. “’Cause I’m your boss, that’s why.”

Before Tanner took even a step toward the house, Randy scowled deep. The kid’s reaction made Tanner grin, but it sure as hell didn’t make him change his mind.

Someone had to get those holes dug. Lucky for Tanner, he had somebody to delegate to. Besides, from what he could see at this distance, the lady in question wasn’t Randy’s type. The kid liked them young and dumb, in painted-on jeans and showing enough cleavage to be illegal.

The twenty-two-year-old cowboy wouldn’t know what to do with a real woman, and as far as Tanner could determine, that was what the mysterious lady was. A real woman who’d need a real man, and he was just the guy for the job.

The closer he got as he headed toward the house, the more details he could make out. Their mysterious visitor’s tight skirt looked like it belonged on a naughty librarian or a sexy secretary . . . and maybe Tanner had watched too many dirty movies during his misspent youth.

Sometimes his current lack of a steady lady in his life made itself very apparent. Today’s little fantasy about the Cutwright family’s unexpected feminine company was proof of that.

Tanner sidelined his fantasies and got his head back to the business of being the ranch manager greeting a guest . . . before his hard-on greeted her for him.

Given she was still bent over, he would have to address her posterior, which was no problem for him. “Excuse me, ma’am. Can I help you?”

She bolted upright and turned, arms loaded. It had been a long while since Tanner had been in school, but what she held looked like a couple of years’ worth of schoolwork barely contained in a few large white binders. His fantasy immediately shifted from naughty librarian to hot for teacher.

“Hi.” She frowned. “Um, any chance you’re Brady?”

Tanner let out a snort. He respected his boss, the whole Cutwright family, but no way any one of them would be covered in sweat and dirt from digging holes the way he was now. “No, ma’am. I’m Tanner Black. Ranch manager. Brady’s my boss.”

“Oh good. At least I’m in the right place.” She smiled until it reached her sky-blue eyes.

Up close he could appreciate the porcelain quality of her complexion. This woman would fry up in no time out in the sun, which would be a perfect reason to keep her inside—in his bedroom.

She still hadn’t offered up who she was or why she was here, but upon further inspection the van provided his answer. The lettering on the side panel supplied him with a company name. He considered the other tidbit of information that the van’s lettering supplied—the company’s location.

Austin.

She was a city girl.

Pity. City folk made Tanner twitch.

Get it now at AMZ  ~ BN ~  GOOGLE ~  IBOOKS  ~ KOBO

“You the wedding planner?” he asked.

“I am. Erin Saddler, owner of Happy Is the Bride Event Planning. I’d shake your hand, but . . .” Her gaze dropped to the binders about to slip from her overloaded arms.

“That’s a’ight.” As dirty as he was, it was probably best she couldn’t shake his hand. In fact, he thought twice before offering to take the notebooks from her for fear he’d ruin those pristine white binders. “Can I help you with some of those?”

“Thanks. There are actually a few more.” She took a step back from the open door and he saw them on the floorboard.

“No problem. I’ll get ’em.” Tanner was reaching into the van for the books when he heard the screen door of the house slam.

“Erin?” The voice of Brady’s fiancée came from the porch.

“That’s me. And you must be Ellie, my bride-to-be.” At Erin’s reply, Tanner went from wondering what the hell she had in these binders that weighed so damn much to thinking no woman’s voice had ever cut through him quite like Erin’s did.

And she wasn’t even talking sexy. They were talking about his boss’s wedding, for cripes’ sake. Nothing that should have every cell in him aware of her.

Tanner straightened up in time to see the bride-to-be trotting down the stairs, beaming with the biggest grin on her face. That was pretty much how Brady had looked lately, too.

Young love—they’d better enjoy it before they got cynical like him.

“I’m so glad you could meet with us so fast.” Ellie reached out to take one of the books in Erin’s hands.

“Not a problem. The sooner the better. It’s going to be tight.” Of course, Erin was talking about the timing of the wedding, but Tanner’s mind went to bad places as he started to ponder everything that was tight on Erin’s tempting little body.

Down, boy.

Tanner wrangled his libido into check and reminded himself that city girls and country boys didn’t mix well. Been there, done that, and he had the scars on his heart to prove it.

“We realize the date we chose is coming up fast, but neither of us wanted to wait.” As the bride turned toward the house, Brady appeared in the doorway. “Oh good. Here’s Brady now.”

Erin flashed first Brady and then Ellie a brilliant smile that showed off her perfect white teeth. “And now I can see why you don’t want to wait.”

Ellie giggled. “I know. Isn’t he the cutest?”

Tanner rolled his eyes as he followed behind the two women. He felt nothing but respect for the Cutwrights, but this shindig, which seemed to grow daily until it had taken on a life of its own, was bullshit in his opinion. Waste of time and money, if you asked him.

Then again, unlike Tanner, the Cutwrights had the money to waste. That was probably one reason for the wedding planner’s warmth as she greeted Brady: dollar signs.

Thinking of Miss Erin Saddler, wedding planner extraordinaire, as just another money-hungry big-city business owner helped. Tanner needed something to balance out his other, baser feelings for the woman as she climbed the steps ahead of him and he got another eyeful of her shapely behind in that skirt.

Yeah, he needed to get out of there before he embarrassed himself.

Ellie led Erin into the house and Tanner could finally think again, now that her tinkling laugh and twinkling eyes were safely out of range.

“Here you go, boss. Have fun.” Grinning, Tanner shoved the books toward Brady while thinking that whatever those binders contained was going to be anything but fun.

Brady was no dummy. He narrowed his eyes. “Oh no. You don’t get out of here that easily.”

Tanner frowned. “What’s your wedding got to do with me?”

“Ellie and I have another appointment we have to get to this afternoon, so I need you to take the wedding planner over to Meg’s and show her where the reception’s gonna be. And drive her out to the chapel so she can see where we’re having the ceremony.”

Oh no. No, no, no. Him alone in his truck with her was not gonna happen.

He’d been too long without his hands on a woman to be alone with Miss Sex on Heels inside the confines of the cab of his truck.

Tanner was in to many things, but self-torture wasn’t one of them. He had a bad feeling Miss Saddler was already going to invade his sleep tonight, just from this one brief encounter by the minivan.

He didn’t need to fuel that fire with any more time spent with her—alone and in his own damn pickup truck to boot.

“Why don’t you just give her the directions? Meg can show her around there.”

“Meg is meeting us in the city for our appointment. It’s wedding stuff and Ellie wants her there.”

Tanner lifted one shoulder to concede Brady’s point as he crafted another suggestion to get himself out of escorting Miss Tight Skirt. “The dude ranch has staff. They can take her around.”

