Archive for December, 2017

EXCLUSIVE EXCERPT #3 OF CHAPTER 1 BOXCAR CHRISTMAS by Lindsay McKenna

December 18, 2017

EXCLUSIVE EXCERPT #3 OF CHAPTER 1 BOXCAR CHRISTMAS by Lindsay McKenna

Exclusive excerpt #3

12.18.17

Travis Ramsey was behind the counter of Ramsey Fishing Guides when the bell above the door tinkled, telling him he had an early morning visitor. His fishing guide business was mostly dormant during this time of the year and he had little to do over the coming winter months. Next April when the snows left the Bitterroot Valley where Hamilton sat, fishermen from around the world would stream in to take advantage of the world-class trout in the creeks and river. Looking up, he saw a young woman, her short black hair emphasizing the paleness of her features. Straightening, he saw her look around the large, two story building. As her blue gaze met his, he frowned. She was wearing an Army jacket. A real one, with patches that he quickly recognized. Had she bought it at an Army-Navy store or was she the real deal? She was tall, her shoulders thrown back, wearing a heavy Army rucksack on her back. His gaze dropped to her long legs wrapped in denim to her boots. Those were Army boots. There was something about her, a sense that she was probably ex-military. So was he.

“Can I help you?” he called, walking toward the end of the maple counter that had been in his family since the late 1800’s. He saw her blue eyes narrow upon him, silently evaluating him. There was a glittering intelligence in them, something he rarely saw outside the military. Her fingers tightened around the strap of her rucksack curved across her shoulder. He’d been a Delta Force operator and missed nothing. If she was ex-Army, she didn’t act like office personnel at all. No, she was carefully assessing him on every potential level as he was her. There had been women in Delta Force for over a decade. She certainly behaved like an operator and his respect for her was already amping up. He halted at the end of the counter. “I’m Travis Ramsey. How may I help you?”

The woman looked disheveled, but clean, her clothes showing wear and tear. Something pinged his intuition as she headed toward him, her lips set in a line that suggested she was afraid of his response to whatever she wanted or needed from him. Travis couldn’t prove it, but he never dismissed an intuitive hit. It had saved his life way too many times.

“I’m Jesse Myers. I was walking in the woods along the Bitterroot River when I saw a red caboose in the nearby meadow. I went to the county Recorder’s office here in Hamilton to find the owner and they said it belonged to you.” She hesitated and then said, “I’m looking for a place to rent. I have a part time job at Katie’s Koffee Bean down the street. I can’t afford much, but I would take good care of that boxcar if you’re open to renting it to me.”

Stunned by her request, he nodded, watching fear and hope alternate in her eyes. “You did your homework.”

Jesse managed a weak smile. “It’s my nature. I fell in love with the caboose and thought it would be a great place to stay. I’m not making enough money to rent something in town, yet. I could clean it up, maybe paint it and repair some of the things inside and make it livable once more. I’m pretty good with mechanical and electrical stuff.”

Travis liked her low, husky voice. She might be fearful that he’d say no, but she stood her ground and kept good eye contact with him. “You have family around here?” Hamilton was a town of four-thousand plus people and he knew all of them because his family was one of the first to settle in this town.

Shaking her head, she said, “No, sir, I don’t. I was born and raised in Billings, Montana, and that’s where my folks live.”

Things didn’t add up. “And you’ve come to Hamilton to get a job?” Travis knew there were no jobs after tourist season, which ended in late September and didn’t begin again until the first of April. Everyone who worked here was seasonal. What was her story?

“Yes, sir, I have. Growing up, my parents favorite place to go for a weekend or a vacation was Hamilton. I’ve always loved this small town, the people, and how it’s surrounded by nature.” She gave a slight shrug. “I’m not a city person even though I was born in Billings. I need the outdoors, the woods, the water and the quiet.”

