Friday, May 13, 2022

Book Blitz and Giveaway: My Favorite Story (Mint Creek Ranch Series #1) by Hilary Dartt

My Favorite Story tour banner
Welcome to my stop on the book blitz for My Favorite Story by Hilary Dartt. This blitz was organized by Lola's Blog Tours. On my stop, I have an excerpt from the book. There's also the blitz wide giveaway for a chance to win eBooks of all the books in the series. Be sure to check out the rest of the stops on the blitz for more content. Enjoy!
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My Favorite Story book cover
Title: My Favorite Story
Series: Mint Creek Ranch Series #1
Author: Hilary Dartt
Publication Date: May 13th 2022
Print Length: 402 pages
Genre: Western Contemporary Romance

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When reporter Tessa Kincaid sees a job listing for a mysterious three-month assignment with bonus pay, she applies immediately. It doesn’t matter what it is—she needs the money. The first night in her new town, she spends several sensual hours dancing with a sexy cowboy she believes she'll never see again.

The next morning, she discovers that man is bull rider Cody Davis, whose comeback tour she’ll be covering for the next three months … and that he hates reporters.

The last thing Cody Davis needs is a distraction—especially one as hot (and as great of a kisser) as Tessa Kincaid. Strict focus is the only way he’ll win the championship this year.

The two of them develop a tenuous professional relationship, their chemistry simmering just below the surface. When Cody finally begins to trust Tessa, though, she starts disappearing every night.

As the championship approaches, Cody must decide whether their relationship is an unwelcome distraction, or exactly what he needs to win the title, and Tessa realizes she’s in danger of losing everything—including the man she’s falling in love with.

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EXCERPT:
TESSA

Tessa was just turning off her alarm at seven the next morning when someone knocked on her hotel room door. Because she'd thought about nothing but that cowboy all night long, his face was the first thing that came to mind. What if he had come to wake her up? What if he was there on the other side of her door, breakfast in hand? That was something that would happen in a romance novel — just like their dancing the night before. Oh, and that kiss. That kiss!

Briefly, she considered taking off the oversized T-shirt she'd worn to sleep and answering the door in nothing but a bedsheet. Then she remembered she hadn’t told the cowboy which room she was in and thought better of it. Which was a good thing, because when she pulled open the door, it wasn’t the cowboy. It was Montana, who looked about as ravaged as Tessa felt. She had dark circles beneath her bloodshot eyes, her hair was thrown into a messy bun, and although her shirt was buttoned, it was misaligned.

“Ooh,” they both said. "You look terrible."

Then they both laughed.

"At least I'm out of bed and dressed," Montana said. She held up a white paper bag and a cardboard to-go cup caddy. No, it wasn't the cowboy, Tessa thought, but it was a pretty close second. She could smell bacon and fresh coffee. Tessa stood back to let Montana in, and that’s when she noticed the shoes: “Your shoes don’t match.”

Montana stopped, mid-stride, and looked down. “You’re right about that. Figures. What size do you wear? I can’t have Sawyer seeing my weakness. Never mind. I can’t wear those skinny heels of yours.”

She began setting up breakfast on the little table next to the window. Then she marched over and flung open the curtains. Tessa winced.

“Just like a Band-Aid," Montana said. "Rise and shine, my friend."

“So, speaking of Sawyer …”

Montana's energy changed. She seemed suddenly shy. Then, it looked like a thought had occurred to her and she said, "I heard you let Cody Davis walk you home. And that's precisely why I’m here. We need to talk about that."

"Actually, I think we need to talk about you. You said Sawyer was the past future father of your children. And you looked so wistful. And then when, we found out you’d gone home together, Cody — which I didn't know was his name — said Sawyer was a glutton for punishment."

"You didn't even know his name?"

Tessa winced again and sat down at the table across from Montana. "I barely got a wink of sleep last night. This conversation is going to require more coffee."

"Drink up." Montana slid one of the paper coffee cups toward Tessa.

