Cowboy Under the Mistletoe

Cowboy Under the Mistletoe

Pam Mantovani

November 2021 $12.95
ISBN: 978-1-61026-170-8

He's all she wants for Christmas. . .

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He's all she wants for Christmas…

Gabriella Santini, Burton Springs' temporary town doctor, loves Christmas! But this year she'll be celebrating all alone…unless she can get up the nerve to do something she's been dying to do for months—ask sexy blacksmith/cowboy Van Ferguson for a holiday fling. She's going back to Chicago after the holidays, so a fling is all it can be. But while she's here, she'll be able to get the most out of the season…and Van!

Van wants Gabriella in a bad way, but he's kept his distance. He doesn't want to risk everything he's gained since he arrived in town for any woman, no matter how gorgeous, and sensual, and smart. But when Gabriella suggests a no-strings affair, Van can't resist. After all, she's everything he's ever wanted. And even if he can't keep her, he intends to make the most of every moment he gets with her.

It's the perfect solution. Too bad falling in love isn't part of the deal.

Author Bio:

An author of passionate, emotional romances with heart, Pam loves crafting stories about independent women and men who discover the thrill and joy of falling in love. After years of moving as both an Army brat and corporate wife, Pam and her craftsman husband settled in Atlanta, close to family and friends. When not writing, Pam enjoys quilting, planting beautiful flowers, home improvement projects and spending time with her wonderful family.

"A winning combination of emotion, strong writing, and wonderful characters."—Joan Johnston, NYT and USA Today bestselling author

"Big city meets small town in this perfectly sweet and heartwarming tale of family, loss, and the healing magic of love and Christmas. Beautifully written, The Christmas Baby Bargain is one of those books that will remain on any romance lover's keeper shelf. Including mine!"—Naima Simone, USA Today bestselling author

"A great romance story, full of emotion and real life characters who steal your heart from the first page." — USA Today bestselling author, Rita Herron on Cowboy on Her Doorstep

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Chapter One

SINCE COMING TO Burton Springs, Montana, as the town interim doctor, as well as tending the surrounding hundred-mile countryside, Dr. Gabriella Santini had treated a nasty bite on the shoulder from a skittish horse, injuries to hands and feet from combine blades, hay bailers, and tractors, and a sprained foot when someone was stepped on by a cow who objected to being shoved into the branding chute. All were a far cry from what she’d be doing at home—the gunshot or knife wounds, the scram­ble to prevent death due to a drug overdose or alcohol poi­soning, or using her surgical skills for any number of reasons during her residency in her hometown of Chicago.

Today she would be dealing with a hand wound from a rooster attack.

This wasn’t the first time she’d driven to Evergreen Ranch, the ranch designed to serve as a retreat for military personnel to reacquaint themselves with their families, following deployment. Six weeks earlier, on a beautiful late September afternoon, the grounds had taken on a fairytale feel as two people she con­sid­ered friends exchanged vows. While her romantic Italian heart was happy for Ryland and Sydney, the day had been bittersweet for Gabriella. It had been a reminder that a betrayed relationship was the reason she was currently in Montana.

She’d needed time, and distance, to heal her heart. And her pride. And it had worked. The only drawback was that she missed her close-knit family.

"Two months left,” she murmured, a little surprised at the realization, as she drove beneath the overhead iron sign announc­ing her arrival at the ranch. Her mother had promised the family would postpone their Christmas celebration until Gabriella returned home at the first of the year.

Parking in front of the cookhouse, she grabbed her medical bag and stepped out of the SUV. Sidestepping the inch of snow on the ground, she headed inside. "Ellen?” she called out.

The ranch cook came through the swinging doors that led to the kitchen, wiping her hands on a bib apron. "You made good time in the snow.”

Gabriella smiled. She wondered just how long she’d have to live here before people believed she knew how to handle the weather. Any argument she’d made about living in Chicago was usually met with a tolerant smile. After all, everyone knew there was more snow in Montana. She unwrapped the scarf she’d knotted at her throat and unbuttoned her coat. "The roads are clear. So where’s the patient?”

"In Sydney’s office.” Ellen waited for Gabriella to hang up her coat before she led the way. "It should be interesting to see if she’s let go of Van yet.”

"Van?” Gabriella asked. She’d crossed paths with the tall blacksmith several times, and had admired the delicate iron gazebo he’d built for Ryland and Sydney’s wedding. "What’s he doing here?”

"Sydney had some foundation business in Billings. She convinced Ryland to go along.”

"Bet that was an easy task.”

Ellen chuckled. "Anyway, Van came along with Judson to give the horses some exercise. He was the first one to reach the little girl when she started screaming.” Ellen paused in front of the closed door and rolled her eyes. "From what I gather, he scooped her up into his arms and she hasn’t let go of him since. Wouldn’t even leave him when her father and mother came.”
Gabriella walked through the door Ellen opened. In a chair, in front of the small desk, Van sat, his strongly muscled arms cradling a sniffling little girl. Standing behind him, hovering, were her parents.

"Well, hell,” Gabriella said to Ellen in a low whisper. "Who could blame her?”

