Rad-Reader:  When did you write this Christmas story?  What month?

Shelli:  It took many months to write! I’m a lot slower with a threenager at home with me. I started it in the spring I believe. 

Rad-Reader:  Do you find it difficult to write a holiday theme book or just a challenge?

Shelli:  Omgosh it was so fun. I love Christmas and so it was fun to get into the holiday mood outside of the holiday season.

Rad-Reader:  So, the opening scene when Rosa & Calvin meet did you come up with that scene with the chips or did you see something like that happen?

Shelli:  I came up with it. Honestly, I’ve probably been tempted to do it before ;)  

Rad-Reader:  Was Rosa & her father, people you made up or were they based on people you know or parts of those you know?

Shelli:  They were made up. I did get inspired to write a Latina heroine because one of my closest friends is Honduran. 

Rad-Reader:  With Calvin’s character did you have an idea about him first and then wrote it or did you just write to see how the character would end up?

Shelli:  I’ve been building Cal up for a couple of books now. He’s an imperfect hero and has definitely made some mistakes in life. I love writing a flawed hero because they’re definitely more realistic. But with all my books/characters, they often reveal more of themselves and storylines as I write.

Rad-Reader:  Did you always have Rosa working for Nancy in the insurance office from your original draft or was that something you added?

Shelli:  I always had her as an insurance agent. Once again I used a friend for inspiration. Small town jobs come in every shape and form, and my friend is in a smallish town working as one. I definitely hit her up for information!

Rad-Reader:  Was it difficult to write Hank’s character?

Shelli:  Hank was somewhat a challenge at times because he is also flawed. And cranky as heck sometimes! And I had to make sure he was redeemable and had good qualities too.

Rad-Reader:  When Rosa’s friend Emma is talking to her about being with a boring man who does things like a –  bowling league and bingo was that something that just came to you at those times when you were writing?

Shelli:  Really, I was just thinking how while it, can it, become boring and mundane to someone who’s been married for a while, it can sound like heaven to someone who wants that kind of relationship and routine.

Rad-Reader:  Do you use an outline when you write or do you just sit down and start to write?

Shelli:  I’m a total pantser. I maybe have a back cover blurb type idea in my head, and then go for it.

Rad-Reader:  Which is more difficult to write a character you had from a previous book that becomes a major character or a new character?

Shelli:  Possibly a new character. I’ve already done some of the work on a reappearing character. Though when I use a reappearing character, I do have to go back and double check all their info (did I say he had blue eyes, or brown type thing) So yeah, maybe that is a challenge too! 

Rad-Reader:  Hank’s character was a surprise at different moments in the story was that your intentions when you started or did it just happen that way?

Shelli:  Hank was definitely a character who revealed himself slowly to me. I didn’t know who he was, what his full backstory was, or his end goal was until I started writing.  

Rad-Reader:  I read your McLaughlin’s series and with this one about (Marshall Ranch) do you enjoy writing about families?

Shelli:  Yes! Absolutely love writing about families. It’s just so fun to show them in the sibling dynamic (or cousins), and get to know them throughout the books. And become eager to write their own happily ever after.

Rad-Reader:  What makes you decide to make a story into a series?

Shelli:  Honestly I used to write a lot of stand-alone, but then I realized series sell better. And I always end up with a character in a book who demands their own story. Which, has gotten me in trouble. There’s still a few books I need to write someday to tie up old stories. 

Rad-Reader:  When you set out to write a story, all of the extra characters (example: Emma & Nancy), were they a part of your original draft or did you add as you went along?

Shelli:  I added them in as I went along. I like to show my character’s lives outside of just the hero and heroine. They have jobs. They have best friends. I love to show brief moments of that part of their life.

Rad-Reader:  Are you able to pick the story you want to do or are you under a contract with a publishing company that picks?

Shelli:  I’m pretty lucky with Tule Publishing and they pretty much let me write what I want. Though Jane Porter was the one who first encouraged me to write a cowboy romance (for their rodeo series). I was nervous because I’d never written cowboys. I’m such a city girl! But I ended up loving it and wrote the Marshall Ranch series. Earlier on in my career, I had an editor pushing me to write really hot stories that I wasn’t necessarily thrilled about. But at this point in my career, I tend to stick to/with what I’m comfortable with and work with a publisher who will back me up on that.

