Thursday, October 6, 2016
Melt My Heart, Cowboy by CJ Carmichael
Barnes & Noble
Book 1 of Love at the Chocolate Shop Series
Who is the handsome cowboy who comes into small town Marietta’s chocolate shop every week to buy a box of chocolates? More importantly…who is he buying the chocolates for? These are the questions sales clerk Rosie Linn asks herself as she waits for her sadly neglected childhood home to sell so she can pursue an exciting new career in L.A.
Rosie finds out the answers the day rugged ranch hand Brant Willingham introduces himself and asks for her help in managing the care of his younger sister. Brant’s mother has recently died, leaving him the sole guardian of eighteen-year-old Sara Maria–who has been a puzzle to Brant ever since she began exhibiting signs of autism at age two.
Rosie and Brant come up with a plan. She’ll help with his sister if he handles repairs and a new paint job for her old house. It seems the perfect solution, but a new dilemma is created when the couple start spending time together. Brant discovers he doesn’t want Rosie to sell and leave, and Rosie fears she will have to choose between love and her dreams.
“Can I tempt you with one of our cocoa peanut melts?” Rosie Linn wished she, herself, could tempt the good-looking cowboy on the other side of her sales counter.
But in the three months he’d been frequenting the Copper Mountain Chocolate shop—regular as Friday’s happy hour at Grey’s Saloon—he hadn’t come close to asking her out. So she doubted that was going to happen.
Instead she pointed out one of the delicate and dreamy confections her boss, Sage Carrigan, had handcrafted just that morning. “Rich dark chocolate, swirled with creamy peanut goodness… what’s not to love?”
The cowboy standing on the other side of the display case gave her a charming, slightly teasing smile, a smile that always made Rosie’s day and often her entire week.
“I’m sure they’re great, but I’ll take the usual—a box of the dark chocolate salted caramels.”
“Give these a taste, at least?” She proffered a tray with a sample of the cocoa peanut melts.
He just shook his head no. For months Rosie had been trying to entice him to try something other than a box of twelve Pink Himalayan Salted Chocolate Caramels.
But he would not be swayed.
“You don’t know what you’re missing.”
The cowboy leaned an arm on the counter, and cocked an eyebrow. “I’m sure you’re right, Rosie.”
His use of her first name would have flattered her if it wasn’t pinned to the front of her copper-colored apron.
“And if the chocolates were for me,” he continued, “I’d be going on your recommendation for sure.”
“But the chocolates aren’t for you.”
She waited, hoping he would tell her who they were for, but he said nothing further.
Rosie really wanted to know the name of the lucky recipient.
She had her speculations.
The most obvious, of course, was that he had a sweetheart with a chocolate addiction. This was not her favorite theory, however.
She far preferred the idea that he was a dutiful grandson, making a visit to an old folks’ home.
But Sunday, not Friday, was the traditional time to visit the ill and the infirm.
Rosie knew this because, for the past five years, she’d nursed her diabetic father through a host of ailments until he’d finally succumbed to kidney failure. Most of the week she’d had to manage on her own, but on Sunday she could generally count on at least one or two neighbors or old friends to pop in with a casserole, or a vase of flowers.
With a pair of silver tongs, Rosie selected a dozen caramels bathed in rich, dark chocolate and speckled with pink Himalayan sea salt, sneaking glances at the cowboy as she carefully layered them into one of the shop’s signature copper-colored boxes. She could tell by the dust on his boots, the worn leather of his belt, and the calluses on his hands, he was a working cowboy, not just someone dressing the part.
But that was pretty much all she knew about him.
“Anything else?” she asked.
“Still trying to tempt me, Rosie?” His gaze swept over her, not the display of chocolates.
“Is it working?”
“Oh, I’m plenty tempted, Rosie. Just doing my best to resist.”
