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Enjoy this historical romance prequel to Zee Irwin's upcoming contemporary romance book:
Single Santa,
the first book in the new Welcome to Kissing Springs small town romance series.

WTKS covers coming soon (Instagram Post).png

The small town of Kissing Springs, Kentucky, is so special. It’s rich in history, too. Between a beautiful location next to a spring and two feuding families, we thought readers might want to know more about the origins of the town and the fated lovers that started a feud that would span generations.

Welcome to Kissing Springs: The Prequel, by Peggy McKenzie

This historical romance prequel introduces to you to important facts about the now infamous feud between Wesley Boyd and Monty Montgomery, the dubious forefathers of Kissing Springs, Kentucky. It gives a glimpse of how two young lovers, Ben and Katie, meet and fall in love as the feud begins. Feel the connection between the past and the present in Kissing Springs, Kentucky, where love and legend begin.

Enjoy,

Peggy McKenzie

* * *

Prequel

June 1873

Fifteen-year-old Benjamin Montgomery had been in the saddle since early morning and his weary bones were ready for a break. He rode alongside his family’s wagon, keeping his horse’s gait slow and steady. With his parents and four younger siblings, he had called this wagon home for the past three weeks.

He knew it would take a whole hell of a lot longer to get them all to California, and he wished he could have stayed back home in West Virginia. Would have, if his mother hadn’t begged him to go with them. She’d been in tears, so upset at the prospect of leaving her home Ben hadn’t had the heart to say no.

His father was another matter. Montague Montgomery had asked no one if they wanted to leave everything behind and move across the country. No, he’d told his family they were going, and that was that. He never once took into consideration what anyone else thought about the matter—including his wife. Didn’t his mother deserve a vote?

“We’re stoppin’ to let the team rest,” his father declared and guided the team of six bony mules off the main road despite his wife’s protests.

“But, Monty, we won’t make it to the wagon train meeting place if we stop now. I wanted to get our place in line before all the spaces up front are taken. There’ll be so much dust toward the back and Ezra is allergic to the dust. He’ll get sick again.”

“I’m tired, Nelda Jane, and I said we’re stopping.” His father guided the team onto the level ground next to the road and then turned them down a slight dip to cross tall blades of Kentucky grasses.

“Monty, what are you doing? You can’t see the ground. What if there’s a hole or a ditch? We’ll break a wheel!” Ben heard the fear in his mother’s voice.

“Relax, I just want to get off the main road, and there’s a nice wide stream over there. I’m planning to spend a few days here. With water nearby, you’ll be able to catch up on our dirty clothes and cook some decent meals.”

His mother ignored her husband’s usual barbs. Instead, she focused on the thing that mattered most. “A few days? Monty! We’ll miss the wagon train to California.”

“We won’t miss the train. We still have a week before it pulls out, and we won’t break a wheel. Have I ever steered you wrong before, Nelda?”

“I don’t think you want the answer to that question,” his mother said quietly, but her words fell on deaf ears.

Just then, the wagon’s back left side took a hard dip and the sound of splintering wood cracked through the quiet wooded meadow.

“Oh, Monty, I knew something like this would happen!” Ben heard his mother’s voice warble with emotion. He wondered why she’d put up with the man all these years.

Soon, Ben’s family of seven was standing knee deep in the tall, rich grasses of a Kentucky hillside. They were all wondering how they were going to get out of this situation, but he knew his pa was expecting someone else to come along and make things right. That wasn’t likely way out here in the middle of nowhere.

His pa got down off the wagon and started giving orders. “Ezra, you and Jacob help your ma down and get her cookin’ pots out and get a fire started. Adam, you unhitch the mules and take ‘em down to the stream. Get ‘em watered and then tie a picket line between those trees there.”

Pa pointed to a cluster of trees near the fast-moving stream. “Ben, get the water bucket and get some water fer ya ma to cook with, and take the horses with ya and get them watered, too.” He spat out orders while he studied the broken wheel.