“Meg’s crew has their own work to do. This time of year you know she’s booked full up. It’s nice enough of her to clear her reservations for the week of our wedding on top of letting us have the ceremony and the rehearsal dinner and the reception there. I’m not gonna take her crew away from their work.”

“Fine. I’ll do it.” Tanner scowled, unhappy with the turn of events. To make sure his displeasure was fully known, he added, “It’s not like I got a fence to put up or anything.”

Brady shook his head. “I knew you were a confirmed bachelor, but I had no idea your aversion to marriage included other people’s weddings, too.”

“Maybe it’s my aversion to city folk and not weddings. You ever think of that?” Tanner cocked a brow high.

The problem was, this particular city girl made him want to break his own rule. Made him want to run his hands through her hair to see if it felt as soft as it looked. Made him want to lean in and get a better whiff of whatever damn scent she wore, which still clung in the air long after she was gone.

“Well, you can get in that fancy air-conditioned truck of yours and chauffeur that city girl in there around for an hour or so while Randy works on the fence and finishes the afternoon chores in this heat. Or I could see if Randy wants to take her over to Meg’s while you finish up work here for the day. You decide.” Brady folded his arms and waited.

Given those options, there was no choice in Tanner’s mind. “What time you figure she’ll be ready for me to take her over to Meg’s?”

Brady grinned. “Thought you’d say that. And I’d say in about an hour.”

“A’ight.” With a nod, Tanner spun on one boot heel and headed back out to the new paddock to break the news to Randy and then get himself and his truck cleaned up before either could mess up pretty Miss Erin and her skirt.

GET HAPPY IS THE BRIDE TODAY!

AMZ ~  BN   ~GOOGLE ~  IBOOKS ~  KOBO

Look Inside — BUCKED

Scroll down for an excerpt from BUCKED

BUCKED (A STUDS IN SPURS NOVEL)

“a wonderfully sexy and fun story” ~The Romance Studio

This cowboy is looking for more than an eight-second ride.

Mustang Jackson does two things well—ride bulls and love women, so the injury that takes him out of competition leaves him only one way to make a living. Unfortunately, getting paid to be a stud in front of the camera isn’t as fun as private conquests. But when he goes home broke and broken to heal and catches sight of Sage, the neighbor girl all grown up, recuperating at his parents’ house gets a lot more interesting and a whole lot more complicated.

Bucked was originally published by Samhain Publishing under the same title. This edition is a reissue, reedited and recovered but without any substantial additions or changes to the story.

EXCERPT

Depressed by his own thoughts, Mustang headed down the highway, feeling jealous of everyone in the world. Slade, who was probably on his way back to the hotel room to have sweaty sex with Jenna. Chase, for being so young and starry eyed he might actually make things work with their one-night stand Marla. And every other bull rider on the circuit because they weren’t heading home to get a metal plate and screws put in their arm.

They’d all be riding in Baltimore next week while he was in hell, recovering from surgery at his parents’ house in Magnolia, Texas.

Life wasn’t fair.

As his drive stretched long, the feeling of dread lodged in Mustang’s chest increased steadily the nearer he got to the place of his birth.

The anxiety peaked as he saw the sign for Huntsville, Texas.

Tired of being on the road and driving faster than was wise past the city, he became very much aware he was following the same route his father—and his grandfather before him—took to Huntsville Prison. Every working day of their adult lives.

It was the same route Mustang would have taken if he had bowed to his father’s pressure years ago and followed in his footsteps.

Becoming a third-generation prison guard hadn’t exactly been Mustang’s lifelong ambition. Not that his father would ever understand Mustang having other plans, other dreams.

He never understood his son’s willingness to give up what was in his eyes a good, steady job with benefits to instead take a chance on making a living riding bulls, of all things.

Thank God he’d gotten that job at the ranch that summer and discovered he could sit a bull, even if his decision to ride pro hadn’t gone over real well at home.

His father’s prediction back then had been that Mustang would come crawling home either broke or broken.

The trailer hit a bump in the road and he felt the twinge as it jarred his arm in the sling. That served as a very real reminder that he was indeed coming home broken as well as a little broke.

He felt the hard bulk of his Rookie-of-the-Year belt buckle beneath his broken arm. No, his father hadn’t been right. He had made something of himself.

Mustang had the proof right there, pressed against his gut where his self-doubt lived.

Bones healed and he had no doubt that he’d be back on the circuit winning again in just a few months—if he could stay sane and survive living with his father for that long.

On that cheery thought, he pulled the trailer into the city limits of Magnolia and slowed to the local speed limit.

With the exception of the For Rent sign on what had been Hackett’s Hardware during his youth, Main Street looked pretty much the same as it had the last time he’d passed through for a quick, painful visit home.

As he wound his way out of the center of town and toward the country road that led to his parents’ house, Mustang saw other changes. A few large trees had fallen down. They’d uprooted actually. There’d been some nasty storms in Texas over the past year. High winds, tornados, flooding.

Stifling the guilt, he reminded himself he’d called home to check on his family after each and every bout of bad weather had passed through the area. What more could he do from the road when he had competitions nearly every week?

Occupied with justifying to himself that his long absences were unavoidable, not just his attempt to avoid his father, Mustang didn’t notice the strange car parked in front of the house. He didn’t see it until he’d pulled the trailer under the trees around the side and was headed on foot for the front door.

The unfamiliar white car was about the size of a toy. He couldn’t imagine either his six-foot-tall father or his generously proportioned mother picking it as their new vehicle. Mustang’s father, like his father before him, was a pickup-truck man and his mama was a four-door sedan with a trunk big enough to fit a body in kind of lady.

Still wondering about the car, Mustang raised his hand to open the front door while kicking the dust off his boots on the mat. He didn’t bother to knock. Doors in this house had never been locked and most likely never would be, even if they had known where the key was.

He didn’t have a chance to turn the knob before it was yanked from his hand and the door flung wide. He suddenly had an armful of his mother.

She wrapped herself around his neck while kissing his face.

“Watch the arm, Ma.” He hadn’t taken a pain pill in awhile. Good thing Jenna wasn’t there. She’d be shoving one down his throat before he could stop her.

His mother stepped back, focusing on his sling. “Oh my God. Michael, I’m so sorry. Does it hurt?”

“Not too bad.” Except for when he’d fallen asleep after his and Chase’s fun with Marla without taking a pill first and had woken up in agony. He didn’t mention that and instead shrugged. “I’ll be fine. Good as new as soon as the doc operates.”

“At least it’s your left arm since you’re right-handed. If your right arm had been out of commission I probably couldn’t have convinced them to hire you at work.”

At the sound of his father’s voice, Mustang swung his gaze to locate the man. He found him lurking in the shadows to the side of the door.

“What do you mean, hire me? You got me a job at the prison?”

