This was a really cute story! As someone that lives in MT, I have to say that cute cowboys tend to be scarcer than many people think, but I was happy for Courtney to find love in this book, even when it happened in a very funny way! The only complaint I would have about this book was that it was really too short and things happened too fast, which is common in these short little romances, but it was fun to read anyhow! -Martha
LESLEY ANN MCDANIEL is a lifelong lover of words, animals, and musical theatre.
Born in Missoula, Montana, she was one of the original Dwarfs in the Missoula Children’s Theatre’s inaugural production of “Snow White”, which is still touring the world.
While earning a degree in acting at Willamette University in Salem, Oregon, she fell in love with theatrical costuming, and pursued that as a career while nurturing her passion for writing on the side. Through God’s guidance, she has shifted her focus to honing her skills as a writer of romance and young adult fiction.
Between working as a homeschooling mom and as a professional theatre costumer, Lesley has completed several novels. She would have done more by now if she didn’t also occasionally stop to clean the house and fold the laundry. Fortunately she loves to cook, so no one in her family has starved yet.
She is a member of the Northwest Christian Writers Association, American Christian Fiction Writers, and a wonderful critique group. A native Montanan and a Big Sky girl at heart, Lesley now resides in the Seattle area with her husband, two daughters, three cats and a big loud dog. In her spare time (ha!) she chips away at her goal of reading every book ever written.
Courtney Jacobs doubted there could be enough coffee in all of Thornton Springs, Montana to see her through this movie shoot.
After filling her paper cup with the morale-boosting brew, she headed back toward the set. All around her, sleep-deprived crew members hustled to transform this charming burg into an old western town. She checked her watch. Seven AM. Within an hour, Keith Kingsley, the temperamental director of North to Montana—N2M to insiders— would be ready to call ‘action’, and he wasn’t exactly known for his patience.
“Move it or bleed!” A rigger bellowed as he charged past, swinging an aluminum grip stand just over her head.
She danced around a coil of electrical cables then sidestepped a set painter as he examined the distressing he’d given a storefront. Wincing as the gaffer shouted out coarse instructions to his crew of lighting techs, she ducked to avoid a swooping boom pole.
A contented sigh slipped through her lips. With just four independent films on her résumé— two a year since graduating from college—she felt lucky to have booked a major studio-backed project so early in her career.
She’d been hired as personal assistant to the star, Angela Bijou—an A-list actress with a reputation for supreme diva behavior and for taking up with her leading men. Angela had made it clear from day one that Jeffrey Mark Caulfield (sizzling from the recent success of The Pharaoh’s Tomb), would be no exception.
The bleep of Courtney’s cell phone drew her from her wandering thoughts. Balancing her still-full cup on the edge of her clipboard, she opened a text from the key costumer.
‘Ms. Bju s neded 4 a finl fttng of hr Act 3 pRT gwn 2moro @ 2. B sur sh’s thr.’
Courtney gnawed at her lower lip. If Ms. Bijou didn’t know about the fttng, it would be one more thing for her to take out on Courtney.
Hurrying down the center of the newly dirt-encrusted street, she clenched her cup between her teeth and shoved her clipboard under her arm. She flicked open the phone keyboard and tapped out a response while dodging a gaggle of grips positioning an old wooden wagon by the edge of the just-built boardwalk.
‘2moro @ 2. No woriez.’
Nearing the area where the first scene of the day would be shot, Courtney hit ‘send’ and scanned the street. Several cast members milled about in costume but—no surprise—Angela wasn’t among them. Giving a cursory glance to the pink berry Swatch she’d been given as a ‘thank you’ from her actress on her last movie, she headed toward the make-up trailer in the hope that Angela had made it to her call on time.
Striding across the set, she drank in the liveliness of her surroundings. It was great being a part of something this vital. So what if her job at the moment was keeping the leading lady on-schedule? She was an indispensable cog in the machine.
Stopping in her tracks, Courtney spun around to face the familiar angry command. From the first day of rehearsals, Angela Bijou had demonstrated an annoying articulation of Courtney’s name that made the word itself sound like an outright accusation.
“You had better explain what’s going on here!” The woman stormed toward Courtney with a heated, resolute gait and fire in her famous jade green eyes. Her flimsy peach silk cover-up and matching turban signified that she hadn’t yet made it to hair or wardrobe, and screamed look at me—I’m a star.
Courtney opened her mouth to respond, but Angela cut her off with a tirade that rivaled Hurricane Katrina.
“Are you completely incompetent?” Angela screeched as she planted her lithe form two feet from where Courtney stood.
As the blood rose to her face, Courtney became painfully aware that the entire cast and crew had turned to gawk. “What’s the matter, Ms. Bijou?” She fought to keep her tone level.