Ben pulled the water bucket off the side of the wagon and hurried away. Just out of range of his pa’s insults, he turned the wooden bucket upside down and sat while the horses drank their fill.

This spot of Kentucky was a beautiful place, for sure. The heavily wooded landscape started just on the other side of the stream and continued up the slow rise into the distance as far as the eye could see. There was a lot of timber on this piece of land. 

Ben studied the stream itself, noting the rocky bed underneath the clear water. It was too deep to take a wagon through. Probably a good six or eight feet deep and maybe ten to twelve feet wide. A wagon couldn’t make it, but a horse could.

For two cents, he’d jump on his horse and ride off. Where didn’t matter. Anywhere that didn’t include his pa, but then he thought about his ma and brothers and sister. He couldn’t leave them behind now any more than he could when they left home and begged him to come with them. For the time being, he was stuck traveling with his woebegone family. 

The steep, straight banks of the stream led his gaze upstream. He listened and swore he heard the rush of fast-moving water. “Maybe there’s a waterfall over the ridge,” he exclaimed.

Suddenly, Ezra and Jacob were laughing and chasing each other around him. “I thought Pa told ya’ll to help Ma. What are you two doing up here?”

“We did help Ma, but she told us to get out from underfoot. So, now we’re playin’, okay?” Jacob announced. Ezra eyed the bucket in Ben’s hand. “And I thought Pa told you to get Ma some water.”

“He did, but I’m exploring. Can ya’ll take the water to Ma?”

“Sure.” Jacob answered and reached for the bucket. 

“Where you goin’?” Ezra wanted to know. 

“Like I said, exploring.”

“Can I go too?” Ezra stood next to him and patted Adam’s paint horse on the neck. 

“How about you take the horses back to camp instead?” 

“Nah, I’d rather explore,” Ezra declared. 

“You can ride my horse back to camp.”

Ezra’s eyes lit up. “I can?” A look of suspicion clouded his excitement. “Do I have to brush them down when I get there?” Ezra groused.

“No, I’ll do it when I get back.” 

“Where ya goin’?” 

“Just exploring. Maybe I can find us some blackberry bushes and Ma can make us some of her shortbread biscuits.”

“Ain’t got no cream to put on ‘em.”

“No, there’s no cream, but we can put honey on top to make them sweet,” Ben suggested, knowing if he could convince his brothers to take the water and horses, he would have some time to explore before his pa started yelling for him. 

“Okay, if you promise.” 

“I promise, and you know I never break a promise.” 

“Yeah, we know.” 

He helped Ezra mount his gelding and handed him the reins to Adam’s paint. Jacob was content walking back since he had to get the water for Ma. 

“No runnin’ the horses now, Ezra. Pa will be mad.” Ben admonished his younger brother. 

“I won’t.“ He stood in place and watched the two of them head back toward camp. They were good kids, so he didn’t worry much about them getting into any trouble along the way. Confident they would be fine, he turned and started the climb up the steep hill to see what was waiting at the top.  

* * *

Twenty minutes later, he topped the rise. “Hello!” A man’s voice called out a greeting to him. He stopped short, stunned to hear the voice of another living soul out here in the wild, but even more shocking was the sight of a nearly completed grist mill sitting on the bank in front of a rushing waterfall. 

Ben raised a hand to acknowledge the unseen man and headed in the direction he’d heard the man’s voice. It seemed to come from the general area of the mill. “Um, hello,” he called back.

It was then he saw a man on the backside of the mill loading a wagon with things from the mill’s interior. Personal things. From the looks of the amount of things already loaded on the wagon, the man had been living here for some time. What on earth would make a man want to live out here? And in a mill? Ben wondered. 

“Hello, yourself.” The man set the rocker in his arms down on the ground and paused to shake Ben’s hand. 

“You live here?” Ben inquired, shaking the man’s hand in greeting.

“Did. Don’t no more.” The man didn’t elaborate, so Ben nodded toward the wagon.