Rad-Reader:  Was Rosa based on someone you know or did you come up with her on your own?

Shelli:  I came up with her on my own. 

Rad-Reader:  I really liked that character because she reminds me of my daughter the only difference is my wife is Hispanic and I am Italian.  How do you come up with the strong women you write in your books?

Shelli:  Thank you for sharing that! That’s so cool, and such a compliment. Your daughter must be awesome! I love writing strong women. Women who know what they want and stick to it. Who have goals in life and go for them. 
Rad-Reader:  Thanks, she is.

Rad-Reader:  Do you remember your first royalty check and if you did anything special for yourself?

Shelli:  Oh, it was tiny! My first book was a short story at a tiny e-publisher. But I was just so thrilled to actually be getting paid for writing. No idea what I spent it on! Probably coffee from Starbucks :D 
Rad-Reader: Hey, it counted because look where you are now.  Congrats!

Rad-Reader:  What was it like for you the first time you went to try and get your book published?

Shelli:  I started out seeking to be traditionally published originally. Submitting to agents and big NY publishers. When that didn’t take off right away, I decided to publish with a small e-publisher. I thought my books were good, and I was dismay by the ‘unsold books under your bed’ all these established authors talked about. I wanted my books out there, published, and available for anyone who wanted to read them. So I submitted to a small e-publisher (before e-publishing was big), and built a career slowly that way. And even hit the NYT extended list with one of my ebooks. Eventually, I obtained an agent and a traditional NY publisher, but neither ended up being what I wanted at the time. So I left my agent and work with publishers who are super author-friendly. I even dabble in self-publishing now and then. I may seek out traditional big NY pubs again or an agent, but right now it’s not on my radar. 

Rad-Reader:  Did you do the whole agent thing or did you just send in the book to someone?

Shelli:  Both. I submitted to publishers and agents. I ended up with an agent when I already had a deal in hand. Though she’d already been considering signing me on anyway. 

Rad-Reader:  What do you like during your free time?

Shelli:  I love getting outside. And I’m always taking pictures. For as much of a city girl I am, I also love getting away from it. Maybe even more than being in it lately. The beach. The woods. The mountains. I love it all. I also love a good Girls Night Out when the stars align. And baths. I love baths, especially because I do most of my reading there.

Rad-Reader:  What is your favorite genre of movie, music, and books?

Shelli:  Movies, hmm. I love a good comedy. Or romantic comedy—though those have become harder to come by. Action/suspense are good too.

Music, I love it all! I really do. I can flip stations and always find something I like. From AC/DC to Alison Krauss to Ella Fitzgerald. 

Books. I love historical romances. Especially the medieval time period. I tend to not read as much contemporary. Maybe because I don’t want to feel like I’m being influenced by another author’s voice. 

Rad-Reader:  Who is the one person from past history you would love to interview if you could?

Shelli:  My second great-grandmother, who is full blooded native American. I want to hear the story of how she ended up with my second great-grandfather (a Jewish man). And what times were like back then for the Pacific Northwest Native American Tribes, and being in an interracial relationship in the 1800s. 

Rad-Reader:  What is your next project and when is it coming out?

Shelli:  I have a series re-releasing from Tule Publishing. It was my Holding Out for a Hero series, which is being rebranded and re-released. I’m also working on my Bro Code series, which will be self-published. Book 1, Lady’s First, will be out by spring!  