Without asking him first. Mustang took note of that but didn’t mention it. Dear God, if he didn’t recover fully, if he couldn’t ride again, would he have to do the one thing he’d left this town to avoid? Would he be forced to follow his father and grandfather’s path whether he wanted to or not?

“As soon as your surgeon says you can work, you’ve got a position waiting on you. And let me tell you, it wasn’t easy to get either, with your arm broken and all. I had to call in some favors.”

Great, so now he was expected to owe his father for getting him a job he didn’t want in the first place.

“It’s nothing in the high-security areas, mind you,” his father continued. “It’s more like a glorified secretary, mostly watching monitors, filling out reports, but it’s a foot in the door. It’ll help when you finally come to your senses and decide it’s time to grow up and get a real job.”

And there it was, the expected verbal slam and it had been only two minutes or so since he’d walked through the front door.

There were clearly two options here. He could tell his father to take his job offer and his attitude and shove it right where the sun didn’t shine, after which he would have to get back on the road. He supposed he could recuperate in the trailer while parked in a lot somewhere.

Or he could do what he always did. Keep his mouth shut. Bury the anger, then go out and find a bar and a woman. Get drunk and get laid and take his mind off it all.

Mustang set his jaw. There was no way he could endure four months of this. Not even with all the booze and women in the world to help him.

“I’ll have to see what my plans are. I was hoping to take off as soon as the doc said it was okay for me to travel. You know, get back on the road. Join the guys on tour again.”

He’d have to take Slade up on his offer of money, but it would be worth it. Swallowing his pride with his best friend would be a lot easier than biting his tongue around his father for months. He’d likely bite his tongue damn near off by the time his bone healed.

His mother’s hand touched his right arm gently. “Oh, no, Michael. I was hoping to have you around for a while this time. I miss you.”

“That figures. God forbid he do something smart.” His father turned and walked out of the room, mumbling, “Don’t care about anyone but himself.”

Mustang tore his gaze from his father’s stiff back. Leaving his mother would be his only regret when he pulled out of this damn town. “Don’t worry, Ma. You’ll have me around long enough to get sick of me.” His father apparently already was. He drew in a deep sigh and decided to change the subject. “What’s for dinner? I’m so hungry my stomach’s eating my backbone.”

“I’ve got all your favorite food in the kitchen.”

“Great.” Mustang turned toward the doorway and stopped dead at the sight of the beautiful woman who stood there outlined by the afternoon sun slanting through the window behind her.

Her glossy dark brown hair hung to her shoulders and just begged for a man to tangle his hands in it. But what really caught his attention was her hotter-than-hell, girl-next-door body through the thin cotton of her dress.

His gaze traveled back up to her face and Mustang realized this was the girl next door. Or at least the girl who lived on the next street in a house where he’d spent a considerable amount of his youth.

Man oh man had she grown up.

He frowned, shocked. “Little Bit?”

A shy, innocent smile lit her fresh, sweet face. “It’s been a long time since I’ve been called that. Welcome home, Mustang.”

It sure as hell had been a long time. Long enough for Sage, the little sister of his high school girlfriend Rosemary, to be not so little anymore.

Trying to wrap his head around the changes in her, Mustang accepted her welcome. “Thanks. It’s good to be home.”

Good to be home?

What the hell? Had he actually just said that?

Get BUCKED in eBook or Paperback

AMAZON    BN   GOOGLE    iBOOKS   KOBO

Don’t miss the rest of the Studs in Spurs novels!

Look Inside — UNRIDDEN

Scroll down for an excerpt from the newly re-released UNRIDDEN, Book 1 in the Studs in Spurs series.

UNRIDDEN (STUDS IN SPURS)

 “sweet and intense” ~ USA Today

When country boys meet a city girl, everyone is in for a wild ride.

Unridden Studs in SpursSlade Bower and Mustang Jackson are living the high life on the professional bull-riding circuit. The prize money is big, the bulls are rank, and the women are willing. But something is missing.

Romance writer Jenna Block has a problem: her agent thinks a cowboy book will jump start her career. A born New Yorker, Jenna doesn’t do cowboys, not on paper, and definitely not in real life. Luckily for her there are two cowboys ready, willing and able to take her out of her comfort zone in every way that counts…and some ways she hadn’t counted on.

Each story in the series is standalone.

Unridden was originally published by Linden Bay Romance – Samhain Publishing. This edition is a reissue, reedited but without any substantial additions or changes to the story.

Voted BEST WESTERN ROMANCE in the 1st Annual Authors After Dark BOOKIE Awards

Unridden is Available in eBook and Paperback

AMAZON     BN     GOOGLE     iBOOKS    KOBO

UNRIDDEN EXCERPT

Day one of the competition in Tulsa had Mustang evaluating that night’s possibilities. He swept the females in the stands until his gaze landed on one woman who made him stop dead in his perusal.

He jumped up onto the rail of the chute and hissed to Slade, “Second section, fourth row back, reddish-brown hair pulled back in a ponytail, black turtleneck.”

In the process of tugging the rope that stretched beneath the bull and winding it once around his gloved hand, Slade frowned up at Mustang from the animal’s back. “I’m in the middle of taking my wrap and you’re pointing out some woman to me? In a turtleneck, no less? Since when are you interested in women whose tits aren’t hanging out?”

“This woman’s different, Slade. I can tell.” The bull hopped once in the chute and Mustang quickly reached over and grabbed the back of Slade’s vest, steadying him on the animal’s back.

“Dammit, Mustang, quit distracting me.” Slade settled himself again and then gave a nod to the gateman. The cowboy on the ground swung the gate open to release both bull and rider into the arena.

“Talk to you more when you get off,” Mustang called after him.

As Mustang watched his friend disappear into a cloud of dust, Chase Reese hopped onto the rail next to him.

“Slade’s amazing. It’s like he’s glued onto that bull. I wish I could do that. I went two for ten last series.”

The kid had been favored for Rookie of the Year until he’d hit a recent dry streak.

“That’s because you look at the ground.” Mustang followed Slade’s progress while the bull spun around to the left without deviation, from one end of the arena to the other.

The eight-second buzzer sounded and Slade released the rope wrapped around his hand. He jumped off the bull, hit the ground with his shoulder and then rolled to avoid a hoof to the ribcage before the bullfighters redirected the charging animal away from him.

“I do what?” Chase asked.

Seeing his friend was safe, Mustang took the time to turn to answer Chase’s question.

Damn, had he ever been this young? The kid probably didn’t even have to shave once a week.

“You’re looking down at the ground while you ride. If you look there, you’re gonna end up there. It’s a fact. Now, ’scuse me. I gotta talk to Slade.”

Leaving the kid with an amazed expression on his face, as if he’d just been handed all the secrets of the universe, Mustang jumped down to go meet Slade behind the chutes.

