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The Gift

The Gift

Montana Promises, BOOK 2

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 922 5-Star Reviews

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Hannah Williams is an artist and co-owns a successful event management company. For the first time in her life, the things she’s always dreamed about are coming true. When she meets Brett Forster, she knows she has to be careful. Falling for a cattle rancher from Montana is the worst thing she could do—even if he’s the best thing that’s ever happened to her.

Brett has spent his life running from trouble. His traumatic past has left deep scars that make it hard for him to trust anyone. He isn't looking for love, but when Hannah unexpectedly enters his life, he’s unable to let her go.

Their lives take an unexpected turn when a cherished painting goes missing, and Hannah’s family becomes the target of a ruthless gang. Determined to keep her safe, Brett does everything he can to protect her. However, nothing could prepare him for the difficult decision Hannah must face.

Chapter One Look Inside

Hannah stared at the spreadsheet on her computer. “I don’t see how we can organize the Fergusons’ party. The McKenzies’ fortieth wedding anniversary’s on the same weekend.”

Claire, Hannah’s sister, peered over her shoulder. “We’re on track with our other events. What if I plan the Fergusons’ party and book the contractors? I’ll need help with staging the event, but that’s it. Both of us don’t need to be at the McKenzies’ party.”

“If you think it’ll work, then that’s okay with me. But don’t book any more events for February.”

“Yes, boss.”

“I’m only looking after you.” 

Claire sipped her cup of coffee. “As your elder sister, aren’t I supposed to take care of you?”

“You’re too busy booking more events,” Hannah said half-seriously. 

“Talking about events, you’re not wearing that dress to the Christmas party, are you?”

Hannah touched the lace ruffle around her neck. “I’m going as a Victorian yuletide caroler from A Christmas Carol. Wait until you see the red jacket.”

“Sounds exciting.”

She took a closer look at her green dress. “What’s wrong with what I’m wearing?”

“It’s a little…frumpy.”

“Frumpy? I spent hours searching the Internet for the perfect costume.”

Claire picked up the bag she’d left on a chair. “So did I, and I bought two.”

“I hope the extra costume’s for Holly.” Claire’s elf costume wasn’t what Hannah would have called ‘perfect’. For one thing, the red skirt was so short that one gust of wind would blow it around her waist. But she had to admit that the red and white striped stockings were cute, and the white fur around the neckline wasn’t too bad, either.

Claire ginned. “Holly’s going as a Christmas angel. The extra costume’s for you.”

“I don’t think so.”

“You’ll look amazing. Just this once, let me be your fairy godmother.”

The doorbell rang and Hannah sighed. “Saved by the bell.”

“Only for two minutes. As soon as Holly sees your dress, she’ll agree with me.” 

Hannah closed her laptop and headed toward their front door. “I’m not wearing a teeny-tiny elf costume.” She opened the door and stared at their friend. “Wow. You really are a Christmas angel.”

Holly’s blue eyes sparkled. “I bought the costume when I was in Scotland. I like your dress.”

“Don’t tell her that.” Claire pulled Holly into the living room. “Let me look at you.”

Holly spun in a circle. The tight, silver bodice of her dress exploded into a white tulle skirt. A pair of fluffy angel wings and a silver halo completed the gorgeous costume. 

Hannah had met Holly a couple of years ago when she’d joined the Bozeman Arts Collective. Her paintings were beyond anything Hannah could ever hope to create. With regular exhibitions at galleries around the world, Holly was one of the most successful artists in America. 

“I’ve got exciting news,” Holly said. “Daniel and I have finally set a date for our wedding.”

Hannah hugged her friend. “That’s wonderful. I never thought you’d find something that worked for both of you.”

“It hasn’t been easy. But if we get married in mid-March, we’ll be able to go on our honeymoon after my exhibition in Germany.”

Claire’s eyes widened. “March is only three months away.”

“That’s why I have a favor to ask.”

Hannah looked at her sister. 

“You said not to book any events in February,” Claire reminded her. “Not March.”

Holly looked expectantly at both sisters. “Our wedding will be small, but I don’t have time to do anything. My paintings have to be ready by the end of March for my exhibition.”

Hannah frowned. “When you say you don’t have time for anything, do you mean every, single, thing?”

Holly nodded. “Flowers, dresses, food, invitations…there are probably more things I haven’t thought about, but I don’t know what they are. Can you do it?”

Hannah smiled. “What do you think, Claire? Can we create a magical wedding for Holly and Daniel?”

“I don’t know.” 

Holly’s smile disappeared.