Rad-Reader:  Where can our readers buy your books?  Links

Shelli:  You can find all my books and the links to buy at various retailers on the books page of my website!  https://shellistevens.com/books/

Rad-Reader:  Where can our readers find you on the Web?  Links

Shelli:  You can find me around the web at the following places

We cannot thank you enough for taking the time to be with us.  We know how valuable our authors time can be to gather all this info and then to answer all our questions.  Please let us know when your next book drops so that we can add it to our Shout Out: An Author's Place page so that our readers have a heads up.
Thanks again,
Pat & Char

NOT MY 1ST RODEO (Not My First Rodeo #1)


You’ll never know if it’s right unless you saddle up for another go-round.
Nothing like a Cowboy by Donna Alward
Brett isn’t anxious for another go-round at marriage. But when he’s matched with Melly, he seriously considers getting back in the saddle.
Melly is thrilled to find a dyed-in-the-wool cowboy on NotMy1stRodeo.com—until she discovers he’s got his eye on more than just her curves.
Something About a Cowboy by Sarah M. Anderson
Mack is furious when his grown sons sign him up for NotMy1stRodeo.com, but Karen’s profile intrigues him enough to drive three hours to Billings to meet her.
Burned by her cheating ex, Karen figures no one could be more trustworthy than a strong, silent, widowed cowboy. But after one steamy night, Mack realizes that it may be too much, too soon.
     When two people have been seriously burned in previous relationships that resulted in divorce you find that they are gun shy. To even dating. Yet, Melly Walker had hopes that if she went back to her roots of a good old country girl she would be grounded again.
     So, imagine how excited she was when she found a dating site for ranchers and cowboys. Since she had grown up on a ranch that was for her. Especially, since she had met her ex in college and she was attracted to his flash of city life, fast cars, high end stuff, and expensive restaurants she needs to find her way back. When behind her back he lost everything. When they were married the marriage only lasted 18 months upon him filing Chapter 7.
     She started dating from the site there were more duds then dudes. She was giving it one last try. And so when she got a “tip of a hat” she was pleased. She was just hoping one, this one showed up. Two, he hadn’t lied about anything. Three, he wasn’t a creep because she had been there done that.
     When Brett Harrison asked her to coffee a no muss no fuss date she was pleased. The thing was she finds out soon enough into the date that Brett had just found out about the date and that it was his meddling twin sister that had set it up. Making her feel awkward. Until he stated he was pleasantly pleased and surprised about it.
     They both were able to find an easy banter and intense chemistry, and that they were revealing secrets they never told anyone. Making them see that this date took no effort. Brett, however, made it very clear he didn’t want to lead her on she was looking for an endgame of marriage he wasn’t. She says, well, maybe so but dating along the way wasn’t bad. Brett asks her on a second date.
     This is where it gets interesting and tempers fly. Can they get past it? Is it even worth it their end games are so different? You’ll have to read and see. I give this: 5 stars.  Provided by netgalley.com.
Follow us at www.1rad-readerreviews.com




Rosa Mercado is looking for something more serious with her love life, which is why she hits the brakes on the sexy cowboy who walks into her dad’s restaurant and hits on her.
Calvin Marshall had Rosa lined up in his sights to be his next conquest. Until she makes it clear she’s looking for Mr. Right, not Mr. Right Now. Commitment isn’t exactly his favorite word.
But when they’re forced to stay at Misty Meadows Ranch together over Christmas, it becomes clear that there’s more at stake than just one of them inheriting the ranch by New Year’s Eve. The magic of the season will blur the line between love and hate, and challenge everything they both thought they wanted.