“That’s quite the load. Going far?” 

“Yeah, gonna try my luck in Kansas. I tried to hang on here, but the money ran out, so gotta go someplace where I can work.” 

“Is that a grist mill? And that looks like the makings of a lumber mill up there.” Ben pointed toward the half built building a little further past the mill, determined to learn the man’s story.

“Yeah, well, it’s the start of one. Had to sell it to a man from back East.” He picked up his rocker and tied it to the side of the wagon with a piece of short rope.

“So, did you build this?” 

“Me and my brother and our pa. But Pa died a couple of years ago, and my brother got the gold fever and run off to California to find his fortune. Wish he’d found it before I run out of money,” the man joked. “Anyway, I hate to leave because we coulda made something outta this place, but like I said, a man’s gotta have money to hang on until the town comes.”

“What town?” Ben looked around in confusion. “If you don’t mind me asking.” 

“Don’t mind at all, son. Guess it won’t hurt to tell ya since it don’t matter to me no more. Ya see that meadow down below?”

“Yeah.”

“That’s where the town was gonna go. Look around ya, son. There’s money just standing around in those tree trunks. And this here is a natural spring, coming right outta the ground on up the mountain there. Been here probably a couple thousand years, way before anybody lived here. Anyway, this stream is perfect for milling lumber and sending it downstream to be loaded on wagons and hauled away. And this here waterfall is just right to provide the power needed to propel a grist mill. And where there’s lumber, there’s people building. That’s where the town was gonna come from.”

Ben was confused. What would make people stop in the middle of nowhere to build a town? “But, Mr., um...”

“Jackson. Harvey Jackson is the name.” 

“Ben Montgomery. My family is camped downstream there. Your land?”

“Nice to meet you, Son. Yeah, my land, but I ain’t got no problem with a decent family stopping here for a spell.” 

“I appreciate it. Um, Mr. Jackson, I know what ya said about money in the timber, but why anyone would build a town here? Why would anybody even stop here?”

“I thought the same thing, but my Pa made me see different. When you think about it, it makes sense. I got five hundred acres upstream of fine timber. Downstream, I got another three hundred acres that makes a great stopping point for all the travelers on that road.That road there you just drove in on is a main thoroughfare for all the wagons and sod busters headed west. Missouri, Kansas, Wyoming, Colorado, Oregon, California. All those places connect along that road right there.” He pointed toward the road Ben and his family had just left.

“Me and my brother and pa was gonna build a mercantile store with the first lumber we milled. Then, we was gonna fill it with everything those travelers could possibly want. And then, we was gonna hire some freight haulers to bring grains in here. And make hay with all that tall Kentucky grass down in the meadow. We’d have a regular little community right here on part of that three hundred acres downstream.”

Ben was beginning to see the merit in Mr. Jackson’s ideas and his remote milling ideas.

“We dreamed of creating a nice, friendly town where a traveler and his family could stop for a rest, and if they had a change of heart and decided they’d made a mistake about heading west, cause it’s so far and all, they could change their minds. Yep, we wanted to start a little town here and call it Jackson’s Springs. You know, name it after our family. Build a church. A nice school. And build a store that could furnish everything the people of that town would need to build a new life. But here we are, having to leave it before we got it goin’. It was a mighty good idea, though.” The man’s wistful tone conveyed his regret at having to leave this place. Ben didn’t blame him one bit and he could tell the man was pretty broken up about his situation. 

“I’m truly sorry for your troubles, Mr. Jackson. I wish there was something I could do, but—” 

“Ben? Where’d you get off to? Ezra and Jacob said you went exploring for blackberries. I don’t see no blackberries.”

He turned to see his pa and Adam walking up the hill toward him. “Hey, Pa. Over here.” 

Soon, his pa was shaking hands with Mr. Jackson and introducing himself. “I’m Monty Montgomery. This here’s my boy, Adam, and looks like you already met my eldest, Benjamin.”