"So …” Montana's voice trailed off momentarily. Then she said, “Do you remember last night when you were dancing with Cody and I was trying to get your attention?"

Tessa nodded.

"Well, I needed to tell you something. Something important."

Her gaze bored into Tessa’s, and a feeling of unease, moving fast with skittering footsteps like a lizard in her stomach, began to form.

"Well, tell me now.”

Montana drummed her fingertips on the table. Tessa noticed her nails were freshly painted.

"Three a.m. manicure. It's kind of my go-to activity when I can't sleep. Anyway. It might be too late."

"Too late for what?”

"I guess the damage is done. I may as well just tell you. Quick, like ripping off a Band-Aid." She glanced at the window, curtains open, bright sunlight pouring in. Another pause. What could possibly be so big that Montana was afraid to say it?

"Out with it," Tessa said. She found herself gripping the edge of the table.

"That guy you danced the night away with?"

Tessa nodded, swallowed. Montana was going to say he was a serial killer. Just as Tessa had expected. The one night she'd lived an extremely romantic experience, it was with a serial killer.

"That was Cody Davis."

"So you said."

"You don't know.”

Again, Montana's eyes practically burned a hole into Tessa’s. What was going on?

"I don't know what?"

"The name Cody Davis doesn't ring a bell for you?"

Tessa took a moment to really consider. It was possible she’d heard the name before. It was kind of a generic cowboy name, wasn't it? She thought back to some of her bigger stories, but the name Cody Davis was nowhere in her mental files. "Nothing."

“Nothing? Are you sure?"

"Montana. Just tell me."

“Cody Davis is the cowboy you're going to be covering for the next three months."

Tessa's heart leapt inside her chest. She could practically feel it jumping around in there, throwing out its arms in joy. So she would get to see him again. She would get to see him every day for the next three months!

“Ohmygosh,” Tessa said. “I can’t believe this.”

“I. Know.” Montana’s tone was in direct contrast to Tessa’s.

“What’s wrong? This is great news. We had such a nice evening, and I thought I was never going to see him again."

Montana didn't look happy at all. She looked … worried. Concerned. Maybe even terrified. She closed her eyes. She pressed her lips together and inhaled, and Tessa knew she was trying to decide how to phrase what she was about to say. "Tessa. Cody hates reporters."

Suddenly, all the words Tessa had read and heard about her assignment floated through her consciousness. All stories must be approved by the source before publication. Difficult to work with. Unique situation. Any conflict will result in termination. Termination.

"He seemed so nice."

"Sure. He’s nice. Really nice. Unless you're a reporter."

Tessa's mouth dropped open. She had no idea what to say. She took a sip of the coffee, which now bordered on lukewarm.

“You didn't tell him why you’re here?"

"Well, I told him I was here for work. But as I’m sure you know, you don’t always get the most positive reaction when you tell someone you’re a reporter. So I didn't go into detail."

"Tessa." Montana's eyes snapped open and she grabbed Tessa’s wrist. "Listen to me. Whatever you do, do not go into today's practice thinking there's going to be some kind of romantic reunion. When Cody finds out what happened, you're toast."

Tessa, feeling a little indignant, started to speak, but Montana cut her off. "You didn't do anything wrong. All you did was dance with a sexier-than-hell cowboy. But, trust me. That was a one-night thing. This is not going to be good.”

She unwrapped the food in front of her, revealing a breakfast burrito. She took a big bite. Apparently, Tessa thought, this conversation was making her ravenous. Tessa unwrapped her own burrito and took a bite, even though she suddenly didn’t have much of an appetite at all.

"Cody Davis is only the most famous bull rider in Arizona," Montana said.

She licked some egg off her fingers before continuing. "It's almost unbelievable that you don't know who he is. I’m not saying I don’t believe you. I do. After having spent the day with you, and seeing what you planned to wear last night … ”

A beat of silence and then, “Wait. That's not what you're planning on wearing today, is it?"