“We both deserve a chance to get this ranch, Rosa. Fair and square.” 
Her laugh was harsh with disbelief. “There’s nothing fair or square about this situation. It’s weird.” 
“Yeah, maybe it is. But here we are. Stuck together for a Christmas circus.” 
Her nose wrinkled and disdain dripped from her words. “With Hank as the ringmaster.” 
“Exactly. But you’ll stay, right?” 
She was silent a moment and then nodded. “I’ll stay. Thank you.” 
“For what?” 
“For talking me down from the wall. For being a pretty decent human, actually.” 
His chest tightened and he itched to reach for her again. He heard her breath hitch, and an answering awareness flickered in her eyes. His gaze moved to her mouth when she wet her lips. 
“Don’t do anything stupid, Cal.” Her soft words floated around in his head. 
It was too damn late for that. He lowered his head until their breath mingled. Ah hell. 
“Stupid like this?” Before she could reply he touched her lips with his. Instead of pushing him away, she leaned into him with a sigh. 
Her mouth parted beneath his, and he delved deep with his tongue to taste her. 
Dear God, she tasted even better than he’d imagined. The softness of her lips, the sweetness of her mouth. She could easily become his addiction. 
Rosa kissed him back, clinging to his leather jacket and making the sweetest murmurs of pleasure. 
The cold of them dissipated as heat surged through his blood. Need, fierce and quick, slammed into him. 
Somewhere inside the house, a door slammed, snapping them both from the moment. Cal broke the kiss and dragged in a
breath of cold air that froze his lungs. With a ragged sigh, he leaned his forehead against hers. 
“I told you not to do anything stupid.” 
Her unsteady whisper had his chest shaking from a silent laugh. 
“It’s kind of my thing. I’d apologize and all, but I’m not sorry.” He lifted his head and touched her cheek. Her eyes were bright and her lips were swollen. “I’ve been wanting to do that from the moment I laid eyes on you.” 
His gaze snapped back to hers. The heat was still there, but it was tempered with a steadfast determination. 
“I’m not sorry either.” She bit her lip. “But you can’t forget who I am.” 
“And who are you, Rosa?” She had more layers than an artichoke. He wanted to strip each one away until he found the heart. 
She glanced at his mouth, before looking up through her lashes to meet his gaze. “I’m still the woman who’s going to sell this ranch when it’s given to me.”

Katie Marshall is known for her ‘girl next door’ reputation and for always playing it safe. So, when she books a bachelor party from Seattle at the Marshall Ranch, she isn’t sure what to expect until trouble strolls in–Hunter Richardson, local bad boy turned successful software tycoon…and Katie’s job gets a lot more interesting.
Hunter has always struggled to find his place in Marietta. Now, somewhat reluctantly, he’s back in his hometown and not looking forward to a week on a cattle ranch… but that all changes when he sees Katie, the girl he could never forget from high school. A girl he shouldn’t want anything to do with. Soon, he realizes he wants much more from her than just a guided tour of the Montana landscape.
Hunter’s plan had been to get through the week, before returning to Seattle and his million dollar gaming company. Instead, he finds himself falling for the hometown girl…

“…So we probably shouldn’t do that again.”
“The kiss?”
“Yeah.” She nibbled her bottom lip, looking all out of sorts and flustered. “I mean, you’re a guest at the ranch. It wouldn’t be appropriate.”
Appropriate? Really, she was going to pull that excuse on him?
“I see.”
She flushed. “Hunter, there are a dozen girls in that bar, twenty times prettier than me. Girls that were trying their hardest to get you to pay attention to them.”
Maybe there had been, but he hadn’t even been tempted. And while he couldn’t agree with the prettier girls part, he thought it best not to say that aloud.
The hand she ran through her thick hair trembled. “I’m not sure why you’d even want to kiss me.”
“Katie.” Had she really not figured it out yet? “I’ve wanted to kiss you since I was in eleventh grade.”
Shock, had her eyes rounding and her pink lips parting.
He took another step closer and cradled her soft face between his hands.
“And I want to do it again.” He wanted to do a hell of a lot more than kiss her, actually, but for now, this was enough. His lips hovered above hers. “This time without an audience.”
When she didn’t protest, he let his lips lightly brush hers. Their breaths mingled just for an instant before he tasted her again. A hint of whiskey, and a whole lot of sweetness.

MERRILY EVER AFTER (Bridesmaids Behaving Badly #2.5)

MERRILY EVER AFTER                           JENNY HOLIDAY

Elise Maxwell is loving her first Christmas with her husband, Jay Smith. So far, newlywed life has been filled with laughter and lots of steamy marital "bliss." But when Elise discovers she's accidentally, against-all-odds pregnant, happily-ever-after screeches to a halt. Although she sees it as a Christmas miracle, Elise knows her new husband might not agree...