She used her free hand to shove her long dark curls behind her as she approached and squatted in front of the chair. "Hello. I’m Doctor Santini.”

The little girl curled a little more into Van’s chest. Gabriella looked up, becoming uncommonly distracted for a minute as she stared into the green eyes that studied her. She thought he looked more frightened than the child he held. And yet he made no move to hand her over to Gabriella. Was there anything sexier than a big, attractive man protecting someone small and hurt? Not to her mind. This scene reminded her of the times in her past when her papa had protected her from life’s problems. Anything to do with the love and support of family would always be irresistible to her.

"I bet you were scared when that rooster attacked you,” she said to the girl.

"I just wanted to pet him.”

"I never had a pet when I was a little girl. Do you have one at home?” Continuing to ask questions and make comments, she was able to distract the girl while she unwound the temporary wrapping and examined the wound. "You look pretty comfort­able sitting on Van’s lap,” she said as she cleaned the small cut and applied antibiotic ointment. She flicked up a glance, smiled at the man in question.

"He scared the chickens away. But he’s not mean, even though he’s really big.”

Gabriella chuckled, her heart softening at the faint blush that rose on Van’s cheeks. "If I was hurt, I’d want him to hold me.” Because those green eyes of his fired with heat, and her toes curled in her boots in response, she forced her attention back on the little girl. "There, all better now,” she said once she had the hand wrapped in a bandage. "Sei una ragazza coraggiosa.”

"You talk funny.”

"It’s Italian. It means you’re a brave girl. My papa would always tell me that when I hurt myself and my mama had to treat me.”

"Is your mama a doctor?”

"She is, a surgeon. I hope to be as good as her someday.”

"You must be really smart.”

Gabriella looked up and winked at Van. "Smart enough to leave roosters alone.” When the girl giggled, Gabriella leaned forward to press a kiss to the center of the bandaged palm. It wasn’t something she could get away with in a Chicago emer­gency room, but here, it felt natural.

Rising, she looked to the parents. "It’s not a deep gash.”

"Thank you so much for coming so quickly. We weren’t sure there would be anyone close by who was qualified to help.”

It wasn’t the first time Gabriella had heard a similar sentiment while in Montana, something she’d found herself contemplating from time to time. With a few whispered words she couldn’t overhear, Van finally succeeded in separating from the girl and, with a nod for the parents, started to leave the room. But he stopped when the girl ran after him and tugged his hand. When he leaned down, she kissed his cheek. He looked stunned for an instant, then he abruptly left. Gabriella hurried through the simple instructions for the parents, a prescription for an­tibiotics, and her contact information should they have any concerns, as she repacked her bag.

Outside, after storing her medical bag in her SUV, she walked to the corral. Van was leading a horse out. "Thank you for your help,” she said.

"She didn’t give me much choice. I nearly had a heart attack when she screamed. Then she wouldn’t turn loose of me. Even when her parents came running.”

He kept a gentle hold of the reins, the way a true cowboy would. And he now wore a cowboy hat that obscured the beauty of his pale green eyes. His strong arms were covered in a thick denim jacket but she had no trouble recalling the solid strength of his muscles. Tucked inside his leather gloves, she knew his hands were wide palmed with several cuts and scars on the knuckles and back of the hand, imprints of the dangerous aspect of his job. And yet he’d handled that little girl with such gentleness.

"You were very sweet with her.”

Gabriella lifted a hand, paused with a look in his direction. At his nod, she stroked the horse’s forehead.

"You should have gloves on.”

"I’m always forgetting them. I never had the chance to tell you how much I admire the workmanship on the gazebo you made for Sydney and Ryland’s wedding. It was stunning, and really made the setting perfect for a wedding. The intertwined vines looked so delicate, but when I tried to rattle it, it held firm.”

"You shook my gazebo?”

She ran a soothing hand over the horse when he flicked up his head, as if insulted on Van’s behalf. "Rude of me, I know, but I couldn’t resist. Where did you study?”

"I picked it up along the way.”

"You’re self-taught? That’s amazing. I’m always in awe of anyone who has the talent to create. My papa owns a restaurant and claims some of his best recipes are the result of trial and error.” She tilted her head. "I’d love to see your shop, sometime.”

"There’s not much to see. It’s just a workshop.”

"I promise not to get in your way.”


"Just tell me where you want me. To stand,” she added, delighted by the interest she saw in his gaze.

"Maybe later. Right now, I need to go. I promised Judson I’d take this one for a hard ride.”

"Hmm. You rescue little girls, you’re a talented artist and have a successful business, and you’re comfortable around horses. You’re a man of many talents, Van.”

"I’m just helping out a friend.”

She took several steps back, admiring the fluid way he swung into the saddle. "I’ll see you around.”

He touched the brim of his hat with a finger before he turned the horse. "Mio Dio,” she exclaimed with breathless appreciation. It wasn’t the first time she’d seen a cowboy in action since she’d come to Montana. But Gabriella found her attention lingering on Van, what she could see of his butt specifically, as he rode away.

While she’d come to appreciate Montana—the scenery, the people—nothing had excited her the way watching Van did now.

Wasn’t that an interesting surprise?

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