Montana Born Books
The Millers of Marietta, Book 2
Release Date:

Jun 29, 2023



More From Elsa →

A Match Made in Montana


Elsa Winckler

She’s never forgotten the way the sun lit up Copper Mountain…

Seeking a new beginning after the death of her parents, Annie Miller impulsively moves to Marietta and sets up a bed-and-breakfast in picturesque Bramble Lane. With her brother and sister by her side, it’s a place to heal and forget the fiancé who left her just weeks before their wedding day. Now all she really needs are some customers…

Marketing whiz Craig O’Sullivan is wedded to his work in Portland, but with the cousin he sees as a brother getting married soon, he heads to Marietta for a two-week vacation. As long as his beloved Aunt Janice doesn’t decide to play matchmaker on his behalf he’ll be fine. But when Janice sets him up to help sweet Annie Miller market her B&B, he doesn’t mind at all. There’s something about Annie that makes him want to sell her on the idea of happily ever after. With him.

Craig’s life is in Portland, Annie is bound to Marietta. Can they trust themselves and each other enough to open their hearts and let love in?

Enjoy an Excerpt →

Book cover of A Match Made in Montana by Elsa Winckler. Romantic couple smiling with Montana background.

Other Tule AuthorsYou'll Also Love:

More Tule TitlesYou Might Enjoy:

Start reading this book:

Chapter One

“Damn you’re killing me,” he groaned. His gaze dropped to where her beautiful breasts strained against the top, the hard beads of her nipples tantalizingly visible…

Laughing softly and fanning herself, Annie looked down at her own breasts. “No visible beads, tantalizing or otherwise,” she said out loud touching her one breast.

Still grinning, she picked up the book again. This was why she loved reading romance novels. It was pure fantasy. Dashing heroes, strong heroines, beautiful settings—what was not to like? And of course, she enjoyed the steamy sex scenes, especially since her arrival in Marietta.

Moving across state lines from Sacramento to Montana, and then living for months amidst the chaos of the renovation of her B and B, didn’t leave time for much else, let alone steamy encounters with dashing heroes. The only steamy scenes she encountered nowadays were in the kitchen.

Besides, her one experience with love had left her a little bruised and skeptical about the existence of soul mates and the kind of love portrayed in stories. In a romance novel, no hero worth his salt would text his heroine weeks before the wedding saying he’d met someone else, telling her men no longer want to marry women who only wanted to stay at home and cook.

That did, apparently, happen in real life though. Had happened to her. Dropping the book on her chest she looked up at Copper Mountain rising high above the small town of Marietta she now had the privilege to call home.

If she were honest, not getting to marry Ted Harris was probably one of the best things that could’ve happened to her.

It took her a while but after the initial shock and hurt of Ted’s rejection had subsided, she’d realized she’d loved the idea of getting married much more that she’d ever loved Ted. He certainly hadn’t been the second half that would made her whole as Plato had explained the idea of soul mates centuries ago.

Not everybody was as lucky as her sister Vivian who’d found someone like Aiden who understood her and loved her, warts and all. Annie sighed. Maybe not everybody was destined to find a soul mate.

Looking down at her breasts again, a giggle slipped out. Ted’s quick and uninspiring pecks certainly never had the power to get her nipples to bead.

Laughing softly again, she checked her watch. She had a dinner to start, not lay around reading about kissing and unattainable sexy heroes and letting loose the busy beetles that seemed to occupy her mind.

Janice had also said she’d be stopping by for a quick cup. Janice O’Sullivan, music teacher and also godmother to Annie’s soon to be brother-in-law Aiden, was one of the first people who’d welcomed Annie and her siblings, Mitch and Vivian, in Marietta. Janice was also helping with the arrangements for Vivian and Aiden’s wedding; she probably wanted to talk about that.

Inhaling deeply, Annie closed her eyes. Surely, a few more lazy minutes wouldn’t make such a difference.

It was the end of April, the bitter cold of February had, thank goodness, been replaced with milder temperatures. Moving here from warm temperatures of California, the harsher weather conditions in winter came as quite a shock to all of them.

Fortunately, spring was on its way and, while it was still cold at night, the days were milder. This part of the porch, she’d discovered, got direct sunlight throughout the day, the ideal place to put up a hammock for her guests. Unfortunately, the many guests she’d envisaged visiting her B and B and writing swooning reviews about her food, had yet to arrive.