Jay never wanted to be a father. In fact, he's avoided it his entire life, worried he'd repeat the patterns of his own messed-up childhood. He's madly in love with Elise and, until now, he thought they were on the same page about not having children. But her surprise pregnancy changes everything. Elise is suddenly committed to parenthood, and Jay knows he can't lose her. Facing his deepest fears will be difficult, but with a little holiday magic, Jay might be able to prove to Elise that - as a family - they're destined to live merrily ever after.

The Bridesmaids Behaving Badly series:
One and Only
It Takes Two
Merrily Ever After: a novella
Three Little Words

     I have not read this series…but I have to say this is a nice Christmas Novella-Stand-alone.  I story was nothing at all what I was expecting from the get-go.  This is a couple that has only been married for a year and a half with no children.  And that is the way the both planned it.  For her, because she couldn’t have any for his it was his background.
     With that said it jumps right into a sexually charged couple who love everything about each other and all things sex with each other.  They will never make me see Scrabble as just a simple word game again.  I want the spiced-up version, please.
     They are fun and real as a couple.  Jay is an accountant who to everyone else he is straight-laced and uptight.  But being part owner of the business with his partner leaves him feeling the role of the adult.  Much of the time in his household growing up is did as well.  Which leaves him now wanting to cut loose with his younger wife.
     Elise, his wife, and Cam his brother are the only two who have really seen the real, Jay.  Elise fell head over heels for Jay.  He was the man for her and she knew it.  Jay took a little longer to agree.  Elise’s family wasn’t the best she had an okay relationship with her brother but not her parents.
     When she started her own business at thirty, they became angry and stopped talking to her.  No, real loss though.  You see Elise has her family of choice: Gia who is a model, Wendy is a lawyer, and Jane is a fantasy writer, friend, and her sister in law.  All there to support her always. 
     When Jay finally got on board and fell head over heels for Elise, he knew he had to toe the line he knew he was taking on all her friends too.  When Elise thinks she’s pregnant, she’s calling in her troops they are there.  Telling Jay and he reacts wrong, they are there too.
     So, when Jay overreacts, they’re there for her.  Even Craig, in his own way.  Even though he loves his brother to death he works to get him to understand that if he doesn’t open up to the woman, he loves he will lose two of the most important beings ever.
     Getting him to really think.  Looking at the bigger picture.  Not just the "me" factor.  Is a life without his wife worth it?  Or is working through his fears a better plan?

     I enjoyed the gritty emotion and feelings that the pain of her husband’s rejection of their child was now doing to them as a couple.  Causing her to question it what they had was real or a lie.  Then Jay’s POV and the real fear he has of repeating his father’s past.  I loved the brother’s interaction and bonding over the Lego.  So, heartwarming.  I give this: 5 stars.  Provided by netgalley.com.  
Follow us at www.1rad-readerreviews.com.

THE BILLIONAIRE LEGACY (Billionaires and Babies #1)


“Just for tonight.”

Until their chance reunion takes a sharp turn…
 toward twins. 

Tech billionaire Benjamin Bennett can’t resist a steamy weekend with Sloane Sutton—his crush on her goes way back. But when he tracks her down, she’s pregnant—with twins! Now their fling needs trust to survive. Benji wants a wedding; his family claims she’s a gold digger. But Sloane won’t be bought—or married. Can they find common ground…and a shot at forever?