“Hey, man. Good ride. That bull was one hell of a spinner, huh?”

Slade laughed and pulled the tape from around his wrist where it held the glove on his riding hand firmly in place.

“Hell yeah. They weren’t kidding when they said he came out of the spinner pen. Felt like I was on a ride at the county fair.”

“Now we’re both done riding for the night, we have to formulate a plan,” Mustang began.

“A plan for what?”

“To reel in that woman I told you about.”

“You mean Miss Turtleneck?” Slade dismissed him with a wave of his hand. “Just do whatever it is you usually do.”

Mustang shook his head. “The usual bullshit isn’t going to work on her.”

Slade sighed. “Where did you say she’s sitting?”

Ha! In spite of all his bitching, Slade was actually showing some interest.

Feeling justified his choice for the night was the right one Mustang narrowed his eyes and easily found her again in the stands. She was writing feverishly while trying to watch the rider in the arena at the same time.

He tilted his head toward the section directly behind them. “Far end of the fourth row.”

“What the hell is she doing?” Slade frowned as he watched her.

“Hell if I know, but I think she’s taking notes. See what I mean? This woman is different. She isn’t going to just fall into our bed.”

Her hair wasn’t huge. She wasn’t made up like a showgirl and her clothes showed curves but not an inch of skin. She was different, which was what had drawn Mustang’s attention to her in the first place.

Since Slade had been in his strange funk lately, Mustang figured he’d try something unusual. Hell, even the two girls going at each other in front of them had barely got a rise out of his friend last night.

Mustang was running out of ideas, but this woman . . .

She was pretty much the opposite of their usual conquest and that might be exactly what they needed. It was worth a shot to cheer up Slade.

Besides, never opposed to trying new things, Mustang could use a bit of a change himself once in a while.

“Mustang, she’s probably a damned reporter. That’s all I need, to be featured in some exposé. I can see the headline now. Slade Bower, third-ranking bull rider in the world, propositions reporter for a threesome with former Rookie of the Year, Mustang Jackson. That’ll go over real well with the fans in the Bible Belt.” Slade scowled at Mustang. “Pick someone else. How about the one bouncing up and down over there? She’s about to pop right out of that top. You might want to keep an eye on her.”

Mustang glanced her way. “Yeah, I saw her already. I’m set on the other one.”

Laughing, Slade shook his head. “Good luck ’cause I can just about see the stick up her ass from here. That one is wound tight. But sure. Go ahead. You go for it, man. I’ll enjoy watching you get shot down.”

Mustang raised a brow. “Is that a challenge, my friend?”

Slade let out a short laugh. “No, it’s the truth.”

“I think you’re wrong. Sometimes it’s the quiet ones who are the wildest once you get them naked.”

“And you think you can get her naked?”

Mustang nodded. “Yup. I do.”

“Well, I’d like to see that.”

Grinning, Mustang slapped his friend on the back. “Don’t worry. You’ll be there too.”

Slade shook his head. “Maybe, and that is a big maybe, you might be able to get that woman naked, with enough alcohol and bullshit, but no frigging way she’ll agree to both of us. Never in a million years.”

Feeling cocky and never one to resist a challenge, Mustang crossed his arms and dug in his heels. “We’ll see. You willing to make a bet on that?”

Mirroring Mustang, Slade crossed his own arms over his chest. “Yes, we will see and, yes, I am. What do you want to bet?”

Mustang grinned. Slade was showing more interest in their extracurricular activities than he had in weeks. Maybe he had really just been bored like he said.

Perhaps what they both needed was a good challenge. Mustang knew to his core this woman would provide at least that, but more than likely, so much more.

Besides, he really enjoyed a good bet.

“How about the loser has to buy the winner a new pair of chaps?”

Slade grinned. “I could use me a new pair of chaps, so you’re on.”

Glancing back at the stands to search again for the object of their wager, Mustang frowned. “Where the hell is she? Slade, she’s gone.”

Panicked and afraid he’d lose the bet on a technicality if she’d disappeared, Mustang spun back and found the last person he ever expected to see leaning over the rail behind Slade.

“Excuse me. I was wondering if I could ask you two a few questions.” His angel in black spoke with the sexiest voice he’d ever heard.

From the sound of her, she was from back east and definitely not a local, just like he’d thought. Mustang only hoped Slade’s theory about her being a reporter was wrong.

He saw Slade raise an eyebrow and cockily turn to him, waiting expectantly for Mustang to answer her question.

What had that been again? Oh, yeah, she wanted to ask them questions. Interesting.

“Um, yeah, sure, darlin’. What do you need?” Suddenly face-to-face with her, Mustang stumbled over his usually smooth tongue a bit.

Leaning forward, she extended her hand and broke out into a smile. “Great. Let me introduce myself first. I’m Jenna Block.”

Not remembering the last time a woman had stopped to shake his hand before they fucked, Mustang smiled. He took hold of her hand, noticing how her hazel eyes had tinges of both gold and green in them.

She had a good, strong grip too. He liked that in a woman. “Pleasure to meet you. I’m Mustang Jackson.”

Mustang took a second to admire the rest of Jenna, from the tip of her brunette ponytail to the tops of her shiny black, pointy-toed cowboy boots—and if those boots of hers had walked anywhere besides the concrete sidewalks of a city street before tonight, Mustang would eat his hat.

After the quick visual sweep, he continued the introductions. “This here’s Slade Bower.”

He turned to introduce Slade, only to find the man was in the midst of his own full-body sweep of Ms. Jenna Block.

Oh yeah, now which one of them wanted to get her into bed naked?

Jenna turned and shook Slade’s hand as he mumbled a greeting and barely wrenched his gaze up from the outline of her sweater-covered tits in time before she caught him with his eyes where they shouldn’t have been.

Mustang grinned. Yup, Slade didn’t seem bored anymore.

“Wow.” She released a breathy laugh, shaking her head and glancing from one to another.

Mustang raised a brow at that. “Wow what?”

She blushed prettily. “Sorry, I’m being silly. It’s just that I recognize your names from television. It’s a pretty big coincidence that I saw you on TV just yesterday and now I’m talking to you in person.”

“You watch bull riding on television?” Her surprising statement had knocked some coherent words out of Slade.

“Mmm hmm. Well, I mean not usually but I have recently. It’s a long story. Look, would you be willing to let me buy you both a drink so we can sit down while we talk and I ask you a few questions?”

The shock on Slade’s face at her proposing they get a drink together nearly made Mustang laugh out loud.

Oh yeah, those new chaps were as good as his, and it was Slade’s wallet that would be a little lighter after the purchase.