Hannah was shocked. Out of both of them, Claire was the one who usually said yes without thinking. 

Claire looked at her costume. “There’s only one thing stopping me from saying yes.”

Hannah frowned at her sister. “You wouldn’t dare.”

“If you wear the extra elf costume to the Christmas party, I’ll say yes.”

Holly looked at Claire’s dress, then across at Hannah. “You’ll look beautiful, especially if you’ve got a pair of red high heels.”

Hannah sighed. “Okay. I’ll do it. But if my skirt’s shorter than Claire’s, I’m wearing my own dress.”

Holly hugged Hannah tight. “Thank you.”

“Don’t thank me yet,” Hannah grumbled. “I haven’t tried on the costume.”

Claire grabbed her hand. “There’s no time like the present. You’ll be amazed at what Holly and I can do.”

Hannah sighed. That was what she was worried about. 

* * *

Brett Forster rarely sat with his feet up in front of the fire. But tonight, with the wind howling outside and more snow on its way, there wasn’t anywhere else he wanted to be. 

“Did you take a look at the northern boundary?” he asked Thomas, one of the ranch hands. 

“All done. Were you able to get the tractor working?”

“It was easier than I thought. We had a spare set of spark plugs in the garage.” 

“Is there anything else you want to know?” Thomas asked around a mouthful of hot beef casserole.

Brett stretched his arms above his head and yawned. “Nope. My brain’s switching off for the night.”

“I wouldn’t switch it off too fast. There’s a Christmas party in town tonight and you’re the only one who’ll still be here—apart from Mr. McConachie, that is.”

Pat McConachie owned the sprawling Double Circle Ranch. Set in over forty thousand acres, it was an hour’s drive from Bozeman. Eight years ago, Brett had returned to the ranch as its foreman. Since then, his role had grown to cover just about anything that needed to be done.

“Who’s driving?” Brett asked.

“Dave. He swears he won’t drink and drive.”

“Tell him from me he’d better not. He’s already had one warning. There won’t be another.”

Thomas tore a chunk of bread off the loaf Mrs. Bennett had left in the kitchen. “I’ll tell him. Are you sure you don’t want to come with us?”

“Don’t take this the wrong way, but spending the night in a noisy bar packed with college students and cowboys isn’t my idea of fun.”

“Suit yourself, but you’ll miss a good night.”

Brett didn’t need the type of good night Thomas was talking about. “Just remember you’re feeding the cattle with me tomorrow morning. I’m leaving here no later than seven-thirty.”

“No problem. Thanks for dinner.”

“You’re welcome. Next time, get home faster. You’re lucky Mrs. Bennett gave me extra.”

“She always does.” With the last of the casserole gone, Thomas rinsed his plate and added it to the dishwasher. “I need to get changed. See you tomorrow, boss.”   

“Don’t do anything I wouldn’t.”   

Thomas’ smile was instant. “You always say that, and you know what happens.”   

“Yeah. You don’t listen. As long as you’re here tomorrow morning, you can do what you want.”  

Thomas snorted as he left Brett’s cottage. They both knew it had never been that easy.

* * *

An hour later, Brett wished he hadn’t answered the phone call from his sister. “You never give up, do you?” 

“Someone has to make sure you don’t turn into a hermit. All you have to do is find a clean shirt and drive into town.”

“It’ll take an hour to get there.”

“If you’d left when you should have, you’d be here by now.”

The trouble with Mary-Beth was that she had a selective memory. “I never told you I was coming to the Christmas party.”

“You never said you weren’t, either. You could stay with me tonight to save you from going back to the ranch.”

“Give me one good reason why I need to drive through a howling nor’wester to socialize with a bunch of strangers.”

“Because Christmas is getting closer and you’re in danger of turning into the Grinch. Besides, Nathan’s your friend, not a stranger. When was the last time you came to town?”

“I was there two days ago.”

“Buying boots and jeans at Murdoch’s doesn’t count.”

Brett’s eyebrows rose. “It does when your boots are ready for the trash.”

“Don’t you want to meet different people?”

“By different, do you mean female?”

Mary-Beth hesitated before answering. “Not necessarily. But being cooped up on the ranch with a bunch of cowboys isn’t healthy. Mrs. Bennett’s the only woman you see each day.”

“There’s nothing wrong with that.”

“A lot of people would disagree with you.”

“Does that include you?”

“Maybe,” Mary-Beth muttered. 

Brett looked through the window. It wasn’t a great night to be going anywhere. “It’s snowing.”

“All the more reason to leave now. You could wear your new jeans.”