“What’s the matter?” Angela tossed her platinum pin-curled head back with such force her tiny neck made a faint cracking sound. “The ‘matter’ is that I have no water in my trailer.”
Courtney let that register. All this fuss over a plumbing problem?
“D’eau Douce.” Angela crossed her willowy arms. “Imported from France. Does that ring a bell? I’m supposed to have four sixteen ounce bottles chilling in my trailer every morning when I arrive.”
“Oh….” Courtney skimmed her memory. “For…drinking?”
“Yes, for drinking.” Angela gave her a scowl that implied she should audition for the next season of American Idiot. “I wash my face in pure Norwegian spring water, which by the way I didn’t see in there either.”
Courtney heard herself utter something about making a few phone calls to Norway as she took a giant step backward.
“Look,” Angela apparently wasn’t done yelling. “I need sixty-four ounces a day. How else am I supposed to keep my skin so youthful and clear?” She drew her fingertips across her youthful, clear cheek for emphasis. “Every. Single. Day.”
“Uh… okay, Ms. Bijou.” Courtney scribbled out a note on the top page of her clipboard as she took a half-step in what she hoped was the direction of water of all desirable nationalities. A thought stopped her cold. “Was that sixty-four ounces of the drinking water or the washing kind?”
Angela’s eyes narrowed. “Don’t play dumb. Obviously, you knew about this.”
Gripping her half-cup of tepid coffee between her thumb and her index finger, Courtney flipped through the papers on her clipboard as if to exonerate herself from this allegation. She knew nothing about her actress’ water preference and made a mental note to be sure always to ask in the future.
With what she hoped would read as a competent smile, she turned to go, smacking into a carpenter as he flew past with an armload of railroad ties. Coffee flew from her cup, splashing across her papers and down the front of her sea green t-shirt. She winced.
Angela’s shrieky voice rang out from behind. “Check my contract! I need my water every day I’m on the set. I’m supposed to have it!”
Courtney clutched her clipboard to her stained front and darted toward what appeared to be a grocery store in the next block. If the last five minutes were any indication of things to come, this shoot was going to be a nightmare.
“Yessir, this is just about the biggest thing that’s ever happened in this town.” Cal wiped his hands on his apron and stretched a long gaze out the front window of his general store.
Casting a dubious glance at Cal from under the brim of his Stetson, Adam Greene drew in a long breath. It was great that the movie people were boosting the town’s flagging economy, but apart from that he really didn’t see what all the fuss was about. “Say Cal, you got any of those red lentils left? Janessa made a killer stew last week and I’d like her to surprise us with a repeat performance.”
Cal wrested his attention away from the window. “That sister ‘a yours is gettin’ to be more like your mama every day. A regular Mary Stewart.”
Adam grinned. “I think you mean Martha. Martha Stewart. Don’t tell Janessa that, though. She’s dead set against the idea of making some lucky man a great wife someday.”
Cal’s head bobbed as he grabbed a jar of beans off a shelf. “Still determined to get outta Dodge now that she’s graduated high school, eh?”
“She’s got plans.” Adam studied a barrel of apples. “Nothing wrong with that.”
“Not a thing. I just know you and your mama will miss her is all.”
“True.” Grabbing the brown bag of lentils Cal had filled for him, Adam raised an earnest smile. He had a full seven years on his baby sister and had been the man of the house since their father’s death when Adam was fifteen. It was strange to think of her leaving the nest. “Far be it from me to stand in the way of an ambitious female—”
Abruptly, the front door burst open and in flew a young woman gripping a clipboard and a paper cup. She pushed a strand of sandy blonde hair from her forehead with the rim of the cup as she scanned the store, urgency fairly sparking from her hazel eyes. Adam’s gaze dawdled a little longer than he liked to consider gentlemanly.
As she surged purposefully toward the counter, his eyes followed. She looked young and pretty in a fresh-faced, no make-up sort of way. Judging from the walkie-talkie clipped to her belt, she must be some sort of behind-the-scenes worker, not an actress. A corner of his mouth lifted. Maybe having the movie people in town wouldn’t be such a bad thing after all.
Cal lit up. “What can I do for you, young lady?”
She spoke with a resolute clip. “Please tell me you carry D’eau Douce.”
The smile slid from Cal’s face. “Doe Do…what?”
“It’s French.” She tapped the clipboard with the cup and scouted around some more.
Sensing that Cal could use a hand on this one, Adam stepped up to the counter. “Excuse me, ma’am. Maybe I can help…uh…translate?”
“Sure.” Avoiding his gaze, she continued to search the shelves. “Do you speak ‘actress’?”