Mustang controlled his glee long enough to answer for both of them, forcing himself to sound casual as he said, “I guess we could sit down with you for a few minutes.”

Before they went back to the trailer and he could show Slade that there was no stick up her ass, though there could hopefully be some Mustang in there . . .

Oh, he was a dirty boy.

Maybe Ms. Jenna Block should spank him. Mustang had never tried that. Could be interesting. He’d keep it in mind for later.

Mustang enjoyed that vision as the woman in his newest fantasy flashed him her perfect smile again. “Great. Is there somewhere within walking distance we can go? I came in a cab.”

“Well, there’s our trailer. It’s close and the drinks there are free.” Mustang grinned, waiting for her reaction while knowing there was no way she’d fall prey to them that easily. Anyway, what would be the fun if there wasn’t even a little bit of a challenge?

She didn’t prove him wrong as she raised one brow cockily. “Is there someplace public we can go?”

Mustang smiled at her sidestepping the invitation as Slade jumped in and said, “There’s a bar across the street. We can walk there.”

“Wonderful.” She looked around at the rapidly emptying stands. “Is this thing over for the night or is this an intermission?”

Controlling his smile at the intermission comment, Mustang said, “We’re done for tonight. We just have to stash our gear . . .” And possibly shower in case they did end up in bed. Mustang had never wanted to get a woman naked this badly. “Can you give us ten minutes then we’ll meet you right over there by the exit?”

She nodded. “Sure. Sounds good. Thank you.”

“My pleasure.” He grinned. Never had truer words been spoken.

As she waited safely behind them by the entrance, Mustang led Slade out of the public part of the arena, grabbing his rope along the way from where they’d looped them over the railing.

“Okay, admit it. You like her,” Mustang accused Slade once they were out of hearing range.

Slade scowled at him as they walked. “Doesn’t matter either way. We’re not taking her back to the trailer because I’m telling you I’m convinced now more than ever that she’s some kind of reporter. She shook your hand, for God’s sake.”

Mustang considered that as well as her odd choice of the turtleneck when the rest of the females in the crowd had worn T-shirts or boob-baring low-cut numbers.

Her dark blue jeans had an actual crease down the leg as if she’d ironed them. Then there were those shiny black boots that city folk wore for fashion not utility, and the huge black leather satchel slung on her one shoulder that most likely carried the notebook he’d seen her writing in.

Not to mention the way she carried herself, with confidence and polish.

But that she seemed to know their names but nothing else about bull riding confused Mustang the most.

If she was a true fan or a sports reporter she would have known that with Slade ranked third, barring any re-rides, the second and first-place riders that had followed him were the final two rides for the night and the competition would continue tomorrow.

Mustang shook his head as they walked into the rider room. “She’s something, I’ll give you that much, but I don’t think it’s a reporter.”

“We’ll see.” Slade shoved his vest and rope into his gear bag.

“Yes, we will.” And in just a few minutes too.

This could be the most fun he and Slade had had in a long time.

GET UNRIDDEN AT

AMAZON     BN     GOOGLE     iBOOKS    KOBO

DON’T MISS THE REST OF THE STUDS IN SPURS

Betting on a Hot SEAL Out Now! There’s a New #HotSEALs Hero in Town

Betting on a Hot SEAL

Boys will be boys . . . especially in Vegas and no one parties like a team of Hot SEALs with a night’s liberty but Navy SEAL Craig Dawson finds that some bets follow you home.

Don’t miss the next high action adventure in the USA Today bestselling Hot SEALs series.

Get Betting on a Hot SEAL today in eBook & Print

Amazon US ~

Amz International ~

 ~ BN ~ ~Google

~iBooks ~ Kobo

For the full Hot SEALs Series

CLICK HERE

Hot SEALs Series

Too Much Black Friday Madness? Read an excerpt instead of ads!

I love the movie “You’ve Got Mail” where rich megastore owner Tom Hanks secretly woos struggling small bookshop owner Meg Ryan. If you love it too, then check out the excerpt below from my story Mr. December from my Trilogy Collection NICE & NAUGHTY. Grab something soothing to drink, curl up in your favorite reading spot and escape from the holiday madness for at least a couple of moments. Enjoy! Cat

Nice & Naughty

Get the eBook at Amazon  ~ iBooks ~  Nook ~ Kobo ~  More Links

“MR. DECEMBER” from NICE & NAUGHTY

 Chapter One Excerpt

Jason Bryant knew two things with absolute certainty. First, working in retail during the holiday season was absolute insanity and second, he wouldn’t want it any other way. Although glancing around the already frazzled faces of his store employees, he had to wonder if he was the only one who felt that way.

Sheesh. It was only the day after Thanksgiving and they all already looked like they’d been to war and back. He’d seen happier faces in photos taken during the Great Depression.

Meanwhile, Jason couldn’t be happier as the post-holiday sale adrenaline rush surged through his body. Black Friday, the day retail institutions went from running in the red to the black often with the highest one-day intake of the year. Just the phrase took his breath away.

He rubbed his hands together and then checked his watch. Six-thirty. He clapped his hands to get the attention of the large group assembled in the break room. “People. We open in half an hour.”

There was a collective groan over the extra early opening and the extended holiday hours. He decided to continue his inspirational speech undaunted, hoping his personal contribution of fresh hot coffee and donuts would help to boost morale.

“Come on. You know the song. It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Smile. We love our customers and we want them to love us. Get some coffee, meditate, do whatever you have to, but get yourselves merry by the time those doors open in thirty minutes.”

It wasn’t exactly Shakespeare’s Saint Crispin’s Day speech from Henry V. Hell, it wasn’t even the win one for the Gipper speech from that old Ronald Reagan movie, but it would have to do.

Employees shuffled at a zombie-like pace toward the coffee as Jason considered getting an inspirational sign to hang above the door of the break room. Something like the sign that hung in the locker room at Notre Dame to inspire the football team before a game. Something to consider. He’d add it to the already lengthy list of things to do currently entered in his smartphone.

It was hard for Jason to even imagine that the seemingly living dead who were his employees didn’t share his holiday excitement. Admittedly, he may have different feelings about the day after Thanksgiving than the others in the room. He was sure all they could think about was the leftover turkey waiting in their fridge and the football games they were missing on television. While all Jason could think about was the energy that positively radiated from this old building at Christmas, until the bricks and mortar seemed to possess a life force all their own.

Bryant’s Department Store was like a gracious lady bedecked in her gayest finery during the holiday season, and every tourist and local came to admire her. Jason had loved Bryant’s at holiday time ever since his Grandpa Bryant first brought him here to sit in Santa’s lap. That was before Jason had even learned to walk. Since his grandfather’s retirement, the store was now Jason’s ship to steer, and he intended on navigating the staid local institution into an even brighter future.

