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A Very Cowboy Christmas eBook

A Very Cowboy Christmas eBook

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Garth Ahlstrom has decided to retire from being the foreman at Three Rivers Ranch, and that means one thing: A big party!

Kelly Ackerman has been at Squire's side at Three Rivers Ranch for fifteen years, and she's fed a multitude of cowboys. With her son off at college now, she uses her nervous energy over Finn to organize a huge retirement-slash-Christmas party, and she and Squire invite all the other ranch owners from around Three Rivers.

With an ugly sweater contest on the docket, as well as multiple Christmas trees, dancing, a plethora of food, and an appearance from both Mrs. and Santa Claus, the cowboys at Three Rivers Ranch brace themselves for the other cowboy families to arrive.

Will Bear Glover win with his ugly sweater, which features a hood and a weathervane? With so many cowboys and babies at Shiloh Ridge Ranch now, surely 
one of them will win...

Can Rhett Walker prep for his brother's fiftieth birthday party, decorate Seven Sons Ranch for the holidays, and support his wife as she deals with some difficult family news?

No matter what, when Finn shows up a few days early with a girl his parents don't like, this Very Cowboy Christmas is sure to have some surprises on the agenda...including who the new foreman at Three Rivers Ranch will be!

Read this new Christmas cowboy romance and family saga set in beloved Three Rivers and which leads to more contemporary western romance series yet to come!

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Sample Chapter 1 Now!

Squire Ackerman entered the kitchen in the homestead on Three Rivers Ranch. His wife stood at the counter, leaning over it to deliver a plate of scrambled eggs to their youngest child, Sam. “Hurry up, baby,” she drawled at him. “The bus’ll be leaving in a few minutes.”

She smiled over to Squire. “We still have that meeting later, right?”

“Yes,” Squire said. “I can’t remember when. This morning.”

“Calendar says eleven.” She turned back to the stove and lifted the empty pan from the burner. “You want some eggs?”

“I can’t,” he said. “I have to drive everyone to school today.” He opened the fridge and took out the cream. He could take coffee with him on the long drive to town. He only had to drive a couple of times each week, and Kelly had gone far more often than he had.

This morning, she had an online lesson for an update to their financial software, and Squire figured he could drop off all the kids and then stop by the cemetery to talk to his daddy for a few minutes before returning to the ranch. Juliette Ahlstrom would be the bus driver this afternoon, and Squire’s kids would be home before he finished his work in the administration trailer.

He filled his to-go tumbler with coffee and then added sugar and cream while Kelly cracked more eggs into the bowl. “All right,” she said. “Just be back by eleven.”

“That’s hours from now,” he said.

“And you’ll stop by the bakery to see your mama and then the cemetery to see your daddy.” His wife gave him a side-eyed look and went back to scrambling her eggs. 

He grinned and slid his hand along her waist. “What do you want from the bakery?” He wasn’t going to deny what she’d said. Three Rivers Ranch sat forty-five minutes from town, and if he made the trip, he’d absolutely stop to see both of his parents. He leaned down and kissed the side of her neck as she smiled and laughed. 

They’d been married for just over fifteen years now, and Squire could hardly believe it. Finn had graduated in the spring, and the boy had left the ranch to attend college at Baylor. Pride filled Squire every time he thought of his son out there in the world, learning and growing and working hard. 

“I want the cinnamon twists,” Kelly said, leaning into Squire’s chest. “And I want you to stop by my mom’s and get this case of jars she has. Chelsea and I are going to do peaches this weekend.”

“Here or there?” Squire asked, placing a kiss behind her ear. She shivered in his arms, and a thrill ran through him.

“I’m not sure,” she said. “Somewhere.”

“Try to do it over there,” he said. “Last time you did it here, Felix kept snarfing the peels you dropped.” He looked over to the yellow lab, who laid by the back door. The dog lifted his head at the sound of his name, looked unapologetic about eating peach peels, and flopped his head back down.