“I’m sorry, no.” While he felt for her obvious United Nations dilemma, he couldn’t help but dwell on how pretty she was. “What exactly is this thing you’re looking for?”
“Water.” She moved a few feet to peruse the refrigerator case where Cal kept the milk and juice. “What kind of mineral water do you carry?”
Adam cast an amused glance at Cal, whose expression had grown even more befuddled.
“I don’t…I mean….” Cal stammered.
Seeing where this was going, Adam chimed in. “You’ll be hard pressed to find any of those fancy bottled waters here, ma’am.”
As her head snapped toward him, their eyes met for the first time. “No water? But what do people here drink?”
Adam tipped a shrug. “We drink well water, mostly. We’ve got the best mountain spring water you’ve ever tasted. I’d be happy to—”
“No. I mean…thank you.” Shifting the cup to the hand that held the clipboard, she pulled a cell phone out of a pouch on her waistband, and started punching in numbers as she moved toward the door. Looking back, her eyes rested briefly on Adam. “Thanks anyway.” With a slight smile, she yanked open the door and bolted out.
Leaning against the counter, Adam pushed his hat back a touch and folded his arms.
Cal gave him a good-natured cuff to the bicep. “Shouldn’t you be finishing that shopping?”
“Shopping?” Adam nodded slowly. “Oh. Right.”
Courtney surveyed the street as she darted toward the set, her hope of finding a specialty food store growing dimmer by the second. Her mind whirred. The only thing she could think of was to call the safe, actress-free office of her BFF back in L.A.
“Sheila Macintosh here.”
Courtney breathed out relief at the familiar greeting. “Thank goodness you’re there.”
“Hey, Court.” Sheila let out a little titter. “Don’t tell me you’re homesick already.”
“Not unless by ‘homesick’ you mean ‘desperately missing the Von’s delivery boy’.” Courtney firmed her resolve. “Sheil, I need you to do me a huge favor.”
“Is it a favor for you or for Angela Bijou, ’cause you know I don’t cater to queen bees.”
“Consider it a favor to your best friend who wants to stay employed. I need you to source some bottled water for me. I’ll give you all my info so you can order it and have it billed to the movie.”
“They don’t have water in Montana?” Sheila quipped. “How do they get the mountains so green?”
“Funny. Of course they have water, just not the right kind.” Courtney stopped walking, not wanting anyone of importance to overhear her plight. “Will you do it?”
“I’m ready to write.” Sheila’s tone warmed. “Just remember, you owe me a dinner at Mr. Chow when you get back.”
“On my salary? Better make it Del Taco.” Courtney rattled off the details of Angela’s demand, hoping this wouldn’t be the first of many. “Tell them I need it ASAP. Hire a private jet if you need to.”
Sheila grunted. “Movie people are weird.”
“You said it.” She started walking again.
“Before you go,” Sheila’s voice grew coy. “You have to tell me. Is Jeffrey Mark Caulfield as hot in a cowboy hat as he is in a pith helmet?”
“I haven’t seen him in costume yet.” Courtney’s mind wandered back to the store she’d left a few minutes before—to that tall, handsome hottie in the dusty blue jeans and well-worn boots. “He’s got nothing on the real cowboys out here, though.”
“Oh really?” Sheila crooned. “Any one in particular?”
“Well…” Courtney’s face flushed. What was she doing? She had far too much to deal with to let herself get distracted by an admittedly attractive guy. Especially one she most likely wouldn’t even run into again. Still, she couldn’t lie, especially to Sheila. “Okay, yes. One that I just met was…movie star handsome. And nice too. Really nice.”
“Uh huh. So they grow ’em handsome out there. Must be in the water.”
Courtney smiled. “Yeah, the mountain spring water.”
“So, you will be coming home when this movie is finished shooting, right? Or will you be changing your name to Mrs. Handsome Cowboy and learning to rope cattle?”
Courtney sneered at the phone. “Oh, you are so very funny. Just get my water ordered and pray I still have my job by the time it gets here.”
“Sure thing. Oh, and that’s not the only thing I’ll be praying for, Mrs. Handsome Cowboy.”
Clicking her cell phone shut, Courtney took a deep breath. Sure that guy seemed really great but this was the last thing she needed. She was here to do a job, not fall for some guy who lived a world away from everything important to her. Letting herself get caught up in thinking about him would just be irresponsible.
Her pace slowed as she neared the set. Why did Angela’s personal drought suddenly not feel quite so urgent? Thinking about the cowboy seemed to have a mysterious calming effect on her. She shook it off. With a major problem to solve, she had too much on her mind to leave her head in the clouds.