I just realized it’s been 2 months since I last blogged, but I have a good reason for my absence! 😉 I’ve been hard at work writing a new book, my first cowboy romance. Here my cover reveal for Falling for the Younger Cowboy!
Here’s a sneak peek at chapter one:
Lexi Turner had never seen a more delicious pot of chili … or maybe it was the gorgeous cowboy stirring the pot who had her mouth watering.
“Can I move now, Lex?”
She blinked quickly behind the lens of her camera and lowered the Nikon DSLR from her eye. The camera strap tugged on the back of her neck as she let the equipment fall from her hands. Clearing her throat, she squeaked out, “Yeah, totally. I got the shots I needed. Thanks, James.”
The tall man wearing dark jeans and a fitted gray T-shirt under a large white apron straightened from the pose he’d been in for the past few minutes. His expression relaxed, adding a sparkle to his blue eyes. He immediately pulled the apron over his head of auburn waves and tossed it onto the metal counter behind him. “Finally. I don’t know how much longer I could’ve held that smile. And I’m pretty sure the chili would’ve turned to mush if I stirred it any more. You know I can’t be caught serving baby food to our ranchers.”
Lexi chuckled to see the right corner of James’s lips curve up in his trademark grin. Her friend always seemed to smile with just one side of his mouth, never fully revealing his straight, white teeth. He was the strong, silent type, like a stereotypical cowboy from the Clint Eastwood movies her dad liked to watch. “You know those guys will eat anything you put on their plates. You’re the best cook in Texas.”
A slight blush crept up James’s neck, adding color to his defined jawline. “You’re much too kind, Lexi. And a sweet talker if I’ve ever met one. I doubt if a year on the ranch has made you an expert on southern cooking, but I’ll take the compliment.” He nodded toward the stainless steel pot sitting on the stove. “Do you want a bowl before you get back to work?”
“Sure. But only if you sit with me and have one, too.”
James checked the clock hanging on the wall. “I can manage that. I’ve got an hour before I need to start on the rest of dinner.” He scooped out two bowls of steaming hot chili, grabbed two metal spoons, and led the way out of the kitchen.
Lexi followed him into the mess hall reserved for the employees. An earthy aroma of dirt mixed with the freshness of spring rain coming in through an open window filled her senses. Half a dozen picnic tables topped with metal napkin dispensers took up the majority of the large room. Several tracks of muddy footprints revealed a path where the ranchers’ boots had walked hours earlier during lunch.
Lexi’s own pair of boots clicked along the concrete floor, feeling foreign and comfortable on her feet at the same time. Sometimes she still couldn’t believe she’d traded in her flip-flops and a life by the beach for country living. But that’s what a semi midlife crisis had prompted her to do when Thomas left her for another woman. Taking a seat on one of the wooden benches, she set her camera on the table. She also cleared her head free from any more thoughts of her ex-husband. She inhaled the savory scent of spices rising from the bowl James set before her and sighed. “This is just what I need. Spice therapy.”
From across the table, James held out his spoon to her and waited for her to clink it with her own before digging into his bowl. In between bites, he met her gaze curiously. “Something tells me you’re not just talking about the Monday blues. Did your mom call again?”
Lexi blinked in surprise. “How’d you know?”
He shrugged. “You’ve been distracted ever since you walked into my kitchen.”
Distracted was right. Lexi didn’t know what had gotten into her today. Seeing her good friend through a camera lens had somehow magnified her view of him. She’d thought he was handsome when they first met, but she had never studied the planes and angles of his face so closely before. Or it could be that she’d been too heartbroken to notice.
After relocating from the Big Island of Hawaii to Sage Valley, she’d spent months grieving the end of her decade-long marriage. It wasn’t until recently that her heart had started to ache less. When the dude ranch owners, the Buchanans, tasked her with the job of taking pictures for their website, she’d rediscovered the joy of photography. And now apparently, she’d also discovered the opposite sex. Lexi winced. She really ought to be acting her age instead of feeling like a hormonal teenager. She was a week from turning forty, for goodness sakes! Midlife crisis or not, she couldn’t be crushing on her much younger friend.
