valentine's at the graff

Marietta native Miranda Evans has yet to find her niche...until a small legacy allows her to open a gift boutique featuring local artists in the historic Graff hotel. As Valentine’s approaches, Miranda, who’s always left romance to the pages of a book, reaches out to involve the community in random acts of kindness to celebrate the month of love. Miranda has no need for hearts and flowers until the boy next door she dreamed about in high school arrives back in town more handsome, brooding, and out of reach than ever. 

Orthopedic surgeon Whitman Telford blew out of his small, Montana hometown at eighteen without looking back. When he's told to fill in for a month at Marietta’s hospital before obtaining his dream job in LA, no is not an option. After getting sucked into the Valentine project along with half the town, Witt starts to wonder if he'll still be eager to see Marietta in his rearview mirror. 

Opposites attract or so Miranda’s heard, but will she have the courage to test this theory and take a chance on romance when so much more than her heart is at stake?

It was really more of a staff than a stick, Miranda thought, running the broken branch through her hands. And if she could find or make a base for it, the staff would become drumroll please…her Tree of Kindness. Miranda hadn’t worked out all the details of her Valentine’s…hmm…she didn’t even have a name for it yet, but she wanted February to be the month of kindness and giving. She wanted to involve more than couples so that everyone—children, adults and older residents; singles and couples—would have a chance to celebrate the day of love far more broadly than romantic love. Love for their friends, family and community.

Since the trashing of Valentine’s Day earlier, Miranda had become imbued with grim purpose. She would make Valentine’s Day in Marietta a day of celebration. The entire month would become an ode to generosity of spirit where people had open hearts. Performed random acts of spontaneous kindness that they didn’t just post on social media for a pat on the back.

She scowled thinking of the bitterness in the bar earlier. Not on her watch.

Her mind spun with plans that she knew she’d have to finalize and clear with the Graff management because she wanted to have an open house in her store, and since it was small, she was hoping that some of it could spill out into the bar, the one part of the hotel she could see from her tucked-away boutique. And then she’d have to check with local businesses if they would post her flyer—which she’d have to make. And Dylan at the radio station, would he give her a plug on air? Maybe interview her? Her stomach lurched with nerves even as her mind conjured the bold colors and the words to explain her concept.

She climbed up a six-foot ladder she’d borrowed from maintenance so that she could hang her red twinkle lights on the top of the wide, worn, western-style doorframe that had been custom made for her before the Graff had ordered the glass for the front of the store. It made the entrance look more thematically western and historic.

Miranda hummed as she twisted little hooks into the reclaimed wood framing the entrance that a former high school classmate had brought from a job site and cut to fit. And then Colt had drilled the frame in and hung the glass door with the twisted copper handle that his sister-in-law had made for her for free. Just one of the many reasons why she loved Marietta and wanted to make Valentine’s Day and her boutique special.

Miranda decided to make the small, nearly hidden hooks permanent so that she could always have twinkling lights silver and gold for Christmas and the New Year, red for Valentine’s, Green for Saint Patrick’s Day and spring and then…

“I need to buy shaving cream, please.”


Miranda was so startled by the voice below that she dropped the handful of hooks that rained down on a face so familiar from her girlhood fantasies that for a millisecond she thought she’d conjured him from the adolescent recesses of her overactive imagination like a fantasy Valentine date. Her grip loosened on the ladder and then she started to tip. Never athletic, but physically active especially the past few years when she’d helped take care of so many of her grandparents’ needs and their ranch while still working a part-time job, Miranda jumped so she had a chance of landing on her feet.

Only she didn’t.

She jumped straight into the arms of the most beautiful boy ever to breathe Montana air. The arms of the boy who’d featured at the top of her hottest, smartest, most brooding, most gorgeous eyes, best hair most everything list from high school. Except now, twelve years later, the boy was a man. She jumped from mostly buried fantasies into the reality of the arms of Witt Telford.