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  Harlequin Special Edition November 2013 - Bundle 1 of 2, p.1

Harlequin Special Edition November 2013 - Bundle 1 of 2
 


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Harlequin Special Edition November 2013 - Bundle 1 of 2


  Harlequin Special Edition November 2013 – Bundle 1 of 2

  A Maverick Under the Mistletoe

  Thanksgiving Daddy

  The Baby Made at Christmas

  Brenda Harlen

  Rachel Lee

  Lilian Darcy

  Harlequin Special Edition brings you three new titles for one great price, available now for a limited time only from November 1 to November 30! These are heartwarming, romantic stories about life, love and family. This Harlequin Special Edition bundle includes A Maverick Under the Mistletoe by Brenda Harlen, Thanksgiving Daddy by NEW YORK TIMES bestselling author Rachel Lee and The Baby Made at Christmas by Lilian Darcy.

  Look for 6 compelling new stories every month from Harlequin Special Edition!

  Table of Contents

  A Maverick Under the Mistletoe

  By Brenda Harlen

  Thanksgiving Daddy

  By Rachel Lee

  The Baby Made at Christmas

  By Lilian Darcy

  Award-winning author Brenda Harlen returns to Rust Creek Falls for a holiday homecoming to remember in the newest installment of Montana Mavericks: Rust Creek Cowboys!

  RUST CREEK RAMBLINGS

  Readers, can you believe it? Sutter Traub is back in town! It’s been five years since that handsome wrangler took off for Seattle, but no one ’round here has forgotten. Especially not Paige Dalton, the devoted schoolteacher everyone thought he was going to marry….

  Rumors abound. No one is quite sure what has brought Sutter home after all this time—or whether he is deserving of a second chance. But we are betting there’s a certain brown-eyed beauty with a special request on her Christmas list. Maybe the power of her forgiveness will bring the mighty maverick home for the holidays—and for good!

  Kissing Paige Dalton was not the smartest thing he’d ever done.

  On the other hand, he knew it had been inevitable, that they had been moving inexorably toward this moment since he’d walked her home from the town hall debate earlier in the week.

  One kiss—just to prove to himself that she didn’t have the same hold on him that she used to. Except that one kiss had proven him wrong. She tasted just like he remembered—right down to the cherry lip balm she’d favored when she was sixteen. Just one kiss, and he knew that he wanted her as much now as he’d always wanted her.

  Maybe even more.…

  * * *

  Montana Mavericks: Rust Creek Cowboys

  Better saddle up. It’s going to be a bumpy ride!

  Dear Reader,

  I love reunion stories and I’ve loved the Montana Mavericks series since the beginning, so I was thrilled by the invitation to be part of this latest expansion of the continuity—Rust Creek Cowboys.

  I grew up in a small town, where a five-minute trip to the corner store inevitably led to crossing paths with a friend or family member or acquaintance and resulted in a thirty-minute conversation. Rust Creek Falls is that kind of town, where everyone knows everyone else—and everyone knows at least something of the history between Sutter Traub and Paige Dalton.

  But it is history—or so Paige has tried to convince herself. After all, Sutter left town five years earlier and she’s moved on with her life without him. But when he comes back to Rust Creek Falls, there is no denying the sparks that fly between the stable owner and the schoolteacher. Add in some holiday season ambience and Paige starts to wonder what might happen if she manages to get this Maverick under the Mistletoe!

  I hope you enjoy their story.

  Happy Reading!

  Brenda Harlen

  A MAVERICK UNDER THE MISTLETOE

  Brenda Harlen

  Books by Brenda Harlen

  Harlequin Special Edition

  **Prince Daddy & the Nanny #2147

  **Royal Holiday Bride #2160

  ^The Maverick’s Ready-Made Family #2215

  ¶From Neighbors…to Newlyweds? #2235

  ¶His Long-Lost Family #2278

  ¶A Very Special Delivery #2283

  ⌘A Maverick under the Mistletoe #2293

  Silhouette Special Edition

  *Her Best-Kept Secret #1756

  The Marriage Solution #1811

  ∞One Man’s Family #1827

  The New Girl in Town #1859

  **The Prince’s Royal Dilemma #1898

  **The Prince’s Cowgirl Bride #1920

  ¤Family in Progress #1928

  **The Prince’s Holiday Baby #1942

  §The Texas Tycoon’s

  Christmas Baby #2016

  ΔThe Engagement Project #2021

  ΔThe Pregnancy Plan #2038

  ΔThe Baby Surprise #2056

  ΩThunder Canyon Homecoming #2079

  **The Prince’s Second Chance #2100

  Harlequin Romantic Suspense

  McIver’s Mission #1224

  Some Kind of Hero #1246

  Extreme Measures #1282

  Bulletproof Hearts #1313

  Dangerous Passions #1394

  *Family Business

  ∞Logan’s Legacy Revisited

  **Reigning Men

  ¤Back in Business

  §The Foleys and the McCords

  ΔBrides & Babies

  ΩMontana Mavericks:

  Thunder Canyon Cowboys

  ^Montana Mavericks:

  Back in the Saddle

  ¶Those Engaging Garretts!