Feeling James’s eyes on her, she swallowed her mouthful of chili and answered quickly. “You guessed right. My mom did call this morning, bright and early at seven—two in the morning her time—just before she turned into bed. She had some big news that couldn’t wait.”
James quirked a brow, his telltale sign urging her to continue speaking.
“Apparently, Thomas got engaged over the weekend.”
Lexi ducked her head. The hem of her red flannel shirt skimming the top of her jeans blurred for a second before she blinked away her tears. She sniffled as she looked up. “I couldn’t care less what he does. It’s more the fact that my own flesh and blood still keeps in touch with the guy who broke my heart that gets to me. My mom really loves poking her nose in other people’s business.”
A pained look crossed James’s face as he rubbed his chin. “I’m sorry, Lex. That’s gotta sting. I thought my great-aunt won the award for meddling, but your mom takes the cake.”
She smirked. Sharon Buchanan, or Nanna as everyone called her, had a reputation for playing matchmaker, but at least she had good intentions. Lexi’s typical Asian tiger mom—bless her heart—didn’t have a sensitive bone in her body. Lexi still didn’t know how her fun-loving, Irish father had won her over. “It’s all right. I just keep reminding her that I’ve moved on. I’m happy with my life now. I’ve rediscovered my love of photography, I’ve got the ranch’s store to manage, and”—she gave him a pointed look—“I have amazing friends.”
He narrowed his eyes. “Are you talking about Charlie?” he asked, referring to Lexi’s cousin who had gotten her the job at the ranch.
She licked her spoon before setting it down. “Not just Charlie. I’m talking about you, too, Mr. James Scott. Like I said, your chili is life. Just one bite of it, and the world seems right again.” She glanced down at her empty bowl then pointed a finger at her mouth as she smiled. “See how happy you’ve made me? I hardly remember my conversation with my mom now.”
James chuckled, the throaty sound causing his Adam’s apple to bob. “I’m happy to oblige. I’ve got a whole pot left of this spicy therapy if you want some more.”
Lexi shook her head. “Thanks, but I should get back to the store to relieve Henry.” She had one employee, a part-timer who was in line to get a permanent job as a ranch hand. “I’ll upload these photos and ask Nanna which one she wants to use. If my guess is right, she’ll say all of them. I’m pretty sure you’re her favorite grandnephew,” she added with a wink.
“Naw, I’m just the one she managed to rope into working here.”
“Well, I’m awfully glad she did. If you hadn’t come back to the ranch, we’d never have met. You’ve made this past year so much brighter.”
James gave her a half smile. “You mean tastier?”
“Definitely both.” Feeling grateful, Lexi reached across the table and placed her hand on top of his. A light spark of electricity shot through her fingers the moment they touched. She immediately pulled back and rubbed her palm along her jeans. Had James felt it, too?
“Are you okay?”
“Yeah, totally fine,” Lexi replied, lying through her teeth. Her body had never reacted to James this way before. She eyed the camera on the table, wondering if it had cast some sort of spell on her. Before she could dwell any more on the matter, her cell phone vibrated. She pulled it out of her back pocket and swiped it open to reveal a new message.
Lex, are you sitting down?
“It’s Charlie,” she murmured to James as she watched three dots flash across her screen. “She’s probably texting to vent about some crazy request she got from a guest.”
Charlie’s next message popped up. I don’t know how to tell you this, but Thomas is here! With a young blonde thing wearing a huge rock!
The blood drained from Lexi’s face. Her mouth fell open as she stared at the blue text bubble. What were her ex and his new fiancée doing in Sage Valley?
“Lexi? What’s wrong?”
She bit her bottom lip as she met James’s gaze. “I think I’m going to need another bowl of chili.”
Poor Lexi! Don’t worry though, James (and his chili) are gonna make things all better!
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