An alarm on his phone went off, and Squire slid his hand away from his wife. “All right, Sam,” he said. “Time for school.” He opened the drawer and took out a key attached to bright yellow school bus charm. The ranch had a legit school bus him and the rest of the men and women had chipped in together to purchase. 

Some of his cowboys had families out here, and along with his kids and Pete’s kids, someone had to get seventeen children to school and back each day. 

He’d pressed the button to open the garage door when the airhorn sounded over the ranch, the signal for everyone to hurry up and get on the bus. It was parked on a dirt lane between the homestead and the rodeo horse training facility, and Squire wasn’t surprised to see Ethan Greene already standing by the bus with his three kids.

His youngest had just started kindergarten a month ago, and the boy cried as Ethan crouched in front of him, both hands on his shoulders. Squire sure had enjoyed watching Ethan grow up and into himself, and he and Brynn had built a mighty fine family, life, and business for themselves.

“Morning,” Squire called as he walked toward them, Sam and Mike on his heels. He didn’t know where Libby was, but his daughter was a perfectionist and wouldn’t miss the bus. Across the street, Pete’s bright blue front door opened, and his kids came spilling outside and down the steps.

“Morning,” Ethan said, straightening and pulling his five-year-old to his side. He smiled and shook Squire’s hand. “Bryan’s wondering if he can sit right behind you.”

“Absolutely,” Squire said, grinning down at the child. “And I know Juliette drove the bus on Friday, and she always leaves behind some candy, so you better get on first and check all around the driver’s seat.”

The little boy brightened considerably then, and Squire ignored the clamoring and noise from Pete’s boys as they arrived and started yell-talking to his. He unlocked the bus—they kept it locked because it wasn’t a toy—and opened the screechy doors with a firm push of his palm. “Go on,” he said, blocking the other children so Bryan Greene could get on first.

Ethan exchanged a grateful glance with him, and his son climbed the steps, his siblings right behind him. Ethan’s oldest said, “I’ll watch him, Daddy,” and Ethan pressed a kiss to her forehead before she followed her brother. 

Carolina was a good girl, and she reminded Squire so much of Brynn. Once Ethan’s kids had loaded onto the bus, Squire moved out of the way for his kids and Pete’s. Garth and Juliette’s two boys had arrived too, as had Cal’s oldest daughter and his youngest. Trina carried a baby on her hip too, and she smiled and waved at Squire before she left.

“Where’s Nate and Helen?” he asked as the kids shuffled past him. One of Squire’s best cowboys had an eight-year-old son who wasn’t usually late. He pulled out his phone to check his messages, because Tad never kept him in the dark. 

“Oh, Tad said they were sick,” one of Garth’s boys said. “They’re not coming.” He stepped onto the bus as Squire nodded.

“That still leaves Jo,” he said, starting to walk toward the back of the bus. Kenny Stockton and his wife, Taryn, just had one little girl in the second grade, and when Squire reached the back of the bus, the ranch opening up in front of him, he found the blonde child running toward him.

“I’m comin’!” she yelled, her backpack bouncing against her body. “Don’t leave me!”

Squire grinned at her, though he knew Kenny and Taryn struggled with her overly large personality and stubborn streak. Since she wasn’t his, Squire could simply appreciate the girl for who she was. 

“Come on, now,” he said. “You’re late.” With Jo safely on board, Squire climbed the steps to the driver’s seat. He fired up the bus and closed the door. “First stop: the junior high.” 

No one answered him, of course, and he didn’t expect them to. He drove everyone to their correct school, finally waving good-bye to little Bryan Greene as he got off the bus last. With a sigh, Squire turned the bus toward the bakery, ready for more than just coffee in his belly.

When he walked into the bakery, he was unsurprised to find a line almost to the door. He ignored it and went through the seating area to the counter. “Is my mom in the back?” he asked the girl ringing up a couple of boxes of pastries.

“Yes, sir,” she said, her smile going on for miles. 

Squire bypassed her and tipped his hat to a woman down the case. “Your usual?” she called to him.

“Please,” he said. “With extra cinnamon twists for Kel, if you can.”