     When you fall in love at five how do you tell your heart no?  That is what Benjamin Bennett decided he would no longer deprive his heart what it has always wanted.
     He was at his cousin’s wedding, who happens to be good friends with Sloane Sutton the woman of his dreams.  The only drawback in the whole deal is… Sloane is his older sister’s best friend.  Making her five years older than he is.  Which should only count when he was five years old right?
     When he saw his sister leave with his niece, he found his opening and decided to take.  He walks over to the table Sloane’s at to talk with her.  When they had greeted each other earlier she thought she approved at what she saw when she looked at him but now, he was positive. 
     When a song came on from their childhood that they both remember his overplaying they laughed and he asked her to dance.  At first, she wasn’t going to but then she went for it.  The sparks were flying for both of them he could tell because her breathing had changed and she was standing closer.
     He flat out told her he wanted her.  She tried to use the excuse of their age but he said it did count he was no longer five.  He asked her to meet him at the family cabin which he told her he now owned and redid since.  She surprised him and agreed.  Only if they left at different times.  He happily agreed.  After they talked for two hours straight, she got ready to leave when he asked her to stay.  No strings.
     When he kissed her, they both felt the instant chemistry.  She stays.  The next morning, he is so happy before he realizes what he’s doing he asks her to go to Japan with him for the six months he will be there.  To his relief she says no, he is relieved right, he needs to think about that. 
     She says no she has to work.  Which she does, with two loans to pay, a house payment, and bills.  Life could not stop for a pleasure trip she is not a billionaire like him.  She’s happy she turned him, down right?  Now she has to think about why she turned him down.
     After six months of respecting each other boundaries and not calling each other which they both so wanted to do.  Benji is back in the country and so wanting to see her he flies straight into Nashville to see Sloane instead of going home to Seattle.  He didn’t call he wants to surprise her.
     Boy does his life change in an instant to the point when he becomes dizzy.  Yet, she’s the one who bumps her head getting out of the car when he startles her and passes out.  He needs to rush her to the hospital due to her condition but he is madder than a hornet.
     Although he’s angry for being left out of the loop, he loves and cares for Sloane and is scared for her and the baby’s safety.  Little does he know the gifts keep coming.
     I really enjoyed this fun fast read.  The character’s family members kept you on your toes as to what they might do or say next.  Also, how they would handle each new situation the couple were confronted with.
     I did have a problem with Benji saying she was lying to him all the time yet hello then have a chef, housekeeper, the nursery redone, but the topper the nanny shows up without telling her.  Yes, all nice things but personal things that should be discussed.  Withholding same as lying, just saying.  Forgiveness after the fact should give her the same pass then, right?

     I give this: 4 stars.  Provided by netgalley.com.  Follow us at www.1rad-readerreviews.com




Rosa Mercado is looking for something more serious with her love life, which is why she hits the brakes on the sexy cowboy who walks into her dad’s restaurant and hits on her.
Calvin Marshall had Rosa lined up in his sights to be his next conquest. Until she makes it clear she’s looking for Mr. Right, not Mr. Right Now. Commitment isn’t exactly his favorite word.
But when they’re forced to stay at Misty Meadows Ranch together over Christmas, it becomes clear that there’s more at stake than just one of them inheriting the ranch by New Year’s Eve. The magic of the season will blur the line between love and hate, and challenge everything they both thought they wanted.

He eased his thumb through the belt loop in his jeans and offered a slow smile. “Say, what do you do for fun, Rosa?”
Her eyes narrowed. “No.”
He paused, confused for a moment. “What do you mean by no?”
“I mean no, I’m not interested. You’ve got womanizer written all over you.”
Cal’s smile faltered. He couldn’t have been more stunned if she’d punched him the face. “Womanizer?”
“You know. Skirt chaser. Player. Philan—”
“I get it.” He glowered and struggled to remember if he’d ever in his life been called any one of those things.
“It’s just the first time someone’s ever called me one.”
She gave a small shrug and crinkled her nose. “To your face.”
Oh, all the…
“Well,” he fumbled for a response. “That’s pretty rude.”
“I don’t have to be polite anymore, Cal, I’m off the clock.” Her lips curved up into a saccharine smile.
“I tipped you damn good,” he sputtered.
“And I thank you for it.” She paused. “Did you have the flu?”
Confusion had him shaking his head.
“That woman who dumped chips on you said you told her you had the flu.”
Well hell. His guilty expression must’ve said it all.
“That’s what I thought.” She turned to her car.
Irritation rose in his throat and the blood in his veins heated. “You sure are quick to judge someone you barely know.”
“Your reputation precedes you in this town, Cal.” She paused and turned back to him, approaching slowly.
“And even if it didn’t, do you want to know what I do for a living? When I’m not helping out at my father’s restaurant?”
“Sure.” If it kept her here talking to him.
The closer she got, the quicker his heart pounded. He was both irritated with her, and resoundingly attracted to her.
God, she was beautiful. Her eyes bright with energy and femininity. His tongue grew so thick in his mouth, he wasn’t sure he’d be able to utter another word. He was twelve again when he’d discovered girls weren’t gross and figured himself head over boots in love with the receptionist at the dentist.
“I’m an insurance agent, Cal.” She paused and swept her gaze over him. “And it only took me a few minutes to know you’re not worth the risk.

