Announcing my newest release: Carnival Ride: A Sweet Romance (Red Canyon Series – Book 2)
How do you build a life around a moving target?
Chelsea finds living in Red Canyon rather dull. Her bar customers ask the same questions and order the same kind of beer. She could do with something different, and a traveling carnival in town provides just that. The attractions are nice, but the dark-haired man working one of the booths catches her eye more.
But when Nate’s time in Red Canyon is up, she has a decision to make. That, and making the throwing game fair is making him unpopular with the carnival boss, bringing everything to a head. He’s not used to staying in one place for long, but he’ll have to learn quickly to win her heart.
If you enjoy sweet romance stories with happily ever afters, no cliffhangers, and a southwestern twist, then you’ll love this second installment in Laura Westbrook’s heartwarming series.
You can find it here (free if you have Kindle Unlimited):
(and all other Amazon websites)
Here’s a sample portion of the story:
Carnival Ride: A Sweet Romance
Chelsea wiped the same glass for the third time. She was bored. Utterly bored. Only three guys had come in since she’d arrived at five p.m., and all of them were still nursing their first beer.
Working at Frisky’s had its pros and cons. The cons were the boredom, but the pros were free drinks and all the time on her phone a girl could want. She must have beat the jewel game at least a dozen times by now. If she continued practicing, she might be on the pro circuit within a month. If Leonard didn’t catch her.
It wasn’t fair. Everyone was on their phone, especially with how slow things had been lately, but it seemed like he was harder on her for some reason—perhaps because she’d worked there the longest.
She’d just decided to work on inventory when the door opened, and Sophie strolled in. Sophie’s long hair whipped about in the wind she’d let in, and Chelsea felt a pang of jealousy. Her hair always looked like it was in place, even with the wind, like a fan behind a model during a photo shoot. Since Chelsea had grown out her hair longer, that was always the look she had in mind. But she couldn’t hold it against Sophie.
“Hey stranger,” Chelsea said.
Sophie nodded. “Hey yourself. And not much of a stranger since we were both here last night.”
Chelsea twisted a nozzle onto the bottle she’d just opened. “You’re becoming quite the regular. I thought after you got your new job at the furniture store you wouldn’t want to come back here.”
“Why wouldn’t I?”
Chelsea shrugged. “If I left a job, I don’t think I’d want to hang out there. It would be my last choice on the list.”
“Not everyone leaves a job on bad terms. I put in my notice and all that.”
“That was just the one time. You can’t hold that against me. That boss was an unbelievable jerk. I couldn’t stay there another day. You know that.”
“And it’s different here?”
“Leonard isn’t that bad. Lately, he’s been grumpy during the week. The weekends are still good money-makers, but the weeknights have been slower with all the new competition.”
Sophie paused. “No kidding. Two new restaurants and a bar just in the past few months. When I moved back, this place reminded me of a ghost town, and now it’s making a comeback. I’m not going to use the word bustling, but it’s growing again.”
Chelsea sipped from her cup. Today, it was just carbonated water. She’d been drinking too much soda lately. It was time to cut back. She allowed herself one soda every other day, and she was determined to stick to it. “If I didn’t know any better, I’d say it was because you moved back.”
Sophie snorted. “I could hardly believe that my returning to Red Canyon caused a bunch of people to want to move here.”
“You never know.” Chelsea ran her fingers through her hair. She needed to brush it better before she came into work. “You were always pretty popular in high school.”
“Can I have a soda and a quesadilla, please? And not that popular. If I couldn’t fill up a bake sale, there’s no way I could fill up a small town.”
Chelsea plunked a glass onto the bar and pressed the button on the soda hose. “All right, I believe you. And why do you want food here, anyway? You know it’s terrible.”
Sophie took a sip. “Can I have a straw? Aren’t you supposed to be encouraging people to buy stuff here? What kind of employee are you?” She smiled around the edge of the glass.
“I’m just being honest. Ever since Leonard revived the kitchen, I’ve had nothing but complaints.”
“I’m sure it hasn’t all been complaints. I mean, he added it after I left, but I can’t imagine it’s all bad. Now you have salty foods to make customers more thirsty for beer.”
As if on cue, one of the three guys raised his bottle.
“Same thing?” Chelsea asked.
The guy nodded, taking what looked like the last swig.
