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What Happens in Bozeman

What Happens in Bozeman

What happens in Bozeman stays in Bozeman…unless it’s a cowboy!

Stranded in Bozeman, Montana, for the night while snowplows clear a mountain pass, Kelly Willis decides to throw caution to the wind. After being jilted by her college sweetheart, she’s determined to have one no-holds-barred night, her way of seeking revenge against a lifetime of conformity, before she settles down in a new town to live a very circumspect life as an elementary school teacher. She chooses another stranded motorist, propositioning him with the offer of a no-strings, no-names night of pleasure.

No one is more shocked than rancher Ryan Mobley when he appears at his daughter’s parent-teacher meeting to discover the angel he’d made love to is his daughter’s new teacher. Now that she’s here, he’s going to do everything he can to convince her they have a real connection, something they can build a lifetime on.

While she wrangles the class bully and he tries to figure out who’s rustling his cattle, the two of them grow closer with the help of a classroom full of mini matchmakers.

Read an Excerpt

Kelly Willis was a good girl by anyone’s definition. She’d never dated around, having gone steady with her star quarterback boyfriend since her sophomore year of high school. He’d been her first kiss, her first experience with sex. Her parents had adored her boyfriend and had delightedly set about planning her future so she didn’t screw up a good thing.

To make sure she was ever-present to their goal for her, she’d headed to college with him, wearing his promise ring, and had never once looked astray for attention from other men. Further, she’d gained her degree in a perfectly respectful, acceptably feminine profession.

She’d gone to church every Sunday of her life, never once doubting that God saw that she was good and would reward her for her virtue.

So, for her to be contemplating doing what she was now would’ve shocked the panties off her dear mother, her white-haired pastor, and her high school sex-ed teacher, who’d been long on abstinence and short on understanding a younger woman’s hormones. But then again, where were they all now?

Not here, stuck outside a hotel in Bozeman, Montana, while she waited for the snowplows to clear a passage through the mountains so she could get to her destination.

She hadn’t wanted to stop, and if the roads hadn’t been blocked by traffic barricades and a police officer directing vehicles to the nearest exit, she’d have kept driving—the winter storm be damned. By now, she’d had plenty of time alone with her thoughts.

Crazy, mixed-up thoughts of revenge and retribution filled her imagination with images of the fiery pit of Hell. Not for her. No, the person who deserved to be cast down into its depths wasn’t even here to feel the anger that had her fuming hot despite the chill, near-zero temperature.

While every curse word she’d never uttered aloud flitted through her mind, she felt her ire burbling like acid in her belly until it had to find its release.

“Fuck,” she whispered, then glanced around to make sure no one else standing in the parking lot had heard her. No one was looking her way.

And once she’d said it, she felt disappointed in herself—not because she’d uttered that coarse, forbidden word but because she’d said it so softly. Was she gutless? Hadn’t she earned the right to rebel against a lifetime’s strictures? She’d been the Queen of Pristine, or so the boys at her high school had labeled her behind her back.

He had thought that title was hilarious, given what they’d done after the Friday Night Lights dimmed. He, who shall not be named. Ever again.

She sniffed back a sob, tamping it down deep.

“That fucker,” she said a little more loudly this time.

She stood straighter. No bolt of lightning had struck her. In fact, her chest felt a little lighter now. She could finally draw a deep breath.

Again, her gaze went to the man on the edge of the group, standing outside the motel’s diner while employees were scurrying inside to open for a bunch of stranded, hungry travelers.

He’d do. Not that he’d given her so much as a glance. It didn’t matter that she’d decided for him. He was in the right place at the right time—although “right” and what she intended had nothing to do with each other. She turned up the fur-lined collar of her puffy jacket and strode in his direction. For the moment, she was filled with confidence because she’d earned this. Years of servitude to a single, hallowed goal would have their reward.

She didn’t even care if he was handsome. Good looks hid ugly flaws, or so she’d discovered. She hoped he had a big nose and was missing a tooth—just one. She’d want to kiss him after all. She was sure he’d have calluses, given he was wearing a cowboy hat that looked like it actually served a purpose, with its faint ring around the crown. His jeans were faded by actual use, not some weird fashion statement. His boots were scuffed and a plain brown. No nonsense. A working man’s footwear, not a poser’s.

The closer she drew, the more confident she felt about this plan. First, she’d insinuate herself into sharing a table with him. She’d smile and flirt, then drop her extra key card on the table when she excused herself.

She was almost there; he was turning toward her…

No, he turned and smiled at a grinning woman who was waving her keycard in her hand and rushing to his side.

Well, shit. She only just managed to keep the words inside her mouth.