Her cheeks went hot as she wrapped the copper-colored box with some ribbon, wishing she could think of a clever retort. It was so frustrating that she excelled at writing clever dialogue for her brother’s screenplays, yet so often found herself tongue-tied in real life.
Maybe if she could say just the right thing, he would ask her out. Of course, it would help her cause if she wasn’t wearing her unbecoming work uniform.
The reddish-gold aprons looked fantastic on Sage, who had beautiful ginger hair and honey skin tones. But the hue did nothing for Rosie’s ordinary brown hair and eyes. Probably she was beyond hope.
She slipped the box into a logo-embossed bag before handing it to the cowboy.
Her thanked her, but seemed in no hurry to leave. “Sure is quiet here today.”
“It’s been slow since the rodeo wrapped up. But last week was crazy.” They’d sold all out of the chocolate molded cowboy hats that Sage created especially for the weekend long festivities.
“I’d hoped to watch the finals on Sunday. But the boss decided on Saturday we needed to start moving cattle.”
“Is it big, the ranch where you work?”
She waited, hoping he would mention the ranch by name, but he didn’t.
“Thanks, Rosie. Have yourself a nice weekend, now.”
“Same to you.”
The enticing possibility of something more in the future hung in the air for a few moments, as his gaze lingered. Then he gave her a parting nod and left.
Outside, he stopped under the front awning.
Wherever he was headed, he didn’t seem in a hurry to get there.
Rosie leaned against the counter, watching as he settled his hat over his dark, curly hair, and then squared his shoulders. For a moment she thought he might turn on his heels and come back inside. But five seconds later, he was on his way.
Which meant she wouldn’t see him again for another week.
She sighed, not sure why, in a town that specialized in hot masculine dating material, it was this particular cowboy who’d caught her eye.
Maybe it was the hint of sadness she sometimes glimpsed in his eyes that intrigued her. Or it might be because of the time she’d seen him make funny faces at a crying baby, whose mother was trying to pick out a gift for her mother-in-law. The fussing baby had grown silent as he stared at the cowboy’s silly expressions. Then he’d smiled, and finally he’d chortled adorably.
The cowboy had brushed off the mother’s thanks, winking at Rosie before leaving the shop with his usual box of chocolate salted caramels.
A cowboy who was good with babies. What woman wouldn’t love that?
Rosie sure had. But he hadn’t asked her out then, or in any of the weeks that followed and it was probably for the best because Rosie had plans and they didn’t include Marietta.
As soon as the old family house was sold she was going to move to L.A. and live with her screenwriter, older brother, Daniel, and his actress wife, Glenda. Over the past few years she’d been helping Daniel with some of his scripts. She’d started out proofreading, then had begun making the odd suggestion.
Lately she’d progressed to entire scenes and at their father’s funeral Daniel had invited her to work with him full-time, with the credit and pay to go with it.
He’d already had a few minor successes with some low budget, made-for-TV movies. Now he—well, both of them actually—were working on a TV series for a major network. Daniel was hoping this would catapult his career—their careers—to the next level. Rosie prayed he was right.
She loved this town and working at the chocolate shop. And she’d never regret spending these last years with her father.
But she was tired of getting all her excitement vicariously—from books, movies, and Daniel’s accounts of the parties and night life he and Glenda enjoyed. She wanted to be part of the action.
If only the darn house would sell. It had been on the market now for over six months without so much as a hint of an offer. The leaves that had been a fresh new green at her father’s funeral now sparkled butterscotch yellow in the autumn sun. October already.
Rosie sighed, then turned to look down Main Street. The local merchants had already replaced the rustic fence posts, bales of hay, and posters advertising the Copper Mountain Rodeo with spooky Halloween ghosts, witches, and zombies in preparation for the next major holiday. Just last night Sage had decorated the chocolate shop’s window with fat, orange pumpkins and some matching Halloween inspired products.
Time was passing all too quickly.
Rosie made a promise to herself. She would be gone before the first snowfall. She couldn’t take another long, cold Montana winter.