She appealed to him on so many levels that Travis felt momentarily rocked by that unexpected awareness. Jesse’s short hair was mannish in cut and that triggered something in him that he hoped to explore with her. “Listen, I’ve got an espresso machine at the rear of the store. Why don’t we go back there, have a cup of coffee and we can talk?” He gestured toward the front door. “There isn’t going to be anyone coming in today. I just bought a half-dozen fresh pastries from the Las Palomas Bakery next door. Let’s talk further in my office?” He wasn’t looking for a woman, but damned if Jesse Myers didn’t call strongly to him, man-to-woman. She was clearly mature for her age, had morals and values because she went to the county office to find out who owned that caboose and then asked to rent it. He’d seen some vets who passed through the area in the summer who squatted and used the caboose, never asking if they could stay there or not. He liked her honesty.

“Well…”

He gestured toward the other end of the store. “Come on. It’s early and I don’t know about you, but hot coffee is something we can all use this time of morning.” Military people were coffee hounds of the first order. He saw her eyes widen momentarily, those thick dark lashes emphasizing them. Pleased, he saw the offer appealed to her.

“Sounds good, Mr. Ramsey.”

“Call me Travis and you can put the ‘sir’ away, too. I’m ex-Army. Are you?” he asked, walking down the length of the counter. He met her at the other end and opened the door to the tourist area of the shop. The waiting room was large, lots of wooden chairs with cushions spaced neatly around the perimeter. At one end was a long table filled with paper coffee cups, boxes of assorted teas, sugar, cream, and spoons, and a very expensive espresso machine. “Put your rucksack on a chair and have a seat,” he invited. Partly shutting the door, he went and turned the machine on. “Coffee? Espresso? What’s your poison?” He grinned a little, wanting the tension she carried to dissolve. He saw her gently set the fifty-pound pack on the floor next to the chair where she sat down.

“Just plain coffee is fine. Black. Thank you.”

Her manners were all military and Travis nodded, getting busy making her that coffee. “Reach over and grab yourself a donut or two,” he said, pointing to a box near where she was seated. “Help yourself. Alex Delgado, the daughter of Hector and Maria, now runs the bakery and she’s known as the queen of pastries around Hamilton. They all taste great.” Jesse was a tall, big boned woman and he noticed how the wrinkled Army jacket hung on her frame. He saw her look wistfully at the pastries and lick her full lower lip. Her hands were taut against the thighs of her jeans. She was hungry. The realization hit him hard. In black ops, it was the little things, jigsaw puzzle pieces that alone, didn’t tell much. But as an operator in Afghanistan for far too long, it was all these tidbits that came together to paint a fuller picture of a situation. Or in the case of Jesse, that she was definitely an Army vet. There was no question in his mind about that.

Further, she had hesitated momentarily at the door to the coffee room to thoroughly evaluate it. This told him she was clearly an operator, not some office assistant. Maybe she was an Intelligence officer or maybe an operator out in the field like himself? When she came into the room after sweeping it thoroughly in a moment with her gaze, she deliberately sat down in one corner, at the end of the table, her back up against a wall, facing the only exit door. An operator always did that. As he put the coffee into the machine, placing a white paper cup beneath the spout, he began to cobble more of her story together in his head. If she’d been in combat, more than likely she had PTSD. The fact that she wasn’t at home after leaving the Army told him that. He had many friends, ex-Delta operators, who had their marriages go bust after coming off a deployment because of the years of accumulated PTSD and being unable to adjust to civilian life again. They couldn’t go home to their parents, either, because they wouldn’t understand the flashbacks, the nightmares, and the ongoing anxiety they carried in them 24/7/365, either.

His mouth flexed in sympathy as he watched her from the corner of his eye. She rose in one fluid motion and picked up a paper napkin, her long, elegant looking fingers hovering over the mouth-watering array of pastries. When she leaned over, her jacket opened and he saw she was wearing a desert tan shirt he was very familiar with. It was an operator’s shirt, with camouflage print on both long sleeves and a tan torso core of one color. Yeah, she was black ops, no question.

“Where were you stationed in Afghanistan?” he asked, turning and placing the steaming brew on the table next to where she’d sat down.

