Authors: Melissa McClone
Tags: #romance, #western, #christmas, #american romance, #cowboys, #montana, #wedding
“What did you think of the vows?”
Ty knew she would. “Mistletoe behaved herself.”
“Yes, but surviving the ceremony without incident is enough for any cat. She’s going to the women’s bunkhouse for the rest of the evening. She’ll be more comfortable there than anywhere else on the ranch.”
The thought Meg put into every detail impressed him. “You think of everything.”
“That’s what you and Nate pay me to do.”
After seeing her in action today and the favorable reviews from guests, Ty wondered if they were paying her enough. He didn’t want a place like the Graff or another high-end guest ranch to woo her away. He’d have to talk to Nate.
Meg waved to four high school boys. “I need to put my labor crew to work. Enjoy dinner. The food is amazing.”
“Won’t you be there?” Ty asked.
“I’m not a guest. I’m working, remember?”
Yeah, he knew that, but she’d been on her feet all day with preparing for the wedding. She had to be tired. Hungry. “You need to eat.”
“I’m fine,” she said. “I tasted the food earlier. I’ll get more after the reception.”
“Go on,” she encouraged, and he knew she wasn’t going to change her mind no matter what he said.
Still, he didn’t want to leave her. Yes, she was working, but he wanted to be with her.
She headed to the boys, who were at least a head taller and a foot wider than Meg.
Ty took a step, then looked up. Mistletoe hung overhead.
Damn. He’d been standing under mistletoe with Meg and missed his chance to kiss her. He wasn’t going to let that happen again.
He surveyed the great room, noting each sprig’s location. The next time he was with Meg he’d be ready. And the next time after that, too.
But a friend wouldn’t say no to mistletoe. Ty smiled. Not at a mistletoe wedding.
verything is perfect.” Caitlin hugged Meg, then Noah took his turn. “We can’t thank you enough.”
“You’re welcome. I’m so happy to be a part of your wedding day,” Meg said. “Now, dance and enjoy the rest of your reception.”
“Will do.” Noah led his smiling bride away.
Meg leaned against the wall. The hours on her feet were catching up with her. She’d been relying on caffeine for the past hour to keep her going, but that wasn’t working now. Still, the work and tiredness was worth the result—a happy bride and groom.
Ty walked up, still wearing his tuxedo jacket, while other men had taken theirs off. He extended his arm. “Time for our dance.”
Her feet screamed no. She ignored them. They’d been complaining all day; they could survive one dance. She took his hand and followed him to the dance floor.
A slow song played, one she recognized, but she couldn’t remember the name or the artist.
Ty placed his free hand on her back. “You’re tired.”
“Day off tomorrow.” They moved to the music, in unison, as if they’d danced many times before. “I’ll sleep in. I don’t have to pick up Brooklyn until noon.”
“After party at Meg’s cabin.”
“Haha,” she said. “That would be one boring party. I don’t know if I’ll make it past my couch before I fall asleep.”
“You’ve worked hard.”
“I’d do it again to see the smiles on Caitlin and Noah’s faces.”
“Everyone is smiling,” Ty said. “Or are you too tired to notice?”
“I’ve noticed, but my focus is on the bride and groom.”
“To hell with everyone else.”
“Not exactly.” She lowered her voice. “But pretty darn close.”
He laughed. “You managed to get a cat to be the ring bearer. I’m thinking you could pull off anything now.”
“Maybe. Time will tell.”
Ty spun her around. “No more work talk. Relax and enjoy this one song until you have to get busy again.”
“Okay, I will.”
Dancing allowed the tension to seep from her body, but being so close to Ty did funny things to her insides. The net benefit seemed to be a wash. She was okay with that.
Charlie was dancing with Zack. She motioned to Meg and Ty, then pointed up.
Meg’s heart slammed against her ribcage. She didn’t have to look up to know what was hanging from a red gingham ribbon—mistletoe.
“Looks like we’re dancing under the mistletoe,” Ty said.
“Let’s move out of the way and forget about it,” she offered. “I don’t want you to feel uncomfortable.”
His gaze narrowed. “What do you mean by uncomfortable?”
“You didn’t want to hug me in public. I’m sure that applies to kissing.”
“Kissing under the mistletoe is a tradition,” he said. “Everyone knows that mistletoe kisses don’t count as real ones.”
“I’ve never heard that.”
“Maybe it’s a Montana thing,” he said. “So what do you say?”
Caitlin and Noah were staring at them, along with others. Meg looked at Ty. “I don’t want to disappoint the bride and groom. Let’s just get it over with.”
“You are tired.”
She nodded. “But like you said, it’s not—”
He captured her mouth with his.
. . . real.
The music disappeared. The other people, too.
She wondered what a real kiss might feel like, because this one was amazing. Ty moved his lips expertly over hers. She clung to him, afraid her knees might give out if she let go.
Sensations pulsated through her. Blood boiled inside her veins. An ache developed deep inside her.
The two words became her mantra.
The mistletoe kiss might not be real, but Ty felt real. So did his lips against hers and his tongue inside her mouth.
He pulled her against him, and she moved closer, running her free hand through the ends of his hair.
She and Ty weren’t a couple. They had never dated. They were friends, but they kissed as if they were . . . more.
Things just got real.
Meg drew back. The questions in her mind matched the look in her eyes. “Friends, right?”
Ty nodded once. He started to speak, then pressed his lips together.
“Not real,” she added.
Another nod. “That doesn’t mean it’s not enjoyable. Or that we can’t kiss again.”