“Nice boy you got here, Mr. Montgomery. I was just telling him about my troubles and he was real considerate and understanding.”

“He gets that sympathy stuff from his mother.” His pa paused for a minute and then squinted at the man. “I hope you don’t think there’s anything I can do to help ya out of your troubles, Mr. Jackson. In fact, I’m in need of help myself. Broke a wagon wheel just now, and I was hopin’ you could help me.” Ben was embarrassed at his pa’s lack of empathy for the man, but Mr. Jackson didn’t seem offended by it. In fact, he offered Pa help with the wheel. 

“I got a few spare wagon spokes in the mill I can’t take with me. I’d be happy to let you have ‘em to fix your wheel if you’d like.” Mr. Jackson offered. 

“How much?” His pa demanded to know.

“No charge. Like I said, I can’t take ‘em with me.” 

“That’s very generous of you.” His pa nodded. At least he was grateful, Ben thought begrudgingly. 

While Pa and Mr. Jackson went inside the mill to get the spokes, he and Adam waited outside and were just about to go check out the waterfall when Pa and Mr. Jackson exited the mill. 

“That’s a very interesting plan, Harvey and it’s a shame you have to leave it all behind when you was just gettin’ started real good.” Ben saw the spark of interest in his pa’s eyes which usually meant he was working his next money-making scheme. Perhaps he should warn Mr. Jackson—

Before he could think too much more about how he would warn the man, his pa turned to him and spoke. “Why don’t you and Adam go tell your ma I’ll be down after I help Mr. Jackson load his things.”

Ben thought that was an unusual offer from his pa who didn’t make a habit of helping people. “Adam and I can help too.” Ben started toward the mill when his pa turned and stood squarely in front of him, blocking his path. It was clear his pa didn’t want his help.

“Your ma is gonna be wondering where we are. Get on back to the wagon and tell her…like I said.” He knew not to argue with his pa when his voice held that tone.

“Yes, sir.” He turned to his brother. “Come on, Adam. Let’s go.” 

He threw his arm around his younger brother’s shoulders and together they retraced their steps down the stream, Ben wondering to himself what his father was up to. Whatever it was, he hoped Mr. Jackson was a cautious man.

An hour later, Ben heard the rattle of a wagon leaving the area of the grist mill and he figured Mr. Jackson was leaving. Soon after, his pa shouted out to his family when he grew closer to the wagon. “Nelda Jane! Where the hell are you?” He bellowed. 

His mother hurried from the spot where she was tending the fire. “What is it, Monty? What’s wrong?” She wiped her chafed, red hands on her apron and stood in place. Worry wrinkled her once carefree brow.  

The younger children gathered together beside their mother and watched their pa get closer, wary of his mood. “Nothing is wrong, Nelda. In fact, everything is just right. Unpack that wagon. We’re gonna stay right here.”

* * *

June 1880

Nineteen-year-old Katie Boyd stared at the string of wagons in front of her. An only child, she sat on the hard wagon bench between her parents and wished she could be anywhere but here. “Mother, when can we go home? I miss my friends. I just want to go back home to Ohio.” 

“I know, sweetheart. I do too.” Her mother’s sad expression couldn’t be missed. 

“Then why must we stay? Why must I stay? I want to go back and make my own life. I’m tired of Father dragging us around, and I want my own family and home to care for. My own husband.” 

Her father cut her a hard look and then returned his attention to controlling his mule team, never uttering a word of denial or rebuttal.

“It isn’t fair to keep me here with you two. I’m practically a spinster. Every time I find a young man I like, Father makes his life so miserable, he runs off. Like I said, it isn’t fair.” 

Her father turned to her again. This time, he had something to say. “It’s my job to protect you from the wrong kind of man. Think about it. If someone courts you, with the intention of marrying you, shouldn’t they have enough gumption to stick it out no matter how difficult I make it for them?”

