Good mornin’! It’s great to be here today. Can you believe there’s only 17 more shopping days until Christmas? Got your stockings all hung and filled?

I’m so excited about the holidays this year. Mistletoe Cowboy, the official Christmas cowboy book, came out in October and now Just a Cowboy

and His Baby is on the market and it ends on a Christmas note. So they’re both wonderful stocking stuffers.

I was asked what my favorite scene in the book is and to talk about why. It has to be the first scene in the book when Trace and Gemma officially meet and touch for the very first time.

Readers tell me that they like to be drawn into the story from the first page and then held so tightly that they can’t bear to put the book down all the way to the very end. And I agree with them. As a reader, the first thing that grabs my attention is the cover, then the title and then I flip the book over to read the back copy. If I’m still intrigued I read the first page…and then the book either goes back on the shelf or else I hurry to the checkout counter with it and read it as soon as I get home.

Here’s the first scene in Just a Cowboy and His Baby:

Evil shot from his dark eyes. The air around him crackled when he raised his head and glared at her. He’d been bred, born, and raised for that night and she didn’t have a chance against his wiles. He was bigger than she was and he knew it. He was meaner and he’d prove it.

Gemma O’Donnell didn’t give a damn how big or how mean he was. She intended to be in control from the minute she mounted him. The message from the set of his head and unwavering stare said that she was an idiot not to shake in her cowgirl boots. She glared right back, her dark green eyes meeting his near black ones and locking through the metal bars separating them.

He dared.

She challenged.

She hiked a leg up to the first rung on the chute, and two hands circled her waist from behind to help her. Her heart slipped in an extra beat at the cowboy’s big hands touching her, but she attributed it to nerves. She glanced over her shoulder into the sexiest brown eyes she’d ever seen, all dreamy and soft with heavy dark lashes.

“Thanks,” she said.

“My pleasure. Go get ’em, darlin’.” His voice went with the rest of the package: a deep Texas drawl that sounded like it should have been singing country songs in Nashville, not riding wild broncs on the PRCA Million Dollar Rodeo Tour.

Dammit, Trace Coleman. You pulled a slick one, but it’s not going to work. You are not going to throw me off my game, she thought as she slung a leg over the top and locked eyes with the wild creature again. She had a horse to ride and even though his coat was as white as the driven snow, the look in his black eyes said that he could run Lucifer some serious competition when it came to meanness.

His name was Smokin’ Joe and he was a rodeo legend. Cowboys said that he could see right into the soul of a rider and could feel the fear he’d struck in their hearts. Well, Gemma wasn’t afraid of Smokin’-damn-Joe. He wasn’t a bit meaner than the bronc out on Rye’s ranch that she’d trained on, and she’d shown him who was boss. Smokin’ Joe was just the next bronc in a long line, so he could take his evil glare and suck it up. Tonight she was the boss. She didn’t care if the other riders had made bets about how quickly into the ride he’d throw her off into the dust. She’d show them all, cowboys and bronc alike, that a cowgirl had come to town.

She had two options.

Number one: Stay on his back for eight seconds and show him she was the boss.

Number two: Wreck.

There was no in between, and “almost” did not count. Gemma didn’t allow herself to think the word wreck, not even when the almighty Trace Coleman produced a smile that would part the clouds. He was well over six feet tall, dark haired, and light brown eyes. She’d done her homework on all the cowboys. She knew most of them personally from the rodeo rounds, but she’d only known Trace by picture and reputation. Both of which intrigued her to no end. When she’d seen him in action in San Antonio, the heat level of the whole great state of Texas jacked up twenty more degrees. His swagger, his broad chest, and his body had said that Gemma was in deep trouble. But it was that deep sexy Texas drawl that brought on images of tangled sheets, lots and lots of heat, and a warm oozy feeling called an afterglow flitting through her mind.

Trace might have just meant to be charming and helpful, holding his hand out to assist her in climbing the chute, but Gemma wasn’t buying his brand of bullshit. He wasn’t stupid, and the twinkle in his eye said he knew exactly how his touch affected a woman. Besides, his gaggle of rodeo groupies were proof positive of that. In San Antonio, Austin, Redding, and Reno, Gemma had seen them circling him like a chocolate addict set loose with free rein in a candy store. Oh, yes, without a single doubt Trace knew how to turn a woman’s mind to mush, and she’d lay dollars to horse apples that he played it to the nth degree.

Just like Smokin’ Joe, Trace Coleman had met his match. Gemma intended to win that big shiny belt buckle in Las Vegas come December and leave Trace Coleman along with his scanty-dressed groupies in a cloud of dust. She had a big construction-paper lucky horseshoe tacked to the door of her travel trailer, and every time she won, she rewarded herself by pasting a small shamrock on it. After the final ride, it would be matted and framed and hung in her beauty shop, and all the cowboys who’d given her a hard time could crawl up under a mesquite bush and lick their wounds.

Any other time and any other place she might have flirted with Trace. Cowboys were definitely her thing, and he sent out vibes that dug deep into her gut. But this was the rodeo circuit. For the next six months, Gemma O’Donnell had her job cut out for her and there was no room for Trace or any other cowboy.

Damn his sorry old hide, anyway! He was the top-seeded contestant in the tour and ten thousand dollars ahead of her. Staying on Smokin’ Joe’s back a full eight seconds could knock Trace off that pedestal in a tailspin—if thinking about his dreamy eyes didn’t ruin her score. She took a deep breath and put him out of her mind. If he thought his cute little grin and deep voice could mess her up, then he could smear ketchup on his chaps and eat them for supper. And slap a little taco sauce on his spurs and have them for dessert.

She closed her eyes. He will not bother me. He will not get into my head. He will not throw me off my game.

She kept the three sentences running on a continuous loop as she slung a leg over the top of the chute and got ready to mount old Smokin’ Joe. She couldn’t very well ride with her eyes shut, so she opened them, only to see Trace standing beside the bucking chute with a cocky little grin on his face. Light-brown chaps parenthesized a package locked behind his zipper that looked so inviting that Gemma almost drooled. She envisioned peeling his tight jeans from his body, leaving him wearing only boots, that cute grin, and a Stetson that sat just right.

“God Almighty,” she whispered.

Someone called his name and he turned and walked away. But the backside was just as hot as the front with his chaps framing the cutest butt she’d ever seen. Lord, if she could stay on the horse eight seconds it would be a miracle. If she got a score high enough to beat him, it would be pure damn magic. She blinked and imagined Trace tossing his hat toward a pitchfork in a hayloft and coming toward her with those brown eyes speaking volumes about how hot that hayloft was about to get.

Stop it this minute! You’ve got to stay on this horse eight seconds. Sweet Jesus, you haven’t ever let a man upset you with just a touch before. What in the hell is the matter with you? Get it together, Gemma O’Donnell!

Will this book go home with you or will you put it back on the shelf?