Jesse froze for a second, transfixed by the man’s large, slightly narrowed gray eyes as he buttonholed her with that question. His dark brown hair was cut military short, his beard clipped close, showing off his square face and giving him an air of dangerousness. Trying to slough off her shock that he knew what she was in the Army, she replied, “Nangarhar Province.” Tensing, she saw several emotions flit across his face. How the hell would he know that about her? She hadn’t answered his question earlier about being in the Army. The chocolate éclair teased her wide-open senses. Her mouth watered. The scent of the sugar, vanilla pudding and chocolate was too much to resist and she bit slowly into it, savoring it as if her life depended upon it. Closing her eyes, she made a humming sound in the back of her throat. The world stopped in that moment as she tasted the luscious, thick chocolate coating. He finally swallowed, feeling it hit her hungry stomach, the urgent amount of strength that it created within her as the glucose shot into her system.

Slowly, her senses moved outward once more and she heard Travis tinkering with the espresso machine, the fragrance of chocolate surrounding her as the machine hissed and steamed. Opening her eyes, she saw he was making a large mocha latte. He was a tall man, at least six-foot-tall and broad shouldered. The blue plaid flannel cowboy shirt he wore stretched against his powerful chest, with a black leather vest worn over the shirt. He was someone who was in top shape, probably in his late twenties, she would guess. There were a lot of crinkles at the corners of his gray eyes, telling her he was outside a lot. She liked his short dark brown hair that sported reddish strands among them.

She decided to take a closer inspection of him because no one was a mind reader. His hands were large, square and calloused. When he made a gesture, she saw that he sported a thick callous on the inside of his right index finger, his trigger finger. Black ops all had that telltale sign. She had it on hers, as well. And he might have spotted it on her hand after she’d removed her gloves. When she’d come into the store, she’d seen him suddenly shift almost invisibly, into a heightened space of alertness aimed at her. It was nothing obvious, but her senses were far too honed not to pick it up and now, she was beginning to put together that this man standing in a cowboy shirt, jeans and scarred, well-worn leather boots, was black ops himself, not regular Army–otherwise he wouldn’t have recognized who she was. Questions came, but she sat on them. Right now, she needed a place to rent. Besides, he’d probably find her personal questions rude.

END OF INSTALLMENT #3!

Stay tuned for next Monday’s installment #4 BOXCAR CHRISTMAS on 12.25.17!!

Have you missed the 1st Exclusive Excerpt?
Go here: https://wp.me/pBmdA-Dpt

Have you missed the 2nd Exclusive Exerpt?
https://wp.me/pBmdA-DpC

If you missed Lindsay’s Blog on the “Story behind the story” of BOXCAR CHRISTMAS?
Go here: https://wp.me/pBmdA-Dpp

Happy Holidays!

http://www.lindsaymckenna.com

PRE-ORDER: BOXCAR CHRISTMAS on all platforms except for Google
paperback and ebook and audio!

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EXCLUSIVE EXCERPT #2 BOXCAR CHRISTMAS by Lindsay McKenna

December 11, 2017

CHAPTER 1—continued
BOXCAR CHRISTMAS
Exclusive excerpt 2
12.11.17

Jesse opened the door, feeling guilty about trespassing. It creaked as she pushed it open. Stepping inside, she shut the door and turned, peering around the gloomy interior of the caboose because the sun still hadn’t risen above the carpet of evergreens on the slope above where it sat. She spotted a propane gas stove, a table with two simple, carved wooden chairs nearby, and a bed at the other end of it. In the middle of the car was a kitchen sink and opposite the sink was a long leather couch. To her delight, there was also a rocking chair and an overstuffed leather chair that probably housed a lot of field mice, the stuffing looking like popcorn along the thin, separating seams of leather. The couch was long enough to sleep on and was a possibility because the mattress on that bed looked very old and needed to be replaced. But she considered it a far better upgrade to her tent.

It was dusty and dirty, mouse pellets scattered here and there along the dulled oak floor. Some parts of the oriental carpet had been eaten into, probably by mice who took those fibers to make a warm nest somewhere else in the car. Walking to the other end of the caboose, she saw that the bedroom was roomy with a full-sized bed in it. A few blankets that were probably once folded at the bottom were now open and spread haphazardly across bed. Some of the drawers were partially opened, and appeared to be empty and in dire need of some deep cleaning.