The doors to the diner swung open, and she was caught in the crowd of twenty or so individuals who flowed inside the heated space.

Tables filled quickly, and she eyed an open stool at the counter, but a man whose large bottom nearly swallowed the stool laid claim before she could.

She stood with her shoulders drooping, looking for an empty table, when she heard a throat clear to her left.

Glancing sideways, she saw a man with a lop-sided smile waving a hand to the open seat across from him. “I don’t mind sharing, ma’am.”

The “ma’am” likely made all the girls eager to drop their panties. But good Lord, he was too cute for her peace of mind. Another shiny, dark-haired, star-quarterback type if she ever saw one. However, he did have an open seat—and she was hungry.

She gave him a nod and dropped her purse on the empty chair beside the one she plopped down on. “Thanks.”

“I snagged a menu on my way in. Want to take a look?”

When he handed her the menu, she noted his hands. They were large, the skin on top dry and tanned despite the fact that it was the middle of winter. The nails were cut square, maybe with a knife or a set of clippers. She doubted he’d ever used a fingernail file in his life, which was a point in his favor so far as she was concerned.

She glanced at his face again and decided he wasn’t quite as slick and beautiful as she’d initially thought. His face was also tanned, or more like weathered, with premature, fine lines beside his very, very blue eyes. He had a nice square jawline, very manly, maybe a little stubborn, but it completed a nicely masculine portrait.

His mouth stretched, and she realized she’d stared a little too long. Quickly grabbing the menu, she forced herself to scan the entrees—anything but give him another reason to laugh at her.

Not that he had. Not really. So, why was she blushing?

“What can I get you to drink?”

Kelly blinked and glanced up at the waitress, who was frowning and tapping her toe. “A Coke,” she said. “Light on the ice.” It was cold enough outside.

“A coffee, and bring a carafe. I’ll want at least a couple of cups,” her tablemate said.

The waitress’s expression changed from irritated to speculative when she turned to the man. “Coming right up. Food might take a while, what with everyone arriving at the same time.”

“No worries. All we have is time,” he said smoothly and gave her a smile.

He-who-shall-not-be-named had been just as smooth with the waitresses. He’d claimed it guaranteed better service, but now, she knew he’d simply liked the female attention his slick ways brought.

She frowned at her companion. He’d sunk a rung in her estimation.

“Did I say something…?” he asked.

She shook her head. “Nope.” So, maybe the P had been overemphasized, but for all he knew, that was just the way she usually talked. It was kind of nice not worrying about how every word or phrase would be received because she really didn’t give a damn.

His fingers drummed on the tabletop, and she folded the plastic menu and tapped the back of his knuckles.

“Sorry about that,” he said. “I was just trying to figure out what we might talk about…you know, to pass the time, seeing as the food might take a while.”

“And we haven’t placed our orders yet,” she said, frowning at the delay.

“You must be a city girl.”

She narrowed her eyes on him. “Why would you assume that?”

“Something has you annoyed, and I’m thinking you’re used to a faster pace of life.”

“Well, you’re wrong. I’m not a city girl. I’m from a small town that moves at a snail’s pace—apparently, just like this one.”

“Oh, Bozeman’s not small. It’s the third largest town in Montana.”

She raised her eyebrows. “You don’t say.” And yes, she let the sarcasm drip.

“Population’s over fifty thousand.”

And now, she could see the laughter in his eyes. “A metropolis, then, and you’re poking fun at me.”

“I am.”

She pressed her lips together, then let them stretch into a rueful smile. “Sorry. I’m not usually so rude to strangers.”

“Only rude to the people you know?”

She laughed. “Only to the people I know who deserve it.”

He shook his head. “I’d hate to get on your bad side.”

Her glance went to the window that was fogging beside them. “I didn’t think I had one.”

Silence stretched for a moment.

Then, “Sounds like you’ve got a story to tell.”

She drew a deep breath and shook her head. “I’m not ready to tell it. I was outside practicing my cussing just thinking about it.”

He chuckled. “You have to practice cussing?”

“Would you believe me it if I told you I’d never cussed in my entire life until just a few minutes ago?”

His gaze swept over her. “Yeah, buttercup, I’d believe you.”

Their drinks arrived with a thump.

Kelly jerked and glanced upward.

The waitress raised a single eyebrow. “Okay, you two ready to order?”

“I’ll have the meatloaf and fried potatoes, but substitute anything else for the green beans,” she said, wrinkling her nose.

“I’ll have the same,” her companion said.

Kelly handed the waitress the menu and then sat back in her seat, reevaluating the man. Handsome and a good sport.

He’d do.