“Just because they run from you doesn’t mean they would leave me at the first sign of hardships.” Katie and her father had had this conversation many times before. 

“Doesn’t it? What makes you think they’ll stay if you get sick and hard times come around? What happens if you have a house full of babies and they get sick and there’s no money and no jobs to allow your husband to provide for his family during hard times? No, if they haven’t got staying in their blood, they haven’t got the commitment you should expect. Trust me, daughter, you’ll thank me some day when you have a man by your side you can depend upon.” 

Their wagon moved up in the long line of wagons as they waited in line for supplies and a place to camp. 

“But why can’t we just go home?” Katie knew the answer already because she’d asked a hundred times. She just kept hoping he would relent from his mission and allow them all just to go home.

“Because I’ve got business here in Monty’s Springs.”

“Grandpa Boyd’s letter again?” Katie’s parents hadn’t exactly taken her into their confidence about the situation, but she wasn’t above eavesdropping if the opportunity presented itself.

Her father started to answer, when a young man who looked to be about fifteen called out to them. “Next!”

Her father slapped the reins against the team’s rumps and moved the wagon forward to stop next to him. “What can I get for ya, Mister?” The young man offered them a friendly smile and raised his slate to take down their order. 

Her pa spoke up. “I’m not here for supplies. I need to speak with the man who owns this place.” 

The boy squinted in the afternoon sun. “That’d be my pa. Got trouble?”

“I don’t know. Maybe, but I won’t know until I speak to the man who has laid claim to this land.”

A man rode up on horseback and spoke to the young man. “Adam, something wrong? You need to keep these wagons moving or they’re going to stack up, and Pa’s gonna get mad.” 

“Can’t be helped, Ben. This gentleman says he needs to talk to Pa.”

The man on horseback turned to her father, but Katie saw those extraordinary eyes of his land on her. Motionless under his gaze, she was struck by the man’s good looks. She could see his thick, dark hair curling against the rim of his hat. But it was his eyes that held her spellbound. Deep blue with a spark of mischief, surrounded by the darkest, thickest lashes she’d ever seen on a man.

He was physically fit and sat tall in the saddle with an air of confidence. She liked that about him right off, but when he offered her that enticing grin of his, she decided she liked everything about him and offered him a welcoming smile in return. 

Her father cut a worried glance in her direction and then addressed the man on the horse. “Um, like I said, mister, I need to speak to the man that owns this place. The boy here said that man is your pa?”

“Yes, sir. Our pa is Monty Montgomery. The owner of Monty Springs, but I am sorry, sir, you’ll have to park your wagon out of line if you’re needing a visit with Pa. Folks behind will get upset if they can’t keep moving.” He held his horse’s reins in one hand and leaned an elbow against his saddle horn, pushing up the brim of his hat with a thumb.

Katie watched him interact with her father. His gaze was open. Friendly. And when his gaze returned to her, his mischievous grin took her breath away. She couldn’t help herself. She blushed.

“And you are?” Her father asked as he gathered up his own set of reins to move the wagon as the man had asked. 

“I’m Ben Montgomery and this is my brother Adam.” Katie knew he was speaking to her father, but his eyes never left her face. “I didn’t catch your name, mister.”

She sensed he was really asking who she was, and she had to admit his interest thrilled her. 

“I’m Wesley Boyd. This is my wife, Abigail.” Katie noticed her father didn’t introduce her. She wanted to elbow him in the ribs, but that would be too obvious, so she remained silently fuming on the wagon seat next to him. 

“And who is this beautiful young lady sitting beside you, Mr. Boyd?” He tipped his hat at her. She could tell by the sparkle in his eyes, he knew her father had not introduced her on purpose.

Father was silent for a moment and she feared he was going to refuse to answer the man’s question, but the man on the horse wasn’t budging. It would have been downright rude to refuse at that point. Her father took a deep breath and blew it out. “This is my daughter, Katie.”