This caboose could become a good place to protect her from the coming winter, and she could buy a tank of propane to keep the boxcar warm instead of freezing to death from hypothermia in her tent. Not wanting to think about her downfall during the last year she had been in the Army when all her hopes and dreams were smashed and shattered, Jesse walked toward the center of the caboose and studied the ivory colored Formica counter that surrounded the double aluminum sink. This was a place that could be cared for once again. Brought back to life. Seeing herself in the same condition as this boxcar made her want to stay here and use it as a place to begin to heal from her recent past. The last year of her enlistment in the Army had turned into a nightmare, because she’d been out of control, unable to fit in and be ‘normal’ in order to perform her duties.

She mentally calculated her weekly salary and compared it to what a tank of propane gas would cost, plus having to buy food, and needing a source of water in order to survive. The numbers churned in her head. Maybe some blankets and a pillow would be a nice addition as well. She’d seen a Goodwill store in Hamilton that would be the perfect place to pick up used bedding. Her parents had wanted to give her money to survive on until she could get a good job and manage her life once more, but she’d refused it. They had worked hard for their savings and Jesse didn’t want to steal from their nest egg meant for retirement. Maybe she could call them in a couple of weeks if she could keep this new job and ask for a loan. And then she would pay it back or else. Jesse had never taken a handout in her life. She’d always worked hard for everything she’d earned, just like her parents had.

The morning light filtered in through the windows of the caboose, illuminating the interior. She could see the electric lights along both walls, sconces that still had a hurricane lamp in each of them–dirty but still looking usable. There were no electric lines out here and she looked around for a generator outside somewhere, but saw nothing. At another time, there must have been one because the sconces would only work if there had been a generator present. Besides, even if there had been one, she couldn’t afford to pay for the gasoline needed to run it. And she didn’t have any wheels. She had to walk everywhere, no matter what the weather did around her. Still, she felt a trickle of hope because the oak tongue-and-groove ceiling looked solid–there were no leaks along it to indicate water had gotten inside, and that was good news.

Stepping carefully to the meadow-facing side of the car, she grazed one of the windows with her fingertips. They were in dire need of a good cleaning and the insulation around the frames needed to be replaced so heat wouldn’t leak out and make the car drafty. The tatty old red and yellow Oriental rug beneath her boots was smudged with dirt and hadn’t been swept for a long, long time. She looked around and spotted a long, vertical door near the kitchen table. Going over to it, she opened one side panel of the door. To her delight, there was not only an ancient looking broom, but dust clothes hanging off hooks, a mop, two small aluminum buckets and several usable sponges. Everything she’d need to clean up this place.

She treaded lightly, her Army boots heavy and clunky, the floor creaking here and there. Jesse closed the closet door, turned and simply absorbed this small, comfy looking place. It could truly become a temporary home for her. Her eyes adjusted to the low dawn light, and she realized this was more than a fishing and hunting cabin. The small kitchen table against the wall was still covered with a dusty red and white checkered tablecloth. A pair of cut glass salt and pepper shakers stood in the middle of it. On a shelf above the kitchen sink, she saw dust-laden, brightly colored Fiesta dishes. To her right, were more shelves that held a set of bowls, a couple of aluminum pans and some cookbooks. Jesse liked the feeling in this caboose. It truly had been someone’s home once. The person probably lived here full time, her intuition told her. Maybe years earlier it had been a warm, cozy house, but now, it had been abandoned for some unknown reason, no longer loved and cared for. She wondered who had made this caboose his or her home. She liked the small bathroom next to the bedroom. There was a shower stall in there as well as a Formica counter with an aluminum bowl in it.

The caboose was forty feet long and ten feet wide: four-hundred square feet of living space. It felt like a warm nest to Jesse and she couldn’t explain why this beaten down train car suddenly meant so much to her. She managed a strangled laugh because symbolically and physically, she was beaten down, too. The inside of her looked like the inside of this car. But even in disrepair, the caboose showed the potential of what it could become if a little care and love was bestowed upon it. Was the same true of her? Could that be her outcome as well?