  ⌘Montana Mavericks:

  Rust Creek Cowboys

  Other books by Brenda Harlen available in ebook format.

  BRENDA HARLEN

  is a former family law attorney turned work-at-home mom and national bestselling author who has written more than twenty books for Harlequin. Her work has been validated by industry awards (including an RWA Golden Heart® Award and the RT Book Reviews Reviewers’ Choice Award) and by the fact that her kids think it’s cool that she’s “a real author.”

  Brenda lives in southern Ontario with her husband and two sons. When she isn’t at the computer working on her next book, she can probably be found at the arena, watching a hockey game. Keep up-to-date with Brenda on Facebook or send her an email at [email protected]

  To Chris R., Christyne, Leanne, Karen and Vikki—brainstormers, researchers and community planners extraordinaire. Thanks for making the writing of

  this book not just easier but a lot more fun.

  To Susan Litman—for keeping us on track

  while still letting us color outside of the lines.

  (And yes, I know that’s a mixed metaphor :-) )

  With thanks also to my good friend Anna Perrin, who always has the solutions to my last-minute plot problems (even if I can’t always use them).

  Contents

  Chapter One

  Chapter Two

  Chapter Three

  Chapter Four

  Chapter Five

  Chapter Six

  Chapter Seven

  Chapter Eight

  Chapter Nine

  Chapter Ten

  Chapter Eleven

  Chapter Twelve

  Chapter Thirteen

  Chapter Fourteen

  Chapter Fifteen
r />   Epilogue

  Chapter One

  In Sutter Traub’s opinion, Rust Creek Falls was as irresistible—and fickle—as a woman. Once upon a time his heart had belonged to this town and he couldn’t have imagined ever living anywhere else. Then she’d turned him out and turned her back on him.

  Just like the only woman he’d ever loved.

  Of course, he’d come back when she’d needed him—the town, that was, not the woman. Because Paige Dalton had never needed him, and she wouldn’t ever ask for his help if she did, and thinking about her now was only going to stir up memories and feelings he didn’t want stirred up.

  So he focused his attention on the reason that he was standing in the back corner of town hall now: the imminent election. When his brother Collin had recently announced his intention to run for mayor of Rust Creek Falls, Sutter had impulsively volunteered to be his campaign manager. Which had resulted in him spending a lot more time in town over the past few months than he’d ever intended when news of the floods had first brought him home, which meant that he wasn’t going back to Seattle before the last ballot was counted.

  But for now he just wanted this debate to be over.

  It was the last public face-off between the two mayoral candidates—Collin Traub and Nathan Crawford—before the citizens of Rust Creek Falls went to the polls on Thursday, and though it had just gotten underway, Sutter wished it was already done.

  He couldn’t have said why, but he had an uneasy feeling about the event. It might have had something to do with Nate’s smug expression when they’d been setting up. It was as if he had something up his sleeve and, knowing the Crawfords, Sutter didn’t doubt it for a minute.

  As the debate progressed, he gradually began to relax. Collin was comfortable in front of the crowd, answering questions easily and confidently. He had a clearly defined plan to return Rust Creek Falls to its former glory and he made sure the residents knew it. Nate focused more on the history of the town than its future, and more on why he was the better candidate to fix the problems than how he was going to do so. But both candidates were—at least to all outward appearances—respectful of one another, and the spectators seemed to be listening to each side.

  But when Thelma McGee—the former mayor’s mother and moderator of the event—stood up to announce that the debate was finished, a member of the audience loudly pushed back his chair and rose to his feet.

  A Crawford supporter, Sutter immediately suspected, and the gleam in Nate’s eyes made him think that there was nothing spontaneous about the man’s actions.

  He was a military man in a dress uniform with his medals proudly displayed on his chest, and Sutter’s heart immediately began to pound. One sleeve of the man’s uniform hung loose because he had no arm to put through it. Not just a decorated veteran but a wounded war hero.

  Perspiration beaded on Sutter’s brow and trickled down his spine.

  Thelma, bless her, never wavered. “I’m sorry, sir—”

  “Master Sergeant Dean Riddell.” He barked out the name as if it was a military order.

  “Yes, well, we’ve run out of time tonight and—”

  “Time is irrelevant when our boys are fighting to protect our freedoms. And I want to remind the good people of Rust Creek Falls that they need to know if these candidates support our armed forces.”

  “While your concern is acknowledged and appreciated, the eventual mayor of Rust Creek Falls has no voice with respect to military activity or spending. This is strictly about local politics.”

  While Sutter heard and silently applauded her point, no one else did, because they’d all started talking and debating among themselves.

  “Ladies and gentlemen—” Collin tried to settle the crowd while Nate just sat back with his arms folded across his chest and a smug smile on his face. “Do I need to remind you that my brother, Major Forrest Traub, is a decorated war hero, too? He fought valiantly and tirelessly for his country—for all of us—and I have never been anything but supportive of his efforts and his sacrifices.”

  “Can you say the same thing about your campaign manager?” the master sergeant demanded.

