Christmas Vacation… 6 years ago…
Brooklyn looked forward to meeting Jeremiah’s family and taking a stroll through their quaint little town. If it was anything like in those Hallmark movies, she was sure to love it.
She might have been a wild and carefree soul, but she was also a hopeless romantic at heart. Her break-up with Michael didn’t surprise her, although she expected their relationship to go far, and eventually fall in love with each other.
As the plane descended, she looked out the window, seeing the beautiful cornfields and the animals grazing freely to their heart’s content. She smiled as she thought of meeting the one particular person she has been wanting to meet since Jeremiah mentioned him.
The handsome cowboy she hoped would be like the one in those books she’s read. She could tell Jeremiah had an immense admiration for the man and had spent part of the flight watching rodeo videos, holding her breath every time she would see him fall from the bull or a bronc, thinking he was hurt, only to appear uninjured and walking out as if nothing had happened.
“This should be a fun Christmas,” she said, her heart jumping with excitement. Despite her friend telling her he was as grumpy and as stubborn as a mule, she hoped to be his friend at least and to bring down the layers in his soul.
“Ready to get out of the plane, or are you going to keep obsessing with Marshall?” Bexley asked in her ear, catching her by surprise. Brooklyn hadn’t realized she was lost in thought, with the video on pause; Marshall was still on the bronc.
She slammed the laptop shut and glared at her sister, sticking her tongue at her. “Don’t worry about me, and admit once and for all you like Jezzah. How about that?”
Bexley giggled, ignoring her remark as she followed her family out of the plane.
“It’s not like I’m looking to have something with him,” she muttered. “It would be nice though.” But she was sure Bexley didn’t want her heart broken again, not that there was any heartbreak with Michael. It felt more like a relief to her.
Before she could even step on the ground, she saw a little girl running towards Jeremiah, both of them hugging before she introduced her to them while the older couple that came over from their pickup truck greeted the rest of the family.
She was feeling uncomfortable as her wedges were getting stuck on the muddy grass, cursing herself for thinking she could get away with wearing them in a place like this.
“How are we supposed to fit in just one truck, with no double cab?” she asked Bexley, making her chuckle.
“I’m sure they have someone coming,” her sister replied, just as another pickup truck pulled up. That’s when she knew she was doomed, as hearing his deep voice as he apologized to his uncle made her heart beat faster than it did when she watched his videos.
He was just as she imagined. Tall, broad, and sexy. His dark hair curled up at the ends and was hidden underneath his cowboy hat. “Yes, he sure is like the ones in my books,” she swooned.
Without time to waste, her parents joined the Redds, but Marshall’s truck only had one cab, so Jeremiah and Bexley hopped in the back, sitting on a bale of hay, snuggling against each other.
So much for denying how much she likes him, Brooklyn thought with a smile, rolling her eyes.
“You can go with us in the front. Go ahead!” Sophia said, urging her to hop in before her. Which meant, she would have to sit in between her and her brother.
“Why don’t you let me by the window?” she asked, hoping the girl said yes.
“No, I get carsick and I need the air,” Sophia replied with a mischievous smile. Marshall scoffed, knowing his little sister was lying. How could she feel carsick when she has ridden in the truck all her life, and there hadn’t been any problems at all?
Knowing what she was trying to do, his jaw tightened as the girls hopped on, Brooklyn’s thigh rubbing against his.
“So much for being a gentleman and helping us up,” Brooklyn muttered, getting his attention.
“Excuse me, what?” he asked, raising an eyebrow.
“Ah, nothing. My name is Brooklyn, but you can call me Brooks. All my friends do.”
Marshall chuckled, shaking his head. “Good thing I’m not your friend, Sugar. So no need.”
“Marshall, be nice,” Sophia scolded him from the other side as he drove off towards the road, heading to the Redd’s home.
“That’s okay. I’ve heard he’s not that friendly. But maybe we can change that. Right, Mr. Redd?”
“Whatever the lady said.” In all truth, his palms were sweating over the steering wheel as seeing her had woken up something in him. Since his ex-fiancée left him for another bull rider, who according to her, was better than him, he swore to never fall in love again. But here was this blonde beauty, making him want to break all the rules he’d set for himself.
As they arrived at the Redd’s ranch, she hopped off the truck after Sophia and noticed the big ranch house in front of her. It was a beautiful form of architecture, and she admired it entirely.
Looking to the side, she noticed Bexley and Jeremiah had already disappeared through a barn while Sophia ran into the house, following the rest of the family.
“So, I’ve heard so much about you.” Brooklyn tried to start a conversation with Marshall, while he tried to bring down the luggage from his uncle’s truck. “I even saw some videos. You’re brave to ride such dangerous animals.”
“They’re okay,” he grumbled. “Why don’t you join the family inside?”
She was drawn up by his drawl. His deep voice matched perfectly with it and his bulging muscles hugged tightly under his flannel shirt made her heart palpitate. A true Southern man.
“Oh, okay.” She bit her lips, disappointed as she hoped he would at least be a bit nicer or have a conversation with her. She was too eager to meet the man underneath that rough exterior. But Jeremiah was right, he was ornery and a little anti-social for her taste.
He was still handsome and looked like a man who would love and take care of the woman that steals his heart. Brooklyn decided she would not give up and break down his walls. Bit by bit.
Later in the day, enjoying a cup of hot chocolate and the immense Christmas tree in the living room, she bonded with Sophia, who asked her shamelessly if she liked her brother.
As much as she tried to pretend she didn’t, the little girl was not dumb. She knew by the look in her eyes that Marshall had caught her attention from the moment he stepped out of that truck.
She couldn’t seem to get her eyes off him as he walked back and forth, setting the luggage in the mudroom, taking his boots and hats off, and serving himself some coffee from the pot before sipping it black and with no sugar.
As he heard her ask that question and mention how he needs a girlfriend and he’s too grumpy, he scolded her, and smiling at him, she got off the couch. But not before telling Brooklyn a few last words.
“He needs his caffeine. Strong and none of that darn sugar, as he says,” she giggled.
“I’m sure he just needs a bit of it in his life, right?” Brooklyn asked, to which she nodded and smiled.
“Maybe you could be that sugar in his life, Miss Evans. Who knows? It might take him off that mood his ex-girlfriend left him in.”