“This guy orders the same beer every time,” Chelsea said under her breath. “I’ve tried it before. It’s gross, but it’s all he’ll drink. Regulars, am I right?”
She grabbed a bottle out of the cooler, having to reach into the very back where the less popular beers were, and brought it over. The guy didn’t say a word—simply held out the empty bottle for her to take.
“Enjoy.” She tried to put some emotion into the word, but probably failed. The shift seemed like it would take forever. It was only a seven hour shift, but it would probably feel like twenty after it was all said and done.
Everything in the kitchen smelled like grease. The kitchen itself had always been there, but for the longest time it sat collecting dust and spiders, used for storage more than anything else. There was an old fryer sitting in the corner that was now in use, but other than that, it had been pretty bare. The second smell other than grease was French fries. Everything smelled like French fries. Even her clothes when she went home. It was even less appealing than it sounded.
“Hey,” Chelsea called. “Hey, can you hear me?”
“Yeah?” The kitchen manager, if one could call him that, was hard of hearing, and that was on top of the loud sizzle from the fryer and the flattop, likely the to-go order that had called in just before Sophie had arrived.
“One cheese quesadilla.”
“You have to write a ticket,” he said. “You know that. Come on, Chelsea.”
“Fine, fine.” Chelsea picked up a blank ticket and wrote the two words on it. She slid it up into the holding bar, which only held one other ticket. It shouldn’t be that hard to remember two orders, especially since one order only had one item. And you can’t mess up a cheese quesadilla, anyway. She’d burned and messed up many dishes in her lifetime, but never a cheese quesadilla.
“Thanks,” he said. “It’s just good to get into the habit for when we get busy, you know?”
Yeah, on one night a week, she thought. Maybe two. “Makes sense. I’ll do it next time.”
“Does your table want salsa and sour cream with this?”
She couldn’t remember what condiments Sophie liked. Sophie’s job had kept her busy since she’d left Frisky’s, so they hadn’t been eating out nearly as much. When she’d first moved back to Red Canyon, they’d spent quite a bit of time together. She missed those days. But it was great that Sophie was moving up…or at least around.
“Yes for both.”
He scratched his thumb along his jaw. “Getting any busier out there?”
“Only if you count one more person as busy.”
“We’ll take what we can get. There will be more in an hour or so.”
“Probably. How come your music isn’t playing?” Despite being a man in his forties, he had a liking for music she expected to hear in an edgy Phoenix nightclub, the bass pounding so loud she could feel it through her rib cage.
“The radio’s broken. I’m going to ask Leonard to get a new one. I’m surprised that thing lasted this long.”
Chelsea tapped her swipe card against the metal counter. “Good luck with that. He’ll probably just tell you to bring in one of your own.”
“That’s okay. I have a few things out in my garage collecting dust. They might as well get used here.”
“There you go.” She needed to get back to the bar, so she left him to his two orders. The quesadilla would probably be ready in a few minutes anyway. They didn’t take long.
Sophie’s cup was half-empty, so she refilled it. The button was sticking a little bit, so she had to hold down the “C” button until her thumb turned red.
“So tell me all about how the job’s going,” Chelsea said. “I’m dying to hear how someone else’s life is doing right now.”
Sophie fiddled with the straw wrapper and eventually set it down. “Not too much has been going on. We had a sale last weekend on ottomans, which was pretty busy.”
“Just the ottoman and not the chair? That’s pretty dumb.”
“Pretty much. I tried to tell my boss that too. A few of the customers got upset when they were told the sale didn’t apply to the chairs, and one of them almost turned into an argument. The owner eventually gave them all discounts. The customers got what they wanted, but the employees sure got an earful after they left. I know the owner didn’t mean to take it out on us, but it sure felt like it. You know how that goes.”
Chelsea grabbed a rag and wiped down a corner of the bar. “I sure do. But it’s all right. Every job’s like that sometimes. You can’t win them all.”
“Has your moving going?”
“Not that great. My whole idea of moving slowly didn’t work out so well. I was planning on moving a carload every day until it’s done, but I ended up skipping a few nights. And then a few more.”
“Moving is a pain,” Sophie said. “No doubt about that. How far along are you right now?”
“Not very far.”
“I can hop in, if you want. Have you asked anyone to come over and help?”
“No, I haven’t.”