The man’s grin grew wider. He sat straight up and took his hat off and placed it over his heart, offering a mock bow from his saddle. He replied to her father’s introductions. “It is my pleasure to make your acquaintance, Mr. Boyd. Mrs. Boyd,” but his eyes still never left her. “Katie.”

“Hey, what’s the holdup? We’ve been sitting here for over ten minutes to get our order in,” the man driving the wagon behind them yelled. 

“Hold yer horses. Your turn’s comin’.” The young man called Adam yelled and then turned to frown at his brother on horseback. 

Ben straightened in his saddle and repositioned his hat on his head. Katie couldn’t help but notice how wide his shoulders were or how the arms of his shirt bulged when he moved. Her heart stuttered and stumbled. She took a deep breath to calm her pulse and regain her composure, but it wasn’t working. Not when the handsome stranger kept grinning at her.

“We better get this line moving or there’s gonna be trouble. Mr. Boyd, if you need to visit with Pa, the best thing to do is for you to take your wagon down by the stream, find an open campsite, and get settled. There are plenty of places under the tree where it’s shaded and there’s plenty of grass to make your animals happy. Then you can come in and talk to my pa.”

Her father nodded and picked up his reins. “Thank you, Mr. Montgomery. Appreciate your hospitality.” Her father’s words sounded appreciative, but his tone was anything but gracious.

Katie looked to see if the young man took offense to her father’s tone. Apparently not, for he was still grinning in her direction. She blushed again under his scrutiny. What had gotten into her? She wasn’t usually so smitten with a beau at first sight? Beau? Where had that thought come from?

The young man tipped his hat again. “My pleasure, sir. Monty Springs is a friendly town. And I’d appreciate if you’d call me Ben. All my friends do.” 

Katie heard his message loud and clear and she couldn’t wait for him to come check on them tonight. The thought gave her chills of anticipation at seeing him again. Once again, she blushed. 

She saw the stern look on her father’s face when he turned to her and her mother, but he remained silent until he had guided their wagon out of line and down the road toward the stream. Then he turned to Katie. “You are too young to be thinking about that man, Katie. Too young. I won’t hear of it, so don’t even entertain the idea of him courting you.”

Katie was stunned at her father’s response. “But Father—”

“No butts. Abigail, I’m counting on you to keep Katie out of trouble.”

Her mother seemed as shocked as she was at her husband’s response. “Now, Wesley, I think you’re being a bit over—”

“No, I recognize his kind. He’s a rounder. He has a look about him that attracts women like bees to honey.”

“But Father—”

“And besides, he’s too old for you. I’ll bet he’s all of twenty and five and you’ve just turned eighteen. He’s old enough to have experience with the ladies, and I don’t want him having experience with you. Do you both understand me? Abigail? Katie?”

“Yes, Wesley. I understand and I’ll certainly do my best to look out for Katie like I always do, but he seemed like a nice young man. Very polite. Respectful. I’m not sure why you are so against the boy.”

“A man like that…his manners are all an act for me, but give him a chance to get our daughter alone and you’ll see those manners thrown right out the window, along with our daughter’s petticoats.” 

“Wesley! What has gotten into you?” Katie could tell her mother was quite upset with her husband. The sharp looks she gave him left that fact open for all to see. 

Father remained silent and guided the team toward the stream, and stopped in an open spot beneath a large canopy of trees. “I’m sorry. I’m just tired and need a rest, that’s all.”

Katie started to relax, but her pa’s next statement had her even more upset. 

“But I meant what I said. Under no circumstances, Katie, are you to go around that young man. Promise me, Katie.” He pinned her with an unyielding glare as he unhitched the mules and tied a picket line to corral them. Lucky for the both of them, he turned and led the mules away without an answer from her because that was a promise she knew she couldn’t keep. 

* * *

Ben sat on his horse and directed the wagons past the mercantile while Adam took orders, but his mind wasn’t on his job at all. 