“You got it.”

He pushed through the swinging door that led into the hub of the bakery, and just as much activity bustled back here. The scent of coffee faded under the smell of yeast and sugar, but it didn’t go away completely.

“Mom,” he said, finding her standing with another woman, the two of them poring over something in a binder.

Her face lit up when she saw him. “Squire.” She paused in her work to give him a quick hug. “What are you doing here?”

“I drove the bus today,” he said, smiling down at her. She lived in town now, in the condo she and Dad had bought several years ago, when she’d started the bakery. She’d always wanted one, and while it had taken many long years to bring her dream to fruition, she’d done it. “I wanted to ask you something.”

“Shoot.”

“I think Garth is going to quit,” Squire said with a sigh. “He’s gettin’ up there in age, and I know he’s been doin’ this for a long time.”

His mother nodded and said, “Yes, those are for a private event. Box them up, please,” before turning her attention back to Squire. “Who will you move into his place?”

“That’s what I wanted to ask you.” He glanced around at the eight or ten people working back here with his mom. He should’ve come at a different time. “Kelly and I are talking to him today, and I just have this feeling.” There had been some rumors floating around the ranch too, and nothing stayed secret for long at a closed community like Three Rivers Ranch. They shared too many meals, and too much personal space with one another to truly keep something like their long-time ranch foreman who might retire private.

“He’ll have some ideas for who should replace him,” Mom said. “Plus, Squire, this isn’t your first year running the ranch.” She gave him a kind smile that also said, You’re capable of this, son. Go figure it out.

Squire nodded, his jaw tight. He just wanted to talk things through with someone. That wasn’t wrong, and he hugged his mom again, said she should come out on Thursday night for the harvest kick-off dinner, and went back out into the front of the shop.

He took his coffee and pastry box from Jewel, who’d packed it for him, and headed for the door. His dad would know what to do in this situation, and Squire prayed as he left the bakery that Daddy felt like talking today.

* * *

At eleven o’clock, Squire silenced his alarm and looked up as Kelly walked into his office. They worked next door to each other again now that the kids were all in school during the day. His wife had been keeping the books here at the ranch for years, and he loved having her so close he could smell her perfume and sneak next door to kiss her whenever he wanted.

“Hey,” she said as she sank into one of the chairs in front of him. 

“Rough morning?” he asked.

“Just reconciliations,” she said dryly. “I hate them.”

“Hire them out,” he said, moving a folder from one side of his desk to a tray on the other. “I’ve told you that a billion times.”

“A billion?” she teased, giggling and shaking her head. “Oh, by the way, my mother wants to come to the harvest barbecue. I didn’t think it would be a problem.”

“Not a problem,” Squire said, his heart squeezing as he looked at his wife. “I wish Finn would be there. It’s not going to be the same without him.”

Kelly’s smile turned from sunny to slightly shady. “I know. I told him I’d pay for his gas, but he has a test on Friday morning he can’t miss.”

Baylor University sat about six or seven hours south of Three Rivers. It wasn’t an easy drive to make in a day, and then have to turn right around and go back. “Too bad,” Squire said. “He could stay the weekend. Maybe we should move it to Friday.”

“Libby has her art show on Friday,” Kelly reminded him. Without her, Squire wouldn’t even know what day of the week it was, and he marveled at her ability to keep their family schedule and calendar in her head.

“Morning,” Garth said, and Squire switched his attention from his wife to his foreman. Garth entered the office and Squire stood from his desk chair. They shook hands, and he hugged Kelly before settling into the other chair.

Squire sat too, his heartbeat pounding in his chest. He knew what Garth was going to say—he just knew. The talk with his dad at the cemetery had been cleansing for Squire, and he’d felt strongly that Garth was ready to retire.

“So,” Squire said. “When are you going to be done?”

Garth didn’t even blink. “I was thinkin’ the end of the year.” He glanced at Kelly. “That should give y’all three good months to find someone. I can train ‘em up.”