With his competing days behind him, Wyatt Marshall has settled into ranching life in Marietta, Montana. But with the Copper Mountain Rodeo, his only exception, just around the corner, the last thing he needs is a distraction – especially one in the form of a pretty, yet vaguely familiar country singer.
For Claire Miller, it’s been almost a year since she fled Las Vegas with only her purse and the clothes on her back, and she’s been laying low in Montana with a new image. When she and her country band travel to perform in the small town of Marietta, she doesn’t plan on getting stranded there for several days. Or for an innocent offer to stay at a nearby ranch to turn out to be more than she bargained for: she recognizes its owner to be the same sexy cowboy she got hot and heavy with – then stood up – in Vegas.
With the passion flaring between them and Wyatt getting closer to putting the pieces together, Claire is ready to run again, not knowing the danger that sent her fleeing in the first place is close on her heels.

Claire silently cursed herself for goading him about the rodeo. She knew damn well he was a roper, and that he was good. Not just good, but real good. He’d won that NFR competition the night she’d met him.
God, he was sexy right now. She couldn’t help but notice while he’d rode with so much ease on that horse. Tall and proud, with the cowboy hat low on his head.
Wyatt had dismounted with grace and ease, and she knew she was about to make a damn fool of herself trying to get off the horse.
She pulled one leg from the stirrup and tried to swing it over the horse, but her thigh cramped. Before she could try again, strong hands circled her waist and lifted her easily from the saddle.
Claire gasped, clutching his shoulders as Wyatt lowered her slowly to the ground. It was only a split second where her breasts barely brushed against his chest before she was set on her feet. Feeling a little light-headed, she gripped his forearms just as her knees buckled.
“You okay?” He kept his hands on her waist, holding her up.
“Yeah,” she whispered.
She was all too aware of his hands on her, even with the thin layer of her sweater between them. Her pulse raced and her tongue grew thick in her mouth.
“My, um, legs are a little stiff.”
“Saddlesore. It’ll get worse before it gets better, seeing as we have to ride back.”
“Good to know.”
He grinned down at her and their gazes held. Her stomach did another flip. “It’ll get better the more you ride. Same with that mounting and dismounting stuff.”
She gave a reluctant smile. “You make it look really easy.”
“Yeah, well, I’ve got just about a foot on you, too.”
“So I’ve noticed.” She’d tried to sound flippant, but her words were husky.
His smile diminished and his gaze slid to her mouth.
Her heart began a low thud in her chest and heat spread through her body.
Oh, God. It was happening again. It was like Vegas, but even stronger.
Wyatt cleared his throat and took a step back. “Let’s stretch our legs and walk a little. I wanted to show you something.”
A pang of disappointment hit her and she hated herself for it. She didn’t want to get involved with Wyatt Marshall. Not again. Even if he’d looked at her like he was thinking about kissing her, he hadn’t. And it was a good thing.
She followed him through the handful of trees until they reached a clearing along a small river.
Her breath caught at the site of sparkling water and dramatic rise of mountains beyond.
“Wow.” The word came out on a sigh. “This is gorgeous.”
“Isn’t it?” He moved to stand beside her, hands on his hips as he stared out at the landscape. “Favorite spot on the ranch.”
“We’re still on your property?” She shot him a startled look.
“The edge of it, yeah.”
Pride filled his face and she could well understand why. She’d never owned anything, and to have a piece of land this large and amazing was incredible for anyone.
“Do you bring the ranch guests here? Show them?”
“Yeah.” He grimaced. “Pretty popular spot for selfies.”
She laughed softly. “I can see why. Thank you for bringing me here. I’m a total newbie with this horseback riding stuff.”
“You did great. Some of the guys who come up for a weekend are all swagger until you throw them on the back of a horse.”
“Really? You’re not just saying that to make me feel better?”
“Hey, you didn’t complain once about your balls hurting.”
Her laughter was loud and belly-filled now. “They don’t really complain about that, do they?”
“Some of them sure do. Have to deduct points on their man card.”
She shook her head. “Well, I really can’t compare, because I’m not equipped with the same parts.”
“No, you’re not.” His gaze slid over her, the sparkle in his eyes turned from amusement to something hotter, making her all tingly again.
“Anyway, I hope you’re having fun, Claire. Maybe even realizing that horseback riding can be pretty amazing.”
“I think I am. I love it out here.” She glanced back at the view. “But I’m surprised you’re not at the parade. Most of the town seems to go, from what I hear.”
“I do some years, but I’m not big for the spotlight.”
Which he probably would’ve been in being the hometown boy NFR champion. He didn’t seem the type to love the crowds and attention, which was why he’d ended up in her club after winning his NFR buckle.
“I think it’s really cute that you guys do all these events,” she said quietly.
Judging by his tone, he didn’t appreciate her word choice, and she realized how that had sounded.
She flushed. “Well, not cute, but just charming how small towns shut down everything just to celebrate a rodeo.”

