Rocky Mountain Cowboy Christmas; Book 1 in the Rocky Mountain Cowboys series
Why did this keep happening to her?
Camille flattened herself against the toilet paper display, resisting the urge to thump her head against the rolls. There was a reason she only came to the Borne Market early on Sunday mornings, and that was because she didn’t want to be forced into awkward conversations with any of her neighbors. It helped that sixteen-year-old Kacey Betts worked the checkout on Sunday, and her focus stayed glued on her cell phone the entire time. Camille could slip in, buy what she needed, and slip right back out without having to make polite chitchat with anyone. Today, however, she and Kacey weren’t alone.
Steve-freaking-Springfield was there.
The last time she’d seen him, he’d sweetly helped her escape her “rescue.” She still hadn’t forgiven Mrs. Lin for sending everyone and their brother on a search for her. The whole situation had been mortifying, and that was with Steve’s help. If he hadn’t been there, it could’ve been so much worse. Camille’s stomach churned and her cheeks flushed at the thought of all that attention—and the potential additional humiliation.
Now, though, she was in a whole new pickle.
Why, today of all days, did Steve have to need groceries? Why did she have to have the urge for peanut-butter blossoms? She glanced at the bag of chocolate stars in her hands and sighed. If she’d just eaten a spoonful of peanut butter and called it good, she wouldn’t be in this mess.
Come on, Camille, she scolded herself, grow up already. Just because Steve was here didn’t mean they couldn’t have a normal conversation. It wouldn’t be awkward unless she made it that way. Sure, she might have had a huge crush on him as a teenager, and his gallant actions at the scrapyard might have revived that crush to its full, painful glory, but she was a mature adult, capable of casual social interactions.
Camille winced a little at the mental lie. Okay, maybe not. New plan: she was going to sneak past his aisle and get to the checkout without him even noticing that she was in the store. Resolved, she peeked around the corner of the display and saw that he was focused on the products in front of him. Refusing to let her gaze linger on his rugged profile or broad shoulders, she forced herself to concentrate on her goal—escape.
She shot forward, but her knee caught the edge of the display, knocking down a column of toilet paper. Time seemed to slow as the rolls tumbled down, hitting the floor in a series of dull thuds.
She scrambled to pick up the packages, her heart thumping fast in her chest, still hoping that she could still pull off her escape. The horrible awkwardness could still be avoided if she hurried. Maybe he hadn’t heard her. The falling rolls hadn’t been that loud. Not like cans of peanuts or unpopped popcorn or…a cylinder of ball bearings or—
She stopped abruptly, keeping a death grip on the toilet paper. That wonderful voice was just a shade deeper than she remembered from high school, but the thrill that rushed up her spine at the sound of it was all too familiar. Turning her head, she met Steve’s eyes before dropping her gaze to her armful of Charmin. She replaced the last of the fallen rolls, feeling her hairline prickle with sweat as her thoughts twisted into useless tangles.
Why, why was she always embarrassing herself in front of this man?
“Camille. How are you?” His voice was certain now, and as friendly and calm as it always seemed to be. The Springfield brothers had all been sought after in high school—even snarly Joe’d had a fan club—but Steve had always been Camille’s favorite. No matter how popular he’d been or how handsome he’d gotten or how many girls had been crushing on him, he’d always stayed so steady and kind.
Now he was waiting for her to speak, though, and she needed to focus on the conversation. “Fine.” Good. Great. She’d managed an answer, and it’d actually made sense.
“No issues after your time out in the cold?”
“No.” He didn’t respond right away, looking expectantly at her instead. She knew that meant she was supposed to add to her one-word answer, and she scrambled to think of something, anything she could say. “I was wearing clothes.” Ugh. That didn’t sound right at all. “I mean, there was no chance I’d get frostbitten since I had multiple layers on, plus my boots are waterproof. That’s important… Keeping dry, I mean. Since, you know, wet is cold.” Her voice trailed off at the end as she resisted the urge to wince. Why was it that she could put words together in her head, but they always came out all wrong?
“True.” He sounded amused, and now she couldn’t keep from grimacing. Of course he was amused. She was being ridiculous. “I’m glad you’re okay.”
“How about you?” That’s good, she praised herself. Turn the attention back on him. He’ll talk, and you can just nod and stay quiet and everything will be okay. “Is your foot all right?”
His smile widened, one corner tucked in wryly. “Yeah. It was always fine. I just thought you might want everyone’s focus on someone else.”
She knew it. His dramatic fuss had been so unlike the Steve Springfield she’d sort of known in high school. It had been so obvious to Camille that he’d been faking that she’d been surprised when Nate, Ryan, and the chief had fallen for it. “I did. Thank you.” There. That was normal-ish. “I owe you one. I mean, it’d be hard to duplicate that situation with our roles reversed, but if you ever need to be saved, then I’m your man. Well, I’m your woman. Not that I’m your woman in that way, of course.” Closing her mouth so firmly her teeth clicked together, she swallowed a groan. Why did she never stop at normal-ish?
Steve was silent. When she managed to get up the nerve to peek at his face, he didn’t look amused or offended or even baffled. Instead, he seemed…thoughtful. “Actually, I could use your help right now.”
Taken off guard, she blinked. “My…help? Now? Here? At the grocery store?”
His mouth pulled down in a grimace as he waved a hand at the products lining the shelves. Dragging her gaze off him, Camille actually noticed what he’d been examining so intently.
“You need my help with…feminine hygiene products?”
HE’S THE ONE YOU’VE BEEN WAITING FOR!
In the heart of the Rockies
One white Christmas can change everything.
When firefighter and single dad Steve Springfield moved his four kids
to a Colorado Christmas tree ranch, he intended for it to be a safe
haven. But he never expected danger to follow them to his childhood
Or that he would come face-to-face with the one girl he could never
Folk artist Camille Brandt lives a quiet life. As the town’s resident
eccentric, she’s used to being lonely—until Steve freaking Springfield
changes everything. Brave and kind, he’s always had a piece of her
heart, and it doesn’t take long before she’s in danger of falling for him
again. But as mysterious fires break out across the sleepy Colorado
town, Steve and Camille will have to fight if they want their happy
family to survive until Christmas…
Romance Contemporary [Sourcebooks Casablanca, On Sale: September 25, 2018, Mass Market Paperback / e-Book, ISBN: 9781492658665 / ]
About Katie Ruggle
When she’s not writing, Katie Ruggle rides horses, shoots guns, and travels to warm places where she can SCUBA dive. Graduating from the Police Academy, Katie received her ice-rescue certification and can attest that the reservoirs in the Colorado mountains really are that cold. While she still misses her off-grid, solar- and wind-powered house in the Rocky Mountains, she now lives in Rochester, Minnesota near her family.