Brett knew he was on the losing end of their conversation. At least if he stayed with Mary-Beth, he could make sure she was all right. “I’ll meet you at Charlie’s Bar and Grill in an hour.”

“I knew you wouldn’t let me down.”

The relief in his sister’s voice worried him. “What are you talking about?”

“Don’t worry. You’ll find out when you get there.”

“Hold on a minute. What—”

“Gotta go. See you soon.”

And before Brett took another breath, Mary-Beth ended the call. So much for enjoying a quiet night on the ranch. Thanks to his sister, he was heading into town for a surprise he didn’t need. 

* * *

Hannah walked around the edge of the dance floor, balancing a tray of fries and drinks in her hands. Charlie’s Bar and Grill was usually busy, but this was crazy. She smiled at some people she knew and kept moving. 

“Nice costume.”

She glanced over her shoulder. Jack Burton was dressed head-to-foot in pale brown velvet. They’d dated a couple of years ago. Even though it hadn’t turned into anything serious, she’d enjoyed his company. He was an okay kind of person, but not the right kind of person for her. 

“Hi, Jack.”

“Do you need a hand?”

“No thanks. Our table isn’t far away.”

Someone brushed past Hannah. She pulled back, but not before the drinks wobbled in their glasses.

“Where are you sitting?”

She nodded at the far side of the room. “Over there.” The jukebox started playing another song and Hannah moved. If she thought making a run for their table between songs would be easy, she was wrong.

“Stick with me,” Jack yelled as he maneuvered around her. “I’ll stop anyone from bumping into you.”

Jack’s offer of help would have been sweet if he hadn’t turned on a big red light on the front of his cap. With his arms waving in the air, he directed people away from them like a giant reindeer on steroids.

A woman wearing a huge Santa hat walked in front of him. He stepped back, almost colliding with Hannah. 

She pulled the tray closer, spun to her right, and stumbled as the heel of her shoe slipped on the wooden floor.  

Just when she thought she was going to fall, someone held onto her waist, pulling her away from Jack and saving her tray of food.

“Are you all right?”

Her heart was still pounding when she turned to her rescuer. “Thanks for…” She looked into his gray eyes and everything in the room disappeared. His slow smile muddled her brain and left her speechless.


Her hands gripped the tray. “I’m okay. Thanks for catching me.”

“You’re welcome.”

The woman wearing the big Santa hat touched Hannah’s arm. “Sorry. I should have seen your friend.”

Jack straightened his velvet jumpsuit. “Don’t worry about it.” He looked at Hannah and frowned. “We’d better leave the dance floor before we get trampled. Are you ready?”

She took a deep breath and nodded. 

Before she could say goodbye to her rescuer, Jack stepped closer and nudged her forward. “There’s a gap in the crowd. Let’s go.”

By the time they made it across the room, Hannah’s brain was almost back to normal. “Who was the man who caught me?” she yelled.

Jack shrugged. “Don’t know. I can see Claire. Are you sitting in the same booth?”

Hannah nodded and followed his velvet-clad back. At least the table they’d chosen was in one of the quietest parts of the bar.

Claire grinned at Jack. “Hello, Rudolph. Have you been rescuing my sister again?”

Hannah sighed as Jack made himself at home in their booth. 

“I tried, but someone else caught her. Hi, Holly.”

“Hi. Help yourself to some fries. We bought extra.”

Hannah sat beside her sister. From the way Jack was smiling, it looked as though he was planning on spending most of the night with them. 

Claire frowned. “What do you mean, ‘Someone else caught her’?”

“Hannah tried to avoid me and ended up falling into someone’s arms.”

“Really?” Claire turned to Hannah. “A knight in shining armor?”

Hannah didn’t like the mischievous gleam in her sister’s eyes. 

“Pure fluke.” Jack reached across the table and ate a fry.

He might not be worried about where Claire’s imagination was heading, but Hannah was.

Fans of Netflix’s Virgin River series will love this small-town, feel-good romance!

Hannah Williams is an artist and co-owns a successful event management company. For the first time in her life, the things she’s always dreamed about are coming true. When she meets Brett Forster, she knows she has to be careful. Falling for a cattle rancher from Montana is the worst thing she could do—even if he’s the best thing that’s ever happened to her.

★ ★ ★ ★  "If you want to cozy up with a book and be swept into a love story, this is the series for you!"

★ ★ ★ ★  "The perfect blend of romance, mystery, and small-town vibes."

★ ★ ★ ★  "This book is like a warm hug on a cold day. Pure comfort."

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