Release date: December 14, 2015
Leaving behind her stifling Texas roots, Sue Anne Devereaux plans to open a chocolate shop in her new hometown of Missoula, Montana. She’s busy as a bee, joining the women’s business league and drumming up new customers. But there’s one big distraction: Zach Crippen—the kind of good-looking devil who makes her question if chocolate alone can give her life the sweetness it needs.
Security guard Zach can’t wait to finish his penance at Missoula’s tiny airport, where he was banished after he made a mistake at a larger airport. He’ll do anything it takes to get back his reputation and move on to a metropolitan assignment. A casual fling—no strings attached—would be fine with him, but the quirky woman who makes the best chocolate he’s ever tasted deserves more than he can give her.
Will their dreams cost them a chance at the future, or can they find a way to have their chocolate and eat it, too?
by Casey Dawes
Casey Dawes lives in Big Sky Country where eagles, herons, deer and the ever-changing landscape of the Clark Fork River distract her while she’s writing contemporary romances.
An excerpt from Sweet Montana Christmas:
After six months as a public safety officer at Missoula International Airport, something had to give for Zach Crippin. He couldn’t be stuck in Montana for the rest of his airport career.
He checked his gear bag one more time before he threw it in the locker for the start of his ten-hour shift. A quick look in the mirror showed him his uniform was pressed and tidy and his streaked blond hair was neatly combed. Almost time for a haircut. He had to look and act sharp—be at the top of his game.
Couldn’t the chief see he was ready for a leadership role? Or was the stupid mistake he’d made in Denver still holding him back?
“All quiet?” he asked as he walked into the break room.
“Tony’s patrolling the perimeter, and Jim’s out front making nice with the last of the Christmas travelers,” Pat Neucomb said, looking up from the training manual he was reading.
“Once all the festivities have passed, they’re ready to get home,” Zach agreed, trying to make small talk. It wasn’t one of his strengths. Especially with people he didn’t like.
And he didn’t like Pat. Not that Pat wasn’t a nice guy. He was too nice, the kind other guys like to have around.
A talent Zach didn’t have, but he was working on it. He had two rules to constantly remember: be nice to the other guys, and don’t get entangled with a woman in any serious manner.
“At least the weather’s clear,” Pat said.
“Yep.” His capacity for chitchat exhausted, Zach headed for the training room.
Working at the airport was 99 percent routine, lots of checking, drills, with a few moments a month of adrenaline-rushing crises. The team covered all the services that other airports broke out into separate units: fire, medical, police, and airfield operations. The variety was interesting, but he ached to get back to a bigger airport where he had a real chance at advancement.
Then he could begin fixing the other thing that had gone wrong in Denver. Oh, not with Erin—she’d already moved on—but with a new woman who had a little more patience with his work.
He clicked the icon for federal security updates. With all the different disciplines the airport required, the training was constant. After a half hour of brushing up on the latest government regulations, he switched it off with relief. Dry as the dirt on his parents’ Iowa farm after a month without rain. Who wrote this crap? Couldn’t they liven it up a little? Even cartoons would be better.
After checking his appearance one more time, he headed out to the small brick lobby, a smile on his face, and a gun on his hip. Although little happened, he was helping people feel safer simply by being there.
He walked back and forth through the lobby, watching the surge of travelers deplane, stand around for their baggage, and then dissipate. He always wondered what out-of-towners thought of the mounted animals in display cases and Native American decorations that hung on the high walls of the terminal.
Two young women, college students probably, gave him big smiles as they walked to baggage claim. An older woman asked his assistance to locate her gate. An hour before his shift ended, he reunited a young boy with his mother.
He’d miss this interaction with the public at a bigger airport.
“Um …” A woman with a slim face and brown curls tumbling all around it fidgeted with her two suitcases, three shopping bags, and oversized purse in front of him.
Why is it some women need so much luggage?
She was about five six, and, while she wasn’t beautiful, her face and figure reminded him of one of Santa’s elves. An elf with curves in all the right places.
She also had the most delicious set of lips he’d seen in a while. What was it one of his trainers had called them?
Bee-stung. Plump, pouty, and ready to be kissed.
“Excuse me?” A frown drew her perfectly arched eyebrows together.
He ushered his previous thoughts from his mind.
“How can I help you?” he asked.
“I can’t seem to find my car.”