She’d really hoped by now, two months after the renovation of the house had been completed, her phone would be ringing off the hook and her email box would be brimming with requests from potential guests, but apart from a few visitors over the Valentine’s weekend, it had been quiet. She’d have to find other ways to advertise than just using her website and one online marketplace—that was becoming crystal clear. The truth was, if she wanted to stay in business, she’d need more visitors.

The Spring Arts and Crafts Festival was in ten days’ time and she hadn’t had a single booking so far.

The reason she’d studied to be a chef was mainly so, somewhere along the way, she’d run her own B and B and she could cook for people. She loved doing that, especially for those close to her.

Now her dream had come true, but how to get guests to come and stay here—that was the big question. For the moment, she was still doing okay. Vivian and Aiden were staying here and paying rent while the house they’d bought close by was being renovated. It should be finished by the time they got married in two weeks’ time. Mitch, her brother, was also still living with her and paying rent, but he’d probably also find a place of his own soon.

When Aiden and Vivian moved out, she’d have a problem if she didn’t get more paying guests soon. She’d used her part of their inheritance from their parents to renovate the house. At the moment she still had money in the bank, but it wouldn’t last forever.

There had to be a solution to her problem. Maybe she could ask Craig, Aiden’s cousin, to help her? As soon as the thought popped up though, she repressed it. Ludicrous idea. He was in marketing and a big shot at some or other well-known firm in Portland. Janice liked to brag. Helping a struggling B and B owner would so not be something he’d be interested in doing. Besides, she’d seen him only once when he and Riley, his cousin and Aiden’s sister had been visiting.

Truth be told, the big redheaded Irishman had left her a bit unsettled. Hugging her goodbye when they’d just met—she still wasn’t sure how she felt about those few milliseconds up close and personal with him.

Rolling her eyes, she spoke out loud again. “Focus, Annie, focus. Thinking about sexy Irishmen is not going to help.”

Marketing, that was what she should be concentrating on. On Vivian’s suggestion, she’d listed Annie’s on a well-known marketing place, hoping to attract visitors who would write reviews. However, up until now, there hadn’t been any queries, let alone reviews.

Social media? She groaned out loud. As a last resort. Maybe. She’d never seen the point of sharing every aspect of her life with strangers, seriously. Selling Annie’s though, was also not an option, not after all the renovations and time she’d spent turning it into a friendly, welcoming place. Maybe she should give social media a try. Or another marketing website. Looking around her, she sighed. She loved this place, she had to try and hold on to it.

After their parents’ untimely demise her brother, Mitch had the idea they should relocate to another state. She’d remembered this beautiful town they’d visited with their parents when they were all still at school and when she’d found this house for sale, she knew this was where she wanted to have the B and B she’d always dreamed of.

This place was her happy ending, a place where she could remember Mom and Dad. For a moment, she was reminded of the horrible way they’d died, but she inhaled deeply, willing the sad thoughts away.

She and Mitch and Vivian had all seen a psychologist in Bozeman over the last few months and, although getting over the pain of losing their parents was not a quick fix, she was grateful all three of them were on the journey. She’d also found peace in her daily routine, in the beautiful town they now called home and in the many friends she’d made since moving here.

Happy endings, she’d come to realize after her encounter with that elusive thing called love, didn’t always mean a husband and kids. It could also mean having a B and B filled with guests enjoying her food.

The problem was getting the house filled. She had bookings, but at this point it still was only when Bramble House Bed-and-Breakfast, the famous three-story Victorian house down the road from Annie’s, was fully booked.

“Aargh.” She groaned out loud, rubbing her nose. “Maybe it hadn’t been a good idea to have another B and B in a town the size of Marietta. Maybe—”

“Hi, Annie.” Someone chuckled close by. “You always talk to yourself?”

Annie’s eyes flew open and, as she struggled to sit upright, the hammock swayed, she lost her balance, the book fell to the ground. Arms flaying, she tried to regain some control over her limbs so she wouldn’t actually fall. Seriously, not in front of Craig O’Sullivan, the very man she’d been thinking about.