It had been two weeks since Katie Boyd and her parents had arrived in town. His pa kept making excuses why he couldn’t meet with Katie’s father and Ben had to wonder why. But the matter wasn’t his affair. All he wanted to do was spend time with Katie Boyd, and her father made that impossible. 

He’d paid a visit to their wagon at least a dozen times during the past two weeks, but every time her father met him to say she’d already gone to bed even though it was barely twilight. Once, he’d even stopped by at noon, but that time her father said she wasn’t feeling well and was lying down.

He wasn’t stupid. Ben knew her father had it in for him and he would not stand for it. That’s why after the first week of roadblocks from her father, the two of them had managed to sneak up to the grist mill late at night. At first, they used their stolen moments to get to know each other, but last night, they had become intimate and he was ready to take the next step.

He had fallen in love with the girl who’d stolen his heart at first sight, and he intended to marry her, whether or not her father approved.

A flick of gold caught his attention. “Katie.” There was Katie disappearing inside his pa’s mercantile store with her father. This was the chance he’d been looking for.

He jumped off his horse and handed the reins to his brother. “Adam, I have something to talk to Pa about.” He didn’t wait for an answer and stepped onto the wooden planked sidewalk and through the mercantile’s doorway. 

His eyes took a moment to adjust to the dimly lit interior, but it wasn’t long before he saw the object of his pursuit looking at a bolt of material at the back of the store. He cast a quick look around the store’s interior and didn’t see her father anywhere. He grinned in delight. 

“I knew I saw you come in,” he said. Katie looked up, and he was glad to see her eyes light up at the sight of him. Her cheeks pinked and his groin ached as thoughts of last night resurfaced. “Does that mean you were watching for me, Mr. Montgomery?” She asked, a coy tilt to her head. 

Unable to wipe the happy grin from his face, he nodded. “Definitely. I’ve missed you.”

Katie laughed and cast a timid look around the store. “How can you miss me when I just saw you last night?” Her whispered words were breathy.

“I miss you every moment we’re apart. Listen, Katie. There’s something I want to ask you, and I’m hoping you’ll be agreeable to it.”

“What is it?” she asked. A sparkle of anticipation shone bright in Katie’s eyes, so he suspected she knew what he wanted to ask. But this wasn’t the place or the time to ask her to spend the rest of her life making a life by his side. No, he wanted to make it a special occasion. 

“Not here. Later. When we’re alone.” Ben reached up and started to tuck a stray curl behind Katie’s ear when he thought better of the intimate jester in the middle of his pa’s busy store, so he dropped his hand back to his side. At least until he knew where her father was hiding. “Where’s your father? I thought I saw him come into the store with you.” Ben casually glanced around the interior of the store.

“He’s in the office there with your pa.” 

“Oh, really?” Ben’s stomach clenched. He knew his pa didn’t want to see Mr. Boyd, and he also knew his pa could be extremely bull-headed when he had his mind set against something. “Do you know what they are talking about?”

“Yes, my father has a letter from my grandfather and he seems to think that somehow this land belongs to him. I know it sounds silly, but he’s convinced of it and he won’t give up until he speaks with your father. Hopefully, they can work it all out.” Katie seemed unconcerned about the conversation, but Ben knew his pa’s nature well enough to know a wrong word or a wrong look could set him off like a match to a fuse on a stick of dynamite.

“I see.” It was all he could think to respond while his mind whirled with disastrous possibilities. 

Just then, the office door swung open and banged against the wall. Ben and Katie turned to hear his pa’s voice bouncing off the mercantile walls. “You can’t come into my place of business and accuse me of stealing from you when you have no proof. I got this land fair and square and I built up everything you see from nothing. Now get out of my store and don’t let me catch you in here again or there’ll be hell to pay. Got that Boyd?”

Ben saw Katie’s father’s face red with anger as he exchanged accusations with his pa. “You don’t have any proof either, Montgomery. I want to know why there isn’t a deed registered in your name. If you own this land, why can’t you show me the bill-of-sale?” Ben saw Katie’s father fisting his hands in rage. There was going to be trouble. He moved toward the two men and stepped between them. 