Jason bounced on his toes, as if a giant ball of energy trapped in his body was trying to get out. If only he could send some of his vigor the way of those around him. He was considering some options when his assistant came up and tapped him on the shoulder.

He smiled at the older woman. “Peggy. You look festive.”

She did, dressed in a dark green pantsuit with a red berry pin. He recognized both items as being store stock and smiled. Peggy was a loyal store employee, he’d wager right down to her Bryant’s private label underwear.

Peggy, who had assisted his grandfather for over twenty years and now belonged to him, raised one painted-on eyebrow. “We’ll see how festive you feel after I tell you what’s happening.”

Jason frowned. Whatever it was, he was not going to let it ruin his first Black Friday at Bryant’s helm. He hadn’t worked his way up from stockroom clerk, to floor associate, to manager, to Chief Operating Officer to let anything get in his way now. He gripped Peggy with one hand on each of her bony shoulders and stared deeply into her eyes. “What is it, Peggy?”

She released a loud cackle. “Well, Jesus. It isn’t that bad. No one’s dead. I just got a call from the Santa who’s supposed to be here today.”

Jason nodded. “Mmm, hmm. One of the local firemen promoting the charity calendar.” There was a stack of calendars for sale at every register in the store.

“Yup. Mr. December, Troy O’Donnell, Ladder Company No. 3. Six feet tall and two hundred pounds of solid muscle, from what I can see.”

“Yes, Peggy. I get it. What about Mr. O’Donnell?”

“He ain’t coming. His girlfriend or somebody called.” Peggy waved a dismissive hand, seeming far less interested in Mr. O’Donnell’s dating status than she was in his physical attributes. “She said he’s been throwing up for hours. They’re not sure if it’s the full-blown flu or just a little stomach bug, but he was apparently up and getting dressed between bouts of vomiting. He was trying to come here for his shift when she called me so I could tell him myself, officially, that he should stay the hell home.”

He agreed, but hoped Peggy hadn’t actually used the phrase stay the hell home. “Of course he should stay home. It wouldn’t do to have Santa vomiting on the children, or spreading a stomach virus to our customers and staff.”

“That’s what I told him. But now what do we do about getting a Santa last minute?”

“Have you called the firehouse to see if they have a spare?”

Peggy laughed at that. “Have you seen those firemen in that calendar? If they do have a spare, they can send him over to my house.”

Yes, Jason had seen the nearly nude fireman calendar, all twelve months of it. Aside from selling it at his store, Peggy had it hanging in her office for almost a month now even though it didn’t officially start until January of next year. The item seemed to be very popular with the ladies. Apparently from her rundown on Mr. December, Peggy had memorized all of the hunky firemen’s stats already.

He rolled his eyes and had to smile. Peggy was seventy if she was a day.

“Stop rolling your eyes at me. I’m old. I’m not dead. And yeah, I called. They got nobody for us today. All of their fireman Santas are either on duty at the firehouse or spoken for elsewhere. They got them playing Claus all over town, you know, not just here. The children’s hospital, the library. They said they might be able to swing somebody for tomorrow if he’s still not better.”

Jason pursed his lips as an idea struck him. He’d often wanted to be a fly on the wall in the store, see what his employees were up to when he wasn’t around, hear unsolicited comments from customers. But his face was too well known in the store. This little misfortune could turn out to be a perfect opportunity.

“Peggy. We’ve got the Santa suit here, correct?”

“Yup. Up in my office. Just got it out of the dry cleaners.”

“Excellent. I’ll arrange for a Santa. Oh, and I’ll be out of touch for the day, so if anyone calls for me, just take a message.”

Peggy cocked an already sharply arching black brow at him. “What are you up to?”

He winked at her and held one finger up to his lips to indicate she should keep quiet.

She shook her head. “You’ve got the devil in you, just like your grandpa.”

Jason smiled and laid an arm around her shoulders, steering them both out the door of the break room. “And you’ve worked for us both, for over twenty years now. So what does that say about you, my dear Peggy?”

She let out a loud crackling laugh. “It says that I know I’ll have a lot more fun working for a devil than a saint, that’s what. Come on. I may have to find more padding for the suit. You’re in better shape than last year’s guy.”

He grinned at her. She knew him too well, the mark of a great assistant.

Santa Claus for a day, this was an unexpected treat. He was feeling jollier by the minute. He may not be a hunky fireman calendar model, but in the world of retail, Jason considered himself to be Mr. December. Maybe he should print his own calendar. Hunky men of retail…something for the list.

Five hours and what felt like countless hundreds of children later, Jason was reconsidering his initial opinion about the merits of the Santa Claus business. He experienced a veritable rainbow of behaviors when it came to the children, with the emphasis on naughty rather than nice. A few skeptics pulled his beard, others ran screaming in fear, and some were struck speechless in the overwhelming presence of the great Mr. Claus. There were the criers, the pants-wetters, the whiners and the demanders. Children who didn’t know what they wanted, children who wanted everything, and parents who had waited on one line too many and were ready to take it out on anyone, Old Saint Nick being no exception.

If his little walk on the jolly side served any purpose, it was to help him understand the haggard looks on the faces of his employees. And as for wanting to be a fly on the wall and listen to unsolicited comments about the store, he must remember in future to be careful what he wished for. Apparently, according to the mothers in line, Bryant’s prices were too high and the clothing too, in the words of one customer, farty. How in the world was he going to convey that comment tactfully to the buyers?

The end result was that Jason used his entire whopping fifteen-minute break entering notes and ideas for improvements into his cell phone’s organizer application. Things like more cash registers, reserved time slots for seeing Santa and fashions that were…what exactly was the opposite of farty? Hip. Stylish. Phat? He’d have to ask one of the younger female sales associates for a term relevant to today’s buyer.

Jason sighed. He was only in his thirties himself, but he was a man, not a woman. He kept up with retail trends. Hell, they had the best clothing money could buy in the men’s department. He’d thought he had his finger on the pulse of the buying public, but apparently, he was falling short in women’s fashions.

He had already taken the step to lure in younger female buyers by allowing the firemen from the charity calendar to play Santa at Bryant’s for the week after Thanksgiving this year, as well as agreeing to host their charity bachelor auction and cocktail party at the store. Jason was on the board of directors of the local children’s hospital and since the proceeds from the sales of the firemen calendar were going directly to the hospital, of course Bryant’s would help promote it. And if events like the auction attracted a younger female consumer into Bryant’s, it was a win-win situation for all.

But it appeared that simply luring a younger customer base into the store wasn’t the problem. Having something they’d be interested in purchasing, besides the hunky firemen, was. Jason would have to get out, shop the competition and see what was hot or Bryant’s was a grand old lady doomed and on the brink of extinction.