Kelly reached over and took his hand in hers, squeezing it. She wore compassion and regret in her eyes though she smiled at him. “Where are you and Juliette going to go?”

“Just to town,” Garth said. “We’re not dead or anything. I’m just…done out here.”

“We’ll throw you a huge party,” Kelly said, brightening. She looked at Squire with raised eyebrows, and he grew exhausted in a single breath. He knew this look on his wife’s face, and when she said “huge party,” she meant “massive celebration the likes of which this town hasn’t seen in a century.” 

She loved planning parties, and the only thing she anticipated more than their ranch Christmas party was being able to plan her children’s weddings. She asked Finn on the daily if he was seeing anyone—to the point where he’d texted Squire privately and asked if he should be getting serious with someone when he was barely eighteen years old. 

The two of them had laughed and Squire had attempted to explain Kelly’s love of parties and events. He knew looking at her now, he hadn’t done it justice.

“I’m more concerned with who could possibly replace Garth,” Squire said gently. He looked back to Garth. “I was actually thinking about Beau.” He said nothing more, leaving it open for Garth to weigh in.

“Beau would be great,” Garth said. “In fact, I think Beau is ready for this.”

“Maybe Bennett,” Squire mused.

“He’d be good too,” Garth said. “You might consider Cal….”

Squire looked at Garth, his mind buzzing. “Cal’s the full-time vet, so I don’t have to be.”

“He’d be a great foreman,” Garth said, shrugging one shoulder. 

He would, Squire knew. Cal Hodgkins was steady and strong, and he lived on the ranch full-time with his wife and three daughters. He’d be a good foreman too, but then what would Squire do when he needed his full-time vet? 

Being both would stretch Cal thin, and Beau would have to move out of the important position of controller, and Bennett ran all of their scheduling. No matter who Squire moved, they’d leave a hole behind that would also have to be filled.

Squire suppressed a sigh and grinned at Garth before he opened his desk drawer. “All right,” he said. “Shockingly, we have paperwork for this type of thing.” He’d remembered that while standing in front of his father’s grave, and Squire thanked the Lord above for such an amazing father who continued to help him despite not being here on the earth. 

“I’ll talk to Juliette about a retirement party,” Kelly said. “Oh, you know what would be amazing? If we combined it with our Christmas ranch party….”

“Sure,” Squire said without considering what she’d said. Combining two huge celebrations into one? Sounded like a win to him. 

Kelly squealed and got to her feet. “I have to go get all the ladies together.” She hurried toward the doorway. “Oh, and congratulations, Garth. We’ll miss you so much, but I can’t wait to see what you do in this next chapter of your life.” She left the office, and Squire met Garth’s eyes.

“Sleep,” Garth said with a half-smile. “I’m going to sleep in the next chapter of my life.” He laughed with Squire as he took the packet of papers he’d need to fill out so he could retire from the ranch.

“I will miss you,” Squire said in all soberness. “You have been instrumental at this place, and I really appreciate all you’ve done.” All he was too, but Squire wasn’t an overly sentimental man—he could attribute that to his dad—and he cleared his throat as he stood.

He and Garth walked to the doorway, where they both paused. Without anything else to say, Squire shook Garth’s hand and watched him walk down the hall. 

Back at his desk, he already had texts from his wife about the party. You know what would be amazing? Kelly said. Inviting all your ranch friends. We always do a party with just us for Christmas, but this is a big celebration for Garth, and they all know him...

Squire looked up to the ceiling and said, “Dear Lord, give me patience and strength to deal with the party planning, I beg You.” Then he answered his wife with a single word.

Sure.

What Readers are Saying

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ “If Three Rivers were a real place, I would move there. This book is a teaser of what is to come. It brings everyone together so we can catch up, and then brings in a few single people that you know will find love in another book. I throughly enjoyed it and looking forward to this new series. Good clean story.” ~Trixie

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ “You will love reading this book and catching up on all the families that you have grown so fond of! This book literally had a smile on my face completely throughout reading it! Enjoy!!!” ~Jules

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