The right thing to do was to walk back into Hamilton, locate the county Recorder’s office and find out who owned the caboose on this property. She needed to know because she wasn’t going to just move in without permission. Even though this train car was in disrepair, it was owned by someone. Maybe, if she could find the owner, she could ask them to allow her to live in it, hoping that the rent wouldn’t be very much and that she could afford it. Jesse adamantly refused to become a squatter. In her world of morals and values, one didn’t just take over a house of any kind without permission and without paying some sort of rent. She already felt guilty enough that she’d entered the place without permission. The door wasn’t locked, but that wasn’t an excuse to trespass. That wasn’t like her, but she was invisibly driven to explore the inside of it.

She turned and she left the caboose, shut the door and carefully made her way down to the concrete slab where it sat. She picked up her heavy pack and unstrapped her tent—there was a lot to do today. This was her off day from work and it would take thirty minutes to walk through the woods to the south end of Hamilton. Hope threaded through her, feeling grateful that she’d miraculously stumbled upon this place. She placed her rolled up tent on the metal and wood platform of the caboose. If she couldn’t find the owner, she would pitch her tent just inside the evergreen tree line for protection from the elements and stay in it, instead. Jesse took out her phone, a gift from her parents, she located the GPS for the caboose. That information would be instrumental in locating the owner. Hitching the heavy knapsack that carried everything she owned in it, Jesse gave the red caboose a wistful farewell look and then turned away, heading into the woods to walk back into Hamilton. Glancing at her watch, she realized that she would have to locate the county seat office and wait until they opened up at nine a.m. END OF INSTALLMENT #2!

Stay tuned for next Monday’s installment #3 BOXCAR CHRISTMAS on 12.18.17!!

Have you missed the 1st Exclusive Excerpt?
Go here: https://wp.me/pBmdA-Dpt

If you missed Lindsay’s Blog on the “Story behind the story” of BOXCAR CHRISTMAS?
Go here: https://wp.me/pBmdA-Dpp

Happy Holidays!

http://www.lindsaymckenna.com

PRE-ORDER: BOXCAR CHRISTMAS on all platforms except for Google
paperback and ebook and audio!

CHRISTMAS CONTEST #2 from Lindsay McKenna!

December 10, 2017

Dec 10-15, 2017

PRIZE:
Audio tape of a Lindsay McKenna Christmas novella!
SNOWFLAKE’S GIFT

Contest open to readers worldwide.
December 10 – December 15, 2017
STORY:
Two veterans—one human, one canine—have returned to Montana to recover from the traumas of war. Former Army Ranger Nick Conway depended on his WMD dog Snowflake to help him navigate IEDs on the battlefield. Now he needs his best friend to help him cope with his PTSD and acclimate to civilian life. When he meets Holly McGuire and agrees to help her deliver meals to the needy, her inner light calls to him, but his demons hold him back from giving in to his attraction. But Snowflake takes an immediate shine to the kindhearted Holly—and Nick knows his trusty companion has never led him down the wrong path!

Winner will be announced on December 016, 2017 on the Lindsay McKenna Facebook page. If you aren’t subscribed to me on this page, you will NOT miss being the winner because I’ll be emailing you as well!

Just click on this link, sign up, and a winner will be randomly chosen after the close of the contest!

http://lindsaymckenna.com/contest/

CONGRATULATIONS for signing up! Good luck!
and, Happy Holidays!

EXCLUSIVE EXCERPT from BOXCAR CHRISTMAS by Lindsay McKenna!

December 4, 2017

Hi Readers
A special series of “gifts” are coming your way between Dec. 4, 2017 and January 1, 2018 when BOXCAR CHRISTMAS is released!

I’m planning a special EXCERPT from this heartwarming Christmas story once a week. Every MONDAY, look for a new except from this book!