Big, strong hands caught her just as she was about to tumble to the ground. Before she could catch her breath, she was pulled tightly against a solid wall of muscles rippling against her cheek. Wow. He’d hugged her once before, but it was a quick one, over before it had quite begun. He had to work out, nobody could be this toned and not work out. Maybe she should check…

Sanity fortunately prevailed a millisecond before she actually put a hand out to test whether what she’d felt against her face were really muscles. Appalled at herself, she quickly stepped back. She’d been standing close to him for much longer than need be, what was she thinking? Hard body, rippling muscles—that was what she’d been thinking. A favorite description in those romances she loved to read. Oh, dear, so not something she should be thinking about right now. She didn’t even know the man.

Out of the corner of her eye, she caught a glimpse of the book she’d been reading, lying where it had fallen on the ground. Hopefully he hadn’t seen that.

“Craig…” She was out of breath. Seriously. Trying to pull herself together, she did her best to sound be like a successful B and B owner. “I wasn’t expecting you. How long … have you been here a while?”

His eyes were still twinkling. “Yes.”

She felt like rolling her eyes but stopped herself in time. The one-syllable guy, she’d forgotten. “So you’ve heard …” She motioned with her hand toward the hammock.

“About beads and sexy Irishmen? Indeed.”

Her face flamed, but she tried to ignore it. “You should’ve told me earlier you were here. How can I help you? You haven’t made a reservation that I know of.”

“I’m staying with Aunt Janice.”

“Wow, an actual sentence with a verb and everything,” she got out, sounding more sarcastic than she’d intended. If she’d been in her kitchen making dinner, she wouldn’t have been literally falling at the Irishman’s feet and she wouldn’t be at such a disadvantage and consequently be so mad at herself. “Sorry, didn’t mean to snap. Okay, if you don’t want a room…”

But he wasn’t looking at her; he was bending down to pick up the book she’d been reading. It was one of those earth-please-open-up-and-let-me-disappear moments. She wasn’t embarrassed to be caught reading a romance novel. It was just that this particular one had the picture of a very sexy guy on the cover. Naked torso, rippling muscles, sexy grin—the works. Also not something she was embarrassed about—usually. But having been plastered against a very similar torso minutes ago was making this situation awkward, to say the least.

“Interesting reading,” he said, turning the book over. He’d picked it up as it had been lying on the floor—open. His eyes skimmed over the page before he closed the book and handed it back to her.

Face flaming again, she just about grabbed the book out of his hands. He’d read the page, she was sure of it. And was it her imagination or was he checking out her breasts? In the next millisecond, she froze, her breath hitching way back in her throat. What was happening? Surely, her nipples weren’t actually beading?

Quickly turning away, she glanced down at herself. Oh, my. Look at that. They were doing something very close to beading! This was ridiculous, seriously. She stopped herself just in time from touching her breasts again. Without looking back, she rushed toward her kitchen, her safe place. Hopefully the freaking beading would stop.

“Coffee? Tea?” she called out over her shoulder.

Another chuckle from behind her, but no words. She didn’t dare turn back to face him. As she entered the kitchen, she put down the book on the counter, grabbed the sweater hanging over a chair and pulled it on over her head, sending a silent prayer it would cover her tell-tale breasts.

Still no sound from behind her. Filling the kettle, she began to talk. “You’re a bit early for the wedding, aren’t you? Is Riley with you? How is Janice? I haven’t seen her in a while, we’ve been so busy. I’ve been expecting her, do you know…”

She turned around to find Craig’s deep blue eyes resting on her.

Craig had a hard time—and not only figuratively speaking—not grabbing Annie and kissing her. Watching her touching her breasts… The innocent movement nearly had him falling at her feet. Man, he definitely needed to get out more.

He’d met Annie in February when he and his cousin Riley had stayed in Annie’s B and B for one night. Their main reason for the trip had been to make sure Aiden didn’t let Vivian slip through his fingers.

Because Aunt Janice had been busy helping with the Valentine’s ball, Riley had booked rooms for them at Annie’s after she’d discovered Aiden’s love interest had a sister with a B and B.

During the day and a half he and Riley had stayed here, he’d never seen Annie this flustered. She was the calm one, the nurturing one, making sure everyone around her was happy. Or wait… On impulse, he’d hugged her just before they’d left. She’d blushed and had been clearly rattled by the hug.

So, what had disturbed her usual equilibrium this time? The steamy book she’d been reading, her near fall to the floor? And who was the sexy Irishman she’d been mumbling about? He didn’t know, but he was … intrigued.

What he did know for sure was that for a moment there, standing in front of him, she’d been aroused which in turn had aroused him. Again. Hence the ridiculous thought to kiss her.