“I don’t have to prove anything to you, Boyd.” His pa leaned around Ben’s body to deliver his volley to Katie’s father. “And all you got is a stupid letter you found in your deceased father’s effects long after he passed. It’s dated years ago, with no documents to support your claim for this land. I been working eight long years making this place what it is today, and you think I’m gonna let you just walk in here and take it? You’re crazy, Boyd, now get the hell outta my store.” 

Ben could admit to himself he wasn’t one hundred percent sure that his pa wasn’t guilty of something underhanded the day Mr. Jackson left the mill, but eight years of hard work and no proof to the contrary, he had to give his pa the benefit of the doubt, at least…for now.

Mr. Boyd leaned in and pointed his finger at pa, who was still lurking behind Ben’s big frame. “You can’t prove your family owns this land, and until I get to the bottom of exactly what happened, I’m not going anywhere.” Then Mr. Boyd turned to his daughter. “Come on, Katie. Let’s go.” 

Mr. Boyd grabbed his daughter and practically pulled her off her feet toward the front door. “And you stay away from my daughter, Ben Montgomery. If I catch you coming around, you’ll wish you’d stayed away. Mark my words. You’ll wish you’d stayed away.” 

The man didn’t wait for Ben’s response, but the look on Katie’s face nearly broke his heart. He stared at the spot where Katie disappeared and then he looked back at his cantankerous, hard-headed, possibly dishonest pa, and made his decision. He didn’t give a rat’s ass about who won this growing feud between his pa and Mr. Boyd, no matter how much it cost his family.

All he cared about was making that sweet, beautiful young woman with the soulful eyes his. And no one was going to keep the two of them apart. No one.

* * *

We hope you enjoyed a peek into the past.

Now, enjoy the present-day, contemporary romance, Single Santa, the first book of The Welcome to Kissing Springs Series.

In Single Santa, will new town mayor Meadow Boyd fall in love and end the famous old feud when Dillon Montgomery arrives in Kissing Springs?

Begin the Welcome To Kissing  Springs Series Now:

Preorder Single Santa, Book 1 of Welcome to Kissing Springs

In Single Santa, you'll learn the fate of Ben and Katie all those years ago, and see the old family feuds unravel as Meadow and Dillon discover it's better to love than to feud.

Will the magic of a Kissing Springs Christmas resolve an old family feud when the new town mayor gets cozy with a sexy single Santa?

She made a promise.

Newly elected mayor Meadow Boyd has to live up to her campaign pledge of reinventing Kissing Springs, Kentucky as the romance capital of the Midwest, while battling outside developers, doubting townsfolk, and the fact she hasn’t had a date in 365 days.

But who’s counting?

Meadow’s got a half-baked plan and an eye for the future when her high school crush shows up in town like a bad rerun. It would almost be funny that he’s reduced to taking a job as a stripping Santa. But when he takes off that big red coat, she’s reminded of what she’s been missing.

Ho ho—oh no.

He can’t catch a break.

After Dillon Montgomery’s Nashville dreams turn into a nightmare, he’s forced to work for his brother to make ends meet. His first job?

Breaking some bad news to the people in his old hometown.

Despite being cast in the role of Scrooge, he’s excited to spend time with his young daughter over the holidays. That and getting reacquainted with the new town mayor, Meadow Boyd. He somehow overlooked her in high school, but her luscious curves tempt him now. Maybe his luck’s turning around with a new opportunity.

He just didn’t realize how much of the past he’d have to shed to get it.

Dillon didn’t expect to find success here, but he knows a good thing when he sees it. Like Meadow and her big plans for the little town. Her drive gives him something to believe and a new idea of his own.

It’ll take a Christmas miracle for it to work.

Welcome to Kissing Springs, where romance and Christmas miracles come true—sometimes both at once.

Available in Amazon and KU Oct. 25, 2022

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