EXCERPT #1:
Exclusive Excerpt from Boxcar Christmas by Lindsay McKenna #1

CHAPTER 1

November 1
Hamilton, Montana

“It wasn’t much to look at. The wooden slats that made up the ancient red caboose were weathered, the boxcar sitting on the edge of a flat yellow grass meadow, backed by thousands of evergreens in western Montana. Early November wind whistled and cut at Jesse Myer’s exposed face. She felt the icy morning coldness seep through her rain dampened olive green Army jacket as she emerged cautiously out of the woods. She had discovered the boxcar while hunting rosehips scattered along the banks of the Bitterroot River. It was a source of protein for her tightened, gnawing stomach in want of food.

The large, oval-shaped meadow bordered the water and the rose hips were a substantial source of food when in the back country. She chewed slowly on another one, knowing it was packed with nutrition. Shivering, she felt hope spike through her as she walked out of the woods that lay west of Hamilton, a small hunting and fishing tourist town. She had followed the river in search of a place to pitch her tent outside the city limits.

Standing on the edge of the meadow, she fully surveyed it. It rained at dusk last night and then snowflakes had fallen thick and fast throughout the nighttime hours, and toward dawn the ground was covered with about six inches of the white stuff. As a gray dawn sluggishly crawled upon the eastern horizon, the flakes had turned into a soft, constant rain once more. Most of the snow had melted as the temperature rose, but patches of white still existed here and there–it was an Indian summer event. Jesse sincerely hoped that it meant warmer weather would come into the area and warm it up for a couple of weeks while she hunted for a place to live.
She’d discovered the ancient Union Pacific caboose at the edge of the meadow by accident. There was no telling how old it was, the slats of tongue-and-grove wood that composed its sides were worn , the paint chipped off but still solidly in place despite the harsh winter weather that it had obviously endured over the years. There were no railroad tracks around from what she could see. The under carriage of the caboose had been removed and it had been set upon a rectangular concrete slab, reminding her of the tiny house craze sweeping through her Millennial generation.

Her gaze absorbed the forty-foot long boxcar and she could see that at one time, it had been well cared for. But now, it looked utterly abandoned, the paint dull and peeling off the sturdy oak staves beneath it. Someone had brought this caboose out here. Was it someone who lived in Hamilton? Maybe the owner of this plot of land used it as a cabin to hunt and fish on weekends? Jesse had no idea, but there it was. Maybe it could be a possible home for her instead of the tent she had strapped to the huge knapsack she carried on her back. She wanted to make sure no one was living in it presently and thought about trespassing to find out–even though it went against her grain. Jesse couldn’t explain the allure to do just that.

She called out several times, her voice echoing around the meadow. There was no response or movement from inside the boxcar. The four windows along the meadow side were dirty, and she longed to clean them. Deciding either no one was home or living in it, she curved her hand around the rusted metal railing at the rear platform of the boxcar and took the first tentative step upward. The ends of each wooden step curved upward from age and now rested precariously on the metal frame beneath each one, the nails pulled out by rain and snow over the years. The step groaned. Not that she weighed that much. In the Army, she had been a hundred and sixty pounds; but three months ago, when she received an honorable medical discharge at the end of eight years of service, she had slowly lost at least twenty-five pounds due lack of appetite and no money to buy food. Her Army jacket, the only reminder of her life since age eighteen, hung loosely on her frame.

Her gloves were threadbare, her fingertips numb. She hauled herself up the rest of the creaking wooden steps and leaned forward, cupping her hands around her eyes and peering through the dirty glass of the door to see what was inside the caboose. It was a possible place to live but she had no money for a room rental. She’d just gotten a job at Katie’s Koffee Bean in Hamilton as a dish washer. But it was part time and Jesse had no money yet to rent a room in town, much less an apartment. She had lived in her tent since leaving the Army and was prepared to do it now, but maybe her luck was about to change.”

Stay tuned for more exclusive excerpts from Boxcar Christmas!

Release Date: 1.1.2018
pre-order: now
Visit: http://delos.lindsaymckenna.com/book/boxcar-christmas/ and click on “BEHIND THE STORY” of why I wrote this Holiday novel! Enjoy!