His reaction probably had a lot to do with the fact that Annie had, strangely enough, occupied a big part of his thoughts over the last two months since he’d seen her. Usually, he was focused either on his job or on whether Riley or Aiden were okay, but at odd times he’d found himself thinking about the brunette with the big brown eyes and the most beautiful smile he’d ever seen.

Could it be she was also the main reason he’d agreed to visit Aunt Janice two weeks before Aiden and Vivian’s wedding? Or was the restlessness he’d been experiencing over the last few months the reason?

He’d always loved his job in advertising and marketing. He loved the creative aspect of it, the brainstorming, the developing of the plan, taking it to the client and seeing their faces when they saw ideas transformed into practice. It was the other side of the business, having to constantly compete, to be always one step ahead of the rest, that was getting to him. Especially after this last account they’d managed to grab from another competitor. This time he’d been made aware of the consequences for the other company. It had left him uneasy and troubled.

Under usual circumstances, he wouldn’t have dreamt of taking leave and flying to Bozeman to spend two weeks with his aunt. He hadn’t realized how much he needed to get away until he’d received his aunt’s message.

She’d sent a long message to him and Riley telling them there was so much to be done before the big day, it would be nice to have both or at least one of them around to help. And if Aunt Janice asked they helped. She’d been there for them when they’d needed her. Riley was preparing for an exhibition that opened at the end of May, after Aiden’s wedding, so much to his cousin’s amazement, he’d agreed to take leave from work and go and help their aunt.

He never took time away from work, but lately his office seemed to have shrunk, became claustrophobic, making it hard to breathe. The chance to get away for a few weeks, see his aunt, help his cousin get married, and maybe see the lovely Annie Miller as well, had seemed like good reasons to take a much-needed break.

Apart from maybe Riley, there wasn’t anyone in Portland who’d miss him. He had a strictly two-date rule and usually dated more than one woman at a time. He wasn’t interested in getting married, having kids, and settling down in the suburbs with a white picket fence—something he spelled out whenever he dated someone.

“Um … do you know if Janice is also on her way?” Annie asked.

He frowned. A strange question. “Janice said you wanted to talk to me.”

Clearly confused, she stared at him. “No, she—”

Just then her phone rang. “It’s Janice,” she said. “Just a moment. Hi, Janice, I was—” Annie darted a look toward him. “Yes, he’s just arrived, but…”

Silence. Her mouth opened a few times to say something, but Aunt Janice seemed to be on a roll.

Finally, she managed a few words. “But, Janice, I can’t impose—”

Cut short again, Annie walked toward the kitchen window while talking, giving him a chance to study her. Tall and slender, her long hair in a messy ponytail. As he watched, she pulled out the elastic holding it in place. Her hair tumbled down way past her shoulders, the brown hues altering as the strands curled and moved with the nodding of her head. Inside of him, something moved.

“Janice, I really appreciate your suggestion, but…” Another glance in his direction before she reluctantly nodded. “Okay, I’ll do that. Thank you.”

Chewing on her lower lip, she approached him.

That was something else he hadn’t been able to stop thinking about—the way she would chew on her full lower lip whenever she was worried or anxious about anything.

“I’m so sorry about this. Janice means well, I know, but … now you’ve wasted your time.”

“So, you don’t want to talk to me?”

“It’s not that I don’t want—” She rubbed her face. “Janice, bless her heart, wants to help me. I’ve been moaning about the lack of visitors to my B and B, Janice has probably heard about it and thought you could help me with marketing, which of course, is a ludicrous idea. Now you’ve wasted your time and all for nothing.”

“Why ludicrous?”

She threw up her hand. “Because you’re … you. A sexy, hotshot marketing guru from a big firm in Portland and I’m a nobody with a B and B in Marietta, a town most people probably haven’t heard of before.”

His brows shot up. “Sexy?”

Her face was flaming and she turned away, covering her cheeks with her hands. “I can’t believe that’s all you got from what I’ve just said. It’s not that I think you’re sexy … I mean, of course, you are but…”

Moving forward quickly, he tried to stop the chuckle from escaping, but he was going to lose the battle.

End of Excerpt

A Match Made in Montana is available in the following formats:

Book cover of A Match Made in Montana by Elsa Winckler. Romantic couple smiling with Montana background.

ISBN: 978-1-959988-28-1

June 29, 2023

→ As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases. We also may use affiliate links elsewhere in our site.