Was it? Tessa ran through a mental catalog of the clothes she brought. She supposed she could wear slacks with her blazer, but now that she knew how hot it was here, maybe she should reconsider. Maybe a pencil skirt with some kind of tank top. She had to look professional. Make a good impression. She was going to be meeting Cody's manager. She took a deep, steadying breath to settle her nerves. After all, she had made a pretty decent impression the night before. Cody liked her.

"I can see hope creeping into your eyes at this very moment. Whatever you do, kill it. Obliterate its flames with the biggest, most powerful fire extinguisher you have. As soon as Cody finds out who you are, he's going to be pissed. I wouldn't be surprised if he canceled the contract with the newspaper."

What? Tessa realized she hadn't said it out loud. “What? Why?"

"Like I said, he hates reporters. Like, really hates them. He thinks reporters ruin people's lives."

This was one of Tessa's biggest pet peeves. She worked as part of a team of ethical, professional reporters with high standards. Hearing someone hated reporters on sight usually caused her to fly off the handle. But she knew she couldn't do that here. Not now. Montana was friends with Cody. And, if she overreacted, she could lose the job like that. She chewed without tasting. Swallowed.

“But he apparently signed off on having a reporter cover his story for the next three months. So why will he be pissed when he finds out it’s me?”

“Because,” Montana said, as if that were the stupidest question Tessa could have asked. “You danced with him all night, and he liked you. And you didn’t tell him.”

“But I didn’t know!”

“I didn’t say it’s rational,” Montana said. “It rarely is, when trauma’s involved. But he’s going to feel tricked. Bamboozled.”

“What trauma?”

"It's a long story," Montana said, looking at her watch. "I'm not sure if we have time. Especially since you're not even ready. Why don't you hop in the shower, and I'll fill you in while you're getting ready?”

Tessa took as big of a gulp of coffee as she could manage. She had planned on hitting the ground running this morning, but now she felt like she was being thrown out of an airplane and expected to fly. Forget about being on the ground; the rules of the universe had completely changed. Without speaking, she went into the bathroom took the fastest shower of her life, her brain barely registering the luxurious floral scent of the hotel’s shampoo and soap. She couldn’t help but notice how soft the towels were, though, as she dried off. Trailer Park Tessa would never experience towels with this thread count. With one of those thick towels wrapped around her body and another wrapped around her hair, she emerged from the bathroom. By now, Montana had polished off her breakfast burrito and was standing at the window, looking out over the plaza.

"That was fast," she said, without turning around.

“You definitely supercharged my getting-ready speed with all this urgency," Tessa said, heading to the closet. "I'm just going to get dressed real quick.”

Without really making the decision, Tessa pulled a dark gray pencil skirt and a green button-up, collared tank top off the hangers. She shook her head when she thought about her shoe selection: everything had heels. So impractical. She hadn't been thinking about hanging around the arena during practices. When she emerged from the bathroom for the second time, Montana did turn around. Her face registered shock, and, as Tessa was learning was her nature, her voice expressed it out loud, filter-free. "That's really what you're wearing? I was joking! I assumed you had something else."

She looked at her watch again. "We don't even have time to go to my house and get you something more … appropriate. The very worst thing we could do at this point is show up late.”

Tessa threw up her hands. "I know. I wasn't thinking. Plus, it's not like I've got a lot of extra outfits lying around. Right now, it seems like we have a more urgent issue. You start talking. I've got to do something about this hair.”

“Boy howdy," Montana said. “We are going shopping tonight, my friend."

All Tessa could see was her bank account balance getting smaller and smaller. She sighed, but she knew Montana was right: she couldn’t cover rodeo for three months in a pencil skirt. As she began combing through her hair, Montana began pacing.

"So, the reason Cody hates reporters is because last year, a reporter almost got his sister killed. Ruined his life. And, more importantly, his sister’s.”

Tessa inhaled, pressed her lips together. She wanted to interject, to press for details. But she learned early that sometimes you just have to let someone tell their story. She kept combing.