Chelsea shrugged. “I just didn’t want to bother anyone. Most of what’s left over isn’t the heavy stuff. It’s not that I can’t physically do it.”
“Yeah, but nobody should have to move by herself. Let’s look at a calendar sometime and we’ll figure it out.”
“Thanks. I appreciate that. Speaking of moving, are you and Brandon thinking about moving in together yet?”
“Funny you say that,” Sophie said. “My dad asked me the exact same thing the other day. I’ve dropped hints about some apartments in the area I think we’d like, but Brandon hasn’t picked up on them yet. Hell, for all I know, he’s been looking at apartments in secret and planning on surprising me with it. You never know with him. He can get pretty creative sometimes.”
“I bet. So you two are still going strong, then?”
“Doing great. We just celebrated our six-month dating anniversary. He took me out. Italian. Candlelit dinner, even.”
“How romantic. Well, I’ll make sure to return the favor and help you move one day since you’re helping me. It’s the least I can do.”
“Sounds like a plan.”
Just then, the door opened, and a man walked in. Chelsea had never seen him before. He made his way over to a corner table and sat down, facing the room. He was probably in his fifties, but he looked even older, with a weathered look to him. He looked like he’d just lost a staring contest with a sand blaster.
“I’ll be right back,” Chelsea said.
She made her way over and flashed her winning smile. “Evening. What can I get you?”
He looked up. “Beer. Something local. I want to see what kind you all have here.”
She wouldn’t exactly consider any of their beers southwestern, but she figured she could do something with it. “Coming right up.”
It wasn’t exactly a beer for tourists, but they did have one on tap that was made around there. It was the closest to what he’d asked for. One wouldn’t exactly think of the Grand Canyon while sipping it, but it was a nice thought.
“Is that guy a local?” Sophie asked.
Chelsea tapped the counter. “I don’t think so. I’ve never seen him before, and I’m pretty sure I’ve met everyone in this town. Everybody knows everybody.”
“Probably isn’t. Look how he’s dressed.”
He stuck out, but certainly not in an unpleasant way. He looked like the most interesting person in the room. He wore black pants with shiny, black shoes. The bright red pattern on his shirt looked like plaid at first glance, but the lines only went horizontally. He wore suspenders, probably the first time Chelsea had seen someone wear them in years, and they were littered with different symbols and pictures, all in different, bright colors, anywhere from shamrocks to hearts to daggers.
“Here I go,” Chelsea said as she made her way over.
“Thank you,” the man said, accepting the beer.
“A glass of our finest,” she said. “Would you like to start a tab?”
“Never drink just one beer. That’s the rule.”
“You got it.”
“What did he say?” Sophie asked once Chelsea returned.
“Just that he wants to start a tab. He seems nice enough.”
“I wonder why he’s in town.”
Chelsea shrugged. “Who knows? As long as his money’s good, that’s all I care about.”
Sophie slapped her hand down on the counter. “I know.” The two guys at the nearest table turned and stared. She lowered her hand and glanced around. “I know where he’s from. He must be from the carnival in town. They’ll be here for a whole week, I think.”
“A carnival? I haven’t heard of one coming here since I was little. I wonder why now.”
“Maybe it has to do with how the town’s getting bigger. I wouldn’t want to come either if there was nobody here. We should go! You know we should. They’ll have rides, interesting people, and food on a stick.”
“Food on a stick? We eat unhealthy enough without any of that. Speaking of which…”
The kitchen manager walked up and set a plate in front of Sophie. There weren’t many people to choose from, but it was still a lucky guess on his part. Sure enough, there was a small cup of salsa and sour cream. He remembered. He was on top of his game today.
“Thank you,” Sophie said. When he left, she continued. “Come on, we haven’t gone out for a while, and you know it’d be fun. If everyone there is like that guy then you know it won’t be boring.”
“It’s true. We haven’t been out for a while.”
“Right. Come on. We like to do rustic things together. Remember that hayride?”
Chelsea grinned. “Of course I remember. When it got boring, we made it interesting. I bet that guy never let anyone drive the cart ever again. We missed that tree by maybe a few inches.”
“Yeah, but the horses loved us. We brought apples that time.”
“All right, I’m game. We can go to the carnival, but I’m still not sold on the food on a stick part.”
(end of sample)
Read the conclusion here (free if you have Kindle Unlimited):
(and all other Amazon websites)