He grunted and looked away.
Oh yeah. She’d definitely irked him and wasn’t making it any better. Was it better to keep talking or just shut up?
“It’s not just a rodeo, honey. It’s about taking time to enjoy life. To spend time with your family and friends. To take a break from the grind that’s just trying to kill you.”
God, she really wished he wouldn’t call her honey. It did things to her. Melted her a little.
“I think you big city folk could learn a thing or two from us small towns.”
Those words stopped the melting and she bristled. “Maybe. But some of these small towns can also be judgmental and cliquey—they don’t exactly welcome outsiders.”
“Was that your experience here?” he asked mildly.
Shame had her closing her eyes. “No, maybe in other towns, but that wasn’t my experience here. I’m sorry. You guys have been pretty incredible, actually.”
He nodded. “You can thank my sister for that.”
Did that mean he hadn’t been on board with her staying here? “I did. Katie’s very nice.”
“Sometimes too nice.”

She sucked in a breath and lifted her chin. “You’re not happy I’m staying here.”
He turned to face her. “I’m currently undecided.”
She met his gaze head-on. “You don’t like me.”
They weren’t questions. They were statements she threw at him.
He closed the distance between them and she fought the instinct to back up.
“I don’t know you, Claire.” He reached up to catch one curl that had fallen over her shoulder. “Or do I?”
Panic exploded in her belly. For a moment, she’d almost forgotten their history in Vegas. She’d allowed herself to imagine they were meeting for the first time this weekend.

“No. You really don’t know me at all.” It was a fairly honest answer that she didn’t have to feel guilty about.
He twisted her curl around his finger and then released it, moving his calloused fingers to trace down the curve of her jaw.
The desire to turn her cheek into his palm was almost overpowering. She bit her lip to stop from doing it.
“You’re right. I don’t know you,” he relented. “But I find myself wanting to.”

Bad idea. She shouted the response in her head, but couldn’t seem to manage it out loud. She was frozen with the need to know what happened next. What he’d say. What he’d do.
What he did was to let her go and turn away. “We should get back.”

Shelli is a New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author who read her first romance novel when she snatched it off her mother’s bookshelf at the age of eleven. One taste and she was forever hooked. It wasn’t until many years later that she decided to pursue writing stories of her own. By then she acknowledged the voices in her head didn’t make her crazy, they made her a writer.
Shelli is a true pluviophile (lover of rain) and currently lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and two daughters. She writes various genres of romance but is most known for her contemporary series such as The Marshall Ranch, The McLaughlins, and A is for Alpha. She’s a compulsive volunteer and has been known to spontaneously burst into song.


LET’S WELCOME SHELLI STEVENS  AUTHOR OF: Rad-Reader:  When did you write this Christmas story?  What month? Sh...