"Now, you have to understand, Cody and Annie were like this." She held up her hand, fingers crossed. “Two peas in a pod. Always. Like I said, Cody is the most famous bull rider in Arizona. A year ago, he was at the top of his game. The best of the best. He was slated to be number one on every single rodeo circuit. Those were his glory days, you know? And he deserved it. He has always worked so hard. When he has a goal in mind, he’s incredibly focused. It's one of the things I admire most about him, actually. As he was rising to the top, he was amassing fame and fortune, right? He was also amassing attention. It's only natural that when someone starts getting famous, someone else starts digging.”

She took a sip of coffee, and Tessa did the same. Now that her hair was combed out, she worked on putting it into a bun. Montana gave her a pitying look, and went on.

“Cody was confident. We were all confident. We could all feel the win. And it belonged to all of us, in a way. Then, the night before Cody was supposed to go the championship—almost exactly nine months ago—this reporter got her break, her big story. And it nearly got Annie killed.”

“But, how?” Montana, still pacing back and forth, twisted her hands together.

“Cody would kill me if he knew I told you. I mean, I already really, really like you, Tessa. But we’ve known each other for less than twenty-four hours. I’ve known Cody all my life. He’d feel betrayed if I shared this story. It’s no secret, but it’s unspeakable. Nobody mentions it. Ever.”

A sense of doom made its way through Tessa’s body, prickling on her skin and invading all her muscles. She felt like she needed to do some jumping jacks to release some of the heavy energy.

Montana made eye contact with her and nodded. "Yep. You're getting a sense of how bad it was. Cody won't forgive himself for putting Annie in harm’s way.”

“I know I’m missing a lot of the details, but surely it wasn’t his fault,” Tessa said.

Now, Montana threw her hands up, frustration obvious in her posture, her expression. "I know. We all know that. But, when real danger comes to someone you love, reason doesn't always mean anything."

Real danger?

“And,” Montana added, “that’s why Cody completely lost his mind and skipped town the night before he would have won that belt.”

Tessa didn’t even know the guy, but the thought of him being so distraught made the coffee roil in her stomach.

“And Annie?”

“She left. Moved to New York where she could be anonymous. Cody hasn’t spoken to her since. If you ask me, they’re probably both feeling guilty over what happened. But that’s not what we’re talking about right now. What we’re talking about right now is—”

“The fact that I had the most romantic evening of my life with a sexier-than-hell guy who is completely off-limits.”

“Right.”

Tessa sighed. This was not how she’d imagined starting this assignment.

“I mean, he might not have you fired,” Montana said, but it sounded more like she was talking to herself than to Tessa. “It will be too much of a hassle to find another reporter. We need our own reporter. Which is why he agreed to a contract with Desert Newspapers, the Daily Dispatch’s parent company. He knows the coverage will be good for the town, good for the sport of rodeo, maybe even good for him. His goal was to have as much control as possible. And then, last night, he threw it out the window.”

It looked like a new thought occurred to Montana as she stopped her pacing and turned toward Tessa. “Please tell me you didn't sleep with him."

Tessa closed her eyes. She thought again about the dancing, his smile, that kiss. She thought again about how she fantasized about inviting him up to her room and letting him take her, any way he wanted.

"No," she whispered. "But I sure wanted to."

“That's something." Montana’s tone had lost its storytelling quality and was back to no-nonsense. "We might as well head over to the practice. Your post on this assignment might be short-lived, but I say we give it a chance. Maybe we can convince him to let you stick around.”
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Hilary Dartt
Hilary Dartt loves great adventures, whether she’s writing, reading, or living them. The author of nine women’s fiction novels, Hilary lives in Arizona’s high desert with her husband, their three children, her Weimaraner and running partner, Leia, a failed barn cat, and a flock of chickens. She loves camping, exploring in the Jeep, and dance parties with her kids.

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GIVEAWAY:
Win all three eBooks in the Mint Creek Ranch Series by Hilary Dartt!

(All the Ups and Downs is not responsible for this giveaway, its entries, or the prizes. Lola's Blog Tours and the author assume all responsibility over this giveaway.)




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