Title Cowboy Luke (Book 5, Cooper’s Hawke Landing Series)
Author Rhonda Lee Carver
Genre Contemporary Western Romance
Two stubborn firefighters are faced with an uncontainable blaze inside their hearts. Can they withstand the heat? What’s a woman to do to get over a lying, cheating ex-husband? She finds a cowboy-firefighter like Luke “Mug” Foster as salve to her open wounds. He’s exactly what the “heart” doctor ordered. Tall, dark, handsome, and eager to stoke her fire. But what happens when Jady Pierce starts to have feelings for him? She runs before she loses herself to another heartbreak. People couldn’t be trusted, and she’d learned that lesson through a long list of men who’d done her dirty. Jady was back in Cooper’s Hawke. Last year, she’d swept in, turned Mug inside out, then disappeared without a word. Story of his life. He wouldn’t lose himself in her again, yet there was something about her that he found challenging and exciting. To get to the “real” Jady, he’d have to chisel through some tough layers. She was carrying around a lot of pain…and not just from a cheating ex and a bum childhood. She’d be sticking around town for a while when she accepted the Sheriff duties, but how would she keep her feelings for Mug in check? He had a hold over her and she could feel her walls crumbling. An abandoned baby, secrets from the past, and a handsome cowboy will have Jady slowly gaining trust as she finds peace, emotion and joy in the small town that she’d once hated. However, she isn’t the only one with a few demons to exterminate.
Hearing the identifiable clicking of a gun hammer behind him, Mug stiffened and slowly lifted his hands. “I’m unarmed.”
A tense silence passed.
“I’ve met a few brave men in my life, Cowboy, but you’re not one of them,” came the soft, feminine voice. “You must have a death wish.”
He grinned and lowered his arms to his sides. “I’ve always been one to find trouble. Looks like I have again.”
“They say a man who finds trouble shouldn’t be trusted.”
“They do, do they? I should have a talk with these people.”
“Maybe you should after you learn the definition of trespassing,” she said flatly.
Grinning, he took his time turning then settled his hungry eyes on the woman who’d burrowed her way under his skin. He’d meant to drive on by her house, ignore the light he saw in the window from the road…forget her. Mug wished he could forget how good she smelled. How her taste lingered on his tongue. How she’d given him two amazing, unforgettable weeks before she disappeared from his life and Cooper’s Hawk.
Taking in her jewel-like blue eyes then the barrel of the pistol, he managed a tight chuckle. This wasn’t the greeting he’d hoped for. He wasn’t expecting a warm welcome or a rolling of red carpet, but to be held at gunpoint completely threw him for a loop.
Lifting his gaze, he noted a flicker of appreciation that fell over her heart-shaped face, just before her plush lips dipped at the corners, and so did the gun but only a few inches.
“You changed your hair color.” The last time he saw her she had red hair. The soft, raven waves hung untamed down her back. There was a glow about her olive skin but the dark circles under her glistening eyes warned him she hadn’t been sleeping. Insomnia was something they had in common—that and a few other things that triggered a familiar ache behind his zipper.
“Your hair is longer.” Her hip slanted, showing a sliver of her sassiness. He saw a new softness in her expression that didn’t last long.
“And a few more grays too.”
“Age definitely isn’t making you wiser.” Her jaw tightened some. “I could—would—have shot you.”
“Are you still planning to?” He kicked up a brow. Honestly, he didn’t know a lot about Jady Pierce because they didn’t talk much during those weeks together last year, but one thing was for certain, she didn’t play games. She was a straight shooter, with her mouth and with a gun. He’d ridden broncs with less spunk than her. No doubt, he liked a challenging woman but preferred when they weren’t holding a loaded pistol aimed at his chest.
With a sigh of submission that belied the arching of her thin brows, she lowered the gun to her side. “What are you doing here, Mug? It’s late.”
“Is that anyway to treat an old friend?” He shifted his boots on the welcome rug. Her irritation in seeing him didn’t erase the fragment of enthusiasm he felt at seeing her again. She’d come along like the strike of lightning, magnifying all his senses. He’d been a fool because from the get-go all they could have had together was a good time between the sheets.
Getting struck by lightning a second time was about as unlikely as winning the lottery, yet the static electricity causing the hair on his neck to lift cautioned him that a storm was brewing.
Although she might want to deny the facts, they had a fire between them that still burned bright. The evil tug was tempting, but the last thing Mug wanted was to want her again. Truthfully, he’d sort of hoped she wouldn’t look at him like she wanted to roast him over a spit.
What right did she have to hate him?
He shouldn’t have come.
He should have steered clear, but he had a reason for being here that outweighed logic. Hank had planted a seed. If Mug wanted to get his hands on Mags Farm he’d have to move fast. He didn’t doubt once people got wind that she’d be selling she’d have a line of buyers trying to outbid each other. That could be a problem. He’d managed to save up some money over the years, but his bank account wasn’t endless. There were a few families in town, like the Hawkes, that could come along and offer her a pretty penny, but from the way Hank talked, they weren’t wanting to purchase the property.
With the skill of a gunslinger, Jady unloaded the pistol and set it, and the bullets, on a shelf in a corner hutch. “Sorry, my hospitality is amiss, but waking up to an intruder inside my house doesn’t bring out my warm cozies.”
“An intruder?” he scoffed.
“If the shoe fits. It’s after midnight. The door was locked. That should have given you some indication that I’m not entertaining guests.” She crossed her arms over her waist that brought the hem of the ribbed tank top up higher, showing off her flat stomach. Her nipples erected under the thin cotton. Damn, she wasn’t wearing a bra.
Tension increased behind his zipper.
“The door was open,” he said in his defense.
She swiped her curious gaze from him to the open door and back on him. “Must be a faulty knob.” She rubbed the remaining sleep from her eyes and gave her hair a quick finger-comb that only made the curls more disheveled.
“It’s late. Sorry. I happened to be in the area, and I saw your light on.” He was telling the truth…to a certain extent. He’d gone home, couldn’t sleep then decided he needed a drive so he drove past the farm to check out the land. No matter that it was dark and he couldn’t see a thing. Impulsively, he’d stopped. “I assumed you were still up.” The thin material of the shirt drove a raging awareness through him. If he didn’t want to get entangled in a carnal web again, he needed to keep his head on straight and get to the point of his visit.
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Rhonda Lee Carver is a bestselling author of romance. Her first love was a cowboy she'd read in a novel and has been her inspiration ever since. Fun Fact: She wrote a rough draft of a story on a dirty napkin while sitting in a parking lot after buying diapers for her newborn. That was her first published story in 2010. She's written over eighty novels since. Her kids are the center of her world, her animals are her babies, and her fictional characters fill her heart. She has a soft spot for cowboys, small towns, and taking readers down an emotional journey that ends with a happily ever after. Writing for Rhonda is like falling in love and finding a new best friend over and over again. Allow her stories into your heart too.
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