  And Sutter knew the damage had been done. It didn’t matter that everything Collin said was true; what mattered to these people was that there was mud to be slung—and it was Sutter’s fault that Collin was the one wearing it.

  He’d been young and impetuous and probably a little too outspoken in his efforts to convince his brother that he’d already gone above and beyond in the service of his country. He’d vehemently objected when Forrest had announced his intention to reenlist for another tour, because he’d just wanted his brother to stay home and be safe.

  But Forrest had chosen to go back, and when he returned to Rust Creek Falls again after his medical discharge, Sutter had known the scars on his brother’s leg were insignificant compared to the damage to his soul. Thankfully, months of physical therapy and falling in love with Angie Anderson had started healing his body and his heart—but his relationship with his brother was going to need something more.

  Obviously no one in Rust Creek Falls had forgotten Sutter’s objections. And while he acknowledged and accepted that he would always be haunted by the mistakes of his past, he hadn’t expected that anyone else would have to pay for his outspokenness. Listening to the crowd, now thoroughly stirred up by Master Sergeant Riddell, he finally realized that his presence could hinder Collin’s campaign rather than help—exactly as Nate Crawford had intended.

  They were still murmuring and bickering when another spectator stood up on the other side of the room. And Sutter’s heart began to pound even harder inside his chest when he recognized Paige Dalton.

  He hadn’t seen her enter the hall, hadn’t known she was there. That in and of itself was a surprise, because Sutter had always had a sixth sense where Paige was concerned. A sixth sense that had been honed by self-preservation since his return to Rust Creek Falls a few months earlier.

  Looking at her now, she took his breath away. It wasn’t just that she was beautiful, but the way she stood—with her spine stiff and her chin up—she looked like a warrior ready to take on the entire population of Rust Creek Falls, or at least those who were assembled in town hall tonight. She was wearing a soft pink peasant-style blouse over a raspberry-colored skirt. Her long, dark brown hair hung straight down to the middle of her back, and her dark chocolate-colored eyes were focused and intense.

  He braced himself for her attack. He didn’t care what Master Sergeant Riddell or anyone else in Rust Creek Falls thought about him—except insofar as it might impact Collin’s hopes of winning the election—but he’d never stopped caring about Paige and he hated knowing that she was disappointed in him.

  “Can we focus on what’s relevant here?” she said to the crowd. She didn’t yell—in fact, she raised her voice just enough to be heard. And as she continued to speak, her volume dropped further, forcing others to stop talking in order to hear what she was saying. “First, and most important, is the fact that it is Collin Traub who is running for office, not Sutter.

  “Second, regardless of whether any of us agree with statements that Sutter made with respect to his brother’s decision to reenlist five years ago, those statements were his opinion, it was five years ago, and we need to focus on the issues that are relevant to Rust Creek Falls in the present and the candidates who are actually running in this election.”

  She paused a moment to take a breath and to give everyone a minute to think about what she’d said before she continued. “But even if it was Sutter instead of Collin who was running for mayor, he would get my vote because he’s the type of man who’s willing to stand up for what he believes, regardless of popular opinion or what anyone else might think. That is a man of conviction, and that is the kind of man who gets things done, and what Rust Creek Falls needs right now is someone w
ho can get things done.

  “Thankfully, that is a trait he shares with his brother Collin. And that is why Collin Traub is the type of man we need in charge of our town during this difficult time.

  “With all due respect, Master Sergeant Riddell, the army isn’t coming here to rebuild our town. And I think you would agree that our servicemen and women have more important things to do. That leaves it up to us, the citizens of Rust Creek Falls, to figure out the best way to get things done—and the best person to help us do so. I think that person is Collin Traub.”

  Then she picked up her jacket and calmly turned to walk down the aisle between the folding chairs and out the door.

  “Thank you again for your time tonight—”

  Thelma McGee was speaking again, but Sutter didn’t hang around to listen to what the moderator said. He needed to see Paige. He wasn’t entirely sure why, he just knew that he did.

  He slipped out through a side door and raced around to the front of the building. Paige couldn’t have had more than a two-minute head start on him, but she seemed to have vanished into thin air. He scanned the dimly lit street and finally spotted her when she neared a lamppost at the end of the block.

  “Paige—wait!”

  She paused at the corner of North Main Street and as he drew nearer, he saw the reluctance on her face. She looked as if she’d rather bolt than wait, but she held her ground until he reached her side. Then she turned east up Cedar Street, obviously wanting to be out of sight of town hall when the crowd dispersed.

  He didn’t blame her for not wanting to be seen with him. They’d both grown up in this town where almost everyone knew everyone else, and it was safe to assume that most of the residents knew at least some of Sutter and Paige’s history together.

  “I just wanted to thank you,” he said when he fell into step beside her.

  “I didn’t do it for you,” she told him.

  “Why did you do it?”

  “Because Nate’s been running an underhanded campaign since Collin threw his hat into the ring, but dragging a war veteran into this debate solely to discredit your brother...” She trailed off, shaking her head. “That’s a new low, even for Nate.”

 
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