Feeling rather less than jolly, Jason took his seat—actually, his golden red velvet throne—for the afternoon round of precious little ones. The coffee he’d consumed during his break hadn’t helped revive him any, and he felt embarrassed for offering it up as inspiration to his employees that morning as if it was a cure all. Perhaps a bottle of Irish Whisky would work better. No, he could never actually do that, but at the moment, it was a tempting thought.

Then something more tempting stepped into view and Jason nearly pulled off his white wig and fake spectacles to make sure he was seeing correctly. Perhaps he was delirious because she cut the line of kiddies still being held back behind the “Feeding the Reindeer—back in 15 minutes” sign and perched her shapely behind right on his knee.

“Don’t you look cute. Can I tell you what I want for Christmas?” She treated him to a gorgeous smile, followed by an immediate frown as she hopped off his lap. “Oh my God. You’re not Troy.”

No, he wasn’t, but right then, Jason sure wished he were. He did manage to shake his head to indicate to the woman that indeed, no, he was not Troy.

“I apologize. I must have gotten my signals crossed. I thought Troy O’Donnell was supposed to be here today.”

He finally found his voice. “No apology necessary. Your friend,” at least he certainly hoped they were only friends and nothing more, “was supposed to be here today, but he’s ill.”

She frowned. “Oh. I’ll have to call him. But, I sat in your lap. I’ve gotten friendlier with you than I did with my last date. I’m so sorry.” She cringed and covered her reddened face with her hands.

He stored away that information about her unfriendly last date for later use. “No apology needed for that either. Compared to what I’ve endured today, it was my pleasure.” Jason smiled. His pleasure, indeed. He took in the tall strawberry blond and her bottomless blue eyes.

The woman of his future dreams stuck a hand out. “I’m Troy’s sister, Tessa O’Donnell. I don’t recognize you from the fireman calendar. I was the photographer. Are you from the firehouse?”

He shook her warm hand and pondered his answer. “Um, no. The store brought me in last minute.” There, that wasn’t exactly a lie.

She smiled and shook her head. “I still can’t believe stuffy old Bryant’s is holding the Hunky Firemen Bachelor Auction here.”

Hmm. Farty and now stuffy too. Jason stifled a sigh. Instead, he opted for damage control. “I actually heard that the new COO is trying for a younger image for Bryant’s.”

Tessa screwed up her face. “The new COO is still a Bryant, isn’t he? Born with a silver spoon in his mouth and a maid, nanny, butler, chauffeur and chef up his butt from the day he was born. I wish him luck, but I don’t think there’s any hope of changing Bryant’s image after all these years. Particularly for a man who has no clue what life is like in the real world.”

Jason swallowed. She’d forgotten the private tutor and the gardeners that came with his upbringing, and also that he’d moved out of the house—all right, mansion—the moment he was old enough to escape that life and prove to himself and his family he could make it in the real world. But he had been born a Bryant and was now in charge of Bryant’s. That would represent nepotism at its best in Tessa’s eyes. Forget he had worked his way up from the bottom to get where he was today. He was still his grandfather’s heir and always would be.

She glanced over her shoulder at the growing line of irate mothers and irritated children that he’d been trying, and failing, to ignore as he concentrated on her. “Looks like the crowd is getting restless, so I better get to business before they rebel. I’m actually the photographer for the auction too, so I came by to check out the site. I’m taking press shots for PR. They promised us coverage in the local paper.” She frowned. “I’m sorry, I didn’t catch your name.”

“It’s Ja…um, Jay Bee.” Jason nearly groaned. He’d never been a good liar, particularly not on the fly.

She smiled and repeated, “JB, nice to meet you. You better get back to work before the big boss fires you.”

Get the eBook at Amazon  ~ iBooks ~  Nook ~ Kobo ~

Google~  ARe~  Amazon International Link~  More

New Release Excerpt from That Mistletoe Moment

That Mistletoe MomentTHAT MISTLETOE MOMENT (a multi-author anthology from Kensington featuring my story, “A Boyfriend by Christmas”, as well as two other great new stories by two fabulous authors Kate Angell and Allyson Charles) is available today in eBook and print. Read an excerpt from my story below. Enjoy! Cat

AMAZON US ~

Amazon CA  ~UK ~AU ~DE

B & N  ~ iBOOKS ~ GOOGLE ~ KOBO

“In Johnson’s charismatic ‘A Boyfriend by Christmas’, a chance meeting on Thanksgiving and a text sent to the wrong contact lead to alluring romantic possibilities…” ~ Publishers Weekly

EXCERPT

 

Nikki sat perched on one of the bar stools at the kitchen island, focusing on her cell phone. “So, I downloaded this app . . .”

“Mmm-hmm.” Noelle sat too, reached for a second cookie, and took a good-sized bite out of it.

“I signed you up.”

Her sister was always doing stuff like that. Signing her up for mailing lists and websites without her permission. Noelle pulled her mouth to one side. “Great. Now I’ll get a bunch of e-mails because they have my address. What’s it for, some store?”

“Uh, no, not a store.” Nikki put her own cell down just as Noelle’s phone vibrated with a text alert. Nikki eyed the phone on the countertop, where Noelle had tossed it. “You gonna check that?”

Suspicious, Noelle put down her mug and picked up the phone. There was a new text from a number she didn’t recognize, but it was from her local area code. She frowned at the screen as she hit the button to read it.

Hello, beautiful! Reply to this number to start chatting with your new boyfriend.

“What is this? What did you do?” Noelle glared at her sister.

Nikki’s face lit up with a grin. “I got you a boyfriend.”

“A what?” Noelle’s voice rose high.

“Not a real one. Relax. It’s the Build-A-Boyfriend app.” Nikki held up her phone as if that would explain it all. “Remember, I told you about it at Thanksgiving?”

Noelle grabbed her sister’s phone and glanced at the screen. “But I don’t understand. Who is this text from?”

“Actually, I’m not really sure. That’s kind of proprietary information. I read an article about the app in the Wall Street Journal before I signed you up, and the owners of the company were pretty secretive about how they actually generate the texts.”

“Oh, well, that’s comforting.” Noelle rolled her eyes.

Ignoring the sarcasm, Nikki continued, “The exact process and technology is kept under wraps, but there’s speculation it might be a combination of computer technology and real-life human interaction.”

“So basically the nicest compliment I’ve gotten in recent memory is from either a computer or someone being paid to text me.” Noelle twisted her mouth unhappily.

“Yes. But that’s the beauty of it. You get to pretend you have the perfect boyfriend for the family at Christmas without dealing with any of the problems of a real man.”

“None of the problems but also none of the fun,” Noelle reminded her overly jubilant sister.

