Spurs and Heels

By: Heather Rainier
Divine Creek Ranch 5


ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

Thank you to Tonya and Lisa for their matchless skills, to Jennifer for her wisdom and hilarious irreverence, and to Christi for her unfailing ability to talk me off a ledge and see the big picture. Your worth is far above rubies.



Thanks also to Kris Cook’s Chatters Group. They are all completely, utterly naughty and totally supportive, and I appreciate them all.



Thank you to all the supportive women and men I’m fortunate enough to have in my life. Your kind words, thoughtful deeds, and shameless cheerleading inspired me to continue this journey.



This book would not exist without the stellar abilities and belief of the talented staff at Siren Publishing. Thank you Diana, Erin, Caroline, Elisa, and Lena—from the bottom of my heart.








Chapter One

Ash Peterson arched an eyebrow as he stood before Juliana Meyer. He crossed his thick, strong-looking arms over his broad chest as he leaned against the Warner’s back-porch railing.

“Let me get this straight, Miss Meyer. You have a boyfriend, and he’s at his mama’s house in Vermont tonight?”

Juliana had sought a respite from the press of bodies inside the Divine Creek Ranch house, where Grace Warner’s Christmas party was in full swing. Once outside, her quiet moment was interrupted by the big cowboy Grace had introduced her to a few minutes before.

“Yes, that’s right.” It sucked that Lawrence was out of town, but the way this rugged, handsome cowboy said it, it made her boyfriend sound like a jerk and a mama’s boy. Years of working Christmas Eve and the day after Christmas had made her callous toward not taking time off during the holiday, but it was different when she saw her circumstances from someone else’s perspective. It sounded as though Lawrence had deserted her. Technically, he had. He’d scheduled his vacation around the holiday—without her.

“Does he have a good, long visit with his balls while he’s there?”

Juliana sighed. It didn’t make any difference what this man thought. He wasn’t the first or the last to criticize Lawrence for

leaving her over the holiday. It wasn’t like she could join him. She’d spend a large portion of her single day off on a plane.

“Does he at least alternate and spend every other Christmas with you?”

“His mom says once he’s married and has kids and she retires, she’ll start coming to Texas for some of the holidays. Until then, she expects—”

Why in the world am I making excuses?

“Expects? How old is he again?”

“She expects for him to come to her,” she finished, growing more and more irritated with this know-it-all buttinsky. “He’s forty-four.

Do you have a point?”

He put his tanned hands on his narrow, denim-clad hips and cocked his head at her. “He isn’t much of a man if he leaves you alone on Christmas every year.”

Matching his stance, Juliana said, “You don’t know what it’s like to have a relationship with someone who is in retail management during the holidays. For me, it’s like there is no holiday. It’s merely the impetus behind the busiest month of the year, my best opportunity to keep the store in the black for another year. When he goes, he has my blessing. I hardly even have time to—” She pressed her lips together and bit back the rest of her statement.

He cocked his head, his turquoise-blue eyes drilling into hers.

“Have time to what? Miss him?”

Yes, damn it. Guiltily, she realized she’d hardly given Lawrence a thought tonight before Mr. Peterson had brought him up. However, she had given thought to how handsome Ash was with his big, thick biceps, muscular physique, and incredibly sexy muttonchop sideburns and moustache.

“That’s none of your business.”

“If you were my woman, I’d never leave you alone during Christmas, even if all you had was one day off. I’d make it count .” He said the last word with extra emphasis. Juliana felt a warm blush steal


over her cheeks and hoped he couldn’t see it in the dim light. He’d probably think it was because she was attracted to him, which would only irritate her further.

“Well, I’m not your ‘woman,’” she replied haughtily, even using air quotes around the word as she emphasized it snidely, “and I manage fine.”

“What about your family?”

“I see them at other times of the year. They understand that the holidays aren’t a good time for me to visit.” They were probably all sitting down to eat right now, three hours away in Tillman.

Truth be told, she had not been home at all this year. There was never a good time to take off for a few days. The last time she had a day off was Thanksgiving, and even then she’d worked part of the day in her office while the store was closed. It was less depressing than eating the evening meal alone.

Her phone buzzed in her handbag. Checking caller ID, Juliana said with little sincerity, “Sorry, it’s Lawrence. I need to take this call.”

“Listen, I’m sorry if I offended you—” Ash started to say, and she surprised herself by brusquely turning and taking a few steps away without hearing what else he had to say.

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