“Under the mistletoe, you mean,” she said.
He nodded, then grinned. “A good thing you hung sprigs all over the place.”
Was it? Because the way her lips tingled from Ty’s kiss, she wasn’t sure about anything. Kissing him again under the mistletoe at a romantic wedding where love floated on the air was a recipe for disaster. She didn’t dare take a chance.
The last thing I want is for my brother to break your heart and make you quit your job here.
Rachel’s words sounded in Meg’s head like a warning bell. That was the last thing she wanted, too. But when she kissed Ty, she forgot everything—logic, common sense, basic math skills.
However tempted she was to see where these unreal mistletoe kisses might lead, she . . . couldn’t. She couldn’t get caught up in something that might feel good now, but wouldn’t be good for her later, or more importantly, good for Brooklyn.
“Thanks so much for the dance,” Meg said, backing away from him. She left off thanking him for the kisses. “I need to get back to work.”
n the afternoon of December twenty-fourth, Ty closed the stall door and double-checked the latch was secure. He peered through the bars, and a brown-eyed gaze met his. Gorgeous colt, far from full-grown. “Sorry, you’re going to be in the horse barn for a while before you can run in the pasture.”
The horse neighed.
“Don’t rub in your freedom,” Ty said to the dog. “You know what it’s like to be crated. No fun.”
The dog pawed at the stall.
“Nope, this is the best place for him.” Ty looked at the other stalls decorated with lights, garland and wreaths. Until fifteen minutes ago, this one had been empty, so the door had been left plain. “Next year you’ll have decorations for your stall. You’ll probably get your own themed wreath, too.”
Ty couldn’t believe the popularity of the wreaths themed by the horses’ names with guests and visitors alike. The
had done an article about the two Christmas barns at the Bar V5, prompting visits by people seeking unique holiday photo opportunities. Meg had found her own way to celebrate Christmas Montana style and used her ideas to gain the Bar V5 publicity.
The woman was amazing.
So was Brooklyn.
“That little girl is going to love her Christmas present.”
Dusty barked, as if agreeing. The dog had been Ralph Vaughn’s trusty companion, then Ty’s after Ralph passed. But the dog now spent time with Brooklyn, too, much to the delight of the six year old.
The dog ran around in a circle.
“Brooklyn’s not here.” Ty was meeting them at the church tonight. “She’ll be back later.”
Dusty lay on the ground.
“Don’t pout. It’s almost Christmas.”
The dog’s tail wagged.
“I got her a gift, and you’re getting two.”
“You’ll like them.” Ty scratched behind the dog’s ear. He’d bought the dog a toy and a bag of treats. Both would fit inside Dusty’s stocking, along with whatever the other wranglers got the pup. “But you have to wait until tomorrow. Like everyone else.”
The dog whined, as if he understood and wanted his presents now.
“Nope. Not going to happen.” Ty walked out of the horse barn whistling, “Deck the Halls.” Dusty trotted alongside him.
The air was cool and crisp. The brilliant blue sky defined the word big. Perfect flying weather for Santa and the reindeer pulling his sled. No one would guess snowfall was predicted for tomorrow, but most people around here liked having a white Christmas. Would Meg?
He couldn’t wait to see her and Brooklyn, who would be the cutest angel on stage. Maybe later he could sneak Meg under the mistletoe again. He missed her sweet kisses.
Ty looked at Dusty. “We’ve got Christmas Eve service, then we’ll read ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas’ and check the NORAD Santa Tracker website.”
“Tracking Santa for Brooklyn, huh?” Dustin stood, holding a lead rope.
“Kids like knowing Santa’s on the way. Easier to get them to go to sleep.”
“I just remember wanting to tear open the presents at the crack of dawn.”
“That, too. When you heading to town?”
“Soon,” Dustin said. “Zack and I are going in early. We’ll grab a bite somewhere, then save seats for everybody.”
“Good idea. Thanks,” Ty said. “Rachel and Nate are staying here. They have a Christmas Eve dinner and a few other things planned for the guests. It’ll just be us wranglers and Meg.”
“Any seating requests?”
“As long as one seat has a clear shot so we can videotape Brooklyn, we’ll be good.”
Dustin eyed him warily. “Videotape, huh?”
“Meg will want a copy.”
“What about you?”
Dustin folded the lead rope, then coiled the rest around the two pieces. “You seem pretty close to Meg and Brooklyn.”
“I’ve been showing them around the area during my down time.”
His gaze met Ty’s. “Thought you said you’d never date a mom with kids.”
“I did. I won’t.”
Ty didn’t appreciate Dustin’s tone. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“How much did Brooklyn’s Christmas present set you back?”
“The cost wasn’t an issue.” Ty had more money in his savings account than he had time to spend it. “Nate thought it was a good idea. Zack, too. You agreed, along with Eli.”
“Sure, Brooklyn’s a cute kid,” Dustin admitted. “She’s got a way with animals. Like you and Charlie.”
“Exactly. This gift was a no-brainer.”
“An expensive one.”
“Worth every penny to see if she’s as good with horses as I think she’ll be. We’ve got ourselves a future cowgirl on our hands.”
“So that’s why you spearheaded the present?” Dustin asked.
“Nothing to do with you liking the mom?”
“We all like Meg.”
“Yeah, but none of us have been kissing her.”
“A kiss under mistletoe.”
“Looked like more to me.”
Ty’s gut clenched. “Maybe you should have your eyes examined.”