Nikki dismissed that complaint with one flick of a wrist. “Oh, seriously. When was the last time you had fun with George? I mean real fun, where he didn’t criticize you or act like a stick in the mud?”

It was a knee-jerk reaction to defend George to Nikki, but just the mention of his name raised a horrible realization that had Noelle gasping. “George’s parents will be at the Christmas party.”

Nikki nodded. “I’m sure they will. And I think you’d better prepare yourself that George could very well come, too.”

Noelle widened her eyes. “You think he would?”

How could she face him? And what if he came with a date? He wouldn’t have the nerve—would he? She had the bad feeling he might.

“Yes, I do. And I think you need to be ready. Which is why we’re setting you up with a new boyfriend.”

“I don’t think a couple of possibly computer-generated texts are going to convince anyone I have a boyfriend.”

“The app does more than just text. You can get e-mails. Even a real handwritten letter. And you can set up for flower and gift deliveries, too, but that’s an extra charge.”

All of that sounded expensive. “How much is this thing going to cost me?”

“Nothing. There’s a free trial. For the basic membership during the trial period you get a limited number of texts, and we can design a complete boyfriend. We name him. Give him an occupation. We can even download photos from their database.” When Noelle continued to look skeptical, Nikki continued. “I’m telling you, this will work. We post a couple of status updates and pictures online, and you’ll have what looks like a completely convincing relationship.”

“No. I’m not posting pictures of a made-up boyfriend. That’s too much. Then what happens when I meet a real guy and there are these pictures of my fake boyfriend all over the web?”

“Fine. No guy pics right away, but we’re going to revisit that idea before the party. Okay?”

Noelle sighed, too beaten down to fight her sister. “Okay.”

“Even without pictures of a guy, we can fabricate a complete relationship online starting right away.”

“How in the world are you going to do that?”

“Easy. A close-up shot of two glasses of champagne with a status update that reads something like, Enjoying some bubbly at Sunday brunch with my new man. A pic of a Christmas tree lot with the post, Good thing my boyfriend is strong since I chose the biggest tree here. A few posts like that and George and the relatives will think you have the most active social life of anyone we know.”

Shocked, and admittedly a bit impressed, Noelle stared at her sister. “You do realize that if you put this much creativity and effort into your dissertation and building a career, you’d be making enough money to move out of Mom and Dad’s place, right?”

“Ugh. Work and school are no fun. This is fun. I can’t wait to create all sorts of dates for you and—wait—what are we calling him?” Nikki picked up her phone again. “There’s a place for all that info in the dashboard of the app. So, what do you want to call your new fake boyfriend?”

“First of all, can we stop referring to him as my fake boyfriend?” Noelle sighed with self-pity. “Other than that, I don’t know what to call him.”

“Just choose a guy’s name. Make it something strong and sexy.” Nikki waited, phone in hand as Noelle glanced around the room, looking for inspiration and not finding much that would work for a good name.

“Strong and sexy . . . Hmm. Ooh, wait. I got it.” She smiled in triumph as an idea struck. “Type in that his name is Nathan.”

“Nathan. Okay. Sounds good to me.” Nikki typed in a few things. “Where’d you get that name from?”

“He was this guy I met at the store when I ran out to buy more cranberries on Thanksgiving.” Back when she’d been happy and hopeful for a future with George. Apparently, also back when she’d been delusional that she and he were in the same place in their relationship. “Anyway, there were only two bags left and he was going to buy them both but he gave one to me.”

“That was nice of him.”

“Yeah. It was. I gave him my cranberry recipe as a thank-you.”

Nikki sucked in a breath. “You gave it to him and you won’t even give it to me?”

“Fine. I’ll text it to you.” Noelle scrolled to the outgoing text with the recipe and sent a copy to her sister. Nikki’s phone chimed a few seconds later and Noelle said, “There. You have it now. Happy?”

“Yes. Thank you.” Nikki continued to tap away on her phone before raising her eyes to Noelle. “Okay. I’ve put everything in your app dashboard. You’re all set up, or rather he’s all set up. Remember to save that Build-A-Boyfriend number into your contacts under Nathan. It will be good proof.”

“Proof for whom? Who’s going to see the texts on my phone?”

“Everyone you show them to at the Christmas party when you’re telling them about how great your new boyfriend, Nathan, is and reading them what sweet things he is going to text to you.”

Picking up her phone again, Noelle sighed deeply. She spotted the number with the local area code and hit the button to create a new contact. She narrated her actions aloud for her bossy sister. “Create new contact. N-A-T-H-A-N. Save. Anything else, boss?”

“Well, you’re going to have to text him back so he can respond. That’s how it works.”

“Stop saying ‘him’ likes it’s a real guy.” Noelle tried not to think that at best her texts would be from some bored Build-A-Boyfriend employee, and at worst from a computer.

“If you don’t start acting like he’s real, how do you expect anyone else to believe it?” Nikki cocked a brow and ignored Noelle’s pout. “Now, go put on something cute and festive. We need to go out and start faking some dates.”

Noelle wasn’t sure she had the ability to be cute or festive right now. “Why?”

“For the pictures. We’ll take some of you getting your Christmas tree. Oh, and bring an extra sweater and a scarf or hat with you so we can fake a few different dates to post all throughout the week.” Nikki stopped her planning long enough to shoot Noelle a glare. “What are you waiting for? Go.”

“Fine.” Rolling her eyes, Noelle slid off the stool and turned toward the hall.

“And put on some makeup. You look like death.”

“Thanks.” She shot her sister a glare over her shoulder.

Nikki responded with a broad grin. “You’re welcome. Ooh and mistletoe. We definitely have to buy some mistletoe. We can take a picture of it hanging up. It’ll be perfect.”

Nikki continued talking as Noelle walked away. Her only concession was to raise her voice louder.

In her bedroom, Noelle shook her head at this whole thing. Faking a relationship was a lot of work. It might be easier just to find a real man.

AMAZON US   ~B & N  ~ iBOOKS ~ GOOGLE ~ KOBO

* THIS PROMO HAS ENDED *

This 14 author steamy romance mega-promotion only runs through Thursday, September 1, 2016 so don’t delay!

InstaFreebie Steamy Romance

Tease by Alexis Anne

The Wedding Week by Julia Kelly

Protecting His Heart by Dana Volney

Personal Geography by Tamsen Parker

Sass by Laramie Briscoe

Anywhere with You by Heatherly Bell

Tease by Tracy Reed

Dissident by Cecilia London

King Takes Queen by Monica Corwin

Stockholm Diaries, Caroline by Rebecca Hunter

Welcome to Cypress Corners by JoMarie DeGioia

Last Call by Jen Doyle

Wrecked (Studs in Spurs) by Cat Johnson

A Good Game by D. D. Shaw

Instafreebie Aug 2016 Giveaway